John Boyne, author of The Absolutist, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions, again.

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

John Boyne

author of The AbsolutistThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Noah Barleywater Runs Away and more

Ten Terrifying Questions, again.

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Dublin, Ireland and have lived there for most of my life. I went to school in Terenure College, on the southside of Dublin, and then attended university at Trinity College Dublin and the University of East Anglia, Norwich.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve, I wanted to be a writer. At eighteen, I already was a writer as I had started to publish some stories and at thirty I Continue reading

The Life by Malcolm Knox. A review by author Kylie Ladd

Malcolm Knox knows how to get my attention. I first became aware of him when I chanced across his 2006 book Secrets Of The Jury Room, a dramatic account of his experiences as a juror on a lengthy criminal trial. A few years earlier I had been in a similar situation as the foreperson on a month-long trial at the Supreme Court of Victoria, a case which involved rape, arson and decapitation with a bread knife. I’d always thought I must write about it, but once I read Knox’s book I knew there was no point- he had captured the legalistic wrangling of the criminal justice system, the odd alliances that develop both within a jury and between the jury and court staff, and the fickle machinations of the deliberation room perfectly.

Next came Jamaica, a novel about a group of high school friends who attempt to put aside old grievances to compete as a team in a long distance swimming race in the Caribbean. High school certainly wasn’t the best time of my life, and swimming was my sport back then… let’s just say I sympathised when it seemed that some characters would be drowned by their own teammates before the event even began. Thankfully, I had no personal connection to Continue reading

Alyson Noel, author of The Immortals Series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alyson Noël

author of The Immortals series

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Orange County, California, but left home at nineteen to travel the world and ended up living in Mykonos, Greece for seven years, before moving to New York City where I lived for several more, before meeting my husband and ending up right back in Continue reading

Andrew Nicoll, author of The Love and Death of Caterina, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Andrew Nicoll

 author of The Love and Death of Caterina and The Good Mayor

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1.      To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born right here, in Dundee on the east coast of Scotland, 49 years ago. I’ve lived all my life within the same few streets in an old fishing village that was swallowed up by the city a century ago. We’ve been here for generations. My kids went to the same schools I went to. I’ve travelled the world but this is where I want to be. I stand on the beach at my front door and I know exactly where I am on the map of the world.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Have you any idea how long ago that is? When I was 12 I think I wanted to be a tank commander and the reasons are all too obvious. All that rrrrrrowar and the booming and the banging and stuff. When I was eighteen I was working in the forestry and I wanted to be something else – anything else – and, when I was 30 I just wanted to be a good dad.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

When I was 18, I firmly believed that I was in love with a girl called Sheila. I no longer believe that.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

That’s fascinating. I couldn’t  pretend that Love and Death is actually eckphrastic, it’s not at all inspired as a response to one particular work, but I wanted to give it the atmosphere of a Jack Vettraino painting; louche, sleazy, dark, threatening, sexually charged. I enjoy the visual arts but let’s get serious: books are what it’s about. I’m not conscious of a lightbulb moment, when I read something and, suddenly, the scales fell from my eyes and I knew what to do and how to do it. I don’t think it’s like that. It’s about osmosis and immersion, swimming in books until they soak through your skin.

If I had to pick two more, I would go for the End of the Affair by Graham Greene and The Leopard by Lampedusa. The first because it is so small, such a tiny thing, a jewel containing gigantic themes and also because it describes the London of the Blitz where Greene worked all night in Hellish conditions and then, in the day time, wrote real words. The second because Lampedusa died unpublished. He had written this magnificent novel, so wonderful and so big that countless publishers could not even see it but he was right and they were wrong. That was a great comfort to me.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

There are not innumerable artistic avenues open to me. I am a big fat hairy bloke and I would look pretty silly in a leotard so modern dance is definitely out. I’ve never tried sculpture so, for all I know, I might be quite good at it and I can draw a bit but my paintings tend to look like something the dog sicked up. No technique. No, my artistic avenues are far from unlimited.

I know it sounds really poncey but I don’t think I did choose to write The Good Mayor. That book just happened to me.  I chose to write the second one because some nice people came along and said: “That went well. If we gave you a bundle of cash, would you do it again?”

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Love and Death of Caterina is about a man called Luciano Valdez. He’s a superstar author in a nasty South American police state but he has run out of things to say. Then, one day, he sees this beautiful girl at the university where he teaches and he realises that, if only he can have her, everything will be ok again. Only it’s not.

(BBGuru:The publisher’s synopsis:

Luciano Hernando Valdez is his Latin American nation’s most celebrated novelist and he’s suffering from writer’s block.

So far his latest great work comprises the words “The scrawny yellow cat crossed the road”. He’s tried all his usual tricks to get back on track – he’s had a few debates with his trusty colleagues at the university, he’s had an affair with the banker’s wife, nothing will work. Until he meets Caterina. Beautiful, young and one of his biggest fans, she has idolised him since she was a child and he has inspired her to write. Convinced that falling in love with her, spending every minute he can alongside her, moulding her to his world, will unlock something and enable him to write, he pursues her and soon enough, he falls headlong into her arms.

But it’s only a matter of time before he murders her.)

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Questions. I am very firmly of the view that a book should not be something that is done to the reader. It’s a dance, writer and reader cooperating together. The reader has to bring something to the party too; a bit of knowledge and experience, a willingness to fill in some gaps, imagine a little. I want to leave a little space where the dance can take place and the reader can make up his own mind about motivations and back stories. I haven’t tied up all the ends. I haven’t spelled everything out. There is no scene where one character turns to another and says: “But there’s one thing I just don’t understand…..”

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Greene and Lampedusa, for the reasons set out above. And Joseph Conrad who wrote the stories he wrote, with those words in what must have been his third or fourth language. I admire them for the grandeur of their themes. They write about stuff at the atomic level. They write about how to live.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Well I’ve got this mortgage I’d like to pay off.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write.  Don’t plan to write. Don’t promise that you’re going to start writing just as soon as you conclude another vital piece of research. Don’t talk about writing. Don’t tell me about all the things you’re going to write if you can only get the time/ the right kind of paper/a new computer/a proper pen/ a little money and a room of one’s own. I’ve written three novels in lined paper notebooks on the train to work. Trollope did it exactly the same way and then went off to run the Post Office when the Post Office was a thing worth running. If you want to write, just write.

And read Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing. It might take ten minutes and it’s going to save you the trouble of doing a degree in Creative Writing.

Andrew, thank you for playing.

Stephenie Meyer talks about her upcoming books – one’s about Mermaids….

Many think that Stephenie Meyer has kept the world waiting long enough…

When will a new book be released? What is she working on?

Recently Stephenie answered questions asked by a lucky group of  a group of Twi-hards.

USA TODAY offered us a few tasty morsels:

•On whether she’ll ever write more books about Edward and Bella: “The story’s already been told, and I doubt I’ll ever write another series based on the same characters.”

•On the possibility she’d ever finish Midnight Sun, a Twilight novel told from Edward’s viewpoint that she nixed when parts of it were leaked online in 2008: “I’m hoping to do it someday because I know that’s what people want. No matter what book I put out from here to eternity they’ll want Midnight Sun, but I’m just not writing about vampires right now.”

•On an as-yet-untitled book she might publish next: “It’s a fantasy that takes place in another world where people are using bows and arrows and swords. There’s a little bit of magic, but it’s a very limited form of magic. The characters are human, and some have the ability to use magic and some don’t. It’s pretty dark. People die. The main character is a 17-year-old girl, and she’s kind of cool.”

•On another book she might complete and publish: “When I was growing up, I was obsessed with mermaids. I do have a very elaborate outline for a book. I’m not working on it right now, but I have the feeling it’s going to be big. It’s going to be 1,000 pages.”

•On the second book in her three-book adult science-fiction series that began with The Host in 2008: “I have the outline written and the first two chapters. I need to get on it.”

Read the full article: ‘Twilight’ fans are on Team Meyer by Carol Memmott

•On The Twilight Saga The Official Illustrated Guide: “My favorite part is the vampire histories. There’s a lot there that’s new. Alice’s (Cullen) back story is one no one has known until now. And I think fans will be surprised at how much fun (Cullen nemesis) Victoria’s story is.”

Visit Booktopia’s Stephenie Meyer author page

2011 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards: Shortlists Announced

Arts Minister Simon Crean today announced the shortlists for the 2011 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

Minister Crean said the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards recognise the outstanding literary talent in our country.

“This year is the fourth year of the Awards, and also marks the greatest number of entries received in the history of the Awards,” Mr Crean said.

“The five short-listed books in each category have been recommended by the judging panels from an impressive pool of 379 entries. This is an indicator of the strength of the Australian literary sector.

“I am pleased to see 13 different publishers represented on the shortlists. I am also delighted that a number of first-time novelists have impressed judges. The Awards not only reward excellent writing, they support new Australian talent,” Mr Crean said.

Of the 379 entries, 133 were non-fiction entries, 69 fiction titles, 60 young adult fiction and 117 children’s fiction stories.

“I urge publishers, booksellers and book reviewers to bring the shortlisted books and authors to as wide an audience as possible over the next few weeks,” Mr Crean said.

“I will be reading as many as possible in the count down to the final awards, and urge fellow book lovers to celebrate Australian literature by buying, borrowing or downloading their own copies.”

The judging panels comprised of Professor Peter Pierce (chair), Professor John Hay AC and Dr Lyn Gallacher (fiction); Mr Brian Johns AO (chair), Mr Colin Steele and Dr Faye Sutherland (non-fiction); and Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright (chair), Mr Mike Shuttleworth and Ms Mary-Ruth Mendel (children’s and young adult fiction).

The 2011 shortlisted publications and authors are:

Traitor – Stephen Daisley

In the battle-smoke and chaos of Gallipoli, a young New Zealand soldier helps a Turkish doctor fighting to save a boy’s life. Then a shell bursts nearby; the blast that should have killed them both consigns them instead to the same military hospital.

Mahmoud is a Sufi. A whirling dervish, he says, of the Mevlevi order. He tells David stories: of arriving in London with a pocketful of dried apricots; of Majnun, the man mad for love; and of the saint who flew to paradise on a lion skin. You are God, we are all gods, Mahmoud tells David; and a bond grows between them. A bond so strong that David will betray his country for his friend.

Stephen Daisley’s astonishing debut novel is a story of war and of love—how each changes everything, forever. Evoking horror and beauty and a profound sense of the possibility of transformation, Traitor is that rarest of things: a work of fiction that will transport the reader, heart and soul, into another realm.

Biography

Stephen Daisley was born in New Zealand in 1955. He has served in the New Zealand Army and worked at a variety of jobs in New Zealand and Australia including on sheep and cattle stations, cutting bush and scrub, driving trucks, doing road works and bar work, and on oil and gas construction sites. Traitor is his first novel. He now lives in Perth.

Judges’ Comments

Stephen Daisley’s first novel, Traitor is brilliant, poignant and provoking. Its tactile, redolent evocation of the physical world of sheep-farming in New Zealand and of warfare at Gallipoli—while this recalls material in many Australian novels—is also and utterly distinctive. Myths and propaganda are quietly set aside. The moral imperatives to which rare (and in this case reticent) individuals can attend are strikingly set forth. Here is another arresting renovation of what maleness—and decency in anyone—might be.

Click here to order your copy of Traitor

Notorious – Roberta Lowing

She came walking out of the desert, just as the famous poet had centuries before. Impossible for them both to have survived that relentless furnace, that destroyer of all life.

Now the nameless woman lies horribly scarred and close to death in an Asylum deep in the North African desert. An Australian official, a man code-named John Devlin, has come to question her, despite the protests of her carers. It is clear that the woman and Devlin share some kind of past, and all kinds of secrets – but the greatest secret is the one she will die to protect.

As the wind calls up a deadly sandstorm, the inhabitants of the Asylum discover they are linked by a diary written by the poet Rimbaud, who in 1890 also confronted the implacable power of the desert. Over the next one hundred and twenty years, everyone who sees the diary will want it. Most will do anything to possess it.

For some, like ruthless Polish aristocrat Aleksander Walenska, the diary holds secrets that will bring him riches and power. For his troubled and religious son Czeslaw, it is a book of death, a penance to be fulfilled by sacrifice. For Czeslaw’s sister, it is a book of the desert which, if returned to its rightful home, will redeem her family’s name. For Devlin, broken by his own ghosts, and with one final chance to make amends, the diary is worthless; the desert not a place of revelation, but the birthplace of modern terrorism.

Only the woman, whose dark past is entwined with those who would possess the diary at any cost, sees the true worth of the book.

Biography

Roberta Lowing was Fairfax Media/The Sun-Herald’s film and video critic for twenty-three years and covered the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals for ten years, interviewing directors and actors and writing travel stories. In the late 1990s, she produced and directed 80 episodes of the environmental show Green Seen, which she co-founded, for the community television station Channel 31. From 2006 until 2010, she ran the Poetry UnLimited Press Readings in Sydney. Roberta recently completed her Master of Letters at the University of Sydney. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as Meanjin, Blue Dog and Overland. Roberta’s first collection of poetry, Ruin, was published in 2010 by Interactive Press. Fairfax Books has also published a collection of Roberta’s reviews from The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age.

Judges’ Comments

Roberta Lowing’s Notorious is a first novel and one notable for the breadth of its ambitions and the bravura with which these are realised. We move backwards and forwards in time and across continents in a series of linked searches and pursuits that are both haunting and horrifying. The poet Rimbaud and his adventures in the deserts of Morocco are Lowing’s starting point. From there we are led into places where revenge and the desire for expiation are shockingly entwined. Notorious is a sustained, assured and surprising début.

Click here to order your copy of Notorious

When Colts Ran – Roger McDonald

In this sweeping epic of friendship, toil, hope and failed promise, multi-award-winning author Roger McDonald follows the story of Kingsley Colts as he chases the ghost of himself through the decades, and in and out of the lives and affections of the citizens of ‘The Isabel’, a slice of Australia scattered with prospectors, artists, no-hopers and visionaries. Against this spacious backdrop of sheep stations, timeless landscapes and the Five Alls pub, men play out their fates, conduct their rivalries and hope for the best.

Major Dunc Buckler, ‘misplaced genius and authentic ratbag’, scours the country for machinery in a World War that will never find him. Wayne Hovell, slave to ‘moral duty’, carries the physical and emotional scars of Colts’s early rebellion, but also finds himself the keeper of his redemption. Normie Powell, son of a rugby-playing minister, finds his own mysticism as a naturalist, while warm-hearted stock dealer Alan Hooke longs for understanding in a house full of women. They are men shaped by the obligations and expectations of a previous generation, all striving to define themselves in their own language, on their own terms.

When Colts Ran, written in Roger McDonald’s rich and piercingly observant style, in turns humorous and hard-bitten, charts the ebb and flow of human fortune, and our fraught desire to leave an indelible mark on society and those closest to us. It shows how loyalties shape us in the most unexpected ways. It is the story of how men ‘strike at beauty’ as they fall to the earth.

Biography

Roger McDonald was born at Young, New South Wales, and educated at country schools and in Sydney. He began his working life as a teacher, ABC producer, and book editor, wrote poetry for several years, but in his thirties turned to fiction, expressing the feeling that for him, at least, poetry was “unable to express a full range of characters and moods, the larger panorama of Australian life that I felt was there to portray”. His first novel was 1915, a novel of Gallipoli, winner of the Age Book of the Year, and made into a highly successful eight-part ABC-TV mini-series. Slipstream, Rough Wallaby, Water Man and The Slap followed, each of these novels drawing intensively on imaginative, poetic takes on rural living. McDonald’s account of travelling the outback with a team of New Zealand shearers, Shearers’ Motel, won the National Book Council Banjo Award for non-fiction. His bestselling novel Mr Darwin’s Shooter, was awarded three Premiers’ literary awards, and the National Fiction Award at the 2000 Adelaide Writers’ Week. The Ballad of Desmond Kale won the 2006 Miles Franklin Award and South Australian Festival Prize for Fiction. A long story that became part of When Colts Ran was awarded the O. Henry Prize (USA) in 2008.

Judges’ Comments

In When Colts Ran, Roger McDonald has boldly re-invigorated one of the most popular forms of Australian fiction—the saga of pioneering, land-taking and nation-building. Familiar material of the saga—struggle on outback sheep stations, family feuds sustained across the generations, the experience of foreign war, the ravages of drought—is enlisted with a freshness and verve that indicates both McDonald’s inwardness with this literary tradition, and the originality with which he reshapes it. The novel is also a meditation on heroism, on the loneliness that gregariousness can mask, on a lostness of spirit that cannot be assuaged.

Click here to order your copy of When Colts Ran

Glissando – David Musgrave

When it comes to looking back over his life, Archie Fliess has got some understanding to do. So begins a sprawling reflection on his life during the early twentieth century, from the day the fortunes of brothers Archie and Reggie changed when they were taken to be the rightful owners of the property built by their grandfather in country NSW.

Along their journey they are introduced to an odd collection of family and caretakers, who don’t always have the best interests of the boys at heart. Archie becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s life, and as the two stories—Archie’s and his grandfather’s—unravel, we see familiar themes of disappointment and failed ambition.

Biography

David Musgrave’s poetry and short stories have won or been shortlisted for several awards including the Newcastle, Somerset, Bruce Dawe, Broadway and Henry Lawson prizes. In 2005, he founded the publishing house Puncher & Wattmann, which publishes poetry and literary fiction. Glissando: A Melodrama (Sleepers, 2010) is his first novel.

Judges’ Comments

While David Musgrave’s artful and often hilarious first novel, Glissando, is subtitled ‘a melodrama’, and although much of its business is with the theatrical, the range is wider. This is a picaresque and parodic narrative that follows the misadventures and triumphs of its wandering group of characters. Australia’s literature and history are playfully enlisted—Patrick White’s Voss, the New Australia venture in Paraguay, explorers’ journals, touring theatre troupes. Musgrave’s satire is exuberant, inventive, incisive: it is the triumph in a novel of confident originality.

Click here to order your copy of Glissando

That Deadman Dance – Kim Scott

Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.

The novel’s hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.

But slowly – by design and by accident – things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are “accidents” and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby’s Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia…

Biography

Born in 1957, Kim Scott’s ancestral Noongar country is the south-east coast of Western Australia between Gairdner River and Cape Arid. His cultural Elders use the term Wirlomin to refer to their clan, and the Norman Tindale nomenclature identifies people of this area as Wudjari/Koreng. Kim’s professional background is in education and the arts. He is the author of two novels, True Country and Benang, poetry and numerous pieces of short fiction.

Judges’ Comments

Kim Scott’s latest novel, That Deadman Dance, vividly and compassionately imagines the early contact between the Noongar people of the south-west of Western Australia and European and American transients and settlers. Scott explores the complex human relations on what some historians have called ‘the friendly frontier’. Cultural collisions are seen sympathetically from both sides, and are described in a prose that has the capacity to make new and strange the events, people and landscapes that the novel memorably encompasses.

Click here to order your copy of That Deadman Dance

Non-fiction shortlist

Young adult fiction shortlist

Children’s fiction shortlist

Karen Brooks, author of The Curse of the Bond Riders, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karen Brooks

author of Tallow and Votive: The Curse of the Bond Riders

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, in a little apartment in Crows Nest, where I lived with my mother, an Israeli immigrant, and my younger sister, Jenny. We didn’t have much, and I remember meals of not much more than baked beans or chicken fat smeared on rye bread or liverwurst, pumpernickel and speck. I used to be teased a great deal for my school lunches and I thought white bread was something ‘rich’ kids ate.

I went to Cammeray Primary School and loved it there. It was quite a large school for its time and the teachers were fantastic and very encouraging of creativity. Drama was important as was writing and stretching the boundaries of your imagination. I read a great deal and used to spend all my pocket money and too much time in St Vincent De Paul, where I would buy second hand books (still love second hand books – the idea of other minds reading the contents, other hands with histories and different lives turning the pages – it’s quite amazing when you stop and think about it!). I had the full collection of Enid Blyton books and later, C.S. Lewis and so many others. I would also play with other kids on the street where I lived. We would clamber over fences, build cubby houses and play cricket and never venture home until the streetlights came on, that was our cue to leave.

My mother was married a total of eight times so, it’s no surprise that for many complex reasons, we went to live with our father and step-mother and, as a consequence, changed schools quite a bit. Later, I went to North Sydney Girls High School for one year, then to Hornsby Girls High. I also spent a year and two terms at Tweed River High on the Gold Coast. I finished my schooling at Hornsby Girls High where I was elected, much to my sister’s chagrin, Head Prefect. I was one of those kids who loved school and the entire learning environment. I should add, a constant in my life was my German grandmother, who instilled in me a love of myths and fairytales as well as musicals.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At both twelve and eighteen, I wanted only to be an actor. I think it was the escapism, the joy of dressing up, wearing make-up, performing, stepping into someone else’s existence for a while, breathing life into characters that, until you did that, were just words on a page – brilliant exciting words, but they also depended on your interpretation to come alive and for understanding. That was quite an intoxicating idea and it took me some time to shed the notion that acting would not be my profession. I taught drama and dabbled in amateur and professional theatre for many years though.

By the age of thirty, I think with two children and a second marriage just commencing, my priorities changed. I wanted to be a good mother and partner but, as far as what I wanted to ‘be’ in terms of career, it was an academic. I wanted to finish my Ph.D. and earn a position at a university. I also started to think about writing as a career. The irony is, I soon learned, that being a good lecturer was also about being a good performer, so I don’t think that any of those years spent studying drama or dreaming about a career on stage, were wasted.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Gosh, that’s a hard question as I think life experiences change your beliefs and ideas about things so much. But, if I had to name one that has changed, it’s the fallibility of parents. I used to think my father could do anything except be wrong. I learned that’s not true and, in doing so, learned to be more generous about his faults.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Only three? :-) I’ll try and name one of each. Shirley Hazzard’s Transit of Venus – a sublime and perfectly told story that is just heart-wrenchingly exquisite. Painting would have to be Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ – I find it so beautiful and inspiring and it marks a time when people really appreciated what antiquity bequeathed us – the importance of myth and imagination. Gosh, Venus is a bit of a theme there! Music is a tough one. I love Vivaldi, Grieg and Handel but then I also love Queen, ABBA, KISS, AC/DC and The Foo Fighters, along with many others, so tend to be a bit eclectic.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I gain so much pleasure from reading novels – have my entire life and I think I just wanted to try and be part of that – the giving of pleasure. Having said that, it’s not a selfless act. I also love writing and writing a novel is a labour of love.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Votive is the second book in The Curse of the Bond Riders and, while it’s the sequel to Tallow, I’ve been told it works very well as a stand alone as well. It’s difficult to assign a genre to it, but if I had to it would be historical-fantasy as it’s set in a city akin to Renaissance Venice, but is also wide in scope in that others places and peoples are introduced – many of whom are historically accurate. In this book, Tallow has been taken under the wing of the corrupt Maleovelli family. Under their roof, she slowly sheds her old identity as a candle maker’s apprentice and becomes Tarlo Maleovelli, a beautiful courtesan with a deadly secret. The reader follows her transformation from callow youth, to beautiful courtesan to cold-hearted assassin and learns more about her amazing abilities and why she’s both feared and desired. In the meantime, powerful forces stir within the world, all of whom seek Tallow and what she can do for them. Only too late will she realise they hold the key to her survival and the one thing she cannot possibly resist….

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope they take away a feeling of having been on a tremendous emotional and psychological journey; that they experience terrific highs and lows and that they really care what happens to the characters. I would hope they long to know what’s going to happen next in terms of the overall story as well… if they take away that from reading Votive, I’ll be very happy.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

There are so many people I admire, but frankly, Sara Douglass the Australian fantasy writer and historian, is the person I admire most. She writes these wonderful page-turners that give so many people genuine delight and the opportunity to lose themselves in another world, and lately she’s been doing that while suffering a terrible disease – cancer. But, she continues to write and create and that amazes and inspires me.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I am no different to them then! I want to write more, publish more and give as many readers as I can the most pleasure from my words and stories that’s possible – in Australia and beyond.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

You know, I think writers all give the same advice and that’s to read lots and write more. But, the trick, when reading your favourite novels or writers, is to read the story like a writer. That is, to look at how the tale unfolds, how it’s paced, how the characters are developed, how dialogue is written, how a sense of place is created and presented to the reader. Reading like a writer is a very different process to picking up a book to lose yourself, and you learn so much and come to really appreciate the craftsmanship and, in doing so, pick up many useful tips.

Karen, thank you for playing.

My pleasure :)

You can follow Karen on Twitter – click here

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