Three Authors Offer Advice for Writers: Miles Franklin Award Winner Anna Funder, Damien Brown, and Wendy Harmer

I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog.

My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Miles Franklin shortlisted Favel Parret and  Rebecca James.

In each of these interviews I ask the following question:

Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…


Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2012

“Look very closely and tell the truth.”

Read the full interview here…

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“i. Log out of Facebook.

ii. Commit wholeheartedly. Then, solicit all the professional criticism you can, swallow your pride, and cancel your social engagements for the coming months…”

Read the full interview here…

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“Make time to write – whatever it takes. That’s one thing you need, time, and, if you’re lucky enough, a partner who brings you snacks.”

Read the full interview here…

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For more advice from published writers go here

Carolyn Donovan, author of Chooks in Stilettos and Greenies in Stilettos, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Carolyn Donovan

author of Chooks in Stilettos and Greenies in Stilettos,

Ten Terrifying Questions


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 Sydney to adventurous parents who liked moving houses. A lot. I went to a different school every two years – which filled me with fear and dread each time, but also taught me skills like the ability to make my stone-ground, organic peanut paste, alfalfa sprout sandwiches on pumpernickel bread (mum was a sari skirt-wearing hippy) sound like an enticing swap for a strawberry jam on white (how I longed for a mother in a polyester print dress with no knowledge of the chemical names of every food additive ever created); through to making myself look studious and busy – rather than lonely – by heading straight to the library at recess times (where I also discovered an exciting world of glossy magazines full of fashion, makeup and glamorous advertisements that would have been considered far too ‘commercialised’ to have ever been allowed into our home).

Growing up as the youngest of a large group of female cousins meant most of my clothing came from whopping great garbage bags stuffed with hand-me-down goodies. The fact that things didn’t always fit me held an exciting challenge. With a head full of ideas and dreams (inspired by all those magazine pictures) I always had big plans for these jumbled assortments of cotton-mix-nyloness before me. I snipped and pinned, hitched and twisted old pieces of cloth into masterpieces of wearable art. Thankfully, I was also the oldest of four siblings, so my mother was often too busy to notice me actually leaving the house in some of my more spectacular re-makes. But bless her for allowing me to be so…er…creative!

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

At twelve, I wanted to be a model. As a gawky, uncoordinated teenager, I never seriously considered I could ever actually be sophisticated or pretty enough – I just dreamed about wearing gorgeous clothes, ridiculous amounts of makeup and shoes I couldn’t walk in properly, while boarding aeroplanes to faraway countries.

At eighteen, I was a model (which I had fallen into quite by accident after a chance meeting a year before) and while boarding aeroplanes to faraway countries and wearing gorgeous shoes I couldn’t walk in properly, I desperately wanted to be a student again and take up all the teenage-only opportunities I felt I had wished away too readily.

By thirty, I was over my first mid-life crisis. I had been primped, preened, photographed, wind-machined, widowed (a whole other long story), and could list ‘mother’ when filling in the ‘occupation’ space on legal forms. After years of living-out-of-a-suitcase – punctuated with occasional folksy bursts of needing to grow herbs and vegetables wherever I stayed – I suddenly wanted to be a suburb-dwelling, house-renovating, dog walking, footy mum (still with a wardrobe full of gorgeous clothes!).

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

Everything is good in moderation. (I now believe ‘everything’ may be permissible – but not everything is beneficial.)

 4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Learning to read would have to be the most monumental: in more ways than I could ever express. Books have been my teachers, my comfort and my close friends in the loneliest places all over the globe. What an honour it is to write one.

Becoming a parent was another big influence. Once upon a time, even caring about the environment appeared, to me, to be more suited to the slightly eccentric of the world. That view changed significantly when I became a mother myself as everything within me went into warrior mode to provide and sustain life. Water cleanliness, air pollution, pesticide residues and childhood diseases were no longer something I could justify brushing aside.

Prior to that, my first garbage bag full of hand-me-down clothes is probably what started off my whole career path. I developed such an appreciation for handiwork, detail and truly beautiful things – which in turn led me into the fashion industry, that then provided the opportunity to see parts of the world I may never have had the pleasure of visiting.

5.  Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

I love all forms of media, journalism and artistic expression. TV and radio provide the soundtrack to life. Newspaper articles inform and update. Images grab attention and sell dreams. Blogs are like windows into other people’s minds – a close companion to my people-watching addiction. But books…

There is something deliciously exciting about opening a book for the first time – knowing you hold an entire adventure in your hands. Books are the gifts I most love to give – and the gift I always love to receive. A book is something portable and personal to place beside your bed as a reward at night, or slip into your bag and take on a journey with you. A book takes you on a journey. Books will never die.

6. Please tell us about your latest book, Greenies in Stilettos.

Greenies in Stilettos will switch on your creative side. It will have you excitedly reaching into the back of your wardrobe and seeing all your old clothes in a whole new ‘designer’ light. You will want to make all the luxurious beauty products out of everyday ingredients you already have in the pantry. And the money it will save you! But it’s not all DIY. (I am the laziest DIY’er you’ll ever meet.) It is jam-packed with gorgeously green solutions that, not only make you more beautiful – but will also save the Earth.

I guess the publisher description sums it (and me) up: In an industry famous for having the shelf life of a banana (and some other not so natural practises), model and devoted environmentalist, Carolyn Donovan, has beaten the odds and remained in high demand in the fashion industry for over two decades. In Greenies in Stilettos, Carolyn reveals all the secrets to living an earth-friendly lifestyle while refusing to compromise on style or glamour. Discover 5 easy steps to saving the Earth: In your wardrobe, on your face, in your home and in the world around you. Where else could you learn how to rustle up your own designer gown in minutes – AND make a handbag out of a tank top?  

Click here to order Greenies in Stilettos from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

We must address our burgeoning waste problem. Urgently! The very basics of what we require – fresh air, clean water, and the ability to grow food – rely on an interconnected web of natural systems all regulating our planet’s climate and making life on Earth possible. When you envision a near future of some eight billion people all seeking a higher standard of living; the elimination of waste, preserving natural resources, dignifying lives and reducing environmental pressure are all essential to our existence.

8.  Whom do you most admire and why?

My mum was so ahead of her time. Her example taught me how to look at life’s potential hurdles more creatively: from piling her four kids, a temperamental old stroller and her brown vinyl shopping trolley on two buses and a long walk to the nearest library – to memories of her cutting up one of her favourite skirts to make a dress for me. She would travel far and wide to buy fresh produce that was – not only free of pesticides – but supporting the local growers in our area. This was in the midst of the taffeta-clad, spray-everything-that-moves-with-CFCs 80’s. What a woman! I learned, from watching her, when faced with obstacles we either find solutions, or excuses.

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

To save the world. And show others how easy it is too.

 10.  What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just start. Get all the words down as they come to you. Don’t worry about editing as you go. If you need to get some discipline in your writing, start a ticking timer next to you – set for twenty minute bursts. There’s nothing quite like a ticking clock to get the words out of your head and onto paper. Read and read, and read some more, for inspiration – but when you write, always be yourself. In fact, regardless of what you do, always be yourself – because everyone else is taken.

Carolyn, thank you for playing.

You’re welcome. Here – have an indoor plant to take home with you. Every room needs one to clean the air. Seriously!

Click here to order Greenies in Stilettos from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Ambelin Kwaymullina’s Top 5 Dystopian Books

1. Blood Red Road

The Dustland Series: Book 1

by Moira Young

Loved this story!

Saba’s world is so compelling, and the action scenes are superbly done. There were some moments (especially when Saba is cagefighting) when I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat, hunched over the book as my eyes scanned the page, almost tripping over words in my head from reading too fast as I hurried to find out what happened next.

Can’t wait for the sequel.

Click here to buy

2. The Obernewtyn Chronicles

by Isobelle Carmody

(Obernewtyn, The Farseekers, Ashling, The Keeping Place, The Stone Key, The Sending)

Obernewtyn was the first post-apocalyptic book I ever read, and I’ve followed Elspeth’s adventures for a long time now.

I have the entire series lined up on a shelf, ready to read all over again from the beginning once I have the last book. There’s so many things to love about this series – how brave Elspeth is, and how strong; the vivid complexities of her post-apocalyptic world; and how incredibly well-realised the animal characters are.

I am a dog person by nature, but I always have a special place in my heart for Maruman the cat.

Click here to buy

3. The Hunger Games trilogy

by Suzanne Collins

(The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay)

Doesn’t everyone love these?

Katniss is such an awesome character! And the political cynicism of the people who run the unjust society she lives in (and of some of the people who are seeking to change it too) is positively chilling. The Games are so terrible, and anyone forced into them has so few choices, it can’t help but make you wonder what you’d do in the same situation – whether you could fight your way out like Katniss and Peeta do, and who you might have to become to survive.

Click here to buy

4. The Matched series

by Ally Condie

(Matched and Crossed)

I think what I enjoyed most about these books is following Cassia on her journey – the way in which she begins to question Society, and the small rebellions that turn into much bigger ones. I really loved how the certainty and safety of a regimented world begins to unravel around her, exposing the ugliness that lies beneath the surface, the price being paid for a ‘perfect’ Society. I liked, too, the convergence and intersections of her story with Ky’s and Xander’s, and the way they all resist being controlled in different ways.

Looking forward to catching up with them all again in book 3.

Click here to buy

5. The Divergent series

by Veronica Roth

(Divergent, Insurgent)

These books are so much fun – fast, and heaps of action.

Also, I spent quite a while trying to figure out which faction I would choose, if I had to decide like Tris does. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to be part of Dauntless – certainly couldn’t have jumped from that train!

Click here to buy

About the Author

Ambelin Kwaymullina loves reading sci-fi/fantasy books, and has wanted to write a novel since she was six years old. She comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. When not writing or reading she teaches law, illustrates picture books, and hangs out with her dogs.

She has previously written a number of children’s books, both alone and with other members of her family.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is her first novel.

Read Ambelin’s answers to Booktopia’s Ten Terrifying Questions

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below … And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.”

Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe – the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move.

Click here to order The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf from Booktopia,
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Ali Ahearn and Ros Baxter, authors of Sister Pact, answer Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Ali Ahearn and Ros Baxter

authors of Sister Pact

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

Both of us were born and raised (largely) in Rockhampton in Central Queensland – a nice place to grow up but also one where romantic advice consisted of “don’t sit on the hill at the pool or you’ll get a reputation”.

We went to North Rockhampton High School where all the teachers knew our mother. You can’t get away with anything when all the teachers know your mother. Not even sitting on the hill…

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


At twelve I wanted to be a hairdresser because it seemed uber sophisticated. Young women with the latest funky hair fashions, fabulous clothes and beautiful nails. Even now I find going to the hairdresser to be the ultimate in oestrogen replacement therapy. Plus, where else am I going to catch up on all the Kardashian gossip?

At eighteen I wanted to be (and was) a nurse. Twenty-five years later I still absolutely adore being a part of this profession even if the fluro lights on night shifts are supposedly giving me cancer.

At thirty I wanted to be a published author. Why? Because rejection made me bloody-minded.


At twelve, I wanted to be the first girl member of Bon Jovi or go to South Africa and fight to get Nelson Mandela freed. My parents advised neither job had stable prospects (like that was going to stop me).

At eighteen I wanted to be a lawyer and was at university studying to be one. Got high distinctions in sleeping-in, kissing boys and going to rallies.

At 30 wanted to be a mother. 8 years later, I’m cooking up number 4 and wishing I’d worked harder on the Bon Jovi angle.

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


I had quite a few firmly held beliefs at 18 most of which I don’t have now – the sanctity of a Lady Di cut and shoulder pads being just two. I’ve learned over the years that lines blur and things get grey as time goes by. I used to believe in God. Now I’m an atheist.


That 40 was sooooo old.

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?


Two books were a turning point for me in my development as a writer. Bridget Jones’s Diary – I think it’s fair to say Helen Fielding opened up a whole new world for us all. And Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie, who used snark and sass and wit and humour and opened my eyes to a whole different kind of book.

I can’t say that a painting or a piece of music influenced my writing exactly but I do know I want to write in a world where they exist.


First, books generally – they were everywhere in our home growing up. Literature, romance, westerns, dodgy spy novels. Our parents were omnivores. We grew up with no snobbery about books. Stories were just good, fullstop.

Possession by AS Byatt was the first book I remember reading and thinking: oh yeah, that’s what I want to do, one day. Hypnotic, clever, moving. High bar, though. Scary high.

The third influence (again, not really a work of art) was my women friends. The way we talk, tell tales (to each other, our kids, ourselves), the way stories help us understand the world. All the women I really love are one part Scheherazade.

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


I can’t sing, dance, paint, pot, sculpt, act or anything else remotely artistic. And then there were the voices in my head. It was writing or Prozac.


There was never a choice. I wrote from the time I was eight. I just had to get to the point of believing I could actually write a real book and get paid for it. And that life is too short not to do the thing you love.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Sister Pact tells the story of Frances and Joni, two very different sisters, estranged for seven years after an unimaginable betrayal. When their conniving grandmother leaves them a million quid each in her will if they will compete as a team on a Survivor-style reality tv show, they both have their own reasons for needing to say yes.

In the jungle they battle insane contestants, the worst of mother nature, their own inadequacies and the terrible secrets that lie between them to find love, success and the way back to sisterhood. But not before eating a wasabi-dipped scorpion and a deep fried rat drumstick. Because humiliation makes great telly.

(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb: Two very different sisters. Once inseparable, they have long been estranged after an unimaginable betrayal.

Organised and uptight Frances married the only man she’d ever slept with. But no-one told her that seven years later she’d be having sexual fantasies about everyone from the pizza delivery guy to Denis Thatcher. Scatterbrained animal-lover Joni never knew she was so attached to her kneecaps until she thought she might have to say goodbye to them forever.

After their beloved grandmother — a game-show addict — dies, they discover that they have each been left one million pounds in her will. The kicker is that they can only inherit if they participate as a team in a gruelling reality TV program, Endurance Island.

They can survive the jungle.

They can survive the humiliating challenges.

But can they survive each other? )

Click here to buy Sister Pact from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

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

A smile.

A sense of emotional justice.

A burning desire to read the next Frankie and Joni saga.

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


The aforementioned Jenny Crusie because she writes wonderful heroines and books full of heart and female community, as well as fabulous sex scenes that are funny and organic. She’s also written some of the best “bad sex” scenes I’ve read.


Nora Roberts – for her discipline, versatility and the fact she always delivers.

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

To have a retreat in Tuscany where we can let the muse run wild.

And drink lots of wine.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Never give up. Be smart. Keep up with the industry. Learn from people who know. Hone your craft. Write what you love.

Ali and Ros, thank you for playing.

What are The Marmalade Files?

The Marmalade Files

An imaginative romp through the dark underbelly of politics by two veteran Canberra insiders.

When seasoned newshound Harry Dunkley is slipped a compromising photograph one frosty Canberra dawn he knows he′s onto something big.

In pursuit of the scoop, Dunkley must negotiate the deadly corridors of power where the minority Toohey Government hangs by a thread – its stricken Foreign Minister on life support, her heart maintained by a single thought. Revenge.

Rabid Rottweilers prowl in the guise of Opposition senators, union thugs wage class warfare, TV anchors simper and fawn … and loyalty and decency have long since given way to compromise and treachery.

From the teahouses of Beijing to the beaches of Bali, from the marbled halls of Washington to the basements of the bureaucracy, Dunkley′s quest takes him ever closer to the truth – and ever deeper into a lethal political game.

Award-winning journalists Steve Lewis of News Ltd and Chris Uhlmann from the ABC combine forces in this arresting novel that proves fiction is stranger than fact.

Click here to pre-order The Marmalade Files from Booktopia,
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COMING SOON: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence service.

The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency. The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere.

Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a secret mission codenamed Sweet Tooth, which brings her into the literary world of Tom Healey, a promising young writer.

First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom?

To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage – trust no one.

McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love, and the invented self.

Pre-order Sweet Tooth now from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Available from 23rd August 2012

About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children’s novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child In Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

Visit Booktopia’s Ian McEwan author page

David W. Cameron, author of The Battle for Lone Pine, Gallipoli, and ‘Sorry, Lads, But the Order is to Go’, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

David W. Cameron

author of The Battle for Lone Pine, Gallipoli, and ‘Sorry, Lads, But the Order is to Go’

Ten Terrifying Questions


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 Sydney (Bondi) and later moved into the western suburbs of Sydney, Campbelltown (when it actually was a town with about 10,000 people, if that). I graduated from the University of Sydney with First Class Honours in Archaeology.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

An archaeologist – I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my then hero Louis Leakey.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

That politics was a worthy profession.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My father’s love of reading, which he passed onto me; my first trip to Gallipoli (from then on I wanted to know more); and my research career, which gave me the confidence to write my first book.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

I strongly believe that books will never be obsolete, they may change in form, style and length (to take into account the entrenchment of texting, blogging etc) but books will always be around. A book has gravitas that no other form of media can hope to approach. There is nothing like sitting down with a good book in a comfortable chair. It’s like being a kid and opening that first Christmas present.

6. Please tell us about your latest book, The Battle for Lone Pine: Four Days of Hell at the Heart of Gallipoli

It tells the story of a number of individuals during the battle for Lone Pine at Gallipoli – Australian and Turk. Not only those in the front line, but also those supporting them in the rear areas, including nurses, cooks, sappers, engineers, stretcher-bearers etc.  It follows a number of individuals through those four terrible days of slaughter in August 1915. It is the first book to deal specifically with this battle and the consequences for those involved.  It is not just a ‘battle’ book but an intimate narrative of a number of individuals.

(From the publisher: Most Australian have heard of Lone Pine. Too few know why.

Over four days in August 1915, Australians and Turks were thrown into some of the fiercest fighting of the war, on a small plateau in Gallipoli known as Lone Pine. Thousands of lives were lost. Seven of Australia’s nine Gallipoli VCs were earned during brutal hand-to-hand combat in dark tunnels and in trenches just metres apart, bombarded by terrifying volleys of grenades.

The Battle for Lone Pine is the first book devoted to this cornerstone of the Anzac legend, drawing on unforgettable first-hand accounts scratched into diaries and letters home. The stories of the diggers, as well as the engineers, nurses, sappers, commanders and more, provide an invaluable record of the battle and serve as moving testimony to their courage in appalling conditions.

Today, pine trees are planted in remembrance around Australia. In Gallipoli, the Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial attracts large crowds to commemorate Anzac Day. David W. Cameron’s absorbing history reveals the fate of those who fought on the ground where they gather.)

Click here to buy The Battle for Lone Pine from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

It draws attention to the need for the appropriate conservation and preservation of the Anzac battlefields of 1915.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My parents.  They were battlers who made good and were always there in support and taught me the value and importance of family.

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

To write a best seller.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read – Read – Read.

Write – Write – Write.

PS: Don’t let the blank screen phase you – just start writing and keep writing.  Half the fun is going back and editing your work. The end product is never like the original – so just start!  (and keep the water on the boil.)

David, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Battle for Lone Pine from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop



A rush of adrenaline mixed with fear gripped 27-year-old Private Cecil McAnulty, from Middle Park, Victoria, as he and his mate Frank charged across no-man’s-land, on a plateau in the hills of the Gallipoli Peninsula not far from the coast, towards the Turkish stronghold nicknamed Lone Pine. As members of the 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion, they were in the Continue reading

Caroline Baum Farewells Nora Ephron

Vale Nora. You were one of those writers who sounded so confiding, so intimate that I thought of you as a friend I’d never met- and that was before Facebook exploited and devalued that concept.

I loved Heartburn. Think it was the first novel I ever read that interrupted the narrative to give readers a recipe. What a trend that started! Can anyone remember any other novelist doing this before Nora? She made writing about frivolous subjects like handbags seem important rather than trivial. She made you laugh at her neuroses because of course they were yours too and suddenly you felt it was ok to be highly strung and anxious and worried about superficial things. I Feel Bad About My Neck was such a perfect title for her collection of essays – that admission of insecurity hit a bull’s eye for so many women.

Nora was one of those writers that you fantasize about becoming your New Best Friend.

I’d imagine going to interview her in New York; after an intense and candid conversation she’d insist I stay for dinner and she’d make some heavenly chicken soup with the proper little jewish dumplings bobbing around in it , while I chatted casually with her husband Nick Pileggi, who happens to have written the scripts for some of the best Scorsese movies (Goodfellas, for example ). Then a few friends would drop, by the usual gang, Woody, Tina, Meryl and we’d laugh a lot and tell jokes and she’d say, why don’t you move out of your hotel and come stay for a few days and then we’d all go to the Hamptons for the weekend…. sorry I got carried away.

To quote just two pearls of wisdom from the list of things she wishes she’d known:

You can’t own too many black turtleneck sweaters

You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 pm

I hope the New Yorker publishes your To Do lists or any other scraps of paper you left lying around. I’ll miss you.

Caroline Baum

Kathryn Fox, author of Cold Grave, Death Mask, Malicious Intent, and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kathryn Fox

author of Cold Grave, Death Mask, Malicious Intent, and more,

Six Sharp Questions


1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Thank you! Cold Grave was a labour of love, and something I was passionate about writing. Like so many other Australians, I was stunned by the death of Australian mother, Dianne Brimble, on a cruise ship. With up to 20 million people a year going on cruises, and cruises being the biggest growth tourist industry, I decided to do some research on crimes that have taken place on ships and within the industry. Talk about the tip of the iceberg; Cold Grave had to be written.

Anya Crichton goes on holiday with her son and ex-husband. First morning on a cruise ship, they find the body of a teenage girl on deck. There is a suggestion she was sexually assaulted. Anya becomes involved in the investigation and quickly discovers that it isn’t in the best interest of the cruise line to discover the truth, and with a foreign owned ship in international waters, the laws are exceedingly murky.  She risks her life to find justice for the dead girl’s family.

Click here to order Cold Grave from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Best moment. Christmas Day in Disneyworld, Florida with my family.

Worst moment. Father diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

I’ve never been one to act like everyone else, and usually forge my own pathway. It’s liberating each day to only have to work at being the best ‘Me’ possible.  These two quotes explain why.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

From Shakespeare’s, Hamlet,

which loosely translates, to:

Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr. Seuss

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

My family and friends suspect I sit home watching Days of Our Lives all week! After getting everyone out the door in the morning, I head straight to a local, quiet café and am usually writing by 8.30. Mornings are my most efficient writing time and without internet, phone or other distractions, three hours can be as productive as six hours spent in my office. Women writers rarely have time to wait for a muse!

After that I head home to check emails, write any blogs and newspaper articles I’ve committed to, and attend to the business side of writing. A couple of days a week I’ll do a Pilates class because it really helps with back and posture issues – the bane of writers.

Afternoon is spent editing, then early evening is time with the family. Most nights I go back to work when they are in bed.

I have to laugh because they tell me I must procrastinate and leave every book until the last six months before deadline. Naturally, that’s when they see me writing on weekends, in between washing, cleaning and all the glamorous jobs they presume aren’t done during the week either. I just smile and get on with it, so I guess I’m not your stereotypical tortured artist!

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

You do have to be aware of the market place and the business of writing. That’s not to sound mercenary, but it’s a reality when that’s how I earn my living.  It would pay to know what markets are saturated and what are not selling if you decide to pen a vampire tale, or dystopian novel, for example. Readers are your market and your publishers are astutely aware of that. I’d love to write a thriller without Anya Crichton in the lead, but readers just seem to want more of her! To write in another genre, I’d probably have to change my name, but that’s not out of the question in the future.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

This is an incredible question! It could make a fantastic story! Are you sure you didn’t mean five book shops??? The books I think would most benefit ill-educated adolescents would be those that engage on a number of levels through great storytelling:

1. The Hunger Games

2. A Short History Of The World in conjunction with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions, if I can sneak that one in.

3. Dear Me – letters from successful adults to their 16 yr old selves.

4. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

5. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. (Seriously? All that drama and death over a 3 day infatuation and a breakdown in communication? Hope angst ridden teenagers learn an enormous amount from that.)

Kathryn, thank you for playing.

Click here to order Cold Grave from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Kathryn has also answered our Ten Terrifying Questions, click here to read more

Click here to see all of Kathryn’s titles

Ambelin Kwaymullina, author of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Ambelin Kwaymullina

author of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

Ten Terrifying Questions


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 Perth, Western Australia. This is the country of the Nyungah Aboriginal people, a place of black swans, towering eucalypt trees, and long beaches. I sometimes wonder what my great-grandmother thought of the ocean when she first saw it, how strange and terrifying it must have been. She was an inland woman, a child of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Her country, the country of the Palyku people to whom I belong, is one of great contrasts, of red earth, purple hills and endless blue sky. I think we have those contrasts, in different ways, across all of Australia – we are a land of diverse peoples and histories and opinions, and I value that diversity.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be writer. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a writer. When I was thirty I wanted to be a writer. In between these times, I’ve done lots of things – I’m a lawyer, I’ve worked in government and politics, and now I teach at a university. The wonderful thing about being an author is that no experience is ever wasted, it all goes into my writing in some way.

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

That I would write a novel by the time I was thirty. Turned out it took a few extra years.  But better late than never…

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?

When I was young we didn’t have a lot of money, and all my books came from the local book exchange, which was really just three rows of books sitting at the back of the newsagency on the corner. The only books anyone ever seemed to exchange were detective stories, and pretty old ones at that, so I read a lot of Agathie Christie. I think now that my love of unexpected twists and devious plots comes from reading these books.  My love of the science-fiction genre, on the other hand, was inspired by the Star Wars trilogy. I saw these movies so often when I was kid that I could recite a lot of the dialogue by heart, and I still enjoy watching them today. I love the way science fiction asks ‘what if’, the way it imagines both the great and terrible things humanity could do, if we had the technology to take us to the stars. I like to think that the best instincts of the human species will triumph in the end, and we will forge a future world that is kinder and more just than the one we have now.

The other stories that have influenced me are not always contained in books. They are the stories told by Aboriginal elders, and by other elders from other cultures across the globe, the ancient stories of the earth.

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

Writing connects me to worlds and worlds of possibilities that ordinarily seem so far beyond reach. I remember the first time I saw a whale, a huge creature surfacing momentarily before diving back into the deeps. It struck me with such awe and wonder. And sadness, too, because whales are hunted, and it hurts to love something so vulnerable.

When I write I sometimes think of the whale. It will never be open to me, a human, to truly understand her underwater world, or to know the meaning of her keening songs. But to write is as close as I will ever come to touching realities beyond my own. Perhaps in one of these realities, whales are not hunted, and human beings live with each other and the earth in far greater harmony than we do in this one. Maybe such a world, or the possibility of it, is what the whales sing of.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a dystopian fiction novel, set three hundred years after the world ended in an environmental cataclysm. In the society into which Ashala is born, those with ‘abilities’ are considered a threat, and are herded into detention centres, forced to wear collars that block their talents. Ashala has run away to avoid such a fate. Others have joined her, forming a Tribe of runaways who live in the ancient Firstwood. When the book begins, Ashala has been captured by the government, and is about to undergo an interrogation. She has secrets that she cannot afford to reveal, secrets that will put the Tribe at risk. She is being guarded by Justin Connor, who betrayed her to the government, and she knows she has little hope of holding out against her interrogators. Only all is not quite as it seems.

Click here to order The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

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

I hope that, above all, they feel they have read a well-told story. Beyond that, I hope they find The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf to be sort of book I like to read myself – one with mystery, and tension, and romance, that tells one person’s story but asks bigger questions about the nature of human society and the world.

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

The songwriters and the poets, who can capture the heart of a story in a few magical words.

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

To make a difference in the world.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Learn to be at once your own strongest supporter and your own harshest critic. You have to be able to keep yourself going, in the tired and lonely times, to pick yourself up after your one-hundredth attempt at writing something that still hasn’t worked, and to stick with writing even when others tell you that you’ll never do it and most especially when you feel like that yourself. But you also have to be able to accurately judge your own work, to recognise when something needs to be cut or when a character or a scene is not living up to their potential, and to know when your good idea has not translated into a good story (I have a box of half-finished novels sitting in the bottom of my wardrobe. None of them worked, but I learned something from each).

Ambelin, thank you for playing.

Click here to order The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop


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