Joe Abercrombie, author of Red Country, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joe Abercrombie

author of Red CountryThe Heroes , The First Law Trilogy and many more

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 Lancaster, England, and educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School until I was 17, then Manchester University until I was 20.  I then moved to London and worked as a freelance TV editor for 13 years or so, during the latter few of which I was also writing edgy yet humorous fantasy fiction…

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

When I was twelve I wanted to work in roleplaying games, when I was eighteen I didn’t know what I wanted, and by the time I was thirty I was working at becoming an author.  I’d written my first book and was looking for a publisher.

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

That I knew it all.

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?

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, because it started my life-long love affair with fantasy.  George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones because it took fantasy and did something dangerous, adult and unpredictable with it.  Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven, because it took a well-worn genre and produced something that was at the same time a brilliant example of the form, a grittier, more realistic revision of the form, and a comment on the form.  That’s in a way the approach I aspire to take to epic fantasy.

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

Well it is a whole lot cheaper than making a film.  I already worked as part of a big team as a TV editor, and I wanted to try my hand at something that was wholly my project, that I could do easily and cheaply on my own.  And I’d always been a keen reader and felt that I would like to try my hand at it.

6.    Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest novel is called Red Country, and it’s a combination of fantasy and western.  No six-shooters, no stetsons, no chaps, but a lot of tough characters with hundreds of miles of dangerous untamed frontier to cross, narrow-eyed standoffs in windswept streets between men trying to escape bloody pasts, and conflicted people trying to fumble their way to doing the right thing in a lawless world.

(Editors note: From the Publisher)

They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing.  She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company.  But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own.  And out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts.  Even worse it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer, Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…

Click here to buy Red Country from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

A burning desire to read the next one.

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

Within my own bit of it I’ve got a lot of respect for George R.R. Martin.  He’s been working hard for a very long time, hasn’t taken the easy way, has got a great deal of well-deserved success relatively late in life but kept his feet very much on the ground.  I’ve been at a couple of events with him and seen how much he still enjoys spending time with fans and other writers.

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

Only to rule the universe.

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

From a business standpoint, don’t expect riches to shower upon you, not soon and probably not ever.  From a creative standpoint, the best piece of advice I’ve had was from my mother, who said always try to be honest, always try to be truthful.  With every piece of dialogue, with every description, with every metaphor, ask yourself is this true?  Would this person really say these words, does this thing really look like this, do someone’s eyes really glitter like stars scattered across the sable cloth of the heavens?  Avoid the easy cliché, and hopefully you won’t go too far wrong…

Joe, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Red Country from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

The world mourns the death of cricket legend Tony Greig

The Soundtrack of Summer will never be the same as news filters through of the death of former England captain and respected commentator Tony Greig. Many Australians first saw him in his youth as the stubborn resistor of our mighty bowling attack in the 1970’s, a cunning medium-pace bowler and a fielder not to be trifled with.

All this was to change with the advent of World Series cricket which lit up the cricketing landscape. After his retirement he switched to commentary and never looked back, becoming a national identity in Australia, from foe to friend in our living rooms. His role in the cricket revolution and sacrifices he made was brilliantly portrayed in the recent mini-series Howzat: Kerry Packer’s War.

His views on the game became stuff of legend, full of good humour and rich insight while his enthusiasm for the Australian way of life never ceased throughout his life.

A legend of the game of cricket and sports broadcasting, Tony Greig lost his battle with lung cancer at the age of 66.


Greig, who played a senior role in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution and was a distinctive voice in cricket broadcasting, was diagnosed with the illness in October.

He did not join the Channel Nine commentary team this summer.

Born in Queenstown, South Africa, he trialled for Sussex in 1965 as a teenager and set himself the goal of representing England, which he did in 58 Tests between 1972 and 1977.

Andy Allen, author of The Next Element and winner of MasterChef Australia 2012, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Andy Allen

author of The Next Element and winner of MasterChef Australia 2012…

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 a town called Maitland, which is 25 minutes N/W of Newcastle and I completed my HSC at Maitland Grossmann High School.

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

Growing up I always wanted to be a professional basketball player. I put all my energy into this until I finally realised this wasn’t going to happen at the age of about 18. At this time I was at a crossroads in my career and at the age 20 I decided to take an offer of an apprenticeship as an Electrician. By the age of 23 I knew this wasn’t for me and decided to fill out an application to be on MasterChef.

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

At 18, I didn’t really believe that dreams could come true. I had to come to terms that I wasn’t going to play basketball professionally and started to think I would have to settle with a job that was just a place to go to work for the rest of my life. But now at the age of 24 I now realise if you want something bad enough and you are passionate enough about it, nothing can hold you back.

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 families love for food.

Quitting university to work in a bar. It sounds insane but this is where I had most of my free time to learn about cooking.

Entering MasterChef.

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’m not going to lie, the reason I wrote a book was that it was prize given to me for winning a competition. At first I thought I was not worthy of becoming an author nor being experienced enough to write a book but then I looked back at the last 8 months of my life and realised how hard I had worked to win MasterChef and I deserved it as much as any of the other contestants.

6. Please tell us about your book…

My latest and first book “The Next Element” is a cookbook which displays my progression throughout my MasterChef ‘journey’. The first chapter, Cooking for myFamily, is full of basic, weeknight meals which any novice cook should be able to complete. The second section Cooking for my Friends, are all the recipes I cook when my mates come over for an afternoon BBQ, more your tapas style dishes. These recipes are also very achievable for any home cook. A New Direction is the last section where you will find a few of my successful dishes I cooked on MasterChef and also a few more advanced recipes which I love to cook now. Hopefully there is something in there for everyone!

Click here to buy The Next Element from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

Everyone finding the job that they want to do for the rest of their life.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My family. My Mum, Dad and two sisters, as they have stuck by me in everything I have tried.

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

If there is one thing I have learnt from my time on MasterChef it is not to look to much into the future. Yes its great to have ambitions and goals, but its more important to focus on the task at hand. In saying that my long term goal is to set myself high standards in everything I put my hand to and know that if you work hard enough, anything is possible.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write a book you want to write and enjoy writing it. Come up with a concept in which you know you will be proud of when it comes back from print and go from there.

Andy, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Next Element from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Maureen McCarthy, author of The Convent, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maureen McCarthy

author of The ConventCareful What You Wish For and many more…

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 on a farm outside Yea in country Victoria the 9th of 10 kids and attended a small rural school for the primary years. There were usually only about fifteen or twenty other kids in the school at any one time and we rode our horses there and back.  My six years of secondary education were spent in a Convent boarding school in Melbourne where almost all the teachers were nuns. I shared a dormitory with forty, sometimes fifty other girls – privacy issues had yet to be invented!  We wore uniforms all week – including on the weekends – and apart from being very cold in winter, I remember happy times as well as sad.

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

At twelve I wanted to be a hero of some kind. It didn’t matter in what field, except that I needed to save the day (if not the world) in some way!
(I read a lot of Girls Own Annuals!)
At eighteen I wanted to be an artist (painter) even though I had a sneaking suspicion that I didn’t have the talent. But I wanted to live in my heart and mind. Nothing else seemed important.
Apart from that I wanted of course to be desperately in love!
At thirty I wanted to write. But apart from scribbling bits and pieces to myself in the early morning I had no idea how this might happen.  I had young children and I suppose I was pretty frustrated.

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

At eighteen I believed in Communism. Not that I knew much about it! But I thought that it could be the answer to the world’s problems. Seeing starving children on the television affected me deeply and Communism seemed like a nice neat simple solution! I hadn’t yet learnt that Mao and Stalin were up there with Hitler ie the biggest mass murderers of the 20C.

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?

I remember hearing Bob Dylan singing A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall when I was eleven. I was standing in a room by myself next to a scratchy old turntable and  … my whole body started trembling. I didn’t understand the words and nor did I know a thing about Dylan but by the end of the song I was crying.
I read The Heart is a lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers when I was about twenty and when I finished I stood up and held the book tightly against my chest and closed my eyes wishing I could hold the story inside me forever. For the next week I walked around in a kind of daze. Nothing in the real world came anywhere near the world she’d created in that book.
The Spanish painters El Greco and Goya affected me deeply when I was a teenager. My older sister brought home art books from university and I remember just starting at those gaunt Madonnas and the terrible war and insurrection paintings in total and absolute fascination.

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

Probably because of all the arts I loved to read best of all.

6.    Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest novel is The Convent. Based partly on my mother’s early life at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. It’s a four generational story with the ‘now’ voice belonging to nineteen year old Peach who almost against her will finds herself having to learn about her own family’s past. Her mother was a nun at the Convent during the sixties (so was my sister). Her grandmother (based on my mother) had been an orphan there from 1915 to 1927 and Peach’s great grandmother (based on my grandmother Sadie) had been a relinquishing mother in 1915. The four stories intertwine, giving I hope, a strong sense of the Convent’s History through the lives of these women.

(Editor’s note: From the Publisher)

‘I woke up with a feeling about today,’ Stella says dreamily. ‘Something truly amazing is going to happen.’ ‘To us or to the world?’ I say. ‘To you.’ ‘To me?’ I laugh. ‘Nothing ever happens to me, Stella.’ ‘But today it will.’ ‘Will it be good?’ She looks thoughtful and then frowns. ‘I … I don’t know.’

Peach is nineteen and pretty happy with the way things are. She has her university work, two wildly different best friends, her sister, Stella, to look after and a broken heart to mend. But when she takes a summer job at a cafe in the old convent, her idea of who she is takes a sharp turn into the past.

Where once there were nuns, young girls and women who had fallen on hard times, Peach discovers secrets from three generations of her family. As their stories are revealed, Peach is jolted out of her comfort zone. But does she really want to know who she is?

Warm and real, intense and provocative, The Convent shows in vivid detail how fate and the choices we make ripple and reverberate through time.

Click here to buy The Convent from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

Firstly I hope they enjoy it. Nothing will happen unless the story works and the characters come alive on the page. Assuming that happens then I hope they take away an appreciation of the past as a ‘different country – not just funny and quaint –  but a country as interesting, fraught and complicated as our own. The past I’m writing about is not so long ago and yet social mores, values and attitudes have totally changed. That’s fascinating to me and I hope my readers will find it so too.

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

I love so many writers that I hardly know where to start. But the Irish writers Colm Toibin, Joseph O’Connor and Sebastian Barry spring to mind. So do Americans like Joyce Carol Oats, Jonathan Franzen, Alice Monroe, John Irving. Then there is Hilary Mantel, Hanif Kureishi, Nick Hornby, Sarah Dunant. In Australia there is the wonderful Gillian Mears (Foals Bread has to be one of my all time favourites)  along with Anna Funder and Tim Winton. And I haven’t even started on all the marvellous young adult writers!
All of these writers are great storytellers as well as wordsmiths. Every one of them is able to take me away from my own life –  put me in someone else’s shoes – while paradoxically letting me experience my own life at a deeper more intense level. How they do that? I guess its part art, part craft and part mystery!

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

I can only think ahead to the next book. I have a strong idea but … who knows if I’ll be able to write it! I’m never confident when I’m writing. I always feel like I’m back at square one when I begin. I wish it could be other wise but I’m always utterly surprised when the publishers tell me that they love what I do and would like to publish what I write. I wish I could think further ahead. Maybe it’s time to think of a series! Perhaps I should branch out into some different genre? Yet some part of me knows that this isn’t likely. Real events and real people are my heartland. It feels natural and right for me to weave stories from my own life and until it doesn’t feel right,  I guess I’ll keep doing it!

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

This is a harder question than it sounds. There is no right way to begin writing except of course to write! Even that might not necessarily be true in the short term if you’re young and unsure!   Maybe it’s better sometimes to watch and listen, think and read and take notes before you do begin writing in earnest. I suddenly feel the need to contradict myself! Writing isn’t so much a desire as a need. If the need is there then I say,  go for it. And try not to get too disheartened with the inevitable set backs.

Maureen, thank you for playing

Click here to buy The Convent from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Kathryn Bonella, author of Snowing in Bali, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kathryn Bonella

author of Snowing in Bali, Hotel Kerobokan and co-writer of No More Tomorrows

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

Born, raised and schooled in Melbourne – with one year in Denmark as a Rotary Exchange student. I did a degree in Journalism at RMIT which led to my first job at Channel Nine news.

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

At 12 and 18 – I wanted to be a long distance runner. By 30 I’d been a journo for ten years and loved it.

Kathryn Bonella3.What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That people in jail were some of the lowest form of humans. Now, after spending a lot of time in jails both in the UK and Bali – for work – I realise that some good people, sometimes make stupid mistakes; and on rare occasions, some people in jail are innocent.

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?

Producing Schapelle Corby’s story for 60 Minutes – [both her first tv interview with Liz Hayes and her verdict and 20-year- sentence] – and subsequently being asked to co-write with Schapelle her autobiography gave me a springboard into writing books. I’ve now written three; ‘Schapelle Corby My Story’ (‘No More Tomorrows’ – international title), Hotel Kerobokan (‘Hotel K’- international title) and Snowing in Bali.

My dad had a strong influence on my career choice: he always told me that everybody is potentially a great story and he loved talking to people from all walks of life, all over the globe. He was fascinated by people, and now so am I.

And I’ve been lucky and privileged in my career so far to meet all kinds of people. I twice flew to Denmark with Tara Brown to do stories on Princess Mary for 60 Minutes, I spent several days with Mohamed Al Fayed not long after his son Dodi and Princess Diana died, I’ve done stories with ex British PM Tony Blair, Sir James Goldsmith, Robbie Williams, Kate Hudson, and dentists and orthodontists on a “braces and extraction” debate,  – and now, I’ve just spent the past 18 months talking intimately and in graphic detail to some big cocaine bosses from around the world and living in Bali.

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?

No, books are definitely not obsolete – just ask J.K. Rowling! I’ve always loved to read books, and I enjoy writing them now as it’s an incredible way to tell a story, and so rewarding when readers say the words took them right into the moment and the scene.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Snowing in Bali is about the hidden world of high-end drug dealing in Bali. Tourists lazing by the pool are mostly oblivious to the prolific drug dealing going on all around them. But Bali is the perfect place for western dealers – many who originally went to the island simply for the idyllic surf lifestyle.

In Bali they can work – dealing kilos of pure cocaine – camouflaged among the throng of tourists, and using the smoke and mirrors of the thousands of luxury hotel rooms. Using the cover of tourists, with trafficking carrying drugs in surfboard bags or sports equipment, looking no different to the thousands of others, makes it an ideal transit spot from South America. It’s also on the doorstep to the No 1 target for all traffickers – Australia – with it’s tight borders, it has the world’s highest price for cocaine – and Asia – specifically Japan. With the party island full of tourists and wealthy expats, there’s also a strong domestic market too.

For the drug bosses, they can deal in luxury hotel, surf and most importantly for them take advantage of the hedonism of holiday-makers who so often lose their inhibitions and are ready to party – especially hot models. In Snowing in Bali, one of the cocaine bosses explicitly details the regular orgies he enjoys in million dollar villas with models on film shoots or hot women he meets in bars and restaurants.

But it’s not an advert for drug trafficking. The downside to this glamorous life is also highlighted in Snowing in Bali with some of the drug bosses getting busted, tortured by the Bali police for information, and sent to jail for years, life or worse, to death row to await a 12 sniper firing squad.

As one of those busted with a kilo of cocaine only a few months ago says;  “Bali can be heaven one minute and hell in the next.”

Click here to buy Snowing in Bali from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

One of the reasons I love working as a journalist is being able to expose the truth – no matter how controversial that may be. The truth opens people’s eyes and this alone can change so many things for the better.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I don’t have a single hero –  there are many people I admire for being committed, passionate and having an influence on the world. For me this includes a wide variety of people from Aung San Suu Kyi, Queen Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton to showbiz people like Johnny Depp, Kylie Minogue, Chris Martin and Kate Moss.

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

To live everyday to the fullest.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write about what you are passionate about and what excites you.

Kathryn, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Snowing in Bali from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Andrew Cattanach’s Top Books of 2012

Town Crier2012 has been an incredible year for the arts. We had the sublime documentary series The Shire, the whimsical adaptation of a board game not played since the 50’s, Battleship, and the welcome introduction of dubstep into every song on every radio station across the world. I don’t know how they do it. Actually, I’m pretty sure they just turn a knob clockwise…..

…genius is born in many ways.

But a wonderful year for books it was, ‘ole 2012. Some riveting fiction flooded the shelves and some of the most anticipated biographies for decades seemed to congregate at our door this year.

After much soul-searching, writing, crossing out, thinking about, reinstating and paper ball creating, I’ve put together my best six books for 2012.

And here we are….


by Zadie Smith

It is a mark of Zadie Smith’s genius that some people actually thought this was below par compared to the rest of her books. It isn’t, and yes she sets the bar extremely high but she vaults over it, with bells on. NW stands as another triumph for the 2006 Orange Prize winner, and another wickedly funny, dagger-toothed look at the world of modern, multicultural Britain, oxymoronic as Smith may reflect on it be.

Click here to buy NW from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

9780670076604On Warne

by Gideon Haigh

Perhaps the best cricket book of the decade, certainly the best of the year. Gideon Haigh’s masterful take on one of the most celebrated Australian cricketers and most lamented Australian characters is a joy. Haigh plays the ball not the man and yet even without the tabloid gossip that has littered other books on the former leg-spinner he delivers a terrifically engaging look at Warne, both the man and the athlete.

Click here to buy On Warne from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

9780297867913The Orchardist

by Amanda Coplin

An absolute bell-ringer that woke me up from my winter slumber, The Orchardist is one of the most impressive debuts for some time. With calm, deliberate, minimalist prose it echoes the greats of American literature and as the crescendo hits you find yourself on the edge of your seat when you thought you were reading a lovely book about a apple farm. Sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful, I’m already typing author Amanda Coplin into google to see what she has in store for us.

Click here to buy The Orchardist from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

Waging Heavy Peace

by Neil Young

I’ve been waiting for this book all my life. Taken by Young’s seminal album Harvest as a young whipper-snapper in rural NSW, I always hoped he’d betray his promise to never write a memoir and sure enough he did. Much like Paul Kelly’s exquisite How To Make Gravy, you can start from anywhere in Waging Heavy Peace, such is his power as a rambling story teller. In the same way he revolutionised the music industry a dozen times over, Neil Young delivers a warm, contemplative and rewarding collection of memories that have only been enriched over time.

Click here to buy Waging Heavy Peace from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


by Karl Taro Greenfeld

It’s always nice to be surprised by a novel, to write it off before it spits truth back at you. Triburbia was that. Imagine The Slap without the slap, set in Soho, New York. Doesn’t sound anything more than middle-aged hipsters talking about first-world problems with their kids in the corner of the room does it? And that’s where the genius lies. Author Karl Taro Greenfeld chooses not to open this world up with a can opener or even a sharp knife, but, like a can of sardines that won’t budge, throws it down onto the hot pavement  busting it open and watches the oil slowly seep. Triburbia is an unflinching portrayal of modern life beautifully extracted, with so many worlds dissecting each other, under the watch of a masterful eye.

Click here to buy Triburbia from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

by Gil Scott-Heron

Immortalised by his haunting words “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, Gil Scott-Heron is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in the battle for civil rights in American history. While he sadly left our mortal shores in May of 2011, we’re incredibly lucky that he finished his memoirs which were published posthumously in early 2012.  His body of work in politics, music, film and literature is extraordinary and it’s with joy that I discovered the final words he would put his name to would be so beautiful, so poignant, so visceral.

Click here to buy The Last Holiday from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

Click here to read all of Andrew’s posts. Click here to see Andrew on twitter.

Prepare for Armageddon – Booktopia presents the best guides to surviving the Apocalypse

Mortal souls, our time on earth is rapidly coming to a close. As most of you know, the Mayan Calendar predicts the world as we know it will come to an end on the 21st of December, 2012.  When trouble hits there’s no better place to turn than your very own port in the storm, the book.

Literature has always been obsessed with the apocalypse and the anarchy that follows. Some of the great works through history that were once considered fiction can now stand as incredibly helpful ‘how to’ manuals during these, our last days.


Cormac McCarthy’s most recent effort is a beautiful manual, one of the greatest of the last 25 years. Strangely enough it is the only post-apocalyptic survivor manual to have also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
WHO’S TO BLAME: Possibly global warming, war, the government.
CLIMATE: There will be fires on the horizon during The Rapture, but strangely enough there will also be a great deal of snow for much of the time after.
DO…. Try and get your father to do a medical degree before the apocalypse, this can be very handy.
DON’T…. Go into the basement of an abandoned home. Seriously, it’s not a good idea.

Click here to buy The Road from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Not strictly an apocalypse, but certainly a huge cataclysmic event, spawned the creation of George Orwell’s classic manual. One of the greatest manuals of all-time, it describes a world where privacy and free thought and speech are almost non-existent due to the totalitarian regime in place.
WHO’S TO BLAME: War, the government.
CLIMATE: Heavily industrialised, quite cold, neo-gothic.
DO…. Follow the crowd whenever you’re in a public place despite your hesitation, the after-world can be a tough place for an outsider.
DON’T…. Trust anybody, or make eye contact with co-workers, although for many people in the world today this shouldn’t be a huge departure from the current day to day.

Click here to buy 1984 from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


If you have seen the infomercial presented by William Smith than you may be a little surprised as the manual it is based on, published in 1954, does have some different points to raise. I can assure you that the written manual is incredible and much better than the infomercial. It’s a stunning self-help book filled with immense symbolism and brutal plot twists.
WHO’S TO BLAME: War, scientists.
CLIMATE: Perhaps only one human left in existence, the world in complete devastation, vampires now roam the planet.
DO…. Have garlic, mirrors and crucifixes at the ready.
DON’T…. Think that you’re safe in your house, or anywhere. They’re coming for you.

Click here to buy I Am Legend from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


John Wyndham put together a riveting manual published in 1951. Wyndham takes you through surviving a post-apocalyptic world where flora is your enemy. A classic manual taught in classrooms the world over, and a sure fire way to stop you looking at the night sky.
WHO’S TO BLAME: The Soviets. Botantists.
CLIMATE: Near complete devastation, large carnivorous plants roaming the planet, nearly all people in the world are blinded so interior decorating has become sub-standard at best.
DO… Try and find other pockets of survivors, although watch them carefully and don’t trust anyone with red hair.
DON’T… Ever, ever, ever, watch a meteor shower. Big trouble.

Click here to buy The Day of the Triffids from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Son of you-know-who, Max Brooks builds on his best-selling The Zombie Survival Guide with the stunning manual World War Z. Through a series of stories pieced together, Brooks tells the story of a zombie apocalypse. Soon to be realised as an instructional video presented by Bradley Pitt.
WHO’S TO BLAME: Zombies.
CLIMATE: All corners of the globe are heavily war-torn, lots of rubble, things like that.
DO… Learn a trade or a really cool skill, they are valued in the future and you might become the President if you learn to unclog drains.
DON’T… Trust the pharmaceutical companies if they tell you they’ve found a cure. They haven’t.

Click here to buy World War Z from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

There are also a large amount of instructional videos available, some can be found below.

Click here for more detailsSHAUN OF THE DEAD

WHO’S TO BLAME: Zombies.
CLIMATE: Buildings are still largely intact, streets are not safe. John will do you a toasty out back of the Winchester, but survival is difficult if the building is surrounded.
DO… Find your loved ones and huddle together.
DON’T… Get too close to loved ones, because if they get bitten, oh boy….

Click here to buy Shaun Of The Dead from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Movie Hub

Click here for more detailsINDEPENDENCE DAY

CLIMATE: Major cities completely destroyed,  army bases under threat.
DO… Find military bunkers, put your faith in Randy Quaid.
DON’T… Hold up placards welcoming the aliens while standing on a tall skyscraper directly below an alien ship. Bad idea.

Click here to buy Independence Day from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Movie Hub

Click here for more detailsTHE TERMINATOR SERIES

WHO’S TO BLAME: Skynet, the machines.
CLIMATE: Complete devastation, army bases in deserts still remain.
DO… Pick the times to trust robots very carefully.
DON’T… Start building robots. It’s all downhill from there…

Click here to buy The Terminator from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Movie Hub

Click here for more detailsMAD MAX

WHO’S TO BLAME: Diminishing natural resources.
CLIMATE: Think Broken Hill in the summer of 1977-78. For some reason, it’s exactly like that.
DO… Avenge people, you seem to live longer.
DON’T… Worry if the paperwork is clean, it won’t be.

Click here to buy Mad Max from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Movie Hub

Click here for more details2012

WHO’S TO BLAME: That pesky sun, the earth’s core.
CLIMATE: A few earthquakes and then come December 21, everything goes to pot. Lots of cracks you don’t want to step on.
DO… Find a plane and discover secret government evacuation plans.
DON’T… Be a jerk, because you’ll never survive.

Click here to buy 2012 from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Movie Hub

Click here to read the rest of Andrew’s posts. Click here to see Andrew on twitter.

Maggie Alderson, author of Everything Changes But You, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here for more details or to buy...The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maggie Alderson

author of Everything Changes But You, Shall We Dance?, Mad About the Boy, How to Break Your Own Heart and many more…

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 London, which is something that I’ve always felt very proud of. During the London Olympics I thought I might burst with it. I wanted to stop people and tell them: I was born here.

I was raised in a much less glamorous part of the UK, in Staffordshire in the Midlands. It was very boring, but I’m quite glad of that now, because it fired me up to get myself back down to London where the action was. It so was.

I hated every minute of school. I felt constricted and constrained by it. I made up for it with reading. I read everything, all the time. And my mother took me and my three siblings to see so many amazing things and places, which I am so grateful to her for. She took me to see the musical Hair when I was 10. Full frontal nudity. Oh yeah.

I don’t think I learned anything at school, except how limited people can allow themselves to be. It made me determined to surround myself with people who weren’t like that.

Uni was everything school wasn’t. I went to St Andrews and as well as a lot of great stuff about history of art, I learned how much I didn’t know – and how to learn. Neither of which I had learned at school.

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

Author/magazine editor/newspaper columnist. E.Nesbitt/Honey/Clive James.

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

That everyone has a ‘one’ – their one true love who is somewhere in the world waiting to be found. I cannot believe I was so stupid. All love is a choice of which compromises you are prepared to accept to get all the other good bits.

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?

I discovered Joni Mitchell at the age of 11, when my big sister was constantly playing her album Blue. The refrain of Jingle Bells in the song River got my attention and then I started listening to the words… and that was how a life long obsession began.

Her lyrics are simply amazing poetry and I know all of them off by heart, just about. I think I learned a lot about the economy of words from them. How you can convey so much with just a few words; the way a sketchy line drawing can convey more of the essence of cat than a photograph of one.

The writer who has been the biggest influence on me recently is Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress – the amazing British novelist…) In a Summer Season is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Reading and re-reading her books gave me the courage to use the third person for the first time in my latest book, Everything Changes But You. She uses the third person subjective – where the point of view switches constantly from one person to another, showing how they each think and feel about what is going on. Even within a sentence, you’ll get several view points.Click here to buy...

When I first read her, I had my mouth open; I was so impressed with how she did it.

She’s the absolute master of it and it was a huge step for me to go from the first person to trying to do that – I’ve written six novels in the first person. I practised first in a few short stories and then took the plunge with this novel. Once I got going I felt hugely freed by it. I just hope the readers like it too…

I’m passionate about art – and studied art history at university, so I could roll around in it. All art reminds me that you don’t have to spell everything out. You can convey so much, very simply. That’s my mantra, really.

Probably the work that has moved me the most was discovering the Austrian artist Egon Schiele when I was 18. I was a punk rocker then and he looked like one, although he died in 1918.

In fact, he looked extraordinarily like my boyfriend of the time and his work – much of it marvellously pornographic – made me understand that rebellion is a universal compulsion among the young, rather than a reflection of the particular times you live in. I still find that inspiring.

It’s like Marlon Brando’s character’s famous line in Rebel Without A Cause, when they ask him: ‘What are you rebelling against?’

‘What have you got?’

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

It’s what I wanted to do from the age of six…

Click here for more details or to buy...6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Everything Changes But You is about the idea of home. Is it where you come from? Or where you feel right? Is it a country, a town, a house – or is it simply a person?

It was inspired by my own experiences – growing up somewhere I never thought of as home, never related to. Then moving to London, feeling at home there, but then feeling equally at home in Sydney. Then, how odd it is to feel like a tourist in a city that was once your home…and I feel like that in London and Sydney now.

I think it’s a very current issue, as these days people hop off very casually to live in another country without it being a huge deal – but it is really. And if they then marry someone from that other country, it can get really complicated. Whose family takes precedence? Whose country is their joint home?

The story is based around a couple who meet in Sydney – Matt is an Aussie, Hannah is a Pom. They go back to London to be near her family and it’s all great, but then his mum needs him back in Sydney… And he doesn’t want his kids to grow up without any notion of their Australian ancestry either.

Then there’s his cousin, Ali, a young woman from Sydney, who moves to London because she feels suffocated by her extended family. And his best mate Pete, who’s beginning to think he’s had enough of London and might want to head back to Bondi…

As with all my books, there’s a lot of other stuff going on as well – jokes, sex, nasty people, lovely old blokes, funny dogs, more detail than necessary about what people are wearing, parties, pashing – but that’s the main gist of it.

Click here to buy Everything Changes But You from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

I hope they feel entertained and satisfied– as you would after watching a really good film with a big box of Maltesers. I hope they’ve had a good laugh, but would have been moved at times too. And I hope they will fancy the male leads as much as I always do…

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

There are two authors I worship and they’re both (more or less) from Melbourne: Helen Garner and Lily Brett. Both of them write with the stripped back tension of a tight rope walker. They approach very difficult subjects fearlessly and lay them bare. And then they make you laugh.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?Click here to buy...

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I would like to have a massive international bestseller, which was on the cover of Time magazine and then made into a huge Hollywood film starring Cate Blanchett, with a budget of $10 billion.

Then Cate would be nominated for Best Actress and I’d get to go to the Oscars with her, wearing a Marchesa dress and we’d have a right old laugh at the Vanity Fair party. Well, you did ask.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read – and write. Read as much as you can and as many different kinds of things as possible. And write every day. Doesn’t matter what it is, but like everything, you improve enormously with practice. Also be prepared to take constructive criticism. There’s no piece of writing that can’t be improved upon.

Maggie, thank you for playing.

Hugh Howey, author of Wool, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here to buy...

 The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Hugh Howey,

author of Wool

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 North Carolina. My father was a farmer and my mother a schoolteacher. I’ve bounced around a lot of places and worked in a lot of careers, most notably as a yacht captain. This ended up being a great way to see the world while getting paid (and doing it on someone else’s boat!).

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

When I was twelve, I wanted to be a writer. I started my first novel on the family computer, but I didn’t get past the third chapter. I was easily distractible and prone to giving up at that age.

By the time I turned eighteen, I had read about Joshua Slocum’s sailing adventures, and I wanted to circumnavigate the world on a small boat. I went as far as buying a sailboat to live on while in college, and spent five years on the thing. I made it as far as the Caribbean, but never got any further. I was beginning to sense a trend in my inability to reach as far as I could dream.Howey, Hugh

At thirty, I was back to wishing I was a writer. This time, whether it was due to experience or just plain stubbornness, I pushed through to the end of my first manuscript. Now, I’m writing full-time, which is the culmination of that twelve-year-old dream. I’m also eyeing the ocean once again and gearing up for another goal that I left unfinished…

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

Tons! Man, I was wrong about everything back when I thought I knew it all. The main thing I’ve learned is a sense of inclusiveness. I used to judge people based on the quickest of impressions. If someone didn’t agree with me, I assumed they were wrong. Now, after having been incorrect more often than not, I’ve learned to pause and reconsider my own stance. And I’ve learned to Google a lot. You learn so much more when you’re wrong than when you’re right.

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?

As much as I love and appreciate art and music, all three would have to be texts. Nothing has shaped me like the books I’ve read. I was one of those kids who always had a paperback in his back pocket, read under his desk in class, and bumped into streetlamps trying to read while walking down the sidewalk. When I went out to bars with friends in college, I would usually find a booth and sit and read. I was a complete dork like that. Three works:

ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card. This book caused me to dream of being a writer. It’s the book I read at age twelve that ignited this passion. When I learned that Card grew up in North Carolina just like me, it made that dream seem possible.Click here to buy The Blank Slate because it is awesome

SONNET 23 by William Shakespeare. All of the sonnets had some impact on me. I learned the rhythm of prose from memorizing them in college. But number 23 spoke to my shyness, the hesitation I had in revealing my emotions to those I cared about. I found strength and gained confidence by reciting it to myself.

THE BLANK SLATE by Steven Pinker. This should be a mandatory read for all humans. I learned more about how I tick and why I am the way I am through this book than any other single source. Removing the mystery of my behaviours allowed me to then begin to work on improving them.

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

Because I’m tone deaf! But I did dabble in other arts over the years. I used to paint, draw, do calligraphy, origami, but none of these ignited my wonder like dreaming up entire worlds and having conversations with fictional characters. Books are amazing in that the scenes you paint might be different in someone else’s mind. The relationship between writer and reader is collaborative. I give the germ of a thought, and the reader makes it grow. Perhaps I chose writing because I needed a little bit of help in creating my art?

Click here to buy...6.    Please tell us about your latest novel…

WOOL began as a short story. It quickly gained a following, and readers begged for more. So I fleshed it out with a series of works that have now been combined into a single novel from Random House.

The story is about a group of people living in an underground silo. The world they glimpse outside looks harsh and cruel. There are strict rules in place to maintain order. Every birth requires a death, and no one is allowed to speak of going outside. If you do . . . you are given what you asked for. And nobody ever comes back.

(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb – An epic story of survival at all odds and one of the most anticipated books of the year.

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo.

Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies.

To live, you must follow the rules. But some don’t. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism.

Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside.

Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last. )

Click here to buy WOOL from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

I hope the characters continue to live in their minds for a while. And I hope that readers think about what it means to be human, what our experience on Earth is all about. I know that sounds ambitious, but the feedback I get from readers indicates that my stories quite often arouse this curiosity and introspection. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear.

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

Stephen King. Not only is his prose remarkable, I think he’s one of the best at painting a scene with just a few light brushstrokes. He has explored a wide variety of genres and lengths of work, has remained in top form for decades, and has been generous with readers and his fellow writers. Also, his book, ON WRITING, is a fantastic guide for those wishing to follow in his footsteps.

9.    Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?Click here to buy On Writing

I’m the opposite. I feel like I’ve already achieved more than I ever dreamed possible. My goals are now quite humble. I just want to continue being able to complete the works that I begin. I’ve been writing at a blistering pace (four novels this year!), but I’d be happy writing two novels a year for the next five or six years. That would get most of the stories out of my head and leave behind a body of work that I could be proud of.

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Stop thinking about writing. Stop dreaming of becoming a writer. Stop talking about writing. And just write. Do it every single day. Shut off the noise in your life and create a world, a character, a scene, a bit of drama. If you do it because you love it, you can’t go wrong. Just write.

Hugh, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy WOOL from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Booktopia favourite Zoe Foster marries Hamish Blake

Huzzah! Booktopia is delighted to hear that one of our favourite authors, Zoe Foster, has tied the knot with her longtime fiancée Hamish Blake. Zoe visited us for a second time earlier this year and was absolutely wonderful once again. She was kind enough to answer questions on Facebook from Booktopia readers and shared her tips on writing, thoughts on life and lots more. We thought we’d share some photos of her trip with you, along with some of her books and her answers to our famous Five Facetious Questions (you can also see her answers to our even more famous Ten Terrifying Questions here. Don’t forget to scroll down to see the interview with her very funny husband, as of this week.

Congrats to Zoe and Hamish from everyone here at Booktopia!

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Zoe Foster

author of The Younger Man, Amazing Face, Textbook Romance, Playing the Field and Air Kisses

Five Facetious Questions


1. Every writer spends at least one afternoon going from bookshop to bookshop making sure his or her latest book is facing out and neatly arranged. How far have you gone to draw attention to your own books in a shop?

One afternoon? Clearly the authors you’re speaking are not only crafty bookshop re-arrangers, but they are liars too. I do some stealth interior decorating every time I walk past any book shop, always. My preferred move is the Stack and Sign, which involves me taking up a stack of my books to the counter, smiling like a loon, and asking the cute person serving “Would you like me to sign these?” before awkwardly explaining I’m not just a weird woman with a penchant for vandalism and megolomania, but the author. Once signed, those babies are front and centre, and sometimes even get a sticker saying “signed copy” which is terrifically enticing for potential buyers.

2. So you’re a published author, almost a minor celebrity and for some reason you’ve been let into a party full of ‘A-listers’ – what do you do?

Drink the champagne, try not to get people’s names or current/exciting/noteworthy projects incorrect, drink the champagne, check my teeth for canape residue, drink the champagne, talk someone’s ears off about the merits of Tumblr, drink the champagne, wonder why everyone has left, go to drink the champagne but find there is none left, reluctantly go outside to find a taxi, arrive home and ravenously eat toast.

3. Some write because they feel compelled to, some are Artists and do it for the Muse, some do it for the cash (one buck twenty a book) and some do it because they think it makes them more attractive to the opposite sex – why do you do write? (NB: don’t say -‘cause I can’t sing, tap or paint!)

I write because I love to write. I find it easy, and enjoyable, and exciting and lots of other ’e’ words. To not write would surely cause me distress.

4. Have you ever come to the end of writing a particularly fine paragraph, paused momentarily, chuffed with your own genius, only to find you’ve been sitting at the computer nude or with your dress half-way over your head or shaving cream on your face or toilet paper sticking out the back of your undies or paused to find that you’re singing We are the Champions at the top of your voice, having exchanged the words ‘we are’ for ‘I am’ and dropping an ‘s’? No? Well, what’s your most embarrassing writing moment?

I have plenty of moments akin to the one you reference, but what is genuinely embarrassing for me is that I am a complete fraud. I don’t know what’s going on in the book world, I don’t know the hot new books or authors, (“Judy Blume. Now there’s an author!”) I never look cool and in-the-know when interviewed and it’s something I need to address, because it’s arrogant and lazy not to.

5. Rodin placed his thinker on the loo – where and/or when do you seem to get your best ideas?

In the shower, or on walks or runs. I was struggling to find an ending to Playing The Field and went for a run to clear my frustrated, exhausted brain. The idea hit me twenty minutes in and I bolted home and wrote furiously for hours. Mum’s always saying the brain needs breaks and new stimulation to function optimally, and I suppose that episode proved it for me.

Zoë, thank you for playing.



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