The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult – A Review by Andrew Cattanach

Jodi Picoult’s latest offering The Storyteller has been widely acknowledged as her best work for some time. Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach shares his thoughts.

Rarely do I read a copy of a new Jodi Picoult before my mother. In fact, never have I read a copy of a new Jodi Picoult before my mother. Her bookcase is drowning in books from the bestselling US author, and eagerly awaits news of every upcoming release. Usually I look at my feet awkwardly when listening to her recommendations, but when I heard the premise of The Storyteller I was intrigued.

Like all books by Picoult, The Storyteller explores controversial themes lingering amongst us, this time the holocaust and it’s subsequent war criminals. What happens when you connect with a gentle man, a man loved in the community, and realise he was a part of an atrocity and wants to atone for his sins. What do you do?

That’s the crux of the generation spanning The Storyteller. A conscience story that goes to the very heart of what justice is, and how do we atone for our mistakes, however grievous. When the guilty party calls to be punished for their crimes, will you act?

The book’s central character is Sage Singer. She’s an outsider who works happily at night in a bakery away from the world, burdened by terrible scars on her face from an accident years ago, something she’s struggling to cope with every day of her life. As a narrator, her fragility allows her to step back from the world and evaluate it through careful eyes.

Sage becomes friends with the elderly Josef Weber, a man loved by the community, while working at the bakery and they grow close. Then one day he asks her for a favour: to kill him. Startled, she says no, whereupon he confesses his true role in World War II….

I enjoyed The Storyteller much much more than I thought I would. It’s the first full Jodi Picoult book I’ve read and you know what, I can now see what my mother is on about. The mundane painting of everyday life is juxtaposed beautifully with the emotional intensity that exists between characters. It’s a book that makes you think, rather that simply thinking for itself.

It’s confidently written and while the message is plastered on at times, it leaves enough ground in between for you to explore your own beliefs. It’s skillfully done.

Oh, and one more thing. Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Do you see where this is going? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t…..

Grab a copy of The Storyteller today and find out.

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

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Andrew Cattanach is a Feature Writer on the Booktopia Blog. You can read his ramblings on twitter here.

Buy a copy of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host and receive two passes to see the movie

We love a giveaway at Booktopia, and this is one of the best we’ve ever had!

Be one of the first twenty people to buy a copy of Stephenie Meyer’s (author of Twilight) bestselling book The Host and win two passes for you and a friend to go and see the big screen adaptation, starring Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan, William Hurt and Dianne Kruger.

The Host was another triumph for Meyer, and the film is one of the most anticipated of 2013. With a $44 million budget and directed by Andrew McNicol, who has previously working on The Truman Show and The Lord of War, The Host sounds like it has some surprises in store.

So grab a copy of our special free double pass edition of the book today, and see what the movie has in store. It’s on us! Only this edition comes with free double pass >> Click Here

(Psst, check out Stephenie Meyer’s author page at Booktopia here)

The Host

by Stephenie Meyer

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that takes over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading ‘soul’ who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves – Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

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

The 2013 Miles Franklin Longlist announced

Female authors have dominated the longlist for this year’s Miles Franklin literary award, earning eight of the 10 nominations.

Romy Ash, Lily Brett, Michelle de Kretser, Annah Faulkner, Drusilla Modjeska, ML Stedman, Carrie Tiffany and Jacqueline Wright make up the female contingent, while Brian Castro and Tom Keneally are the only fellas.

The 10 nominations will be narrowed down at a public event at the State Library of NSW on April 30.

The winner will be announced in Canberra on June 19 and will take home $60,000 in prize money.

Anna Funder was last year’s winner for her novel All that I Am.

Don’t miss the chance to grab a copy of these fantastic books and judge them for yourself with the help of Booktopia. We’ve made it easy for you, profiling the authors and books up for the gong this year.

You can also see a special series for this year’s longlist on our website by clicking here.


Floundering

by Romy Ash

Tom and Jordy have been living with their gran since the day their mother, Loretta, left them on her doorstep and disappeared.

Now Loretta’s returned, and she wants her boys back.

Tom and Jordy hit the road with Loretta in her beat-up car. The family of three journeys across the country, squabbling, bonding, searching and reconnecting.

But Loretta isn’t mother material. She’s broke, unreliable, lost. And there’s something else that’s not quite right with this reunion.

They reach the west coast and take refuge in a beachside caravan park. Their neighbour, a surly old man, warns the kids tostay away. But when Loretta disappears again the boys have no choice but to askthe old man for help, and now they face new threats and new fears.

This beautifully written and gripping debut is as moving as it is frightening, and as heartbreaking as it is tender.

About the Author

Romy Ash is a Melbourne-based writer. She has written for GriffithREVIEW, the Big Issue and frankie magazine. She has a regular cooking column in Yen magazine and writes for the blog Trotski & Ash. The forthcoming Voracious: New Australian Food Writing features one of her essays.

Floundering is her first novel.

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


Lola Bensky

by Lily Brett

Lola Bensky is a nineteen-year-old rock journalist who irons her hair straight and asks a lot of questions. A high-school dropout, she’s not sure how she got the job – but she’s been sent by her Australian newspaper right to the heart of the London music scene at the most exciting time in music history: 1967.

Lola spends her days planning diets and interviewing rock stars. In London, Mick Jagger makes her a cup of tea, Jimi Hendrix (possibly) propositions her and Cher borrows her false eyelashes. At the Monterey International Pop Festival, Lola props up Brian Jones and talks to Janis Joplin about sex. In Los Angeles, she discusses being overweight with Mama Cass and tries to pluck up the courage to ask Cher to return those false eyelashes.

Lola has an irrepressible curiosity, but she begins to wonder whether the questions she asks these extraordinary young musicians are really a substitute for questions about her parents’ calamitous past that can’t be asked or answered. As Lola moves on through marriage, motherhood, psychoanalysis and a close relationship with an unexpected pair of detectives, she discovers the question of what it means to be human is the hardest one for anyone – including herself – to answer.

Drawing on her own experiences as a young journalist, the bestselling author of Too Many Men has created an unforgettable character in the unconventional and courageous Lola. Genuinely funny and deeply moving, Lola Bensky shows why Lily Brett is one of our most distinctive and internationally acclaimed authors.

About the Author

Lily Brett was born in Germany and came to Melbourne with her parents in 1948. She is one of Australia’s most loved, prolific and successful authors. She has published six works of fiction, seven books of poetry, and three essay collections to much critical acclaim in Australia and around the world. Lily Brett is married to the Australian painter David Rankin. They have three children and live in New York.

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


Street to Street

by Brian Castro

Brian Castro takes up the novella, the form favoured by David Malouf and Helen Garner, in his new work of fiction, based on the life of the early twentieth-century Sydney poet Christopher Brennan. Brennan wrote some of the most powerful and ambitious poems in Australian poetry; he was a formidable literary figure who corresponded with Mallarm and wrote on French poetry. He died an impoverished alcoholic. Castros portrait of Brennan, seen through the eyes of his would-be biographer Brendan Costa, explores the fear of failure which haunts those who live by the imagination the fear of not achieving their own high ideals, and of disappointing their families and those who depend them. The story is told with the wit and energy that is the hallmark of Castros writing.

About the Author

Brian Castro was educated at the University of Sydney and has worked in Australian, French and Hong Kong universities as a teacher and writer. He is the author of nine novels and a volume of essays on writing and culture. His novels have won a number of state and national prizes including the Australian/Vogel literary award, The Age Fiction Prize, the National Book Council Prize for Fiction, four Victorian Premier’s awards, two NSW Premier’s awards and the Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction. He has delivered keynote addresses at major conferences in Shanghai, Vienna, Paris, Toulouse, Hong Kong and Kyoto. He has been a Literature Board member on the Australia Council. For many years he was the literary reviewer for Asiaweek magazine. In 2006 he held the position of Macgeorge Fellow at the University of Melbourne. In 2007-8 he was the Professorial Research Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. He is currently Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide and is co-director of the J.M. Coetzee centre for Creative Practice, a centre for cross-disciplinary linkages and research into creativity.

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


Questions of Travel

by Michelle de Kretser

A dazzling, compassionate and deeply moving novel from one of world literature’s rising stars.

A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.

Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination – a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.

About the Author

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was 14. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer.

She is the author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, which won the Commonwealth Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize, and The Lost Dog, which was widely praised by writers such as AS Byatt, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd and won a swag of awards, including: the 2008 NSW Premier’s Book of the Year Award and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal.

The Lost Dog was also shortlisted for the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction, the Western Australian Premier’s Australia-Asia Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Asia-Pacific Region) and Orange Prize’s Shadow Youth Panel. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Click here to buy Questions of Travel from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


Mateship with Bird

by Carrie Tiffany

On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.

About the Author

Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005) was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and won the Dobbie Award for Best First Book (2006) and the 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. Mateship with Birds is her second novel.

Click here to buy Mateship with Birds from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Light Between Oceans

by M.L. Stedman

A bestseller around the world reaching no.4 on the New York Times fiction list.

They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.

Then one April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

About the Author

M. L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia, and now lives in London. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel published by Random House Australia, and has so far been translated into nearly thirty languages. It has been a bestselling book around the world, including Australia, Italy, Denmark and America. It was recently voted Best Historical Novel of 2012 by members of Goodreads.

Click here to buy The Light Between Oceans from
Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Beloved

by Annah Faulkner

“It came one morning with the milk, and it seemed – at first – almost as innocent…”

When Roberta “Bertie” Lightfoot is crippled by polio, her world collapses. But Mama doesn’t tolerate self-pity, and Bertie is nobody if not her mother’s daughter – until she sets her heart on becoming an artist. Through art, the gifted and perceptive Bertie gives form and voice to the reality of the people and the world around her. While her father is happy enough to indulge Bertie’s driving passion, her mother will not let art get in the way of a professional career.

In 1955 the family moves to post-colonial Port Moresby, a sometimes violent frontier town, where Bertie, determined to be the master of her own life canvas, rebels against her mother’s strict control. She thrives amid a vibrant new tropical palette, secretly learning the techniques of drawing and painting under the tutelage of her mother’s arch rival.

But Roberta is not the only one deceiving her family. As secrets come to light, the domestic varnish starts to crack, and jealousy and passion threaten to forever mar the relationship between mother and daughter.

Tender and witty, The Beloved is a moving debut novel which paints a vivid portrait of both the beauty and the burden of unconditional love.

About the Author

Sporadic bursts of poetry and occasional short stories defined Annah’s early writing. In 1996 experiences from a career in acupuncture prompted her to write a non-fiction manual. This was followed by a humorous biography, Frankly Speaking, which enjoyed considerable success in Australia and New Zealand. In 2007 her story, The Blood of Others, was published by the American literary journal Antipodes. Annah and her husband split their time between Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and the South Island of New Zealand. She is presently working on her second novel.

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


The Daughters of Mars

by Tom Keneally

In 1915 sisters Naomi and Sally Durance answer a call for nurses to join the war effort. They are escaping the family dairy farm in the Macleay Valley, and they carry a secret with them. Soon they are in Egypt, where they are put to work on the Red Cross hospital ship Archimedes as it patrols the Dardanelles. On Archimedes they witness Mars in all his ferocity, as he pummels soldiers in the massive, brutal metal brawl that is Gallipoli. Yet the sisters and their newfound nursing friends, with whom they will witness undreamt-of carnage and take care of unspeakably blighted men, find themselves courageous in the face of the horror.

Naomi, Sally and their gang are then sent to northern Europe, where Naomi nurses in the visionary Australian Voluntary Hospital run by the committed and eccentric Lady Tarlton, and Sally in a casualty clearing station next to the Western Front. Here, again, they must face the inhumanity of war in its many terrible guises – where trench warfare and gas abound. But it is here, too, that the sisters meet the remarkable men with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives.

Inspired by journals of Australian nursing sisters who gave their all to the Great War effort and the men they nursed, The Daughters Of Mars is vast in scope yet extraordinarily intimate. This is Keneally at the height of his storytelling powers; a stunning tour de force to join the best of First World War literature, and one that casts a fresh light on the challenges faced by the Australian men and women who voluntarily risked their lives for peace.

About the Author

Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler’s Ark, later made into the Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg. His non-fiction, includes the memoir Searching for Schindler and Three Famines, an LA Times Book of the Year, and the histories The Commonwealth of Thieves, The Great Shame and American Scoundrel. His fiction, includes The Widow and Her Hero (shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award), An Angel in Australia and Bettany’s Book. His novels The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers for the Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award. The People’s Train was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia division.

Click here to buy The Daughters of Mars from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore


The Mountain

by Drusilla Modjeska

In 1968 in Papua New Guinea there is excitement and violence on the streets. The country is on the brink of independence, but many Papuans are disillusioned with the pace of change, and the tension in Port Moresby is palpable. Amidst the turmoil, Leonard, an anthropologist, arrives with his alluring Dutch wife, Rika. Leonard wants to film villagers from a remote settlement in the mountains, and take Rika with him – the first white woman to go up there. But his new colleagues have other ideas.

Rika befriends two young women from the new university: Laedi, a Papuan with a local mother and Australian father, and Martha, a sweet-natured Australian student. But it is to Aaron and Jacob – two very different clan-brothers – to whom Rika is most dangerously drawn. Her relationship with these two men will change her and Leonard’s lives for ever.

Thirty years later, Jericho, a young art historian, travels from London to Port Moresby to try to make sense of his muddled past, of his birthplace on the mountain in 1968, and to bring back with him the girl he has loved since he was a boy.

About the Author

In 1971 Drusilla Modjeska moved to Australia, and within that decade graduated with a BA (Hons) in History from the Australian National University and a PhD in History from the University of New South Wales. Exiles At Home, her first book, was published in 1981. Poppy (1990), a ‘fictional biography’ of her mother, won the National Book Council Banjo Award for Non-Fiction, the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction and was shortlisted for the Fawcett and PEN International Awards. The Orchard (1994) also won the NSW Premier’s Douglas Stewart Award for Non-Fiction and the Nita Kibble Literary Award, as did Stravinsky’s Lunch (1999), which explored the lives of the Australian modernist artists Grace Cossington Smith and Stella Bowen.

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


Red Dirt Talking

by Jacqueline Wright

It’s build-up time in the north-western town of Ransom, just before the big wet, when people go off the rails.

In the midst of a bitter custody battle, an eight year old girl goes missing.

Annie, an anthropology graduate fresh from the city, is determined to uncover the mystery of the child’s disappearance.

As Annie searches for the truth beneath the township’s wild speculations, she finds herself increasingly drawn towards Mick Hooper, a muscly, seemingly laid-back bloke with secrets of his own.

About the Author

Jacqueline Wright worked for many years as a teacher and linguist in the Pilbara and Kimberley on Indigenous Australian Aboriginal language, interpreting and cultural programs. In 2000 she took on the regional literature position promoting and developing literary activities and improving opportunities for writers in the north-west of Western Australia. Now she swings two part-time jobs working as publishing intern at Magabala Books and a sports producer at ABC radio, Broome. She completed a Creative Arts Doctorate at Curtin University.

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


Kim Kelly, author of This Red Earth, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kim Kelly

author of This Red Earth

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, raised there at Little Bay, and schooled at La Perouse and Maroubra. A very suburban childhood, plenty of good old fashioned boredom and grist for dreaming along the windswept beaches of eastern Sydney. My father was the kind of bloke who could weep for joy at a perfect sentence, while my mother ate airport thrillers and sagas for breakfast. I’m very much a child of them both. My brother and I were raised to think, to be conscious of the privileges that come with having a decent brain and a nice, safe place to live, and to be grateful for it.

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

I’ve never had any firm idea of what I wanted to be but I’ve always written, just as I’ve always doodled and painted and otherwise made all sorts of weird things out of whatever junk I might find around me.

At twelve I discovered I could make pictures from words when I had to write a poem for school. Funnily enough for this suburban girl, it was a poem about the rain soaking into dry, cracked ground with the breaking of a drought. This discovery was hugely exciting for me at the time – the memory of it still makes me smile.

By eighteen, I’d lost my confidence in my creativity. This had a lot to do with going to university and coming up against the idea that art can only be created by especially special geniuses approved by the academy – and I was clearly not one of them. That year, I confided in a friend that I wanted to write a novel one day. She laughed her head off. That didn’t help.

By thirty, I was a frantic mother to two small boys and via an odd run of events and some financial desperation I fell into work as a book editor. It turned out to be the happiest accident ever: I discovered that writers and books are a most fabulous, bottomless packet of all sorts, and I began to wonder again if maybe I could write a novel one day, too. It took another six years to find the space and courage to really have a go at it, but when I did, the first draft of my first novel, Black Diamonds, roared out of me like an express train.

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

At eighteen, I didn’t think I had much to offer and I thought my uncertainty proved it. Now, I know everyone is their own trove of possibility. Never write anyone off – especially not yourself.

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 collect influences like a bowerbird collects random bits of blue stuff, and my head is always filled with others’ narratives playing around the edges of my own. But recently, when The First Tuesday Bookclub ran a poll for our favourite Australian novels, I found myself choosing three books I’d read in my teens – Picnic At Hanging Rock, Power Without Glory and The Harp in the South – and I had to laugh with the realisation that these three novels pretty much perfectly represent what I am trying to achieve in my own writing: Lindsay’s mischief, Hardy’s politics and Park’s depth of love.

The most profound influence on me, though, is always the landscape: the swirling caramels of the sandstone coast; the cracked-up, lonely escarpments of the Blue Mountains; the picture-book foothills of Lithgow folding into the tablelands that fold then into the western plains; the changing colours of the grasses; the flowering of gums; a pair of black cockatoos sailing above… Nothing gets my imagination going more wildly.

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

For me, writing a poem is a window view into the hugeness of something; painting a picture, one blinking frame of a vastly larger scene. But a novel is an exploration of a whole world, with great pumping threads of life running through it and through the hearts of whole characters. I love the challenge, the attempt to harness and ride the bigness, the puzzling over plot, the excitement of never quite knowing what will happen next, and, of course, spending time with my imaginary friends, who rarely do as they’re told but never mind me hanging round with them. They also don’t laugh at the idea of me wanting to write novels. Well, not to my face anyway.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

This Red Earth is the story of Bernie and Gordon, the girl and the boy nextdoor, whose love is torn apart by the events of the World War Two. Gordon is a young geologist, fresh out of uni, who gets very unwillingly caught up in the brutal Japanese invasion of New Britain, and Bernie, who’s very much a city girl, ends up in the outback amid the devastating drought that gripped the country during these war years.

It’s a civilian view of the times, one that shows it’s not only soldiers who are called on to be brave in battle. It’s about grief and resilience, and the triumph of hope over grim realities. It also explores the appalling way Australia treated certain migrants during the war – particularly Italian Australians – and at the same time how perennially generous fair-minded Australians are to those in need. As much as it’s the love story of Bernie and Gordon, it’s a love letter to my country, with all its contradictions, a twinkle of a smile shining a light on some dark corners of our history.

I take our national clichés and stereotypes, and give them a good shake, to try to show the kaleidoscope of one-off originals we really are.

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

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

I hope my stories inspire love and curiosity. Without love, nothing good happens in life – and there’s nothing fictional about that. Without curiosity, we don’t learn anything new. At the end of This Red Earth, I hope that readers want to kiss their own beloveds and clink glasses in a toast to generosity and togetherness. I hope readers are inspired to want to find out more about this place we are privileged to call home. Go out an explore some of it for yourself, and write your own love letters home.

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

I admire just about every writer who makes it to the end and my favourite is always the one I’m enjoying right now. I’ve just begun M.L. Stedman’s Light Between Oceans, and I’m captivated. Wendy James’ Out of the Silence is my present re-read – it’s a beautifully crafted novel. And I’m looking forward to Poppy Gee’s Bay of Fires, and Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.

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

I’m going to continue to explore Australian history through fiction for as long as I can. That’s that, really. See where it takes me next – and hope you’ll want to join me there.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

All good stories are created by some kind of crazy faith taking a leap over the sheer cliff of reality. If it doesn’t hurt sometimes, you’re not doing it right. Tell stories first and foremost because you have to tell them, rather than because you think others might want to hear them. Study the stories you love, then shamelessly plunder them. And no matter where you are in your writing experience, never stop learning, never stop taking risks and testing your wings – you need to be ready fly.


Kim, thank you for playing.

______________________

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

2012 Aurealis Awards Finalists announced

The finalists for the 2012 Aurealis Awards have been announced today, with Margo Lanagan leading the field with 5 nominations  including nods for Best Fantasy Novel and Best Young Adult Novel for her book Sea Hearts,.

Kate Forsyth was rewarded for her stellar year with the nomination of Bitter Greens, just a few days after her highly anticipated novel Wild Girl hit the shelves.

Judging Co-ordinator, Tehani Wessely, said that with almost 750 entries across the thirteen categories, the judges had a difficult job.

Margo Lanagan

Margo Lanagan

“Once again, the judges agreed that entries were of a very high standard and the final decisions were subject to much debate among the panellists. We had record entries in almost all categories.

“The trend towards quality e-published fiction continued in 2012, with a high percentage of entries published this way. The short story categories continue to flourish, and while some entry categories were relatively small, others maintained or surpassed previous figures.”

“I’d like to thank all the judges for their time and effort judging of these awards.”

2012 Aurealis Awards – Finalists

FANTASY NOVEL

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier

FANTASY SHORT STORY

“Sanaa’s Army” by Joanne Anderton

“The Stone Witch” by Isobelle Carmody

“First They Came” by Deborah Kalin

“Bajazzle” by Margo Lanagan

“The Isles of the Sun” by Margo Lanagan

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Suited by Jo Anderton

The Last City by Nina D’Aleo

And All The Stars by Andrea K Host

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“Visitors” by James Bradley

“Significant Dust” by Margo Lanagan

“Beyond Winter’s Shadow” by Greg Mellor

“The Trouble with Memes” by Greg Mellor

“The Lighthouse Keepers’ Club” by Kaaron Warren

HORROR NOVEL

Bloody Waters by Jason Franks

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott

Blood and Dust by Jason Nahrung

Salvage by Jason Nahrung

HORROR SHORT STORY

“Sanaa’s Army” by Joanne Anderton

“Elyora” by Jodi Cleghorn

“To Wish Upon a Clockwork Heart” by Felicity Dowker

“Escena de un Asesinato” by Robert Hood

“Sky” by Kaaron Warren

YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney

And All The Stars by Andrea K. Host

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra

YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“Stilled Lifes x 11” by Justin D’Ath

“The Wisdom of the Ants” by Thoraiya Dyer

“Rats” by Jack Heath

“The Statues of Melbourne” by Jack Nicholls

“The Worry Man” by Adrienne Tam

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words)

Brotherband: The Hunters by John Flanagan

Princess Betony and the Unicorn by Pamela Freeman

The Silver Door by Emily Rodda

Irina the Wolf Queen by Leah Swann

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures)

Little Elephants by Graeme Base (author and illustrator)

The Boy Who Grew Into a Tree by Gary Crew (author) and Ross Watkins (illustrator)

In the Beech Forest by Gary Crew (author) and Den Scheer (illustrator)

Inside the World of Tom Roberts by Mark Wilson (author and illustrator)

ILLUSTRATED BOOK / GRAPHIC NOVEL

Blue by Pat Grant (author and illustrator)

It Shines and Shakes and Laughs by Tim Molloy (author and illustrator)

Changing Ways #2 by Justin Randall (author and illustrator)

_______________________________________

Winners of the 2012 Aurealis Awards and the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony, on the evening of Saturday 18 May at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney.

Sue Whiting, author of Portraits of Celina, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sue Whiting

author of Portraits of Celina, Get a Grip Cooper Jones 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 Sydney. My earliest years were in Carlton, where we lived behind the local corner store, which my mother ran. When I was about eight we moved to the Sydney suburb of Como, though I distinctly remember thinking we’d moved to the bush/country. I went to Jannali Girls High, then Alexander Mackie CAE, studying Primary School Teaching, and for the past twenty-five years have lived in a gorgeous little coastal village south of Sydney. (So I haven’t ventured too far from my roots.)

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 ballerina. Clichéd I know, but dance was my life. When I was eighteen my interests shifted to volleyball and I desperately wanted to be a setter for the Australian women’s volleyball team. This was never likely. When I was thirty I had a two year old and a newborn and all I wanted was a single night of uninterrupted sleep. But even in my sleep-deprived state, it was around this time that a tiny fire started smouldering in my belly, and my longing to be a published children’s /YA author began.

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

When I was eighteen I thought I knew just about everything. I now know that there is so much that I don’t know and I love discovering those things I don’t know.

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?

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. Like many of my generation, I can thank the works of Enid Blyton for turning me into an avid reader, which led to a love of language and books and laid the foundations for my writing later in life.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. When I started out teaching, I immediately fell deeply in love with children’s literature. Where the Wild Things Are was my first crush, and what set me on the path to eventually becoming a children’s and YA author myself.

Memory – from the musical Cats. While not particularly fond of Cats, the musical, there is something about this song that evokes strong emotions in me. And whenever I hear it, my only thoughts are that somehow, some day, I want to be able to evoke the same intensity of emotions in my writing.

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

Up until I started writing in my late thirties, I truly believed I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. I can’t hold a tune (ask my long-suffering family) and I can’t draw to save myself (ask anyone who has ever played Pictionary with me). So the desire to do something creative, like writing, blindsided me a bit. (Well, a lot actually.)

At the start, children’s picture books was my genre of choice. But over time, I started to get “bigger” and “longer” and “older” ideas and found myself embarking on writing novels. Which is ridiculous considering that I work full time and commute three hours each day! (What was I thinking?) But I adore getting to know my characters and then setting them free on the page and seeing where they take me. And despite the fact that it takes me a very long time to complete each novel, I know I want to continue writing in this form.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest novel is Portraits of Celina and is for readers 13+.

In this book, the grief-stricken Anderson family moves to a lake house in faraway Tallowood in search of a fresh start. My protagonist, sixteen-year-old Bayley Anderson, is anxious to get her life on track, and when she meets Oliver, the boy across the lake, she finally sees the chance for happiness. But the house was witness to an awful tragedy forty years earlier and Bayley becomes obsessed and then entwined in her murdered cousin’s desperate yearning for revenge.

The back cover blurb describes it as “A ghost story. A love story. A story of revenge.” It is atmospheric, suspenseful and a little creepy. And there is a twist at the end of the story that has taken early readers by surprise and has had them looking at me through narrowed eyes and saying things like “I didn’t know you had such a dark side, Sue!”

Click here to buy Portraits of Celina from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

I hope readers will become enmeshed in my characters’ lives and by the end of the book feel like they have enjoyed a thrilling ride. One day I want to write something that will leave my readers breathless.

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

There are so many. But I believe Patrick Ness, especially in A Monster Calls, is a masterful and inspiring storyteller who evokes deep emotions in his readers. This is something I aspire to.

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

I simply want my next book to be better than my last. And I work hard to try to achieve that goal.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I think it was Jodi Picoult who said something to the effect that you should write daily, and write until it’s like a muscle you can flex on demand. I wholeheartedly agree and have personally experienced the benefits of daily writing, and most days I can flex that muscle.

But being a writer involves more than the hours (or minutes!) you spend at the keyboard each day. Being a writer inhabits you. It becomes a way of life. You must observe – really observe. Listen. Experience. Live. Feel. Read. Be open, challenging. Curious.

And when you put pen to paper, always write from the heart and with absolute honesty.

Sue, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Portraits of Celina from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Maggie Groff, author of Good News, Bad News, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maggie Groff

author of Good News, Bad News 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 Hampshire, England and raised in the village of Portchester. Much of my childhood was spent playing Normans vs Romans with my brother and our friends in the centuries old Portchester Castle, which stood near our home on a flat piece of land that jutted into Portsmouth Harbour.

Bicycles were our trusty steeds and, using brooms as jousting sticks, we charged each other on lawns where Saxons had lived and died. We also had a dinghy called Rowena in the creek and sailed her with Henry V to Agincourt, and within the fortress walls we poured boiling oil on Viking invaders from the top of the keep. Then we conducted funerals in St Mary’s churchyard for all those we had killed.

I have a clear memory of laying on a grave while Johnny (can’t recall his last name) performed a burial at sea by pouring cold sea water on my face. If I flinched, he had to do it again. When we were bored with reinventing history, we ran wild in the gentle rolling hills of the South Downs or cycled to Lee-on-Solent and swam in the freezing Atlantic. It was a pretty rough childhood.

Occasionally I was scrubbed up and packed off to Castle Street County Primary School, then to Wykeham House, which was a posh girls school in Fareham High Street near Soothills Bakery (world’s best lardy cakes), then off to Fareham Girls Grammar School. Looking back on it, I see now that formal schooling interfered with my education.

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

I had to look at my old diaries for this question. At twelve I wanted to be in charge of Fuchsia patrol in our local Girl Guides, I wanted my brother’s room when he went to university, and I wanted to be called Erica. But mostly I wanted to be eighteen. At eighteen I wanted to be a nurse. Shortly before my eighteenth birthday my lunch was wrapped in a London road map and I was dispatched to the big smoke to commence nurse training at Kings College Hospital. Those nursing years were fantastic. I loved every minute. At thirty, I wanted to be eighteen again. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

I can’t say why I wanted to be any of these things as my diaries are singularly lacking in explanations. I still wouldn’t mind being called Erica.

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

I don’t think I had any strongly held belief at eighteen. I don’t think I do now either.

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?

Apart from books by the three great writers I have listed in Question 8, I’m into most things creative – theatre, visual art, contemporary ballet, opera and live bands. I’ve eclectic tastes and I’m particularly drawn to the paintings and sculptures of Degas, street art by Banksy and the Gemini Twins, and innovative, edgy installations, but I can’t see how any of this has influenced my development as a writer.

Thinking …

a. Any Enid Blyton book as I’m sure they nurtured my love of mystery. We didn’t have a television until I was ten, so the Secret Seven books were a big part of my evening entertainment portfolio. I could never figure out how Ms Blyton managed to write a story using words with the exact number of letters so that those words fitted neatly on each line of a printed page. Duh!

b. A building – Portchester Castle, surely a great platform from which to launch a creative imagination. The castles outer defenses, built in the third century, are the most complete Roman walls of any fort in Europe. Inside the Roman walls are the remains of a Norman palace, an imposing twelfth-century keep, and St Mary’s church, which was built by the Normans in the 1120’s. I got married to Phillip II of Spain in that church. The bride wore the conservatory curtains, which were made of toweling and covered in garish flowers and bright green leaves. I can’t remember what the groom wore. Who cares?

Imagine my horror when I returned to the castle with my adult daughter in 2008 and we had to pay to get in. William the Conqueror would have been scandalised.

c. Now I think of it, maybe the street artist Banksy influenced my creation of The Guerilla Knitters Institute. Thank you, Banksy.

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

Ha! My artistic avenues are limited. I am tone deaf, can’t paint for toffees and if I was a dancer they’d have to have an ambulance standing by. But I could always write a good story and a great letter and I loved doing it. I’m fortunate to have been a successful columnist and non-fiction writer, but I’d always hankered after the noble title of Novelist.

In 2010 I cleaned out all the cupboards, rearranged the filing system, and when I had no more excuses I sat down to write my first Scout Davis novel, Mad Men, Bad Girls. To my eternal joy I loved every minute and had none of the anguished hand-wringing that I’d anticipated. Writing a novel is hard work though, and a real job that you have to do every day. While drinking tea.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Good News, Bad News is my second novel in the Misadventures in Paradise series featuring the intrepid investigative reporter Scout Davis. This time Scout is taking a holiday at home in Byron Bay when Hermione Longfellow, one of the eccentric Anemone Sisters from the hills, confronts her in the supermarket. Scout is wary, but sure that rumours of drinking chickens blood are just idle gossip, so she stops to listen.

When Hermione asks Scout to track down her sister Nemony’s AWOL husband, believed to have died at sea thirty years ago, but recently popped up again on the Great Barrier Reef, Scout jumps at the chance to work a cold case. Meanwhile, Scout’s own sister Harper despairs over her husband’s odd behavior, and then receives a shock that has huge repercussions for her future.

But wait, there’s more. Scout’s journalist boyfriend is finally coming home from Afghanistan. Trouble is, Scout thinks she may be falling in love with irresistible cop Rafe who may or may not have discovered Scout’s unusual hobby. And then … well, you’ll just have to read Good News, Bad News to find out what happens next!

Click here to buy Good News, Bad News from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

Basically, I see myself as an entertainer and the golden rule here is to always leave the audience wanting more. In other words, I hope my readers were entertained and want more Scout Davis stories.

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

Mark Twain – he was a genius. I’m a Twain fanatic and have visited his home at Quarry Farm in Elmira several times. I’ve sat on his front verandah, stood in his kitchen, breathed deeply the inspirational air in his study, which is now in the grounds of Elmira College, and visited his grave at nearby Woodlawn cemetery. I have a picture of Mr Clemens in a black frame on my desk.

Dick Francis – I don’t think anyone can touch him for creating male protagonists that every man would like to be, every woman would like to be with, and every horse would like to be ridden by. You could probably swap those nouns around and everyone would still be happy.

Robert B Parker – for his economy of words, characters, dialogue, humour, timeless plots and prolific output.

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

To sit in front of a blank piece of paper and transpose thoughts into words, then rework, rearrange and cut the words until that page and those that follow are something that gives other people pleasure. It’s quite a buzz.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Carry a notebook with you and jot down thoughts at the time as you will never remember them later. Try to write a good story rather than a great work. On every page, think of your readers and what they need to know. Never give up. When you are knocked down by rejections, pick yourself up and rewrite. Again and again until you have honed your skill.

Thanks again Booktopia for this opportunity – it was fun.

Maggie, thank you for playing.

______________________

Click here to buy Good News, Bad News from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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