Will Davies, author of The Boy Colonel, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-boy-colonelThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Will Davies

author of The Boy Colonel

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, attended Ryde Primary School before going to live in Leeton in 1960. I attended the local Primary School before being sent to boarding school at Trinity Grammar in Summer Hill for six years. In 1968 I started Arts-Law at ANU in Canberra and completed an Arts degree in 1971. In 1972 I started work at the Commonwealth Film Unit, travelled overseas (1975-76) worked in Hollywood and the BBC in Bristol before setting up my production company Look Films in 1977. Worked producing documentaries for thirty years before closing the office in 2010.

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

At 12 I wanted to be a lawyer and even talked about setting up practice with another 12 year old (who is now a senior lawyer in the Public Service) in the dormitory. By 18, still wanted to be a lawyer but two years of law at university totally killed that idea. At 30 I wanted to win an Academy Award and work forever in historical documentaries.

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

Probably a royalist-monarchist view of the Queen and the place of Australia in the Empire. I now look to the day we can be more independent and shed the “cultural cringe” which still exists, as does a British colonial (convict) attitude to Australians at some levels of British, or should I say English society. I do not feel this from the Welsh, Irish or the Scots however as they suffer also.

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?

I read history from an early age, glorious battles of the empire, “war books” from the Second World War, even historical comics and colouring in books. Three influential events: the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam War (Kent State killings) and the Great War.

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?

Books – those hard paper things – will never be obsolete. I love the feel and smell of books, the texture, the ability to jump about in a book, check an index, look at photographs or a map, get lost in the pages. I love them and buy too many.

the-boy-colonel6. Please tell us about your latest book…

The book is titled The Boy Colonel and is published by Random House (August 2013). This is the story of young officer who landed on Gallipoli on the second day, went right through the war, was badly wounded, decorated and became a Colonel at the age of 22, the youngest (I believe) in the Empire armies. He returned to Australia in 1918, became engaged in 1919 and was lost in the surf at Palm Beach (Sydney) in January 1920 trying to save a young woman from the undertow.

From the Publisher:
It was a blustery day on the 25th January 1920 at Palm Beach to the north of Sydney and the surf was wild. Two attempts had already been made to save a young woman caught in an undertow and dragged out when a young man; skinny, gangly and frail and known to be a poor swimmer, threw off his coat and shoes and raced into the surf. As his fiancée and young nephew watched, the sea closed over him and he disappeared. His body was never recovered.

This was the sad and tragic fate of a gallant, highly decorated and promising young man named Douglas Gray Marks. And it was a great loss to a nation whose manhood had been decimated and where the pain of the war remained evident and raw.

Douglas Marks was born in 1895 and educated at Fort Street High School. He had, like so many enthusiastic and patriotic young men, basic military training when he turned up at the drill hall in Rozelle two days after the declaration of war. Before embarking in November 1914, he had received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the AIF.

After a period of training in Egypt, he embarked for the Gallipoli peninsula and landed on the second day. Spending a great deal of time in the dangerous frontline trenches at Quinn’s Post where he was wounded, he remained on Gallipoli until the evacuation in December of that year. Just twenty years old, he was seen as an inspirational young officer, promoted to captain and given acting command of his battalion.

Marks then more…

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

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

I think the understanding and appreciation of the Anzac tradition and the sacrifice of young men from all nations in the Great War of 1914-1918.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Martin Luther King Jnr. A couple of years ago, I travelled the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama, visited his house and joined the march over the Selma Bridge. (I remember that great line in the Barry McGuire’s famous protest song of 1965 Eve of Destruction which went: Think of all the hate there is in Red China, but take a look around at Selma Alabama) This violent history really affected me and Dr King triggered this interest.

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

I think I have achieved all that I have ever wished and even what was once impossible or long range goals, I have achieved. At 12 years old I was told I would never go to university. Getting a degree became a goal as did writing a book. My first book was a children’s series of environmental stories I had published in 1979 and have had eight books published to date so I’m okay with all that. My last challenge is to get a PhD and I’m well on the way to that.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I suggest they read, read and read more. Second, have a strong idea or a strong untold story to make the writing journey worthwhile. Self-publish as a first step so you have a book to show a publisher. Work on the books overall structure and the narrative arc before you write the first word. Don’t start at chapter one, but perhaps in the middle of the story so you can get you “voice” and write chapter one last. Good luck.

Will, thank you for playing.

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

Jenny Bond, author of Perfect North, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jenny Bond

author of Perfect North

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. I was schooled in the public system and enjoyed it immensely. It’s no wonder that I went from school to university to train to be a high school teacher!

Continue reading

James Bond in Australia: Booktopia takes Solo on a Bond Voyage

UPDATE: The winner of our James Bond competition has been announced. Congratulations J. Wilson of NSW!

The voice on the phone was steady and clear: Be at Sydney Airport for the arrival of British Airways Flight B15. British Airways Captain, Thomas Clark will be escorting James Bond, 007, through customs. You are to deliver him unharmed to Booktopia’s Headquarters where he will stay until further orders. Is that clear?

Yes, I replied.

Andrew waiting for James Bond to Arrive in SydneyAccompanied by my trusty sidekick, Mr A Cattanach, we did as requested, and arrived at Terminal 1 at 5am, blending in seamlessly with the assembled crowds. Yes, 5am. British Airways Crew, lead by Thomas Clark Escort James Bond from customsThe British Airways Captain, Thomas Clark did not come alone, but was joined by his crew. Evidently he was under the impression that James Bond would likely cause trouble. He seemed very pleased to be relieved of his duty.

Captain Thomas Clark Delivering the Package SafelyAfter the handover the captain and crew dispersed quickly leaving us with the troublesome Mr Bond. And then the smooth talking Bond made a suggestion. He said he’d never been to Sydney before and would we mind so much if we took in a few of the sights. There is something about that man, Andrew and I were soon at his beck and call.

James Bond ConvinceseHarbourSo we took him down to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

James Bond Visits The Opera HouseHe wanted to take a closer look.

James Bond And The CityHe wanted to linger.

Bond Does BondiAnd then there was the inevitable request, the place every Brit wants to visit, Bondi.

Bond's Bondi BreakieBut he did pay for breakfast, which was nice.

Bond Arrives At Booktopia

Bond Arrives At Booktopia: Mission Accomplished

What the hell just happened? Why did you take a Perspex case containing a copy of William Boyd’s new James Bond novel, SOLO on a tour of Sydney? Are you mad?

In a global event to mark the publication of the new James Bond novel SOLO, 7 copies of the novel, signed and stamped by author William Boyd, were sent on 7 SOLO missions around the world in association with British Airways.

In a global event this morning to mark the publication of the new James Bond novel SOLO, 7 copies of the novel, signed and stamped by author William Boyd, were sent on 7 SOLO missions around the world in association with British Airways.Booktopia is proud to announce that we are the recipient of the copy sent all the way out to Sydney, Australia.

The handover took place early this morning and after a quick tour of the sights of Sydney the Perspex case containing SOLO was brought back to Booktopia HQ where it will stay until two lucky Booktopians own a piece of history.

William Boyd with his new novel Solo. The latest James Bond Novel.

William Boyd with his new novel Solo. The latest James Bond Novel.

You Could Win! Click here.Bond around the world…

Cape Town

Cape Town

Los Angeles

Los Angeles









Own your copy of SOLO today - click hereBuy William Boyd’s SOLO or any James Bond Vintage Classics Editions before 31st October 2013 for your chance to win an exclusive signed copy of the new James Bond novel, SOLO – It was flown into Australia and hand delivered to Booktopia! Only one in Australia!

UPDATE: Winner has been announced. Congratulations J. Wilson of NSW!

Solo : A James Bond Novel

by William Boyd

It is 1969 and James Bond is about to go solo, recklessly motivated by revenge.

A seasoned veteran of the service, 007 is sent to single-handedly stop a civil war in the small West African nation of Zanzarim. Aided by a beautiful accomplice and hindered by the local militia, he undergoes a scarring experience which compels him to ignore M’s orders in pursuit of his own brand of justice. Bond’s renegade action leads him to Washington, D.C., where he discovers a web of geopolitical intrigue and witnesses fresh horrors.

Even if Bond succeeds in exacting his revenge, a man with two faces will come to stalk his every waking moment.

About the Author

William Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1952. He is the author of one work of non-fiction, three collections of short stories and fourteen novels. He has won many awards including the Whitbread First Novel, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award and the Costa Book Award. He is married and lives in London.

Click here to order your copy of Solo from Booktopia now!

Five Books To Make A Man – From L.A. Larkin

This September we’ve been running Operation GMR, Get Men Reading. To celebrate, we’ve asked some of our favourite Australian authors to give us Five Books Every Man Should Read.

Today’s guest is the one of Australia’s finest thriller writers, L.A. Larkin.

Thrillers are a hugely popular genre with both men and women, so I work hard to please both sexes, constantly asking myself: are these characters and themes engaging and credible? Would I follow this hero to hell and back? But, I’ve not been asked to consider a male only audience before. The title of this blog, How To Make A Man, implies there may be five books that can somehow make him, whoever he is, a better man. This reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If. I decided I was ill-equipped for such an enormous task.

Instead, I thought about the topic this way: which five books have moved me and stayed with me long after I finished reading them, and, most important of all, I have really enjoyed? Then I asked myself if they might equally satisfy a male reader, even if they may not be an obviously male choice. If the answer was yes, they made it to my somewhat eclectic list, and here it is:

To Kill A Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Atticus said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it’.

This stunning novel, published in 1960, taps into injustice, racism, growing up to be a well-rounded human being, standing up for what is right despite the opposition, how to be a good father, and so many other issues we still face today.

‘I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.’

Words to live by.  A beautiful, inspiring, challenging, profound book.

Click here for more details

Pride & Prejudice

by Jane Austen

Look past the cottage industry and Colin Firth obsessives to see one of the most sharply observed and perceptive works on relationships and marriage in the English language.

Click here for more details

Oryx & Crake

by Margaret Atwood

This speculative fiction novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which we have genetically engineered ourselves out of existence – bar one man, known as Snowman.

Ingenious, thought-provoking and funny, it asks some profound questions: when does science go too far and should man play God?

Click here for more details

The Bourne Identity

by Robert Ludlum

Forget the movie, which bears little resemblance to the novel. In my opinion Robert Ludlum is one of the greatest action/ conspiracy thriller authors of all time.

The novel has an unusual premise – an assassin doesn’t know who he is or what he has done and goes on a journey fraught with danger to discover his identity. He only knows that some powerful people want him dead, including an assassin, Carlos.

Click here for more details

A Game of Thrones

by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones is the first novel in a series of high fantasy novels about warring kingdoms, packed full of treachery, ruthless ambition, betrayal, battles, murder and dragons.

If you don’t usually read novels but enjoy high-octane action/fantasy movies then this novel, that’s sold millions of copies around the world, could be for you.

Click here for more details

Kids Month Colouring In Competition Results – And The Winners Are…

August was Kids Month at Booktopia, and to celebrate we ran a colouring in competition, thanks to our friends at Random House Australia.

We received so many entries, the response was amazing! Thanks to everyone who entered and every child for their hard work and beautiful colouring in.


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Of course, the hardest part is picking a winner. Taking into account skill, age and all-round creativity, we are proud to announce the winner of the Random House Australia Book Pack is:

Bella Vr, of Edge Hill in QLD

Congratulations Bella!

But that’s not all. Because we received so many entries, we’ve decided to give even more prizes away.

To the pictures our panel of judges deemed to also be in the top 10, you’re receiving book packs of your own from us! Congratulations to:

K. O’Brien, Raymond Terrace, NSW

S. Gullotti, The Vines, WA

N. Nagel, Adelaide, SA

S. Dezius,  Denmark, WA

L. Evans, Alligator Creek, QLD

L. Patmore, North Macksville, NSW

B. Wooderson, Bundamba, QLD.

S. Connell, Mudgeeraba, QLD

E. Maclean, Coogee, NSW

But wait, there’s still more. We’re also giving away a $10 Booktopia Gift Voucher to the following brilliant entries. Some people had more than one child enter, so there may be multiple vouchers going to different children. Congratulations to:

A. Scott, Deloraine, TAS; F. Green, Charlestown, NSW; T. Beattie, Bloomsbury, QLD; C. Hope,  Eastwood, NSW; B. Wooderson, Bundamba, QLD; B. Wooderson, Bundamba, QLD; N.Moreno,  Sunbury, VIC; N.Moreno,  Sunbury, VIC; N.Moreno,  Sunbury, VIC; M. Maidens, Mt Warren Park, QLD; M. Maidens, Mt Warren Park, QLD; G. Inall, Petrie, QLD; N. White,  Dubbo, NSW; J. Croker,  Illabo, NSW; K. Blackmore, Croydon Park, NSW; L. Swart, The Gap, QLD; J. Crane, Lithgow, NSW; K. Hitchiner, Brighton East, VIC; K, Hitchiner, Brighton East, VIC; C. Perrett, Northcote, VIC; C. Perrett, Northcote, VIC; P. Barker, Glenroy, NSW; J. Croker,  Illabo, NSW; S. Vekic, Endeavour Hills, VIC; K. Sutherland, Preston, VIC; M. Shaw, Alice Springs, NT; C. Henning-White, Mossman, QLD; C. Henning-White, Mossman, QLD; H. Costantini, Glen Innes, NSW; K. L. Pallot, Chiltern, VIC; K. Marriner, Wasleys, SA; K. Marriner, Wasleys, SA; J. Cumberland, Lavington, NSW; L. Earl,  Aldinga Beach, SA; C. Caspani,  Kirwan, QLD; K. Marriner, Wasleys, SA; K. Cosgrove, Beaconsfield, VIC; S. Martin, Port Kennedy, WA; H. Liem,  West Ryde, NSW; L. Williamson, Randwick, NSW

Once again, thanks to everyone who entered the competition, and helped spread the word of Kids’ Books far and wide.

And don’t forget, Booktopia: Millions of Worlds, One Destination.

Anna Romer, author of Thornwood House, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Anna Romer

author of Thornwood House

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, and spent much of my childhood in the gorgeous little village of Sawtell on the NSW north coast. I grew up in Queanbeyan where we lived in a wonderful house (complete with secret rooms and passageways) on the edge of town.

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

At twelve I wanted to be a vet. When I was a kid Granny used to read me books about ‘animal doctors’ in Africa, and I was always daydreaming about having a pet lion and rescuing elephants from poachers. By eighteen I had decided to be an artist – which was again inspired by Granny as she was a wonderful painter and I thought the world of her. When I got to thirty, my lifelong reading obsession had evolved into a yearning to write stories of my own.

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

At eighteen I believed very strongly in my own limitations. I thought that if you weren’t born with a particular talent, then too bad! Now I believe that if you set your heart and mind to what you want, and resolutely close your ears to negativity (both your own and that of others) – then you will definitely succeed.

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?

1) The poem Kublai Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I loved this mysterious poem about a ‘stately pleasure dome’ (whatever that was!), and was intrigued to learn it had been inspired by an opium dream. I did a painting of it once, and still carry the image in my mind of an idyllic palace hidden in the hills near a river (a bit like where I live now, except in a bungalow instead of a palace). The undercurrent of threat I perceived in the poem stayed with me all my life, and one of my favourite themes to explore even today is the concept of menace lurking unseen beneath a beautiful facade.

2) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As a teenager I identified with the poor monster – so misunderstood, so alone! I was always drawn to stories of darkness and mystery, and this book’s themes – relationships and loss, death and the frailty of life, and our emotional connection to the natural world – all really resonated with me. I can still pick up this gothic masterpiece today and find within its pages the echoes of themes I’m exploring now in my own novels.

3) Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I loved this story for its untameable passions and wild windswept setting, and for the notion that love is not always rosy and goodhearted, but can also be cruel and self-serving. My teenage enthrallment with this novel probably explains why I’m still so drawn to explore obsession and other dark interpretations of love.

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

Even when painting was my main creative outlet, I was still telling stories. My pictures were full of images I’d brazenly stolen from one fairytale or another – modern Rapunzels trailing their long hair through windows, or sleeping beauties clutching books, or white rabbits darting through shadowy landscapes. Eventually I came to realise that no matter how many stories I depicted, I was only ever scratching the surface of the more complex tale I wanted to tell. Writing a novel has allowed me to dig deeper and explore the story from all angles and through many layers, as well as delving deeply into the psyches of my characters.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Thornwood House is set in rural Queensland, in the fictional town of Magpie Creek. Audrey has inherited a beautiful old homestead where she finds, in a dusty back room, the photo of a handsome World War Two serviceman. She quickly becomes obsessed with him, only to learn that he was accused of murdering a young woman on his return from war.

Driven by her unwillingness to live in the shadow of a murderer, Audrey goes on a quest to understand what really happened that night in 1946. Her fixation with the past stirs up trouble, and she soon realises she’s given the killer good reason to come after her.

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

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

My favourite stories are the ones that leave me pondering and savouring the journey they’ve just taken me on; sometimes there’s even a sense of wonder and revelation and renewed excitement about life. I guess that’s the kind of enjoyment I’d really love readers to take away from my stories.

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

I’m a devoted fan of Australian fiction; there are so many wonderful home grown authors and I love the freshness and originality of the Australian voice. . . so I’d have to say the person I admire most is my agent Selwa Anthony. She’s a champion for Australian authors and is tireless, fearless, and dedicated. She stuck by me for 10 years, had faith in me (despite the avalanche of rejection letters I got), and always gave me the wisest advice. She knows when to be tough, and when to be kind (both of which I’ve experienced over the years!), and I admire her greatly.

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

Seeing as it took me more than a decade to get published, I’ve got a swag of embryonic novels that I’m itching to write. If I could write a novel every year, while continuing to improve my storytelling skills, then I’d be a very happy little camper indeed.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Find a theme that gives you the tingles: Reincarnation, forbidden love, sacrifice, a life burdened by guilt etc. Explore this theme by collecting images and newspaper articles that grab you, watching movies, reading. Keep following the trail of your excitement and fascination, keep listening and watching and exploring. . .and pretty soon your story will surface. Then just go for it – immerse yourself, enjoy the process, and write what you love.

Joseph Campbell said, ‘Follow your bliss,’ and that’s probably the best advice for life as well as for art.

Anna, thank you for playing.

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

A Romance Specialist’s version of Nashville

Acting as our US Romance Correspondent, Booktopia’s Romance Specialist Haylee Nash stops into Nashville to sit on a Bookseller & Librarian Panel for the members of the Music City Romance Writers…plus some other stuff…

A week and a half (and several additional kilos) into my American tour, I stopped in the gorgeous historic town of Franklin to meet with the Music City Romance Writers of Nashville, a dynamic and successful chapter of the Romance Writers of America. A couple of other brilliant things  happened too, like a karaoke evening, drinks with a Grammy nominated artist and a restorative lunch at Chili’s.

Here’s the recap – in pictures – which will give you a far better idea of my experience of Nashville than any written blog I could possibly string together. Feel free to fill the blanks between photos any way you like.

Many thanks to the Music City Romance Writers, specifically Susan Bickford for the tour of Franklin, and Monica McCabe for the lift home, Kim Law and C.J. Redwine for inviting me to the panel and Nashville for having us!

Haylee Nash is Romance Specialist at Booktopia and, by now, is about 80% Mac and Cheese.


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