Jen Storer on the inspirations behind her bestselling Truly Tan Series

One of Australia’s most popular children’s authors Jen Storer writes this exclusive blog on her inspirations behind her Truly Tan Series.

In the Truly Tan series, Tan is discovering her world at the same time as the reader (and the writer) and this provides pleasure and enriches the reading experience.

The goings on in Peppercorn Valley pay homage to all the old stories that I hold dear, where friends and communities rallied around and looked out for each other.

Clearly the Truly Tan books take their lead from the Famous Five books. But other stories have been just as influential such as Anne of Green Gables, Cold Comfort Farm and of course, Gerald Durrell’s, My Family and Other Animals.

The goings on in Peppercorn Valley are also heavily influence by television shows such as A Country Practice, Jam and Jerusalem and for those who remember, Bellbird.

Tan Callahan’s life is unashamedly idyllic but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think that in this age of helicopter parenting it’s inspiring for young readers to see other kids out in the world just doing ‘stuff’— unorganised spontaneous play.

One of my favourite filmmakers, Hayao Miyazaki, says that even though he himself is quite pessimistic, he is ‘not going to make movies that tell children, you should despair and run away’. It’s the same for me with Tan’s stories.

I work hard to create a playful, visceral world where there’s a lot of physical interaction with the environment, where there’s imagination, joy and mischief. Where kids think for themselves, question authority, are granted plenty of autonomy and thrive as a result of healthy neglect.

jinxed-Tan’s adventures are inspired by my own childhood in the country. Mine was a 60s childhood infused with the stories of Enid Blyton, lived in a time when kids were literally free-range. ‘Be back by teatime’ was the standard line from our mothers.

In that sense, these stories are slightly nostalgic and I have been asked if today’s children can relate. Such questions underestimate young readers. Kids are imaginative and expansive. They’re open to difference and to alternative points of view. That’s the joy of being a kid, of being inquisitive and free of prejudice.

If as a ten year in rural Australia I could delight in the antics of a bunch of middleclass tweedies in the English countryside, I think urban kids today can relate to Tan.

While the setting and circumstances of her life may vary from the reader’s, the themes of friendship, daring, family and community love are universal. Likewise Tan’s interest in death and all things spooky intrigues young readers. Kids love to be scared. I’ve had many youngsters proudly tell me that Tan was their first scary book. Apparently it’s a rite of passage to read a scary book and see it through. I feel proud when I hear this as writing ‘scary’ for kids is challenging. How far is too far?

What is pleasantly scary, what’s terrifying, what’s babyish? I’ve come to realise that my books need to be like the ghost train at the Show—lots of scary stuff and a bit of squealing but plenty of silly skeletons to make you laugh too. I also balance the scary elements with mountains of food.

If Enid Blyton taught me anything it’s that one can cope with all manner of drama so long as there’s a mug of hot chocolate and a slab of orange cake at the end…

Check out the full Truly Tan series here

Pamela Williams Wins Walkley Book Award With Killing Fairfax

Pamela Williams has won the prestigious Walkley Book Awrd for 2013 for her book Killing Fairfax: Packer, Murdoch And The Ultimate Revenge - an incisive, hard-hitting and utterly compelling exposé of media, powerful mates and multimillion-dollar deals.

Killing Fairfax tells the inside story of the decline of hallowed media company Fairfax, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age And The Australian Financial Review.

Covering a decade and a half of lost opportunity and mismanagement, this story culminates in Fairfax’s catastrophic loss of the classified advertising market to the internet, as the famous ‘rivers of gold’ run dry. The savage twist in the tale is that the new companies dominating the online advertising market were not just hungry internet start-ups – but one by one, each of the new leaders in the field came under the direct influence of two traditional media tycoons, James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, both intent on expanding their own online businesses.

With exclusive and unprecedented access to both Murdoch and Packer, as well as an extraordinary line-up of Australian business leaders and influential powerbrokers, this is a powerful insiders’ story of the deals, the power plays and the machinations behind the influential media organisation’s decline. A riveting, never-before-told tale of Shakespearean dimensions, Killing Fairfax is an unputdownable account of corporate ambition and arrogance; fathers and sons; old media and new media; and brutal business dealings.

About the Author

Pamela Williams is the Editor-at-Large for The Australian Financial Review, writing investigative stories across politics and the corporate world. She is the author of the political book The Victory, and has won five Walkley awards including the Gold Walkley in 1998 for her coverage of the waterfront dispute. She has won the Graham Perkin Journalist of the Year award; the George Munster award; a Melbourne Press Club Quill award, the Melbourne Press Club/Trawalla Arts Journalism award, and the Citigroup Journalism Award.

Grab a copy of Killing Fairfax here

47 Rejections, Now The 2013 Guardian First Book Award

Donal Ryan, author of The Spinning Heart, has won the 2013 Guardian First Book Award. A wonderful, career defining achievement. But what is the story behind his win?

Ryan was born in a village in North Tipperary and works for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in Limerick. In his 20s, he wrote in short bursts but having children gave him the motivation he needed to finish two novels.

So it was that easy. He wrote two novels, that were snapped up immediately by publishers, with the second a follow up to his award-winning first. Right?

Not exactly…

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Lives of Stella Bain by Anita Shreve (Review by Terry Purcell)

the-lives-of-stella-bainThis unusual mystery opens in a field hospital in Marne in early 1916 when a woman finds herself suffering from minor shrapnel injuries, shellshock and amnesia.  Her VAD uniform tells her that she must be a nurse’s aid but she knows little else about herself or her name.  She believes her name is Stella Bain, and learns that she is an American. Once her physical injuries are healed she goes back to work driving field ambulances along the front, retrieving the dead and wounded.

In October she is given leave and decides to go to London, because she thinks that by visiting the Admiraly that she might find the key to unlocking her identity. However, she is desperately ill when she arrives and in taken in by a kind woman whose husband is a cranial surgeon.

Through contacts the surgeon obtains permission to take her to the Admiralty and eventually this leads to her identity being revealed and her memory is restored and her reasons for being in France is revealed.anita shreve

Underpinning this novel is a narrative of a failed marriage which was told from the husband’s point of view in one of her earlier novels All He Ever Wanted.

In this latest novel Shreve vividly tells the story from the wife’s point of view revealing the far reaching consequences of the husband’s unethical and manipulative behaviour to achievall-he-ever-wantede the college Presidency he had sought for twenty years.

As was made clear during the earlier story, the husband reflected on what he had gained but also on his lost family and his failed search for redemption.

This time the ill-treated wife regains custody of her lost children, the satisfaction of apologising to the victim of the husband’s unethical and malicious allegations, and the love of the man whose support made such gains possible.

This is Anita Shreve at her best and I highly recommend both this her latest book and All He Ever Wanted. Excellent holiday reading.

Terry Purcell is a solicitor and was the founding director of the Law Foundation of NSW. He is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog.

Click here to pick up a copy of The Lives of Stella Bain today

Happy Birthday Jimi Hendrix – His Memoir Starting At Zero Is Out Now

Jimi Hendrix was born on this day 71 years ago. Any excuse to play some Hendrix is a good excuse, particularly with a fantastic collection of his writing, Starting At Zero, out now.

Here are some things you might not have known about Jimi:

- Jimi Hendrix was actually born as Johnny Allen Hendrix.

- His father changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix in memory of his late brother.

- Hendrix was left-handed. Rather than play a left-handed guitar he played a right-handed guitar strung upside-down.

- He requested the original cover for his final album cover Electric Ladyland, a photo of a group of naked ladies women, be changed because he found it offensive and irrelevant.

- Former Greens Leader Bob Brown was a resident doctor on call at the London Hospital when Hendrix’s body was brought in.

- Rolling Stone magazine named him the greatest guitarist of all-time in 2011.

Starting At Zero

by Jimi Hendrix

It took just four years in the spotlight for Jimi Hendrix to become an international cultural icon. The sheer impact and originality of his music and his unique mastery of the guitar placed him for ever amongst musical giants. But what of the man behind the public image?

Modest and intensely private by nature, Jimi was shrouded in intrigue from the moment he first came into the public eye, and the mystery has only grown with time. Much has been written about him by experts, fans and critics, some of it true and some of it not. He did, however, leave his own account of himself locked away like a Chinese puzzle in his many interviews, lyrics, writings, poems, diaries and even stage raps. Starting At Zero brings all these elements together in narrative form. The result is an intimate, funny and poetic memoir – one that tells, for the first time, Jimi’s own story as only he could tell it.

Grab a copy of Starting At Zero here

And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Jimi.

Grab a copy of Starting At Zero here

Jackie French Named Australian Children’s Laureate For 2014-2015

Jackie French, best-selling author of over 140 books, including the iconic Diary of a Wombat and Hitler’s Daughter, has been announced as the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2014 – 2015.

French was presented with her Magpie Award, the symbol of the Laureate, at a ceremony at the National Library of Australia in Canberra by actor, director and former Play School presenter Rhys Muldoon.

She will take over from the inaugural Laureate – a position shared between Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor – in February 2014.

Jackie French has written over 140 fiction and non-fiction books. Her writing career spans 25 years and includes 248 wombats, 3,721 bush rats, 36 languages and over 60 awards in Australia and overseas.

Jackie has been a full time writer for over twenty years, and she is acclaimed in both literary and children’s choice awards. She is passionate about history, the environment and the conservation of wildlife and our planet. Jackie is also dyslexic, and is a strong advocate of help for children with learning difficulties.

About the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance (ACLA)

The Australian Children’s Laureate is an initiative developed by the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance, founded in 2008. The Laureate’s role is to promote the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians.

The Laureate acts as a national and international ambassador for Australian children’s literature, inspiring young people to tell their own stories and be part of an active literary culture for enjoyment, wellbeing and success in life.

The theme for French’s two-year term as Australian Children’s Laureate will be ‘Share a Story’.

Says Jackie: ‘There are a million ways to share a book or story — to read to a child on your lap; to have a child read to you while you cook dinner; to read to the dog when it has to go to the vet to calm it (or you!) down; to join a storytelling session at your library; to lend a book to your best friend; to tell your grandchildren what life was like when you were young over the phone or on Skype; to read to thousands by video conferencing; to be read a book on television by a much-loved presenter. Stories tell us who we are. They teach us empathy so we understand who others are. They give us the power to imagine and create the future.’

To find out more about what the new Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French, will be doing and how to get involved with Laureate projects, please visit http://www.childrenslaureate.org.au. A further celebration will take place at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on Friday 29th of November.

For regular updates on Jackie French’s Laureate program, visit: www.childrenslaureate.org.au , and follow the progress on twitter at: @Ozlaureate

Best of Booktopia TV: Fast and Furious Thrillers

Matthew Reilly – The Tournament

the-tournament-unsigned-copyBestselling author Matthew Reilly is one of Australia’s most reliable writers. Every couple of years he delivers his fans quality popular fiction and every couple of years he can be counted on to break Australian sales records. But till now, all of his successes, Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, Temple, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, to name just a few, have one thing in common, the breakneck speed of their narrative.

The Tournament is a departure for Reilly, gone is his trademark breakneck speed. Instead we find a narrative with gravitational pull. Enter The Tournament’s orbit and you cannot escape, you must read on to the final page.

Click here for more details…

Hugh Howey – Shift

shiftIn a future less than fifty years away, the world is still as we know it. Time continues to tick by. The truth is that it is ticking away.

A powerful few know what lies ahead. They are preparing for it. They are trying to protect us.

They are setting us on a path from which we can never return. A path that will lead to destruction; a path that will take us below ground.

The history of the silo is about to be written.

Our future is about to begin.

Click here for more details…

Kathy Reichs – Bones of the Lost

The body of a teenage girl is discovered along a desolate highway on the outskirts of Charlotte. Inside her purse is the ID card of a local businessman who died in a fire months earlier.bones-of-the-lost

This is no ordinary hit-and-run. Who was the girl? And was she murdered?

Dr Temperance Brennan, Forensic Anthropologist, must find the answers. She soon learns that a Gulf War veteran stands accused of smuggling artefacts into the country. Could there be a sinister connection between the two cases?

Click here for more details…

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