GUEST BLOG: Six Masterclass Picture Books by Nicki Greenberg, author of The Naughtiest Reindeer

I love picture books in so many different ways: as stories, as works of art, as frolics, as meditations, and of course for the joy and fascination that they spark in my own kids. But sometimes I encounter a book that especially inspires me as a practitioner.

These are picture books that perform their dances with such mastery that I want to stand up and applaud – and then sit down again to study and learn from their moves.

Here (in no particular order) are six of the best: my current favourite master class picture books.


Frog and Toad Together

by Arnold Lobel

A master class in simplicity

Frog and Toad are all about understatement: deadpan dialogue, sober brown-toned pictures and quietly delivered punch-lines, with Frog playing the gracious straight man to his shambolic friend Toad.

The stories’ wit, poignancy and wonderful dialogue are especially impressive because the books are written as “easy readers” for children just beginning to read by themselves.

Most “readers” make you want to tear your own head off. But these are a master class in the weight and subtlety that simple language can carry off.

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Too Many Elephants in This House

by Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner

A master class in visual and verbal balance

Every line in this book – whether of the written or the drawn variety – is perfectly formed and performed. And better still, text and image “pass” the storytelling back and forth seamlessly. Eric and his Too Many Elephants rampage through the book, but their moves are always wonderfully choreographed in daring, assured compositions. Fabulous.

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Doctor De Soto

by William Steig

A master class in humanity

Doctor De Soto is a mouse and a dentist who generally refuses to treat animals dangerous to mice. But one day he and his wife make an exception for a very sore fox. The humanity of these characters – ordinary (animal) people who have great ideas, make mistakes, work together, are brave in everyday ways, and sometimes take a day off – is beautiful. Steig’s lovely drawing style embodies this humanity: a master class in the strength and character of a wobbly line.

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The Great Paper Caper

by Oliver Jeffers

A master class in design

My favourite piece of picture book design: gorgeous page layouts combining quirky creatures, rich application of paint, landscapes of vibrating colour, clever collage and lots of visual humour and physical comedy.

I want these pictures blown up floor-to-ceiling size so I can live inside them.

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The Arrival

by Shaun Tan

A master class in world creation

Shaun Tan is kind of superhuman. In The Arrival he creates not only a linked collection of fantastical and meaningful outer worlds, but also invites us into the fully realised inner worlds of their characters – all without a word. It’s emotionally powerful, paced like a great piece of music and spectacularly beautiful. How does he do it?

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Madeline

by Ludwig Bemelmans

A master class in freedom

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines / Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines… And those might be the only straight lines in the book! I love Madeline for the irrepressible spontaneity of Bemelmans’ writing and drawing style and of Madeline herself – a perfect conflating of form and content. This book reminds me of the importance of the happy accident: the magic that can happen when you let yourself doodle, daydream, riff on a catchy line, loosen up. A master class in letting go and letting rip.

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Nicki’s new book, The Naughtiest Reindeer is published by Allen & Unwin.

A gorgeous, funny Christmas picture book from an acclaimed CBCA award-winning creator.

Rudolf the reindeer was lying in bed with a runny red nose and an ache in his head. ‘I’m sorry,’ he groaned. ‘I just can’t pull a sled. You’ll have to ask my sister Ruby instead.’

It’s the night before Christmas and Rudolf is sneezing his little red nose off. So Santa needs another reindeer to help pull the sleigh. Rudolf’s sister Ruby is a little reindeer who always finds herself in BIG trouble. Will she find a way to bring her best behaviour? Or will she bring chaos to Christmas Day?

A cheeky and charming celebration of the Christmas spirit.

Grab a copy of Nicki’s The Naughtiest Reindeer here

Nine Naughty Questions with… Molly McAdams

Booktopia’s Romance Specialist asks

Molly McAdams

author of Forgiving Lies

Nine Naughty Questions

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1. I wonder, is a romance writer born or made? Please tell us a little about your life before publication.

Haha, uh, great question! I definitely never thought I would be a writer. I failed out of Creative Writing in college. But I’ve always been a flirt and storyteller, and dated A LOT … and I write a lot of my real life in my books. So I guess born?

2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why romance readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?

I do think so! They get a real-life feel along with the fantasy. And I probably should feel exposed, but I don’t. I know if something has happened to me, then its most likely happened to someone else—and maybe by sharing my story, I can help that person.

3. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Forgiving Lies has a little bit of everything: comedy, romance, suspense, thrill factor. I’m so excited for my readers to get this one in their hands, it’s different from anything I’ve written so far.

You can pick up a copy of Forgiving Lies by Molly McAdams here

4. Is the life of a published romance writer… well… romantic?

Read Forgiving Lies and From Ashes. Gage (From Ashes) and Kash (Forgiving Lies) are both made after my hubby. You tell me. ;)

5. Of all of the romantic moments in your life is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the romantic elements in your writing? If so can you tell us about that special moment?

There is, and I so wish I could tell you … but, unfortunately, I can’t. I plan on writing it into one of my stories … don’t want to spoil it now.

6. Sex in romance writing today ranges from ‘I can’t believe they’re allowed to publish this stuff’ explicit to ‘turn the light back on I can see something’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a romance novel?

Romance doesn’t equal sex. Romance is the love and the passion. Passion and love can both be displayed without sex. But I think its secretly something the readers crave, and for most of our story lines, it’s what would happen in that time, so we’re going to write it.

7. Romance writers are often romance readers – please tell us your five favourite (read and re-read) romance novels or five novels that influenced your work most?

I can’t do five books so I’ll do five authors, okay? Haha. (#cheater)

1. Nicholas Sparks
2. A L Jackson
3. Stephenie Meyer
4. Madeline Sheehan
5. Tara Sivec

8. Romance writing is ‘so hot right now’, do you have any thoughts on why?

I think it will always be hot. Women want an escape, and they want a romantic escape. Who doesn’t? It started for us with the Disney fairytale princesses! Haha

9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?

Never give up, and always write for yourself!

Thanks for joining us Molly!


Molly McAdams grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband and furry four-legged daughters. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, she can be found hiding out in her bedroom surrounded by her laptop and cell, and fighting over the TV remote. Molly has published four New Adult novels and is a New York Times bestselling author.

Winner of the Game Changer Prize!

The Game Changer Prize Winner:9781922147387

C. Bertolino, Albury, NSW

The prize includes:

- Two courtside tickets to a 2014 Australian Open Day 8 night match – you’ll be sitting with Paul McNamee!

- Return flights to Melbourne from any Australian capital city

- A night at a 5-star hotel.

Grab a copy of Game Changer here


Congratulations to the winner!
A Booktopia representative will be in contact with you via email or phone
during January to confirm delivery of your prize.

Joanna Trollope on Jane Austen

The Austen Project
Sense & Sensibility
A Q&A with Joanna Trollope

1. Sense & Sensibility is launching the Austen Project –  what was it about the idea of a modern re-telling of Jane Austen’s novel that caught your imagination?

My first – and I have to say, last – reaction when the idea of updating those novels was put to me, was: how brilliant! Jane Austen’s preoccupations – romance, money and class – are timeless, which is one of the main reasons that puts her at the head of the much beloved, as well as classic, category. She is also completely serious about any character or emotion that requires respect, while at the same time displaying a wonderful capacity for mockery and spot-on censure for folly and unkindness in any form. And so, while determined that any novel I wrote would be unquestionably a tribute to her genius, and in no way an imitation, I could immediately see that her characters and her narrative would translate absolutely seamlessly to 2013 – which, indeed, they have.

2. The characters that Austen creates are timeless but still, transferring them to current times must have been an enthralling task. Did you find the presence of an existing plot and characters liberating or limiting?

The whole process was a liberation. The characters almost felt that they were transferring themselves to recognisable modern people with very little help from me, so vivid are they. And being freed from the need to invent a theme, a narrative or a cast list for myself, I felt little short of exhilarated the whole time. Of course there were elements that had to be modernised since the characters in the original, a lot of them living on the proceeds of the slave trade (although that is never mentioned as it would have been such a contemporary commonplace) have the kind of leisure that is absolutely unthinkable nowadays. And the outrages – Willoughby’s impregnating of Eliza, say – have to be updated to convey the same level of shock. But these changes were really details in what was an extraordinarily engaging project.

3. In Chapter 5 Belle says: ‘Then he’d be at complete odds with my Marianne. And me for that matter. We believe in the love of a life, you see.’ Marianne really is the living embodiment of the sensibility that was so fashionable in the eighteenth century. How did you manage to update her romantic fervour and make her so likeable?

The thing is that Marianne is likeable, as well as close to impossible, in the original. We know that by the time Jane Austen came to write Sense and Sensibility, her own appreciation of the qualities of level-headedness that Elinor displays far outweighed the current philosophical vogue for sensibility. But Marianne is as much a child of her times – 1809 – as she is, with a slightly different modern interpretation, of ours. It’s just that we have a different way of describing, and of seeing, the same utter belief in emotional self-indulgence and the prioritising of individualism, as she does. What she would call sensibility, we recognise as entitlement. Her belief in finding the love of her life equates to our desire for a soulmate. She may exhibit an exasperating level of self-involvement which is very recognisable today, but she is also warm and welcoming and sincere in her attachments. And she loves her sister, Elinor, she really does. We can all look round our circles of friends and see people in it who are ‘Mariannes’ – maddeningly self-absorbed, and emotional, but also sweet and responsive and sympathetic. Jane Austen’s Marianne is a very modern girl, with all the plusses and minuses that that entails.

4. Sense and Sensibility is so much about how we declare our love, and how the public and private versions of love exist. How did you find writing this interplay? Do you think public declarations through social media such as Facebook and Twitter have changed our modern view on love?

I would guess that no amount of social media actually changes the way people feel, even if it might have enabled, rather than actually changed, the way they express those feelings. The desire to be loveable, and popular, and fancied is as old and as enduring as humanity is itself, and I would guess that the number of modern girls pressured by their peers or their own insecurities into making fools of themselves on Facebook and by Instagram, is exactly the same as it was before these alarmingly public fora existed. You can imagine very easily, can’t you, the Steele sisters taking avidly to Twitter! And I think the fact that I could insert a little modern media so effortlessly into Jane Austen’s narrative is the only proof you need that humanity doesn’t change, even if codes of conduct do!

5. Edward Ferrars is described in Chapter 2 as the ‘redeeming attribute’ of the Ferrars clan. But he has little direction and behaves submissively, at first, towards Lucy’s insistence that they are an item, in contrast to Elinor’s composure and intelligence. Did you find it hard when writing to see them as an equal match and can readers be fully satisfied that Elinor is to marry him at the end?

Oddly enough, I thought that Edward Ferrars was one of the most modern characters in the whole book – or, at least, one of the most recognisable as modern. He has had a bullied and neglected childhood, despite material comfort, and is clearly what we would now diagnose as a mild depressive by nature. There is an unquestioned sweetness in his disposition, but his upbringing – thrusting new money and ambition – is not in the least interested in sweetness, but only in success. His overbearing mother has accustomed him to obeying bossy women, and his sweetness makes him anxious to oblige. So he is easy prey, as a lonely teenager whose family have written him off as hopeless, for a gold digger like Lucy Steele. And Elinor, interestingly, for all her intelligence and self control, is the family missionary. She has appointed herself the Sensible one, the Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous, whose task it is to steer her chaotic little family ship to a safe harbour. If she didn’t like sorting volatile people, she would not be so unbelievably patient with her mother and sisters. Sorting them all is her chosen role – so Edward Ferrars is a natural choice for her. He may not be completely worthy, but he is what she wants.

6. The novel’s themes of status and money imply that some things are never out of date and that men with wealth and power will always be more attractive to women. Would you agree and do you see this ever changing?

I entirely agree. In fact, I would go further and say it’s mainly money that gives both power and sex appeal – and of course, the latter is a form of the former. Looking back at history, emperors, statesmen, successful industrialists, soldiers and entrepreneurs may not have made a universal success of their private lives, but they have never not taken what they wanted – or what they thought they wanted! And to look at the present day, it is only money that stops Fifty Shades of Grey from being a novel about sexual abuse – and I see that the new Sylvia Day will feature ‘a young billionaire’ hero … Now, I wonder why that should be?!

7. What would you like readers to take away from this novel?

I would love readers to take away several things. First, obviously, a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Secondly, a sense of having been in the company of people they can both recognise and believe in. But thirdly, and most importantly, I would like them to feel a renewed and enormous admiration for Jane Austen, and a strong desire either to re-read the original, or actually, to read it for the first time.

8. Do you tend to read when you are writing a novel and, if so, what?

I read all the time … And what I read is not particularly deliberate, but more often than not, whatever is next on the pile of books waiting to be read because I have been asked to read them or am longing to, anyway! This year, one of my huge reading joys was the entire shortlist for the Womens’ Prize for Fiction – six dazzling books. I can’t think when there has been a stronger shortlist – everyone a winner in my view!

9. Did you re-read Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and if so, did you refer to it as you wrote or did you prefer to keep a distance between you and the text?

I read and re-read it exhaustively, to the point of cannibalising several paperbacks of it to work out the scenes I was going to use, and where I would have to add scenes to bring the narrative circumstances up to date. So I ended up with a tattered re-configured sequence of the original, heavily highlighted. I have left one line of the original in the updated version – I wonder if you can find it?

10. As a hugely successful, bestselling novelist, would you have any guidance or advice for young writers starting out today?

The first thing I would say is that there is plenty of time. You can be too young to write – simply because you haven’t had time to live enough – but you can hardly be too old. Think of the wonderful P.D. James, in the bestseller lists at 94! I remain of the opinion that most people write better after 35 than before, for that very reason. So, don’t be in a hurry! And while you are waiting, train your powers of observation, because that is the hallmark of all successful novelists. Maybe even keep a notebook – not a diary, but a notebook you have with you in which you can record ideas or observations, or snatches of a conversation you overhear, or scraps of dialogue. No amount of noticing of other people is ever, ever wasted for a writer … Good luck!


Joanna Trollope, OBE, is the international bestselling author of 30 novels and has written historical fiction, contemporary fiction and non-fiction. When Joanna considers what has happened to her career in the last ten years, she often thinks, as her friend Jilly Cooper once said, ‘You’d believe it, wouldn’t you, if it happened to someone else‘.

Paullina Simons, author of Bellagrand, The Bronze Horseman and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

bellagrandThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Paullina Simons

author of Bellagrand, The Bronze Horseman, Tully and more, answers

Six Sharp Questions

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

Bellagrand is a story of a passionate, troubled love affair between Harry and Gina, who are the parents of Alexander, my hero in The Bronze Horseman books. Writing about them allowed me to immerse myself again in one of my favorite types of fiction: a personal and emotional story of real people against the backdrop of transformative historical events such as World War I and the Russian Revolution.
There is another reason: I love going back to the world of Tatiana and Alexander. I sometimes hear from my readers that they have trouble letting go of my characters. To them I say, tell me about it.

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

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

Best: My new renovated house.
Worst: Living in our unfinished basement for three months while the house was being renovated. I have a lifelong healthy respect (okay, dread fear) of basements. My husband and kids, of course, love the cave-like atmosphere—and there is my life in a nutshell.
One moment stands out. For Thanksgiving last year I cooked the family dinner on a stove set up in the wreckage of my demolished-to-studs kitchen. We ate on a folding table in the cold basement. Was that the best or the worst? The answer is yes.

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

“Oh, what a lucky man he was.” (Emerson, Lake and Palmer)

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

I am a delight to live with. I’m hardly ever home. I spend my days in my studio, with my laptop, my piano, and my coffee machine. Oh, and I like to pretend that I defy all stereotypes.

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

I don’t think in terms of the marketplace, exactly. More in terms of what my readers and I like best. Since I try to write the kind of books that I myself prefer to read, I hope that my readers will want to read the books I like to write.

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

The Summer Garden, for the lifelong soul of a marriage.
A Song in the Daylight, for the unfathomable human heart (both of which make great Christmas gifts, by the way).
East of Eden, for the Pandora’s box of good and evil.
Macbeth, because it has the best lines.
The Bible, for everything under the sun.

Paullina, thank you for playing.

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

GUEST BLOG: 5 Literary Apocalypses by Michael Adams, author of The Last Girl

The Stand

by Stephen King

Stephen King’s epic has a weaponised superflu germ escaping a military facility and wiping out 99 per cent of the world’s population. Guided by shared dreams, the isolated survivors form up in opposing groups and ready themselves for a showdown of Bibical proportions. The scope of the devastation is breathtaking, with scenes of New York City clogged with corpses utterly indelible.

Of the fiftysomething novels King has published, fans most often nominate The Stand as their favourite – and I’m with them. I read it as a kid and have revisited its 1000-plus pages several times since.

The idea, too, that the end of the world is but the beginning of a new battle is hugely fascinating.

Click here for more details

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Darkness

by Lord Byron

After she created Frankenstein, Mary Shelley pioneered the apocalyptic novel with 1826’s The Last Man, to which The Last Girl is partially indebted for its title. But her pal Lord Byron beat her to the end-times punch with his poem “Darkness”, which was inspired by the real-life “year without summer” following the massive Indonesian volcanic eruption in 1816.

Byron’s premise is that the sun goes out, Earth is plunged into darkness, humanity burns its cities for light – and then things get really bad. “All earth was but one thought – and that was death.” Yowza. Read it online and be freaked out.

Click here for more details

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The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic meditation won the Pulitzer Prize for good reason. To match its elegantly stripped-back prose, The Road discards many end-of-the-world genre tropes. We never find out the names of the Man and the Boy. Nor are we afforded even the modest comfort of knowing how the entire earth became a burning and blackened wasteland.

Instead the focus is on simple survival, whether it’s filching a can of Coke from the innards of a fossilised drink machine or preparing to kill yourself and your son to avoid a fate worse than death at the hands and teeth of the terrifying road cannibals.

Click here for more details

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Z for Zachariah

by Robert O’Brien

Long before “YA” was a phenomenon, Z For Zachariah had a 16-year-old girl surviving a nuclear war and nerve gas attack on her family farm in a remote valley. But her safe haven is threatened by the appearance of a man in a radiation suit.

Told in diary form, Robert C. O Brien’s novel makes the apocalypse into an intimate battle between a surprisingly wise teenage girl and the supposedly smart adult scientist whose ideas for creating a new world are scarier than the wasteland. Emotional and exciting, Z4Z is also a winner because it’s not afraid of ambiguity.

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Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Fleeing London to escape an apocalyptic war, a plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean and the surviving adolescent boys who wash up on a remote island are forced to fend for themselves. Their spiral into barbarism, whipped into hatred by Jack and his Beast, reflects the dark extremes we’ll resort to for power and survival.

What’s always lurking in the background of William Golding’s novel is the knowledge that the blood spilled by the boys is but a drop in the ocean compared with the war engulfing the globe.

Click here for more details

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Michael Adam’s new book, The Last Girl is published by Allen & Unwin.

The end of the world happened quickly. The sun still shone, there was no explosion – just a tsunami-sized wave of human thought drowning the world in telepathic noise as everyone’s inner-most secrets became audible. Everyone’s thoughts, that is, except sixteen-year-old Danby.

Everyone looked like bad actors in a poorly dubbed movie. Their expressions didn’t match their emotions and their lips didn’t sync with what they were saying. But they were all so loud.

God-he-looks-hot-Can’t-she’s-my-best-friend-How’d-she-lose-that-weight-No-don’t-you-dare-Oh-no-please-

The end of the world happens in the blink of an eye…

Grab a copy of Michael’s book The Last Girl here

T.M.Clark, Author of My Brother-But-One, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

T.M.Clark

author of My Brother-But-One

Ten Terrifying Questions

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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 Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and although I spent my junior school years in boarding school and on a ranch in Zimbabwe, my Senior school years (Standard 6 – 10 or as they say in Australia – Year 8 – 12) were in a small South African town called Kokstad, which is in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains.

During my years in Zimbabwe, you could usually find me riding my horse around, exploring our ranch, usually armed and with our 2 killer dogs running near by protecting me. Yes, I grew up in a war zone so it was necessary. But I knew such freedom during that time that I have never experienced since.

At senior school I no longer had my own horse, but would ride any of my friends one whenever I could, I also played any and every sport (except swimming… I don’t like swimming, maybe because I was always taught  ‘if you can’t see the bottom don’t get in as there might be a crocodile there’ or ‘the water might have bilharzia snails in it’ – but honestly me and actually swimming in water just don’t mix…)  and I don’t ever remember being bored growing up despite living permanently in a school boarding establishment.

I used to be a reluctant reader , although I read a lot and fast, once I started to actually read. I think my poor English teachers deserve gold stars for putting up with my really bad spelling all those years – although my one English teacher Mr Hinchliff doubled as the computer teacher, and I think he was way-way before his time, in that he once told me not to worry too much about my bad spelling, as computers would fix that all one day… and he was right.

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

Twelve: When I was about 8 years old, a vet visited our farm when a bull gored one of our horses. He stitched up that horse and he was as good as new/ Yet that vet was so gentle and so caring with that horse, and so wanting it to live and be okay. I just knew I wanted to be a vet from then on. So I practiced  – on frogs, and removed their appendix and stitched them back up and put them back in the reservoir…I can’t say that they lived…( I know barbaric when I think back on it…)  Until when I was fifteen, I discovered that in South Africa the only Veterinary Science University at that time was in Pretoria at the Onderstepoort campus, and it was all done in Afrikaans. My Afrikaans was dismal and I knew then I would never get into that university – and never be a vet.

At eighteen I was already working to pay for my first year at university by correspondence to study for an Accounting Degree – why? Because I was good at it and it came naturally to me, but also one teacher at school had said to me I should be an accountant.  With no other direction to go – it seemed like a better place than joining the army where my aunt wanted me to be…

At thirty I just wanted to get through each day and not drop a child from sleep deprivation. Yes seriously! I was living in England, and although I had a live out au pair for our two boys while I was at work, life was hectic. I had just gone back to work to complete my last few months of my Internal Quality Auditing Certification, and then we decided to move countries – again. At thirty I could only think of getting through each week, not a career in the future, but, lucky, I had already started fiction writing, so my trajectory in life was already changing.T.M.Clark

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

At eighteen I strongly believed that I wouldn’t marry until I was at least 30 years old. And then I would adopt children, because there were so many in the world that needed homes already. Both theories blown out the water… I was married just after I turned 22 years old (and in two weeks it is our 22nd wedding anniversary!) And I had delivered two of our own children naturally, before I was thirty!

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?

Book : Jock of the Bushvelt – Sir James Percy FitzPatrick. I have somehow managed to hold onto my copy from when I was like 10 years old. I remember my dad reading it to me, and I loved the story. At the time I didn’t realize how much impact it had on me. But now years later I realize that now I want to write stories that inspire as well as entertain readers, and my love for an African stories goes way way back…

Music: Johnny Clegg/Juluka/Savuka  – all their music – but especially December Africa Rain. This song was one of my theme tunes for My Brother-But-One. This music touches me and makes me remember Africa, its people and the stuggles and yet the hope of those same people, and I find I write from a well deep inside – not from my head.

Painting: I am not a big art fanatic, I can’t tell a Picasso from a Van Gogh. But when I saw the round stained glass window in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, I was in awe and I can remember just staring at it feeling really tiny and insignificant. It was so hard to believe that one man could think of creating something so huge that it dominated so much of the cathedral, and yet it was so beautiful and so soothing to those who looked at it.

As a writer, I still feel like that: tiny and insignificant, but now I know that I have started to share my ‘own pieces of art’ out into the world. It will never compare to the glass window in Notre Dame, it doesn’t have to. But it will be my own small contribution to the world, through my eyes and my heart, just as the window once was to someone else.

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

I love sewing, and I love creating interesting clothing to wear, I don’t however want to be the next Dior designer.  I love gardening and seeing things grow, from seeds , propagating whatever, I am always giving away plants to people, creating new flower beds, yet I’m not the next Jamie Durie. But, I have always told stories.

When I was really young, I made up these characters and would tell my sisters these stories. As the years past, so did that phase in life, but it reemerged when I had my own children, and once again, I would make up bedtime stories. But it wasn’t until my husband influenced the writing down of them, that I actually thought about ‘telling stories’ for others to read. And its just grown from there.

Some of this story My Brother-But-One is based on a few real events in my life. But mostly its fictional.

True – My dad’s family’s ranches were taken in the land distribution program in Zimbabwe. Even miles away on the other side of the world, I was so effected by this immense loss and tragic event.

False – the scene depicting this in the book. I didn’t capture it as it happened exactly, I write fiction remember…

This book wanted to tell the story. If I didn’t write this story, it would drive me nuts as it would never shut up inside my head.  (No, I’m not schizophrenic or on medication for mental illness…) This story has been cooking for many years, its evolved sure, but once I was writing it, it wanted to be told, and there wasn’t much I could do to stop telling it. Even if it never got published, as long as the story was told, the characters were happy and I can move onto the next one that has been pushing to the front, waiting to be written…

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Scott Decker and Zol Ndhlovu are partners in a private game ranch in Zimbabwe. They have a friendship borne from Africa — a brotherhood that endures the generation gap — and crosses the colour barrier. Australian Ashley Twine is a thirty-something dynamic achiever and a confident businesswoman. When a gender mix-up secures her a position on a volunteer program in the Hwange National Park, Ashley gets a chance to take stock of her life and reassess her situation. But the chauvinistic Scott — who runs the operation — is adamant she isn’t cut out for the job.

After Ashley witnesses first-hand the devastation left behind by poachers, Scott finds himself torn between wanting to protect Ashley or force her to leave Africa for her own safety…and his sanity. However, nothing can prepare her for being ambushed and held captive by the psychopathic Rodney — an old enemy of Zol’s — from a war fought years ago. But now that their world has been threatened, circumstances take hold of their lives and begin to shape and change them forever.

Set against a magnificent backdrop of Africa across the decades, I explore both the challenges and the traditions between the white and black families of rural Africa.

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

A feeling of hope, and acceptance that a family unit isn’t necessarily made up of the traditional 1 man + 1 women + 2 kids = perfect family. I want readers to fall in love and want to visit Africa, but, mostly for just a moment, to feel rhythm of the African rhythm in their hearts too as they read. And if the reader can somehow help stop the slaughter of the wild life because of the new love they feel, all the better!

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

Jean M. Auel- The Children of the Earth Series. Her books are so real, so full of detail that you can almost feel that you are back in time in that period in history and its all tangible. Her intricate novels have captivated me for years.
Robin Hobb – All her books, but I was captivated by The Rain Wild Chronicles and her Liveship Traders Trilogy, again, it’s the details that get me, her world seems real and I lose myself in it while reading her books.

In my genre – Tony Park. Tony is an Australian who is living there six months of the year, and writing these amazing stories that pin-point exactly the pulse of Africa.  Again, his attention to details is amazing. Yet, he still has time to give to any charity that helps the people or animals in Africa. And Tony is encouraging to up coming writers, never brushing them aside. He sent me my cover quote when he was camping in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and he found he had cell coverage – that is dedication! I’m sure Nicola his wife will tell you he has fault, but to me Tony is the perfect colonial gentleman author.

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

Maybe a better word for that would be ‘dreams’ because some things that happen are out of an author’s control. My dream would be to sell world rights. I would so love to see my books in the USA, England, South Africa, Russia, China and all the territories, and see translations, that must be so neat, and I would ‘dream’ of visiting each place my book was published in to see it there, as I am a gypsy at heart and love an excuse to travel! Also, I have a cousin who doesn’t read, but if my book was an audio book, he would get to hear it, so the audio rights too…

Friends of mine have had their books turned into Manga. I think it would be so cool to have your book in a manga style… perhaps its that little bit in me that loves that an adult book can have pictures in it!!!

Dreams – Oh hell lets got the whole hog – would love to see this book as a movie – sitting next to Out Of Africa, Gorillas in the Mist and e-Lollipop as a classic one day….LOL

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

2 things…

1. Just write the book that you want to, make your dream happen.

2. There are so many avenues open to authors, don’t rush at the first opportunity that comes along. Stop, think with your business head, take your time and get it right if you are publishing anything.  Writing might be your passion, but it’s your business, so treat it with professional courtesy.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been interesting doing these questions. I thought at first glance they were not so terrifying as the six sexy ones I did with Haylee Nash at the RWA Conference in Perth in August – but I was wrong. They seriously are terrifying, but fun too!

Tina, thank you for playing.

Pick up a copy of My Brother-But-One here

Top Ten (ish) Picture Books to Give to Adults – instead of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” again.

I have received three copies of Oh, The Places You’ll Go in the past two years. It’s read at graduations. It’s the perfect promotion gift. It’s so good that it’s used time and time again. So good that other great picture books sometimes get overlooked.H15671-e1356011194559-780x422

So here at Booktopia we have decide to take a stand. We have compiled a list of books which make the perfect gift for all of your adult friends. Want to celebrate an achievement? Make someone chuckle? Send a not-so-subtle message? There’s something here for everyone…

There’s even a little Dr. Seuss.

*This list originally began as a Top Ten, but there were so many great ones that we had to be a little lenient!


kay-thompson-s-eloise-For the DivaEloise

by Kay Thompson & Hilary Knight

Eloise is a little girl who lives at The Plaza Hotel in New York. She is not yet pretty but she is already a Person.

Henry James would want to study her. Queen Victoria would recognize her as an Equal. The New York Jets would want to have her on “their” side. Lewis Carroll would love her (once he got over the initial shock).

She knows “everything” about The Plaza. She is interested in people when they are not “boring.” She has Inner Resources.

If you take her home with you, you will always be glad you did.

Click here for more details…


For the Chronic Dieter – Feathers for Phoebefeathers-for-phoebe

by Rod Clement

Phoebe is small, grey, and ordinary – very ordinary. ‘I want to get noticed!’ she declares.

Zelda is glamorous, talented and famous – and she runs the most popular beauty salon in the forest. And she’s only too happy to help Phoebe become the bird she’s always wanted to be. First a little feather headdress, then wing extensions – until Phoebe is transformed into a Diva.

She looks gorgeous – but when she tries to take off, surprises are in store for them both!

Click here for more details…


the-rabbitsFor the Teacher - The Rabbits

by John Marsden & Shaun Tan

“The rabbits came many grandparents ago.
They built houses, made roads, had children.
They cut down trees.
A whole continent of rabbits…”

The Rabbits offers a rich and immensely valuable perspective on the effect of man on his environment. Visually loaded and told with a passion for truth and understanding, The Rabbits aims to promote cultural awareness and a sense of caring for the natural world.

Click here for more details…


For the Twitter Addict – It’s a Bookit-s-a-book

by Lane Smith

CAN IT TEXT? BLOG? SCROLL? WI-FI? TWEET? No… It’s a book.

No matter how many electronic devices are available these days, you can’t deny the simple appeal of a good book. Monkey is reading a book, but his friend wants to know what the book can do.

Does it have a mouse like his computer? Can you make the characters fight? And does it make loud noises? No, it’s a book.

Monkey’s friend discovers that a good book doesn’t need fancy electronic accessories.

Click here for more details…


the-pink-refrigeratorFor the Couch Potato – The Pink Refrigerator

by Tim Egan

“Try to do as little as possible.” This was Dodsworth’s motto. One morning, on his daily trip to the junkyard, he discovers a pink refrigerator.

There’s not much to say about a pink refrigerator, except this one had a note on it. The note said, “Paint pictures.” And so Dodsworth did.

The next day, a new note appeared on the pink refrigerator. And the day after that, and the day after that.

Dodsworth liked doing as little as possible. But the pink refrigerator had big plans for him . . .

Click here for more details…


For the Perfectionist – Ishish

by Peter H. Reynolds

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. Its what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.”

Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

Click here for more details…


george-and-marthaFor the Best Friend – George and Martha

by James Marshall

Great friends aren’t hard to find–they’re right here.

Marshall’s themes are all resonant with a reading-age child–navigating the waters of first friendships, honesty versus kindness, curiosity versus privacy. These are the kind of deeply humorous, deeply true stories that inspire a love of reading.

Click here for more details…


For the Friend About to Go Overseas – Where the Wild Things Arewhere-the-wild-things-are

by Maurice Sendak

Max, a wild and naughty boy, is sent to bed without his supper by his exhausted mother. In his room, he imagines sailing far away to a land of Wild Things.

Instead of eating him, the Wild Things make Max their king.

Soon Max tires of this and sails home, only to find his supper, still hot, waiting for him.

Click here for more details…


madeline-70th-anniversary-editionFor the Nostalgic- Madeline

Ludwig Bemelman

“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines…”

Something is not right with little Madeline. Her friends are sad when she goes to hospital to have her appendix removed. But they cheer up when they see her impressive scar.

The small but feisty heroine, Madeline, and her charming Parisian world have been loved by children and adults alike for seventy years.

Click here for more details…


For the Hipster – All My Friends Are Deadall-my-friends-are-dead

by Avery Monson & Jory John

If you’re a dinosaur, all of your friends are dead. If you’re a pirate, all of your friends have scurvy. If you’re a tree, all of your friends are end tables.

Each page of this laugh-out-loud illustrated humor book showcases the downside of being everything from a clown to a cassette tape to a zombie.

Cute and dark all at once, this hilarious children’s book for adults teaches valuable lessons about life while exploring each cartoon character’s unique grievance and wide-eyed predicament.

From the sock whose only friends have gone missing to the houseplant whose friends are being slowly killed by irresponsible plant owners (like you), All My Friends Are Dead presents a delightful primer for laughing at the inevitable.

Click here for more details…


the-gruffaloFor the Entrepreneur – The Gruffalo

by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.

A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.”

Walk further into the deep dark wood, and discover what happens when the quick-thinking mouse comes face to face with an owl, a snake and a hungry gruffalo . . .

Click here for more…


For the One Who Hates Change – Schnitzel Von Krumm’s Basketworkschnitzel-von-krumm-s-basketwork

by Lynley Dodd

Sausage dog, Schnitzel von Krumm, is outraged when his family decides to replace his worn out, beaten up old basket.

The new bed doesn’t look right, feel right – or smell right.

Something must be done.

Click here for more…


For the Politician – The Butter Battle Bookthe-butter-battle-book

by Dr. Seuss

The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Seuss’s classic cautionary tale, introduces readers to the important lesson of respecting differences.

The Yooks and Zooks share a love of buttered bread, but animosity brews between the two groups because they prefer to enjoy the tasty treat differently.

Whether in the home or in the classroom, The Butter Battle Book is a must-have for readers of all ages.

Click here for more…


For the Marxist- The Moose Belongs to Methis-moose-belongs-to-me

by Oliver Jeffers

“Wilfred owned a moose. He hadn’t always owned a moose. The moose came to him a while ago and he knew, just KNEW, that it was meant to be his. He thought he would call him Marcel.”

Most of the time Marcel is very obedient, abiding by the many rules on How to Be a Good Pet.

But one dark day, while deep in the woods, someone else claims the moose as their own…Is Marcel really Wilfred’s pet after all?

Click here for more…


alexander-and-the-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-dayFor the One Who Hates Their Job

by Judith Viorst

Alexander knew it was going to be a terrible day when he woke up with gum in this hair.

And it got worse…

His best friend deserted him. There was no dessert in his lunch bag. And, on top of all that, there were lima beans for dinner and kissing on TV!

Click here for more…

Amanda Prowse, Author of A Little Love, Clover’s Child, What Have I Done and more answers Ten Terrifying Questions

a-little-loveThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Amanda Prowse

author of A Little Love, Clover’s Child, What Have I Done? and 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 East London (for anyone that hasn’t been there, think of the glamour of the West End, the shiny lobbies of smart hotels and the plush department stores – well, where I come from was the exact opposite, grubby, poor and cramped. But we was ‘appy!) I lived there surrounded by my loud extended family until my mid teens when my life ended.

My parents uprooted me from my friends, Saturday job at Camden Market and all that I held dear and moved me to North Yorkshire – the countryside aaaagh! Where I swapped make-up for wellington boots and live gigs for farmers markets, it was bliss. I have 3 brothers to whom I am very close. My parents had me when they were in their teens and my childhood was one of noise, laughter and the sense that we were all figuring it out as we went along, which was sometimes exciting, often a little scary.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be Jennifer McCulloch, she was in my class and had big boobs and a big house, nuff said.

When I was eighteen I wanted to change the world, fight social injustice and make a difference (at 46 I still do!) I thought I would do it via journalism and raging against the machine.

At thirty I wanted to be eighteen again. amanda-prowse

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

At eighteen I genuinely believed that a movement based on ‘Niceness and Compassion’ could be so infectious that it might start the change the planet needed. ‘Enough For All’ if everyone played fair – be it with food, money, love… I now think there are some people with so much that the idea of sharing and ‘giving something up’ is so terrifying that it’s impossible. This makes me sad. (and won’t stop me trying!)

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 a teenager I devoured music with passion, absorbing as much as I could. I still do, but am much more particular about what I listen to. It was not unusual in my teens to find me listening to Depeche Mode (Speak & Spell), Bowie (ChangesTwo) and then crying on the sofa at the magic of Etta James. One of my brothers would then punch me and tell me to snap out of it and normality would be restored.

I guess through my love of music, I learnt that what you love and what will shape you, is dependent on your mood and circumstance. It’s no different with writing – you have to keep it fluid and accessible.

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

I guess primarily because I am singularly useless at anything else! But also because I have a love of words, the way they look on a page, the way they can stay hovering in your mind long after that book is shut and because for me, it’s the easiest way to paint a picture.

a-little-love6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest novel is called A Little Love and has been described as a fairy-tale for the modern woman – which I love! It is the story of Pru Plum – a successful baker and businesswoman who falls in love for the first time at 66.

The backdrop is the rich, indulgent world of gourmet cakes and dough and I hope sends out the message that you never know what twist or turn your life is about to take – love and adventure can strike at any time if you are brave enough to let it!

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

I hope that I write tales that stimulate debate and discussion. What would you do in my heroine’s shoes? Did you approve of her choices? But mainly I hope to create stories that stop you from turning off the bedside lamp at night, no matter how early that alarm clock is set because you have to read one more chapter…

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

Phew – so many! I repeatedly return to the work of Isabel Allende and I learn something new every time I re-read her novels. I love her style, characters and the sensory feast that awaits me on every page. However, as I have stated before my favourite book of all time is The Book Thief . It moved me, it changed me and I know there is a movie out now, but if I’m being honest, I’m frightened to go and see it for fear of damaging the imagery in my head. It is a perfect novel and I can only throw clichéd statements at it a rollercoaster, a page-turner, it stayed with me. All however are absolutely true.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?what-have-i-done-

My goal is simply to continue writing as I consider what I do to be an absolute privilege. I don’t deserve accolades I’m not driving an ambulance or serving my country, I simply write stories, but to earn a living by doing something I love so dearly – now that’s really something.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I have this sign on my kitchen wall ‘Persevere – never, ever, ever give up.’ And I so I think it would be that.

It’s really tough to get your work read and I am sure that many wonderful novels never get to break through the surface. Every writer gets rejected; use that criticism and feedback as fuel and act on all the advice. Tenacity, luck and honing your craft can only help in your quest.

Also, you don’t need to be a bestseller to get an enormous amount of joy from writing – whether it’s keeping a journal or writing a letter, do what brings you joy!

Amanda, thank you for playing.

Pick up a copy of A Little Love here

Caroline Baum Wrap-Up: All About Me

Caroline Baum’s author interviews have been one of the biggest highlights of our year at Booktopia. Join us as we revisit the best interviews of 2013, and perhaps discover a new favourite author along the way.

Writing a memoir is something of a balancing act; trying to reveal as much as possible, without oversharing or overexposing those involved. It also requires a great deal of vulnerability and a knack for picking up on the small details which make day-to-day events interesting. Each of the authors in this post share their thoughts on that process with sincerity and self-awareness, which makes for seriously fascinating viewing.

all-good-thingsSarah Turnbull- “All Good Things”

I grew up in a French-speaking suburb of Sydney, and Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French was something of a bible for parents navigating cross-cultural relationships. Sarah is back with All Good Things, which recounts Sarah and Frédéric’s move from Paris to idyllic Tahiti. It takes something very special to be able to recount your own personal story in a way that makes for good reading, and Sarah has perfected that art. She opens up with characteristic candor in our interview below.

Best quote:  “I didn’t want to write another personal book, or I thought I didn’t want to write another personal book. So I did fight this book… I’ve it heard said that it’s the book that you fight the most that you most need to write.”

Click here for more details

Check out Caroline’s interview below:

Pick up a copy of All Good Things today


a-history-of-silenceLloyd Jones- “A History of Silence”

Lloyd Jones is a simply phenomenal writer, and this interview demonstrates exactly why. In his earnest, softly-spoken sentences you can see the bare bones of his beautiful prose. Similiarly to Sarah and Brendan, he holds nothing back from Caroline’s questions and answers very personal questions with honesty and insight. A must-see interview from a must-read author.     

Best quote - “It could be just a face filled with gloom standing on a railway train platform, and it’ll have an echoing sense of recognition for me, I’ll think ‘I know that feeling, that look.’ Actually, in the case of Wales it always seemed to be gloom and a kind of a… vacancy.”

Click here for more details

Check out Caroline’s interview below:

Pick up a copy of A History of Silence today


Brendan Ward – “The Beethoven Obsession”the-beethoven-obsession

What is the difference between a personal experience and an engaging tale? In this interview, Brendan explains that timing and luck are the necessary ingredients, both of which were present in his quest to record Beethoven’s music in Australia for the first time.

Best quote - “That’s what makes such an amazing story because of all these serendipitous events that happened in the nineties in the lead up to the Olympics. Had it not been for the Olympics… it may not have had the same gloss, because everything around Sydney had cachet.”

Click here for more details

Check out Caroline’s interview below:

Pick up a copy of The Beethoven Obsession today

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