An Interview with Young Australian Bookseller of the Year Finalist – Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach

I owe books much more than they owe me. I spend every day trying to repay that debt.

Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach was recently named a finalist for the ABA Penguin Random House Australia Young Bookseller of the Year Award.

The award recognises and rewards the excellence of a bookseller 35 or under, and promotes bookselling as a career choice for young people. We chatted to him about his life as a bookseller.


What does being a finalist for the Young Bookseller of the Year mean to you?

It’s a huge honour. I love being a part of the book industry but I never thought I would ever be recognised like this. The winner, Gerard Elson, is an amazing bookseller and does so many things in and around the industry. I’m incredibly grateful just to have my name mentioned alongside as a finalist. And my dad may forgive me now for not playing cricket for Australia.

When did you decide you wanted to be a bookseller?

For most of my childhood I was over an hour’s drive from the nearest library, and nearly two hours away from the nearest bookstore. It’s always been like this in remote areas, not a lot of people realise that. I knew early on that being an avid reader helped me immeasurably in and outside of the classroom, even if it meant reading my parents’ books over and over again. It gave me a scholarship to a good school and some perspective on life and dealing with things as a child. From an early age I always wanted to help rural areas have better access to books.

After completing my English degree, I started working at Booktopia, which meant I could put books in the hands of people who have always struggled to find them, and in the hands of children who might have otherwise neglected reading and subsequently struggled with literacy into adulthood. It’s a common story around rural Australia.

I owe books much more than they owe me. I spend every day trying to repay that debt.

What are some of your favourite books of 2015 so far?

Oh wow, where do I start? Quicksand by Steve Toltz is a brilliant, manic masterpiece, my favourite novel of the year so far. The First Bad Man by Miranda July is also gigantically underrated. I’m a sucker for short stories so Murray Middleton’s When There’s Nowhere Else to Run and Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands have been a joy.

On the non-fiction front, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed should be read by everyone with a social media account and Peter Singer’s The Most Good You Can Do has already changed my life.

And just think, it’s only May!

Any words of wisdom for anyone wanting to be a bookseller?

In Bukowski’s poem So You Want To Be A Writer, he writes “if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it”. The same philosophy applies to being a bookseller.

The hours are long and the money is less than what your friends are making, but reading, writing and talking about books is more than a job. For some, and certainly for me, it’s a compulsion, a hole in your heart that needs to be filled.

If you feel the same way, becoming a bookseller is the best thing you will ever do.

 You can follow Andrew’s ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Andrew Cattanach with bestselling author John Flanagan and Booktopia's John Purcell

Andrew Cattanach with bestselling author John Flanagan and Booktopia’s John Purcell

John Larkin, author of The Pause, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

John Larkin

author of The Pause

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 Yorkshire England (1963). My family emigrated to Sydney when I was six years old. We were ten pound poms. I happily and proudly call myself a boat person. I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney (in Toongabbie to be more accurate). I attended Toongabbie Primary School and then Pendle Hill High School. As to whether or not I actually did any schooling during these wilderness years remains something of a moot point.

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

Twelve – professional soccer player, because I was good at it.
Eighteen – professional soccer player, because I was really good at it.
Thirty – author, because my soccer career was over.

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Author: John Larkin

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

That I would pretty much amount to nothing and spend my life alone.

4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James. Clive James taught me that you could be both funny and literary, which is something I secretly aspired to but didn’t think was possible.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I read this at uni when I was doing my English degree (ditto above).

The Scream (painting) by Edvard Munch. The perfect representation of madness. And to be a writer you have to be a little bit (or in my case, more than a little bit) mad.

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

I don’t even know where to begin to answer this question. This might sound kind of naff, but I truly believe that I didn’t have a choice. Writing chose me. I had an unquenchable desire to write and no other art form (other than soccer – and I’m being deadly serious) came close to giving me that creative high that writing does.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

In January 2012 I had a complete mental breakdown and spent several weeks in a psychiatric hospital. The Pause was born of this awful period of my life. I wanted to write an uplifting novel about suicide but doubted that it could be done. It had to be hard hitting but hopeful. It took me three years and many drafts but the journey was worth everything. I hope The Pause helps others in the same way (its writing) helped me.

Grab a copy of John’s new book The Pause here

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

I hope they take away hope. We will all go through dark and desperate times but we will come out the other side but in order to do that we have to stick around. We have to ride out the dark times and that it is not a sign of weakness but rather one of strength to seek help because we cannot fight our way out of the darkness alone. We need help. We all need help.

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

Jane Austen. Her life was short but her magnificent work lives on. Reading Pride and Prejudice is like being massaged by words.pride-and-prejudice

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

I want The Pause to save lives.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Never give up. If you want this badly enough you will get there. But it’s not enough to just want it. You have to put in the hours. Good writing isn’t written it’s re-written.

John, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Pause here


The Pause

by John Larkin

I watch the train emerge from the tunnel.
It will be quick.
It will be efficient.
It will be final.

Declan seems to have it all: a family that loves him, friends he’s known for years, a beautiful girlfriend he would go to the ends of the earth for. But there’s something in Declan’s past that just won’t go away, that pokes and scratches at his thoughts when he’s at his most vulnerable. Declan feels as if nothing will take away that pain that he has buried deep inside for so long.

So he makes the only decision he thinks he has left: the decision to end it all. Or does he? As the train approaches and Declan teeters at the edge of the platform, two versions of his life are revealed. In one, Declan watches as his body is destroyed and the lives of those who loved him unravel. In the other, Declan pauses before he jumps. And this makes all the difference. One moment. One pause. One whole new life.

From author of The Shadow Girl, winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2012 Prize for Writing for Young Adults, comes a breathtaking new novel that will make you reconsider the road you’re travelling and the tracks you’re leaving behind.

About the Author

Sydney-based author John Larkin was born in England but grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. He has, at various stages of his writing career, supported his habit by working as a supermarket trolley boy, shelf-stacker, factory hand, forklift driver, professional soccer player and computer programmer. He now writes and teaches writing full-time. John has a BA in English Literature and a MA in Creative Writing from Macquarie University. John’s The Shadow Girl won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2012 Prize for Writing for Young Adults.

 Grab a copy of The Pause here

GUEST BLOG: What Katie Read – January – April Round Up (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of The Impossible QuestBitter Greens and The Wild Girl, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she’s been reading.


The Light Between the Oceans

by M.L. Stedman

This novel has at its heart a disturbing moral dilemma. A young woman married to a lighthouse keeper longs for a child of her own, but has lost all of her own babies. One day a boat washes up on their remote island. Inside the boat are a dead man and a baby, who is very much alive. The lighthouse keeper and his wife take in the founding child and, before long, Izzy begins to pretend the little girl is hers. The consequences of that decision will change their lives forever.

The 1920s setting of a small Western Australian town, and the remote island with its lighthouse, is brilliantly evoked. The loneliness of Tom and Izzy’s life on the island, the vast stretch of sea and sky, the comfort of its routines, all are brought vividly to life.

The story is simply but powerfully told, and the slow-building suspense soon has the pages turning fast. Each step the characters take, each choice they make, is utterly in character, giving the story the feel of an inescapable fate, like a Greek tragedy. The Light Between the Oceans really is a superb book, so tightly constructed that not a word feels out of place. I am very curious to see what M.L. Stedman writes next, as this is an astonishingly assured debut.

Grab a copy of The Light Between the Oceans here


Resistance: Memoirs of Occupied France

by Agnes Humbert

I’ve had this book on my shelves for a long time and finally picked it up to read over the summer holidays. Agnes Humbert was an ordinary woman in her late 40s when German troops invaded Paris in June 1940. She was an art historian, married with two sons, who loved to paint. After the Fall of Paris, Agnes began to scribble down her thoughts and feelings in a notebook. She would go mad, she wrote, if she did not do something to resist the Germans. She and a few friends began to meet, to make plans to defy the Germans, and to print a newsletter called Resistance. It was the first resistance group in France. Eventually they were betrayed, and Agnes was arrested and imprisoned in April 1941.

After a mock trial, the men in the group were all shot and the women were sentenced to five years hard labour. The diary ends at this point, and moves to being a memoir of the following horrific years. Agnes and her fellow prisoners were used as slave labour in such appalling conditions she almost died several times. Starved, beaten, and injured by the work, she somehow managed to survive.

After the work camp was liberated by the Americans in June 1945, Agnes set up soup kitchens for refugees and helped the Americans hunt down and prosecute war criminals. Her extraordinary strength, courage and humour shine though on every page, making it a very moving and heartwrenching tale to read.

Grab a copy of Resistance here


Half a King

by Joe Abercrombie

I was on a few panels with Joe Abercrombie at the Perth Writers Festival, and so I was sent his latest book to read. I had heard a great deal about him, as his books had been making big waves in the international fantasy scene. His first book The Blade Itself had sold for a five-figure deal in 2005 (or, as Joe likes to say, ‘a seven-figure deal if you count the pence columns’) and has sold, I am told, more than 3 million copies.

I just loved Half A King. It was tightly constructed, quick-paced, and surprising – qualities that can sometimes be rare in a fantasy novel. It was also beautifully written. I’m really looking forward to reading the next in the series, Half the World, and discovering his earlier book as well. A must-read for fantasy lovers.

 Grab a copy of Half a King here


A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France

by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Miranda Richmond Mouillot is an American-born writer of European Jewish descent. Her grandparents Armand and Anna lived through the Nazi occupation of France and managed to escape into Switzerland. Miranda’s grandfather worked as a translator at the Nuremberg trials after the war, translating the words of such Nazi criminals as Rudolf Hess. The young couple then bought a tumbledown old stone cottage in a small village in the South of France … only for Anna to flee a few years later, taking their children. She and Armand never spoke another word.

Brought up in the shadow of the Holocaust and troubled by all that was never spoken, Miranda set out to find out what happened. Her journey led her back to the old ruined house in the South of France, to a new understanding of the damage war can do, and – happily – to love and a new life. It’s a beautifully written and unusual memoir which examines the impossibility of ever truly knowing what happened in the past.

Grab a copy of A Fifty-Year Silence here


The Devil in the Marshalsea

by Antonia Hodgson

I met Antonia Hodgson at the Historical Novel Society conference in London last year and – after hearing her speak about her novel The Devil in the Marshalsea – had to buy it straightaway. I’ve finally had a chance to read it, and can strongly recommend it to anyone who loves a really top-notch, fast-paced, and atmospheric historical thriller.

The novel is set in London in 1727, soon after the death of King George I and before his son was crowned George II. Most of the action takes place in the sordid Marchelsea debtors’ prison. The story’s hero, the young, handsome and raffish Tom Hawkins, has been clapped in irons due to his predilection for wine, women and gambling. The Marshalsea is a dangerous place at the best of times, but a violent murder has just taken place within its walls … and Tom is sharing a cell with the prime suspect.

All the action takes place over just a few days, and the plot twists and turns with ferocious speed. I could not put it down once I started. It is without doubt one of the best historical thrillers I’ve ever read and a highly deserving Winner of the CWA Historical Dagger award for 2014.

Grab a copy of The Devil in the Marshalsea here


Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside

by Andrea di Robilant

I first encountered Andrea di Robilant’s work some years ago, when I read The Venetian Affair, his account of the passionate and doomed love affair between one of his ancestors, the dashing Venetian aristocrat Andrea Memmo and Giustiniana Wynne, the half-Italian bastard daughter of an English baronet. Andrea di Robilant’s father had found a mouldering packet of their love letters in the attic of their family’s palazzo, many of them written in secret code. He spent years unravelling the mystery of the letters, but died before he could publish the story. His son Andrea was then a journalist and academic. He took on the task, and the result is an absolutely engrossing look into the closed and rarefied world of the Venetian Republic in the mid 1700s.

Andrea di Robilant has since published several more non-fiction books inspired by his extraordinary family’s history, and Chasing the Rose is the latest. It is, quite simply, an account of his search to find the history of a nameless silvery-pink rose that only grows in the abandoned gardens of the his family’s former country estate. His hunt takes him back in time, to the days of Napoleon’s occupation of Venice and his wife’s obsession with roses, and across the world, from Venice to Paris to China. It is a charming and utterly fascinating little book, and makes me wish my family had once owned a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice with mysterious letters in the attic and a mysterious, sweet-scented rose in the garden.

Grab a copy of Chasing the Rose here


 Daughters of the Storm

by Kim Wilkins

Kim Wilkins is one of Australia’s most accomplished writers, and Daughters of the Storm is the first in a new fantasy series set in a world very much like Anglo-Saxon Britain. The heroine of the tale is a ferocious female warrior named Bluebell. She has spent her life trying to overcome the liabilities of her flowery name, but she lives in a world where women cannot rule and her sonless father lies in an enchanted sleep. Bluebell must try and find the way to wake her father, while fending off all those enemies who circle the land, eager to take it for themselves. She can trust no-one but her own sisters … but they all have secrets of their own, secrets which could destroy all that Bluebells holds dear.

It’s a compelling story, beautifully told, and Bluebell is a most unusual heroine. It’s lovely to see Australian writers producing such world-class fantasy.

Grab a copy of Daughters of the Storm here


Hansel and Gretel by retold by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Nail Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Both of these exquisitely illustrated hardback editions are published by Bloomsbury, and written by Neil Gaiman with all his characteristic flair. The illustrations for Hansel and Gretel are dark and filled with foreboding and a sense of evil lurking in the shadows. The illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti created the artwork for an exhibit celebrating the Metropolitan Opera’s staging of the Hansel and Gretel opera, which in turn inspired Neil Gaiman to retell the story. It’s a haunting and powerful version, very close to that published in the original 1812 edition of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I also loved the potted history of the tale at the back of the book.

The Sleeper and the Spindle is even more beautiful and strange. In this retelling of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Neil Gaiman has allowed his dark and macabre imagination to run free. Accompanied by the extraordinary illustrations of Chris Riddell – at times beautiful, at times funny, at times disturbing – the story twists the old tale in unexpected ways, to wonderful effect. This was my favourite of the two books, both because of its beautiful production and also because of the way the story is turned inside out. Magical.

Grab a copy of Hansel and Gretel here
Grab a copy of The Sleeper and the Spindle here


The Bletchley Girls: War, Secrecy, Love and Loss: The women of Bletchley Park tell their story

by Tess Dunlop

The story of the codebreakers of Bletchley Park is a fascinating one, and there has been a flood of books and movies about them in recent years, including ‘The Imitation Game’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the mathematician Alan Turing.

Tess Dunlop’s book is a timely addition to the field of knowledge, as she has taken the unusual approach of tracking down and interviewing a number of women who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Their backgrounds and experiences were all very different, and give a well-rounded view of life at the park during that time. Some of the women came from aristocratic and academic backgrounds; most did not. Some worked in the code-breaking department; most did not. Many have never before spoken about what they did, bound by confidentiality agreements that only recently have been lifted.

Many of the women interviewed are now elderly, and so these first-hand accounts are important primary historical documents. Tess Dunlop is an award-winning historian, and this is a careful and observant account of Bletchley Park, beyond the better-known story of the breakers of the Enigma code.

Grab a copy of The Bletchley Girls here


The Silkworm

by Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith is, of course, the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling. Like much of the world, I was interested to read her take on contemporary crime and so grabbed a copy in the airport one day.

I enjoyed it immensely. The characters are all interesting and well-drawn, and the actual murder mystery ingeniously plotted. I enjoyed the wintry London setting, and the interplay of human relationships between the one-legged private detective Cormoran Strike and his pretty red-headed assistant Robin. I really enjoyed the subtle poking of fun at the world of publishing, and loved the mix of humour and pathos. In fact, it’s one of the best contemporary crime novels I’ve read in a while. I’m now tracking down the first in the series The Cuckoo’s Calling.

Grab a copy of The Silkworm here


Kate FKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists, coming in at No 16. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

Click here to see Kate’s author page

The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

the-beast-s-gardenA retelling of The Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.

Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a Nazi officer in order to save her father, but hates and fears her new husband. Gradually she comes to realise that he is a good man at heart, and part of an underground resistance movement in Berlin called the Red Orchestra. However, her realisation comes too late. She has unwittingly betrayed him, and must find some way to rescue him and smuggle him out of the country before he is killed.

The Red Orchestra was a real-life organisation in Berlin, made up of artists, writers, diplomats and journalists, who passed on intelligence to the American embassy, distributed leaflets encouraging opposition to Hitler, and helped people in danger from the Nazis to escape the country. They were betrayed in 1942, and many of their number were executed.

The Beast’s Garden is a compelling and beautiful love story, filled with drama and intrigue and heartbreak, taking place between 1938 and 1943, in Berlin, Germany.

Click here to grab a copy of The Beast’s Garden

What Cathryn Read – Bestselling author Cathryn Hein on her April reading

Australian novelist Cathryn Hein, author of The FallsThe French Prize, Heartland and much more gives her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

With nine books to read and judge for the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA awards – none of which I can tell you about, sorry! – I didn’t have much personal reading time left. But I did manage three wonderful books.


All the Light We Cannot See
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize

by Anthony Doerr

Oh, this was beautiful! The writing was completely gorgeous, the settings stunningly rendered, and the terrors of occupied France and Nazi obsessions truly frightening in their depiction. The story unfolds in two interweaving narrations. The first is Marie Laure, a blind girl whose father is Master of Locks at the Natural History Museum in Paris. After the Germans occupy Paris, Marie Laure and her father flee to her uncle’s house at Saint-Malo. Meanwhile, orphan Werner grows up in Germany, but when his talents with electronics is spotted, he’s sent to a brutal Hitler Youth academy. As the war progresses, these two characters dance closer and closer.

As well as being named best historical fiction in the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards, and a slate of other awards, All The Light We Cannot See recently won a Pulitzer Prize. Well deserved, I reckon.

Grab a copy of All the Light We Cannot See here


Red Queen 

by Victoria Aveyard

I didn’t realise this was a young adult fantasy until after I’d started reading but it proved to be another very enjoyable addition to the genre. Mare Barrow is a red blood and therefore relegated to her world’s lowest class. Her people are used as not much more than slave labour to the ruling silver blood class, and cannon fodder in their constant wars. When Mare is given a job in the palace, an accident reveals she has powers no Silver possesses. Frightened of what she is and to explain her power, the Silver ruling family give her a new history. Mare is not longer red but silver and, worse, she’s engaged to a prince of the class she hates.

Plenty of action and intrigue, some pretty cool superhero-type talents, plus a nice hint of romance kept the pages turning.

 Grab a copy of Red Queen here


Lord of the Scoundrels

by Loretta Chase

A rollicking romance by a master storyteller, Lord of Scoundrels is considered one of the genre’s greats. I loved it. The story pitted two extremely clever characters against one another, and the result was a smart and sometimes very funny duel. Spinster Jessica Trent is on a mission to save her not very bright brother from the scandalous and self-described ‘Bane and Blight of the Ballisters’, the Marquess of Dain. Dain thinks he’s more than a match for any woman, and any man for that matter, but he has never met the likes of Jessica. She not only runs rings around him, she ties him in complete knots. The only problem is that she’s having a little too much fun doing it.

A blast!

Grab a copy of Lord of the Scoundrels here


The Strings of Murder

by Oscar de Muriel

Ooh, I adore a good Victorian-era murder or two, and this crime novel didn’t disappoint. Very much in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, the story unfolds when cultured, fussy and stuffy Inspector Ian Frey is sent – much to his horror – from London to the wilds of Edinburgh to help solve the mystery of a murdered violinist. If that wasn’t bad enough his new boss, Detective ‘Nine Nails McGray’, is everything Ian is not. There’s conflict and mystery galore, and even a dabble or two in the macabre.

This is clearly the first in what will be a series. I’ll definitely be buying the next.

Grab a copy of The Strings of Murder here


Cold Deception

by D.B. Tait

D.B. Tait is a new voice in Australian crime fiction and a very welcome addition to the genre. Having worked in the criminal justice system for many years, D.B. really knows her stuff and it shows. The descriptions of prison life were fascinating and sometimes disturbing, and provided a gritty edge to the tale. Ten years ago, Julia Taylor went to prison for murder. Now she’s home in the Blue Mountains but from the first day of her release the peace she so desperately craves is shattered. Everyone has secrets, the biggest of all is Julia’s, and someone seems very afraid she might tell…

A pacy story set in a wonderfully described location, with loads of intrigue and a nice sub-drama involving family relations, plus a touch of romance. Highly recommended.

Grab a copy of Cold Deception here


Captive Prince / Prince’s Gambit

by C.S. Pacat

I don’t even know where to begin with this series. Gobsmacking hardly seems to cover it. What I can say is that it’s a stunningly written fantasy, stuffed with political intrigue, that had me hooked from page one and kept me in its grip until it’s end.

Captive Prince begins with Damen, hero and true heir to Akielos, being presented as a slave gift to his country’s arch enemy after Damen’s half-brother suddenly seizes the Akielos throne. Damen’s new master is the beautiful but vicious Prince Laurent. Before long, Damen is caught up in the deadly fight that is Veretian politics. What follows is a tale full of unexpected and breathtaking twists, most of which I never saw coming.

This series is incredible. It’s sometimes erotic and sometimes violent, but always fascinating and unlike anything I’ve ever read. Amazing. Hurry up book three!

Grab a copy of Captive Prince & Prince’s Gambit here


Hein, CathrynThanks Cathryn Hein, we look forward to seeing what you have read next month!

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.

Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.

 Click here to see Cathryn’s author page

The Falls

by Cathryn Hein

For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family’s property. She’s invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she’ll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink her entire future.

Heartbroken, Teagan flees to her aunt’s property in the idyllic Falls Valley. Vanessa is warm and welcoming and a favourite of the locals who drop in regularly for cocktail hour. Teagan soon catches the attention of sexy local farrier Lucas Knight, and with a new job, new friends and the prospect of a new relationship, she slowly begins to open up again.

But the village is a hotbed of gossip and division and when Teagan gets caught up in town politics, Lucas and Vanessa become concerned. As the tension in town escalates, Teagan must decide who to trust. But when she realises those close to her have been keeping secrets, the fallout may split Teagan apart forever.

Grab a copy of The Falls here

GUEST BLOG: Ber Carroll on Mother’s Day without the mother

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Author: Ber Carroll

I’m one of those mums who don’t like a fuss on Mother’s Day. An extra hour in bed, a full ‘Irish’ breakfast, no squabbling children in my immediate vicinity, and I’m content. Being a mother is relentless, and all I ask for is a small reduction in pace. Yup, that’s all I want on Mother’s Day (but if there are chocolates and presents on offer too, well, I’m not going to say no!)

I am the CEO of our family. The timetable scheduler (Two places at once? No problem). The chef (School lunches from a bare pantry? Easy peas-y). The training and development person (Miss Ten doesn’t have the first iota when it comes to fractions. Master thirteen doesn’t know how to clip his toenails. Immediate training required on both fronts). I cover both the strategic (that’s the long-term stuff such as public schools versus private etc.) and the operational (that’s the everyday shit . . . like not allowing my children to use bad language).

‘What would you do without me?’ I cry on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.
It’s a valid question. There are some things that would never cross my husband’s mind. Children would arrive at school without sunscreen, water bottles and pencil cases. Diet would be compromised: no fish, not enough greens, too many hot chips. I’d have no choice but to haunt him. Yes, if I was gone, I would come back and haunt my husband, poke him in the ribs every time he forgot something or didn’t do it right, leave notes in ghostly handwriting on the kitchen counter: Miss Ten hasn’t practised her clarinet in three weeks, Master Thirteen has been wearing the same pyjamas for a similar period of time. Or maybe I could put my writing skills to use and write a manual – a tome – that covered absolutely everything they’d need to know to survive without me. Section 13: Sickness and ill-health. Subsection 13.1: Common varieties of sickness; 13.2: Sickness and school; 13.3: Sickness and sport; 13.4: Guidelines on doctors and medical centres; 13.5: Prevention of sickness; 13.6: Phantom sicknesses and hypochondria . . .

Yes, I’m quite the medic, on top of everything else: the grocery shopper, the fashion consultant, the homework guru, the clothes washer, the lynchpin of the family. In Once Lost I wanted to explore what happens when that lynchpin is suddenly pulled out. A mother who was there one day, gone the next. A mother who left behind no explanations, no manual, no guidance . . . only questions, suspicions and a terrible, terrible uncertainty about what had actually happened to her. The wider impact on everyone who knew her, not just her family, but her neighbours, her acquaintances, even down to her daughter’s best friend. Who stepped in to take her place. The fact that nobody could, no matter how hard they tried, no matter how good their intentions. The fact that her daughter never got used to her being gone, and never gave up searching for her. Some holes can never be filled. Or should that be some roles?

Sadly, on this Mother’s Day there will be many families in that exact situation. Families who have lost mothers due to illness, due to accidents, or due to other tragic misfortune. I might joke about all that I do for my family and how irreplaceable I am, but that’s a cover for my biggest fear: leaving my children, not being there to guide them on the little things as well as the big, missing out on all their important moments. I probably won’t get a sleep-in on Mother’s Day, and I can be guaranteed there’ll be the usual arguments and fights, but I’m here – I have them and they have me – and that has to be the most important thing of all.


once-lostOnce Lost by Ber Carroll

Are some things better left unfound?

Best friends Louise and Emma grew up next door to each other in a grim inner-city suburb of Dublin.

Now Louise, an art conservator, is thousands of miles away in Sydney, restoring a beautiful old painting. She meets Dan, whose family welcome her as one of their own, but she will always feel lost until she finds her mother who walked out when she was just eight years old.

Back in Dublin, Emma is stuck in a job where she is under-appreciated and underpaid, but her biggest worry is her ex-partner, Jamie. Emma has lost so much because of Jamie: her innocence, her reputation, almost her life. Now she is at risk of losing Isla, her young daughter.

So where is Louise’s mother? Will Emma ever be free of her ex? Both women frantically search for answers, but when the truth finally emerges it is more shattering than they had ever expected.

About the Author

Ber Carroll was born in Blarney, County Cork, and moved to Australia in 1995. She worked as a finance director in the information technology industry until the release of her first novel, Executive Affair. Her second book, Just Business, was published in Ireland and Germany and these novels, plus her third,  High Potential, were released in Australia in 2008 and The Better Woman in 2009. Once Lost is her latest novel.

Grab a copy of Once Lost here

GUEST BLOG: Five Things I Learnt From Editing Mothermorphosis (by Monica Dux)

The importance of valuing the hard work of writers.

The effort that goes into good short form writing is frequently undervalued. People often imagine that all it takes is for someone to come up with an idea, sit down and type out an essay, run a spell check, then deliver their work.

Of course writing a strong essay is so much more than this; for most of us it’s a long and arduous process, from conception to execution, involving an enormous amount of thought, re-writing, re-thinking, editing and polishing. The net result of all this labour is to submerge the effort that was required, making the finished piece read as if it really was easy and effortless.

All the writers who contributed to this collection were professional, and the quality of work reveals how much time and thought they put into their pieces. This is a collection that relied on the good will of its contributors, so I was profoundly grateful for their efforts.

That every mother really does have an important story to tell.

Susan Carland, one of the contributors in Mothermorphosis, wrote in her essay “My unique tale is just the same as yours”.

In the past I’ve thought a lot about this tension, but it became more pronounced for me when reading the contributions. Every mother has her own unique story to tell, but there are also so many things that bind us all, so much that is universal. It’s a fascinating contradiction.

As an editor, it’s amazing how good a prompt, polite decline can make you feel.

There were a few women I invited to contribute to this book who weren’t able to write something for the collection but who declined the offer quickly and graciously. Getting such rejections felt almost as valuable as having a writer come back saying they’d be happy to contribute.

I’m often invited to participate in projects that I don’t have the time or resources for. Editing Mothermorphosis was a timely reminder about the importance of being polite and positive about such offers, even if you are unable to be involved.

Editing is fun.

I thoroughly enjoyed putting the collection together. Instead of having to angst over my own work, I was able to luxuriate in the excellent work of other writers.

It was a real privilege facilitating this book, especially knowing that we are hoping to raise awareness for PANDA, the Post and Antenatal Depression Association. I feel that not only will the collection be enjoyed by many people, but it also has the potential to contribute to an organisation for which I have immense admiration.

That it’s hard to write an introduction for a collection that you’ve edited.

It took me a long time to get my introduction right. When you’re a contributor you can follow your own path, writing in relative isolation. By comparison, introducing a collection requires you to strike a peculiar sort of balance. To be interesting and engaging, without dominating. To showcase the individual essays in the collection, without simply name checking the various contributors. To write something that contextualises the work and draws out the underlying themes, without resorting to empty generalisations. In the end I hope I managed to pull it off, although I’ll leave it to the readers to decide!

Grab a copy of Mothermorphosis here

——————————–

mduxmug-edit-smaller1Monica Dux is a columnist with The Age, a social commentator and author of Things I Didn’t Expect (when I was expecting), and co-author of The Great Feminist Denial.

She can be heard regularly on ABC radio and 3RRR, and has published widely, especially on women’s issues.

You can find Monica on twitter at @monicadux

——————————–

mothermorphosisMothermorphosis

Australia’s Best Storytellers Write About Becoming a Mother

In Mothermorphosis , some of Australia’s most talented writers and storytellers share their own experiences of motherhood. In telling their stories they articulate the complex internal conflicts, the exhilaration and the absurdity of the transformation that takes place when we become mothers. We read about the yearning for a child, the private and public expressions of maternal love, the questioning, uncertainty and unexpected delight, as well as unfathomable loss.

Mothermorphosis reveals that there is no ‘right’ version of this epic experience and no single tale that could ever speak for all mothers. Yet it is in reading about other women’s experiences and dash;the hard bits, the joyous bits and even the ridiculous bitsandmdash;that we can become more compassionate, not just to other mothers but hopefully to ourselves.

Mothermorphosis includes writing from: Kate Holden, Kathy Lette, Lorelei Vashti, Rebecca Huntley, George McEnroe, Fatima Measham, Jo Case, Hilary Harper, Cordelia Fine, Jane Caro, Hannah Robert, Susan Carland, Kerri Sackville, Catherine Deveny, Lee Kofman and Dee Madigan.

Grab a copy of Mothermorphosis here

Monica Dux, author of Mothermorphosis, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

mothermorphosis

 

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Monica Dux

author of Mothermorphosis

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born in Sydney. Raised by wolves and schooled in the ways of the jungle.

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

At twelve I wanted to be a nun, an actor, the President of the United States, and a Neurosurgeon. Luckily I was part of the Having it All generation, so I didn’t trouble myself with the logistics of fulfilling my dreams.

At 18, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be.

At 30, I wanted to be able to pay my rent while doing something interesting and meaningful that didn’t involve having to say “have a nice day!”

mduxmug-edit-smaller1

Author: Monica Dux

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

That the three black rectangles I got tattooed onto my arm would always delight.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My husband is a screenwriter and his career had a huge impact on my decision to become a writer. Not so much because I admired his work (although I do), but because I was envious of the fact that he worked from home and so could pop out for a coffee whenever he felt like it.

Being able to make my own hours and not answer to The Man, seemed very attractive. This was before we had kids of course, so sadly it all turned out to be a delusion.

The second big event was having the aforementioned kids. They’ve dictated so much of my career, which isn’t a bad thing at all, and has probably saved me many nights of angsting over choices I don’t now have.

The third thing is all those who’ve continued to publish me. Without a space to publish, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to produce a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

It used to really bug me when people went on about how much they loved the printed book. But I am now one of those people. These days being a writer involves engaging with many different media, and I’m comfortable with that. But the printed book is akin to the wheel – there’s absolutely no need to change it, and I don’t doubt that it will persist, long after various other forms of media have been transformed or become redundant.

mothermorphosis

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Mothermorphosis is a collection of essays about the experience of becoming a mother from some of Australia’s best writers and commentators. It came about as a result of a conversation I had with the commissioning editor Dina Kluska, about how stories of motherhood are not always valued, even though motherhood is such a profound experience. I think it’s crucial that mothers share their stories, in all their variety, and that’s what this book is about.

It’s a gorgeous collection; each contributor has produced something quite special.

We decided to donate part of the royalties to PANDA (the Post and Antenatal Depression Association), an organisation which does amazing work helping new parents.

Grab a copy of Monica’s new book Mothermorphosis here

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

Achieving world peace would be nice. If that’s not going to happen, I’d like to think my work changes ordinary people’s lives for the better, perhaps even in small ways, giving them an insight into other lives and perhaps making them feel less alone. That’s what makes writing worthwhile.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

That’s a hard one. There are so many people I admire. But today I vote for my husband Kris Mrksa. He’s smart and funny and has taught me more about writing than anyone else I know. And he’s been overseas for work, so I’m missing him. He left out a complete clean change of clothes for the kids for every day he was away, which has meant they’ve been able to go to school with clean underwear, and I haven’t had to use the washing machine.

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

I used to put a lot of pressure on myself about what I wanted to achieve. Now I focus more on just moving forward, on being able to continue creating. I set myself goals, but I’m always aware how quickly things can change, so I’m not too hard on myself if they don’t work out.

I do fear going backwards, but writing is a long game, and I’ve become more comfortable with that reality, and so more resigned to all that it entails. As long as people keep reading my work, I’m happy. I couldn’t keep writing if I thought I had no audience.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

You need to be tenacious. So stay tough. But don’t be precious. No one is interested in your navel.

Monica, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mothermorphosis here


mothermorphosisMothermorphosis

Australia’s Best Storytellers Write About Becoming a Mother

In Mothermorphosis , some of Australia’s most talented writers and storytellers share their own experiences of motherhood. In telling their stories they articulate the complex internal conflicts, the exhilaration and the absurdity of the transformation that takes place when we become mothers. We read about the yearning for a child, the private and public expressions of maternal love, the questioning, uncertainty and unexpected delight, as well as unfathomable loss.

Mothermorphosis reveals that there is no ‘right’ version of this epic experience and no single tale that could ever speak for all mothers. Yet it is in reading about other women’s experiences and dash;the hard bits, the joyous bits and even the ridiculous bitsandmdash;that we can become more compassionate, not just to other mothers but hopefully to ourselves.

Mothermorphosis includes writing from: Kate Holden, Kathy Lette, Lorelei Vashti, Rebecca Huntley, George McEnroe, Fatima Measham, Jo Case, Hilary Harper, Cordelia Fine, Jane Caro, Hannah Robert, Susan Carland, Kerri Sackville, Catherine Deveny, Lee Kofman and Dee Madigan.

Grab a copy of Mothermorphosis here

 

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