Nikki Parkinson, author of Unlock Your Style, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nikki Parkinson

author of Unlock Your Style

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, raised and schooled in regional Queensland – Maryborough – a town once famous for having the most pubs per capita in Queensland and now famous for being the birthplace of Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers.

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

12: A teacher. I’m from a family of teachers. It was pretty much all I knew.

18: A journalist. I was in my first year of uni and studying journalism. My school guidance officer had told me since I was good at English that I should give it a go. Something I did give a go for 20 years.

30: A magazine editor. It had always been a dream but life had taken me a different way. I was lucky that new opportunities at the newspaper where I worked came my way and I edited a weekly glossy magazine.

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

I believed that you went into the profession that you trained/studied for and stayed there. Today I’ve proved that’s not the case and this and the next generation of professionals will show us that life will be a series of career chapters.

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?

1. I grew up in a family that treasured books and encouraged us to read. My Dad was head of English at my high school and he always said to me, “it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read something”. Words – reading and writing them – were always valued.

2. Leaving the country town in which I grew up and heading to Brisbane to go to university will always be a defining moment in my life. Meeting life-long friends, learning that the world really is a big one – there for the taking – and embracing my journalism degree have had an effect to this day.

3. Deciding in 2008 to leave my relatively secure job as a journalist when the first of the media redundancies started was a big, big move on my part. I’d always played it safe. Instead I decided to back myself and start my own business. I’m so glad I did.

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

My book has come about because of my blog so I think they sit well together. Unlock Your Style started as a series on my blog, became a self-published e-book and was then picked up by Hachette and expanded into a book form. My readers were excited about that – they told me they love reading my blog every day but also haven’t lost the love of holding a physical book.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Busy women are crying out for help in creating or re-discovering their personal style. I know this from the thousands who read my blog each month and the number of emails I receive asking for advice. It’s more than just clothes and lippy. How we present ourselves for any particular day or occasion can affect our confidence levels.

My aim with Unlock Your Style is to take women on a simple process to find a confidence that will help them take on whatever the day throws at them. The format is part workbook, part stories (embarrassing style stories included) and part visual.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

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

If just one woman feels more confident returning to the workforce, leaving to become a mum, going on a first date after a broken relationship or just in the every day by reading Unlock Your Style, then my job is done. The ripple effect of that confidence will spill over into her family and community life.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My girlfriends who are in business always inspire me. We support each other in times of stress and celebrate in times of victory. Without them this would be a very lonely business journey.

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

My goal every day is to be able to combine my work with my family life in a way that’s flexible but still exciting and challenging for me. If I’m meeting that then I’m ready for any opportunities that might come my way. I plan out my weeks and months but I don’t have a five-year-plan. What I’m doing now as a full-time blogger (and now author) didn’t exist as an opportunity five years ago. Who knows what the next five years will bring?

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Start a blog. Don’t wait for someone to publish you. Publish yourself. The very act of writing on daily basis will improve the way you write and by building a community around your blog you’ll be more attractive to a potential publisher.

Nikki, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

Owen Beddall, author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Owen Beddall

author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant

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 Darwin to Aboriginal/European parents and then raised in Grafton on the North Coast of NSW. I went to school in Grafton and university in Sydney.

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

I was addicted to the show LA Law when I was 12 and I always wanted to be a lawyer. I thought being a lawyer involved walking around in glamorous outfits, pointing your finger and winning arguments.

When I was 18, I still wanted to be a lawyer and actually went off to UNSW to study, but mostly at 18 I wanted to be able to be openly gay and living my life. When I was 30, I was travelling all over the world and I really wanted to write a book or make television documentaries.

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

Author: Owen Beddall

At 18 I saw the world as black and white and I thought that if I was intelligent that it would combat everything and I concentrated on study. As I got older and had a more world persective, I realised study was important but life experience and travel was equally important and that the world wasn’t necessarily black and white.

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?

In my family life, my father died when I was a young adult and my brother and sister were still very young (at school) and my mother was thrust in the position of being a single parent over night. It taught me, very early on that life isn’t to be taken for granted and is fragile.

In my career, after September 11 happened, I saw the whole world as we knew it transformed and the innocence and freedom we had enjoyed was no longer. Everyone was more cautious and cultures and people all became sceptical of each other.

In reading, the book that most effected me was April Fool’s Day. It was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic and it was such a beautiful love story. It really opened my eyes and very closely after came the life changing movie, Philadelphia.

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

Call me a traditionalist but I love books. There is nothing quite like thumbing through a book and taking it with you to the park or a bar or on the train or PLANE with you. When I finish a book, it usually has red wine stains and coffee stains and dog ears throughout.

Also, a book is something to keep forever and it is such an achievement and honour to be published.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My latest book is called Confessions of a QANTAS Flight Attendant and it documents my career as a flight attendant from the beginning through to leaving just recently. Throughout the book, I address things that shaped my career and the flying world such as September 11, Mumbai bombings and the anthrax terrorism in the UK. I walk you through the different destinations that I flew to and show you my adventures, good and bad. There is my accession into being a first class flight attendant and meeting all of the celebrities such as Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Lily Allen, Cate Blanchett, Princess Anne and Venus Williams, to name but a few.

Intersecting this story is my recovery from a severe, life-changing injury in which I broke my back and had to learn to walk again and make the long road back to being an International Flight Attendant.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

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

It would be poverty and or terminal disease. I have been to some places where there is such extreme poverty such as Africa and India and to see mothers begging for some unpolluted water for their babies or people laying in tips and children in orphanages, it’s just heartbreaking. I would change that and equal out the system for everyone and medicine and hygiene available to all.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I would say that I most admire Nelson Mandela. He was a freedom fighter and always fought for what he believed in (and what I believe in), which is equality. When he got into power he treated his captors with dignity and respect and set out to heal and educate. He was considered a terrorist at the time because his ideas and intelligence placed him well outside the bell curve (which important people don’t like) and he changed not only South Africa but the world. I thank my lucky stars for him, every day.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?april-fool-s-day-popular-penguins

I want to have my own talk show, similar to Graham Norton’s interviewing all of the fabulous stars and more from my book and I want to write another book/movie! I’d also like to pursue a luxury travel show and work on something similar to Getaway.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Know your story well and how it will unfold. Also know who your audience (or main audience). Target the right publisher and then build your brand alongside your book. Your social media and press is as important as the book itself.

If you get knocked back, don’t be disheartened – ask why and look for ways to improve it. Go away and take the advice.

Most of all be true to yourself and enjoy it.

Owen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here


Confesions of a Qantas Flight Attendantconfessions-of-a-qantas-flight-attendant

by Owen Beddall

Want to know what really goes on on an aeroplane? Let’s go behind the scenes and fly high with these tall tales and gossip from the galley! Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on.

In Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant – True Tales and Gossip from the Galley, Owen Beddall dishes the dirt – he tells you the things you always wanted to know (and maybe a few things you didn’t) about the glamorous world of flying.

This book is packed with cabin crew adventures and misadventures in and out of that smart uniform in far flung places. There’s sex, drugs and lots of celebrity gossip; Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue, Venus Williams and Cate Blanchett – are all in the galley having a gossip with Owen. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant is a hilariously bumpy ride around the world with a very funny man.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

Karen Miller, author of The Falcon Throne, first book in the The Tarnished Crown Series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karen Miller

author of The Falcon Throne, The Prodigal Mage 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?

Well, I was born in Vancouver, Canada, but at the age of 2 moved to my mother’s homeland of England. We stayed there for a while, then eventually shifted again — back to my father’s homeland, Australia. And aside from a 3-year stint of my own in the UK, after university, that’s where I’ve stayed – in and around Sydney … aside from some pretty regular globe-trotting.  I did most of my primary schooling at Hornsby Heights public, then high school was split between Asquith Girls and Galston High.

My Bachelor of Arts degree was done at what used to be the Institute of Technology (now the University of Technology) – Hugh Jackman’s old stomping ground! Pity I was ahead of him … *g* I followed that up some years later with a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature (or Kiddy Litter, as I call it). I was offered a place in a Master’s Degree for Creative Writing at the University of Western Sydney, but the course convenor was such a pretentious snob about genre literature that I told her to shove it. At this point no plans for any future degrees, but I guess you never say never.

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

A writer,  a writer and a writer. I mean, I flirted with other ideas like English/History teacher (my favourite subjects) or veterinarian (because I love animals) but underneath it all, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. A storyteller.

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

Author: Karen Miller

That I would never be happy. And now I am.

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?

Well, in no particular order …

At university, where I majored in Creative Writing, I was young and nowhere near ready to write novels. I’m a classic late bloomer in that respect. But I remember in one elective, I think it was Writing for Children, we were given an exercise where we had to write 3 vignettes, a single scene each. One of the things I wrote about was the time my guinea pig was killed by a visitor’s child, who ignored me when I said don’t pick him up. She did, she dropped him, she broke his back and he died. I was maybe 8 or 9. So I wrote about that, and the comment came back from the lecturer that I’d made her cry, I’d made her professional writer friend cry, and that no matter what happened in my life I must never give up writing because I had a gift. Regardless of the turmoil and doubts I experienced in the years that followed, her expression of faith in me was a small bright light of hope.

Many years later, while I had the bookshop, I was still struggling to make the writing dream come true. I got involved with what was then the Del Rey Online Writers Workshop (now the SFF Online Writers Workshop, and highly recommended). I submitted two pieces of work, both from early drafts of what were to become The Innocent Mage and Empress. The Innocent Mage piece was selected as runner-up Editor’s Choice best fantasy, and the Empress piece was subsequently selected as Editor’s Choice best fantasy. Both of those independent assessments of my work kept me going at a time when I despaired of ever being published.

The third big event is actually a combo job — Stephanie Smith’s championing of me at HarperCollins Voyager, leading to my first fantasy publishing contract for the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology. That first contract was truly life-changing, because it was an unarguable expression of belief in my worth as a storyteller. I have no words to express what I owe Stephanie. Flowing on from that was the offer from Orbit UK to publish those books. This is what I mean when I say so much of the publishing game is luck. A number of other international publishers had passed on the books, and at least one wanted me to rewrite them first. Again, I began to wonder if I’d ever be published anywhere other than Australia/New Zealand. But then Tim Holman put his faith in me, and that’s when my career really pushed on. Again, there are no words to express what I owe him and the whole Orbit team.

And here’s one more — the books that changed my writing most are the Lymond Chronicles, by the late, great Dorothy Dunnett. She showed me a different way of writing, and taught me more than just about anyone about the power of emotion and character in story and how point of view informs the narrative.

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

Now you’re just stirring shite … *g*

Okay. No. I don’t think books are obsolete. They’re a particular kind of storytelling, a unique experience for the imagination, a very intimate conversation between storyteller and audience. Only books give you a theatre of the mind, can take you somewhere else no matter where you are, with the turn of a page. The only way books will become obsolete is if we let them, if we permit that storytelling venue to be discarded, forgotten — or if we so continue to degrade our standards of education in schools that all we produce at the end of the process are classes full of barely functioning illiterates. Who then go on to write books that are all but unintelligible.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

This new book, The Falcon Throne, is the first in a series called The Tarnished Crown. It’s epic historical fantasy, the most ambitious story I’ve ever tackled. Frankly, it scares the crap out of me. Possibly because of my theatre background I tend to think of my books as acts in a play. That means each book, while having self-contained elements and story/character arcs, also pushes the greater narrative forward. There is an overall beginning, middle and end to the series, and each novel is part of that journey. In keeping with the subgenre of epic historical fantasy, there’s politicking and warfare and necromancy and romance and death and family dynamics, love and loss, triumph and tragedy. None of the characters emerge unscathed from their adventures, nobody ends up with clean hands or an unsullied conscience. But that’s not to say it’s a dystopian or nihilistic story. I believe history shows us that even in the darkest times there are people of honour and courage and integrity, who make living worthwhile. My faith may get a bit battered from time to time, but I do believe in the ultimate worth of humanity – and that’s what I try to explore in my fiction.

So, to be a little more specific, The Falcon Throne is about three struggling dynasties sharing a common past. In the duchy of Harcia, Aimery frets over what will become of his land and his people when he dies and his heir, Balfre, is made duke. His lack of trust in his older son is the catalyst for events that are destined to change his duchy – the known world – for ever. To Harcia’s south, beyond the buffering stretch of land known as the Marches, lies the duchy of Clemen. Its duke, Harald, is not loved. Desperate to end his tyranny, his barons seek to overthrow him, placing his bastard cousin on the throne – and in doing so set Clemen on a dark path. And across the narrow Moat, in the Principality of Cassinia, the widowed duchess of Ardenn fights to protect the rights of her daughter, Catrain, who should follow in her father’s footsteps and rule their duchy like any son born. But the alliances she’s made in order to see that done will have lasting repercussions for every nation within her reach.

And so the opening gambits of the greater game are played ….

Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here

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

An enormous emotional satisfaction. Relief that they’ve not wasted their money. I just want readers to get caught up in the story, to believe in and feel for the characters, to get the kind of buzz from the tales I tell that I get from the stories I’ve enjoyed over the years.

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

Again, it’s a combo. My parents.  My father was born at the tail-end of the Great Depression, and grew up during World War II. He grew up in very very tough circumstances, and he worked his arse off, and became hugely successful in two different careers. Never once did he look for hand outs, or blame other people for the fact that he lacked many many advantages. He just put his head down and worked for what he wanted, through all kinds of challenges and setbacks. And even though he’s been successful, he’s never let success change him. There’s not an ounce of pretension or snobbery in him. He takes people as he finds them, no matter who they are or where they come from. As for my mother, even though her background was less challenging, she too has always worked really hard and, like Dad, has never let success change her. She’s unfailingly compassionate and generous, giving to others whenever they need.  When it comes to living a decent life, I couldn’t have asked for better role models.

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

To sell more books. To be a writer who helps change the oft-frustrating impression that women can’t write epic fantasy, that only men understand heroism and mateship and war. To inspire other writers who worry and wonder if they’ll ever be good enough.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t ever assume you’re owed anything. Publishing is a business, so be businesslike. The most important element of the game is the reader. If they love your work, if they hate your work, they’re right. You don’t get to decide what a good read is for someone else, even when it’s your own work in question. Never ever forget that your job is to tell an entertaining story. Get down off the soapbox and don’t lecture. Never be satisfied, always look for ways to challenge yourself, to improve your craft. Welcome constructive criticism. Don’t be precious. And when the going gets tough, stop, take a moment, and fall in love with story all over again. Reconnecting with love of story will help you through the roughest patches.

Karen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here


the-falcon-throneThe Falcon Throne

by Karen Miller

The start of a major new epic fantasy series from the internationally bestselling Australian author of The Innocent Mage.

Nobody is innocent. Every crown is tarnished. A royal child, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father s stolen throne. A bastard lord, uprising against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for. A duke s widow, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who d control them both. And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery. All of this will come to pass, and the only certainty is that nothing will remain as it once was. As royal houses rise and fall, empires are reborn and friends become enemies, it becomes clear that much will be demanded of those who follow the path to power. A major new epic fantasy begins.

 Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here

Jenny Bond, author of The President’s Lunch and Perfect North, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jenny Bond

author of The President’s Lunch and Perfect North

Six Sharp Questions
___________

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

The President’s Lunch was an absolute joy to research and write. I began researching the novel at the same time I discovered I was pregnant with my second child. He celebrated his first birthday when I delivered the first draft of the manuscript. I came to know the characters so intimately during that time and it was extremely difficult saying goodbye once the manuscript and editing process were completed. In fact, it took some urging from my husband to press ‘Send’ on the day the first draft was due. In a weird melodramatic way, it was like giving up a child.

So what’s it all about? Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and World War II, The President’s Lunch tells the story of Iris McIntosh, an enigmatic young woman rendered homeless by the Depression. When she has a random encounter with Eleanor Roosevelt in a rural gas station her life veers in a remarkable and unexpected direction. A First Lady with a social conscience, the tireless and fiercely compassionate Mrs Roosevelt employs Iris as her secretary. Under Eleanor’s guidance Iris, a woman of natural wit, beauty and intelligence, is introduced to the dynamic and complex inner world of the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Along the way, for better or for worse, she wins the heart of more than one man. But as she recreates herself into a woman of the modern world, a world that has America at its centre, Iris comes to understand that nothing is ever simple – not affairs of state, not matters of the heart and certainly not the hankerings of a person’s appetite.

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

The best and worst moments came during a research trip I took to the US with my family. I had researched the Roosevelts from afar for nine months and to find myself walking around their homes and chatting with people who knew them was thrilling. But spending thirty hours travelling from Canberra to Washington DC in order to do that, with an energetic but frustrated six-month-old and a mildly grumpy seven-year-old, was absolutely soul destroying.

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.

My favourite passage from a novel has been the same throughout my life. It is the final paragraph from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

‘He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.’

When I was a younger I viewed the paragraph from a child’s perspective. It filled me with a great feeling of comfort and safety. Now I am a parent, I read the lines from Atticus’s viewpoint and I understand his motivations clearly.

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 can be difficult to live with when I’m in the process of editing a book. Becoming angered at cuts and criticisms from editors, I tend to take my frustration out on my husband. However, while I am in the process of writing a novel I am extremely content and agreeable.

My writing week revolves around my children. I work three days a week (school hours) when my two-year-old is in child care and at other times when I can fit it in. However, because I have such an abbreviated work week, I find I have to use my time judiciously to meet deadlines. Fortunately, I can write anywhere and at any time.

5. Some writers 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 write books that I would love to read and, as a 43-year-old woman, I am probably representative of much of the marketplace. So that’s lucky!

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?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:  I taught this novel for many years to unruly teenagers. I have not met any adolescent this book has not failed to move.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Such a unique and perceptive critique on society. It shows children how meaningful and relevant literature can be.

The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver: Everyone should know how to cook and the recipes in Jamie’s first cook book are upbeat, fast and simple. Following a recipe teaches people discipline and patience, and it’s fun and tasty!

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen: They might not want to read it, but when they get to the end of P&P those twenty uncouth youths will know how to behave in civilised society!

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux:  This is a powerful allegorical novel, heavy with symbolism, that criticises society. In my teaching experience I have found it resonates strongly with teenagers. It’s an anti coming-of-age tale in a way, and is told from the viewpoint of fourteen-year-old Charlie Fox.

Jenny, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The President’s Lunch here

 

 


jenny bond (2)The President’s Lunch
by Jenny Bond

Set in Roosevelt’s White House, this is a compelling story of politics, personalities and love that spans one of the most turbulent decades of the twentieth century.

Robbed of her home and job by the Great Depression, the future looks bleak for Iris McIntosh – until a chance encounter with America’s indefatigable First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Propelled into the White House’s brilliant inner circle, Iris finds herself at the centre of momentous change … and her heart torn between two men. But her loyalty lies with a third: the complicated and charismatic President Roosevelt, who will ultimately force her to question everything she believes in. A compelling story of politics and power, love and loss, set in one of the most exciting and cataclysmic periods of history.

Grab a copy of The President’s Lunch here

Booktopia’s HUGE Housewarming SALE is on NOW!

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It’s been a big few weeks, but the boxes are unpacked, the trucks are empty, and the fridge is stocked. We’ve finally moved into our new Headquarters, 10,000 square metres of bookish heaven!

To celebrate we’re having a huge Housewarming Sale. Over half a million books at prices that will make you as excited as us!

We have massive discounts on worldwide bestsellers like Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Australian favourites like Black Caviar, crowd favourites like Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, along with thousands of titles on anything and everything.

Step on in and join in the party.

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Carole Wilkinson, the Dragonkeeper series, answers Six Sharp Questions


shadow-sisterThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Carole Wilkinson

author of Dragonkeeper series and more…

Six Sharp Questions
___________


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

Thanks. It is Shadow Sister, the 5th book in the Dragonkeeper series. It follows on from Blood Brothers and is the ongoing adventures of the dragon Kai and Tao, who is coming to terms with being a dragonkeeper. It is a sort of ghost story. There are insects.

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

The very best thing in the last year was learning I’m going to be a grandmother in October. Also we are building a holiday house, an earth-covered house, and seeing it progress has been exciting. Finishing another book is another big thing, getting to that stage where you don’t cringe when you read it aloud and you’re happy to send it off into the world. Actually the last 12 months have been huge!

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.

The one that springs to mind is “The journey of a thousand li begins with a single step” written by Chinese philosopher Laozi around 6th century BC. It is true of every worthwhile endeavour. There are no shortcuts, you just take it one step at a time.

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.

There are times, when I get bogged down in the middle of a book, when I can be pretty cranky. Day to day, it’s not very exciting, not to an observer anyway. I get up early. I sit in front of the computer at 7.30 and I try to write 1000 words each day. Once there’s a completed draft, there is a great deal of re-reading and editing, which I like much more than writing the words for the first time. My idea of a break is to go to the State Library of Victoria or Melbourne Uni Library in the afternoon to look up information. I’m writing a non-fiction book at the moment, so there’s a lot of that happening.

5. Some writers 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 think, “I wonder if anyone will want to read this?”, but I don’t start by wondering what will be successful or hit the spot in the market at this point in time. I write what I am interested in, what will keep me engaged and keen to get in front of the computer every morning. I hope that my enthusiasm will filter into the book and others will be enthusiastic about the story too.

 

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?

You do like to pose hard questions! I don’t think there is one version of being “civilised”. I would just get them to be keen readers and then they can take their own path to whatever sort of education suits them.
This is a topic worth many hours, if not days, of contemplation, but…I have a book to write. So just off the top of my head:

  1. Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien, for total immersion in another world.
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, to make them laugh.
  3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, to make them cry.
  4. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe, to scare the pants off them.
  5. Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne, in case they missed out on reading as a kid.

Carole, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Shadow Sister here

 

Christie Nieman, author of As Stars Fall, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Christie Nieman

author of As Stars Fall

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 Greensborough, Melbourne, grew up in Osbornes Flat, which is near Yackandandah, which is near Wodonga, which is on the Victorian side of the Murray, and was schooled there and in Melbourne. For the past 20 years I’ve been a Melbournite (what a great city!), but just recently I moved to central Victoria, so now I’m a Goldfields girl. Every day I’m visited by a billion beautiful tiny woodland birds. It’s lovely.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be an environmental scientist, because they are the best and most important people on Earth. When I was eighteen I was going to be a pianist, and was even enrolled in a terrifying Bachelor of Music. When I was thirty I wanted to be happy: I stopped trying so hard to achieve and just relaxed into being what I was being and had been for the past twelve years – a writer-in-progress. Your thirties are magic like that.

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

Christie Nieman

Author: Christie Nieman

That love conquers all, and that life is ultimately fair. Now I know more about circumstance, and the way in which it can provide hurdles and boundaries in a person’s life. I was quite an innocent at eighteen: I didn’t know I was very lucky and I thought everyone’s experience was the same as mine. It’s embarrassing to remember.

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?

At the age of sixteen I read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I have never had an experience like it before or since. A light bulb flicked on in my head. It was very much as the great woman herself wrote in Negotiating With The Dead: ‘When I found I was a writer at the age of sixteen…’ I don’t know why I ran about trying to be a musician after that – I guess at that age I wanted the company that music gives, but which writing doesn’t.

The works of Debussy and Bach grabbed me as a young pianist – Debussy’s beautiful imagistic impressions, using music to paint mood, not worrying too much about finishing a phrase, or creating a full melody; and Bach’s incredible escalation of form and structure and motif, weaving them and varying them, without ever fundamentally changing them, to create something that sounds nearly avant-garde and which bewilders you and leads you off a cliff edge, and then instantly, and so satisfyingly, takes you back to the simple forms again – I learned so much from both of them about how linear artforms like music and literature can work.

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

I chose to write a novel because I’d already written a play, because I can’t paint to save my life, and because my stint as a songwriter is best forgotten, and also, because when I was eighteen, music and I had a terrible break-up and it took us a while to get back on speaking terms. Whereas the written word and I have always been dear and faithful friends.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

As Stars Fall is young adult novel for older readers. It begins with a bushfire and a death, and from that moment on the emotional and ecological traumas run parallel and interact. It looks at the way people recover from grief, and the way ecosystems recover from disturbance. It reminds us we are all part of the one big living, breathing organism. And it has a little supernatural/metaphysical kick in there too.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

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

I sincerely hope that people come away with a sense of the smaller and bigger worlds. Of lives other than their own, of lives other than human. I hope it gives them a sense that there can be belonging in that, even when in pain and loneliness. It’s possibly high-falutin of me, but there you have it.

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

As I’ve said, Margaret Atwood had me at hello. Her language – my lord, every word is working hard, every word is a little machine, every sentence. And yet it reads effortlessly. I’m also a fan of Sonya Hartnett, the way she can set up an unusual, often almost abstract scenario, and present it with such clarity that you don’t question it – it gives her enormous scope as a writer: once she has you there, she can do what she wants with you. I also love David Malouf and Colm Toibin, for their narrative-invading landscapes; Margaret Mahy and Simmone Howell, for their beautifully original characters and home-lives;  Helen Garner for her perfect use of language to capture, well, everything really; and Philip Pullman, for showing me the glorious magnitude of what you can do with writing for young people – the themes, people, the themes!

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

To write as many good things as I can before I die. Being humble but also very ambitious. I believe many if not most writers are essentially lazy creatures; they’d so often prefer to read than write. Yet they are also cursed by drive. It’s a difficult thing, to be both lazy and driven.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Spend a year getting a trade you can live with. I’m not being facetious. Even if you are one of the rare few that can make a living from your writing, it will probably take you a few years to get there, and you don’t want to be spending all that time stressing about rent and food, because you need that time to be honing your craft. And work gives you an avenue to engage with the world around you, which is priceless for a writer. Unless of course you’re published at fifteen (I’m looking at you, Sonya Hartnett), and then by all means, devote your life!

Christie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

MATTHEW REILLY ANNOUNCES HIS NEW BOOK!

THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA

by Matthew Reilly

GreatZooMRIt is a secret the Chinese government
has been keeping for forty years.

They have found a species of
animal no one believed even existed.
It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil
their astonishing discovery within the
greatest zoo ever constructed.
A small group of VIPs and journalists
has been brought to the zoo deep within China
to see its fabulous creatures for the first time.
Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron,
a writer for National Geographic and an
expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts
that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts,
that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong…

GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE

This book is out 10th November 2014.

Grab a copy of The Great Zoo of China here

What Cathryn Read – The June Round Up (by bestselling author Cathryn Hein)

Popular Australian novelist Cathryn Hein, author of Rocking Horse Hill, Heartland and more gives her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

What a great reading month! From a literary award winner to a labyrinthine thriller to a frolic with a rock god, plus some lovely romances to get gooey over. I’d love to say my to-be-read pile was lowered a little but, as usual, I ended up buying more than I read. Oh well, I’ll just have to read even more in July.


Mariana

by Susanna Kearsley

I’ve been hooked on Kearsley since reading The Shadowy Horses. It, The Winter Sea (aka Sophia’s Secret) and The Splendour Falls are my favourite Kearsleys. In Mariana, the heroine, Julie, buys Greywethers, a house she’s been drawn to since childhood, only to find it acts as portal between times. As Julie explores the past she uncovers the mystery of her historical predecessor Mariana. It’s a popular novel among fans but I didn’t warm to it the way I have her other books. Not in the beginning. Then came the last 100 pages and OH! Now I understand why it’s so adored. The ending was completely sigh-worthy. I cried. Love it when that happens. The Shadowy Horses remains my most cherished though. That book was stunning.

Grab a copy of Mariana here


Chocolate Cake For Breakfast

by Danielle Hawkins

Danielle Hawkins has only 2 books out. I wish she’d hurry up and write more because I’ve become a huge fan. Her debut, Dinner At Rose’s, was a wonderful read, heart-warming, romantic and funny. Chocolate Cake For Breakfast didn’t disappoint either. This book is a hoot. Helen McNeil is a rural vet who just happens to trip (literally) into a relationship with an extremely hunky rugby player. And not just any rugby player. A member of New Zealand’s beloved national side, the All Blacks. What follows is a funny and gorgeous romance that will leave you smiling. It even made me feel a little sentimental about the All Blacks. Very unpatriotic!

.

 Grab a copy of Chocolate Cake for Breakfast here


Wolf

by Mo Hayder

Crime and thriller writer Hayder never disappoints. The Devil of Nanking (aka Tokyo) remains one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. Her Walking Man series, featuring smouldery Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is a favourite. Wolf is the 7th book in the series and a cracker. A wealthy family is being held hostage in their home and tormented in bizarre ways. Meanwhile, Caffery is challenged by the Walking Man to find who attached a ‘help us’ note to the little stray dog he’s found. As the two mysteries unfold, Hayder takes us through a labyrinth of clues, red herrings and twists you won’t see coming. Brilliant.

  Grab a copy of Wolf here


Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

The book everyone has been raving about and showering with prizes. With good reason. This was a fascinating read, with beautiful writing, an evocative landscape and masterfully drawn characters. Set in the early 1800s, it tells the story of Agnes, an Icelandic woman condemned to death for the murder of her master. The truth of what led her to this predicament is slowly revealed as she waits her execution. I was immediately drawn by Agnes’s voice, the beauty of her observations, her secrecy and the way she rationalised her terrible predicament. Here’s a small sample:
Sometimes, after talking to the Reverend, my mouth aches. My tongue feels so tired; it slumps like a dead bird, all damp feathers, between the stones of my teeth.

As for the ending, wow. That’s still resonating.

Grab a copy of Burial Rites here


Lick

by Kylie Scott

Oh, what fun! It’s like a girly fantasy come true. Good girl Evelyn wakes up in a hotel room in Las Vegas with the hangover from hell only to discover she’s married a tattooed rock god. Awesome. What follows is a romance that will leave you smiling and barracking these two great characters on. No wonder the book has been such a hit. The dialogue is smart, the hero and heroine hugely likeable, there are witty friends and cheeky rock band members, flash cars, private jets and helicopter rides, and plenty of sex to spice things up. Pure escapism. And there are more books to come as Scott works her way through the Stage Dive band members – Play, the ebook of which is out now, and soon Lead. Rock on!

  Grab a copy of Lick 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.

Now living in Melbourne, Cathryn writes full-time.

Click here to see Cathryn’s author page

Rocking Horse Hill

by Cathryn Heinrocking-horse-hill

Who do you trust when a stranger threatens to tear your family apart?

Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes.

When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.

But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knitted Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

Rocking Horse Hill is a moving family drama and passionate love story from the author of Heartland.

Grab a copy of Rocking Horse Hill Here

Ber Carroll, author of Worlds Apart, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Ber Carroll

author of Worlds Apart, Less Than Perfect, The Better Woman 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 Blarney, famous for the Blarney Castle, the Blarney Stone and the ‘gift of the gab’. So you won’t be surprised to hear I like to talk a lot. I’m the third child of six and, as with all big families, it was a bit chaotic. You had to be the fastest, loudest, strongest – otherwise you’d miss out. Not surprising either then that I’m pretty competitive. I went to primary school in Blarney, but for secondary my parents sent me to the ‘city’ to North Presentation Convent School – which was only five miles away, but could have been another planet it was so different. The principal was Sister Stanislaus, a ferocious nun who had quite an impact on my early career (see below). In 1995, after being heavily influenced by the blue skies and stunning beaches on Home and Away, I moved permanently to Sydney.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be a music teacher. I loved playing the piano (despite my brothers and sisters screeching at me to stop because they couldn’t hear the TV properly).

When I was eighteen I wanted to be an accountant. This was due to a very one-sided career counselling session in Sr Stanislaus’s office when she told me I’d make a good accountant, and I wasn’t inclined to risk my life by disagreeing.

When I was thirty, I had written my first novel and even though I actually enjoyed my job as a Finance Director (Sr Stanislaus was right – I did make a good accountant), all I could think about was being published, and ideas for other novels.

It was such a delicious treat to read Worlds Apart! Ber Carroll has given us a cast of warm, engaging characters in a sparkling story that effortlessly crosses the globe between Ireland and Australia. I enjoyed every page of this touching, authentic, contemporary novel.

If you love Maeve Binchy and Cathy Kelly, I can guarantee you’ll love Worlds ApartNew York Times, No 1 Bestselling author, Liane Moriarty.

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

carrollber01

Author: Ber Carroll

When I was eighteen, I believed that most human beings are logical, level-headed, and fairly predictable. Now I know that’s not true at all. Even the sanest person I know can be, on occasion, irrational, unpredictable and downright peculiar . . .  Human beings are capable of anything, and this both horrifies and delights me.

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

I’m one of those people who always has her head stuck in a book, and I could easily pick a hundred books that have influenced me in one way or another. Maeve Binchy’s early novel, Echoes, stands out. I read it when I was about thirteen (I used to steal books from my mother’s bedroom!) and the storytelling had me completely hooked – I read and read and read, until my eyes were red and sore and my stomach rumbling for food. Marian Keyes also had a significant impact in my early twenties. I really admire how she balances comedy with darker themes, and Anybody Out There is an all-time favourite of mine.

Music is such a positive influence too. I love all kinds of music – from classical to rap – and I listen very closely to the lyrics. To me, good lyrics can be like poetry, or a condensed story, and they can change how I feel that moment, and how I write. Right now I love The Script and One Republic.

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

When I was younger, I had three great ambitions: to write a novel, compose a song, and complete a major artwork. Given that my piano playing didn’t progress past my late teens, and my artistic abilities were questionable, I started with the novel. What I didn’t realise is that writing is addictive, and writing one novel would never be enough.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Worlds Apart is a story of belonging, bravery, diversity and love. It has characters from all over the world, but at its heart there is an Irish family, and Erin and Laura who are cousins and best friends. For different reasons, both Erin and Laura feel terribly trapped, and they are desperately trying to find where they belong: in their family, in their careers, and in the wider world. A surly Polish nanny, an elusive Spanish husband, an uneducated Afghan girl, a Nigerian refugee, and a rather hyperactive Australian man all play small but important parts in Erin and Laura’s quest for belonging. But what the cousins don’t know is that someone in their family is keeping a secret. When revealed, this secret will change everything as they know it and ‘belonging’ will take on a totally different meaning.

Grab a copy of Worlds Apart here

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

I hope people come away from my novels with the taste of another country and/or another life. I hope my characters stick around, and don’t leave their heads straight away. Surprise is important, and I hope to have achieved that in some way throughout the novel. Most of all, I hope my readers are satisfied and happy and finish with a smile and the desire to read my other novels.

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

Other than Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy, who I’ve already mentioned, I absolutely adore Maggie O’ Farrell. I love the rhythm of her writing, how she sketches her characters, her dialogue, her plots, absolutely everything about her novels.

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

My ambitions are pretty modest. I want to continue to write. And I want every book to be better than the last one.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

My advice is to read, read, read  . . . and keep on reading. Because nothing or no-one will teach you to write as effectively as reading does. My second piece of advice is to stop talking about it and get started. It doesn’t have to be perfect, there is plenty of time for editing later on – and this might be stating the obvious, but there will be nothing to edit if you don’t get something down on paper to start with. Lastly, seek out honest feedback, and be brave, strong and committed enough to take the feedback on board.

Ber, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Worlds Apart here

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