BOOK REVIEW: Where Song Began by Tim Low (Review by Justin Cahill)

Way back in 1987, while flicking through New Scientist, an article on birds caught my eye. It was about research that indicated the ancestors of Lyrebirds were among the world’s earliest songbirds. Back then, Australia was thought to be a refuge for species left over after it spit from the supercontinent, Gondwana. Songbirds were generally associated with Europe. The idea they had first evolved here seemed so unlikely that I kept the article, assuming the whole thing would go the way of cold fusion.

In Where Song Began, Tim Low tells how what was once theory became accepted fact. This is an exceptionally important book. High quality, up-to-date works on our natural history written for a general audience for are rare. Low generously stuffs his account of with fresh insights. It turns out the Treecreepers that live in the Blue Gums at the bottom of my street evolved from another ancient song bird. The Magpies that pick their way through the lawn only recently diverged from the local Butcherbirds. Once-mighty theories come crashing down. I was taught New Zealand’s endemic flightless birds, including the Kiwi, only survived as it had split from Gondwana just before mammals big enough to eat them evolved. It turns out that their able-to-fly ancestors probably came from Australia after New Zealand drifted away and were large enough to suppress the development of mammals there.

Author Tim Low

There is much we still don’t know. The eminent archaeologist Colin Renfrew once observed that human DNA, archaeological and literary evidence remain difficult to reconcile. It’s the same with our birds. While it has long been known that Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea had a distinct birdlife, is only now becoming clear just how unique many local species are.

And how have we treated them? As Low recounts, we have destroyed large parts of their habitat, shot them en masseto decorate hats with their tail feathers, killed their young and collected or smashed their eggs. For decades, thousands of muttonbirds were bludgeoned to make a tanning oil, ‘Vita Tan’, sold to unsuspecting bathers at Bondi Beach. In Sydney, habitat destruction has caused the populations of many once-common species to decline sharply. Some face local extinction.

Low also provides fascinating insights into Australia’s economic history. Before the advent of plastics, we had a thriving trade in‘exudes’, the saps and gums that oozed from our native trees. They were used to make an extraordinary range of products, including gramophone records, cosmetics, chewing gum, paint and tooth paste.

Low’s accessible style makes this a very appealing book for those looking for an insight into Australia’s unique flora and fauna. It is a book you can dip into and be assured of learning something new.

Grab a copy of Where Song Began here


Justin Cahill is a historian and solicitor, his university thesis being on the negotiations between the British and Chinese governments over the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

His current projects include completing the first history of European settlement in Australia and New Zealand told from the perspective of ordinary people and a study of the extinction of Sydney’s native birds.

He is a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Heckler’ column.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Michael Robotham, award-winning author of Life or Death, chats to Andrew Cattanach

There seems to be two types of people in this world. Those who love Michael Robotham, and those who haven’t heard of him yet.

Life or Death is for the crime fan who likes a story, not just an account. Brilliantly written, intelligent, funny, sad and meticulously mapped out, it’s easy to understand why there has already been so much interest in a big screen adaptation of the novel.

There is nothing more exciting than an author operating at the peak of their powers. With Life or Death, Robotham is doing just that, further strengthening his hold as one of Australia’s finest crime writers. Find out why Audie is on the run, before it’s too late.

Grab a copy of Life or Death here

Grab a copy of Life or Death here

GUEST BLOG: Oh, What Fun! By Anna Campbell

Anna Campbell has been one of Australia’s favourite romance writers for a long time now, charming readers everywhere with her unforgettable characters and turn of phrase.

In this exclusive blog, Anna talks about the F word. Fun.

Recently there has been a spate of very earnest articles about how reading romance can improve your mind, your health, your fine motor skills, and your love life, not to mention help you win the lottery and give you a free mowing service for the next twenty years. I’ve even written one, “Romance Mythbusting”, which appeared in the Queensland Writers Centre newsletter and is now available on my website here.

Anna Campbell 43970006

Author Anna Campbell

While all these articles (including, I hope, mine!) make a lot of sense, I think in many ways they miss the point. Do people read romance because it makes a feminist statement or because it helps people to understand the intricacies of a Regency wardrobe? Well, partly, I’m sure. I have to say I personally love the clothes in a historical romance, but that’s by the by.

However I suspect the most honest answer to that question would be no.

I think people read romance because it’s fun! Even when it’s packed with angst, as some are.

the-wickedest-lord-aliveThere’s the delicious thrill of watching two people who are perfect for each other slowly wake up to the fact – or wake up at the start of the story and struggle past whatever barriers are keeping them apart. Any good romance involves that lovely simmer of sexual tension that frequently blazes out into a full-scale inferno. There’s watching the characters make mistakes and try and correct them, often by making bigger mistakes. There’s great dialogue! Read a Georgette Heyer or a Christina Brooke or a Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and you’ll find yourself chortling away at the way the prickly dialogue goes nowhere near hiding how deeply drawn the hero and heroine are to each other. There’s the chance to go through a profound emotional journey with these people.

And the best fun of all? The fact that if you pick up a romance, you know there’s going to be a happy ending. Whether it’s in a dramatic, emotion-racked story or a sweet romantic comedy, these people will end up together, better, wiser, happier. There’s something marvelously reassuring about that. And when you’re going through a tough time in your own life, believe me, knowing that somewhere holds a guaranteed happy ending is reward enough on its own!

Is that unrealistic? Personally I don’t think so. I don’t believe that all human effort comes to dust. I think most people have as much chance for happiness as unhappiness. Hmm, perhaps you should call me a cockeyed optimist. Or a romance reader!

what-a-duke-daresThis August, I have got a new historical romance out. What a Duke Dares, book 3 of the award-winning Sons of Sin series, was great fun to write (I hope I’m not overusing the ‘F’ word!). Partly because I love the characters – falling in love with your own creations is an occupational hazard in romance. Even if they don’t start out as people you’d want living next door, they often end up that way. Partly because I got to travel through Italy in the company of my hero and heroine and observe how hard they’re fighting against succumbing to irresistible attraction. Partly because I got to hang out with the great and the good in the London season of 1828, not to mention visit a few extravagant stately homes along the way. I must say I’m a sucker for the glamour elements! Partly because when Cam and Pen from WHAT A DUKE DARES finally get their happy ending. They have really had to battle for it. Watching two people work their way, despite everything ranged against them, toward each other is always a wonderful experience.

And I guess there in a nutshell, you have the secret of why reading romance in any setting is fun!

So why do you read romance? Do you think it’s fun? Why?

My website is: http://www.annacampbell.info
You can read an excerpt of What a Duke Dares here.


Sons of Sin Trilogy Pack – Exclusive to Booktopia

Three Great Books – One Low Price!

by Anna Campbell

Click here for more details

Click here for more details

Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann, authors of The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code, chat to John Purcell

After the runaway success of The Marmalade Files, it was inevitable that Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann would be returning for another healthy dose of political intrigue.

They chat to John Purcell about their latest book The Mandarin Code, the difficulties of co-writing, and how life in Canberra can often be stranger than fiction.

Grab a copy of The Mandarin Code here

Grab a copy of The Mandarin Code here

The Mandarin Code

by Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann

A body pulled from the murky waters of Lake Burley Griffin links Canberra, Beijing and Washington in a titanic struggle where war is just a mouse click away. Veteran reporter Harry Dunkley is chasing the scoop of his career, hunting for his best friend’s killer. Navigating treacherous political waters where a desperate minority government edges ever closer to disaster, he delves into a cyber world where there are no secrets.

Friendship and loyalty give way to betrayal and revenge as Dunkley stumbles into the sights of the mandarins who wield real power – and who’ll stop at nothing to retain it. Political insiders Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann bring biting wit and behind-the-headlines insights to this sharply observed sequel to the bestselling The Marmalade Files, once again lifting the veil on the lust and lies that stain the corridors of power.

Grab a copy of The Mandarin Code here

What Cathryn Read – The July 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.

Regency-set intrigue and determined rakes, a classic adventure, some sexy magic and mystery, wallbanging and a hot Scot in a kilt. My July reads were as romantic as they come.


Son of the Morning

by Linda Howard

When Australian historical romance author Anna Campbell (A Rake’s Midnight Kiss) described this book as “out Da Vinci-ing The Da Vinci Code” I had to give it a run. And what fun I had, too. Loads of action, an unusual romance with a hot Scot, Templar treasure, deadly danger, time travel and a good dose of sex for extra spice.

Scholar Grace St John finds her life destroyed when she begins translating an ancient Templar document. Forced on the run, with the police and a terrible enemy after her, she manages to survive on her wits and friendship. As Grace eludes her hunters she continues her translation, uncovering a secret force and the warrior bound to protect it forever. To save herself, and the world, from evil she must travel back in time. And face the raw passion and power of Black Niall.

Romance, adventure and men in kilts. You can’t go wrong!

Grab a copy of Son of the Morning here


The Winter Bride

by Anne Gracie

Oh, how I adore this series! It started with The Autumn Bride, which was absolutely gorgeous and I thought couldn’t be bested… until I read The Winter Bride. Loved it. Like really, really loved it, to the point that this is now my favourite Anne Gracie.

The Winter Bride continues the story of the Chance Sisters, this time focusing on Damaris Chance and muffin-fearing (yes, you read that right), steadfast rake Freddie Monkton-Coombes. For their own reasons, both have sworn off marriage, but when circumstances call for a fake betrothal, Freddie and Damaris are thrown together. All goes well. Too well, in fact. Which leads Freddie into thinking that this muffin caper isn’t so frightening after all. But can he convince Damaris of the same?

Not only was this story an absolute delight with it’s cute muffin theme, it was also hugely emotional. Freddie’s and Damaris’s backstories left me in tears, the poor darlings, but also cheering madly for their happily-ever-after. An absolute delight. Go buy it. You’ll have a ball…

 Grab a copy of The Winter Bride here


Wallbanger

by Alice Clayton

I admit that I was reluctant to read this book but fellow author Rachael Johns (Outback Blaze) remained adamant that it was brilliant. With nearly 80,000 Goodreads ratings indicating the same, I figured I’d better see what the fuss was about. About 10% through I sent Rach a cranky email along the lines of “I told you this wasn’t my thing!” but she insisted I read on. The story picked up. Then it really started romping and next thing I know I was having a fantastic time.

Olivia has lost her O. Simon, her hot neighbour, definitely hasn’t. When Simon’s over-active sex life leads to a hallway confrontation, attraction smacks them both in the face. But with Olivia loving her single life (even if she is missing her O) and Simon busy with his harem, romance is out of the question. Friendship, however, blossoms and it’s the growth of this friendship that makes this book so wonderful. That and super snappy dialogue, naughty cat antics, friends in messed-up relationships, and some tasty baking as an added bonus. And wallbanging. Mustn’t forget that!

Humorous and heart-warming. Yep, Rach and all those Goodreads ratings were spot on. A hugely enjoyable contemporary romance that’ll leave you smiling.

  Grab a copy of Wallbanger here


City of Lost Dreams

by Magnus Flyte

The first in this series, City of Dark Magic, was a blast of a read. Sexy, funny, full of adventure and history, with a bit of the paranormal thrown in to liven things up. The second, City of Lost Dreams, is the same, albeit with a more complex storyline. But the same unique characters I fell in love with are back, and in a nice pickle too.

Musicologist Sarah Weston is in Vienna looking for a cure for her dangerously ill young friend Pollina. When the scientist who could cure Pollina suddenly disappears, apparently on the run, Sarah is forced to help her. But mysterious things begin to happen, to Sarah and those she comes in contact with. Meanwhile, Prince Max is in Prague, investigating the sudden re-appearance of people long dead, while Nicholas Pertusato is on his own mission, chasing fast-disappearing alchemist’s relics. When they realise the connections, the trio discover it might not be only Pollina’s life under threat.

This sequel was wonderfully entertaining. Great pacing, lots of intrigue, fabulous atmosphere, sexy and fun. Can’t wait for the next.

Grab a copy of City of Dreams here


King Solomon’s Mines

by H. Rider Haggard

I’ve been meaning to read this book for donkey’s. Now I wish I had before because I’d probably be on my second or third read now. What a hoot! Except for the elephant shooting. Can’t say I appreciated that at all, but those were the times, sadly. The rest was a great fat adventure with plenty of drama and heroism and brilliant characters. Alan Quatermain was much more subtle and interesting than his Hollywood hero, Sir Henry had me in tears with his heroics, Captain Good and his lovely white legs provided comic relief, Umpoba was brilliantly regal, King Twala twisted by violence and corruption, his witch Gagool perfectly evil, while the Kukuana warriors were magnificent, courageous and fierce. What amazed me the most was how King Solomon’s Mines read. I’d expected a bit of a slog given it was published in 1885, but it romped along like a modern boy’s own adventure.

  Grab a copy of King Solomon’s Mines here

 


A Dangerous Madness

by Michelle Diener

I’m not afraid to admit I’m a total Michelle Diener fangirl. I could rave for hours about her Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series. They’re like reading Tudor-set James Bonds, full of action, intrigue and a delicious romance. A Dangerous Madness is set in the ever-popular Regency era and while it’s connected to previous novels The Emperor’s Conspiracy and A Banquet of Lies (both brilliant), it can be easily read alone.

When Phoebe Hillier is jilted by her fool of a betrothed, instead of despair, she’s rather relieved. Until she discovers Sheldrake had been involved in something unsavoury. Something that places her in grave danger. Enter the Duke of Wittaker, on his own investigation of a plot against the Prime Minister. When it leads him to Phoebe sparks fly. But who can be trusted during these dangerous times? Especially when they’ve both been living lies.

In all Diener’s books, the pacing of both the thriller plot and romance is superb. I also adore her characters. They’re courageous, clever, interesting and possess great integrity. But I really love how she brings the politics of the period to life, whether that be in the court of Henry VIII or the Regency era. The author notes at the end of the book also make for fascinating reading. Highly recommended.

  Grab a copy of A Dangerous Madness 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

Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot set to become major Hollywood film

moriartyliane01Liane Moriarty’s 2010 novel What Alice Forgot is set to be adapted into a film helmed by David Frankel, director of The Devil Wears Prada.

Shauna Cross, who wrote Whip It and the upcoming film adaptation of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, is attached to pen the project.

The news comes a day after the release of Moriarty’s new novel Big Little Lies, which has already attracted significant buzz. Recent figures from the US indicate it is one of the most pre-ordered books of 2014. Liane will be visiting Booktopia HQ soon, so order now and you could secure a signed copy!

Order a copy of Big Little Lies from Booktopia by August 8th and you could win 1 of 3 girls night in prize packs valued at $299. Click here for more details.

big-little-liesBig Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

Signed Copies Available While Stocks Last

‘I guess it started with the mothers.’

‘It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.’

‘I’ll tell you exactly why it happened.’

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead.

Liane Moriarty’s new novel is funny and heartbreaking, challenging and compassionate.

The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author turns her unique gaze on parenting and playground politics, showing us what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

‘Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.’

 Grab a copy of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies here

BOOK REVIEW: Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa (Review by Caroline Baum)

here-come-the-dogs-order-your-signed-copy-The energy of this debut novel just leaps off the page. Musa, a charismatic rapper, has successfully translated the idiom and pulse of performance to the page with its syncopated rhythms and hard-edged beats.

Inevitably, he is being compared with his mate Christos Tsiolkas for his full-frontal engagement with contemporary Australian society: in this case, multicultural masculinity with its surges of often misdirected testosterone.

In small town suburbia during a tinder-dry summer, anything could happen. Booze, drugs, violence and a racing dog all help pass the time.

At the centre of this compelling mash up of poetry and prose are three iconic young men: Solomon, a charming Samoan, who has broken up with his girlfriend and is fascinated by Scarlett, a free spirited tattooist; his half-brother Jimmy, who has got himself into trouble, and their Macedonian childhood friend, Aleks.

Musa manipulates language with raw, bracing vitality, offering up a picture of Australia that is not pretty but feels authentic.

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Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director.

Grab a signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

Grab a signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

BOOK REVIEW: The Voice by Ray Warren (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

How strange it is to know a voice so well, yet know nothing about the person behind it.

Ray Warren has been purring like a wolverine in my living room for most of my life. On the rare occasions we were allowed to watch TV during dinner, it was usually Ray’s voice emanating from that part of the room, a big game that even mum’s lamb roast couldn’t compete with. They are the strongest memories of my childhood, the fire roaring, mum and dad reading the paper, and Ray Warren musing about a bad offside call.

Sports memoirs are a tricky thing. Everyone has been burnt at one stage or another, particularly if they find themselves in the revolving door of live television. The egos are big, producers wanting talent with strong opinions or they are shown the door.

The Voice is thankfully something different. The man affectionately known as ‘Rabs’ appears nearly embarrassed that his life has garnered so much interest, initially reluctant to write in detail about himself. A few pages in and tales of a childhood spent on the railways, sports carnivals and family holidays paint a beautiful picture, and help Warren warm nicely to the task of chronicling his incredible journey.

The world’s greatest cricketer Don Bradman famously invented a childhood game, hitting a golf ball against a water tank with a cricket stump for hours on end, that would propel him to greatness. From the age of six Ray had developed a similar game to enable him to chase his own dreams. Warren would paint his marbles different colours, assign each colour a name, and fling them down the family hallway, calling the race as though it were the Melbourne Cup. He would later go on to call three cups, along with Commonwealth and Olympic Games and thousands of rugby league matches.

Warren shares his ups and reflects with great humility on his downs. Each struggle something we can all relate to, each lesson we can all absorb.

The Voice is the warm, funny and self-deprecating story of an excitable, eccentric kid who had a dream, and turned into an excitable, eccentric man who found himself living one.

Grab a signed copy of Ray Warren’s The Voice here

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Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He learned to read on a two hour bus trip to school every day, and learned to write in lecture halls and cramped tutorial rooms. He sometimes wins things for the lecture hall stuff.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

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Grab a signed copy of Ray Warren’s The Voice here

Boris Mihailovic, author of At the Altar of the Road Gods, chats to John Purcell

At the Altar of the Road Gods

by Boris Mihailovic

In this fast, furious book, Boris Mihailovic shares his wild stories of motorcycling, mateship and frequent, two-wheel-related mayhem. Boris has had a life-long obsession with motorbikes and in this collection of yarns he shares pivotal moments in his riding life, from his first XJ650 Yamaha and the crazy, wild years of learning to ride faster and faster to finding friends with a similar passion who all look like outlaws.

In At the Altar of the Road Gods Boris reveals the consequences of high-sides, tank-slappers, angry police and pilgrimages to Bathurst and Phillip Island, and explains how motorbike riding was the rite of passage into manhood he’d been searching for.

Be warned: this is a book that may cause laughter, sleeplessness and the desire to buy a Lucifer-black Katana.

Grab a copy of Boris Mihailovic’s At the Altar of the Road Gods hereBoris and John

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

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