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

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

I was born, 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

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

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

Rachael Craw, author of Spark, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rachael Craw

author of Spark

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 and raised in beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand, and lived there until earthquakes broke our house and destroyed our neighbourhood in 2011/12. Whenever we go back to visit, the empty green paddocks of the eastside, post-demolition, make my heart sore. I hate that my girls will never know the city I knew, so many of our precious landmarks are gone. Now we live at the top of the South Island in sunny Nelson and I rather fancy my new small-town life. It suits me.

Growing up, I went to Burnside High School where I was greatly inspired by my English teacher Ms McColl. She took our creative writing class to my first ever Writer’s Festival in Dunedin where I sat in the audience moony eyed at the poetry of David Eggleton. At the University of Canterbury I majored in Classical Studies and Drama expecting to train and become a teacher in these subjects. Really, it was the literature in both that I loved the most and I became an English teacher instead.

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

I’m not sure about these ages … but when I was 5 or 6 I desperately wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer (think Beyonce in glittering gold spandex + epic afro), around 10, like most of the girls I knew, I imagined a glamorous future as an air hostess, but by 18 I had the acting bug. I did amateur theatre and short films but it was the scriptwriting that got my pulse racing. By 30, I had been teaching for a while but the itch to write was getting harder to ignore.

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

That Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito would be the best Batman, Catwoman and Penguin of all time. (Batman Returns 1992). While Tim Burton is one of my top 3 directors (heads up: you’ll see locations in my novels named to reflect this) Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) upended this strongly held belief. Though he has retired the cowl, Bale holds my allegiance. If Affleck can win my attention I’ll be impressed. I reserve judgment on any future Penguins or Catwomen (Pfeiffer for the win).

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?

For thematic influences I would site my favourite texts to teach in the classroom: Hamlet and Lord of the Flies. Hamlet for the exploration of moral dilemma and the consequences of action or inaction. Lord of the Flies for the exploration of human nature and poking at the flimsy scaffolding that keeps us from savagery. At University I loved Oedipus for the question of freewill versus predestination. In a somewhat less grandiose scale I have begun to attempt my own experimentation with these concepts.

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

Word-Lust

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Spark is a story about friendship, loyalty, courage and love mixed with a synthetic gene that creates guardians and killers known as Shields and Strays. Evie learns that she is a Shield, genetically engineered to save the life of her best-friend who is being stalked by a Stray.

Evie strives to learn how to use her new psychic and physical capabilities while managing grief, learning to live with her aunt and struggling to fit in at a new school. Added to these pressures is the complication of falling in love with a boy who is completely off-limits and totally irresistible.

Spark is the first novel in a sci-fi/crossover trilogy.

Grab a copy of Spark here

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

A sense of investment in my imaginary world, that they’ve journeyed with characters they love and or loathe, that they give enough of a damn they’d want to visit again in the future.

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

My favourite writer of all time is Margaret Atwood. I fell in love with her work when I was a teenager and the novelty has never really worn off. In contemporary literature I’ll read anything Kate Atkinson sets her pen to. Isabel Allende, for magical realism and Alice Hoffman too. In YA, I love Patrick Ness and the astounding Elizabeth Knox.

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

I would love to have readers from all over the globe discover my imaginary world, emotionally invest and embrace the characters, grieve their losses, rejoice in their triumphs, and then argue about it all online, print t-shirts with their favourite quotes, swarm at conferences, throw my books across the room when their favourite characters die, lose sleep to finish a chapter, fake sick days to stay home, neglect their chores and families because they’d rather read, text their friends when they’re watching TV and they spot someone who’d be perfect to play a character from the book in a non-existent movie adaptation, create playlists that remind them of the story and re-read, and re-read because it’s just like visiting old friends. I dream of this because these are things I’ve done with books I love.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I am an aspiring writer and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve arrived, mostly because I’m never satisfied. From the beginning I wanted to be good more than I wanted to be published so I have always been hungry for the best counsel and the most honest criticism, to learn the craft and keep learning, refining, exploring and taking risks. Unpopular concepts like sacrifice, hard work and commitment are the price you’re willing to pay to realise a dream but passion, faith and obsession is what keeps you going.

Rachael, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Spark here

World Record holder Ryan Campbell, author of Born to Fly, chats to Christopher Cahill

In Born to Fly, Ryan recounts his remarkable journey from a boy with a dream to becoming, at age 19, the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the world solo in a single-engine aircraft, and shares with us the joy of flight.

Grab a copy of Ryan Campbell’s Born to Fly here

Born to Fly

by Ryan Campbell

The most extraordinary aviation adventure of the decade. A great story in the spirit of Charles Kingsford-Smith and Bert Hinkler. – Dick Smith

‘It’s funny what you remember, which moments stick in your mind when the everyday disappears. I will never forget my first flight, the feeling of being pushed back in the seat, the rumbling that suddenly turned into silence. It fascinated me then, it does now. I looked across Sydney, absolutely blown away by its size. I had no idea cities even got that big! Later, my brothers and I followed the stewardess to the front of the plane and stepped into the cockpit. I stood wide-eyed, mouth open. This was where magic happened. From that day on I knew: I would grow up to become a jumbo jet pilot.’

When Ryan Campbell was six he fell in love with aeroplanes. It was a passion that was to dominate his childhood and it was no surprise when at 15 Ryan became the youngest pilot in Australia. Inspired by his father and grandfather who were also aviators, Ryan sought a challenge and, like adventurers before him, he found one that spoke to him more than the rest. He wanted to fly around the world, solo, in a single-engine aircraft.

Showing maturity, determination and courage beyond his years, Ryan fundraised $250,000 from scratch  and drew on the advice of renowned aviators such as Jim Hazelton (‘a man who has more hours adjusting his seat in a plane than I do total flying time’) and Dick Smith before setting out on his thrilling 70-day odyssey. In Born to Fly, Ryan captures all the dry-mouthed excitement of flying alone above the earth with only one engine and recounts his adventures from staying calm with iced over wings, landing in a country where you are not welcome and  dealing with international media when still a teenager.

Ryan landed 31 times in 15 countries and covered more than 24,000 nautical miles, while trying to avoid that ‘alternative aerodrome’, the ocean.

Born to Fly is a fascinating view of the world from above, shown to us by a dryly funny and highly charismatic man who has already done more in his short life than most of us do in a lifetime.

Grab a copy of Ryan Campbell’s Born to Fly here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Tim Cope, adventurer and author of On the Trail of Genghis Khan, chats to John Purcell

 Grab a copy of On the Trail of Genghis Khan here

9781408842218On the Trail of Genghis Khan

by Tim Cope

Lone-adventurer Tim Cope travelled the entire length of the Eurasian steppe on horseback, from the ancient capital of Mongolia to the Danube River in Hungary. This formidable 6,000-mile journey took three years to complete. It is a journey that has not been completed successfully since the days of Genghis Khan.

Trekking through wolf-infested plateaus, down into deep forests and up over glaciers, across sub-zero barren landscapes, scorching deserts and through treacherous mountain passes, Cope travelled deep into the heart of the nomadic way of life that has dominated the Eurasian steppe for thousands of years.

Alone, except for a trusted dog (and a succession of thirteen horses, many stolen along the way), he encountered incredible hospitality from those who welcomed him on his journey – a tradition that is the linchpin of human survival on the steppe. With WC the Kazakh aphorism ‘To understand the wolf, you must put the skin of a wolf on and look through its eyes’ playing constantly in his thoughts, Cope became immersed in the land and its people, moving through both space and time as witness to the rich past and to the often painful complexities of present-day life still recovering from Soviet rule.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a tale of survival, adventure and discovery set in a fascinating and politically volatile time.

Grab a copy of On the Trail of Genghis Khan here

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