Michael Pye, author of The Edge of the World, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Michael Pye

author of The Edge of the World

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

Born Manchester in England which my parents always said was an oversight, but they never explained if they meant the place or the birth. Grew up on the edge of the North Sea – in Essex in Eastern England – along those shingle beaches and salt marshes, always wondering what lay beyond and what kind of history the sea could have. After that, got myself to Italy to study and then to Oxford so I could learn how to find and write the history …

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

Always wanted to write, but for a while that meant journalism and not much more. Started a tiny local paper when I was twelve, but it didn’t sell in more than two houses (mine, and my co-editor’s parents. We took the price in butterscotch.) At eighteen wanted to get out and get away like anyone of eighteen. At thirty, I’d been very lucky – worked on the Sunday Times in London when it was a great paper in its prime, had a TV show in Scotland – but I felt somehow bored. I wanted to shake things up. Whether disappearing to the Caribbean was such a brilliant idea, I don’t know; it’s not so much fun in a tax haven if you don’t have an income…

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

Author: Michael Pye

I could be stupidly arrogant, idiotically sure about things, and I didn’t know enough and I hadn’t done enough for that faith to be justified for a moment. Actually, at times, I was a prig. I think I’ve got a bit better. Living in a small Portuguese village, as we do now, teaches you enormous respect for the people you didn’t want to notice at eighteen.

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?

I guess I’d choose circumstances more than events – the way the family spread out over the globe so the letters and the Christmas cards were all clues to the big world out there and how it connects.

It was the world my father always wanted to know, and did for a while – but during the war. My first job on a newspaper, for The Scotsman in Edinburgh and realising quite how close and how different even the various parts of the United Kingdom could be; it seemed natural to be an English Scottish Nationalist because otherwise you risked losing so much. And finding the novels of Marguerite Yourcenar, Madame, who gives history blood and bone and still dignifies it: a past that matters, but still breathes. It made me think about ways to write history that weren’t academic but weren’t trivial, either: ways to persuade people into a subject that might never have crossed their minds.

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?

Books are glorious – when they’re not pointless. You try sustaining an argument about a thousand years of history on a blog, at two hundred words a day. Online newspapers are terrific but not when you want to immerse yourself in a subject; too busy, too many videos and weird ads. It’s really hard to make jokes on TV when you’re scheduled to be serious; you have to keep looking into camera with a straight face.  You have to simplify a subject for radio, or else a show would last a week, but sometimes you really need the detail. Books give you what you need, and more. But books are doors that can open into another world, can give you facts and wit: a bit magic….

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It started with ignorance. I didn’t know the history of the North Sea, my sea, but I knew about the Mediterranean which was far away. I didn’t know what happened between the fall of the Roman empire and the start of the great empires that crossed oceans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. So I set out to find out, and I kept being surprised.

All those bloody Icelandic sagas, and there was the start of fashion – thugs on the dockside comparing latest clothes before having a proper blood feud. The league of towns round the Baltic that set itself up as a kind of business community – just like we talk about politics and a business community – and tried to starve a nation. The way women made choices and kept the lives they chose. It’s wonderful moment when a subject becomes three, even four dimensional. I set out to write about the peoples around the North Sea and all their surprising connections – from Viking Dublin to Frisia, from Antwerp to Bergen in Norway – and I found I was writing about the changes that made possible our modern world.

Grab a copy of Michael’s new book The Edge of the World here

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

We stuff history with wars and kings and clashes. We forget the connections, and the energy that comes from connections – friction, sometimes. I’d love people to value the differences round the edges, the history of contacts, people going about the sea to buy and sell and go on pilgrimages because that’s what truly changes the world —  just as much as the history of the flags and armies that tend to separate us.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Nelson Mandela, for knowing how to change his mind without changing his morals. A movie-maker called Michael Powell for allowing himself to be inspired even when nobody quite understood what he was doing; and then cutting the result into movies everyone wanted to see. And one man from my book – a bad-tempered, rough-edged medieval bishop called Robert Grosseteste (which means big head) who thought for himself and kept thinking until he’d invented a kind of experimental science because he wanted to know how a rainbow has colours. I revere people who manage to be themselves, whatever happens.

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

The next book: just that. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write. It’s a craft you learn by doing. Do it often, do it on blogs, in notebooks, in letters, in newspapers: but do it. And when people say you should write what you know, and you do need to know enough to have your own vision, remember that doesn’t have to be just your own life and times.  You can also open up the world you know by the right kind of research, and then you can write so much more…

Michael, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Edge of the World here

The Edge of the World

by Michael Pye

This is a story of saints and spies, of fishermen and pirates, traders and marauders – and of how their wild and daring journeys across the North Sea built the world we know.

When the Roman Empire retreated, northern Europe was a barbarian outpost at the very edge of everything. A thousand years later, it was the heart of global empires and the home of science, art, enlightenment and money. We owe this transformation to the tides and storms of the North Sea.

The water was dangerous, but it was far easier than struggling over land; so it was the sea that brought people together. Boats carried food and raw materials, but also new ideas and information. The seafarers raided, ruined and killed, but they also settled and coupled. With them they brought new tastes and technologies – books, clothes, manners, paintings and machines.

In this dazzling historical adventure, we return to a time that is largely forgotten and watch as the modern world is born. We see the spread of money and how it paved the way for science. We see how plague terrorised even the rich and transformed daily life for the poor. We watch as the climate changed and coastlines shifted, people adapted and towns flourished. We see the arrival of the first politicians, artists, lawyers: citizens.

From Viking raiders to Mongol hordes, Frisian fishermen to Hanseatic hustlers, travelling as far west as America and as far east as Byzantium, we see how the life and traffic of the seas changed everything.

Drawing on an astonishing breadth of learning and packed with human stories and revelations, this is the epic drama of how we came to be who we are.

About the Author

Michael Pye writes for a living — as novelist, journalist, historian and sometimes broadcaster. He is English by birth, but civilized by study in Italy and a newspaper apprenticeship in Scotland. For twenty years he commuted between New York and Europe as a political and cultural columnist for British newspapers. He now lives with his partner John Holm in a tiny village in the forests of rural Portugal.

 Grab a copy of The Edge of the World here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Naomi Simson on her inspirational journey to success and her new book Live What You Love

Naomi Simson built one of Australia’s biggest online success stories, RedBalloon, from just an idea. She is also known for her inspirational blogs on happiness at work and home that reach more than three-quarters of a million followers on LinkedIn and her role on Channel 10’s Shark Tank.

She chats to John Purcell about her new book Live What You Love.

Grab your copy of Naomi Simson’s Live What You Love here

live-what-you-love-signed-copies-available-Live What You Love

by Naomi Simson

In Live What You Love ground-breaking Australian entrepreneur Naomi Simson will show you how to love what you do every day and live life to the full.

Renowned for her high-octane energy and commitment to the pursuit of excellence, Naomi built one of Australia’s major tech success stories, RedBalloon, from just an idea but she is also known for her inspirational blogs on happiness at work and home that reach more than three-quarters of a million followers on LinkedIn and her role on Channel 10’s Shark Tank.

In this book, leading by example, Naomi shares her life lessons and shows you how to:

  • channel your passion
  • learn persistence
  • find your purpose; and
  • stay positive.

Soon your work experience will become richer, your career path more clearly formed and your life more fully realised.

Live What You Love will help you diagnose your own approach to life through its use of quizzes and Q&As, offer case histories that give you real-life examples of where mistakes were made or problems solved, and reveal inspiring examples of success in both life and business.

Naomi’s dynamic approach, informed by her experiences running her own business and her corporate career, will show you how to add meaning into your life and in doing so, discover that when you love what you do, success in life is never far away.

Grab your copy of Naomi Simson’s Live What You Love here

Darragh McManus, author of Shiver the Whole Night Through, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

shiver-the-whole-night-throughThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Darragh McManus
author of
Shiver The Whole Night Through

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 reared in Ireland. A little village in County Tipperary, which is in the South-Midwest, if you can follow that. School, hmm…loved primary, hated the first three years of secondary. It wasn’t the school’s fault, they were fine. I just hated pretty much all the kids! Including myself, probably. I grew up a bit and enjoyed the final two years though. Then I went to college in Cork for an Arts degree in English Lit and History. I’ve also done a certificate in Art & Design, and of course have learned some lasting lessons in both the School of Hard Knocks and the University of Life.

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

Twelve: either play soccer for Liverpool or be some kind of intergalactic bounty hunter with cool blue skin and bluer eyeballs, toting a crossbow that fired lasers. This was because I read a LOT of comics at the time, mostly Roy of the Rovers and Champ (hence the soccer) and Eagle (hence the daft sci-fi).

Eighteen: probably to have my own grunge band. I’d moved onto an obsession with grunge by that stage. I still love those bands, the image, the sarcasm, the plaid shirts, everything about them – good guys who rocked like all-get-out. Sadly, I was too lazy to bother learning guitar…the dream withered and died.

Thirty: a writer! I’d decided in my late twenties that, yes, I definitively wanted to be an author; I finished my first novel at 29 and the future seemed – potentially? – bright. Didn’t quite go according to plan. That book and my next one (collection of stories) failed to sell. Finally, I was published in non-fiction at 34. And in 2012, a lifetime ambition was realised when AT LAST I had a novel released. Shiver the Whole Night Through is my third published work of fiction (though first Young Adult).

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

That communism was both possible and desirable. I think most people, as they get older, move to a more meritocratic philosophy i.e. you should get out pretty much what you put in. (Obviously, this doesn’t mean not looking after those who need it – that’s just basic decency and kindness.) But my desire for a totally evened-out society is gone; I don’t think it’s remotely feasible anyway, even if it was a good idea. Maybe after another 10,000 years of human evolution. Funnily enough, not every youthful passion fades away; for instance, I’m probably more and more of an ardent feminist with each passing year.

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?

It’s not a work of art, as such, more a movement – but the aforementioned grunge music has been a seminal influence on me personally and my writing. I did a crime novel, Even Flow, which was basically the grunge ethos in vigilante form. Shiver the Whole Night Through takes its title and much of its tone from Nirvana (and Kurt is mentioned in the first paragraph). Another book, unpublished, called Pretend We’re Dead, is about a bunch of slackers whose lives and thoughts were profoundly shaped by grunge. As I said, I love everything about it: artistically, intellectually, emotionally, socially…maybe even metaphysically, who knows.

FEA_2014-01-29_LIF_044_30297410_I1Twin Peaks was also huge. In fact Shiver was, to some extent, my attempt at writing an Irish version of the great David Lynch drama. Murder mystery, small-town weirdness, supernatural elements, love story…and of course, the forest. It’s a character in its own right, in the show and book. Just that sustained mood of dread and reverie that Lynch evokes…man, it’s stayed with me for decades.

Finally, I’d like to pick a book but there are just so many… I’ll go for Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, one of my very-favourite novels. (Incidentally, I consider it a great work of YA literature too: the core story is about a lad of 14 and his fraught journey to some kind of emotional maturity and adult responsibility.) I was blown away the first time I read it, especially by the language Burgess invented for his narrator: English-Russian-Cockney-Gypsy and who knew what else. It really showed me the limitless possibilities of fiction. Great, great book. Real horrorshow, oh my droogies…

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

God – good question! I should have been a musician or painter or movie director or one of those lunatics who mutilates their own body and videos the whole thing and runs the video in a gallery and… Probably I write because A) I’m reasonably good at it, B) I love reading anyway so why not read my own stuff, C) as I say, I was too lazy to learn an instrument, D) I’m colour-blind so visual art is out and E) films cost billions to make and I’m way too neurotic myself to be dealing with tantrums and egos of actors.

6. Please tell us about your novel, Shiver The Whole Night Through.

It’s a YA mystery – sort of a noir-style detective story, with paranormal/horror elements, set in a small Irish town. The basic plot is: after months of bullying and romantic heartbreak, seventeen-year-old Aidan Flood feels just about ready to end it all. But when he wakes up one morning to find that town sweetheart Sláine McAuley actually has, he discovers a new sense of purpose, and becomes determined to find out what happened. One night Aidan gets a message, scratched in ice on his bedroom window: ‘I didn’t kill myself.’ Who is contacting him? And if Sláine didn’t end her own life…who did? Now Aidan must hunt down Sláine’s killers, and unravel the darker secrets surrounding the town. And he’s about to find out that in matters of life and death, salvation often comes in the unlikeliest of forms…

shiver-the-whole-night-throughNeedless to say, it’s great! Seriously, the reviews so far are very positive, and Shiver is on the (UK) Daily Telegraph’s Best YA 2014 list. Think Twin Peaks meets Twilight meets Let the Right One In meets the teen-detective movie Brick meets old Gothic horror stories. Or don’t think that at all, and just go into it blind.

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

This one specifically, a feeling that they’ve been thrilled, chilled, moved and entertained. For all the things we may say about our books, first and foremost you want to entertain the reader. Beneath that, I hope they get a sense of empathy and sympathy for bullying victims; it’s the scourge of society and always has been. Nothing worse than a bully. I hope they debate some of the themes with their friends e.g. is revenge ever justified? And I hope they’d have become as fond of Aidan, Sláine and Podsy as I am.

In general, I’d like to think people will put down one of my books and – whether they loved it or liked it or were indifferent or worse – at least they’d think it was authentic, distinctive, made with care and sincerity. I hope they’d think, “This guy’s writing isn’t like anyone else’s.

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

Oh wow, so many. Anthony Burgess, again: the man was just the most incredible virtuoso. Could write anything, any style and any genre, better than virtually anyone else. Jorge Luis Borges, because his ideas and technique were so unusual that he was almost an art-form unto himself. Margaret Atwood for being so witty and clever and making it look so easy. George Orwell for writing 1984, probably the greatest book I’ve ever read. Don DeLillo, for having the most unique literary voice I’ve ever read, and for somehow expressing the inexpressible in our existence, and illuminating the deep mysteries of it all… I’d better stop now or I really will keep going and going, possibly forever.

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

To write and publish a sequel to Shiver the Whole Night Through. To write and publish the several other ideas for YA novels that I’ve begun sketching out, plotting, pottering about with. To have my first novel and short-story collection published. To have that slacker novel published (dude). To write lots of screenplays and get filthy rich in Hollywood. To win an Oscar for one of them…and then refuse the Oscar. Ha!

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Everyone says this, but…read. Read, read, read. Not the internet or magazines; read books. All sorts of books, with a good smattering of classics. That can mean anything from Homer to Dickens to Graham Greene – whatever. Just something outside your comfort zone, outside your normal realm of thinking/reading (and they are, in a sense, two sides of the same coin). Something that stretches your mind. Read. Keep reading. Then start writing, but keep reading. Don’t ever stop reading! I cannot stress this enough!

Darragh, Thank you for playing.

A Q&A with the star of Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike

Loved the Gone Girl movie?  

We’ve teamed up with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to offer one lucky couple an all-expenses paid mini-break in Sydney. Just purchase a copy of the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn through Booktopia, for your chance to win! Scroll down for full details.

But for now, check out our interview with Academy-award nominee, Rosamund Pike.

GONE GIRL is now available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD.


An interview with Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike

An accomplished and well-respected actress previously best known for supporting roles, Rosamund Pike makes the leap to movie star with her incredible performance in Gone Girl, David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel.

As the title character, she disappears on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary and the finger of suspicion points to her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck). The film peels back the layers of their marriage in a complex and gripping tale of deceit, betrayal and murder.

Congratulations on a terrific performance…
Thank you. I feel if anyone ever says that it’s as much David as it is me. I feel he totally guides the building of the character. It’s definitely our sort of a combined vision, the character – plus obviously Gillian’s creation. But you can only do it when you’ve got a good director, can’t you? When you deal with a character that’s this complex and you’re obviously having to dig into some darker bits of your soul, you just want to be with a director who’s going to respect that and hold it and not betray you in any way.

What did you do to prepare for the role?
I worked with a boxer, but mainly because playing Amy at different stages there’s weight fluctuations. I had to gain and lose 12 pounds three times during the course of the film. And obviously a boxer is someone who’s used to resting above their fighting weight and then dropping weight to go into the ring. It was really difficult and really not easy using your body as a chemistry lab.

David wanted to check that I wasn’t frightened to explore anger, explore some of the darker sides. I suppose he wants to make sure that you’re happy to check your vanity at the door. Probably for both Ben [Affleck] and I, really. And go where the character needed to go. He was very helpful when we were working on Amy’s voice, ‘cause she is obviously American and a very specific type of American – that East Coast, educated, quite light voice. She actually has a slightly higher pitch voice than I do.

What do you like about Fincher’s films?
I like the way I’m asked to examine humanity and asked to examine people. And I feel he’s just always illuminating, often in a funny way, about how people really behave. Not just about what they’re trying to achieve in a scene, but sort of the tiny subtleties of how human beings work and manipulate each other. He seems to always manage to illuminate that. The message of this film is sort of: what do we do to each other? And I feel that’s sort of been what Fincher’s been about for a long time. He always illuminates something extra. In a scene that’s simply about one thing, he’ll make sure that another dimension comes in or you get a sense of some history. There’s a reason for the large number of takes and the way we would work on a scene for a long time. He’s adding layers all the time.

Did you read the book before shooting?
gone-girl-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-I read the book when I started talking to David. I found it very funny and cleverly observant. And I felt it was really about something I hadn’t seen – there were ideas that I’d never seen articulated in that way. Like the way this idea of the ‘cool girl’. Like Amy talks about it in the film: the idea that the modern woman wants to be the cool girl. She wants to be the girl that every guy wants. And that doesn’t necessarily mean being true to herself. That means putting on a sort of disguise. And there’s no definitive cool girl. The cool girl is whatever that particular man desires in a woman. If he’s a sort of the hipster artist, you know, she’ll be going to rare, out of the way warehouse shows and listening to very rare cut vinyl from 1982 or something. And if he’s a petrol head, she’ll be watching Formula One on TV and learning about classic cars or something. And that’s maybe not true to her, but she’ll happily try it on in order to attract a mate. Usually people laugh ‘cause they recognize truth in it.

Have you ever fallen into trying to be the ‘cool girl’?
Yes. I don’t necessarily think there’s something sinister about it. I mean, it can be sinister if you’re constantly acting. And I think I’m generally pretty wary of acting in a relationship, because it’s what I do for a living. I have to be pretty damn sure that the person who I’m with knows who I am. I mean, that is where I feel secure is when I know that I am known. Because I think I spend my whole life feeling like I’m actually unknown by most of the people who are trying to know me, like people like you. When you’re with someone, it’s very important that they really get who you really are. So I’m pretty wary of that. But purely because I do it for a living.

Do you think Gone Girl will propel you to a new level of recognition?
I have no idea. Luckily I’ve been around the block and I’ve had a share of success and a share of disappointment. I really know how this business works now. It takes a long time to really figure it out. And I can feel that there’s an interest right now that there wasn’t three years ago. But I’m also equally aware that that can just go away like that. I’m quite a realist in that respect.

Do you ever regret starting your film career in a Bond movie? Did that hinder you?
I don’t think it can be a regret ‘cause I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know anything about the film industry. I didn’t know how you’re accountable for your choices. I didn’t understand any of that. I thought that everything thrown at me was a fun adventure. I didn’t really realize that how judgmental people are.

You know, I was doing Pride And Prejudice, which is obviously a critically acclaimed and really excellent film, and then some studio came and offered me an action movie based on a video game [Doom]. And I thought that was so funny and so odd that I thought, well, that sounds just fun. I didn’t have the canniness to understand that was a really bad move right after you do something really great like Pride And Prejudice. I didn’t realize how it all added up.

The only difficult thing about Bond is that the image is so indelible. You know what I mean? It’s just so powerful. Historically I think a lot of people have thought that Bond girls are not actresses – that’s just who you were, who I was. And at that age, it certainly wasn’t. I was just back from backpacking having finished university, not really knowing quite how to go about the next bit of life. I went to the audition in a cardigan and with a suntan having literally just got back a few days before. It couldn’t have been further from the image of Miranda Frost that then became the thing that everybody saw. It was very odd. And I still think that that image is kind of what people see. Sometimes I realize that people are still looking at that.

When did you decide to become an actress?
GG-063 (600 x 399)I always knew. I knew that it was just a need to do it. But I didn’t ever think about film – it wasn’t even on my radar. I thought I’d be a theater actress, ‘cause that’s what I knew. And I just knew that that’s where I belonged. It was like knowing who your family is. ‘Cause I never thought I belonged anywhere. I never felt right sort of socially or in any of the worlds I was put in, I never felt right at school. I never felt right at university. I never felt like I fitted in. And yet when I went into the theater, I fitted in.

Amy is a very complex character – did it feel like you’d signed up for three roles at the same time?
I think everybody’s more than one thing. You’ve got a professional self you bring to these things, don’t you? You probably aren’t exactly showing everything. It’s just rare that you get a film that allows you to see all the different sides. It’s very boring if you watch a film – and we frequently do – where you watch a film and you think, ‘Okay, I know who this character is and then we’re going to have the scene where we’re asked to feel a little bit more about them, feel sympathy and there’s gonna be some scene where they tell us about their some family tragedy…’ You just sort of know how films operate. And in this one I don’t think you ever quite know how it’s going to be played out. With Amy, you just don’t know where she’s going. We like to think we’ve got a hold of somebody. And then she just blows it out of the water. That’s great fun.

How did you shake off the character after shooting Gone Girl?
I have a small son, which does help for. And David is not someone who really lets the neuroses happen. You know, we don’t have the hardest job in the world, let’s be frank. We have a very lucky, privileged job where we get to do what we love. We get to tell stories for a living. There is fear involved, but we’re not in imminent danger. We’re not in a job where we’re actually risking our lives. You have to have a healthy attitude towards it.

I think if there’s any difficulty, it’s the fact that you can never say the job is done. You don’t know when you’ve got to the end. You never get the satisfaction of completion. Because the possibilities are endless. But I think David has a pretty healthy attitude. I mean, I’m sure he’s as passionate however much he sort of plays it cool, you’ll occasionally get glimpses of his just unbounded passion for cinema. You see the little boy who was nine years old and saw Rear Window with his dad and you know that he’ll go home from set and be thinking about it nonstop and wanting to know how to make it better – as we all are. But you have to sort of realize that have to leave it behind and you have to move on.


Grab a copy of Gone Girl here

gone-girl-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn


Who are you? What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

To mark the Blu-ray & DVD release of Gone Girl on February 4, we’re offering one lucky couple the chance to win an all-expenses paid mini-break in Sydney.

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Grab a copy of Gone Girl here

Peter Swanson, author of The Kind Worth Killing, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Peter Swanson

author of The Kind Worth Killing & The Girl with a Clock Heart for a Heart

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 Carlisle, a farming town in Massachusetts, although it’s not much of a farming town anymore. It was a great childhood, one in which I had a lot of freedom and a lot of outdoors to explore. I went to public schools, and then to college in Connecticut. I now live in Massachusetts, which means that I’ve spent almost my entire life in New England. I guess I was lucky enough that I was born in a place that I love.

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

This is boring, I know, but I wanted to be a writer, a writer, and a writer, although at twelve I wanted to be a writer/adventurer, kind of an Ernest Hemingway figure. Best-selling books and African safaris. At eighteen I wanted to be Martin Amis, sleeping and boozing my way around some city. Oh, and also with the best-selling books. Then at thirty, I’d have settled for making any kind of money whatsoever from writing. A small paycheck and one reader would have made me very happy.

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

Author: Peter Swanson

Sticking with the theme of being a writer, I think I had the very mistaken belief that part of being a writer is developing a writer’s personality. Drinking scotch, smoking unfiltered cigarettes, acting like a jerk, when, in reality, becoming a writer is only about doing the writing.

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?

Number one would be the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve been obsessed with his movies since I was about ten years old. He just made so many terrific, and unique, thrillers, really pushing the art form. Number two would be the early novels of Robert Parker, who wrote the Spenser series of detective thrillers. Again, I read these when I was young, and they were my entryway into the world of thriller novels. Third would be John D. MacDonald, another American thriller writer. He wrote the Travis McGee series of books in the 1960s through the early 1980s. He was a brilliant writer who also knew how to plot a really exciting thriller. Not easy to do.

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

Trust me, there were very few artistic avenues open to me. Can’t sing, can’t act, can’t paint. I’d love to be able to do any of those things well, but it’s not going to happen in this lifetime.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

It’s called The Kind Worth Killing and it’s about what happens when two strangers meet in an airport bar and decide to tell each other their secrets.

(Publisher’s blurb: Delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched – but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?

Back in Boston, Ted’s wife Miranda is busy site managing the construction of their dream home, a beautiful house out on the Maine coastline. But what secrets is she carrying and to what lengths might she go to protect the vision she has of her deserved future?)

Grab a copy of Peter’s new novel The Kind Worth Killing here

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

I hope they take away a memory of being caught up in a thriller that made them forget about all the things we hope to forget about when we pick up a book. And I hope they think twice the next time they see someone attractive at a bar and decide to spill some secrets.

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

Stephen King. He’s the only contemporary writer who I am convinced will still be read in a hundred years. He’s written so many horror classics, plus a few duds, but he keeps challenging himself, and keeps putting in the work. Also, I’ve never met him, but everything I hear makes it sounds like he’s a guy worth knowing.

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

Honestly, to sell enough books so that I can keep doing this as a career. That’s about it. For a long time, my only ambition as a writer was to get one book published. That happened, and I upped my goals, so maybe I’ll up them again. A bestseller list? Sure, that would be nice.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write every day until you finish whatever it is that you’re working on, and then go back and edit. Getting the story right is so important, and I think that happens when writers push forward, spending time every day with what they’re working on.

Peter, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Kind Worth Killing here

The Kind Worth Killing

by Peter Swanson

‘Hello there.’

I looked at the pale, freckled hand on the back of the empty bar seat next to me in the business class lounge of Heathrow airport, then up into the stranger’s face.

‘Do I know you?’

Delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched – but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?

Back in Boston, Ted’s wife Miranda is busy site managing the construction of their dream home, a beautiful house out on the Maine coastline. But what secrets is she carrying and to what lengths might she go to protect the vision she has of her deserved future?

A sublimely plotted novel of trust and betrayal, The Kind Worth Killing will keep you gripped and guessing late into the night.

About the Author

Peter Swanson’s debut novel, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart, was described by Dennis Lehane as ‘a twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride’ and in the Observer as ‘very hard not to read in one sitting’. He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts.

 Grab a copy of The Kind Worth Killing here

What books are on Man Booker Prize Winning Author Richard Flanagan’s bookshelf?

Earlier this week The New Yorker produced a short film about Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan, focusing on his ‘writing shack’ on Bruny Island.

FlanoIt’s a beautiful piece, full of vintage musings on life, happiness and the writer’s life.

We also get a glimpse into the award-winning author’s writing room: a modest, empty desk with a laptop, a lamp and a couple of notepads. And a galah that sits next to him. Seriously, he is amazing, both Richard and the galah.

The real treat is a couple of lingering shots of Flanagan’s bookshelves, an intentionally small collection. ” I don’t keep many books here,” he says. “I keep the books I’m reading at the moment, but I do read a lot when I’m writing.’

Being the crafty book nerds that we are, we thought we’d compile a list of the books in Richard Flanagan’s bookcase, a look into the reading habits of one of Australia’s finest writers. Enjoy.

A Death in the Family: My Struggle
by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Light in August
by William Faulkner

by Will Self

Dear Life
by Alice Munro

Love in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Crossing to Safety
by Wallace Stegner

The Childhood of Jesus
by J. M. Coetzee

To Name Those Lost
by Rohan Wilson

The Blood of Heaven
by Kent Wascom

A Possible Life
by Sebastian Faulks

Alone in Berlin
by Hans Fallada

The Story of a New Name
by Elena Ferrante

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend
by Elena Ferrante

Troubling Love
by Elena Ferrante

Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Paradise Reclaimed
by Halldor Laxness

This War Never Ends: The Pain of Separation and Return
by Michael McKernan

Moscow, 1937
by Karl Schlogel

The First Man
by Albert Camus

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter
by Cesar Aira

Living to Tell the Tale
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The River Swimmer
by Jim Harrison

Long, Last, Happy: New and Collected Stories
by Barry Hannah

by William Faulkner

The Virgin and The Gipsy & Other Stories
by D. H. Lawrence

Sons and Lovers
by D. H. Lawrence

A Burnt-out Case
by Graham Greene

A Life Like Other People’s
by Alan Bennett

Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying – the Secret WWII Transcripts of German POWs
by Sonke Neitzel

Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East
by Reza Aslan

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

by Nicolas Rothwell

Sandakan: The Untold Story of the Sandakan Death Marches
by Paul Ham

Fallen Land
by Patrick Flanery

by J. M. Ledgard

The Accidental
by Ali Smith

A Meal in Winter
by Hubert Mingarelli

the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-northThe Narrow Road to the Deep North

Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize

by Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier.

Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

Grab a copy of Richard Flanagan’s award-winning
The Narrow Road to the Deep North here

Frané Lessac, author of A is for Australia, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Frané Lessac

author of A is for Australia

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 New Jersey and grew up in a small town outside of New York City. From my bedroom window, I could see the famous skyscraper skyline. As a child I spent weekends exploring museums and galleries. I had many pets including snakes, a monkey and a camel.

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

At twelve, I wanted to be an artist. I explored New York’s Greenwich Village with my snakes entwined around my arm. I loved watching the painters wearing their black berets and the poets reciting verse with the audience snapping their fingers in approval.

At eighteen, I moved to California and lived in a beach house in Malibu while studying Ethnographic Film at UCLA. My aim was to make films about ‘primitive’ tribes before they were swamped by western culture.

At thirty, I was living on a small Caribbean island. I realized I could share stories about people from around the world with words and art. I began painting the lush scenery, flora and fauna, and the colonial architecture of the island. I approached numerous publishers before one accepted my first book – The Little Island

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

Illustrator: Frané Lessac

At eighteen I believed in fate and now I believe we can influence our destiny.

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?

Rousseau and Matisse. Gauguin’s island sojourn, Matisse’s intricate patterns, colour and composition and Rousseau’s primitives. Looking back, I feel blessed that I had access to seeing their originals in person:
Gauguin: The Seed of the Areoi
Matisse: The Goldfish
Rousseau: The Gypsy

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to visual artists, why did you choose to illustrate books?

I continue to create large-scale oil paintings based on my travels for exhibitions, but when I realised I could share stories about people from around the world with art, I was inspired to write and illustrate books for children.

6. Please tell us about your latest published work…

When I came to Australia over twenty-five years ago, I fell instantly in love with the country and way of life. I found the Australian light and landscape a brand-new challenge. What inspired me most was the freshness of the scenery, the unusual flora and fauna and colour – the red ochre of the earth and the uniquely blue sky. The love of our country is what ultimately drove me to create A is fore Australia – A fantastic tour.

Grab a copy of Frané’s new novel A is for Australia here

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

A is for Australia is a celebration of Australian places and culture. I hope people can explore and discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. Perhaps become intrigued to visit some of the places in the book.

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

Children and their art as a whole, they just do it! They’re brave and they don’t doubt their talent.

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

My main ambition is to inspire people to paint, read, think and dream.

10. What advice do you give aspiring illustrators?

First of all build up a portfolio showing a diversity of style and subject matter. Include animals, children, and anything else you love to draw.  Send out sample postcards and A4 tear sheets to publishers, editors and art directors. Update the images and resend at least once or twice a year. Research what’s appropriate for their publishing lists. Join organizations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). It’s the best way to keep your finger on the children’s book publishing pulse.

Frané, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of A is for Australia

A is for Australia

by Frané Lessac

A factastic tour of Australia from A to Z with award-wining author and illustrator Frane Lessac.

What is the Fremantle Doctor? Where is Qui Qui? And why are some islands named after days of the week? You’ll uncover these exciting facts when you explore the A to Z of Australia – from Bondi to Kakadu and all the way to Taronga Zoo. Discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world!

About the Author

Frané Lessac is an author and illustrator of international renown, having over forty children’s books published throughout the world. She was born in the USA and lived on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and London before moving to Australia. Frane has contributed her distinctive paintings to many critically acclaimed children’s picture books, including My Little Island, a Reading Rainbow feature book. Also, On the Same Day in March was named a Top Ten Science Books by ALA Booklist.

 Grab a copy of A is for Australia


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