Stephanie Alexander, author of The Cook’s Companion, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Stephanie Alexander

author of The Cook’s Companion

Six Sharp Questions
___________

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

Not a new book at all but a thorough revision of my classic and very successful The Cook’s Companion.

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

I have moved house which went from being the worst possible experience to go through to the best decision I have made. I also embraced digital technology and worked with a great team to convert the full text of The Cook’s Companion to a marvellous app.

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 dad said to me! ‘ nothing or nobody is as good or as bad as they first appear’. Interesting observation but not very profound but for some reason it has stuck in my head.

Stephanie-Alexander

Author: Stephanie Alexander

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.

Live alone so only have to cope with myself although that is not always easy. I write best early in morning and for long stretches in the weekends.

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 have been writing about food and produce and the power of the shared table for more than 35 years. Seem to have influenced the marketplace actually as the food media has just gone on expanding as have cookbooks.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only a few books with you. What do you take and why?

The cook’s Companion volume, and also the Cook’s Companion App and get them all cooking.

Stephanie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here


9781920989002The Cook’s Companion

by Stephanie Alexander

The Cook’s Companion has established itself as the kitchen ‘bible’ in over 500,000 homes since it was first published in 1996.

This 2014 revision includes two major new chapters, two expanded chapters, 70 new recipes and a complete revision of the text to reflect changes in the marketplace and new regulations. Stephanie believes that good food is essential to living well: her book is for everyone, every day. She has invaluable information about ingredients, cooking techniques and kitchen equipment, along with inspiration, advice and encouragement and close to 1000 failsafe recipes.

About the Author

For 21 years from 1976, Stephanie Alexander was the force behind Stephanie’s restaurant in Hawthorn, a landmark establishment credited with having revolutionised fine dining in Melbourne. From 1997 to 2005 Stephanie, along with several friends, ran the Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood restaurant renowned for its specialist cheese retailing. In her recently published memoir, A Cook’s Life, she recounts how her uncompromising dedication to good food has shaped her life and changed the eating habits of a nation.

One of Australia’s most highly acclaimed food authors, Stephanie has written fourteen books, including Stephanie’s Menus for Food Lovers, Stephanie’s Seasons and Stephanie Alexander & Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook (co-author). Her signature publication, The Cook’s Companion, has established itself as the kitchen bible in over 400 000 homes. With characteristic determination, Stephanie initiated the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in order to allow young children to experience the very things that made her own childhood so rich: the growing, harvesting, cooking and sharing of good food.

Grab a copy of The Cook’s Companion here

 

Nine Naughty Questions with… Jennifer St George, author of Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon.

tempted-by-the-billionaire-tycoonThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

 Jennifer St George

author of Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon

Nine Naughty Questions

———————————-

1. I wonder, is a romance writer born or made? Please tell us a little about your life before publication.

I suppose they could be both, but I was certainly a romance writer that was made. Before taking up a creative pen, I spent twenty years in corporate marketing and management consulting roles.  Some career highlights include launching Guinness beer in Russia; reaching 40 million people through a publicity campaign that ‘gave away’ a pub in Ireland and launching the Ford Ka brand in Australia. It took determination and hard work to transform from a business executive to a published romance author. Having said that, I’d always loved reading and books, which is a good start for any writer.

2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why romance readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?

I don’t know about exposed, but I do become quite emotional while writing my stories.  Often while drafting the ‘black moment’, when all seems lost, I’m crying my eyes out. Other times I feel completely exhausted after writing a scene. I put my characters through hell and I can’t help feeling their pain (and their joy of course!)

00000069873. Please tell us about your latest novel…

A series of strange accidents are occurring at Sirona, a luxury spa resort in the picturesque English countryside. Billionaire owner Nic Capitini wants the person responsible sacked. But the law requires he give three official warnings. Nic checks in undercover to gather the evidence he needs, and when he arrives to find his general manager, Poppy Bradford enjoying the spa’s facilities, he doesn’t think it will prove very challenging.

But, it isn’t long before Nic realises that not only is Poppy beautiful, she’s a brilliant manager and the chemistry between them is undeniable. When Poppy herself is threatened, it seems clear the incidents are part of a systematic campaign of sabotage. Even though he believes she’s innocent, Nic knows Poppy is hiding something. But will learning her secret mean losing her forever?

Grab a copy of Jennifers’s novel Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon here

4. Is the life of a published Romance writer… well… Romantic?

I like to think so. I knew I was up for a lifetime of romance when my now husband flew across the world (I lived in London, he lived in Brisbane) to declare his undying love after only knowing me for three weeks.

Everyday romance-writing life however, it a lot of hard work and copious amounts of coffee! But, I do try to visit the locations I set my stories. Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon (my latest story) is set in Paris, Versailles and the Lake District (UK). I travelled to all these places to ensure I captured the essence of each location. A nice job perk!

the-billionaire-s-pursuit-of-love5. Of all of the Romantic moments in your life is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the Romantic elements in your writing? If so can you tell us about that special moment?

My husband’s international dash outlined above is pretty hard to top, so yes, my heroes have to work pretty hard as I have very high romantic standards.

6. Sex in Romance writing today ranges from ‘I can’t believe they’re allowed to publish this stuff’ explicit to ‘turn the light back on I can see something’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a romance novel?

I write sexy category romance stories in glamorous international settings, so sex is a vital ingredient in all my novels. But, I think building the sexual tension in the story is critical to delivering an emotional and engaging read.

isbn97818440803807. Romance writers are often Romance readers – please tell us your five favourite (read and re-read) romance novels or five novels that influenced your work most?

1. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
2. Pride and Prejudice –  Jane Austen (I recently visited her house in Hampshire where she wrote the book…fascinating)
3, 4 and 5. Anything by category romance authors, Kelly Hunter, Rachel Bailey and Amy Andrews (I could go on and on and on)

8. Erotic Romance writing is ‘so hot right now’, do you have any thoughts on why?

I have to admit it is not really a genre I read, but I suspect it is a great way to escape into a fantasy world that whips reader away from the every day. There’s something pretty exciting about having a hot werewolf imprint on you or a vampire bite you so you live forever!

9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read and learn (and never stop) and write, write, write.

Once I decided I wanted to be a romance writer, I voraciously read the types of books I wanted to write.  I wanted to understand readers’ expectations. I travelled all over Australia to attend the best romance writing courses and I didn’t let rejection stop me. I kept writing until I got that call.  Also, I’d recommend joining Romance Writers of Australia…it will save you years of wandering around in the romance-writing wilderness!

Thanks for joining us Jennifer!


tempted-by-the-billionaire-tycoonTempted by the Billionaire Tycoon

by Jennifer St George

The latest sexy international romance from the bestselling author of The Billionaire’s Pursuit of Love.

Three strikes and you’re out…

A series of strange accidents are occurring at Sirona, a luxury spa resort in the picturesque English countryside. Billionaire owner Nic Capitini wants the person responsible sacked. But the law requires he give three official warnings. Nic checks in undercover to gather the evidence he needs, and when he arrives to find his general manager enjoying the spa’s facilities, he doesn’t think it will prove very challenging.

Despite first impressions, it isn’t long before Nic realises that not only is Poppy Bradford beautiful, she’s a brilliant manager who runs the resort superbly. And the chemistry between them is undeniable. When Poppy herself is threatened, it seems clear the incidents are part of a systematic campaign of sabotage. Even though he believes she’s innocent, Nic knows Poppy is hiding something. But will learning her secret mean losing her forever?

Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon is part of the Billionaire series by Jennifer St George, but can certainly be enjoyed as a stand-alone book.

Grab a copy of Jennifers’s novel Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon here

Amy Ewing, author of The Jewel, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Amy Ewing

author of The Jewel

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 Boston, MA, and raised in a small town called Norwood, just outside Boston. I moved to New York City in 2000 to study theatre at New York University. My acting career didn’t quite pan out, and I ended up going back to school in 2010, this time to The New School, where I received a master’s degree in Writing for Children.

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

An actor, an actor, and a writer. I loved performing—I did all the high school plays, and as I said before, I studied theatre in college. I was very shy as a child, and acting helped bring me out of my shell. Writing was always something I did just for me, and I never thought about pursuing it as a career until later in life. I’m certainly glad I did!

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

Author: Amy Ewing

I’m not sure if it was eighteen exactly, but when I was younger I remember thinking that I absolutely had to be married by the time I was thirty. I had this whole idea of what made a “happy” life. At thirty two and single, I’m must say, I’m pretty content with my life just as it is. External factors, like marriage, don’t guarantee happiness.

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?

My first literary love was Roald Dahl. I devoured his books as a child and I loved the darkness in them. When I was eighteen, I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which made me fall head over heels for high fantasy. And, since acting has truly influenced my writing so much, I’ll say Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a play by Steve Martin. There was a monologue in that play that I loved to read over and over again, about art and freedom and what it means to be a woman. It was the monologue that I performed for my NYU audition.

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

Well, I’ve certainly tried many different creative endeavors! Acting, obviously, and I also play guitar and write my own songs. But in the end, I think what drew me to writing books was how all you need is a pen, paper, and your imagination. It’s something that can absolutely be done on your own.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Jewel is my debut novel. It’s about a city where young girls are auctioned off as surrogates to royal women who can no longer have children on their own. It’s a world of opulence and cruelty, where surrogates are mistreated, humiliated, and even killed. It explores the idea of choice, and having the freedom to decide what happens to you. And there are some cute boys too :)

Grab a copy of Amy’s debut novel The Jewel here

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

I certainly hope they will think about the importance of having ownership over your own body. That’s an issue I’m deeply passionate about. And I hope they enjoy living in this darkly glamorous world as much as I do.

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

Writing a series, I have to give J.K. Rowling all the credit for writing seven, incredibly well-conceived, planned, thought-out books. It’s much harder than I thought, writing a trilogy, and I thought it was going to be hard. I also can’t imagine my life without Harry Potter—there is so much love in those books, and every time I read one, I feel myself slipping away into a world I adore living in.

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

My goal was to publish a book, so that got achieved! And now my goal is, quite simply, to keep writing more books. That’s the only part of this process that I can actually control. So that’s what I try to focus on. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t give up! This whole publishing thing is really hard, and takes time, and involves a lot of rejection. I failed spectacularly with my first book. Keep writing. Keep pushing through. It’s worth it in the end.

Amy, thank you for playing.


Amy Ewing’s The Jewel is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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the-jewelThe Jewel

by Amy Ewing

This is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing. The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.

Violet Lasting is no longer a human being. Tomorrow she becomes Lot 197, auctioned to the highest royal bidder in the Jewel of the Lone City. Tomorrow she becomes the Surrogate of the House of the Lake, her sole purpose to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess.

Imprisoned in the opulent cage of the palace, Violet learns the brutal ways of the Jewel, where the royal women compete to secure their bloodline and the surrogates are treated as disposable commodities. Destined to carry the child of a woman she despises, Violet enters a living death of captivity – until she sets eyes on Ash Lockwood, the royal Companion. Compelled towards each other by a reckless, clandestine passion, Violet and Ash dance like puppets in a deadly game of court politics, until they become each other’s jeopardy – and salvation.

It will appeal to fans of dystopian, dark romance, stepping beyond the paranormal craze. It is perfect for fans of Allie Condie and The Hunger Games. It is a debut novel from a radical new voice in YA.

It is the first book in The Lone City trilogy.

Amy Ewing’s The Jewel is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Joakim Zander, author of The Swimmer, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joakim Zander

author of The Swimmer

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 Stockholm but I grew up mostly in a small town called Söderköping on the east coast of Sweden. When I was 15 my father got a job working for the United Nations in the Middle East, so we packed our bags and moved to Damascus, Syria and then on to northern Israel for a year. Moving from the sleepy small town where I grew up to the Middle East was transformational in every way. Some of my memories from that time have also found their way into The Swimmer.

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

I only ever wanted to be a writer. It just took a long time for me to find a story that was mine to tell.

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

I think I had a strong belief that I would be a writer when I was eighteen. But I was not brave enough to give that a go then, so I became a lawyer instead. Now, twenty years later the strongly held belief of the eighteen-year-old has become reality.

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?

1) John Le Carre’s The Spy Who came in From the Cold

2) William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

3) J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.

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

I love music and art. But not as much as I love books. Reading and writing have always been natural parts of my life, so it doesn’t feel like I ever made a choice on art form. Also, I am terrible at drawing and cannot carry a tune, so my options were limited.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Swimmer is a spy story that is told in multiple voices and which takes place on several continents and in different time periods. The main plot line involves young careerists in Brussles and Sweden that accidentally come into possession of information that finds them chased through a wintery Europe. In parallel, the book tells the story of an ageing American spy who tries to escape his past but finally has no choice but to confront himself and his own choices head on. I have tried very hard to make the story fast paced and filled with action, while at the same time maintaining a reflective or contemplative tone
in certain parts. I hope that I have succeeded…

Grab a copy of Joakim’s latest novel The Swimmer here

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

First of all, I hope that the readers feel entertained and that the story gets their hearts racing. I also hope that it gives an insight to the lives of young, ambitious Europeans in Brussels. If readers leave the book thinking about the larger themes of regret, guilt and redemption that is a huge bonus.

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

There are too many… But in the spy field, I would have to mention Le Carre for his characters and intelligence.

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

Getting published in Sweden seemed an almost unachievable goal to begin with… And now that The Swimmer gets published all around the world it feels entirely surreal. My goal is to keep writing and I really, really hope that readers will find my books and like them.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Creativity is great. Discipline is greater.

Joakim, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Swimmer here


The Swimmer

by Joakim Zander

A lyrical, cinematic thriller that races between Europe’s halls of power, the CIA headquarters in Virginia, Middle Eastern war zones, and the clifftops of the Swedish archipelago.

Klara Walldeen was orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents on a remote Swedish archipelago. She is now a political aide in Brussels – and she has just seen something she shouldn’t: something people will kill to keep hidden.

On the other side of the world, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action, so dedicated to the cause that he abandoned his baby daughter to keep his cover. Now the only thing he lives for is swimming in the local pool. Then, on Christmas eve, Klara is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe. Only the Swimmer can save her. But time is running out…

This is an electrifying thriller from a brilliant new talent. Published in twenty-seven countries and already a bestseller in Sweden, The Swimmer is on the cusp of becoming a global phenomenon.

 Grab a copy of The Swimmer here

Gary Gibson, author of Extinction Game, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Gary Gibson

author of Extinction Game, Final Days series and many 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?

Born in Glasgow, Scotland. Raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Schooled in Glasgow, Scotland. Well, mostly, apart from a few years living in Ayrshire. Or, as I like to think of it, north of the Ice Wall amongst the WIldlings.

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

At twelve, I pretty much wanted to be Arthur C. Clarke. Actually, I also wanted to shave my head and wear white robes like the Talosian in the original Star Trek. That’s when I started thinking about writing since I was already sucking up science fiction books like a Roomba in a universe of dust-bunnies. By eighteen, I’d decided I wanted to be Jimmy Page (guitarist in Led Zeppelin) because I’d just moved back to Glasgow from darkest Ayrshire and discovered rock music. The writing took a back seat for a while. But in my mid-twenties, I’d had a kind of Damascene moment and started writing again. By the time I was thirty I’d had a couple of short stories published in pro sf and fantasy magazines.

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

Author: Gary Gibson

That logic and reason will always win any argument. It took a lot of bumps to work out logic and reason are the last things a lot of people ever want to hear.

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?

There’s no three things. It’s everything, all at once, poured into a single Gary Gibson-shaped mould. But if you kidnapped my dog – that is, if I had a dog – and showed me a live stream of it held over a bucket of piranhas and demanded I answer, I’d pick: Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge, Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, and the Gaia trilogy by John Varley. If I’ve got any influences, it’s those three. Probably.

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

It’s a falsity to say there are ‘innumerable’ artistic avenues open to anyone. Well, there are, but whether you’re actually any good at them is another matter. I “chose” to write a novel because it turns out that’s what I’m good at it, it’s fun, and there’s pretty much nothing else I can think of I might possibly want to do with my life.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest is Extinction Game. I couldn’t just sit down and write a straight post-apocalyptic book, because it’s been done so many times. I needed something extra. A classic post-apocalyptic trope is the Last Man on Earth story, so since I’d been reading up on theories regarding the idea we live in a multiverse of infinite parallel realities, it made sense that there must also be an infinite number of universes in which different people are the last man or woman on Earth.

From there it didn’t take much more than a hop or skip to figure out an interesting story lay in bringing those people together through some technology that allows travel from one alternate reality to another. Why write a book about one world-destroying apocalypse, when you can write a book that by definition includes every single possible apocalypse?

Grab a copy of Gary’s latest novel Extinction here

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

An immediate desire to send me the entire contents of their bank accounts and the deeds to their homes. I’m not saying I planted any post-hypnotic suggestions in my books or anything, but…

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

Anyone who writes what they choose to write, regardless of what others think.

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

To produce a book a year; to always improve; to maintain a healthy level of self-criticism that allows me to grow as a writer; to be ambitious, in the sense of never resting on my laurels; to surprise, entertain and delight; to be raised to Godhood and worshipped by milli…ok, maybe not that last one.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

To understand that what appears to be failure is instead an opportunity to define and build on your true strengths.

Gary, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Extinction Game here


Extinction Game

by Gary Gibson

Jerry Beche should be dead. Instead, he’s rescued from a desolate Earth where he was the last man alive. He’s then trained for the toughest conditions imaginable and placed with a crack team of specialists. Every one of them is a survivor, as each withstood the violent ending of their own alternate Earth. And their new specialism? To retrieve weapons and data in missions to other apocalyptic worlds.

But what is ‘the Authority’, the shadowy organization that rescued Beche and his fellow survivors? How does it access other timelines? And why does it need these instruments of death? As Jerry struggles to obey his new masters, he begins to distrust his new companions. A strange bunch, their motivations are less than clear, and accidents start plaguing their missions. Jerry suspects the Authority is feeding them lies, and team members are spying on him. As a dangerous situation spirals into catastrophe, is there anybody he can trust?

 Grab a copy of Extinction Game here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Ross Coulthart, author of Charles Bean, chats to John Purcell


Ross Coulthart’s Charles Bean is a featured title in HarperCollins’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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charles-bean-order-your-signed-copy-Charles Bean

by Ross Coulthart

CEW Bean’s wartime reports and photographs mythologised the Australian soldier and helped spawn the notion that the Anzacs achieved something nation-defining on the shores of Gallipoli and the battlefields of western Europe. In his quest to get the truth, Bean often faced death beside the Diggers in the trenches of Gallipoli and the Western Front – and saw more combat than many. But did Bean tell Australia the whole story of what he knew? In this fresh new biography Ross Coulthart explores the man behind the legend.

About the Author

From Channel 7’s Sunday Night, Ross Coulthart is one of Australia’s leading investigative journalists. He has won a Logie and five Walkley journalism awards including the Gold Walkley. Ross is the author of the magnificent Lost Diggers. Like CEW Bean, Ross Coulthart studied law, became a journalist and has covered conflicts in hostile war zones such as East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has always admired Bean’s courage and scrupulous honesty, and now he brings his journalist’s eye to the real story of the man who was one of Australia’s earliest embedded war reporters.

 Ross Coulthart’s Charles Bean is a featured title in HarperCollins’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Karen Brooks, author of The Brewer’s Tale, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karen Brooks

author of The Brewer’s Tale and The Curse of the Bond Riders series

Six Sharp Questions
___________

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

Thank you! The Brewer’s Tale is an epic story about a medieval woman’s efforts to support her family in the wake of tragedy by taking up the trade by which her mother’s family prospered: brewing ale. What she doesn’t count on is her humble efforts attracting first the attention and then the enmity of powerful men whose mission is to see her fail at any cost. It’s a story of great passion, terrible betrayal, fierce loyalty; about someone remarkable rising above catastrophe and, despite the forces moving against and with her, never losing hope.

The book means the world to me as it’s the first novel I wrote after losing one of my best friends and being chronically ill as well. The idea came to me during a very dark time and it was a blessing and a delight to write – also the amazing people it brought into my orbit and the long-term impact it’s having are astounding and more than a little bit magic. Because it’s my first work of historical fiction and released into the adult market, it also holds a very dear place in my heart and head. It’s like being a first-time novelist all over again – thrilling and utterly nerve-wracking.

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

It’s been a few years of dark and light, but you can’t appreciate one without the other, can you? That whole “you can’t have rainbows without rain” philosophy is very true. On the best side, there’s been the writing of and build up to the publication of The Brewer’s Tale and the enthusiasm and support of my wonderful agent, Selwa Anthony, and fabulous publishers, Harlequin, never mind my husband, Stephen, kids, and friends.

Stephen, inspired by the research he helped me with for the novel, has opened his own craft brewery, Captain Bligh’s Ale and Cider, in Hobart. There was also his riotous 50th in August, shared with fantastic and beloved friends, many who travelled long distances to be with us. There’s nothing like the company and love of family and friends to remind you of how lucky you are and have been, even when you despair. On the worst side, there have been cancer diagnoses, hospital trips, operations, illness, recovery, and sadly, the death of Stephen’s dad, Ron Brooks, and the tragic loss of one of my dearest friends, Sara Douglass.

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.tallow

I have two that are meaningful to me. “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” Henry David Thoreau
It’s like a kick up the bum and reminder not just to live in your head, but get out there and experience life and love, and all the wonderful risks these entail.

And, “A truth that’s told with bad intent/Beats all the lies you can invent” William Blake.
I can’t stand liars… but I have more trouble with people who use the phrase, “I’m just being honest” or hide behind “honesty” to hurt others. No, you’re not being honest; you’re being mean. So unnecessary – if we were all kinder to each other, and ourselves, the world really would be a better place.

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.

Who describes writers that way? Who? Show me! LOL! I think if you asked my husband, you might get a different answer. I don’t think I’m “difficult” to live with… I hope not. A bit schizophrenic sometimes when I am lost in a novel and carrying around dozens of different characters and their voices in my head (Stephen just sighs when I don’t answer him sometimes and says, “You’re in the ‘zone”, aren’t you?”), but otherwise, I believe I’m normal, apart from wanting to talk about the period I’m writing in or comparing standards of living, clothes, politics, customs etc of the past to now… Oh, that makes me sound so boring!

I treat writing as a regular job. I go to my study each morning and work an eight-ish hour day, knock off for dinner, go out on weekends, walk the dogs daily, play with the cats, watch crap and good TV, read, meet up with friends, travel. I’m a professional writer (I also write a weekly newspaper column for the Courier Mail) and do take everything about the work seriously (as in, I respect the profession and everyone involved). The only time I get a little pissed off is when people think because you work at home it’s OK to pop around or phone for a chat – any time. That separation of home and office (when they’re one in the same) isn’t hard for me, but is for some others. Actually, that’s when I can be difficult. Oh dear. A little terse, shall we say? I struggle with being pulled out of the zone… But come beer or wine o’clock, I’m anyone’s… ummm… that came out wrong. You know what I mean!

Author: Karen Brooks

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 sit somewhere in the middle. I don’t obsess over it but neither do I completely ignore it. As a reader, and someone who reviews books, I am aware of trends and changes, but I don’t let these dictate what I write. Neither will I, say, go and write a book about sparkly vampires (done) or erotica (I don’t think I could – there are others absolutely excellent at that). I take the advice of my agent; write to my strengths, but also with one eye on commercial appeal. I would be a fool not to, I think.

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?

Complete Works of William Shakespeare (I know this is sort of cheating, but you can get them in one book!): We’d not only read them together, but also act out each play. If Shakespeare does not cover human experience, plumb emotional depths, prompt laughter, tears, fear, rage, frustration, despair, betrayal, magic, mayhem, great love and passion, as well as terrible tragedy, all of which contribute to understanding and thus civilising humans, then we are lost before we begin. In taking on roles in each play, the kids would invest in the characters and their actions, learn about what motivates people and the consequences of certain choices and behaviours, learn so much about life and each other, and have great fun to boot. If I could only chose one play, I would read and perform Macbeth – what isn’t there to like about ghosts, witches, daggers appearing and disappearing, drunken porters, slaughtering kings, mad queens, walking woods, prophecies, blood and consequences?

Homer: The Odyssey. Great epic fantasy and superhero story all rolled into one with war, traitors, a throne and lives at stake. A great read, an adventure for the ages with powerful lessons at its heart about loyalty, nobility, friendship, honour, love, father-son relationships, forces beyond our control and how the monsters you face are sometimes within.

Philip Pullman: The Northern Lights. Almost for the same reasons as above. A classic story of friendship, courage, risk-taking, trust, loyalty, honour, faith, manipulation and how to rise above the plots and cunning of those who don’t have your best interests at heart. The true meaning of sacrifice is also explored in a tale that spans worlds as well as science, religion and magic.

9780747590583Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner. A heart-wrenching and sublime story of friendship, class and ethnic difference, politics and their cruel impact on ordinary people, war, families, terrible brutality, forgiveness and love, told initially through the eyes of a wealthy young boy against the backdrop of the last years of the Afghanistani monarchy. At once moving and shocking, reading this book changes you. It’s a tale that intricately explores how actions and consequences are so interrelated, how seemingly innocent choices (or not so innocent) can have devastating and unforseen outcomes. It explores the damage lies can wield but also how they can be told to protect. Such an ethical, tragically beautiful and beautifully tragic book, populated with characters who sometimes struggle to find their moral compass, it has lessons to teach every reader of any age in abundance. Even unruly, ill-educated teens would love this accessible, wonderful book.

William Goldman: The Princess Bride. Number of reasons I chose this one. Not only is it a great read, but because it’s also a parody of so many other heroic princess-in-distress-is-saved-be unlikely-hero and revenge (Inigo Montoya) fairytales with swords, beasts, giants, ruthless kings, wonky magic, gorgeous leads and flawed side-kicks, it also opens the opportunity to tell the stories it draws from as well. The tale of Westley and Buttercup and the characters that enter their lives and either try to tear them apart or ensure they live “happily-ever-after” (a concept that is also played with in the novel) is timeless, funny, unbearably sad and unputdownable. And, if the ill-educated adolescents have seen the film, we can act it out. I bags being Inigo! “As you wish…”

Karen, thank you for playing.


Karen Brooks’ The Brewer’s Tale is a featured title in Harlequin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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the-brewer-s-taleThe Brewer’s Tale

by Karen Brooks

It had been Mother’s secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on. When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale.

Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well. Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy.

Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring. Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail? A compelling insight into the brewer’s craft, the strength of women, and the myriad forms love can take.

Karen Brooks’ The Brewer’s Tale is a featured title in Harlequin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

Booktoberfest - Rotating HomePage Banner 770x200 - FINAL

 

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