GUEST BLOG: What Katie Read – The June/July Round Up (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of The Impossible Quest, Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and now The Beast’s Garden, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

It has been a busy few months for me! Every June, I run a writers’ retreat and literary tour in Oxford and the Cotswolds (http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/writing-retreat-in-the-cotswolds) and I always set a reading list for my students. So many of the books I read during June were books that we talked about in class – books filled with history, mystery and magic.


The Vanishing Witchthe-vanishing-witch

by Karen Maitland

I’ve really loved Karen Maitland’s earlier books, which are probably best described as medieval supernatural thrillers, and so I was keen to read her latest book. The Vanishing Witch is set during the troubled reign of Richard II, and features a number of scenes set during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. One of the most striking aspects of Karen’s writing is the way she brings the 14th century world so vividly to life, with all its stench and dirt and fear. These are superstitious times, rammed home by small quotations of the time at the beginning of each chapter. Some are quite amusing, but others are truly chilling in their advice on how to identify witches or cure illnesses.

The story follows the entwining fortunes of two families. The first is that of Robert of Bassingham, a wealthy wool merchant, and his wife and two sons. The other is a mysterious widow with one grown-up son and a younger daughter.

Then Robert’s wife dies in mysterious circumstances and he finds himself entranced with the beautiful young widow and her family. Death follows death, as Robert and his sons find themselves drawn deeper into intrigue and witchcraft.

Vivid and suspenseful, The Vanishing Witch also has a wry-voiced ghost who watches and waits and plots …

Grab a copy of The Vanishing Witch here

 


the-forgotten-gardenThe Forgotten Garden

by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden is one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors, and a pleasure to revisit. It has everything I could possibly want: a foundling child, an old book of mysterious fairy tales, a maze that leads to a secret garden, a mystery to be solved, and a love story – it’s as if Kate Morton set out to write the perfect book for me.

The book is cleverly structured like a Russian doll, with stories within stories, histories inside histories. Modern-day Cassandra inherits a mysterious house in Cornwall after her beloved grandmother Nell dies. As she explores the house and its forgotten garden, she discovers that there was much about Nell she did not know – and indeed, that Nell did not know. For Nell was a foundling child, and does not know her own history.

At the heart of the novel is the old book of fairy tales written by the Victorian Authoress, Eliza Makepeace. Like so many old tales, Eliza’s stories have two levels of meaning … and if Cassandra can just decipher the secret the stories hide, she may find out the truth about her grandmother’s dark past.

I’m not alone in my love of Kate Morton’s books – millions of readers attest to her popularity – but if by chance you have not read this wonderful book, I’d urge you to grab it now.

Grab a copy of The Forgotten Garden here

 


The Taxidermist’s Daughterisbn9781409153764

by Kate Mosse

An utterly gripping murder mystery with gorgeous lyrical prose and the pace of a thriller, The Taxidermist’s Daughter was an absolute delight to read. Set in Sussex in 1912, the story begins with local villagers gathering in a churchyard to follow an old superstition that says, on that night, the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year will be seen.

Our heroine is Constantia Gifford. Her father once owned a world-famous museum of taxidermy, but now all that is left is a few decaying specimens. The family is haunted by secrets from the past. Connie has lost her memory, and her father takes his solace from a bottle.

In the morning, the body of a dead woman is discovered at the bottom of their garden. Connie must try to find out who is responsible, even as lost memories from the past rise to haunt her.

Haunting, beautiful, horrifying and absolutely unputdownable, The Taxidermist’s Daughter shows just what can be done with the historical mystery genre.

Grab a copy of The Taxidermist’s Daughter here


Falling Angels9780007217236

by Tracy Chevalier

Another old favourite by a favourite author. Falling Angels is not as widely known as Girl With A Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier’s most celebrated book, but is, I think, even better. It has a bold and unconventional structure, with a series of very short chapters told in first person from a multitude of different characters. Some of the chapters are only a few paragraphs; one is only two short lines. It breaks so many rules about narrative structure, but I think it is utterly brilliant and brave. The story itself is riveting. Two families that live next door to each other, in the shadow of a graveyard, in the tumultuous years of change between Queen Victoria’s death in 1910 and King Edward’s death in 1910. It also has one of my all-time favorite last lines.

Grab a copy of Falling Angels here

 


affinityAffinity

by Sarah Waters

I have never read one of Sarah Waters’ books before. Now I want to gobble them all down as fast as I can get my greedy hands on them. Affinity is just brilliant. It tells the story of Margaret, a depressed young Victorian woman, who begins visiting the women’s ward at Millbank Prison as part of a do-gooder charity mission. She meets a number of different women, some incarcerated for acts that today would not be considered crimes. Among them is a beautiful young woman named Selina Dawes. Selina is a spiritualist. She was imprisoned after one of her séances went horribly wrong, causing the death of one woman and the psychological stress of another. Margaret finds herself reluctantly convinced of Selena’s clairvoyant powers, and draw to her beauty and fragility.

I don’t want to say much more, because the brilliance of this book is in its clever and surprising plot. I can say, though, with absolute conviction: READ IT!

Grab a copy of Affinity here


The Tide Watchers9780062379122

by Lisa Chaplin

The time of the Napoleonic wars is such a fascinating period and there are still so many stories to be told. Lisa Chaplin (who is a friend of mine) has discovered the intriguing untold story of a group of British spies working undercover in France in the early 19th century, trying to prevent the French invasion of Great Britain.

At the heart of Lisa’s tale is a young English woman, Lisbeth, and her determination to win back her baby son who has been taken by his violent French aristocratic father.   In order to gain the help of the British establishment, Lisbeth goes undercover in the house of the hot-tempered and brilliant American inventor, Robert Fulton (a real-life character), who is working on making the world’s first submarine. How far is Lisbeth prepared to go to win Robert Fulton’s trust and gain control of the submarine? This moral dilemma helps drive the suspense, as Lisbeth fights her attraction for one of the British agents, yet knows the only way to get back her son is to win Robert Fulton’s heart.

The Tide Watchers is a surprising and unusual historical thriller with a twist of romance that will appeal to anyone who loves books set in the 19th century.

Grab a copy of The Tide Watchers here


I am also in the early stages of writing and researching a new novel, and so I read a great many non-fiction books this month on the Pre-Raphaelites. I am planning a book about Edward Burne-Jones and his famous Briar Rose series of paintings, and so much of my reading is centred on his work and that of his great friend and colleague, William Morris. The books are all so fascinating, I thought I’d share them with you.

lizzie-siddal

Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel

by Lucinda Hawksley

Like many others, I’ve always been fascinated by the brief tragic life of Lizzie Siddal, whose face appears in so many early Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

She rose to become one of the most famous faces in Victorian Britain and a pivotal figure of London’s artistic world, until tragically ending her life in 1862.

Grab a copy of Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel here


A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin9780140284898

by Judith Flanders

The Macdonald sisters were a fairly ordinary mid-Victorian family. Their father was a Methodist preacher, their mother a chronic invalid. They moved often, following their father’s itinerant preaching routes, and so relied one each other for comfort and amusement. Attractive, lively girls, none of them was startling beautiful or brilliant, and yet they all made extraordinary marriages that led to extraordinary family dynasties. Agnes married Edward Poynter, president of the prestigious Royal Academy of the Arts; Georgiana married Edward Burne-Jones, one of the most extraordinary painters of the era; Alice was the mother of Rudyard Kipling; and Louisa gave birth to the future prime minister, Stanley Baldwin. In a way, their stories are a prime example for the way in which class boundaries in the Victorian era was changing, allowing those with talent and drive to change their social status.

Grab a copy of A Circle of Sisters here


the-last-pre-raphaeliteThe Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones & the Victorian Imagination

by Fiona McCarthy

This is a great big chunk of a book, but very readable, and magisterial in its approach to the life and work of Edward Burne-Jones, one of my favourite artists. Best of all, it shines a light on to the inner life of the artist, helping illuminate the forces that drove this complex and haunted man.

Grab a copy of The Last Pre-Raphaelite here


Pre-Raphaelites in Love

by Gay Daly

This is a great book for anyone who wants a really readable look into the passions and scandals that defined the relationships of the Pre-Raphaelites. There’s wife-swapping, suicide, trials for impotence, affairs with models, exhumation of dead wives, madness, and horse skeletons being boiled in front yards. Gripping stuff.


Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelitesdesperate-romantics

by Franny Moyle

Franny Moyle’s book was published in 2009, twenty years after Gay Daly’s Pre-Raphaelites in Love. So she has access to new research into the Pre-Raphaelites, as well as a greater freedom to talk about sex and drugs and rocking-and-rolling. Her style is racy and often funny, and lacks any kind of deep analysis or evidence. It was written as a tie-in with the BBC series of the same name, which very much focuses on the love affairs, rather than the art. It is, nonetheless, immensely readable and engaging, and is probably the best place to start if you want to know all the racy stuff abut the Pre-Raphaelites.

Grab a copy of Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives of the Pre-Raphaelites here


march-women-marchMarch, Women, March

by Lucinda Hawksley

I have always been interested in the suffragette movement, and have long wanted to write about it. Lucinda Hawksley’s beautifully written account looks at the history of women’s fight to vote from the Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792 all the way through to the change in British law in 1928.

Drawing on first-hand accounts such as letters and diaries, as well as newspaper reports of the time, the book is written in simple, lucid prose that is a joy to read. It was published on the centenary of the death of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who was dragged under King George V’s horse during the Derby horse race and killed.

After finishing it, I wanted to press this book into the hands of every young woman I met …and every young man. A really important book.

Grab a copy of March, Women, March here


Kate FKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

Click here to see Kate’s author page

The Beast’s Garden – Signed Copies Available!*

by Kate Forsyth

the-beast-s-gardenA retelling of The Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.

Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a more…

Click here to grab a copy of The Beast’s Garden

Have you won tickets to the Bledisloe Cup?

Blindsided. by rugby great Michael Lynagh, is a life-affirming memoir about luck, family, mates and rugby; and a timely reminder of how you play the game of life, as much as rugby, matters…even if you happen to be a Wallaby legend…

To celebrate its release, we offered Booktopian’s something really exciting, the chance to attend the Bledisloe Cup! The winner to receive two Adult Gold tickets to the Bledisloe Cup in Sydney on August 8 and a prize pack, valued at $460!

All you had to do to enter was order Blindsided by August 3rd!

…and the winner is:

P.Morgan, Bangor, NSW

Not the winner? Don’t worry as, for a limited time, we have signed copies Blindsided, hurry before we run out!

9780732299248_Blindsided_Rotating_Homepage_banner

blindsidedBlindsided

By Michael Lynagh

A rugby great confronts his greatest challenge.

It’s the unthinkable – to be blindsided by a life-threatening illness in the prime of life, with no prior warning. We all hope it doesn’t happen, but for some of us, inevitably, life plays out that way.

On an April day like any other in 2012 Michael Lynagh – retired rugby great – set for a successful career in commercial property and rugby analysis was suddenly forced to re evaluate everything. While with friends in Brisbane having a relaxed beer or two, a seemingly fit and healthy Lynagh suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Royal Brisbane Hospital. He was just forty-eight years old and a father of three young boys. Everything more…

Grab your copy of Blindsided here


We’ve got so much more up for grabs, not to mention limited edition signed copies and 2 for 1 offers!
Head to our Promotions and Competitions page!

promotions

Claire Varley, author of The Bit in Between, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Claire Varley

author of The Bit in Between

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 Geelong, raised on the Bellarine Peninsula and schooled in the art of wit and one-liners that don’t quite deliver. Geelong is great; it is a pilot city of the NDIS and directly elected mayors, and when I was growing up it had a zedonk farm.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be fourteen because that’s how old the babysitters of the Babysitter’s Club were. In my head fourteen was a magical age when you were given responsibilities beyond your years and did exciting things like solve pet-napping mysteries and move to California when your parents got divorced and your dad remarried a younger woman named Carol.

When I was eighteen I wanted to be someone who lived in a house with heating because I spent my winter wandering around my sharehouse wearing a doona-muu-muu and feeling sad that I had dragon breath inside the house. But I acknowledged that alongside drowning with a book of Keats’ poems in your pocket, such is the life of a would-be writer.

I am currently 29 and hope, at thirty, to be a) still alive, b) wiser and c) David Sedaris.

Author: Claire Varley

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

That living in a house with heating meant I had made it.

Also, that skirts and dresses would never be a part of my wardrobe. For some reason my brothers and I have a thing about always dressing in a way that is conducive to suddenly having to run away from something. It’s as if we were conditioned from childhood for an imminent zombie apocalypse. Now, having realised I am not particularly agile or swift, I wear skirts a lot more.

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?

Terry Pratchett taught me that laughter is the best teacher of both compassion and sadness. I revisit Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas every year to remind myself what perfection is. And Solveig’s Song by Edvard Grieg is my go to song for when I need to remember the value of stillness and silence within my work. And when I need the confidence to kill my darlings.

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

Because I legitimately have no talent in any other field. See self-portrait below.

sg

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Bit In Between is my debut novel. It’s an awkward love story about Oliver and Alison, two young Australians, who have landed in the Solomon Islands looking for their truths. Oliver is writing his second novel and as they settle into island life coincidences start to happen that make him question how much life is influencing his book, and vice versa.

Grab a copy of Claire’s new book The Bit in Between here

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

At its heart it is a story of people, love, life, the paths we choose, and those we don’t. I hope it makes people laugh, then cry, then laugh again and feel guilty for laughing so soon after they cried. As David Foster Wallace said, ‘good writing helps readers become less alone inside’, and I do so hope it does this.

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

When I sit down at my computer I say to myself, ‘pretend you are the love child of Zadie Smith and Steve Toltz and you have been given the task to write!’ Zadie Smith’s ability to capture people is breathtaking and in A Fraction of the Whole Steve Toltz, to me, created the perfect novel. And reading the first page of Under Milk Wood makes me rage against the genius of Dylan Thomas’s mastery of language.

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

My bar is so low – see aforementioned home heating goal. Obviously I would like total global literary domination and to see a statue of myself erected outside the Westfield in Geelong in the manner of Hans Christian Anderson in Central Park, but in lieu of this, I’d be perfectly happy to continue to have opportunities to tell stories that make people happy, sad and content.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read books, buy books, love books and never let anyone tell you to stop buying them because you have too many and the house has become a firetrap.

Write lots – for others and for yourself – because like any skill you need to practice.

When people tell you that no one makes a living from writing anymore, point out that no one has ever really made a living from writing, then go home, put on your doona-muu-muu and write until your heart sings.

Claire, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Bit in Between here


The Bit in Between

by Claire Varley

Writing a love story is a lot easier than living one.

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately. Inexplicably. Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with; happily ever after.

About the Author

Claire Varley grew up on the Bellarine Peninsula and lives in Melbourne. She has sold blueberries, worked in a haunted cinema, won an encouragement award for being terrible at telemarketing, taught English in rural China, and coordinated community development projects in remote Solomon Islands.

Her short stories and poems have appeared in Australian Love Stories (‘A Greek Tragedy’), Australian Love Poems (‘Beatitude’), Seizure online (‘Poll’, ‘Hallow’), page seventeen (‘Once’, ‘Hamlet, Remus and Two Guys Named Steve’), Sotto (‘in the name of’) and [Untitled] (‘The Nicholas Name’, ‘Behind Tram Lines’). The Bit In Between is her first novel.

 Grab a copy of The Bit in Between here

Eleanor Limprecht, author of Long Bay, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

long-bay

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Eleanor Limprecht

author of Long Bay

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 Washington DC in the United States. My dad worked as a Foreign Service Officer in the State Department so we lived overseas (in Germany and Pakistan) and in Virginia – never anywhere for more than four years at a time. I went to university at Virginia Tech while my parents were posted to Uzbekistan. I moved to Australia when I was 24 after falling in love with an Australian I met in Italy. Later I returned to university in Australia to get my Masters and recently my Doctorate of Creative Arts in writing from UTS.

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

When I was 12 I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals so much that I stopped eating meat at the age of twelve (after a few years of nagging my parents). I couldn’t imagine a better job than one in which I’d get to interact with animals constantly. Of course I didn’t think about the fact that I would have to deal with blood, disease, and pet owners as well.

When I was 18 I wanted to be a park ranger. I was studying Wildlife Sciences at university. I transferred to English Literature after a few months – it only took one semester for me to realise that I would have to be proficient in science in order to major in Wildlife Science….

When I was 30 I wanted to be an author. I had been a journalist and I wanted to write fiction, because it is what I have always loved to read. I had been working on my first novel manuscript for a few years (while freelancing and giving birth to my first child). I worked on it for a few more years and it is still in a drawer. Luckily my second novel was published – What Was Left. It is the story of a woman who, after giving birth, struggles with postnatal depression and leaves her family in a search for her own father, who left when she was a child.

June-2014-26-13. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I believed that good and evil are easily defined – easily delineated. I believed you could avoid causing suffering in the world – this was why I was a vegetarian and an animal rights activist. Now I think that there are so many grey areas, no one is immune from causing suffering, and I am far less judgmental. I think that this is something literature taught me – for every person who does some terrible thing – delve enough into their past and into their world and you can come to understand why they have done it.

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?

Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This book to me was about the power of paying attention – noticing the world around us – and how much darkness and death are as intrinsic as life and light. This book taught me there is as much beauty in death as there is in life. She writes: “…the world is actual and fringed, pierced here and there, and through and through, with the toothed conditions of time and the mysterious, coiled spring of death.” It’s a stunning book.

Joseph Cornell’s boxes. I love these assemblages and the miniature worlds they evoke, the sense of nostalgia and fragmentation that you get by juxtaposing strange things.

Charley Pride singing “Is Anybody going to San Antone” – my dad loved old country music and had this on a record compilation. I listened to it non-stop when I was about seven. I knew all of the words by heart. I was an unusual kid. What it taught me is the way just a few words can tell a heartbreaking story – and the way an image can evoke emotion. Here are the first two stanzas:

Rain dripping off the brim of my hat
It sure is cold today
Here I am walking down 66
Wish she hadn’t done me that way.

Sleeping under a table in a roadside park
A man could wake up dead
But it sure seems warmer than it did
Sleeping in our king sized bed.

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

Because I express myself best through writing. I become tongue-tied and self-conscious when trying to speak. I love music but I am not musically trained, and visual arts inspire me, but literature is the language I speak. I find fiction to be the natural home of truth. George Eliot said “Art is the nearest thing to life” and to me that art is the art of the novel. I love nothing more than to lose myself in a novel. I love the way it makes me look at my own life in a new light.

long-bay6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Set in Sydney in the first decade of the 1900s, Long Bay is based on the true case of a young female abortionist who was convicted of manslaughter and served out her sentence in the newly opened Long Bay Women’s Reformatory – the first of its kind in Australia. The woman, Rebecca Sinclair, was pregnant when she went to prison.

Long Bay looks at how Rebecca became involved in the burgeoning illegal abortion racket in Edwardian-era Sydney and how she was drawn into this underworld. In unadorned prose, it examines the limiting effects of poverty, the mistakes we make for love, and the bond between mother and child.

Grab a copy of Eleanor’s new book Long Bay here

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

I hope they are able to imagine a little more clearly what it was like to live in Edwardian Sydney as a woman of the working class, and why you might make choices which now we judge harshly. I hope people reflect on the novel in relation to contemporary life as well. I also want my readers to come away as well with a sense of hope – of possibility. I like dark subjects but I am still an optimist. I have a particular weakness for love stories.

the-poisonwood-bible8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Barbara Kingsolver. She manages to be a supremely skilled writer but also someone who is concerned about the planet and food sources and social justice. Somehow she does this without preaching. She just shows it in her writing, through her intensely identifiable characters and her believable plots. But there are so many other writers I admire as well: Anne Enright, Kate Grenville, Hilary Mantel, Hannah Kent, Curtis Sittenfield, Emma O’Donoghue, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner. I could go on…

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

Mine are not so ambitious. Balance is important to me: having time to spend with my family, time to give back to my community and keep myself sane (running). So my goal is just to write the next book, I cannot see beyond that (I’ve never been very good at planning for the future).

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Not everyone is going to like your writing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve – you should always be trying to improve – but you will never make everyone happy, so never let your own sense of success depend on that. Write because you love to write, not because you want to be published. But also, be persistent. Carve out uninterrupted time to write.

Eleanor, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Eleanor’s new book Long Bay here

——————————————————–

long-bayLong Bay

by Eleanor Limprecht

Set in Sydney in the first decade of the 1900s, Long Bay is based on the true case of a young female abortionist who was convicted of manslaughter and served out her sentence in the newly opened Long Bay Women’s Reformatory – the first of its kind in Australia. The woman, Rebecca Sinclair, was pregnant when she went to prison.

Long Bay looks at how Rebecca became involved in the burgeoning illegal abortion racket in Edwardian-era Sydney and how she was drawn into Donald Sinclair’s underworld.

In unadorned prose, it examines the limiting effects of poverty, the mistakes we make for love, and the bond between mother and child.

Grab a copy of Eleanor’s new book Long Bay here

Joanna Courtney, author of The Chosen Queen, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-chosen-queen

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joanna Courtney

author of The Chosen Queen

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 St Andrews in Scotland, so definitely consider myself a Scot at heart even though we moved to England when I was only a few months old. Bar lots of lovely visits to grandparents over the border, I’ve been in England ever since, growing up in a village in the Midlands with my parents, and my brother and sister.

I then headed off to Cambridge University to study English literature and from there took a sideways turn into factory management, helping to run an old-fashioned textile mill in Lancashire. In my spare time, though, I was always writing and when I met my husband and gave up full time work to have children, I turned to writing to keep me sane between nappies, as well as to fulfil a lifelong dream.

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

Easy – I wanted to be a writer, a writer and a writer! Why, I’m not so sure about – I just have this itch to shape the world into coherent narratives!

Joanna-Courtney-Barnden1-200x200-circle3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I think that, in common with many eighteen year olds, I believed it was possible to create a ‘perfect life’. I now know that there’s no such thing really and you just have to make the most of everything that you do have that’s good. Right now, for me, that’s a wonderful family, a lovely cosy house and the publication of my first novel.

Becoming ‘a writer’ has been my dream all the way, so whilst it’s crazy juggling being a wife and mother with my work, I’d still say that it’s pretty perfect in a messy, wonderfully bonkers sort of way!

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

I am an avid reader and always have been so any number of books have had a strong influence on me, but my favourite is definitely Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles for its rich sense of journey for poor, brave Tess.

I love music, though I’m no connoisseur and generally like it best for dancing to! One piece that did really inspire me, though, was the slightly obscure ‘Liar’s Bar’ by The Beautiful South from the 90s. I loved this song so much that I wrote a whole novel inspired by it. It hasn’t yet made the light of day but perhaps at some point I’ll be able to go back to it.

As far as art goes, I’m even less of a connoisseur than I am of music. I do, however, have this innate love of pictures with paths leading off into the horizon and as a writer that’s the way I approach my stories – as paths that are going to lead both me and, hopefully, the reader somewhere enticing.

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

I didn’t actually start out writing novels. For many years I published short stories. This was mainly because I was bringing up small children so only had the odd hour here and there in which to write but it was also a wonderful way to hone my writing, to find my voice, and to learn the vital skill of pleasing a targeted audience.

I’ve had over 200 short stories published in the English women’s magazines and have loved my time crafting shorter fiction but I’ve also always had a strong pull towards the novel as there is something deeply satisfying about the longer format. It gives you a chance to develop a character and really draw the reader into their world. It also offers so much scope for twists and turns and, when it comes to historical fiction, I love the space that it gives me to bring a period to life and to create a narrative that can lead a reader through a complicated set of events in a coherent and exciting way.

the-chosen-queen6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Chosen Queen is not just my latest but my first ever full novel and I’m so very, very pleased to see it out on the shelves. It aims to tell the tale of the time leading up to 1066 from the women’s side – a long neglected and hopefully engaging way of looking at a year of battles that shaped England’s history forever.

It’s the story of Edyth of Mercia, granddaughter of Lady Godiva, whose family were exiled to the wild Welsh court where she was married to the charismatic King Griffin of Wales. This match catapulted her into a bitter feud with England in which(in my interpretation of her story) her only allies are Earl Harold Godwinson and his handfasted wife, Lady Svana. But as 1066 dawns and Harold is forced to take the throne of England, Edyth – now a young widow – is asked to make an impossible choice that has the power to change the future of England forever…

The Chosen Queen is the first in the Queens of the Conquest trilogy, with the next two following the same period but from the viewpoint of two others – Elizaveta of Kiev, wife of Harald Hardrada, the Viking king; and Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the eventual conqueror. They will come out in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Grab a copy of Joanna’s new book The Chosen Queen here

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

I really hope that my books will give readers a strong sense of the period leading up to 1066 and allow them to experience life back then through the pages. I also hope they might learn something that surprises them a little, but above all else, I hope that they are just able to get carried away by the heroine’s journey.

Getting the history right is very important to me and I do a lot of research to try and ensure that I do so, but above all else I want to write a good story that involves and satisfies the reader. If readers can come away feeling that they have known and loved Edyth I will be delighted.

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

the-king-s-curseMy contemporary writing heroines are Elizabeth Chadwick and Philippa Gregory as they both write such well-researched, lively and gripping novels.

If I can grab readers as those two writers do, I will consider myself successful.

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

I suppose I want to be a bestseller. I’d love above all else to be one of those writers whose next novel is eagerly anticipated by readers. I’d love them to rush out to buy it feeling that they can trust me to deliver a wonderful story and I intend to work very hard to achieve that.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just write. Courses can be good, ‘how to’ books can be good, market research and reading everything that’s out there can also be good, but at the end of the day you won’t be a writer unless you write and you won’t have a book to sell unless you put your head down and start the first chapter, then the next, then the next.

There’s nothing more frightening than a blank page, so just start filling them and enjoy it!

Joanna, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Chosen Queen here


the-chosen-queenThe Chosen Queen

by Joanna Courtney

As a young woman in England’s royal court, Edyth, granddaughter of Lady Godiva, dreams of marrying for love. But political matches are rife while King Edward is still without an heir and the future of England is uncertain.

When Edyth’s family are exiled to the wild Welsh court, she falls in love with the charismatic King of Wales – but their romance comes at a price and she is catapulted onto the opposing side of a bitter feud with England. Edyth’s only allies are Earl Harold Godwinson and his handfasted wife, Lady Svana.

As the years pass, Edyth finds herself elevated to a position beyond even her greatest expectations. She enjoys both power and wealth but as her star rises the lines of love and duty become more blurred than she could ever have imagined. As 1066 dawns, Edyth is asked to make an impossible choice.

Her decision is one that has the power to change the future of England forever . . .

The Chosen Queen is the perfect blend of history, fast-paced plot and sweeping romance with a cast of strong female characters – an unforgettable read.

About the Author

Joanna Courtney has wanted to be a writer ever since she could read. As a child she was rarely to be seen without her head in a book and she was also quick to pick up a pen. After spending endless hours entertaining her siblings with made up stories, it was no surprise when Joanna pursued her passion for books during her time at Cambridge University – where she combined her love of English and History by specialising in Medieval Literature.

 

 Grab a copy of The Chosen Queen here

Our Pamper Hamper now has an owner!

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Killing Monica is the awesome new book from Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, and we thought there was no way better to celebrate its release than to offer fans of her work the chance to win a Pamper Hamper. This indulgent package contains new Lovisa-Sunglasses, David Jones-Lindt Chocolate, a Myer-Daisy Chain Robe, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a Dermalogica Face Maskn, a Pantene Hair Masque and a Myer-Mecca Makeup $100 Gift Card! If we could, we would give everyone a well deserved pamper hamper but unfortunately, only one Booktopian can be a winner.

…and the winner is:

C.Earl, Mudjimba, QLD

isbn9781408703175Killing Monica

by Candace Bushnell

In Killing Monica Bushnell spoofs and skewers her way through pop culture, celebrity worship, fame and even the meaning of life itself, when a famous writer must resort to faking her own death in order to get her life back from her most infamous creation – Monica. With her trademark humour and style, Killing Monica is Bushnell’s sharpest, funniest book to date.

Grab a copy of Killing Monica here


Congratulations to the winner!
Missed out on the prize? Hey, turn that frown upside up, we’ve got so much more up for grabs, not to mention limited editions, signed copies and 2 for 1 offers!

Head to our Promotions and Competitions page!

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Order Madame Bovary and receive a double pass to see it at the movies!

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In celebration of the release of Madame Bovary, described by Empire as “a beautiful adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s novel” and as “measured and absorbing” by Variety,  we’re giving you a free double pass to see the film when you order a copy of the book.

Synopsis: Adapted from Flaubert’s classic novel, Madame Bovary tells the tragic story of Emma, a young beauty who impulsively marries a small-town doctor to leave her father’s pig farm behind. But after being introduced to the glamorous world of high society, she soon becomes bored with her stodgy mate and seeks excitement and status outside the bonds of marriage. This sumptuous period drama features a superb cast including Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Paul Giamatti (Sideways) and Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Flaubert’s classic novel comes to life.

Order Madame Bovary and receive a free double pass to see this breathtaking film on the big screen.


madame-bovary-buy-and-receive-a-free-double-pass-Madame Bovary

by Gustave Flaubert

Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent reader of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment and the consequences are devastating. Flaubert’s erotically charged novel caused a moral outcry on its publication in 1857.

Grab a copy of Madame Bovary here


About the Author

Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen in 1821, the son of a prominent physician. A solitary child, he was attracted to literature at an early age, and after his recovery from a nervous breakdown suffered while a law student, he turned his total energies to writing. Aside from journeys to the Near East, Greece, Italy, and North Africa, and a stormy liaison with the poetess Louise Colet, his life was dedicated to more…

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