Sharon Penman, author of A King’s Ransom, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sharon Penman

author of A King’s Ransom, The Sunne in Splendour, Prince of Darkness and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born in New York City and grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey in its pre-casino days. I have a B.A. in history from the University of Texas and a J.D. degree from Rutgers School of Law. I practiced law in New Jersey  and California for about four years, although it felt much longer; I considered it penance for my sins, past, present, and future!

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

I always wanted to be a writer, but I never expected to be able to make a living as one.   When you hear those stories about artists starving in garrets, they usually have writers as roommates.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Sharon Penman

That life was black or white with few shades of grey in-between.

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 find music very inspirational and soothing, too, if I am struggling with the dreaded Writer’s Block.  I usually have classical music playing in the background as I write and sometimes medieval music.  For my last novel, A King’s Ransom, I often listened to the haunting lament that Richard Coeur de Lion wrote while he was held prisoner in Germany; it can be found on YouTube here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVRjmTdM4c8&feature=related. Greensleeves is another song that is often heard at my house. I think photography is an art form, too, and my home is decorated with many stunning photos of Wales done by a Welsh photographer friend of mine, Dave O’Shea.  I often found myself gazing at them as I worked on my trilogy set in medieval Wales during the thirteenth century.

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

I am definitely not a Renaissance woman; I cannot sing, dance, paint, etc. But I have always felt the urge—the need—to write. I wrote my first short story at age six or seven, about a horse named Queen. I wrote my first novel in my early teens; thankfully that one has long since vanished, for I suspect it would be highly embarrassing to read it today.

Wanting to write was only half of the equation, though. I also needed something I wanted to write about. I did not find that until I was in college, when I stumbled onto the story of Richard III. I was interested enough to want to find out more about him and discovered, to my surprise, that there was no proof that his nephews had been murdered, much less that he had done the deed. I was so indignant that I began telling my friends about this terrible injustice done this long-dead medieval king. They had a uniform response; they said, “Richard who?” and then their eyes began to glaze over. So it was then that I had my epiphany—that this was the story I was supposed to write. Twelve years later, it would be published as The Sunne in Splendour and I was no longer a reluctant lawyer; I was a very happy author.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest published novel was A King’s Ransom, the sequel to Lionheart and my final book in my series about the first Plantagenets, Henry II and his controversial queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons, sometimes known as the Devil’s Brood.  I’d initially intended to end their history with the third book,  but they had other ideas and so I found myself writing a five book trilogy about them!  I am currently working on a novel set in the kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth century, Outremer—the  Land Beyond the Sea.  After that, I hope to resurrect the career of the hero of my medieval mysteries, Justin de Quincy, who first appeared in The Queen’s Man, the queen in question being the above-mentioned Eleanor of Aquitaine. I love doing the mysteries, for they give me greater freedom to exercise my imagination than the historicals do, and I am delighted that they are finally available as e-books in Australia and the United Kingdom, thanks to the diligence of my new publisher, Head of Zeus.

Grab a copy of Sharon Penman’s novel A King’s Ransom here

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

I hope that my novels awaken in readers an interest in history in general and medieval history in particular. I am always so pleased when readers tell me that one of my novels inspired them to want to learn more about the characters or the era itself. History matters. We can learn from it if we are lucky.

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

There are so many writers whom I admire. Mark Twain for being Mark Twain.  The Bronte sisters for defying a world in which women were not expected or allowed to be creative.  Harper Lee for writing a novel that I consider well-nigh perfect, To Kill a Mockingbird.   Geraldine Brooks for taking me back in time to seventeenth century New England in Caleb’s Crossing, and Alice Hoffman for doing the same in her novel of Masada, The Dovekeepers.   Bernard Cornwell for writing the best battle scenes I’ve ever read.  I am an avid reader as well as a writer, and am grateful that there are so many good writers out there.

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

World peace? No, I do not think I’ve ever set very ambitious goals for myself as a writer; I was willing to settle for reasonable ones.  I want to entertain and inform readers, to share my love of history.  I think historical novels are a form of time-travel, so writers of that genre have a responsibility to their readers be as accurate as possible.  I write of people who once lived and I feel a sense of responsibility to them, too, since their lives are the clay that I use to create my books. A fellow writer, Laurel Corona, said it perfectly: Do not defame the dead.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Persevere. Remember that writing is as subjective as it is solitary, so reviewers and critics and editors are not always right, but pick your battles, especially with editors. Bear in mind that there has not been a writer ever born whose book could not benefit from editing. Take comfort from the knowledge that writing is a skill that can be honed by practice, rather like polishing a diamond. And be thankful that you are writing now in an age where you are not totally dependent upon the good will or judgment of publishers; for the first time, writers have options, among them the opportunity to reach out directly to readers via social media. I see that as a very good thing   Facebook has allowed me to become friends with so many of my Australian readers in a way that would not have been possible even ten years ago, and they have done more to promote my books Down Under than an army of agents or publicists.

Sharon, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of A King’s Ransom here


A King’s Ransom

by Sharon Penman

Travelling home from the crusades, Richard was shipwrecked off the coast of Austria, after an encounter with pirates. Richard should have been under the Church’s protection, but in Outremer he had given the Duke of Austria good reason to loathe him and he was captured. He was immediately claimed by the Holy Roman Emperor, who also bore a grudge against the captive English king. Richard was to spend fifteen months imprisoned.

For a man of his fiery nature, it was truly shameful. His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, began to move heaven and earth to raise a staggering ransom, travelling to Germany herself to buy the release of her favourite son. But it was not to be that easy. At the eleventh hour, Heinrich announced that he had had a better offer from the French king, Philippe, and Richard’s own treacherous brother, John, offering Heinrich an even larger sum to continue Richard’s captivity – or to turn him over to their tender mercies.

Grab a copy of A King’s Ransom here

Have you won a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker? How about a Divergent DVD Pack?

We love giving away stuff at Booktopia, and with a little help from our friends we’ve always got some exciting comps and promos happening.

During August we gave you the chance to win 1 of 3 Divergent DVD Packs and a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker valued at $699!!!


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A Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Thanks to our friends at HarperCollins Australia, all you had to do to enter the draw to win a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Valued at $699 was buy Tex-Mex from Scratch and Texas BBQ!

And the lucky winner is:

O.D.Rosa, Stratford, QLD

Grab a copy of Tex-Mex from Scratch or Texas BBQ here


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Divergent DVD Packs

To celebrate the August 27 release of Divergent on DVD, our friends at Entertainment One gave you the chance to win a Divergent DVD Pack by buying any of the books in the Divergent series (Adult Editions)!

And the lucky winners are:

J.Chen, Earlwood, NSW
S.Howarth, Stonyfell, SA
J.Rados, Inglewood, WA


Congratulations to the winners!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

Were you a winner during our Kids Month celebrations?

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In August we gave you the chance to enter our Kids Month promotions! Lots and lots of goodies were up for grabs!


And the lucky winners are…

The Peppa Pig Competition - S. Moors, Mosman Park, WA

The Walker Picture Book Showcase Competition – E. Serisier, New Farm, QLD

Clementine Rose Competition - Y. Tanuwidjaja, Melbourne, VIC

Slaves of Socorro Competition – M. Mahmood, Williams Landing, VIC

The DK Non-Fiction Range Competition – B.Duffy, Conder, ACT

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Competition – S. M. Lambert, Oyster Bay, NSW

Silver Shadows  Competition – M. Morley, Mordialloc, VIC

*The winners of the Where’s Wally Competition will be announced as soon as possible.


Congratulations to the winners!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

Alexandra Cameron, author of Rachael’s Gift, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alexandra Cameron

author of Rachael’s Gift

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 Sydney. We lived in Paddington until we moved to Mackay in North Queensland. When I was eight we moved to a small town in country NSW called Currabubula where I attended the local school. There were forty-eight children from kindergarten to sixth grade and all in one classroom. We then lived in Willoughby, Vaucluse and Randwick. I went to high school in Rose Bay.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be an architect. My father is a builder and we were always living in a house that was being ‘done’ perhaps I wanted to design our house my way. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a film director and decided to study film at university. When I was thirty I was writing.

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

Author: Alexandra Cameron

When I was eighteen I firmly believed that if you were married and your partner cheated on you then you should leave them immediately. I did not understand the complexities of marriage. Things at eighteen were very black and white.

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 were so many books that I have loved over the years and that have stayed with me. So much so that it is only when I come across them again that I think, Oh yes, that book meant a lot to me at the time. Tim Winton’s, The Riders, has always stuck with me because it is fast paced and yet has so much depth and plus it is a tragic story – I could never understand how a mother could abandon her child. I also loved the writing – I hadn’t known colloquial language could be so poetic and beautiful; it was ground breaking to me as an Australian.

My parents’ collection of LPs was limited to say the least but they did have one Simon and Garfunkel record and this is where I first heard the song, America. It’s a catchy song about a guy who escapes on a bus with his girlfriend to look for ‘America’; it starts out light-hearted but then becomes sad when we realise the guy feels so disillusioned with his world he can’t even voice it to his girlfriend. Mostly, I love how one line can paint an entire story. “I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.”

Breakfast At Tiffany’s is probably a film on every girl’s rite of passage. It’s the pinnacle of Hollywood sixties glamour and the dresses, the parties, Holly Golightly’s French idioms, Audrey Hepburn at her most stylish and the sweet love story are captivating. The film barely resembles its novella roots and is much much darker, but I couldn’t help love the candy-coloured version…

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

I love the intimacy of a novel. It’s just you and the reader. Everyone takes something different away. As an author you have the space to create an entire world, whereas many other art forms require a team of people (like film etc…) I enjoy the solitary process.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The novel begins when gifted artist, fourteen-year-old Rachael, accuses her teacher of sexual misconduct, but the principal has suspicions that she is lying. Her father, Wolfe, is worried about his daughter’s odd behaviour but her mother, Camille, will not hear a bad word against her. A fraught investigation ensues, culminating in a showdown on the other side of the world in Paris. The story is about ambition, art, talent, truth, how we pass unresolved issues from one generation to the next and a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter.

Grab a copy of Alexandra Cameron’s novel Rachael’s Gift here

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

I hope they enjoy the story and perhaps reflect on their own lives in some way. What would they do if they were in a similar situation as the characters?

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

There are so many! Margaret Atwood is a good one. She is a longstanding brilliant writer with stories ranging from the historical to the bizarre – what an original and clever mind.

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

Gosh. I hope to always learn more about writing and life and to consistently produce work of a high standard – I guess that is quite ambitious. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

If you have the desire to write then sit down and do it. Everyday.

Alexandra, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Rachael’s Gift here


Rachael’s Gift

by Alexandra Cameron

Rachael is a child prodigy, a talented artist whose maturity and eloquence is far beyond her fourteen years. She’s also energetic, charming and beautiful, beguiling everyone around her. To her mother, Camille, she is perfect. But perfection requires work, as Camille knows all too well.

For Rachael has another extraordinary gift: a murky one that rears its head from time to time, threatening to unbalance all the family has been working towards. When Rachael accuses her art teacher of sexual misconduct, Wolfe and Camille are drawn into a complex web of secrets and lies that pit husband against wife, and have the power to destroy all their lives.

Set in contrasting worlds of Australia and Paris, told from the perspective of husband and wife, Rachael’s Gift is a detective story of the heart, about a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter and a father’s quest for the truth.

 Grab a copy of Rachael’s Gift here

Sophie Hannah, author of The Monogram Murders, answers Ten Terrifying Questions.

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sophie Hannah

author of The Monogram Murders, The Telling Error 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?

I was born in Manchester, England. Raised and schooled there too! I lived in Manchester until I was 25.  At that point, after publishing a book of poetry, The Hero and the Girl Next Door, I was offered my dream job – Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge.  (This basically meant Writer in Residence.)  Working at Trinity was like a dream come true – such a beautiful place, and I fell in love with Cambridge too.  I now live there, and have no intention of leaving!

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

Twelve: I think I wanted to be a writer. By eighteen, however, I was going through a phase that involved doing and saying nothing my parents could possibly approve of, and they approved a bit too much of my writing, so at eighteen I announced that I was going to give university a miss and train to be a hairdresser instead. By thirty, I was already a writer and wanted to carry on being one.

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

Author: Sophie Hannah

I used to think that in order to be a good person, you had to make an enemy of bad people and fight them and their influence throughout your life.  I later realised that fighting anyone or anything – even those who richly deserve it – cannot have a positive effect.  If you spend your time fighting and hating, you’re only emitting more negative energy and, ultimately, making things worse.  The best way to be happy and make the world a better place is to be kind and compassionate, to everyone, always.  (Of course, I’m not a saint and can’t always manage to put this lofty ideal into practice – and when I can’t, I just shut myself away in the house and swear and chainsmoke until I’m able to be civilised again!)

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?

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
See Jane Run by Joy Fielding
The Memory Game by Nicci French

I love music and paintings too, but books have always come first.

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

Novels are, and have always been, my favourite thing to read – and crime novels/mystery novels in particular.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Monogram Murders is a mystery featuring Agatha Christie’s superstar detective, Hercule Poirot.  It starts with Poirot encountering a distressed young woman in a  coffee house.  The woman, who is obviously terrified, says someone is trying to kill her, but insists that she doesn’t want Poirot to try to save her life, or for her killer to be caught.  Then three guests at an exclusive London hotel are murdered…and, because of something the woman in the coffee house said to him, Poirot suspects a connection and sets out to investigate.

Grab a copy of Sophie’s latest novel The Monogram Murders here

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

More than anything, I want readers to be gripped by the story and desperate to find out the solution to the mystery.  I want them to be unable to guess until all is revealed!

murder-on-the-orient-express8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Agatha Christie.  Because she had all the best ideas, and kept having them, decade after decade. She is and will always be the Queen of Crime.

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

My ambition is that each of my books should be better and more satisfying than the one before it.  I want to become a better writer.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Keep at it. And be very choosy about whose advice you take.  Not everyone is as clever and helpful as everyone else.

Sophie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Monogram Murders here


The Monogram Murders

by Sophie Hannah

The bestselling novelist of all time.

The world’s most famous detective.

The literary event of the year.

Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s novels have been sold around the world. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand-new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation, Hercule Poirot.

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle sure to baffle and delight both Christie’s fans as well as readers who have not yet read her work. Written with the full backing of Christie’s family, and featuring the most iconic detective of all time, this new novel is a major event for mystery lovers the world over.

 Grab a copy of The Monogram Murders here

Did you win a signed copy of The Silkworm by J.K. Rowling?

During July and August we gave you the chance to win a hardcover edition of The Silkworm signed by J.K.Rowling as Robert Galbraith!

All you needed to do to enter was purchase any of J.K. Rowling’s Adult Fiction titles before August 31st to go in the draw.

And the lucky winner is (drumroll please)…………

S.Burdett from Wonga Park in Victoria!

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the-silkwormThe Silkworm

by Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home. But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises.

The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him. And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

Grab a copy of The Silkworm here


Winners recap:

Framed photograph from the gorgeous book Outback Stations

M.Ellis, North Haven, NSW

Copies of LEGO Mini-Figure Year by Year

A.Burnell, St Ives, NSW
K.Gruber,  Roseville, NSW
J.McVernon, Black Rock, VIC
M.Rook, Carindale, QLD
K.Pigram, Randwick, NSW
L.Wakerley, Calamvale, QLD
A.Cummins, Birchgrove, NSW
E.Chan, Hornsby Westfield, NSW
H. Indorato, North Ryde, NSW
D.Freeman, Taree, NSW

The Ploughmen prize pack…

J.Scott, Neerim Junction, VIC


Congratulations to the winners!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

And the winner of a framed photograph by author of Outback Stations, Daniel McIntosh is…

During August we gave you the chance to win a framed photograph by author of Outback Stations, Daniel McIntosh!

The photograph is featured in Outback Stations, which was born from a competition on the Station Photos Facebook page to show a day in the life of an outback station.

All you needed to do to enter was buy Outback Stations

And the lucky winner is…

M.Ellis, North Haven, NSW

WET TIMES AT DUNBAR STATION

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outback-stationsOutback Stations

by Daniel McIntosh

In March 2013, Dan McIntosh had an idea. A station cook and keen photographer, he wanted to share the pictures he had taken of the outback life he loved so much. Encouraged by his sister, he started a community Facebook page called Station Photos. Dan wasn’t expecting much but within days the bush telegraph kicked in and pretty soon thousands of people were liking and contributing their own photos to the page. A year on, Station Photos has almost 50,000 followers and a staggering 30 million views from around the world.

What people love so much about Station Photos is that it’s real. Real people taking photos on their phones and cameras of what makes them laugh (and cry), the land they love, their kids, their mates and their animals. It’s a way of life that most Australians – living in the cities and along the coast – never get to experience, yet it embodies so much of the spirit and folklore of Australia.

Outback Stations was born from a competition on the Station Photos page to show a day in the life of an outback station. The response was positively overwhelming — and the very best of the images are featured in this book. Like the Facebook page, this book is a celebration of country Australia and the way we live and enjoy life on the land.

Grab a copy of Outback Stations here


Congratulations to the winner!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

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