Emma Hooper, author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Emma Hooper

author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James

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 Alberta, Canada. That’s right in the middle of Canada, where the long low prairies meet the rocky mountains. That’s where I was raised and schooled too. Saskatchewan, where Etta and Otto and Russell and James is set was right next door (it’s nothing but prairie), and my childhood holidays were spent out there visiting my mom’s family. Long hot empty days in that long hot empty place. Nothing but wheat fields and gophers…

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

I never gave the same answer twice. One day it was a vet, the next a lawyer. Once it was a choral conductor because I noticed they got a lot of flowers. An ice-hockey player, an actor, a palaeontologist … the only certain thing was my indecision.  And now that I’m all grown up with three jobs I still can’t decide…

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

I was fiercly, fiercly, independent at that age. Didn’t want to have to rely on anyone for anything ever… I still value independence and want to be able to always land on my own two feet, but I now also see the value, the potential, of needing other people sometimes. Of teaming up…

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

A book: Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco

A painting: The collected works of Erin K Hooper (my sister) and Jeff Kulak (my friend)

A piece of music: ‘Heartland’ by Owen Pallet

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

I’ve always been fond of narrative, of story-telling, that folds in and out of itself, everything from Borges’ Labyrinths to Egger A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. We don’t experience life linearly, we’re always thinking about what happened yesterday, or where we’ll be tomorrow, or both at once, so I was striving for a form that could capture some of that fluidity. That, and I’ve got quite aLabyrinths fondness for puzzles… for taking a bunch of seemingly disparate pieces and figuring out how to fit them together into one beautiful whole… A novel seemed the only and best form for that.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My favourite is The Times’ (of London’s) description, so I’ll steal that: “a fantastical yet deeply human adventure story starring a wild, brave, outdoorsy heroine striding alone across the North American wilderness. A heroine who happens to be a little old woman…”

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

I hope they get the inspiration and impulse to do whatever it is they want to do. We all have goals and desires like Etta’s, that don’t always make sense to everyone else, or even to ourselves, sometimes. The “I’ve always wanted”s. If the book inspires one person who used to say, “I’ve always wanted to do X” to go ahead and do it, I’ll be happy. Swim with dolphins, living in Japan, making fudge, making a rocket, anything, everything.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?one-hundred-years-of-solitude

I admire writers who play with magic and reality, and who embrace joy as well as suffering in their books. Examples are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Karen Russell and Jonathan Safran Foer.

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

Never stop making. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Learn your grammar. Really. No one’s above the basics. And no one will take you seriously until you do.

Emma, thank you for playing.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

by Emma Hooper

‘I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.’

Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two, she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to the water.

But Etta is starting to forget things. Her husband, Otto, remembers everything, and he loves … Read more

Grab a copy of Etta and Otto and Russell and James here

About the Author

Emma Hooper is a musician and writer. As a musician, her solo project ‘Waitress for the Bees’ tours internationally and has earned her a Finish Cultural Knighthood. Asan author, she has published short stories, non-fiction pieces, poetry and libretti as well as a number of academic papers. She is a research-lecturer at Bath Spa University, in the Commercial Music department, but goes home to cross-country ski in Canada as much as she can afford.

 Grab a copy of Etta and Otto and Russell and James here

Garth Nix talks to Booktopia TV about his new book, Newt’s Emerald

Australian bestselling author Garth Nix talks to us about his new book, Newt’s Emerald, an enchanting regency romance centred around an intrepid young lady, dashing young hero, French spies, a case of mistaken identity and an enchanted moustache. Yep, an enchanted moustache!

Order your copy of Newt’s Emerald here and for a limited time receive a signed copy!

Newt’s Emerald

Garth Nix

Newt's emerald

After the Newington Emerald is stolen at the height of a conjured storm, eighteen-year-old Lady Truthful Newington goes to London to search for the magical heirloom of her house. But as no well-bred young lady can hunt the metropolis for a stolen jewel, she has to disguise herself as a man, and is soon caught up in a dangerous adventure where she must risk her life, her reputation…and her heart.

Balancing twin roles as a young lady coming out in her first season and as an intrepid young man up against an evil sorceress isn’t easy, but Truthful has to manage it. Her father’s life and even the fate of England may depend upon her recovering the Newington Emerald!

Read Sarah McDuling’s review here.

Order your copy of Newt’s Emerald here and for a limited time receive a signed copy!

Warning: This Article Contains Graphic….Novels

Andrew Cattanach has a brand new bag…

It all started when listening to The Grantland Podcast.

Grantland is a US sports/culture website usually frequented by lots of people like me. Young(ish) hipster(ish) sporty(ish) culturally aware(ish) folks who enjoy quality long-form journalism. They also do podcasts (Fun Fact: we do as well) which, along with audiobooks, keep me company on my long drive into work.

This particular evening I found myself listening to an interview with one of Grantland’s great writers Andy Greenwald and Axel Alonso, the current Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. You can also watch it at the bottom of this article.

watchmenBefore I go on, let me state my feelings on Graphic Novels/Comic Books. It has always been a resounding ‘meh’.

Of course I was aware of them (if you’ve seen a blockbuster film in the last year, chances are you’ve seen a comic book adaptation), and I’d read and loved some of the biggies like Watchmen and Sandman but I never really felt into them. If anything, only having read the ‘Mount Rushmore’ of Graphic Novels made me feel like even more of a tourist, as though I’d flown over the Eiffel Tower and told everyone I’d been to Paris.

I never really had time for them, preferring to eat into my gigantic TBR pile.

So, back to Axel Alonso, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel. Turns out, despite doing a job once occupied by comic book god Stan Lee, Alonso has never really been a hard-core ‘comic book guy’, if such a thing even exists anymore. He was a journalist and author, who found himself unhappy with his job and saw an ad in The New York Times for DC Comics editors. Confident that he would never be hired, he trudged along to the interview out of boredom and was hired by a comic book publisher who knew his work.

Not a comic book guy? And now he’s arguably the most powerful creative force in comic books?


Throughout the interview Alonso speaks passionately but about the creative freedom the form provides writers and artists, and the entrenched progressiveness and diversity on the page. These days The Hulk is a Korean-American Teenager, Thor is a woman, and only last week the brilliant African-American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was hired to write a new installment of The Black Panther, a series that began in 1966 and featured the first black superhero.

civil-warMore interesting…

All this comes in the wake of some wonderful pieces on this very blog written by comics aficionado Jeremy Vine on Aquaman, video game adaptations, queer characters and great article on simply where to start with comic books. So I thought it was time.

I picked up a copy of Marvel’s The Avengers: Civil War and DC’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by my reckoning the most celebrated comic storylines of the last 20 years. Civil War pits Captain America against Iron Man and their respective followers in an ideological war against government intervention that threatens to destroy the world, while The Dark Knight Returns is the dark saga of a 55 year-old Bruce Wayne, who returns from retirement to fight crime and faces opposition from the Gotham City police force and the US government.

I’m still getting through them. And you know what? I think I’m converted.

a-little-lifeAt the same time I’ve been reading A Little Life, the acclaimed novel by Hanya Yanagihara that has been widely tipped to take out the Man Booker this year. It’s an amazing novel, but that’s for another day.

The point I’m making is that nearly every day I have been reading these comic books alongside a truly great novel and I haven’t skipped a beat. Sure, there’s less grizzled kung-fu in A Little Life compared to The Dark Knight Returns, and slightly more middle-class angst in A Little Life than The Avengers: Civil War, but with regards to raw, uncompromising and often confronting storytelling, they’re on a par.

I’m still reading them, and still enjoying them, and I’m confident to say there will be more to come. Who knows where this story ends, but for now…

Andrew Cattanach. Comic Book Reader. Signing off.


Andrew Cattanach is the Contributing Editor of The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Australian Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Sink your teeth into the new Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death dual edition!

Fans of the Twilight Saga: rejoice!Twilight Tenth Anniversary Edition

Today, a special Twilight Tenth Anniversary/ Life and Death dual edition is available, pairing the original Twilight with a reimagining – Life and Death –  by Stephenie Meyer.

The twist?

In Life and Death, the iconic tale is told through the eyes of a human teenage boy in love with a female vampire. So Bella is now Beau; Edward is now female vampire Edythe.

Meyer decided to flip the genders in part due to her readers who approached her at signings, concerned that Bella was too much a ‘damsel in distress’.

Why now?

“It’s amazing to me that ten years have passed since Twilight was first published”, says Meyer. “For me, this anniversary is a celebration of the fans, with all of their incredible passion and dedication. I’m excited to get to spend time with them again.”

Since it was published in 2005, Twilight became a New York Times bestseller, with its sequels New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn selling over 100 million copies worldwide. The series also spawned into a blockbuster film franchise, winning 32 Teen Choice Awards and 17 MTV Movie Awards. Oh…and grossed a whopping $1.1 billion globally!

Grab your copy of Twilight Tenth Anniversary/ Life and Death dual edition here

Swedish author, Henning Mankell, dies aged 67

MankellHenning Mankell, Swedish crime writer and leading figure in Nordic Noir has died aged 67 from cancer. Leopard, his Swedish publisher revealed he died in his sleep.

In early 2014 Mankell visited an orthopaedic surgeon in Stockholm, believing he had a slipped disc. However tests revealed a tumour in his lung and neck, with evidence it had spread to other areas of his body. He went on to write a book about his experience –  Quicksand: What It Means to be a Human Being.

Mankell was best known for his Wallander series, with 11 of his approximately 40 novels starring Kurt Wallander, Swedish police detective. The series inspired a series of Swedish films featuring Rolf Lassgård and Swedish and UK TV adaptations featuring Krister Henriksson and Kenneth Branagh respectively.

Grab your copy of the internationally besteselling The Kurt Wallander series here

Among his accolades, Mankell received the Gold Dagger Award, the Astrid Lindgren Prize and the Erich-Maria-Remarque Peace Award. He worked extensively with AIDS charities in Africa, saying that “I don’t know why, but when I stepped out of the plane in Africa I had the odd feeling of coming home” (from his website).

Henning Mankell in Africa

He leaves behind Eva Bergman, his wife of 17 years and his son, Jon Mankell, a film producer who helped bring Stieg Larsson’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series to the big screen.

He has sold more than 40 million copies of his books. They have been translated in over 40 languages.

Henning Mankell’s Top 10 Quotes

BOOK REVIEW: The Awakening by Kate Chopin (Review by John Purcell)

A friend put me onto The Awakening. He had read it at university and was surprised that I had never taken the time to read it.the-awakening

To me, The Awakening was a revelation. That American Kate Chopin wrote this kind of novel in the last days of the nineteenth century seemed incredible. Her voice and the subjects of isolation, dissatisfaction, boredom and rebellion seem not of the past but of today.

The great women of nineteenth century fiction had been given complex inner lives, but none, to my knowledge had veered so confidently from the path of accepted behaviour.

None offered an alternative which suggested positive change.

I can only imagine the relief Chopin’s story offered thousands of bright women caught in the claustrophobic world of their day. That the novel can still offer relief now is an indication that we still have far to go on our road to equality.

Grab your copy of The Awakening here

The Awakening

Kate Chopin

the-awakeningFirst published in 1899 and widely regarded as one of the forerunners of feminist literature, alongside Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary.

Over one long, languid summer Edna Pontellier, fettered by marriage and motherhood, becomes acquainted with Robert Lebrun. As the days shorten and the temperature begins to drop Edna succumbs to Robert’s devotion. But in the thrall of this ever-strengthening desire Edna begins to realise the true extent of her psychological, social and sexual confinement and its devastating consequences for her future. This tender, brilliant … Read More

Grab your copy of The Awakening here

Fiona Palmer talks to Booktopia TV about her new book, The Saddler Boys!

Bestselling Australian rural author Fiona Palmer talks to us about her new novel The Saddler Boys. And for the lucky that get in quick, they’ll receive a signed copy!

For a limited time only, order The Saddler Boys and you will receive a signed copy. Offer available while stocks last.

The Saddler Boys

Fiona Palmer

the-saddler-boysSchool teacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew.

As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her society … Read more

For a limited time only, order The Saddler Boys and you will receive a signed copy. Offer available while stocks last.


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