Eimear McBride wins the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

Irish author Eimear McBride has won the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction with her astonishing debut novel, A Girl is Half-Formed Thing.

The chair of the judging panel, Helen Fraser, said: “This has been a fantastic year for women’s fiction, as the quality of both the long- and shortlist made clear, and I think what has emerged as the worthy winner is a really original new voice.”

McBride was hailed as “that old-fashioned thing, a genius” by fellow Irish novelist Anne Enright. Her story of a girl’s life in the shadow of sexual abuse and the brain tumour of a beloved brother took six months to write and many years to get published.

McBride had accumulated a hefty pile of rejection slips, and the manuscript had gone into the back of a drawer, when a conversation between her theatre director husband and a bookshop owner in their adopted home city, Norwich, led to it being eventually being published.

In an exclusive interview with Booktopia, McBride had this advice for aspiring writers.

“If you can think of anything else you could possibly do with your life, choose it instead. Failing that, discipline is everything.”

You can read the full interview here

Grab a copy of A Girl is Half-Formed Thing here

A Girl is Half-Formed Thing

by Eimear McBride

This incredible debut novel tells, with astonishing insight and in brutal detail, the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour.

Not so much a stream of consciousness, as an unconscious railing against a life that makes little sense, and a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist.

To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation.

Touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma, McBride writes with singular intensity, acute sensitivity and mordant wit. A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is moving, funny – and alarming. It is a book you will never forget.

 

Grab a copy of A Girl is Half-Formed Thing here

 

The 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids… Read More


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. Ifemelu – beautiful, self-assured-departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home… Read More


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portrayal of lives undone and forged anew, The Lowland is a deeply felt novel of family ties that entangle and fray in ways unforeseen and unrevealed, of ties that ineluctably define who we are. With all the hallmarks of Jhumpa Lahiri’s achingly poignant, exquisitely empathetic story-telling, this is her most devastating work of fiction to date… Read More


The Undertaking by Audrey Magee A stunning, riveting debut novel in the tradition of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room, The Undertaking shines an intense light on history and illuminates the lives of those caught up in one of its darkest chapters… Read More


 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate… Read More

Shortlist Judges

A Booktopia Exclusive: Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu

Booktopia is so excited to be in an exclusive partnership with New South Books to present the debut novel of Arjun Basu.

If you’re a fan of twitter, chances are you’re a fan of Arjun Basu. Arjun has over 142,000 followers on twitter, where his 140-word short stories have drawn a huge following and a mountain of imitators.

We caught up with Arjun to chat about his new book, writing career, and spiffy tracksuits.

Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu

_____________________________________

9781770419971Q: Where did the idea for Waiting for the Man come from?

A: This is a long long story. So sit down. Throw another shrimp on the barbie (oh dear, I am so so so so sorry about that, I promise I won’t go down the sordid and silly road of national stereotypes again…). Waiting for the Man starts with images: a man on his steps. A man lying in tall grass. A road trip pit stop. And then these varied images started to coalesce. The first part of the book I ever wrote, a long time ago, is what we read at the end of the book. The last few pages. It was a snippet of a short story that I liked and filed away. And somehow the image within it kept coming back. And then one day I realized these disparate elements were all part of the same story. Did I answer the question? Are we still on speaking terms? I truly am sorry for the shrimp on the barbie thing. I think I had to get it out of my system. At least I didn’t say “g’day” right?

Q: What was it like to translate that idea into a full novel?

A: It is a long and drawn out process and involves quite a bit of drinking. And pacing. And the judicious use of hammocks.

Q: Waiting for the Man tackles some big issues about happiness, media, and celebrity culture. Would you say this novel offers some life advice?

A:  I am not offering advice to anyone. Really. I don’t even take my own advice. This is not a self help book and I’m not a life coach. I can’t ever be a life coach because I look silly in a track suit.Basu_Arjun

Q: What would you do if you encountered the Man?

A: I would run in the opposite direction and I would never stop running. Unless I owned a really spiffy tracksuit.

Q: You already have thousands of fans on Twitter that love your “Twisters.” Can they expect to find the same wit and humour in your novel?

A:  I hope so. Though let’s admit that we’re speaking of two very different mediums that are only connected by the use of words and punctuation. I like to think I’m funny, but that’s not really for me to judge. There is no bigger boor than the loud guy who laughs at his own (unfunny) jokes.

Q: Did you find it difficult to continue writing your Twisters while writing Waiting for the Man?

A: No. The Twisters are kind of mental therapy. Gymnastics even. They use a different part of the brain. Or I should say adjacent. The parts of the brain used for Twisters and for novel writing are like those hotel rooms with those locked doors that you hope are permanently locked but are probably opened up for large families, raucous bachelor parties and sales conventions.

9781770419971Q: Waiting for the Man is set in New York, yet you’re in Canada. What about this novel makes it able to resonate across borders?

A:  First, the story was originally going to be set in Montreal. I think any Montrealer will recognize the idea of a guy sitting on his front steps as a very Montreal thing. The front stoop is a part of Montreal’s architectural vernacular. But then the story took over and it demanded to be set in New York. On one level, this novel is very American. But on a deeper level, it is a universal exploration of something very human, and very basic.

Grab a copy of Waiting for the Man here – exclusive to Booktopia

Q: Food is featured a lot in your novel, from mundane pieces of pizza, to home-cooked lunches, to saucy ribs. Does food have a special significance for the story?

A: Food does feature in the story. But quite a lot of human things are featured. I mean, the novel is populated with humans! Eating. Sleeping. Bodily functions of all sorts. The little things that make us what we are. I might be more food obsessed than a lot of people but I think our culture is pretty food obsessed right now. And has been for a while. I mean, for the longest time I thought the best magazines in the world were the food magazines coming out of Australia.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’m writing. Another novel. I can’t believe I’m diving into this again, so soon, but I have this idea that I can’t let go so I’m going to see where it takes me. Interestingly, the main character is someone who came out of my Twisters. It’s grown to become more complex, naturally, but this novel, which is threatening to be quite a big one (much longer than Waiting for the Man) got its start in 140 characters. The door between the adjoining rooms must have been open. Perhaps for a raucous bachelor party.


Grab a copy of Waiting for the Man here

The 2014 Miles Franklin Shortlist Announced

The Miles Franklin 2014 shortlist has been announced, featuring past winners Tim Winton and Alexis Wright as well as debut novelist Fiona McFarlane.

The winner of the 2014 Miles Franklin award will be announced in Sydney on the 26th of June.

Don’t miss the chance to grab a copy of these fantastic books and judge them for yourself.

You can also see a special collection for this year’s shortlist on our website by clicking  here.


The Narrow Road to the Deep North

by Richard Flanagan

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

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

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

 

About the Author

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. His novels, Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, and Wanting have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?.

Grab a copy of The Narrow Road to the Deep North here


The Night Guest

by Fiona McFarlane

One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem.

Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?

The Night Guest is mesmerising novel about love, dependence, and the fear that the things you know best can become the things you’re least certain about. It introduces a writer who comes to us fully formed, working wonders with language, renewing our faith in the power of fiction to tap the mysterious workings of our minds, and keeping us spellbound.

About the Author

Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney, and has degrees in English from Sydney University and Cambridge University, and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow. Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, the Best Australian Stories and the New Yorker, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy and the Australia Council for the Arts. The Night Guest, her debut novel, has sold into fifteen territories around the world. She lives in Sydney.

Grab a copy of The Night Guest here


My Beautiful Enemy

by Cory Taylor

Arthur Wheeler is haunted by his infatuation with a Japanese youth he encountered in the enemy alien camp where he worked as a guard during WW2. Abandoning his wife and baby son, Arthur sets out on a doomed mission to rescue his lover from forced deportation back to Japan, a country in ruins. Thus begins the secret history of a soldier at war with his own sexuality and dangerously at odds with the racism that underpins the crumbling British Empire.

Four decades later Arthur is still obsessed with the traumatic events of his youth. He proposes a last reunion with his lost lover, in the hope of laying his ghosts to rest, but this mission too seems doomed to failure. Like Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Snow Falling On Cedars, My Beautiful Enemy explores questions of desire and redemption against the background of a savage racial war. In this context, Arthur’s private battles against his own nature, and against the conventions of his time, can only end in heartache.

About the Author

Cory Taylor is an award-winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction and children’s books. Her first novel, Me and Mr Booker, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Pacific Region). She lives in Brisbane.

Grab a copy of My Beautiful Enemy here


Eyrie

by Tim Winton

Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.

But even in his seedy flat, ducking the neighbours, he’s not safe from entanglement. All it takes is an awkward encounter in the lobby. A woman from his past, a boy the likes of which he’s never met before. Two strangers leading a life beyond his experience and into whose orbit he falls despite himself.

What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting. Inhabited by unforgettable characters, Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

About the Author

Tim Winton has published twenty-one books for adults and children, and his work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Since his first novel, An Open Swimmer, won the Australian/Vogel Award in 1981, he has won the Miles Franklin Award four times (for Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath) and twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize (for The Riders and Dirt Music). He lives in Western Australia.

Grab a copy of Eyrie here


The Swan Book

by Alexis Wright

The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.

The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.

 

About the Author

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her books include Grog War , a study of alcohol abuse in Tennant Creek , and the novels Plains of Promise , and Carpentaria , which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian and Queensland Premiers’ Awards and the ALS Gold Medal, and was published in the US, UK, China, Italy, France, Spain and Poland. She is a Distinguished Fellow in the University of Western Sydney’s Writing and Society Research Centre.

Grab a copy of The Swan Book here


All the Birds, Singing

by Evie Wyld

Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.

Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.

About the Author

Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop London. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Grab a copy of All the Birds, Singing here


Runners-up from the Longlist:

The Railwayman’s Wife

by Ashley Hay

In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at a war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank McKinnon is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.

Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart. It’s a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

A story that will break your heart with hope.

About the Author

Ashley Hay is the author of four books of non-fiction – The Secret: The strange marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, Gum: The story of eucalypts and their champions, and Herbarium and Museum with the visual artist Robyn Stacey. A former literary editor of The Bulletin, her essays and short stories have also appeared in anthologies and journals including Brothers and Sisters, The Monthly, Heat and The Griffith Review. Ashley’s first novel, The Body in the Clouds was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize ‘Best First Book’ (South-East Asia and Pacific region) and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Grab a copy of The Railwayman’s Wife here


mullumbimbyMullumbimby

by Melissa Lucashenko

When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter Ellen, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours, and a looming Native Title war among the local Bundjalung families. When Jo stumbles into love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life.

Told with humour and a sharp satirical eye, Mullumbimby is a modern novel set against an ancient land.

0002041About the Author

Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian writer of mixed European and Murri (Aboriginal) heritage. She was born in Brisbane in 1967, and attended public primary and secondary schools there. Melissa received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University, graduating in 1990. She lives between Brisbane and the Bundjalung nation.

Grab a copy of Mullumbimby here


Game

by Trevor Shearston

It is 1865. For three years Ben Hall and the men riding with him have been lords of every road in mid-western New South Wales from Bathurst to Goulburn, Lambing Flat to Forbes. But with the Harbourers’ Act made law, coach escorts armed now with the new Colt revolving rifle, and mailbags more often containing cheques than banknotes, being game is no longer enough.

The road of negotiated surrender is closed. Jack Gilbert has shot dead a police sergeant at Jugiong. Constable Nelson, father of eight, lies buried at Collector, killed by John Dunn. Neither time did Ben pull the fatal trigger, but he too will hang if ever the three are taken. Harry Hall is seven. Ben has not seen the boy since his wife Biddy left to live with another man, taking Harry with her.

The need to see his son, to be in some way a father again, has grown urgent. But how much time is left before the need to give the game away and disappear becomes the greater urgency?

About the Author

Trevor Shearston is the author of Something in the Blood, Sticks That Kill, White Lies, Concertinas, A Straight Young Back and Dead Birds. He lives in Katoomba, NSW with his family.

Grab a copy of Game here


Belomor

by Nicolas Rothwell

Elegiac and seductive, Belomor is the frontier where truth and invention meet—where fragments from distant lives intermingle, and cohere. A man seeks out the father figure who shaped his picture of the past. A painter seeks redemption after the disasters of his years in northern Australia. A student of history travels into the depths of religion, the better to escape the demons in his mind. A filmmaker seeks out freedom and open space, and looks into the murk and sediment of herself.

Four chapters: four journeys through life, separate, yet interwoven as the narrative unfolds.

In this entrancing new book from one of our most original writers, we meet European dissidents from the age of postwar communism, artists in remote Australia, snake hunters, opal miners and desert magic healers. Belomor is a meditation on time, and loss: on how the most bitter recollections bring happiness, and the meaning of a secret rests in the thoughts surrounding it.

About the Author

Nicolas Rothwell is the award-winning author of Heaven and Earth, Wings of the Kite-Hawk , Another Country , The Red Highway and Journeys to the Interior . He lives in Darwin, and is the Australian’s roving northern correspondent.

Grab a copy of Belomor here


The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt

by Tracy Farr

The debut novel from a wonderful new talent.

This is the story of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie.

Lena is Music’s Most Modern Musician; the first theremin player of the twentieth century.

From the obscurity of a Perth boarding school to a glittering career on the world stage, Lena Gaunt’s life will be made and torn apart by those she gives her heart to.

About the Author

Australian-born author Tracy Farr has lived in Wellington, New Zealand since 1996. Her debut novel, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, is published by Fremantle Press.

Grab a copy of The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt here


REVIEW: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (Review by Sarah McDuling)

love-letters-to-the-deadLove Letters to the Dead is a powerful coming-of-age novel that will grab hold of your heart and soul, drawing you into the narrator’s world so completely that finishing the book is actually quite upsetting – like having a door slammed in your face by your new best friend. As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the top Young Adult novels of the year.

This book first came to my attention when I saw that Emma Watson had tweeted about it. As a general rule, I will do whatever Emma Watson says because she is Hermione and therefore my idol. So when she gave her seal of approval, I obediently googled Ava Dellaira and discovered that she’s friends with Stephen Chbosky and had worked as an associate producer on the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. After that I was naturally desperate to get my hands on a copy. 

Love Letters to the Dead is the story of Laurel, a young woman who is quietly drowning in grief and guilt. We are introduced to Laurel as she starts her freshman year of High School. (That means Year 9, for those of you who don’t speak American.)

At a glance, all the usual hallmarks of YA contemporary literature appear to be present and accounted for:

1. The (seemingly) Unattainable Crush:

In this case, his name is Sky. And if Sky was a mathematical equation he would look something like this:

Hot Guy + Mysterious Loner = Swoon10   

(Maths was never my best subject but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate).

2.  The Friend/s with Serious Life Problems:

Ava_Dellaira_author_photo Laurel’s two closest friends, Hannah and Natalie, are in love!  But their relationship is complicated. Neither of them are quite ready to come out of the closet and Hannah is dealing with a pretty stressful home-life situation.  Also she keeps ditching Natalie to date boys.

3. The Parents Who Just Don’t Understand:

Neither of Laurel’s parents have a very clear understanding what she’s going through. Her father is blinded by grief and her mother has skipped town at a time when Laurel needs her most.

4. The Thing That Happened in the Past that Must Remain Secret (until the end):

Laurel’s family was torn apart after the death of her older sister, May. But only Laurel knows the whole story behind what happened the night May died. And she can’t talk about it. She can barely even think about it.

So there you go. The bare bones of the story probably sound familiar to you. Most of us have read books like this before. But while the ingredients that have gone into making Love Letters to the Dead may be standard staples, Ava Dellaira throws a serving of raw emotion into the mix that takes everything to a whole new level. And I think that’s what makes Love Letters to the Dead such a special treat. It’s a genuine heartbreaker.

Another thing I love about this beautiful book is the fact that it’s written as a series of letters addressed to dead celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, I got a real kick out of this. Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart and River Phoenix are just a few of the intriguing people Laurel chooses to write to. She writes the first letter for a school assignment, but then cannot bring herself to turn it in. Instead, she keeps writing letters to dead people. And as she writes she slowly reveals the tragic secret behind the death of her older sister, May.

love-letters-to-the-deadDellaira writes with such perfect pitch and subtle skill, Love Letters to the Dead feels like a modern classic. Laurel is a very self-contained and unassuming protagonist, one who spends the majority of the book repressing her feelings and denying the past. The true depth of her suffering is revealed so gradually that  I think I was about a third of the way through the novel before it dawned on me that she wasn’t just wallowing in typical teen angst. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I happen to love wallowing in teen angst, and I’m a proper grown up adult (supposedly).

This is one of those books that sort of creeps up on you. You start reading and everything seems pretty cool. You’re like, “Oh hey! I see what’s going on here. High school girl with high school problems. Boy drama! Teen Issues! Burgeoning womanhood! I know the drill.”

But as you keep reading you find yourself starting to think, “Hold up. I’m having some strong feelings about this book. Powerful emotions are happening! This is not a drill!

This beautiful book is the perfect for fans of poignant (i.e. emotionally apocalyptic) Young Adult literature like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in our Stars. And the craziest part? This is the author’s first book! I’m completely blown away by that fact. After such an impressive debut, I can’t wait to see what Ava Dellaira does next because … wow.

Grab a copy of Love Letters to the Dead here

————————————————————————————–

Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiastic fibber.

You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Maxine Beneba Clarke, author of Foreign Soil, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

9780733632426The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maxine Beneba Clarke

author of Foreign Soil

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born and raised in Sydney, schooled in Sydney’s outer West (Kellyville and Baulkham Hills), before going to University on the South Coast (Wollongong). But now my home is in Melbourne’s West. I’m Australian, but of Afro-Caribbean heritage. In many ways, I feel like I’m a global citizen. Africa, England, the Caribbean and South America are all a part of my family’s migration journey.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be white: because almost everyone around me was, difference was frowned upon and I felt my blackness was the bane of my existence. When I was eighteen, I wanted to be right, because I was young and arrogant and ‘invincible,’ and ‘knew better’ than everyone around me. When I was thirty, I wanted to be wise, because by then I had realised that wisdom was the greatest asset you could carry with you in life.

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

That the world would eventually sort itself out. That good would eventually triumph – that there was an intrinsic and innate sense of justice inside every one of us that would gradually lead to some kind of universal understanding about humanity, and about what we owe to each other as human beings. I truly believed that my generation was more in tune, would be smarter, would be more compassionate, would act with both head and heart on issues like climate change, world hunger and asylum seekers. That we were destined to clean up the mess our well-meaning parents seemed to be making around us. How tragically wrong I was.

Maxine Beneba Clarke

Author Maxine Beneba Clarke

4.What work of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc –  had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Picasso’s Guernica.

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

Short stories are true soul-food. They allow you to capture a reader in a short time, they allow you to tease with possibility. They entice the reader to engage long after the story has finished. Short stories let you start a dialogue and, I believe, have the potential – much more so than longer fiction – to bleed into the life and consciousness of the reader. How does the story end? What’s going to happen to the angry black kid after he throws that Molotov? Does the young red-haired lawyer turn her car around and drive back to the Detention Centre? Will that scared little boy ever return to Mississippi and if he does, what kind of welcome will he find?

6. Please tell us about your latest novel.

In Melbourne’s western suburbs, in a dilapidated block of flats overhanging the rattling Footscray train lines, a young black woman is working on a collection of stories.

The book is called Foreign Soil. Inside its covers, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre, a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike, an enraged black militant is on the warpath through the rebel squats of 1960’s Brixton, a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance, a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny and a Sydney schoolgirl loses her way. The young mother keeps writing, the rejection letters keep arriving…

Foreign Soil was the winning manuscript of the 2013 Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and is written in English, broken English and accented English.

Grab a copy of Foreign Soil here

97807336324267. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope readers come away from Foreign Soil with more compassion, care for, and connectivity to, people pushed to the fringes of society. I hope their hearts are fuller, and more generous. I hope the book shifts something in them, in some way, for the better.

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

I admire risk-takers and trailer-blazers. I admire writers who don’t shy away from the difficult, or the heartbreaking, or the overtly political. I like writers who tell it like it is, who are curious, daring and generous with their emotions. I like to read writers who leave a little of themselves in each of their works, because I know how difficult and emotionally taxing that is to accomplish. I like to read work from writers who push forms and genres to the limit. I like writers whose characters are so real you could reach out and hug them, (or slap them, as the case may be). I like contemporary fiction and non-fiction, and try to read a lot of Australian writing. Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading work by Jamaica Kincaid, NoViolet Bulawayo, Jeff Sparrow, Chris Abani, Josephine Rowe, Tony Birch, Alice Pung and Jesmyn Ward. But oh, the list could go on.

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

I want to write. I want to always be articulate enough to start the conversations I’d like to start, and to hopefully have the privilege of always having those conversations find their way to the shelf. I’d like an ongoing dialogue with my readers. Writing is in many ways such a solitary pursuit, and I’d love for it to be a social one too, as it’s very much my way of digesting what’s going on in the world, making sense of things. I hope also though, that readers get pleasure from reading my work, that it’s something they do enjoy reading.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Keep writing. And keep learning. And most of all, keep submitting and editing. If you want to make a career out of it, look at writing as a marathon, rather than a sprint. Passion is key, but restraint and pace are also crucial in the long-term, or you burn out. And read. For Christ’s sake, you have to read. Read as much as you can, and then re-read as much as you can, and then dissect what it is you love about the books you do read and love.

Maxine, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Foreign Soil here

Josephine Moon, author of The Tea Chest, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

9781743317877The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Josephine Moon

author of The Tea Chest

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 Brisbane and raised in the north-western suburbs. I went to three Catholic schools, St William’s Primary School in Grovely, St Benedict’s College in Wilston and Mt Maria Senior College in Mitchelton. And yes, I had real life nuns as teachers. Some were beautiful, some have scarred me for life!

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

At twelve I wanted to be veterinarian because I adored animals and wanted to work with them. At eighteen, having recently discovered that physics and I didn’t get on, and therefore I couldn’t get into vet school, I wanted to be an ecologist. But not long after that I realised that statistics and I didn’t get on either. Problem! So, then I changed my degree to journalism because I knew I wanted to write and I actually had aptitude for that. At thirty I was desperate to be a novelist and had been writing seriously for many years.

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

I believed an ensemble consisting of black jeans, a flannelette shirt, too much jewellery and Doc Marten boots was cool.

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?

Josephine Moon

Author Josephine Moon

When I was younger, I borrowed a copy of a short story collection by Jeffrey Archer. It is the only thing of his I’ve ever read. But I remember thinking, as I got to the end of that book, that I could do this. I could write. Because until then, I’d had a belief that I didn’t have enough vocabulary—that I didn’t know enough ‘big words’. And I am not for a second saying that Jeffrey Archer was in any way lacking. But I noticed clearly how he had a great skill for using ordinary words in extraordinary ways. And for some reason that was a huge boost for me.

I’m going to cheat a bit here for the next two nominations. I’m nominating the whole of the city of Paris. That place blew my mind. And Paris has made an appearance in my next book and there’s definitely some of my own experiences and emotions in there. And lastly, I’m nominating Radio National, which is consistently entertaining, obscure, fascinating and intelligent and is a constant source of inspiration for my writing.

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

A friend of mine recently did a big clean up and found heaps of letters I’d written to her through school and for years afterwards. And another friend once reflected on the amount of emails I sent her while she was overseas and said that I was a prolific writer. And I thought, gosh, am I?? Apparently, I just couldn’t shut up!

I don’t know that it was ever a decision, as such, to write a novel over pursuing other forms of writing, as much as it was an acceptance of what I was drawn to do. The burning desire to write books just didn’t go away. In some ways it was easier just to say, okay, I accept it, now let me get on with it.

97817433178776. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Kate Fullerton, lead tea designer at The Tea Chest, has just inherited 50% of the company from her mentor and must decide what she will risk for her young family to take a chance on herself to follow her dreams. Set across Brisbane and London, with a backdrop of delectable teas and tastes, lavender fields and vintage clothes, The Tea Chest is a gourmet delight you won’t want to finish.

Grab a copy of The Tea Chest here

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

Joy, inspiration, a sense of empowerment to follow their dreams.

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

I am in awe of any writer who can write a good quality novel every year. I’d love to be able to do that one day but, right now, I take far too much time ‘marinating’ my work (i.e. leaving it alone for months so I can look at it with fresh eyes). I think that’s an incredible skill to be able to write and assess your work and know where to take it next in such a short time.

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

Interesting question! I just said to my husband recently, ‘You know what I’ve just realised? I need to set new goals!’ Because, since 1999, the only goal I had was ‘to be published by a big publishing house’. Now that’s happened, I actually need to re-evaluate where I’m going from here.

And right now, with a twenty-two-month-old son running around, my only ambition is to get to a point where I can stay up late enough to watch Offspring rather than having to catch up online later in the week.

I think it’s time to aim a little higher.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be curious. People often say to write what you know. But I think you need to write about what you want to know.

Josephine, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Tea Chest here

Pulitzer Prize For Fiction 2014 awarded to ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt

2014 Pulitzer Prize goes to 'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt

THE GOLDFINCH : Donna Tartt, author of the phenomenal bestsellers The Secret History and The Little Friend, returns with a breathtaking new novel.

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

THE GOLDFINCH is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

Order your copy here

About the Author

Donna Tartt was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, and is a graduate of Bennington College. She is the author of the novels The Secret History and The Little Friend, which have been translated into thirty languages.

WinnerFrom the Pulitzer Prize website:

For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Citation: Awarded to The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown), a beautifully written coming-of-age novel with exquisitely drawn characters that follows a grieving boy’s entanglement with a small famous painting that has eluded destruction, a book that stimulates the mind and touches the heart.

Finalists: Also nominated as finalists in this category were “The Son,” by Philipp Meyer, a sweeping multi-generational novel that illuminates the violence and enterprise of the American West by tracing a Texas family’s passage from lethal frontier perils to immense oil-boom wealth; and “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul,” by Bob Shacochis, a novel spanning 50 years and three continents that explores the murky world of American foreign policy before 9/11, using provocative themes to raise difficult moral questions.

 

Visit Caroline's page on BooktopiaRead Caroline Baum’s Review

Few works of literary fiction will have been anticipated more than this hefty novel by an author already mythologised before she turned thirty thanks to her cult debut The Secret History.

It’s been more than ten years since her second novel, The Little Friend. Since then, she’s been off the radar. Rumours have swirled, deadlines have slipped.

Now Tartt is back and back in fine form, writing a dense, intelligent, complex and dark story about a small jewel of a painting that goes missing from the Metropolitan Museum following a bomb attack.

Its fate is told by a young unreliable narrator, Theo Decker- thirteen when we meet him – who has lost his mother in the museum explosion and attended the dying moments of an old man, prompting him, irrationally, to take the small painting and keep it hidden through the ensuing turmoil of his life: first with the marvellously preppy uptown Barbour family who take him in and then in the squalid chaos of Vegas, where he lives for a brief moment with his hopeless gambler father and his new girlfriend Xandra, (a piece of work who gives Tartt the opportunity to deploy her considerable comic skills ).

When Theo moves back to New York, he learns the antiques trade from the gentle Hobie, a true craftsman with no head for business. There are brilliant set pieces and a cast of characters who echo Dickens, and Henry James, pinpointing every nuance of social standing with forensic detail. Boris, a shady Russian who befriends Theo in Vegas, is the book’s most memorable scene stealer, navigating the underworld and a druggy twilight zone with Slavic charm.

The book is really a love letter to New York, uptown and downtown, and to the opaque and often dubious world of antiques and their collectors. It’s long and demanding and its pace is frustratingly languid at times but as a stylist, Tartt has such mastery that she keeps you in her thrall till the narrative picks up momentum.

Order your copy here

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,113 other followers

%d bloggers like this: