Karen Miller, author of The Falcon Throne, first book in the The Tarnished Crown Series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karen Miller

author of The Falcon Throne, The Prodigal Mage 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?

Well, I was born in Vancouver, Canada, but at the age of 2 moved to my mother’s homeland of England. We stayed there for a while, then eventually shifted again — back to my father’s homeland, Australia. And aside from a 3-year stint of my own in the UK, after university, that’s where I’ve stayed – in and around Sydney … aside from some pretty regular globe-trotting.  I did most of my primary schooling at Hornsby Heights public, then high school was split between Asquith Girls and Galston High.

My Bachelor of Arts degree was done at what used to be the Institute of Technology (now the University of Technology) – Hugh Jackman’s old stomping ground! Pity I was ahead of him … *g* I followed that up some years later with a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature (or Kiddy Litter, as I call it). I was offered a place in a Master’s Degree for Creative Writing at the University of Western Sydney, but the course convenor was such a pretentious snob about genre literature that I told her to shove it. At this point no plans for any future degrees, but I guess you never say never.

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

A writer,  a writer and a writer. I mean, I flirted with other ideas like English/History teacher (my favourite subjects) or veterinarian (because I love animals) but underneath it all, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. A storyteller.

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

Author: Karen Miller

That I would never be happy. And now I am.

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?

Well, in no particular order …

At university, where I majored in Creative Writing, I was young and nowhere near ready to write novels. I’m a classic late bloomer in that respect. But I remember in one elective, I think it was Writing for Children, we were given an exercise where we had to write 3 vignettes, a single scene each. One of the things I wrote about was the time my guinea pig was killed by a visitor’s child, who ignored me when I said don’t pick him up. She did, she dropped him, she broke his back and he died. I was maybe 8 or 9. So I wrote about that, and the comment came back from the lecturer that I’d made her cry, I’d made her professional writer friend cry, and that no matter what happened in my life I must never give up writing because I had a gift. Regardless of the turmoil and doubts I experienced in the years that followed, her expression of faith in me was a small bright light of hope.

Many years later, while I had the bookshop, I was still struggling to make the writing dream come true. I got involved with what was then the Del Rey Online Writers Workshop (now the SFF Online Writers Workshop, and highly recommended). I submitted two pieces of work, both from early drafts of what were to become The Innocent Mage and Empress. The Innocent Mage piece was selected as runner-up Editor’s Choice best fantasy, and the Empress piece was subsequently selected as Editor’s Choice best fantasy. Both of those independent assessments of my work kept me going at a time when I despaired of ever being published.

The third big event is actually a combo job — Stephanie Smith’s championing of me at HarperCollins Voyager, leading to my first fantasy publishing contract for the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology. That first contract was truly life-changing, because it was an unarguable expression of belief in my worth as a storyteller. I have no words to express what I owe Stephanie. Flowing on from that was the offer from Orbit UK to publish those books. This is what I mean when I say so much of the publishing game is luck. A number of other international publishers had passed on the books, and at least one wanted me to rewrite them first. Again, I began to wonder if I’d ever be published anywhere other than Australia/New Zealand. But then Tim Holman put his faith in me, and that’s when my career really pushed on. Again, there are no words to express what I owe him and the whole Orbit team.

And here’s one more — the books that changed my writing most are the Lymond Chronicles, by the late, great Dorothy Dunnett. She showed me a different way of writing, and taught me more than just about anyone about the power of emotion and character in story and how point of view informs the narrative.

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

Now you’re just stirring shite … *g*

Okay. No. I don’t think books are obsolete. They’re a particular kind of storytelling, a unique experience for the imagination, a very intimate conversation between storyteller and audience. Only books give you a theatre of the mind, can take you somewhere else no matter where you are, with the turn of a page. The only way books will become obsolete is if we let them, if we permit that storytelling venue to be discarded, forgotten — or if we so continue to degrade our standards of education in schools that all we produce at the end of the process are classes full of barely functioning illiterates. Who then go on to write books that are all but unintelligible.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

This new book, The Falcon Throne, is the first in a series called The Tarnished Crown. It’s epic historical fantasy, the most ambitious story I’ve ever tackled. Frankly, it scares the crap out of me. Possibly because of my theatre background I tend to think of my books as acts in a play. That means each book, while having self-contained elements and story/character arcs, also pushes the greater narrative forward. There is an overall beginning, middle and end to the series, and each novel is part of that journey. In keeping with the subgenre of epic historical fantasy, there’s politicking and warfare and necromancy and romance and death and family dynamics, love and loss, triumph and tragedy. None of the characters emerge unscathed from their adventures, nobody ends up with clean hands or an unsullied conscience. But that’s not to say it’s a dystopian or nihilistic story. I believe history shows us that even in the darkest times there are people of honour and courage and integrity, who make living worthwhile. My faith may get a bit battered from time to time, but I do believe in the ultimate worth of humanity – and that’s what I try to explore in my fiction.

So, to be a little more specific, The Falcon Throne is about three struggling dynasties sharing a common past. In the duchy of Harcia, Aimery frets over what will become of his land and his people when he dies and his heir, Balfre, is made duke. His lack of trust in his older son is the catalyst for events that are destined to change his duchy – the known world – for ever. To Harcia’s south, beyond the buffering stretch of land known as the Marches, lies the duchy of Clemen. Its duke, Harald, is not loved. Desperate to end his tyranny, his barons seek to overthrow him, placing his bastard cousin on the throne – and in doing so set Clemen on a dark path. And across the narrow Moat, in the Principality of Cassinia, the widowed duchess of Ardenn fights to protect the rights of her daughter, Catrain, who should follow in her father’s footsteps and rule their duchy like any son born. But the alliances she’s made in order to see that done will have lasting repercussions for every nation within her reach.

And so the opening gambits of the greater game are played ….

Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here

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

An enormous emotional satisfaction. Relief that they’ve not wasted their money. I just want readers to get caught up in the story, to believe in and feel for the characters, to get the kind of buzz from the tales I tell that I get from the stories I’ve enjoyed over the years.

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

Again, it’s a combo. My parents.  My father was born at the tail-end of the Great Depression, and grew up during World War II. He grew up in very very tough circumstances, and he worked his arse off, and became hugely successful in two different careers. Never once did he look for hand outs, or blame other people for the fact that he lacked many many advantages. He just put his head down and worked for what he wanted, through all kinds of challenges and setbacks. And even though he’s been successful, he’s never let success change him. There’s not an ounce of pretension or snobbery in him. He takes people as he finds them, no matter who they are or where they come from. As for my mother, even though her background was less challenging, she too has always worked really hard and, like Dad, has never let success change her. She’s unfailingly compassionate and generous, giving to others whenever they need.  When it comes to living a decent life, I couldn’t have asked for better role models.

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

To sell more books. To be a writer who helps change the oft-frustrating impression that women can’t write epic fantasy, that only men understand heroism and mateship and war. To inspire other writers who worry and wonder if they’ll ever be good enough.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t ever assume you’re owed anything. Publishing is a business, so be businesslike. The most important element of the game is the reader. If they love your work, if they hate your work, they’re right. You don’t get to decide what a good read is for someone else, even when it’s your own work in question. Never ever forget that your job is to tell an entertaining story. Get down off the soapbox and don’t lecture. Never be satisfied, always look for ways to challenge yourself, to improve your craft. Welcome constructive criticism. Don’t be precious. And when the going gets tough, stop, take a moment, and fall in love with story all over again. Reconnecting with love of story will help you through the roughest patches.

Karen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here


the-falcon-throneThe Falcon Throne

by Karen Miller

The start of a major new epic fantasy series from the internationally bestselling Australian author of The Innocent Mage.

Nobody is innocent. Every crown is tarnished. A royal child, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father s stolen throne. A bastard lord, uprising against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for. A duke s widow, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who d control them both. And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery. All of this will come to pass, and the only certainty is that nothing will remain as it once was. As royal houses rise and fall, empires are reborn and friends become enemies, it becomes clear that much will be demanded of those who follow the path to power. A major new epic fantasy begins.

 Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here

Alan Baxter, author of Alex Caine Series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alan Baxter

author of Alex Caine series

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 on the mean streets of the border city, raised in the fighting arenas of the Fifth Conglomerate and schooled by the courtesan ladies of the western reaches.

Oh, you mean really? Born and raised (and schooled) in Britain, but I didn’t really learn anything until I travelled the world.

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

At 12 I wanted to be a marine biologist. At 18 I wanted to be a martial arts instructor. At 30 I wanted to be (and was) a martial arts instructor and a writer. Still doing those things and trying to get better at them all the time.

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

That we would all be travelling in flying cars by the time I was 30. Stupid science. Also, replicants.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

The death of my brother when I was 16. Discovering amazing comic books like Sandman and Hellblazer in my teens. Realising a huge majority of the human population are pretty f*cked up individuals.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Absolutely not. There has never been a better and more exciting time to write great stories. All those things you mentioned above only enhance the spread of excellent books. People will always want to read good stories – the vessel or medium by which they’re delivered is not the relevant part.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

It’s the story of Alex Caine, a fighter by trade, is drawn into a world he never knew existed — a world he wishes he’d never found.

Alex is a martial artist fighting in illegal cage matches. His powerful secret weapon is an unnatural vision that allows him to see his opponents’ moves before they know their intentions themselves.

An enigmatic Englishman, Patrick Welby, approaches Alex after a fight and reveals, ‘I know your secret.’ Welby shows Alex how to unleash a breathtaking realm of magic and power, drawing him into a mind-bending adventure beyond his control. And control is something Alex values above all else.

A cursed grimoire binds Alex to Uthentia, a chaotic Fey godling, who leads him towards destruction and murder, an urge Alex finds harder and harder to resist. Befriended by Silhouette, a monstrous Kin beauty, Alex sets out to recover the only things that will free him – the shards of the Darak. But that powerful stone also has the potential to unleash a catastrophe which could mean the end of the world as we know it.

Grab a copy of Bound here

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

First and foremost, I want them to be entertained by a ripping yarn. That’s really all I can ask for (especially if they recommend it to family and friends!) Beyond that, if people get to thinking about the world, how they perceive it and how other people see it, that would be cool.

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

Anyone who does what they want to do, without hurting others. Anyone who strives and works hard for their dreams, and who are kind and considerate about it, not treading on other people to get their way. Those are the people who change the world for the better.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?Obsidian-cover-196x300

Oh, I have a huge list! I want to win a Hugo and a Nebula and an Aurealis award. I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list, lots of times. I want to be Guest of Honour at a Worldcon. I want to sell millions of books. Honestly, if you don’t aim for the highest goals, you’re cheating yourself. But along the way, I want to keep writing and hopefully people will keep reading.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write. Don’t think about writing, don’t aspire to write, don’t tell everyone how you want or plan to be a writer. WRITE! And then, don’t give up. Determination is a large part of the battle. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep working all the time to get better. Write and never give up.

Alan, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Bound here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Is John Flanagan a Time Lord? Booktopia interrogates the author of Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series

Grab a copy of Slaves of Socorro here

Slaves of Socorro

Brotherband Series : Book 4

by John Flanagan

Return to the seafaring world of Hal and his intrepid ship’s crew in the fourth book of John Flanagan’s epic Brotherband series.

When the Heron brotherband become the Skandian duty ship to the Kingdom of Araluen, they’re excited at the challenges ahead. Hal, Stig, Thorn and the Herons eagerly set off for the trip – with an unexpected new crew member aboard.

But an enemy from their past returns, throwing the Herons into a dangerous quest to free captured Araluans from the slave market in Socorro. Even with the help of an Araluan Ranger, the task may be too much.

About the Author

John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband adventure series have sold more than eight million copies worldwide. His books are available in more than 100 countries, are regularly on the New York Times bestseller list, and have had multiple award shortlistings in Australia and overseas. John, a former television and advertising writer, lives with his wife in a Sydney beachside suburb.

Grab a copy of Slaves of Socorro here

 

For Garth Nix Fans the Wait Will Soon Be Over – Clariel is Coming in Oct

Clariel, the long-awaited and much anticipated prequel to Garth Nix’s bestselling Old Kingdom trilogy will be published in October 2014.

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Pub Date: Oct 2014

New Prequel: Clariel is the daughter of one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen, and to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, Clariel finds herself at the centre of sorcery and intrigue: a plot is brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan; her parents want to marry her off to a killer; and a dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city.

When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she finds hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers.

Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage and save the King?

Set approximately six hundred years before the birth of Sabriel, Clariel will delight Old Kingdom fans as well as new readers hungry for epic fantasy adventure.

Pre-Order Clariel Now.

New Covers for Garth Nix’s bestselling Old Kingdom trilogy:

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Pub Date: Sep 2014

Book One: For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won’t stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that treacherous world – and face the power of her own extraordinary destiny.

‘Sabriel is a winner, a fantasy that reads like realism. Here is a world with the same solidity and four-dimensional authority as our own, created with invention, clarity and intelligence.’ PHILIP PULLMAN

‘Passionately exciting, full of intriguing characters and stunning scenery, Sabriel is sheer enjoyment.’ THE TIMES

‘Weaving horror and fantasy into a rich, original story … a powerful, gripping quest.’ THE AGE

Pre-Order New Edition Now.

Can’t wait that long? Order current edition now.

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Pub Date: Sep 2014

Book Two: Dark forces are abroad once more in the Old Kingdom. Lirael, solitary daughter of the Clayr, and Sameth, the reluctant Abhorsen-in-Waiting, both seek the same man who may hold the key to an ancient evil stirring in the West. But the Dead cannot be laid to rest until the strange secret linking the fate of Lirael and Sameth is revealed.

‘A riveting sequel to his acclaimed Sabriel … Readers who like their fantasy intense in action, magisterial in scope, and apocalyptic in consequences will revel in every word.’ KIRKUS REVIEWS

‘What makes Lirael a delight is the magic that Nix brings to his story and to his characters. It is filled with twists and turns, playful inventiveness and dark magic, and is sure to satisfy his many readers.’ LOCUS

Pre-Order New Edition Now.

Can’t wait that long? Order current edition now.

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Pub Date: Sep 2014

Book Three: Beneath the earth, a malignant force lies waiting, greedy for freedom from its ancient prison. As the Old Kingdom falls once more into a realm of darkness and terror, the people look desperately to the Abhorsen, the scourge of the Dead, to save them. Yet Abhorsen Sabriel is lost, missing in Ancelstierre.
Only Lirael has any chance of stopping the Destroyer. With her companions Sameth, Mogget and the Disreputable Dog, she travels across the Old Kingdom in a race against time, battling Shadow Hands and dark necromancers to reach Ancelstierre before it is too late. But what hope can one young woman have against a terrible evil with the power to destroy life itself?

‘The reader’s absorption into the intrigue, magic and dazzling richness of the worlds and characters created by Nix is irresistible pleasure …’ AUSTRALIAN REVIEW OF BOOKS

‘Terror, courage, bitterness, love, desperation, and sacrifice all swirl together in an apocalyptic climax that pits both Life and Death together against the destruction of everything … This one is breathtaking, bittersweet and utterly unforgettable.’ KIRKUS REVIEWS

Pre-Order New Edition Now.

Can’t wait that long? Order current edition now.

 

REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (review by Sarah McDuling)

LokiHere’s what I knew about Norse mythology when I first picked up The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris.

a)     Norse gods live in a place called Asgard.

b)    Loki is the coolest god . Sure he’s evil, but he’s also played by Tom Hiddleston (see left) and therefore his evilness is cancelled out by his perfect male beauty.

c)     Thor is the god of Thunder. He has very large muscles and a magic hammer.

So yeah. As you can see I had some major gaps in my knowledge. Gaps that have now been filled with Joanne M. Harris’ spellbinding recounting of Norse myth and legend, through the eyes of the most instantly engaging narrator I have encountered in a long while.

The Gospel of Loki is a surprising book. For starters, the only other book by Joanne M. Harris that I’ve ever read is Chocolat and The Gospel of Loki is a very different kind of read. I loved Chocolat. It was enchanting, heart-warming and utterly lovely.  The Gospel of Loki is none of these things. It’s dark, quirky, occasionally grim, often hilarious and gloriously bold.

Given the subject matter, I was expecting The Gospel of Loki to be more of a traditional fantasy epic, heavy on world building and probably involving some kind of The Gospel of Lokiheroic journey quest. Instead, I found myself lost in a series of episodic adventures, wicked little parables on how best to lie, cheat, trick and bluff your way to success. In Loki’s case, of course, success means getting revenge against his fellow gods and causing the downfall of Asgard.

By far and away the most wonderful thing about this book is the voice Joanne M. Harris has given her delightfully immoral anti-hero. I’m not always a great fan of first person narrative but I have to make an exception for  The Gospel of Loki because this is how first person narration should be done! Loki’s character shines through in every line, dripping sarcasm, twinkling with mischief and humming with that special kind of unrepentant arrogance so often found in archetypal “trickster” characters like Robin Goodfellow and Peter Pan.

This is a character who, when asked if he can achieve the impossible, routinely replies, “Of course. I’m Loki.” He is gloriously conceited, packed full of swagger and playful cheek. He’s a lovable villain, a mischievous bad-boy, a fiendish puppet master who knows just how to manipulate people. It doesn’t take much. Just whisper into someone’s ear, a well-timed and seemingly offhand comment and voila! Disaster ensues!

And yet, the true genius of Harris’ Loki is that he is so dammed lovable. Despite his inherent wickedness, you just can’t help rooting for him. He’s not malicious, after all. He’s simply a creature of chaos. It’s in his nature to cause trouble.

Now come on. Tell me he doesn’t sound like the coolest god ever?

Joanne m. harrisHarris gives us a Loki who is constantly mistreated by his fellow gods. Always an outsider, always rejected, always everybody’s convenient scapegoat.  This of course makes him the ultimate underdog. No matter how evil his plots become, or what depths of wickedness he sinks to, the reader cannot help cheering him on because … well … he’s Loki.

So thoroughly did I enjoy The Gospel of Loki that I was compelled to check whether Joanne M. Harris has written any other books in a similar vein. To my joy, I found out she has!  Runemarks and Runelight  – two Young Adult fantasies inspired by Norse mythology, both which of I will be reading as soon as possible.

And now excuse me while I go and pray to Odin, Allfather of the gods and ruler of Asgard, to give Loki his very own Marvel movie (with at least two sequels).

__________________

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

Grab a copy of The Gospel of Loki here

the-gospel-of-lokiWith his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

But while Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the Worlds.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

 

Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Final Round of Voting

There is only one more week of voting left to decide who is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

This is the longlist as voted by you, congratulations to all the novelists for making it onto this extraordinary list.

But the job isn’t finished. We need your final vote to decide the order of the top 50.

Vote for all your favourite authors, and spread the word, tell your friends and family to get voting! The poll closes 5pm Saturday.

Next week we’ll announce the Top 50 as voted by you and decide who, in 2014, is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

 

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 5

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

This is it folks. Your last chance to push your favourite authors into next week’s final round of voting. Last year’s winner Kate Morton is also in this heat!

Next week we’ll have the top 100 authors from all the heats for you to vote for!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 4

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Heat 4 is full of some huge names and exciting newcomers. Who will you vote for?

Thanks to everyone who has voted so far, the response has been incredible! And thanks to all the wonderful authors and publishers for spreading the word!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 3

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Today’s list is full of the most popular writers in Australia today, it’s a tough one!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 2

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Yesterday had some big surprises as Australia searched their hearts and bookcases, will today be the same?

A reminder that this is only Heat 2, so you might see some of your favourites missing today. Don’t worry, over the week you’ll have a chance to vote for all of your favourites in their respective heats.

Today’s list includes Nobel, Pulitzer, Orange and Miles Franklin Prize-Winners!

Vote now to see them advance to the final round of voting next week and have the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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