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


The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joanna Courtney

author of The Chosen Queen

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

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

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

Joanna, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Chosen Queen here

the-chosen-queenThe Chosen Queen

by Joanna Courtney

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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


 Grab a copy of The Chosen Queen here

Kate Morton to release new novel – The Lake House – in October

r336631_1526364Australia’s highest selling international author, Kate Morton, will be releasing a new book in 2015. Her fifith novel, The Lake House, will be released in October.

In 2013, Kate Morton was voted Australia’s Favourite Novelist in a Booktopia readers poll, narrowly beating out Tim Winton and Monica McInerney for the top spot.

Morton has sold over nine million books in 33 languages across 38 countries. The Shifting Fog, The Forgotten GardenThe Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper have all been number one bestsellers around the world, with each novel winning the Australian Book Industry Award for General Fiction Book of the Year.

Lake House coverThe Lake House

by Kate Morton

An abandoned house…  After a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police and retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall.  There she finds herself at a loose end, until one day she stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.

A missing child…  June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party.  For Eleanor, the annual party has always been one of her treasured traditions, but her middle daughter, Alice, sixteen years old and with literary ambitions, is especially excited.  Not only has Alice worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t.  But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night sky, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great they leave Loeanneth and never return.

An unsolved mystery…  Seventy years later, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes.  Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past and seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape…

Click here to go to Kate Morton’s author page on Booktopia

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Robyn Cadwallader on her brilliant debut novel The Anchoress

Robyn Cadwallader’s debut novel The Anchoress has been met with widespread acclaim, with critics comparing it to Hannah Kent’s 2013 debut Burial Rites. She chats to Booktopia’s Editorial Director Caroline Baum.

Grab a copy of The Anchoress here

The Anchoress

(Review by Caroline Baum)

Like Hannah Kent’s award-winning international bestseller Burial Rites, this is one of those out of the box debuts that always sends the publishing world into a frenzy: a startlingly original piece of storytelling from a unknown who demonstrates an ability to create a total, immersive, believable world that is rewarding as much for what it allows the reader to learn as for sheer escapist enjoyment.

Like Hannah Kent, Cadwallader has chosen to write about a singular isolated figure in an unfamiliar past. Unlike Kent, her outsider is not accused of any crime.


I’m going to stick my neck out and predict this book will be one of the year’s highlights and success stories. It has bold reach and ambition, tangling with questions of morality and scripture, but despite its rarefied theme, this is an essentially human story, rich in period detail and atmospherics.

Sarah is a religious recluse – a young woman in 13th century Britain who chooses the life of an anchoress – which means being literally walled up in a cell, with limited contact to the outside world through her maid and her confessor. Following the death of her sister, Sarah forsakes the world to retreat. It soon becomes apparent that she is also, perhaps seeking sanctuary from danger: the threat posed by the sexually predatory local lord, who has made unwelcome advances. All too soon it becomes obvious that Sarah is battling inner demons – she is aware of the response of the flesh, and seeks to mortify herself to subdue her own desires.

While she faces the unexpected challenges of her cell, and of her limited interaction with the outside world, her vivid imagination tangles with her faith and conjures up the spirit of the previous anchoress- Isabella- a mysterious ghostly presence. As Sarah discovers more about Isabella she learns to face up to her own weakness, pride and examine her capacity for compassion.

Meanwhile Ranaulf, her confessor, is finding his responsibilities more demanding than he could ever have anticipated. He is not used to women who counter his interpretations of the gospels.

The scene is set for conflict as Lord Thomas imposes his will and attempts to intrude on the sanctity of Sarah’s enclosure. The plot is interwoven like a fine tapestry with references to the oppression of the peasantry by their feudal masters and the complex inter relationship between the Church and the landed gentry. Class, illiteracy, superstition, shame, all make pertinent appearances as Sarah is faced with dilemmas that test her faith to the limits of her conviction. An erotic undercurrent gives Sarah’s worship of Christ a powerfully passionate charge while every teaching of the church reinforces the notion of woman as the vessel of sin. Is Sarah safe from temptation? Is she pure in thought and deed? Would she be able to endure the suffering of Saint Margaret, the martyr whose life she studies, who died a graphically horrible death for her beliefs?

A film adaptation can surely not be far behind. Benedict Cumberbatch as Father Ranaulf perhaps? Upcoming Australian star Sarah Snook (to be seen this year alongside Kate Winslet in the eagerly awaited adaption of one of my most favourite Australian novels, The Dressmaker in October) would do the role of Sarah justice. If period fiction with big themes is your thing, this novel could be the answer to your prayers.

Grab a copy of The Anchoress here

Absolutely Fabulous News!

We’ve all heard the news and now we are SO excited!

Aren’t we?

Well, if you haven’t already heard there may be an Absolutely Fabulous film released this year!

ab_fab_-thumb-300x418I have loved this show for so long, I can’t even remember when I started watching it. My mother always hated it but my grandfather adored it, he saw things my way. I think what we both loved about Absolutely Fabulous was how over-the-top and funny it was, yet it was still a sharp commentary on what happens when you hate the life you’re stuck with and will do anything to make it, well, Absolutely Fabulous!

Who doesn’t love a mother trying to hold onto her youth by trying every single diet ever mentioned, wearing ill-fitting clothes by the hippest designers out there, constantly re-decorating her apartment and trying anything new that comes her way! Let’s be honest, you are only as young as you feel, so I applaud you Eddy!

As for Eddy’s daughter, Saffy, who has to look after her own mother and try as she might to make sure Eddy doesn’t get too carried away, I can relate. Sometimes I feel like the parent when I’m dealing with my mother’s life.

Oh, I must mention Patsy. Eddy’s best friend (at times) who encourages Eddy through all her antics because she herself wants to live and love life forever but can’t do it by herself!

Let’s hope the movie doesn’t disappoint!

Now let’s get down to some of the biggest romance books coming out in 2015. We think they are going to be Absolutely Fabulous, and we think Patsy and Eddy would feel the same way.

hard-to-come-byHard to Come By
by Laura Kaye

Caught between desire and loyalty…

Derek DiMarzio would do anything for the members of his disgraced Special Forces team–sacrifice his body, help a former teammate with a covert operation to restore their honor, and even go behind enemy lines. He just never expected to want the more ….

 Grab a copy of Hard to Come By here

quarterback-drawQuarterback Draw
Play-By-Play Series : Book 9
by Jaci Burton

Grant Cassidy knows how to be a football star – Flash that dazzling smile, throw the winning pass, get the girl. But while the hot quarterback loves the game and the lifestyle, no woman has come close to catching his heart. Then he matches wits with a smart, gorgeous model, and Grant finds himself wanting more than a fling. Supermodel Katrina Koslova might live in a world of glitz and camera flashes, but she works hard to provide more…

Grab a copy of Quarterback Draw here

the-road-to-hopeThe Road to Hope
by Rachael Johns

Nurse Lauren Simpson is known in Hope Junction for the wrong reasons – and she’s over it. Watching the man she’s always loved marry someone else is the last straw – she decides to get out of Hope. But her resolve is tested when the hot new locum doctor arrives in town.

Doctor Tom Lewis also has skeletons in his closet – including a painful breakup and devastating family news. He’s hit the road with his vintage ute and surfboard, to travel the outback and live in the moment. When Tom and Lauren more…

Grab a copy of The Road to Hope here

the-secrets-of-sir-richard-kenworthyThe Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
by Julia Quinn

Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can’t be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family’s infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She’s the type of girl you don’t notice until the second-or third-look, but there’s something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she’s more…

Grab a copy of The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy here

Cartel Trilogy : Book 1
by Lili St. Germain

How much is a life worth?

I grew up in Colombia, the daughter of a wealthy drug lord. I lived a life of extravagance, until one day a drug run went horribly wrong and everything came crashing down around us.

I was given away. A payment for a debt. The Gypsy Brothers Motorcycle Club became my new owners, and I did everything I could to survive.

But falling in love with more…

Grab a copy of Cartel here

Match Pointematch-pointe
by Indigo Bloome

The sizzling new erotic romance from the internationally bestselling author of Destined to Play.

Eloise Lawrance, a beautiful and dedicated ballerina, is on the cusp of achieving her dreams when her career is abruptly left in tatters. Enigmatic gambling tycoon Caesar King approaches her with an alluring proposition she can’t refuse – to dance as inspiration for the top-ranked men’s tennis player for two years.

Cleverly manipulated by more…

Grab a copy of Match Pointe here

And to celebrate the world (person) behind Absolutely Fabulous, here is Jennifer Saunders’ story!

bonkersBonkers : My Life
by Jennifer Saunders

She’s been in two of the most popular double acts in TV history. As the Saunders one out of French and Saunders, she gave the world one of its longest-lasting, most-loved comedy partnerships. And in Ab Fab’s Eddie and Patsy she created two hilarious monsters we’ve taken to our hearts.

Bonkers is the story of how it all came about. Or at least the bits she recalls. The rest she made up. Either way, it’s all more…





And to finish this blog here are scenes from Absolutely Fabulous!

Karen Brooks, author of The Brewer’s Tale, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karen Brooks

author of The Brewer’s Tale and The Curse of the Bond Riders series

Six Sharp Questions

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Thank you! The Brewer’s Tale is an epic story about a medieval woman’s efforts to support her family in the wake of tragedy by taking up the trade by which her mother’s family prospered: brewing ale. What she doesn’t count on is her humble efforts attracting first the attention and then the enmity of powerful men whose mission is to see her fail at any cost. It’s a story of great passion, terrible betrayal, fierce loyalty; about someone remarkable rising above catastrophe and, despite the forces moving against and with her, never losing hope.

The book means the world to me as it’s the first novel I wrote after losing one of my best friends and being chronically ill as well. The idea came to me during a very dark time and it was a blessing and a delight to write – also the amazing people it brought into my orbit and the long-term impact it’s having are astounding and more than a little bit magic. Because it’s my first work of historical fiction and released into the adult market, it also holds a very dear place in my heart and head. It’s like being a first-time novelist all over again – thrilling and utterly nerve-wracking.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

It’s been a few years of dark and light, but you can’t appreciate one without the other, can you? That whole “you can’t have rainbows without rain” philosophy is very true. On the best side, there’s been the writing of and build up to the publication of The Brewer’s Tale and the enthusiasm and support of my wonderful agent, Selwa Anthony, and fabulous publishers, Harlequin, never mind my husband, Stephen, kids, and friends.

Stephen, inspired by the research he helped me with for the novel, has opened his own craft brewery, Captain Bligh’s Ale and Cider, in Hobart. There was also his riotous 50th in August, shared with fantastic and beloved friends, many who travelled long distances to be with us. There’s nothing like the company and love of family and friends to remind you of how lucky you are and have been, even when you despair. On the worst side, there have been cancer diagnoses, hospital trips, operations, illness, recovery, and sadly, the death of Stephen’s dad, Ron Brooks, and the tragic loss of one of my dearest friends, Sara Douglass.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.tallow

I have two that are meaningful to me. “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” Henry David Thoreau
It’s like a kick up the bum and reminder not just to live in your head, but get out there and experience life and love, and all the wonderful risks these entail.

And, “A truth that’s told with bad intent/Beats all the lies you can invent” William Blake.
I can’t stand liars… but I have more trouble with people who use the phrase, “I’m just being honest” or hide behind “honesty” to hurt others. No, you’re not being honest; you’re being mean. So unnecessary – if we were all kinder to each other, and ourselves, the world really would be a better place.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Who describes writers that way? Who? Show me! LOL! I think if you asked my husband, you might get a different answer. I don’t think I’m “difficult” to live with… I hope not. A bit schizophrenic sometimes when I am lost in a novel and carrying around dozens of different characters and their voices in my head (Stephen just sighs when I don’t answer him sometimes and says, “You’re in the ‘zone”, aren’t you?”), but otherwise, I believe I’m normal, apart from wanting to talk about the period I’m writing in or comparing standards of living, clothes, politics, customs etc of the past to now… Oh, that makes me sound so boring!

I treat writing as a regular job. I go to my study each morning and work an eight-ish hour day, knock off for dinner, go out on weekends, walk the dogs daily, play with the cats, watch crap and good TV, read, meet up with friends, travel. I’m a professional writer (I also write a weekly newspaper column for the Courier Mail) and do take everything about the work seriously (as in, I respect the profession and everyone involved). The only time I get a little pissed off is when people think because you work at home it’s OK to pop around or phone for a chat – any time. That separation of home and office (when they’re one in the same) isn’t hard for me, but is for some others. Actually, that’s when I can be difficult. Oh dear. A little terse, shall we say? I struggle with being pulled out of the zone… But come beer or wine o’clock, I’m anyone’s… ummm… that came out wrong. You know what I mean!

Author: Karen Brooks

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I sit somewhere in the middle. I don’t obsess over it but neither do I completely ignore it. As a reader, and someone who reviews books, I am aware of trends and changes, but I don’t let these dictate what I write. Neither will I, say, go and write a book about sparkly vampires (done) or erotica (I don’t think I could – there are others absolutely excellent at that). I take the advice of my agent; write to my strengths, but also with one eye on commercial appeal. I would be a fool not to, I think.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Complete Works of William Shakespeare (I know this is sort of cheating, but you can get them in one book!): We’d not only read them together, but also act out each play. If Shakespeare does not cover human experience, plumb emotional depths, prompt laughter, tears, fear, rage, frustration, despair, betrayal, magic, mayhem, great love and passion, as well as terrible tragedy, all of which contribute to understanding and thus civilising humans, then we are lost before we begin. In taking on roles in each play, the kids would invest in the characters and their actions, learn about what motivates people and the consequences of certain choices and behaviours, learn so much about life and each other, and have great fun to boot. If I could only chose one play, I would read and perform Macbeth – what isn’t there to like about ghosts, witches, daggers appearing and disappearing, drunken porters, slaughtering kings, mad queens, walking woods, prophecies, blood and consequences?

Homer: The Odyssey. Great epic fantasy and superhero story all rolled into one with war, traitors, a throne and lives at stake. A great read, an adventure for the ages with powerful lessons at its heart about loyalty, nobility, friendship, honour, love, father-son relationships, forces beyond our control and how the monsters you face are sometimes within.

Philip Pullman: The Northern Lights. Almost for the same reasons as above. A classic story of friendship, courage, risk-taking, trust, loyalty, honour, faith, manipulation and how to rise above the plots and cunning of those who don’t have your best interests at heart. The true meaning of sacrifice is also explored in a tale that spans worlds as well as science, religion and magic.

9780747590583Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner. A heart-wrenching and sublime story of friendship, class and ethnic difference, politics and their cruel impact on ordinary people, war, families, terrible brutality, forgiveness and love, told initially through the eyes of a wealthy young boy against the backdrop of the last years of the Afghanistani monarchy. At once moving and shocking, reading this book changes you. It’s a tale that intricately explores how actions and consequences are so interrelated, how seemingly innocent choices (or not so innocent) can have devastating and unforseen outcomes. It explores the damage lies can wield but also how they can be told to protect. Such an ethical, tragically beautiful and beautifully tragic book, populated with characters who sometimes struggle to find their moral compass, it has lessons to teach every reader of any age in abundance. Even unruly, ill-educated teens would love this accessible, wonderful book.

William Goldman: The Princess Bride. Number of reasons I chose this one. Not only is it a great read, but because it’s also a parody of so many other heroic princess-in-distress-is-saved-be unlikely-hero and revenge (Inigo Montoya) fairytales with swords, beasts, giants, ruthless kings, wonky magic, gorgeous leads and flawed side-kicks, it also opens the opportunity to tell the stories it draws from as well. The tale of Westley and Buttercup and the characters that enter their lives and either try to tear them apart or ensure they live “happily-ever-after” (a concept that is also played with in the novel) is timeless, funny, unbearably sad and unputdownable. And, if the ill-educated adolescents have seen the film, we can act it out. I bags being Inigo! “As you wish…”

Karen, thank you for playing.

Karen Brooks’ The Brewer’s Tale is a featured title in Harlequin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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the-brewer-s-taleThe Brewer’s Tale

by Karen Brooks

It had been Mother’s secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on. When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale.

Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well. Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy.

Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring. Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail? A compelling insight into the brewer’s craft, the strength of women, and the myriad forms love can take.

Karen Brooks’ The Brewer’s Tale is a featured title in Harlequin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Christina Baker Kline

author of Orphan Train, Bird in Hand 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 Cambridge, England.  My father was a country boy from the red clay hills of Georgia, the first person in his entire family tree to go to college; improbably, he earned a PhD at Cambridge and became a British labor historian.  My mother came from a long line of educators in North Carolina. Despite their different backgrounds, my parents shared a love of literature and travel and music and social justice. We spent years going back and forth from England to the American South before finally settling in Maine, where I mostly grew up. My own post-secondary education I now see as a funhouse mirror of my childhood: I went to Yale, returned to Cambridge to do a master’s in literature, and then back to the South, to UVA, for a MFA in fiction writing.

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

I suppose I always wanted to be a writer.  I am terrible at many things, but I do have one skill: I’m quite a good editor, and I enjoy it. So though at twelve I imagined myself as a writer, by eighteen I more realistically (and quite happily) dreamed of becoming a book or magazine editor. Luck and happenstance led me to publish my first novel in my mid-twenties to some acclaim, thereby perpetuating the dangerous impression that writing novels was a viable profession.

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

I thought that my mother – thin, healthy, brimming with life — would far outlive my father, who had scarlet fever as a child that weakened his heart. The doctor told him he wouldn’t live to be forty. Well, my mother died last year at 73 of complications from an unexpected stroke, and my 76-year-old (potbellied, whiskey-drinking, red-meat-eating) father is still going strong. With a 58-year-old girlfriend, to boot. There’s a lesson in this, but I’m not sure what it is.

Christina Baker Kline

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?

This is cheating a bit, but the three plays that make up Aeschylus’s OresteiaAgamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Furies – rocked my world when I read them at Cambridge. They deeply influenced the structure and tenor of my first novel, Sweet Water. “The house itself, could it take voice, might speak aloud and plain” – these words, spoken by a watchman at the beginning of the trilogy, encapsulate the themes and preoccupations of my novels: family history, secret-keeping, the search for home.

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

I’m a terrible singer, and despite years of piano lessons I never developed the slightest flair for music. I’m a mediocre painter, a pathetically bad actor, a ho-hum poet, a slapdash journalist.  Really, what’s left?

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The novel I’m working on now is inspired by the iconic and haunting American painting Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.  Christina was a real person with an incredibly interesting life and history. The strange, forbidding house in the painting is on a remote point on the coast of Maine.  I spent time there last summer.  I want to tell Christina’s story: what was she doing in that field?  What was she looking for? What did she find?

Grab a title by Christina Baker Kline here

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

I hope readers come away with some thoughts about the human experience that hadn’t occurred to them before. And this is kind of touchy-feely, but I hope they are inspired to think about their own lives and relationships.

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

As the mother of three boys I admire Kate Chopin, who wrote anywhere and everywhere, with kids underfoot and dinner bubbling on the stove.  Her example inspired me to forge ahead when it would’ve been far easier not to write.

Really, I admire anyone who actually finishes a book and puts it out in the world.  It’s harder than it looks!

And oh yeah, George Eliot.

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

Several years ago – when my fourth novel had just come out – I was at a party with a Very Famous Writer, and while I was standing in a small group with her I realized she was thinking, “Who the hell is this person and why is she speaking to me?” I had a Scarlett O’Hara fist-shaking moment (inside; in reality I slunk away): As God is my witness, I’ll never be anonymous again! If I’m going to spend my life at my desk, goddamn it, WRITING, I want at least to be known and respected by – and in conversation with – other writers. Tragically unambitious, I know, but it’s the truth.  I’d like to be part of the cultural conversation, or at least a cultural conversation at a cocktail party.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write, write, write.  Finish a draft.  Revise.  Revise again.  Keep going even when you want to despair.  (I always think of Winnie-the-Pooh stuck in the rabbit hole: he can’t go back, so he has to go forward.  At a certain point in the process of writing a novel it feels that way to me. Every time.)  The single most important thing is to FINISH.  Many extremely talented writers I know and have taught can’t seem to finish a manuscript. At a certain point they abandon it and start over. The dream is always so much more perfect than the reality.

Christina, thank you for playing.

Grab a title by Christina Baker Kline here

Naomi Wood, author of Mrs. Hemingway, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Naomi Wood

author of Mrs. Hemingway

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 grew up in York in the north of England. When I was eight my parents announced we were moving to Hong Kong. We’d never been to the continent of Asia, nevertheless China, and we’d certainly never been to Hong Kong. My dad worked for the international schools, and my sister and I had most of our schooling out there. Now she’s in Sydney, I’m in London and my parents are in Italy. We’re spread out like butter on the toast of the globe.

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

At twelve I told people I wanted to be “a bloodsucking lawyer”. It was a brattish answer that I stole from The Addams Family movie (my favourite, at that age; for a year I watched it every afternoon over a bowl of noodles, and can still remember most of the lines.) At eighteen I was getting vibes that I wanted to be a writer. I’m thirty now, and I write and teach Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University in London, which is a pretty good combination.

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

That writing would build me a big house and swimming pool. The economics of my dreams have shrunk a little.

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?

Reading The Old Man and the Sea made me interested in Hemingway and made me want to find out everything about him – that powerful sense of loss in all of its pages made me want to write about a troubled soul and his relationships with women.  My first novel, The Godless Boys, emerged after I set about writing a short-story based on what I saw in Lucian Freud’s painting The Village Boys. If I could produce something tonally close to the cascading elegy that is Anthony and the Jonson’s ‘Hope There’s Someone’ – I’d be very happy.

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

No good at painting. Can’t sing. Can dance, but only like an idiot. I love books – short-stories, novels and poetry, and I love language, so writing seemed the obvious artistic avenue.

6.     Please tell us about your latest novel…

Mrs. Hemingway is historical fiction, set between 1921-61 in France and America. It tells the story of Hemingway’s four marriages from the perspective of each wife (and former mistress) – Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh.

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

It’s definitely written for people who’ve never read any Hemingway before, so I hope people take away a portrait of him, as well as a portrait of his four incredible wives. And maybe they’ll go away and read some of Martha Gellhorn’s war reportage – or maybe some fiction of Hemingway’s.

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

I’ll choose a living writer here. I really love Marilynne Robinson’s work. I think she is a very robust, very beautiful writer. Gilead is one of my favourite novels.

the-old-man-and-the-sea9.     Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I set myself achievable rather than ambitious goals.  My current goal is to write a first draft of my third novel.

10.   What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Not to worry too much about early drafts. They’re exploratory and first stabs in the dark. I must admit this is advice I find very difficult to accept myself. I’d like things to be perfect right from the get-go. Maybe I’m quite like Wednesday Addams in this as well!

Naomi, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mrs. Hemingway here


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