David Mackintosh, author of Lucky, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

David Mackintosh

author of Lucky, Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School and more

Ten Terrifying Questions
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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 Belfast NI, but left there before I was one year old. I grew up in Brisbane, and went to Griffith University to do a bachelor of visual arts. I didn’t return to Belfast until I was 25.

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

Twelve: I wanted to be a porter in a big hotel, carrying people’s suitcases to their room. I liked the idea of being useful, and I like hotels because they are self-contained worlds where people act differently.

Eighteen: I still wanted to be a porter in a big hotel. But I decided I’d also like to be an engineer, so I went to night school and got a job in a drawing office during the day.
Thirty: I wanted to continue illustrating and designing so I could do some more travelling.

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

That I’d always have beautiful long hair.

Author David Mackintosh

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?

Grimble by Clement Freud / A Boy Named Sue written by Shel Silverstein / Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens.

It’s hard to isolate all the things that one is influenced by, but I do like these three. A common thread is the determined individual. Grimble was the funniest book ever and I wish I was him. I loved the mood of the boy named Sue forever searching for the man who gave him that awful name, and the Devil getting up to no good at nightfall when everyone else is being righteous always made me feel good.

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

I don’t think there were many artistic avenues open to me because I can’t paint, play an instrument well or act. I can draw well enough to tell a story in pictures and that’s good for me. Growing up I looked at a lot of illustrated texts: comics, comic strip annuals, newspaper editorial illustrations, New Yorker magazine panel cartoons, Popular Mechanics magazines and much more. I have always been hooked on words and pictures, and I’m naturally drawn to them. My favourite was American MAD Magazines which I collected for years before they began publishing a local version which was just awful. I may not have understood the humour so well as a little kid, but the editorial tone was evident and the relationship between the pictures and words always fascinated me. I wanted to become a cartoonist and sit at a desk in an office building drawing and inking cartoons. Writing books was a natural progression.

 

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Lucky is a picture book about a boy who misinterprets something his mother says and has his unrealistic expectations dashed as a result. In the process, he finds that he has other reasons to feel lucky. It’s seen from the perspective of the boy and his little brother Leo, who is the eternal optimist and the one who plants the seeds of his downfall, be it accidentally. The cover has a pineapple on the front cover which is a symbol of good fortune in China apparently. However, I didn’t know that when I did my book and the pineapple is included for a plot reason. So I see this as extra lucky.

Grab a copy of Lucky here

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

I don’t expect anything from the reader other than the time it may take them to read the book and look at the pictures. That’s enough for me. What they make of it is for them to decide, but I suppose I hope they can appreciate someone’s point of view, and enjoy the humour.

where-the-sidewalk-ends8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Here are just some: Joseph Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Shel Silverstein, Peter Carey, Lauren Child, and Mark Hellinger. After reading/listening to them they make me want to have a go at writing something too.

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

To do one picture book per year for as long as I am able.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just sit down and write something and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and to put them right again.

David, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Lucky here

Lincoln Peirce, author of the Big Nate series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lincoln Peirce

author of Big Nate in the Zone, the Big Nate series and more

Ten Terrifying Questions
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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 Ames, Iowa, but by the time I was six months old my family had moved to Durham, New Hampshire. So I consider Durham my hometown – that’s where I lived until I went off to college at age 17. I attended Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where I studied art and art history. Then I moved to New York City, and I earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Drawing & Painting from Brooklyn College.

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

I decided in third grade that I wanted to be a cartoonist like my hero, Charles Schulz of “Peanuts” fame. I loved all types of comics, but newspaper comic strips were my favourite. I’d read a quote from Schulz that went something like this: to be a cartoonist, yeu need to be a good writer, not a great writer, and a good artist, not a great artist. I thought that sounded like me, and I spent a lot of time creating my own comics as I grew up. So at 12 and 18, my goal was exactly the same: to create my own nationally syndicated comic strip. By age 26, I’d reached my goal.

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

It’s not easy to remember just how I looked at the world when I was eighteen; that was 32 years ago. But I’m sure I was like a lot of young people who have some growing up to do: I thought the very small part of the world I inhabited was

lincoln

Author Lincoln Pierce

the most important part, and I believed my own life was more significant than it really was.

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

There’s no doubt the single biggest influence on me as a writer and a cartoonist has been Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts.” I read it obsessively as a child, and I absorbed the rhythm of writing dialogue to fit neatly into four little panels. I loved many other comic strips as well, especially great ones from the past like “Krazy Kat,” “Polly And Her Pals,” “Thimble Theater starring Popeye,” “Li’l Abner,” and “Pogo,” to name a few. But “Peanuts” was my Rosetta Stone.

I would also point to Charlotte’s Web, written by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams, as a hugely inspiring work of art. I think it is the most perfect marriage of text and artwork in all of children’s literature. It also felt personally significant to me because it painted a picture of a world I recognized. It’s a farm story, and I come from a farm family. My mother grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, and during my teenage years, I worked on a farm after school and on weekends.

Last but not least is a book I first read as a sixth or seventh grader, and have read many times since: Banner In The Sky, by James Ramsey Ullman. It’s a mountain climbing story, and a quite old-fashioned one. I’m not sure how many children nowadays would be interested in it. But I was fascinated. The book, which takes place in Switzerland in the 1860’s, tells the story of Rudi Matt, a young man who dreams of being the first climber to reach the summit of the Citadel, the mountain on which his father was killed. He fails to make it to the top himself, but Rudi’s selflessness and courage save the life of a rival climber and enable his friends to summit the mountain. The message of the book – that a mountain guide must put the safety of his colleagues ahead of his own aspirations – was one that made a major impression on me.

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

I didn’t really choose to write a novel. I’d been writing and drawing my comic strip, “Big Nate,” for about 18 years. It appeared in a couple hundred newspapers and, although I certainly wasn’t getting rich, I was managing to eke out a living as a professional cartoonist. Then along came the opportunity to write “hybrid” books – novels featuring Big Nate that are a combination of text and comics.

I’d never written a book before, but I’d spent nearly two decades creating jokes and storylines for Nate and the other characters from the comic strip. So I was reasonably confident that if I could write a good story that lasted four panels, I could also write one that lasted a couple hundred pages. And as things turned out, I’ve really enjoyed it. There are things you can do in a novel that you’d never be able to do in a four-panel comic strip. The possibilities are nearly endless.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Big Nate In The Zone is the sixth book in the series, and it focuses on Nate’s shifting fortunes. He has a string of incredibly bad luck (including an embarrassing moment involving his band, Enslave The Mollusk), followed by an improbable run of GOOD luck.

A few supporting characters play major roles: Artur, Nate’s friendly rival; Chad, his sidekick whose crush on a classmate could lead to heartache; and Marcus, an alpha male with whom Nate makes a potentially costly wager.

Grab a copy of Big Nate in the Zone here

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

My goal is always the same: to create books that children will think are fun to read.

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

Some of my favourite writers are cartoonists and/or graphic novelists. Ben Katchor, in his long-form comic strip “Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer,” has created a world that is simultaneously familiar and bizarre. Chris Ware writes and draws about the inner lives of lonely, often desperate people, and his innovations in the world of sequential narrative have been ground-breaking. His most recent project, “Building Stories,” is a masterpiece.

I also love reading non-fiction, particularly American history. Some of my favourites over the years have been Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, and David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers and Thank You For Your Service. There are also two writers whose work I always admire in newspapers and magazines: Elizabeth Kolbert and James Carroll.

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

thank-you-for-your-service

Click here to grab a copy

I’m fortunate enough to have achieved my childhood dream of seeing my comic strip syndicated. Beyond that, the only goals I have concern the health and happiness of my family and friends.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

It’s usually aspiring cartoonists, rather than aspiring writers, who seek me out for advice. Young cartoonists are often over-focused on the importance of artwork in comics. My own opinion is that being a good writer is a far more important skill than being able to draw well. A great-looking comic book with beautiful illustrations will fall flat if the story isn’t engaging. But if a story has memorable characters and crisp dialogue, even stick-figure drawings might suffice. So I always advise people to make sure they write every single day. Writing is really no different than playing a musical instrument: you improve with practice.

Lincoln, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Big Nate in the Zone here

Caroline Baum Reviews… When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

Click for more details...Caroline Baum: I’m going to say what everyone else is going to say: When Mr Dog Bites does for Tourette’s what Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time did for Asperger’s.

Dylan Mint (great name) is a wonderfully realised creation, a boy with a wonderfully fruity turn of phrase and a great attitude.

Of course he gets the wrong end of the stick about a lot of adult things, and these misunderstandings provide playful, funny, bittersweet plot twists and turns but it’s his pre-teen personality with its hormonally surges and involuntary outbursts of obscenities that makes this such an entertaining read.

Publisher’s Blurb: Dylan Mint has Tourette’s. His life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in – the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that seems to escape whenever he gets stressed… But a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he’s going to die next March.

So he decides to grant himself three parting wishes, or ‘Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It’. Number one on the list is to have ‘real’ intercourse with his stunning and aloof classmate Michelle Malloy. Secondly, Dylan pledges to ‘fight heaven and earth, tooth and nail, dungeons and dragons’ so that his best friend Amir can find a new ‘best bud’. And finally he has to get his dad back from the war so that mum can stop crying so much.

It’s not a long list, but it’s ambitious, and he doesn’t have much time. But as Dylan sets out to make his wishes come true, he discovers that nothing – and no-one – is quite as he had previously supposed.

Grab a copy of When Mr Dog Bites here

About the Author

Brian Conaghan is the author of the acclaimed The Boy Who Made It Rain (Sparkling Books, 2011). He is a forty-year-old Scot, living and working as a teacher in Dublin, and has an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. When Mr Dog Bites is his second book.

When Mr Dog Bites comes in this cool YA edition as well…

Book comes in this cool YA edition as well

John Purcell: What I Am Reading Now

John PurcellThese days I always have more than one book on the go. It is part of the job. A perk, if you like. An abundance.

At the moment I am moving between three books. Three black, to varying degrees, comedies. And all three I want to finish because I am enjoying them so much. Which is tricky. I want to give each my full attention. But I also do not want to be seen to be preferring one over the other. I have to be careful.

This doesn’t happen often. I don’t finish many of the books I start. I can’t. Even the ones I love. No time. I get an idea of the quality of a book, its potential readership, its reason for existing and move on. Not one of the perks of the job.

But with these three I think I will make an exception. I’m halfway through all three so I feel confident I can recommend them all.

What are they? (If I find the time I will review them when I’m done)


Click here for more details...Terms & Conditions

by Robert Glancy

Frank has been in a car accident*. The doctor tells him he lost his spleen, but Frank believes he has lost more. He is missing memories – of those around him, of the history they share and of how he came to be in the crash. All he remembers is that he is a lawyer who specialises in small print**.

In the wake of the accident Frank begins to piece together his former life – and his former self. But the picture that emerges, of his marriage, his family and the career he has devoted years to, is not necessarily a pretty one. Could it be that the terms and conditions by which Frank has been living are not entirely in his favour***?

In the process of unravelling the knots into which his life has been tied, he learns that the devil really does live in the detail and that it’s never too late to rewrite your own destiny.

*apparently quite a serious one
**words that no one ever reads
*** and perhaps never have been

About the Author

Robert Glancy was born in Zambia and raised in Malawi. At fourteen he moved from Africa to Edinburgh then went on to study history at Cambridge. He currently lives in New Zealand with his wife and children.

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Click for more detailsThe Collected Works of A.J. Fikry

by Gabrielle Zevin

AJ Fikry owns a failing bookshop. His wife has just died, in tragic circumstances. His rare and valuable first edition has been stolen. His life is a wreck.

Amelia is a book rep, with a big heart, and a lonely life.

Maya is the baby who ends up on AJ’s bookshop floor with a note.

What happens in the bookshop that changes the lives of these seemingly normal but extraordinary characters.

This is the story of how unexpected love can rescue you and bring you back to real life, in a world that you won’t want to leave, with characters that you will come to love.

‘Delightful! I read [it] in one sitting. It’s a big-hearted gift to anyone who has worked at a bookstore, or loitered in a bookstore, or dreamed of living above a bookstore. The story has humour, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love – love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.’ Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

About the Author

Gabrielle Zevin was raised by parents who took her to the library like it was church. She suspects that is why she became a writer. Her career began at age fourteen when an angry letter to her local newspaper about a Guns ‘n’ Roses concert resulted in a job as a music critic.

Over eight novels for adults and young people, she has written about female soldiers in Iraq, mafia princesses in retro-future New York City, teenage girls in the afterlife, talking dogs, amnesiacs, and the difficulties of loving one person over many years. She is probably best known for her first novel, Elsewhere, which has been translated into 25 languages. She is also the screenwriter of the cult hit Conversations with Other Women.

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Click for more detailsLook Who’s Back

by Timur Vermes

Summer 2011.
Berlin.

Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. People certainly recognise him, though – as a brilliant, satirical impersonator who refuses to break character.

The unthinkable, the inevitable, happens, and the ranting Hitler takes off, goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own TV show, becomes someone who people listen to. All while he’s still trying to convince people that yes, it really is him, and yes, he really means it.

Look Who’s Back is a black and brilliant satire of modern media-bloated society, seen through the eyes of the Fuhrer himself. Adolf is by turns repellent, sympathetic and hilarious, but always fascinating.

Look Who’s Back is outrageously clever, outrageously funny – and outrageously plausible.

About the Author

The son of a German mother and a Hungarian father who fled the country in 1956, Timur Vermes was born in Nuremberg in 1967. He studied history and politics and went on to become a journalist. He has written for the Abendzeitung and the Cologne Express and worked for various magazines. He has ghostwritten several books since 2007. This is his first novel. Jamie Bulloch is the translator of novels by F. C. Delius, Daniel Glattauer, Katharina Hagena, Paulus Hochgatterer, Birgit Vanderbeke and Alissa Walser.

Click here for more details

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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