GUEST BLOG – Bestselling author Rachael Johns on her real life Outback Blaze

I’m so excited to be releasing the second book in my Bunyip Bay series, Outback Blaze. As the title suggests, the book involves a fire and although the fire and the story that accompanies it are fictional, this book was in part inspired by a real-life event.

In 2009, my husband and I lived in Kojonup (a small but vibrant community in South Western Australia). My husband was the manager of the supermarket part of the Kojonup Co-op – a business owned and operated by the people of the town for over fifty years. The building was a historic icon in town and the business it housed was the hub of the community.

I still remember the night of the fire like it was yesterday. I was in bed early (I had a newborn) and was typing on my laptop when I smelt smoke. I thought it was my laptop and asked hubby if he could smell it. He looked at me like I was insane but within a few minutes the smell intensified.

We rushed into our boys’ bedroom where we had a pedestal fan going to check on that, but all was good, so that’s when we stepped outside. As we smelt the intense aroma of smoke in the air, hubby’s phone rang with the news that the shop was on fire. He rushed down the road and I rushed next door (how convenient) to my mum’s house to ask her to watch the kids so I could follow him.

Pic 2By the time I arrived, the shop was well and truly up in smoke, the local volunteer firefighters were in attendance and half the town had congregated to watch the disaster unfold. I remember looking around at everyone dressed in their pajamas and slippers and thinking two things:

1)     How absolutely devastating this was for the town and all the people that might no longer have jobs.

2)     That one day I was definitely putting this drama into a book!

While my husband, his boss and the other Co-op employees were thinking about their future and how to rebuild the shop and the business, I was thinking about what it would mean for the town if it was discovered an arsonist had started the fire.

Pic 3How would locals feel knowing one of their own had done this and was living within their midst? Would they be worried about it happening again? Would they start looking at everyone with suspicion?

Thankfully the fire at the Kojonup Co-op was a tragic accident but the fire in Outback Blaze is not! This is the first time I’ve written an element of suspense in one of my rural romances and I had a lot of fun doing so.

I hope you enjoy reading Outback Blaze and I’d love to hear your thoughts once you have.

Photos courtesy of my hubby and my friend Jacqui from Kojonup.

Grab a copy of Rachael Johns’ Outback Blaze here

Outback Blaze

by Rachael Johns

Ruby wasn’t looking for love, Drew wasn’t looking to stay… until they found each other. Can their fling survive the darkness of Ruby’s past and Drew’s desire to move on?

Ruby Jones was always an optimist, but the trauma of her past had made her wary. So when she flees to the small rural community of Bunyip Bay to start afresh, she has her sights firmly set on establishing her horse-riding business and rebuilding her life. The last thing Ruby wants is a romance. In fact, after all she has been through, she can’t imagine she will ever believe in love again.

Police officer Drew Noble has no intention of staying in Bunyip Bay — he is just an outsider seeking temporary refuge. But as the charm of the town sways him, Drew finds himself increasingly drawn to the community and its inhabitants, as well as another newcomer, the lovely Ruby Jones.

When Drew investigates a suspicious fire at Ruby’s parents’ business, he finds himself feeling strangely protective of the girl with the flowers in her hair. As the details of Ruby’s past emerge and she comes once more under threat, Drew realises he will do all in his power to save her.

Soon these outsiders discover they have both lost their hearts — not only to the town but to each other.

Grab a copy of Rachael Johns’ Outback Blaze here

Jen Storer on the inspirations behind her bestselling Truly Tan Series

One of Australia’s most popular children’s authors Jen Storer writes this exclusive blog on her inspirations behind her Truly Tan Series.

In the Truly Tan series, Tan is discovering her world at the same time as the reader (and the writer) and this provides pleasure and enriches the reading experience.

The goings on in Peppercorn Valley pay homage to all the old stories that I hold dear, where friends and communities rallied around and looked out for each other.

Clearly the Truly Tan books take their lead from the Famous Five books. But other stories have been just as influential such as Anne of Green Gables, Cold Comfort Farm and of course, Gerald Durrell’s, My Family and Other Animals.

The goings on in Peppercorn Valley are also heavily influence by television shows such as A Country Practice, Jam and Jerusalem and for those who remember, Bellbird.

Tan Callahan’s life is unashamedly idyllic but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think that in this age of helicopter parenting it’s inspiring for young readers to see other kids out in the world just doing ‘stuff’— unorganised spontaneous play.

One of my favourite filmmakers, Hayao Miyazaki, says that even though he himself is quite pessimistic, he is ‘not going to make movies that tell children, you should despair and run away’. It’s the same for me with Tan’s stories.

I work hard to create a playful, visceral world where there’s a lot of physical interaction with the environment, where there’s imagination, joy and mischief. Where kids think for themselves, question authority, are granted plenty of autonomy and thrive as a result of healthy neglect.

jinxed-Tan’s adventures are inspired by my own childhood in the country. Mine was a 60s childhood infused with the stories of Enid Blyton, lived in a time when kids were literally free-range. ‘Be back by teatime’ was the standard line from our mothers.

In that sense, these stories are slightly nostalgic and I have been asked if today’s children can relate. Such questions underestimate young readers. Kids are imaginative and expansive. They’re open to difference and to alternative points of view. That’s the joy of being a kid, of being inquisitive and free of prejudice.

If as a ten year in rural Australia I could delight in the antics of a bunch of middleclass tweedies in the English countryside, I think urban kids today can relate to Tan.

While the setting and circumstances of her life may vary from the reader’s, the themes of friendship, daring, family and community love are universal. Likewise Tan’s interest in death and all things spooky intrigues young readers. Kids love to be scared. I’ve had many youngsters proudly tell me that Tan was their first scary book. Apparently it’s a rite of passage to read a scary book and see it through. I feel proud when I hear this as writing ‘scary’ for kids is challenging. How far is too far?

What is pleasantly scary, what’s terrifying, what’s babyish? I’ve come to realise that my books need to be like the ghost train at the Show—lots of scary stuff and a bit of squealing but plenty of silly skeletons to make you laugh too. I also balance the scary elements with mountains of food.

If Enid Blyton taught me anything it’s that one can cope with all manner of drama so long as there’s a mug of hot chocolate and a slab of orange cake at the end…

Check out the full Truly Tan series here

Love is in the air – an open letter from Mandy Magro

Bestselling author of rural romance Mandy Magro writes an open letter about the importance of love, in fiction and in everyday life

Let me begin by saying I love writing about love…no, actually, I’m obsessed with it! I write about it, I read about it, I watch it, and I live it! I’m a firm believer in true love, and that there is a soulmate out there for each and every one of us. So if you haven’t found him or her yet, or your busy lifestyle isn’t allowing you time to be romantic with your soulmate…don’t give up! Continue reading

Movember: When men aspire to look like Magnum, but look like Freddie Mercury instead…

Team Booktopia is going to be a little hairier this month as we link arms with Movember to form part of a united front aiding men’s health.

All of Booktopia’s Mo Brothers and Mo Sisters will be helping to raise funds and awareness – while trying to have a little fun along the way.

Donate to Movember and Team Booktopia

John, Steve, Andrew and Chris have all joined Movember as Team Booktopia. See below for how they look now, how they want to look, and, in all likelihood, will look.

(Don’t you think John will make a fetching Freddie Mercury…)

Andrew Cattanach

The Pledge:

I will not break when it takes two weeks for anyone to notice I am even trying to grow a moustache. I will ignore the jibes by friends, family and co-workers about the fluff above my top lip. I will smile as the wind rushes through my fluffy face caterpillar all in the name of men’s health.

In the beginning, there was no Mo:

Mondrew (704 x 528)

The Dream:

ron-burgundy-2 The Potential Reality:

Christopher Cahill

The Pledge:

I promise to shave my mo off at the end of the month. I will not grow accustomed to the mo lifestyle. I will not start wearing checked suits. I will not start carrying a cane. I will not wear a fedora. I shall wear my mo with pride in the full knowledge that I am doing so for charity and not for the ladies.

In the beginning, there was no Mo:

PIC_0136 (704 x 528)

The Dream:


The Potential Reality:john_waters-642-380

John Purcell

The Pledge:

I promise I will withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous moustachios – forgo the love of my wife for a month as she suffers from an uncontrollable fear of moustaches, ignore the titters of those who know nothing of Movember and think my moustache is a personal choice, ward off unwanted advances from Bikies and grow and groom my moustache so that the testicles of millions of men can dangle free from harm.

In the beginning, there was no Mo:

PIC_0116 (704 x 528)

The Dream:

The Potential Reality:tumblr_lmtml7nJ4J1qci3mxo1_500

Steve Traurig

The Pledge:

I promise that when anyone within my immediate personal or work life asks who I am because they do not recognise my moustachio’d visage, I will not answer by asking in a foreign language where the nearest barber is.  I will enjoy the notoriety that a lip-slug will give me, by putting me in the same general yet absolutely remote coincidence of having the same feature (any feature) as most male porn stars from the 70’s (someone told me about that, anyway).

In the beginning, there was no Mo:

The Dream:


The Potential Reality:



Watch the video:

MO13 Primary Logo Stacked NEG copy

GUEST BLOG: Sulari Gentill On Imaginary Friends

sulariYasser Arafat is notoriously credited with having said that a war about religion is like having a fight over who has got the best imaginary friend. As provocative as the statement is to people of faith, it cannot be denied that human beings have long been capable of intense personal relationships with figures who have no objective existence. Whether such a person is called devout or insane depends often on the social acceptability of the said imaginary friend.

But such friendships are not just the domain of the pious and the mad. Writers, too, can lay claim to relationships with people they’ve made up. Of course, the zealot, the deranged and the author, are not mutually exclusive conditions. The latter two may in fact be interchangeable.

For me, writing is a kind of glorious madness, a descent into the world in my head where it is me who is the figment, the ghost, the imaginary observer. It is a seductive world which I often leave only reluctantly to engage with the real world to which I was born.

The relationships between writers and their protagonists are intriguing, not for the least part, because they can be so varied in intensity and quality. There are writers who insist their protagonists are merely literary constructs, and others who set a place at the table for the hero/heroine of their latest novel.

I have known my imaginary gentleman sleuth, Rowland Sinclair, for five books now, two years of his life, four years of mine. In that time he has always stood in the periphery of my vision, regarding me with a kind of amused resignation, watching me as I watch him. We have an understanding, he and I.

With each book I have, admittedly, become increasingly involved with Rowland, to the point that he is now all but real to not just me, but also my family. My husband and I will often talk about Rowland as if he were an old friend with a tendency of finding trouble. You know the kind. We will argue about the rights and wrongs of Rowland’s actions, as if those actions were fact. Every now and then, I hear our conversations as a third party might, and find myself both alarmed and vaguely embarrassed by the extent to which this figment of my imagination has insinuated himself into our lives. But I reassure myself that I am a writer, and as such a certain level of delusion is not only acceptable but possibly necessary.

My personal writing process is quite instinctive and impulsive: there is no form or formula to my method, just a pursuit of story. I simply sit down and make things up, allowing the words of come out as they will. I write chronologically, beginning with the first word of the novel, and proceeding with little idea of what is coming until I write it. This is undoubtedly dangerous, and risks an outcome that has no structure or resolution or rambles interminably. Somehow though, my work seems to find a natural structure and rhythm, and an internal consistency with ensures it makes sense. I never work in a quiet or serene place, writing instead in the midst of my noisy family, or in airports or cafés, or half listening to the evening news or some late night television show. I used to think that was out of necessity—I was a mother with a demanding day job and I had to multi-task if I ever hoped to find time to write. But I realise now that there may in fact be a purpose to this insane way of working. Writing in the midst of noise and movement, where I am not completely focussed, allows me to engage my subconscious in a way that absolute concentration cannot.

It is not uncommon for a writer to gain new insight into his/her or own work through reviewers or readers, who point out nuances and themes which we ourselves hadn’t noticed. Of course, we’re usually quite happy to claim them after the fact! Because I write without plotting, I have always been surprised at the serendipity by which the details of my narratives fall into place, asides I wrote in chapter one on a whim, by chapter thirty prove crucial as if I had laid the thread on purpose. Both the above, I think, owe more to the storyteller’s subconscious than they do to chance or luck. There are many things we do as writers for reasons, about which we not consciously aware, but which have a purpose and a design nonetheless. Somewhere in our subconscious is stored everything we know and have read, every revelation of research, every image, every sound and every feeling. It’s not surprising then that this is cradle of our creativity, where stories are born. The writer’s trick is tapping into that and then trusting it.

Though I don’t consciously plan or plot, there probably is a subliminal design to my work. What I see as Rowland Sinclair leading me through his world and his story is possibly just my subconscious guiding a story it has planned without needing to bother the poor beleaguered and limited conscious part of my brain which has to deal with the realities of the world.

So what I’m trying to say is that we “pantsers”, we writers who just go with the story and allow our protagonists to do as they choose, are probably not as unruly and unstructured in our writing as we may seem.  It is just that we elect not to look too hard at what exactly is at work to produce our plots and our characters. We trust that part of ourselves which tells us “this is the way it was”.

The lawyer in me feels the need to insert a disclaimer at this point.  I am telling you what I think I do. It’s my best guess… but I really can’t be sure, and I haven’t tested the theory in any way. Some part of me feels that examining a spell too closely, articulating it too precisely, will break it, rob it of its magic. And I can’t risk that. After all, I have got the best imaginary friend.

Sulari Gentill’s Gentlemen Formerly Dressed is a Booktoberfest title. Buy this book now to go in the draw to win Booktopia’s weekly giveaway – a $250 Booktopia voucher – AND order by 31st October 2013 to go in the draw to win the fantastic publisher prize.

Click here for prize details and to see the full Simon & Schuster Showcase

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed

by Sulari Gentill

After narrowly escaping Nazi terror, Rowland Sinclair and his companions land in London, believing they are safe. But they are wrong.

A bizarre murder plunges the hapless Australians into a queer world of British aristocracy, Fascist Blackshirts, illicit love, scandal and spies.

A world where gentlemen are not always what they are dressed up to be… more

Guest Blogger John Safran, author of Murder in Mississippi, asks you not to ruin books for him

John Safran presents books-you’re-not-allowed-to-ruin-for-me-if-you-see-me-on-the-tram-or-something-because-I-haven’t-finished-them-but-I-really-am-going-to-and-don’t-tell-me-I-won’t-because-I-once-started-the-Satanic-Verses-and-didn’t-finish-it-and-then-like-seven-years-later-I-started-it-again-and-did-finish-it

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This is, like, 100 pages long and I’m already 42 in, so I’d say 100% I’ll finish it.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. This is humiliating but when I was 15 I went to a solarium and I felt like I was sneaking into a brothel, please nobody see me, please nobody see me. It was the 80s and there was a lot of social pressure to have a tan and if you’ve seen me you know I don’t have a tan. That pasty is chic didn’t happen till 1996 when Trainspotting was released, the movie, and suddenly overnight you could be pale. And I left Catch-22 on the sun bed.

Don Quixote by Cervantes. This came out in 1605 and pretty much every smart aleck breaking-the-forth-wall gag that the first year uni arts students in every generation think they came up with is in this book –and it was written in 1605!

One of the characters goes to a bookshelf and makes a snarky comment about a previous book by Cervantes! – 1605!

This is basically Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And I’ve read part one but not part two. Maybe in 30 years time you’ll see me on the front porch of a retirement home in a maroon dressing ground and you’ll squint and there in my hands is Don Quixote.

It might be 2043 but I will finish it.

So don’t ruin it for me if you see me on the tram.

Pick up a copy of John’s brilliant book Murder in Mississippi here

Murder in Mississippi

by John Safran

When filming his TV series Race Relations, John Safran spent an uneasy couple of days with one of Mississippi’s most notorious white supremacists. A year later, he heard that the man had been murdered – and what was more, the killer was black.

At first the murder seemed a twist on the old Deep South race crimes. But then more news rolled in. Maybe it was a dispute over money, or most intriguingly, over sex. Could the infamous racist actually have been secretly gay, with a thing for black men? Did Safran have the last footage of him alive? Could this be the story of a lifetime? Seizing his Truman Capote moment, he jumped on a plane to cover the trial.

Over six months, Safran got deeper and deeper into the South, becoming entwined in the lives of those connected with the murder – white separatists, black campaigners, lawyers, investigators, neighbours, even the killer himself. And the more he talked with them, the less simple the crime, and the world, seemed.

Murder in Mississippi is a brilliantly innovative true-crime story. Taking us places only he can, Safran paints an engrossing, revealing portrait of a dead man, his murderer, the place they lived and the process of trying to find out the truth about anything.

Pick up a copy of John’s brilliant book Murder in Mississippi here


Why I Love Books: By Guy Grossi, author of Love Italy

There is something about the smell of a book I love. That smell when you turn the fresh crisp pages and the feeling of the paper. It’s usually the first thing I do when I pick up a new book, run my hand along the pages. While I love technology, there is something special about holding and feeling a book. Seeing someone’s hard work bound together into the final product. Something you can’t get from reading the same print online.

I love the romance about it, getting caught up in a story or lost in the images printed on the pages. I like having books to use as references when I need. Both at home and at work I’m surrounded by all kinds of books. As an educational tool, I love reading and using them to better my knowledge, there is nothing more important than constantly learning. Also important is their ability to share a story or paint a picture and engage the reader.

I hoped to achieve all of these things in Love Italy. I wanted to create a publication that was educational, teaching about the traditions and history of Italian food. I also wanted to share the stories of some very special people who work every day to preserve the techniques that bring the Italian food culture to life.

The last thing I wanted to achieve with this book was somewhat a piece of art. The photos and words used have created a beautiful masterpiece that evokes all kinds of emotion as it takes you on a food journey through Italy.

Click here to order Love Italy from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Love-Italy-1b2Love-Italy-3dLove-Italy-6Love-Italy-12 Love-Italy-8


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