Rochelle Siemienowicz, author of Fallen, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rochelle Siemienowicz

author of Fallen

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 Geelong, Victoria, but my family moved so quickly and so often that I have no memory of it. My parents were Seventh-day Adventist missionaries and we lived in various parts of New Guinea and Fiji until I was 14 and then we moved to Perth where I finished High School. I moved to Melbourne to start University in the early 1990s and have been here ever since.

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

Twelve: A schoolteacher because although I really wanted to be a writer I didn’t think it was possible.
Eighteen: A journalist because it seemed the likeliest way of making a living as a writer. Or an academic, because I was good at writing essays and this seemed a continuation of that.
Thirty: A film journalist and sometime novelist as this combined all my passions – cinema, literature and connecting with communities of likeminded creative people.

Author: Rochelle Siemienowicz

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

I was raised in a strict religious household and believed that the end of the world was imminent – that Jesus Christ was going to return in the clouds and rescue his chosen people while the rest of the earth burned. These days I’m an atheist, though I still harbour apocalyptic fears – now related to environmental destruction.

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?

1. The huge changes in Australian Higher Education during the late 1990s and early 2000s meant that an academic career seemed too hard and too precarious to pursue. I was surrounded by bitter academics and underpaid sessional staff, so I finished my PhD on Australian cinema and fled academe, never to return.

2. Becoming involved in The Big Issue magazine’s family of writers and editors from 1997 until the present has been life changing. The Big Ish was the first publication to pay me for my words and so many of my closest friends and associates are people I met there.

3. Reading Andrew McGahan’s searingly honest, funny and distinctively Australian Vogel-winning debut novel Praise (1991) changed my life. I fell in love with McGahan’s candor, courage, and skilful blending of autobiography and fiction. This was controlled confessional writing at its most deceptively simple – unafraid to get dirty, but also able to rise above the grime into pure poetry and wry philosophical reflection.

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?

I was raised on books, especially the Bible, and I always wanted to have my name on the cover of one. I love to hold the physical objects and there’s nothing quite as immersive as a really good book. Also, you can read them during take-off and landing when flying on an aeroplane.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Fallen is my first book. It’s a memoir about sex, religion and marrying too young, and it traces a crucial period in my early twenties when I broke away from everything I’d been raised to believe. Raised as devout Seventh-day Adventists, who believe that the end of the world is near and premarital sex is a terrible sin, my husband and I married at twenty while still at University. But after leaving the parental nest, we started experimenting with all the things that were forbidden to us – alcohol, meat, rock and roll, cinema and literature that stretched the boundaries of ‘decency’. We loved each other sincerely and took our marriage vows very seriously, but part of this experimentation involved having an open marriage. My book is about three weeks at the end of that marriage when I revisited my hometown of Perth and broke the rules of our agreement. It’s a sexual coming of age story, a tale of first love and innocence lost.

Grab a copy of Rochelle’s new book Fallen here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Telling the truth about the variety and detail of female sexual experience is still a radical act – even in our supposedly liberated and highly sexualised culture. If my book could counter some of the shame around sexual desire, and make readers feel less alone, less dysfunctional, and less ‘sinful’, then that would be a huge achievement.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Right now I’m full of admiration for the people close to me who are enduring heartbreak, divorce, unemployment and depression. These are the supposedly ordinary people who keep on doing what they have to do, with kindness and generosity, even when getting out bed in the morning feels like the most courageous and impossible act. Life is tough a lot of the time and there’s a lot of everyday heroism. Being human is hard.

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

I want to be as honest as I can be, in both my life and my work. I also want to spread pleasure. There’s really no higher achievement than writing something people enjoy reading for the pure pleasure of the language, the characters and the rich, beautiful world you’ve created. Pleasure should be an end in itself.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read. Read all the time. Stay off social media long enough to become absorbed in the words of others. Read the great books. Read them aloud. Hear how they work, or don’t work. Read your own work aloud. Feel where it gets boring or sticky. It’s not just that you’re tired of it. The writing is bad when that happens. Good writing is good even when you’ve read it fifty times.

Rochelle, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Fallen here


Fallen: A Memoir About Sex, Religion and Marrying Too Young

by Rochelle Siemienowicz

“Call me Eve. It’s the name I call myself when I think back to that time when I was a young wife – so very young, so very hungry. I picked the fruit and ate and drank until I was drunk with freedom and covered in juice and guilt.”

In this frank, compelling and beautifully written memoir, Rochelle Siemienowicz provides an intimate portrait of the last days of an open marriage.

Raised as devout Seventh-day Adventists, who believe that the end of the world is near and that premarital sex is a terrible sin, Eve and her husband marry young. Rebelling against their upbringing, and in an attempt to overcome problems in their relationship, they enter an agreement that has its own strict rules. But when Eve holidays alone in her hometown of Perth during a hot West Australian summer, she finds her body and heart floating free. Fallen is a true tale of sex, love, religion and getting married too young – and about what it feels like when you can’t keep the promises you once sincerely made.

About the Author

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a writer, film critic and former editor at the AFI | AACTA. She has a PhD in Australian cinema and was the long-time film editor for The Big Issue. She currently reports for Screen Hub, reviews for SBS Film and is Film Columnist for Kill Your Darlings. She very occasionally blogs at It’s Better in the Dark, and is currently working on her first novel, which has nothing at all to do with movies.

Grab a copy of Fallen here

Jacinta Tynan, author of Mother Zen, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

mother-zen

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jacinta Tynan

author of Mother Zen

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born and raised in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire (known simply as ‘The Shire’) as one of six kids in a suburb called Yowie Bay, but I went to high school in the eastern suburbs commuting an hour-and-a-half in each direction. Train time was reading time.

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

Actress, journalist, writer. That was the order of my desires and it still goes back and forth. From as long as I can remember I wanted to be an actor taking myself off to acting classes on weekends and summer holidays, but I also wrote stories and dreamed one day of writing a book. I settled on a career in journalism because I decided it was the ideal combination of my two passions. I have always been fascinated by other people’s lives so I get to delve into those – as a journalist and a writer.

Author Jacinta Tynan

 

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

That love will last forever. My first love was a beautiful boy and my best friend who died suddenly just shy of my 19th birthday. I learnt quickly that the rug can be pulled out from under you at any moment, and have been wary of complacency ever since.

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?

1.    Reading as a child got the whole ball rolling. I am certain of that. My mother would read to us often (with six of us it was collective story time) and we were always given books as presents, a stack at the end of the bed from Santa every Christmas. I still have several of my favourite books today which I am now reading to my boys: The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly (Pixie O’Harris), The Little Black Princess (Mrs Aeneas Gunn) and Dot and The Kangaroo (Ethel Pedley), for example.

2.    Losing my first love. I was already studying journalism when Simon died, so I was on the path, but my life changed forever in that moment. In my grief I decided to make the most of this life and make it mean something so the pain wouldn’t be for nothing. I’m sure the experience also made me understand people at a deeper level. I am not afraid of other people’s heartache or suffering: handy stuff for a journalist and writer of any sort.

97807322993783. I had been working as a journalist for several years when I decided to do a ‘writing course’. Even though I got the opportunity to write scripts on a daily basis as a TV Reporter (at that stage with ABC’s 7:30 Report), I yearned to be more creative. So I did a ‘Life Writing’ workshop with Patti Miller and it was like a light went on. Patti believes we all have a story in us, something to share with others, and I found so did I.

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?

Nothing will ever replace holding a real life book in your hand as you kick back and devour it. I work in all the other media (I’m a TV journalist — a News Presenter with Sky, I write for newspapers — Columnist for Sunday Life, and I have a blog), so I don’t shy away from them and they certainly have their place but, as a writer with a chunk of information to impart, books are still the ideal format. I couldn’t say all I needed to say in a blog. Not in one go. I know I’m behind on this but I’m yet to read an e-book. I can only stare at a computer screen for so long. Even when I’m reading online — a newspaper or blog  — I usually print the pages out so I have the hard copy version instead. As for TV, the first question when we’re considering a story is always “Do we have vision?” The written word gets around that tricky problem of having no pictures.

 

6.    Please tell us about your latest book…mother-zen

I wrote Mother Zen because I wanted to read it. When I became a mother (to two little boys) I was surprised to find it as enjoyable and rewarding as I do because most of the literature about motherhood is negative. There are some really helpful and insightful advice books out there, but the predominant message is that being a mother is a tough and thankless task that must be endured. I wanted to balance that out a bit, to explore why so many parents find it a challenge and see if there’s a way to shift that. Maybe it’s up to us and not our circumstances.

The book is part memoir about my fledgling journey as a new mother, but it also weaves in interviews with parenting experts and other parents.
It is also a look at an alternative way of being — to be present and grateful — as we negotiate the often overwhelming new role we find ourselves in, being responsible for the life of another and so often without the ‘village’ we were promised it would take to raise our child.

Grab a copy of Mother Zen here

7.    If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

That all mums, no matter what their circumstances, could access the utter joy that’s available to us all.

8.    Whom do you most admire and why?

My mother. For bringing six of us into the world and keeping it all (and us all) together.

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

My ambition has changed course dramatically since I became a mother. I used to be distractingly hungry for the next thing and what I had going on was never enough. Now, my greatest goal is to be a good mother to my boys — loving, present, available, a solid role model, someone they will always trust and turn to. I want to inspire them (as a mother and a woman) and guide them and raise them to have empathy and emotional intelligence. “I am your constant,” I say to them. I’m well aware that no matter what we do as a parent we won’t always get it right. But my greatest hope is that with that foundation they can fly.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

  • Write. I didn’t even know what I wanted to write when I started writing, I just knew I had to. I had been a journalist for several years so I got to write every day, but I wanted to be more creative, only I wasn’t sure how to go about that.
  • So, I took a writing course (also highly recommended for aspiring writers, no matter how good you are) which ‘forced’ me to deliver copy. And from that came the inklings of my first book.
  • Also good writers observe. We all see the same things but it’s writers who see meaning in them.
  • Take notes. Write down ideas, random thoughts, quotes, simple moments. We think we’ll remember but we a rarely do. It’s those notes (tapped into my i-Phone with my thumb) that ‘saved’ me when I was given only five months to write Mother Zen. Much of the research had already been done.

Jacinta, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mother Zen here


mother-zenMother Zen

by Jennifer Niven

In 2010 Jacinta Tynan innocently sparked a media storm when her article in the Sun Herald exposed a fault line in our perception of motherhood. Her premise — that motherhood could be easy — split the parenting community down the middle. Many agreed with Jacinta while others argued that motherhood was arduous and thankless, all were equally passionate in their beliefs.

Four years later, now with two small children, Jacinta takes us on a fascinating journey through her own experiences of motherhood — from being so sick with her first pregnancy that she was throwing up in between her on-air segments, to her doubts about her ability to cope — and shows us her struggle to parent ‘consciously’, using meditation and attempting mindfulness to help her more…

About the Author

Jacinta is a well-known news presenter, author and columnist. She regularly writes opinion pieces for national newspapers and frequently appears as a guest commentator on a number of television networks across the country. She is also the author of Good Man Hunting, and edited the anthology Some Girls Do: My Life as a Teenager with royalties donated to SISTER2Sister, a mentor program for teenage girls for whom Jacinta is patron. Tynan lives in Sydney with her partner and two young sons.

Grab a copy of Mother Zen here

BREAKING NEWS: 2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists Announced

Premiers-literary-awards

The shortlists for this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced, featuring some of Australia’s most celebrated writers and young up and comers.

How many have you read?

CHRISTINA STEAD PRIZE FOR FICTION

* Ceridwen Dovey – Only the Animals golden-boys(More…)

* Elizabeth Harrower In Certain Circles (More…)

* Sonya Hartnett – Golden Boys (More…)

* Mark Henshaw – The Snow Kimono (More…)

* Joan London – The Golden Age (More…)

* Gerald Murnane – A Million Windows (More…)

UTS GLENDA ADAMS AWARD FOR NEW WRITING

* Michael Mohammed Ahmad – The Tribe (More…)9781922213211

* Maxine Beneba Clarke – Foreign Soil (More…)

* Emily Bitto – The Strays (More…)

* Luke Carman – An Elegant Young Man (More…)

* Omar Musa – Here Come the Dogs (More…)

* Ellen van Neerven – Heat and Light (More…)

DOUGLAS STEWART PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION

* Alan Atkinson – The Europeans in Australia (More…)the-bush

* Philip Dwyer – Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power 1799 ‐ 1815 (More…)

* Helen Garner – This House of Grief (More…)

* Iain McCalman – The Reef: A Passionate History (More…)

* Biff Ward – In My Mother’s Hands (More…)

* Don Watson – The Bush (More…)

PATRICIA WRIGHTSON PRIZE FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

* Allan Baillie – The First Voyage (More…)9780143307679

* Trace Balla – Rivertime (More…)

* Tamsin Janu – Figgy in the World (More…)

* Glenda Millard, Stephen Michael King (Illustrator) – The Duck and the Darklings (More…)

* Catherine Norton – Crossing (More…)

* James O’Loghlin – The Adventures of Sir Roderick, the Not-Very Brave (More…)

ETHEL TURNER PRIZE FOR YOUNG ADULT’S LITERATURE

* K.A. Barker – The Book of Days (More…)9781742614175

* Jackie French – The Road to Gundagai (More…)

* Darren Groth – Are You Seeing Me? (More…)

* Justine Larb alestier – Razorhurst (More…)

* Jaclyn Moriarty – The Cracks in the Kingdom (More…)

* Clare Strahan – Cracked (More…)

 

Order Testament of Youth and receive a double pass to see it in Cinemas!

9780349005928-Testament-of-Youth-Rotating-Home-PageBanner-

In celebration of the release of Testament of Youth, which has been described by the Evening Standard as “Stunningly good…desperately moving”,  we are giving you a free double pass to see the film when you order a copy of the book.

Synopsis: Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman’s point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it’s a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times.

Order Testament of Youth and receive a free double pass to see this breathtaking film on the big screen.


testament-of-youth-order-this-book-receive-a-free-double-pass-Testament of Youth

by Vera Brittain

A film tie-in edition of Vera Brittain’s classic autobiography, published to coincide with the major motion picture adaptation starring Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan and Kit Harington.

In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life – and the life of her whole generation – had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era. Testament of Youth, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain’s account of how she survived the period; how she lost the more…

Grab a copy of Testament of Youth here


Vera Brittain (1893-1970) grew up in the north of England. At the end of the war she moved to Oxford where she met Winifred Holtby, author of South Riding. poet-brittain.

Are you a winner of 1 of 6 Fiona McCallum packs? Take a leap of faith!

In celebration of the release of Fiona McCallum’s book Leap of Faith, we gave customers the opportunity to win 1 of 6 Fiona McCallum packs, containing Paycheque and Nowhere Else. All you had to do to enter was order a copy of Leap of Faith by April 6th!

…and the winners are:

D.Willis, Booborowie, SA
L.Hicks, Neuarpurr, VIC
B.Taber, Riverstone. NSW
J.McDonald, Echunga, SA
M.Park, Geilston Bay, TAS
L.Pickles, Coleraine, VIC


leap-of-faithLeap of Faith

by Fiona McCallum

The highly anticipated new novel from beloved Australian writer Fiona McCallum.

Jessica Harrington is a promising horse rider who dreams of representing her country. But the recent death of her father her coach and mentor has left her doubting her ability to continue in the sport. When she fails at the Adelaide International Horse Trials her fears are confirmed and her world begins to fall apart.

Unable to bear seeing her well bred, highly trained horses languishing in the paddock, she makes the snap decision to sell. She’s broken her own heart, but can’t see any other way – now she will just have to focus on a life without them. Her husband Steve and best friend Tiffany, however, can see through her bravado.

Jessica is dismayed when Steve brings home a horse from a clearing sale, a horse so skinny and forlorn he just couldn’t leave it behind. Unwilling to be drawn back into the world of horses, she/s reluctant to get involved. But when a summer thunderstorm brings on a life or death emergency, she finds she underestimated the heart of one little horse. Can Jessica put her trust in Faith?

 

Grab a copy of Leap of Faith here


Congratulations to the winners!
Not a winner? Don’t worry, we have more prizes to giveaway! You could win an awesome Mother’s Day gift. Check them out here.

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VIDEO: Kooshyar Karimi on his incredible new book Leila’s Secret

Kooshyar Karimi is an Iranian Jew who fled his native country after years of living a double life; as a doctor performing secret and illegal operations and as a spy for his country’s secret police. He talks to Caroline Baum about his acclaimed new book Leila’s Secret.

leila-s-secretLeila’s Secret

by Kooshyar Karimi

In fundamentalist Iran, new life sometimes means certain death. When Leila comes to see Doctor Karimi, both are in danger.

Born in a slum to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother, Kooshyar Karimi has transformed himself into a successful doctor, an award-winning writer, and an adoring father. His could be a comfortable life but his conscience won’t permit it: he is incapable of turning away the unmarried women who beg him to save their lives by ending the pregnancies that, if discovered, would see them stoned to death.

One of those women is 22-year-old Leila. Beautiful, intelligent, passionate, she yearns to go to university but her strictly traditional family forbids it. Returning home from the library one day – among the few trips she’s allowed out of the house – she meets a handsome shopkeeper, and her fate is sealed. Kooshyar has rescued countless women, but Leila seeks his help for a different reason, one that will haunt him for years afterwards and inspire an impossible quest from faraway Australia.

Spellbinding and heartbreaking. Leila’s Secret shows us everyday life for women in a country where it can be a crime to fall in love. But for all its tragedy, this unforgettable book is paradoxically uplifting, told from the heart of Kooshyar’s immense sympathy, in the hope that each of us – and the stories we tell – can make a difference.

Grab a copy of Leila’s Secret here

Ordered Gina Liano’s memoir, Fearless? You could be the winner of a $500 prize pack.

9781743790465 Gina Liano rotating-homepage
In the lead up to the release of Gina Liano’s memoir, Fearless – My Life, My Way, we gave customers the opportunity to win a Gina Liano prize pack! The prize pack, worth approximately $500, contains:  1 x Autographed book, 1 x Team Gina T-shirt, 1 x Autographed poster, 1 x Gina Liano shoes. The winner will not only get to chose the size of the shoes but the colour as well.

…and the winner is:

G.Faulkner, Merlynston, Vic


fearless-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-Fearless

My Life, My Way

by Gina Liano

‘Sassy and sophisticated. Tough and tender. Glamorous and gregarious. Everyone has an opinion of Gina Liano, but those who know even a little about her know she’s a survivor, then a thriver and always a winner … against all odds.’ – EDDIE McGUIRE

Most people will know Gina Liano as the larger than-life personality on The Real Housewives of Melbourne. But few know the real-life story behind her rise to fame on reality TV and in Australia’s legal circles as a respected Melbourne barrister. Just like the woman herself, Fearless is up-front, inspiring and passionate.

Born in Melbourne to Italian parents, Gina’s happy childhood turned sour when her parents’ business and marriage failed. Gina battled to finish her schooling, and while her ambition was to study law, she was a married mother of one by the time she was 23. Along with her talented sisters she would establish three highly successful fashion stores in stylish inner-Melbourne.

But Gina never lost sight of her goal to study law and become a barrister, and at 33, after years of schooling, she was finally admitted to the bar. With a dream career, a new husband and a second child, she was ready to take on the world. But it was not to be; only four years later, she received a shock diagnosis of life-threatening cancer.

With more twists and turns than any reality TV show, every step of Gina’s unique journey is intimately recounted with the frankness and honesty that audiences have come to expect from the straight-talking star of the Real Housewives series.

Grab a copy of Fearless – My Life, My Way here


Congratulations to the winner!
Not a winner? Don’t worry, we have more prizes to giveaway! You could win an awesome Mother’s Day gift. Check them out here.

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