Rest In Peace Matt Richell

I only met Matt Richell once, but it’s an encounter that I reflect on regularly.

Hachette held an author meet and greet night at their offices during the recent Sydney Writer’s Festival. As I waited to jump into a conversation, I received a tap on the shoulder. It was Matt.

He introduced himself (Matt from Hachette, no titles) and asked me how everything was at Booktopia, and more importantly what books I was reading, asking me three or four times during the conversation if I needed a drink or something to eat.

I said I was reading some Hachette titles and had even more on the TBR pile, noting how many Australian authors were now on their books.

His face lit up. “I’m so glad you noticed”, he said, standing up excitedly on his toes.

“There’s some amazing Australian talent out there. You throw it out into the market, some of it sticks, some of it doesn’t. But as publishers, it’s our duty to reward that local talent.”

He glanced around the room with a cheeky grin.

“And it’s bloody exciting to be doing it.”

And with that he threw me into a conversation with a couple of authors, introducing me with immense hyperbole and generosity, and was dragged away to another pocket of the room.

I’ll never forget how excited he was about Australian authors, and how well read he was. Nearly all the books I’d mentioned, even non-Hachette titles, he’d read and wanted to hear my thoughts on. He joked about getting in trouble for tweeting his love for so many non-Hachette authors. I wasn’t talking to a CEO, I was talking to a book lover.

We need more people like Matt Richell, not less. He will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts are with Matt’s family, friends, and everyone at Hachette.

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Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He learned to read on a two hour bus trip to school every day, and learned to write in lecture halls and cramped tutorial rooms. He sometimes wins things for the lecture hall stuff.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

GUEST BLOG: Notes from the Other Side by Jo Riccioni, author of The Italians at Cleat’s Corner Store

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I can remember the exact moment I started crossing over to the Other Side, the first time I made that tentative transition from happy avid reader to somewhat less contented beginner writer. It was ten years ago, almost to the month. I recall it so precisely because I came to writing comparatively late in life.

As a child, I was a bookworm but I wasn’t an endless scribbler, never kept diaries or notebooks, and didn’t always long to be a writer. My first attempt at writing fiction was made somewhere between mashing pumpkin and changing a nappy, and I found that my 8-month-old was cutting his teeth at about the same time as I was cutting mine on short stories.

I wish I could say it was a lot more romantic than that, but the truth is that writing rarely is. It’s an odd little obsession, practised by a surprisingly diverse set of people, in the face of all sorts of obstacles and knock backs. For me it started out as mummy therapy: a lifelong love of reading, meets a new laptop and a baby monitor on the kitchen counter.

Two months ago my first novel, The Italians at Cleat’s Corner Store, was released in Australia. So how did I get from a laptop in the kitchen to a publishing contract? In short, with baby steps. It took ten years for me to hold my own novel in my hands. Here are a few of the things I’ve picked up on my trip to the Other Side, things I’m still learning about writing and publishing, and a few I wish someone had told me sooner.

1: It’s Hard, But Not Impossible

The first short story I wrote gave me a ridiculous sense of accomplishment: it came in second out of a whopping 52 entries in a local writing competition. I was ecstatic. I signed up for an evening course for beginner writers at my nearest community college. I read some famous books about writing. And then I went along to a day seminar at a regional writers’ centre to discover all about that Holy Grail: ‘Getting Published’. For four hours I sat there intently taking notes while a panel of novelists and publishers detonated the industry from the inside out. My writing ambitions (never overly robust to begin with) were left in smouldering ruins somewhere under my chair.

‘If you can do anything else that makes you happy or makes you money, then do that because writing sure as hell won’t make you either,’ a novelist told the audience.

‘The reality is that even good novels are getting passed up regularly in today’s uncertain climate,’ an agent announced bleakly.

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Author Jo Riccioni

‘There’s no such thing as manuscripts being picked up from the slush pile anymore,’ a publisher admitted. ‘We don’t even have a slush pile, we just have a bin.’

I went home and did what any self-respecting wannabe author could do. I filled a large glass of wine, opened my laptop and carried on writing.

But I didn’t bury my head in the sand either. And I don’t deny that I probably needed to hear what those industry experts had to say. However, what I took issue with was their attitude. It seemed to be all jaded doom-and-gloom, topped with a smidgeon of insider condescension. And yet I’d read three or four Australian debuts that year alone, so I knew there had to be gaps in that publishing stronghold, passages into the fortress somewhere.

Some time later, in a fit of masochism, I took a job in a bookshop. I highly recommend it as a gauge of serious intention to all aspiring writers. Book selling has to be the bracing cold shower to any writer’s burning ambition, especially if you’re writing literary fiction. If you’re still typing away after sending back boxes of unsold new releases, then you really have got it bad.

The flip side to this, however, is that unpacking all the new books means you get to see what’s trending in publishing, what’s actually selling and sometimes (not often but, reassuringly, sometimes) those books are works by new writers. The industry has to have new material. It needs fresh voices. It’s looking for the next big thing, or even the next medium-to-fairly-modest thing. And until you actually write, how do you know you’re not the person to give it to them?

I’m happy to say things appear to have changed a little since that first seminar I attended. Several publishers started accepting unsolicited manuscripts in a more structured way a few years ago and others have followed suit. Check out Allen & Unwin’s Friday Pitch; Penguin’s Monthly Catch, Pan Macmillan’s Manuscript Monday and Hachette’s open submissions, among others.

2: “Overnight Success” is a Marketing Construct.

Ten years after I wrote my first short story, I got a jiffy bag in the mail. Inside it was the finished copy of my debut novel. Sounds great, right? I really showed them, didn’t I? Almost … if it wasn’t for the ‘ten years’ part, maybe?

But ten years is what it took and those years are precisely the important bit, I now realise. I wasn’t actually writing the novel that whole time: I was learning how to write something publishable. Novels might be discovered by a publisher overnight but they certainly aren’t written overnight. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that, in the majority of cases, the publication of a book and its apparent ‘wildfire’ success shouldn’t be confused with its gestation or the period of apprenticeship the novelist took to get to the point where she could write that book. Whether that apprenticeship took the form of a series of ‘bottom drawer’ novels, or years writing short stories and poetry, or studying creative writing, or even simply a lifetime of careful reading, it is still an apprenticeship of sorts. Becoming good at anything takes time and patience, and writing is no exception. For me, starting to write felt like learning to read all over again – this time as a writer.

97805529920463: Get Help

I’ve been a long-term student of literature as well as a teacher of it, and no one ever criticised me for wanting to learn to be a better reader. I’m at a loss, then, as to why creative writing courses (namely, learning how to be a better writer) should be so frowned upon by some in the literary community. Perhaps we secretly want to think of great writers as being born, not trained? Otherwise, anyone could have a pop at a novel, couldn’t they? And then the intrinsic merit of writing as an elusive (or should that be exclusive?) art form would surely be devalued? I was as guilty as anyone of believing this when I was a young literature under-grad. And then I started meeting novelists and learning about how they work.

Many excellent writers never finish a novel while some pretty average ones manage to publish a whole shelf full. It’s Edison’s famous quote about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. A good quality writing course can help teach you to read as a writer (analysing structure, voice, narrative arc and the technicalities of the written form), but it can also offer practical tips for carving out the time to write, managing unproductive attitudes to your work, setting goals and deadlines and giving industry insights from other writers, publishers and agents about how to begin getting your writing into the public eye.

Writing courses can’t write your novel for you, though, and signing up for them continuously without putting in the hard yards is kind of like trying to train for a marathon by only studying a sports science manual. At the end of the day, it’s just you, your keyboard and 100,000-odd words (see below). But, forewarned is forearmed, and a good teacher or mentor can make that prospect seem a hell of a lot less scary to a beginner writer.

4: Being a Writer Means Actually Writing

I wish I had another novel for every time I’ve heard an aspiring writer (including myself) say: ‘I just don’t have the time to write.’ There are lots of valid reasons why we tell ourselves we can’t write, but most of these rapidly lose credibility if, in the next breath, we go on to analyse the latest plot twists of Breaking Bad or who got voted off The Voice. Yes, novels take time. They take a ridiculous amount of time. And yet the average Australian adult manages to dedicate 13 hours a week to watching TV, pretty much without thinking about it. Perhaps I’m being harsh. But sacrifices have to be made. Ask the tough questions and if writing doesn’t come out on top, then give yourself a break. Let someone else write the novels. There’s nothing wrong with that. Life’s too short to put yourself over the rack for something that’s not a genuine priority.

Having said that, once I’d decided it was a priority, I wished someone had told me that writing productivity does not necessarily increase when you reduce other professional work. I found that I wrote as many words when I had a part-time job and young children as I did when my kids were older and I quit work to finish my novel. And I’ve heard other writers speak of a similarly unproductive relationship with ‘too much writing time’. Sometimes all you’re doing is giving yourself even more hours to procrastinate. I wish I’d kept my day job. Then I’d have a novel and new shoes. Lack of time can sometimes make you more productive.

5: “There is no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing.”

I’m a firm believer in John Irvine’s famous quote. Most of my time spent writing, whether it’s short stories or novels, is spent editing. And any small success I’ve had with getting my work published has been because I’m reluctant to let it 9780552992053go out into the world until it’s the best I can make it. (Even when I’m thoroughly sick of it, I’m more likely to file it away than put it out there, if I don’t think it’s ready). You often only get one shot with an agent or publisher, so don’t get so excited at finishing your draft that you forget it’s still a draft. Make it the best it can be and get help if you think you need it.

6: Getting Published is the Easy Part

I know, I know, don’t you hate hearing published writers say this? I used to convince myself they were lying, that they were saying it to big note themselves, or because they derived a martyr-like satisfaction recounting the endless hardships of the writing life. What is there post-publication that could seriously be harder than getting up at 5am in the middle of winter to a blank screen, having decided to cut three chapters and four months’ work? Or, knowing in your heart you’ve got to get rid of a character and feeling like you’re murdering someone in the family? Surely it’s so much easier to do all this with the comfort of a publisher in the wings?

Well it’s not. I got signed by a publisher before my novel was completed and the security that offered was definitely offset by knowing I was writing to please someone else not just myself. Getting signed also didn’t preclude a scenario almost worse than not getting published at all, and that is thinking you’re getting published, only to have your book rejected at the last. I managed to avoid this but it does happen to writers at all stages of their careers. I wished someone had told me that ongoing performance anxiety was par for the course in the writing life. Thankfully, I’ve just recently discovered the excellent conversations between Charlotte Wood and Alison Manning in a Mind of One’s Own, which pull apart many of the psychological hurdles writers face and the self-sabotaging blocks to writing. They’re like an ‘on-demand’ pep talk and I’ve found them a great help.

Before my novel was released, the only end result I focussed on, like most debut writers, was getting that published book in my hands. I now know that really is just the beginning. When I was writing the novel, I was so engrossed in its world, in my artistic integrity, in making it the best it could be, I was barely aware of the book as a business proposition, a product. And that’s the way I wanted it. But the moment a book gets released, there’s no denying it becomes a commodity the author must help shift. I found I was changing hats again, not from consumer to creator this time, but from creator to promoter.

As much as I’d tried to familiarise myself with the post-publication world, I wasn’t prepared for just how involved I had to be in the actual marketing of my book. I’d made the grave mistake of thinking I could take some much-earned downtime between finishing my proofs and the book hitting the shelves. But this is in fact the busiest time for a writer. This is the time to take leave from your day job. This is the time to get out all those notes you took at that Marketing Your Book course you were smart enough to enrol in before it actually got published (and, no, I was not smart enough to do it before publication). This is the time you should be tweaking websites, spruiking social media, and offering giveaways in advance of release, setting up interviews, events with local libraries, bookshops and book clubs, and writing features that may help plug the book. Don’t assume your publicist is going to secure any of this for you. Don’t assume you are going to be able secure any of this for yourself, either. Debut fiction, especially the literary kind, is notoriously difficult to promote – which goes hand-in-hand with debut fiction being notoriously difficult to get published. Difficult, but not impossible.

There is plenty you can do and plenty of resources to teach you how. Take the knock-backs on the chin, keep plugging away, and continue until you get some takers to profile your book. After all, getting published was the easy part: you should be up for a little challenge by now!

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Jo Riccioni’s debut novel, The Italians at Cleat’s Corner Store, is published by Scribe in Australia and the UK. Her short stories have been published in Best Australian Stories 2010 and 2011, The Age and the Review of Australian Fiction. She has a Masters in Medieval Literature, is a Varuna Fellowship Alumna and also a graduate of the inaugural Faber Writing Academy in Sydney.

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ABIA 2014 Book Awards shortlists announced

The 14th Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlists were announced this morning in Sydney, with a raft of new categories and a host of wonderful writers and books.

The inaugural International Book of the Year award contains Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton and Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt, while the hotly contested Literary Fiction Book of the Year has some extraordinary authors jostling for the gong with Tim Winton and Hannah Kent joined by favourite for the Miles Franklin Award Richard Flanagan.

If any of these books have passed you by, you still have time to be your own judge, with the winners to be announced on Friday 23 May!


International Book of the Year


The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt, author of the phenomenal bestsellers The Secret History and The Little Friend, returns with a breathtaking new novel.

The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

Grab a copy of The Goldfinch here


And the Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed is a deeply moving new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another and how the choices we make resonate through history. A multi-generational family story revolving around brothers and sisters, it explores the ways in which they love, wound, betray, honour and sacrifice for each other.

With profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion – and moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos – Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways that we help our loved ones in need and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us.

Grab a copy of And the Mountains Echoed here


The Luminaries
by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction, which more than fulfils the promise of The Rehearsal. Like that novel, it is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device.

Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement for someone still in her mid-twenties, and will confirm for critics and readers that Eleanor Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.

Grab a copy of The Luminaries here


Hard Luck: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
by Jeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney’s 8th book of this hilarious and highly successful series, and Greg Heffley and his friends now have a whole new set of adventures.

Greg Heffley’s on a losing streak. His best friend, Rowley Jefferson, has ditched him, and finding new friends in middle school is proving to be a tough task. To change his fortunes, Greg decides to take a leap of faith and turn his decisions over to chance. Will a roll of the dice turn things around, or is Greg’s life destined to be just another hard-luck story?

Grab a copy of Hard Luck: Diary of a Wimpy Kid here


I Am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai

In 2009 Malala Yousafzai began writing an anonymous blog for BBC Urdu about life in the Swat Valley as the Taliban gained control, at times banning girls from attending school. When her identity was discovered, Malala began to appear in Pakistani and international media, campaigning for education for all. On 9 October 2012, Malala was shot at point-blank range by a member of the Taliban on the way home from school. Remarkably, she survived. In April 2013, Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

I Am Malala tells the inspiring story of a schoolgirl who was determined not to be intimidated by extremists, and faced the Taliban with immense courage. Malala speaks of her continuing campaign for every girl’s right to an education, shining a light into the lives of those children who cannot attend school. This is just the beginning…

Grab a copy of I Am Malala here


General Fiction Book of the Year


Elianne
by Judy Nunn

In 1881 ‘Big Jim’ Durham, an English soldier of fortune and profiteer, ruthlessly creates for Elianne Desmarais, his young French wife, the finest of the great sugar mills of the Southern Queensland cane fields, and names it in her honour.

The massive estate becomes a self-sufficient fortress, a cane-consuming monster and home to hundreds of workers, but ‘Elianne’ and its masters, the Durham Family, have dark and distant secrets; secrets that surface in the wildest and most inflammatory of times, the 1960s.

The workers leave the great sugar estates as mechanisation lessens the need for labour. And the Durham family, its secrets exposed, begins its fall from grace…

Grab a copy of Elianne here


Watching You
by Michael Robotham

Marnie Logan often feels like she’s being watched. Nothing she can quite put her finger on – a whisper of breath on the back of her neck, or a shadow in the corner of her eye – and now her life is frozen. Her husband Daniel has been missing for more than a year. Depressed and increasingly desperate, she seeks the help of clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin.

Joe is concerned by Marnie’s reluctance to talk about the past, but then she discovers a book packed with pictures, interviews with friends, former teachers, old flames and workmates Daniel was preparing for Marnie’s birthday. It was supposed to be a celebration of her life. But it’s not the story anyone was expecting…

Grab a copy of Watching You here


The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty

Cecilia Fitzpatrick, devoted mother, successful Tupperware business owner and efficient P&C President, has found a letter from her husband.

“For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick, to be opened only in the event of my death”

But Cecilia’s husband isn’t dead, he’s on a business trip. And when she questions him about it on the phone, Cecilia senses something she hasn’t experienced before. John-Paul is lying. What happens next changes Cecilia’s formerly blissful suburban existence forever, and the consequences will be life-changing for the most unexpected people.

Grab a copy of The Husband’s Secret here


The Tournament
by Matthew Reilly

The year is 1546. Europe lives in fear of the powerful Islamic empire to the East. Under its charismatic Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, it is an empire on the rise. It has defeated Christian fleets. It has conquered Christian cities. Then the Sultan sends out an invitation to every king in Europe: send forth your champion to compete in a tournament unlike any other.

We follow the English delegation, selected by King Henry VIII himself, to the glittering city of Constantinople, where the most amazing tournament ever staged will take place. But when the stakes are this high, not everyone plays fair, and for our team of plucky English heroes, winning may not be the primary goal.

As barbaric murders occur, a more immediate goal might simply be staying alive.

Grab a copy of The Tournament here


the-rosie-projectThe Rosie Project
by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. Then a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched document—to find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is strangely beguiling, fiery and intelligent. And she is also on a quest of her own. She’s looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might just be able to help her with—even if he does wear quick-dry clothes and eat lobster every single Tuesday night.

Grab a copy of The Rosie Project here


Literary Fiction Book of the Year


Barracuda
by Christos Tsiolkas

A searing and provocative novel by the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap, Barracuda is an unflinching look at modern Australia, at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families. It is about class and sport and politics and migration and education.

It contains everything a person is: family and friendship and love and work, the identities we inhabit and discard, the means by which we fill the holes at our centre. Barracuda is brutal, tender and blazingly brilliant; everything we have come to expect from this fearless vivisector of our lives and world.

Grab a copy of Barracuda here


Eyrie
by Tim Winton

Tom Keely’s reputation is in ruins. And that’s the upside.

Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.

What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting. Inhabited by unforgettable characters, Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

Grab a copy of Eyrie here


The Night Guest
by Fiona McFarlane

One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem. Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?

The Night Guest is a mesmerising novel about love, dependence, and the fear that the things you know best can become the things you’re least certain about. It introduces a writer who comes to us fully formed, working wonders with language, renewing our faith in the power of fiction to tap the mysterious workings of our minds, and keeping us spellbound.

Grab a copy of The Night Guest here


Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait on the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson and his family, who are horrified and avoid Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the summer months fall away to winter, Agnes’s story begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?

Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about freedom and the ways we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, and asks: how can one woman endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Grab a copy of Burial Rites here


The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

Grab a copy of The Narrow Road to the Deep North here


General Nonfiction Book of the Year

The Good Life by Hugh Mackay
Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt
On the Trail of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope
Stalking Julia Gillard by Kerry-Anne Walsh
Murder in Mississippi by John Safran


Illustrated Book of the Year

The Food of Vietnam by Luke Nguyen
The New Classics by Donna Hay
Love Italy by Guy Grossi
I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson
Gurrumul by Robert Hillman


Biography of the Year

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
Ponting: At the Close of Play by Ricky Ponting
Ned Kelly: The Story of Australia’s Most Notorious Legend by Peter FitzSimons
The Crossroad by Mark Donaldson
Madness: A Memoir by Kate Richards
Everything to Live For by Turia Pitt with Libby Harkness


Book of the Year for Younger Children (0 to 8 years)

The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illus by Terry Denton
Ruby Red Shoes Goes to Paris by Kate Knapp
Alphabetical Sydney by Hilary Bell & Antonia Pesenti
Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester


Book of the Year for Older Children (8 to 14 years)

The Kensington Reptilarium by NJ Gemmell
WeirDo by Anh Do
Alice-Miranda in Paris by Jacqueline Harvey
The Last Thirteen Book 1: 13 by James Phelan
Ranger’s Apprentice Book 12: The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan


Don’t forget to follow Booktopia on twitter at @booktopia for breaking news and updates from the wonderful world of books.

You can also check us out on Facebook here.

Joanna Trollope on Jane Austen

The Austen Project
Sense & Sensibility
A Q&A with Joanna Trollope

1. Sense & Sensibility is launching the Austen Project -  what was it about the idea of a modern re-telling of Jane Austen’s novel that caught your imagination?

My first – and I have to say, last – reaction when the idea of updating those novels was put to me, was: how brilliant! Jane Austen’s preoccupations – romance, money and class – are timeless, which is one of the main reasons that puts her at the head of the much beloved, as well as classic, category. She is also completely serious about any character or emotion that requires respect, while at the same time displaying a wonderful capacity for mockery and spot-on censure for folly and unkindness in any form. And so, while determined that any novel I wrote would be unquestionably a tribute to her genius, and in no way an imitation, I could immediately see that her characters and her narrative would translate absolutely seamlessly to 2013 – which, indeed, they have.

2. The characters that Austen creates are timeless but still, transferring them to current times must have been an enthralling task. Did you find the presence of an existing plot and characters liberating or limiting?

The whole process was a liberation. The characters almost felt that they were transferring themselves to recognisable modern people with very little help from me, so vivid are they. And being freed from the need to invent a theme, a narrative or a cast list for myself, I felt little short of exhilarated the whole time. Of course there were elements that had to be modernised since the characters in the original, a lot of them living on the proceeds of the slave trade (although that is never mentioned as it would have been such a contemporary commonplace) have the kind of leisure that is absolutely unthinkable nowadays. And the outrages – Willoughby’s impregnating of Eliza, say – have to be updated to convey the same level of shock. But these changes were really details in what was an extraordinarily engaging project.

3. In Chapter 5 Belle says: ‘Then he’d be at complete odds with my Marianne. And me for that matter. We believe in the love of a life, you see.’ Marianne really is the living embodiment of the sensibility that was so fashionable in the eighteenth century. How did you manage to update her romantic fervour and make her so likeable?

The thing is that Marianne is likeable, as well as close to impossible, in the original. We know that by the time Jane Austen came to write Sense and Sensibility, her own appreciation of the qualities of level-headedness that Elinor displays far outweighed the current philosophical vogue for sensibility. But Marianne is as much a child of her times – 1809 – as she is, with a slightly different modern interpretation, of ours. It’s just that we have a different way of describing, and of seeing, the same utter belief in emotional self-indulgence and the prioritising of individualism, as she does. What she would call sensibility, we recognise as entitlement. Her belief in finding the love of her life equates to our desire for a soulmate. She may exhibit an exasperating level of self-involvement which is very recognisable today, but she is also warm and welcoming and sincere in her attachments. And she loves her sister, Elinor, she really does. We can all look round our circles of friends and see people in it who are ‘Mariannes’ – maddeningly self-absorbed, and emotional, but also sweet and responsive and sympathetic. Jane Austen’s Marianne is a very modern girl, with all the plusses and minuses that that entails.

4. Sense and Sensibility is so much about how we declare our love, and how the public and private versions of love exist. How did you find writing this interplay? Do you think public declarations through social media such as Facebook and Twitter have changed our modern view on love?

I would guess that no amount of social media actually changes the way people feel, even if it might have enabled, rather than actually changed, the way they express those feelings. The desire to be loveable, and popular, and fancied is as old and as enduring as humanity is itself, and I would guess that the number of modern girls pressured by their peers or their own insecurities into making fools of themselves on Facebook and by Instagram, is exactly the same as it was before these alarmingly public fora existed. You can imagine very easily, can’t you, the Steele sisters taking avidly to Twitter! And I think the fact that I could insert a little modern media so effortlessly into Jane Austen’s narrative is the only proof you need that humanity doesn’t change, even if codes of conduct do!

5. Edward Ferrars is described in Chapter 2 as the ‘redeeming attribute’ of the Ferrars clan. But he has little direction and behaves submissively, at first, towards Lucy’s insistence that they are an item, in contrast to Elinor’s composure and intelligence. Did you find it hard when writing to see them as an equal match and can readers be fully satisfied that Elinor is to marry him at the end?

Oddly enough, I thought that Edward Ferrars was one of the most modern characters in the whole book – or, at least, one of the most recognisable as modern. He has had a bullied and neglected childhood, despite material comfort, and is clearly what we would now diagnose as a mild depressive by nature. There is an unquestioned sweetness in his disposition, but his upbringing – thrusting new money and ambition – is not in the least interested in sweetness, but only in success. His overbearing mother has accustomed him to obeying bossy women, and his sweetness makes him anxious to oblige. So he is easy prey, as a lonely teenager whose family have written him off as hopeless, for a gold digger like Lucy Steele. And Elinor, interestingly, for all her intelligence and self control, is the family missionary. She has appointed herself the Sensible one, the Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous, whose task it is to steer her chaotic little family ship to a safe harbour. If she didn’t like sorting volatile people, she would not be so unbelievably patient with her mother and sisters. Sorting them all is her chosen role – so Edward Ferrars is a natural choice for her. He may not be completely worthy, but he is what she wants.

6. The novel’s themes of status and money imply that some things are never out of date and that men with wealth and power will always be more attractive to women. Would you agree and do you see this ever changing?

I entirely agree. In fact, I would go further and say it’s mainly money that gives both power and sex appeal – and of course, the latter is a form of the former. Looking back at history, emperors, statesmen, successful industrialists, soldiers and entrepreneurs may not have made a universal success of their private lives, but they have never not taken what they wanted – or what they thought they wanted! And to look at the present day, it is only money that stops Fifty Shades of Grey from being a novel about sexual abuse – and I see that the new Sylvia Day will feature ‘a young billionaire’ hero … Now, I wonder why that should be?!

7. What would you like readers to take away from this novel?

I would love readers to take away several things. First, obviously, a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Secondly, a sense of having been in the company of people they can both recognise and believe in. But thirdly, and most importantly, I would like them to feel a renewed and enormous admiration for Jane Austen, and a strong desire either to re-read the original, or actually, to read it for the first time.

8. Do you tend to read when you are writing a novel and, if so, what?

I read all the time … And what I read is not particularly deliberate, but more often than not, whatever is next on the pile of books waiting to be read because I have been asked to read them or am longing to, anyway! This year, one of my huge reading joys was the entire shortlist for the Womens’ Prize for Fiction – six dazzling books. I can’t think when there has been a stronger shortlist – everyone a winner in my view!

9. Did you re-read Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and if so, did you refer to it as you wrote or did you prefer to keep a distance between you and the text?

I read and re-read it exhaustively, to the point of cannibalising several paperbacks of it to work out the scenes I was going to use, and where I would have to add scenes to bring the narrative circumstances up to date. So I ended up with a tattered re-configured sequence of the original, heavily highlighted. I have left one line of the original in the updated version – I wonder if you can find it?

10. As a hugely successful, bestselling novelist, would you have any guidance or advice for young writers starting out today?

The first thing I would say is that there is plenty of time. You can be too young to write – simply because you haven’t had time to live enough – but you can hardly be too old. Think of the wonderful P.D. James, in the bestseller lists at 94! I remain of the opinion that most people write better after 35 than before, for that very reason. So, don’t be in a hurry! And while you are waiting, train your powers of observation, because that is the hallmark of all successful novelists. Maybe even keep a notebook – not a diary, but a notebook you have with you in which you can record ideas or observations, or snatches of a conversation you overhear, or scraps of dialogue. No amount of noticing of other people is ever, ever wasted for a writer … Good luck!


Joanna Trollope, OBE, is the international bestselling author of 30 novels and has written historical fiction, contemporary fiction and non-fiction. When Joanna considers what has happened to her career in the last ten years, she often thinks, as her friend Jilly Cooper once said, ‘You’d believe it, wouldn’t you, if it happened to someone else‘.

Stories That Move You – Thanks To Hachette Australia

There’s nothing like Books, Dominoes and Dry Ice to put you in a good mood.

The folks at Hachette Australia have made this beautiful video for their Stories That Move You campaign.

Enjoy.

The Night I Met George R.R. Martin

It’s strange to meet a man who is a God to some, an unknown mortal to others. News that I was meeting George R.R. Martin was met by friends and family with two reactions. One was ‘wow, you’re so lucky’, the other was ‘who is George R.R. Martin?’.

And that is the world of genre fiction. Authors are deified by some, unknown to others. If you’re a fan, you’re more than just a fan. If you aren’t, you nearly go out of your way to proclaim ignorance.

As I write this I realise I’ve put all people into two categories, neither of which I actually fall into. Of course I have heard of George R.R. Martin and I was incredibly excited to meet such a huge cultural figure, a wonderful writer, a magnificent storyteller. At least that’s what I’ve been told. You see…

…I haven’t read any books by George R.R. Martin. I am an observer. I love the TV show. Admire him, absolutely. But read him? No, not for me.

So it was with equal parts excitement and trepidation I made my way, along with John Purcell, Christopher Cahill and our Sci-Fi & Fantasy specialist Mark Timmony, to the offices of George’s Australian publishers, HarperCollins. Our game plan was simple. Meet George.

Typically at these events the talent makes a late appearance to a soundtrack of whispers, but George R.R. Martin isn’t your typical talent. Our wine barely had a chance to breathe before a bearded man in suspenders began to work the room.

George had entered stage left, and even the ushers didn’t notice him.

It’s easy to miss him in a crowd. He’s a little guy, not prone to loud sweeping conversation. He mingled for a while, pretending not to notice the room who in turn pretended not to stare at him. He sipped his drink and nodded humbly as people told him how much they loved his books. He slowly made his way down the far side of the room before finding refuge in a set of chairs and sat down. It was then we were told our time had come.

‘There he is.’

‘He’s sitting down, this is your chance.’

image(5)And so we made our move. We dashed across the floor towards George who had now found himself in conversation with a woman talking so fast with excitement I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I doubt George could either, but he smiled and nodded, raising a glass with her as we stood awkwardly nearby.

Eventually his conversation stopped and he turned to us and put out his hand.

‘Hi, I’m George.’

The conversation was a blur of fantasy references, questions about Booktopia, and Australia’s weather. Christopher and George bonded over their love of J.R.R. Tolkien as John and I took photos of them chatting. It was surreal, being in the company of such an idolised, influential figure. And as quickly as it started, it was over. George still had to press the palms of many more people that night, and we disappeared into the crowd.

So what did we learn from our night with George?

Christopher Cahill meets George

- He has been to Australia quite a few times, both for business and pleasure.

- He has signed 10,000 books since landing here 5 days ago.

- He loves a good champagne.

- His favourite book is Lord of the Rings.

- His biggest influence writing The Song of Ice and Fire Series was the War of the Roses.

- The next book currently has a working title (which has not been finalised) and is close to being finished.

And that was that. After signing a few books and posing for some photos, George left, and soon after so did we.

So what becomes of a casual observer after a chance meeting? It just so happens this morning I put in an order for The Game of Thrones Boxset.

I mean, now that George is a close personal friend, I owe it to him to at least read his stuff, right?

BREAKING NEWS: 900-Page Debut Novel Fetches Nearly $2 Million

Garth Risk Hallberg

Is the big fat novel back?

Donna Tartt’s exquisite novel The Goldfinch has 771 pages. Eleanor Catton won the 2013 Man Booker Prize for her 834 page masterpiece The Luminaries. And now City on Fire, the 900-page debut novel by New York writer Garth Risk Hallberg, has been acquired for nearly $2 million.

In a two-day bidding war that took the industry by storm last week, 10 publishers bid more than $1 million for the work already being compared to Michael Chabon and Thomas Pynchon.

According to Hallberg’s agent Chris Parris-Lamb, “[the events] revolve around a central mystery: what exactly is going on behind the locked steel doors of a derelict townhouse in the East Village, and what might it have to do with the shooting in Central Park in the novel’s opening act?”

Scott Rudin

To add to the hype even more, the film rights have already been bought by Scott Rudin, the award-winning producer of The Queen, No Country for Old Men and The Social Network.

“The scale of it, the vision of it, the big political ideas, how tightly knitted all the stories are to each other and how densely and pleasurably plotted it is, made me feel like, for the purposes of a movie, he had done the lion’s share of the work that anyone would have to do,” Rudin said. “It doesn’t need to be massively reinvented to be a movie.”

Simon and Schuster joins our Booktoberfest celebration – you could win a prize pack worth over $950!

How would you like to give everyone you love a book for Christmas… without you having to pay a cent?

To help us celebrate Booktoberfest the awesome people at Simon and Schuster are giving you the chance to win a prize pack worth over $950!

Order any of the books in the Simon and Schuster Booktoberfest Showcase to go into the draw to win their entire showcase!

Click here to enter the Simon and Schuster showcase

Simon and Schuster Booktoberfest Highlight

Crossing the Line

by Wendell Sailor

Superstar Brisbane Broncos and Kangaroos winger Wendell Sailor shocked everyone when he switched codes to play union in 2001. The King of the Wing, whose thunderous runs intimidated anyone in his path, surprised even himself when he was selected for the Wallabies, becoming the first Australian player raised in league to represent his country in both codes.

But in 2006, it all fell apart.

During a routine drug test for the Waratahs, he tested positive for cocaine and was banned from the game for two years. And those years away would prove to the toughest challenge of his life. The self-confessed party boy who constantly sought the public spotlight was now forced to do some soul-searching, and most of it wasn’t pretty.

But Sailor fought back hard and worked through the shame, throwing himself into charity work and mentoring young people in alcohol and drug awareness programs. With the help of his family and old coach and mentor, Wayne Bennett, he began his path to redemption.

When the ban was up, Sailor made a triumphant return to the code that had first discovered him at age 18, and the St George Illawarra Dragons had a new winger – and a player determined to prove what he was capable of until his final game in 2010. But Crossing the Line isn’t just Sailor’s story as the comeback king. Written with Jimmy Thomson, Wendell reveals a dark secret that has haunted him since childhood. He tells us what it’s like to be a black man in a white man’s world and the toll racism takes on elite sport. He shows us how good friends and mentors are so important to our national heroes. And he also demonstrates how crucial the bonds of family – and the love and trust of good people – are for anyone, hero or not.

Click here to buy Crossing the Line from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Jackie Collins, Christos Tsiolkas, and the best-selling foreign books in China

Last week Booktopia’s John Purcell sat down, on separate days, with Jackie Collins and Christos Tsiolkas (two very different authors) to chat about their life, work, and new books Confessions of a Wild Child and Barracuda. It was a wonderful fly-on-the-wall experience to see these two writers at very different periods of their careers.

One resounding impression was that, while the world is getting smaller and smaller, the effect a book reaching a worldwide audience has on a writer is still excitingly tangible. These days Jackie Collins could sneeze onto a notepad and it would become a worldwide bestseller (thank goodness she hasn’t, her latest book is a thoroughly entertaining read), whereas Tsiolkas wrote acclaimed novels like Loaded and Dead Europe before finding recent global success with The Slap (copies of which he has been kind enough to sign, so don’t miss out if you haven’t read it yet).

John asked both of them about their popularity in unlikely territories, to which they both had the same answer.

Both Jackie Collins and Christos Tsiolkas, authors that at times have fallen foul of certain conservative sections of society, are both published and have found unlikely success in China.

Which got us thinking. What are the most popular foreign books in China? And low and behold, we’ve dug up the 2012 best-selling foreign books in China.

There’s some predictable titles, and some surprises…

Best-Selling Foreign Books in China

Fiction

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez

2. Before I Go to Sleep, by S. J. Watson

3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

5. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

7. Byakuyako (“Into the White Night”), by Keigo Higashino

8. The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

9. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez

10. The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown

Non-Fiction

1. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

2. The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne

3. The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino

4. Rip It Up: The Radically New Approach to Changing Your Life, by Richard Wiseman

5. Youth, It’s Painful, by Rando Kim

6. On China, by Henry Kissinger

7. Dale Carnegie’s Lifetime Plan for Success, by Dale Carnegie

8. Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life, by Nick Vujicic

9. A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century, by L. S. Stavrianos

10. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking

Children

1. Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

2. Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White

3. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling

5. The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden

6. Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl

7. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney

8. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J. K. Rowling

10. Tiger Team: Witch Swamp & Ghost Castle, by Thomas Brezina

Click here to see Booktopia’s 100 Bestselling titles this week
all discounted by at least 30%

Penguin joins our Booktoberfest celebration – you could win their entire showcase worth over $950!

How would you like to give everyone you love a book for Christmas… without you having to pay a cent?

To help us celebrate Booktoberfest our pals at Penguin Books are giving you the chance to win all of the books in their Booktoberfest Showcase.

Order any of the books in the Penguin Booktoberfest Showcase to go into the draw to win their entire showcase!

Click here to enter the Penguin showcase

Penguin Booktoberfest Highlight

Eyrie

by Tim Winton

Tom Keely’s reputation is in ruins.
And that’s the upside.

Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.

But even in his seedy flat, ducking the neighbours, he’s not safe from entanglement. All it takes is an awkward encounter in the lobby. A woman from his past, a boy the likes of which he’s never met before. Two strangers leading a life beyond his experience and into whose orbit he falls despite himself.

What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting. Inhabited by unforgettable characters, Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

Click here to buy Eyrie from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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