Shona Innes, author of Life is Like the Wind and Friendship is Like a Seesaw, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

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The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Shona Innes

author of Life is Like the Wind and Friendship is Like a Seesaw

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

I was born and raised in sunny Queensland. I was born in Toowoomba, but grew up living in Buderim on the Sunshine Coast. I went to primary school at Buderim Mountain Primary School and then I went to High School in Maroochydore – I was school captain at Maroochy High for the class of ’83.

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

When I was 12, I’m pretty sure I wanted to be one of Charlie’s Angels. I could help people out and chase down bad guys all while wearing high heels and having glamorous hair.

At 18, I wanted to be a school teacher. I got a really good tertiary entrance score and all of my teachers tried to talk me out of it, but I stuck to my guns….for a good two weeks… before changing unis and starting a psychology degree. I was interested in understanding more about people and their behaviour. I ended up doing a science degree in Psychology, but did all of my electives in education and then did a Grad Dip in Child Psychology.

At 30, I was totally in love with psychology, but I still wanted to know more. I was working at a custodial Youth Justice Centre and I enrolled in a Masters of Clinical Psychology.

Shona2 (2)

Author Shona Innes

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

That happiness would always be a glorious mix of Wham!, shoulder pads and a perm.

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?

My mum was a working Mum in an era when not many mums had a job outside the home. I was definitely going to have a career.

I won five dollars in a poetry competition at primary school. My poem was about a spider’s web after the rain. Maybe I was good at writing?

In high school, I borrowed the Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling. I’m not sure that I fully understood it all or if I ever finished it, but I re-borrowed it multiple times. It made me feel intelligent.

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 have great memories of books in my childhood. I would often get books as gifts and my sister and I created a little library in the cupboard under the household telephone. My grandmother and my great aunt would read aloud to me and they always bought books for me that they knew I would love. It was something that meant someone was sharing their time and the joy or excitement of whatever was happening on the pages. Being read to while sharing the pages was definitely a comfort thing. It’s hard to imagine that you could evoke those same feelings electronically. The children I write to love getting mail instead of an email. I think it shows effort and a preparedness to share – ingredients of important relationships.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Life is Like the Wind” and “Friendship is Like a Seesaw” were both developed from letters I had written to my young clients after our sessions. I write to young clients to help them remember what we talked about, but also to give their parents, carers or teachers an idea about how to talk with the child about the things that are on their mind. The Big Hug series will target some of the more frequent issues children bring with them to our psychology practice. The aim is to assist children (and grownups) to understand their feelings and then to accept the feelings or think about some ideas that might make them feel better.

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Grab a copy Life is Like the Wind or Friendship is Like a Seesaw here

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

All lives have their ups and downs. I’d hope that the Big Hug books can help children and grownups ease through the tough times and appreciate all that is good.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I admire people who put in an effort – whether the effort be the hard work that comes with facing fear or battling depression, the sacrifices people make because they care, or the dedication people have to their work or craft. Some people are really shiny, have the “gift of the gab” and a lot of charisma, but their efforts are shallow. I value hard work, but really struggle with those who take credit where it is not due.

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

This year I’d like to run 10km in under 55 minutes, visit friends in faraway places and have all my favourite music artists make it to the top 10 in the Triple J Hottest 100.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Know about what you do. Apply effort. Be genuinely grateful for shared knowledge and learn from tough times.

Shona, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy Life is Like the Wind or Friendship is Like a Seesaw here

REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (review by Sarah McDuling)

LokiHere’s what I knew about Norse mythology when I first picked up The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris.

a)     Norse gods live in a place called Asgard.

b)    Loki is the coolest god . Sure he’s evil, but he’s also played by Tom Hiddleston (see left) and therefore his evilness is cancelled out by his perfect male beauty.

c)     Thor is the god of Thunder. He has very large muscles and a magic hammer.

So yeah. As you can see I had some major gaps in my knowledge. Gaps that have now been filled with Joanne M. Harris’ spellbinding recounting of Norse myth and legend, through the eyes of the most instantly engaging narrator I have encountered in a long while.

The Gospel of Loki is a surprising book. For starters, the only other book by Joanne M. Harris that I’ve ever read is Chocolat and The Gospel of Loki is a very different kind of read. I loved Chocolat. It was enchanting, heart-warming and utterly lovely.  The Gospel of Loki is none of these things. It’s dark, quirky, occasionally grim, often hilarious and gloriously bold.

Given the subject matter, I was expecting The Gospel of Loki to be more of a traditional fantasy epic, heavy on world building and probably involving some kind of The Gospel of Lokiheroic journey quest. Instead, I found myself lost in a series of episodic adventures, wicked little parables on how best to lie, cheat, trick and bluff your way to success. In Loki’s case, of course, success means getting revenge against his fellow gods and causing the downfall of Asgard.

By far and away the most wonderful thing about this book is the voice Joanne M. Harris has given her delightfully immoral anti-hero. I’m not always a great fan of first person narrative but I have to make an exception for  The Gospel of Loki because this is how first person narration should be done! Loki’s character shines through in every line, dripping sarcasm, twinkling with mischief and humming with that special kind of unrepentant arrogance so often found in archetypal “trickster” characters like Robin Goodfellow and Peter Pan.

This is a character who, when asked if he can achieve the impossible, routinely replies, “Of course. I’m Loki.” He is gloriously conceited, packed full of swagger and playful cheek. He’s a lovable villain, a mischievous bad-boy, a fiendish puppet master who knows just how to manipulate people. It doesn’t take much. Just whisper into someone’s ear, a well-timed and seemingly offhand comment and voila! Disaster ensues!

And yet, the true genius of Harris’ Loki is that he is so dammed lovable. Despite his inherent wickedness, you just can’t help rooting for him. He’s not malicious, after all. He’s simply a creature of chaos. It’s in his nature to cause trouble.

Now come on. Tell me he doesn’t sound like the coolest god ever?

Joanne m. harrisHarris gives us a Loki who is constantly mistreated by his fellow gods. Always an outsider, always rejected, always everybody’s convenient scapegoat.  This of course makes him the ultimate underdog. No matter how evil his plots become, or what depths of wickedness he sinks to, the reader cannot help cheering him on because … well … he’s Loki.

So thoroughly did I enjoy The Gospel of Loki that I was compelled to check whether Joanne M. Harris has written any other books in a similar vein. To my joy, I found out she has!  Runemarks and Runelight  – two Young Adult fantasies inspired by Norse mythology, both which of I will be reading as soon as possible.

And now excuse me while I go and pray to Odin, Allfather of the gods and ruler of Asgard, to give Loki his very own Marvel movie (with at least two sequels).

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Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Grab a copy of The Gospel of Loki here

the-gospel-of-lokiWith his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

But while Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the Worlds.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

 

This Star Won’t Go Out : The Girl Who Inspired The Fault In Our Stars

This Star Won’t Go Out

by Esther Earl

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of twelve, Esther (Persian for ‘Star’) Earl was an exceptionally bright and talented – but very normal – teenager.

She lived a hope-filled and generous, outwardly focused life as she navigated her physical decline with grace. A cheerful, positive and encouraging daughter, sister and friend, Esther died in 2010, shortly after turning sixteen, but not before inspiring thousands through her growing online presence.

This unique memoir collects Esther’s journals, fiction, letters and sketches. Photographs and essays by family and friends help to tell Esther’s story, along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green, who dedicated his international bestseller The Fault in Our Stars to her.

‘Just be happy, and if you can’t be happy, do things that make you happy. Or do nothing with the people that make you happy.’ – Esther Earl

Her life was her book. She didn’t get to choose the ending, but the way she filled the pages makes her story irresistable. Sharing our Star – our amazing burst of sunshine – is a way of spreading the light. We are so grateful that she graced our lives, if only for a short time.

Through reading the words of this young author, we hope that others will be inspired and changed for the good, as we have been.

- John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars

Grab a copy of This Star Won’t Go Out here

Grab a copy of This Star Won’t Go Out here

Vanessa Garden, author of Captivate, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

captivateThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Vanessa Garden

author of Captivate

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

I was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, and was lucky enough to live with the sparkling Indian Ocean on one side and wetlands on the other – so lots of swimming, raft-making and tadpole collecting with my sister, brothers and friends from our street. I attended a small, local primary school with twenty-six other students. We made the front page of the community newspaper as the smallest school in the south metropolitan area. At one time, there were three of us in grade three, which was great because it meant I’d either come 1st, 2nd or 3rd at the end-of-year sports carnival events. A guaranteed place!

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

I wanted to be a wacky inventor when I was twelve, an actress at eighteen, and a writer at thirty. I guess these things all speak of a desire to create, but the wacky inventor was most likely inspired by Doc from Back to the Future.

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

That I wanted to be a famous actress (see Q.2). I’m a fiercely private person now, so fame is definitely not for me.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced 1055-vanessa-garden-largeyour own development as a writer?

Waiting for the Sun by the Doors – there’s a line Jim Morrison sings ‘this is the strangest life I’ve ever known’. I love that line. It makes me think of all the lives I have lived through reading (and writing) stories.

Stand by Me (the movie/story by Stephen King) – my sister, best friend and I knew every line from this film when we were thirteen. The strong bond between the four main characters is one of the many reasons I love to write for teens.

Last but not least, Lord Byron’s poetry. His poems have inspired a Young Adult contemporary I recently wrote.

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

I love all forms of artistic expression, but writing novels suits me best because it is what feels most comfortable and intimate. It sounds very cliché but I couldn’t stop if I tried – there are too many characters filling up my head wanting their story to be told.

6. Please tell us about your novel, Captivate

Captivate is about a seventeen year old who is dragged underwater while out for a midnight swim at a secluded beach. She awakens in a domed underwater city where she is expected to marry a nineteen year old king whose throne is under threat.

Publisher’s blurb:

In a glittering underwater world, nothing is as it seems…

For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.

Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko…the King of this underwater civilisation.

Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets…

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

I would love and hope that readers come away from the book feeling satisfied, a little spent, and longing to return to the world they’ve just left.

captivate8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

At the moment I most admire George R. R. Martin. He has this amazing ability to make readers care for his characters so much that they mourn them like they are their own flesh and blood.

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

If I can help someone to escape reality for just a couple of hours then I’ll be happy.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

As long as you love it, keep doing it.

Vanessa, thank you for playing.

2013 Romance Writers of Australia Conference: Top 10 moments

Recently our Romance Specialist Haylee Nash flew the flag for Booktopia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle. These are her stories.

dancing up a stormFor those of you who have never been to a Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Conference, or indeed any kind of romance conference, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a modestly sized room, filled with women. Hundreds of women. Each of these women are writers, romance writers, who spend their day behind a computer (if they’re lucky enough to be able to live from their writing) and in the rest of society are often derided for writing “those books”. So it’s fair to say that these women don’t often get the pleasure of speaking about romance, certainly not with fellow enthusiasts. Now to this joyous scene add oodles of champagne, a nautical theme and a conference venue that  is far enough away from most attendees to require staying at the hotel, sans husbands, significant others, kids, pets or any other responsibilities. Into this melee I walked, and, rather than wincing at the noise and leavig, I grabbed a champagne and, with stupidly big grin on my face, entered the fray. Continue reading

Dianne Blacklock answers Romance at Booktopia’s ‘Firsts’

Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction, and of new release The Best Man, Dianne Blacklock answers Romance at Booktopia’s ‘firsts’.

1. Who was your first crush?
Hutch, the blond one from the TV show, Starsky and Hutch. I was almost debilitatingly obsessed. Is there anything more overwhelming than those adolescent crushes? Continue reading

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – a review by Haylee Nash

Booktopia’s Romance Specialist Haylee Nash reads The Bone Season… and finds a new obsession

A couple of months ago, I received a press release for an upcoming book from Bloomsbury, care of Allen & Unwin. It was a young adult dystopian, written by a 22 year old,  and Bloomsbury were going to be putting a huge marketing effort behind it. They thought it was going to be big.  When the publishers of Harry Potter ask you to read a review copy of a young adult book that they think is going to be big, you read it.

Despite it being a rather large book (I’m used to quick romance reads, and not a particularly fast reader) I opened the first page on the bus after work and soon found myself at home, seemingly without noticing the hour and a half journey. It took me many more trips home, and sessions on the couch, to finish the book, but not for lack of interest – I loved the book so much I wanted to savour each and every character and scene. I quickly scouted out another review copy for my 21 year old sister, who devoured it in a quarter of the time (and urged me, daily, to hurry up and finish so we could discuss it). Continue reading

‘The Returned’ by Jason Mott – a sneak peek

Romance Specialist Haylee Nash steps a little outside her genre to give us a sneak peak at the Next Big Thing, The Returned by Jason Mott.

Eighteen months ago I received an urgent email from a chief editor from the New York office asking me and my publishing colleagues to quickly read a manuscript that they were considering bidding on. By quickly, they meant overnight. They had to make their bid by morning. Despite having dinner plans, I read what I could. I was amazed. And excited – very excited. This debut novelist had managed to grab me from the first, not just with his unique concept and plot, but with the sheer beauty of his writing. I emailed back with ‘Make the bid, we’ll publish it’.

Fast forward and I’m now on the other side of the side of the fence, selling books rather than publishing them, and I’m even more excited about the book I read then. That book was The Returned by Jason Mott, and since it was bought at auction, the TV rights have been bought and The Returned will be gracing our TV screens in 2014 as ‘Resurrection’, starring Omar Epps and Kurtwood Smith.

Rather than write a review, I’m going to let Jason Mott himself tell you about it. Other than that, all I’ll say is read it. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Romance readers rejoice at the birth of the royal baby!

As any romance reader knows, all romances must have a happy ending and the ultimate happy ending involves a big white dress, a beautiful wedding and a baby . If you can add a crown then all the better. Romance Specialist Haylee Nash shares her love of royal romance.

The wait is over – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have finally welcomed their baby into the world – a little boy, who is the first Prince of Cambridge in 190 years. And it isn’t just the royalists who are excited – we here at Romance at Booktopia are pretty jolly chuffed too. Continue reading

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chaniani – Review by Isabel Blackmore (age 12)

Review by Isabel Blackmore (age 12): The school for good and evil. Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Its amazing adventures, twists and complications leave you in a daze once you’re finished. Sophie and Agatha are best friends, but there’s one problem – a witch and a princess can’t be friends. With action, adventure, and just a pinch of romance, what’s not to love?

Blurb: A dark and enchanting fantasy adventure perfect for girls who prefer their fairytales with a twist. Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains.

Sophie, the most beautiful girl in town, has always dreamed of her place at the School for Good while her friend Agatha, with her dark disposition seems destined for the School for Evil. But when the two are kidnapped they find their fortunes reversed…

Continue reading

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