Paullina Simons, author of Bellagrand, The Bronze Horseman and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

bellagrandThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Paullina Simons

author of Bellagrand, The Bronze Horseman, Tully and more, answers

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Bellagrand is a story of a passionate, troubled love affair between Harry and Gina, who are the parents of Alexander, my hero in The Bronze Horseman books. Writing about them allowed me to immerse myself again in one of my favorite types of fiction: a personal and emotional story of real people against the backdrop of transformative historical events such as World War I and the Russian Revolution.
There is another reason: I love going back to the world of Tatiana and Alexander. I sometimes hear from my readers that they have trouble letting go of my characters. To them I say, tell me about it.

Click here to buy Bellagrand from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Best: My new renovated house.
Worst: Living in our unfinished basement for three months while the house was being renovated. I have a lifelong healthy respect (okay, dread fear) of basements. My husband and kids, of course, love the cave-like atmosphere—and there is my life in a nutshell.
One moment stands out. For Thanksgiving last year I cooked the family dinner on a stove set up in the wreckage of my demolished-to-studs kitchen. We ate on a folding table in the cold basement. Was that the best or the worst? The answer is yes.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

“Oh, what a lucky man he was.” (Emerson, Lake and Palmer)

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I am a delight to live with. I’m hardly ever home. I spend my days in my studio, with my laptop, my piano, and my coffee machine. Oh, and I like to pretend that I defy all stereotypes.

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I don’t think in terms of the marketplace, exactly. More in terms of what my readers and I like best. Since I try to write the kind of books that I myself prefer to read, I hope that my readers will want to read the books I like to write.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

The Summer Garden, for the lifelong soul of a marriage.
A Song in the Daylight, for the unfathomable human heart (both of which make great Christmas gifts, by the way).
East of Eden, for the Pandora’s box of good and evil.
Macbeth, because it has the best lines.
The Bible, for everything under the sun.

Paullina, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Bellagrand from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Matthew Reilly chats to John Purcell about his latest book The Tournament

Grab a copy of Matthew Reilly’s The Tournament here

The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

(Review by John Purcell)

Bestselling author Matthew Reilly is one of Australia’s most reliable writers. Every couple of years he delivers his fans quality popular fiction and every couple of years he can be counted on to break Australian sales records. But till now, all of his successes, Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, Temple, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, to name just a few, have one thing in common, the breakneck speed of their narrative.

The Tournament is a departure for Reilly, gone is his trademark breakneck speed. Instead we find a narrative with gravitational pull. Enter The Tournament’s orbit and you cannot escape, you must read on to the final page.

That said this book still jogs along. You don’t get to where Reilly is without learning a trick or two. He has chosen a point in time, 1546. He has given us a narrator, Queen Elizabeth I, no less. He has booked a stage, a chess tournament in Constantinople held by Sulleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. And hired only the best talent to walk his boards, St Ignatius Loyola, Michelangelo, Ivan the Terrible, and a 13 year old Elizabeth Tudor, who is accompanied by her teacher, Roger Ascham, the real hero of the story, a Renaissance Sherlock Holmes.

ReillyBefore the first page there is a warning from Matthew Reilly stating that this is most definitely an adult book with adult content. And what I think he means is that there is sex in it. Because sex was the only thing missing from his other books, all which contain violence aplenty. In The Tournament the sex is illustrative, designed to show the decadence of the Sultan’s court and we, the readers, are observers only, never participants as is the case with erotic fiction. Any 15 year old with an iPhone has seen much, much worse. And besides, the sex and violence are the carrot which keeps us turning the pages. The Tournament is essentially a didactic tale, with lots of discussions about morality, religion, philosophy, history and politics. Ascham is the future queen’s teacher and he is convinced that she must know of the world to rule it well. Matthew Reilly, a great fan of Star Wars, has created a pair to rival, Obe Wan and Luke Skywalker.

This is a book which will entertain thousands of Australian readers this summer holidays. It is not too heavy, not too light, just right.

Grab a copy of Matthew Reilly’s The Tournament here

Kathryn Heyman, author of Floodline, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

floodlinesThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kathryn Heyman

author of Floodline

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 grew up in New South Wales, mainly in Lake Macquarie, where I sailed, kayaked and swam – pleasures that continue to sustain me. I was the youngest child of five, in a single parent household and I was both the wild one and the precociously studious one, which must have been an infuriating combination for those around me.  As a student I headed off to the UK and stayed for well over a decade, studying, writing, falling in love, getting married and then, later, having babies. The wildness had been massaged out of me by then. Most of it, anyway.

Continue reading

Meg Cabot, author of The Bride Wore Size 12, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Meg Cabot

author of The Bride Wore Size 12

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, raised, and educated in Bloomington, Indiana, known world wide as the “Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana.” Continue reading

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.”

REVIEW: Monkey Business by Kathryn Ledson

Last week, after a slight (okay, six week) reading hiatus, I guiltily reached for my pile of advanced reading copies, looking for something that would entertain and delight, without asking too much of my poor out-of-use brain. I picked up Monkey Business by Kathryn Ledson, and boy am I glad I did. Much like the hypercolour cover,  Ledson’s latest proved to be the perfect pick-me-up for my greyer-than-usual grey matter.  Monkey Business is the second book in the Erica Jewell series (a series I now realise I heard about at this year’s Romance Writers of Australia conference, but only just now made the connection with) and, while the series is very closely linked, the book does not suffer from being read in isolation. Having said that, after reading Monkey Business, I now want Kathryn to hurry up and write more books so I can devour them. Continue reading

GUEST BLOG: Sulari Gentill On Imaginary Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed

by Sulari Gentill

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

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

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

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