Sharon Penman, author of A King’s Ransom, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sharon Penman

author of A King’s Ransom, The Sunne in Splendour, Prince of Darkness and more…

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 New York City and grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey in its pre-casino days. I have a B.A. in history from the University of Texas and a J.D. degree from Rutgers School of Law. I practiced law in New Jersey  and California for about four years, although it felt much longer; I considered it penance for my sins, past, present, and future!

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

I always wanted to be a writer, but I never expected to be able to make a living as one.   When you hear those stories about artists starving in garrets, they usually have writers as roommates.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Sharon Penman

That life was black or white with few shades of grey in-between.

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 your own development as a writer?

I find music very inspirational and soothing, too, if I am struggling with the dreaded Writer’s Block.  I usually have classical music playing in the background as I write and sometimes medieval music.  For my last novel, A King’s Ransom, I often listened to the haunting lament that Richard Coeur de Lion wrote while he was held prisoner in Germany; it can be found on YouTube here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVRjmTdM4c8&feature=related. Greensleeves is another song that is often heard at my house. I think photography is an art form, too, and my home is decorated with many stunning photos of Wales done by a Welsh photographer friend of mine, Dave O’Shea.  I often found myself gazing at them as I worked on my trilogy set in medieval Wales during the thirteenth century.

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

I am definitely not a Renaissance woman; I cannot sing, dance, paint, etc. But I have always felt the urge—the need—to write. I wrote my first short story at age six or seven, about a horse named Queen. I wrote my first novel in my early teens; thankfully that one has long since vanished, for I suspect it would be highly embarrassing to read it today.

Wanting to write was only half of the equation, though. I also needed something I wanted to write about. I did not find that until I was in college, when I stumbled onto the story of Richard III. I was interested enough to want to find out more about him and discovered, to my surprise, that there was no proof that his nephews had been murdered, much less that he had done the deed. I was so indignant that I began telling my friends about this terrible injustice done this long-dead medieval king. They had a uniform response; they said, “Richard who?” and then their eyes began to glaze over. So it was then that I had my epiphany—that this was the story I was supposed to write. Twelve years later, it would be published as The Sunne in Splendour and I was no longer a reluctant lawyer; I was a very happy author.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest published novel was A King’s Ransom, the sequel to Lionheart and my final book in my series about the first Plantagenets, Henry II and his controversial queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons, sometimes known as the Devil’s Brood.  I’d initially intended to end their history with the third book,  but they had other ideas and so I found myself writing a five book trilogy about them!  I am currently working on a novel set in the kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth century, Outremer—the  Land Beyond the Sea.  After that, I hope to resurrect the career of the hero of my medieval mysteries, Justin de Quincy, who first appeared in The Queen’s Man, the queen in question being the above-mentioned Eleanor of Aquitaine. I love doing the mysteries, for they give me greater freedom to exercise my imagination than the historicals do, and I am delighted that they are finally available as e-books in Australia and the United Kingdom, thanks to the diligence of my new publisher, Head of Zeus.

Grab a copy of Sharon Penman’s novel A King’s Ransom here

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

I hope that my novels awaken in readers an interest in history in general and medieval history in particular. I am always so pleased when readers tell me that one of my novels inspired them to want to learn more about the characters or the era itself. History matters. We can learn from it if we are lucky.

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

There are so many writers whom I admire. Mark Twain for being Mark Twain.  The Bronte sisters for defying a world in which women were not expected or allowed to be creative.  Harper Lee for writing a novel that I consider well-nigh perfect, To Kill a Mockingbird.   Geraldine Brooks for taking me back in time to seventeenth century New England in Caleb’s Crossing, and Alice Hoffman for doing the same in her novel of Masada, The Dovekeepers.   Bernard Cornwell for writing the best battle scenes I’ve ever read.  I am an avid reader as well as a writer, and am grateful that there are so many good writers out there.

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

World peace? No, I do not think I’ve ever set very ambitious goals for myself as a writer; I was willing to settle for reasonable ones.  I want to entertain and inform readers, to share my love of history.  I think historical novels are a form of time-travel, so writers of that genre have a responsibility to their readers be as accurate as possible.  I write of people who once lived and I feel a sense of responsibility to them, too, since their lives are the clay that I use to create my books. A fellow writer, Laurel Corona, said it perfectly: Do not defame the dead.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Persevere. Remember that writing is as subjective as it is solitary, so reviewers and critics and editors are not always right, but pick your battles, especially with editors. Bear in mind that there has not been a writer ever born whose book could not benefit from editing. Take comfort from the knowledge that writing is a skill that can be honed by practice, rather like polishing a diamond. And be thankful that you are writing now in an age where you are not totally dependent upon the good will or judgment of publishers; for the first time, writers have options, among them the opportunity to reach out directly to readers via social media. I see that as a very good thing   Facebook has allowed me to become friends with so many of my Australian readers in a way that would not have been possible even ten years ago, and they have done more to promote my books Down Under than an army of agents or publicists.

Sharon, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of A King’s Ransom here


A King’s Ransom

by Sharon Penman

Travelling home from the crusades, Richard was shipwrecked off the coast of Austria, after an encounter with pirates. Richard should have been under the Church’s protection, but in Outremer he had given the Duke of Austria good reason to loathe him and he was captured. He was immediately claimed by the Holy Roman Emperor, who also bore a grudge against the captive English king. Richard was to spend fifteen months imprisoned.

For a man of his fiery nature, it was truly shameful. His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, began to move heaven and earth to raise a staggering ransom, travelling to Germany herself to buy the release of her favourite son. But it was not to be that easy. At the eleventh hour, Heinrich announced that he had had a better offer from the French king, Philippe, and Richard’s own treacherous brother, John, offering Heinrich an even larger sum to continue Richard’s captivity – or to turn him over to their tender mercies.

Grab a copy of A King’s Ransom here

Kimberley Freeman, author of Evergreen Falls, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kimberley Freeman

author of Evergreen Falls, Wildflower Hill and more…

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 London to Australian and New Zealand parents who brought me back to Australia when I was three. I was raised at Redcliffe, which is a city just north of Brisbane on the way towards the Sunshine Coast. I attended Humpybong state school, which is famous for having schooled the Bee Gees. It’s directly across from the beach, and during whale watching season we would often find ourselves down at the back fence watching the passing migration.

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

At all those ages I wanted to be a writer, because I just didn’t think I would be good at anything else.

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

I was a bit of a rebel and I strongly rejected the suburban lifestyle, the barbecue on the patio, the ordinary life. I never wanted to have children. Now I love all those things and I love my two children.

Author: Kimberley Freeman (aka Kim Wilkins)

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 your own development as a writer?

Studying English literature at university brought me into contact with some of the most amazing poetry. I can’t and don’t write poetry but I have certainly been influenced by the works of writers such as Tennyson and Keats and Shakespeare, the way that they put words together, the rhythm of their sentences. I must have read Tithonus by Tennyson one hundred times and I’ve yet to make it through without sobbing. Recently I read Beowulf in the original old English with the group of colleagues at the University and it was one of the defining moments of my intellectual life. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is one of my all-time favourite novels, and I love that puts a woman’s experience at the very centre of the story. Jane is a fabulous character with a strong moral compass.

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

I actually did muck around with music for quite a while, I studied opera, and I played in rock bands. But what I love about writing is that I can express myself in private and edit and polish my thoughts before I have to put them in front of anybody. Performance really isn’t for me, though I do still love music and I still sing a lullaby to my children every night.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Evergreen Falls is a novel set in two time periods: 1926 and the present. In the 20s, a naive young waitress at a luxury hotel in the Blue Mountains falls in love with the wrong man entirely, triggering a set of tragic circumstances that are covered up by everyone involved. In the present, a woman who is searching for meaning in her own life comes across a bundle of old love letters that seem to hint at a long buried secret.

Grab a copy of Kimberley Freeman’s novel Evergreen Falls here

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

What I want most of all is for people to feel how I feel when reading a good book: the world goes away and you’re falling through the pages, wishing you could slow down but unable to stop, and afterwards feeling is that you’ve been on an adventure.

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

I admire Marian Keyes, because her books make me laugh and cry, because she has suffered such a public battle with depression, an illness which afflicts so many but which so few talk about.

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

My goals are not ambitious. For me the practice of writing is its own reward. I get to spend a lot of time in my imagination, with my imaginary friends who are always fascinating. I just want to be able to keep writing, and maybe one day have a house with a view of the sea. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read a lot, write a lot, and enjoy the process. If you’re not passionate about it, don’t bother.

Kimberley, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Evergreen Falls here


evergreen-fallsEvergreen Falls

by Kimberley Freeman

1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.

2014: After years of putting her sick brother’s needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair – and a shocking secret.If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, a rich and satisfying tale of intrigue, heartbreak and love from the author of the bestselling Lighthouse Bay and Wildflower Hill.

Grab a copy of Evergreen Falls here

 

Georgia Clark, author of Parched, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Georgia Clark

author of Parched and She’s with the Band

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 Manly, which is ironic because I certainly am not. Raised in Hornsby Heights where I shunned the bush to keep my nose in a book. I went to school at Gosford High School, which I commuted 2 hours each way to! Had a great time at school: I loved my friends and I was pretty good at the learning.

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

I have a very early memory of wanting to be a policewoman, but I think that was more about being in charge than upholding the will of the state. Eighteen I was dead-set on becoming a film director, which is what I went to uni for. By 30, that had changed into novelist, mostly because it was easier and cheaper, and I could do it in my pajamas.

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

Author: Georgia Clark

I strongly believed there would be a revolution in Australia. After starting at uni, I quickly fell into the left wing movement, and learnt about anarchism and socialism and all sorts of wonderful trouble-making. I really believed there would be an uprising, and that I would be a part of it! I also believed in cutting my own hair and dying it blue. I was fun.

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 your own development as a writer?

Manhattan by Woody Allen. I grew up watching this movie. From my lounge chair in suburban NSW, Woody’s New York was impossibly smart and cool and complex. I loved his intellectual points of reference and his characters’ shifting morality. I’m sure this early obsession led me to New York and a love of clever, modern characters from my socio-economic world.

The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper. This series fanned the flame of my love for fantasy and adventure. I still remember inhaling these books when I was 12, 13, 14… I grew up without the internet or TV, so books were my everything. When I finished the fifth book in the series, I immediately started re-reading it again. Set in Cornwall, England, in the 1950s (when it was first published) this is a story about a group of plucky young kids, Barney, Simon, and Jane, who embark an ancient quest in an underworld that exists alongside out own. It’s ambitious, exciting, and original, I was riveted the entire time. Think Narnia meets Harry Potter. Yes, that good.

Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. It’s no accident that Parched has been compared to this handbook for dystopic action: I’ve read the book, listened to the audiobook and seen the movie many times. I set out to create something as tense, political and exciting as this fantastic book.

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

Writing a marathon is a bit like what I imagine running a marathon is like: so hard to do your first one, but then you’re hooked. I love creating fictional worlds and imagining dialogue and scenes. I tried TV writing and directing, but couldn’t break into it. I found my niche with books.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Parched is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Tess Rockwood, who joins an underground rebel group called Kudzu to help stop the development of an ‘artilect’; an artificial intelligence prototype. It’s set in a future world without much water, and features robots and kickass girls and a cute/mysterious guy. Some reviews have compared it to Divergent and Hunger Games, which of course I’m totally thrilled about!

Grab a copy of Parched here

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

I hope Parched takes them on a rollercoaster ride, complete with sweaty palms and racing hearts. I hope they swoon and sigh over the romance, cheer on Kudzu, and root for Tess. And I hope they think about climate change and sustainability, and ponder the ethical issues of artificial intelligence.

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

Anyone who speaks their truth and maintains a healthy output. YA authors I love include Maggie Steifvater, David Leviathan, Rainbow Rowell, Cassandra Clare, and Lauren Oliver.

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

I’d love to get a six-figure advance to write a No. 1 New York Times-best selling novel that gets turned into a fantastic movie, thus entering the pop culture Hall of Fame forever. I’d also like to write something that concretely affects people’s lives, and gives them a greater sense of hope and self-worth.  

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write stories in genres you read, and that you personally, would love to pick up in a bookstore. Commit to a regular writing schedule, ideally in a space away from home. Try the app Freedom if the internet distracts you. Don’t worry about the lacklustre first chapter; you’ll find your writing gathers steam later and you’ll go back and rewrite it anyway. Remember that talent is persistence: most writers don’t sell their first book, they sell their third or fourth. Writing is the long game: stick at it. Live a life worth writing about: take risks, say yes, follow your heart, and me, on Twitter: @georgialouclark

Georgia, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Parched here

Nikki Parkinson, author of Unlock Your Style, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nikki Parkinson

author of Unlock Your Style

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 schooled in regional Queensland – Maryborough – a town once famous for having the most pubs per capita in Queensland and now famous for being the birthplace of Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers.

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

12: A teacher. I’m from a family of teachers. It was pretty much all I knew.

18: A journalist. I was in my first year of uni and studying journalism. My school guidance officer had told me since I was good at English that I should give it a go. Something I did give a go for 20 years.

30: A magazine editor. It had always been a dream but life had taken me a different way. I was lucky that new opportunities at the newspaper where I worked came my way and I edited a weekly glossy magazine.

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

I believed that you went into the profession that you trained/studied for and stayed there. Today I’ve proved that’s not the case and this and the next generation of professionals will show us that life will be a series of career chapters.

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. I grew up in a family that treasured books and encouraged us to read. My Dad was head of English at my high school and he always said to me, “it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read something”. Words – reading and writing them – were always valued.

2. Leaving the country town in which I grew up and heading to Brisbane to go to university will always be a defining moment in my life. Meeting life-long friends, learning that the world really is a big one – there for the taking – and embracing my journalism degree have had an effect to this day.

3. Deciding in 2008 to leave my relatively secure job as a journalist when the first of the media redundancies started was a big, big move on my part. I’d always played it safe. Instead I decided to back myself and start my own business. I’m so glad I did.

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?

My book has come about because of my blog so I think they sit well together. Unlock Your Style started as a series on my blog, became a self-published e-book and was then picked up by Hachette and expanded into a book form. My readers were excited about that – they told me they love reading my blog every day but also haven’t lost the love of holding a physical book.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Busy women are crying out for help in creating or re-discovering their personal style. I know this from the thousands who read my blog each month and the number of emails I receive asking for advice. It’s more than just clothes and lippy. How we present ourselves for any particular day or occasion can affect our confidence levels.

My aim with Unlock Your Style is to take women on a simple process to find a confidence that will help them take on whatever the day throws at them. The format is part workbook, part stories (embarrassing style stories included) and part visual.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

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

If just one woman feels more confident returning to the workforce, leaving to become a mum, going on a first date after a broken relationship or just in the every day by reading Unlock Your Style, then my job is done. The ripple effect of that confidence will spill over into her family and community life.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My girlfriends who are in business always inspire me. We support each other in times of stress and celebrate in times of victory. Without them this would be a very lonely business journey.

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

My goal every day is to be able to combine my work with my family life in a way that’s flexible but still exciting and challenging for me. If I’m meeting that then I’m ready for any opportunities that might come my way. I plan out my weeks and months but I don’t have a five-year-plan. What I’m doing now as a full-time blogger (and now author) didn’t exist as an opportunity five years ago. Who knows what the next five years will bring?

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Start a blog. Don’t wait for someone to publish you. Publish yourself. The very act of writing on daily basis will improve the way you write and by building a community around your blog you’ll be more attractive to a potential publisher.

Nikki, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

Owen Beddall, author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Owen Beddall

author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant

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 Darwin to Aboriginal/European parents and then raised in Grafton on the North Coast of NSW. I went to school in Grafton and university in Sydney.

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

I was addicted to the show LA Law when I was 12 and I always wanted to be a lawyer. I thought being a lawyer involved walking around in glamorous outfits, pointing your finger and winning arguments.

When I was 18, I still wanted to be a lawyer and actually went off to UNSW to study, but mostly at 18 I wanted to be able to be openly gay and living my life. When I was 30, I was travelling all over the world and I really wanted to write a book or make television documentaries.

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

Author: Owen Beddall

At 18 I saw the world as black and white and I thought that if I was intelligent that it would combat everything and I concentrated on study. As I got older and had a more world persective, I realised study was important but life experience and travel was equally important and that the world wasn’t necessarily black and white.

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?

In my family life, my father died when I was a young adult and my brother and sister were still very young (at school) and my mother was thrust in the position of being a single parent over night. It taught me, very early on that life isn’t to be taken for granted and is fragile.

In my career, after September 11 happened, I saw the whole world as we knew it transformed and the innocence and freedom we had enjoyed was no longer. Everyone was more cautious and cultures and people all became sceptical of each other.

In reading, the book that most effected me was April Fool’s Day. It was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic and it was such a beautiful love story. It really opened my eyes and very closely after came the life changing movie, Philadelphia.

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?

Call me a traditionalist but I love books. There is nothing quite like thumbing through a book and taking it with you to the park or a bar or on the train or PLANE with you. When I finish a book, it usually has red wine stains and coffee stains and dog ears throughout.

Also, a book is something to keep forever and it is such an achievement and honour to be published.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My latest book is called Confessions of a QANTAS Flight Attendant and it documents my career as a flight attendant from the beginning through to leaving just recently. Throughout the book, I address things that shaped my career and the flying world such as September 11, Mumbai bombings and the anthrax terrorism in the UK. I walk you through the different destinations that I flew to and show you my adventures, good and bad. There is my accession into being a first class flight attendant and meeting all of the celebrities such as Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Lily Allen, Cate Blanchett, Princess Anne and Venus Williams, to name but a few.

Intersecting this story is my recovery from a severe, life-changing injury in which I broke my back and had to learn to walk again and make the long road back to being an International Flight Attendant.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

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

It would be poverty and or terminal disease. I have been to some places where there is such extreme poverty such as Africa and India and to see mothers begging for some unpolluted water for their babies or people laying in tips and children in orphanages, it’s just heartbreaking. I would change that and equal out the system for everyone and medicine and hygiene available to all.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I would say that I most admire Nelson Mandela. He was a freedom fighter and always fought for what he believed in (and what I believe in), which is equality. When he got into power he treated his captors with dignity and respect and set out to heal and educate. He was considered a terrorist at the time because his ideas and intelligence placed him well outside the bell curve (which important people don’t like) and he changed not only South Africa but the world. I thank my lucky stars for him, every day.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?april-fool-s-day-popular-penguins

I want to have my own talk show, similar to Graham Norton’s interviewing all of the fabulous stars and more from my book and I want to write another book/movie! I’d also like to pursue a luxury travel show and work on something similar to Getaway.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Know your story well and how it will unfold. Also know who your audience (or main audience). Target the right publisher and then build your brand alongside your book. Your social media and press is as important as the book itself.

If you get knocked back, don’t be disheartened – ask why and look for ways to improve it. Go away and take the advice.

Most of all be true to yourself and enjoy it.

Owen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here


Confesions of a Qantas Flight Attendantconfessions-of-a-qantas-flight-attendant

by Owen Beddall

Want to know what really goes on on an aeroplane? Let’s go behind the scenes and fly high with these tall tales and gossip from the galley! Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on.

In Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant – True Tales and Gossip from the Galley, Owen Beddall dishes the dirt – he tells you the things you always wanted to know (and maybe a few things you didn’t) about the glamorous world of flying.

This book is packed with cabin crew adventures and misadventures in and out of that smart uniform in far flung places. There’s sex, drugs and lots of celebrity gossip; Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue, Venus Williams and Cate Blanchett – are all in the galley having a gossip with Owen. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant is a hilariously bumpy ride around the world with a very funny man.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

Rachael Craw, author of Spark, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rachael Craw

author of Spark

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 beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand, and lived there until earthquakes broke our house and destroyed our neighbourhood in 2011/12. Whenever we go back to visit, the empty green paddocks of the eastside, post-demolition, make my heart sore. I hate that my girls will never know the city I knew, so many of our precious landmarks are gone. Now we live at the top of the South Island in sunny Nelson and I rather fancy my new small-town life. It suits me.

Growing up, I went to Burnside High School where I was greatly inspired by my English teacher Ms McColl. She took our creative writing class to my first ever Writer’s Festival in Dunedin where I sat in the audience moony eyed at the poetry of David Eggleton. At the University of Canterbury I majored in Classical Studies and Drama expecting to train and become a teacher in these subjects. Really, it was the literature in both that I loved the most and I became an English teacher instead.

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

I’m not sure about these ages … but when I was 5 or 6 I desperately wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer (think Beyonce in glittering gold spandex + epic afro), around 10, like most of the girls I knew, I imagined a glamorous future as an air hostess, but by 18 I had the acting bug. I did amateur theatre and short films but it was the scriptwriting that got my pulse racing. By 30, I had been teaching for a while but the itch to write was getting harder to ignore.

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

That Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito would be the best Batman, Catwoman and Penguin of all time. (Batman Returns 1992). While Tim Burton is one of my top 3 directors (heads up: you’ll see locations in my novels named to reflect this) Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) upended this strongly held belief. Though he has retired the cowl, Bale holds my allegiance. If Affleck can win my attention I’ll be impressed. I reserve judgment on any future Penguins or Catwomen (Pfeiffer for the win).

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 your own development as a writer?

For thematic influences I would site my favourite texts to teach in the classroom: Hamlet and Lord of the Flies. Hamlet for the exploration of moral dilemma and the consequences of action or inaction. Lord of the Flies for the exploration of human nature and poking at the flimsy scaffolding that keeps us from savagery. At University I loved Oedipus for the question of freewill versus predestination. In a somewhat less grandiose scale I have begun to attempt my own experimentation with these concepts.

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

Word-Lust

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Spark is a story about friendship, loyalty, courage and love mixed with a synthetic gene that creates guardians and killers known as Shields and Strays. Evie learns that she is a Shield, genetically engineered to save the life of her best-friend who is being stalked by a Stray.

Evie strives to learn how to use her new psychic and physical capabilities while managing grief, learning to live with her aunt and struggling to fit in at a new school. Added to these pressures is the complication of falling in love with a boy who is completely off-limits and totally irresistible.

Spark is the first novel in a sci-fi/crossover trilogy.

Grab a copy of Spark here

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

A sense of investment in my imaginary world, that they’ve journeyed with characters they love and or loathe, that they give enough of a damn they’d want to visit again in the future.

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

My favourite writer of all time is Margaret Atwood. I fell in love with her work when I was a teenager and the novelty has never really worn off. In contemporary literature I’ll read anything Kate Atkinson sets her pen to. Isabel Allende, for magical realism and Alice Hoffman too. In YA, I love Patrick Ness and the astounding Elizabeth Knox.

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

I would love to have readers from all over the globe discover my imaginary world, emotionally invest and embrace the characters, grieve their losses, rejoice in their triumphs, and then argue about it all online, print t-shirts with their favourite quotes, swarm at conferences, throw my books across the room when their favourite characters die, lose sleep to finish a chapter, fake sick days to stay home, neglect their chores and families because they’d rather read, text their friends when they’re watching TV and they spot someone who’d be perfect to play a character from the book in a non-existent movie adaptation, create playlists that remind them of the story and re-read, and re-read because it’s just like visiting old friends. I dream of this because these are things I’ve done with books I love.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I am an aspiring writer and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve arrived, mostly because I’m never satisfied. From the beginning I wanted to be good more than I wanted to be published so I have always been hungry for the best counsel and the most honest criticism, to learn the craft and keep learning, refining, exploring and taking risks. Unpopular concepts like sacrifice, hard work and commitment are the price you’re willing to pay to realise a dream but passion, faith and obsession is what keeps you going.

Rachael, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Spark here

Christie Nieman, author of As Stars Fall, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Christie Nieman

author of As Stars Fall

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 Greensborough, Melbourne, grew up in Osbornes Flat, which is near Yackandandah, which is near Wodonga, which is on the Victorian side of the Murray, and was schooled there and in Melbourne. For the past 20 years I’ve been a Melbournite (what a great city!), but just recently I moved to central Victoria, so now I’m a Goldfields girl. Every day I’m visited by a billion beautiful tiny woodland birds. It’s lovely.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be an environmental scientist, because they are the best and most important people on Earth. When I was eighteen I was going to be a pianist, and was even enrolled in a terrifying Bachelor of Music. When I was thirty I wanted to be happy: I stopped trying so hard to achieve and just relaxed into being what I was being and had been for the past twelve years – a writer-in-progress. Your thirties are magic like that.

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

Christie Nieman

Author: Christie Nieman

That love conquers all, and that life is ultimately fair. Now I know more about circumstance, and the way in which it can provide hurdles and boundaries in a person’s life. I was quite an innocent at eighteen: I didn’t know I was very lucky and I thought everyone’s experience was the same as mine. It’s embarrassing to remember.

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 your own development as a writer?

At the age of sixteen I read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I have never had an experience like it before or since. A light bulb flicked on in my head. It was very much as the great woman herself wrote in Negotiating With The Dead: ‘When I found I was a writer at the age of sixteen…’ I don’t know why I ran about trying to be a musician after that – I guess at that age I wanted the company that music gives, but which writing doesn’t.

The works of Debussy and Bach grabbed me as a young pianist – Debussy’s beautiful imagistic impressions, using music to paint mood, not worrying too much about finishing a phrase, or creating a full melody; and Bach’s incredible escalation of form and structure and motif, weaving them and varying them, without ever fundamentally changing them, to create something that sounds nearly avant-garde and which bewilders you and leads you off a cliff edge, and then instantly, and so satisfyingly, takes you back to the simple forms again – I learned so much from both of them about how linear artforms like music and literature can work.

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

I chose to write a novel because I’d already written a play, because I can’t paint to save my life, and because my stint as a songwriter is best forgotten, and also, because when I was eighteen, music and I had a terrible break-up and it took us a while to get back on speaking terms. Whereas the written word and I have always been dear and faithful friends.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

As Stars Fall is young adult novel for older readers. It begins with a bushfire and a death, and from that moment on the emotional and ecological traumas run parallel and interact. It looks at the way people recover from grief, and the way ecosystems recover from disturbance. It reminds us we are all part of the one big living, breathing organism. And it has a little supernatural/metaphysical kick in there too.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

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

I sincerely hope that people come away with a sense of the smaller and bigger worlds. Of lives other than their own, of lives other than human. I hope it gives them a sense that there can be belonging in that, even when in pain and loneliness. It’s possibly high-falutin of me, but there you have it.

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

As I’ve said, Margaret Atwood had me at hello. Her language – my lord, every word is working hard, every word is a little machine, every sentence. And yet it reads effortlessly. I’m also a fan of Sonya Hartnett, the way she can set up an unusual, often almost abstract scenario, and present it with such clarity that you don’t question it – it gives her enormous scope as a writer: once she has you there, she can do what she wants with you. I also love David Malouf and Colm Toibin, for their narrative-invading landscapes; Margaret Mahy and Simmone Howell, for their beautifully original characters and home-lives;  Helen Garner for her perfect use of language to capture, well, everything really; and Philip Pullman, for showing me the glorious magnitude of what you can do with writing for young people – the themes, people, the themes!

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

To write as many good things as I can before I die. Being humble but also very ambitious. I believe many if not most writers are essentially lazy creatures; they’d so often prefer to read than write. Yet they are also cursed by drive. It’s a difficult thing, to be both lazy and driven.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Spend a year getting a trade you can live with. I’m not being facetious. Even if you are one of the rare few that can make a living from your writing, it will probably take you a few years to get there, and you don’t want to be spending all that time stressing about rent and food, because you need that time to be honing your craft. And work gives you an avenue to engage with the world around you, which is priceless for a writer. Unless of course you’re published at fifteen (I’m looking at you, Sonya Hartnett), and then by all means, devote your life!

Christie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

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