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

___________________

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

Gabrielle Tozer, author of The Intern, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Gabrielle Tozer

author of The Intern

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 Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, a wonderful regional town where I completed both primary and high school, and ate chicken-salted potato gems by the bagful.

Next stop, three years studying journalism and creative writing at the University of Canberra (and perfecting the art of staying up ’til 3am and sleeping ’til midday). I’ve been a city-slicker in Sydney since early 2006 but still have soft spots for Wagga and Canberra and visit both as often as possible.

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

Twelve: A journalist, author, actress or psychologist. Eighteen: A journalist, author or a newsreader like Ann Sanders (I used to go into older women’s shops to try on power suits. Yes, I’m strange). Thirty: Yet to crack the big 3-0, but I predict I will still want to be a – shock horror – author! And maybe a professional pizza reviewer. Is that a thing? That should be a thing.

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

That I would have my driver’s licence by now. Oops. It has not eventuated yet, much to the dismay of my family and friends (and every second person I meet). Eighteen-year-old me was such a glass-half-full kind of gal.

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?

Sorry, I am going to cheat by ignoring that you said ‘three’ and also by saying writers have influenced me the most. Without a doubt: Stephen King’s On Writing (I read it once a year whenever I need a creative reboot); anything by John Marsden, Roald Dahl, Nick Hornby, Margaret Clark and Morris Gleitzman; and brilliant female screenwriters such as Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham.

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

Because I sing like a hyena, haven’t pirouetted in years, get too nervous to act anymore and can only draw stick figures. Luckily, I can wrangle words into shape from time to time and, since I have always been a voracious reader, I thought it would be pleasurable to see things from the other side (and hopefully entertain a new generation!). Besides, this sounds naff, but I could always picture myself doing it…and now, I’m hooked!

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Intern is a YA novel that follows the crazy, awkward adventures of seventeen-year-old Josie Browning, a country girl who scores herself an internship at the glamorous magazine, Sash. While it all sounds amazing, there’s a catch: she’s battling for a coveted cash prize and column, and at the mercy of the whip-cracking editor-in-chief Rae Swanson. Throw in family dramas, slipping uni grades and a hot guy or two, and Josie’s having herself quite the year!

Grab a copy of The Intern here

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

I want readers to be entertained! I hope they giggle, smirk or snort while reading the awkward moments (oh, I love putting my characters through cringe-worthy scenarios!), and enjoy the warmer interludes between Josie and her family. Readers are quite taken with Josie’s dorky but loveable way and often ask me about her next adventure, so I’m glad I’m working on the sequel at the moment (it’s due out early 2015).

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

John Marsden, J.K. Rowling, Kylie Ladd, Rebecca Sparrow, John Green, Nick Hornby, Suzanne Collins, Lena Dunham, just to name a few. They’re damn good writers and I want to devour every word they write.

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

Keep finding the joy in writing, keep getting books published, keep pushing myself creatively. If I could do all three, while juggling real-life responsibilities and relationships with aplomb, then I will be incredibly fulfilled and happy. Oh, and I might look into the whole professional pizza reviewer gig, too… (A girl’s gotta have goals, right?)

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just start. Put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard and get writing. Don’t worry about asking for advice, or waiting for inspiration to strike, or for the ‘perfect moment’ to begin. If you are a writer, then you will write. It won’t always be easy, in fact, sometimes it’s extraordinarily challenging, so be gentle with yourself and remember to enjoy the ride.

Gabrielle, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Intern here

The Monday Morning Cooking Club, authors of The Feast Goes On, answer Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here to grab a copyThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

The Monday Morning Cooking Club

authors of The Feast Goes On

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

We all live in Sydney, Australia but we have come from all over: Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, South Africa. And our family backgrounds are even more diverse, reflecting the Jewish community’s melting pot: Hungary, Poland, Russia via China, South Africa, England.

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

When we were twelve we were all consumed with what was in our lunch boxes and pantries. Some of us were getting schnitzel on rye and really wanted Vegemite on white bread.  Some of our pantries were stocked with kosher salami, dill pickles and poppyseed cake and all we really wanted were biscuits from a packet and bought jam swiss rolls. What did we want to be? Like everybody else!

When we were eighteen we were discovering our passion for food. Learning and loving to cook, throwing our first dinner parties and searching for good food. What did we want to be? Grown up and accomplished. mmcc_slider_girlswhite

When we were thirty we were all consumed with motherhood, trying to find the time for a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake and striving to find the right life/work balance. What did we want to be? Less sleep deprived than we were!

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

At eighteen, we were all so sure we knew more than our mothers. As we grow older and wiser, and have 18 year old daughters ourselves, we have learned the adage is true: ‘mother is always right.’

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?

Growing up, more so than any one event, the continual celebrations that went on in all our homes each and every year for Jewish festivals (passover, Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur) and weekly Friday night feasts for Sabbath eve together with mothers who were committed and passionate about cooking and feeding their families.  2: On a larger scale, the immigration to Australia from countries as far and wide as Vietnam, Greece, Hungary, Russia and South Africa has given our lives in Australia a cultural and culinary diversity which has enriched our national makeup and palate. 3: The creation of our first book Monday Morning Cooking Club – the food the stories the sisterhood’. The years we spent collecting, testing and preserving family heirloom recipes filled us with a great joy, and taught us so much along the way.

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?

Printed cookbooks will never be obsolete. Some of us think that there is nothing more enjoyable than taking your latest cookbook to bed and reading it cover to cover, ogling the beautiful photos and feeling the pages between your fingers.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…Click here to grab a copy

The Feast Goes On features the best loved and most delicious stories from the heart and soul of our community right across Australia. It is not a book of Jewish food per se, it’s a book of recipes from Jewish kitchens, collected from countries far and wide. The book speaks of a community drawn together by food, with intimate and moving stories of sharing and survival, love and hope, friendship and family. It is full of precious family recipes passed down from past generations through to recipes that will become instant family favourites.The book has recipes for every occasion – from every day eating to feasting, light lunches to fressing, comfort food to traditional dishes – which will nurture, nourish and inspire.

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

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

To find, collect, recreate and publish all those wonderful heirloom recipes from the older generation before they are lost forever. We believe the old recipes still fit so well into our contemporary world.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?
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As a group, without a doubt, we place our grandmothers on the highest pedestal. We look back with wonder on how they managed to nurture and feed their families the most exquisite dishes without any of today’s mod-cons; plucking chickens to produce golden roasts, pickling and preserving anything and everything to get though the winter, home baked bread made from scratch, the lightest of chiffon cakes, flaky pastries crammed with dried fruit and nuts.

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

Our goal is to create a contemporary face for Australian Jewish cuisine. One important part of this is to preserve those treasured recipes from the older generation for our generation, and from our generation for the future. The other important aspect is that we are a not-for-profit company and will continue to raise substantial funds for charity.

10.      What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Always follow your dream, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be dissuaded by the ’NO’s’. Doors open at the most unexpected times!

Monday Morning Cooking Club, thank you for playing!

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

Silvia Kwon, author of The Return, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Silvia Kwon

author of The Return

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 Seoul, South Korea and arrived in Perth, Western Australia aged nine. I spent the first few years in country towns and found the transition from a bustling city to rural Australia fairly traumatic. It was compounded by the fact that I couldn’t speak any English and being a fairly outgoing, social girl, it made me determined to learn the language as quickly as possible.

I went to a girls’ Catholic high school, St Joachim’s High School in Perth and spent a few years trying to figure out what to do with my life. I ended up falling in love with art and decided to pursue an art history degree at the University of Western Australia. Then in my late twenties I thought it was time I did something about my love of books and words and moved to Melbourne to try and work in publishing, which I did for a number of years before having a child and starting my own writing.

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

Twelve – no idea
Eighteen – Filmmaker: I loved the way films – images with music – could move you. I try to this with words. But I found that I wasn’t any good with a camera.
Thirty – Editor: I loved words so the idea of working with words as a profession was very attractive to me. I am doing that now, as a writer.

Silvia Kwon3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was very much a romantic, so I believed in the idea of a soulmate, but now I’m much more pragmatic and believe that love and relationships happen through coincidence, luck and chance as much as compatibility.

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?

1) The art of Mark Rothko
2) The films of Terrence Malick
3) Books by James Joyce

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

The simplicity and freedom associated with the act of putting ideas down on paper has always been attractive to me. There’s no complicated equipment like cameras or messy paintbrushes etc.

I also love words. I could sit and read the dictionary quite happily for an entire day.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

It’s about a family coming to terms with the son’s decision to bring home a Japanese wife during 1960s Australia. The father is deeply traumatised by his war experiences and still hates the former enemy.

The novel is told from the mother’s point of view and follows her struggle, caught between her husband and son, to hold the fractured family together.

Grab a copy of The Return here

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

That they took a journey with the main protagonist through the emotional landscape of the novel.

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

I really admire Toni Morrison for the power of her language.

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

To try and write a better book than the last.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

It’s actually something I heard Neil Gaiman say: There will always be better writers and smarter people than you. Just try to write something which only you could have written.

Silvia, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Return here

Naomi Wood, author of Mrs. Hemingway, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Naomi Wood

author of Mrs. Hemingway

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 York in the north of England. When I was eight my parents announced we were moving to Hong Kong. We’d never been to the continent of Asia, nevertheless China, and we’d certainly never been to Hong Kong. My dad worked for the international schools, and my sister and I had most of our schooling out there. Now she’s in Sydney, I’m in London and my parents are in Italy. We’re spread out like butter on the toast of the globe.

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

At twelve I told people I wanted to be “a bloodsucking lawyer”. It was a brattish answer that I stole from The Addams Family movie (my favourite, at that age; for a year I watched it every afternoon over a bowl of noodles, and can still remember most of the lines.) At eighteen I was getting vibes that I wanted to be a writer. I’m thirty now, and I write and teach Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University in London, which is a pretty good combination.

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

That writing would build me a big house and swimming pool. The economics of my dreams have shrunk a little.

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

Reading The Old Man and the Sea made me interested in Hemingway and made me want to find out everything about him – that powerful sense of loss in all of its pages made me want to write about a troubled soul and his relationships with women.  My first novel, The Godless Boys, emerged after I set about writing a short-story based on what I saw in Lucian Freud’s painting The Village Boys. If I could produce something tonally close to the cascading elegy that is Anthony and the Jonson’s ‘Hope There’s Someone’ – I’d be very happy.

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

No good at painting. Can’t sing. Can dance, but only like an idiot. I love books – short-stories, novels and poetry, and I love language, so writing seemed the obvious artistic avenue.

6.     Please tell us about your latest novel…

Mrs. Hemingway is historical fiction, set between 1921-61 in France and America. It tells the story of Hemingway’s four marriages from the perspective of each wife (and former mistress) – Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh.

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

It’s definitely written for people who’ve never read any Hemingway before, so I hope people take away a portrait of him, as well as a portrait of his four incredible wives. And maybe they’ll go away and read some of Martha Gellhorn’s war reportage – or maybe some fiction of Hemingway’s.

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

I’ll choose a living writer here. I really love Marilynne Robinson’s work. I think she is a very robust, very beautiful writer. Gilead is one of my favourite novels.

the-old-man-and-the-sea9.     Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I set myself achievable rather than ambitious goals.  My current goal is to write a first draft of my third novel.

10.   What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Not to worry too much about early drafts. They’re exploratory and first stabs in the dark. I must admit this is advice I find very difficult to accept myself. I’d like things to be perfect right from the get-go. Maybe I’m quite like Wednesday Addams in this as well!

Naomi, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mrs. Hemingway here

Nicola Moriarty, author of Captivation and Paper Chains, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Guru asks

Nicola Moriarty

author of Captivation and Paper Chains

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 Sydney – but as that sounds a bit boring, I’ll be a little more specific. Let’s see, I was born in Hornsby, raised in Kellyville and schooled in Baulkham Hills. Nope, still not overly exciting. Ahh, if only I was born on a yacht in the Caribbean, raised in a jungle in Brazil and schooled in a boarding house in the country. Oh well.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books because one of my primary school teachers  (Mrs Walsh – she had cascading curly hair and I adored her) had made a big fuss over a story I wrote. When I was eighteen I wanted to be an actress because I was performing in various amateur theatre productions at the time and I loved the rush of being up in front of an audience and becoming a different person. At thirty I very much wanted to be a writer – so it’s lucky that that’s what I seem to be doing!

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

I believed that I would never get married because I thought that marriage was too conventional for me. Ha! I’ve been married now for just coming up to eight years.

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?

First off, Coldplay’s song ‘Warning Sign’ definitely helped me to write my first novel. I love listening to emotional music as I write, it helps me to get into the right head-space. Secondly, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult – I can specifically remember exactly where I was when I was reading the final chapter of this book. I remember being outside on our balcony in the apartment we used to rent in Parramatta, and there was a huge storm and when I read the final twist I absolutely SOBBED. And I thought, I would love to be able to affect readers in this way. Finally, the play ‘Death of a Salesman’ – however it wasn’t the actual play that reached me, it was while I was involved in an amateur theatre production of it. I had a very minor role, and while I and the rest of the cast were backstage I decided to write a spin-off for all the minor characters. Creating the small play and then watching it come to life (we performed it for the rest of the cast and crew on closing night) reminded me how much I loved creating something.

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

I love to write, it makes me happy, it’s hard to stop – simple as that!

paper-chains6.    Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest release was a supernatural romance novella called Captivation… But my latest full-length novel was called Paper Chains, and that’s about fate, friendship, post-natal depression, loss, love, London and Luna Park.

Grab a copy of Paper Chains here

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

First I want them to use my book to escape from the world for just a little while. And then I want them to be left with that feel-good glow, even if it’s just for the rest of the day after they finish reading. Finally I want them to be hungry for more words – and not necessarily just my words!

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

captivationCan I name two people, is that okay? Liane and Jaclyn Moriarty – my two wildly successful author sisters who encourage and support me and who’s novels I absolutely adore. When I read Liane’s books for the first time, I generally end up neglecting other things in my life because I can’t put it down – my writing, the washing that needs to be hung out, my children… her books make me laugh out loud and they make me cry and they twist my stomach. Jaci has an amazing ability to constantly reinvent herself. One minute she is writing YA fiction that connects with her readers on an unprecedented level, next she is creating a novel that is quirky and clever and sweet and sad. Now she’s moved on yet again – to a magical realism trilogy that is utterly delightful. How does she do that?!

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

Here is my most ambitious and ridiculously unachievable goal: I want to write a book that EVERYONE loves. I mean every single person who reads it, thinks that it is amazing. And even those people that haven’t read it, they just love the look of it. Oh and even those people that haven’t seen it or heard of it, they have this strange, psychic connection with it that they don’t quite understand, but they can identify that it is love for a work of fiction somewhere in the world. Too much? Yeah, I guess I got a bit carried away there didn’t I?

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write when you want to write, when you’re in the mood and you’re feeling creative. Let your fingers trip across the keyboard, let your pen run away with your hand. Try out different styles and different genres. Take a creative writing course. Eat chocolate. Quit smoking (contrary to Hollywood movies, you don’t need to be a sleep-deprived, chain-smoking, coffee-drinking struggling romantic to be a writer – although cappuccinos are okay).

Nicola, thank you for playing.

Check out Nicola’s books 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‘.

Colleen Ryan, author of Fairfax: The Rise and Fall, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Colleen Ryan

author of Fairfax: The Rise and Fall

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 Goulburn on the NSW southern tablelands. My father was the local drycleaner. When I was seven we moved to Wollongong on the NSW south coast. I attended the local girls’ Catholic high school and later studied economics at The University of Sydney.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

When I was 12 I wanted to be a hairdresser because I thought it was glamorous. I left school at 15 and started a hairdressing apprenticeship. I quickly discovered that the job was not for me – after a day of scraping hairspray off mirrors. I went back to school with the intention of becoming a social worker but an inspiring economics teacher in my final year steered me towards economics.

When I was 30 I wanted to do exactly what I was doing at the time – I was a reporter with the National Times. It was a ground breaking newspaper specializing in investigative journalism and it gave me the opportunity to work with a group of top professionals.

Colleen Ryan3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

I believed that socialism was the best economic system for the common good.

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?

I won a Commonwealth scholarship which prompted me to attend university. A forced move to Papua New Guinea and later London for my husband’s job introduced me to the world of a foreign correspondent. Thanks to this experience I was later posted to Washington and to Shanghai. In London I worked with the noted journalist and author Philip Knightly which awoke an ambition to become a writer of non fiction.

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?

Books are online as well as in print. And if it is a complex tale, the book format provides the required length and structure. Books will never disappear. They provide too much private joy to too many people.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Fairfax: The Rise and Fall is published by Melbourne University Press.

It details the history of the Fairfax media organization and investigates why the once great newspaper group is now struggling to survive.

It has a cast of characters that includes ambitious politicians, conniving media moguls and and a family that lets its internal feuds destroy a century old fortune.

Grab a copy of Fairfax: The Rise and Fall here

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

A respect for the importance of an effective and well funded fourth estate – across all mediums.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Amongst my contemporaries in Australia I really admire David Marr – a fine writer who has never given up the fight for quality journalism.

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

To write books that people enjoy reading.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Research your topic thoroughly. And put in the hours – get up early, you will do your best work when your brain is fresh and the world is quiet.

Colleen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Colleen’s book Fairfax: The Rise and Fall here

Anna Gare, author of Eat In, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Anna Gare

author of Eat In: The Best Food is Made at Home

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 Western Australia. I was the youngest of 4 kids. I was raised on Brown food- it was the 70s.

Mum cooked to fill us up; she had seven faithful dishes down pat. Tuna Mornay, meatballs, lamb stew, spag bog, sausage casserole, chops peas and mash. Every Sunday- she threw a big rolled roast into the oven and cooked it until it was grey. There was no such thing as medium rare back then!!! She was no gourmet goddess and was delighted when I took over the kitchen at the age of 11.

Yes I was schooled but left at 15 to cook in a restaurant and play music in a rock and roll band.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

When I was 12 -I desperately wanted to be 13, couldn’t wait to be a teenager!.

When I was eighteen I wanted to write a hit pop song. At 18 who doesn’t want to be a rock star?

When I was 30 I stopped wanting to get older and I wanted to be 18 again.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

I thought that when I grew up I would get married have 2 children and live happily ever after with my husband.

A broken family was not in my script. But a combined family now is. Got a ripper husband take 2 and a few extra kids for free!

4. What were three big events in your life or the world around you that had a great effect on you and influenced your cooking?

Definitely visiting my Granny- she lived up in the hills and use to grow and bottle everything. Very inspirational.

Cooking on television shows and writing cook books has somewhat organised me. It was the first time I started putting my recipes down on paper.  My aim was to cook food that was delicious and easily achievable, food that people would want to make in their own homes. It has definitely shaped my simplistic style.

Having children and trying to get them to eat all the good stuff has been quite a challenge and has resulted in some very clever food marketing and cheeky sneaky creations along the way.

I’d be a fool if I didn’t say travel always has a huge influence!

5. What are some dishes you wouldn’t eat as a child that you love now?

Sweet potato- it use to make my glands tingle and I thought olives were disgusting.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Eat In is my second book and I’m really proud of it.  Its really a snap shot of the food I cook in my every day busy life.

From breakfast to sweet treats- feeding the kids to throwing a party- I like to think of it as some of my greatest food hits!

Grab a copy of Eat In here

7. If you had to create one dish to show off your repertoire, what would it be?

An edible food topiary tree., covered in little squares of my pretty frittata. Love a bit of food sculpture.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

There are many people I admire. This week/year its Stephanie Alexander for her endless work in getting the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden programs into more Australian primary schools.

If every school had a SAKG we would see, kids by the age of 12 educated in the growing and preparation of healthy foods and in the future a huge decrease in poor health and food related diseases in Australia.

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

I have several but here are a few. To raise 4 well-adjusted children and hope they all grow into happy, healthy adults and combine their passions with their work. And to be living in the South West on the great southern ocean by  2016. To grow all of our own food in high alkaline beach sand with windy conditions.

Definitely ambitious and possibly insane!

10. What advice do you give aspiring chefs?

Just remember the aim is yummy.

Anna, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Anna’s book Eat In here

Mark Roeder, author of Unnatural Selection, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mark Roeder

author of Unnatural Selection: Why the Geeks Will Inherit the Earth

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 London, England and grew up in Sydney, Australia.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

At 12 years of age I wanted to be 18 years of age. At 18 years I wanted to be a lawyer, politician and part-time surfer – which all involve a lot of balancing. At 30 I wanted to be a Writer because I had discovered the power and beauty of words.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

At 18, I believed that the world was ruled by politics, money and power. Now I know it is actually ruled by ‘ideas’.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

1. The death of my beloved wired-haired fox terrier named ‘The Colonel’, whose passing around my 14th birthday was my first brush with mortality.

2. My formative experience as a trainee copywriter at the W.B.Lawrence advertising agency where I met remarkable people like Max Fulcher, Barney Greer and Brian Bona who nurtured me.

3. Discovering the American writers, Henry Miller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Normal Mailer and Gore Vidal, who opened my eyes to the wonders of the literary universe.

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?

The electronic media is ephemeral and transient by nature. It is a constant digital chatter without a coherent structure that dissipates into the ether.

Whereas a book can exert an enduring effect on the collective psyche. It provides a narrative structure and contextual potency that resonates with our ancestral memes as human beings. We love stories – not the fragments (or bytes) of stories delivered up by the blogosphere.

For these reasons I don’t do Twitter, Facebook or social media because I have no interest in boring people with the quotidian exigencies of my life, nor reading about other people’s.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Unnatural Selection examines the rise of the ‘techno-centric being’ – or Geek – who personifies a distinct new phase of human evolution. Such people often have behavioural or genetic traits that were previously considered to be detrimental. But the new environment of the Anthropocene – Age of Man – has created a kind of ‘digital greenhouse’ that actually favours their traits, enabling many non-neurotypical people to bloom. They resonate with the technological zeitgeist in a way that turns their weaknesses into strengths.

More broadly, the book encourages us to take a fresh look at how we are evolving as a species, as we become more shaped by Man-made influences, rather than by natural ones. For we have entered into what is likely to be the most challenging period in human history. It means that many of the old rules about survival and success no longer apply. For our destiny will be increasingly determined by the forces of Unnatural Selection. Those who resonate best with the new technological zeitgeist are very likely to inherit the earth.

Grab a copy of Unnatural Selection here

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

There is a currently a widespread belief that we, as humans are not responsible for our own evolution. This was certainly true up until a few decades ago – we were simply the products of ‘Natural Selection’. I would suggest, however, that recent advances in genetic engineering (and screening), pharmacology, artificial intelligence and so on, will enable us to consciously guide our evolutionary direction. These tools of ‘Unnatural Selection’ will drive a cognitive  revolution – thus enabling many more ot us to have ‘geek’ like levels of intelligence (if we desire them).

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Stephen Fry. For his humour, humanity and resilience (even though he does ‘Tweet’)

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

To encourage as many people as possible – through my books – to reflect on the fact that new digital technologies are not just ‘tools’ for us to use. They are profoundly reshaping the way we think, interact and behave. The tail is now wagging the dog.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write about things that truly, deeply interest you – no mater how bizarre, unfashionable or radical they may seem. For if you are not engaged and moved by the subject matter, nobody else will be.

Mark, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Unnatural Selection here

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