Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, Eat Pray Love and much more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

big-magicThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Elizabeth Gilbert

author of Big Magic, Eat Pray Love and much 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?

Born and raised in the Berkshires Hills, in Connecticut, on my family’s Christmas tree farm. I grew up around goats and chickens and gardens and woodstoves and an intense, nearly obsessive, ethic of frugality and self-sufficiency. Also: Books. Lots of books. I went to our local public school and then off to college in New York City just as quickly as I could get myself there. I am grateful for my hard-scrabble rural childhood because it taught me how to take care of myself, but I am not a person of the soil. I am a person of the Polis.

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

Writer, writer, and writer. And also all the years in between. And, one hopes, I will want to be a writer all the years to come. Because I have yet to find anything else I love more than this work. If I ever do, I will change callings. Till then, I’ll stick with this one.

Elizabeth Gilbert high res 20143. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That the rules of life do not apply to me. I tested every single one rule. Turns out, they all apply. It would have been a lot easier and less painful to have learned the rules of cause and effect without having to try them all out, but apparently I’m a real empiricist.

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?

a) Watching my father quit his day job in order to become a full-time farmer, and realising that — yes indeed — one can shape one’s own destiny.

b) Going off to live in New York City — otherwise known as The Field of Dreams — in order to cross-pollinate myself with the ideas of a bunch of other restless dreamers.

c) Getting divorced. Failing horribly at something terribly important. Having to process the shame and loss of it. Thus: Eat Pray Love

5. 1.             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?

Not obsolete yet, it appears.

big-magic6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Big Magic is a manifesto on creativity. It’s about liberating yourself from the tired-old artistic stereotypes of suffering, torment, perfectionism, anxiety and specialness in order to simply make things that ignite your soul to life. I’ve been wanting to write this book for over a dozen years, and only recently did I finally feel that I had the chops and the authority to sit down and say, “Listen, people. I’ve learned some stuff over the decades I’ve spent engaging with creativity in a positive and generative manner. Try doing your work THIS way.”

Grab a copy of Big Magic here

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

I would like my work to give people permission to live bigger lives.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Sister Mary Scullion — a radical activist nun who lives and works in nearby Philadelphia, and who has single-handedly taken it upon herself to solve the problem of homelessness and addiction on the streets of her city. She’s a giant-hearted, funny, tireless, generous, ferocious powerhouse of a woman, and I love her.

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

A very simple goal: I would like to acquire enough wisdom and grace to always know exactly the right way to behave in every different situation in life — no matter how difficult — such that I never cause any trouble or suffering for myself or for another human being as long as I live. Ever. I’m out of my mind, I know. But that is truly what I long for.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t negotiate with the terrorists who live inside your head. Don’t believe a single negative thing that your mind ever tells you about yourself.

Your darkest voices have no idea what they’re talking about. Your inner critics are more deadly and more toxic than any external enemy will ever be.

Your inner critics will always ask of you, “What right do you have to be a creator? Who the hell do you think you are?” Stand up tall and tell your inner critics who the hell you think you are.

Tell them that you are a constituent of creation, and that therefore you have the right to participate in the ongoing story of creation. Tell them that you are a human being, and that human beings are a creative species by design, and that you are laying claim to your human inheritance by participating in the ancient practice of making stuff out of nothing, for no particular reason. Tell them that your work doesn’t have to be magnificent or world-changing; it just has to be DONE. Tell them that by creating anything — merely by remaining vital and productive— you have won as a human being.

Tell them that you have a spark of divinity within you that you will not allow to be extinguished and that you are a champion of inquisitiveness, and that your inventive spirit will not be daunted.

Then give your inner critics the finger, and keep writing.

Eye of the tiger, baby. Eye of the tiger.

Elizabeth, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Big Magic here

big-magicBig Magic

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert.

Now, this beloved author digs deep into her own life to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity.

With profound empathy and generosity, she ponders the mysterious nature of inspiration, asking us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.

Whether we are looking to create art, address challenges in our work, give ourselves permission to embark on a dream long deferred, or simply to infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

Grab a copy of Big Magic here

Mitchell Hogan, author of A Crucible of Souls, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

a-crucible-of-soulsThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mitchell Hogan

author of A Crucible of Souls

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 Sydney, Australia, and have lived here all my life. Although I’ve travelled quite a bit, there’s no place like home! I grew up with two sisters, and my mother did a fantastic job in raising us on her own under extremely trying conditions when we were young.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to work with wood in some way. I loved woodwork classes at school and I still think back fondly on those times. At eighteen I was studying Chemical Engineering at university, mainly because I was good at mathematics and science. Then at thirty I was working for a US bank in funds management, although it was just what I’d fallen into for various reasons. To be honest, by then it felt like I’d be in the same career for the rest of my life. There were bills to pay and a mortgage to worry about so I never stopped to think about what I really wanted to with my life until later on.

Mitchell_Hogan3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was naive at eighteen and thought I’d be able to get by without going to too much extra effort. That was fine until my third year of university when I failed half my subjects! After that I knuckled down and realised that a little extra effort now makes everything so much easier later on, and if you want to be good at something you need to work at it.

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?

When I was eleven a teacher began reading The Hobbit to my class at primary school. I enjoyed it so much my mother bought me The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That opened up a whole new world to me, and it was such a small thing really.

When I was twenty my father took his own life. I coped with the tragedy fairly well at the time, but I think it instilled in me a willingness to be able to stop and examine my own life, what I was doing and where I was going. I’ve had a couple of major career changes since then and deciding to move on in each case was relatively easy.

Which leads to about six years ago when I was burned out with my job. It was getting better but I’d been through a really bad six months of way too much overtime and stress. I stepped back and thought about what I was doing with my life. That’s when I decided to resign from work and finish the book I’d started writing so many years ago. I didn’t want to regret not finishing it – and so far it’s worked out well!

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

I chose to write a book because I love to read, and I had a lot of ideas and wanted to see if I could craft a story out of them. I didn’t consider any other mode of storytelling, it just seemed natural to write. Books are far from obsolete — in fact more people are reading more books than in any other time in history, and there are more books available at lower prices than ever before. With current technology any book that is published will be around, and easily accessible, forever.

a-crucible-of-souls6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

I’d be delighted to! A Crucible of Souls is an epic fantasy novel about a young man raised by monks who is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life, and finds the world he is caught up in has disturbing depths… and the good guys don’t always win. It has sorcery, morally ambivalent characters, and some dark and gritty content. The first review it ever received described it as ‘entertainingly ambiguous’, which I thought was quite a good description.

Grab a copy of A Crucible of Souls here

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

I hope readers feel they’re a part of the world I’ve created. I’d like them to become lost in the story and want to go back and re-read my books again. And of course I want people to feel as if their time and money was well spent.

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

Any author who continually produces books and endeavours to improve on all aspects of writing—both with their craft and the business side.

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

In a relatively short time with my writing career I found myself having achieved more than I ever hoped. That led me to step back and think about where to go from here. My main goal now is to make a living from my writing, and as most other authors can attest that is hard. I also want to make sure my writing appeals to the majority of readers, which means putting a lot of work into improving and making sure I don’t get complacent.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Finish your first book. It’s the hardest one and after that you’ll realise you’ve done it once so you can do it again. Plus, the best advice on editing, promotion, marketing, branding, submissions, agents, the publishing industry, etc, doesn’t mean a thing unless you have a completed manuscript.

And once you have a book finished, work on understanding the business of writing and the industry. This is important stuff. Your intellectual property has an intrinsic value. There is writing and the business of writing, two very different things. Understand the business you’re in if you want to succeed.

Mitchell, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of A Crucible of Souls here

a-crucible-of-soulsA Crucible of Souls

by Mitchell Hogan

The Aurealis Award-winning e-book bestseller now in print.

An imaginative new talent makes his debut with the acclaimed first installment in the epic Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing tale of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery.

When young Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, the boy is raised by monks who initiate him into the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Growing up plagued by questions about his past, Caldan vows to discover who his parents were, and why they were violently killed. The search will take him beyond the walls of the monastery, into the unfamiliar and dangerous chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to become apprenticed to a guild of sorcerers.

But the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths he does not fully understand. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that will bring the world to the edge of destruction.

Soon, he must choose a side, and face the true cost of uncovering his past.

Grab a copy of A Crucible of Souls here

GUEST BLOG: Award-winning author Bob Graham on Writing Books for Children

Award-winning children’s book author Bob Graham gives us a glimpse at his process for writing kids books in this exclusive Kids Month guest blog!

Most days I sit at my desk and draw pictures. I fit words around them. I shuffle little bits of paper around and sticky tape them all together. Sometimes I walk around with that tape still stuck to the elbows of my pullover.

I am rarely conscious that I might be “writing a book for children,” as many of these little jigsaw puzzles of words and pictures are relegated to my bottom drawer. But they may also be used for Spare Parts at some later date in some mysterious process which enables these pieces to come together again and a story to be found hidden there. I try not to question the workings of this, and am just thankful when it happens.

how-the-sun-got-to-coco-s-houseSo rather than “writing a book for children” I am just trying to uncover a story and the people that might inhabit that space, (usually about 32 pages for a picture book.) And if all continues to go well, then a story for children, and for their families or anyone else really is a happy by-product of my efforts over the working year.

So it was with How the Sun got to Coco’s House. I had previously worked for some time on a story of a small girl taking flights of fancy into her imagination, and it being offset against her daily and mundane surroundings. I was not doing it nearly so well as John Burningham, so it went into that bottom drawer. But there was one picture involving a polar bear and her cubs which interested me when I revisited it some years later.

So that is where I started shuffling those bits of paper again. I gave the bears a snowy environment. Then I gave them a winter sun, and I gave the sun a trajectory.

And I was away!

It was all quite exciting to see just where it might lead, as I had potentially the whole world on my drawing board, (well, the Northern hemisphere anyway.) Suddenly I didn’t have enough hours in the day – that is, until the dogs demanded their afternoon walk.

I loved making this book, drawing the pictures and especially writing the text. And now I see the finished, bound copies of it lying on the desk where it started.

Where does the time go?


Click here for more magic from Bob Graham


Kathryn Barker, author of In the Skin of a Monster, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

in-the-skin-of-a-monsterThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kathryn Barker

author of In the Skin of a Monster

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 Canberra, but growing up involved plenty of travel. I started primary school in Tokyo (the only kid with a sandwich in her lunchbox) and finished high school in the woods outside Olympia, Washington State, USA (aka that rainy place near where Twilight was set). In the years that followed, I went to university, became a lawyer, changed my mind, re-trained as a film producer and worked in television. And then I quit it all, so that I could finally (perhaps a little belatedly) follow my dream of becoming a writer.

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 astronaut because I was fascinated by the idea of going into space. When I was eighteen I wanted to write stories about going into space… but that seemed about as far-fetched as going to the moon, so I enrolled in law-school instead. When I was thirty I wanted to write stories for eighteen year olds, because I’d never fallen out of love with young adult fiction.

Kathryn Barker

Kathryn Barker

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

At eighteen I was fairly black and white – I believed in good versus bad and right versus wrong, without much focus on the in-between. Now I’m much more drawn to the grey areas, especially when it comes to characters. To what compels decent people to do terrible things, and vice versa. Put simply, at eighteen I strongly believed in absolutes… and now I generally avoid them.

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 lived near Seattle when I was seventeen, right when bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were huge. I think the grunge movement probably influenced my writing insofar as I’ve got no tolerance for flowery or pretty.

As for books, my two favourite short stories – A Perfect Day for Bananafish by JD Salinger and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway. They taught me that stories can pack a punch, fast.

And thirdly, the film Blade Runner… because it was so damn cool. It made me wish that one day I could tell stories like that.

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

Tone deaf. Stick-figures only. Terrible dancer. Can’t sew. Don’t like performing. Useless at craft. Zero design skills. No interest in sculpture. Or installation art. Or printmaking. Or basket weaving. Love writing. Love novels.

in-the-skin-of-a-monster6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

In the Skin of a Monster is a young adult novel about Alice, a girl whose identical twin sister took a gun to school and killed seven innocent kids; now Alice wears the face of a monster. It’s a small town and no one can stand to even look at her. But when Alice encounters her sister on a deserted highway, ‘bad’ is just the beginning. Alice soon finds herself trapped in a dangerous new reality: a broken world that’s filled with the nightmares of everyone in the community.

Grab a copy of In the Skin of a Monster here

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

I hope that after reading In the Skin of a Monster people find themselves thinking about the nature of good versus evil. Or the impact of judging a person based on how they look. Or the power of dreams and nightmares. Or the path towards forgiveness. Or some of the other themes that are explored in the novel.

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

Melina Marchetta because I love her voice, I relate to her characters and her stories always feel real to me. I also admire the way that, as a writer, she’s managed to transition into different genres.

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

My goal is to keep writing. That might not sound very ambitious, but I think it’s a huge deal in the scheme of things. A lot of people go through their whole lives and never find that thing they love. And of the ones who do find their passion, not everyone gets to indulge it. So the fact that I’ve found what I love to do and am able to do it? That’s jackpot territory already… and I simply plan on making it count.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Treat your story idea like a relationship. If it’s good, commit to it. Stick with it through the tough times and work out your issues. Dig deep when you have to. When things are hard, don’t be tempted by another. That shiny new idea might be younger and fresher and newer but that doesn’t mean it’s better – you simply don’t know it well enough yet to see its flaws. Besides, if you move on every time the going gets tough, where will that leave you?

Invest your time and your love into the one you’ve got, holding nothing back. If you’ve tried everything and it’s still not working, move on knowing that you did your best. But if you can find a way to make it work, that’s when the magic happens – the ‘warts and all’ depth of understanding.

Kathryn, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of In the Skin of a Monster here

in-the-skin-of-a-monsterIn the Skin of a Monster

by Kathryn Barker

‘One of the most original novels I’ve read for a long while. Great voices. Complex relationships. Just what I love to read.’Melina Marchetta

What if your identical twin sister was a murderer? Does that make you a monster too? A profound, intense, heartbreaking fantasy that tackles issues of fate versus free will, and whether you can ever truly know someone.

Caught in a dreamscape, mistaken for a killer … will Alice find a way home?

Three years ago, Alice’s identical twin sister took a gun to school and killed seven innocent kids; now Alice wears the same face as a monster. She’s struggling with her identity, and with life in the small Australian town where everyone was touched by the tragedy. Just as Alice thinks things can’t get much worse, she encounters her sister on a deserted highway. But all is not what it seems, and Alice soon discovers that she has stepped into a different reality, a dream world, where she’s trapped with the nightmares of everyone in the community. Here Alice is forced to confront the true impact of everything that happened the day her twin sister took a gun to school … and to reveal her own secret to the boy who hates her most.

 Grab a copy of In the Skin of a Monster here

The 2015 Sydney Writer’s Festival In Focus – Andrew’s Highlights

Can you hear that?

Pages being briskly bookmarked, notepads scribbled on frantically, publicists sweating over author schedules…

The Sydney Writer’s Festival is nearly here!

And because I’m getting all excited, I’ve picked out some of my highlights for the 2015 edition, take a gander. For more details head to www.swf.org.au

Continue reading

The Writer’s Gospel according to Matt Haig

reasons-to-stay-aliveReasons to Stay Alive

by Matt Haig

‘I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt. I hate depression. I am scared of it. Terrified, in fact. But at the same time, it has made me who I am. And if – for me – it is the price of feeling life, it’s a price always worth paying’..

Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off.

This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how to live better, love better, read better and feel more.

Grab a copy of Reasons to Stay Alive here

British study reveals author, librarian and academic three most desirable careers

WritingBooklovers know it, and it appears the rest of the world is starting to catch on.

A bookish job is a great job!

The “aura of prestige” connected with a career in writing or academia is preferable to jobs that brought promises of wealth and celebrity status, according to a survey conducted by UK market research firm Yougov with more than 14,000 respondents.

Being an author was the most popular choice among both men and women, with more than 60 per cent selecting it as their dream job. It was followed by a career as a librarian (54 per cent) and in academia (51 per cent). Lawyers came in fourth place, with journalism in sixth behind interior design.


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