Elizabeth Farrelly, author of Caro Was Here, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Elizabeth Farrelly

author of Caro Was Here

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 Dunedin, in the cold and romantic South Island of New Zealand, but grew up mostly in Auckland, the only city I know that sits on 48 volcanic cones. We lived in leafy suburbia and walked or cycled to the local primary and grammar schools. There was lots of nature stuff – sailing and rowing and fishing and (what Kiwis call) tramping. To grow up in suburbia, then, meant barefoot after-school rampaging through the back hedges and churchyards and empty lots until well after dark. So for an avid reader of myths, legends and adventure stories, there was endless opportunity for the entanglement of
imagination and landscape. Much of this comes out in Caro Was Here.

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

At twelve I wanted to be an air hostie. I vividly recall wanting to wear lots of aquamarine eye shadow and travel the world serving drinks on elegant trays. At eighteen I wanted to be a doctor and save the world’s children from terrible
disease. At thirty I gave in and became a writer, because story sits at the heart of everything. Story is what I love.

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

Author: Elizabeth Farrelly

I believed all you need to change the world was the yearning to do it and the belief that you could. Then I worked out it was a little bit harder than that. Just a little bit.

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?

This is interesting. I see all my nominations are plays. Hmm. TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral affected me profoundly as a teenager, when we studied it at school. I loved the intense play of good and evil, the way the rhythms and imagery resonated with the action, and the sense of a deeply shadowed history. Eliot made me love literature.

When I saw Arthur Miller’s The Crucible performed in London inside the amazing Hawksmoor church at Spitalfields, I wept uncontrollably – hugely uncharacteristic – for an hour. Not because it was sad, but because of the hypocrisy and deceit won over truth, and the way the production realised this conflict inside Hawksmoor’s amazing space, using the cruciform plan to dramatise the tensions.

Shakespeare is kind of obvious but, at school, I didn’t like Shakespeare at all. Yet when I saw King Lear performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in London, I was moved beyond words. It was that last scene, where Cordelia dies. It all comes home to Lear, just what terrible terrible damage he has done. It is heartbreaking and beautiful.

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

Anyone who has written one will tell you that writing a novel is less about choosing to write it than losing the fight of resistance! It is so tempting because a novel is the most satisfying form of story. A novel is a world you can inhabit. Even when you’re not actually reading the book, a part of your mind can still dwell there, enjoying the mysteries of place and unexpected twists of character. A novel gives time for change. It allows character to develop, power
relationships to reverse and familiar assumptions to change beyond recognition. A novel takes you on a strange and unexpected journey, like a river-cave ride. It is the ultimate adventure. Novels are cool.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Caro Was Here is a story about naughtiness and freedom, about trust and betrayal, about courage and the cost of courage. I wanted to write a story that captured the magic with which a child sees the world, the real world in particular. I wanted to set the story in Sydney, which I think is breathtakingly beautiful and somewhat under-written, if you’ll forgive the awkward phrase. And I wanted to write an adventure story with a purposeful plot and a girl in the lead; a story where a girl must draw on all her courage and strength and, in the end, intelligence, just to survive.

Grab a copy of Elizabeth’s latest novel Caro Was Here here

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

I hope they will be able to imagine Caro’s island birthday so vividly they can smell it. I hope they remember the emotions – the fear, the thrill, the laughter. I hope they love the characters and want to hear more. I hope they pass the book and the story on to friends.

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

I read crime. I love crime writers that give depth of character, quirky humour, gorgeous sentence structure and a vivid sense of place. So I love James Lee Burke, James Ellroy, Hilary Mantel, Elmore Leonard and Don Winslow. But when it comes to children’s fiction I love things with vivid word rhythm, intense imagery and conflict: Margaret Mahy (The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate), Roald Dahl (The Witches), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) and Banjo Paterson (The Man from Iron Bark).

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

My ambition is that each of my books should be better and more satisfying than the one before it.  I want to become a better writer.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I want to write stories and keep on writing stories that people love to read. What could be better?

Elizabeth, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Caro Was Here here

Caro Was Here

by Elizabeth Farrelly

The bestselling novelist of all time.

The world’s most famous detective.

The literary event of the year.

Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s novels have been sold around the world. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand-new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation, Hercule Poirot.

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle sure to baffle and delight both Christie’s fans as well as readers who have not yet read her work. Written with the full backing of Christie’s family, and featuring the most iconic detective of all time, this new novel is a major event for mystery lovers the world over.

 Grab a copy of Caro Was Here here

Celebrate Booktoberfest with Booktopia and Random House – you could win a prize pack worth over $800!

Celebrate Booktoberfest with Booktopia and Random House and you could win this amazing prize pack worth over $800!!!

Just buy any title in Random House’s Booktoberfest Showcase and you could win!

Click here to enter Random House’s showcase

Our Top Pick

My Story

by Julia Gillard

‘I was Prime Minister for three years and three days. Three years and three days of resilience. Three years and three days of changing the nation. Three years and three days for you to judge.’

On Wednesday 23rd June 2010, with the government in turmoil, Julia Gillard asked then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for a leadership ballot.

The next day, Julia Gillard became Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, and our first female leader. Australia was alive to the historic possibilities. Here was a new approach for a new time.

It was to last three extraordinary years.

This is Julia Gillard’s chronicle of that turbulent time – a strikingly candid self-portrait of a political leader seeking to realise her ideals. It is her story of what it was like – in the face of government in-fighting and often hostile media – to manage a hung parliament, build a diverse and robust economy, create an equitable and world-class education system, ensure a dignified future for Australians with disabilities, all while attending to our international obligations and building strategic alliances for our future. This is a politician driven by a sense of purpose – from campus days with the Australian Union of Students, to a career in the law, to her often gritty, occasionally glittering rise up the ranks of the Australian Labor Party.

Refreshingly honest, peppered with a wry humour and personal insights, Julia Gillard does not shy away from her mistakes, admitting freely to errors, misjudgements, and policy failures as well as detailing her political successes. Here is an account of what was hidden behind the resilience and dignified courage Gillard showed as prime minister – her view of the vicious hate campaigns directed against her, and a reflection on what it means – and what it takes – to be a woman leader in contemporary politics.

Here, in her own words, Julia Gillard reveals what life was really like as Australia’s first female prime minister.

Click here to enter Random House’s showcase

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Writing in the steppes of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope, author of On the Trail of Genghis Khan

Tim CopeWriting in the steppes of Genghis Khan

A crisp autumn day near the Danube River in Hungary in 2007 marked the end of a long journey for my animals and I. For three and a half years I had travelled with three horses, and a dog, Tigon, from the Mongolian empire capital, Kharkhorin, across the steppe of Central Asia on a quest to understand the legacy of the nomads – the horseback cultures, who under Genghis Khan created the largest land empire in history.

Experiences early on had foreshadowed the nature of the difficulties that would define my time in the saddle: within the first few weeks in Mongolia, my horses had been stolen in the night by thieves, the camp had been surrounded by wolves, and it dawned on me that there was much more to learning about horses than I had bargained for (before leaving Australia I had barely been on a horse in my life.) But at the same time, I was taken in by a nomadic people for whom hospitality is the linchpin of survival, and began to learn that friendship on the steppe is the true measure of life (in fact upon returning the horses to me, the man who likely stole my horse had explained that ‘a man on the steppe without friends is as narrow as a finger… a man on the steppe with friends is as wide as the steppe.’). Now, putting all that to rest, I had safely made it to Hungary with my family of animals. Surely, the hardship was over, and all I had to do was return home to the relative luxury of life under a roof and put my experiences to paper…..or so I had thought.

What I could never have imagined was that it would be another six years before I had penned the last words of my manuscript, four of years of which had been full time writing. As the writing unfolded, I found myself learning, and challenged to consider my personal encounters into context of the rich and complex histories of steppe nations. The book began as a way of re-adjusting to life in Australia, but became an adventure in itself: a process that transformed me, as month after month I returned to the steppe in my mind, only now with my dog Tigon on the couch next to me, rather than chasing hares and foxes on the horizon. Half way through the first draft, an author and friend of mine had mentioned something that stuck with me to the end: ‘If you knew what the book would be….then you would never start writing it.’ For me I am now convinced that the life of a writer is rich, raw, and vivid, precisely because the beginning of any unwritten chapter throws up the prospects of the unknown, and a path that is unscripted: and that to me is real life.

Tim Cope’s On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a featured title in Bloomsbury’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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on-the-trail-of-genghis-khanOn the Trail of Genghis Khan

by Tim Cope

The extraordinary adventure of one man’s journey following in the footsteps of Genghis Khan’s conquering armies

The relationship between man and horse on the Eurasian steppe gave rise to a succession of rich nomadic cultures. Among them were the Mongols of the thirteenth century – a small tribe, which, under the charismatic leadership of Genghis Khan, created the largest contiguous land empire in history. Inspired by the extraordinary life nomads still lead today, Tim Cope embarked on a journey that hadn’t been successfully completed since those times: to travel on horseback across the entire length of the Eurasian steppe, from Karakorum, the ancient capital of Mongolia, through Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea and the Ukraine to the Danube River in Hungary.

From horse-riding novice to travelling three years and 10,000 kilometres on horseback, accompanied by his dog Tigon, Tim learnt to fend off wolves and would -be horse-thieves, and grapple with the extremes of the steppe as he crossed sub-zero plateaux, the scorching deserts of Kazakhstan and the high-mountain passes of the Carpathians. Along the way, he was taken in by people who taught him the traditional ways and told him their recent history: Stalin’s push for industrialisation brought calamity to the steepe and forced collectivism that in Kazakhstan alone led to the loss of several million livestock and the starvation of more than a million nomads. Today Cope bears witness to how the traditional ways hang precariously in the balance in the post-Soviet world.

About the Author

Tim Cope, F.R.G.S., is an adventurer, author, filmmaker and motivational speaker with a special interest in Central Asia and the states of the former Soviet Union. He has studied as a wilderness guide in the Finnish and Russian subarctic, ridden a bicycle across Russia to China, and rowed a boat along the Yenisey River through Siberia to the Arctic Ocean. He is the author of Off the Rails: Moscow to Beijing on Recumbent Bikes. He is the creator of several documentary films, including the award-winning series ‘The Trail of Genghis Khan’, which covers the journey of this book. He lives in Victoria, Australia.

Tim Cope’s On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a featured title in Bloomsbury’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Celebrate Booktoberfest with Booktopia and Penguin – you could win a prize pack worth $900!

Celebrate Booktoberfest with Booktopia and Penguin and you could win this amazing prize pack worth over $900!

Just buy any title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase and you could win!

Click here to enter Penguin’s showcase

Our Top Pick

The Silver Moon

by Bryce Courtenay

Each of us has a place to return to in our minds, a place of clarity and peace, a place to think, to create, to dream. For Bryce Courtenay it was a waterhole in Africa he used to escape to as a boy for solitude. One evening, while hiding there, he witnessed the tallest of the great beasts drinking from the waterhole in the moonlight, and was spellbound. Ever since, he drew inspiration from this moment.

The Silver Moon gathers together some of the most personal and sustaining life-lessons from Australia’s favourite storyteller. In short stories and insights, many written in his final months, Bryce reflects on living and dying, and how through determination, respect for others and taking pleasure in small moments of joy, he tried to make the most out of life.

From practical advice on how to write a bestseller to general inspiration on how to realise your dreams, The Silver Moon celebrates Bryce Courtenay’s lifelong passion for storytelling, language and the creative process, and brings us closer to the man behind the bestsellers.

Click here to enter Penguin’s showcase

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Getting back to reading, by Fiona Palmer, author of The Sunnyvale Girls

fee1I read when I was young but not a lot, as I was an outside kid who had paddocks to play in and cubbies to build. At school, I only read what I had to for class and then after I left school it was as if I forgot to read. I was busy with work.

It wasn’t until I was twenty and working as a teachers aid that I was reintroduced to the joy of books. I read Mem Fox’s book on how important it is to read, especially to our children from birth. Then the teacher at that time started reading the first Harry Potter book to the kids. At times, I would read a few chapters as well. Their little faces were mesmerised, ears listening, their minds picturing every detail. But so was I. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened so I brought it and devoured it.

I was drawn into the story and realised what I’d been missing. I can actually say Harry Potter brought me back to reading. And I haven’t stopped since. As much as I love my life in my tiny rural town I love being able to escape into new worlds and stories that books bring. When my children were born, I read to them at every chance and they both love reading now at ages 11 and 9.

Mem Fox had it right. Reading is important.

Grab a copy of Fiona Palmer’s The Sunnyvale Girls here

the-sunnyvale-girlsThe Sunnyvale Girls

by Fiona Palmer

Three generations of Stewart women share a deep connection to their family farm, but a secret from the past threatens to tear them apart.

Widowed matriarch Maggie remembers a time when the Italian prisoners of war came to work on their land, changing her heart and her home forever. Single mum Toni has been tied to the place for as long as she can recall, although farming was never her dream. And Flick is as passionate about the farm as a young girl could be, despite the limited opportunities for love.

When a letter from 1946 is unearthed in an old cottage on the property, the Sunnyvale girls find themselves on a journey deep into their own hearts and all the way across the world to Italy. Their quest to solve a mystery leads to incredible discoveries about each other, and about themselves.

‘Fiona Palmer just keeps getting better. This heart-warming tear-jerker kept me turning the pages right until the very end.’ Rachael Johns

About the Author

Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth. She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance. She has attended romance writers’ groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm. She has extensive farming experience, does the local mail run, and was a speedway-racing driver for seven years. She spends her days writing, helping out in the community and looking after her two children.

Grab a copy of Fiona Palmer’s The Sunnyvale Girls here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: The Wonder of Books by Monica McInerney

web-McInerney-Monica-_Michael-Boyny__Size4Looking back, I’ve had a pretty busy fourteen years.

As a writer, here are just some of the things I’ve got up to:

- I spent ten months running a winery-restaurant in the Clare Valley.

- My two sisters and I had a big falling out and didn’t speak to each other for three years.

- I moved to New York, where I not only found a job with a cantankerous old woman, but also met the love of my life.

- I moved from England to Australia with my family and turned an old house in the Victorian goldfields into a tourist attraction.

- I ran a charity shop in a small town.

- I lived on a sheep station in outback South Australia, from where I accidentally sent out a Christmas letter that spilled the beans on all my family’s secrets.

That’s not all. I’ve been busy as a reader too. I’ve been a Cold War spy. A sociopathic Irishman. An international photojournalist. Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. A lighthouse keeper off the coast of Western Australia. A shop assistant in the cocktail dress section of an elegant Sydney department store.*

That’s the wonder of books. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories take us out of our own lives and put us into other people’s shoes, minds, lives, homes and countries. I learned to read as a four-year-old, sitting on the roof of my family home in country South Australia. I read about the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, about snow and the Mississippi River, about places I never thought I’d see but was still able to imagine. As a writer, I have travelled all around the world fictionally and in real life. I’ve imagined events through my characters’ eyes, laughed with them, cried with them. I’ve had that same experience with other authors’ books.

Reading enriches us in more ways than we can imagine. Books are our passports to new lives and ways of thinking. Our tickets to a world of wonders. Magic carpets for our minds. Happy reading, everyone – not only during Booktoberfest, but every other month of the year too.

*The books I’m referring to are: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent. Half Moon Bay by Helene Young. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John.

Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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hello-from-the-gillespiesHello from the Gillespies

by Monica McInerney

For more than thirty years, Angela Gillespie has sent friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled ‘Hello from the Gillespies’. It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself – she tells the truth.

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping poorly with retirement. Her 32-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together – and pull themselves together – in wonderfully surprising ways.

Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: My Writing Season…. by Karen Hall, co-author of Wychwood

karennhallWhen I first sat down to chronicle the past two decades of our lives creating our garden at Wychwood, it never occurred to me that the actual routine of writing would weigh more heavily on my mind than the words themselves. I’ve never been short of words. More often than not I am the person who fills awkward silences with an excess of them for fear of losing the company of the person next to me. I overemphasize and use way too many adjectives, I embroider a story in the hope that it will prove much more interesting than it actually is. Words weren’t the issue.

It was the routine. My head was exploding. I’d never had to write this much before.

Do I write in the mornings or the afternoons? On the weekends when the kids are home or during the week when the house is relatively silent? If I get up to turn the coffee machine on will I be inviting Writer’s Block to rear its head? Perhaps I should squeeze in a yoga session before I start so I don’t get stiff from sitting for too long, or would it be better to wait until after I’ve done 2000 words so that I’d earned the right to free my mind? If the phone rings, do I answer it or leave it and worry I’ve offended someone by ignoring it?

In the end, I settled on mornings, after a yoga session and walking the dog. Three hours would disappear in no time, sometimes at frightening speed. There were some mornings when most of the three hours disappeared in infuriating frustration – the words wouldn’t come or those that did just weren’t right – but by and large they proved satisfyingly productive and I could close the lid on my laptop with a self-righteous snap.

In the end I did it. Way too many words of course, but once it was over I missed my newfound writing routine and was glad that finishing the first draft coincided with the days beginning to lengthen and the soil starting to warm. Before long, my laptop was forgotten as my garden beckoned.

Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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by Karen Hall, Peter Cooper

The garden at Wychwood, at the foot of the Great Western Tiers in northern Tasmania, is one of the world’s most magical places. Wychwood combines Scandinavian design sensibilities with temperate-climate country-garden charm. And to top it off, the idyllic Mole Creek, which is home to brown trout and a platypus, runs through the back of the property. Wychwood commemorates a garden over 22 years in the making, brought to life by a very special family who dreamt of the simple life in Tasmania.

The book details the evolution of the garden from bare paddock to world-class attraction, with its iconic labyrinth, espaliered fruit trees, naturalistic planted beds and curved, clipped lawns. It gives the reader insight into the techniques and secrets that make the design of this garden so successful, offering inspiration and encouragement at every turn, and for every level of gardener. Peter Cooper’s beautiful and haunting photography captures how the garden has transformed with the changing seasons and settled into its surroundings.

About the Authors

Karen Hall is the co-owner of Wychwood, blogger at GardenDrum, chair of the Tasmanian Open Garden Scheme and runs the rare-plant nursery at Wychwood. Peter Cooper is the co-owner of Wychwood, freelance garden designer, photographer and truffle consultant.

Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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