Claire Zorn, author of The Protected, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Claire Zorn

author of  The Protected and The Sky So Heavy  

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 the lower Blue Mountains. I lived there until I was about 24 when I moved to Sydney’s Inner West. Now I live in Wollongong.

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

Twelve: Artist/writer/Olympian show-jumper/horse-breeder. Why? Why on earth not.

Eighteen: Artist/jewellery designer for Dinosaur Designs. My obsession with Dinosaur Designs started at seventeen when I went into their Sydney Strand Arcade Store. I was so inspired that I changed my university plans from equestrian science to visual arts. I continue to squander all my money on DD stuff and am in the habit of writing them occasional fan mail.

Thirty: Writer. I’ve always imagined stories and characters. While film-making would probably be more fun, all you need to write a story is some paper and a pencil. It’s simpler and more direct. If anyone wants to spot me a few thousand dollars to make a film, I’m up for it.

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

I was convinced there was no God. Now I’m 99.9 percent sure there is one.

Author: Claire Zorn

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?

Only three? Cruel. Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief and King of Limbs (Can’t choose.) Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Pipilotti Rist’s video installation Sip My Ocean

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

Because I love stories most of all. It’s that simple. I find story-making to be the most satisfying pursuit aside from swimming in the ocean, and no one’s offered me money to do that. Writing seems to be the most direct way of getting stuff out of my head. I mentioned film before, but to cram all the details and tangents novels allow for into a film, you need tens of hours. You also need to collaborate with multiple people and schedule stuff and there’s probably diagrams involved. I’m not organised enough for all of that.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Hannah is just shy of sixteen and her family has recently been ripped apart by tragedy: her sister – whom she loved but didn’t like – has been killed. An unexpected ramification of this is that the bullying she has endured throughout high school has ceased, something that puts her in a strange place emotionally. While she is trying to come to grips with this she begins to form her first friendship in years – with the crossword-obsessed delinquent, Josh.

Grab a copy of Claire’s book The Protected here

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

Golly, I hate that question! Perhaps some small sense of camaraderie for those who were/are miserable in high school. I also wanted to pay homage to the lovely, genuine, noble guys I have known over the years. You don’t come across them all that often in books.

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

This is one that tends to change a lot. I’m going to break the rules and choose two! Vince Gilligan: the character arcs he created in Breaking Bad were nothing short of Shakespearian. And Sonya Hartnett. I don’t have words to describe how great her writing is. I also like how she doesn’t seem to give a brass razoo about genres or markets or any of that annoying stuff. She seems to just write what she wants.

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

Oh dear. This is going to be embarrassing. May as well aim high: the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award would be quite nice. That would mean I could stop renting! Or perhaps if we are going to be absurd I could write the first YA to win the Booker. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible, although I dare say Harper Lee could have won it. On a more achievable level: I really, really want to write and illustrate a picture book. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Choose carefully whose opinion of your work you listen to. And write. It sounds obvious but until you get the words out on the page, nothing will ever come of them.

Claire, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Protected here


The Protected

by Claire Zorn

I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.

Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

 Grab a copy of The Protected here

Read an extract from Adultery by Paulo Coelho – bestselling author of The Alchemist

adulteryAdultery

by Paulo Coelho

I live in the safest country in the world, I have no problems to speak of, and I’m a good wife and mother. I was brought up as a strict Protestant and intend to pass that education on to my children. I never take a false step because I know how easy it is to ruin everything. I do what I have to do efficiently and put as little of myself into it as possible. When I was younger, I experienced the pain of unrequited love, just like any other normal person.

Since I married, though, time has stopped.

Until, that is, I came across that horrible writer and his answer to my question. I mean, what’s wrong with routine and boredom?

To be honest, nothing at all. It’s just . . . it’s just the secret fear that everything could change from one moment to the next, catching me completely unawares.

From the moment I had that ominous thought that bright, beautiful morning, I began to feel afraid. Would I be cap able of facing the world alone if my husband died? ‘Yes,’ I told myself, because the money he left behind would be enough to support several generations. And if I died, who would look after my children? My beloved husband. But he would surely remarry, because he’s rich, charming, and intelligent. Would my children be in good hands?

The first thing I did was try to answer all my questions. And the more questions I answered, the more questions appeared. Will he take a mistress when I get old? We don’t make love as often as we used to — does he already have someone else? Does he think I’ve found someone else because I haven’t shown much interest in sex for the last three years?

We never have jealous spats, and I used to think that was great, but after that spring morning, I began to suspect that perhaps our lack of jealousy meant a complete lack of love on both sides.

I did my best not to think about the matter anymore.

Grab a copy of Paulo Coelho’s Adultery here

For a whole week, whenever I left work, I would go and buy something in one of the expensive shops on Rue du Rhône. There was nothing I really wanted, but at least I felt that I was — how should I say this? — changing something, discovering something I didn’t even know I needed, like some new domestic appliance — although, it has to be said, novelties in the world of domestic appliances are few and far between. I avoided toy shops, because I didn’t want to spoil my children by giving them a present every day. I didn’t go into any men’s shops, either, just in case my husband might grow suspicious of my sudden extreme generosity.

When I got home and entered the enchanted realm of my domestic world, everything would seem marvelous for a few hours, until everyone went to bed. Then, slowly, the nightmare would begin.

I think that passion is strictly for the young. Presumably, its absence is normal at my age, but that isn’t what terrifies me.

Today I am a woman torn between the terror that every – thing might change and the equal terror that everything might carry on exactly the same for the rest of my days. Some people say that, as summer approaches, we start to have weird ideas; we feel smaller because we spend more time out in the open air, and that makes us aware of how large the world is. The horizon seems farther away, beyond the clouds and the walls of our house.

That may be true, but I just can’t sleep anymore, and it isn’t because of the heat. When night comes and no one is watching, I feel afraid of everything: life, death, love or the feeling that I’m wasting the best years of my life in a pattern that will be repeated over and over until I die; and sheer panic at facing the unknown, however exciting and adventurous that might be.

Naturally, I seek consolation in other people’s suffering.

I turn on the TV and watch the news. I see endless reports about accidents, people made homeless by natural disasters, refugees. How many people on the planet are ill right now? How many, whether in silence or not, are suffering injustices and betrayals? How many poor people are there, how many unemployed or imprisoned?

Grab a copy of Paulo Coelho’s Adultery here

I change channels. I watch a soap or a movie and for a few minutes or hours I forget everything. I’m terrified my husband might wake up and ask: ‘What’s wrong, babe?’ Because then I would have to say that everything’s fine. It would be even worse if — as happened a few times last month — he put his hand on my thigh, slid it slowly upward and started caressing me. I can fake orgasms — I often have — but I can’t just decide to get wet with excitement.

the-alchemistI would have to say that I’m really tired, and he, never for one moment admitting that he was annoyed, would give me a kiss, turn over, and watch the latest news on his tablet, waiting until the next day. And then I would hope against hope that when the next day comes, he’d be tired. Very tired.

It’s not always like that, though. Sometimes I have to take the initiative. If I reject him two nights in a row, he might go looking for a mistress, and I really don’t want to lose him. If I masturbate beforehand, then I’m ready and everything’s normal again.

‘Normal’ means that nothing will ever be as it was in the days when we were still a mystery to each other.

Keeping the same fire burning after ten years of marriage seems a complete impossibility to me. And each time I fake an orgasm, I die a little inside. A little? I think I’m dying more quickly than I thought.

My friends tell me how lucky I am, because I lie to them and tell them that we often make love, just as they lie to me when they say that they don’t know how their husbands can still be so interested in sex. They say that sex in marriage is interesting only for the first five years, and after that calls for a little ‘imagination.’

Closing your eyes and imagining your neighbor lying on top of you, doing things your husband would never dare to do. Imagining having sex with him and your husband at the same time. Imagining every possible perversion, every forbidden game…

Grab a copy of Paulo Coelho’s Adultery here

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Australian music royalty John Williamson chats to John Purcell about his memoir Hey True Blue

John Williamson has been touring Australia for over 50 years, and remains one of Australia’s most loved musicians. He chats to John Purcell about his new memoir Hey True Blue, life in the country AND plays a song from his new album Honest People.

Grab a copy of Hey True Blue here

hey-true-blue-order-your-signed-copy-now-Hey True Blue

by John Williamson

The long-awaited life story of John Williamson: an Australian icon, a much-loved legend of the music industry and man of the land.

Williamson takes us through his life, from growing up on the land in the Mallee and Moree in a family of five boys, to being the voice of Australia.

Beyond the songs, John has revealed barely anything about his private life in his forty-year career. He opens up here, talking about the tough times, the great times and what matters to him. In his distinctive Australian accent, he tells it like it is.

This is a journey across the breadth of Australia, and beyond.

About the Author

John Williamson is without question an Australian Icon. His entertainment career spans more than forty years boasting sales of over 5 million albums. His unofficial anthems, tender ballads and tributes to unsung heroes have captured the spirit of the nation in song more than any other performer. He remains one of the most in-demand live performers in Australia. His fiftieth album, Honest People, will be released at the same time as his autobiography.

Grab a copy of Hey True Blue here

Read an extract from Will to Live by Matthew Ames – An inspirational must read

will-to-liveWill to Live

by Matthew Ames

I have always been intrigued by how things work. It’s a trait I’ve inherited or learned from Dad. I was his assistant growing up, and I’ve had a lot of practice thinking about how to put things
together.

I have memories from when we lived in Sydney of holding tools and pieces of gyprock, and of Kate, Rachel and myself dressed in garbage bags with holes at the seams for our arms, helping Dad paint a new rumpus room he had built onto the back of our house.

By the time I was at high school, I was helping Dad renovate the old Queenslander he and Mum had bought when we moved to Brisbane. We were building a major extension, which involved lifting floors, altering rooflines and building a back deck. Dad and I would hang from the roof, working hard, occasionally looking into the lounge room where we could see the girls sitting around drinking coffee with friends who might have dropped in.

I had been free labour until, one afternoon, I mentioned to Dad that I thought it was unfair that my sisters didn’t have to help – although I knew they had been part of Dad’s construction crew when they were younger and less sociable. Dad agreed, and from that point I earned pocket money for the hours I helped him with the house. I was only 13 or so at the time, but a few years later, I had saved up some money.

Grab a copy of Will to Live here

I needed a car. I had been driving Kate’s Mazda 1500 while she was overseas for a few years, but she had returned and swiftly repossessed it.

Matthew AmesRachel had a 1960 Hillman Minx that she wanted to sell. It had a column shift, white leather seats and was ember red with white wings. It was part of the family, and we called it Harriet (the Chariot). It had a rumble in the engine that meant you could hear it coming from blocks away, and I was interested. It wasn’t worth much to anyone else, and was costing Rachel a fortune, so for $50 she agreed it could be mine.

The engine was having problems, so I decided to buy a manual, strip the engine and rebuild it. People asked me why, but my response was, ‘Why not?’

I took it apart under our house, labelled each piece, and laid them all out on the concrete floor in the garage area. I recognise now how patient my parents must have been to give up the entire area where the cars normally parked for the duration of my project.

Piece by piece, I put the engine back together. I thought I had followed the instructions perfectly, but at the very end, I had a few extra nuts and bolts left over. It didn’t surprise me then that it almost worked when I started it up. I didn’t want to have to take the car apart again, so I called the RACQ for help, telling them my car wouldn’t start.

985141-9716bb5e-d484-11e2-b1c3-c244da926effThe RACQ mechanic turned up. He took one look at the car, and one look at me.

‘You’ve been rebuilding the engine, haven’t you?’ He looked me in the eye. I thought for a moment about my response, but decided to confess. ‘Yep. I couldn’t quite work out how to put the distributor back in properly again.’

The mechanic paused, and looked at the car.

‘We’re not supposed to do this, but I haven’t seen one of these for ages.’

He spent around three hours helping me with the final touches of the rebuild and we got the car going. It worked well.

I guess I just never envisaged a day when bolts and nuts would stick out of my arms and legs. Fortunately, there are people as experienced as that RACQ mechanic looking after me.

Grab a copy of Will to Live here

Congratulations to our lucky Facebook competition winners! They are Sandi Giles, Birgitta Norberg, Anita Bird, Ashley Louise and Emily Snowden. Please email your details to promos@booktopia.com.au.

Remember to like our Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest book news and the chance to win prizes and giveaways!

Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards Announced

The winners of this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards were announced in Canberra today, marking the official launch of Children’s Book Week!

How many have you read?

OLDER READERS


WINNER

wildlifeWildlife

by Fiona Wood

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

“In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard. And I kissed Ben Capaldi.”

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is more…

Grab a copy of Wildlife here


HONOUR BOOKS

9781742758510Fairytales for Wilde Girls

by Allyse Near

‘He’s gone the same way as those little birds that bothered me with their awful songs! And you will too, you and your horrible heart-music, because you won’t stay out of my woods!’

There’s a dead girl in a birdcage in the woods… more…

Grab a copy of Fairytales for Wilde Girls here


the-sky-so-heavyThe Sky So Heavy

by Claire Zorn

From an exciting new voice in Australian YA literature, Claire Zorn, comes a haunting novel, The Sky So Heavy, that will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.

For Fin, it’s just like any other day – racing for the… more…

Grab a copy of The Sky So Heavy here


YOUNGER READERS


WINNER

a-very-unusual-pursuitA Very Unusual Pursuit

by Catherine Jinks

A clever adventure with feisty characters, set in a time where science clashes with superstition and monsters lurk in chimneys. Birdie, the singing bogler’s apprentice, will win your heart in this fantastic beginning to an action-packed series.

Monsters have been infesting London’s dark places for centuries, eating every child who gets too close. That’s why ten-year-old Birdie McAdam works for Alfred Bunce, the bogler. With her beautiful voice and dainty looks, Birdie is the bait that draws bogles from their lairs so that Alfred can kill them.

One life-changing day, Alfred and Birdie are approached by two very different women. Sarah Pickles runs a local gang of more…

Grab a copy of A Very Unusual Pursuit here


HONOUR BOOKS

My Life as a Alphabet9781743310977

by Barry Jonsberg

Candice Phee wants to bring light and laughter to those around her, and somehow she succeeds despite the bizarre mix-ups and the confusion she effortlessly creates. An uplifting comedy-drama from award-winning author, Barry Jonsberg.

This isn’t just about me. It’s also about the other people in my life – my mother, my father, my dead sister Sky, my penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Earth-Pig Fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension. These are… more…

Grab a copy of My Life As an Alphabet here


light-horse-boyLight Horse Boy

by Dianne Wolfer

In 1914 Jim and Charlie abandon the Australian outback for the excitement and adventure of the war to end all wars. But in the Light Horse they quickly discover the brutal realities of life on the frontline. And nothing will ever be the same again. Featuring stunning charcoal sketches by Brian Simmonds alongside primary source documents and historical photos, Light Horse Boy goes behind the scenes of the great ANZAC legends for an intimate look at their experience of World War I.

Grab a copy of Light Horse Boy here


EARLY CHILDHOOD


WINNER

the-swapThe Swap

by Jan Ormerod, Andrew Joyner

Caroline Crocodile’s baby brother dribbles. But all Mama crocodile Ever says is how Gorgeous he is. Caroline is very jealous. So she goes to the Baby shop and tries to swap her dribbly brother for a new baby. The trouble is, there’s just something not quite right with any of them…

Grab a copy of The Swap Book here


HONOUR BOOKS

I’m a Dirty Dinosaur9780670076154

by Janeen Brian, Ann James

From award-winning author Janeen Brian and award-winning illustrator Ann James, comes this gorgeous rhyming picture book about a naughty little dinosaur who loves to get dirty. Bright simple illustrations and rounded corners perfect for the very young.

Grab a copy of I’m a Dirty Dinosaur here


banjo-and-ruby-redBanjo and Ruby Red

by Libby Gleeson, Freya Blackwood

A funny and touching story of antagonism and love by award-winning author Libby Gleeson, with illustrations by internationally acclaimed Freya Blackwood. Freya Blackwood’s stunning illustrations perfectly capture the endearing personalities of boisterous Banjo and head-strong Ruby Red. A stunning clothbound cover makes this a beautiful gift item that will be treasured for years to come.

Grab a copy of Banjo and Ruby Red here


PICTURE BOOK


WINNER

rules-of-summerRules of Summer

by Shaun Tan

The much anticipated new book from Australia’s most acclaimed picture-book creator.

Shaun Tan’s books have won world acclaim, the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, as well as an Academy Award for the animated short film adaptation of his book The Lost Thing.

Tan s new book, Rules of Summer, is a deceptively simple story about two boys, one older and one younger, and the kind of rules that might govern any relationship between close friends or siblings. Rules that are often so strange or arbitrary, they seem impossible to understand from the outside. Yet through each exquisite illustration of this nearly wordless narrative, we can enjoy wandering around an emotional landscape that is oddly familiar to us all.

Grab a copy of Rules of Summer here

 


HONOUR BOOKS

king-pigKing Pig

by Nick Bland

Because he was the king, he could make the sheep do whatever he wanted, whenever he pleased. But he just couldn’t make them like him.

A royal romp about a little pig with a lot to learn, from best-selling picture book creator Nick Bland.

Grab a copy of King Pig here


silver-buttons

Silver Buttons

by Bob Graham

At 9.59 on Thursday morning, Jodie draws a duck. Just as she is about to add one final silver button to the duck’s boots, her little brother takes his first step. At this exact same moment, a man buys bread, a soldier leaves home, a baby is being born…

Here is a book, a story, a philosophy so simply told and yet – in true and inimitable Bob Graham style – so rich with emotion and meaning.

Grab a copy of Silver Buttons here


Karl Stefanovic meets The Incompetent Cook

Grab a copy of Karl Cooks here

Karl Cooks

by Karl Stefanovic

From the co-host of Australia’s popular Today show comes this easy to use cookbook full of delicious recipes for any Aussie home chef that wants to be able to eat like Karl.

Whether you’re planning a weekend with mates, looking to spoil your lady friend or need a no-fuss breakfast to ease your hangover – Karl Cooks has a recipe for every occasion. Let Karl show you how to create a mouth-watering roast or stack a juicy burger, with illustrated steps and handy hints to make the cooking process as painless as possible. Become a hero in your kitchen and impress the missus with this collection of delicious, easy-to-use recipes.

This is the how-to manual you can’t do without. Royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to police legacy charities.

About the Author

Karl Stefanovic is co-host of Channel 9’s Today show, a contributor to current affairs program 60 Minutes and a former 5-year-old BMX champion. He lives in Sydney with his wife and kids.

Grab a copy of Karl Cooks here

NEWS: Bryce Courtenay’s The Silver Moon announcement

the silver moonThe Silver Moon:
Reflections on Life, Death and Writing

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 for more information or to buy

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About the Author

Bryce Courtenay was born in South Africa and has lived in Sydney for the major part of his life. He is the bestselling author of The Power of One, April Fool’s Day, The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk, Jessica, Solomon’s Song, Smoky Joe’s Cafe, Four Fires, Whitethorn and Brother Fish.

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