Caroline Baum Wrap-Up: All About Me

Caroline Baum’s author interviews have been one of the biggest highlights of our year at Booktopia. Join us as we revisit the best interviews of 2013, and perhaps discover a new favourite author along the way.

Writing a memoir is something of a balancing act; trying to reveal as much as possible, without oversharing or overexposing those involved. It also requires a great deal of vulnerability and a knack for picking up on the small details which make day-to-day events interesting. Each of the authors in this post share their thoughts on that process with sincerity and self-awareness, which makes for seriously fascinating viewing.

all-good-thingsSarah Turnbull- “All Good Things”

I grew up in a French-speaking suburb of Sydney, and Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French was something of a bible for parents navigating cross-cultural relationships. Sarah is back with All Good Things, which recounts Sarah and Frédéric’s move from Paris to idyllic Tahiti. It takes something very special to be able to recount your own personal story in a way that makes for good reading, and Sarah has perfected that art. She opens up with characteristic candor in our interview below.

Best quote:  “I didn’t want to write another personal book, or I thought I didn’t want to write another personal book. So I did fight this book… I’ve it heard said that it’s the book that you fight the most that you most need to write.”

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Check out Caroline’s interview below:

Pick up a copy of All Good Things today

a-history-of-silenceLloyd Jones- “A History of Silence”

Lloyd Jones is a simply phenomenal writer, and this interview demonstrates exactly why. In his earnest, softly-spoken sentences you can see the bare bones of his beautiful prose. Similiarly to Sarah and Brendan, he holds nothing back from Caroline’s questions and answers very personal questions with honesty and insight. A must-see interview from a must-read author.     

Best quote – “It could be just a face filled with gloom standing on a railway train platform, and it’ll have an echoing sense of recognition for me, I’ll think ‘I know that feeling, that look.’ Actually, in the case of Wales it always seemed to be gloom and a kind of a… vacancy.”

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Check out Caroline’s interview below:

Pick up a copy of A History of Silence today

Brendan Ward – “The Beethoven Obsession”the-beethoven-obsession

What is the difference between a personal experience and an engaging tale? In this interview, Brendan explains that timing and luck are the necessary ingredients, both of which were present in his quest to record Beethoven’s music in Australia for the first time.

Best quote – “That’s what makes such an amazing story because of all these serendipitous events that happened in the nineties in the lead up to the Olympics. Had it not been for the Olympics… it may not have had the same gloss, because everything around Sydney had cachet.”

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Check out Caroline’s interview below:

Pick up a copy of The Beethoven Obsession today

Lloyd Jones, author of Hand Me Down World and Mister Pip, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lloyd Jones

author of Mister Pip, Hand Me Down World and more

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

Born in Lower Hutt, attended primary and high school in the Hutt, and Victoria University in Wellington.

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

I can’t recall wanting to be anything at the age of 12 or 18, although sport was a high priority. By 30 writing had become part of my life.

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

That I know everything.

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?

I like the story of Van Gogh never selling a single work in his life time. I think that’s quite a useful bit of information. It’s a good example of unwavering commitment. I don’t like the bit about his cutting off his ear. It’s a bit show-offy…unnecessary really and just silly. But this probably isn’t what you meant by asking after influences. Chocolate chip ice cream is up there in terms of form and capacity to surprise and enchant.  I rate Kapiti raspberry white chocolate ice cream higher than anything produced by Damien Hirst…but not as high as ‘Hell’ produced by the Chapman brothers or the scene of the arrival at the death camp painted by Gerhard Richter.

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

Because the invitation is so generous and the form creates its own set of rules.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel, Hand Me Down World.

It is about a woman who sets off on a journey from North Africa to find her child in Berlin. For most of the novel ‘her’ story is told by those she comes into contact with. As she is handed on so is the story in a multiplicity of voices stretching from Tunisia to Italy. (BBGuru: here is how the Australian publisher puts it – A woman washes ashore in Sicily. She has come from north Africa to find her son, taken from her when he was just days old by his father and stolen away to Berlin. With nothing but her maid’s uniform and a knife stashed in a plastic bag, she relies on strangers— some generous, some exploiting—to guide her passage north.

These strangers tell of their encounters with a quiet, mysterious woman in a blue coat—each account a different view of the truth, a different truth. And slowly these fragments of a life piece together to create a spellbinding story of the courage of a mother and the versions of truth we create to accommodate our lives.

Haunting and beautiful, Hand Me Down World is simply unforgettable.)

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

Enjoyment, I hope; engagement of one kind or another. Beyond that – which is a lot – I wouldn’t like to promise more. I never tell readers what they will find. A novel should offer the same reward as a treasure chest. You plunge in without knowing in advance what you will take out of it.

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

Oh, the usual rollcall of writers… More locally, I admire the writer James McNeish. He’s kept the faith for a long time. I admire his level of engagement with the world and his dedication to the need to respond and in a variety of ways – stories, memoir, journalism. For the same reasons I admire the work of the late Rysard Kapucinski. There are some poets whose imaginative reach and daring I admire – such as Canadian Anne Carson.  Seamus Heaney‘s  essays are as impressive as his poems.  The surface play and musicality of Bill Manhire‘s poems also reward closer attention.

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

It’s a secret.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Failure is good. Learn to embrace it as a possibility. Otherwise you won’t ever take the risks that are necessary to producing something that is startling and new.

Lloyd, thank you for playing.

Books by Lloyd Jones: Continue reading


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