Maggie Alderson, author of Everything Changes But You, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here for more details or to buy...The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maggie Alderson

author of Everything Changes But You, Shall We Dance?, Mad About the Boy, How to Break Your Own Heart and many 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?

I was born in London, which is something that I’ve always felt very proud of. During the London Olympics I thought I might burst with it. I wanted to stop people and tell them: I was born here.

I was raised in a much less glamorous part of the UK, in Staffordshire in the Midlands. It was very boring, but I’m quite glad of that now, because it fired me up to get myself back down to London where the action was. It so was.

I hated every minute of school. I felt constricted and constrained by it. I made up for it with reading. I read everything, all the time. And my mother took me and my three siblings to see so many amazing things and places, which I am so grateful to her for. She took me to see the musical Hair when I was 10. Full frontal nudity. Oh yeah.

I don’t think I learned anything at school, except how limited people can allow themselves to be. It made me determined to surround myself with people who weren’t like that.

Uni was everything school wasn’t. I went to St Andrews and as well as a lot of great stuff about history of art, I learned how much I didn’t know – and how to learn. Neither of which I had learned at school.

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

Author/magazine editor/newspaper columnist. E.Nesbitt/Honey/Clive James.

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

That everyone has a ‘one’ – their one true love who is somewhere in the world waiting to be found. I cannot believe I was so stupid. All love is a choice of which compromises you are prepared to accept to get all the other good bits.

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 discovered Joni Mitchell at the age of 11, when my big sister was constantly playing her album Blue. The refrain of Jingle Bells in the song River got my attention and then I started listening to the words… and that was how a life long obsession began.

Her lyrics are simply amazing poetry and I know all of them off by heart, just about. I think I learned a lot about the economy of words from them. How you can convey so much with just a few words; the way a sketchy line drawing can convey more of the essence of cat than a photograph of one.

The writer who has been the biggest influence on me recently is Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress – the amazing British novelist…) In a Summer Season is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Reading and re-reading her books gave me the courage to use the third person for the first time in my latest book, Everything Changes But You. She uses the third person subjective – where the point of view switches constantly from one person to another, showing how they each think and feel about what is going on. Even within a sentence, you’ll get several view points.Click here to buy...

When I first read her, I had my mouth open; I was so impressed with how she did it.

She’s the absolute master of it and it was a huge step for me to go from the first person to trying to do that – I’ve written six novels in the first person. I practised first in a few short stories and then took the plunge with this novel. Once I got going I felt hugely freed by it. I just hope the readers like it too…

I’m passionate about art – and studied art history at university, so I could roll around in it. All art reminds me that you don’t have to spell everything out. You can convey so much, very simply. That’s my mantra, really.

Probably the work that has moved me the most was discovering the Austrian artist Egon Schiele when I was 18. I was a punk rocker then and he looked like one, although he died in 1918.

In fact, he looked extraordinarily like my boyfriend of the time and his work – much of it marvellously pornographic – made me understand that rebellion is a universal compulsion among the young, rather than a reflection of the particular times you live in. I still find that inspiring.

It’s like Marlon Brando’s character’s famous line in Rebel Without A Cause, when they ask him: ‘What are you rebelling against?’

‘What have you got?’

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

It’s what I wanted to do from the age of six…

Click here for more details or to buy...6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Everything Changes But You is about the idea of home. Is it where you come from? Or where you feel right? Is it a country, a town, a house – or is it simply a person?

It was inspired by my own experiences – growing up somewhere I never thought of as home, never related to. Then moving to London, feeling at home there, but then feeling equally at home in Sydney. Then, how odd it is to feel like a tourist in a city that was once your home…and I feel like that in London and Sydney now.

I think it’s a very current issue, as these days people hop off very casually to live in another country without it being a huge deal – but it is really. And if they then marry someone from that other country, it can get really complicated. Whose family takes precedence? Whose country is their joint home?

The story is based around a couple who meet in Sydney – Matt is an Aussie, Hannah is a Pom. They go back to London to be near her family and it’s all great, but then his mum needs him back in Sydney… And he doesn’t want his kids to grow up without any notion of their Australian ancestry either.

Then there’s his cousin, Ali, a young woman from Sydney, who moves to London because she feels suffocated by her extended family. And his best mate Pete, who’s beginning to think he’s had enough of London and might want to head back to Bondi…

As with all my books, there’s a lot of other stuff going on as well – jokes, sex, nasty people, lovely old blokes, funny dogs, more detail than necessary about what people are wearing, parties, pashing – but that’s the main gist of it.

Click here to buy Everything Changes But You from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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

I hope they feel entertained and satisfied– as you would after watching a really good film with a big box of Maltesers. I hope they’ve had a good laugh, but would have been moved at times too. And I hope they will fancy the male leads as much as I always do…

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

There are two authors I worship and they’re both (more or less) from Melbourne: Helen Garner and Lily Brett. Both of them write with the stripped back tension of a tight rope walker. They approach very difficult subjects fearlessly and lay them bare. And then they make you laugh.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?Click here to buy...

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I would like to have a massive international bestseller, which was on the cover of Time magazine and then made into a huge Hollywood film starring Cate Blanchett, with a budget of $10 billion.

Then Cate would be nominated for Best Actress and I’d get to go to the Oscars with her, wearing a Marchesa dress and we’d have a right old laugh at the Vanity Fair party. Well, you did ask.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read – and write. Read as much as you can and as many different kinds of things as possible. And write every day. Doesn’t matter what it is, but like everything, you improve enormously with practice. Also be prepared to take constructive criticism. There’s no piece of writing that can’t be improved upon.

Maggie, thank you for playing.

Three Authors Offer Advice for Writers: Ambellin Kwaymullina, Maggie Alderson, and Howard L. Anderson

I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog.

My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Miles Franklin shortlisted Favel Parret and Rebecca James.

In each of these interviews I ask the following question:

Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…


“Learn to be at once your own strongest supporter and your own harshest critic. You have to be able to keep yourself going, in the tired and lonely times, to pick yourself up after your one-hundredth attempt at writing something that still hasn’t worked, and to stick with writing even when others tell you that you’ll never do it and most especially when you feel like that yourself. But you also have to be able to accurately judge your own work, to recognise when something needs to be cut or when a character or a scene is not living up to their potential, and to know when your good idea has not translated into a good story (I have a box of half-finished novels sitting in the bottom of my wardrobe. None of them worked, but I learned something from each).”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop


“Read and write. Read critically – that’s why I started my book blog, to make myself read in an active analytical way. And write every day. Don’t worry about the outcome, just write.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to order Shall We Dance? from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


“Try not to be profound.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Albert of Adelaide from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

For more advice from published writers go here

Evangeline, the Wish Keeper’s Helper by Maggie Alderson

We are very fond of Maggie Alderson here at Booktopia. We have created an author page for her, we badgered her for an interview, we follow her on twitter… In short, we dig her. Now, to our great delight, Maggie has written a book for children. We thought you might like to take a closer look…

Evangeline, the Wish Keeper’s Helper by Maggie Alderson

Evangeline the toy elephant lies under the bed all day, waiting and waiting for something to happen.

If only she could be useful somewhere…

Will her wish be granted?


One morning, when Evangeline was lying under the bed, as usual, wondering what to think about next, a broom suddenly appeared and swept her out onto the bedroom floor.

The next thing she knew she was thrown into a big black plastic bag with a jumble of other toys, books and old clothes. She lay there for Continue reading

Maggie Alderson, author of Shall We Dance?, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Maggie Alderson

author of Shall We Dance?, Mad About the Boy, How to Break Your Own Heart and many 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?

I was born in London and brought up in deeply provincial Staffordshire. I loathed the smalliness of school and thank my parents for my true early education from the books, travel, cultural experiences, newspapers and outright nutters (their friends…) they exposed me to. My formal education didn’t really start until I got to the University of St Andrews. I have an MA in art history which is my proudest achievement (apart from my daughter). It was such a privilege to be part of Continue reading

Shall We Dance? by Maggie Alderson

Loulou Landers, London’s undisputed Queen of Vintage Fashion, meets a man on the eve of her dreaded forty-ninth birthday.  He’s kind, he’s sensitive, he’s divinely handsome and he carries a designer suit like George Clooney.  Unfortunately, he’s barely half her age, and Loulou’s just not ready to ‘go cougar’.

Then there is Loulou’s 21-year-old daughter, Theo, who won’t get a job, won’t move out, wears chainstore fashion, and hasn’t said a civil word to her mother for years.  And she is on the verge of her own spectacularly unsuitable affair.

So how will Loulou cope with a daughter who’s off the rails, a man who won’t take no for an answer, an ageing process that won’t slow down – not to mention a birthday party in a camping ground?  Like she always has – with wit, grit and an exemplary sense of style.

From the Penguin Website – Carol George: An Interview with Maggie Alderson, author of Shall We Dance?

Tell us a bit about your new book, Shall We Dance?

Set in London, in Primrose Hill where I used to live, it’s about a baby-boomer mother and generation ‘Z’ daughter, who don’t get on. And it’s about love, all different kinds of love.

Significance of the title, Shall We Dance? Continue reading

Get Reading with 50 Books You Can’t Put Down

Get hooked on Australia’s largest celebration of books and reading!

Get Reading is the Australian book industry’s annual promotion of books developed through the Australia Council for the Arts. It runs from August 25 to September 30.

Get Reading encourages all Australians to GET LOST, GET FRESH, GET HOOKED, GET REAL and GET COMFY with a good book.

To ensure we all GET READING, we have prepared a list of 50 Books You Can’tPut Down

tickled onions 978014330560610 stories you must read 9781864711592For each book you purchase from the Get Reading “50 Books You Can’t Put Down” selection, you are eligible to choose a FREE copy of either Tickled Onions or 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2010.

The collection of short stories – 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2010 – showcases contemporary Australian writing across a range of genres.

Contributors include 2009 and 2010 ABIA Book of the Year winners – Craig Silvey and Christos Tsiolkas – plus Maggie Alderson, Georgia Blain, Mark Dapin, Nick Earls, Alex Miller, Judy Nunn, Malla Nunn and Rachael Treasure.

Be sure to join in the fun and grab yourself one of the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down to win a free book.

Mia Freedman and Booktopia on Twitter!

Booktopia is on Twitter!

It is the place to keep up-to-date with the latest news in the world of books.

Booktopia has been busily spreading book news of our own on Twitter and also meeting great Australian authors along the way.

Join Twitter, follow Booktopia and join in the fun.

Mia Freedman, author of Mama Mia is on Twitter, and so is Maggie Alderson, author of Pants on Fire, How to Break Your Own Heart and many more

That wonderfully funny curmudgeon, John Birmingham, famed author of He Died With a Felafel in His Hand and Without Warning, is also on Twitter…

…as is Australia’s favourite crime writer, Tara Moss, whose latest book Siren is setting new standards in Australian fiction.

Every day more and more writers turn to Twitter – some for simple distraction, some to promote a new book, some to rant and rave, some to talk directly to their fans…  some turn to Twitter to avoid doing work and some turn to Twitter as it is cheaper than therapy!

So don’t miss out, jump on board Twitter and join the conversation about books, stuff and life with Booktopia and hundreds of writers and their fans.


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