Michael Robotham, author of Say You’re Sorry, The Wreckage and many more, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Michael Robotham

author of Say You’re Sorry, The Wreckage, Bombproof and many more

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

SAY YOU’RE SORRY is a dark psychological thriller about two missing teenage girls, best friends Piper Hadley and Tash McBain, who disappear on the last Saturday of their summer holidays. Piper narrates half the story, still alive and being held captive after three years. Meanwhile, after a grisly double homicide at an isolated farmhouse, psychologist Joe O’Loughlin becomes convinced that the girls might still be alive. Piper is counting on him and she’s running for her life.

Click here to buy Say You’re Sorry

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments you have experienced in the past year or so?

The best moment was moving into a new house – leaving my ‘pit of despair’ basement office and swapping it for a ‘cabana of cruelty’. The worst moment was struggling to sell our old house and wrestling that all-consuming monster called ‘bridging finance’. We slew the dragon eventually but I still have the scars.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

‘One of the strange things about friendship is that time together isn’t cancelled out by time apart. One doesn’t erase the other or balance it on some invisible scale. You can spend a few hours with someone and they will change your life, or you can spend a lifetime with a person and remain unchanged.’

This is a line that I wrote in my novel ‘THE NIGHT FERRY

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I’m a pain in the arse to live with – ask my wife and daughters. I’m moody, temperamental, opinionated, pessimistic and racked by self-doubt (and that’s on my good days). This has always been the case, but I know how lucky I am to be writing full time. I can wake in the morning without an alarm clock. Walk along the beach. Breakfast at my favourite café. I’m living my dream but the words don’t come any easier.

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!)?

Many writers argue there is no commercial imperative about what they do. They write for love. They write because there is nothing else. I have made a living out of writing since I was 17 years old and became a cadet journalist. I am very fortunate to be a full-time writer, but my books have to pay the bills or I’d be writing as a hobby and working another job. My kids won’t go barefoot because of my ego or desire to follow my dream. Writing for me is a job.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Amber Spyglass Trilogy by Philip Pullman

The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Why? Because they’re all brilliant and getting somebody to read is about matching the right book to the right person.

Michael, thank you for playing.

Recently Michael shared a wonderful story with readers of the Booktopia Blog – if you missed it, go here, you won’t regret it.

Nicole Alexander, author of Absolution Creek, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nicole Alexander

author of A Changing Land, The Bark Cutters and now, Absolution Creek

Six Sharp Questions

 

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Absolution Creek is the story of Jack Manning, a grocer’s son, who watches the construction of the Sydney harbour bridge and dreams of a better life.  Although inexperienced, he leaves Sydney to manage Absolution Creek, a sheep property some 800 miles north. Yet outback life is tough and when a young girl, Squib Hamilton literally washes up on his doorstep he gradually learns of the devastating chain of events which will alter her life forever.

Absolution Creek is also the story of the men who loved Squib and tried to save her; her father, her friend and the man who would be her lover. Yet, one man lost her. One killed for her and one would die for her. Forty years later and Cora Hamilton is waging a constant battle to keep Absolution Creek in business. She’s ostracised by the local community and hindered by her inability to move on from the terrible events of her past, which haunt her both physically and emotionally. Only one man knows what really happened in 1923, a dying man who is riding towards Absolution Creek, seeking his own salvation.

With Absolution Creek I really wanted to tell a sweeping story that did justice to the vast country and characters that make outback Australia unique. I’m very proud of this novel.

Click here to buy Absolution Creek from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The best was being a nominee for the NSW Women of the Year Awards and being named the Barwon Woman of the Year for services to literature & the promotion of the outback through my work.

The worst was the Christmas flooding of our region from November 2011 through to February 2012. 18,000 acres of our property which is located northwest of Moree was flooded.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

‘The oxen is slow, but the earth is patient.’ I think it is Confucius. Regardless of what you attempt in life, you will be rewarded if you persevere for long enough.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I probably conform in that when I sit in front of my laptop I disappear into my imagined world. On the other hand I work full-time on a mixed agricultural property. I’m too busy to be difficult – so my partner tells me.

5.  Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I write what I live and love, the Australian outback. Although rural literature is enjoying a resurgence at the moment I would still be telling my stories regardless as I’m a fourth generation grazier. Some of Australia’s most distinctive stories and indeed legends originate in the outback and I’m proud to be writing about what is effectively my heritage.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

For Whom The Bell Tolls , The English Patient ,  The Bible, A Fortunate Life (ABF), and my own novel, Absolution Creek. The last so that the adolescents have proof that I may in fact be somebody worth listening to and the first four as they all throw light on the human condition-good and bad.

Nicole, thank you for playing.

Absolution Creek

by Nicole Alexander

One man lost her. One man died for her. And one would kill for her …

Nicole Alexander’s new bestseller is a sweeping rural saga spanning two generations.

One man lost her. One man died for her. And one would kill for her … Nicole Alexander’s new bestseller is a sweeping rural saga spanning two generations.

In 1923 nineteen-year-old Jack Manning watches the construction of the mighty Harbour Bridge and dreams of being more than just a grocer’s son. So when he’s offered the chance to manage Absolution Creek, a sheep property 800 miles from Sydney, he seizes the opportunity.

But outback life is tough, particularly if you’re young, inexperienced and have only a few textbooks to guide you. Then a thirteen-year-old girl, Squib Hamilton, quite literally washes up on his doorstep – setting in motion a devastating chain of events…

Forty years later and Cora Hamilton is waging a constant battle to keep Absolution Creek in business. She’s ostracised by the local community and hindered by her inability to move on from the terrible events of her past, which haunt her both physically and emotionally.

Only one man knows what really happened in 1923. A dying man who is riding towards Absolution Creek, seeking his own salvation…

From the gleaming foreshores of Sydney Harbour to the vast Australian outback, this is a story of betrayal and redemption and of an enduring love which defies even death.

Click here to buy Absolution Creek from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

About the Author

In the course of her career Nicole Alexander has worked both in Australia and Singapore in financial services, fashion, corporate publishing and agriculture.

A fourth-generation grazier, Nicole returned to her family’s property in the late 1990s. She is currently the business manager there and has a hands-on role in the running of the property.

Nicole has a Master of Letters in creative writing and her novels, poetry, travel and genealogy articles have been published in Australia, Germany, America and Singapore. Nicole’s previous titles:  A Changing Land, The Bark Cutters.

GUEST BLOG: Ernest Hemingway and the Girl from the Bush by Nicole Alexander

John Boyne, author of The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

John Boyne

author of The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and more

Six Sharp Questions:

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket is the story of an Australian family who don’t like anyone who is different in any way. They hate people who stand out from the crowd and believe that everyone should conform to the norm. So when their third child Barnaby is born and he doesn’t obey the law of gravity and floats, they’re terribly embarrassed and seek ways to make him like everyone else. It’s a book for young readers that seeks to explain why it’s ok to be different and, in fact, why sometimes it’s better.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The best was probably my trip to the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka in January. A country I had never visited before, I found it not only beautiful and friendly but it was one of the best organised festivals I’ve ever attended. And the audiences that came to the events were enormous! The worst moment of the last year was finding out that a young person, quite close to me, was very ill. Fortunately, that story seems to have had a happy resolution.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

I’ve always liked this last paragraph from Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It:

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I am sweetness and light throughout the day. (Ok, maybe not all the time.) When I’m at home in Dublin I have a set routine: I wake at 5:40 and am in the gym by 6 am. I work out for an hour then come home and take my dog for a walk for another hour. After breakfast, I begin writing and work from about 9:30 until 3 pm. I do most of the cooking in our house and generally prepare the evening meal for when my partner comes home from work.

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

It doesn’t affect my writing in the slightest. I give absolutely no thought to it whatsoever. I write the books that interest me, I write stories that I feel I have to write with characters who I know are already alive in my imagination. I write them, I give them to my publisher and whatever happens after that is completely out of my hands. Of course one would like a no.1 bestseller with every publication but that can’t happen. But as long as the books reach an audience and I’m proud of what I’ve written, that’s all that matters to me.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

A dictionary – because they might need to look up words.

Charles Dickens David Copperfield – because it’s my favourite novel.

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap– because it’s my favourite novel of the 21st century.

The Collected Stories of William Trevor – because he is one of the world’s greatest writers and every story will move, intrigue and delight the reader.

William Golding Lord of the Flies– so they can see what might happen if they don’t pay attention to me.

John, thank you for playing.

The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket

There’s nothing unusual about the Brockets. Boring, respectable and fiercely proud of it, Alistair and Eleanor Brocket turn up their noses at anyone strange or different. But from the moment Barnaby Brocket comes into the world, it’s clear he’s anything but normal. To the horror and shame of his parents, Barnaby appears to defy the laws of gravity – and floats.

Little Barnaby is a lonely child – after all, it’s hard to make friends when you’re three feet in the air. Desperate to please his parents, he does his best to stop floating, but he just can’t do it. Then, one fateful day, Barnaby’s mother decides enough is enough. She never asked for a weird, abnormal, floating child. She’s sick and tired of the newspapers prying and the neighbours gossiping. Barnaby has to go . . .

Betrayed, frightened and alone, Barnaby floats into the path of a very special hot air balloon. And so begins a magical journey around the world; from South America to New York, Canada to Ireland, and even a trip into space, Barnaby meets a cast of truly extraordinary new friends and realises that nothing can make you happier than just being yourself.

A funny, inventive and warm-hearted story from the internationally bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Click here to buy The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Bookshop

Karin Slaughter, author of Criminal, Fractured, Broken, Genesis, Fallen and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karin Slaughter

author of Criminal, FracturedBroken GenesisFallen and more

Six Sharp Questions

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1.    Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

CRIMINAL is about the struggles women faced in the 1970s on the Atlanta police force.  It’s also about a present-day crime that has roots in the past.

(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb – Someone you want to forget is waiting for you.

1974: In the blistering heat of an Atlanta summer, a killer prowls the street, searching for the weak, the vulnerable and the lost.

40 years later, a young woman is found brutally murdered in a sordid high-rise apartment. The specifics of her death are detailed and macabre, but for Special Agent Will Trent they are startingly familiar, and can only mean one thing.

Desperate to deny this might be happening to him, he is forced to return to the home he grew up in, to the grimy crime-ridden streets, to a childhood he has spent the best part of his adult life trying to avoid.

As the body count rises, and the tension on the inner-city streets starts to simmer, Will becomes convinced that the clue to the killings now, and in 1974, may lie in his own past; a past that he hates yet feels responsible for.

And that the killer is much, much closer to him than anyone thought possible. )

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

2.    Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Best: the vacation I just had.  Worst: getting stuck at the Denver airport.

3.    Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

Joy is the best gratitude.

4.    Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I think when I’m working, I can be a bit distant, but I’ve found writers (at least crime writers) tend to be fairly normal.  Just feed and water us and we’re fine.

5.   Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I wish I could say I’m very conscious of those things, but honestly, I never think about my readers when I’m writing.  It’s all about me and what kind of book I’d like to read.  I think if you chase the market, you’ll end up locking yourself up.

6.   Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

The Bible.  A dictionary.  Gone With the Wind.  Really, anything that’s extremely heavy so I can hit them with it.

Karin, thank you for playing.

Visit our Karin Slaughter author page for more

Kathryn Fox, author of Cold Grave, Death Mask, Malicious Intent, and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kathryn Fox

author of Cold Grave, Death Mask, Malicious Intent, and more,

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Thank you! Cold Grave was a labour of love, and something I was passionate about writing. Like so many other Australians, I was stunned by the death of Australian mother, Dianne Brimble, on a cruise ship. With up to 20 million people a year going on cruises, and cruises being the biggest growth tourist industry, I decided to do some research on crimes that have taken place on ships and within the industry. Talk about the tip of the iceberg; Cold Grave had to be written.

Anya Crichton goes on holiday with her son and ex-husband. First morning on a cruise ship, they find the body of a teenage girl on deck. There is a suggestion she was sexually assaulted. Anya becomes involved in the investigation and quickly discovers that it isn’t in the best interest of the cruise line to discover the truth, and with a foreign owned ship in international waters, the laws are exceedingly murky.  She risks her life to find justice for the dead girl’s family.

Click here to order Cold Grave from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Best moment. Christmas Day in Disneyworld, Florida with my family.

Worst moment. Father diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

I’ve never been one to act like everyone else, and usually forge my own pathway. It’s liberating each day to only have to work at being the best ‘Me’ possible.  These two quotes explain why.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

From Shakespeare’s, Hamlet,

which loosely translates, to:

Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr. Seuss

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

My family and friends suspect I sit home watching Days of Our Lives all week! After getting everyone out the door in the morning, I head straight to a local, quiet café and am usually writing by 8.30. Mornings are my most efficient writing time and without internet, phone or other distractions, three hours can be as productive as six hours spent in my office. Women writers rarely have time to wait for a muse!

After that I head home to check emails, write any blogs and newspaper articles I’ve committed to, and attend to the business side of writing. A couple of days a week I’ll do a Pilates class because it really helps with back and posture issues – the bane of writers.

Afternoon is spent editing, then early evening is time with the family. Most nights I go back to work when they are in bed.

I have to laugh because they tell me I must procrastinate and leave every book until the last six months before deadline. Naturally, that’s when they see me writing on weekends, in between washing, cleaning and all the glamorous jobs they presume aren’t done during the week either. I just smile and get on with it, so I guess I’m not your stereotypical tortured artist!

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

You do have to be aware of the market place and the business of writing. That’s not to sound mercenary, but it’s a reality when that’s how I earn my living.  It would pay to know what markets are saturated and what are not selling if you decide to pen a vampire tale, or dystopian novel, for example. Readers are your market and your publishers are astutely aware of that. I’d love to write a thriller without Anya Crichton in the lead, but readers just seem to want more of her! To write in another genre, I’d probably have to change my name, but that’s not out of the question in the future.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

This is an incredible question! It could make a fantastic story! Are you sure you didn’t mean five book shops??? The books I think would most benefit ill-educated adolescents would be those that engage on a number of levels through great storytelling:

1. The Hunger Games

2. A Short History Of The World in conjunction with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions, if I can sneak that one in.

3. Dear Me – letters from successful adults to their 16 yr old selves.

4. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

5. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. (Seriously? All that drama and death over a 3 day infatuation and a breakdown in communication? Hope angst ridden teenagers learn an enormous amount from that.)

Kathryn, thank you for playing.

Click here to order Cold Grave from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Kathryn has also answered our Ten Terrifying Questions, click here to read more

Click here to see all of Kathryn’s titles

Sophie Masson, author of Moonlight and Ashes, The Hunt for Ned Kelly, The Curse of Zohreh, and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

 Sophie Masson

author of Moonlight and Ashes, The Hunt for Ned Kelly, The Curse of Zohreh, and more

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Moonlight and Ashes is something a bit different, a fairy-tale thriller for young adults, with a romantic twist and a spice of dark political conspiracy! Inspired by the Grimm version of Cinderella, Aschenputtel, it’s set in an alternative world, the Faustine Empire (based in part on the late 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire), where magic is a reality but forbidden to be practised by anyone except the secretive and dangerous order of Mancers, who are part sorcerer, part secret police.

The main setting is Ashberg (based on Prague), a lovely provincial city in the far reaches of the Empire, where my heroine and narrator, Selena, lives. She’s the Cinderella figure: the neglected and oppressed first daughter of a wealthy nobleman who after the death of her mother, and her father’s remarriage, has been reduced to being a servant. But she’s no passive victim, and when her mother comes to her in a dream and gives her the magic of the hazel tree, she is determined to use it. But though her life starts to change, she must be very careful, and not only because magic is forbidden, for she has a very dangerous secret, an enigma which she must understand if she is to save the man she loves, and her friends, before it is too late. It’s a real roller-coaster of a story, and I loved writing it, but it kept me awake at night too!

Click here to order Moonlight and Ashes from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

I’ve had a lot of good moments in the past year or so—working on books I’m passionate about, like Moonlight and Ashes, winning the NSW Premier’s Prize last year for another book, The Hunt for Ned Kelly, spending great times with my family and friends, travelling, reading great books, watching good movies! There have been bad moments too, such as getting shingles. Still, it didn’t last long. I feel pretty lucky. Touch wood.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

Since visiting Russia a couple of years ago for the first time (going again this year, it’s an absolutely addictive and exciting place), I’ve been reading (and rereading) lots of Russian literature, both classic and modern. People often think Russian literature is gloomy, but that’s far from the truth: it accepts that life can be tragic, yes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be joyful. It’s full of life, and eccentric, vivid characters, but also philosophical, with a streak of engaging humour and unexpected insights. So because I love the unexpected, that’s what I want to put down here, a couple of short quotes from two Russian writers I love, one a classic, the great Fyodor Dostoesvsky, the other modern, the wonderful fantasy novelist Sergei Lukyanenko whose Night Watch series just blew me away (by the way, the books are much better than the films):

Never before had she seen such writers. They were impossibly vain, but quite openly so, as if thereby fulfilling a duty. Some (though by no means all) even came drunk, but it was as if they perceived some special, just-yesterday-discovered beauty in it. They were all proud of something to the point of strangeness.

(Fyodor Dostoevsky, from Demons)

What an unfortunate instrument the guitar is! An instrument of such great nobility, a genuine monarch of music– reduced to a pitiful lump of wood with six strings, constantly abused by people with no ear and no voice.

(from Day Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko)

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I guess you’d really have to ask my near and dear if I’m difficult, but I think that it could be fairly said that I’m a compulsive writer! I love my work; it feels to me still that I’ve lucked out amazingly, being paid to do what I was born to do! I’ve also always been pretty disciplined about my writing day to day and can work under almost any conditions – I’m certainly not obsessive about work spaces and what have you. I grew up in a big family and had to learn to block off my head from noise and turmoil if I wanted to read and write, so I’ve always been good at doing that. I work very intensely, not every day of the week but usually around 4-5 days, and I get a lot down in a few hours, then the next day go over it again, rewrite, and go on to the next chapter, and so on – I am always writing a new chapter but also rewriting as I go, so that my first draft is actually pretty polished – because in truth it isn’t my first draft if you know what I mean!

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

Of course you are influenced, in the sense that you need to be aware of what’s going on out there, what sorts of things are selling, etc. You need to be flexible – but I think it’s also a bad mistake to be too influenced by it. The marketplace is very fickle and things move on very quickly, you need a sense of being grounded in your own vision, your own interests, your own passions.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

(I’m assuming here we take classics of adult literature)

A book of poetry from early times to now, because the gift of poetry stays with you your whole life, and there’s always something for everyone if you have a selection;

A book of myths, legends and fairytales, because they speak to the deepest truths in us, and form the best base for exploring all other stories.

Notes from the Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky: amazingly modern in feel, hectic, blackly humorous work of rebellion and absurdity which can spark off heaps of discussion;

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, because the combination of Gothic thriller, love story and mystery, with its spirited heroine and brooding hero long predates Bella, Edward and co;

Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare, because it’s the funniest, most romantic, sparkling and yet melancholy of the great plays.

Sophie, thank you for playing.

Click here to order Moonlight and Ashes from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Randa Abdel-Fattah, author of Does My Head Look Big in This?, Noah’s Law, No Sex in the City, and more, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Randa Abdel-Fattah

author of Does My Head Look Big in This?, Noah’s Law, No Sex in the City, and more,

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

No Sex in the City is about intimate friendships, the search for ‘The One’, career fulfilment, sexuality as a single woman, family politics, long ‘Mr Right Checklists’, and terrible blind dates. It’s narrated by a character called Esma, who is looking for Mr Right, whether he shows up at work or in her parent’s lounge room through an arranged set-up. But it’s more than just Esma’s story. It’s an ensemble cast, and centres around the lives of Esma and her three best-friends, Lisa, Ruby and Nirvana. As for what the book means to me, it was a chance to use some of the most ridiculous, embarrassing and funny stories from my friends’ dating and arranged marriage experiences- and that meant I was having a lot of fun doing so!

Click here to buy No Sex in the City from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The best moments: Teaching a creative writing workshop in Palestine. Delivering two books before deadline. Seeing my son master how to ride a bike on his first go, and my daughter start school. Being bridesmaid to my sister on her perfect wedding day. Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.

The worst moments: My father-in-law being sick in hospital. Losing a large chunk of writing because I stupidly forgot to save it. Watching the tragedies unfold in Syria and Egypt after the hope of reform.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

Here are one two of many of my favourite sayings of prophet Mohammed:  “Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first” and “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has no kindness has no faith.”

And because I’m reading Oscar Wilde at the moment, I can’t resist this one (especially when reflecting on the ‘Arab spring’: “I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”
- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I don’t have a day to day of writing because I’m juggling being a lawyer, activist and mother with my writing career. I write when I can, where I can. But when I am writing and in THE ZONE, yes I am difficult in the sense that I like to think I should be left alone to create (when really that’s impossible when you have little children).

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

How can I put this? If I was influenced by the needs of the marketplace I could have written a sexy-oppressed-Muslim-woman-escapes-tyrannical (insert male guardian of choice) exotic story long ago, filled book shelves in airports and been the latest ‘Muslim whistleblower.’ I won’t sell out though. I just want to write the stories that I feel compelled to tell. That’s the impulse that drives me.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Lord of the Flies

Tomorrow, When the War Began

The Hobbit

Oliver Twist

To Kill a Mockingbird

Randa, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy No Sex in the City from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Nick Earls, author of Welcome to Normal, The True Story of Butterfish, The Fix, and many more, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nick Earls

author of Welcome to Normal, The True Story of Butterfish, The Fix, and many more,

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Welcome to Normal started when I tried to persuade my publisher to take most of the stories from my last collection, Headgames, which came out in 1999, and repackage them with stories I’d written for anthologies and journals since then. Then I realised I had the prospect of something much more exciting if I used none of the stories from Headgames, took only two of the newest stories and built the book from there, ie, wrote another 60,000 words. It meant an extra 18 months work (as opposed to no work, which is always nice if you can pull it off), but it let me shape the book with an overall concept in mind and a clear sense of what I was aiming at any time I sat down to write.

I knew there was a town in the US called Normal, and I liked the idea of writing something called Welcome to Normal, in which a couple of outsiders visited the town. I happened to have an email exchange at the time with Kate Miller-Heidke, who was touring the US Midwest with Ben Folds, and I mentioned a few things about a trip I made to Bloomington Indiana in 1990. She dared me to write about it, which didn’t actually happen, but just thinking of that trip triggered something, and Welcome to Normal became a young graduate and his boss – not the young couple I’d first thought of – on a road trip through the Midwest in 1990. By coincidence, Normal is part of a conurbation with a different Bloomington, in Illinois. By further coincidence, it’s mentioned in a Ben Folds song. It’s a story that had to be, really.

As I was planning that story and thinking beyond it, I gave some thought to what ‘normal’ was and what it would mean for the book. For each story, I wanted to find people who felt real, and then I often sent them somewhere – I gave them a physical journey and maybe took them out of their comfort zones, while also putting thought into the journeys they were really on. I think that’s part of normal – we send ourselves across town or across the world, and sometimes the real business is going on parallel to that and beneath the surface, and it’s often not spoken about. I wanted to leave a lot unsaid in these stories, but give readers all the pieces they needed to put it together. I love reading things like that, if they’re done well, so that’s what I tried to do. You can tell how happy these people are, or not, and sense their fears and frustrations, without me as the writer having to spell it out in block capitals.

I realise I’m not often known for my subtlety. I think I can be subtle, but sometimes I’ve been too subtle about it, or created other story elements that draw attention. Anyway, subtlety was on my mind with this one. Not only subtlety, but it was part of the mix.

Also, I realised at the start how much I loved writing shorter fiction, and somehow I’d forgotten that. Some stories shouldn’t be 80,000 words – they should be 3000 or 25,000. My favourite bit of the writing process is discovering the story in the first place. This book gave me the luxury of going through that eight times, rather than one.

Click here to buy Welcome to Normal from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Worst – maybe the fatigue during those months when my son didn’t know how to sleep

Best – being there while he develops language, learns what he can do with it and lets us into what’s going on in his head (stop me now or this will segue into pages of gushy parent stuff …)

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

For this book there was one in particular I kept in mind:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Chekhov

Any time a book comes out I try to remind myself of this one:

For every person who thinks I look like the new Audrey Hepburn, someone else thinks I look like an alien.

Sophie Ellis Bextor

Some people get you, some people don’t, and trying to please everyone as a writer is a ceaseless, useless chase for your own stumpy tail.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Conform. Life is a bit different now that my son is in here – I used to be able to give uncountable hours to work. My work days have fewer work hours in them, and more childcare drop-offs, etc. The ultimate superhero power would surely be one that adds more hours to the day. But if I had that, would I use them all for work? No, not now. I’d also want to kick balls, etc.

I am difficult to live with because every year my attempt to achieve perfect separation between my work life and my life life fails. Each year I correct half the mistakes of the previous year, and then learn ways to make new ones. I make as much of the job nine to five (nine-thirty to four) as I can, but a writer’s brain is a writer’s brain, and it’s clueless about office hours. Ideas come, and need writing down. My mind wanders, because my job calls for it even if my life doesn’t. And I need to do business in several time zones.

I try to make up for all that with flair in the kitchen (hah), great bedtime stories, park time, etc. My life can’t be all about creating the perfect environment in which the artist can then create something. It has to be about having the best life possible, and making sure there are at least some hours in it for writing.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

This book is a collection of short fiction. I can’t believe you’d even suggest such a thing would be motivated by the marketplace. I wish. I wish I was sitting here with all my friends going, ‘He’s totally sold out. He’s just written this collection of short stories and novellas. It’ll probably sell millions’.

I can’t say I never think about the marketplace, but in the end, there’s no point in me setting out to write something I’m not desperate to write, since I won’t do a good job of it. Sometimes though, of all the things I might write, I think ‘which ones of these might people actually want to buy?’ If you want to keep your job, it’s not a bad question to ask.

So how am I thinking of the marketplace right now? This is a crazy unpredictable time to be in the book industry, and I’ve decided on a policy of diversification, while aiming to always turn out the best work I can. So, I’ve got involved in a film project, I’m writing a kids’ trilogy and I’m publishing ebooks in the US, as well as keeping the adult fiction coming. It seems smart to have irons in a few fires. Fortunately, every project is something I really want to do.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

I’d take just two: Lord of the Flies and the IgguldensDangerous Book for Boys. I’d give them those, then I’d let them loose in the wilderness, film the whole thing and market it as a reality TV version of The Hunger Games. Then, wracked with guilt, I’d donate half if not all of my resulting awesome wealth to set up an organisation for civilising rogue adolescents, using an evidence-based approach devised by experts. That would include me buying whichever five books those experts recommended, and probably quite a few more.

Fortunately in real life I’m responsible for only one toddler.

Nick, thank you for playing.

You can follow Nick on Twitter. I do. Oh, and while you’re at it, subscribe to his blog too. Wit and wisdom are a rare combination and Nick has both in spades.

Click here to buy Welcome to Normal from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

To browse all of Nicks titles visit Booktopia’s Nick Earls Author Page

Daniel H. Wilson, author of Amped and Robopocalypse, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Daniel H. Wilson

author of Amped and Robopocalypse

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Amped tells the story of a guy swept up in a near future civil rights movement. The furore is caused when people with disabilities start using neural implants that make them smarter than “regular” people. I believe that technology is moving from our purses and back pockets into our bodies. How our society deals with this migration will be interesting, although hopefully not as violent as in my novel.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

Getting the phone call that Robopocalypse had made the New York Times bestseller list was definitely a high point. As an adult, you don’t get many “call your mom immediately” opportunities besides marriage and child birth. This was one of them.

This has been such a great year and I’m very thankful for it. The worst moments have probably been waking up with terrible hang-overs after too much partying over good news. I suppose you’ve got to party while the news is good.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

I put a quote from Jim Morrison into my latest book, Amped: “My mind and body are so out of tune. I hope they run into each other real soon.” I love when music lyrics sync up with what you happen to be writing!

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Writers can certainly be neurotic, but luckily I’m an engineer who happens to write for a living. I do a couple hours real writing in the morning and move onto slacker stuff in the afternoon. Then I play with my daughter until my wife gets home. It’s actually a pretty relaxed situation.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

The themes of my writing revolve around humankind’s relationship with technology because that’s what I love to think about. If nobody wanted to read about that, then I’d be in a lab somewhere building it. But honestly it doesn’t surprise me that people are interested in technology. Imagine, every human being – from the very first, to the very last – has this one thing in common: we depend on tools to survive.

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

I would, of course, want to use the threat of a horrible outcome to instill the children with a love and appreciation of technology and civilization:

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson

Daniel, thank you for playing.

Click here to order Amped from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Daniel has also answered the Booktopia Book Guru’s Ten Terrifying Questions, click here to read more

Robopocalypse is being turned into a movie, directed by none other than Stephen Spielberg! Read more…

Here’s the publisher’s take on Amped:

Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. Enter a stunning world where technology and humanity clash in terrifying and surprising ways.

Some people are implanted with upgrades that make them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities – and rights – of ‘amplified’ humans.

On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, 29-year-old Owen Gray discovers that his seizure-supressing medical implant is actually a powerful upgrade. Owen joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as ‘amps’ and is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumoured, a group of the most enhanced amps are about to change the world – or destroy it.

Click here to order Amped from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Y.A. Erskine, author of The Betrayal and The Brotherhood, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Y.A. Erskine

author of The Betrayal and The Brotherhood

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book, The Betrayal. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Thank you so much!

Like The Brotherhood before it, The Betrayal is set in Tasmania. This time the battleground is behind the closed doors of the Hobart Police Station. It tells the story a young, rather naïve female police officer who makes an allegation of sexual assault against an older, wiser and considerably more popular male colleague. From her fellow rookies right up to the Commissioner himself, everyone must take sides meaning grudges, prejudices and hidden agendas bubble to the forefront. But as well as support, there’s betrayal from the most unlikely of sources as justice, that ever elusive commodity, is hotly pursued.

The Betrayal has special meaning to me. I policed in Tassie for eleven years and during that time, many moons ago, I was sexually assaulted by a colleague. For many reasons including the nature of policing culture and my knowledge of the ‘justice’ system, I chose not to go ahead with a formal complaint. I’ve often wondered what would have happened had I done so. Hence, I let my poor old protagonist take that journey for me. As you can probably imagine, it was a cathartic book to write and one of which I’m incredibly proud. It was refreshing to give a voice to another dark, unmentionable side of policing.

Click here to buy The Betrayal from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

It’s been an extraordinary twelve months and to be honest, I really can’t think of too many ‘worst’ moments.

The ‘best’ moments mainly concern the publication of my first book. Seeing The Brotherhood in print, finally seeing it on shelves throughout the country and reading fantastic reviews thrilled me each and every time. When a few readers began giving me five out of fives on reputable crime fiction websites, I was practically doing cartwheels! To see The Betrayal in print now makes me deliriously happy. On top of that, on a non-book, more personal note, finally being pregnant has just topped off this, the most wonderful of years.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

There’s a quote on the wall in my favourite little café down the road.

Some people make things happen,
Some people watch things happen,
Some people wonder what has happened.

I find it incredibly inspirational and have vowed to always remain in the former category.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I’m actually quite boring and untemperamental as far as writing is concerned. I’m happy and easy to live with because I get to do what I love full time. That said, whilst writing is a passion for me, it’s also damn hard work and it requires a high level of dedication and perseverance. When I’m in draft mode I’ll try to write a minimum of ten pages a day. It doesn’t have to be brilliant – it’s enough to simply transfer the story from mind to paper. Editing days ebb and flow, but I still treat them like a normal working day and try not to get too stressed if it takes eight hours to fix one horrid paragraph.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

My writing has never been dictated by the marketplace. I’m completely self-indulgent when it comes to telling stories and my work is heavily influenced by my own very basic policing career – what I’ve seen, done, heard, smelt and touched. There are no hard core forensic investigators, no uber smart computer hackers, no vampires, no werewolves, no magical powers. If readers enjoy my type of writing, then great. If not, then I don’t lose any sleep over it. It’s important to be true to yourself and not to try to write the next big thing purely for commercial purposes. I write for love, not money (although, if my publisher is reading this, more money would be nice!)

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Wow! That’s a tough one. If we’re talking about introducing them not only to the beauty of the written word, but to the beauty of the world, not to mention teaching them a few lessons along the way, then I’d have to say, in order of simple to complex …

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. A simple childhood favourite with powerful messages about selflessness and love.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Exquisite literature containing important lessons such as never judging a book by its cover.

A History of the World in 100 Objects (Produced by the British Museum in conjunction with the BBC)

A beautiful little hard covered book containing photographs of the objects themselves for the more visual amongst the group. It tells a history of human movements and cultures from the point of view of the common man, rather than the prince, the preacher or the victor.

Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton. Because we all need just a hint of philosophy in our reading diet. An easy read, it’s about finding beauty, room to breathe and meaning within the modern, secular lifestyle. It’s about being a civilised human being in a modern, frenetic, often times uncivilised world.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Comedy, tragedy, history, romance, not to mention the pure craftsmanship of the written word – there’s something in there for everyone. Possibly a bit hard core, but an inspiring teacher will enable any kid to draw the most from his tales.

Yvette, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Betrayal from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

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