Shona Innes, author of Life is Like the Wind and Friendship is Like a Seesaw, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

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The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Shona Innes

author of Life is Like the Wind and Friendship is Like a Seesaw

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 and raised in sunny Queensland. I was born in Toowoomba, but grew up living in Buderim on the Sunshine Coast. I went to primary school at Buderim Mountain Primary School and then I went to High School in Maroochydore – I was school captain at Maroochy High for the class of ’83.

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

When I was 12, I’m pretty sure I wanted to be one of Charlie’s Angels. I could help people out and chase down bad guys all while wearing high heels and having glamorous hair.

At 18, I wanted to be a school teacher. I got a really good tertiary entrance score and all of my teachers tried to talk me out of it, but I stuck to my guns….for a good two weeks… before changing unis and starting a psychology degree. I was interested in understanding more about people and their behaviour. I ended up doing a science degree in Psychology, but did all of my electives in education and then did a Grad Dip in Child Psychology.

At 30, I was totally in love with psychology, but I still wanted to know more. I was working at a custodial Youth Justice Centre and I enrolled in a Masters of Clinical Psychology.

Shona2 (2)

Author Shona Innes

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

That happiness would always be a glorious mix of Wham!, shoulder pads and a perm.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My mum was a working Mum in an era when not many mums had a job outside the home. I was definitely going to have a career.

I won five dollars in a poetry competition at primary school. My poem was about a spider’s web after the rain. Maybe I was good at writing?

In high school, I borrowed the Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling. I’m not sure that I fully understood it all or if I ever finished it, but I re-borrowed it multiple times. It made me feel intelligent.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

I have great memories of books in my childhood. I would often get books as gifts and my sister and I created a little library in the cupboard under the household telephone. My grandmother and my great aunt would read aloud to me and they always bought books for me that they knew I would love. It was something that meant someone was sharing their time and the joy or excitement of whatever was happening on the pages. Being read to while sharing the pages was definitely a comfort thing. It’s hard to imagine that you could evoke those same feelings electronically. The children I write to love getting mail instead of an email. I think it shows effort and a preparedness to share – ingredients of important relationships.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Life is Like the Wind” and “Friendship is Like a Seesaw” were both developed from letters I had written to my young clients after our sessions. I write to young clients to help them remember what we talked about, but also to give their parents, carers or teachers an idea about how to talk with the child about the things that are on their mind. The Big Hug series will target some of the more frequent issues children bring with them to our psychology practice. The aim is to assist children (and grownups) to understand their feelings and then to accept the feelings or think about some ideas that might make them feel better.

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Grab a copy Life is Like the Wind or Friendship is Like a Seesaw here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

All lives have their ups and downs. I’d hope that the Big Hug books can help children and grownups ease through the tough times and appreciate all that is good.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I admire people who put in an effort – whether the effort be the hard work that comes with facing fear or battling depression, the sacrifices people make because they care, or the dedication people have to their work or craft. Some people are really shiny, have the “gift of the gab” and a lot of charisma, but their efforts are shallow. I value hard work, but really struggle with those who take credit where it is not due.

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

This year I’d like to run 10km in under 55 minutes, visit friends in faraway places and have all my favourite music artists make it to the top 10 in the Triple J Hottest 100.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Know about what you do. Apply effort. Be genuinely grateful for shared knowledge and learn from tough times.

Shona, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy Life is Like the Wind or Friendship is Like a Seesaw here

Gabrielle Tozer, author of The Intern, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Gabrielle Tozer

author of The Intern

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 and raised in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, a wonderful regional town where I completed both primary and high school, and ate chicken-salted potato gems by the bagful.

Next stop, three years studying journalism and creative writing at the University of Canberra (and perfecting the art of staying up ’til 3am and sleeping ’til midday). I’ve been a city-slicker in Sydney since early 2006 but still have soft spots for Wagga and Canberra and visit both as often as possible.

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

Twelve: A journalist, author, actress or psychologist. Eighteen: A journalist, author or a newsreader like Ann Sanders (I used to go into older women’s shops to try on power suits. Yes, I’m strange). Thirty: Yet to crack the big 3-0, but I predict I will still want to be a – shock horror – author! And maybe a professional pizza reviewer. Is that a thing? That should be a thing.

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

That I would have my driver’s licence by now. Oops. It has not eventuated yet, much to the dismay of my family and friends (and every second person I meet). Eighteen-year-old me was such a glass-half-full kind of gal.

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?

Sorry, I am going to cheat by ignoring that you said ‘three’ and also by saying writers have influenced me the most. Without a doubt: Stephen King’s On Writing (I read it once a year whenever I need a creative reboot); anything by John Marsden, Roald Dahl, Nick Hornby, Margaret Clark and Morris Gleitzman; and brilliant female screenwriters such as Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham.

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

Because I sing like a hyena, haven’t pirouetted in years, get too nervous to act anymore and can only draw stick figures. Luckily, I can wrangle words into shape from time to time and, since I have always been a voracious reader, I thought it would be pleasurable to see things from the other side (and hopefully entertain a new generation!). Besides, this sounds naff, but I could always picture myself doing it…and now, I’m hooked!

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Intern is a YA novel that follows the crazy, awkward adventures of seventeen-year-old Josie Browning, a country girl who scores herself an internship at the glamorous magazine, Sash. While it all sounds amazing, there’s a catch: she’s battling for a coveted cash prize and column, and at the mercy of the whip-cracking editor-in-chief Rae Swanson. Throw in family dramas, slipping uni grades and a hot guy or two, and Josie’s having herself quite the year!

Grab a copy of The Intern here

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

I want readers to be entertained! I hope they giggle, smirk or snort while reading the awkward moments (oh, I love putting my characters through cringe-worthy scenarios!), and enjoy the warmer interludes between Josie and her family. Readers are quite taken with Josie’s dorky but loveable way and often ask me about her next adventure, so I’m glad I’m working on the sequel at the moment (it’s due out early 2015).

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

John Marsden, J.K. Rowling, Kylie Ladd, Rebecca Sparrow, John Green, Nick Hornby, Suzanne Collins, Lena Dunham, just to name a few. They’re damn good writers and I want to devour every word they write.

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

Keep finding the joy in writing, keep getting books published, keep pushing myself creatively. If I could do all three, while juggling real-life responsibilities and relationships with aplomb, then I will be incredibly fulfilled and happy. Oh, and I might look into the whole professional pizza reviewer gig, too… (A girl’s gotta have goals, right?)

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just start. Put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard and get writing. Don’t worry about asking for advice, or waiting for inspiration to strike, or for the ‘perfect moment’ to begin. If you are a writer, then you will write. It won’t always be easy, in fact, sometimes it’s extraordinarily challenging, so be gentle with yourself and remember to enjoy the ride.

Gabrielle, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Intern here

The Monday Morning Cooking Club, authors of The Feast Goes On, answer Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here to grab a copyThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

The Monday Morning Cooking Club

authors of The Feast Goes On

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

We all live in Sydney, Australia but we have come from all over: Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, South Africa. And our family backgrounds are even more diverse, reflecting the Jewish community’s melting pot: Hungary, Poland, Russia via China, South Africa, England.

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

When we were twelve we were all consumed with what was in our lunch boxes and pantries. Some of us were getting schnitzel on rye and really wanted Vegemite on white bread.  Some of our pantries were stocked with kosher salami, dill pickles and poppyseed cake and all we really wanted were biscuits from a packet and bought jam swiss rolls. What did we want to be? Like everybody else!

When we were eighteen we were discovering our passion for food. Learning and loving to cook, throwing our first dinner parties and searching for good food. What did we want to be? Grown up and accomplished. mmcc_slider_girlswhite

When we were thirty we were all consumed with motherhood, trying to find the time for a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake and striving to find the right life/work balance. What did we want to be? Less sleep deprived than we were!

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

At eighteen, we were all so sure we knew more than our mothers. As we grow older and wiser, and have 18 year old daughters ourselves, we have learned the adage is true: ‘mother is always right.’

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Growing up, more so than any one event, the continual celebrations that went on in all our homes each and every year for Jewish festivals (passover, Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur) and weekly Friday night feasts for Sabbath eve together with mothers who were committed and passionate about cooking and feeding their families.  2: On a larger scale, the immigration to Australia from countries as far and wide as Vietnam, Greece, Hungary, Russia and South Africa has given our lives in Australia a cultural and culinary diversity which has enriched our national makeup and palate. 3: The creation of our first book Monday Morning Cooking Club – the food the stories the sisterhood’. The years we spent collecting, testing and preserving family heirloom recipes filled us with a great joy, and taught us so much along the way.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Printed cookbooks will never be obsolete. Some of us think that there is nothing more enjoyable than taking your latest cookbook to bed and reading it cover to cover, ogling the beautiful photos and feeling the pages between your fingers.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…Click here to grab a copy

The Feast Goes On features the best loved and most delicious stories from the heart and soul of our community right across Australia. It is not a book of Jewish food per se, it’s a book of recipes from Jewish kitchens, collected from countries far and wide. The book speaks of a community drawn together by food, with intimate and moving stories of sharing and survival, love and hope, friendship and family. It is full of precious family recipes passed down from past generations through to recipes that will become instant family favourites.The book has recipes for every occasion – from every day eating to feasting, light lunches to fressing, comfort food to traditional dishes – which will nurture, nourish and inspire.

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

To find, collect, recreate and publish all those wonderful heirloom recipes from the older generation before they are lost forever. We believe the old recipes still fit so well into our contemporary world.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?
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As a group, without a doubt, we place our grandmothers on the highest pedestal. We look back with wonder on how they managed to nurture and feed their families the most exquisite dishes without any of today’s mod-cons; plucking chickens to produce golden roasts, pickling and preserving anything and everything to get though the winter, home baked bread made from scratch, the lightest of chiffon cakes, flaky pastries crammed with dried fruit and nuts.

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

Our goal is to create a contemporary face for Australian Jewish cuisine. One important part of this is to preserve those treasured recipes from the older generation for our generation, and from our generation for the future. The other important aspect is that we are a not-for-profit company and will continue to raise substantial funds for charity.

10.      What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Always follow your dream, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be dissuaded by the ’NO’s’. Doors open at the most unexpected times!

Monday Morning Cooking Club, thank you for playing!

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

Silvia Kwon, author of The Return, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Silvia Kwon

author of The Return

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 Seoul, South Korea and arrived in Perth, Western Australia aged nine. I spent the first few years in country towns and found the transition from a bustling city to rural Australia fairly traumatic. It was compounded by the fact that I couldn’t speak any English and being a fairly outgoing, social girl, it made me determined to learn the language as quickly as possible.

I went to a girls’ Catholic high school, St Joachim’s High School in Perth and spent a few years trying to figure out what to do with my life. I ended up falling in love with art and decided to pursue an art history degree at the University of Western Australia. Then in my late twenties I thought it was time I did something about my love of books and words and moved to Melbourne to try and work in publishing, which I did for a number of years before having a child and starting my own writing.

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

Twelve – no idea
Eighteen – Filmmaker: I loved the way films – images with music – could move you. I try to this with words. But I found that I wasn’t any good with a camera.
Thirty – Editor: I loved words so the idea of working with words as a profession was very attractive to me. I am doing that now, as a writer.

Silvia Kwon3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was very much a romantic, so I believed in the idea of a soulmate, but now I’m much more pragmatic and believe that love and relationships happen through coincidence, luck and chance as much as compatibility.

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?

1) The art of Mark Rothko
2) The films of Terrence Malick
3) Books by James Joyce

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

The simplicity and freedom associated with the act of putting ideas down on paper has always been attractive to me. There’s no complicated equipment like cameras or messy paintbrushes etc.

I also love words. I could sit and read the dictionary quite happily for an entire day.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

It’s about a family coming to terms with the son’s decision to bring home a Japanese wife during 1960s Australia. The father is deeply traumatised by his war experiences and still hates the former enemy.

The novel is told from the mother’s point of view and follows her struggle, caught between her husband and son, to hold the fractured family together.

Grab a copy of The Return here

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

That they took a journey with the main protagonist through the emotional landscape of the novel.

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

I really admire Toni Morrison for the power of her language.

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

To try and write a better book than the last.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

It’s actually something I heard Neil Gaiman say: There will always be better writers and smarter people than you. Just try to write something which only you could have written.

Silvia, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Return here

Naomi Wood, author of Mrs. Hemingway, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Naomi Wood

author of Mrs. Hemingway

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 grew up in York in the north of England. When I was eight my parents announced we were moving to Hong Kong. We’d never been to the continent of Asia, nevertheless China, and we’d certainly never been to Hong Kong. My dad worked for the international schools, and my sister and I had most of our schooling out there. Now she’s in Sydney, I’m in London and my parents are in Italy. We’re spread out like butter on the toast of the globe.

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

At twelve I told people I wanted to be “a bloodsucking lawyer”. It was a brattish answer that I stole from The Addams Family movie (my favourite, at that age; for a year I watched it every afternoon over a bowl of noodles, and can still remember most of the lines.) At eighteen I was getting vibes that I wanted to be a writer. I’m thirty now, and I write and teach Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University in London, which is a pretty good combination.

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

That writing would build me a big house and swimming pool. The economics of my dreams have shrunk a little.

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?

Reading The Old Man and the Sea made me interested in Hemingway and made me want to find out everything about him – that powerful sense of loss in all of its pages made me want to write about a troubled soul and his relationships with women.  My first novel, The Godless Boys, emerged after I set about writing a short-story based on what I saw in Lucian Freud’s painting The Village Boys. If I could produce something tonally close to the cascading elegy that is Anthony and the Jonson’s ‘Hope There’s Someone’ – I’d be very happy.

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

No good at painting. Can’t sing. Can dance, but only like an idiot. I love books – short-stories, novels and poetry, and I love language, so writing seemed the obvious artistic avenue.

6.     Please tell us about your latest novel…

Mrs. Hemingway is historical fiction, set between 1921-61 in France and America. It tells the story of Hemingway’s four marriages from the perspective of each wife (and former mistress) – Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh.

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

It’s definitely written for people who’ve never read any Hemingway before, so I hope people take away a portrait of him, as well as a portrait of his four incredible wives. And maybe they’ll go away and read some of Martha Gellhorn’s war reportage – or maybe some fiction of Hemingway’s.

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

I’ll choose a living writer here. I really love Marilynne Robinson’s work. I think she is a very robust, very beautiful writer. Gilead is one of my favourite novels.

the-old-man-and-the-sea9.     Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I set myself achievable rather than ambitious goals.  My current goal is to write a first draft of my third novel.

10.   What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Not to worry too much about early drafts. They’re exploratory and first stabs in the dark. I must admit this is advice I find very difficult to accept myself. I’d like things to be perfect right from the get-go. Maybe I’m quite like Wednesday Addams in this as well!

Naomi, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mrs. Hemingway here

Jennifer Smart, author of The Wardrobe Girl, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-wardrobe-girl-jennifer-smartThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jennifer Smart

author of The Wardrobe Girl

Ten Terrifying Questions

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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 Blayney, a small country town near Bathurst in NSW. But I grew up in Sydney, after a few years in Newcastle. I attended an all girls’ school on Sydney’s North Shore and am still haunted by the trauma of bottle green socks and Blackwatch tartan. Eventually, I escaped to Sydney University.

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

At the age of 12, I had grand schemes of being an architect, until someone mentioned some skill in maths was required. By 18, the idea of being Madonna a la Desperately Seeking Susan, was most appealing. My first timid scratchings of pen across blank pages started when I was about 30 and the idea that one day I could be a writer began to take hold.

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

At 18, when I wasn’t singing ‘Get Into The Groove’, I was convinced the world would end in a nuclear winter after the USSR sent missiles slamming into Pine Gap.

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?  

It’s so hard to narrow this down to 3 works of art, but this is my pick, Olympia by Edouard Manet; The Weeping Song by Nick Cave and Swan Lake by Graham Murphy for The Australian Ballet.

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

As my 7 year old daughter is a better artist than me and my pirouettes aren’t what they used to be, I turned to writing. I love the freedom a novel allows to explore the inner musings of the characters, to write descriptively and discover the world created by your imagination.

the-wardrobe-girl-jennifer-smart6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Wardrobe Girl follows the story of Tess Appleby, the new standby assistant on long-running Australian soap – Pretty Beach Rescue. It’s not quite the BBC, where until recently Tess has been working, but it should be an uncomplicated return to Sydney life after 8 years in London and a humiliating end to a relationship.

But, just like a soap opera plot, Tess’s life is soon anything but uncomplicated when the cast of characters, including the soap’s leading man, her retired actress mother and aspiring actress sister, the paparazzi, even her pet dog, Eric, all seem to conspire to create chaos.

Tess isn’t phased, not until the man who broke her heart 8 years ago arrives at Pretty Beach Rescue as a new Director. The Wardrobe Girl is loosely based on my experience working in the Australian TV industry, including 5 years on Home and Away.

Grab a copy of The Wardrobe Girl here

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

I hope people gain insights into the behind –the-scenes workings of a TV show, such as Home and Away. I also hope they are entertained and take pleasure in a world not destroyed by a nuclear winter.

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

Hilary Mantel for her sheer brilliance. Marion Keyes for extraordinary storytelling ability. Richard Flanagan’s beautiful prose. Jane Austen’s wit, wisdom and ability to capture the ‘universal truth’.

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

My most ambitious goal now is to write book 3, which requires me to first finish book 2! I have a children’s book, which is well underway and hankering to attempt a screenplay/TV mini-series.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I still consider myself an aspiring writer and the advice I remind myself of most often is – there is no ‘secret template’ to writing a book. The only way to write is to write. Trust your gut instincts, be careful of whose feedback you seek and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Jennifer, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Wardrobe Girl here

Karen Foxlee, author of Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

ophelia-and-the-marvellous-boyThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karen Foxlee

author of Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy

Ten Terrifying Questions

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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 Mount Isa in far North West Queensland.  It’s a mining town a long way from anywhere but an amazing place to grow up. Our playground was the dry Leichhardt River, a few streets away from house, and we spent hours exploring there.  Mum would send us off in the morning with a 2 litre bottle of water and tell us not to annoy any snakes. I went to Barkly Highway State School and later Mount Isa State High.

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

At twelve I wanted to be a writer, at eighteen a nurse (but secretly still wanted to be a writer) and at thirty, surprise, I wanted to be… a writer.

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

That I had to wear black stockings and boots with everything.

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?

Adam Ant – Ant music! I can remember hearing this as a ten year old girl in our small town in the middle of nowhere, and realising how huge and exciting and unknown the world was to me! It made me feel creative, this song, and it was…. thrilling. Still get goose-bumps when I hear this song. I am transported.

The Reader’s Digest book Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. I know! Not high literature but it had such a huge impact on me as a child.  My siblings and I LOVED it.  It was so terrifying and interesting and horrifying.  Fingernails that grow after death, ghosts, doppelgangers, auras, spirit writing, and my favourite (which scared me senseless) – spontaneous human combustion!!!! It fuelled much of my early fantasy writing.

And then, of course, Andersen’s The Snow Queen, read to me by my mum. This fairy-tale planted the seed of a love for quest stories and terrible villains. The Snow Queen has been lurking around in my head ever since.

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

It think because all my life I’ve had stories inside me wanting to be told.  I had to teach myself how to write and I still am learning every time I put pen to paper.  I can remember as a teenager always feeling like the words “controlled” me, not the other way around.  I had to learn how to control my prose.  I had to learn how to get those stories out of me. Every novel I’ve written I’ve learnt more about writing, about being creative and, most importantly, about myself.

6. Please tell us about your novel, Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy is about a little girl who peeks through a keyhole in a vast, crumbling museum and finds a boy being kept prisoner there.  Together, the pair of them, have to save the world from the wicked Snow Queen. There are frightening challenges and fearsome creatures and a giant clock ticking down to the end of time. Kids and adults who love quirky, fast-paced, exciting adventure fantasy, will love this story.

Publishers Blurb:

Eleven-year-old Ophelia might not be brave, but she certainly is curious. Her family is still reeling from her mother’s death, and in a bid to cheer everyone up, her father has taken a job at an enormous gothic museum in a city where it never stops snowing. Ophelia can’t wait to explore and quickly discovers an impossibility. In a forgotten room, down a dark corridor, she finds a boy, who says he’s been imprisoned for 303 years by an evil Snow Queen who has a clock that is ticking down towards the end of the world. A sensible girl like Ophelia doesn’t quite believe him, but there’s no denying he needs her help. Ghosts, wolves, misery birds, magical swords – and even fabled Snow Queens – do their very best to stop Ophelia. She will have to garner all her courage, strength and cleverness if she is to rescue this most Marvellous Boy.

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

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy is about the power of friendship and never, ever giving up.  I hope that’s what kids and adults alike take away from it.

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

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy I admire too many people to mention. There are so many wonderful Queensland writers right now! Kris Olsson, Melissa Lucashenko, Belinda Jeffrey, Christopher Currie, Chris Somerville, Annah Faulkner, Patrick Holland, Chris Bongers, Krissy Kneen.

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

To not be scared of the creative process and to be brave enough to write what moves me.  To keep learning and improving.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just write.  Write and write and write.  Don’t worry about blogging platforms and marketing and networking and websites.  Just write.  Love your stories.  It’s old-fashioned, I know, but that’s how you become a writer.

Karen, thank you for playing.

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Nicola Moriarty, author of Captivation and Paper Chains, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Guru asks

Nicola Moriarty

author of Captivation and Paper Chains

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 Sydney – but as that sounds a bit boring, I’ll be a little more specific. Let’s see, I was born in Hornsby, raised in Kellyville and schooled in Baulkham Hills. Nope, still not overly exciting. Ahh, if only I was born on a yacht in the Caribbean, raised in a jungle in Brazil and schooled in a boarding house in the country. Oh well.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books because one of my primary school teachers  (Mrs Walsh – she had cascading curly hair and I adored her) had made a big fuss over a story I wrote. When I was eighteen I wanted to be an actress because I was performing in various amateur theatre productions at the time and I loved the rush of being up in front of an audience and becoming a different person. At thirty I very much wanted to be a writer – so it’s lucky that that’s what I seem to be doing!

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

I believed that I would never get married because I thought that marriage was too conventional for me. Ha! I’ve been married now for just coming up to eight years.

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?

First off, Coldplay’s song ‘Warning Sign’ definitely helped me to write my first novel. I love listening to emotional music as I write, it helps me to get into the right head-space. Secondly, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult – I can specifically remember exactly where I was when I was reading the final chapter of this book. I remember being outside on our balcony in the apartment we used to rent in Parramatta, and there was a huge storm and when I read the final twist I absolutely SOBBED. And I thought, I would love to be able to affect readers in this way. Finally, the play ‘Death of a Salesman’ – however it wasn’t the actual play that reached me, it was while I was involved in an amateur theatre production of it. I had a very minor role, and while I and the rest of the cast were backstage I decided to write a spin-off for all the minor characters. Creating the small play and then watching it come to life (we performed it for the rest of the cast and crew on closing night) reminded me how much I loved creating something.

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

I love to write, it makes me happy, it’s hard to stop – simple as that!

paper-chains6.    Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest release was a supernatural romance novella called Captivation… But my latest full-length novel was called Paper Chains, and that’s about fate, friendship, post-natal depression, loss, love, London and Luna Park.

Grab a copy of Paper Chains here

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

First I want them to use my book to escape from the world for just a little while. And then I want them to be left with that feel-good glow, even if it’s just for the rest of the day after they finish reading. Finally I want them to be hungry for more words – and not necessarily just my words!

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

captivationCan I name two people, is that okay? Liane and Jaclyn Moriarty – my two wildly successful author sisters who encourage and support me and who’s novels I absolutely adore. When I read Liane’s books for the first time, I generally end up neglecting other things in my life because I can’t put it down – my writing, the washing that needs to be hung out, my children… her books make me laugh out loud and they make me cry and they twist my stomach. Jaci has an amazing ability to constantly reinvent herself. One minute she is writing YA fiction that connects with her readers on an unprecedented level, next she is creating a novel that is quirky and clever and sweet and sad. Now she’s moved on yet again – to a magical realism trilogy that is utterly delightful. How does she do that?!

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

Here is my most ambitious and ridiculously unachievable goal: I want to write a book that EVERYONE loves. I mean every single person who reads it, thinks that it is amazing. And even those people that haven’t read it, they just love the look of it. Oh and even those people that haven’t seen it or heard of it, they have this strange, psychic connection with it that they don’t quite understand, but they can identify that it is love for a work of fiction somewhere in the world. Too much? Yeah, I guess I got a bit carried away there didn’t I?

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write when you want to write, when you’re in the mood and you’re feeling creative. Let your fingers trip across the keyboard, let your pen run away with your hand. Try out different styles and different genres. Take a creative writing course. Eat chocolate. Quit smoking (contrary to Hollywood movies, you don’t need to be a sleep-deprived, chain-smoking, coffee-drinking struggling romantic to be a writer – although cappuccinos are okay).

Nicola, thank you for playing.

Check out Nicola’s books here

T.M.Clark, Author of My Brother-But-One, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

T.M.Clark

author of My Brother-But-One

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 Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and although I spent my junior school years in boarding school and on a ranch in Zimbabwe, my Senior school years (Standard 6 – 10 or as they say in Australia – Year 8 – 12) were in a small South African town called Kokstad, which is in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains.

During my years in Zimbabwe, you could usually find me riding my horse around, exploring our ranch, usually armed and with our 2 killer dogs running near by protecting me. Yes, I grew up in a war zone so it was necessary. But I knew such freedom during that time that I have never experienced since.

At senior school I no longer had my own horse, but would ride any of my friends one whenever I could, I also played any and every sport (except swimming… I don’t like swimming, maybe because I was always taught  ‘if you can’t see the bottom don’t get in as there might be a crocodile there’ or ‘the water might have bilharzia snails in it’ – but honestly me and actually swimming in water just don’t mix…)  and I don’t ever remember being bored growing up despite living permanently in a school boarding establishment.

I used to be a reluctant reader , although I read a lot and fast, once I started to actually read. I think my poor English teachers deserve gold stars for putting up with my really bad spelling all those years – although my one English teacher Mr Hinchliff doubled as the computer teacher, and I think he was way-way before his time, in that he once told me not to worry too much about my bad spelling, as computers would fix that all one day… and he was right.

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

Twelve: When I was about 8 years old, a vet visited our farm when a bull gored one of our horses. He stitched up that horse and he was as good as new/ Yet that vet was so gentle and so caring with that horse, and so wanting it to live and be okay. I just knew I wanted to be a vet from then on. So I practiced  – on frogs, and removed their appendix and stitched them back up and put them back in the reservoir…I can’t say that they lived…( I know barbaric when I think back on it…)  Until when I was fifteen, I discovered that in South Africa the only Veterinary Science University at that time was in Pretoria at the Onderstepoort campus, and it was all done in Afrikaans. My Afrikaans was dismal and I knew then I would never get into that university – and never be a vet.

At eighteen I was already working to pay for my first year at university by correspondence to study for an Accounting Degree – why? Because I was good at it and it came naturally to me, but also one teacher at school had said to me I should be an accountant.  With no other direction to go – it seemed like a better place than joining the army where my aunt wanted me to be…

At thirty I just wanted to get through each day and not drop a child from sleep deprivation. Yes seriously! I was living in England, and although I had a live out au pair for our two boys while I was at work, life was hectic. I had just gone back to work to complete my last few months of my Internal Quality Auditing Certification, and then we decided to move countries – again. At thirty I could only think of getting through each week, not a career in the future, but, lucky, I had already started fiction writing, so my trajectory in life was already changing.T.M.Clark

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

At eighteen I strongly believed that I wouldn’t marry until I was at least 30 years old. And then I would adopt children, because there were so many in the world that needed homes already. Both theories blown out the water… I was married just after I turned 22 years old (and in two weeks it is our 22nd wedding anniversary!) And I had delivered two of our own children naturally, before I was thirty!

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?

Book : Jock of the Bushvelt – Sir James Percy FitzPatrick. I have somehow managed to hold onto my copy from when I was like 10 years old. I remember my dad reading it to me, and I loved the story. At the time I didn’t realize how much impact it had on me. But now years later I realize that now I want to write stories that inspire as well as entertain readers, and my love for an African stories goes way way back…

Music: Johnny Clegg/Juluka/Savuka  – all their music – but especially December Africa Rain. This song was one of my theme tunes for My Brother-But-One. This music touches me and makes me remember Africa, its people and the stuggles and yet the hope of those same people, and I find I write from a well deep inside – not from my head.

Painting: I am not a big art fanatic, I can’t tell a Picasso from a Van Gogh. But when I saw the round stained glass window in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, I was in awe and I can remember just staring at it feeling really tiny and insignificant. It was so hard to believe that one man could think of creating something so huge that it dominated so much of the cathedral, and yet it was so beautiful and so soothing to those who looked at it.

As a writer, I still feel like that: tiny and insignificant, but now I know that I have started to share my ‘own pieces of art’ out into the world. It will never compare to the glass window in Notre Dame, it doesn’t have to. But it will be my own small contribution to the world, through my eyes and my heart, just as the window once was to someone else.

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

I love sewing, and I love creating interesting clothing to wear, I don’t however want to be the next Dior designer.  I love gardening and seeing things grow, from seeds , propagating whatever, I am always giving away plants to people, creating new flower beds, yet I’m not the next Jamie Durie. But, I have always told stories.

When I was really young, I made up these characters and would tell my sisters these stories. As the years past, so did that phase in life, but it reemerged when I had my own children, and once again, I would make up bedtime stories. But it wasn’t until my husband influenced the writing down of them, that I actually thought about ‘telling stories’ for others to read. And its just grown from there.

Some of this story My Brother-But-One is based on a few real events in my life. But mostly its fictional.

True – My dad’s family’s ranches were taken in the land distribution program in Zimbabwe. Even miles away on the other side of the world, I was so effected by this immense loss and tragic event.

False – the scene depicting this in the book. I didn’t capture it as it happened exactly, I write fiction remember…

This book wanted to tell the story. If I didn’t write this story, it would drive me nuts as it would never shut up inside my head.  (No, I’m not schizophrenic or on medication for mental illness…) This story has been cooking for many years, its evolved sure, but once I was writing it, it wanted to be told, and there wasn’t much I could do to stop telling it. Even if it never got published, as long as the story was told, the characters were happy and I can move onto the next one that has been pushing to the front, waiting to be written…

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Scott Decker and Zol Ndhlovu are partners in a private game ranch in Zimbabwe. They have a friendship borne from Africa — a brotherhood that endures the generation gap — and crosses the colour barrier. Australian Ashley Twine is a thirty-something dynamic achiever and a confident businesswoman. When a gender mix-up secures her a position on a volunteer program in the Hwange National Park, Ashley gets a chance to take stock of her life and reassess her situation. But the chauvinistic Scott — who runs the operation — is adamant she isn’t cut out for the job.

After Ashley witnesses first-hand the devastation left behind by poachers, Scott finds himself torn between wanting to protect Ashley or force her to leave Africa for her own safety…and his sanity. However, nothing can prepare her for being ambushed and held captive by the psychopathic Rodney — an old enemy of Zol’s — from a war fought years ago. But now that their world has been threatened, circumstances take hold of their lives and begin to shape and change them forever.

Set against a magnificent backdrop of Africa across the decades, I explore both the challenges and the traditions between the white and black families of rural Africa.

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

A feeling of hope, and acceptance that a family unit isn’t necessarily made up of the traditional 1 man + 1 women + 2 kids = perfect family. I want readers to fall in love and want to visit Africa, but, mostly for just a moment, to feel rhythm of the African rhythm in their hearts too as they read. And if the reader can somehow help stop the slaughter of the wild life because of the new love they feel, all the better!

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

Jean M. Auel- The Children of the Earth Series. Her books are so real, so full of detail that you can almost feel that you are back in time in that period in history and its all tangible. Her intricate novels have captivated me for years.
Robin Hobb – All her books, but I was captivated by The Rain Wild Chronicles and her Liveship Traders Trilogy, again, it’s the details that get me, her world seems real and I lose myself in it while reading her books.

In my genre – Tony Park. Tony is an Australian who is living there six months of the year, and writing these amazing stories that pin-point exactly the pulse of Africa.  Again, his attention to details is amazing. Yet, he still has time to give to any charity that helps the people or animals in Africa. And Tony is encouraging to up coming writers, never brushing them aside. He sent me my cover quote when he was camping in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and he found he had cell coverage – that is dedication! I’m sure Nicola his wife will tell you he has fault, but to me Tony is the perfect colonial gentleman author.

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

Maybe a better word for that would be ‘dreams’ because some things that happen are out of an author’s control. My dream would be to sell world rights. I would so love to see my books in the USA, England, South Africa, Russia, China and all the territories, and see translations, that must be so neat, and I would ‘dream’ of visiting each place my book was published in to see it there, as I am a gypsy at heart and love an excuse to travel! Also, I have a cousin who doesn’t read, but if my book was an audio book, he would get to hear it, so the audio rights too…

Friends of mine have had their books turned into Manga. I think it would be so cool to have your book in a manga style… perhaps its that little bit in me that loves that an adult book can have pictures in it!!!

Dreams – Oh hell lets got the whole hog – would love to see this book as a movie – sitting next to Out Of Africa, Gorillas in the Mist and e-Lollipop as a classic one day….LOL

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

2 things…

1. Just write the book that you want to, make your dream happen.

2. There are so many avenues open to authors, don’t rush at the first opportunity that comes along. Stop, think with your business head, take your time and get it right if you are publishing anything.  Writing might be your passion, but it’s your business, so treat it with professional courtesy.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been interesting doing these questions. I thought at first glance they were not so terrifying as the six sexy ones I did with Haylee Nash at the RWA Conference in Perth in August – but I was wrong. They seriously are terrifying, but fun too!

Tina, thank you for playing.

Pick up a copy of My Brother-But-One here

Amanda Prowse, Author of A Little Love, Clover’s Child, What Have I Done and more answers Ten Terrifying Questions

a-little-loveThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Amanda Prowse

author of A Little Love, Clover’s Child, What Have I Done? 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?

I was born in East London (for anyone that hasn’t been there, think of the glamour of the West End, the shiny lobbies of smart hotels and the plush department stores – well, where I come from was the exact opposite, grubby, poor and cramped. But we was ‘appy!) I lived there surrounded by my loud extended family until my mid teens when my life ended.

My parents uprooted me from my friends, Saturday job at Camden Market and all that I held dear and moved me to North Yorkshire – the countryside aaaagh! Where I swapped make-up for wellington boots and live gigs for farmers markets, it was bliss. I have 3 brothers to whom I am very close. My parents had me when they were in their teens and my childhood was one of noise, laughter and the sense that we were all figuring it out as we went along, which was sometimes exciting, often a little scary.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be Jennifer McCulloch, she was in my class and had big boobs and a big house, nuff said.

When I was eighteen I wanted to change the world, fight social injustice and make a difference (at 46 I still do!) I thought I would do it via journalism and raging against the machine.

At thirty I wanted to be eighteen again. amanda-prowse

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

At eighteen I genuinely believed that a movement based on ‘Niceness and Compassion’ could be so infectious that it might start the change the planet needed. ‘Enough For All’ if everyone played fair – be it with food, money, love… I now think there are some people with so much that the idea of sharing and ‘giving something up’ is so terrifying that it’s impossible. This makes me sad. (and won’t stop me trying!)

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?

As a teenager I devoured music with passion, absorbing as much as I could. I still do, but am much more particular about what I listen to. It was not unusual in my teens to find me listening to Depeche Mode (Speak & Spell), Bowie (ChangesTwo) and then crying on the sofa at the magic of Etta James. One of my brothers would then punch me and tell me to snap out of it and normality would be restored.

I guess through my love of music, I learnt that what you love and what will shape you, is dependent on your mood and circumstance. It’s no different with writing – you have to keep it fluid and accessible.

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

I guess primarily because I am singularly useless at anything else! But also because I have a love of words, the way they look on a page, the way they can stay hovering in your mind long after that book is shut and because for me, it’s the easiest way to paint a picture.

a-little-love6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest novel is called A Little Love and has been described as a fairy-tale for the modern woman – which I love! It is the story of Pru Plum – a successful baker and businesswoman who falls in love for the first time at 66.

The backdrop is the rich, indulgent world of gourmet cakes and dough and I hope sends out the message that you never know what twist or turn your life is about to take – love and adventure can strike at any time if you are brave enough to let it!

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

I hope that I write tales that stimulate debate and discussion. What would you do in my heroine’s shoes? Did you approve of her choices? But mainly I hope to create stories that stop you from turning off the bedside lamp at night, no matter how early that alarm clock is set because you have to read one more chapter…

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

Phew – so many! I repeatedly return to the work of Isabel Allende and I learn something new every time I re-read her novels. I love her style, characters and the sensory feast that awaits me on every page. However, as I have stated before my favourite book of all time is The Book Thief . It moved me, it changed me and I know there is a movie out now, but if I’m being honest, I’m frightened to go and see it for fear of damaging the imagery in my head. It is a perfect novel and I can only throw clichéd statements at it a rollercoaster, a page-turner, it stayed with me. All however are absolutely true.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?what-have-i-done-

My goal is simply to continue writing as I consider what I do to be an absolute privilege. I don’t deserve accolades I’m not driving an ambulance or serving my country, I simply write stories, but to earn a living by doing something I love so dearly – now that’s really something.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I have this sign on my kitchen wall ‘Persevere – never, ever, ever give up.’ And I so I think it would be that.

It’s really tough to get your work read and I am sure that many wonderful novels never get to break through the surface. Every writer gets rejected; use that criticism and feedback as fuel and act on all the advice. Tenacity, luck and honing your craft can only help in your quest.

Also, you don’t need to be a bestseller to get an enormous amount of joy from writing – whether it’s keeping a journal or writing a letter, do what brings you joy!

Amanda, thank you for playing.

Pick up a copy of A Little Love here

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