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

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Claire Zorn

author of  The Protected and The Sky So Heavy  

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Claire Zorn

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

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

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

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

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

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

Grab a copy of Claire’s book The Protected here

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

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

Claire, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Protected here


The Protected

by Claire Zorn

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

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

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

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

 Grab a copy of The Protected here

Karina Machado, author of Love Never Dies, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karina Machado

author of Love Never Dies, Spirit Sisters and Where Spirits Dwell

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 Uruguay (but am the non-bitey type). My family left our little country when I was two and the choice was between Australia and Canada. I think the brochures for Australia were prettiest, so we ended up here. After a short stint at the Endeavour Hostel for Migrants in Sydney’s Coogee (now the site of luxury housing) we settled in nearby Eastlakes, where I went to primary school. Later, I attended J.J. Cahill Memorial High School in Mascot, reputedly the toughest school around. Luckily, we had a great year and inspiring teachers (hi Mrs Slattery and Mr Johnson!) and I never even came close to getting my head flushed down the loo.

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

12: A writer. I’d realised by age 4 that I was in love with words and stories. When I was in year 3 I wrote a poem called The Hungry Sea that Miss Griffin pinned up on the classroom wall, so this seemed to confirm that I was on the right path.

18: A magazine editor. Ok, so I still wanted to write books, but by now I’d worked out that I would need to sustain myself somehow until that dream came to fruition, so I figured that a job in magazines would be the best way to do this, without hindering the original dream. I’d grown up on Smash Hits and Dolly and may have thought that being the ed of a mag would be all pop stars and hilarity. Of course, after two decades in magazines (give or take a few to have babies and try freelancing) I’ve realised that I couldn’t have been more mistaken! I tip my hat every day to the ed of Who, where I work; being the editor of a magazine is a 24-hour gig. We do laugh a lot though, at least I was right there.

30: An author: I’d just had my second child, just 18 months after the first. He was born the day before September 11 and the world beneath my feet seemed to be cracking. I’d taken a voluntary redundancy from work to look after my babies, but clearly remember staring longingly at my bookshelves during night feeds. The sight of them cut through the mind-numbing exhaustion and fears about the state of the world. I didn’t have time to read the books, but just looking at them, knowing I’d get back to them one day, offered a measure of comfort and peace. It reminded me of my original passion for books, and of how, one day, I hoped I too could bring hope and solace to readers through writing a book of my own.

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

Author Karina Machado

I was very hard on myself, especially in thinking I had to look and be a certain way. I look back on photos now and think, ‘What did you have to complain about??’ I was also a bit ashamed of my quiet nature, thinking I had to be another way, especially if I wanted to be a journalist. Now I know that being quiet and non-intimidating can be a big plus in journalism: it allows people’s stories to just pour into me.

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?

1: Golden Books. I was probably 2 when I first got one, not long after we arrived from Uruguay, and maybe 4 when I taught myself to read them. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love stories. My mum is a wonderful writer and poet, and I’m certain that I inherited her love of words … but if I had to pinpoint a time when I can first recall books in my life, it was Golden Books. Looking back, I was an immigrant child who’d lost her entire large extended family in one fell swoop. I think books filled the void, in a way. I learned to associate them with love and comfort, and never wanted to be far from them. That’s still the case today.

2: When I was about 7, my mum shared with me some experiences that she’d had as a young woman growing up in Uruguay. These experiences were instances of precognition, of sensing the future, specifically, the imminent deaths of loved ones. These stories opened me to the possibility that there was more to life than what we see and know, that mysteries abound. I found this exciting! It spoke of hope… it also taught me about the power of storytelling.

3. Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende: I was in my late teens or early 20s when I first tackled García Márquez. I was stunned, winded, by his novels—his dexterity of language, his breadth of imagination, the sheer beauty of his words. He left an imprint on my heart, as did Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits a little later on. Both huge influences on my work. Many years later, I was lucky enough to interview Isabel Allende as part of my job as the books editor at Who magazine. I found her a kindred spirit—like me, tiny and overly fond of makeup!

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?

Not at all, see above! To me, books spell comfort, healing, joy and love, I can’t see how they’ll ever be obsolete.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Love Never Dies is a celebration of love that transcends death. It is full of stories of everyday Australians who’ve had an experience of sensing the spirit of someone they’ve loved and lost. It is my third book on the subject of life after death, and the seed for this one was planted in my earlier books. Those were a broader look at paranormal experiences, but each also contained a chapter about people who’d sensed the spirit of a loved one. I was struck by how powerful these experiences were, how they changed the outlook of the beraved person—the experiences were life-changing, and, in some cases, life-saving—and decided that I would love to dedicate an entire book to these kinds of stories.

Grab a copy of Karina’s latest book Love Never Dies here

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

If my work could inspire people to appreciate the loved ones in their lives while they’re with them, that would be wonderful. Beyond that, if my work could encourage people to be kinder, not only in their dealings with precious people around them but also with other people in the community, from neighbours to the Lollipop Lady, I’d be a happy writer. I’m with the Dalai Lama when he says: “My religion is kindness.”

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

This is very difficult! It is a long list and it’s growing (a good thing, no?). I’ll have to cheat and tell you about two people who are on it today: first, a lady I saw on Dateline, who puts her safety on the line every day to run a school for the impoverished children of Brazil’s favelas. My heart was bursting watching that. I’m passionate about children’s literacy but she’s actually out there, making it happen in her third-world country, just over the border from the third-world country I was born in. Something to aspire to. The other person who’s on my list today is my daughter, Jasmin. She’s 14 and has just brought home the most outstanding report! I’m so proud of how hard she works for her results. She inspires me everyday to just put my head down and get the job done, no complaints.

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

I would like to try my hand at fiction … other than that, my goals involve helping others. I’d like to find a way to encourage children to read and be passionate about books, because that opens the door to a brighter future.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I will not be the first writer to say this, but, ‘Be true to yourself.’ Follow that gut instinct that tells you you’re on the trail of a good story, the right thing for you to commit to the page. And don’t worry if you’re that teenager who loves reading and writing but hates drawing attention to yourself and would rather sneak under the radar at every opportunity. I’m here to tell you it won’t always be that way. Some day, you’ll be happy to get up and tell a lot of people about your work, stories you’ve gathered because your kind face and quiet demeanour allowed subjects to pour their stories into you, without fear.

Karina, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Love Never Dies here


Love Never Dies

by Karina Machado

“Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.” – Emily Dickinson

This is a book about the indestructibility of love. Journalist and author Karina Machado spoke to over 60 Australians with stories of post-death contact. She shares their life-shattering experience of loss, and shows how their spiritual contact with a deceased lover, friend or family member brought peace, hope and the solace of knowing that their connection lives on.

There is the story of a teenage boy who appears in bodily form on the eve of his funeral to bring comfort to his sister. A young husband returns to his widow in time to prevent another tragedy. A grandmother arrives to lovingly care for the infant children of her grief-stricken daughter. A man soothes his heartbroken brother with an otherworldly embrace.

Written with grace and compassion, Love Never Dies is as much about the power of loving relationships as it is the phenomenon of the survival of consciousness beyond death.

 Grab a copy of Love Never Dies here

Hugh O’Brien, author of Undaunted, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Hugh O’Brien

author of Undaunted

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 on a farm, ‘Marree’ in Greenethorpe, on the southern inlands of NSW. We ran sheep and wheat; it was a childhood of adventure and survival, noting that I had 3 brothers to contend with. I was then sent to boarding school at 10yrs old, to St Joseph’s College in Sydney. Here, rugby was the school’s religion and you had to keep your wits about you – good training for the military really.

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

When I was 12 I wanted to be Indiana Jones; adventure seemed to me to be the only thing that held any value. If it wasn’t dangerous, I wasn’t interested! When I was 18 all I could think about was rugby, I wanted to be a wallaby; unfortunately they don’t select 55kg, 5 foot high weaklings to play front row for Australia! When I was 30 I wanted to be a private security contractor and former special forces solider – both of which I already WAS – so that worked out fine (haha).

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

Author Hugh O’Brien

That strength, size and rugby prowess was the true measure of a man. I now know that there are other barometers for success.

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?

Lets go with 3 books, because that’s really what made me believe in a world outside that which I existed.
1. ‘Musashi’ by Eiji Yoshikawa. It is a story of a great Samurai who really existed however, the story is fictionalised. It’s lessons and values about honour and sacrifice saturated my core – and still do.
2. ‘A Fortunate Life‘ by A.B. Facey. It is one boy’s adventure in a harsh land that made me aware fear should not govern your path in life.
3. ‘The Illiad‘ by Homer. A book every solider should read, for it encompasses the dichotomy of a soldier’s rationale for war and held a mirror up to my desire for it.

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 didn’t really ‘choose’ to write a book – as I began to jot down the events of my life in order to understand them – it just sort of happened. To me, the idea that books are obsolete is ridiculous; the tactile visceral nature of a printed paper book is a sacred thing and will never be replaced.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

‘Diving was a boy’s own adventure, a jump into the unknown full of devil-may-care attitudes. It welcomed you with one hand and cast you asunder with the other. It was a hideous bitch goddess and it drank the blood of the unprepared.’

It’s the story of how I got into Australia’s special forces and the many trials and tribulations of seeking adventure wherever I could

Grab a copy of Undaunted here

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

Hard question for sure. I’d be happy if one kid read it and I made him/her think that they could do more with their life – that they weren’t hamstrung by circumstance or ability. To simply endure hardship and attempt the impossible are endeavours worth pursuing.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I most admire the instructors I had in the military and the guys in the army, navy and air force still fighting the global war on terror. It’s a fight worth engaging in and we owe a great debt to those still fighting it.

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

My goal is to keep attempting things outside the scope of my ability; it’s very easy to do stuff you’re good at, the challenge lies in striving for the unreachable.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

My advice for writers is to do just that: write. Just get it down, smash it out – even if it’s bad the first time – get your ideas down on the paper Hunter S. Thompson style then go back and work on making it good. Reading a s**t load helps too!

Hugh, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Undaunted here


UNDAUNTED

by Hugh O’Brien

‘Diving was a boys-own adventure, a jump into the unknown, full of devil-may-care attitudes. It welcomed you with one hand and cast you asunder with the other. It was a hideous bitch goddess and it drank the blood of the unprepared.’

After an ordinary childhood, Hugh ‘Obi’ O’Brien’s life has been surprising. What took this sporty country boy from Sydney boarding school to directionless youth to navy clearance diver, slipping undetected through deep waters to defuse mines and dismantle bombs? Upping that level of adrenaline, Obi joined the Special Forces counterterrorism unit TAG (East) – no picnic.

In a memoir full of eye-popping anecdotes, he colourfully recounts this wild ride. He reveals the painful transition from military life to his days risking ‘spaghettification’ on underwater construction projects to private security work – pirate-hunting in the Red Sea and tearing along the world’s most dangerous roads in the Middle East.

Undaunted is for anyone who’s ever dreamed of taking a high-action, alternative route through life. This is an engaging and unexpected account by an operator at once tough, whimsical and funny, and always brutally honest.

 Grab a copy of Undaunted here

Nikki Parkinson, author of Unlock Your Style, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nikki Parkinson

author of Unlock Your Style

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 regional Queensland – Maryborough – a town once famous for having the most pubs per capita in Queensland and now famous for being the birthplace of Mary Poppins’ author P.L. Travers.

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

12: A teacher. I’m from a family of teachers. It was pretty much all I knew.

18: A journalist. I was in my first year of uni and studying journalism. My school guidance officer had told me since I was good at English that I should give it a go. Something I did give a go for 20 years.

30: A magazine editor. It had always been a dream but life had taken me a different way. I was lucky that new opportunities at the newspaper where I worked came my way and I edited a weekly glossy magazine.

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

I believed that you went into the profession that you trained/studied for and stayed there. Today I’ve proved that’s not the case and this and the next generation of professionals will show us that life will be a series of career chapters.

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?

1. I grew up in a family that treasured books and encouraged us to read. My Dad was head of English at my high school and he always said to me, “it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read something”. Words – reading and writing them – were always valued.

2. Leaving the country town in which I grew up and heading to Brisbane to go to university will always be a defining moment in my life. Meeting life-long friends, learning that the world really is a big one – there for the taking – and embracing my journalism degree have had an effect to this day.

3. Deciding in 2008 to leave my relatively secure job as a journalist when the first of the media redundancies started was a big, big move on my part. I’d always played it safe. Instead I decided to back myself and start my own business. I’m so glad I did.

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?

My book has come about because of my blog so I think they sit well together. Unlock Your Style started as a series on my blog, became a self-published e-book and was then picked up by Hachette and expanded into a book form. My readers were excited about that – they told me they love reading my blog every day but also haven’t lost the love of holding a physical book.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Busy women are crying out for help in creating or re-discovering their personal style. I know this from the thousands who read my blog each month and the number of emails I receive asking for advice. It’s more than just clothes and lippy. How we present ourselves for any particular day or occasion can affect our confidence levels.

My aim with Unlock Your Style is to take women on a simple process to find a confidence that will help them take on whatever the day throws at them. The format is part workbook, part stories (embarrassing style stories included) and part visual.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

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

If just one woman feels more confident returning to the workforce, leaving to become a mum, going on a first date after a broken relationship or just in the every day by reading Unlock Your Style, then my job is done. The ripple effect of that confidence will spill over into her family and community life.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

My girlfriends who are in business always inspire me. We support each other in times of stress and celebrate in times of victory. Without them this would be a very lonely business journey.

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

My goal every day is to be able to combine my work with my family life in a way that’s flexible but still exciting and challenging for me. If I’m meeting that then I’m ready for any opportunities that might come my way. I plan out my weeks and months but I don’t have a five-year-plan. What I’m doing now as a full-time blogger (and now author) didn’t exist as an opportunity five years ago. Who knows what the next five years will bring?

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Start a blog. Don’t wait for someone to publish you. Publish yourself. The very act of writing on daily basis will improve the way you write and by building a community around your blog you’ll be more attractive to a potential publisher.

Nikki, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Unlock Your Style here

Owen Beddall, author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Owen Beddall

author of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant

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 Darwin to Aboriginal/European parents and then raised in Grafton on the North Coast of NSW. I went to school in Grafton and university in Sydney.

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

I was addicted to the show LA Law when I was 12 and I always wanted to be a lawyer. I thought being a lawyer involved walking around in glamorous outfits, pointing your finger and winning arguments.

When I was 18, I still wanted to be a lawyer and actually went off to UNSW to study, but mostly at 18 I wanted to be able to be openly gay and living my life. When I was 30, I was travelling all over the world and I really wanted to write a book or make television documentaries.

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

Author: Owen Beddall

At 18 I saw the world as black and white and I thought that if I was intelligent that it would combat everything and I concentrated on study. As I got older and had a more world persective, I realised study was important but life experience and travel was equally important and that the world wasn’t necessarily black and white.

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?

In my family life, my father died when I was a young adult and my brother and sister were still very young (at school) and my mother was thrust in the position of being a single parent over night. It taught me, very early on that life isn’t to be taken for granted and is fragile.

In my career, after September 11 happened, I saw the whole world as we knew it transformed and the innocence and freedom we had enjoyed was no longer. Everyone was more cautious and cultures and people all became sceptical of each other.

In reading, the book that most effected me was April Fool’s Day. It was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic and it was such a beautiful love story. It really opened my eyes and very closely after came the life changing movie, Philadelphia.

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?

Call me a traditionalist but I love books. There is nothing quite like thumbing through a book and taking it with you to the park or a bar or on the train or PLANE with you. When I finish a book, it usually has red wine stains and coffee stains and dog ears throughout.

Also, a book is something to keep forever and it is such an achievement and honour to be published.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My latest book is called Confessions of a QANTAS Flight Attendant and it documents my career as a flight attendant from the beginning through to leaving just recently. Throughout the book, I address things that shaped my career and the flying world such as September 11, Mumbai bombings and the anthrax terrorism in the UK. I walk you through the different destinations that I flew to and show you my adventures, good and bad. There is my accession into being a first class flight attendant and meeting all of the celebrities such as Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Lily Allen, Cate Blanchett, Princess Anne and Venus Williams, to name but a few.

Intersecting this story is my recovery from a severe, life-changing injury in which I broke my back and had to learn to walk again and make the long road back to being an International Flight Attendant.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

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

It would be poverty and or terminal disease. I have been to some places where there is such extreme poverty such as Africa and India and to see mothers begging for some unpolluted water for their babies or people laying in tips and children in orphanages, it’s just heartbreaking. I would change that and equal out the system for everyone and medicine and hygiene available to all.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I would say that I most admire Nelson Mandela. He was a freedom fighter and always fought for what he believed in (and what I believe in), which is equality. When he got into power he treated his captors with dignity and respect and set out to heal and educate. He was considered a terrorist at the time because his ideas and intelligence placed him well outside the bell curve (which important people don’t like) and he changed not only South Africa but the world. I thank my lucky stars for him, every day.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?april-fool-s-day-popular-penguins

I want to have my own talk show, similar to Graham Norton’s interviewing all of the fabulous stars and more from my book and I want to write another book/movie! I’d also like to pursue a luxury travel show and work on something similar to Getaway.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Know your story well and how it will unfold. Also know who your audience (or main audience). Target the right publisher and then build your brand alongside your book. Your social media and press is as important as the book itself.

If you get knocked back, don’t be disheartened – ask why and look for ways to improve it. Go away and take the advice.

Most of all be true to yourself and enjoy it.

Owen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here


Confesions of a Qantas Flight Attendantconfessions-of-a-qantas-flight-attendant

by Owen Beddall

Want to know what really goes on on an aeroplane? Let’s go behind the scenes and fly high with these tall tales and gossip from the galley! Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on.

In Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant – True Tales and Gossip from the Galley, Owen Beddall dishes the dirt – he tells you the things you always wanted to know (and maybe a few things you didn’t) about the glamorous world of flying.

This book is packed with cabin crew adventures and misadventures in and out of that smart uniform in far flung places. There’s sex, drugs and lots of celebrity gossip; Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue, Venus Williams and Cate Blanchett – are all in the galley having a gossip with Owen. Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant is a hilariously bumpy ride around the world with a very funny man.

Grab a copy of Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant here

Karen Miller, author of The Falcon Throne, first book in the The Tarnished Crown Series, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karen Miller

author of The Falcon Throne, The Prodigal Mage 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?

Well, I was born in Vancouver, Canada, but at the age of 2 moved to my mother’s homeland of England. We stayed there for a while, then eventually shifted again — back to my father’s homeland, Australia. And aside from a 3-year stint of my own in the UK, after university, that’s where I’ve stayed – in and around Sydney … aside from some pretty regular globe-trotting.  I did most of my primary schooling at Hornsby Heights public, then high school was split between Asquith Girls and Galston High.

My Bachelor of Arts degree was done at what used to be the Institute of Technology (now the University of Technology) – Hugh Jackman’s old stomping ground! Pity I was ahead of him … *g* I followed that up some years later with a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature (or Kiddy Litter, as I call it). I was offered a place in a Master’s Degree for Creative Writing at the University of Western Sydney, but the course convenor was such a pretentious snob about genre literature that I told her to shove it. At this point no plans for any future degrees, but I guess you never say never.

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

A writer,  a writer and a writer. I mean, I flirted with other ideas like English/History teacher (my favourite subjects) or veterinarian (because I love animals) but underneath it all, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. A storyteller.

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

Author: Karen Miller

That I would never be happy. And now I am.

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?

Well, in no particular order …

At university, where I majored in Creative Writing, I was young and nowhere near ready to write novels. I’m a classic late bloomer in that respect. But I remember in one elective, I think it was Writing for Children, we were given an exercise where we had to write 3 vignettes, a single scene each. One of the things I wrote about was the time my guinea pig was killed by a visitor’s child, who ignored me when I said don’t pick him up. She did, she dropped him, she broke his back and he died. I was maybe 8 or 9. So I wrote about that, and the comment came back from the lecturer that I’d made her cry, I’d made her professional writer friend cry, and that no matter what happened in my life I must never give up writing because I had a gift. Regardless of the turmoil and doubts I experienced in the years that followed, her expression of faith in me was a small bright light of hope.

Many years later, while I had the bookshop, I was still struggling to make the writing dream come true. I got involved with what was then the Del Rey Online Writers Workshop (now the SFF Online Writers Workshop, and highly recommended). I submitted two pieces of work, both from early drafts of what were to become The Innocent Mage and Empress. The Innocent Mage piece was selected as runner-up Editor’s Choice best fantasy, and the Empress piece was subsequently selected as Editor’s Choice best fantasy. Both of those independent assessments of my work kept me going at a time when I despaired of ever being published.

The third big event is actually a combo job — Stephanie Smith’s championing of me at HarperCollins Voyager, leading to my first fantasy publishing contract for the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker duology. That first contract was truly life-changing, because it was an unarguable expression of belief in my worth as a storyteller. I have no words to express what I owe Stephanie. Flowing on from that was the offer from Orbit UK to publish those books. This is what I mean when I say so much of the publishing game is luck. A number of other international publishers had passed on the books, and at least one wanted me to rewrite them first. Again, I began to wonder if I’d ever be published anywhere other than Australia/New Zealand. But then Tim Holman put his faith in me, and that’s when my career really pushed on. Again, there are no words to express what I owe him and the whole Orbit team.

And here’s one more — the books that changed my writing most are the Lymond Chronicles, by the late, great Dorothy Dunnett. She showed me a different way of writing, and taught me more than just about anyone about the power of emotion and character in story and how point of view informs the narrative.

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

Now you’re just stirring shite … *g*

Okay. No. I don’t think books are obsolete. They’re a particular kind of storytelling, a unique experience for the imagination, a very intimate conversation between storyteller and audience. Only books give you a theatre of the mind, can take you somewhere else no matter where you are, with the turn of a page. The only way books will become obsolete is if we let them, if we permit that storytelling venue to be discarded, forgotten — or if we so continue to degrade our standards of education in schools that all we produce at the end of the process are classes full of barely functioning illiterates. Who then go on to write books that are all but unintelligible.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

This new book, The Falcon Throne, is the first in a series called The Tarnished Crown. It’s epic historical fantasy, the most ambitious story I’ve ever tackled. Frankly, it scares the crap out of me. Possibly because of my theatre background I tend to think of my books as acts in a play. That means each book, while having self-contained elements and story/character arcs, also pushes the greater narrative forward. There is an overall beginning, middle and end to the series, and each novel is part of that journey. In keeping with the subgenre of epic historical fantasy, there’s politicking and warfare and necromancy and romance and death and family dynamics, love and loss, triumph and tragedy. None of the characters emerge unscathed from their adventures, nobody ends up with clean hands or an unsullied conscience. But that’s not to say it’s a dystopian or nihilistic story. I believe history shows us that even in the darkest times there are people of honour and courage and integrity, who make living worthwhile. My faith may get a bit battered from time to time, but I do believe in the ultimate worth of humanity – and that’s what I try to explore in my fiction.

So, to be a little more specific, The Falcon Throne is about three struggling dynasties sharing a common past. In the duchy of Harcia, Aimery frets over what will become of his land and his people when he dies and his heir, Balfre, is made duke. His lack of trust in his older son is the catalyst for events that are destined to change his duchy – the known world – for ever. To Harcia’s south, beyond the buffering stretch of land known as the Marches, lies the duchy of Clemen. Its duke, Harald, is not loved. Desperate to end his tyranny, his barons seek to overthrow him, placing his bastard cousin on the throne – and in doing so set Clemen on a dark path. And across the narrow Moat, in the Principality of Cassinia, the widowed duchess of Ardenn fights to protect the rights of her daughter, Catrain, who should follow in her father’s footsteps and rule their duchy like any son born. But the alliances she’s made in order to see that done will have lasting repercussions for every nation within her reach.

And so the opening gambits of the greater game are played ….

Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here

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

An enormous emotional satisfaction. Relief that they’ve not wasted their money. I just want readers to get caught up in the story, to believe in and feel for the characters, to get the kind of buzz from the tales I tell that I get from the stories I’ve enjoyed over the years.

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

Again, it’s a combo. My parents.  My father was born at the tail-end of the Great Depression, and grew up during World War II. He grew up in very very tough circumstances, and he worked his arse off, and became hugely successful in two different careers. Never once did he look for hand outs, or blame other people for the fact that he lacked many many advantages. He just put his head down and worked for what he wanted, through all kinds of challenges and setbacks. And even though he’s been successful, he’s never let success change him. There’s not an ounce of pretension or snobbery in him. He takes people as he finds them, no matter who they are or where they come from. As for my mother, even though her background was less challenging, she too has always worked really hard and, like Dad, has never let success change her. She’s unfailingly compassionate and generous, giving to others whenever they need.  When it comes to living a decent life, I couldn’t have asked for better role models.

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

To sell more books. To be a writer who helps change the oft-frustrating impression that women can’t write epic fantasy, that only men understand heroism and mateship and war. To inspire other writers who worry and wonder if they’ll ever be good enough.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t ever assume you’re owed anything. Publishing is a business, so be businesslike. The most important element of the game is the reader. If they love your work, if they hate your work, they’re right. You don’t get to decide what a good read is for someone else, even when it’s your own work in question. Never ever forget that your job is to tell an entertaining story. Get down off the soapbox and don’t lecture. Never be satisfied, always look for ways to challenge yourself, to improve your craft. Welcome constructive criticism. Don’t be precious. And when the going gets tough, stop, take a moment, and fall in love with story all over again. Reconnecting with love of story will help you through the roughest patches.

Karen, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here


the-falcon-throneThe Falcon Throne

by Karen Miller

The start of a major new epic fantasy series from the internationally bestselling Australian author of The Innocent Mage.

Nobody is innocent. Every crown is tarnished. A royal child, believed dead, sets his eyes on regaining his father s stolen throne. A bastard lord, uprising against his tyrant cousin, sheds more blood than he bargained for. A duke s widow, defending her daughter, defies the ambitious lord who d control them both. And two brothers, divided by ambition, will learn the true meaning of treachery. All of this will come to pass, and the only certainty is that nothing will remain as it once was. As royal houses rise and fall, empires are reborn and friends become enemies, it becomes clear that much will be demanded of those who follow the path to power. A major new epic fantasy begins.

 Grab a copy of The Falcon Throne here

Rachael Craw, author of Spark, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rachael Craw

author of Spark

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 beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand, and lived there until earthquakes broke our house and destroyed our neighbourhood in 2011/12. Whenever we go back to visit, the empty green paddocks of the eastside, post-demolition, make my heart sore. I hate that my girls will never know the city I knew, so many of our precious landmarks are gone. Now we live at the top of the South Island in sunny Nelson and I rather fancy my new small-town life. It suits me.

Growing up, I went to Burnside High School where I was greatly inspired by my English teacher Ms McColl. She took our creative writing class to my first ever Writer’s Festival in Dunedin where I sat in the audience moony eyed at the poetry of David Eggleton. At the University of Canterbury I majored in Classical Studies and Drama expecting to train and become a teacher in these subjects. Really, it was the literature in both that I loved the most and I became an English teacher instead.

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

I’m not sure about these ages … but when I was 5 or 6 I desperately wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer (think Beyonce in glittering gold spandex + epic afro), around 10, like most of the girls I knew, I imagined a glamorous future as an air hostess, but by 18 I had the acting bug. I did amateur theatre and short films but it was the scriptwriting that got my pulse racing. By 30, I had been teaching for a while but the itch to write was getting harder to ignore.

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

That Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito would be the best Batman, Catwoman and Penguin of all time. (Batman Returns 1992). While Tim Burton is one of my top 3 directors (heads up: you’ll see locations in my novels named to reflect this) Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) upended this strongly held belief. Though he has retired the cowl, Bale holds my allegiance. If Affleck can win my attention I’ll be impressed. I reserve judgment on any future Penguins or Catwomen (Pfeiffer for the win).

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?

For thematic influences I would site my favourite texts to teach in the classroom: Hamlet and Lord of the Flies. Hamlet for the exploration of moral dilemma and the consequences of action or inaction. Lord of the Flies for the exploration of human nature and poking at the flimsy scaffolding that keeps us from savagery. At University I loved Oedipus for the question of freewill versus predestination. In a somewhat less grandiose scale I have begun to attempt my own experimentation with these concepts.

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

Word-Lust

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Spark is a story about friendship, loyalty, courage and love mixed with a synthetic gene that creates guardians and killers known as Shields and Strays. Evie learns that she is a Shield, genetically engineered to save the life of her best-friend who is being stalked by a Stray.

Evie strives to learn how to use her new psychic and physical capabilities while managing grief, learning to live with her aunt and struggling to fit in at a new school. Added to these pressures is the complication of falling in love with a boy who is completely off-limits and totally irresistible.

Spark is the first novel in a sci-fi/crossover trilogy.

Grab a copy of Spark here

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

A sense of investment in my imaginary world, that they’ve journeyed with characters they love and or loathe, that they give enough of a damn they’d want to visit again in the future.

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

My favourite writer of all time is Margaret Atwood. I fell in love with her work when I was a teenager and the novelty has never really worn off. In contemporary literature I’ll read anything Kate Atkinson sets her pen to. Isabel Allende, for magical realism and Alice Hoffman too. In YA, I love Patrick Ness and the astounding Elizabeth Knox.

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

I would love to have readers from all over the globe discover my imaginary world, emotionally invest and embrace the characters, grieve their losses, rejoice in their triumphs, and then argue about it all online, print t-shirts with their favourite quotes, swarm at conferences, throw my books across the room when their favourite characters die, lose sleep to finish a chapter, fake sick days to stay home, neglect their chores and families because they’d rather read, text their friends when they’re watching TV and they spot someone who’d be perfect to play a character from the book in a non-existent movie adaptation, create playlists that remind them of the story and re-read, and re-read because it’s just like visiting old friends. I dream of this because these are things I’ve done with books I love.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I am an aspiring writer and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve arrived, mostly because I’m never satisfied. From the beginning I wanted to be good more than I wanted to be published so I have always been hungry for the best counsel and the most honest criticism, to learn the craft and keep learning, refining, exploring and taking risks. Unpopular concepts like sacrifice, hard work and commitment are the price you’re willing to pay to realise a dream but passion, faith and obsession is what keeps you going.

Rachael, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Spark here

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