Alex Hammond, author of The Unbroken Line, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alex Hammond

author of The Unbroken Line

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 Johannesburg. Raised in Melbourne. Studied Arts/Law at Melbourne University.

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

To be a writer. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories.

Author: Alex Hammond

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

Naively, that law was the best career for me. I spent too much time watching gripping courtroom scenes on film and TV. It was only after I spent time working in law firms that I realised the reality was very dry and monotonous. In many ways my books are a wish fulfilment – exciting cases, challenging clients, cherry-picked drama.

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?

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner – such a viseral, well relaised world. The library tower of the Superme Court of Victoria – its light-filled bookstacks planted the first seed for what became by first novel, Blood Witness. The Cure’s fourth album Pornography – a template for the kind of dark, emotional richness I aspire to in my writing.

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

They were never innumerable. I dabbled in theatre directing when I was younger, but nothing quite captured my imagination like writing. To have created a world, to have crafted a engaging story, is both the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Unbroken Line is a crime thriller. Melbourne lawyer Will Harris begins to uncover a dark legacy from Australia’s founding and the violent shadow it casts today. It deals with corruption and the misuse of power, the lengths that people will go to when driven by revenge.

Grab a copy of Alex’s new book The Unbroken Line here

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

To have readers is a privilege. I hope to give them a gripping story that gets their hearts racing but also asks bigger questions about the law and our preconceptions of justice.

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

Other Australian genre writers. Not only do the have to compete with international books with bigger marketing budgets but the cultural elitism that dismisses all but ‘literary’ fiction as trivial.

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

In the current climate very few authors can make a living off their writing. This is my ambition.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Hone your tenacity. There will always be distractions and set backs. You will have some very dark days. Push on. Push on.

Alex, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Unbroken Line here


The Unbroken Line

by Alex Hammond

The violence of the past casts a long shadow – a dark legacy with lethal consequences.

When defence lawyer Will Harris is attacked by masked men with a clear message to back off, he has no choice but to listen. If only he knew what they were talking about.

Under siege as his fledgling law firm struggles to get off the ground, Will agrees to defend the troubled son of a family friend. But the case is far from clear-cut, and the ethical boundaries murky. Instead of clawing his way out of trouble, Will finds he’s sinking ever deeper.

At the same time, his search for his attackers unearths an unexpected source that points him towards Melbourne’s corridors of power. But motives, let alone proofs, are hard to find. It is only when those close to him are threatened that Will realises how near he is to the deadly truth.

Gripping, sophisticated and strikingly atmospheric, The Unbroken Line creates a remarkable portrait of power, revenge and corruption, rooted in a vivid and unmistakably Australian setting.

About the Author

Alex Hammond was born in South Africa and emigrated to Australia with his family as a child. He graduated with an Arts/Law degree from the University of Melbourne and worked for several Melbourne law firms. His first novel, Blood Witness, was shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award for crime writing.

Grab a copy of The Unbroken Line here

Nicole Trope, author of Hush, Little Bird, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nicole Trope

author of Hush, Little Bird

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 South Africa. I came to Australia at eighteen and went through university here. I have a Master’s Degree in children’s literature and I was a high school teacher before I had my first child. I originally went to university to study Law but gave that up after writing my first essay. I was more interested in the drama of ancient Greece and less interested in what that all meant for the study of Law. While trying to figure out what to do I wrote a short story for the university magazine and flippantly thought, ‘If this gets published I’ll switch to an English degree.’ It did and I did.

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

I always wanted to be a writer. Even when I couldn’t even conceive of writing a novel I knew that immersed in a book was my favourite place to be. At eighteen I wanted to write children’s literature and I think I stuck with that idea until I came up with the plot for my first published novel.

At thirty I wanted to be able to say that I was a published writer, not just an aspiring author. It took many years after that for my dream to be realised.

Author: Nicole Trope

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

I believed that there would be a time when I truly felt like an adult and where I was in control of all aspects of my life. Now I know that maturity brings with it the realisation that this will never really be the case. Very few things in life are clear cut and absolute control of anything is really just an illusion.

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

I am, as most writers are, a great reader. Because I have read so widely I can’t really say that any novel in particular has had a great effect on my writing but rather that certain novelists have taught me some things about the craft. I love Fay Weldon and Terry Pratchett for their dark humour and Joanna Trollope for her light touch when it comes to domestic drama. I love the music in Alice Hoffman’s language and the spare prose of Australian writers like Olga Masters. Over time I have read everything from romance novels to crime series. Now when I read and am struck by a sentence or an idea I will take time to look at how the author has been able to create that feeling and learn from that.

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

Stories have always been my preferred form of expression. It never occurred to me to try anything else.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Hush, Little Bird is the story of two very different women; Rose who has lived her life in the spotlight and Birdy who has lived her whole life hiding from the truth. It takes an act of violence for Birdy’s secrets to overwhelm her and then fate steps in and brings the two women together. The novel unfolds through the eyes of each woman and the reader gradually learns what connects them and why Birdy is determined to have her revenge.

Grab a copy of Nicole’s new book Hush, Little Bird here

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

I always hope that readers wish they didn’t have to put the book down and that perhaps they have been able to think about something in a different way.

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

Just a few of the authors I admire are: Fay Weldon, Terry Pratchett, Elizabeth Berg, Alice Hoffman, Peter Goldsworthy, Douglas Adams, Alice Walker and Margaret Atwood. Every couple of weeks I pick a letter of the alphabet at the library and try to find a new author to admire.

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

I just want to keep writing and keep getting published and hopefully have readers say that each book is better than the last.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

The obvious ones-which are to read all the time and to write all the time, even when you don’t want to or are feeling despondent about your latest rejection. Also there are a lot of organisations you can join and competitions you can enter that will get your novel or short story in front of someone who can see the potential in a writer’s work. Give everything a go!

Nicole, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Hush, Little Bird here


Hush, Little Bird

by Nicole Trope

A celebrity wife. A damaged young woman. How did they both end up in prison and what is the secret they share? White-knuckle reading from the queen of domestic suspense.

Birdy thought she would have to wait until she was free again to see Rose, but now Rose has been convicted of a shocking crime and she and Birdy will be together. Birdy has been saving all her anger for Rose. It is Rose who should have protected her and kept her safe. Birdy was little but Rose was big and she knows Rose could have saved her.

This is a story about monsters who hide in plain sight and about the secrets we keep from ourselves. It is about children who are betrayed and adults who fail them. This is the story of Birdy who was hurt and Rose who must be made to pay.

A provocative and compassionate read from the queen of white-knuckle suspense and searing family drama. You won’t be able to put it down.

About the Author

Nicole Trope is a former high school teacher with a Masters Degree in Children’s Literature. In 2005 she was one of the winners of the Varuna Awards for Manuscript Development. In 2009 her young adult novel titled I Ran Away First was shortlisted for the Text Publishing Prize. The Secrets in Silence is Nicole’s third novel. Her previous titles include the acclaimed The Boy Under The Table and Three Hours Late.

 Grab a copy of Hush, Little Bird here

Rochelle Siemienowicz, author of Fallen, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rochelle Siemienowicz

author of Fallen

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 Geelong, Victoria, but my family moved so quickly and so often that I have no memory of it. My parents were Seventh-day Adventist missionaries and we lived in various parts of New Guinea and Fiji until I was 14 and then we moved to Perth where I finished High School. I moved to Melbourne to start University in the early 1990s and have been here ever since.

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

Twelve: A schoolteacher because although I really wanted to be a writer I didn’t think it was possible.
Eighteen: A journalist because it seemed the likeliest way of making a living as a writer. Or an academic, because I was good at writing essays and this seemed a continuation of that.
Thirty: A film journalist and sometime novelist as this combined all my passions – cinema, literature and connecting with communities of likeminded creative people.

Author: Rochelle Siemienowicz

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

I was raised in a strict religious household and believed that the end of the world was imminent – that Jesus Christ was going to return in the clouds and rescue his chosen people while the rest of the earth burned. These days I’m an atheist, though I still harbour apocalyptic fears – now related to environmental destruction.

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. The huge changes in Australian Higher Education during the late 1990s and early 2000s meant that an academic career seemed too hard and too precarious to pursue. I was surrounded by bitter academics and underpaid sessional staff, so I finished my PhD on Australian cinema and fled academe, never to return.

2. Becoming involved in The Big Issue magazine’s family of writers and editors from 1997 until the present has been life changing. The Big Ish was the first publication to pay me for my words and so many of my closest friends and associates are people I met there.

3. Reading Andrew McGahan’s searingly honest, funny and distinctively Australian Vogel-winning debut novel Praise (1991) changed my life. I fell in love with McGahan’s candor, courage, and skilful blending of autobiography and fiction. This was controlled confessional writing at its most deceptively simple – unafraid to get dirty, but also able to rise above the grime into pure poetry and wry philosophical reflection.

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 was raised on books, especially the Bible, and I always wanted to have my name on the cover of one. I love to hold the physical objects and there’s nothing quite as immersive as a really good book. Also, you can read them during take-off and landing when flying on an aeroplane.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Fallen is my first book. It’s a memoir about sex, religion and marrying too young, and it traces a crucial period in my early twenties when I broke away from everything I’d been raised to believe. Raised as devout Seventh-day Adventists, who believe that the end of the world is near and premarital sex is a terrible sin, my husband and I married at twenty while still at University. But after leaving the parental nest, we started experimenting with all the things that were forbidden to us – alcohol, meat, rock and roll, cinema and literature that stretched the boundaries of ‘decency’. We loved each other sincerely and took our marriage vows very seriously, but part of this experimentation involved having an open marriage. My book is about three weeks at the end of that marriage when I revisited my hometown of Perth and broke the rules of our agreement. It’s a sexual coming of age story, a tale of first love and innocence lost.

Grab a copy of Rochelle’s new book Fallen here

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

Telling the truth about the variety and detail of female sexual experience is still a radical act – even in our supposedly liberated and highly sexualised culture. If my book could counter some of the shame around sexual desire, and make readers feel less alone, less dysfunctional, and less ‘sinful’, then that would be a huge achievement.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Right now I’m full of admiration for the people close to me who are enduring heartbreak, divorce, unemployment and depression. These are the supposedly ordinary people who keep on doing what they have to do, with kindness and generosity, even when getting out bed in the morning feels like the most courageous and impossible act. Life is tough a lot of the time and there’s a lot of everyday heroism. Being human is hard.

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

I want to be as honest as I can be, in both my life and my work. I also want to spread pleasure. There’s really no higher achievement than writing something people enjoy reading for the pure pleasure of the language, the characters and the rich, beautiful world you’ve created. Pleasure should be an end in itself.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read. Read all the time. Stay off social media long enough to become absorbed in the words of others. Read the great books. Read them aloud. Hear how they work, or don’t work. Read your own work aloud. Feel where it gets boring or sticky. It’s not just that you’re tired of it. The writing is bad when that happens. Good writing is good even when you’ve read it fifty times.

Rochelle, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Fallen here


Fallen: A Memoir About Sex, Religion and Marrying Too Young

by Rochelle Siemienowicz

“Call me Eve. It’s the name I call myself when I think back to that time when I was a young wife – so very young, so very hungry. I picked the fruit and ate and drank until I was drunk with freedom and covered in juice and guilt.”

In this frank, compelling and beautifully written memoir, Rochelle Siemienowicz provides an intimate portrait of the last days of an open marriage.

Raised as devout Seventh-day Adventists, who believe that the end of the world is near and that premarital sex is a terrible sin, Eve and her husband marry young. Rebelling against their upbringing, and in an attempt to overcome problems in their relationship, they enter an agreement that has its own strict rules. But when Eve holidays alone in her hometown of Perth during a hot West Australian summer, she finds her body and heart floating free. Fallen is a true tale of sex, love, religion and getting married too young – and about what it feels like when you can’t keep the promises you once sincerely made.

About the Author

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a writer, film critic and former editor at the AFI | AACTA. She has a PhD in Australian cinema and was the long-time film editor for The Big Issue. She currently reports for Screen Hub, reviews for SBS Film and is Film Columnist for Kill Your Darlings. She very occasionally blogs at It’s Better in the Dark, and is currently working on her first novel, which has nothing at all to do with movies.

Grab a copy of Fallen here

Annie Barrows, author of The Truth According to Us, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Annie Barrows

author of The Truth According to Us

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, schooled, and pretty much everything else in California. I grew up in a town just to the north of the San Francisco Bay called San Anselmo, which has grown alarmingly elite in recent years, but was just a plain little town during my childhood. I spent most of my youth at the library. I went to college at the University of California in Berkeley, where I studied medieval religious history (how practical!) and later got an MFA in Creative Writing (also practical!) at Mills College nearby. With all this California background, why did I write a book set in West Virginia?  Sheer mulishness.

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

That’s easy! When I was twelve I wanted to be eighteen. When I was eighteen, I wanted to be thirty, and when I was thirty, I wanted to be twelve again.
Okay, okay.
I think at twelve, I was still clinging to the hope that I’d somehow be transported back in time to 1880, so my career planning was confined to reading 19th century etiquette books in order to blend in. I’m sure this will come in handy someday.
At eighteen, I had a fantastic career plan. I was going to be an art restorer—one of those quiet, delicate-fingered people who spend years pasting together shards to make a single Grecian urn. Oh boy, was that going to be great! Except then I did it and found myself restringing thousands upon thousands of teeny glass beads on six inches of an Indian headband and almost lost my mind.

At thirty, I had attained every career goal I had set for myself in the previous ten years: I was the Managing Editor of one the largest book publishers on the West Coast and I was the acquiring editor of their first New York Times Best-Seller. Everything was great, everything was swell—except that I had just realized that what I really wanted was to be a writer.

Author: Annie Barrows

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

When I was eighteen, I thought that the most important thing in the world was to be right.  Now I think the most important thing in the world is to try to think that other people are right.

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?

Literary influences are such an enormous can of worms—there were so many of them, they were so influential—that I’d better focus on other art forms. (Though I’m pretty sure I would not be a writer if I hadn’t read, at about age 12, J.D. Salinger’s description of the Glass family’s bathroom medicine cabinet in Zooey.)

Three major artistic influences are:
1. Dumbo
Back when I was a kid, our grubby local movie theater held kiddie matinees on Saturdays. These events were strictly kid-only; no grownup ever entered the theater during them (even the ushers stayed out unless someone threw a chair). As a result, kiddie matinees were mayhem. The kids on the balcony rained spit and chewed candy on the kids below. The kids below hollered threats at the kids on the balcony. Children wailed and sobbed. It was like Lord of the Flies with Milk Duds. But there was no avoiding it; our parents made us go. They’d shove us out of the car and speed off, gravel spraying, to enjoy a quiet afternoon.lord-of-the-flies
Regular kiddie matinees were pretty bad, but one Saturday I was dropped off at a matinee of Dumbo with my older sister and my cousin. It was one of the most terrifying episodes of my life. Dumbo is about death and loss; specifically, it’s about a little elephant whose mama is tormented to death, leaving him to wander, alone and in despair, through various dire misfortunes. There I was, at age six, watching Dumbo’s mother die in agony while children wailed and sobbed around me. I tried to run out of the theatre, and my sister grabbed me and told me to sit still.

That afternoon was the foundation of a lot of neurosis, but also—and more to the point here—the foundation of a profound distrust of anything that calls itself children’s entertainment, a species that, in my opinion, rarely wants for children what they want for themselves. It was this distrust that ultimately led me to write for children.

2. The Hunt in the Forest
I stumbled on this painting one day in Oxford, and I can’t get over it. Paolo Uccello kills me in general, but this particular combination of precision and mystery completely mesmerized me. Uccello loves, loves, loves lines, but he doesn’t love lines more than he loves what he can’t see. It’s very instructive. Hilary Mantel does the same thing in writing.

3. Enrico IV
I am not recommending this play. It’s by Pirandello, and it’s kind of tedious. But in 1981, I saw a performance of it that blew me out of my seat. By the end of the show, the stage had been ripped apart—we could see more or less into the dressing rooms—and everything that signals Theater was in ruins. It was definitely the performance, not the play, that held the power, and for me, it was an astonishing lesson about the delivery of story through form, which I had always thought was cheap. I mean, mostly it is cheap, but when it’s on, it’s pure power.

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

I had to. Nobody would ever in a million years read—or publish!—what I’d most like to write, which is story without end, a literally endless following of, say, three lives (not mine) from beginning to—the moment I drop dead. It would be volumes and volumes and volumes long; it would tell story after story after story. Wouldn’t that be great?!
What?
No?
Oh.

This is why I wrote a novel.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Truth According to Us is set in the summer of 1938, when the town of Macedonia, West Virginia, is celebrating its Sesquicentennial, an occasion that will be commemorated with parades, picnics, and most importantly, a book recounting its history. Its reluctant author, the debutante Miss Layla Beck, recently disinherited by her father, arrives in town with one goal – to get out of it as quickly as possible.

Macedonia’s history seems simple enough, easily disposed of, easily understood. Then Layla meets the Romeyns—Jottie, Willa, Felix, Emmett—a family at once entertaining, eccentric, seductive, and inextricably bound up in Macedonia’s most impenetrable historic event.

Grab a copy of Annie’s new book The Truth According to Us here

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

I have to admit it—what I want most is for readers to love my darling people. They’ve been my dearest friends for years now, and I feel a little uncertain about them going out in the world without me. I felt exactly like this on my daughter’s first day of kindergarten.

On a more theoretical (and less insane) level, I’d want readers to question the possibility of veracity, the endlessly receding goal of knowing the past in order to possess it. Time is a tragedy from which we hope to protect ourselves by believing in the existence of facts.

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

How many days do you have? My problem here is that there’s not one realm of writing. There are lots of realms and sub-realms. For instance, there’s the realm of children’s writers, and within that realm, there are picture books, chapter books, novels, and young adult novels. I can deeply admire the work of a picture book writer, but my admiration is influenced by fact that I can’t write picture books myself. So that admiration is different than what I accord to people working in the same genre that I work.

And then, there’s the issue of variability in a single author. I don’t mean that the author’s skill is variable. The variable is my ability to be acted upon—I’m just way less engaged by some things than others. Take murder, for instance. It mostly bores me, so a book that’s centered on a murder has to be really good to overcome my apathy about the topic. An example: what Kate Atkinson is addressing in Life after Life is completely fascinating to me. Her books about Jackson Brodie are probably equally accomplished, but they’re accomplished at something I’m less interested in. Now that I think about it, I should probably admire her more for the Jackson Brodie books than for Life after Life because I liked them so much even though I don’t care about murder.

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

To finish my next novel in less than seven years.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

There are as many ways to be a writer as there are writers.

Annie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Truth According to Us here


The Truth According to Us

by Annie Barrows

In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck is forced out of the lap of luxury and sent by her Senator father to work on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Assigned to cover the history of the little mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, Layla envisions a summer of tedium.

However, once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is completely drawn into their complex world.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to acquire her favourite virtues – ferocity and devotion – a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business with which her charismatic father is always occupied and the reason her adored aunt Jottie never married.

Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family’s veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a different tale about the Romeyns and their deep entanglement in Macedonia’s history. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s story, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed – and their personal histories completely rewritten.

Quirky, loveable, and above all human, this novel of small-town life in the 1930s is an immersive experience that will leave readers reeling and wanting more.

About the Author

Annie Barrows is the author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean, as well as The Magic Half and Magic in the Mix; she is also co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Annie lives in Northern California with her husband and her two daughters.

 Grab a copy of The Truth According to Us here

Deb Hunt, author of Australian Farming Families, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Deb Hunt

author of Australian Farming Families

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

Born in England, raised in a small village in Gloucestershire, went to Chipping Sodbury Grammar School (polite student in class, wayward out of it) then University of West England to study French and Spanish, post-grad librarianship course in Leeds, acting course in London, followed by endless short courses and workshops.

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

At 12 I wanted to write stories (I loved escaping into a good book) at 18 I don’t know what I wanted to do (apart from hide) and at 30 I wanted to work in theatre, where I thought I could hide on stage. When I realised there was no money or job security in it I became a writer instead. Out of the frying pan and into the fire …

deb hunt

Author: Deb Hunt

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

At 18 I believed love didn’t need words. Now I know how much words matter.

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?

Any play by Shakespeare has a physical effect on me, like a powerful emotional drum. I remember seeing people like Tom Wilkinson in King Lear, Sir Ian Mckellen in Richard III, Judy Dench, Cate Blanchett, Fiona Shaw – such powerful performances and such outstanding writing. I also read an anthology of poetry in primary school, called Come Play with Me, and was intrigued by what words could do.

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

Why does someone climb a mountain? For years I could see that ‘mountain’ in the distance but it seemed an impossible dream, a challenge of such immeasurable proportions, until I met someone whose life story inspired me. I knew I had to share her story somehow and that’s how I wrote my first book (Dream Wheeler).

6. Please tell us about the book you’re working on…

It’s a story about the internal and external struggles surrounding The Burroughs family in North Georgia. An infamous clan known for bootlegging, running guns, drugs, the works.

Clayton, the youngest son of three generations of outlaws decides to buck his heritage and take a different path by becoming a Sheriff in a small neighbouring valley town, but as anyone around here can tell you, Family doesn’t work that way.

Escaping who you were born to be isn’t as easy as it seems, and things can go south pretty quickly.

Grab a copy of Deb’s new book Australian Farming Families here

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

First and foremost I hope my work is entertaining and I hope it gives people a glimpse into another world, with a sense of our connection and shared humanity.

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

There are so many, many good writers out there, right now I’m loving anything I can read from Helen Garner, who is such an honest, thoughtful, emotionally open writer.

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

I’d like to try my hand at fiction next.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid to spend time thinking before you start writing, and when a niggle of an idea comes to you, get it down on paper.

Deb, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Australian Farming Families here


Australian Farming Families

by Deb Hunt

‘This is a book about the human aspects of life on the land – the stories of success and failure, life and love, of hardship and celebration – and the passion and gritty determination that characterised every family I interviewed.’

Author Deb Hunt sets out to discover what makes what makes Australian farming families tick. She travels tens of thousands of kilometres to properties at either end of the country, from a vast, dusty cattle run in outback Queensland to the wheat belt of Western Australia and dairy and sheep farms in Tasmania. She introduces us to eight families who survive, even thrive, on the land despite fires, floods, personal hardship and uncertain economic times.

We see a different sort of family life, where the kids are expected to pitch in, the classroom is often the kitchen table, the nearest maternity hospital is a five-hour drive, and generations live and work side by side. We meet the French family, whose connection to the bush goes back seven generations, Philip the Philosopher, who by 29 was managing a property of more than one million hectares carrying 20,000 head of cattle, and the outspoken Roma Brittnell, who was awarded Australian Rural Woman of the Year in 2009.

Inspiring, moving and sometimes challenging, these stories provide a window into a way of life that defines the Australian spirit at its best.

About the Author

Deb Hunt was born in England, where she worked as a librarian, teacher, event manager, PR executive, actress and journalist. She has worked with Shakespeare in the Park in London, Australian House & Garden magazine in Sydney and for the past five years as a writer with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She is the author of Love in the Outback, and Australian Farming Families is her second book.

 Grab a copy of Australian Farming Families here

Lisa Joy, author of Yes, Chef!, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lisa Joy

author of Yes, Chef! 

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

Born in Sydney, I spent a good deal of my childhood at dance class. At 21, deciding I wasn’t cut out for the famished life of a ballerina, I moved to London where I lived for seven years and worked in the restaurant industry, in fashion retail and as the production assistant for the British TV series Midsomer Murders. I started writing short stories in high school but didn’t consider a career as a novelist until I moved to Melbourne six years ago.

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

A ballerina, an actor and then a writer. I guess I’ve always been a dreamer. My imagination made childhood games more interesting and adult disappointments easier to deal with.

Author Lisa Joy

Author: Lisa Joy

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

Having a dream unrealised was better than having a dream that failed. I was basically too scared to put my writing out there for a long time and found it hard even to show friends my work. Now I know the only way to grow and become better is to try and keep trying.

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

I saw Van Gogh’s Bridge in the Rain at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and was captivated. I began reading all I could about Japan and hope to one day spend time there and write a travel and food diary.

I found Joanne Harris’s foodie novels, Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange very inspiring. Her writing is laced with delicious foodie descriptions. It’s how I hope my writing will be some day with practise.

Salman Rushdie introduced me to magical realism with Midnight’s Children. Reading his novels makes me want to be a better writer and I can imagine myself writing something that combines food, friendship and love in a magical way.

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

I love the escapism that novels and creative non-fiction provide. I enjoy learning something new about a people, place or time and fiction can provide that in an entertaining and emotional way. Novels and memoir are what I read most and I hope to write both one day.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Yes, Chef! is set in the world of high-end restaurants and celebrity chefs. It’s told through the eyes of the PA to London’s most notorious chef, a smart and sassy woman who is approaching thirty and trying to figure out what she really wants from life while getting carried away in a wirlwind of reality cooking shows, opening nights and kitchen scandals.

Grab a copy of Lisa’s new book Yes, Chef! here

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

An authentic insight into the foodie world from someone who’s been there and lived it. I’ve worked in a number of different roles and establishments in the restaurant industry including being PA to a well-known Melbourne chef. I think readers will want to call up their best friends after reading Yes, Chef! and head out for a nice meal and a bottle of prosecco. Either that or they’ll want to take a foodie trip to Italy or Istanbul as my heroine, Becca Stone, does.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?midnight-s-children-vintage-classics

There are many fiction writers I admire greatly – Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Joanne Harris, Kate Morton, but having met Fiona McIntosh I must say I admire her enthusiasm, energy and tenacity. I attended her fiction masterclass as a fantasy writer and emerged with the beginnings of a women’s fiction book. One year later Yes, Chef! was picked up by Penguin. I really admire the time and energy Fiona spends helping new authors realise their potential and their dreams.

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

As a new author I’m well aware my best work is yet to come but I learn something with every experience and have made my number one goal to keep improving with every book. Of course, my imagination runs away with itself sometimes, dreaming of film adaptations, but I try not to get too carried away with this and just keep writing.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t listen to too much advice. Find a mentor that you trust, someone who’s had proven success in the genre you write in and then keep referring back to their advice. Above all, write because you love it, because it makes you happy and keeps you sane, not because you think it will make you a lot of money or because you think becoming published will make you feel fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful thing to see your dreams realised, but you shouldn’t place so much pressure on yourself to achieve the reward that you fail to enjoy the process.

Lisa, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Yes,Chef! here


Yes, Chef!

by Lisa Joy

Sassy foodie Becca Stone is over her job taking reservations for one of London’s most successful restaurant empires. So when she is unexpectedly catapulted into working as PA to celebrity chef Damien Malone, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime.

Becca is quickly caught up in an exciting whirlwind of travel, reality TV and opening nights, and even her usually abysmal love-life takes a turn for the better. But as Becca is slowly consumed by the chaos of life in the spotlight, she begins to lose touch with her friends, her heart and even with reality. Working with Damien has its challenges and she is soon struggling with his increasingly outrageous demands and sleazy advances, all while managing the ridiculous requests of his self-centred wife. It takes a disastrous trip to Italy for Becca to realise that she may have thrown away exactly what she’s been looking for all along.

Inspired by Lisa Joy’s real-life adventures, this deliciously funny and romantic story is a tantalising llok at the trendy restaurant scene: a world where chefs are treated like rock stars, and cooking isn’t all that goes on in the kitchen.

About the Author

Lisa Joy began writing stories in her teenage years, but decided she needed to get her heart broken and live in another country before pursuing a career as a novelist. Born in Sydney, she spent most of her childhood wearing pink tights and leotards at ballet class.

At age 21, deciding she wasn’t cut out for the famished life of a ballerina, she left her safe and somewhat predictable existence behind and travelled to London, where she worked as a television producer’s PA, in fashion retail and the restaurant business. Having fallen head over heels in love with London, travelling Europe, eating amazing food and the occasional stint on stage and screen, Lisa stayed put for about 7 years, until finally, family called and she returned to Australia to work as PA to a well known Melbourne chef.

Her writing took a dramatic turn for the better after she attended a commercial fiction masterclass with author Fiona McIntosh. She now lives in the picturesque Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne on a small acreage farm with her husband and four chooks where in addition to writing novels, she grows vegetables, berries and herbs to supply to some of Melbourne’s best restaurants.

 Grab a copy of Yes,Chef! here

Steve Strevens, author of The Jungle Dark, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Steve Strevens

author of The Jungle Dark

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 England, in Ely near Cambridge. Emigrated as a family to rural South Australia. A year later moved to Swan Hill in Victoria where I spent a couple of (very bad) years at school before signing up for the RAN two weeks after my 16th birthday.

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

I wanted to be a farmer when I was young but have no idea why. At 18 I just wanted to survive the navy and at 30 only wanted to live a peaceful life.

Steve Strevens copyright Steve Strevens

Author: Steve Strevens

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

No strong beliefs that have changed over time. I’ve become mellower and resigned to the fact that even though ‘they’ say you can do anything you want – even change the world – the reality is you can’t. I’m ok with that. A realist.

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?

I always liked to read and I reckon I’m just a story teller. This has never been a ‘career path’. As for great effects, I suppose my father writing books and plays influenced me, as did his exposing me to World War 1 poetry. When people say they are influenced or changed by events, I always wonder how. Writing came gradually from an early age and I’ve been lucky to have been published extensively in many ways and in many places.

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?

Books are tactile. They feel and smell great when they are new – and old – so they’ll never be displaced. They’re totally different from all the other stuff in the question.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It’s the true story behind the iconic song ‘I Was Only 19’. It’s graphic and honest and confronting. But it’s also a story of inspiration in that even though things may not always be as you want them to be, hardship can be overcome, even if only to a certain extent not completely.

Grab a copy of Steve’s new book The Jungle Dark here

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

Intolerance. Love is not all you need, as someone wrote, kindness is. Oh, and we need to understand that everyone has something to offer. We might not like what they say but we should listen because there just might be something there. You never know.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I admire most the people who overcome difficulties without complaint. Those who suffer the slings and arrows without losing perspective. Those who work their way through what life deals them.

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

To live peacefully and happily and to be kind to others. That’s it.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

To write. People who paint are happy to have their paintings on the wall so writers should simply write and share their stories with others. Publication shouldn’t the reason for writing. Also, talk to the keyboard. Write as you speak. Don’t try to ‘write’ Just tell the keyboard the story as you would the person next door.

Steve, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Jungle Dark here


The Jungle Dark

by Steve Strevens

The powerful true story behind the classic Aussie song I Was Only Nineteen.

On 21 July 1969, the soldiers of 3 Platoon crouched in the scrubby Vietnamese landscape listening to the news on the radio: Neil Armstrong had just stepped onto the moon.

Moments later, Platoon Commander Lieutenant Peter Hines stepped on a mine and the platoon was engulfed in a maelstrom of dirt, smoke and blood.

This is the true story of Frank ‘Frankie’ Hunt and the other soldiers of 3 Platoon, A Company, 6 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment who became the inspiration for Redgum’s 1983 hit song I Was Only Nineteen – the anthem for the veterans of the Vietnam War.

The Jungle Dark traverses the deep unhealed wounds of Vietnam soldiers and the song that finally brought them home.

About the Author

Steve Strevens emigrated from England in 1959, and joined the Navy two weeks after his 16th birthday. He served in Vietnam, Malay and Borneo and then became a freelance writer. He was a regular contributor to The Age and has been published in many major newspapers and magazines, both here and overseas. He is an award-winning journalist and has edited two regional newspapers. Steve’s eight books include Slow River and the critically acclaimed biography of Bob Rose.

He lives on the far south coast of NSW with his partner and their two ageing, loveable, but quite mad, dogs.

 Grab a copy of The Jungle Dark here

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,814 other followers

%d bloggers like this: