Megan Amram, author of Science…for Her!, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Megan Amram

author of Science…for Her!

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 Portland, Oregon, United States. Like most Americans, I don’t know any other countries. Is Australia in Florida? I was raised in Portland and schooled at Harvard University, where I provided diversity by being one of the only dumb people there. I once worked as a clothes folder at my local mall, and it’s still my favorite job of all time.

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

When I was 12 I wanted to be an actress or a pharmacologist. When I was 18 I wanted to be a comedy writer or filmmaker. I’m only 27 so I cannot even IMAGINE what I’d be at 30. Dead, right? That’s SOOOOO OLD!!!

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

That I would be dead of old age at 21. Now I’m just an old 27 year old old woman. Everything hurts all the time. Oh God. I’m SOOOOOO OLD!!!

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?

The three Toy Stories. They affected me greatly, mostly because now I know that toys come alive when you leave the room. Those Toy Stories are such incredible documentaries!

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?

As I state in my book, trees create unrealistic expectations for a woman’s body. We will never be as tall and thin as trees! That’s why I want to kill as many trees as possible. Writing a book is a great way to kill trees!

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My book Science…for Her! helps women understand science by putting it into their comfort zone (a women’s magazine.) Everyone knows: women’s brains aren’t constructed to understand scientific concepts, and women’s hands aren’t constructed to turn the heavy covers of most textbooks. That’s why I created a fun, flirty, lightweight book for women of all sizes! Except plus sizes!

Grab a copy of Megan’s latest book Science…for Her! here

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

I want all women to know that methamphetamine is a GREAT way to lose weight!

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Hello Kitty, because she doesn’t have a mouth.

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

I would like to get down to my birth weight. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write all you can! Writers only discover their voices through producing a ton of work. Even if you think it’s bad or juvenile, keep at it and let people read your work. Great advice, me! Alright, that will be one thousand US dollars, please! Just write my name on the bills and drop them in a mailbox, I’m sure they’ll make it to me somehow!

Megan, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Megan’s latest book Science…for Her! here


Science…for Her!

by Megan Amram

Megan Amram, one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment,” Rolling Stone’s “25 Funniest People on Twitter,” and a writer for NBC’s hit show Parks and Recreation, delivers an addictively hilarious science “textbook”—tailored to the special needs of the fairer sex.

Comedy writer and Twitter sensation Megan Amram showcases her mordant wit and gift for parody in Science…For Her!, a laugh-until-you-can’t-breathe, faux-expert compendium of scientific knowledge that Megan believes is absolutely vital for the female population. Part hilarious farce, part biting gender commentary, Amram blends science and Cosmo to highlight the absurd way in which women are still portrayed in both arenas. Operating under the conceit that “science is hard enough for most people, let alone women,” Amram tackles crucial scientific topics like Biology: This Spring’s Ten Most Glamorous Ways to Die (“Choke to death on a latte”); Chemistry: Periodic Table Settings (“one of the most important building blocks of chemistry. But boy does it look drab!”); Earth Science: Fashion Staples for Each Step of Global Warming; Space and Technology: Tips for Hosting Your Own Big Bang; and the most pressing issue facing women today: kale!

Combining the off-beat humor of Amy Sedaris, the mock-expertise of John Hodgman, and a sly, clever design, Science…For Her! is a satirical gem of the gender stereotypes in the world of science, glossy magazine culture, and society in general.

About the Author

Megan Amram is a writer for the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation. Since she graduated from Harvard in 2010, she has amassed over 400,000 Twitter followers who enjoy her hilarious brand of off-beat humor. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, Vulture, and The Awl, among others. Her viral video “Birth Control on the Bottom” prompted Jezebel to call her a “national treasure”. She lives in Los Angeles.

Grab a copy of Megan’s latest book Science…for Her! here

Samantha Verant, author of Seven Letters from Paris, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Samantha Verant

author of Seven Letters from Paris

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 Los Angeles at UCLA hospital in October of 1969, and I led the quintessential beach baby lifestyle…until my biological father drove off into the California sunset, leaving my mom and me in the sand. (Where are those tiny violins when I need them?) After spending some time with the grandparents at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, mom and I packed up our bags and headed to Chicago in 1972. In 1975, my mom married Tony, the only father (and best dad in the world) I’ve ever known. He formally adopted me at the age of ten, shortly before the birth of my sister, Jessica.

A classically trained mezzo-soprano, in 1985 I attended The Chicago Academy for the Performing and Visual Arts, choosing theater as my major. In 1986, because of my father’s rising career in the world of advertising, our family moved to Boston and two years later to London. Along with these moves, my interests and dreams metamorphosed and art became a big part of my life. I traded in arias and monologues for advertising design, graduating cum laude from Syracuse University, and moved back to Chicago.

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

I suppose I’ve always been a creative type – a bit of a renaissance woman who believes in self-expression, but without the tattoos. I’m terrified of needles. At the age of twelve, I wanted to be singer or an actress, or maybe a dancer. And I wanted to be Nadia Comaneci, the gymnast. (This last career option was cut short when I tried to back-flip off a mailbox and broke my arm). At the age of eighteen, I wanted to be an artist. And at the age of thirty, I was a graphic designer. It wasn’t until my late thirties I discovered a love for the written word, a place where I could express myself by singing with my voice, acting out scenes, and designing worlds all on a blank page. I’m surprised the writing bug didn’t bite me sooner, considering I’ve been a book omnivore since the age of three. Note: I was an early reader not an actual book eater.

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

Author: Samantha Verant

Like most eighteen-year-olds, I thought I knew everything about everything. As I grew older, I realized I didn’t have the world figured out. At all. In fact, I’m always learning something new. (Currently, the French language and all those dreaded conjugations keep me busy). Although I try to keep the spirit of my inner-eighteen-year-old alive and kicking, I now know that life is about figuring things out one day at a time and that there are no short cuts.

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’ve traveled the world, lived in many places, and worked many jobs. I’ve been married and I’ve been divorced. I’ve had many successes and more than a few failures— always on the search for the one thing that truly excited me. Then, one day, I finally found everything I’d been looking for: a passion for the written word and true love. Writing not only enabled me to open my heart, it led me to southwestern France, where I’m now married to a sexy French rocket scientist I met over twenty years ago. The above has definitely impacted my life and has opened up a new and exciting career path to me. With two books out on the market, I can now proudly say ‘I’m a writer’ without an affected accent. Damn straight. I’m proud.

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?

What! Say it ain’t so! Books will never be obsolete! Books shape our lives, challenging us to learn and to think. They transport us and open us to new worlds and ideas. The electronic media avenues support books, not vice versa. I chose to write Seven Letters from Paris because I believe it delivers a message of hope. But to get to that message, I needed a beginning, a middle, and an ending– to tell the whole story. And writing this memoir allowed me to do just that. I’m more than happy to talk about my book on TV or on the radio. And, like any writer, I’d love to see Seven Letters from Paris: The Movie. So if there are any interested parties out there, you can find my contact info on my blog. Can I insert a Dr. Evil laugh here? mwa-ha-ha.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Seven Letters from Paris is the true “second chance” story of how I restarted my life and rebooted my heart.

Five years ago, I was on the cusp of turning forty…and a woman on the verge of a potential nervous breakdown. The recent victim of a company wide lay-off, I owed over twenty thousand dollars on three different Visas with no hopes to pay it off. Anger and resentment had taken its toll on what started out as a happy marriage. For eight years, I’d been sharing the guest bedroom with my black Labrador retriever, Ike. I didn’t have actual kids, save for my furry replacement child.

Instead of spinning my wheels on the corner of misery and despair all alone, I met up with my best friend of twenty-something years, Tracey. Over a bottle of pinot noir, our conversation changed from my imminent divorce to happier times, specifically our 1989 trip to Paris. Tracey pitched me an idea: we were going to create a love blog using the seven old love letters I’d received from Jean-Luc, the sexy French rocket scientist I’d met at a café when I was nineteen.

Intrigued by her idea (and looking for an ounce of hope), I pulled Jean-Luc’s letters out of their plastic storage container that very same night. Instead of hope, I found regret. I began questioning things like: why didn’t I have children? Did I really have issues with men because my biological father deserted my mother and me? If Jean-Luc was so special, why did I dump him at a train platform and never answer even one of his seven heartfelt letters? And, more importantly, why did I hang on to his letters?

A realization hit: I’d been so afraid of falling in love I’d never truly done it.

I knew, in order for me to move on and live out the happy life I desperately wanted, I needed to deal with these questions from my past — one regret/problem at a time, starting with the easiest one first. Thanks to Google, it was easy to find Jean-Luc and I got off to a quick start.

When I sent off my two-decade-delayed apology, I thought I was only looking for forgiveness. I wound up getting a lot more than that. One email led to another, and I was able to do something I hadn’t been able to do in the past: I opened up my heart— online. I also found the courage to change everything in my life.

HEA. All the way!

Grab a copy of Samantha’s book Seven Letters from Paris here

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

People need to open up their hearts, to dare to live and to love big, and to not be afraid to fail along the way. I think many people in this crazy world of ours are terrified of change and taking risks, so I’d like to see that change. We only have one life. It’s up to us to take accountability for our happiness.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

This is going to be a clichéd/canned answer: my mother. She amazes me. I mean, how many women on this planet can say that one of their best friends is their mom? Well, mine is. In fact, she is my best friend. This is not to say we’ve never had our issues. I was a sixteen-year-old once. And she can have her “opinions,” whether I want to hear them or not. But my mom and I grew up together. At the young age of twenty-one, she gave birth to little me and was forced to put her dreams aside. Instead of being bitter, she always surrounded me with love and unwavering support, pushing me to be the best person I could be. Not many people are content living vicariously through somebody else. My mom was…and is. Seven Letter from Paris is not just a story about rekindling a romance with a sexy Frenchman; it’s also a love letter to my mom. Yes, she’s read the book. And, yes, it made her cry– happy tears, of course!

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

Here we go. The cat is about to be let out of the proverbial bag. I’m a genre jumper. Not many writers have romantic memoirs and middle grade books about mutant kids coming out at the same time. (I thought about using a pen name for the MG, but why bother? The truth? It always comes out). With that said, I’d love to write memoir book two, continue writing middle grade, and explore all of my passion projects, one, of which, is a historical fiction/magical realism concept about wine. So, yes, I want to be a successful genre jumper and not hide behind a pen name. Wish me luck?

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Oh, boy! I have a lot of advice. Work on your craft. Connect with other writers. Build up your platform, your social connections. No matter how supportive she is– your mother is NOT a critique partner or a beta reader! And neither is your sister, spouse, or best friend. Put your work out there. Yes, with strangers. Remember that publishing is subjective. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Learn the business of publishing. Never pitch your work as the next big seller. Take critiques with an open mind and don’t get angry. Your writing partners want the best for you. When critiquing others, go for the sugar, salt, sugar method. (What’s good about the story, what needs to be worked on, and what totally rocks). Kill your darlings. (There will be things you think are awesome or funny, but others, simply put, will not). If you’re writing a memoir, hire an editor to work with you on the manuscript before you pitch it to agents and/or publishers. You will need an objective eye. Celebrate your victories…and your defeats. You’re one step closer. Forgive typos; they happen to everybody. Roll up your sleeves, prepare to get dirty, and work hard. Don’t send your work off to an agent or publisher until it’s polished. Revise. Edit. Repeat. Be patient. When you can’t stand to look at your manuscript anymore…it’s ready.

Even if you have to shelve your first manuscript, or the second, no matter how amazing you think it is, don’t let it get you down. The great thing about writing is you can always dust yourself off and turn the page. Write another book. Revise. Edit. Repeat. This business takes guts. Are you ready to earn your racing stripes?

It took me seven years (there’s my number) to get where I am today, meaning two books under my belt. My publishing journey wasn’t easy and there were no short cuts. (Some people get lucky! We will lynch them later.) Alas, the most important advice I can give is: Never give up! It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to put yourself out there. If you really want to be a writer, you can do it.

Sometimes I call myself Seabiscuit. Thankfully, I found the right people who believed in me and pushed me forward. Now that I’ve been trained by the best, it’s off to the races. If I fall down, I’ll just dust off my knees and get back up. Giddy-up.

Samantha, thank you for playing.

 Grab a copy of Seven Letters from Paris here


Seven Letters from Paris

by Samantha Verant

In the best romantic tradition of Almost French, a woman falls madly in love with a Frenchman in Paris, but with a twist. It takes her twenty years to find him again …

Samantha’s life is falling apart – she’s lost her job, her marriage is on the rocks and she’s walking dogs to keep the wolf from the door.

When she stumbles across seven love letters from the handsome Frenchman she fell head over heels for in Paris when she was 19, she can’t help but wonder, what if?

One carefully worded, very belated email apology, it’s clear that sometimes love does give you a second chance.

Jetting off to France to reconnect with a man you knew for just one day is crazy – but it’s the kind of crazy Samantha’s been waiting for her whole life.

Truth may be stranger than fiction but sometimes it’s better than your wildest dreams.

Deliciously funny, honest and beyond romantic, Seven Letters is the perfect feel-good gift for any woman with a heartbeat.

 Grab a copy of Seven Letters from Paris here

Elizabeth Farrelly, author of Caro Was Here, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Elizabeth Farrelly

author of Caro Was Here

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 Dunedin, in the cold and romantic South Island of New Zealand, but grew up mostly in Auckland, the only city I know that sits on 48 volcanic cones. We lived in leafy suburbia and walked or cycled to the local primary and grammar schools. There was lots of nature stuff – sailing and rowing and fishing and (what Kiwis call) tramping. To grow up in suburbia, then, meant barefoot after-school rampaging through the back hedges and churchyards and empty lots until well after dark. So for an avid reader of myths, legends and adventure stories, there was endless opportunity for the entanglement of
imagination and landscape. Much of this comes out in Caro Was Here.

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

At twelve I wanted to be an air hostie. I vividly recall wanting to wear lots of aquamarine eye shadow and travel the world serving drinks on elegant trays. At eighteen I wanted to be a doctor and save the world’s children from terrible
disease. At thirty I gave in and became a writer, because story sits at the heart of everything. Story is what I love.

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

Author: Elizabeth Farrelly

I believed all you need to change the world was the yearning to do it and the belief that you could. Then I worked out it was a little bit harder than that. Just a little bit.

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?

This is interesting. I see all my nominations are plays. Hmm. TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral affected me profoundly as a teenager, when we studied it at school. I loved the intense play of good and evil, the way the rhythms and imagery resonated with the action, and the sense of a deeply shadowed history. Eliot made me love literature.

When I saw Arthur Miller’s The Crucible performed in London inside the amazing Hawksmoor church at Spitalfields, I wept uncontrollably – hugely uncharacteristic – for an hour. Not because it was sad, but because of the hypocrisy and deceit won over truth, and the way the production realised this conflict inside Hawksmoor’s amazing space, using the cruciform plan to dramatise the tensions.

Shakespeare is kind of obvious but, at school, I didn’t like Shakespeare at all. Yet when I saw King Lear performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in London, I was moved beyond words. It was that last scene, where Cordelia dies. It all comes home to Lear, just what terrible terrible damage he has done. It is heartbreaking and beautiful.

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

Anyone who has written one will tell you that writing a novel is less about choosing to write it than losing the fight of resistance! It is so tempting because a novel is the most satisfying form of story. A novel is a world you can inhabit. Even when you’re not actually reading the book, a part of your mind can still dwell there, enjoying the mysteries of place and unexpected twists of character. A novel gives time for change. It allows character to develop, power
relationships to reverse and familiar assumptions to change beyond recognition. A novel takes you on a strange and unexpected journey, like a river-cave ride. It is the ultimate adventure. Novels are cool.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Caro Was Here is a story about naughtiness and freedom, about trust and betrayal, about courage and the cost of courage. I wanted to write a story that captured the magic with which a child sees the world, the real world in particular. I wanted to set the story in Sydney, which I think is breathtakingly beautiful and somewhat under-written, if you’ll forgive the awkward phrase. And I wanted to write an adventure story with a purposeful plot and a girl in the lead; a story where a girl must draw on all her courage and strength and, in the end, intelligence, just to survive.

Grab a copy of Elizabeth’s latest novel Caro Was Here here

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

I hope they will be able to imagine Caro’s island birthday so vividly they can smell it. I hope they remember the emotions – the fear, the thrill, the laughter. I hope they love the characters and want to hear more. I hope they pass the book and the story on to friends.

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

I read crime. I love crime writers that give depth of character, quirky humour, gorgeous sentence structure and a vivid sense of place. So I love James Lee Burke, James Ellroy, Hilary Mantel, Elmore Leonard and Don Winslow. But when it comes to children’s fiction I love things with vivid word rhythm, intense imagery and conflict: Margaret Mahy (The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate), Roald Dahl (The Witches), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) and Banjo Paterson (The Man from Iron Bark).

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

My ambition is that each of my books should be better and more satisfying than the one before it.  I want to become a better writer.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I want to write stories and keep on writing stories that people love to read. What could be better?

Elizabeth, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Caro Was Here here


Caro Was Here

by Elizabeth Farrelly

The bestselling novelist of all time.

The world’s most famous detective.

The literary event of the year.

Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s novels have been sold around the world. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand-new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation, Hercule Poirot.

In the hands of internationally bestselling author Sophie Hannah, Poirot plunges into a mystery set in 1920s London – a diabolically clever puzzle sure to baffle and delight both Christie’s fans as well as readers who have not yet read her work. Written with the full backing of Christie’s family, and featuring the most iconic detective of all time, this new novel is a major event for mystery lovers the world over.

 Grab a copy of Caro Was Here here

Amy Ewing, author of The Jewel, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Amy Ewing

author of The Jewel

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 Boston, MA, and raised in a small town called Norwood, just outside Boston. I moved to New York City in 2000 to study theatre at New York University. My acting career didn’t quite pan out, and I ended up going back to school in 2010, this time to The New School, where I received a master’s degree in Writing for Children.

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

An actor, an actor, and a writer. I loved performing—I did all the high school plays, and as I said before, I studied theatre in college. I was very shy as a child, and acting helped bring me out of my shell. Writing was always something I did just for me, and I never thought about pursuing it as a career until later in life. I’m certainly glad I did!

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

Author: Amy Ewing

I’m not sure if it was eighteen exactly, but when I was younger I remember thinking that I absolutely had to be married by the time I was thirty. I had this whole idea of what made a “happy” life. At thirty two and single, I’m must say, I’m pretty content with my life just as it is. External factors, like marriage, don’t guarantee happiness.

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?

My first literary love was Roald Dahl. I devoured his books as a child and I loved the darkness in them. When I was eighteen, I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which made me fall head over heels for high fantasy. And, since acting has truly influenced my writing so much, I’ll say Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a play by Steve Martin. There was a monologue in that play that I loved to read over and over again, about art and freedom and what it means to be a woman. It was the monologue that I performed for my NYU audition.

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

Well, I’ve certainly tried many different creative endeavors! Acting, obviously, and I also play guitar and write my own songs. But in the end, I think what drew me to writing books was how all you need is a pen, paper, and your imagination. It’s something that can absolutely be done on your own.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Jewel is my debut novel. It’s about a city where young girls are auctioned off as surrogates to royal women who can no longer have children on their own. It’s a world of opulence and cruelty, where surrogates are mistreated, humiliated, and even killed. It explores the idea of choice, and having the freedom to decide what happens to you. And there are some cute boys too :)

Grab a copy of Amy’s debut novel The Jewel here

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

I certainly hope they will think about the importance of having ownership over your own body. That’s an issue I’m deeply passionate about. And I hope they enjoy living in this darkly glamorous world as much as I do.

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

Writing a series, I have to give J.K. Rowling all the credit for writing seven, incredibly well-conceived, planned, thought-out books. It’s much harder than I thought, writing a trilogy, and I thought it was going to be hard. I also can’t imagine my life without Harry Potter—there is so much love in those books, and every time I read one, I feel myself slipping away into a world I adore living in.

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

My goal was to publish a book, so that got achieved! And now my goal is, quite simply, to keep writing more books. That’s the only part of this process that I can actually control. So that’s what I try to focus on. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t give up! This whole publishing thing is really hard, and takes time, and involves a lot of rejection. I failed spectacularly with my first book. Keep writing. Keep pushing through. It’s worth it in the end.

Amy, thank you for playing.


Amy Ewing’s The Jewel is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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the-jewelThe Jewel

by Amy Ewing

This is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing. The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.

Violet Lasting is no longer a human being. Tomorrow she becomes Lot 197, auctioned to the highest royal bidder in the Jewel of the Lone City. Tomorrow she becomes the Surrogate of the House of the Lake, her sole purpose to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess.

Imprisoned in the opulent cage of the palace, Violet learns the brutal ways of the Jewel, where the royal women compete to secure their bloodline and the surrogates are treated as disposable commodities. Destined to carry the child of a woman she despises, Violet enters a living death of captivity – until she sets eyes on Ash Lockwood, the royal Companion. Compelled towards each other by a reckless, clandestine passion, Violet and Ash dance like puppets in a deadly game of court politics, until they become each other’s jeopardy – and salvation.

It will appeal to fans of dystopian, dark romance, stepping beyond the paranormal craze. It is perfect for fans of Allie Condie and The Hunger Games. It is a debut novel from a radical new voice in YA.

It is the first book in The Lone City trilogy.

Amy Ewing’s The Jewel is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Joakim Zander, author of The Swimmer, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joakim Zander

author of The Swimmer

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 Stockholm but I grew up mostly in a small town called Söderköping on the east coast of Sweden. When I was 15 my father got a job working for the United Nations in the Middle East, so we packed our bags and moved to Damascus, Syria and then on to northern Israel for a year. Moving from the sleepy small town where I grew up to the Middle East was transformational in every way. Some of my memories from that time have also found their way into The Swimmer.

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

I only ever wanted to be a writer. It just took a long time for me to find a story that was mine to tell.

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

I think I had a strong belief that I would be a writer when I was eighteen. But I was not brave enough to give that a go then, so I became a lawyer instead. Now, twenty years later the strongly held belief of the eighteen-year-old has become reality.

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

1) John Le Carre’s The Spy Who came in From the Cold

2) William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

3) J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.

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

I love music and art. But not as much as I love books. Reading and writing have always been natural parts of my life, so it doesn’t feel like I ever made a choice on art form. Also, I am terrible at drawing and cannot carry a tune, so my options were limited.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Swimmer is a spy story that is told in multiple voices and which takes place on several continents and in different time periods. The main plot line involves young careerists in Brussles and Sweden that accidentally come into possession of information that finds them chased through a wintery Europe. In parallel, the book tells the story of an ageing American spy who tries to escape his past but finally has no choice but to confront himself and his own choices head on. I have tried very hard to make the story fast paced and filled with action, while at the same time maintaining a reflective or contemplative tone
in certain parts. I hope that I have succeeded…

Grab a copy of Joakim’s latest novel The Swimmer here

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

First of all, I hope that the readers feel entertained and that the story gets their hearts racing. I also hope that it gives an insight to the lives of young, ambitious Europeans in Brussels. If readers leave the book thinking about the larger themes of regret, guilt and redemption that is a huge bonus.

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

There are too many… But in the spy field, I would have to mention Le Carre for his characters and intelligence.

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

Getting published in Sweden seemed an almost unachievable goal to begin with… And now that The Swimmer gets published all around the world it feels entirely surreal. My goal is to keep writing and I really, really hope that readers will find my books and like them.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Creativity is great. Discipline is greater.

Joakim, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Swimmer here


The Swimmer

by Joakim Zander

A lyrical, cinematic thriller that races between Europe’s halls of power, the CIA headquarters in Virginia, Middle Eastern war zones, and the clifftops of the Swedish archipelago.

Klara Walldeen was orphaned as a child and brought up by her grandparents on a remote Swedish archipelago. She is now a political aide in Brussels – and she has just seen something she shouldn’t: something people will kill to keep hidden.

On the other side of the world, an old spy hides from his past. Once, he was a man of action, so dedicated to the cause that he abandoned his baby daughter to keep his cover. Now the only thing he lives for is swimming in the local pool. Then, on Christmas eve, Klara is thrown into a terrifying chase through Europe. Only the Swimmer can save her. But time is running out…

This is an electrifying thriller from a brilliant new talent. Published in twenty-seven countries and already a bestseller in Sweden, The Swimmer is on the cusp of becoming a global phenomenon.

 Grab a copy of The Swimmer here

Gary Gibson, author of Extinction Game, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Gary Gibson

author of Extinction Game, Final Days series and many more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

Born in Glasgow, Scotland. Raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Schooled in Glasgow, Scotland. Well, mostly, apart from a few years living in Ayrshire. Or, as I like to think of it, north of the Ice Wall amongst the WIldlings.

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

At twelve, I pretty much wanted to be Arthur C. Clarke. Actually, I also wanted to shave my head and wear white robes like the Talosian in the original Star Trek. That’s when I started thinking about writing since I was already sucking up science fiction books like a Roomba in a universe of dust-bunnies. By eighteen, I’d decided I wanted to be Jimmy Page (guitarist in Led Zeppelin) because I’d just moved back to Glasgow from darkest Ayrshire and discovered rock music. The writing took a back seat for a while. But in my mid-twenties, I’d had a kind of Damascene moment and started writing again. By the time I was thirty I’d had a couple of short stories published in pro sf and fantasy magazines.

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

Author: Gary Gibson

That logic and reason will always win any argument. It took a lot of bumps to work out logic and reason are the last things a lot of people ever want to hear.

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?

There’s no three things. It’s everything, all at once, poured into a single Gary Gibson-shaped mould. But if you kidnapped my dog – that is, if I had a dog – and showed me a live stream of it held over a bucket of piranhas and demanded I answer, I’d pick: Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge, Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, and the Gaia trilogy by John Varley. If I’ve got any influences, it’s those three. Probably.

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

It’s a falsity to say there are ‘innumerable’ artistic avenues open to anyone. Well, there are, but whether you’re actually any good at them is another matter. I “chose” to write a novel because it turns out that’s what I’m good at it, it’s fun, and there’s pretty much nothing else I can think of I might possibly want to do with my life.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest is Extinction Game. I couldn’t just sit down and write a straight post-apocalyptic book, because it’s been done so many times. I needed something extra. A classic post-apocalyptic trope is the Last Man on Earth story, so since I’d been reading up on theories regarding the idea we live in a multiverse of infinite parallel realities, it made sense that there must also be an infinite number of universes in which different people are the last man or woman on Earth.

From there it didn’t take much more than a hop or skip to figure out an interesting story lay in bringing those people together through some technology that allows travel from one alternate reality to another. Why write a book about one world-destroying apocalypse, when you can write a book that by definition includes every single possible apocalypse?

Grab a copy of Gary’s latest novel Extinction here

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

An immediate desire to send me the entire contents of their bank accounts and the deeds to their homes. I’m not saying I planted any post-hypnotic suggestions in my books or anything, but…

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

Anyone who writes what they choose to write, regardless of what others think.

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

To produce a book a year; to always improve; to maintain a healthy level of self-criticism that allows me to grow as a writer; to be ambitious, in the sense of never resting on my laurels; to surprise, entertain and delight; to be raised to Godhood and worshipped by milli…ok, maybe not that last one.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

To understand that what appears to be failure is instead an opportunity to define and build on your true strengths.

Gary, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Extinction Game here


Extinction Game

by Gary Gibson

Jerry Beche should be dead. Instead, he’s rescued from a desolate Earth where he was the last man alive. He’s then trained for the toughest conditions imaginable and placed with a crack team of specialists. Every one of them is a survivor, as each withstood the violent ending of their own alternate Earth. And their new specialism? To retrieve weapons and data in missions to other apocalyptic worlds.

But what is ‘the Authority’, the shadowy organization that rescued Beche and his fellow survivors? How does it access other timelines? And why does it need these instruments of death? As Jerry struggles to obey his new masters, he begins to distrust his new companions. A strange bunch, their motivations are less than clear, and accidents start plaguing their missions. Jerry suspects the Authority is feeding them lies, and team members are spying on him. As a dangerous situation spirals into catastrophe, is there anybody he can trust?

 Grab a copy of Extinction Game here

Ananda Braxton-Smith, author of Plenty, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Ananda Braxton-Smith

author of Plenty, Merrow and many more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born in Lichfield, a town in the English midlands, in 1961. It was the year the Berlin Wall went up, and the year poor old Ham the chimp was sent into space. The Wall came down the year my oldest son was born. That’s a neat kind of circle, I think.

My family came to Oz when I was three and I grew up in Perth. I went to Hollywood High School, which wasn’t at all how it sounds. There was a cemetery across the road.

I left school at fifteen! And then I left Perth and came to the eastern states.

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

At seven I wanted to be a hippy. They arrived in the streets of Perth like velvet flowers, or gypsies. They were against wars, and they sang songs and had bare feet. A child’s dream.

At twelve I wanted to be an actor, just for a minute. My mum is an actor. But when I tried it I didn’t like it. Everybody looks at you. But I did love the theatre and still do.

At eighteen I wanted to be a writer.

At thirty I wanted to be a writer.

Now I’m fifty-three and I want to be a palaeontologist. I think it might be too late. I’ll just have to be a writer.

Author: Ananda Braxton-Smith

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

At eighteen I believed discipline was a sort of punishment. Now I think learning to be self-disciplined is the road to happiness. But the truth is most of what I believed then, I believe now. Only more so.

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?

There wasn’t one particular piece of art that inspired me. My childhood was full of books, music, theatre and art so I was always stimulated in that direction. But when I was young I had a pash on T.H. White’s novel Once & Future King, and Gerald Durrell’s memoir My Family & Other Animals. I read them over and over. Also Alice In Wonderland and the Narnia books.

When I was in my twenties I was in love with so many writers for so many reasons. I wanted to write like Dickens and Virginia Woolf and Hunter S Thompson all at once. (And I think I might have, which might explain a lot of things.)

These days I’ve got a bit of a story-crush on Barbara Kingsolver (just for her Poisonwood Bible really), a word-crush on Annie Proulx (for The Shipping News), and am at this very moment busy adoring the writers of the 50s who were writing out of the southern states of the USA. Writers like Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. And of course, William Faulkner.

As for music, since I started singing I find much inspiration in the lyrics of wacky old folk songs. They are so spooky, so sad, so funny, and in so few words.

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

I didn’t really have any number of avenues open to me. I’m not great at visual art though I enjoy it and do it for fun and to work out my novels, and I love music but had no motivation in that direction in my younger days. Now I sing with a bluegrass band called the HillWilliams.

I write because that’s the art form I was drawn to, and the one that keeps me engaged. My strongest responses were always to books and theatre. Language fascinates me. It always seems to be talking about something more than its words and phrases express. I have days when everything that comes out of people’s mouths sounds like poetry.

It’s a very personal and sort of inexplicable relationship I have to words. I have written almost every day of my life since my early teens, mostly short stories and poems. But I loved writing that history book so much and the chance to try a novel was irresistible.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Plenty is for ten- to twelve-year-olds, but I think adults will like it too. It’s a contemporary realist fiction, set in and around Melbourne. My other books have centred around the medieval world so this was a whole new thing for me. I’ve really enjoyed not having to do quite so much research before I can write one sensible sentence!

It concerns Maddy Frank who has always lived in the same house, in the same street in Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne. On Maddy’s tenth birthday her parents tell her they are moving, and then they do so. They move out to the Plenty Valley where Maddy has to start at a new school and do without her lifelong best friend. Her anger and homesickness is intense, until two people she meets help her begin to forgive her parents and settle into her new home. One is her grandmother, Nana Mad, and the other is her new desk-mate, Grace Wek who was born in a refugee camp. Both have stories of leaving home and resettlement to tell. Through their stories Maddy learns more about who she is and where she comes from, what resilient people are and what she herself is capable of. She also learns the reason parents make their children move.

Grab a copy of Ananda’s latest novel Plenty here

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

I hope they will recognise their own attachment to their homes, and will wonder to themselves how they would respond to being displaced from it. I hope they will be moved by the courage in the resettlement stories. But most I hope they’ll enjoy Maddy Frank, and her family and friends. I did.

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

I admire writers who write about hard things without sinking into sentimentality or mere pity. I think I admire writers for the same reasons I admire anyone —courage, emotional honesty, warm hearts. I loved Night by Eli Wiesel for that reason.

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

I think writers suffer from the same desire as theoretical physicists. Physicists want to discover the Theory of Everything, and writers want to write the Book about Everything. I share that impossible goal. A story that contains everything about human life; about what it’s like to be alive and conscious right now, right here, but with all of history contained in it too. Everything.

It’s too big, of course. But there it is.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read. Read. Read.

It’s the only advice worth anything, I reckon. It’s almost more important than writing, at first. If you read widely and with passion you will develop an ear for good writing, which means you’ll sense when the work is going bung. You will build up a useful word-hoard, which means when you come to tell your own stories you’ll have a sizable tool-kit. And eventually you’ll learn to recognise the centuries-old conversations writers have engaged in, and maybe even join in. And that’s when it gets really interesting.

And second: love the doing. If you don’t love it, why bother? Art is not compulsory.

Ananda, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Plenty here


Plenty

by Ananda Braxton-Smith

A place to call home.

Maddy Frank has always lived in Jermyn Street. Always. But now her mum and dad are making her move from the city, far away to some place called Plenty. How will Maddy survive without everything and everyone she knows? Nobody understands. But what about her mysterious new classmate, Grace Wek, who was born in a refugee camp? Could Grace actually understand how Maddy feels?

 

 Grab a copy of Plenty here

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