Claire Varley, author of The Bit in Between, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Claire Varley

author of The Bit in Between

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 Geelong, raised on the Bellarine Peninsula and schooled in the art of wit and one-liners that don’t quite deliver. Geelong is great; it is a pilot city of the NDIS and directly elected mayors, and when I was growing up it had a zedonk farm.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be fourteen because that’s how old the babysitters of the Babysitter’s Club were. In my head fourteen was a magical age when you were given responsibilities beyond your years and did exciting things like solve pet-napping mysteries and move to California when your parents got divorced and your dad remarried a younger woman named Carol.

When I was eighteen I wanted to be someone who lived in a house with heating because I spent my winter wandering around my sharehouse wearing a doona-muu-muu and feeling sad that I had dragon breath inside the house. But I acknowledged that alongside drowning with a book of Keats’ poems in your pocket, such is the life of a would-be writer.

I am currently 29 and hope, at thirty, to be a) still alive, b) wiser and c) David Sedaris.

Author: Claire Varley

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

That living in a house with heating meant I had made it.

Also, that skirts and dresses would never be a part of my wardrobe. For some reason my brothers and I have a thing about always dressing in a way that is conducive to suddenly having to run away from something. It’s as if we were conditioned from childhood for an imminent zombie apocalypse. Now, having realised I am not particularly agile or swift, I wear skirts a lot more.

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?

Terry Pratchett taught me that laughter is the best teacher of both compassion and sadness. I revisit Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas every year to remind myself what perfection is. And Solveig’s Song by Edvard Grieg is my go to song for when I need to remember the value of stillness and silence within my work. And when I need the confidence to kill my darlings.

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

Because I legitimately have no talent in any other field. See self-portrait below.

sg

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Bit In Between is my debut novel. It’s an awkward love story about Oliver and Alison, two young Australians, who have landed in the Solomon Islands looking for their truths. Oliver is writing his second novel and as they settle into island life coincidences start to happen that make him question how much life is influencing his book, and vice versa.

Grab a copy of Claire’s new book The Bit in Between here

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

At its heart it is a story of people, love, life, the paths we choose, and those we don’t. I hope it makes people laugh, then cry, then laugh again and feel guilty for laughing so soon after they cried. As David Foster Wallace said, ‘good writing helps readers become less alone inside’, and I do so hope it does this.

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

When I sit down at my computer I say to myself, ‘pretend you are the love child of Zadie Smith and Steve Toltz and you have been given the task to write!’ Zadie Smith’s ability to capture people is breathtaking and in A Fraction of the Whole Steve Toltz, to me, created the perfect novel. And reading the first page of Under Milk Wood makes me rage against the genius of Dylan Thomas’s mastery of language.

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

My bar is so low – see aforementioned home heating goal. Obviously I would like total global literary domination and to see a statue of myself erected outside the Westfield in Geelong in the manner of Hans Christian Anderson in Central Park, but in lieu of this, I’d be perfectly happy to continue to have opportunities to tell stories that make people happy, sad and content.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read books, buy books, love books and never let anyone tell you to stop buying them because you have too many and the house has become a firetrap.

Write lots – for others and for yourself – because like any skill you need to practice.

When people tell you that no one makes a living from writing anymore, point out that no one has ever really made a living from writing, then go home, put on your doona-muu-muu and write until your heart sings.

Claire, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Bit in Between here


The Bit in Between

by Claire Varley

Writing a love story is a lot easier than living one.

There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.

After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.

Immediately. Inexplicably. Irrevocably.

With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with; happily ever after.

About the Author

Claire Varley grew up on the Bellarine Peninsula and lives in Melbourne. She has sold blueberries, worked in a haunted cinema, won an encouragement award for being terrible at telemarketing, taught English in rural China, and coordinated community development projects in remote Solomon Islands.

Her short stories and poems have appeared in Australian Love Stories (‘A Greek Tragedy’), Australian Love Poems (‘Beatitude’), Seizure online (‘Poll’, ‘Hallow’), page seventeen (‘Once’, ‘Hamlet, Remus and Two Guys Named Steve’), Sotto (‘in the name of’) and [Untitled] (‘The Nicholas Name’, ‘Behind Tram Lines’). The Bit In Between is her first novel.

 Grab a copy of The Bit in Between here

Joanna Courtney, author of The Chosen Queen, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-chosen-queen

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Joanna Courtney

author of The Chosen Queen

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 St Andrews in Scotland, so definitely consider myself a Scot at heart even though we moved to England when I was only a few months old. Bar lots of lovely visits to grandparents over the border, I’ve been in England ever since, growing up in a village in the Midlands with my parents, and my brother and sister.

I then headed off to Cambridge University to study English literature and from there took a sideways turn into factory management, helping to run an old-fashioned textile mill in Lancashire. In my spare time, though, I was always writing and when I met my husband and gave up full time work to have children, I turned to writing to keep me sane between nappies, as well as to fulfil a lifelong dream.

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

Easy – I wanted to be a writer, a writer and a writer! Why, I’m not so sure about – I just have this itch to shape the world into coherent narratives!

Joanna-Courtney-Barnden1-200x200-circle3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I think that, in common with many eighteen year olds, I believed it was possible to create a ‘perfect life’. I now know that there’s no such thing really and you just have to make the most of everything that you do have that’s good. Right now, for me, that’s a wonderful family, a lovely cosy house and the publication of my first novel.

Becoming ‘a writer’ has been my dream all the way, so whilst it’s crazy juggling being a wife and mother with my work, I’d still say that it’s pretty perfect in a messy, wonderfully bonkers sort of way!

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?

I am an avid reader and always have been so any number of books have had a strong influence on me, but my favourite is definitely Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles for its rich sense of journey for poor, brave Tess.

I love music, though I’m no connoisseur and generally like it best for dancing to! One piece that did really inspire me, though, was the slightly obscure ‘Liar’s Bar’ by The Beautiful South from the 90s. I loved this song so much that I wrote a whole novel inspired by it. It hasn’t yet made the light of day but perhaps at some point I’ll be able to go back to it.

As far as art goes, I’m even less of a connoisseur than I am of music. I do, however, have this innate love of pictures with paths leading off into the horizon and as a writer that’s the way I approach my stories – as paths that are going to lead both me and, hopefully, the reader somewhere enticing.

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

I didn’t actually start out writing novels. For many years I published short stories. This was mainly because I was bringing up small children so only had the odd hour here and there in which to write but it was also a wonderful way to hone my writing, to find my voice, and to learn the vital skill of pleasing a targeted audience.

I’ve had over 200 short stories published in the English women’s magazines and have loved my time crafting shorter fiction but I’ve also always had a strong pull towards the novel as there is something deeply satisfying about the longer format. It gives you a chance to develop a character and really draw the reader into their world. It also offers so much scope for twists and turns and, when it comes to historical fiction, I love the space that it gives me to bring a period to life and to create a narrative that can lead a reader through a complicated set of events in a coherent and exciting way.

the-chosen-queen6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Chosen Queen is not just my latest but my first ever full novel and I’m so very, very pleased to see it out on the shelves. It aims to tell the tale of the time leading up to 1066 from the women’s side – a long neglected and hopefully engaging way of looking at a year of battles that shaped England’s history forever.

It’s the story of Edyth of Mercia, granddaughter of Lady Godiva, whose family were exiled to the wild Welsh court where she was married to the charismatic King Griffin of Wales. This match catapulted her into a bitter feud with England in which(in my interpretation of her story) her only allies are Earl Harold Godwinson and his handfasted wife, Lady Svana. But as 1066 dawns and Harold is forced to take the throne of England, Edyth – now a young widow – is asked to make an impossible choice that has the power to change the future of England forever…

The Chosen Queen is the first in the Queens of the Conquest trilogy, with the next two following the same period but from the viewpoint of two others – Elizaveta of Kiev, wife of Harald Hardrada, the Viking king; and Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the eventual conqueror. They will come out in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Grab a copy of Joanna’s new book The Chosen Queen here

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

I really hope that my books will give readers a strong sense of the period leading up to 1066 and allow them to experience life back then through the pages. I also hope they might learn something that surprises them a little, but above all else, I hope that they are just able to get carried away by the heroine’s journey.

Getting the history right is very important to me and I do a lot of research to try and ensure that I do so, but above all else I want to write a good story that involves and satisfies the reader. If readers can come away feeling that they have known and loved Edyth I will be delighted.

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

the-king-s-curseMy contemporary writing heroines are Elizabeth Chadwick and Philippa Gregory as they both write such well-researched, lively and gripping novels.

If I can grab readers as those two writers do, I will consider myself successful.

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

I suppose I want to be a bestseller. I’d love above all else to be one of those writers whose next novel is eagerly anticipated by readers. I’d love them to rush out to buy it feeling that they can trust me to deliver a wonderful story and I intend to work very hard to achieve that.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just write. Courses can be good, ‘how to’ books can be good, market research and reading everything that’s out there can also be good, but at the end of the day you won’t be a writer unless you write and you won’t have a book to sell unless you put your head down and start the first chapter, then the next, then the next.

There’s nothing more frightening than a blank page, so just start filling them and enjoy it!

Joanna, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Chosen Queen here


the-chosen-queenThe Chosen Queen

by Joanna Courtney

As a young woman in England’s royal court, Edyth, granddaughter of Lady Godiva, dreams of marrying for love. But political matches are rife while King Edward is still without an heir and the future of England is uncertain.

When Edyth’s family are exiled to the wild Welsh court, she falls in love with the charismatic King of Wales – but their romance comes at a price and she is catapulted onto the opposing side of a bitter feud with England. Edyth’s only allies are Earl Harold Godwinson and his handfasted wife, Lady Svana.

As the years pass, Edyth finds herself elevated to a position beyond even her greatest expectations. She enjoys both power and wealth but as her star rises the lines of love and duty become more blurred than she could ever have imagined. As 1066 dawns, Edyth is asked to make an impossible choice.

Her decision is one that has the power to change the future of England forever . . .

The Chosen Queen is the perfect blend of history, fast-paced plot and sweeping romance with a cast of strong female characters – an unforgettable read.

About the Author

Joanna Courtney has wanted to be a writer ever since she could read. As a child she was rarely to be seen without her head in a book and she was also quick to pick up a pen. After spending endless hours entertaining her siblings with made up stories, it was no surprise when Joanna pursued her passion for books during her time at Cambridge University – where she combined her love of English and History by specialising in Medieval Literature.

 

 Grab a copy of The Chosen Queen here

Lucy Treloar, author of Salt Creek, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

salt-creekThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lucy Treloar

author of Salt Creek

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 Malaysia, where my family lived for several years. My schooling was in Melbourne, England and Sweden, and I went to Melbourne University (Fine Arts) and RMIT (Prof Writing and Editing).

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

I realize now that I always wanted to be a writer (I can still recite a horrible poem in rhyming couplets that I wrote at seven or so, which I’ll spare you) but it took me years to find that out. In any job I held I always gravitated towards writing. I love words. How can you not?

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

At eighteen, I believed without even knowing it that the world would continue in much the same way as it always had, with a few technological developments. Life has become more precarious andLucy Treloar the world’s fragility better understood in the intervening years. I’m more fearful, I think, partly because I worry about the future for my children.

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?

The hardest question. Only three? The Emigrants – a gripping historical series by a Swedish writer, Vilhelm Moberg, the first really adult books I read; Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (the first time I saw that books could be about ideas, not only character and plot) and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (I felt as if I’d become a different person after I read it). These books were so much part of my growing up (read between the ages of 11 and 17) and my thinking that I can’t separate them from me. They and the universes of human existence that they contained were like explosions in my life. I longed to be able to do that.

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

I’m just not very good at other things. I would love to be an artist, but all I can do is appreciate art longingly, enviously from a distance.

6.    Please tell us about your latest novel

salt-creekSalt Creek is the story of Hester Finch, an educated, highly intelligent fifteen-year-old of the 1850s whose family moves from early Adelaide to a remote and spectacular part of South Australia where over several years her father tries (and fails) to improve the family’s fortunes, destroying the indigenous culture as he does it. It’s about love in its many forms, power, and civilization and its failings.

Grab your copy of Salt Creek here

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

For people to care and wonder about the world and the people of Salt Creek, even the ones who behaved badly.

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

It’s very hard for me to go past Marilynne Robinson. The scope of her fiction is apparently small, yet the range of human emotion and experience that she is able to explore, and the generosity of her understanding, is vast. Cormac McCarthy (especially his Border Trilogy and Blood Meridian) is another writer I read and reread. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is extraordinary. Among writers of historical fiction, Hilary Mantel, Kate Grenville and Geraldine Brooks are the benchmarks for me.

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

All I really want is an excuse to keep writing, for my skills to develop, and to continue to be published. That feels wildly ambitious to me.

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Getting negative feedback goes with the territory of being a writer. But don’t let that feedback stop you; don’t let anyone else decide for you that you’re not a writer. Let that be your decision. The other piece of advice is from Marilynne Robinson: ‘Forget definition, forget assumption, watch’.

Lucy, thank you for playing.

Barbara Hannay, author of The Secret Years, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-secret-yearsThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Barbara Hannay

author of The Secret Years

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 Sydney and at the age of four I moved Brisbane, where I attended The Gap State High School and the University of Queensland. I began a Bachelor of Arts degree, which I later completed in Townsville while I was teaching.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

At 12, I wanted to be a star netballer. At 18, my focus was on becoming a high school teacher, although I was a closet poet and nursed secret longings to be a ‘real’ writer. At 30, I was immersed in motherhood and writing stories to entertain my small children, but the dream of publication was still there.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

At 18, I was convinced that people in the city led much more exciting lives than country folk. I had the nerve to feel sorry for people in regional or rural towns. I left Brisbane when I started teaching, and I soon realised how wrong I was. I had a lot to learn.

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?

Books, paintings, sculpture and music have provided inspirations throughout my life, and looking back, I can see that my preferences have always been romantic.

The impact of Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians, which I read at the age of seven, has been a lasting one. Judy’s death rocked me and taught me so much about emotional punch in writing.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss, and by the paintings of the French Impressionists.

I love most classical music and I often listen to it while I’m writing. A standout for me is the Brahms’s violin concerto. There are sections in the first movement that literally stop me in my tracks. Every time.

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

I think this form chose me. When the time was right – and I’d been waiting a long time to fulfil my creative dreams – it finally felt inevitable.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

the-secret-yearsThe Secret Years is about three generations of one family. There’s Lucy, a female soldier who’s returned from Afghanistan and finds her life at a crossroads, Ro, her under-confident mum who feels she’s made a mess of her life, and Harry, Lucy’s grandfather, an outback cattleman and WW2 hero, who won the heart of a London debutante.

The story moves from the Aussie outback to England and also to New Guinea during the war, so there’s plenty of romance and heroism.

Grab your copy of The Secret Years here

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

A big happy sigh.

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

I admire so many published writers. The best thing about becoming a writer has been meeting wonderful and interesting people around the world who “get” my passion.

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

I’m happy if I can continue to publish a new book each year.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read widely and deeply until you find the right kind of story telling that suits your writing voice. Have fire in your belly and be prepared to work hard. It’s not easy, but don’t give up. Too many aspiring writers give up at the first rejection.

Barbara, thank you for playing.

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 visceral, well realised world. The library tower of the Supreme 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

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