COMING SOON: Kim Lock, author of upcoming Like I Can Love answers the Booktopia Book Guru’s Ten Terrifying Questions

likeicanloveThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kim Lock

author of Like I Can Love

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

I was born six days early, and this ambition to be more mature than I was persisted throughout my childhood. I was often elected as class leader or student representative for this or that. I grew up in a conservative country town in the south east of South Australia, and then moved to Darwin at 19.

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

Twelve: Before understanding the importance of good mathematics grades – a doctor, who also writes novels. Eighteen: Creative director of a magazine, who also writes novels. Thirty: Still no good at maths and now with a toddler and a baby – someone who gets more than 90 minutes sleep in a row, and also writes novels.

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

This is an embarrassing question, because I had so many. (I was a 90s teen: Salt-N-Pepa, high-tops and South Park.) What strikes me most, now, is how much I believed that what other people thought of me mattered. I had this belief that the perceptions of others were like a mirror, or were somehow legitimate judgements of who I was. If I could go back in time I’d whisper to that 18-year-old me: Be yourself, for yourself, because that is perfect.

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?

No singular piece, but rather collections of art en masse. Libraries and bookstores have always been my go-to places for influence and creative nourishment. If I could collect and bottle Essence of Bookstore, I would wear it on my skin. And I suspect I wouldn’t be alone. (You’d wear it too, wouldn’t you?)

If I could collect and bottle Essence of Bookstore, I would wear it on my skin.

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

Oh, I’m flattered by your suggestion that I could be skilled in innumerable artistic avenues. Is papier måché still a thing? I could probably give that a go. Although there’s a lot less spare newsprint laying around these days, what with the Internet and all.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel

Like I Can Love begins on a summer’s day in South Australia’s famous Coonawarra wine district, when a young woman draws a bath and slits her wrists. She leaves behind a two-year-old son, a husband, and her best friend with a key to a self-storage unit.

Coonawarra Wine District

Coonawarra Wine District

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

A feeling. Any feeling. Because to touch the emotions of a reader is to speak to them a little. The story no longer belongs to me – that novel has graduated and moved out of home. It belongs to the reader, and that it spoke to them in some way is all I can hope for.

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

I tend to fall deeply in love with writers as I’m reading their novels. Delicious prose, witty and flawed and delightful characters, storylines that make me think – when I read these books I have a mini-love affair with the author. I admire those writers whose voices are so engaging their work could be about the life cycle of a slug and it would be fascinating.Kim Lock

I admire writers who can handle self-promotion with confidence, who can read reviews about their work and keep writing, who can Tweet fabulous things with only 140 characters. So there’s probably far, far too many to list, but to narrow it down a little, I have had a lot of these love affairs with Australian women writers lately.

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

Can I say that I’d love to see a novel I wrote turned into a film? And also, to get more than 90 minutes sleep in a row.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read. Read more than you write. Read books you love and work out why. Read books you feel you can criticise and work out why. Read for the pleasure of it, because that reminds you why this love affair with the written word is worth pursuing.

Kim, thank you for playing!

Grab your copy of Like I Can Love here!


Like I Can Love

by Kim Lock

likeicanloveOn a hot January afternoon, Fairlie Winter receives a phone call. Her best friend has just taken her own life.

Jenna Rudolph, 26 years old, has left behind a devoted husband, an adorable young son and a stunning vineyard. But Fairlie knows she should have seen this coming. Yet Fairlie doesn’t know what Jenna’s husband Ark is hiding, nor does she know what Jenna’s mother Evelyn did to drive mother and daughter apart all those years ago.

Until Fairlie opens her mail and finds a letter. In Jenna’s handwriting. Along with a key. Driven to search for answers, Fairlie uncovers a horrifying past, a desperate mother, and a devastating secret … Read More

Grab your copy of Like I Can Love here!

The debut psychological thriller from Fiona Barton that has crime & thriller writers raving

The WidowThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona Barton

author of The Widow

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

Born in Cambridge, UK and raised in the Fenlands of East Anglia, in a village called Burwell. Caught the bus every day to school – St Mary’s Convent, Cambridge – where I was taught by some inspirational women. From there I went to the Unversity of Warwick to study for a BA Hons in French and Theatre Studies.

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

Journalist, journalist and journalist. It was all I wanted to do until I was 50 because it combined being able to ask questions of anyone, meeting people whose stories never leave you, travelling to unlikely places and writing. At 50 I was ready for something new and became a volunteer in Sri Lanka, working with reporters under threat.

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

I had one a day when I was 18. Too many to remember now.

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

This is such a difficult question – I love art, books, music, theatre and film and see, read and watch as much of them as I can. So, it is hard to pick out individual influences. However, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome was the first proper book I read for myself (on a long car journey across Europe when I was about seven). It pulled me into another world where I could not be reached by my parents, anxious to point out the sights we were passing. Perhaps that was the start of everything.

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

The worm of the story of The Widow ate away at me until I could no longer resist. And I couldn’t tell it any other way. Writing is what I do – I’ve earned my living from it since the day I joined the East Grinstead Observer in 1979 – and I am rubbish at painting.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Put simply, The Widow is a psychological thriller about a man accused of a terrible crime – the abduction of a child. But it isn’t that simple. The story is told by four people caught up in the drama.

Primarily, the narrative belongs to Jean, the widow of the accused, as she remembers her life and interprets the events that threaten everything –  and everyone – she believed in. Woven through are the stories of the desperate search for a two-year-old child, told by the police officer in charge, the mother of the victim, and the journalist covering the story.

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

A sense of having been there for the ride.

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

There are so many authors who have touched and influenced me—I’ve been reading for more than 50 years! But most recently: Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies) for the brilliance of her story-telling; Kate Atkinson (When Will There Be Good News? and Life After Life) for the characters and power of a story told by many; and John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany) for his sheer otherness.

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

If I’d been a child prodigy or young literary Turk, my list of ambitions would probably turn to a second page but, with age, come all the things you might have wished for – family, career, chances, experiences. My ambition now is to write the two other books I’ve signed up to and enjoy the brilliant new adventure of being an author.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Stop making excuses and start today.

widow reviews ed

The Widow

Fiona Barton

The Widow

Du Maurier’s Rebecca meets We Need to Talk About Kevin and Gone Girl in this intimate tale of a terrible crime.

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime. But what about the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs, the woman who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming. Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of … Read More

Grab your copy of The Widow here!

Emma Hooper, author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Emma Hooper

author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James

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 Alberta, Canada. That’s right in the middle of Canada, where the long low prairies meet the rocky mountains. That’s where I was raised and schooled too. Saskatchewan, where Etta and Otto and Russell and James is set was right next door (it’s nothing but prairie), and my childhood holidays were spent out there visiting my mom’s family. Long hot empty days in that long hot empty place. Nothing but wheat fields and gophers…

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

I never gave the same answer twice. One day it was a vet, the next a lawyer. Once it was a choral conductor because I noticed they got a lot of flowers. An ice-hockey player, an actor, a palaeontologist … the only certain thing was my indecision.  And now that I’m all grown up with three jobs I still can’t decide…

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

I was fiercly, fiercly, independent at that age. Didn’t want to have to rely on anyone for anything ever… I still value independence and want to be able to always land on my own two feet, but I now also see the value, the potential, of needing other people sometimes. Of teaming up…

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?

A book: Ocean Sea by Alessandro Baricco

A painting: The collected works of Erin K Hooper (my sister) and Jeff Kulak (my friend)

A piece of music: ‘Heartland’ by Owen Pallet

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

I’ve always been fond of narrative, of story-telling, that folds in and out of itself, everything from Borges’ Labyrinths to Egger A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. We don’t experience life linearly, we’re always thinking about what happened yesterday, or where we’ll be tomorrow, or both at once, so I was striving for a form that could capture some of that fluidity. That, and I’ve got quite aLabyrinths fondness for puzzles… for taking a bunch of seemingly disparate pieces and figuring out how to fit them together into one beautiful whole… A novel seemed the only and best form for that.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My favourite is The Times’ (of London’s) description, so I’ll steal that: “a fantastical yet deeply human adventure story starring a wild, brave, outdoorsy heroine striding alone across the North American wilderness. A heroine who happens to be a little old woman…”

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

I hope they get the inspiration and impulse to do whatever it is they want to do. We all have goals and desires like Etta’s, that don’t always make sense to everyone else, or even to ourselves, sometimes. The “I’ve always wanted”s. If the book inspires one person who used to say, “I’ve always wanted to do X” to go ahead and do it, I’ll be happy. Swim with dolphins, living in Japan, making fudge, making a rocket, anything, everything.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?one-hundred-years-of-solitude

I admire writers who play with magic and reality, and who embrace joy as well as suffering in their books. Examples are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Karen Russell and Jonathan Safran Foer.

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

Never stop making. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Learn your grammar. Really. No one’s above the basics. And no one will take you seriously until you do.

Emma, thank you for playing.


Etta and Otto and Russell and James

by Emma Hooper

‘I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.’

Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two, she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to the water.

But Etta is starting to forget things. Her husband, Otto, remembers everything, and he loves … Read more

Grab a copy of Etta and Otto and Russell and James here


About the Author

Emma Hooper is a musician and writer. As a musician, her solo project ‘Waitress for the Bees’ tours internationally and has earned her a Finish Cultural Knighthood. Asan author, she has published short stories, non-fiction pieces, poetry and libretti as well as a number of academic papers. She is a research-lecturer at Bath Spa University, in the Commercial Music department, but goes home to cross-country ski in Canada as much as she can afford.

 Grab a copy of Etta and Otto and Russell and James here

Caleb Krisp, author of Anyone but Ivy Pocket, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Caleb Krisp

author of Anyone but Ivy Pocket

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 somewhere near the beginning and raised in a series of locked rooms up and down the east coast. My schooling consisted of a one-legged governess with a prominent overbite and whatever I could gleam from the back of coffee tins.

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

Like any twelve-year-old, I dreamed of overthrowing the government, declaring my homeland a dictatorship and enslaving the general population.

At eighteen, I longed to enter a convent and devote myself to weaving tapestries, overthrowing the Mother Superior and enslaving the nuns.

By thirty my more radical instincts had been tempered and my sole ambition was to be ironically jaded and short of breath when climbing stairs. I am happy to say, I achieved my goal.

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

At eighteen I was of the firm belief that Charles Darwin was the root cause of both my existential angst and my post-breakfast bloating. It took years for me to realise he was only the cause of my post-breakfast bloating.

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 wPicnic at Hanging Rockriter?

The classic sitcom The Munsters was repeated numerous times throughout my childhood and I’d suspect it was, at least partly, the inspiration for my first book – Watching the Munsters. In  literary terms, the missing chapter of Picnic at Hanging Rock, in which the girls vanish through a tear in time, caused a brief, but profound, dizzy spell – resulting in several majestic and highly libellous letters to Joan Lindsey’s estate. Lastly, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love blew the windows open and allowed me to consider that living in my imagination was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

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

In my mid-twenties I noticed that due to a certain amount of excessive creative energy, my weekly shopping list ran to three hundred pages and contained long tracts of surrealist poetry and third person narratives with a whimsical bent. As such, I felt becoming a novelist was the path of least resistance.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Anyone But Ivy Pocket is the compelling tale of a twelve year old maid of no importance. She is violently deluded, majestically self-important, frequently ill-mannered and has the intuitive sense of a pound cake. What’s more, Ivy’s caught up in a ghastly business involving a murdered duchess, a mystical necklace, a brattish aristocrat and a most remarkable destiny.

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

It’s my sincere hope that they take the book away with them after reading the work – and then burn it. I’m against lending books to family or friends. Ditto, libraries in general. This has less to do with any philistine tendencies and more to do with a thirst for royalties.

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

Wilkie Collins springs to mind, primarily because he is a master of understatement and economy. As does Charity Bullhorn – Charity was Beatrix Potter’s maiden aunt and is long forgotten. She wrote a dozen novels in her short life, including A Certain Kind of Trollop and Tart with a Teapot. One cannot read her books and fail to be confused.

The Hunted Hotel The woman in whitethe-moonstone

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

My artist goal is to complete my forty-four volume nordic noir novel exploring the co-dependent relationship between a vegetarian serial killer and a psychologically damaged kitten suspended from active duties. I am three pages in and so far it’s going gangbusters.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Stop. If that is not an option, then write the book you’ve always wanted to read.

Caleb, thank you for playing.

Grab your copy of Anyone but Ivy Pocket here


Anyone but Ivy Pocket

by Caleb Krisp

anyone-but-ivy-pocketWho can you rely on to deliver a priceless diamond to an undeserving heiress? ANYONE BUT IVY POCKET! Fans of Lemony Snicket – your new hero awaits.

Ivy Pocket is a twelve-year-old maid of no importance, with a very lofty opinion of herself. Dumped in Paris by the Countess Carbunkle, who would rather run away to South America than continue in Ivy’s companionship, our young heroine (of sorts) finds herself with no money and no home to go to … until she is summoned to the bedside of the dying Duchess of Trinity.

For the princely sum of £500 (enough to buy a carriage, and possibly a monkey), Ivy agrees to courier the Duchess’s most precious possession – the Clock Diamond – to England, and to put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday. It’s not long before Ivy finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy involving mischief, mayhem and murder. Illustrated in humorous gothic detail by John Kelly, Anyone But Ivy Pocket is just the beginning of one girl’s deadly comic journey to discover who she really is …

Grab your copy of Anyone but Ivy Pocket here


About the Author

Caleb KrisCaleb Krispp was raised by militant librarians who fed him a constant diet of nineteenth century literature and room temperature porridge. He graduated from the University of Sufferance with a degree in Whimsy and set out to make his mark in the world as a writer.

Years of toil and failure followed, until, following a brief stint working in a locked box, Caleb moved to an abandoned cottage deep in the woods and devoted himself to writing about the adventures of a twelve-year-old lady’s maid of no importance.

Caleb has a strong dislike of pastry chefs and certain domesticated rabbits. His only communication with the outside world is via morse code or kettle drum. He trusts no one.

 Grab your copy of Anyone but Ivy Pocket here

The Booktopia Book Guru asks Mireille Juchau Ten Terrifying Questions

The world without us

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mireille Juchau

author of The World Without 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 in Sydney, raised in Fiji, England, New Zealand and Australia. My primary schooling was in Castle Hill, in Sydney’s Bible belt. Religion was entirely mysterious to me, though alluring. I had a writer’s sense of never quite fitting in, so when I learned of my family’s German Jewish heritage, it seemed to offer some explanations for unspoken things—it opened me up to an entirely other world.

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

My mother was a librarian and I credit her for an early love of reading and for feeling at home around the Dewey Decimal System. At twelve after borrowing some books about autistic children, I decided to cure autism. But this grandiose plan was really about reconciling my own sensitivity, which wasn’t especially prized in my world. It took me a long time to accept the quieter, pensive side of myself.

At thirty I was teaching, doing a PhD, headed for academia. My first novel was published but I still didn’t have the audacity to call myself a writer, I was shadowed by that particularly Australian shame around creative achievement.

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

At eighteen I thought my identity was fixed and immoveable, that the depression from which I’d suffered was innate. Happily I now know this was something I would pass through. But still I had to dismantle the belief that melancholy was the source of writing ability. James Baldwin says of this: ‘No one works better out of anguish at all; that’s an incredible literary conceit.’ I had to learn you could write in any state of mind.

Literature was immensely consoling during this time. I read and wrote poetry. Tsvetaeva, Rilke, Celan and Wallace Stevens are still often by the bed with Anne Carson. I like Lacan’s advice to read the poets ‘not for wisdom, but for the dismantling of wisdom’. That’s also what I hope to do when I write.

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?

Hard to choose three, for there’s Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner, Duras, Bachelard, Barthes, Benjamin, DeLillo. But here goes…

Poem of the End, Marina Tsvetaeva’s magisterial incantatory sequence about the end of an affair, longing and belonging, loss and separation. A dissident writer under Stalin, Tsvetaeva’s poem seems to foreshadow other histories of displacement and loss.

Diane Arbus’s audacious photographs, and her raw and marvelous journal entries collected recently in Revelations.

Speedboat, Renata Adler’s fragmented novel of ideas, which boldly collaged diary entries with cultural observations of her time as a reporter in 1970s New York. Wry, blazingly smart, worldly and hypnotic. A grittier Joan Didion.

poems-of-the-end Revelations Speedboat

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

I begin with an idea, which usually transfigures as I think and write around it. It often becomes a short work, and if it still captures my interest, I’ll keep going. I don’t necessarily set out to write a novel (and I’ve just written a long essay by way of exploring some new themes). I let my fascination guide me, and the process tends to demand a particular form.

The novel is one of several forms that help me discover what I believe, that dismantles receive wisdoms. It has the capacity to sustain several questions and the novelists I prefer are less interested in answers than encompassing in their stories mystery, curiosity, doubt.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…The world without us

It’s difficult to describe a work you’ve lived with so long—you see it from the inside out. I started The World Without Us with several questions: what happens when the landscapes so familiar to us, so consoling—whether inside or beyond the home become unrecognizable? Do our histories conceal or reveal who we are?

Central to the novel is young Tess Müller, who hasn’t spoken for six months. Her silence is a mystery to her beekeeping father and her younger sister Meg. But the more urgent puzzle for the girls is where their mother disappears to and why he’s become so absent to the family, and to herself. The novel asks how a child’s silence protects what’s hidden in the family, how we survive our childhoods, and how we are formed or deformed by our rapidly changing environments.

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

I hope to make the reader think, feel, and become fully absorbed in an otherworld. I aimed to create a powerful and atmospheric sense of this clannish rainforest town, and the family’s dilapidated farmhouse—floating and dreamlike. I hope I’ve summoned some of the complexity of this particular human community, without diluting its mysteries. I hope I’ve made people feel, and question what they believe about coming of age, repression and the longing for human connection.

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

questions-of-travelI admire writers who are utterly committed to their work rather than the attention it may attract, who take creative risks regardless of the market and have a distinctive style. I most admire writers who inhabit the literary world with courage, humility and ethical tact. They’re alert to the many voices we don’t hear in mainstream publishing, reminding us of literature’s diversity and complexity. I’ve been guided by some quietly brilliant writers and thinkers in Australia—Michelle de Kretser, Gail Jones, Ross Gibson, Ivor Indyk. From afar I admire Deborah Levy, Rachel Kushner, Svetlana Alexievich, Ali Smith, Adam Phillips, John Berger, Anne Carson, Rebecca Solnit.

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

My ambitions centre on the work itself, rather than its outcomes, which are usually beyond the author’s control. I think of writing as a long apprenticeship in which I continually experiment with and refine new literary techniques. Hopefully this experimentation forms the bedrock of each work, and allows it to be audacious, dynamic. It’s important that the style emerges from the content, so that the novel is intensely engaged with its central themes at every level. With each new book I hope to depart from the last in style, tone, point of view, preoccupation and setting.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Persist and trust your instincts. Don’t allow what’s unique about your style, or voice to become diluted by well-intentioned, but colonising advice. Be humble enough to accept guidance but seek it from reliable sources and let it percolate before you follow it.

Mireille, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mireille’s new book The World Without Us here


The World Without Us

by Mireille Juchau

The world without usBees are everywhere at the moment: as they disappear from the world they appear on books as a symbol of our ecosystem’s fragility and our interdependency with these industrious creatures.

Their sweet cells gild the cover of one of the finest novels I’ve read this year: a lyrical story of secrets and grief that reveals itself in a finely structured honeycomb. The sedate pace at which the story unfolds mirrors the bees own unhurried production.

Since her younger sister died after a long illness, Tess has fallen silent though her mind is anything but quiet. Her mother, Evangeline, has stopped painting. Her father, Stefan, is worried about his hives. And then he finds the wreckage of a truck and two skeletons in the lush bush where they have made their farm home. The local township, which includes former members of the alternative Hive community where Evangeline once lived before it burned down, speculates on who the victims might be.

Currents and cross currents flow through every system of nature and society in Juchau’s world: the river, where Jim first sees Evangeline and joins her in the fast running waters; among the bees, where production is slowing. And within the community, where much is unsaid. Tess is drawn with especially fine sensitivity and affection, on the cusp of adolescence, struggling to understand how adults navigate the world.

Reviewed by Caroline Baum

Grab a copy of Mireille’s new book The World Without Us here


About the AuthorMireille

Mireille is a hugely talented, up and coming Australian novelist and The World Without Us is her third novel. Her first, Machines for Feeling was shortlisted for the 1999 Vogel/Australian Literary Award and the second, Burning In, was published by Giramondo Publishing in 2007. It was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award 2008, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2008, the Age Book of the Year Award 2008 and the Nita B. Kibble Award 2008.

Grab a copy of Mireille’s new book The World Without Us here

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

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