Jacinta Tynan, author of Mother Zen, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

mother-zen

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jacinta Tynan

author of Mother Zen

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 Sydney’s Sutherland Shire (known simply as ‘The Shire’) as one of six kids in a suburb called Yowie Bay, but I went to high school in the eastern suburbs commuting an hour-and-a-half in each direction. Train time was reading time.

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

Actress, journalist, writer. That was the order of my desires and it still goes back and forth. From as long as I can remember I wanted to be an actor taking myself off to acting classes on weekends and summer holidays, but I also wrote stories and dreamed one day of writing a book. I settled on a career in journalism because I decided it was the ideal combination of my two passions. I have always been fascinated by other people’s lives so I get to delve into those – as a journalist and a writer.

Author Jacinta Tynan

 

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

That love will last forever. My first love was a beautiful boy and my best friend who died suddenly just shy of my 19th birthday. I learnt quickly that the rug can be pulled out from under you at any moment, and have been wary of complacency ever since.

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.    Reading as a child got the whole ball rolling. I am certain of that. My mother would read to us often (with six of us it was collective story time) and we were always given books as presents, a stack at the end of the bed from Santa every Christmas. I still have several of my favourite books today which I am now reading to my boys: The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly (Pixie O’Harris), The Little Black Princess (Mrs Aeneas Gunn) and Dot and The Kangaroo (Ethel Pedley), for example.

2.    Losing my first love. I was already studying journalism when Simon died, so I was on the path, but my life changed forever in that moment. In my grief I decided to make the most of this life and make it mean something so the pain wouldn’t be for nothing. I’m sure the experience also made me understand people at a deeper level. I am not afraid of other people’s heartache or suffering: handy stuff for a journalist and writer of any sort.

97807322993783. I had been working as a journalist for several years when I decided to do a ‘writing course’. Even though I got the opportunity to write scripts on a daily basis as a TV Reporter (at that stage with ABC’s 7:30 Report), I yearned to be more creative. So I did a ‘Life Writing’ workshop with Patti Miller and it was like a light went on. Patti believes we all have a story in us, something to share with others, and I found so did I.

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?

Nothing will ever replace holding a real life book in your hand as you kick back and devour it. I work in all the other media (I’m a TV journalist — a News Presenter with Sky, I write for newspapers — Columnist for Sunday Life, and I have a blog), so I don’t shy away from them and they certainly have their place but, as a writer with a chunk of information to impart, books are still the ideal format. I couldn’t say all I needed to say in a blog. Not in one go. I know I’m behind on this but I’m yet to read an e-book. I can only stare at a computer screen for so long. Even when I’m reading online — a newspaper or blog  — I usually print the pages out so I have the hard copy version instead. As for TV, the first question when we’re considering a story is always “Do we have vision?” The written word gets around that tricky problem of having no pictures.

 

6.    Please tell us about your latest book…mother-zen

I wrote Mother Zen because I wanted to read it. When I became a mother (to two little boys) I was surprised to find it as enjoyable and rewarding as I do because most of the literature about motherhood is negative. There are some really helpful and insightful advice books out there, but the predominant message is that being a mother is a tough and thankless task that must be endured. I wanted to balance that out a bit, to explore why so many parents find it a challenge and see if there’s a way to shift that. Maybe it’s up to us and not our circumstances.

The book is part memoir about my fledgling journey as a new mother, but it also weaves in interviews with parenting experts and other parents.
It is also a look at an alternative way of being — to be present and grateful — as we negotiate the often overwhelming new role we find ourselves in, being responsible for the life of another and so often without the ‘village’ we were promised it would take to raise our child.

Grab a copy of Mother Zen here

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

That all mums, no matter what their circumstances, could access the utter joy that’s available to us all.

8.    Whom do you most admire and why?

My mother. For bringing six of us into the world and keeping it all (and us all) together.

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

My ambition has changed course dramatically since I became a mother. I used to be distractingly hungry for the next thing and what I had going on was never enough. Now, my greatest goal is to be a good mother to my boys — loving, present, available, a solid role model, someone they will always trust and turn to. I want to inspire them (as a mother and a woman) and guide them and raise them to have empathy and emotional intelligence. “I am your constant,” I say to them. I’m well aware that no matter what we do as a parent we won’t always get it right. But my greatest hope is that with that foundation they can fly.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

  • Write. I didn’t even know what I wanted to write when I started writing, I just knew I had to. I had been a journalist for several years so I got to write every day, but I wanted to be more creative, only I wasn’t sure how to go about that.
  • So, I took a writing course (also highly recommended for aspiring writers, no matter how good you are) which ‘forced’ me to deliver copy. And from that came the inklings of my first book.
  • Also good writers observe. We all see the same things but it’s writers who see meaning in them.
  • Take notes. Write down ideas, random thoughts, quotes, simple moments. We think we’ll remember but we a rarely do. It’s those notes (tapped into my i-Phone with my thumb) that ‘saved’ me when I was given only five months to write Mother Zen. Much of the research had already been done.

Jacinta, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mother Zen here


mother-zenMother Zen

by Jennifer Niven

In 2010 Jacinta Tynan innocently sparked a media storm when her article in the Sun Herald exposed a fault line in our perception of motherhood. Her premise — that motherhood could be easy — split the parenting community down the middle. Many agreed with Jacinta while others argued that motherhood was arduous and thankless, all were equally passionate in their beliefs.

Four years later, now with two small children, Jacinta takes us on a fascinating journey through her own experiences of motherhood — from being so sick with her first pregnancy that she was throwing up in between her on-air segments, to her doubts about her ability to cope — and shows us her struggle to parent ‘consciously’, using meditation and attempting mindfulness to help her more…

About the Author

Jacinta is a well-known news presenter, author and columnist. She regularly writes opinion pieces for national newspapers and frequently appears as a guest commentator on a number of television networks across the country. She is also the author of Good Man Hunting, and edited the anthology Some Girls Do: My Life as a Teenager with royalties donated to SISTER2Sister, a mentor program for teenage girls for whom Jacinta is patron. Tynan lives in Sydney with her partner and two young sons.

Grab a copy of Mother Zen here

Monica Dux, author of Mothermorphosis, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

mothermorphosis

 

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Monica Dux

author of Mothermorphosis

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 by wolves and schooled in the ways of the jungle.

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

At twelve I wanted to be a nun, an actor, the President of the United States, and a Neurosurgeon. Luckily I was part of the Having it All generation, so I didn’t trouble myself with the logistics of fulfilling my dreams.

At 18, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be.

At 30, I wanted to be able to pay my rent while doing something interesting and meaningful that didn’t involve having to say “have a nice day!”

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Author: Monica Dux

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

That the three black rectangles I got tattooed onto my arm would always delight.

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?

My husband is a screenwriter and his career had a huge impact on my decision to become a writer. Not so much because I admired his work (although I do), but because I was envious of the fact that he worked from home and so could pop out for a coffee whenever he felt like it.

Being able to make my own hours and not answer to The Man, seemed very attractive. This was before we had kids of course, so sadly it all turned out to be a delusion.

The second big event was having the aforementioned kids. They’ve dictated so much of my career, which isn’t a bad thing at all, and has probably saved me many nights of angsting over choices I don’t now have.

The third thing is all those who’ve continued to publish me. Without a space to publish, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to produce a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

It used to really bug me when people went on about how much they loved the printed book. But I am now one of those people. These days being a writer involves engaging with many different media, and I’m comfortable with that. But the printed book is akin to the wheel – there’s absolutely no need to change it, and I don’t doubt that it will persist, long after various other forms of media have been transformed or become redundant.

mothermorphosis

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Mothermorphosis is a collection of essays about the experience of becoming a mother from some of Australia’s best writers and commentators. It came about as a result of a conversation I had with the commissioning editor Dina Kluska, about how stories of motherhood are not always valued, even though motherhood is such a profound experience. I think it’s crucial that mothers share their stories, in all their variety, and that’s what this book is about.

It’s a gorgeous collection; each contributor has produced something quite special.

We decided to donate part of the royalties to PANDA (the Post and Antenatal Depression Association), an organisation which does amazing work helping new parents.

Grab a copy of Monica’s new book Mothermorphosis here

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

Achieving world peace would be nice. If that’s not going to happen, I’d like to think my work changes ordinary people’s lives for the better, perhaps even in small ways, giving them an insight into other lives and perhaps making them feel less alone. That’s what makes writing worthwhile.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

That’s a hard one. There are so many people I admire. But today I vote for my husband Kris Mrksa. He’s smart and funny and has taught me more about writing than anyone else I know. And he’s been overseas for work, so I’m missing him. He left out a complete clean change of clothes for the kids for every day he was away, which has meant they’ve been able to go to school with clean underwear, and I haven’t had to use the washing machine.

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

I used to put a lot of pressure on myself about what I wanted to achieve. Now I focus more on just moving forward, on being able to continue creating. I set myself goals, but I’m always aware how quickly things can change, so I’m not too hard on myself if they don’t work out.

I do fear going backwards, but writing is a long game, and I’ve become more comfortable with that reality, and so more resigned to all that it entails. As long as people keep reading my work, I’m happy. I couldn’t keep writing if I thought I had no audience.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

You need to be tenacious. So stay tough. But don’t be precious. No one is interested in your navel.

Monica, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mothermorphosis here


mothermorphosisMothermorphosis

Australia’s Best Storytellers Write About Becoming a Mother

In Mothermorphosis , some of Australia’s most talented writers and storytellers share their own experiences of motherhood. In telling their stories they articulate the complex internal conflicts, the exhilaration and the absurdity of the transformation that takes place when we become mothers. We read about the yearning for a child, the private and public expressions of maternal love, the questioning, uncertainty and unexpected delight, as well as unfathomable loss.

Mothermorphosis reveals that there is no ‘right’ version of this epic experience and no single tale that could ever speak for all mothers. Yet it is in reading about other women’s experiences and dash;the hard bits, the joyous bits and even the ridiculous bitsandmdash;that we can become more compassionate, not just to other mothers but hopefully to ourselves.

Mothermorphosis includes writing from: Kate Holden, Kathy Lette, Lorelei Vashti, Rebecca Huntley, George McEnroe, Fatima Measham, Jo Case, Hilary Harper, Cordelia Fine, Jane Caro, Hannah Robert, Susan Carland, Kerri Sackville, Catherine Deveny, Lee Kofman and Dee Madigan.

Grab a copy of Mothermorphosis here

 

Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

all-the-bright-places

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jennifer Niven

author of All the Bright Places

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 North Carolina, raised mostly in Indiana (after living in Okinawa and then Maryland). My move to Indiana in fourth grade prompted one of my earliest books— My Life in Indiana: I Will Never be Happy Again. I graduated high school there, went to college in New Jersey, and, following that, attended grad school in Los Angeles.

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

When I was twelve, I wanted to be an international rock star detective—kind of like a Charlie’s Angel (i.e. Jaclyn Smith) meets Josie and the Pussycats. This is because I wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel and a rock star—the two most exciting things I could imagine— so I figured why not combine them? When I was eighteen, I wanted to be an actress because it seemed really, really glamorous, even though I was too shy to try out for any plays I didn’t write and direct myself. When I was thirty, I wanted to be a writer because writing has always been—for all my life—the thing I love to do most.

jennifer niven

Author: Jennifer Niven

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

I secretly believed I was charmed, that I was invincible. And then my parents divorced, my grandfather died—the first loss I’d ever known—and I started questioning everything. I’ve since lost my other grandparents, friends, cousins, a boyfriend, my dad, and, most recently, my mom.  Over the years I’ve had to come to terms with how small I am in the scheme of things, but I’ve also learned the ways in which I can make an impact and leave an imprint behind. And, maybe best of all, I know what I’m made of.

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?

Ray Bradbury’s short stories, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” All three taught me that something economical can also be powerful. They taught me the importance of being succinct but expressive, and of saying a great deal in the most straightforward way.

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

Years ago, I knew and loved a boy, and the experience was life-changing.  I’d always wanted to write about it—only because it was so personal, I knew I would need to write it as fiction.  All the while I was working on my other books, I was reading YA novels for fun. So much of what’s being produced in YA literature is brilliant and daring and fantastically imaginative.  I always had the thought in the back of my mind: Someday I’ll write a young adult book.  When I decided on this particular idea, I knew in my bones it was time.

all-the-bright-places

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

All the Bright Places is about a boy and a girl who meet on the ledge of their high school bell tower as they’re both contemplating jumping. It’s about bright places and dark places, about making it lovely and leaving something behind. It’s about acceptance in spite of everything, and realizing that you are your own bright place in the world.

Grab a copy of Jennifer’s new book All the Bright Places here

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

One early reader emailed me to say that as soon as she read the book, she ran downstairs and hugged her mother. Another reader wrote, “I found after reading this that I wanted to do so much more with my life than just live.” I hope that the book inspires more of those feelings. I hope All the Bright Places will inspire others to look deeper at the people and places around them. And I hope it inspires discussions about teen mental health, so that people feel safe enough to come forward and say, “I have a problem.  I need help.” I want readers to know that help is out there, that it gets better, that high school isn’t forever, and that life is long and vast and full of possibility.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why? something-wicked-this-way-comes

I was lucky enough to grow up with a writer mom, who taught me that I could be or do anything I wanted to be or do. I’m an only child, and when I was a little girl, we used to have “writing time.” From her, I learned to find the story in everything, and I learned never to limit myself or my imagination. I also saw firsthand how difficult and stressful and unpredictable the business was. And I saw the commitment it took. Even during the toughest, saddest times of her life, she wrote. In so many ways, she was my hero. I think many people go into the business of writing with unrealistic expectations—not realizing that it is, in fact, a business, and that you have to be ready and willing to do it in spite of everything else.

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

I want to write many, many more YA books, another nonfiction book for adults, and, down the line, another adult novel or two, including an idea my mom intended on writing but never got the chance to. I’d like to write it for her. I’d like to see my books turned into movies. I’d also love it if one of them was turned into a Broadway musical a la Wicked. If that ever happens, I want a really juicy cameo (one that doesn’t require me to sing).

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write, read, and work hard. Remember to enjoy it. Don’t get hung up on making it perfect, because there’s no such thing. Write the kind of book you’d like to read. Write what inspires you. Write what you love.

Jennifer, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of All the Bright Places here


all-the-bright-placesAll the Bright Places

by Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch wants to take his own life. I’m broken, and no one can fix it.

Violet Markey us devastated by her sister’s death. In that instant we went plowing through the guardrail, my words died too.

They meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, and so their story begins. It’s only together they can be themselves . . .

I send a message to Violet: ‘You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.’

You’re so weird, Finch. But that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

But, as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

About the Author

Jennifer Niven is the author of two narrative non-fiction books, The Ice Master and Ada Blackjack; a high school memoir, The Aqua Net Diaries; and four historical novels for adults: Velva Jean Learns to Drive (based on her Emmy Award-winning film of the same name), Velva Jean Learns to Fly, Becoming Clementine, and the forthcoming American Blonde. All the Bright Places is her first book for young adults.

Grab a copy of All the Bright Places here

Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Paula Hawkins

author of The Girl on the Train

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 Harare, Zimbabwe, I lived there – and went to school there, obviously – until I was seventeen.

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

At twelve, a human rights lawyer (bleeding heart liberal); at eighteen, a foreign correspondent (thanks to romantic notions of what that might entail); at thirty, an author (also thanks to romantic notions of what that might entail).

Paula Hawkins

Author: Paula Hawkins

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

I can’t think of a single one, which suggests that I’m incredibly stubborn (or possibly that I simply can’t remember all the ridiculous things I believed when I was eighteen).

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?

Impossible to pick just three, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Macbeth, The Black Paintings by Francisco Goya, and the song Down by the Water by PJ Harvey.

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

Because I can’t draw, or paint, or dance, or play an instrument. Writing is the only thing I’m any good at.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Girl on the Train is a story about a lonely commuter, a voyeur who witnesses something shocking on her daily journey to work, and who finds herself drawn into a mystery which, unbeknown to her, she is already an integral part.

Grab a copy of Paula’s new book The Girl on the Train here

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

Talking specifically about The Girl on the Train, I’d like to have given the reader food for thought about the nature of perception, about the judgements we make about the people we see every day and the people that are close to us, and about how flawed those judgements frequently are.

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

I’m a huge fan of authors who can write literary page-turners – the likes of Kate Atkinson or Cormac McCarthy.

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

To write something I’m proud of. That’s all.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Find someone whose judgement you trust to read your work: no one does this all alone.

Paula, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Girl on the Train here


The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

YOU DON’T KNOW HER. BUT SHE KNOWS YOU.

Rear Window meets Gone Girl, in this exceptional and startling psychological thriller.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

About the Author

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction.

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.

 Grab a copy of Girl on the Train here

Laura Greaves, author of The Ex-Factor, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Laura Greaves

author of The Ex-Factor

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 hail from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as only native South Aussies are allowed to call it). I lived there until I was 21, and then I did what so many young Australians do and went to London for a year – only I accidentally stayed for five. I came back to Australia in 2007, settling in Sydney and dragging my English husband along for the ride.

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

Um, writer, writer and writer. I know – boring, right?! I announced my intention to be a writer at the ripe old age of seven. At that age I was focused on becoming a journalist. I don’t think I knew what journalists actually did at that point, but my grade two teacher, Mrs Edwards, had explained that they got money for writing stories, and that sounded pretty fantastic to an unabashed book nerd like me. I’ve never considered any career besides writing (except for a very brief period when I was 16 and inexplicably decided I wanted to be an occupational therapist).

By the age of 18 I actually was a journalist: I landed a cadetship with Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser, just a few weeks after my seventeenth birthday and spent nearly five years there having all kinds of adventures.

At 30 I’d ‘gone solo’, leaving the world of glossy mags to strike out on my own as a freelance journo, which I’m still doing and loving today. But by 30 I was also pretty antsy to add ‘published novelist’ to my CV. I had to wait til I was 32 for that!

Laura Greaves_Colour

Author: Laura Greaves

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

I remember feeling quite certain at 18 that I would be a newspaper journalist forever. I was going to expose corruption and report from war zones and win Walkley Awards and one day become an editor. Instead I spent most of my time covering fatal car crashes and house fires, working the midnight shift for 18 months straight and bringing down precisely zero crooked bigwigs. (I did win an award, though – National Young Journalist of the Year in 2001. That was pretty cool.) I adored working in papers – even now, when a big event occurs, a little part of me longs to be in a newsroom – but honestly, I don’t have the temperament for it. Most of the good news journos I know enjoy arguing with people – confrontation is genuinely fun for them. The opposite is true for me! Which is perhaps why the heroines of both of my published novels are pretty feisty – they say and do things I’d never have the nerve to try!

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?

Ooh, great question! Well, I can say without a doubt that I would not be a writer if LM Montgomery hadn’t written Anne of Green Gables in 1908. I can’t properly describe how much I love this book and what it means to me. I was fortunate enough to visit the real Green Gables on Canada’s Prince Edward Island a couple of years ago, and I sobbed buckets. Like, proper ugly crying. There may in fact be a small part of me that believes I am Anne Shirley.

Okay, a large part. A very large part.

Music has a big influence on my writing, too. I always make playlists that capture the mood of the story I’m working on. For example, when writing The Ex-Factor, which is all about drama and longing and grand romantic gestures, I listened to a lot of 1980s power ballads – the kinds of songs that play over the last scenes of a John Hughes movie!

More recently, a Broadway play called Grace had a big impact on me. Well, not the play itself, but one of the actors in it – Michael Shannon. (You may know him as Agent Nelson Van Alden in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, or as General Zod in the latest Superman reboot.) His performance was just so incredible, and I got to wondering whether he knew how good he was. I concluded that he must have an inherent belief in his own talent, or he wouldn’t have pursued acting as a career. It was a real Oprah-style ‘Aha!’ moment for me, because I’d been feeling increasingly frustrated with my writing and I suddenly realised that I wasn’t getting anywhere with it because I didn’t really believe I ever could. I made a decision right there that I had to properly prioritise my writing and redouble my efforts to get published. My first novel, Be My Baby, was picked up by Penguin less than a year later. So thanks, Michael Shannon!

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

I do actually dabble in other formats, too. I have a Graduate Diploma in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and had a TV pilot script nominated for the Australian Writers’ Guild’s Monte Miller Award for best unproduced screenplay. But I enjoy writing novels because they give me more time and freedom to unravel a story and delve into the real nitty gritty of what makes people tick.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Ex-Factor, published by Penguin on March 17, is a romantic comedy set partly in Sydney and partly in La-La-Land (better known as Hollywood!)

Talented, gorgeous and hopelessly in love, American movie star Mitchell Pyke and Brazilian supermodel Vida Torres were Hollywood’s most talked-about couple. They seemed destined for ‘happily ever after’ – until Vida left Mitchell for his best friend, and Mitchell publicly vowed he would never love again.

Sydney dog trainer Kitty Hayden has never even heard of Mitchell Pyke. Still reeling from the loss of her mother, Kitty is too busy cleaning up the various messes made by her indolent younger sister, Frankie, and trying to find a girlfriend for her terminally single best friend, Adam, to keep up with celebrity gossip.

When her work takes Kitty to Mitchell’s movie set, their worlds spectacularly collide. The chemistry between them is undeniable – and it’s not long before Kitty is turning her life upside down to be with her leading man.

But as Kitty quickly discovers, when someone as famous as Mitchell Pyke tells the world he’ll never love again, the world listens. And the vindictive Vida is never far away. With constant reminders that she’s merely a consolation prize, how can Kitty compete with such a tenacious adversary – especially when she starts to suspect that Mitchell isn’t over Vida after all?

How does a regular Aussie girl win the heart of the most famous man on the planet in the unforgiving glare of the spotlight?

Grab a copy of Laura’s new book The Ex-Factor here

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

I hope people are moved. I hope they laugh. I hope they cry. I hope they like the sexy bits.

And if I may defend my often-maligned genre for a moment, I hope people read my books and realise that romantic comedy (or ‘chick lit’, as some insist on calling it) isn’t necessarily about ditsy, shopping-obsessed girls who can’t function without a man. It’s about strong, imperfect women who are determined to live life on their terms – just like actual women.

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

Tina Fey is my writing spirit animal. Everything she does is amazing. I wish I were even slightly as hilarious and brilliant and badass as her. Sigh.

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

My chief goal at this point is to be able to write books full time. I’m quite sure many people imagine that published authors ride their ponies in the morning and quaff G&Ts all afternoon, and every now and then jot down a brilliant sentence or two. The reality is very different (well, aside from the G&T-quaffing). Freelance journalism still pays my bills, which is handy as I love it, but I’d really, really love it if I could focus solely on the books.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

This may sound silly, but you have to write. Writing my first novel, Be My Baby, took 11 years. All that time I was thinking ‘I’m writing a novel’, but the actual writing was sporadic to say the least. Conversely, writing The Ex-Factor took six months – and I had a baby in the middle of it. Once I finally realised that the only way to get published is to write a good book, I started writing every moment I could. If you want it badly enough, that’s what you have to do – no excuses!

Laura, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Ex-Factor here


The Ex-Factor

by Laura Greaves

Talented, gorgeous and hopelessly in love, American movie star Mitchell Pyke and Brazilian supermodel Vida Torres were Hollywood’s most talked-about couple. They seemed destined for ‘happily ever after’ – until Vida left Mitchell for his best friend, and Mitchell publicly vowed he would never love again.

Sydney dog trainer Kitty Hayden has never even heard of Mitchell Pyke. Still reeling from the loss of her mother, Kitty is too busy cleaning up the various messes made by her indolent younger sister, Frankie, and trying to find a girlfriend for her terminally single best friend, Adam, to keep up with celebrity gossip.

When her work takes Kitty to Mitchell’s movie set, their worlds spectacularly collide. The chemistry between them is undeniable – and it’s not long before Kitty is turning her life upside down to be with her leading man. But as Kitty quickly discovers, when someone as famous as Mitchell Pyke tells the world he’ll never love again, the world listens. And the vindictive Vida is never far away. With constant reminders that she’s merely a consolation prize, how can Kitty compete with such a tenacious adversary – especially when she starts to suspect that Mitchell isn’t over Vida after all?

About the Author

Born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia, Laura announced her intention to be a writer at the age of seven, largely because of her dual obsessions with Anne of Green Gables and Murder, She Wrote. She worked as a book publicist and editor of a women’s magazine before striking out as a freelance journalist in 2009. As well as continuing to write for many of Australia’s best-known magazines, Laura now spends her time matchmaking feisty fictional women with irresistibly sexy leading men. Laura lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with her family, as well as two incorrigible (but seriously cute) dogs.

 Grab a copy of The Ex-Factor here

Matt Wilkinson, author of Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Matt Wilkinson

author of Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

In December of 1979 in a small village in the coal mining area of Barnsley South Yorkshire England the worlds best looking chef was born, it was here in Silkstone where he was schooled at an early age picking up numerous academic and sporting awards until he went to Penistone grammar school from year 7-11 where it all went down hill. It was a school on the border of the peak district, half farming half industrial where the “Lad” came about.

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

– From the age of 6 till about 15 all I wanted to do was play professional football for my home town of Barnsley & England. I had a good go playing for Barnsley junior, represented my county for South Yorkshire and the football school of excellence but unfortunately wasn’t good enough to make it to the top.

– After that I wanted to be a landlord of a pub. From 12 my father lived in a pub and I wanted to be the youngest landlord around, unfortunately at 16 not old enough to drink yet let alone run and serve alcohol I found myself at catering college where after 6 months I moved to London to work in the Kitchen

– At thirty all I wanted to be was successful in hospitality and personal life and that is still today

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

I never wanted kids, now I have 2 and it’s the best belief I changed ever

4. What were three big events in your life or the world around you that had a great effect on you and influenced your cooking?

– In 1996 my first head chef Michael Taylor showed me how wonderful, crazy and how to work hard as a young pup in a busy and crazy kitchen, he showed me the start of the road and taught me that I was the one who built the road and followed my dreams

– In 2005 Andrew McConnell the celebrated Australian chef taught me to take my blinkers off and see all the wonderful world and cultures behind food and to explore all the opportunities and thoughts I had.

– In 2009 My Partner Sharlee, said a very honest and simple phrase “just cook the food YOU love to eat”, it hit me like a banjo to the back of the head. If I stand by my beliefs of eating food that is truly seasonal; work directly with amazing farmers and producers; have an interest in ethical food and where it all comes from and just to try to cook food simply for the best flavour and taste then others would hopefully enjoy it too. I think it has worked.

5. What are some of the dishes you wouldn’t eat as a child that you love now?

I hated, I mean bloody hated, capsicums, zucchini and eggplant. That said I still hate raw green capsicum, it’s just wrong town.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My first book was a thought process of my past and eating seasonally. I now look at what vegetables and fruit are growing around me to tell me wherever I am in the world what season we are in. This is what we should be eating now and therefore the freshest and tastiest.

My New book, Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads, is about my love affair with salads and trying to let the readers know that salads aren’t just about leaves and a dressing, they can be so much more. The front cover is also so important to me, it’s a depiction of my grandfather who was always simply dressed but from a time past – he wore a three piece suit with a handkerchief and a flower in the lapel, always a white rose for Yorkshire or a passionfruit flower he would specially grow in his green house just to wear.

The idea of being ‘simply dressed’ relates to this idea but also relates to salads, if something is over dressed it’s drenched and too much, if under dressed it needs a little more to make it perfectly, simply dressed!

Grab a copy of Matt’s new book Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads here

7. If you had to create one dish to show off your repertoire, what would it be?

In the summer section of Simply Dressed it would be the salad of watermelon, prawn vinaigrette and feta and from the autumn section the salad of crab, samphire and mustard on toast. Simple, honest and delicious.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Without sounding soft my mum. She has dedicated her whole life to helping family, friends and others, her unselfishness is mesmerising. I hope I can be as many things to her as she was to me when I was a child.

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

I’m a true believer that goals (or dreams as I like to call them) should consistently keep evolving throughout our life. My current dream is to set up a store that within it has a restaurant that showcases all the best things that are Australian and that we become proud of the food scene and produce we have here. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring chefs?

Don’t chase money, chase your dreams, work hard and read as many things about food and how it is produced and the latter will eventually come

Matt, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads here


Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads

by Matt Wilkinson

Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads is the latest offering from the British-born chef and author who came to prominence after the success of his first book, Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables.

Matt Wilkinson’s passion is based on sourcing the very best seasonal and local produce to make simple dishes that allow the flavours of fine ingredients to shine through. His ethos is simple: food in season tastes the best, especially when it’s grown in tune with nature.

This book follows the seasons and is filled with 52 stunning salad recipes that are both meals in themselves or fantastic accompaniments that can be shared as part of a main meal.

The design is intricate, melding soft colours and beautiful produce photography with botanic-style illustrations from famed Melbourne artist, Miso, and a strong typographic aesthetic.

Try a salad of zucchini flowers, ribbons and grilled zucchini with quinoa and smoked tomato dressing or bio-dynamic rice, dried sweet fruits, feta, nuts and seeds. For something simple think Summer leaves, lime salt and a mint vinaigrette or Beans with smoked almonds and a honey dressing. Delve into something more hearty such as Spanner crab and bottarga scattered through mustard and spinach leaves.

Recipes for salad dressings are ingeniously presented as an illustrative ‘family tree’ that match different flavour ‘families’ with ingredients. In addition, there is a section for homemade cordials and drinks to help quench a thirst whatever the season. With whimsical stories and tips for picking the best ingredients, as well as great design, Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads is a fine, inspiring and complementary addition for any cooking enthusiast.

About the Author

Hailing from South Yorkshire, chef Matt Wilkinson now calls Melbourne home. His interests revolve around growing the best tasting food and appreciating the importance of food to communities, in partnership with farmers and food producers. With his business partner Ben Foster, Matt runs the much-loved East Brunswick eating and drinking establishment, Pope Joan – unique caf by day, and casual neighbourhood eatery by night, replete with a kitchen garden, and very own produce store -Hams and Bacon. Matt is a proud ambassador of the work of the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association, is a partner with boutique casual food eatery Spudbar – enabling his input at the table serving ‘slow food – fast’ – and author of Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables.

 Grab a copy of Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads here

Michael Pye, author of The Edge of the World, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Michael Pye

author of The Edge of the World

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 Manchester in England which my parents always said was an oversight, but they never explained if they meant the place or the birth. Grew up on the edge of the North Sea – in Essex in Eastern England – along those shingle beaches and salt marshes, always wondering what lay beyond and what kind of history the sea could have. After that, got myself to Italy to study and then to Oxford so I could learn how to find and write the history …

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

Always wanted to write, but for a while that meant journalism and not much more. Started a tiny local paper when I was twelve, but it didn’t sell in more than two houses (mine, and my co-editor’s parents. We took the price in butterscotch.) At eighteen wanted to get out and get away like anyone of eighteen. At thirty, I’d been very lucky – worked on the Sunday Times in London when it was a great paper in its prime, had a TV show in Scotland – but I felt somehow bored. I wanted to shake things up. Whether disappearing to the Caribbean was such a brilliant idea, I don’t know; it’s not so much fun in a tax haven if you don’t have an income…

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

Author: Michael Pye

I could be stupidly arrogant, idiotically sure about things, and I didn’t know enough and I hadn’t done enough for that faith to be justified for a moment. Actually, at times, I was a prig. I think I’ve got a bit better. Living in a small Portuguese village, as we do now, teaches you enormous respect for the people you didn’t want to notice at eighteen.

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 guess I’d choose circumstances more than events – the way the family spread out over the globe so the letters and the Christmas cards were all clues to the big world out there and how it connects.

It was the world my father always wanted to know, and did for a while – but during the war. My first job on a newspaper, for The Scotsman in Edinburgh and realising quite how close and how different even the various parts of the United Kingdom could be; it seemed natural to be an English Scottish Nationalist because otherwise you risked losing so much. And finding the novels of Marguerite Yourcenar, Madame, who gives history blood and bone and still dignifies it: a past that matters, but still breathes. It made me think about ways to write history that weren’t academic but weren’t trivial, either: ways to persuade people into a subject that might never have crossed their minds.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Books are glorious – when they’re not pointless. You try sustaining an argument about a thousand years of history on a blog, at two hundred words a day. Online newspapers are terrific but not when you want to immerse yourself in a subject; too busy, too many videos and weird ads. It’s really hard to make jokes on TV when you’re scheduled to be serious; you have to keep looking into camera with a straight face.  You have to simplify a subject for radio, or else a show would last a week, but sometimes you really need the detail. Books give you what you need, and more. But books are doors that can open into another world, can give you facts and wit: a bit magic….

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It started with ignorance. I didn’t know the history of the North Sea, my sea, but I knew about the Mediterranean which was far away. I didn’t know what happened between the fall of the Roman empire and the start of the great empires that crossed oceans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. So I set out to find out, and I kept being surprised.

All those bloody Icelandic sagas, and there was the start of fashion – thugs on the dockside comparing latest clothes before having a proper blood feud. The league of towns round the Baltic that set itself up as a kind of business community – just like we talk about politics and a business community – and tried to starve a nation. The way women made choices and kept the lives they chose. It’s wonderful moment when a subject becomes three, even four dimensional. I set out to write about the peoples around the North Sea and all their surprising connections – from Viking Dublin to Frisia, from Antwerp to Bergen in Norway – and I found I was writing about the changes that made possible our modern world.

Grab a copy of Michael’s new book The Edge of the World here

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

We stuff history with wars and kings and clashes. We forget the connections, and the energy that comes from connections – friction, sometimes. I’d love people to value the differences round the edges, the history of contacts, people going about the sea to buy and sell and go on pilgrimages because that’s what truly changes the world —  just as much as the history of the flags and armies that tend to separate us.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Nelson Mandela, for knowing how to change his mind without changing his morals. A movie-maker called Michael Powell for allowing himself to be inspired even when nobody quite understood what he was doing; and then cutting the result into movies everyone wanted to see. And one man from my book – a bad-tempered, rough-edged medieval bishop called Robert Grosseteste (which means big head) who thought for himself and kept thinking until he’d invented a kind of experimental science because he wanted to know how a rainbow has colours. I revere people who manage to be themselves, whatever happens.

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

The next book: just that. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write. It’s a craft you learn by doing. Do it often, do it on blogs, in notebooks, in letters, in newspapers: but do it. And when people say you should write what you know, and you do need to know enough to have your own vision, remember that doesn’t have to be just your own life and times.  You can also open up the world you know by the right kind of research, and then you can write so much more…

Michael, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Edge of the World here


The Edge of the World

by Michael Pye

This is a story of saints and spies, of fishermen and pirates, traders and marauders – and of how their wild and daring journeys across the North Sea built the world we know.

When the Roman Empire retreated, northern Europe was a barbarian outpost at the very edge of everything. A thousand years later, it was the heart of global empires and the home of science, art, enlightenment and money. We owe this transformation to the tides and storms of the North Sea.

The water was dangerous, but it was far easier than struggling over land; so it was the sea that brought people together. Boats carried food and raw materials, but also new ideas and information. The seafarers raided, ruined and killed, but they also settled and coupled. With them they brought new tastes and technologies – books, clothes, manners, paintings and machines.

In this dazzling historical adventure, we return to a time that is largely forgotten and watch as the modern world is born. We see the spread of money and how it paved the way for science. We see how plague terrorised even the rich and transformed daily life for the poor. We watch as the climate changed and coastlines shifted, people adapted and towns flourished. We see the arrival of the first politicians, artists, lawyers: citizens.

From Viking raiders to Mongol hordes, Frisian fishermen to Hanseatic hustlers, travelling as far west as America and as far east as Byzantium, we see how the life and traffic of the seas changed everything.

Drawing on an astonishing breadth of learning and packed with human stories and revelations, this is the epic drama of how we came to be who we are.

About the Author

Michael Pye writes for a living — as novelist, journalist, historian and sometimes broadcaster. He is English by birth, but civilized by study in Italy and a newspaper apprenticeship in Scotland. For twenty years he commuted between New York and Europe as a political and cultural columnist for British newspapers. He now lives with his partner John Holm in a tiny village in the forests of rural Portugal.

 Grab a copy of The Edge of the World here

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