Sharon Penman, author of A King’s Ransom, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sharon Penman

author of A King’s Ransom, The Sunne in Splendour, Prince of Darkness and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born in New York City and grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey in its pre-casino days. I have a B.A. in history from the University of Texas and a J.D. degree from Rutgers School of Law. I practiced law in New Jersey  and California for about four years, although it felt much longer; I considered it penance for my sins, past, present, and future!

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

I always wanted to be a writer, but I never expected to be able to make a living as one.   When you hear those stories about artists starving in garrets, they usually have writers as roommates.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Author: Sharon Penman

That life was black or white with few shades of grey in-between.

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 find music very inspirational and soothing, too, if I am struggling with the dreaded Writer’s Block.  I usually have classical music playing in the background as I write and sometimes medieval music.  For my last novel, A King’s Ransom, I often listened to the haunting lament that Richard Coeur de Lion wrote while he was held prisoner in Germany; it can be found on YouTube here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVRjmTdM4c8&feature=related. Greensleeves is another song that is often heard at my house. I think photography is an art form, too, and my home is decorated with many stunning photos of Wales done by a Welsh photographer friend of mine, Dave O’Shea.  I often found myself gazing at them as I worked on my trilogy set in medieval Wales during the thirteenth century.

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

I am definitely not a Renaissance woman; I cannot sing, dance, paint, etc. But I have always felt the urge—the need—to write. I wrote my first short story at age six or seven, about a horse named Queen. I wrote my first novel in my early teens; thankfully that one has long since vanished, for I suspect it would be highly embarrassing to read it today.

Wanting to write was only half of the equation, though. I also needed something I wanted to write about. I did not find that until I was in college, when I stumbled onto the story of Richard III. I was interested enough to want to find out more about him and discovered, to my surprise, that there was no proof that his nephews had been murdered, much less that he had done the deed. I was so indignant that I began telling my friends about this terrible injustice done this long-dead medieval king. They had a uniform response; they said, “Richard who?” and then their eyes began to glaze over. So it was then that I had my epiphany—that this was the story I was supposed to write. Twelve years later, it would be published as The Sunne in Splendour and I was no longer a reluctant lawyer; I was a very happy author.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest published novel was A King’s Ransom, the sequel to Lionheart and my final book in my series about the first Plantagenets, Henry II and his controversial queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons, sometimes known as the Devil’s Brood.  I’d initially intended to end their history with the third book,  but they had other ideas and so I found myself writing a five book trilogy about them!  I am currently working on a novel set in the kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth century, Outremer—the  Land Beyond the Sea.  After that, I hope to resurrect the career of the hero of my medieval mysteries, Justin de Quincy, who first appeared in The Queen’s Man, the queen in question being the above-mentioned Eleanor of Aquitaine. I love doing the mysteries, for they give me greater freedom to exercise my imagination than the historicals do, and I am delighted that they are finally available as e-books in Australia and the United Kingdom, thanks to the diligence of my new publisher, Head of Zeus.

Grab a copy of Sharon Penman’s novel A King’s Ransom here

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

I hope that my novels awaken in readers an interest in history in general and medieval history in particular. I am always so pleased when readers tell me that one of my novels inspired them to want to learn more about the characters or the era itself. History matters. We can learn from it if we are lucky.

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

There are so many writers whom I admire. Mark Twain for being Mark Twain.  The Bronte sisters for defying a world in which women were not expected or allowed to be creative.  Harper Lee for writing a novel that I consider well-nigh perfect, To Kill a Mockingbird.   Geraldine Brooks for taking me back in time to seventeenth century New England in Caleb’s Crossing, and Alice Hoffman for doing the same in her novel of Masada, The Dovekeepers.   Bernard Cornwell for writing the best battle scenes I’ve ever read.  I am an avid reader as well as a writer, and am grateful that there are so many good writers out there.

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

World peace? No, I do not think I’ve ever set very ambitious goals for myself as a writer; I was willing to settle for reasonable ones.  I want to entertain and inform readers, to share my love of history.  I think historical novels are a form of time-travel, so writers of that genre have a responsibility to their readers be as accurate as possible.  I write of people who once lived and I feel a sense of responsibility to them, too, since their lives are the clay that I use to create my books. A fellow writer, Laurel Corona, said it perfectly: Do not defame the dead.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Persevere. Remember that writing is as subjective as it is solitary, so reviewers and critics and editors are not always right, but pick your battles, especially with editors. Bear in mind that there has not been a writer ever born whose book could not benefit from editing. Take comfort from the knowledge that writing is a skill that can be honed by practice, rather like polishing a diamond. And be thankful that you are writing now in an age where you are not totally dependent upon the good will or judgment of publishers; for the first time, writers have options, among them the opportunity to reach out directly to readers via social media. I see that as a very good thing   Facebook has allowed me to become friends with so many of my Australian readers in a way that would not have been possible even ten years ago, and they have done more to promote my books Down Under than an army of agents or publicists.

Sharon, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of A King’s Ransom here


A King’s Ransom

by Sharon Penman

Travelling home from the crusades, Richard was shipwrecked off the coast of Austria, after an encounter with pirates. Richard should have been under the Church’s protection, but in Outremer he had given the Duke of Austria good reason to loathe him and he was captured. He was immediately claimed by the Holy Roman Emperor, who also bore a grudge against the captive English king. Richard was to spend fifteen months imprisoned.

For a man of his fiery nature, it was truly shameful. His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, began to move heaven and earth to raise a staggering ransom, travelling to Germany herself to buy the release of her favourite son. But it was not to be that easy. At the eleventh hour, Heinrich announced that he had had a better offer from the French king, Philippe, and Richard’s own treacherous brother, John, offering Heinrich an even larger sum to continue Richard’s captivity – or to turn him over to their tender mercies.

Grab a copy of A King’s Ransom here

Alexandra Cameron, author of Rachael’s Gift, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alexandra Cameron

author of Rachael’s Gift

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. We lived in Paddington until we moved to Mackay in North Queensland. When I was eight we moved to a small town in country NSW called Currabubula where I attended the local school. There were forty-eight children from kindergarten to sixth grade and all in one classroom. We then lived in Willoughby, Vaucluse and Randwick. I went to high school in Rose Bay.

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 architect. My father is a builder and we were always living in a house that was being ‘done’ perhaps I wanted to design our house my way. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a film director and decided to study film at university. When I was thirty I was writing.

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

Author: Alexandra Cameron

When I was eighteen I firmly believed that if you were married and your partner cheated on you then you should leave them immediately. I did not understand the complexities of marriage. Things at eighteen were very black and white.

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

There were so many books that I have loved over the years and that have stayed with me. So much so that it is only when I come across them again that I think, Oh yes, that book meant a lot to me at the time. Tim Winton’s, The Riders, has always stuck with me because it is fast paced and yet has so much depth and plus it is a tragic story – I could never understand how a mother could abandon her child. I also loved the writing – I hadn’t known colloquial language could be so poetic and beautiful; it was ground breaking to me as an Australian.

My parents’ collection of LPs was limited to say the least but they did have one Simon and Garfunkel record and this is where I first heard the song, America. It’s a catchy song about a guy who escapes on a bus with his girlfriend to look for ‘America’; it starts out light-hearted but then becomes sad when we realise the guy feels so disillusioned with his world he can’t even voice it to his girlfriend. Mostly, I love how one line can paint an entire story. “I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.”

Breakfast At Tiffany’s is probably a film on every girl’s rite of passage. It’s the pinnacle of Hollywood sixties glamour and the dresses, the parties, Holly Golightly’s French idioms, Audrey Hepburn at her most stylish and the sweet love story are captivating. The film barely resembles its novella roots and is much much darker, but I couldn’t help love the candy-coloured version…

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

I love the intimacy of a novel. It’s just you and the reader. Everyone takes something different away. As an author you have the space to create an entire world, whereas many other art forms require a team of people (like film etc…) I enjoy the solitary process.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The novel begins when gifted artist, fourteen-year-old Rachael, accuses her teacher of sexual misconduct, but the principal has suspicions that she is lying. Her father, Wolfe, is worried about his daughter’s odd behaviour but her mother, Camille, will not hear a bad word against her. A fraught investigation ensues, culminating in a showdown on the other side of the world in Paris. The story is about ambition, art, talent, truth, how we pass unresolved issues from one generation to the next and a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter.

Grab a copy of Alexandra Cameron’s novel Rachael’s Gift here

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

I hope they enjoy the story and perhaps reflect on their own lives in some way. What would they do if they were in a similar situation as the characters?

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

There are so many! Margaret Atwood is a good one. She is a longstanding brilliant writer with stories ranging from the historical to the bizarre – what an original and clever mind.

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

Gosh. I hope to always learn more about writing and life and to consistently produce work of a high standard – I guess that is quite ambitious. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

If you have the desire to write then sit down and do it. Everyday.

Alexandra, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Rachael’s Gift here


Rachael’s Gift

by Alexandra Cameron

Rachael is a child prodigy, a talented artist whose maturity and eloquence is far beyond her fourteen years. She’s also energetic, charming and beautiful, beguiling everyone around her. To her mother, Camille, she is perfect. But perfection requires work, as Camille knows all too well.

For Rachael has another extraordinary gift: a murky one that rears its head from time to time, threatening to unbalance all the family has been working towards. When Rachael accuses her art teacher of sexual misconduct, Wolfe and Camille are drawn into a complex web of secrets and lies that pit husband against wife, and have the power to destroy all their lives.

Set in contrasting worlds of Australia and Paris, told from the perspective of husband and wife, Rachael’s Gift is a detective story of the heart, about a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter and a father’s quest for the truth.

 Grab a copy of Rachael’s Gift here

Sophie Hannah, author of The Monogram Murders, answers Ten Terrifying Questions.

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sophie Hannah

author of The Monogram Murders, The Telling Error and many more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born in Manchester, England. Raised and schooled there too! I lived in Manchester until I was 25.  At that point, after publishing a book of poetry, The Hero and the Girl Next Door, I was offered my dream job – Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge.  (This basically meant Writer in Residence.)  Working at Trinity was like a dream come true – such a beautiful place, and I fell in love with Cambridge too.  I now live there, and have no intention of leaving!

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

Twelve: I think I wanted to be a writer. By eighteen, however, I was going through a phase that involved doing and saying nothing my parents could possibly approve of, and they approved a bit too much of my writing, so at eighteen I announced that I was going to give university a miss and train to be a hairdresser instead. By thirty, I was already a writer and wanted to carry on being one.

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

Author: Sophie Hannah

I used to think that in order to be a good person, you had to make an enemy of bad people and fight them and their influence throughout your life.  I later realised that fighting anyone or anything – even those who richly deserve it – cannot have a positive effect.  If you spend your time fighting and hating, you’re only emitting more negative energy and, ultimately, making things worse.  The best way to be happy and make the world a better place is to be kind and compassionate, to everyone, always.  (Of course, I’m not a saint and can’t always manage to put this lofty ideal into practice – and when I can’t, I just shut myself away in the house and swear and chainsmoke until I’m able to be civilised again!)

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?

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
See Jane Run by Joy Fielding
The Memory Game by Nicci French

I love music and paintings too, but books have always come first.

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

Novels are, and have always been, my favourite thing to read – and crime novels/mystery novels in particular.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Monogram Murders is a mystery featuring Agatha Christie’s superstar detective, Hercule Poirot.  It starts with Poirot encountering a distressed young woman in a  coffee house.  The woman, who is obviously terrified, says someone is trying to kill her, but insists that she doesn’t want Poirot to try to save her life, or for her killer to be caught.  Then three guests at an exclusive London hotel are murdered…and, because of something the woman in the coffee house said to him, Poirot suspects a connection and sets out to investigate.

Grab a copy of Sophie’s latest novel The Monogram Murders here

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

More than anything, I want readers to be gripped by the story and desperate to find out the solution to the mystery.  I want them to be unable to guess until all is revealed!

murder-on-the-orient-express8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Agatha Christie.  Because she had all the best ideas, and kept having them, decade after decade. She is and will always be the Queen of Crime.

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

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

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Keep at it. And be very choosy about whose advice you take.  Not everyone is as clever and helpful as everyone else.

Sophie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Monogram Murders here


The Monogram Murders

by Sophie Hannah

The bestselling novelist of all time.

The world’s most famous detective.

The literary event of the year.

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

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

 Grab a copy of The Monogram Murders here

Simon Rickard, author of Heirloom Vegetables, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Simon Rickard

author of Heirloom Vegetables

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 Port Macquarie, NSW, but my family moved to Canberra when I was four, so I consider myself a Canberran.

Growing up in Canberra in the 1970s was utopian. In the afterglow of the Whitlam era there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the Arts and Sciences, and we had a public education system second to none in the world. I count myself very lucky that I grew up in Canberra at that time.

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

At twelve, I wanted to be a botanist; at eighteen, a musician; and at thirty, a gardener. I have always loved plants and nature, as well as early music. I have found it difficult to confine myself to one career, so I have taken two: music and gardening.

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

It has taken me most of my adult life to realise that the world does not exist in black and white; that between those extremes lies a vast area of grey. This is an ongoing journey for me, and I feel it’s going quite well!

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?

Moving to Canberra at the age of four was probably a defining event in my life. Although I missed out on growing up on the beach, I had access to the best public education imaginable. Without the free public education opportunities I received in Canberra in the 70s and 80s, I suspect my life would be considerably less rich than it is now.

Living in the Netherlands for three years was a transformative experience, which really broadened my horizons.

Being offered a job as a gardener the Diggers Club was an important turning point for me. At that time in my life I was about to embark on a PhD in music and a career in academe, which would have been wonderful, except for the fact that academics are continually forced to spend too much of their time, cap in hand, begging for money, rather being allowed to concentrate on doing what they are good at. At least mowing lawns and clipping hedges for a living I would not have to suffer that indignity.

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 anything but obsolete. They work well as a technology, and I can’t see any viable alternative for replacing them soon. Think about it: you can no longer access the information stored on a floppy disc or cassette tape from 15 years ago, but you can still read a book from the year 1500.

One particular quality I like in books is that they are scrutinised by many sets of eyes before they get into print. With the internet, by contrast, anybody with a computer can publish any half-baked idea or half-truth they like. Gardening websites are awash with absolute twaddle, which reproduces itself at a rate of knots and then comes to be accepted as ‘fact’. I wanted to publish a book in part to help counter this alarming trend.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My latest book, Heirloom Vegetables, is a celebration of the beauty and diversity of heirloom vegetables. It is predominantly a social history of vegetables, telling the stories about where humans and vegetables have been together, and where we might go in the future. It puts vegetables into their broader family contexts, as a way of showing just how much humans have manipulated and changed vegetables to suit our own ends over many millennia of domestication. The final section of the book gives readers advice on how to grow their own heirlooms, based on my experience as a gardener.

Grab a copy of Simon’s latest novel Heirloom Vegetables here

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

I would like to see greedy, rapacious and self-interested people excluded from holding positions of power.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Can I have three?

I admire the 2014 Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, for the dignity and forbearance he has shown in the face of some very ugly provocation.

I admire Julian Burnside for speaking up for human rights, and calling out the mean-spirited, inhumane policies of successive governments.

Most of all I admired my late grandmother, who showed me how few possessions you need to be happy, and how to be thankful for what you have got. She lived her life very simply, but she radiated love and contentment.

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

To give away ambition and live like my grandmother.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be yourself, and write what you know.

Simon, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Heirloom Vegetables here


Heirloom Vegetables

by Simon Rickard

‘Vegetables are masterpieces of human ingenuity – their pasts and futures are in our hands.’

How often do you hear someone complain that tomatoes don’t taste like they used to? It’s becoming a common concern, as food production is increasingly controlled by multinational corporations more interested in profit than flavour. People who care about their food are growing their own vegetables in droves – and especially heirlooms for their wonderfully diverse flavours, shapes and colours. Not to mention their rich history and weird and wonderful names – who could resist a lettuce called ‘Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed’, not be intrigued by the potato that ‘Makes the Daughter-in-Law Cry’, or fail to be moved by the ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ bean?

In this lively, passionate and at times political introduction to the world of heirloom vegetables, gardener Simon Rickard describes the history of many of his favourite varieties, encourages you to get growing yourself, and explains why he believes edible gardening is so important to our future – and the future of the planet.

 Grab a copy of Heirloom Vegetables here

Kimberley Freeman, author of Evergreen Falls, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kimberley Freeman

author of Evergreen Falls, Wildflower Hill and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born in London to Australian and New Zealand parents who brought me back to Australia when I was three. I was raised at Redcliffe, which is a city just north of Brisbane on the way towards the Sunshine Coast. I attended Humpybong state school, which is famous for having schooled the Bee Gees. It’s directly across from the beach, and during whale watching season we would often find ourselves down at the back fence watching the passing migration.

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

At all those ages I wanted to be a writer, because I just didn’t think I would be good at anything else.

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

I was a bit of a rebel and I strongly rejected the suburban lifestyle, the barbecue on the patio, the ordinary life. I never wanted to have children. Now I love all those things and I love my two children.

Author: Kimberley Freeman (aka Kim Wilkins)

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?

Studying English literature at university brought me into contact with some of the most amazing poetry. I can’t and don’t write poetry but I have certainly been influenced by the works of writers such as Tennyson and Keats and Shakespeare, the way that they put words together, the rhythm of their sentences. I must have read Tithonus by Tennyson one hundred times and I’ve yet to make it through without sobbing. Recently I read Beowulf in the original old English with the group of colleagues at the University and it was one of the defining moments of my intellectual life. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is one of my all-time favourite novels, and I love that puts a woman’s experience at the very centre of the story. Jane is a fabulous character with a strong moral compass.

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

I actually did muck around with music for quite a while, I studied opera, and I played in rock bands. But what I love about writing is that I can express myself in private and edit and polish my thoughts before I have to put them in front of anybody. Performance really isn’t for me, though I do still love music and I still sing a lullaby to my children every night.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Evergreen Falls is a novel set in two time periods: 1926 and the present. In the 20s, a naive young waitress at a luxury hotel in the Blue Mountains falls in love with the wrong man entirely, triggering a set of tragic circumstances that are covered up by everyone involved. In the present, a woman who is searching for meaning in her own life comes across a bundle of old love letters that seem to hint at a long buried secret.

Grab a copy of Kimberley Freeman’s novel Evergreen Falls here

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

What I want most of all is for people to feel how I feel when reading a good book: the world goes away and you’re falling through the pages, wishing you could slow down but unable to stop, and afterwards feeling is that you’ve been on an adventure.

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

I admire Marian Keyes, because her books make me laugh and cry, because she has suffered such a public battle with depression, an illness which afflicts so many but which so few talk about.

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

My goals are not ambitious. For me the practice of writing is its own reward. I get to spend a lot of time in my imagination, with my imaginary friends who are always fascinating. I just want to be able to keep writing, and maybe one day have a house with a view of the sea. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read a lot, write a lot, and enjoy the process. If you’re not passionate about it, don’t bother.

Kimberley, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Evergreen Falls here


evergreen-fallsEvergreen Falls

by Kimberley Freeman

1926: Violet Armstrong is one of the few remaining members of staff working at the grand Evergreen Spa Hotel as it closes down over winter. Only a handful of guests are left, including the heir to a rich grazing family, his sister and her suave suitor. When a snowstorm moves in, the hotel is cut off and they are all trapped. No one could have predicted what would unfold. When the storm clears they must all keep the devastating secrets hidden.

2014: After years of putting her sick brother’s needs before her own, Lauren Beck leaves her home and takes a job at a Blue Mountains cafe, the first stage of the Evergreen Spa Hotel’s renovations. There she meets Tomas, the Danish architect who is overseeing the project, and an attraction begins to grow. In a wing of the old hotel, Lauren finds a series of passionate love letters dated back to 1926, alluding to an affair – and a shocking secret.If she can unravel this long-ago mystery, will it make Lauren brave enough to take a risk and change everything in her own life?

Inspired by elements of her grandmother’s life, a rich and satisfying tale of intrigue, heartbreak and love from the author of the bestselling Lighthouse Bay and Wildflower Hill.

Grab a copy of Evergreen Falls here

 

Claire Zorn, author of The Protected, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Claire Zorn

author of  The Protected and The Sky So Heavy  

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

I was born, raised and schooled in the lower Blue Mountains. I lived there until I was about 24 when I moved to Sydney’s Inner West. Now I live in Wollongong.

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

Twelve: Artist/writer/Olympian show-jumper/horse-breeder. Why? Why on earth not.

Eighteen: Artist/jewellery designer for Dinosaur Designs. My obsession with Dinosaur Designs started at seventeen when I went into their Sydney Strand Arcade Store. I was so inspired that I changed my university plans from equestrian science to visual arts. I continue to squander all my money on DD stuff and am in the habit of writing them occasional fan mail.

Thirty: Writer. I’ve always imagined stories and characters. While film-making would probably be more fun, all you need to write a story is some paper and a pencil. It’s simpler and more direct. If anyone wants to spot me a few thousand dollars to make a film, I’m up for it.

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

I was convinced there was no God. Now I’m 99.9 percent sure there is one.

Author: Claire Zorn

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?

Only three? Cruel. Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief and King of Limbs (Can’t choose.) Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Pipilotti Rist’s video installation Sip My Ocean

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

Because I love stories most of all. It’s that simple. I find story-making to be the most satisfying pursuit aside from swimming in the ocean, and no one’s offered me money to do that. Writing seems to be the most direct way of getting stuff out of my head. I mentioned film before, but to cram all the details and tangents novels allow for into a film, you need tens of hours. You also need to collaborate with multiple people and schedule stuff and there’s probably diagrams involved. I’m not organised enough for all of that.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Hannah is just shy of sixteen and her family has recently been ripped apart by tragedy: her sister – whom she loved but didn’t like – has been killed. An unexpected ramification of this is that the bullying she has endured throughout high school has ceased, something that puts her in a strange place emotionally. While she is trying to come to grips with this she begins to form her first friendship in years – with the crossword-obsessed delinquent, Josh.

Grab a copy of Claire’s book The Protected here

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

Golly, I hate that question! Perhaps some small sense of camaraderie for those who were/are miserable in high school. I also wanted to pay homage to the lovely, genuine, noble guys I have known over the years. You don’t come across them all that often in books.

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

This is one that tends to change a lot. I’m going to break the rules and choose two! Vince Gilligan: the character arcs he created in Breaking Bad were nothing short of Shakespearian. And Sonya Hartnett. I don’t have words to describe how great her writing is. I also like how she doesn’t seem to give a brass razoo about genres or markets or any of that annoying stuff. She seems to just write what she wants.

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

Oh dear. This is going to be embarrassing. May as well aim high: the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award would be quite nice. That would mean I could stop renting! Or perhaps if we are going to be absurd I could write the first YA to win the Booker. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible, although I dare say Harper Lee could have won it. On a more achievable level: I really, really want to write and illustrate a picture book. 

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Choose carefully whose opinion of your work you listen to. And write. It sounds obvious but until you get the words out on the page, nothing will ever come of them.

Claire, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Protected here


The Protected

by Claire Zorn

I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.

Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

 Grab a copy of The Protected here

Karina Machado, author of Love Never Dies, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Karina Machado

author of Love Never Dies, Spirit Sisters and Where Spirits Dwell

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 Uruguay (but am the non-bitey type). My family left our little country when I was two and the choice was between Australia and Canada. I think the brochures for Australia were prettiest, so we ended up here. After a short stint at the Endeavour Hostel for Migrants in Sydney’s Coogee (now the site of luxury housing) we settled in nearby Eastlakes, where I went to primary school. Later, I attended J.J. Cahill Memorial High School in Mascot, reputedly the toughest school around. Luckily, we had a great year and inspiring teachers (hi Mrs Slattery and Mr Johnson!) and I never even came close to getting my head flushed down the loo.

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

12: A writer. I’d realised by age 4 that I was in love with words and stories. When I was in year 3 I wrote a poem called The Hungry Sea that Miss Griffin pinned up on the classroom wall, so this seemed to confirm that I was on the right path.

18: A magazine editor. Ok, so I still wanted to write books, but by now I’d worked out that I would need to sustain myself somehow until that dream came to fruition, so I figured that a job in magazines would be the best way to do this, without hindering the original dream. I’d grown up on Smash Hits and Dolly and may have thought that being the ed of a mag would be all pop stars and hilarity. Of course, after two decades in magazines (give or take a few to have babies and try freelancing) I’ve realised that I couldn’t have been more mistaken! I tip my hat every day to the ed of Who, where I work; being the editor of a magazine is a 24-hour gig. We do laugh a lot though, at least I was right there.

30: An author: I’d just had my second child, just 18 months after the first. He was born the day before September 11 and the world beneath my feet seemed to be cracking. I’d taken a voluntary redundancy from work to look after my babies, but clearly remember staring longingly at my bookshelves during night feeds. The sight of them cut through the mind-numbing exhaustion and fears about the state of the world. I didn’t have time to read the books, but just looking at them, knowing I’d get back to them one day, offered a measure of comfort and peace. It reminded me of my original passion for books, and of how, one day, I hoped I too could bring hope and solace to readers through writing a book of my own.

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

Author Karina Machado

I was very hard on myself, especially in thinking I had to look and be a certain way. I look back on photos now and think, ‘What did you have to complain about??’ I was also a bit ashamed of my quiet nature, thinking I had to be another way, especially if I wanted to be a journalist. Now I know that being quiet and non-intimidating can be a big plus in journalism: it allows people’s stories to just pour into me.

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: Golden Books. I was probably 2 when I first got one, not long after we arrived from Uruguay, and maybe 4 when I taught myself to read them. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love stories. My mum is a wonderful writer and poet, and I’m certain that I inherited her love of words … but if I had to pinpoint a time when I can first recall books in my life, it was Golden Books. Looking back, I was an immigrant child who’d lost her entire large extended family in one fell swoop. I think books filled the void, in a way. I learned to associate them with love and comfort, and never wanted to be far from them. That’s still the case today.

2: When I was about 7, my mum shared with me some experiences that she’d had as a young woman growing up in Uruguay. These experiences were instances of precognition, of sensing the future, specifically, the imminent deaths of loved ones. These stories opened me to the possibility that there was more to life than what we see and know, that mysteries abound. I found this exciting! It spoke of hope… it also taught me about the power of storytelling.

3. Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende: I was in my late teens or early 20s when I first tackled García Márquez. I was stunned, winded, by his novels—his dexterity of language, his breadth of imagination, the sheer beauty of his words. He left an imprint on my heart, as did Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits a little later on. Both huge influences on my work. Many years later, I was lucky enough to interview Isabel Allende as part of my job as the books editor at Who magazine. I found her a kindred spirit—like me, tiny and overly fond of makeup!

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?

Not at all, see above! To me, books spell comfort, healing, joy and love, I can’t see how they’ll ever be obsolete.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Love Never Dies is a celebration of love that transcends death. It is full of stories of everyday Australians who’ve had an experience of sensing the spirit of someone they’ve loved and lost. It is my third book on the subject of life after death, and the seed for this one was planted in my earlier books. Those were a broader look at paranormal experiences, but each also contained a chapter about people who’d sensed the spirit of a loved one. I was struck by how powerful these experiences were, how they changed the outlook of the beraved person—the experiences were life-changing, and, in some cases, life-saving—and decided that I would love to dedicate an entire book to these kinds of stories.

Grab a copy of Karina’s latest book Love Never Dies here

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

If my work could inspire people to appreciate the loved ones in their lives while they’re with them, that would be wonderful. Beyond that, if my work could encourage people to be kinder, not only in their dealings with precious people around them but also with other people in the community, from neighbours to the Lollipop Lady, I’d be a happy writer. I’m with the Dalai Lama when he says: “My religion is kindness.”

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

This is very difficult! It is a long list and it’s growing (a good thing, no?). I’ll have to cheat and tell you about two people who are on it today: first, a lady I saw on Dateline, who puts her safety on the line every day to run a school for the impoverished children of Brazil’s favelas. My heart was bursting watching that. I’m passionate about children’s literacy but she’s actually out there, making it happen in her third-world country, just over the border from the third-world country I was born in. Something to aspire to. The other person who’s on my list today is my daughter, Jasmin. She’s 14 and has just brought home the most outstanding report! I’m so proud of how hard she works for her results. She inspires me everyday to just put my head down and get the job done, no complaints.

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

I would like to try my hand at fiction … other than that, my goals involve helping others. I’d like to find a way to encourage children to read and be passionate about books, because that opens the door to a brighter future.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I will not be the first writer to say this, but, ‘Be true to yourself.’ Follow that gut instinct that tells you you’re on the trail of a good story, the right thing for you to commit to the page. And don’t worry if you’re that teenager who loves reading and writing but hates drawing attention to yourself and would rather sneak under the radar at every opportunity. I’m here to tell you it won’t always be that way. Some day, you’ll be happy to get up and tell a lot of people about your work, stories you’ve gathered because your kind face and quiet demeanour allowed subjects to pour their stories into you, without fear.

Karina, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Love Never Dies here


Love Never Dies

by Karina Machado

“Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.” – Emily Dickinson

This is a book about the indestructibility of love. Journalist and author Karina Machado spoke to over 60 Australians with stories of post-death contact. She shares their life-shattering experience of loss, and shows how their spiritual contact with a deceased lover, friend or family member brought peace, hope and the solace of knowing that their connection lives on.

There is the story of a teenage boy who appears in bodily form on the eve of his funeral to bring comfort to his sister. A young husband returns to his widow in time to prevent another tragedy. A grandmother arrives to lovingly care for the infant children of her grief-stricken daughter. A man soothes his heartbroken brother with an otherworldly embrace.

Written with grace and compassion, Love Never Dies is as much about the power of loving relationships as it is the phenomenon of the survival of consciousness beyond death.

 Grab a copy of Love Never Dies here

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