My top books for 2011 by Toni Whitmont

For a person who spends at least 50% of her working hours meeting with publishers about up coming books, I spend a lot of time talking about the next big thing.

Want to know what the run away hit single is going to be for next March? I’m your person. Unless of course it’s not because, well,  readers are a fickle lot, and that’s before the media juggernaut rolls into town and changes everyone’s minds about what they want and what they don’t want.

Right now a heart beat away from Christmas, you may be making yours lists and checking them twice, but I am being sold in books for Valentine’s Day, and, heaven help me, key titles for Mother’s Day 2012.

This is not a job where you can live in the moment. But there are some advantages of being so focused on where the action might be. I can justify ignoring all the big, bossy, Christmas books that quite frankly are going to be taken up in droves whether I get behind them or not. Readers don’t need me to convince them to try Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves or Di Morrissey’s The Opal Desert. If that is your sort of book, you are going to find it anyway just by driving Continue reading

Get Reading with Booktopia

Here is a question for you. Is there a scent that you associate with books? I don’t mean the smell of the paper, or the leather when you walk into a room full of old books. I mean, is there a smell that immediately transports you to reading heaven? Do you associate a perfume with a particular memory of reading, or a particular book?

For me, it is an easy ask. The minute I catch even a whiff of jasmine, I am in sensory heaven – jasmine poking through the paling fence, a sprig or two tucked behind one ear, sun on my back, book in my hand, sheltered from the cold early spring wind in a walled courtyard, pot of tea steaming by my Continue reading

Sarah Winman, author of When God Was a Rabbit, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sarah Winman

author of When God Was a Rabbit,

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 and schooled in Essex – at the time, not the most inspiring suburb of London. But it was home, and I was brought up amongst genuine loving fun people.

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

Ski instructor, actor, writer. They represented who I felt I was at the time.

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

That I would have gone to mime school and lived in Paris.

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?

Oh blimey – I can never do three – innumerable:

Music – Arvo Part. Bill Evans. Billie Holiday

Film: Annie Hall, The Godfather, A Matter of Life and Death.

Books: John Irving, Tim Winton, Toni Morrison.

Art: Madonna of the Rocks, Edward Hopper, Brassai – Paris by Night.

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

I acted before I wrote. They led on, one from the other.

6. Please tell us about your debut novel When God Was A Rabbit...

It’s a love story between a brother and sister – about secrets forged in childhood and the adult consequences of those secrets. It’s about the strength of family; about best friendship. It’s about loss and being able to start again.

(BBGuru: Read Toni Whitmont’s review here

Publisher’s synopsisWHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is an incredibly exciting debut from an extraordinary new voice in fiction.

Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.)

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

To feel stirred by something – to feel less lonely in the world.

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

Toni Morrison, Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, John Irving and Tim Winton. – Poetry, truth, heartbreak, craft, honesty, journey, integrity – a few reasons why I admire them.

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

To write another novel.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Believe in yourself. Believe in the story you want to tell. If you have only an hour to write, write. If you have a day, write. There will be many reasons not to write – identify them, be friends with them and then say goodbye to them.

Sarah, thank you for playing.

When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Pity the poor publisher. Every months hundreds – thousands – of new books hit the shelves, and sure as eggs, about eighty per cent of them are doomed to fail. What keeps everyone in the industry going however, is the hope that they have enough of the twenty-percenters to carry them through. And when it comes to fiction debuts, it is an even greater game of brinksmanship.

At the London Book Fair last April, the big money was on Sarah Winman’s debut novel, When God Was a Rabbit, which is publishing in Australia and the UK in April 2011. Rights have been snaffled up around the world.

Pre-order here for April 2011

The book was presented to me a couple of months ago as the “it” book for the first half of next year. It came to me as “a little piece of heaven”, “a rare and moving novel about the power of families and friendships”, “something truly unique and magical”.  Hmmm.

It is hard for publishers to get attention for the next great book, to differentiate it from their last great book, especially at a time of year when booksellers are so obsessed with the upcoming Christmas season that they are completely going spare. Perhaps this is why When God Was a Rabbit had arrived in a tin, with other bits of memorabilia, all tied up with string, and a postcard from Cornwall. Attention grabbing? Yes. Could I get into the book? No.

Well, I had another shot at it a couple of days ago, after the rush of Christmas had subsided and my mind was in another space. Can I tell you, I am now hopping on the Winman bandwagon? On my second attempt, I read it in a day or two, loving every moment of it, sneaking in pages between other committments, and going back over lovely little gems of passages.

Basically we are talking a coming-of-age story in two parts, one seen through the eyes of a young English girl and the second set in New York some 20 years later. When God Was a Rabbit is a mesmerizing portrait of childhood, with very dark and quirky humour.  Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s the story the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister and while its take on loss of innocence, familial bonds and eccentricity are perhaps familiar themes, Winman’s treatment of them  is subtle and original. Continue reading


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