So You Want to Be a Writer.

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There is an elephant in this room and she’s wearing a top hat and dancing the can-can, while singing the entire track listing of Weird Al Yankovic’s seminal 2003 album, “Poodle Hat”.

As in, you can’t ignore her.

The name of this elephant is “Kate’s Blog or lack thereof”.

I have not blogged in, oh, ages.

Mostly this is because I have been busy with the actual … writing. Of things that are not blogs.

Partly, it’s because … you know how the longer you leave a thing, the more it starts to grow into a top-hat-wearing elephant? Yep. That thing.

Val and Al would not be impressed with me.

Who? I hear you ask.

Joking. Obviously. If you’re a writer and you don’t know who Val and Al are, well, *coughs* … do you actually even want to be a writer?

Val and Al are the forces of nature behind the ridiculously popular podcast, So You Want to be a Writer, which is about to celebrate its 300th episode. I have listened to every single one of those episodes. I have laughed. I have actually cried*. I feel like, after all those hours spent listening to these two women – both extremely talented, funny and wise, and also obviously really great friends – that I know them. I know Val’s giggle and Al’s sighs and I know all about Procrastipup and banoffee pie and Bon Jovi and I know that, every time a new episode pops into my podcast catcher, I’m in for a treat.

I listen to them so obsessively that, when I went to the SCBWI conference earlier this year, and met Al Tait, my daughter was beside herself with excitement and said, “Does this mean you’re famous now, too, Mum?”

I have learned so much from these two women.

I have learned that every writer has a different process. And that’s okay.

I have learned that everyone feels like a fraud, sometimes. And that’s okay.

I have learned that it’s okay not to have a plan. I have learned that it’s okay to mess up. I have learned that the only really important thing about being a writer is that you write.

I have learned that sometimes it’s okay to be “fair to middling”.

I have learned that there are many really cool words in the world. And most of them … I probably will never use.

Most importantly, I have learned that the most important thing about this writing gig is the friends you make along the way.

Last week, I went to the most delightful writer’s conference I’ve ever been to, attended by the actual best people and it got me thinking about writing friendships. I feel like I made a few, last week. But my OG role models will always be Val and Al. Val and Al, your friendship is what inspires me the most, along with your love of words – wacky and mundane and every one in between.

I hope that you won’t be too mad at me, for my elephant. I mean, she does the can-can. And I’m pretty sure she also eats banoffee pie.

And she’s raising her pie, now, to both of you. 300 episodes is nothing to sneeze at.

Which … can one of you look into the origins of that phrase, please? Who wants to sneeze at anything? It makes no sense.

Unlike the two of you. The two of you make perfect sense and I can’t wait to see what you get up to next. The only certainty is this: It won’t be anything “fair to middling”.

* Actually. And, I mean, I am a crier. I cry at least once a day. Sometimes at ads. Once, because of brussels sprouts. But rarely at podcasts. And I’ve cried more than once at this one. Because it’s SO DARNED SPECIAL. Also, I now want brussels sprouts. I wonder how they go with banoffee pie …

Juno Jones is out now!

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Tomorrow is today!

I am so excited to finally be able to share Juno Jones with the world. I feel like this day has taken an age to come, and has also sneaked up on me and scared the life out of me.

I am so grateful to Rowena and the team at Yellow Brick Books for publishing my first foray into Books My Kid Can Read Now – and for all their help, support, wisdom and excitement throughout this process. Enormous thanks, especially, to Georgina and Angela, who have provided me with so much time, patience and amazing enthusiasm.

My infinite gratitude, also, to the miraculous Sandy Flett, who took my words and made them into a real, actual thing. I will never be able to express how much it means to me, and I’ll never quite be able to comprehend exactly how she managed to see inside my brain and pull my characters directly from there – while simultaneously making them her own.

It’s all just one big mind-blowing pile of happy.

Anyway, if you see Juno out in the wild, consider giving her a look. She’s an attention-seeker. She’ll like it. Also, there are yaks.

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Questions with Penny Jaye

Penny Jaye writes books for children and older readers. She lives in western Sydney with her husband and three children and is currently studying for her Master of Arts (writing and literature at Deakin university).

She enjoys the challenges and opportunities of juggling a busy family life with writing commitments, including doing author visits. Some of her favourite things include family movie nights, lunch by the river and being tucked up in bed to read a new YA novel. Out of the Cages is her first young adult novel with Rhiza Edge.

She also writes as Penny Reeve.

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I met Penny completely by accident at this year’s SCBWI conference. I accidentally left my iPad keyboard under a chair (because I am the sort of person who does stuff like that – more frequently than I’d like to admit). Penny kindly pointed this out to me. We got chatting and I found out that she was the author of one of the best books I read last year (or, to be honest, for many years). Out of the Cages is an absolute treasure, by the way. Anyway, I may have fangirled a little bit and made a fool of myself, but she was very kind about it. She’s a very kind person. She’s also an amazing author and she’s done a fantastic job of these questions! I’m very grateful to that little iPad keyboard.

Which I may have, subsequently, lost again.

Don’t tell Penny.

Anyway, enjoy!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

Out of the Cages is my latest book and my first YA (I’m usually found writing books for younger readers).  It’s a novel about two young Nepali girls who are trafficked and sold into the brothels of Mumbai and the one who escapes. It’s a story about friendship, hope and the courage to heal.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I began researching and writing the story while my family and I lived in Nepal in the early 2000s. I kept hearing stories of trafficking, and reading articles about the occasional returned survivor and I started wondering what it would be like to return home after such experiences. What would it be like to face your family, your past and even the future? What would it be like to piece life back together when you had been forced to endure such trauma? It was questions like this that sparked the story.

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

When the novel opens, fifteen-year-old Meena is trapped in a Mumbai brothel and has given up all hope of ever escaping. In order to survive, she has locked her memories away: memories of home, of her childhood friend Putali, and of the trafficking journey they experienced together. When a botched police raid offers Meena a chance at freedom, she must face the truth about her past. The memories she has buried deep inside begin to resurface, and Meena realises escaping the brothel is only the beginning of what it means to be free.
Can she face the truth in her memories? Can she return to Nepal if it means returning alone? And what about Putali, where is she now?

Meena is vulnerable, wonderful, untrusting and raw. She’s the little girl who left Nepal with her head full of dreams. She’s the young woman terrified of what might be true. She’s a friend who doesn’t know whether she’s worth being friends with anymore. She’s the survivor who chooses to hope despite it all. And I think it’s all of this that makes us love her.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I’ve always been a bit wordy – but being an author wasn’t something I ever seriously thought could be a possibility. I wrote my first picture book in year 3 for a class assignment. I wrote some rather deadly murder mysteries in year 7 and plentiful soppy poetry in upper high school! But I only seriously gave writing for publication a try after my daughter was born.

What was your favourite book as a child?

To be honest, I’m not sure. But I did love Grover’s Little Golden Book – There’s a Monster at the end of this Book. I think I resonated with the way he built up, in his imagination, this absolutely terrible possibility only to realise – rather sheepishly – that it was only ever himself: ‘lovably, furry, old Grover’.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

Kate DiCamillo. She is amazing. Even her social media posts are amazing! And her children’s novels are so full of heart they make you feel as if you have grown bigger on the inside by reading them.

What was the last book you read and loved?

I loved Lisa Shanahan’s ‘The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler’. It’s a children’s novel, beautifully crafted and lingering deep in the heart for a long time after it’s been finished.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

Okay. One: I’m not sporty at all, but my favourite birthday gift this year was a basketball! (We don’t have a hoop yet, but that’s beside the point.)
Two: I have a dog called Chooti. It’s a Nepali word that means ‘break’ or ‘holiday’ because when we first bought her we were in a rather stressful stage of life and really needed a decent break!
Three: I graduated from high school in Papua New Guinea.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Ooh – this question is too hard! Can I name a few favourites?
I love the work of Freya Blackwood – because she can capture mood and tone, as well as emotion, personality and story in her illustrations.
I love Graeme Base – just the detail. Amazing.
And I love Shaun Tan – because everything he does is so incredibly thoughtful.

 What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The best piece of advice I received was probably an offhand comment my husband once made to me. When I was complaining about my lack of writing time when my children were young, he said ‘Don’t worry Penny, you’ll still be writing when you’re 50.’ 50 isn’t as far away now as it was then, but I think the point remains. I don’t have to panic about my writing. A slow but decent plod will produce results, it’s a long haul trip this writing journey. Not a quick sprint.

The worst advice? That I have to have a regular blog if I want to be a writer. I know it may be helpful for other writers, and I respect other people who blog (thanks for having me here, Kate. I’m in awe of all blogging authors!). But me? Nope. Blogging stresses me out. The pressure of ‘trying’ to blog wore me out. So instead of telling myself that I have to blog, I encourage myself by reminding me that some of my favourite children’s authors don’t blog. If they don’t blog, and I love their books, I don’t have to blog either. (Sorry.)

 What is your favourite thing about being published by Wombat/Rhiza?

Their commitment and courage. A number of my projects have not fit the standard boxes for publishing. Out of the Cages, for example, pushes the boundary of YA. But when they take on a project they believe in, they back it. And they back the author to promote that book long term too, providing ongoing support.

Can you recommend another book by a Wombat/Rhiza author?

I really like Katrina Roe’s Lily’s Balloon at the moment. It’s so beautifully illustrated, and the text leads readers through a gentle story with several tender layers. It’s thoughtful, deep and yet charming at the same time. Just lovely.

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Find out more about Penny at her website.

Find out more about Out of the Cages at the Rhiza Edge website.

Questions with Katrina Roe

Katrina Roe is an author and radio presenter.

She can be heard each weekday on Sydney’s Hope 103.2 radio, where she is the host of Hope Mornings.

Katrina’s books tackle real-life issues she has faced first-hand. Katrina’s first book, Marty’s Nut-Free Party, was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Award. Her second book, Emily Eases Her Wheezes, was listed as a Notable Book by CBCA in 2015. Her third children’s book, Same, is a true story about her brother, Charlie, who has cerebral palsy. It was shortlisted for the Caleb Prize, 2016.

In Gemma gets the Jitters (2017) Katrina addresses childhood anxiety with a tale about a nervous giraffe who overcomes her fear of heights. Her newest creation, Lily’s Balloon is a gentle, hopeful story about disappointment, loss and learning to let go.

Katrina lives in Sydney with her husband, Chris, a television news producer, and her three gorgeous girls.

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The first book I ever read by Katrina Roe was the beautiful Same. It had me in floods of tears – so much so that my daughter was deeply worried about me (for the record, she was also very affected by it, but not to the extent I was, and she adores it). I have since caught up with many of her other works, and I am so incredibly impressed by the depth of her talent and her compassionate soul. She is definitely a writer deserving of the accolades she has received – and I predict many more to come. I know you’ll enjoy her interview!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

 When Lily finds a big beautiful balloon she wants to keep it forever… But what if somebody else needs it more?

Lily’s Balloon is a gentle, hopeful story about disappointment, loss, and letting to let go. It’s about how we’re all connected and one person’s loss is often another person’s gain.

Lily’s Balloon features delightful illustrations by Helene Magisson and has been described by the One More Page podcast as ‘the perfect bedtime story’.

What was the inspiration for the story?

Initially the idea was to write a story about an object passing through the lives of a number of different children, linking them together, even if they didn’t realise it. It was an idea that wallowed in the back of my mind for two or three years without form.

It was a personal crisis that eventually prompted me to write it. By this time, the story had become both personal and deeply philosophical to me. It poured itself out onto the page.  Through the writing process, the story became much more about letting go of loss and disappointment, while recognising that one person’s loss is often another person’s gain … if only we could see the big picture.

Tell us about your main character.

While it’s not overt, I like to think of Lily as a kid with sensory processing issues. She’s always wanted to go to the fair, but when she gets there she finds the sights and sounds and smells overwhelming.  She can’t cope with it. She stands in for any of us who have ever felt we can’t cope with some aspect of our lives. But when she sees a balloon gently bobbing in the distance, she feels calm. So naturally she clings to what makes her feel better…until she no longer needs it, then she has to learn to let it go. I think Lily is seeking joy, but being held back by her own fears and anxiety. When Lily sees the balloon dancing on the wind, it’s a call to freedom and a reminder to look up and see the big picture.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was five years old.  My mum used to send my poems and stories into the Beehive Club in The Land newspaper and they published everything I sent them. Maybe they were short on entries, but I loved seeing my poems in print.  I wrote poetry and short stories throughout my high school years, and was encouraged by my teachers to study journalism. In my early media career I wrote lots of scripts for radio interviews, ads, promotional videos and brochures, but didn’t write anything much for myself until I reached my mid 20s and started working on a novel.  My goal was to publish a book by the time I was 50 or 60 so I thought I had better start practising.  My novel was never published, but it was shortlisted for a NSW Writer’s Centre Genre Fiction award, so that was enough encouragement for me to keep trying.

What was your favourite book as a child?

It’s impossible to name just one. Like most kids of my time, I devoured Enid Blyton books, The Famous Five, The Enchanted Wood and The Wishing Chair.  I also loved Winnie the Pooh and the Muddle-Headed Wombat by Ruth Park.  But in late primary school I discovered a Canadian author called Gordon Korman and my absolute favourite book was I Want to Go Home, about a cool, rebellious kid called Rudy Miller who will do anything to get out of summer camp.  It was the smart-talking, nonchalant character of Rudy who captivated me.  In high school, Anne of Green Gables made me weep like I had never wept before!  Oh Mathew!  Oh Mathew!  Sob!

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.  Loved that book!

What was the last book you read and loved?

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton.

Blew. My. Mind.

I don’t know how he can write about such confronting things and still leave you feeling good about the world.

Insanely. Good. Book.

(He writes all the chapters in 3 word headlines in case you are wondering why I am talking like that.)

Dalton rocks world.

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

I just can’t go past Jane Eyre’s speech to Rochester.

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart!”

Haven’t we all wanted to say that to a bloke at some stage?

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

I was one of thousands of people who danced at the Opera House for the opening of Strictly Ballroom, the musical

I’ve seen an actual real Mummy (Indian Jones style) in a remote highland village in West Papua

I’m a little obsessive about my tea drinking.  (And no I don’t like Early Grey.)

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

I love the three illustrators of my own books because they brought my ideas to life.  Jemima Trappell, who did Same, Leigh Hedstrom, who illustrated the 3 books in my Marty series and Helene Magisson who did Lily’s Balloon.  But other than those, I was impressed by Aura Parker’s Cocoon.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The best piece of writing advice I got was on a writing camp I went on in Year 9.  They said ‘Write what you know’ and I still think that’s a really good starting point.

I don’t think I’ve ever been given bad writing advice!  Writers are usually pretty thoughtful people.

What is your favourite thing about being published by Wombat/Rhiza?

I love that the process is very collaborative and constructive.  We all work together to make the book the best it can be. Just being published at all is pretty great too!

Can you recommend another book by a Wombat/Rhiza author?

Wombat Books:  Jacaranda Snow by Catherine Greer, illustrated by Helene Magisson. It’s the perfect companion book to Lily’s Balloon because it shares a similar worldview about looking for the best in a situation.

Rhiza: Penny Jaye’s YA novel Out of the Cages is an insightful look into sex trafficking in India.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Well it’s kinda cheating because it’s not really by a female artist, but there’s a Passenger song featuring Kate Miller-Heidke, called The One You Love.  It’s so haunting, it gets to me every time.

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Find out more about Katrina at her website.

And at Wombat Books.

 

Questions with Debra Tidball

Debra writes stories that speak into children’s lives. As a social worker, parent and author she understands the power of narrative to resonate with children and parents alike.

Her first picture book When I see Grandma is a celebration of life and love drawn from her experience of having a parent with dementia, and reflecting the experience of many with ageing parents and grandparents.

Debra lives in suburban Sydney and satisfies her rural cravings by keeping chooks in the backyard and mucking around with her donkey who is paddocked on the city’s fringes.

She is available for author talks and story-time sessions for schools and play groups.

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I was lucky enough to meet Debra at this year’s SCBWI conference, in Sydney. She tracked me down and I’m SO glad she did. She’s as delightful in person as she seems online! She’s also a huge supporter of Australian kidlit creators and shouts out to her fellow creatives any chance she can! I think she’s amazing and her books are just glorious. I hope you enjoy hearing her answers!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

My latest is a picture book called The Scared Book, illustrated by Kim Siew and published by Hachette. It is exactly what the title suggests: a scared book. It asks the reader to interact with it to help it not be scared and rescue it from the monsters that have invaded its pages. It’s loud and fun with a sneaky message about overcoming fears.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I was pondering the colloquial use of the word ‘sick’ to describe something awesome, and was applying it to all sorts of objects: sick shoes, sick clothes, sick book. Sick book! What would it be like for a book to be sick? Then sick soon morphed into scared, and voila! The Scared Book.

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

My main character is the book itself! It’s a bit of a scaredy cat and it addresses the reader directly, asking for help. By helping it out we, the reader, become the hero in the story. You’ve gotta love that!

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

Writing stories is something I’ve come into in my adulthood, but I’ve always liked crafting words for essays and reports that I wrote in my time as a social worker.

What was your favourite book as a child?

My favourite book that my mother read to me by my bedside was an AA Milne classic – The Christopher Robin Storybook. I still have it! I wrote a blog post about it here: https://www.debratidball.com/blog/read-to-me . Later, I fell in love with the world of Beatrix Potter, even making the characters up into stuffed toys. I take Mrs Tiggy Winkle along on my school visits.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

So many to recommend! I’ll choose a recent read: Penny Jaye’s debut YA Out of The Cages is an important and powerful book. I’ve also interviewed her for the Just Write For Kids Blog (she also writes for children as Penny Reeve) for those interested in writing, here: http://www.justkidslit.com/penny-reeve-breaking-boundaries/

What was the last book you read and loved?

I’m currently reading The Peski Kids by RA Spratt and I’m loving that. Especially the feisty, gung-ho, hostile girl character, April. She’s a hoot!

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

This one from Kate Di Camillo: ‘We have been given the sacred task to make hearts large through story. We are working to make hearts that are capable of containing much joy and sorrow, hearts capacious enough to contain the complexities and mysteries and contradictions of ourselves and each other. We are working to make hearts that know how to love this world.’ I pinched this quote from an inspiring speech by another (Australian) female author, Lisa Shanahan, on the occasion of the CBCA Book of the Year announcement last year, in Queensland. You can read the speech here: http://readingtime.com.au/guest-speaker-lisa-shanahan/

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

I like animals with sticky-uppy ears: I have a Devon Rex cat, a French Bulldog and a donkey.

I don’t do coffee.

I like rock climbing.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Another difficult one! Of course, I could say the illustrators of my books, Leigh Hedstrom and Kim Siew, who brought my words to life in a way that I could never have imagined! But for the purpose of this question, l’ll say a recent book I read: Mr Walker by Jess Black and Illustrated by Sara Acton. I love her soft, loose style with ink and watercolour and how she’s brought the lovable Labrador Ambassador, Mr Walker, alive. It’s reminiscent of the iconic Quentin Blake and his illustrations for Roald Dahl.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

I can only think of good advice, like: ‘Writing can’t be taught, it has to be practiced.’ Jackie French said something like this at a conference I went to last year. I take it to mean you actually have to do it to learn.

What is your favourite thing about being published by Wombat/Rhiza?

Apart from feeling you’re in a family of amazingly wonderful and talented book creators? Then I’d say the commitment and care they put behind the book for the long haul. You never feel like the carnival has moved on and left you behind. They believe in every book they publish – for the life of the book.

Can you recommend another book by a Wombat/Rhiza author?

Apart from your powerful and important book, Kate? I’ve already mentioned Penny Jaye’s Out of the Cages, so I’ll go with my heartland – picture books.  I’d have to say Katrina Roe and Jemima Trappel’s Same. I love this book and the way the scribbly styled illustrations echo the heart of the story, which is fear of difference yet connection through art. It’s based on Katrina’s experience having a brother with cerebral palsy and her child’s reactions to him in his wheelchair. It’s beautiful book and one that deserves a wide audience.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Pearl by Katy Perry. It’s a haunting song about a pearl of a woman who is now just a shell of herself, due to her relationship with a man. I love the poetry and imagery of this song, the metaphors are fabulous. It is heartbreaking and triumphant, with an empowering message that I love in many of Katy Perry’s songs.

Find out more about Debra in the following places!

Website: www.debratidball.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debratidballpage/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/debratidball

Anyone interested in the monthly roundup of my little patch of kid lit can subscribe here: https://bit.ly/2DHf9n9

Girl Running, Boy Falling giveaway!

I’m currently holding a giveaway on my Instagram (Click here to go there!)

Being long listed in the CBCA Awards got me thinking a lot about gratitude. I’m so grateful to Wombat Books for the faith they showed in me and their constant support. So, I’d like to pay it forward a bit. Enter this competition to win the following:

* A signed copy of Girl Running, Boy Falling
* A Girl Running, Boy Falling pin
* A random trinket from my Box of Special Things
* AND a book of your choice from the Wombat Books or Rhiza Edge collections. It could be a picture book, a chapter book, middle grade, YA – your choice! Let me know which one you’d like and I’ll order it for you!

To enter, just comment on the Instagram post with something that’s made YOU grateful, lately. Competition closes 20/3/2019.

Australia only, this time, but I’ll be running an international comp soon!

Questions with Lian Tanner

Lian Tanner is a children’s author and playwright. She has worked as a teacher in Australia and Papua New Guinea, a tourist bus driver, a freelance journalist, a juggler, a community arts worker, an editor and a professional actor. It took her a while to realise that all of these jobs were really just preparation for being a writer. Nowadays she lives by the beach in southern Tasmania, with a small tabby cat and lots of friendly neighbourhood dogs. She has not yet mastered the art of Concealment by the Imitation of Nothingness, but she is quite good at Camouflage.

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

My latest book is Secret Guardians, the second book in The Rogues trilogy. It’s a children’s fantasy novel; the story of Duckling (a girl with a very dishonest grandfather) and Pummel (a boy from the country), who have unexpectedly found themselves the custodians of some strange magic. In the first book, this magic helped them save the Young Margrave of Neuhalt from the dreadful Harshman, who wants him dead.

Now, Duckling and Pummel are trying to keep the Young Margrave safe. But they’re about to run into a gang of ruthless slavers. And in the south of the country, the rightful owner of their magic is plotting to get it back.

What was the inspiration for the story?

The inspiration for the whole trilogy was a Spanish conman who I met (and was conned by) in Madrid many years ago. This second book was inspired partly by the catacombs of Paris, and partly by a chicken I once knew.

Tell us about your main characters. Why should we fall in love with them?

Duckling has been raised as the granddaughter of a conman, with no regard for honesty, or for anyone else’s well-being. But underneath the lessons she has learned from her grandfather, she has a good heart.

Pummel is honest, responsible and kind, but he’s also far too trusting. The two children are so different from each other, yet somehow they have become friends. And in this second book, their friendship will be tested to its limits.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I’ve written since I was very young. When I was in primary school I used to write poems, strongly influenced by Banjo Paterson. In Grade 6 I started writing a couple of novels, though I never got very far with them.

I always saw writing as something I wanted to do, but didn’t take it seriously enough until I was in my forties, when I started writing plays for the theatre company I worked for.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Probably Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. I loved anything with talking animals, and this is such a fascinating story.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

Mary Robinette Kowal’s alternative history/SF duology about the space race, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky.

What was the last book you read and loved?

The Hollow of Fear, the third book in Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series. It’s such an enjoyable series, full of humour, with a wildly intelligent heroine who loves cakes and isn’t very good at dealing with humans. In this particular book, absolutely nothing was what it seemed.

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.” Ursula K. Le Guin

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

  1. I’m the youngest child of a youngest child of a youngest child, which in fairytale terms pretty much guarantees me a magical life.
  2. I loathe parties. Absolutely loathe them. But occasionally I go to them just to remind myself how much I dislike them.
  3. I used to be a juggler, and had a very entertaining routine that told the story of three chooks, Beryl, Sheryl and Meryl.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Jonathan Bentley. Why? Because he has just finished illustrating my first picture book, Ella and the Ocean, and done an exquisite job of it. Looking at his work made me realise how much of their own dreaming illustrators bring to a picture book, and how much that enriches the text.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The best piece of writing advice was probably to write the first draft as if no one else will ever read it.

I don’t think I’ve ever been given a really bad piece of writing advice. Or maybe I just ignored it and forgot about it straightaway.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Nobody’s Business, sung by the wonderful Mary Coughlan. It’s a great song from anyone, but she delivers it with such splendid up-yours-ness.

What is your favourite thing about living and working in Tasmania?

Up until this year I would have said my favourite thing is that the summers aren’t too hot. That has just been proved wrong. But the quietness, the beauty, the fact that I know my neighbours, that I can live twenty minutes out of town in a quiet suburb by the beach, that I’ve lived here nearly all my life and can’t imagine living anywhere else – all those things still apply.

Can you recommend another Tasmanian writer?

Julie Hunt, whose fantasy novels for children create strange, intricate and magical worlds that draw you in and carry you away.

What is your favourite secret place in Tasmania?

Parts of the mountain/kunanyi. The fern glades, the secret paths, the little waterfalls that you stumble across unexpectedly – I’ve known them since I was a child and have never stopped loving them.

What’s something about Tasmania that people might not know?

That of all the colonies that made up the future Australia, Tasmania had the highest proportion of drunkards, paupers, lunatics, orphaned or abandoned children, invalids and prisoners. This is a statistic that never fails to please and fascinate me.

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Find out more about Lian at her website and at Allen and Unwin.

Questions with Glenda Guest

Glenda Guest grew up in the wheatbelt of Western Australia, and that landscape still influences her writing. Since leaving the west, she has lived in cities and country towns in Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and south-east Queensland. She is currently living in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. Glenda has had stories and poetry published in various anthologies and journals. Chapters from the novel Siddon Rock have been published in the journal Coastlines Cultural Magazine, which is a joint Australian-Indonesian venture; and the online magazine Spiny Babbler. She has had support from artsACT, the arts support organisation of the Australian Capital Territory, for time-out at Varuna Writers’ House in Katoomba, where the first draft of the novel was written. Glenda works as a freelance editor and writer. Her latest novel, A Week in the Life of Cassandra Aberline, was published 2018 by Text Publishing.

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

The structure of A Week in the Life of Cassandra Blanchard is that of a woman on the Indian-Pacific train, returning to Western Australia after some 45 years away living in Sydney. As the train roars through the vast outback she also travels back in time, looking for the rationale of the event that made her leave her home so long ago.

So there are two interconnected stories the contemporary one before, on and after leaving the train, and the one from the past that Cassie is trying to put into context.  She needs to do this as she was diagnosed as having early Alzheimers, and she want to clarify a specific event, before she loses her memory : ‘What if that was the last thing I ever remember.’

What was the inspiration for the story?

The one thing that started the thinking towards this book was my interest in twin-ness: how twins interact, how they are the same, how they are different. This is still at the heart of the story. Then I saw how friends were coping, or not coping, with parents going into dementia and I had the what-if moment: What if you’d done something you were not proud of, or was very bad, in your youth, but had put it out of mind. Would you want to fix it before you lost all memory?

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

I don’t know if the reader would fall in love with Cassandra Blanchard, at least not for a while into the story. She’s very self-contained and doesn’t let people into her life easily (in the story, or the reader). This seems to be what keeps readers tied, so I’ve been told, they want to know why she is as she is, and follow her happily down the rabbit hole of her past.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

Sort of both. When I was in primary school, aged about nine or ten, in a small country town in WA, my teacher told me I should go to university and study English, then write books. I told my mother this and her response was, university isn’t for the like of us. And she was correct – we were way out of the financial requirements to go to uni then.

I’d written bit and pieces, not stories but newsletters for clubs, short articles for local newspapers and such, then in my middle years slipped my way into uni as a mature-age student, ending up in the Creative Art degree at GUGC, the year it began. From then, I just kept on keeping on.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Can’t think of a favourite at all – but I read anything and everything around me. I can tell you, though, that kid’s books were more demanding in some ways than they are now. I still have what is basically a water-colour picture book with text, called Katherine.  It begins like this:  ‘This is young Katherine who lives in Australia/with her toys and her books and her paraphenalia’. What’s that word! I was four years old! I asked my mother what it meant, and she didn’t tell me. Instead, she showed me how to use a dictionary.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

Michelle de Kretser deserves every award she gains. No-one gets under the skin of our culture (and others) quite like she does. And, I suspect the marvellous Elizabeth Jolley is not on contemporary bookshelves now but her novels should be, for reading pleasure and as a master-class in how to not be didactic.

What was the last book you read and loved?

Nearly finished The Life to Come, by Michelle de Kretser. Brilliant.

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Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

I have two:

The wastepaper basket is your friend. Margaret Atwood

You don’t have to think about writing a message into a book. If it’s written well it will be there. Elizabeth Jolley.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

Only one other person in the world knows I wear his work socks to bed.

My writing world doesn’t know I play bridge—not well, but aggressively.

I hate raw onion!

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

I’m not a kids’ lit person, but I love Maurice Sendak’s monsters.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

Worst: you have to write every day to be a ‘real writer’. Name not to be mentioned!
Best: you think you don’t know what you’re doing, but you really do. Just keep going. Nigel Krauth.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

OK – I’m going to show my age here – Helen Reddy’s ‘I am Woman’. It got me through some pretty dark places in the 1980s.

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Find out more about Glenda at her website!

Find out more about her latest book at Text Publishing.

Questions with Sonia Bellhouse

Sonia Bellhouse is a contributor to Writing the Dream, an anthology for published writers produced by Serenity Press. She won two major awards in the inaugural Rockingham Short Fiction contest.

An avid reader and writer she facilitated a book club for eleven years. She reluctantly decided to give it up, to concentrate on her writing. Sonia is a long time member of Armadale Writers’ Group, regularly engaging authors to present workshops to the group.

Sonia enjoys catching up with friends, ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cat and learning new things.

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Sonia’s new book, Fire and Ice, is released this weekend. Ice skating, vikings and romance? What could be more fun! For more information about the book and its launch, see the links at the bottom of this interview.

Tell us a bit about your latest book

Olympic ice dancer Blaise Daniels partner has just called it quits – leaving her with no chance of competing at the Winter Olympics. Determined not to give up on her dream, she travels to Norway to meet legendary skater Kristoffer Erikson. After a bumpy start, they connect both on and off the ice. Their partnership seems assured, but why do they both start having dreams of a mysterious Viking past? Can an ancient love be rekindled, or will an old tragedy complicate their present?

What was your inspiration for the story?

I’m not sure how I linked ice dancing ( which I had watched at the Pyeong Winter Olympics)with Vikings. It was probably when I decided to set the story in Bergen Norway.  I found the  dancer’s ability to convey a story without words fascinating and the idea of an ice dancer from Australia intriguing. As  I was writing a parallel story line emerged of a Viking past life relationship.

Tell us about your main character.

Blaise  Daniels has focused on her skating from childhood, it hasn’t left her much time for boyfriends or for fun. Travelling to Norway is an adventure, but with a lot riding on it. If she and Kristoffer don’t get on she could have no skating partner and no career. It’s a huge risk. Meeting the legendary skater, she is immediately drawn to him, but can she match his exacting standards?  As they work together, they begin to have mysterious dreams of a Viking past. Kristoffer shares the dreams but grows more and ore concerned- is he putting Blaise in danger?

Why should we fall in love with them?

Blaise is pursuing her dreams travelling to Norway. We can’t all be Olympic champions,  but we can fight for what we want and what we believe in.

Kristoffer is a  skating legend, but legends can be lonely. Blaise sees beyond the legend to the man himself. As their dreams  collide their future is on the line too.

Have you always written or is writing something you have come to in adulthood?

Almost as soon as I learnt to read, I started to write, stories and poems.Writing has always been a passion with me. Some of my stories and articles are published in magazines, nationally and internationally. I contributed to two recent anthologies. Writing the Dream has twenty-five published writers sharing how they got published. There are some big-name contributors, such as Natasha Lester, Anna Jacobs and Tess, as well as some less well-known ones. I also contributed to Passages a recent short story anthology with fifteen life adventure stories. Both anthologies are published by Serenity Press There is a one day only book launch special on Fire & Ice and either anthology at a super special price.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Anne of Green Gables always appealed to me, Anne was in trouble through her good heart and good intentions. She was so relatable, naughty and imaginative and she lived on an island.

Can you recommend another female author?

There are so many amazing women writers , and in fact most of the books that read tend to be by women.

I was impressed  and enthralled by imaginative Life After Life by  Kate Atkinson.

Local authors – again we have so many talented writers here. I am waiting impatiently for Natasha Lester’s next book, The French Photographer  but thoroughly enjoyed her The Paris Seamstress. I thought it was an intriguing story and beautifully written. I was incredibly impressed by Tess Wood’s Beautiful Messy Love. I admired how Tess  handled multiple viewpoints and kept the story flowing.

What was the last book you read and loved?

I generally read between six to eight books a month. One that stood out from my recent reading was Sarah Maine’s Women of The Dunes I chose it because it had a triple time line. It is set in the west of Scotland It features a Norse woman, a Victorian woman and a twenty first century female archaeologist. It might have been confusing, but it was well written and engaging.

Do you have a favourite quotation by a female author?

‘You imagine yourself into being a writer’ by Marsha Alderson, AKA The Plot Whisperer.

I have this as a framed quotation on my desk.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself that other people may not know.

I grew up  living behind a sweet shop that my parents owned and one birthday I was given a 3 kilo box of jelly babies

I wrote a fan letter to Enid Blyton and got a postcard back saying, ‘one day you might write a book’.

When I worked as a croupier, we were allowed twenty- minute breaks each hour as the work was so demanding.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books?

Ernest. H. Shepherd.

Why?

He illustrated  the original Winnie The Pooh,  and The House at Pooh Corner. I just find the animals so endearing.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you have received?

In my opinion  ‘write what you know,’ is bad advice, as people take it so literally-’ Oh I’ve never been a  sea captain or a captive princess,’ Maybe not, but do you feel the pull of adventure or feel trapped in a job you hate? Use it and build on that. Did J.K. Rowling attend a magical boarding school? Probably not, but she could certainly imagine one.

The best advice in my opinion is to write what you want to know. Write about what intrigues you, what excites you. Write something you’d like to read.

When I began to write Fire & Ice,  I knew nothing about ice dancing beyond what I had seen on television. I researched it, consulted experts asked questions. I read extensively about Vikings and made sure that what I wrote fitted the known facts. I also created a Pinterest  board called somewhat unimaginatively The Book That I Am Writing. I placed pictures of clothing , hairstyles, skating costumes, Chris Hemsworth and Lagatha from the TV show Vikings.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Brave by Sara Bareilles  I think the words are highly appropriate for a writer – we need to be brave and let our words out into the world.

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

While I was writing I created a playlist for Fire &Ice

 Somewhere in Time, by John Barry.

Whispers in a Dream, by Hayley Weitenrn

From My first Moment, by Charlotte Church

Lonely Swan, by Secret Garden

Fire & Ice, by Pat Benatar

Fire & Ice, by Within Temptation

Fire & Ice, by Andrew Swift

 

Find out more about Sonia at her website.

Find out more about Sonia’s upcoming book at Daisy Lane Publishing.

The book launch is on Saturday February 16th2-3pm at Armadale Library, Armadale WA.

It’s a free event with refreshments, and book sales and signings.

Questions with Tansy Rayner Roberts

Tansy Rayner Roberts is an award-winning writer of science fiction, fantasy, feminist essays, and humour. She lives in Tasmania, Australia, with her family.

Tansy is a co-host of Galactic Suburbia and the Verity! Podcast, and has her own weekly fiction podcast, Sheep Might Fly, where you can listen to her reading fiction serials for free.

She has a PhD in Classics, and still obsesses about ancient literature when she isn’t busy obsessing about superheroes, musketeers and fictional hockey. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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I’m so, so thrilled to have the beautiful Tansy on my blog! Tansy is another person I am amazed I can call a friend. She is so talented, so well-regarded, so freaking award-winning and incredible AND she is a gorgeous soul, brimming with vivacious energy and generous with her time and wisdom. I’m excited to share her answers with you. As always, she’s produced a very entertaining read! If you haven’t discovered Tansy’s books yet, what are you waiting for? Do a Molly Meldrum and get to it, now!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

I have an entire trilogy that will be released next month. The Creature Court is an epic urban fantasy series with a 1920’s twist. It was originally published by HarperCollins between 2010-12, and last year I ran a Kickstarter to raise the funds to bring it back into print with some beautiful new cover art by Brisbane artist Kathleen Jennings. I’m so proud of this series, and it got a lot of attention when originally published (including Ditmar and Aurealis awards for Best Novel and Best Fantasy Novel) so I’m excited to be able to make this available for readers new and old.

The books are: 1) Power and Majesty, 2) The Shattered City and 3) Reign of Beasts.

(My alter ego Livia Day also has a Hobart-set murder mystery coming out this year, Keep Calm and Kill the Chef!)

What was the inspiration for the story?

So many different inspirations crushed together for the Creature Court! The month I spent in Rome and my obsession with the Ancient Roman calendar were one key aspect to the worldbuilding, along with the Edwardian and 1920s costume dramas I grew up with like Upstairs Downstairs and the House of Eliot. I wanted flappers running around a city with a sword in each hand, that’s the central image! I was also in love with the idea of shapeshifting into a number of animals at once — a mischief of mice, a flock of ravens, a clutter of cats.

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

My favourite characters always end up being practical women, and broken men. I don’t know why! Velody, my hero, is a talented dressmaker and a loyal friend whose life is turned upside down when she learns about the dark side of the city and a secret destiny she was always meant to take up. It’s really hard to be the Chosen One when you have a daylight life and a job you love — it’s like being forced to choose between a life you’re completely invested in, and a dream job you would be *great* at — if you could only find the time. Velody’s deadpan sense of practicality and her love of making clothes are part of what I like so much about her.

Then there’s Ashiol, who I don’t expect anyone to like at all! My other hero is beautiful, damaged, and has spent five years in hiding after losing everything he loved. Slowly, he starts to put himself together, and finally (ten years later than most people) starts figuring out what kind of man he wants to be.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

My whole life! I was planning novels before I could manage more than a page at a time, and designing cover art for my planned twelve book series (I can’t even blame epic fantasy for this, Anne of Green Gables programmed me to think all books should have a dozen sequels). I spent my teen years typing, pretty solidly, working through my million words of crap nice and early.

What was your favourite book as a child?

There were so many I read over and over. I think Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson is one of the most iconic that still lives inside my head. I re-read it recently and there are so many aspects of that book that programmed my sense of humour and my idea of how books work

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

JUST THE ONE? Right now I’m rediscovering Lindsey Davis, whose Roman mystery novels have kept me company since I was a teenager. Her new(ish) Albia Flavia series is wonderful, much sharper and more political than the Falco books were, which makes sense because they’re set in the knife-edge atmosphere of Domitian’s reign instead of the comparatively cozy Emperor Vespasian.

What was the last book you read and loved?

I don’t think of myself as a poetry reader but I recently read Who Is Mary Sue by Sophie Collins and it was wonderful, blew my mind wide open. It’s full of thoughts about being a woman who creates, lots of crunchy ideas mixed into poetry and short anecdotes. It made me think a lot about how I write, and how to cut my words down more tightly.

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

Joanna Russ wrote a brilliant treatise on the many ways in which women are told that our writing doesn’t count, and isn’t good enough — she wrote it, but look what she wrote about, and so on. “She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist and it isn’t really art.” There’s no single pithy quote, but I hear her in my head and my heart a lot.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

I have been banned from making gingerbread houses. I read the novelisation of Star Wars before I saw the movie. My favourite DC superhero is Blue Beetle.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Arthur Rackham, thanks to a colouring book I had as a child! I never thought about who did the drawings, before that. I am also deeply entranced by anything drawn by Brian Froud. The visual magic of fairy tales suckered me from a very early age.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

All of Heinlein’s famous advice is pretty terrible when applied universally. Write every day, finish everything you write, and so on. I had a writing teacher who told me that fantasy fiction was only for big books and there was no point in trying to write it as short stories, which is such unbelievably terrible advice that I’m still cross about it.

My favourite writing hack comes from Elizabeth Bear. She wrote about getting stuck trying to get characters out of a room, and just ended up putting [They left the room] in square brackets, then came back to it the next day, took the square brackets away, and was done! I always write instructions to myself in square brackets now if I get stuck, and come back to that part later. Often the solution is easier than you think, but not until you have some distance from it.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Regina Spektor’s Edit. I love the rhythm and the sound of the song, and I love the fact that she’s personally calling me out with the lyrics… it was legit on a playlist I used to have running WHILE WRITING.

Editing is harder than writing, that’s my truth!

What is your favourite thing about living and working in Tasmania?

I’ve never lived or worked anywhere else for more than a few months, so it’s a hard one to answer. Don’t tell them all how great it is here, Kate, they’ll all want to move here! I like the people and the pretty scenery. I like that our cities are small. It’s a lot easier to live here now you can order literally anything from any other country (missing out on TV or books that didn’t come here used to wear on me when I was younger). I love that I live somewhere that’s between a mountain and the ocean. I belong here.

Can you recommend another Tasmanian writer?

Reading Nan Chauncy was a big part of my childhood and I’m always surprised she isn’t more widely known or remembered outside Tasmania. The Huon Valley Theatre company did a fantastic adaptation of They Found a Cave recently. And for a more up-to-date rec, Lian Tanner is writing some great stuff in fantasy adventure for kids.

What is your favourite secret place in Tasmania?

A dear friend of mine recently started running the shop and cafe at the Shot Tower overlooking the river at Taroona. It’s such a gorgeous little spot, all leafy green with glorious views. I never even knew it existed before she took an interest, and I’ve lived in Hobart my whole life! (the scones are pretty fab too)

What’s something about Tasmania that people might not know?

We were a thriving community of artists and creatives and coffee-drinkers long before the arrival of MONA made this obvious to outsiders.

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If you love what Tansy does, check out her Patreon campaign! Pledges go towards a lot of the free content that she makes available online, like the Sheep Might Fly fiction podcast. You can also receive exciting rewards such as ebooks, exclusive stories, personalised post, and access to the Galactic Suburbia chat forum on Slack.

More information about Tansy’s work can be found at http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/

 

Questions with Christina Booth

Author and illustrator Christina Booth works from her bush studio in Tasmania, Australia. Trained as a teacher and painter, she loves that she makes up stories and colours for a living. Christina started her literary career illustrating for great Australian authors such as Max Fatchen, Colin Thiele, Christobel Mattingley and Jackie French. Many of Christina’s previous books are award-winning, including the Environment Award, CBCA Honour Book and CBCA Notables.

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Christina Booth also happens to be someone I proudly call my friend. Not only is she unbelievably talented, both as a writer and and illustrator, she is one of the kindest, most giving people you will ever meet. She is the one who first encouraged me to write picture books, and has given me so much of her time and nurturing wisdom over the years it took for me to learn the craft. I love her more than words can say and I am so thrilled she found the time to answer these questions for me. Enjoy!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

My latest book is called One Careless Night. It is a picture book about the last thylacine (Tasmania Tiger) in captivity. It is aimed at all age groups, right through to adults. It’s due for official release in late May and is having a preview ‘sneak peek’ launch in Hobart in February. Check my website!

What was the inspiration for the story?

I’ve always been fascinated by the thylacine and other native species, especially in my home state. As a child we ‘hunted’ for them on bush walks. I dreamed of finding one. Then they were declared extinct by one world body and considered extinct by the other.  I needed to write the story, but from a emotional perspective. One that causes us to question our actions of the past and helps us consider how we react to our future. Extinction is forever.

Tell us about your main character.

Obviously, it is the last thylacine, reportedly referred to as Benjamin but also considered to have been a female who was kept in captivity at the Beaumaris Zoo on the Domain in Hobart. She starts her life as a free ‘tyger’, living on the west coast of Tasmania with her mother. They are hunted, captured and eventually pass away at the hands of humans. In a way she is the main character, but I also feel that the reader is the main character as well.

 Why should we fall in love with them?

Because to not fall in love with her and to feel her sorrow, suffering and pain, means her existence and story is worth nothing.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I have always written but did not consider myself a writer. I was an artist and was known and encouraged for my drawing skills as a child. I always wanted to illustrate books and so that was where my journey began. Someone encouraged me to write, so I did. To write and illustrate brings equal joy.

What was your favourite book as a child?

How long have you got? I had a childhood filled with books and reading, mostly from the library, but I had quite a few, adding to the list as I grew older.

I loved my Coles Funny Picture Book, an Australian book my dad bought for me when I was little, I poured over it for many years and I still treasure it. I loved Katie the Kitten and There is a Monster at the End of This Book, both Little Golden Books. I saved pocket money for every copy of Trixie Belden (two weeks of saving, three hours of reading), I adored The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren, and then I read that to my children. My favourite author as a teen was Roald Dahl, both his kids and his adult books.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

Again, long list, but for now, two contrasting authors: Margaret Atwood and (Australian) Liane Moriarty. There are too many though….

What was the last book you read and loved?

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (my favourite of hers so far)

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

‘If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.’, Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

I’m ambidextrous; My great grandfather was a bank robber; I’m a specialist (K – adult) art teacher

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books?

Again, this list would be too long, but here are a few to get you started:

Helen Oxenbury, Shaun Tan, Raymond Briggs, John Birmingham, Robert Ingpen, Chris Riddell, Jan Omerod

Why?

I love their lines and textures, how they uniquely capture a story and tell it visually. How their illustrations work alone without text, how they seem effortless (but you know they take incredible skill). How they are timeless and not caught up in fashion. Strong and determined.

 What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The worst:

Quit now, you can’t be published if you come from Tasmania.

The best:

Avoid the peacocks.

Use every rejection as a stepping stool to acceptance.

Read, read and read, it is your apprenticeship (which never ends).

If you love a sentence you have written, bring the others up to that level or get rid of it.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Goodness, I’ve never had to think about that before. Good question….

The Call, by Regina Spektor, because I have to sing along every time and want to play it again when it’s done. The lyrics are beautiful, story filled and thoughtful.

What is your favourite thing about living and working in Tasmania?

Hmmm, who doesn’t love living on an island? And it’s where the creative waters flow. It can sometimes feel isolating and a bit restrictive at times, but the pace and the beauty, the stories and the people…. It’s in my soul

Can you recommend another Tasmanian writer?

Kate Gordon, Julie Hunt, Lian Tanner. Too many to list.

What is your favourite secret place in Tasmania?

Now that would be telling.

Probably my own garden. It’s like a park with native animals, bush, trees, weeds and beautiful birds, then I can walk out the back gate into a public park that has a river and ponds and walkways. Totally spoiled really.

What’s something about Tasmania that people might not know?

It was not attached to the mainland, it was a part of a land mass that was attached to North America and the (present) Antarctic. It’s thought Tasmania drifted across the globe and collided with the Australian mainland about 500 million years ago.

No wonder they leave us off the map!

 

You can find out more bout Christina at her (gorgeous) website, http://www.christinabooth.com.

More information about One Careless Night can be found at Walker Books

Questions with Kate Forster

I’m so thrilled to be featuring Kate Forster on the Questions, today. Kate is an enormous inspiration to me. Not only is she a hugely talented author of books for teenagers and young adults, she is a huge supporter of other writers, single-handedly managing the Ladybirds author group, which provides an incredible support network to women writers, new and established. I’m so grateful she took the time out of her busy schedule to talk to me, today!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

My latest book is about three sisters who have to step up and run their failing family business, after their mother has been injured and their father goes missing. It is about growing up, trusting, being responsible and doing things for the right reasons.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I read a news article about three sisters who are heiresses to a huge skin care  compny and I wondered what it would be like to have that sword of expectation over you. When you have wealth but no real purpose, it is easy to make short term decisions without thinking about the repercussions.

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

There are three main characters in the story of The Sisters. We follow each of them through their journey to responsibility and reliability, and their journey to finding purpose and love. I think they’re all very different and each one will appeal to someone reading the book. They’re funny, they’re fabulous and they’re feisty!

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I didn’t start writing until I was 38, but I have always been creative. I tried a lot of creative things to try and tell my stories but writing ended up being the one that stuck.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Pre-teen, it was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Maria, the protaganist was brave and beautiful and noble. She was a wonderful heroine to have in a book as a young girl. As a teen, my fave book was Lace by Shirley Conran. An epic tale of four women and their journey and love and ambition. It was before it’s time, certainly with the feminist overtones,. It was outrageous in some of the content but completely absorbing.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

I love Australian author, Kerry Greenwood who wrote the Phryne Fisher series. She’s a cracking story steller and very learned. I always come away with some excellent knowledge about baking and history from reading her Corrina Chapman series.

What was the last book you read and loved?

Educated by Tara Westover. A memoir that is quite extraordinary about growing up in a dysfunctional, religious family, whose father clearly has some sort of distrust and mania disorder. It’s intense but uplifting. She’s very honest and brave about her journey out of the backwaters of Idaho and ending up at university.

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them. Margaret Atwood.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

  1.  I am an avid gardener.
  2. I read tarot cards and astrolgy charts.
  3. I am addicted to ASMR videos of people folding things carefully.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

I don’t. I don’t really read children’s books now that my kids are older.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

Best advice – every sentence should make some one laugh, learn something about the character, or drive the story forward. If it doesn’t do any of this, then cut it out.

Worst advice – Ignore the editors notes. They don’t know anything! NEVER do this. Listen to your editors.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Death by Chocolate by Sia. I can’t get sick of this song, even though it’s older and I have listened to it so many times. The advice being that heartbreak happens but you will survive. You think you will die but you won’t. Love comes and goes. Heartbreak is s common as the seasons but the sun will shine again. It’s a beautiful song.

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You can find out more about Kate and her books at www.kateforster.com.

Questions with Natalie Muller (Black Cockie Press)

I’m so thrilled to be sharing my first interview with an author AND publisher! I hope you enjoy these answers, fromtalie Muller of Black Cockie Press!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book. What was the inspiration for the story?

‘Poisoning the Nest’ began life as a 20,000 word assignment for one of my classes in the Masters degree I was doing at Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne. The finished story is much revised from that early start, but the beginning was there.

The book was published in 2017 in time to align with the centenary of the First World War. In Australia, we have quite a cult around the servicemen who fought in this war, especially those who fought in the first campaign at Gallipoli in 1915. What this does to the national narrative around the war is to simplify the story and sanitise it to stand as a national myth. However, for Australia, the story, the history is much bigger than that. The First World War and our involvement in it as a nation, was divisive to the Australian community as the Vietnam War would be fifty odd years later.

In my story, I wanted to give history back its power. Myth has the power to paper over the cracks, which is why it was developed in the first place, but one hundred years on, it is time to pull back the myth and look at the cracks underneath. They have healed, but we need to learn how to wear our scars. I wanted to give the people not represented in the popular mythology a voice, women, pacifists, anti-war campaigners, injured soldiers, both physically and mentally, Australians with German ancestry, Irish ancestry. People who don’t fit the myth of lions led by donkeys.

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

Poisoning the Nest doesn’t really have one main character, but three who carry the story. There is Jack Kelly, a young man who signs up at the beginning of the war. He has a young family and the recent death of his father has left him in a state of confusion and stirred up a lot of unprocessed grief from his childhood. So he essentially runs away from his life. A lot of people actually dislike Jack, but I like him, he grows immensely as the book progresses.

Then there is Dottie, Jack’s wife, who in his absence is forced to step up and keep the home running. She becomes a very strong woman, as she organises soldier relief packages within her community, and later becomes a vocal anti-conscription campaigner. She also deals with the loneliness and fear of being a wife with a husband away at war.

The third character is Jack’s older brother Arch. He is a larrikin, a pacifist and an objector. He is fiercely loyal and protective of his family. He and Dottie develop a very strong friendship while Jack is away at war. Dottie offers him the emotional support that has been lacking in his life.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I have always told stories, but I didn’t have the confidence to write until I was at university. So I didn’t really start writing until I was 19. I have written five full length novels since then only the fifth of which was worth publishing. A long apprenticeship, but really no more than most people have. Each manuscript was a stepping stone to writing that one that was finally worth publishing. Though I will be the first to admit that I wouldn’t have got the fifth to that point, were it not for the excellent creative writing Masters degree I did through Swinburne University of Technology.

What motivated you to start an indie publishing company?

A desire to see new and different voices given a chance to reach a reading public. I was also greatly motivated by Virginia and Leonard Woolf and Hogarth press. The 21st-century version of a printing press in the basement is the e-book.

I also think that as a woman it is very important to be in control of the decision making. Women do dominate in the publishing world as employees, but they are not often the ones with the final say. Nor are women writers taken as seriously as male writers, as the Vida and Stella counts prove time and again. Indie writing and publishing is thus a way for me to get my writing in front of a reading public, without it being marketed as a lesser text because I am a woman who writes.

I strongly believe that to be a woman who writes is a political act. Because you are a woman with a voice, a woman who refuses to remain silenced, as women have been silenced over the centuries.

I also find e-books incredibly exciting as a concept. They are a revolution in how we can tell stories, though they have been deliberately under explored. E-books need not be just electronic replicas of physical paper books, but a new form altogether. I would love to publish a book that can only exist in a digital format. I don’t know what it would look like, but I am open to experimentation.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

 I can recommend tonnes of women you should read. Jeanette Winterson, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Harrower, Dorothy Porter. That’s just fiction writers, Joan Beaumont’s history of Australia in the First World War is a good read, Clare Wright, the historian and her books about the women in the Eureka Stockade and the Australian Suffragettes, Fiona Wright, she annoys me, but her writing is wonderful. Hazel Smith’s ‘The Writing Experiment’ is a must read for writers. I would also suggest just about anything by Linda Hutcheon.

What was the last book you read and loved?

 I’ve been reading a lot of rock biographies and things lately, so the last book I read and really loved was ‘Thanks a lot Mr Kibblewhite’ by Roger Daltrey. It’s not at all literary, but it is like having Roger Daltrey sit next to you and tell you stories. It is just fun.

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

 “I’m telling you stories. Trust me.” From ‘The Passion’ by Jeanette Winterson.

It really encapsulates what a fiction writer does, we tell stories and ask the reader to trust us. We both know the story is fiction, that I am telling you lies, but also the truth. The reader trusts us to know what we are doing and to deliver truth within our tangle of lies. It is why a bad book, a story that fails to live up to its promise, or pulls its punches and delivers an obvious or predictable ending is such a betrayal. We the reader trusted you and you failed us.

It’s like acting really, great actors never drop out of character, so that no matter how famous they are we believe in their performance. Bad writing, like bad acting breaks the illusion and spoils the effect.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The worst piece of writing advice I have received was to “Write what you know” because I automatically understood that as biography. As someone who cannot keep a diary, because I find it too exposing and have destroyed every attempt at one after a few weeks, it was too limiting. I never felt that there was anything interesting in my life that would be worth writing a book about. I also find the idea that women write only what they know, autobiography disguised as fiction verses the freedom of imagination afforded to male writers impossibly sexist. I have since come to a different understanding of what this can mean, as in what you know is more than what you think you know, reminding myself and students of sensual and emotional knowledge when writing, not just actions. That realisation came to me courtesy of the work of Dominique Hecq, at Swinburne university.

The best piece of writing advice I received was, “kill adjectives and adverbs”. With the big obvious adjectives and adverbs dead you are forced to focus on the details, and it is in the details that the story is found.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

This is a really hard question to answer, because I listen to so few female singers. I really love male voices, especially with virtuosic singing, so for me it doesn’t matter if they are the opera singers like Roberto Alagna or Thomas Hampson or rock singers like Freddie Mercury or Roger Daltrey. I don’t care if they sing in Italian French, Russian or English, the sound is what does it for me.

If I really had to choose, I would say Tori Amos and not a single song, but her album ‘Little Earthquakes.’

Tell us three fun facts about yourself that other people might not know?

I’m a Trekkie, I know! A utopian, in a world that loves dystopias. I just love the optimism that if we follow our better natures, which is so much harder than being greedy, cruel and cowardly, the world would be a better place.

I have a music collection that goes from Bach to Zappa. I love music from the Classical, Blues, Jazz triad which includes the blues based rock of Zeppelin and The Stones, and other British invasion bands. I love great players like singers, so I don’t care if it is Charlie Watts who makes The Stones swing, or Brian May with his fireplace, the Red Special, or The Berlin Philharmonic, great music is great music.

I walk approximately 10km a day, every day.

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You can find more about Natalie at www.blackcockiepress.com.au

 

 

 

Questions with Kirsty Ferguson

Kirsty Ferguson is an award winning, multi-genre writer from Melbourne, Australia. She mainly writes in the crime and mystery genre with occasional works of paranormal and historical horror.

​Kirsty has been writing professionally since 2015 and has released three crime and mystery books to date. She has released the first two books of the Little Girl Dead Series, Little Girl Dead (book 1) and Little Girl Revenge (book 2), which are both crime novellas, and cozy stand alone mystery, Severed Heart.

Kirsty’s next crime book to be released is called What Lies Beneath Us and will be released on 1 December 2018.

Kirsty has been writing stories since she first discovered Stephen King’s ‘Cujo’ at the tender age of nine and she hasn’t stopped since.

​Kirsty is currently studying towards a BA in Professional Writing and Publishing and is always working on her next novel.

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I’m so thrilled (See what I did there? Sorry, I’m way overtired) to have Kirsty on my blog! Her books look fascinating and I’ve added her latest straight to my TBR. I hope you enjoy her answers. I think they’re wonderful!

  1. Tell us a bit about your latest book.

It’s a crime novel, sub-genre, domestic noir. It’s about a mother, Jessica James who is suffering from postpartum depression and is accused of murdering her infant son. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a look into mental illness, an in-depth study of family dynamics and how mental illnesses can impact each member of the family unit.

  1. What was your inspiration for the story?

I was reading an article about a mother with postpartum depression and it got me thinking, how would it feel to not love your child? How it would impact your entire family, not just you. I wanted to write a crime novel that focussed on Jessica and the relationships around her.

  1. Tell us about your main character? Why should we fall in love with them?

The main character’s name is Jessica James and while you won’t fall in love with her, you’ll feel a spectrum of feelings for her. If you’ve ever had trouble connecting with your baby, you could be her. Sometimes, examining Jessica’s life, scratching the surface can be uncomfortable. She’s realistic and trying to hold her life together as best she can. I think we can all relate.

  1. Have you always written, or is it something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I have always written, from a young age, I wrote story after story, writing my first ‘real’ novella when I was fifteen. I started writing professionally three and a half years ago.

  1. What was your favourite book as a child?

I have several, for different reasons. Anne of Green Gables and Gone With The Wind for strong female leads, stories of hope and optimism (yes GWTW was set against the Civil War, but it was so much more than that), and women ahead of their time, and Cujo when I wanted to be scared silly.

  1. Favourite female author?

While I have always loved Margaret Mitchell, I have recently discovered two authors whom I adore. Loreth Anne White and Aussie Sarah Bailey.

  1. What was the last book you read and loved?

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey. I love books set in small towns, especially small Australian towns.

  1. Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

“After all, tomorrow is another day” by Margaret Mitchell.

  1. Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Not so much children’s books, but I loved Bill Williams’ work on the Scooby Doo comics.

  1. What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

Best advice? Never give up and if anyone tells you you’re not good enough, stuff ‘em! Worst advice? That old chestnut, don’t give up your day job.

  1. What is your favourite song by a female singer and why?

Songbird by Fleetwood Mac. It’s such an emotional song, makes my cry every time I hear it. Also, At Last, by Etta James. Both powerful singers who evoke emotion in me.

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You can buy Kirsty’s work (like I will be!) at Amazon.

Questions with Claire J. Harris

Bio:

Claire J. Harris is a writer of short stories, creative non-fiction and screenplays, who has spent the last decade travelling, working and writing around the world.

Her fiction and travel stories have been published in Australia and overseas, including for Matador NetworkSubtle FictionDigital AmericanaGo NomadThe Big Smoke, and a regular travel column in Litro Magazine.

Claire wrote and produced her first feature film, Zelos, which was released in 2017. She holds a Masters in Writing, and a Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

Claire is currently working on a book of her travels, called What Are You Running From?

(from Claire’s website: https://www.clairejharris.com/about/)

claire harris

Hi, everyone! Back again, after the break. Which … is still a thing? Because school holidays and public holidays and going away and what day even is it and where am I?

But I was excited to bring you a “questions” that’s a bit different this time – my first interview with a filmmaker, screenwriter and television producer! I always thought working in TV and movies would be so glamorous and exciting – i.e. completely not the sort of job for an introvert like me, but I do enjoy living vicariously. Pairing it with being a writer, though? That … that sounds kind of wonderful. So I was super interested to hear what Claire had to say. It’s fascinating. And I am now desperate to see her movie!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy and I promise it won’t be so long next time between … I’m not a drinker, so I’m going to say … cups of tea?

And if you’d like to be featured on the blog, please shoot me a line on social media or kate [at] kate gordon [dot com dot au]. I’d love to hear from you!

Now, on to Claire …

zelos

Tell us a bit about your film.

‘Zelos’ is a feature film about the aftermath of an affair and the corrosive effect of jealousy on a relationship. Bernard is a 30-something whose life has turned out exactly the way he planned it to be: a successful career, a meticulously neat beachside apartment and a girlfriend, Sarah, whom he adores. But his pristine existence is turned upside down when Sarah confesses an affair. To salvage the relationship, Sarah insists they equal the playing field: Bernard should sleep with another woman. It’s now available on iTunes Store, Google Play and Amazon Prime – you can find the links and trailer at www.clairejharris.com/film.
What was the inspiration for the story?
I wrote it some years ago as a novella which then turned into a screenplay. At the time I was entering my 30s and in a serious relationship, and I was interested in the way that every couple has to navigate jealousy – not necessarily because of an actual infidelity, but there is always the possibility or temptation. The word ‘zelos’ comes from Greek and evolved into two separate words in English: jealousy and zeal. For the Greeks, jealousy was the flipside of passion, so I wanted to explore how these two forces interact in a relationship. On a broader level, it’s also about how your 30s are a time for shedding the youthful idealism of your 20s and working out how much compromise you’re willing to make in all aspects of your life.
Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?
Bernard is something of an innocent even at the age of 35 – he is the least compromised and most idealistic of his group of friends. He would not dream of cheating on Sarah, even as an act of revenge. The bargain they strike forces him into a moral dilemma – at the same time, he is deeply hurt and conflicted about whether or not he wants to continue the relationship, and he is not entirely free of blame either. But even though he doesn’t always behave admirably, we root for him because his situation and actions are deeply relatable.
Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?
I have definitely always written but not in a very organised way. When I was a teenager, I spent 5 years writing an epic fantasy film (I didn’t understand anything about budgetary constraints back then!) But I put screenplays aside for some years and dabbled in various other forms: a couple of unfinished novels, a bunch of short stories and a lot of travel writing, some of which has been published. Coming back to film in my 30s was a bit of a happy accident and one that’s changed my life. I wrote the script and then had no idea what to do with it, so I decided to just make it myself. Without any experience, I was incredibly naive about how hard that would be.
What was your favourite film as a child?
‘Fiddler On The Roof’. I used to watch it over and over and wish my family would break into song at the dinner table. Lifelong dream: to write a musical.
Can you recommend another female author we should read?
I can recommend a female author who is also a screenwriter and film director: Miranda July. She is incredibly unique and has a very quirky style. I love that she basically writes in whatever form she feels like, which is pretty unusual – she’s made films, written books and collections of short stories.
What was the last book you read and loved?
I’m in the middle of ‘No Friend But The Mountains’ by Behrooz Bouchani – a harrowing yet strangely poetic account of life as an asylum seeker detained on Manus Island. It should be essential reading for every Australian.
Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?
Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.” I saw it painted on the wall of the West Bank in Palestine and it stuck with me.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?
1. I used to work as a live-in carer for ageing aristocrats in British manor houses, answering to a bell – it was every bit as awful as it sounds.
2. I once had a lucrative role as an extra in ‘Home and Away’ diner – I was complimented on my ability to eat food realistically (should I put that on my CV?)
3. I spent 10 years living out of a backpack, travelling to over 50 countries and living in seven.
Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?
Quentin Blake – because he reminds me of my childhood.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The worst was when I took my draft screenplay for Zelos to a workshop with quite a reputable teacher in Sydney. He told me that the only way this story could possibly be interesting was if the main character was Amish. It sounds ridiculous but I was depressed about that feedback for  a week. The best writing advice is pretty much everything Stephen King has to say – my favourite is when asked “How do you write?” he replies “One word at a time.”
What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?  
So hard to pick one but right now it’s probably ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell… Must be the time of year!

Questions with Nadia King

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N.L.King was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. Nadia is an author, blogger, and presenter.

Her debut book, Jenna’s Truth, is published by boutique small press, Serenity Press based in Western Australia. Nadia is passionate about using stories to reflect a diversity of realities in order to positively impact teen lives. Nadia’s short fiction has been published by Write Out Publishing, and has appeared in The Draft Collective, The Regal Fox, The Sunlight Press, Other Terrain Journal, and Tulpa Magazine. Nadia enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction and short fiction, and lives in Western Australia with her family.

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.
My book, Jenna’s Truth, is a novella designed to be used in schools to engage students in discussion about cyberbullying, and ultimately, to leave them with a message of hope. It’s nice and short, and is being used in some WA high schools, particularly with reluctant readers. The story has also been dramatised by a number of schools and it’s very rewarding for me to see the book being used the way I hoped it would be.
What was the inspiration for the story?
Sadly in 2012, Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen, committed suicide after having a horrific time being cyberbullied. Her story went viral on Youtube and I was absolutely gutted when I saw it. I was so disturbed by Amanda’s story that I decided to write a different ending: one where the bullies didn’t win and where the girl didn’t die (sorry, spoiler alert!). (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gycqAJcDFM)
Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?
You should love Jenna Wilson because she is you or I. She’s an ordinary girl who makes one stupid mistake with catastrophic consequences. I tried to make Jenna almost invisible so that the reader could slip seamlessly into her skin.
 
Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?
I’ve always wanted to write, but it took me until my 40s to do something about it! It felt very much like the proverbial biological clock except it was ticking for my last chance to embrace creativity. When I first left school, I worked as a journalist. After a short stint in a newspaper, I went onto uni and came out armed with a business degree and then I headed into the world of corporate communications. I’ve been very lucky because I’ve worked in many different industries which is a great background for storytelling.
What was your favourite book as a child?
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton was my favourite book when I was young. I still want to slide down the slippery-slip and meet Moonface and Silky, and I’d love to climb up to the top of the tree to see what land is visiting today. When I got a little older, I became obsessed with the Hardy Boys! After that, I was an avid collector of the Sweet Dream books and read everything by Judy Blume. Today, I’m rather an eclectic reader and I’m always on the lookout for another great author to try.
Can you recommend another female author we should read?
I absolutely love Favel Parrett’s work (http://www.favelparrett.com.au). Her books, Past the Shallows and When the Night Comes, are gorgeous. For a book that keeps you guessing, I recommend Sarah Ridout’s modern gothic novel, Le Chateau (http://www.sarahridout.com.au). There are so many brilliant books by Australian women writers that we don’t need to look too far for great stories.
What was the last book you read and loved?
I recently read Anthea Hodgson’s The Drifter which is a rural romance but it’s much more than just a romance. Anthea has the most delicious sense of humour and there were some very funny, witty one-liners in The Drifter. Her male hero was a heavily bearded itinerant guy squatting in an outbuilding on a farm—she totally broke the mould with that one, but yet the story works perfectly. (http://www.antheahodgson.com)
Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?
I absolutely adore Margaret Atwood. Margaret Atwood: I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. “Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?” And at some point you just have to flop int there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required. (https://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/2qprzk/i_am_margaret_atwood_author_of_the_handmaids_tale/)
Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?
  • I rode an ostrich as a child despite my terror that the damn thing would turn around and look me in the eye.
  • My family has been involved with circuses for a very long time and my Nana was once a Ringmaster. Yes, I realise I am very lucky.
  • I’m superstitious about numbers and for some reason I really like (and trust) prime numbers.
Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?
I know quite a few illustrators because I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. In particular, I really enjoy the work of Kelly Canby (https://kellycanby.com), France Lessac (https://www.franelessac.com), Cindy Lane (https://cindylane.com.au) and Fiona Burrows (http://www.fionaburrows.com).
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was: “Just bloody write.”
And the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard was: “Write what you know.” I’m researching a Western Australian historical event for a manuscript and I know next to nothing about that time period, but there’s no way in the world I’m going to let that stop me.
What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?
I love ‘Cheap Thrills’ by Australian artist, Sia because I dare you to listen to it and not tap along or start belting out the lyrics. It’s the perfect song to sing while you’re cooking, showering, driving etc. In fact, it’s the perfect song for almost anything. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31crA53Dgu0)
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Questions with Laura Theis

Laura Theis is an award-winning musician and writer.
Her short stories, songs, radio plays, and poetry have been broadcast and published in the UK, Germany, and the U.S.
Her new work appears or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, The London Reader, Manawaker Studio’s Flash Fiction Podcast, About Place Journal, Rise Up Review, Enchanted Conversations, Briars Lit and in print anthologies from Live Canon, Curtis Bausse, Allitera, and Three Drops Press. 
Laura has gained a Distinction in the Mst Creative Writing at Oxford University (Keble College) as well as an MA in Theatre Studies, German and American Literature from LMU Munich. She is the recipient of the 2017 AM Heath Prize and the 2018 Short Story Prize by Curtis Bausse and has been shortlisted for the 2018 Yeovil Prize for Poetry,
the 2018 Live Canon International Poetry Award, and the 2018 Frome Festival Short Story Competition.

Find her online here: http://lauratheis.weebly.com/

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I am LOVING reading Laura’s work, and listening to her beautiful music. I’m so thrilled that this blog series is giving me new discoveries and future favourites. I highly recommend exploring her work. And I hope you enjoy her answers!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I have two books out at the moment and they are both anthologies so I feel very excited about telling people about them and promoting them because my own writing makes up just a small part of them and I am honoured to have it published alongside so many other wonderful writers that I admire!

The first book is called Second Taste, it is an anthology of delicious (in every sense of the word!) short stories on the theme of nourishment published by Curtis Bausse. http://mybook.to/secondtaste

My own story is called “The Sad Tagine” and has been chosen as the winner of the 2018 Book A Break Short Story Prize. It’s the story of a daughter grieving her mother who had been a passionate cook and decides to try and apply for elite cookery school. The inspiration for that story was the idea of how grief can affect our senses in a very physical way.

The other book that I am excited about is the 2018 Live Canon Poetry Anthology.

http://www.livecanon.co.uk/publications

All the poems in this book have been selected by Liz Berry, one of my all-time favourite poets who was the judge for this year’s Live Canon International Poetry award. My poem is called “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” and also tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship, however, in this poem the mother is a student at a clock-making school and the daughter is the device she is furbishing in her workshop. My inspiration for the unusual setting was a very good friend who recently decided to quit his job, uproot his life and go back to university to learn how to become a watchmaker. And my inspiration for the title was the fact that when we hear a phrase like that we often automatically assume that this refers to a father, rather than a mother, so I wanted to subvert that expectation in the very first line.

 

Tell us about your main character.

Why should we fall in love with them?

The protagonist in “The Sad Tagine” starts out very lost and vulnerable, and very lonely. She has never learned to cook or inherited any recipes, and now it is too late to ask her mother (who had been a gifted cook) how to do it. She is working purely from memory, specifically the memory of certain scents. And still she has this childlike hopefulness about her. I think that’s what I love about her. She hopes that she can get into a very exclusive cookery school even though that is rather unlikely. She hopes she can find love even though she keeps having terrible experiences with online dating. She is on her own, moving through grief, and still never gives up.

What I love about the narrator of “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” is her ambiguity. Is she really a clock? Or a person? Or a hybrid, both at the same time? It’s up to the reader to interpret.

 

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

When I was 4 years old, I got a tape recorder with a little red microphone for my birthday and immediately started composing poems and inventing stories for an imaginary audience, and really I have been writing and performing ever since! This spring I graduated from the Oxford University Mst in Creative Writing which has helped me take myself more seriously as a writer and be less shy about telling people what I do, though I still often struggle with confidence.

 

What was your favourite book as a child?

I really, really loved the stories of Astrid Lindgren, I think they are so wonderful – especially Pipi Longstocking, such an amazing role model for how a girl can be (wild and impossibly strong and independent and self-sufficient and generous, with her own horse and pet monkey…) I’ve always secretly wished I could be more like her…And Astrid Lindgren’s sad books still make me cry without fail.

I also really loved the stories by Michael Ende, a German fantasy writer who wrote Momo and The Neverending Story, I’ve re-read them countless times.

 

 Can you recommend another female author we should read?

I love this question! Yes yes yes! There are so many amazing women writing out there and I find it mindboggling that there is still such a gender divide, that male authors are so much more present in the media (there are lots of studies that show this is true year after year) and therefore I love recommending female authors. I know you asked for only one, but I hope you can forgive me if I list at least ten…

There are some women writers who also happen to be my favourite people such as Lucy Duggan (she is equally amazing at writing sprawling 600 page novels like her debut Tendrils and tiny one-or-two sentence flash fiction stories that are funny and poignant and really well-observed), or Daisy Johnson, the youngest person in history to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize with her debut Everything Under who also wrote a breathtakingly good short story collection called Fen. And Kiran Milwood Hargrave who writes amazing adventure stories with strong female leads. I also tell everyone I know to read Lucy Ayrton’s heartbreaking One More Chance and Sarvat Hasin’s beautiful This Wide Night.

Some exciting names to watch out for once they’ve published their debuts are Clare Coggins, Leonie Caldecott and Sophia Heyland.

I also love all the endlessly playful books by Ali Smith, Kelly Link (I think she’s my favourite short story writer!) Helen Oyeyemi, Laini Taylor, Carmen Maria Machado, Naomi Aldermann’s The Power and Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal.

Oh and last but not least Meg Rosoff, who is supposedly a YA author but I think her writing is for all ages…

My favourite German-language writer is the poet Mascha Kaléko and my favourite book about witches is Circe by Madeline Miller.

 

What was the last book you read and loved?

I have just finished Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I love fairy tale retellings, and this one is loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin, but she has completely made it her own. And right now I’m about to start My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, the premise of it sounds very intriguing…

 

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

This one is framed by my writing desk:

“I am not at all in a humour for writing. I must write on until I am.” – Jane Austen

 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

I grew up in Germany, in an area where all the streets and roads had names from mythology or fairy tales.  On my way to school I would pass Snow White Road, Sleeping Beauty Road and so on, and even my school was named after the Tale of the Goose Girl.

My childhood house was on a road called “Asenweg”, which translates to “Æsir Way”. The Æsir are gods from Norse mythology. I’ve actually written a whole lovesong about that house: badasssnowhite.bandcamp.com

Which leads me to my second fact: I am also a singer and songwriter. I play solo music as well as in the Oxford-based duo Robot Swans and an experimental German duo called beißpony.

My third fact is that I am an animal lover. I have spent my whole life wishing for a puppy and now my childhood dreams have become a reality and I have a very cute 2-year old dog who is called Wodehouse after the writer PG Wodehouse. She is female, so the name often confuses people. You can follow us on Instagram @wodehouse_and_i

 

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Freya Hartas. She has such an amazing style and I love her imagination and dark humour.

And my mum, Banu Theis-Baydur, because she has created really lovely books
in three different languages especially for her grandchildren.

 

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

I love this quote by Nick Cave:

“Ideas are timid things, in my experience. They come as whispers and you need to hold them in honest regard in order to receive them. Perhaps the idea is as scared as you. Perhaps the idea is as invisible as you may sometimes feel. It may be that the idea is simply mirroring your internal self and is reluctant to settle in a mind that is heavy with uncertainty, and that is repeating ancient mantras of self-doubt. These voices can best be banished by a spirited disobedience, a playful defiance. Disobey the voices by continuing to write. They are a lot less robust than they appear. The idea is closing in.”

Advice I don’t think is particularly helpful, at least to me, is when people tell you to gear your writing towards a specific market / audience. I especially love reading things that defy categorisation in regards to genre or the age group they are aimed at, and I don’t think it’s a writer’s duty to think about marketing in this way while they are writing. I try to ignore the question of “who is this aimed at?” and just write something I might like to read myself.

 

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

I am going to cheat again and list more than one, I have so many favourites!

Two songs that immediately spring to mind are Ditte Elly’s Winter and Rosie Caldecott’s The Swell (though it’s impossible to pick just one, I love all their songs and Rosie has also just released her incredible Lost Gardens EP). I met both Ditte and Rosie at Catweazle, a magical Open Mic night in Oxford and am in love with their voices and their songwiting. Other songs that make me happy are Fiona Apple’s Paperbag (again, impossible to pick just one – she is the reason I started writing songs in the first place) Laura Marling’s Soothing, Regina Spektor’s the first two albums, Cat Power’s Covers Record, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, Tori Amos’ Horses and the songs by Jenny Lewis, Bettye Swann, Alev Lenz and Scout Niblett.

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Questions with Lora Inak

Lora began her writing journey aged ten – with a short story featuring an evil eyeball named Optic. Not her finest work but fortunately she kept on writing (Mills and Boon style short stories in her teens).

Lora is married with a son, a daughter, a rescue dog called Chloe and a possum that won’t go away (Chloe and the possum are often at war). She lives in the burbs of Melbourne, has a full time corporate job in Marketing, a passion for food, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, coloured pencils, books books and more books, and an obsession with neatness (which is hard to come by with two kids, a dog, and a possum).

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I really adored Lora’s book, Unspoken Rules. I hope you love reading her answers!

  1. ‘Unspoken  Rules’ is basically about cultural differences. Why did you choose this topic?  Is it semi-autobiographical?

Unspoken Rules is only autobiographical in its cultural setting. My objective was always to write a story with characters placed in the same cultural background I myself grew up, and to then share the richness, the restrictiveness and the beauty of it all juxtaposed against an Australian backdrop.

Due to civil unrest in Turkey in the 1980s, my family immigrated to Australia to find a safer, better life. I was still a very young child at the time and suddenly found myself in a new and exciting world. There were difficulties at school, both linguistically, culturally, and socially, and in my teens I found myself walking a swaying tightrope between the culture of my birthplace, and that of modern Australia.

Given my own background and conflicts, the topic of culture and identity and belonging is very close and personal for me.

  1. What is your writing process like? Do you write consistently or only when inspired?

I have a full time job in the corporate world and two young children, so sadly at the moment my writing process is more of a ‘write when I can find the time’ rather than when I’m inspired. However, there are pockets of time when I’m driving, or in the shower, or lying in bed waiting for sleep to claim me that I think about my characters, their motivations, behaviours, backgrounds and this eventually ends up in my stories.

  1. Can you tell me a bit about what drew you to writing in the first place?

I’m not really sure, but I do remember being quite solitary as a young child, surrounded by paper and pencils, inventing stories and characters. I have two elder sisters, both in highschool by the time I was wanting playmates, so I often found myself alone with only my imagination to keep my company. It wasn’t long before I discovered the friends I could invent myself.

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  1. Where there any specific points at which you struggled within this novel?

 The story itself came to me quite easily, but before Unspoken Rules, I’d only ever written picture book and junior fiction text, so finding my voice in the Young Adult space was new and challenging. I guess I eventually fumbled my way through and created something that I’m really proud of. I wrote this book in honour of my mother who passed away recently. A part of me believes she helped guide me through the tough parts.

  1. As this is your first novel, how much help did you seek or get from others?

I have a wonderfully supportive writing group with three ladies I couldn’t do without. They have helped me through every chapter, through every character arc, through every plot direction. I was also lucky enough to have an editor give me wonderful feedback which really helped hone the work, and before sending it out into the world, I approached a manuscript assessor whose advice was pivotal to the final success of this novel being picked up by Rhiza Press for publication.

  1. Imagining you could travel back in time and give advice to your teenaged self about writing and life, what would you tell her? And would she listen.

She’d definitely listen, so I’d tell her that to be a good writer, you have to live life, experience the world and the people in it, and practise, practise, practise and when you think you’ve finally mastered the art of writing, think again, because you haven’t. Writing is an art form that can always be honed and improved.

  1. Can you recommend a female author?

I love Rosalie Ham, author of The Dressmakers, Summer at Mount Hope and The Year of the Farmer. She has such a brilliant way of painting flawed, interesting, comical characters that leaves me hooked, unsure of whether I want the characters to win in the end, or lose. She’s also a master as building plot, and constructing the setting of a story, whether it be set in modern times or back in the late 1800s.

  1. Do you have a favourite illustrator of Children’s Books? Why?

Aleck Morton. I love his Tim Burtonesque illustrative style. Also he’s a wonderful friend of mine and about to have his first picture book publish with Yellow Brick Books.

  1. Can you give us a small blurb about your  book, where to buy it?

NATALIE balances two lives. It’s a tenuous tightrope.

At home, her life is governed by the unspoken rules and expectations of her Christian Orthodox background. Women are expected to go to their marital beds as virgins, men aren’t. Women are homemakers and caregivers; men can run businesses, companies, and empires. His decision is final; she’s expected to comply.

Her entire school life, Natalie has walked the tightrope without tipping over, that is, until now. Until a fall out with her best friend Katelyn leaves her confused and lonely. Until her devout sister, Misha learns of her incurable illness and doubts her faith and future. Until she discovers her Mother’s terrible secret which threatens to tear their entire family apart.

And… until she meets the new boy, Chris.

ISBN: 9781925563146

Unspoken Rules is available through all online retailers including Amazon, Booktopia, Rhiza Press, Ebay, Angus & Robertson Online, Book Depository and more.

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Questions with Penni Russon

Penni Russon was born in Hobart, and spent her childhood roaming around on a small mountain. Eventually she had to grow up, and she moved from Tasmania to Melbourne to study classics, archaeology, women’s studies and contemporary literature. She writes, edits and teaches creative writing, and lives in outer Melbourne with her husband and three children.

Find out more about Penni at pennirusson.com, or her blog eglantinescake.blogspot.com

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It should also be said about Penni that she is one of the most incredible writers in Australia. She doesn’t say that in her bio but I am not exaggerating. I loved The Endsister so hard I cried when it was over. And Only, Ever, Always is a goddamn masterpiece and I won’t hear otherwise. She is also a fierce mama, a tremendous wit (just read her answers – she’s hilarious), and she is FROM TASMANIA. Woot! I hope you enjoy her beautiful answers.

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

The Endsister is inspired by those classic novels that predate categories like middle grade and young adult, when kids fiction could be ambitious and literary while also being gentle and soothing, it seems to appeal to quite young kids, teenagers and even parents. The Endsister is for anyone who likes to curl up and get lost in a book. In other words hashtag mood.

What was the inspiration for the story?

One day at the dinner table, my middle child said ‘I know what an endsister is’ – the word gave me chills, as did the conversation that followed. And then later when big sister said ‘It’s not an endsister, it’s a [REDACTED]’, it formed the shape of the novel in my head – the best inspirations are the ones where they come with a middle and an ending!

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

The main character is actually a whole family but the main main characters are probably Sibbi and Else. Sibbi is four and she is the small child in all of us, subject to the whim of others, subject even to her own feelings but also powerful in her own way. Else is sixteen and suffering mostly at her own hands, not sure if she is the talented violin player she’s always been told she is, but not sure who she will be if she stops playing. In many ways it’s a novel about the consequences of not naming your feelings – we see that in Sibbi and Else and also their mum who really struggles with loneliness, homesickness and depression.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I always read and I always played, writing is an extension of that. I did write poetry as a kid but I’d never have progressed past the first paragraph of a novel. I used to sit down all full of feelings but I couldn’t get the feelings to come to life on the page. It wasn’t until after I finished my uni degree that I took a professional writing course and accepted my fate.

What was your favourite book as a child?

So many. Today I am going to say Charley by Joan G. Robinson about a little girl who reads the torn-off scrap from a letter and as a result runs away from home, all due to a terrible misunderstanding – leaping to conclusions. It’s structurally elegant and really takes as its story momentum the fear we have as humans of being not just disliked but unlikeable.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

I love Simmone Howell’s YA novels. She captures something about my own feelings of being a teenager that I don’t always see in YA fiction. The sort of joy and cleverness and excess of feeling, and how quickly joy can give way to sadness or self-doubt.

What was the last book you read and loved?

Inga Simpson’s The Nest, and because this is a writerly blog, I’ll tell you why. I really loved that if you had to identify “a goal” for the protagonist (the internet is very bossy about characters having goals) it’s that she wants to live (A) a quiet life and be left more-or-less alone. But in tension with that goal is another goal: she wants to (B) alleviate her loneliness and move on from grief. The novel is about the disruptions and interruptions of daily life and how they rub up against A and gently move her towards B. The transition from A to B being her primary goal happens so subtly that I didn’t notice it. The novel moves towards hope in such a quiet way, I really loved it. The language of birds throughout the novel helps you to see the consolations of nature with an artist’s eye and made me remember how much I value the process of art-making in interpreting the environment around us in order to live a meaningful life.

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

…Movies should be five minutes long. You should go in, see a couple of shots, maybe a room with orange draperies and a rug. A voice-over would say, “I’m having a hard time getting Raoul from the hotel room into the elevator.” And, bang, that’s the end. The lights come on, everybody walks out full of sympathy because this is a shared experience. Everybody in that theater knows how hard it is to get Raoul from the hotel room into the elevator. Everyone has had to do boring, dogged work…

From ‘The Politics of Narrative” by Lynn Emmanuel.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

Penni: What’s three fun facts about me?

Martin: Fun facts?

Penni: I’m being interviewed for the internet and this is one of the questions.

Avery: I know three fun facts about you!

Penni: Oh, what?

Avery: Funny. Smart. Kind.

Penni: I am just going to write down this conversation.

Martin: You should totally do that.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Ron Brooks. I always loved John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat because it has such a Tasmanian quality to it, it’s very Huonville in the sense of place and light. Then there’s Fox which is a book that is impossibly beautiful and savage and fierce and ultimately forgiving of those qualities of the human heart that we most despise in ourselves, our weakness, our avarice, and our jealousy.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The best was probably from Kirsty Murray which boiled down to “They’re waiting for you to write a book for them” (about the publisher I was doing freelance editing and a bit of reception work for). It really spurred me on to write Undine.

The worst advice I receive is the advice in my head ‘This is crap, why would you write this, who’s going to want to read this, this will never make you any money, what’s the point of writing if you aren’t going to make money BLAH BLAH BLAH’

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?
Some Days by The Waifs, because I feel like I’m rereading a favourite novel (or a letter from an old friend) every time I’ve read it. And it got me through some dark parenting days, feeling like I’m not alone in the wilderness: it’s a song about a mother doing it tough who loves her kids, but doesn’t love her life.

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