It’s a pleasure to welcome author Jenny Lynch to talk about her new book.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book Hearts on Fire which releases on 25th July 2022.
“Hearts on Fire” is my new novelette, which began its life as a (long) short story. I wrote it to submit to Dragonfly Publishing earlier this year. They’d put a call out for submissions for a romance anthology. Unfortunately, the anthology is not going ahead, but I was offered a contract for my story to be published as a stand-alone novelette. I was rather flattered…and extremely excited!
This fun-filled little book is going to be launched on Monday 25th July, at 2pm, at the Gosnells Bowling Club on Albany Highway, Gosnells. The event is free and anyone is welcome, but registration is essential through Eventbrite.
Perth Australia people book your tickets via Eventbrite
Are you writing anything else?
I’m currently writing another children’s Christmas book for Pink Ribbon Books (my fundraising project). Plus, I’m always writing something—whether it’s flash fiction, short stories or rhymes for my writing group (Gosnells Writers Circle), or a piece of writing for a writing competition.
Some quick-fire questions.Late nights or early mornings?
Definitely late nights (and lazy sleep-ins with breakfast in bed).
What’s for breakfast?
I’m not a huge big breakfast fan unless it’s for a special occasion. So, usually just cereal or toast, and definitely a nice hot cup of tea or two.
Night out or Netflix?
Netflix…or other streaming services, of which there are now plenty to choose from.
G &T or Tea/coffee?
Tea at home mostly, but a nice, large flat-white coffee when out. I must admit though, I am rather partial to a G&T on the odd occasion…with lemon or lime, and lots of ice.
Spending time with family and friends is always a perfect way to spend a weekend. The simple things in life are usually the best.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, a teacher…which I never did become! I studied computer programming and systems design instead, gaining a Bachelor of Business degree. My husband and I ran our own computer consulting company for 34 years.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?
Dinner is whatever my wonderful Masterchef husband is cooking. I think tonight might be green chicken curry. I can cook (if I have to) but truth be told, I have been known to burn boiled eggs…more than once!
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits and chases away a down mood.
Spending time with family and friends; doing good deeds for others; fundraising for worthy causes, especially breast cancer research—which is why I created Pink Ribbon Books. I donate all profits to the Breast Cancer Research Centre-WA, as I am a breast cancer survivor. It’s my way of ‘giving something back ‘for my good health.
I’d have to say, my mother and late grandmother. I can’t think of anyone else who could reach the height of their pedestals. Whatever good values I possess, they were instilled in me by these two remarkable women.
If you could choose three people (living or dead) to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
J.K. Rowling (because I admire her literary success and creative imagination)
Celeste Barber (because that crazy woman cracks me up! She’s the only celebrity I follow on Instagram, and she’d be the life and soul of the dinner party.)
Regé-Jean Page from season one of Bridgerton (no explanation required J!)
I applaud your choice!
Do you have any non -writing-related interests?
I’m a wedding celebrant, so I enjoy being part of couples’ special day, creating a beautiful ceremony and taking care of all the legal paperwork. I also TRY and exercise, so I belong to a local walking group and exercise class.
Questions about Writing.
What writing resources have been most helpful to you?
Joining a local writers’ group has taught me so much about writing. We not only learn from various workshops, but we learn from each other, simply by sharing our written work. We have been taught how to edit each other’s work too, and that has been extremely beneficial to me.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey?
How to ‘show not tell’, and what POV and head-hopping are!
What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
Trying to think up plots and characters that are unique but still believable, so that my story is unlike any others.
Did you do any research for your current book?
Of course. Google is my best friend!
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?
From my novelette “Hearts on Fire”, I adore the character of Lizzie. She was such a fun grandmother to create! I hope I’m just like her when I’m in my eighties.
From one of my children’s picture books, “Bootsie and Snudge”, I adore the two cute little elves who help Santa out when he’s tired and has become forgetful. Obviously, the elves’ names are Bootsie and Snudge and they are adorable. Personally, I think ABC should turn them into a cartoon show…they’d certainly give Bluey a run for his money.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?
I certainly think it would be hard to ‘show’ and not tell if the writer lacked emotions.
Best writing advice: edit, edit, edit and then when you finish, edit again! And then get someone else to proofread your work.
Worst advice: Write what you know. With the internet at my fingertips, I have written lots of stories about places and events I’ve never visited or experienced. All you need is a little bit of online research time and a lot of imagination!
Best money you have spent as a writer?
My annual fees at my writing group and an online ‘Writing and Editing’ course run by Nas Dean. I learnt so much from that course.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
I have several favourites actually: Jane Harper, Trent Dalton, and Liane Moriarty to name a few.
What are you reading now?
“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. I absolutely love it and I can’t wait for the movie to be released here in July. (But I always read the book first…that’s a golden rule!)
Favourite quote (does not matter the source)
“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there!” (Theodore Roosevelt)
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?
“A Fortunate Life” by A.B. Facey. I can’t find enough superlatives to describe how much I loved this extraordinary book. It’s an autobiography of Albert Barnett Facey’s life, growing up in Western Australia in the early 1900s. I have actually read it several times now. It’s modestly written but is such a moving memoir, I highly recommend it to everyone. It certainly opened my eyes to how hard life was back then, and how privileged we are these days.
Favourite book/story you have read as a child?
Absolutely everything and anything written by Enid Blyton.
Jenny’s book is available on Amazon for pre-order before it is released on 25th July.
I was lucky enough to read an early copy and I enjoyed it. My review appears on Good reads.
It’s a pleasure to welcome author Ruth Morgan to talk about her book The Whitworth Mysteries
Ruth lives in Lismore, New South Wales where the whole community has been devastated by flooding. We are talking unheard of flood levels of up to 14.4 metres. Lives and homes and businesses were lost. Even more cruelly, a month after the first flood, when the cleanup was well underway, Lismore endured a second flood. While helping out in her local area, Ruth is still writing. She is also promoting a re-stocking drive for the Lismore library which lost 29,000 books.
So, I am very grateful that Ruth has taken the time to talk to us. We will discuss her writing later, but first some quick-fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Always early mornings.
What’s for breakfast? Toast and coffee.
Night out or Netflix? Night in, with a good book.
G &T or Tea/coffee? All three – but not at the same time!
Perfect weekend? Going for a walk, catching up over coffee with friends, and time spent in the garden getting dirty.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I’m not sure I’ve grown up yet! Everything! Reader, writer, dancer, nurse, vet, work in a zoo..
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating ?Love cooking. Dinner tonight – probably leftovers! Preference these days is vegetarian, and when the veggie garden is productive, whatever is in season is usually what’s for dinner. I love it though when someone else cooks.
What brings you joy?Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cats – always cats. The sound of a purring cat, being head-butted, sat on – magic. Or going for walk, sitting by the ocean, listening to beautiful music.
Your hero? I don’t know that I have a hero. If I look around me at the moment my community is full of heroes. To deal with two floods a month apart makes heroes of us all. A hero is someone who doesn’t quit, although they may want to, even when the odds appear overwhelming, they just keep going. Those who help clean up after the flood, those who listen, those who are running a business from their damaged premises and are operating through the back door, yet still going. The battlers, the fighters, those putting one put in front of the other… Those wonderful heroes who came from nowhere in droves to help, the wonderful Sikhs who drove 27 hours to come and cook the most amazing food for everyone, groups who turned up offering food, water and fruit to the mud army, those who run the Resilient Lismore FB group…
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party,( dead or alive)who would they be and why?
Only three! Probably Laurens van der Post, Arthur Upfield, Agatha Christie and Carl Jung – maths was never my strong point!
Questions about Writing.
Have you always written? I’ve been a storyteller since childhood. Growing up in a very isolated location threw me back on my own resources for entertainment. So I learned at a young age to see stories everywhere and in the most mundane events. In my first years of primary school, I began writing. There have been long periods when I haven’t though and always felt something was missing. Now it’s a full-time occupation, and I’ve never been happier.
What inspired your new book?
Mildura. My home town renamed Whitworth for the book. I love the wide-open spaces, the red dirt, the river red gums, the river… The breathtaking sense of solitude that standing in the middle of somewhere like the Hay Plains brings. The sense of peace. I grew up in Mildura when there were lots of interesting things going on – especially for a budding crime fiction writer. I wanted to explore links between events, characters, to explore what was hidden, and always to learn why people do what they do.
What time of the day do you usually write? Much prefer mornings. Brain is fresher and ideas emerge more easily.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? When my characters refuse to co-operate, or tell me what’s going on. Sometimes threats work, cajoling, offers of tea or something stronger. They fall silent when I’m taking the story in the direction I want it to go, rather than how they want it told. When we work in harmony it’s so much easier.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing? It depends on where I’m up to in the process. Always start early and often work through. If I have a deadline, I just keep going. If I have time, usually finish about lunchtime and do other things in the afternoon.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Being able to close my eyes and watch the characters interact, eavesdrop on conversations, see what’s unfolding through someone else’s eyes. And if the characters are playing nicely, be able to ask questions. That’s a fabulous quirk to have!
Did you do any research for your current book? Yes. Because it’s a police procedural I need to understand how things are done, interviews conducted, the treatment of a crime scene. A lot of information can be gathered by reading widely, asking questions, but in the end how you put the research together, which sections you use are all determined by how the story wants and needs to be told.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? It would have to be David. The man in my current novel who didn’t want to be the hero. His refusal to take on the role ground the entire story to a screeching halt. It was only when I asked a writing group I’m part of why he was being unhelpful that someone made the suggestion that perhaps the wrong person was in the hero role. I listened to the characters, to the story, and swapped the hero. A flood of ideas and events, layers and understanding emerged and I have to type more quickly in order to keep up.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? Possible. But perhaps not fiction. So much of what goes on in a story, love, loss, anger, grief, hope – are strong emotions and for many felt physically as well as in the mind. It would be hard to be convincing if the emotion wasn’t felt.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Best advice – get the story out of your head in whatever way works for you. Worst advice – draft everything. That takes out all the fun of discovery.
Best money you have spent as a writer? The first course I did at the NSW Writer’s Centre, was in about 1996. I don’t remember now what it was, but I remember the teacher and her belief that I had the capacity to tell gripping stories. No one had ever given me that backup before.
Do you have a favourite author and why? Favourites change from month to month, there are always new discoveries to make. I always come back to Garry Disher and Peter Temple. I love the speed in Temple’s work, and the dark depths and how he handles dialogue. I love the spartan writing in Disher’s work and how the landscape is a powerful part of what unfolds.
What are you reading now? Gary Jubelin’s I Catch Killers, and Fiona Macintosh’s The Spys Wife.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I think everything I’ve ever read has added something. The way of describing a scene, an emotion, a discussion between characters – I’ve taken some piece of information, view, learning from every book I’ve read. Some books show me how NOT to tell a story. The influences can be positive and negative.
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? How much paper do you have! So many remarkable books and all have had a different impact on how I see stories. I loved the Far Pavilions, Len Deighton’s Hook, Line and Sinker series, Ruth Rendell, Simeon, Arthur Upfield. Arthur Upfield’s, Death of a Swagman has a special place in my memory. It was the first book set in a country that I knew well and had grown up in. Jon Cleary, Trent Dalton, Kate Forsyth….
Favourite book/story you have read as a child?Lord of the Rings was the first book I read as an early teen that has stayed with me and is reread on a regular basis. But I don’t write or read fantasy. There is such depth to the story that it always enriches anything I’m working on. LOTR is a place to retreat, to emerge inspired and restored and after, well, some decades, it always has something new to offer that I hadn’t discovered before.
If you would care to donate to the library appeal ,as I did, more details can be found on the Lismore library home page.
Rod and I have been friends for a few years, drawn together by our love of writing. Both of us are ex-pat Brits. He lives in Canada and I live in Australia. Neither of us can remember where it was that we ‘met,’ but it was probably in one of the many online writers’ forums. Unusually, among my writer friends, Rod writes memoirs. Over time I have read and enjoyed all of his books and I think you might, too.
Thanks for joining us. Prior to your writing, you have had a varied career; can you tell us a little about that?
Like many sixteen-year-olds, I was bored with my home, my home town, my parents, and probably myself. I wanted something bigger, better, an exciting life, adventure! When someone said to me, “You should join the merchant navy and see the world,” two weeks later, I did.
Samuel Johnson said, “Life at sea is like being in prison, with the added possibility of drowning.” While true, I loved visiting over 20 countries, meeting the local people and talking with them. Lives in Africa, Central America, China, Japan, Tahiti, Canada, to name a few, were so interesting, so different from mine. It stretched my knowledge of humankind and made me a more understanding person. When I was 19, I fell in love with a girl I met on a blind date in Vancouver, emigrated to Canada at age 21, and got a job working on the tugboats. One December night in the far north, the tug ran aground and the barge carrying 18,000 gallons of gasoline and lots of heavy equipment crushed the tug. I escaped with my life and decided to get a job ashore.
I became an apprentice boatbuilder and learned how to build 55-foot boats out of wood. Each payday, I would buy myself a new tool for my toolbox, on my slow four-year journey to become a tradesman. You can read more about it here.
After getting married, buying a house becoming a father of two, I lost my job and couldn’t pay the mortgage. Scary! I couldn’t find any work, so, clutching at straws, I started a boat repair business, which I ran for 20 years. Business taught me to be accountable and responsible.
Unfortunately, that marriage ended and we divorced. I had no energy to run the business anymore, so I sold it and retrained to be a psychological counsellor. All the theories were really interesting, and I ended up getting an MA in Counselling. It felt good to help people. I learned that my problems were minor compared to many. For a while, I was a counsellor in a refugee centre. Such awful stories of people’s lives disrupted forever. Chilling! I was also an addiction counsellor for a couple of years.
My counselling and business experience equipped me to run a non-profit organization for people with mental illness. We provided housing and support for them. I also started an outreach program for homeless people. This sort of work made me realize how lucky I was. Well, not always completely lucky. After I got hired as executive director for the Simon Fraser branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, they told me they didn’t have enough money to pay me! Yes, I was pissed off! I started a thrift store (charity shop) largely run by our mental health clients, which made a lot of money and helped pull us out of financial difficulties. It also gave our clients a chance to give back and learn new skills.
Which job appealed to you the most?
They were all interesting. Running the nonprofit was probably the most rewarding because it was the most complex, and I saw the results of my work in the daily lives of the people we were supporting.
What gave you the impetus to begin writing, what are essentially memoirs?
I had to write a lot of really boring funding proposals in the ten years I worked in nonprofits. I promised myself when I retired at 65, I would write something, more interesting, more fun, more entertaining. I hoped I achieved that! Plus, I only usually read non-fiction so memoirs just rolled out naturally.
Which one gets the most comments?
“I Need My Yacht by Friday – True Tales from the Boat Repair Yard,” gets the most comments and sells the most. People who have run any business can relate and boat owners can really understand the various themes.
How do you have such a good recall?
Some notes, some photos, but I have an excellent memory for emotional events, they just stick in my brain. As I had a number of different careers, there were lots of first time experiences. It’s easy to remember those. I often can recall word for word what was said — it just resonates and sticks in my brain.
If you were starting out writing now, would you do anything differently?
Yes, I would start earlier than I did at age 65.
As a migrant do you ever feel nostalgia for ‘home’ or is ‘home’ wherever you are?
I miss the English countryside, the humour, the pubs, the regional accents and BBC radio. I don’t miss snobby, pretentious people or the class system. To a point, home is where I am, except I lived in Italy for a year in 2008, and that didn’t feel like home. Ha, I could write about that!
What do you like to read? Any favourite authors or genres?
Alexandra Fuller, Farley Mowat, Gavin Maxwell, Gerald Durrell, Lawrence Anthony, Cheryl Strayed, Jared Diamond.
I think I have read all of your books, but my favourite is the one about managing the Charity Shop.
Thanks, Sonia. In some ways, it was the most difficult to write, so I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Rod is currently working on a memoir of his earlier life, provisionally called The Shilling Thieves.I have read some extracts and it is hilarious. So, look out for that soon
All of Rod’s books are available on Amazon and if you are in Canada through rodbakerbooks.com
Rod left home at 16 years old and went to sea as a deckhand. He migrated from England to Canada at age 21and found work as a mate on the British Columbia tugboats. After the tug sank in the Haida Gwaii islands, he quit going to sea and worked as an apprentice boat builder, marine repair shop owner, psychotherapist and executive director of non-profit mental health associations.
Since retiring from full-time work in 2012, he has written four memoirs and is currently working on a book of humorous short stories. rodbakerbooks.com
October was a rainy month, which certainly favoured more reading. Although I would love to buy all the books I read, I can’t. Instead, I enjoy getting books through my local library. Libraries have been transformed from those “temples of silence,” I knew as a child. Now, libraries are vital community spaces, as well as knowledge hubs. My local library will request books they haven’t got in stock. I also attended an author talk by New York Times best-selling author Natasha Lester. Additionally, this month I started attending a drawing class.
The Riviera House by Natasha Lester
The New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Secret weaves a lush and engrossing novel of World War II inspired by a true story and perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff.
Paris, 1939: The Nazis think Éliane can’t understand German. They’re wrong. They think she’s merely cataloguing art in a Louvre museum and unaware they’re stealing national treasures for their private collections. They have no idea she’s carefully decoding their notes and smuggling information to the Resistance. But Éliane is playing a dangerous game. Does she dare trust the man she once loved with her secrets, or will he only betray her once again? She has no way to know for certain . . . until a trip to a stunning home on the French Riviera brings a whole new level of peril.
Present Day: Wanting to forget the tragedy that has left her life in shambles, Remy Lang heads to a home she’s mysteriously inherited on the Riviera. While working on her vintage fashion business, she discovers a catalogue of the artworks stolen during World War II and is shocked to see a painting that hung on her childhood bedroom wall. Who is her family, really? And does the Riviera house hold more secrets than Remy is ready to face?
Natasha Lester brilliantly explores the impossible choices ordinary people faced every day during extraordinary circumstances, weaving fact with fiction and celebrating women who push the boundaries of their time.
A new Natasha Lester book always fills me with anticipation, wondering will I enjoy it as much as her previous book? I needn’t have worried, this book with its compelling mix of intrigue and danger in wartime France was exactly what I had expected. The story concerns the wholesale art thefts perpetrated by the Nazi’s. In exploring this, every sentence is a work of art, arguing the value of art to civilisation. There is also Éliane’s captivating love story, fraught with danger and deception.
In the present day, Remy’s life has lost its meaning and she is far away from Australia in the Riviera House. She can run her vintage fashion business from anywhere and craves solitude. Her gregarious neighbours are determined to involve her in their lives and are impossible to overlook. Allowing herself to experience more, she finds the catalogue of the stolen artworks and is intrigued enough to want to take it further. She is helped by a gorgeous photographer who understands sadness and grief.
Man Drought by Rachael Johns.
Imogen Bates moved to the small rural town of Gibson’s Find to start a new life for herself after the death of her husband. Tired of being haunted by the painful memories of her old life, Imogen set her last remaining hopes on the little town and, in particular, pouring her heart and savings into restoring The Majestic Hotel to its former glory. But while the female-starved town might be glad to see a young woman move in, not everyone is happy about Imogen’s arrival.
Sheep and crop farmer Gibson Black once dreamed of having the kind of family his grandfather reminisces about, but he’s learnt not to dream anymore. Living in the mostly male town suits Gibson down to the ground…and he won’t have anyone — least of all a hot redhead from the city — change a thing.
Imogen has never been one to back down from a challenge, especially when it concerns her last chance at happiness. She’s determined to rebuild the pub and create a future for the little town. But can she create a future for Gibson and herself, too?
Intrigued by the title, I picked this up. It’s one of Rachael Johns earlier books and obviously inspired by programs like Farmer Wants a Wife. If you enjoyed that show, you would probably enjoy this book. I did, it’s effortless reading ( which means hard work writing it by the way.)
Imogen is a character who appealed to me, and I was inspired by her gutsy life-changing decisions. What is a woman without her friends? Immy’s friends are horrified by her plans but support her anyway. In a town full of men, one catches her eye, and while everyone else is super friendly he remains remote and distant. Meanwhile, his grandfather Charlie can’t sing his praises high enough and would love to get them together. Maybe the Man Drought weekend that Imogen has organised will provide the spark?
Meet Me In Bendigo by Eva Scott.
Small-town Australia meets You’ve Got Mail in this rural romantic comedy about online dating, second chances, and following your heart.
Small-town sweetheart Annalisa Cappelli has returned to Wongilly to take over her family’s hardware store while she heals from a tragic loss. The business was hit hard by the pandemic, and now a Carpenter’s Warehouse hardware superstore is opening in the district. There’s no way Annalisa is going to let two hundred years of history go down the drain, but she’s going to need to fight to keep her family’s legacy alive.
The one simple thing in her life is her no names, no complications, easy-breezy online relationship with GardenerGuy94. For now, their online flirtation is the only kind of romance Annalisa needs. Until she meets Ed Carpenter. Sexy as hell, he’d be the perfect man … if he wasn’t trying to destroy her business.
Ed Carpenter is in Wongilly to offer the owner of a small hardware store a payout to pave the way for his family’s next superstore. What he doesn’t expect is for the owner to be the woman he’s been talking to online. Annalisa is beautiful and passionate, and he’s sure she’s the one for him. But how can he reveal the truth without losing her?
Understandably we are drawn to the story of an underdog and in this case, two hundred years of history is going to be lost. Reinforces a message that when we are online, do we know who we are talking to? Confiding online with GardenerGuy94 Annalisa feels a connection. Yet meeting her nemesis, Ed Carpenter surprises her with a sense of attraction. Although enjoyable, I felt the idea the book was based on hadn’t enough legs to be the whole plot
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves A female cop with her first big case A brutal murder Welcome to… The Thursday Murder Club
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it refreshing that retirees were portrayed as vibrant and intelligent individuals. The murder itself has enough intrigue to make its unravelling pleasantly complicated. Great characters and nice plotting. I obviously must have been living under a rock, but I had no idea that Richard Osman was a celebrity.
When You Are Mine by Michael Robotham
A heart-pounding psychological thriller about friendship and obsession
Philomena ‘Phil’ McCarthy is a promising young officer in the London Metropolitan police.
But everything changes when she is called to the scene of a domestic assault. Unbeknownst to her, the abuser is a decorated detective and Phil’s efforts to protect his girlfriend – Tempe Brown – from violence result in Phil being unjustly struck from the force.
In the fallout, Phil begins to teach Tempe self-defence and they strike up a tentative friendship. Tempe is thoughtful and sweet, and within a matter of weeks the two women are inseparable – talking, socialising and confiding their deepest secrets in one another. But something isn’t right. Sinister things keep happening and, when a body is discovered, Phil realises that Tempe is hiding deadly secrets of her own. Secrets she is willing to kill for . . .
This pulse-racing standalone psychological thriller from the internationally bestselling author of The Secrets She Keeps is Michael Robotham’s finest yet, and confirms his reputation as the Mastermind of Crime.
Tautly plotted and tension-filled, this book had me reading just a bit more each time. Michael Robotham ‘gets’ women and writes well in the female voice. I couldn’t find a false note. The premise of the daughter of a crime family joining the police is intriguing and Phil( short for Philomena) is a feisty and likeable character. How her life escalates after attending a reported domestic violence incident is well-paced and believable. I couldn’t put it down.
Flying The Nest by Rachael Johns
They say a change is as good as a holiday…but what if you don’t want either?
Is her family’s happiness more important than her own?
The first time Ashling Wood realises her marriage is on the rocks is when her husband, Adrian, suggests they try nest parenting. Heartbroken, Ash suddenly finds herself living a double life – one week with her children, the next cohabiting with her happily single sister-in-law. Her friends think the modern custody solution is an exciting opportunity for her to spread her wings, but all Ash wants is her family back together.
An offer to renovate a seaside cottage seems like the perfect distraction for Ash while waiting for Adrian to come to his senses. She’s determined to fix her marriage as well as the cottage, but life gets even more complicated when she meets local fisherman Dan Emerson.
Soon, each home-stay becomes more dysfunctional, while for the other week Ash enjoys the peaceful life of the beachside community. The more time Ash spends in Ragged Point, the more she questions what she really wants. Is a sea-change the fresh start she needs to move on?
When tragedy calls Ash back to the city, she’s torn between the needs of her family and her future. Can her family life fit in with a permanent move to the beach or could Ash’s newfound independence attract Adrian back to the nest?
From the get-go, you feel for Ashling, who is blindsided by her husband Adrian’s suggestion of Nest Parenting. A term I hadn’t heard before. She is not just heartbroken. but emotionally broken, that her ‘perfect life’ has come crashing down. She tries to put a brave face on it for the children, but inwardly she feels like howling. A chance to get away to Ragged Bay offers an escape, although the derelict cottage isn’t exactly welcoming. Slowly, she begins to sort out an alternative life for herself. Her life takes on a rhythm of weeks with the children. and weeks at Ragged Bay. These lives are quite different and begin to allow her to reflect on who she is, and what she wants.
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving by Julia Samuel
Death affects us all. Yet it is still the last taboo in our society, and grief is still profoundly misunderstood…
In Grief Works, we hear stories from those who have experienced great love and great loss – and survived. Stories that explain how grief unmasks our greatest fears, strips away our layers of protection and reveals our innermost selves.
Julia Samuel, a grief psychotherapist, has spent twenty-five years working with the bereaved and understanding the full repercussions of loss. This deeply affecting book is full of psychological insights on how grief if approached correctly, can heal us. Through elegant, moving stories, we learn how we can stop feeling awkward and uncertain about death, and not shy away from talking honestly with family and friends.
This extraordinary book shows us how to live and learn from great loss.
After a family bereavement, I picked up this book. Grief is a silent companion, one that you often do not wish to burden others with. I had hoped for a compassionate guidebook to help me through the process. While others say they have found it helpful, it just didn’t feel that way to me. I read the relevant chapters and some of the end of the book but found it was depressing me even more.
Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham
She’s standing at the front door. Covered in blood. Is she the victim of a crime? Or the perpetrator?
A teenage girl — Sienna, a troubled friend of his daughter — comes to Joe O’Loughlin’s door one night. She is terrorized, incoherent, and covered in blood.
The police find Sienna’s father, a celebrated former cop, murdered in the home he shared with Sienna. Tests confirm that it’s his blood on Sienna. She says she remembers nothing.
Joe O’Loughlin is a psychologist with troubles of his own. His marriage is coming to an end and his daughter will barely speak to him. He tries to help Sienna, hoping that if he succeeds it will win back his daughter’s affection. But Sienna is unreachable, unable to mourn her father’s death or to explain it.
Investigators take aim at Sienna. O’Loughlin senses something different is happening, something subterranean and terrifying to Sienna. It may be something in her mind. Or it may be something real. Someone real. Someone capable of the most grim and gruesome murder, and willing to kill again if anyone gets too close.
His newest thriller is further evidence that Michael Robotham is, as David Baldacci has said, “the real deal — we only hope he will write faster
I hadn’t planned on reading another Michael Robotham so quickly, but a friend lent me this book. Of course, reading the blurb, I was intrigued. I’ve ‘met’ Joe O’Loughlin before, and like the character. This is book four in the series, but I was able to read this as a standalone. It was easy to be drawn into the story while continually questioning what was, or wasn’t the truth. The story flowed well and had believability, but two things didn’t sit right with me. One was a scene I wish hadn’t been included and the other was the final explanation.
A Bad Day for Sunshine by Dyranda Jones
Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose.
Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, strong cups of coffee – and, now, a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff – thanks to her adorably meddlesome parents who nominated her–and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of this is reminding Sunshine why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that the trouble at her daughter’s new school, plus and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and, well, the forecast looks anything but sunny.
But even clouds have their silver linings. This one’s got Levi, Sunshine’s sexy, almost-old-flame, and a fiery-hot US Marshall. With temperatures rising everywhere she turns, Del Sol’s normally cool-minded sheriff is finding herself knee-deep in drama and danger. Can Sunshine face the call of duty – and find the kidnapper who’s terrorizing her beloved hometown – without falling head over high heels in love . . . or worse?
I picked this book based on the title. Initially, I found the style a little confusing, but then I got into the story. It reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series in some ways. There is a mysterious disappearance, that had been predicted, and an off-limits love interest and storyline that is set to continue both into the past and the future.
A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz
The New York Times bestselling author of the brilliantly inventive The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death returns with his third literary whodunit featuring intrepid detectives Hawthorne and Horowitz.
When Ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, author Anthony Horowitz, are invited to an exclusive literary festival on Alderney, an idyllic island off the south coast of England, they don’t expect to find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation—or to be trapped with a cold-blooded killer in a remote place with a murky, haunted past.
Arriving on Alderney, Hawthorne and Horowitz soon meet the festival’s other guests—an eccentric gathering that includes a bestselling children’s author, a French poet, a TV chef turned cookbook author, a blind psychic, and a war historian—along with a group of ornery locals embroiled in an escalating feud over a disruptive power line.
When a local grandee is found dead under mysterious circumstances, Hawthorne and Horowitz become embroiled in the case. The island is locked down, no one is allowed on or off, and it soon becomes horribly clear that a murderer lurks in their midst. But who?
Both a brilliant satire on the world of books and writers and an immensely enjoyable locked-room mystery, A Line to Kill is a triumph—a riddle of a story full of brilliant misdirection, beautifully set-out clues, and diabolically clever denouements.
My Review. Alderney, a remote location, among the Channel Isles is not the sort of place to hold a literary festival. Horowitz’s publishers are enthusiastic about testing out the duo of Hawthorne and Horowitz in such an out of the way spot. Despite misgivings, Horowitz is forced to agree and finds himself once again observing Hawthorne at work. This time though there isn’t a murder in sight. Confounding Horowitz, the usually taciturn Hawthorne charms at the literary festival. Then, the festival’s sponsor is murdered and everyone on the island, including the guest authors, is suspected. Horowitz plays Watson to an increasingly confident Hawthorne, who knows more than he is telling. One solution is arrived at, but is that the end? Then there is a hint of where the next book will be set.
Hi Kath, It’s lovely to welcome you back to talk about your new book. The Blooming of Alison Brennan which was published recently by Next Chapter.
A family full of secrets…and one girl who must survive.
Sixteen-year-old Alison Brennan’s mother, Bernadette, is an agoraphobic hoarder, and her father Harry seems to have no past. Struggling every day, Alison seeks the help of a school counsellor.
When an old homeless man is found dead in a Melbourne park, Alison’s life changes. Somehow, the man’s death is connected to her family and the Polish Home Army.
Fighting for her future, can Alison unravel the mystery of her family and the dead man, and find a way to place her trust in others again?
I enjoyed reading it and found Alison such an engaging and relatable character.
Alison lives with her agoraphobic hoarder mother, and her father Harry, who lets life happen. Alison’s everyday life is a struggle, even to get herself to school. As a teacher and academic, did you encounter any children of hoarders?
Not especially of hoarders, but as a teacher, you often encounter children or young people who struggle with difficult home situations. It may be that they’re a carer for a sick parent, or the family may be breaking up, or sometimes it’s just emotional and physical neglect. As a teacher, you can be a listener, but most schools have specialist counsellors or welfare officers who have the skills and knowledge to help. I modelled the school counsellor, Stella Goodall, on such a person.
Most of us will have seen what a hoarder’s home is like from TV. It’s certainly not a normal environment. What inspired you to write about such an unusual topic?
From reading books and articles about hoarding, I began to try to imagine what it must be like for a child or teenager to be trapped in such a situation. They would either be buried in it or try to rise above it. I had to give Alison lots of inner strength and independence to cope with it, but also empathy, or it would have made her hate her parents.
Alison is lucky that she gains help from a school counsellor, but she is also a strong character herself.
Yes, she’s very strong, and in the story, I try to show that it was a characteristic she inherited from her maternal grandmother.
I got impatient with her father, but when his story is revealed, I gained more understanding. I enjoyed how each chapter gave us a different person’s perspective.
Had you always planned to write the book that way, or did you choose to do that later on?
No, it evolved. It began being a story of a child of a hoarder, but then the characters grew. I wove in the grandfather and the uncle and his partner, to give Alison a support base, then the events that unfolded are indirectly based on actual events.
The link between finding the homeless man dead in the park and Alison was a surprise. As were the stories of heroism from the Polish Home Army. You didn’t overload the book with information, but it was clear that you had done your research. Theirs is a story that deserves to be told.
Was the linkage always obvious to you or did that develop as you wrote?
The homeless man found dead in a Melbourne park actually happened some years ago, but I changed it in every detail. Making the homeless man a Polish refugee was something I wanted to do. A friend of our family married a Polish man who had come to Australia after the war. He had been a prisoner of war in Poland and was an activist for Poland’s freedom after the Nazi takeover. He expressed his activism through poetry, and the State Library of Victoria has three of his books of poems, all in Polish of course so I couldn’t read them, not knowing the language. The refugees who came to Australia after the war were often sent to remote places to work on big constructions such as the Snowy Mountains scheme.
Imagine the loneliness and pain, in those stark conditions, especially since many of them would also have lost their families to the war. I try to tell that story through Hobie and his son. Richard Flanagan writes of this immigrant experience in Tasmania in The Sound of One Hand Clapping.
What do you hope people take away from the story if anything?
The triumph of the human spirit, that change is always a possibility, that love is everywhere and when we think it’s not possible, it can come from behind and surprise us.
How long did the book take to write and what’s next on the agenda for you?
I wrote this over one year, but I didn’t find a publisher until now. Reading it again, I’m very proud of it. I’m working on another book now, set in the Victorian Mallee area. I hope to have it out next year.
Oh, I will look forward to that. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
Thank you, Sonia, for your interest and support.
You can find the book at Abe Books, Book Depository, or Amazon.
It’s a pleasure to welcome author Katrina Coll to talk about her new book
An expat Aussie, Katrina lives in rural Ireland where the countryside really is forty shades of green. She is a keen cook, which is why she’s becoming a reluctant runner with the support of the family dog, Beetlejuice.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book A Match Made for TV which released 16th September.
Ria De Lorenzo is a damn good doctor. Or was. Burnt out before she’s begun, a three-month paid vacation as the medical consultant to a reality TV show is just what she needs to recover her mojo.
Cancer survivor and headline grabber Griffin Stromberg is desperate to reboot his ultra-macho image. Typecast by years of fame, showcasing his softer side with a picture-perfect relationship should do the trick. Until Ria breaches show protocol and gets Griff’s fake girlfriend disqualified.
Now Ria’s only hope of clocking out of reality is to check in to a fantasy by becoming his new partner. Griff, however, wants their relationship to be the real deal, not one of his infamous life-hacks.
Can a man renowned for taking shortcuts prove he’s ready to commit to a forever relationship? Or will reality bite once filming is over?
Note: This is a steamy romance, which includes swearing and steamy bathroom sex.
Oh, sounds great! Are you writing anything else?
My work in progress returns to the world of reality tv with a reunion romance. My couple are paired on a bake-off—one is a chef, the other a cook. The fallout from past betrayals is massive but they have to work through their past for a much bigger reason than a tv show.
We will discuss your writing, but first some quick-fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Late nights. I am not a morning person.
What’s for breakfast? I often do overnight oats in jars with yogurt and fruit.
Night out or Netflix? Netflix on weekends. Weeknights I write.
G &T or Tea/coffee? While I do love a pink gin and elderflower tonic (*Foodie alert), I cannot do without decent coffee.
Perfect weekend? These days it’s any weekend when I get out the house.
What did you want to be when you grew up? An author.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? It ended up a roast rack of rosemary lamb with Catalan-style greens, roasted root veggies, and baby new potatoes. For a bit of fun, here’s a pic:
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Taking the dog for a walk always cheers me up.
Your hero? My nanna. She’s a total legend.
If you could choose three people (living or dead ) to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? They’d have to be living because I’m prejudiced against zombies. Actually, I’d just love to be able to hold dinner parties again…
Do you have any non-writing related interests? I’m re-learning the piano (thanks lockdown!) and I’m going for my second black belt. (The first was a loooong time ago.) What would surprise people to know about you? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!
Life lessons-what do you wish you’d know earlier? Persistence is more important than intelligence.
Questions about Writing.What is your writing process like? Iterative. I write, re-write, write, edit. It is not efficient but it’s how my brain works.
Do you have any other projects are in the works? I have two paranormal romances waiting to see the light of day, a medieval romance (currently shelved), and the sequel I mentioned.
Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? I have some stories on life support so long it’s embarrassing. The bake-off book is one example. I wrote a version before A Match Made for TV but realised that while I had tension, drama and attraction, the relationship never built. Now I build the relationship first.
If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? Fantasy and historical.
What writing resources have been most helpfulto you? The most singularly useful text was Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. But collectively, it’s been by joining writing organisations like the Romance Writers of Australia.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? I wish I’d had critique partners sooner instead of trying to do it all solo.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I’m still at the stage of fitting writing around my work.
What inspired your new book? My love of cooking. And the Aussie TV show the Cook and the Chef.
What is themost difficult part about writing for you? Getting new words down and keeping them.
Did you do any research for your current book? I have a chronic need to research, so yes.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Finish the damn book has to be the best.’
“A writer is a person who writes every day” is the worst.
Best money you have spent as a writer? Buying Scrivener.
What are you reading now? Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews. And the next book on pre-order is The King’s Cowboy by Madeline Ash.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I’m looking looking forward to hearing what readers say about my style.
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Current fave is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Almost everything by Diana Wynne Jones.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new books
I actually have three books coming soon. Spirit Talker is a Y.A. Literary novel:
When a grieving teen starts seeing ghosts walk the streets, her sceptical psychiatrist thinks she’s hallucinating, but just because not everyone can see them doesn’t mean they aren’t really there.
City of Quartz is a Y.A. Dystopian Sci-Fi and book two of the Shadow of Nar Series:
On a distance world, where human flaw is eradicated, a teenage space explorer must convince the perfectionist society to provide vital medical aid that will cure her sister’s terminal illness.
And finally, we’re also hoping to get out the first book I’ve co-written with my daughter, Kaylie. Everlasting Sleep is a Y.A. Fantasy:
To cure her sister’s sickness, a dragon-winged teen must venture to Vislume , the land of dreams, where corruption has tainted the landscape and darkness lures dreamers into everlasting sleep.
Some quick-fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Late Nights, although I’m trying to switch this around.
What’s for breakfast? Lately it’s been two soft boiled eggs. This is because I help take care of my stepfather who has Alzheimer’s and soft boiled eggs is one of the four things he still knows how to cook and is in a routine where he cooks it every single morning. But I’ve also been known to have cereal, porridge, smoothies, toast, or croissants.
Night out or Netflix? Netflix. Or Disney Plus or Amazon Prime or Apple TV or YouTube. I’m a subscription service addict. lol Although I play a lot of video games too. 😉
G &T or Tea/coffee? Tea, or Milo. I don’t drink alcohol and I try to avoid caffeine because both have significantly negative impact on my Bipolar.
Perfect weekend? In bed with a book.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A writer. 🙂
What is for dinner tonight? Tonight was roast pork (stepdad cooked – his remaining two meal options are silverside or roast chicken.)
Can you cook? Yes, but I have to be in a good mood to want to.
What would you rather be eating? Sushi!
What brings you joy, lifts your spirits, and chases away a down mood? Spending time with my children. 🙂
Wow, I really don’t know. There are a lot of people I admire and would want to emulate. Most of them are fellow writers although there are also a few entrepreneurs, adventurers, scientists, musicians, actors, etc. I can’t say I have any one particular person I hold to higher esteem and would consider my hero.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? Way too difficult to narrow down that list. I’d welcome anyone who would want to hang out with me. Let’s do dinner. Any time. Everyone has their stories, their interests and passions, their inner being. I can enjoy the company of pretty much anyone.
You write in more than one genre. What drew you to them and how do you keep a balance between stories?
To be honest, I don’t. I love lots of genres and I’ve got books in a multitude. Picture Books, Chapter Books, Young Adult, Romance Novellas, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Non-Fiction, even Game Lit. But my heart is most truly in the Y.A. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. And I bundle Sci-Fi and Fantasy together because I often find they overlap a lot.
These days I’m trying to focus solely on Y.A. because it’s very difficult to juggle multiple genres. It’s like having to build multiple careers. Each genre has different readers which means multiple target markets, multiple brands, multiple fan bases, etc. When my children were young we did the kids books as part of our home schooling and for a while I did romance or game lit just to put a few extra dollars in the bank, but these days I get to focus on the stories that are deeply true to myself and my own dreams and passions and inspiration which means I get to focus on Y.A.
What do you think makes a good story? Characters learning to live into the best versions of themselves. Usually that means embracing their whole self, including their flaws, and figuring out how to chase big dreams or accomplish great things even in the face of adversity or challenge. I think all of us want to see people beat the odds. We want to believe in possibility.
Are you a plotter, more organic, or a mix of the two? These days I’m definitely mostly a plotter. I’ve learned over time that the more foundation I lay before I begin the easier the writing process tends to be. I’ve also learned a great deal about story structure and character development. It’s something I now teach other writers because it was something that completely transformed me as a writer when I discovered it and I’ve been really thrilled to visit a few high schools in the past couple of years where they’re actually teaching this stuff to teenagers! They definitely didn’t teach it when I was in school.
How much research do you do for a story?
It really depends. Sometimes it can be a lot! Sometimes next to nothing. For example, I did very little research for Spirit Talker. Most of it came from lived experience or instinct. I did a little research into the school I chose for her and made sure I had a beta reader who was familiar with the school but beyond that I didn’t need to learn much. But for City of Light, book one of the Shadows of Nar, I did extensive research into ion engines, space travel, faster than light theories, impact of binary stars on planetary conditions, relative distance, etc. I needed to feel confident that I understood the inner workings of the science so that I could write with authority. But my key tip about research is to focus on what you need and leave as much as you can to the second draft not the first. You don’t necessarily need to know all the inner workings and if you research too much in advance then you’ll want to info dump it all into the book and for the most part you don’t need to. You need to know just enough to be confident that it works, and nothing more.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your stories from? Everywhere? It’s been so many years since I was last without a story to write that I really find this kind of question odd because there’s never a scarcity of inspiration or ideas. I wrote about my Idea Waterfall back in 2008 (https://www.rebeccalaffarsmith.com/idea-waterfall/).
What is the best advice you’ve had as a writer? There have been so many brilliant pieces of advice over the years and the “best” tends to depend on my current situation. For example, right now I really resonate with the mantra “it’s the catalogue not the book”. Out of context that sounds kind of lame but it’s been very powerful to me because I experience a LOT of anxiety about the writing process. I was getting so bogged down in wanting to get every single word perfect that sometimes it means I can’t even write a sentence, let alone finish a book. So my mentor taught me to remember that the success or failure of individual books isn’t worth getting hung up on because as a career author I’m building a catalogue of content. Lots of books. And each of those books will have people who love it or hate it. The more books I finish and add to my catalogue the stronger my foundations become. The more books I have the more fans will find me and the more books I’ll sell. So it reminds me to think big picture and to obsess less. Maybe that’s the true take away tip. “Think big picture. Obsess less.” lol
What’s your favourite part of the writing process? Least favourite?
Favourite is outlines and planning. It’s the part that feels natural to me and the part I’m able to help others with the most too. I love developing story ideas, building story structure, fleshing out characters, and seeing the evolution of arcs.
Least favourite is the writing part… Writing is hard.
What’s your process for writing for the male perspective / male characters?
Um… Just write them? Seriously, men aren’t that alien. Sure, there are innate differences between a masculine and feminine character but gender and sex are two different things. A man can be macho or effeminate, and still be a man. A woman can be butch or delicate, and still be a woman. I think it’s important to understand psychology and behaviourism. To understand people. Observe, study, and analyse. When you do that then gender/sex becomes less of a thing to worry about because you’re writing every single character from their uniqueness. When you write sci-fi and fantasy you can’t obsess over gender, because then you’d have to go, “Well how do you write a dragon?” Or “How do you write an alien?” Or “How do you write a sentient flying fluffy creature that’s almost pet-like but has language?” Character is character; define the individuals traits, and write from within the embodiment of that.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? First drafts. Primarily because of that anxiety I talked about earlier. I feel like there’s so much weight and responsibility in finding the best way to tell the stories I want to tell. Each of the books I write have deep cores. They have reasons for being that are really, really big. They’re way more than simple escapism. They all convey really complex themes and messages, hidden in the simplicity of story. I want my books to change people’s lives. That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself and it makes it really hard to face the page because a lot of the time I feel like I could never do justice the story that I want to tell. Lots of self-doubt. Lots of fear. I’m working through it, trying to unlock that place because I’d really love to “experience joy, calm, and confidence when I am writing” but it’s something I have to proactively build within myself.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing? I wish I was consistent. I’d love to say I write from such and such to such and such every single day. But I don’t. Especially lately because my chronic health issues are having a nasty flair up so some days I don’t even make it out of bed let alone get to my desk. I do, however, prefer to write in solid blocks at least 90 minutes at a time. And I love writing in cafes. Some days I’ll be in a cafe all day long; others I’ll manage to scrounge a lucky ten minutes while in bed. Some days I manage to get the writing done first. I try to do this because often by the end of a day I’m just too wiped out to be creative. But I’m still inherently a night owl so sometimes it’s not until the evening that I can actually carve out some time for myself and that means I could be writing into the early hours of the morning. So I guess that’s all to say I don’t really have a schedule. I’d like one but I haven’t been able to force myself to be consistent. Another failing I’ve been trying to work on but haven’t quite figured out how to correct. Lol
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I honestly have no idea! I wonder if my readers would be able to identify any particular quirks. I’ve been told that I have some odd sentence structure sometimes which I guess is quirky?
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? There’s definitely things an emotion-less writer could write. In fact, they’d be ideal writers for content like research papers and new media. I’d also really love to read poetry by a writer who doesn’t feel emotions because they could still portray incredible imagery and observation. It’s really a question of what strengths and tone and voice could they convey? How well can they evaluate the emotions of others? We all write things that aren’t our lived experience so there’s no reason a person who doesn’t feel emotion couldn’t still be able to study it, understand it, and express it. I’ve never been in space but I can write about it based on research I’ve done from the experience of others.
I have a condition called aphantasia, it’s the inability to see things with my mind’s eye. But that doesn’t make me unable to imagine or describe or create visualisations that others can experience. It also doesn’t make me unable to write characters who can see with their minds eye.
Having said that, I’d really love to meet a person who is entirely absent of emotion. My son is autistic and many people think people with autism don’t “feel” but I have to say from personal experience that his emotional depths are vast. He feels a great deal. He just has trouble expressing that emotion to others. And honestly, I’d love to read the creativity that comes from that unique kind of experience. We need those stories in the world because it’s through the unique perspectives of every writer than we come to better understand the human condition.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?
Worst? “Write what you know.” OMG how limiting is THAT? There is so much I don’t know and I’d much rather have the freedom to explore that. Yes, all of my stories have a lot of what I do know built into them but mostly it’s emotional or social depths that come out there. Situationally I’d much rather explore possibility. I want to consider things that might not exist right now or could never logically exist. That’s what fantasy and sci-fi is all about. It’s living into the maybe spaces and asking, “what if?” That takes having the courage to write outside of what you know and to get creative doing it.
Best? “Write to market.” And more specifically, understand who your target reader is and what tropes and expectations that target market has. For example, there are clearly defined traits that make an Urban Fantasy different from a Paranormal Romance. Similarly, a Space Opera is not a Military Sci-Fi. Readers love the thing they love and if you want your books to succeed you need to know how to satisfy the reader. That means understanding what it is about the niche you write within that readers expect and then deliver above and beyond.
Best money you have spent as a writer? There are a few things that come immediately to mind. One is the illustrators I’ve hired for my children’s books. Both Anton and Adit have been absolutely brilliant and worth every penny. They’re very talented artists and their work makes those books something really special.
Another was the first MacBook I bought in 2010. I bought it because I wanted to use Scrivener, which is novel writing software that I still use and love. At the time Scrivener was only available for Mac so I bought a MacBook and have absolutely LOVED the switch. I’m most definitely and Apple convert. And while it was a big investment at the time it’s been one of the best business expenses I’ve ever made.
Then of course there is always quality in investing in professional editing, professional cover design, and of course production of stock and marketing materials, even advertising. Investing in your business is all part of being in business.
Do you have a favourite author and why? Traci Harding is still my favourite although these days I have lots of other favourites. There are so many talented writers I admire and whose stories I enjoy, but Traci Harding is the reason I write the books I write. When I was a teenager, I read her Ancient Future Trilogy and discovered that fiction is an incredible gateway into truth. It allows big concepts to be conveyed with incredible receptivity. Fiction has the power to influence our beliefs and change our actions. I love writers who do that with their fiction.
What are you reading now? I’m actually going to decline to answer this directly because the book I’m reading right now is one I’m really struggling to like. The concept seemed really cool and the author is someone in Y.A. circles that I like, but the writing or voice just don’t work for me. I’m still holding on, hoping it gets better, but I’m not sure it will. And so, as I read, I pay attention to exactly what it is that’s feeling wrong and I learn from that. I think that’s an important thing for writers to do too. Don’t just read the great books, read the ones that aren’t great and figure out what doesn’t work and why. You learn from failure, your own and others. 🙂 I will say it’s a Y.A. Urban Fantasy that features reapers as the “special world”. See, cool concept, would be great if the execution were better. If you know any other Y.A. reaper stories please share because I’d love to read others.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? Traci Harding as mentioned above. Lauren Kate’s Fallen series. Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers. Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. Demelza Carlton’s fairy tales. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. Then more generally authors more than their books Chris Fox, Derek Murphy, Joanna Penn, Lindsay Buroker, Serenity Woods, Sarah Painter, Brene Brown, Joseph Campbell, David Gaughran. I’m sure there are dozens more. Again, so many people to learn from and who share their wealth of knowledge and creativity with the world.
Favourite quote “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear.” The Princess Diaries (2001)
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Really hard to define a favourite but I’ve given a whole heap of titles above. 🙂
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? I was a huge fan of Roald Dahl as I child. I collected so many of his books and particularly loved Revolting Rhymes. Dahl was a master wordsmith. He played creatively with language. So many of the brilliant children’s book writers do that and the ones that do it brilliantly are remembered through time.
Thank you Rebecca for this insightful interview and wishing you every success with your new books.
It’s a pleasure to meet author Fiona M. Marsden, to talk about her new book, A Matter of Trust. Fiona lives in beautiful Stanthorpe, Queensland and spends her time as a dual carer of her mother and younger son and is a volunteer in the disability sector.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book which releases on 4th July 2021.
A Matter of Trust is my first release with Escape Publishing.
Twelve years is a long time to hide a secret…or two.
Forced from his self-imposed exile, Doctor Morgan Cavanaugh must face his demons and confront the girl he left behind. Becca Walters became a woman in that time with life-altering revelations of her own.
Becca fought her way to respectability, but it came at a cost. With Morgan’s return she must face the consequences of long-ago decisions, made without his knowledge. Together they have to face the past; in order to make a future.
Sounds intriguing. What else are you writing?
I’ve just finished a Historical novella for an anthology being released on the 15th July 2021. Secrets of the Soho Club.
Late nights or early mornings? Late nights definitely. I’ve never been a morning person.
What’s for breakfast? Summer it’s whatever catches my fancy. In winter it’s porridge.
Night out or Netflix? It depends. I like action movies on the big screen but happy with anything else on Netflix.
G &T or Tea/coffee? I’m one of those tricky people who don’t drink tea or coffee and most alcohol. I will have a Bailey’s Irish Cream for Christmas and New Year. The rest of the year it’s water, Ginger Beer at home and Frozen Coke when travelling.
Perfect weekend? Reading, reading and maybe some reading.
What did you want to be when you grew up? It would be easy to say writer but that was only one of my ambitions. I wanted to be a singer but sadly my voice is under par for public singing.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?
My family are very much meat and three veg afficionados. Tonight was honey sausages from Woolworths slow cooked in gravy and served with mashed potato with onion and parsley. There would usually be pumpkin with sweet potato mash, cauliflower and greens. Usually broccoli but it was wong bok tonight. I can cook, but would rather be doing other things.
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. A good book and time with my family.
Your hero? Am I supposed to say my DH? He’s pretty patient with me but after 39 years we have rubbed off most the rough edges.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? They would probably all be dead. Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer and maybe Dorothy L Sayers. I have a feeling I read somewhere the last two didn’t like each other but that could add spice.
Do you have any non -writing related interests? I have gone through a few hobbies over the years. I collected musical instruments for some time but for financial reasons am starting to divest some of them.
What would surprise people to know about you? I am highly introverted.
Life lessons-what do you wish you’d known earlier? Some things we stress about when we are young, don’t really matter in the long term.
Questions about Writing.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
That’s rather funny. All my life I’ve wanted to travel but have never had the opportunity. I always chose to read books that took me on a journey to a far away place and when I began writing, that was what I tried to write .Now here I am, with my first Rural Romance coming out and it’s very close to home, reflecting my lifelong experience of living in small country towns.
Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between?
Somewhere I have some notebooks from my teen years where I started writing what would be considered fan fiction these days. Mostly Heyer inspired historicals and McCaffrey inspired SFF set in the Pern world. I dabbled a bit over the years but never seriously. In 2010 I had a bit of an epiphany when I realised I hadn’t accomplished any of the things I planned. Even my 12-year-old daughter had written and self-published a book. That was when I started to write again seriously.
What advice would you give to others who took up writing at a similar life phase? Don’t be discouraged. I wrote 13 category length books in that first year and only one is ever likely to see the light of day. Every word you put on the page is one word closer to producing a polished product. I attended numerous seminars and conferences to improve my craft. You can never assume you have learned all you need to know.
What is your writing process like? I think a lot in my head before I really start to put down words. I’m a classic pantser. Once I have my characters sorted in my head, I put them together on the page and push them.
What other projects are in the works? I am about to dive into a sequel to my Tule book from my Kurrajong Crossing series with Dakota Harrison for release mid next year and a sequel to A Matter of Trust is on the go. I also have another historical novella percolating and some sequels to my indie-published books.
Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? I think an earlier story I’m relooking at it will be the increased skills in writing. It had all the cliché’s of beginning writing but I loved the concept so I will take that and rewrite it from scratch. Fortunately it’s a rural romance so I’m hoping it will fit into one of my current series.
If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? I am already genre-hopping. I was writing straight contemporary first but then made the switch to rural romance for which I have two contracts. Then there are the historical novellas. I do have some SFF manuscripts buried deep on my computer but I need to get my current workload under control before I could look at them.
What writing resources have been most helpful to you?
Conferences in particular. The Friday intensive sessions have made an enormous difference. I have also interacted on the old Harlequin boards and entered the So You Think You Can Write competitions until they finished. Before You Hit Send by Angela James, I’ve done multiple times. Queensland Writer’s Centre seminars. Really anything and everything.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? There’s no money in it? It’s hard work and sucks out your soul and often it feels like there is no reward. Then someone tells you how much they enjoyed a story you wrote and it’s all worth it.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Chaotic. As a carer, I have draws on my time that are often unpredictable. When I can sit down uninterrupted, I can write fast. It’s finding those times.
What inspired your new book? A Matter of Trust is a doctor nurse romance in a rural setting. I’ve always enjoyed romances with professional men rather than the classic billionaires though they can be fun too. I was a nurse before my marriage so it seemed logical if I was to write a rural romance, to start with what I know. A small medical centre in a small town.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Being organised in the chaos.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Interesting is a bit of a difficult question. I write my first drafts on scrivener on a laptop that I don’t have social media set up. I then go for a drive to listen to what I’ve written. My DH feels that’s an expensive way of doing things.
Did you do any research for your current book?
I did a little medical research for A Matter of Trust around medical conditions that appear in the book. I already have a good basic knowledge but things change fast in medicine.
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? I wrote a story years ago which I used to hashtag as #sleazeguy on twitter. He was everything I was annoyed by in some heroes I was reading at the time so I guess I wanted to get one of those heroes under my control. He was surprisingly adorable. I am currently bringing his story up to date in the hope of finally putting him out in the world.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? That’s a difficult judgement to make. I’m not sure if there is such a person. We often write about protagonists who have stifled their emotions after some kind of trauma. We never assume they have no emotions at all. Unless of course they’re a cyborg which is a whole other trope.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Write what you know is both. I thought at first it meant only writing within my own lived experience but I realise now that my lived experience gives me an understanding of the human condition that is translatable across a large range of settings.
Best money you have spent as a writer? Membership of Romance Writers of Australia perhaps.
Do you have a favourite author and why? I have multiple authors that I will read everything they write and the ones I reread are probably my favourite. One special book I’m not sure of. If I could only take one book with me to a desert island I would probably take The Lord of the Rings because it is so dense I think it bears study.
What are you reading now? A mix of historical and contemporary. I just finished Pamela Hart’s “Digging Up Dirt” which is a cozy style mystery set in Sydney.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I once did one of those “What famous author do you write like?” things on the internet and the answer was Agatha Christie. Which is probably right because I’ve read all of her mystery novels multiple times. That’s a lot of books.
Favourite quote ? Almost anything from The Princess Bride.
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? That’s hard to define. I am a re-reader so I’ve read many books multiple times.
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? The Owl and the Pussycat was my favourite children’s book.
Its a pleasure to welcome Monique Mulligan, author of Wherever You Go to the Chatting with Authors Page.
Monique Mulligan is an author, freelance editor & marketing officer at Koorliny Arts Centre.
Monique is known for her love of words, of cooking, and of cats.
What is the book about?
Wherever You Go is about a marriage in crisis after a life-shattering tragedy. Desperate to save their foundering marriage, chef Amy Bennet and her husband Matt move to the small town of Blackwood in the south-west of Western Australia. In denial from guilt and grief, Amy opens a café and starts an Around the World Supper Club and soon finds herself becoming part of a community, but is blind to Matt’s accelerating struggle with incomplete grief. It’s a story of grief and loss, of friendship and community, of renewal and redemption, and the healing power of food.
“Monique Mulligan has written a heartwarming tale to make you laugh, cry and gasp in surprise.” SheSociety
“This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful.” – The Book Muse
Such great reviews, so tell us what inspired the book?
I was inspired by a number of things – a real-life event, my love of food and cooking, the beautiful countryside of Bridgetown, and my interest in relationships and how challenges affect them differently.
We will chat about the book and your writing later.
First, some quick fire questions.
Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings.
What’s for breakfast? Yoghurt, homemade granola and berries.
Night out or Netflix? Netflix.
G &T or Tea/coffee? Definitely not G&T – I think it’s the tonic water I don’t like. Love a good coffee (not instant) or herbal tea, especially peppermint.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A journalist. In Year 12 I wanted to be the next Jana Wendt (A Current Affair). My career took me full circle into journalism (print, not TV) in my mid-thirties and the skills I learnt were invaluable.
Can you cook? I know the answer to that one!
What is for dinner tonight? Tuna steaks and green veg.
Ha ha, yes I can and I love to cook. Right now, a lemon poppy seed tea cake is cooling on the stove.
Have you always loved cooking, are you self-taught or did you learn as child? I am self-taught but loved to practice when I had the opportunity as a child. Mum wasn’t a big fan of letting us kids use the kitchen though, so the opportunities were few and far between until I married and had my own kitchen to cook in. One of the ways I show people I care for them is through cooking – soups, cakes … feasts!
Too hard! I love Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. Maybe a chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives.
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cat videos! Patting my cat. Walking on the beach. So many things …
Your hero? I can’t single out one person. I find many people to be inspirational or admirable for different reasons, but I wouldn’t say I have a hero.
Questions about Writing.
Your love of photography- has it impacted your writing in any way? Do you see scenes more visually because of it, or has it had another kind of impact? Photography is a hobby I truly enjoy. I’ve been told I have “the eye” but I’m no expert. The technical side of photography boggles my brain and I’m not sure I’ll ever get it.
I like to carry a camera with me because I often see things I want to capture, whether for later reference or because they speak to me in some way. Does it impact my writing? Yes, in a way. I used a vision board when I was first drafting Wherever You Go. It was full of pictures I’d taken around and about in Bridgetown, Western Australia (which was the inspiration for the setting). I can’t quite visualise in my mind (as in, if I’m meditating, I can never see the waterfall or the gently flowing stream) but I do learn visually.
Were you always going to write about food? That came to me later – I knew I wanted to write a novel and loved reading “foodie” fiction, but I didn’t set out to write about food initially. Now it just seems natural!
Why do you think that stories of failure and redemption resonate so powerfully? It’s such a universal experience, isn’t it. I think it’s that universality that resonates – we all know what it’s like to fail, to mess up, to lose. Likewise, most understand that redemption is a powerful need and a life-changing gift, whether it comes from ourselves or another.
What time of the day do you usually write? Mornings when I can fit it in, otherwise afternoons on a weekend. I usually get in the zone.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Drafting! I am so slow in this stage. I am not a person who drafts fast at all. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I make faces when I write, talk to myself, and sometimes “act” out certain actions and dialogues. That’s three quirks …
Do you have a favourite character that you have written? I really loved the character of Irene in Wherever You Go. She’s 69-going-on-70, a nurturing woman who has always put others first, a jam-maker, and a protector. She longs to travel, but has to put her dreams on hold. She reminds me of my grandmother a bit.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?
That’s such an interesting question, Sonia. I think it would be hard to write if you felt nothing at all. How would you empathise with your characters? Above all, readers want to have an experience, and a writer’s job is to trigger their emotions and feelings to generate that experience using a combination of techniques. The writer doesn’t need to have experienced those exact emotions themselves, and, if they haven’t, could ask, ‘What is the character feeling? What else is the character experiencing?’ or research others’ lived experiences to engage with that scene as genuinely as possible.
But surely you must at least be able to imagine those feelings. That’s my thought, anyway.
Best writing advice? Trust the process is advice that works for me. What doesn’t work is ‘write every day’ – I need to balance work, family and writing in a way that prevents the feeling of overwhelm. I do want to write ‘morning pages’ every day, but I’m struggling to make it happen on work days. I would have to schedule my time so tightly – or get up even earlier than I already do – and my sleeping time is already being challenged by the fact of getting older! So I choose the way that works for me.
Best money you have spent as a writer? A manuscript assessment by Laurie Steed.
How can I ignore all-around inspiration and muse Boogle?
Sonia, you know we can’t ignore cats – they ignore us! They make it very hard to be ignored when they want attention, and Boogle is no exception. Right now, I’ve taken a break from writing to answer these questions, and she is sitting on the floor next to me, loudly licking her butt. There’s a visual for you. That’s annoying, but I quite like it (love it, really) when she sits on my lap while I’m writing … and when she joins in my cooking videos (you can see them on Instagram).
Do you have a favourite author and why? Daphne du Maurier – I love her gothic-style stories about the darker side of human nature. They’re mysterious and uneasy, and clever and unexpected.
What are you reading now? I’m reading The Godmothers by Monica McInerny. Next, I’ll be reading The Breaking by Irma Gold.
Favourite quote (does not matter the source): “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” – Brene Brown
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.
Thanks, Monique, its been wonderful to learn about your writing style and your process. All photographs unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Monique Mulligan.
It’s a pleasure to welcome author Sandi Parsons to tell us about her contribution to the new anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay.
Sandi is hard to categorise as a writer having written both fiction and non- fiction. The titles are ;
The Last Walk and Other Stories Pepsi the Problem Puppy The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses
Along with pieces in the following anthologies:
Growing Up Disabled in Australia Just Alice Writing the Dream
Apart from her writing Sandi describes herself as , ‘a book nerd, librarian, cystic fibrosis survivor, and lung transplant recipient.’ She also a mum and a devoted dog owner.
Thank you for joining us- tell us about the new book which was released recently. The book features contributions from forty people and I have since learned that one in five Australians have some from of disability.
Growing Up Disabled in Australia was released on February 2nd.
My story Don’t Have a Bird, is a love letter to my best friend Julie — with the first half detailing our physical growing up. After Julie died, the second half shows my emotional growth as I followed her footsteps in the transplant journey.
Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings – although I’m trying to write more later in the day.
When is walkies? First thing or Rotto cries. He’s a bit of sook.
What’s for breakfast? That is a very complicated question! I’m one of those people who can eat anything at any time of day. So, breakfast ranges from Saladas with Vegemite, re-heated leftovers, bread roll or muffin to traditional things like bacon and eggs or tomato sauce on toast … and occasionally salted peanuts and can of coke.
Night out or Netflix? I’m a girl who likes to rock n’ roll all night and party every day so long as I’m home, on my couch, and in my pj’s by 9 pm.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A librarian who also writes books 😊 Ambition realized then!
Your hero? The hero of my story is a woman I will never meet – but her donated lungs have allowed me to have another chance at life.
As you don’t show signs of disability, are people surprised when you identify as disabled?
In my case, media and medical professionals will refer to me as a ‘Cystic Fibrosis sufferer.’ An implication that my life is not worth living, full of suffering, and I am an object of pity. It’s a term that falls smack in the middle of the social model of disability — which means that society disables more than the body does. I prefer the term ‘Cystic Fibrosis warrior’ — I’m at war, not only with my own body but also with a society where I am continually forced to break low expectations of my abilities. Others prefer the term ‘living with Cystic Fibrosis’.
It’s essential to check with someone to see which terms they prefer.
How did you get started as an author?
My start was unique — in that, I had my first publishing contract before I’d written a word. I pitched an idea to Cystic Fibrosis Western Australia that there was a market gap, and we were the ones to fix it. The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses evolved from that meeting as a teaching tool to spark a discussion about Cystic Fibrosis.
Many would say you are extremely versatile; do you find it easy to switch from fiction to nonfiction?
Although I like to identify as a children’s writer, my nonfiction and memoir writing has had more published outings. Switching between the two was never my original intent — I received advice that sharing part of my story and journey with CF would help raise my profile and make my own voices middle-grade novel more attractive to a publisher.
Although my middle-grade novel is still looking for a publisher, that advice saw my writing diversify to become a hybrid of memoir, children’s fiction, nonfiction, and short stories. I think navigating between them has helped me become a better writer, but it’s also hard to classify what I do or identify a marketing niche.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
I’ve always found first drafts to be especially tricky. Lately, I’ve been working on a dot point dirty draft process, which is essentially a list of all things I want to happen and which order, and it seems to help make that process a little easier for me.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?
My Year 11 English teacher went on a rant about how I had spelled the same word wrong eight different times. She thought if I was going to get it wrong, I should be consistent about it.
I thought I had perseverance — I knew it wasn’t right and kept having a go. She marked me down to a D because of the spelling errors.
But spelling and grammar can be edited and fixed. However, there is very little you can do with a story that lacks imagination or emotion. To me, the heart of a story will always be more important.
Best money you have spent as a writer?
Scrivener along with my yearly subscription to Grammarly.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
My favourite authors can change depending on what I’ve read lately. Right now, Jay Kristoff is topping my list — if for nothing else than the brilliant footnotes in the Nevernight series.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
I think everything you read influences you to a certain degree — but one book had more of an impact than others — Robyn’s Book by Robyn Miller was the first book I read written by another person with Cystic Fibrosis. Until then, writing had been something I wanted to do — but the narrative society was telling me I didn’t have a future, so why bother trying? But if Robyn could write a book, then so could I.
Favourite quote (does not matter the source)
I’ve got two — one describes my writing style while the other describes precisely what happens when I have word salad.
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
― Shannon Hale
“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”