tbyl events

Meeting Steve Worland

Last night, we held another wonderful online conversation at TBYL, this time having a chat with the author of the explosive novel Combustion (Penguin) Steve Worland…

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Steve…

Steve WorlandTBYL: My first question for Steve tonight is this… you’ve created a really interesting cast of characters in your novels. Do you have a personal favourite?

Steve: I love them all of course, but Corey and his cattle dog Spike would be my favourites. They’re funny and uniquely Australian, though I do love Severson, the out-for-himself-at-all-costs NASA executive, and Lola, the tough as nails Hollywood agent. I think they add interesting variations to the mix of characters. And that’s what you’re always looking for, an appealing mix that will give you conflict (even when the characters really like each other), lots of humour, insight into the human condition and that little something that feels genuinely unique and unexpected. Basically, I want the readers to love spending time with the characters, but to understand that they’re both heroic and flawed, often at the same time.

TBYL: Do you think there would be one particular character that readers would like most?

Steve: I think Corey and Spike give my stories an element that is humorous, heartfelt and genuinely Australian so they tend to be crowd favourites, certainly in Oz!

TBYL: I would think Corey would be very popular, wonderfully recognisable! I really liked Rhonda too!

Steve: Yeah, she’s great value. I kind of based her on my wife.

TBYL: Oh wow, that’s great! Can your wife fly a plane?

Steve: No, she’s an actress so she can pretend to do it!

TBYL: Perfect! Are the other characters based on real people too?

Steve: Well, the astronauts are all based on elements of real people. There’s a bit of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, in Judd, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, in Rhonda. Lola, the Hollywood agent, is a little bit like my agent. So, you use parts of people you know and read about, then make up the rest!

TBYL: Steve, there’s an element of the bizarre in Combustion, adding to the fun. I’m talking especially in regards to Corey and his dog Spike. Why did you decide to add these elements to the story, rather than take a straight action/adventure path? 

Steve: I wanted to create a point of difference that was both humorous, heartfelt and genuinely Australian, and I think Corey and Spike give my stories that element. Interestingly, the idea for the duo comes from a very real place. I have many friends and family in country NSW and when you see the almost telepathic communication between the guys who work the land and their cattle dogs, it’s not a huge fictional jump to reach the relationship Corey and Spike have. Then to take that relationship and throw them into a big action-adventure story is a lot of fun.

TBYL: Did you spend time in rural Australia and LA to get a sense for how this duo would translate from one to the other?

Steve: Well I’ve spent a bit of time in country NSW because of family, but never more than about a week at a time. I lived in LA for a year at the start of my screenwriting career, which was an interesting experience.

TBYL: I would imagine so! How did you find LA, especially as a resident?

Steve: It was all work really. Not a lot of time for fun. Just working at Lightstorm (James Cameron’s company) or writing. It’s a real company town that way and it can consume you.

TBYL: A bit like a really long business trip?

Steve: Yes, the film business doesn’t sleep so you do need to be on the ball.

TBYL: I always find it interesting when someone moves from one type of writing to another, and so I was wondering… what made you decide to make the shift from script and screen to novel? How have you found the transition?

Steve: Making the shift was pretty easy. I had been working as a screenwriter for almost twenty years and felt that I needed to write something for myself rather than for a director, producer or studio. Screenwriting is really about creating a blueprint for someone else’s work of art, which is fine for a while, but I just reached that point where I needed a little more autonomy. Having said that, a movie I co-wrote (with the Director) is in production at the moment in WA so that is exciting.

TBYL: Ooh, can you say any more?

Steve: Sure, it’s a kid’s adventure movie that Sam Worthington is starring in called ‘Paper Planes’. It’ll be released in 3D in January ’15.

TBYL: I’ll have to take a look at ‘Paper Planes’, sounds interesting.

Steve: It’s a little way away but the idea is to make an Australian kid’s movie.

CombustionTBYL: Hypothetically speaking, if your book were to be made into a film, who would you have play Judd, Corey, Rhonda and Lola?

Steve: Well there are so many choices! In a perfect world: Chris Pine or Bradley Cooper as Judd, Hugh Jackman or Sam Worthington as Corey, Jennifer Lawrence or Rachel McAdams as Rhonda, Greg Kinnear or Jeff Goldblum as Severson and Eva Mendes or Mila Kunis as Lola.

TBYL: Oh wow, the book has just taken on a whole new dimension! I’m so glad I asked that question! Would you like to see it on screen?

Steve: Absolutely! I just have to convince someone to spend the money!

TBYL: Not too harder sell I wouldn’t think Steve, especially with that many explosions! Next question – Steve, do you love watches?

Steve: I do indeed! I’m old school, I’d prefer to look at my wrist than my phone to tell the time! I think watches are pretty much the only jewellery men can get away with so I find it interesting what guys wear. That’s why I often mention the watches people are wearing in my books. It’s a personal choice that says a lot.

TBYL: I wish I knew more about what makes for a good watch, it’d probably help me shop for my husband for Christmas!

Steve: Just ask me. I can send you in the right direction.

TBYL: I might just do that! Okay, I’ve one last question for Steve tonight… Can you tell us anything about the third instalment in the series?

Steve: Well the Judd and Corey will finally make it in to space but not in a way you would imagine. It will tie up a number of story strands set up in the first two books and will be, hopefully, a rollicking, humourous adventure along the way. It’s due Father’s Day 2015. Next year I have different action adventure novel coming out that is set in the world of Formula One. It’s has a new cast of characters and some huge action sequences so I’m really looking forward to getting out into the world. I’m in the middle of writing it now!

TBYL: That sounds really interesting – lots of fast and furious car facts? Are you enjoying taking a break from the series?

Steve: Yes, lots of big car action, and a lot more beside. I think it’s good to give the Judd & Corey series a short rest. I want it to be fresh and hopefully, by the time Book 3 comes out, more readers will have found it!

TBYL: I’m sure they will have!

***

If you’d like to find out more about Steve’s books, visit the Penguin site here. You might also enjoy his personal website which is here…

 

Meeting Claire Scobie

Last night, we held another fantastic online event where we got together on FB to enjoy a conversation with the very talented Claire Scobie, author of the transporting The Pagoda Tree (Penguin).

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Claire…

TBYL: Okay, my first question for Claire is this… I was wondering, why did you choose this story to tell as your first novel?

claire_scobie_headshot_mid-res_mediumClaire: After writing Last Seen in Lhasa I had that classic second book syndrome. My travel memoir grew out of my 7 journeys to Tibet and my friendship with this wandering Tibetan nun. It was unrepeatable. So what to write next? I’ve always been fascinated by India where I’ve lived and worked as a journalist. Then I read a story in the Sydney Morning Herald about the ‘last courtesan’ of India. I was intrigued. I didn’t know there were such women in India and I wanted to know more. While temple dancers or devadasis have been compared to the geishas of Japan it is their connection to the temples that make them unique and I was fascinated by their role in society. They seemed to operate between the worlds of sacredness, culture and sensuality. Initially I planned to write a non-fiction book about these women but with so few sources available – and a secret desire to write a novel, haven’t we all had that?! – I decided to take the leap to fiction.

TBYL: That combination of sacredness, culture and sensuality was really beautifully done in your book, I thought. Tell me, what do you think you would have done differently if it had been non-fiction book?

Claire: That’s an interesting question. I think I would have had that combination of the above in a non-fiction book but it would have lacked the sense of who these women really were. It would have been much more a history of the figure of the devadasi rather than an attempt to capture their inner lives.

TBYL: Do you think then that the character of Maya was vital to capturing that sense of who they were?

Claire: YesI think so. Funnily enough, Maya wasn’t the first character who ‘came to me’. It was Walter: the troubled English Reverend. It wasn’t until I’d gone back to Thanjavur (Tanjore) and retraced Maya’s footsteps that I began to get a sense of her. I also decided I needed to go back to the beginning of her life as a way to understand her development into adulthood. So yes Maya was vital.

TBYL: That’s interesting, I actually kept getting distracted away from Walter, I found the women so fascinating. Can you tell us a little of where the character of Walter came from?

Claire: I love that you found the women’s stories and complexities so interesting. But about Walter, I have a soft spot for him. He really came from this idea of someone who went to India a very closed, traumatised man (although he wouldn’t have seen it like that) and during his time there, the country seeped into his soul. I read about many Europeans like him who were transformed by India – despite their prejudices. So he was drawn from those individuals.

TBYL: I think India is still transforming for many Europeans (and others) seeking change. Would you agree?

Claire: Yes definitely. It seems to have a lasting impact on people.

TBYL: Following on from our first question, how did you go about learning so much about the temple dancers?

Claire: I made four research trips to India, starting with a visit to Thanjavur (Tanjore). On the exterior walls of the eleventh-century ‘Big temple’, the names and addresses of 400 devadasis are inscribed. As a writer I loved the fact that the presence of these women is still evident today. They were real people. Real women. I spent time seeking out where they would have lived. I went to the palace and interviewed the current Prince. As we were drinking tea he told me that we were sitting in the harem where my character Palani would have languished. I also spent weeks at the India Office Records in the British Library in London and at some Indian libraries. I took a dual approach – both doing the archival research and then ‘history with my feet’. That’s how my characters really came alive for me. I am a tactile person so I needed to go to where they went as a way to re-imagine their lives.

TBYL: I thought that your research must have been ‘with your feet’ as you put it – it was so detailed. Do you think you would have been able to put this story together without the visits?

Claire: I don’t think so. I know some writers don’t go to the places they write about but as a trained journalist, I’d find that hard. Nearly all of the homes in the book – for example where Maya lives with her patron Mudaliar and the grand garden house where Thomas and Maya live are based on real eighteenth-century houses that I visited. Once I had a visual of their homes, the characters also became more real for me.

pagodaTBYL: I’d love to see those!! Can you tell us, did you find Maya, Lakshmi or Palani’s names in the temple?

Claire: Yes, particular the garden house is very special. It’s actually a school now and I wasn’t really supposed to go there. I went anyhow and then got chased out by an irate fist-waving security guard! The things you have to do to research a book… I didn’t find either of Lakshmi or Maya’s names in the temple but the name Palani actually comes from ‘Muddupalani’ who was a real 18th-century courtesan who lived in the palace at Tanjore. That’s who this character is based on.

TBYL: I read in another review of your book, about the tradition of ‘shaking the pagoda tree’ – could you tell us a little more about what that means?

Claire: The title of The Pagoda Tree is inspired by a phrase popular among the English in the eighteenth-century. The word pagoda had a double meaning. It was both a temple and a gold coin. When Englishmen went to India they went to make their fortune. Literally to shake the pagoda tree or the tree of money. In my novel I explore the theme of currency. The book is set at the start of global capitalism and the free market. It was a time when everything was up for grabs, everything could be bought and sold – including the local women.

TBYL: I found that theme really interesting, particularly the difference between the notion of wealth to foreigners vs locals. I got the feeling that the ‘natives’ were very much looked down upon by the English, despite having their own quite impressive wealth (or access to others with wealth) Was this deliberate?

Claire: Yes it was deliberate. What’s fascinating about that period is the meeting point between cultures and that was central to the book. I really wanted to look at the slant of history – history from the Indian perspective (as much as I could). And part of that was this contrasting view of success and wealth. Maya’s Indian lover was incredibly wealthy and well-connected but from the English perspective, they couldn’t often get past the colour of his skin. So it was about inverting traditional ideas of ‘us and them’.

TBYL: Your book is proving very popular with book clubs. I was wondering, if there was just one question you’d like a book club to ask after reading ‘The Pagoda Tree’ what would it be?

Claire: That’s great to hear, Mandi! Since I wrote it, quite a few readers have asked me if there will be a sequel – or if I wrote it with that in mind. I have to say I didn’t. Only at the very end did I see that as a possibility. So my question to book clubs would be … What do you think might be the next chapter in her story? All suggestions welcome!

TBYL: Oh, that’s an incredible question! It really ends at the start of a whole new story doesn’t it?!

Claire: Yes it does. I thought that would be a really fun question to ask people. I know that some authors write like this – can’t remember the name for it – where they get their fans and readers to suggest the next plot event.

TBYL: Mmm, do you mean fan-fiction maybe? Not sure…

Claire: Yes that’s it. I wouldn’t want to do that, but I know when I finish a book, the characters often live on in my head and I imagine scenarios for them – so I would be interested to hear what scenarios readers might imagine for Maya.

TBYL: So do you think you might write about Maya again?

Claire: I’m not sure at this stage. She is still ‘with me’ as a character but I want to have break for a while. I get a sense though that there are things still to be said… and written… which involve her. Does that sound weird or what?!

TBYL: No, I think that makes a lot of sense, she was such a beautifully developed character.

Claire: Thank you!

TBYL: Claire, can you tell us, what do you like to read?

Claire: I tend to go through phases of different authors. For a while I was mad on magical realism, then on Chinese authors, then on historical fiction. I read a fair amount of Indian authors while researching The Pagoda Tree. I also read lots of travel memoir as I’m interested in the moments when cultures meet – I think it has as much relevance for the eighteenth-century as it does for us today. It is all about how we project ourselves into the world and how we look at others – and how we are reflected back. That’s another theme in my novel.

TBYL: Do you have a favourite?

Claire: Favourites are hard. A few that come to mind – Half of Man is Woman, The Kingdom of this World, 100 Years of Solitude, Tracks.

TBYL: So my last question for tonight is this (as usual)… Claire, do you have any other projects on the go at the moment? What can we look forward to seeing next?

Claire: Yes I do. I’m working on another travel memoir and have already started planning out my next novel. It’s historical fiction again and I’m excited about it! Not so much India this time… I am normally quite shy about what I am writing until I am well into the project.

TBYL: Fair enough, I think most writers are that way. Anyway, it’d ruin the surprise if you gave too much away.

Claire: Exactly. There’s a lot of ‘brewing’ and ‘cooking’ that goes on in the process.

… and with that we hit 8:30pm and I thought we’d better wrap it up, although I’m sure we could have chatted all night. I’m hoping she might visit again and share some of her travel stories with us!

If you’d like to read my review of Claire’s book, you’ll find it here. I’d also strongly recommend that you follow Claire on Twitter – she’s got lots of lovely things to say.

Thanks to everyone who tuned in last night, and to all, stay tuned for further information about TBYL’s next event!

 

 

 

 

Colour and Dance: The Pagoda Tree

This month’s TBYL Book Club book has been the stunningly crafted The Pagoda Tree by Claire Scobie (Penguin). I’m very much looking forward to chatting with Claire this evening (join in here) but in the meantime I thought I’d share with you my review of this beautiful novel…

pagodaThere are a many adjectives that I could use to describe Claire’s novel – it is rich, complex, exotic and erotic, bloody and beautiful. Each individual word can be used to describe a particular scene in The Pagoda Tree, but it is only when these elements combine that you experience the true intensity of this story. Its rich colours and aromas leap from the page, the horrors visited upon the characters that you grow to love tear you apart, and of course, the complexity of relationships, traditions and cultures draw you completely into Maya’s story…

Maya dances like no other. She becomes the dance . . . Her dance can steal a man’s soul.

Tanjore, 1765. Maya plays among the towering granite temples of this ancient city in the heart of southern India. Like her mother before her, she is destined to become adevadasi, a dancer for the temple. She is instructed in dance, the mystical arts and lovemaking. It is expected she will be chosen as a courtesan for the prince himself.
 
But as Maya comes of age, India is on the cusp of change and British dominance has risen to new heights. The prince is losing his power and the city is sliding into war. Maya is forced to flee her ancestral home, and heads to the bustling port city of Madras, where East and West collide. 
 
Maya captivates all who watch her dance. Thomas Pearce, an ambitious young Englishman who has travelled to India to make his fortune, is entranced from the moment he first sees her. But their love is forbidden, and comes at enormous cost.

Maya as protagonist is a beauty, destined from birth for great things. But, as is foretold, her path is unclear and all throughout this novel neither she nor the reader is entirely sure where the future will lead her. She is lead, with little say in her own life, to what would seem a chosen position in favour with the Prince. She is honoured but unsure, and is left shaken when the path that had been laid out for her is destroyed by politics and conflicts well outside of her control.

The women in Maya’s life are complex, her mother Lakshmi loves her but is committed unerringly to her role in the temple, and in turn to the role which Maya must play – she bears the signs of the goddess . She is caring but harsh. Interestingly, this harshness makes Maya love her no less, as if she is aware in some way of the protection that her mother is to her…

She began to wash her daughter. She ground dried turmeric root and mixed it into a paste with gram flour, sandalwood, milk and honey. She smeared the mixture over Maya’s back and neck, rubbing it hard under the ears and down across her narrow frame, her roughed hands scratching her most tender parts. By the end Maya glowed deep yellow.

Palani, mentor to Maya and once courtesan to the King is enlivened by Maya’s presence, draws great satisfaction from her ability to teach her apprentice the art of dance (and service) and shares a deep connection with the young girl. That does not stop her from lashing out with great vitriol at times, as Maya represents in no uncertain terms the fact that Palani must relinquish her position to this younger, more virile royal companion. Still, as Palani struggles to accept her own progression from court to cave, she seems to take comfort in the transference of her skills and duties to Maya.

For me, these complicated female relationships are by far the most compelling element of this story.

Further to this though, The Pagoda Tree bears undeniable evidence of meticulous research. No detail has been left unconsidered, from the colour, the sound, the smell of the landscape and homes, courts and people. The emotions, conversations and reactions of the characters appear incredibly authentic, as does the history woven throughout this tale. It was honestly transporting, ensuring that I closed the book wanting to find out more about this time and place.

I hope you’ll read this novel, it is an incredible experience. Likewise, I hope you’ll join us on Facebook this evening (Monday, 28 Oct 7:30pm EST) for a chat with the author, Claire Scobie.

If you’d like to find out more about Claire Scobie’s The Pagoda Tree, visit the Penguin website here…

October TBYL Book Club and a Chat with Claire

Oh my god, it’s ten days into October!! How did that happen?

Were you wondering what book we’re reading for this month’s TBYL Book Club? Well if you were, it’s a beautiful book that I’m sure you’ll love! This month we’re going to be reading Claire Scobie’s The Pagoda Tree (Penguin)…

pagodaMaya dances like no other. She becomes the dance . . . Her dance can steal a man’s soul.

Tanjore, 1765. Maya plays among the towering granite temples of this ancient city in the heart of southern India. Like her mother before her, she is destined to become adevadasi, a dancer for the temple. She is instructed in dance, the mystical arts and lovemaking. It is expected she will be chosen as a courtesan for the prince himself.
 
But as Maya comes of age, India is on the cusp of change and British dominance has risen to new heights. The prince is losing his power and the city is sliding into war. Maya is forced to flee her ancestral home, and heads to the bustling port city of Madras, where East and West collide. 
 
Maya captivates all who watch her dance. Thomas Pearce, an ambitious young Englishman who has travelled to India to make his fortune, is entranced from the moment he first sees her. But their love is forbidden, and comes at enormous cost.

Weaving together the uneasy meeting of two cultures, The Pagoda Tree is a captivating story of love, loss and fate.

If you’d like to join in, the discussion will be happening on our Facebook page, starting Monday 28 October through to 30 October. Plus I’m really excited about the fact that we’ll be chatting with Claire too!

Our next TBYL Event is a live Facebook chat with Claire herself. I can’t wait, it’s happening on Monday 28 October, 7:30pm (EST) and you can RSVP here…

I hope you’ll join us!

Pick up a copy of Claire’s book here, and click here to get a reminder when we start chatting about this wonderful novel.

Meeting Christie Thompson

Last night, we held another great online event, this time chatting with Christie Thompson, author of the striking coming-of-age novel Snake Bite (Allen and Unwin). Christie joined us on Facebook, where we were able to find out more about what compelled her to write this gritty novel and how Canberra locals have reacted to her portrayal of their suburban landscapes.

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Christie…

TBYL: To start off the questions tonight, a broad one… Christie, can you please give us a little insight into what compelled you to write Snake Bite?

0_Thompson_ChristieChristie: I was thinking big. I wanted to write a coming-of-age story that would define a generation of teenagers. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded in doing that, but the novel is definitely very contemporary and it captures a pretty specific moment in time. It is also quite pertinent to what teenage girls are going through now. I was reading a lot of pop-feminism, like Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs and Emily Maguire’s Princesses and Pornstars.

TBYL: Did you speak with teenagers themselves?

Christie: I was also influenced by the way television portrays sexuality in young women. Shows like Jersey Shore and Ladette to Lady influenced the voyeuristic tone of Snake Bite, so that was my ‘research’ more than talking to teens. But I live in a group house with people around my characters’ ages. So that helped in capturing the tone.

TBYL: The ‘moment of time’ component was very interesting I thought – very contemporary, but as a reader I could also identify with some of the the Mum’s time-markers (music, tv etc). Was that deliberate?

Christie: Yes, it was deliberate. The 1990s, when Jez’s Mum was a teenager suddenly seems like a lifetime ago, even though Helen is only 33 (in 2009). It makes older readers realise the significance of time passing, and that there are currently a new generation going through the same things we went through in prevous decades.

TBYL: I found that absolutely fascinating Christie, although it made me feel a little old!

Christie: It makes me feel old too, Mandi. I am closer in age to Helen than Jez, which helped in making the references to the 1990s authentic!

TBYL Reader, Andy: Christie, I’ve read a few conflicting reviews about your book. I haven’t read it yet myself. What I would like to know is what was your initial target age group for this book and did it change once you finished writing it?

Christie: I’m not sure what conflicting views you are referring to, but am very interested to find out! Snake Bite was written as adult literature, not YA. That was my intention, and hasn’t changed. You will find it in the adult section, not in young adult.

TBYL Reader, Andy: One review said it should be in schools as essential reading and another stated for early 20’s and older.

Christie: It contains quite a lot of swearing, drug/alcohol use and some pretty tame sex. I’m not sure if that will wash on the school’s curriculum, but I have given several author talks to school age kids (Years 7-12). It’s really not as shocking as Puberty Blues, though…They were 13 year old having sex in the back of panel vans!

TBYL: Christie, how much of the book is based on your own experiences of Canberra, and did you get much ‘push-back’ from the locals?

Christie: I have lived in Canberra all my life, but to be honest the book was less an examination of Canberra as ‘place’, than suburbia as place. In that sense, it really could have been set in any remote outer-suburban enclave. The locals have been GREAT so far! They are very interested to see their neighbourhoods in fiction and have been so supportive. Overwhelmingly the response has been that it is a bit of a negative representation of Canberra, but also very accurate!

TBYL: I thought that might be the case – have you had any feedback from readers regarding whether they identify with the place (and the players), even those not in Canberra?

snake biteChristie: I’ve had mostly good feedback, which is a bit annoying. As a writer, I really wanted to get a dialogue going, and be controversial. It seems people are just loving it. Give me more backlash, I reckon.

TBYL: Ha! I’m surprised that you’ve not got a little bit, it’s a pretty harsh picture that you paint.

Christie: Sure, it has been observed that it is ‘gritty’ etc. Maybe people are being polite? I wish they’d tell me what they REALLY think and I’d love to hear that it got a discussion going. For example the scene where Jez assaults the guy at the party…is she warranted in those actions? Is Casey really a ‘slut’? Does Lukey deserve Jez’s forgiveness? Does Casey?

TBYL: I loved the fact that Jez belted the guy! I’d love to know what other people thought. The ‘slut’ issue is so much more complex… I’d hate to be ‘slut-shaming’ but it’s pretty realistic that peers would label each other like that.

Christie: Exactly. I think it is a complex issue. I hate the term ‘slut’, but it is a term certainly relevant and ubiquitously applied by teenage girls.

TBYL: It’s really complex when Casey starts accusing Jez of being a slut. My immediate reaction was… ‘pot calling kettle black’ but then I felt ashamed of myself…

Christie: Or are they both warranted in exploring their sexuality in their own manner? It’s not clear cut… I tried hard not to be didactic, just to show my characters ‘finding’ themselves, so to speak…

TBYL: True. I think you balanced it very well.

TBYL: How do you feel about the ‘coming of age’ tag that is used to describe your novel?

Christie: That’s fine, really. The coming-of-age novel is a longstanding tradition in literature, although it is overwhelmingly from the male perspective. I believe there was a term called ‘bildungsroman’ (hope that’s right?) in German applied centuries ago to the male coming-of-age novel. The female perspectives are too few and far between, in my opinion. That is probably why my book has been so compared to Puberty Blues.

TBYL: I think you’re right, hard to think of others… I’m sure they must be out there though? Surely?

Christie: Looking for Alibrandi (very tame, though, and YA)… My Brilliant Career

TBYL: Did you consciously work to have Snake Bite help fill that literary gap?

Christie: No, not really, although I think it possibly does fill a gap! I’d always enjoyed the coming-of-age novel. It’s such an interesting time in one’s life, full of self-discovery and a really unique way of seeing one’s world, at that time!

TBYL: Did you want us to like Jez? I know that I did…

Christie: I hope people like her! She is a bit petulant at times, but also very dry, funny and vulnerable (despite her tough exterior).

TBYL: I’d challenge anyone to find any teenager who isn’t petulant at times!

Christie: Definitely. And who wants to read about characters who are perfectly sweet and nice and never have any conflicts! Not me!  I hope people can relate with her. I had a great time writing in her voice. She (and the other characters) became so real to me, it is almost like they are friends of mine. Does that make me a little mad? Maybe. When I finished the manuscript it was bittersweet. Great to have finished but also I knew I wouldn’t get to spend time hanging out with Jez, Lukey, Casey, Helen and the rest anymore…

TBYL: I’d be interested to know, who influences you as a writer? Do you have a favourite author/book?

Christie: I love Australian lit, gritty realism stuff. Texts that tackle meaty societal issues and have good subtext that gets you thinking. Some of my favourites are Kate Grenville (Lilian’s Story, Dark Places) and I like Christos Tsiolkas, Michel Houllebecq, Tim Winton… So many authors… Of course the coming of age novel. And I love many classics too. Hemingway, Austen, Toni Morrison, Ian McEwen. My bookshelves are overflowing.

Today I bought a Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Harris and another Kate Grenville. I did a double major in English lit at uni and am *nearly* finished a PhD. Reading widely is enjoyable.

TBYL: What was the last thing that you read?

Christie: I am reading through Thomas Harris’s books. Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and next I’m be reading Hannibal. I tend to get stuck on an author and read heaps of their stuff. Recently was impressed by Joyce Carol Oates and Cormac McCarthy, so I will be seeking more of both of them!

TBYL: I’ll ask one last question. I always have to ask, what’s next for Christie Thompson?

Christie: I have so many things I want to do, and writing another novel is high on that list. I’ve got some ideas and just need to find the time/space/money to get another project off the ground.

It was fantastic to chat to Christie, and I can’t wait to see what she puts together for her next novel!

If you’d like to read the TBYL review of Snake Bite, you’ll find it here. If you’d like to pick up a copy of the book, visit A&U here…

And of course, stay tuned for our next online TBYL Event, coming up at the end of October!

 

 

Meeting Kate Forsyth

On Monday night, we held our second online TBYL Event at which we meet the lovely Kate Forsyth. Kate joined us on Facebook, where we were able to enjoy her insightful answers to our fast-firing questions.

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Kate, about her, about her writing, and about her latest novel The Wild Girl

TBYL: Welcome everyone! I wanted to start with something that’s perhaps a little obvious, but interesting… what drew you to fairy tales in such a way Kate?

kate forsythKate: I’ve been fascinated by fairy tales ever since I was a little girl in hospital and my mother brought me a copy of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’. I was a very sick little munchkin and there was not much escape for me except through the pages of books. I particularly loved tales of adventure and magic and transformation – stories that took me away from my hospital bed and let me do all the things I could not do – run and fly and gallop on horseback and travel to strange and wonderful lands and have strange and wonderful adventures. I particularly loved the fairy tales, I think, because they are stories of triumph, transformation and true love, and so speak to our secret longings and desires. I wanted to be free, I wanted to be well, I wanted to be safe home and in the arms of those who loved me, and that’s what fairy tales promise us.

TBYL: That’s so true Kate, I can completely relate. My love of books started when I was laid up as a kid with pretty nasty asthma. Did you have a particular favourite, either then or now?

Kate: I have quite a few. ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Six Swans’, ‘Beauty & the Beast’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’, ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, plus many lesser known ones. I love Romany tales, and wove quite a few into my children’s historical adventure THE GYPSY CROWN. I love Scottish fairy tales as well, and drew upon Scottish folklore in my children’s time travel adventure THE PUZZLE RING. Many of my other books draw upon fairy tale and folklore as well – its what I love to do.

TBYL: I’ve seen quite a few films lately that try and do the same thing. Do you enjoy that type of adaption too, or do you prefer it on the page?

Kate: I always prefer it on the page! I so love films too, but a novel is my favourite thing in the world.

TBYL: Kate, could you please tell us a little bit about your research process? It’s clearly very thorough…

Kate: I love to research. I do it with total commitment, even obsessiveness. I want to know EVERYTHING! I’ll read anything and everything I can find on the subject, and search out lost letters and diaries and books, hoping for that elusive lost secret, that hidden fact that will make my novel come to life. It often takes me a very long time, but I’m happy and content as long as I know it will help the novel. To write The Wild Girl, I read up on the lives and works of the Grimm brothers, I studied the Napoleonic Code, I found out how laudanum was made (I could make you some right now if I had a lump of raw opium and some brandy), I found out how 19th century women made soap out of their own urine and ashes from the kitchen fire, and I cooked bread soup from my family, using an old German recipe (its surprisingly tasty).

TBYL: Would you tell us how to make bread soup? I was wondering the whole way through the book!

Kate: I’ll post the recipe on my blog for you – its very simple!

TBYL: Did you have to travel at all for your research or was it mostly done from home?

Kate: Oh no, I always travel. I feel it’s so important! I went to Cassel (now spelt with a K) and to the Grimm museum and the palace – amazing! I like to breathe the air, touch the earth, feel the cold, imagine myself into the place…

TBYL Reader (Jason): Did you have any additional scenes/chapters that were cut for the final edit… say subplots or something that did not make it in the end?

Kate: Oh yes… I thought Jakob might have been gay and I had a few scenes that intimated so… but the novel got too long and I thought I should focus on Wilhelm and Dortchen. I also cut out about 25,000 more words about Dortchen’s childhood.

TBYL Reader (Jason): Do you find making these cuts difficult or is it simply a case of stick to the main story and they either add or distract from the overall clarity of the storytelling?

the wild girlKate: It always hurts but then I know the book is better for the cuts, and sometimes you need to write and write and write to find your story – but end the all that writing is now not necessary.

TBYL: I was fascinated by Dortchen and found myself feeling so sorry for her, whilst at the same time being impressed by her competence and bravery. Did you mean for her to be a heroine in the way that she is?

Kate: Of course! I felt a very strong connection to Dortchen from the moment I read about her. Her birthday is only a week before mine – we’re both Geminis. I thought all the time what it would be like – to be a young woman and not permitted to work, to travel, to love as you please – to live under your father’s domination all the time.

Her life was full of everything I love in a story – romance, tragedy, passion, struggle, and, finally, triumph. Plus, of course, the fairy tales. I never knew that so many of my favourite fairy tales had been told to the Grimm brothers by this one young woman. I was fascinated by her and her tales, and I wanted to rescue her from oblivion. I think we’d have been kindred spirits if we’d grown up next door to each other.

TBYL: How did you first hear of Dortchen?

Kate: I first read about Wilhelm and Dortchen’s romance in Clever Maids: A Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales by Dr Valerie Paradiz, which examines the oral sources of the famous tales. Dortchen’s considerable contribution was analysed, along with many others, and then – in the final chapter – it was mentioned that eventually Wilhelm and Dortchen married. As soon as I read about Dortchen and Wilhelm, I knew I had to write a novel about them. I was utterly electrified by the heartbreaking beauty and romance of their love affair and by the stories she told.

TBYL: One more about character from me and then I’ll hand it over to others… As much as I was fascinated by Dortchen, I was equally horrified by her father. I was also very confused by him. How do you go about painting such a terrible, conflicted character?

Kate: Well, it’s never easy. I struggled with what Dortchen’s tales were telling me. I didn’t want the story to go into quite such a dark place. I had to be true to the inner life of the stories, though. Nothing else made sense. Once I decided to build the story in that way, I tried to write those scenes as quickly as possible, so I could exorcise them from my imagination. I had terrible nightmares. I’d wake in the dead of night, unable to breathe, unable to make a sound, feeling the weight of it crushing me to death. It was never easy. I felt I had to write it away, write myself free, and that is what Dortchen does… though her stories are told, not written. She told stories to save herself, and that utterly pierced my heart.

TBYL: Were Dortchen’s nightmares your nightmares?

Kate: Yes. They were. Strange, I know.

TBYL: Shows an incredible investment into the story. The descriptions of Herr Wild, his clothes, his scent were horribly vivid…

Kate: Horrible is the right word. I felt it, smelt it, suffered it… I don’t know how else you can bring it to life.

TBYL: I think I was lucky that he didn’t not remind me of anyone I knew, otherwise I think I would have found it near on impossible to read a few of the more barbaric scenes!

Kate: I know a few people who found those scenes very difficult (as did I!), but then also found Dortchen’s healing and recovery so beautiful and powerful.

TBYL: Absolutely! I loved the rituals that she used to heal herself. Were these based on your research?

singing larkKate: Oh yes. It took me a long time to work out these scenes. I knew I needed her to go to Old Marie, I knew it had to be to do with the earth, and with old German superstitions. I knew it had to do with cleansing and exorcism because of my own dreams.

TBYL: It was such a relief as a reader when she finally confided in Old Marie…

Kate: In fairy tales, there is often a magical helper who the hero fails to listen to and only when the hero learns to listen does the hero learn wisdom and so triumphs – Old Marie was my magical helper.

TBYL Reader (Kateness): Hello Kate, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions on your work. I am wondering if there are any other tangents of Dorchen’s story that you feel like you might like to go back and explore some more? Are you ever tempted to go back and write the story of another character you’ve met along the way?

Kate: Kateness, I always come up with other ideas of novels when I’m writing – for example, I loved Bettina von Arnim and thought what a fascinating character she’d make… but I feel I’ve done that now, I’ve done that era and that circle of friends and I want to move on now.

TBYL Reader (Barbara): Picking up, in some way Jason’s questions, have you “finished” with Dortchen and the Grimm’s now or do you imagine writing more that picks up their story? Also have you started on a new project?

Kate: Barbara, I’m always working on a new project! So many ideas, so little time!

TBYL: Can you tell us a little about your other work Kate? I’m pretty new to your collection, and I’d like to know where you think I should go next?

Kate: I’d try BITTER GREENS next. It’s a retelling of ‘Rapunzel’, interwoven with the dramatic, true life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century noblewoman Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It’s full of romance, passion, obsession, betrayal, and ultimate triumph – I think you’d enjoy it.

TBYL: I’ll ask my final question for the evening. It might be a bit predictable, but Kate, do you think that you’ll keep writing your fairy tale revisits? What do you have planned next?

Kate: At the moment I’m writing a five-book fantasy adventure series for kids (I tend to alternate between adult and children’s books). Then I plan to rewrite one of Dortchen’s tales, ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ (a Beauty and the Beast-variant), setting the novel in Nazi Germany. That will be another intense, dark, soul-shaking book, but extraordinary to research and write.

At this stage we called it a night, having typed our fingers to the bone. I hope you’ll agree, this Q&A session was a fantastic way to get to know Kate a little bit better, and I can’t wait to read more of her books.

If you’d like to find out more about Kate’s novel, you can visit her website here…

A big thank-you to Kate and to all the TBYL readers who got involved in this event.

 

Out Now! TBYL News: All Things Bookish August 2013

This month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… is now out, complete with give-aways, new reviews and upcoming events at That Book You Like…

honey brown and cover 2This month we’re enjoying conversations with two talented Australian authors – Kate Forsyth and Honey Brown. It’s a fantastic chance to get to know these authors a little better, and to find out more about how they write, about their titles and a little of what’s next for them! Online author chats are a new addition to TBYL and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

Also, there’s lots of new reviews to be read on the TBYL Blog, a chance to win a copy of the intriguing novel Torn, by Karen Turner, and also great new items in the TBYL Store.

Happy reading, enjoy our August edition!

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish… August 2013

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here.

This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

 

TBYL Events: Meet Kate Forsyth

Don’t you love it when the stars align?

During July, the TBYL Book Club has been reading Kate Forsyth’s latest novel The Wild Girl (Random House), a fantastical new take on the brothers Grimm. I’m really looking forward to chatting about the book on the TBYL Facebook page next Monday, 29 July.

kate forsythEven more exciting though, is that since we decided to read The Wild Girl, I’ve been in touch with the lovely Kate and we’ve been able to arrange an online chat on the evening of Monday, 5 August 2013!

That means that the next TBYL Event will be a free, interactive, online chat with Kate Forsyth!

Kate will be chatting on the TBYL Facebook page on the evening of Monday, 5 August 2013 and you can join us at 7:30pm to ask Kate questions, and get involved in in the conversation.

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride series for adults, and The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, and The Starthorn Tree for children. She has won or been nominated for numerous awards. Her books have been published in 13 different countries, including Japan, Poland, Spain and Turkey, and Kate is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology and recently published Bitter Greens a retelling of the Rapunzel story.

It’s going to be a great opportunity to find out a little more about Kate, and about her beautiful brand of fantasy!

If you’d like to make sure that you don’t forget to tune in, you can RSVP to the event here…

I hope you’ll join us!

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Meeting Chris Allen

On Monday night, we held our first online TBYL Event, where we had a chance to chat with author Chris Allen. It was entertaining and informative, a fabulous insight into writing, reading and living an adventurous life.

Here’s how it happened…

TBYL: To start with… the links between yourself, your career and your writing absolutely fascinate me. Could you tell us a little more about how you came to writing, and the relationship that your work has with the stories that you tell?

Chris Allen Typing

Chris: Great question. It’s one of those chicken/egg scenarios I think. I’ve wanted to write from about the age of 14 or 15. I loved action movies and TV shows, obviously the Bond films became my favourites but back then you had to wait for them to be on TV rather than just going out and hiring the (dare I say it) video! So, the only real option for me was to find the books to read in between waiting for Bond movies to appear on TV. As soon as I read Ian Fleming’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ – it was in the school library – I was hooked. Then it was a matter of wanting to lead a life that would enable me to write my own stories and one thing led to another…

TBYL: Do you think you would have been able to write the stories that you have without the real-life experiences that you’ve had?

Chris: There are many great authors – past & present – who have not actually led the lives of their protagonists yet they still manage to write fantastic stories. The crux of the issue is that people want to be entertained by the story. The ability to achieve that, the process of conveying the story is different for every writer. In my case, I was eager to get out and see the world and have some adventures of my own with the intent to write about it all at some point. In my case, as an errant teenager, anything I tried to write back then was just drivel. So, I think it was best that I waited for a while. As it turned out, I ended up getting my first book published when I was about the same age that Ian Fleming was when he had Casino Royale published.

TBYL: Did you ever find yourself in the middle of a place, event, adventure and thinking ‘wow, this’ll be a good story’?

Chris: Occasionally I did found myself saying ‘If I live through this I may just write about it!’

TBYL: Your characters are very likeable or loathsome, well developed and stay with you once you’ve finished reading the books. How do you go about building such a believable cast?

Chris: Thanks so much. I’m thrilled to hear that reaction. There are two sides to this. Firstly, I base my principal characters i.e. Alex Morgan and his compadres, on people I actually know very well. For the most part, these are people with whom I’m still very closely connected. So, its easy for me to describe them as they are – as you say, likeable and real. In terms of the loathsome creatures who from time to time inhabit my pages, I’ve also based some of them on people I have personal experience of. Of course, the antagonists really need to be, in my opinion, larger than life. So, I tend to draw of characteristics, attitudes or behaviours I seen in others that I don’t like and then infuse them into the larger than life evil-types who Morgan has to deal with.

TBYL: What do your friends think about being committed to page (the good guys I mean)?

Chris: I think the guys secretly love it, although they do like to chastise me a bit for taking liberties. That said, they’re always keen to tell anyone who’ll listen that they’re the inspiration for this character or that one. It’s funny.

TBYL: How you do set yourself apart from other action and adventure writers?

Chris: Phew! How do I answer that one? I guess, in a contemporary sense, what I’m trying to do with my Intrepid series is write stories that are (I hope) reminiscent of the stories I grew up on while giving them a new edge. Someone recently described my books ‘like an old friend with new stories’ and that really captured it for me. While I want to keep the books as real as possible, I don’t want to be writing training manuals. So, it’s important for me to also maintain the escapism.For example, there are plenty of books out there about the CIA, the FBI, Secret Service, Mossad etc etc but I want readers to be excited about something completely new… a truly international agency that serves the world community, not just one country. That’s why I cam up with Intrepid.

TBYL: I assume that’s why your take your reader to a new location almost every new chapter?

Chris Allen ClovellyChris: Yeah, I like to keep the reader on their toes! It’s important to not only keep the pages moving but, wherever possible, I like to catapult the reader through the chapters. Taking people around the world while they’re sitting on a bus or train immediately gives them that sense of escape. That’s what I enjoy so much about my favourite books. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve missed their train stop on the way to and from work. I love that!

TBYL: Personally, I really like the fact that although your stories are rich with detail, they’re not heavy with ‘specs’. Is this choice to avoid micro-detailed descriptions of weaponry/strategy/etc deliberate?

Chris: You’re spot on about the specs and weaponry. I believe in giving the reader just enough to enable them to make sense of those things so that they can continue to enjoy the story rather than leaving them qualified to actually operate the gear!

TBYL: At about the time of Hunter’s publication, you struck up a new friendship with Momentum Books. Can you tell us a little about this? How are you finding the digital publishing industry?

Chris: I’ve been really fortunate to have found a great publisher to work with on Defender and Hunter. Joel Naoum is the publisher who runs Momentum and it was clear to me right from the outset that he got where I was coming from – the whole ‘old-school meets new-school’ approach I’m taking with the books. So, it made complete sense for me to partner with Momentum under Joel’s stewardship. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Digital publishing is absolutely the future. That said, there are still huge sections of the reading community around the world who prefer to read from the printed/paper page and in my view, as an author you have to address that if you want your work to be read by as many people as possible. After all, if you’re a rock band and you know that half of your potential market still listens to music on vinyl, you’re not going to limit your latest album just to CD or digital. You’re going to get vinyl LPs pressed too! That’s certainly my approach anyway!

TBYL: So what about you? Do you have a preference when you’re reading?

Chris: I fall right in the middle – I love my kindle and it’s full of my old and new favourites, but I still like to pick up a paper book and settle in for a read! The stories are everything. I have all of Conan Doyle’s stories in paperback and eBook. Can’t get enough. In fact it’s much easier to read the full Sherlock Holmes compendium on my kindle than carting around a paperback the size and weight of an average house brick!

TBYL: Do you have plans for Intrepid 3 yet? What can you tell us?

Chris: Ah ha! THE question  Well, I am currently writing the third Alex Morgan adventure which, those of you who’ve read HUNTER will know, is called AVENGER. I don’t want to spoil it by letting on too much but I can assure you that I will be delving much more into Alex Morgan. A lot of readers have told me that they want to know more about him, so I’m really enjoying bringing Alex to life, exploring him as a man not just a secret agent.

***

I must extend a huge thank-you to Chris, Sarah and Momentum Books for helping make Intrepid Month happen. I had a fantastic time, and I hope you’ve all been adequately tempted to pick up one of Chris’ books! You wont be disappointed…

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TBYL Events finds out how to take “The Next Step”

One of the things that I like to try and do with TBYL is to help take the guess-work out of bookish things for bookish people. Our book reviews try and help take the blind-punt out of choosing your next book and our online store is about making it easier for you to pick up your next read once you’ve chosen it.

Last night’s TBYL Event, “The Next Step” was largely about taking some of the guess out of getting published, demystifying the writing game. I really hoped that we’d be able to help people make their writing dreams a reality.

I was thrilled to be joined by Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor from Escape Publishing (the exciting new digital publishing arm of Harlequin) and two current Escape authors Rhian Cahill and Charmaine Ross.

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I wanted to find out a little more about what’s involved in getting published. What should a story look like? What are editors looking for and where do writers find themselves coming undone?

Luckily, Kate was both willing and able to answer these questions for us. She very kindly gave us a run-down on what Escape Publishing was all about, and how digital publishing works, including what digital publishing requires of authors. Whilst digital publishing is fast-paced, requiring pretty well-structured submissions and quick turn-arounds, it also affords a great deal of flexibility. This flexibility is unprecedented, allowing for the entry into the market of new authors, new genres (and genre mash-ups) and the thing that I like most, a wonderful variety of story lengths; “Escape Publishing accepts stories from anywhere between 5000 words and 500,000.” Hence we’re seeing an amazing range of short stories, novellas and tomes all on the market, ready for us to download onto our e-readers.

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Kate shared some really practical tips for writers, such as the importance of editing… edit, edit, edit, structural edits and copy as well. She suggested that writers always have others read their work prior to submission, and that they take the time to step away from their story before trying to edit it. A little time and space between yourself and your work works wonders for the editing process. Kate also stressed the importance of not including too much backstory, presenting believable characters who live up to their description, and developing stories with strong, compelling (and propelling?) pacing.

And with romance, don’t ever forget the happy ending!

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It was also really interesting to hear from Rhian and Charmaine, particularly considering that they both had quite different experiences of writing – their genres were different, their methods were different, the challenges they faced were different – but still, essentially, they both had to write, it was a compulsion and something they’ve been doing since they were quite young. Being published was a dream come true, and seeing copies of their digital books sell steadily was a real affirmation of their craft.

I asked them what it meant to become published, and they both agreed that as exciting as it is, it’s also a lot of work. It would seem that both Rhian and Charmaine set themselves writing goals, daily and weekly, in order to get their stories to come to life. Once manuscript has been accepted a new kind of work begins… editing, editing, editing, cover-art, promotion. It’s a job, but nice work, if you can get it.

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Personally, I found this session incredibly insightful and from feedback I’ve received, so did the audience – they’re questions were fantastic too, really getting to the heart of romance-writing as a career.

A huge thank-you to Kate, Rhian and Charmaine, as well as to Escape Publishing. Thanks so much for making the evening so entertaining and informative.

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Our next TBYL Event will be an online one, so our friends across the country (and the globe?) will be able to get involved. Stay tuned also for announcements regarding our next real-life event coming soon.

And hey, happy writing!