I’m delighted to welcome Annabel Smith onto my blog this month. Annabel is the author of the digital, interactive novel/app The Ark, and the novels Whisky Charlie Foxtrot and A New Map of the Universe (shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards). Her short fiction and non-fiction has been published in Southerly,WesterlyWheeler Dailies and Junkee.

I admire Annabel for all sorts of reasons: not only is she an extremely talented writer, she has a great work ethic, and she reads zillions of books I’ve never heard of and introduces me to them via her fantastically detailed blog! On top of all this she holds a PhD in Writing, is an Australia Council Creative Australia Fellow, and is a member of the editorial board of Margaret River Press. In summary, she’s one busy lady! Therefore, I’m very grateful she found time to visit and tell us about her new book THE ARK.

The ArkTHE ARK is your latest work of fiction. Can you tell us about it, and what inspired you to write it?

The Ark is a digital interactive novel and app in which a group of scientists and their families retreat into a bunker inside Mount Kosciusko during a post-peak oil crisis, alongside a seed bank which holds the key to the future of life on earth.

I began making notes for the novel after reading Adrian Atkinson’s foreboding essay ‘Cities After Oil’, about the likely collapse of society as we know it, in a period of chaos following post-peak oil. Then, in the ‘environmental lifestyle’magazine G, I saw a snippet about the Svalbard Global Seed Bank, also known as the Doomsday vault. These two ideas came together in my mind and The Ark was born.

THE ARK plays with narrative, as the story is told through emails, news articles, blog posts, text messages and conversation transcripts. Why did you choose this structure, and were there benefits or drawbacks to it during the writing process?

Initially I thought these documents would form a supplementary thread to the main narrative, offering a different, less subjective viewpoint. But I was having so much fun writing them that they took over and eventually I decided to tell the whole story through documents. I like to give myself a new challenge with each book I write, and I’m interested in structural experiments – I wanted to see if it was possible to tell the entire story this way. There were some difficulties – how do you show a character’s inner life, for example, or an action sequence, without descriptive prose or a narrative voice. I was stimulated by overcoming these challenges.

9781922089144_WHISKYCHARLIEFOXTROT_RGBYour published works are noticeably diverse in content and structure, much more so than those of many other writers. Do you feel that there are themes or other elements that bind your novels, or is each project unique?

I think all my novels are connected by a preoccupation with the effect of secrets or what is left unsaid. In A New Map of the Universe and Whisky Charlie Foxtrot this theme is explored through the impact of secrets on family relationships; in The Ark, it is explored more broadly in relation to access to information and how that relates to questions of power and manipulation.

Sometimes novels evolve as they are written. Now that THE ARK is finished, how does it compare to the book you envisioned when you began working on it?

I didn’t have a plan with The Ark – I wrote it organically, letting it unfold as I went along so I really had no idea where it would end up. The most surprising aspect of the process was the revelation that I was not writing a book ‘about’a seed bank, which is what I thought for the first couple of years. The seed bank was just the setting, the book was actually about the way humans behave in extreme circumstances. It took me a long time to see that.

Annabel Smith

Annabel Smith

Can you tell us one of the things you love about being a writer?

One of the things I love most is making up small and silly details, like names for businesses or products. Unlike the greater story arcs or character arcs, writing these tiny details brings instant satisfaction and allow for a little playfulness. For example, when writing The Ark, I created a fitness schedule for the bunker inhabitants and I amused myself making up names and descriptions for fitness classes which might take place twenty five years from now:

Yogatronics: Achieve perfect posture AND enlightenment via intelligent pressure pads which assist with self-correction of those tricky asanas!

TaeKwonBop: Defend your vitality! Contemporary robo-dance meets the ancient Korean martial art TaeKwonDo: be prepared to bop til you drop.

When you hit a roadblock in your writing, how do you get going again?

I go back to the last place I felt confident things were working and see where I might have made a wrong turn. Failing that, I show it to a trusted writer friend who might be able to see it with clear eyes.

What else are you feeling passionate about at the moment?

I’m horrified by the way the Australian government is treating asylum seekers and plan to volunteer to ease their suffering and make them welcome and comfortable, wherever possible, or even just convey that not all Australians are heartless. On a much lighter note, I am very excited to be planning a trip to the states with my husband and son next year, to meet the US publisher of my novel Whiskey and Charlie and travel through Yosemite in a camper van, with dear friends of ours who live in Seattle.

I love book recommendations. Tell me about one book youve loved in the last year.

My favourite book in recent memory is Patrick Somerville’s This Bright River. It is beautifully written, funny, poignant and extraordinarily suspenseful – basically everything I look for in a book.

And now the ARK is complete, what are you working on next?

My current work-in-progress is the first in a trilogy called Monkey See; an epic quest with a speculative-fiction twist, in which a trio of unlikely heroes must unite to overthrow a sadistic cult before their city is destroyed by the mother of all tsunamis. It is wild! I am having an absolute blast writing it.

Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and your books?

I love to connect with readers on my blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. I also have a website for The Ark.

Thanks for visiting, Annabel!

Would you like to win an e-copy of The Ark? Leave us a comment telling us your favourite dystopian work of fiction, and make sure you’re signed up to my newsletter to enter the draw. Competition will close 11.59 pm on 14 November 2014, and the winner will be notified the following day. Please note this competition is to win an e-book edition of The Ark, which is downloadable for Kindle, Kobo, iPad or iPad mini.



The ArkToday it’s my pleasure to help celebrate the release of Annabel Smith’s The Ark by joining in this group post on writing in the digital age. Annabel’s book is PERFECT for the digital age – a new invention of the epistolary form using emails and transcripts to tell the story of a group of people trapped in an underground bunker with vaults of priceless seeds in the year 2041. What’s more, The Ark is truly interactive – you can explore the bunker, listen to the characters speaking, and add your own fan fiction at thearkbook.com. So first of all, congratulations, Annabel, on your genre-defying dystopia and its groundbreaking format.

I have transitioned to writing in the digital age alongside the publishing industry. When I first began proofreading I had to learn all the little symbols that are the proofreader’s shorthand, and bulky tree-toppling typescripts would be couriered to me. However, my editing jobs slowly moved towards using tracked changes online over the last decade, and now I edit my own work the same way.

I find writing in the digital age to be a mixed bag – the internet pummels me with distraction and trivia as soon as I venture online, but there are many gems to be found too – and the joys of instant research rather than endless treks to the library are amazing. I’m certainly grateful for programs like Word and Scrivener – I think back to viewing Jane Austen’s manuscripts in the British library (incredible, to think her hand and mine had both been so close to the same sheet of paper) and I wonder about the personal qualities needed to complete an entire manuscript by hand.

When I become one of the billions of consumers of internet content, I can have a dozen moments of connection and disconnection in a single minute. If I’m writing intensely I find this exhausting, and I try to avoid it. I need to keep my story under the spotlight, and going online is too much of a firework display. The internet is a fantastic tool for publishing and promotion, but it’s also an endless noise-maker, making even the most meaningful things seem scarily devoid of meaning if I linger in this virtual world for too long. However, I cannot be anything but thankful for all the connections and relationships it has brokered for me since it came into existence.

Whether I like it or not, I belong to this digital age. How else could I be talking to you now? I’m ensnared in the worldwide web, by turns exhilarated and exhausted – doing my best to tame the techno-beast before it gobbles me up. In case that happens, as Annabel releases her new work into worlds virtual and real, I urge you to click here without delay and discover The Ark for yourself.

Writers Ask Writers

Find out what my fellow writers have to say about writing in the digital age by visiting their blogs. You’ll notice we have a new member, Yvette Walker, author of Letters to the End of Love. Welcome to our group, Yvette!

Annabel Smith: I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to create a work which is at the cutting edge of publishing’

Amanda Curtin: ”The first time I tried Trove, I was almost speechless.’

Dawn Barker: ‘the biggest challenge for me… is finding the balance between the benefits of the internet and social media, and the endless distraction.’

Yvette Walker: ‘to me it’s a twenty-first century toll road I have to drive along every day.’

Emma Chapman: ‘the digital age offers great opportunity to connect with readers’

Natasha Lester: ‘I’ve come full circle to become an author who views the digital age with excitement’






Yep, book 4 is in full draft form, with my agent, and we’re working on getting it into the wider world. Watch this space! If you want to know what it’s all about, here’s a preview:

Georgia Turner has a secret – one that has isolated her from all those she loves. She is desperate to tell her best friend, but Sophia is ignoring her, and she doesn’t understand why. Before she can find out, Sophia is left fighting for her life after a hit and run, with Georgia a traumatised witness.

As a school psychologist, Georgia’s mother Anya should be used to dealing with scared adolescents. However, it’s very different when the girl who needs help is your own child. Meanwhile, Georgia’s father is racked with a guilt he can’t share; and when Zac, Georgia’s younger brother, stumbles on an unlikely truth, the Turner family’s relationships really begin to unravel. But it will be the stranger heading for their house who will finally cause their walls of secrets to crumble, and leave one of them running through the countryside into terrible danger.

Set against the stark, rugged beauty of England’s Lake District, The Spirit Road is a timeless tale with a modern twist. It is about what happens to a family when the lies used to betray and protect one another are pushed into an unyielding and unforgiving light. col-md-2

It’s an honour and a pleasure to welcome Favel Parrett to my blog this month. I’m sure that every single person who read Favel’s debut novel Past the Shallows has been eagerly awaiting her next publication.  Past the Shallows (shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, and winner of numerous other accolades) was set in a remote part of Tasmania, and for When the Night Comes Favel went a few degrees further, to Antarctica, to immerse herself in a book which is fast acquiring as many accolades as its predecessor. Congratulations, Favel, and welcome!


Favel Parrett 1WHEN THE NIGHT COMES is your latest novel – what inspired you to write it?

It sounds strange – but I was inspired by a Danish ship called Nella Dan. I loved her as a kid and I love her even more now. I wanted to bring her back, bring her home. I wanted people to remember her.

 You won the Antarctic Arts Fellowship and travelled to Antarctica during your research for WHEN THE NIGHT COMES. What has stayed with you most from that experience?

Getting to be a sailor – an old dream come true. I love being at sea. I sleep so well and wake excited every day. I love everything about sailing the southern ocean. I would do it for the rest of my life, if I could.

Sometimes novels evolve as they are written. Now that WHEN THE NIGHT COMES is finished, how does it compare to the book you envisioned when you began working on it?

I never have a plot – a story arc – a strategic plan. I just write scenes from character as they come. It’s a jumble, a puzzle, a mystery for me to solve.

Tasmania features in both your books – do you have a special connection to the place, and why do you think it sparks your imagination?

I never meant to write about Tasmania. It just keeps coming up – for better or worse, part of me is stuck there. I am fascinated, scared, and both love and hate the place. It’s where I grew up – an island that I was desperate to leave, but desperate to stay at the same time.

When the Night ComesCan you tell us one of the things you love about being a writer?

Sometimes I hate everything about being a writer. Sometimes I love it absolutely. I like when I work something out that I didn’t know about my book or my characters. I get satisfaction from problem solving.

When you hit a roadblock in your writing, how do you get going again?

I think, as writers, we just have to keep turning up. We just have to keep reading, keep thinking, keep trying. We have to give our work space and time and 100%.

What else are you feeling passionate about at the moment?

So many things… dogs, live music, ships, sea birds, surfing, growing veges in my back garden, sharks…

I love book recommendations. Tell me about one book you’ve loved in the last year?

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke.  Just so so so so so good!

Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and your books?


Thank you again, Favel, and wishing When the Night Comes a safe and steady passage into the world.

If you would like to win a copy of When the Night Comes, all you have to do is make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter, and leave a comment below telling us which place or places in the world you think make(s) a brilliant setting for a novel. This competition closes 25 September 2014 at 11.59 pm, and the winner will be notified the following day.