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On the art of the thriller – Radio National interview

Sulari Gentill, Michael Cathcart, and me at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival

Sulari Gentill, Michael Cathcart, and me at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival

I was interviewed by Michael Cathcart alongside Sulari Gentill earlier this year, for ABC Radio National’s Books and Arts program. You can listen online now. The interview – called ‘Murder in the House’ – was recorded at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival, and we covered a LOT of ground! If you’re interested in crime and thriller writing, have a listen.

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How to become a writer – blogging with Annabel Smith

Sara-Foster-quote-2I really enjoyed writing my post for Annabel Smith’s fascinating new blog series ‘How to become a writer’. There are so many things that have influenced my writing that it was hard to narrow down my thoughts into just a few hundred words! You can read the full blog here.

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The books that influenced me as a young woman

It is always a treat to participate in a group blog with my very special writing group, consisting of Natasha Lester, Amanda Curtin, Annabel Smith, Dawn Barker, Emma Chapman and Yvette Walker. On this occasion we have come together to celebrate the recent release of my own book All That is Lost Between Us, and Natasha’s newly released A Kiss for Mr Fitzgerald. Both of these books feature young girls determined to pursue their passions – so it seems only fitting that our blog posts are all about what we read as young women that inspired us to follow our own dreams.

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On the surface, the two books I am going to write about could not be more different, and yet they were both books I read multiple times in my late teens, and they both continue to influence me today. The first, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, is a book I IMG_7128would probably not have picked up at the time, had it not been on my study list for my A level exams. I had never read anything like it. I couldn’t claim to understand it and yet I was immersed in the sensory overload on every page; the voices of each character so distinct and so close; everything framed by the rise and fall of the sun and the surge and retreat of the waves, as a day grows and blossoms and then fades, just as a life does. It was a book I returned to explore again and again, entranced by both its complexity and simplicity. As a reader, I was completely absorbed by its visceral narrative. As a young writer, I was learning so much. Since then I have read many of the works of Virginia Woolf, but The Waves is still my favourite.
IMG_7130The second book I remember reading repeatedly as a teen was completely different. Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine is an utterly original, humorous non-fiction book on the plight of some of the most endangered animals in the world. (Since Douglas Adams’s death, it has been re-envisioned and updated by Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine in another book and TV series.) It not only appealed to my love of animals, but it also tapped in to my growing awareness of environmental problems, and how difficult it is to change human patterns of behavior to avoid the preventable and tragic loss of species. It was the very first book to focus my attention on the delicate nature of biodiversity, and how much work needs to be done to preserve and cherish the world around us. Last Chance to See is twenty-five years old this year, but its urgent appeal to humanity remains as relevant as ever.

 

Please take the time to visit my fellow writers’ blogs and learn who inspired them when they were younger – there are some wonderful choices and stories in this collection:

Natasha Lester remembers her love of Jane Eyre.

Dawn Barker recalls an powerful read that made her determined to work in the mental health industry. 

Emma Chapman talks about a former boss who proved to be an inspiration.

Annabel Smith describes the impact Sylvia Plath’s diaries had on her as a teen.

Yvette Walker tells us how Graham Greene influenced her as a writer and reader.

Amanda Curtin celebrates Eleanor Alice Buford Hibbert, whose name is less familiar than her wonderful work, thanks to her numerous pseudonyms.

And finally, don’t forget to tell us who inspired you when you were growing up!

 

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The Better Read Book Club: All That is Lost Between Us

unnamed-4All That is Lost Between Us is part of Simon & Schuster’s Better Read Book Club. If you belong to a book club, check out their page and register your book club for a chance to win books for all your members, and to be kept up to date with upcoming great reads. You’ll find a sample chapter of All That is Lost Between Us here, and reading group questions here.

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BLOG TOUR: ’11 WAYS TO READ A BOOK’

To celebrate the publication of All That is Lost Between Us I visited some of Australia’s top book bloggers, on a tour called ’11 ways to read a book’. I introduced my character Georgia with Book Muster Down Under, was interviewed while walking the Lakes (well, in our minds we were!) with Rowena Holloway, talked about the wonders of research over at Monique Mulligan’s site Write Note Reviews, and shared thoughts on writing with Book Birdy. Carpe Librum came up with a wonderful Pinterest mood board, Debbish quizzed me about the theme of motherhood in the novel, and BookdOut wrote a lovely Blog Tour review. I talked about teenagers and social media with Duffy the Writer, and Reading, Writing and Riesling also provided a very thoughtful Blog Tour review. To round off the tour I did a podcast with Susan May about writing and what to take in the event of an alien abduction, and I finished off talking about how to write great suspense with Kathryn White.

If you have followed the tour, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I’ve had a wonderful time chatting with all these book bloggers, and I’m very grateful for their support.

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The most loved book in our house by far

the-65-storey-treehouse-2I have been telling you about all the books I have loved this year, but the most loved book in our house by far is the 65-Storey Treehouse (and the others in the series) – read umpteen times by our 6yo and taken everywhere with us. (My 2yo takes The Green Sheep by Mem Fox.) I get such a kick out of watching them fall in love with books and stories – I think it was The Faraway Tree for me at a similar age.

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Reflections on 2015: My favourite book of the year

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hrMy Book of the Year: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

‘The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with colour and movement. So how does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world of light?’

Marie Laure is blind and has fled with her father from Paris to Saint Malo during the German occupation of World War 2. Werner is a young German radio technician caught in the heart of Hitler’s war. Their lives couldn’t be more distinct, and yet their fate is interwoven. Everything about this book, from its poetic prose to its exquisite attention to detail, is a masterpiece of writing, and it’s my favourite read of 2015.

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My latest production…

Our baby girl

Our baby girl

I have been a bit quiet lately, and it’s not just that I have been busy writing my new book. We welcomed our second daughter into the world just over two weeks ago, and I am a very proud and busy mum at the moment. I plan to spend the next few months focusing primarily on our family, but Book 4 is well on the way, and I have a few other exciting projects in the pipeline, so keep checking back for writing news. Meanwhile, if you have read my previous books you can find plenty of extras at www.beneaththeshadows.com and www.shallowbreath.com. Happy reading!

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Wild encounters: meeting my muse

DolphinThe Indian Ocean on Sunday was cold enough to steal your breath, but we barely noticed. For the fourth time in my life I had the privilege of swimming with dolphins in their own environment – on this occasion with Rockingham Wild Encounters. There are approximately 200 dolphins in the area, and every day the boat sets out to find them. If they are lucky enough to come across a group willing to socialise, tourists enter the water in small groups and form chains by holding onto each other’s weight belts, while being towed along. This calm entry and relaxed behaviour in the water causes minimal disturbance, and the dolphins respond enthusiastically, swimming close enough that I was half expecting to feel the hefty flick of a fin or tail. There is a ‘no touching the dolphins’ rule on the tour – stipulated because skin contact can pass on harmful bacteria. However, this also means is that these dolphins are used to humans who keep a respectful distance, and as a result they are prepared to come much nearer, and even bring their young close too. At one stage on Sunday we had nine dolphins around us – and a dolphin even stopped and ‘buzzed’ me – just like Nicky the dolphin does to Desi in Shallow Breath (and if you’ve read the book you’ll know what that means!)

They stayed and swam with us on Sunday because they wanted to – there was no feeding, no tank walls, no training or tricks. When they’d had enough they moved on, and we got back on the boat and tried to find another group who might want to play. We saw them nursing, playing, rooting in the sand for prey, and swimming as a pod, the mothers and aunties hovering protectively over the youngsters. It was beautiful. As always, while in the water with them I briefly forgot everything else.

A dolphin’s use of echolocation gives them a kind of X-ray vision. They can see right through us. Scientists are still examining exactly what they might see, but perhaps it’s more interesting to note what they won’t see. They don’t see us driving our cars, building houses and cities or destroying them. They don’t see the shopping malls, the skyscrapers, our artwork, our aeroplanes, our space rockets, or our televisions. They know nothing of the world wide web. What they might see is an ungainly group of visitors, who can’t hope to match their graceful silhouettes, who breathe heavily through plastic snorkels. Masters of their own environment, they can see right through us.

The dolphins on Sunday reminded me of exactly why I wrote Shallow Breath.