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An evening with Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

It’s safe to say I am a HUGE Jodi Picoult fan. Her writing style appears effortless, but that is the trick of a master: to move a plot at entertaining speed while still capturing those compelling intricacies found in small moments. What’s more, her subject choices are always gritty and compelling, and her characters complex and real. So it was a real thrill to be in the audience last night when Jodi and her daughter Samantha visited Perth to talk about their new book.

Between the Lines was conceived by Samantha, who had the idea of a fairytale character with a life beyond the book’s pages, and a lonesome teenage girl who wishes this prince was real. Both Jodi and Samantha read excerpts from the book, and talked about what a great time they had writing it together – spending eight hours a day working on it line by line, speaking the story out loud to one another, and aiming for a certain number of pages a session.

In the Q&A afterwards, Jodi named Second Glance as the favourite of her books (because she had a great time researching it, and felt she nailed its complexity). Samantha spoke of her disconcertion as she watched readers devour their book in a few days, after she and Jodi had spent three years working on it. (I remember a similar feeling when Come Back to Me came out – I couldn’t believe people could move on so fast when I’d been absorbed in the story for such a long time!) And Jodi gave her verdict on writer’s block as a writer having too much time on their hands. Just write, she urged. You can edit a bad page but you can’t edit a blank page.

I love this photo! It looks like I just ran in with a cheesy grin while Jodi and Samantha were having their picture taken.

Afterwards it was well worth waiting in the very long line to get my battered old copy of My Sister’s Keeper signed by Jodi, and my brand-new copy of Between the Lines signed by Samantha. Most of all, it was a real buzz to be able to say to Jodi directly, in the few brief moments I was in front of her, that she has been a true inspiration to me. Reading a Picoult book always re-energises me, and makes me aim higher in my own work.

NB: The first book I read by Jodi Picoult was, like many others, My Sister’s Keeper. It was fascinating to find out what she thought of the film, particularly the different ending. I found a blog link where Jodi answers a similar question, and you can read it here: http://filmvsbook.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/jodi-picoult-on-my-sisters-keeper.html

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Hello US and Canada – today’s the day! Beneath the Shadows is available to buy!

I’m absolutely thrilled that Beneath the Shadows is released in the US and Canada today! Its journey began over ten years ago now, when I sketched out the first chapter in a small room in our little rented flat in Kent, south England. My central character Grace was with me for a long time, and after many years (and another novel!), the final chapter was written in our house on the west coast of Australia. Since then it has been a privilege to share the story with readers, and I’m delighted that from today it has spread its wings even further and reached such distant shores. Storytelling is the best job in the world for exactly this reason: it knows no boundaries, a story can be shared between people who are half a world apart as though they were sitting in the same room. So hello to everybody in North America who picks up Beneath the Shadows – I really hope you enjoy getting to know Grace and the colourful cast of characters in the little village of Roseby.

My final word of thanks must go to the fabulous team at St Martin’s Press and Minotaur, who have done such a fabulous job putting Beneath the Shadows together, and getting the word out. In particular, thank you to Anne Bensson, for showing such faith in a new writer, who lives so far away in the most isolated city on earth!

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Aussie Author Month

I’m delighted to be a part of Aussie Author month. I’ll be writing a guest post for Reading Adventures next week, reflecting on my recent book tour. Meanwhile, I’m devoting the month to reading as many Aussie books as I can, both classics and new releases. I’ll report back at the end of the month, and let you know how I get on – my reading list is growing by the day!

Meanwhile you can follow Aussie Author month on Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag #ausbooks. Aussie Author Month is raising funds for the Indigenous Literacy Project, which is dedicated to bridging the reading gap. Find out more on their website: www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au

Happy Aussie reading!

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GUEST BLOG: NATASHA LESTER, author of What is Left Over, After

Why does inspiration never strike at a time when I can write it down?

I blame my children for this – they’ll end up blaming me for almost everything when they’re older so I might as well get in first. Except that, in this case, it’s true.

 Having recently had the luxury of nearly a whole week to do nothing but write, courtesy of my lovely husband who subjected himself full time to the 3 cherubs, I have discovered that I get the best ideas in the most uninspiring places. Places where there are no pens. And even if there were, it would be impossible to write anything down.

 The first day inspiration struck in the shower. I was washing my face and the solution to a major plot problem that had been niggling me for months suddenly and perfectly appeared. Short of inscribing myself with shampoo, there was no way to make a note of the idea. But I’ve learned that if I don’t write it down, I won’t remember it later. So I had to chant it in my head – Dan gets run over, Dan gets run over – while I jumped out and dried myself. My mental monologue was interspersed with shouted directions at the children: ‘Your headband’s in the doll’s cradle’ – Dan gets run over – ‘Your shoes are in the fridge’ (don’t ask) – Dan gets run over. I’m just lucky that, when I got to my study, I didn’t end up writing in my notebook: Dan runs over a doll with the fridge.

The next day we were at the Disney Live concert surrounded by a million mini Cinderellas and my two year old needed to go to the toilet. While I was holding her on the toilet seat, more inspiration struck. This time a brilliant plot twist that I knew would make the book impossible to put down at the critical halfway mark. ‘Please hurry, darling,’ I begged, desperate to get out of there and back to my notebook and pen. ‘But Mummy,’ she piped up, ‘I shouldn’t rush. I need to get it all out.’ Of course my oft-repeated advice, which was never remembered if she was in the middle of jumping on the trampoline, was thrown back at me the one time when rushing would have been very welcome.

 The day after that, the ideas came while I was driving on the freeway. No way to jot things down at one hundred kilometres an hour and I’m sure it wasn’t quite the emergency that the stopping lanes were designed to accommodate.

 Later, I realised that the reason I keep finding inspiration in unlikely places is because they are quiet places, places where the kids are either absent or silent – shower, toilet, car.

 I wonder whether this means that the ideas are there all the time but I just don’t hear them, drowned out as they are by the four year old yelling at the two year old, ‘She took my Barbie,’ and the baby delighting in his new found ability to shout Mum-mum-mum at the top of his voice.

 So my New Year’s Resolution is this: to somehow build a quiet moment into every day. The girls received a cubbyhouse for Christmas so perhaps I need to rig up some kind of lock on it – not to lock them in but as a place for me to hide! I know I won’t be lucky enough to dream up a new story idea, solve a plot problem or come up with an unexpected twist in every quiet moment, but the important thing is, I’ll be ready, pen and paper in hand, if the ideas do choose to come.

Natasha Lester lives in Western Australia and is the author of What is Left Over, After, winner of the TAG Hungerford Prize, published in 2010 by Fremantle Press. Check out her website, www.natashalester.com.au, or visit her blog, While the Kids are Sleeping.

Great early review of Beneath the Shadows…

…at ‘a book a day till i can stay’. Make sure you’ve clicked on ‘read the full story’, then click here to read. Thank you and good luck Emmet!

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All eyes on Africa this week

breaching whale

Every year my family goes out onto the Indian Ocean to watch the whales travelling down the WA coast on their annual migration. Sometimes we’re lucky and a whale comes to investigate the boat, or flings itself joyfully out of the water nearby. I am one of those whose life has been deeply affected by the contact I’ve had with these magnificent creatures – ever since I had the privilege of scuba diving at close quarters with a minke whale ten years ago on the Great Barrier Reef. So this week I’ll be watching events in Morocco, as the IWC meets to discuss whaling. The strides forward that many people around the world have campaigned tirelessly for are now threatened, with deals for the resumption of commercial whaling on the table. I firmly believe that whaling has no place in a progressive future for the world, and I hope that compassion and conservation rather than commerce win the day. 

On a lighter note, I’m also avidly watching the World Cup, and with my dual loyalties hoping that both the Socceroos and England can make it through the group stage. They’re certainly making us sweat…!

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BOOK LOVE: The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Lexie Sinclair’s life revolves around the Soho art scene of the 1950s, whereas in the present day Elina is struggling with the demands of motherhood. But despite living decades apart, these two women are connected in ways neither could ever have expected.

I have long been a fan of Maggie O’Farrell, as her first book, After You’d Gone, ranks as one of my all-time favourites. In this, her latest work, her writing is mesmeric, and I was captivated from start to finish. Such overt manipulation of narrative voice is difficult to achieve without losing the reader, but O’Farrell is fearless, and as a result The Hand that First Held Mine is a wonderful, unique piece of fiction.

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BOOK LOVE: One Day by David Nicholls

Emma and Dexter meet on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows?

This was on my reading list for ages. It took me a little while to get into the characters, but once I did I really enjoyed it, and there were a few laugh-out-loud moments. A compelling exploration of the evolution of a relationship while trying to find one’s way in life beyond the university years – some of it disconcertingly familiar!

Pages

Come Back to Me

Come Back To Me

NEW AUSTRALIAN EDITION

COMING JULY 2017

Do you have to honour a promise you made in the past

if it means losing all that you have now?

When Mark introduces his date, Julia, to Chloe and her husband at a London restaurant, it’s obvious something is very, very wrong. Alex and Julia pretend not to know each other, but the shocked expressions on their faces tell another story.

As the mystery of Julia’s identity unravels, a terrible tragedy from ten years ago gradually comes to light. While Chloe struggles with a secret of her own, Alex has to decide whether he should take Julia back to Australia to try to lay the past to rest, when doing so will risk all he has with the wife he loves.

And Julia must decide whether to finally confront Alex with the whole truth about what happened back then.

Set in London and Perth, Come Back to Me is a taut psychological drama that will keep you enthralled until the very last page.

‘Sara Foster’s debut novel is both a stunning thriller and complex love story.
She is a wonderful new arrival in Australian writing.’

Jessica Adams

Australian ISBN (paperback): 978-1925456714

E-book ISBN: 978-1925456721

Available in Australia and New Zealand from this website, and in all good bookstores, including Booktopia, Dymocks and independent retailers.

INTERNATIONAL READERS:

You can find the Kindle international edition of Come Back to Me on all Amazon stores outside Australia (ASIN: B00CEYC4T0 )

If you are overseas and you would like to purchase a print edition, please send a message of enquiry using the Contact form.

Book Group Questions

1. Explore the different ways that the title theme of ‘Come Back to Me’ resonates throughout the book.

2. What do you think of Alex’s dilemma and choices? Can a person be truly in love with two people at the same time?

3. The changing nature of relationships between parents and children features prominently in the book. Discuss the nature and complexities of adult children’s relationships with their parents.

4. Each character goes on some kind of figurative journey within the novel. By the end, what do you think they each have learned, and how might it change them?

5. Different types of loss feature heavily in the novel. Which types of loss stand out most for you? How have these losses shaped the characters’ lives?

6. Each character in the book has personality traits that appear to be holding them back in life. Can you identify them? Do they change during the course of the story? If so, how?

7. Explore Alex’s motivations and experiences in the story. How much is he a victim of circumstance, and how much does he bring on himself through his decisions?

8. Where did your sympathies lie during the course of the novel, and why?

9. **NEW** At one point, Chloe asks: ‘What had she done to cause everything that was happening to her?’ This may be a harsh question to direct at herself, but it is an understandable one. Discuss how the notion of responsibility plays out in the novel, and the extent to which the characters are responsible for themselves or each others’ actions or reactions.

10. **NEW** Chloe, Alex and Julia/Amy have all pushed memories away or suppressed them in order to get on with their lives. Explore why they have done this, and what it means for them.

11. **NEW** Towards the end of the book, Margaret suggests to Chloe, ‘…maybe Alex is trying to protect you…’ Do you agree with this statement? Is that what Alex was trying to do?

12. **NEW** Throughout the book, there are lots of references to opportunities for connection between the characters, opportunities that might not come round again, or moments when they have to choose whether to speak or to withhold information. Can you identify these, and what do you think of the choices each character makes?

Reviews

As a writer, an exceedingly good book to me, is when I don’t notice how it’s written, but find myself completely wrapped up in the story. Come Back to Me by Sara Foster was one of those books. I couldn’t put it down and lacked sleep for a few days.

Michelle Dennis Evans

Set in both London and Perth, this is a moving story about impossible choices, about love, and about keeping a promise you made years ago, even if it risks everything you have now. I read this in one day and was left thinking about it for days afterwards. Keep a tissue close.

July 2011 book of the month, www.ourbookclub.com.au

Come Back to Me is a complex story of relationships and how ones long ago finished can reappear at any moment and change the path you’re on. Despite the intricacies and twists in the storyline, it’s a quick and engrossing read – I powered through it in an afternoon. So very readable – will keep you wondering and guessing (and in my case, praying that two certain people end up together) until the very last page. 8/10

1girl2manybooks – to read the full review,click here

…this is a book that is big on secrets, everyone seems to be keeping secrets from everyone else, and it is a book that everybody’s stories seems to somehow intertwine with others, it is a story of love and loss, how being strong and taking charge can make us a better person, and how others perceive decisions that have been made even though they were too young, or not involved enough to know the reasons behind those decisions. 4.5/5

The Hungry Bookshelf – to read the full review, click here

Suspenseful, heartrending and transcontinental, Come Back to Me’s dynamic scenes extend from debauchery at an office party to a shocking outback crime. A complex psychological tale, Sara Foster’s debut novel…throws us headfirst into marital distress. Set in a middle-class world of city lawyers and designers, Come Back to Me is essentially a story of consequences…With its easy prose and short chapters, this is a novel suited to air travel. Yet it is sophisticated in two ways: it carefully considers the ramifications of split-second decisions on human relationships, and it highlights the importance of a strong question to a narrative…Each character, trapped in this undercurrent of longing, makes the story somewhat earnest. But there is a balance in carefully placed moments of the everyday, like those in the relationship between Chloe and her wayward cousin. As a result, we, the avid readers, are continually reminded of the particular strength of the characters. It is a gentle strength, but a relatable one: the strength that comes from the simple, gallant act of moving forward.

Kirsten Law, Australian Book Review, March 2010

This taut psychological drama will keep you enthralled as the mystery and tragedy of ten years ago gradually unravels.

Northern Daily Leader, 20 February 2010

Come Back to Me is a wonderful debut novel. The stories of the four main characters are interwoven, with the reader taken on a journey through their past lives and the present, with revelations continuing right till the end… There is nothing not to like about this story – intriguing characters, plot twists, action and beautiful writing combine to produce a satisfying package.

Sally Murphy, www.aussiereviews.com

The novel is both a stunning thriller and complex love story. It is an entertaining read.

Border Mail, 27 February 2010

A new voice on the Australian fiction scene, Foster has taken an incident that she read about years ago when travelling and uses it to tell a haunting tale about relationships and the history that binds them.

The Examiner [Launceston], 20 February 2010

…a dark psychological guessing game that will surprise you all the way till the end.

‘Read of the Week’, NW, 22 February 2010

Alex is happily married when he unexpectedly comes face to face with the girl he once loved. He has to decide if he should revisit the past, and risk everything with the wife he adores. This clever novel is deftly pulled together with secrets revealed right through to the last page.

New Idea, 13 February 2010

Come Back to Me is a book for anyone who likes to be surprised by multiple twists and turns. Brilliant

http://www.thereadingstack.blogspot.com/

This is a very promising debut, with a storyline teeming with slowly revealed secrets and unexpected turns.

http://www.chicklitclub.com

There’s no leisurely introduction to this story. Chloe and her husband Alex go to dine with her colleague Mark and his new date, Julia. But when Alex is introduced to Julia, it is soon apparent that something is very wrong. Julia vanishes, Alex is silent, Mark is furious, and Chloe struggles with her own secret as well as wondering about Alex’s past. Alex decides the only way for closure is to take Julia back to Perth where something dreadful happened. But in doing so, will he lose all he has? Can Julia face the past – and finally tell the truth? It’s a book to read in one sitting – you’ll be enthralled by the disquieting possibilities.

Woman’s Day, 1 February 2010

What-ifs are the heart and soul of any good relationship story: what if we had stayed together, what if I had married someone different, what if I wasn’t having a baby? Here, Foster ties together all those life-crisis questions with the mysterious arrival of a missing ex-girlfriend. Although this will almost exclusively appeal to women, it is far from light and fluffy… [Rated 4/5 stars]

The West Australian, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A gripping read. Rewarding to the very end.

Nicole Alexander, author of The Bark Cutters

For author interviews and general media, click here

About

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME

I live in Perth, Western Australia, with my husband and two young daughters.

Before I was a writer I worked as a book editor, at first in-house at HarperCollins UK and then freelance. I’ve edited and proofread well over 100 books, fiction and non-fiction, including novels by Paullina Simons, Kathryn Fox and Liane Moriarty.

My favourite authors include Maggie O’Farrell, Toni Morrison, Nicci French, Sara Gruen, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Wendy James, Kate Morton, Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.

My favourite books include The Secret River by Kate Grenville, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton, and After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell. The list goes on and on.

My favourite poetry collection is The Self-Completing Tree by Dorothy Livesay.

I was one of the original editors of the Kids’ Night In book series, which has been raising money for War Child since 2003.

I’m very lucky to belong to a writers’ group that includes Amanda Curtin, Natasha Lester, Annabel Smith, Yvette Walker, Dawn Barker and Emma Chapman.

I’m a huge fan of dystopian fiction, and I’m studying the genre for my PhD at Curtin University. My favourites include The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, and Pure by Julianna Baggott.

As a kid, in addition to devouring Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton books,  I loved the Sue Barton nurse stories and Gerald Durrell’s animal adventures. Later on I read everything written by the Brontes, and devoured the dark thrillers of Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike.

I was born and raised in England, but I’ve always had family connections to Australia, and we visited the east coast a few times during my childhood. My introduction to Australian literature was reading All the Rivers Run by Nancy Cato, and after that I wanted to be Delie Gordon for quite a while. In 1999 I made sure I got to stand at the wheel of the Philadelphia paddle steamer  when we visited the Murray River region.

My first pop concert, aged 12, was a Stock Aitken and Waterman event featuring my first love Jason Donovan. I was on a high for weeks afterwards. Little did I know that twenty years later I would end up editing his autobiography.

I love marine animals, and in the past (before children!) I have been a keen scuba diver. I’ve played with baby sea lions, penguins and marine iguanas in the Galapagos and scuba dived with Galapagos reef sharks and hammerhead sharks. I’ve glided with manta rays in Coral Bay (WA) and the Similan Islands in Thailand, encountered huge potato cod and graceful minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef, and swum with the mighty whale sharks of Ningaloo. I have experienced the absolute joy of being surrounded by wild dolphins in New Zealand and WA waters, and had the very special experience of a dolphin ‘buzzing’ me while I was pregnant (using concentrated echolocation to ‘see’ the baby).

In 2011 I went to Japan while researching Shallow Breath, and visited Taiji, the town famous for its horrific dolphin drives. I was only there for two days, and I didn’t have to witness the brutal hunt up close, although I watched the banger boats drive the dolphins in from a distance. However, I did encounter the dolphins in captivity in the sea pens, being broken and starved while trained for human entertainment. Those images will stay with me forever.

I met my husband Matt when I was nineteen. We both love to travel, and we tend to pick places where we can pursue our passions for animal encounters and the natural world. Our highlights include four months in South-East Asia, including chartering a tiny vessel to Komodo Island and staying amongst the dragons. We got engaged on an island full of monkeys in Halong Bay, Vietnam, and  for our honeymoon we visited Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, the Galapagos Islands, and travelled into the heart of the Manu Biosphere of the Amazon to see everything from capybaras to caimans. Now our two girls are getting older, we are excited about planning our next adventures.