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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!

breaching whale

My passion for the sea and marine life meant I was thrilled on Friday, when the Australian government announced they would press ahead with legal action to try to stop whaling in the Antarctic. It’s been a long time coming, but hopefully this will prove to be a true step towards change. Of course, the real celebration will come when whaling actually ends for good.

Book pages 1An older version of this blog also appeared on the Random House ‘Random Blogs’ website on 8th April 2010

For me, for a long time my writing was my hobby, and as such I would get through everything else first, promising myself writing time later, as some kind of reward. However, it’s far too easy for that time to never arrive. It was only when I dedicated myself to finishing Come Back to Me at the end of 2007 that I really made the strides forward that I needed to then pursue publication. Now I do try to schedule time to write, but it’s not always easy. I have an active one-year-old little girl, all the general aspects of life to keep going, and my husband would quite like some attention sometimes too, I think. I have just finished my second book, and managed it by making the most of the time my little girl was asleep or my husband was here to care for her, as well as having the help of a wonderful childminder for a few hours a week. (Also invaluable was a well-timed visit by my mother!) Although I used to write at all hours of the day, for now I have to make the most of this dedicated, limited time. I usually have lots of scribbled notes to work through by the time each session comes around, as when I’m busy on other things I still make sure to make notes on ideas so that I can refer back to them later.

As with many other writers, it may well be necessary for me to continue my day job of editing to make a living. Then I will not only have to remind myself to make time for my writing, but to work hard to make sure that time actually happens. When the task at hand seems enormous, I also remind myself to just make a start, and that if I keep doing that every day, one day I’ll reach the finish line! And, if I don’t find the time I need, I may have to look hard at the things I am making time for. I once heard a popular fiction writer in England talking about how if you just turned off EastEnders, a prime-time soap opera that runs for half an hour four nights a week, and used the time to write, in six months you would have a book.  It’s worth thinking about.

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Book Group Questions for Come Back to Me

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?

Book Group Questions for Beneath the Shadows

1. The past is still too close to us… How does the past infiltrate and affect the present in Beneath the Shadows?

2. Grace is driven by her need for resolution: did you see this as an obstacle or a necessity for her?

3. Ghosts, omens, clocks that stop and start by themselves – is there a supernatural element in Roseby, or was it all just a figment of Grace’s imagination?

4. Windows and reflections are strong symbols in the novel. How do you interpret their significance?

5. Not only is Grace reading Rebecca, but throughout the book the classic novel is alluded to in others ways too. Consider these parallels, and what they contribute to the story.

6. By the end, the mystery of Adam’s disappearance is resolved. Yet Adam didn’t tell Grace where he’d put their money, his relationship with Jenny, or the existence of the cellar. How much do you think the reader gets to know the ‘real’ Adam?

7. How did you interpret Grace’s strange dreams? Were they warnings, her subconscious trying to process her fears, or something else?

8. How important is Annabel to the story? What role does she play?

9. Is Meredith a villain or a victim?

10. By going through their belongings and their memories, Grace seems to be trying to understand who Adam’s grandparents were. How far can she succeed, do you think? And why is this so important to her?