Posts

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BOOK LOVE: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing.

They didn’t understand that once love – the deliria – blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. (laurenoliverbooks.com)

My second dystopian pick of the week, after The Handmaid’s Tale! Delirium is marketed as Young Adult fiction, but I’m not sure that does it justice – although the cream of ‘YA’ fiction seems pretty mainstream nowadays. Oliver’s writing style is candid, straightforward and engaging. She has put everything into this book: a unique vision, beautiful writing, brilliant characters, and exciting action at a heady pace. I couldn’t put it down, and the ending made me teary. The great news is that Delirium is the first of a trilogy, so I’m going to find Pandemonium, the second instalment, as soon as I can. I’ve also heard recently that Delirium is to be made into a film. Hopefully this will take Lauren Oliver’s book to another level, which it absolutely deserves.

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BOOK LOVE: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

This wonderful piece of fiction won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. It chronicles the life of Daisy Goodwill, which spans most of the twentieth century. Each chapter jumps forward a decade, through her childhood, marriage, motherhood, and later life, combining reflection on these broader themes of her life with insight towards the other banal moments that also make up living. The narrative is interspersed with photos, letters, even shopping lists, and we see Daisy through the eyes of those around her, providing fascinating insight into the notion of identity. If you want to study a master of inventive narrative and character construction, read this book!

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Guest blog today on jungleredwriters.com

It’s an absolute thrill to be invited to write a guest blog for the fabulous Jungle Red Writers blog, which is made up of eight brilliant crime fiction writers – Julia Spencer-Fleming, Jan Brogan, Lucy Burdette, Kallie Ephron, Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Rosemary Harris. You can read my blog here, and make sure you check out their brilliant site while you’re there.

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Perth Writers Festival #3: Fiction discussion at its finest

To begin with, I was drawn to the writers in the session entitled ‘Reverberations from the past’ more than the topic. Natasha Lester is a friend of mine, whose beautifully crafted book, What is Left Over, After, won the TAG Hungerford in 2009, and I’ve read and heard so much about Gail Jones’ and Jon Bauer’s books that makes me want to pick them up as soon as I can. During the session, all three writers breathed fresh life into the over-analysed theme, and every audience member appeared captivated by their eloquence and their ideas. Gail Jones spoke about how other writers, including Virginia Woolf in ‘Sketches of the Past’ addressed the issue; Natasha Lester told us about the wonder tales of the French court in the 14th century and how she used them in her novel; then Jon Bauer read a piece he had written for the event, which was filled with soundbites, such as ‘The past is not a foreign country, nor is it the past. It is you, now.’ In the following discussion they each spoke of how their own experience had found different routes and resonances in their writing. Jon Bauer had used some personal challenges of his childhood; Gail Jones’ drew on the story her great-grandfather, who committed suicide in a Kalgoorlie hotel; while Natasha recently reached out to others in a creative non-fiction piece about her experiences of her daughter’s hip dysplasia (published in the WA journal Indigo). They all discussed how they looked for the subtle but resonant aspects of experience that might be used in storytelling to convey authentic feeling and reflection to greatest effect, whether representing grief in the landscape or manifesting in a character’s physical appearance.

Finally, Jon Bauer answered one audience member’s question in a way well worth noting. When asked about how to move a piece of writing forward, he said he wanted to respect the fact the writer was lost and struggling, as we all are at times in writing, and therefore he wouldn’t answer the question in order to empower the gentleman to find his own way through. Such an eloquent way of encouraging a writer to keep reaching for their own authentic, unique voice.

Beneath the Shadows in Sunday Telegraph fiction bestseller list for 2 weeks running

I was thrilled to discover that Beneath the Shadows had made it into the Sunday Telegraph’s bestselling fiction list, debuting at No. 5 on 20 Feb, and even climbing to No. 4 on 27 Feb. To Kill a Mockingbird and Kim Edwards’ Lake of Dreams took the top two spots, and another Random House book, A Little Coffee Shop in Kabul, featured both weeks too. I have everything crossed that readers keep enjoying the book and the word of mouth continues!

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Discussing commercial/literary divide on Natasha Lester’s blog

My good friend Natasha Lester has invited me onto her blog to talk about that tricky business of the commercial/literary fiction divide. It’s a frustrating but necessary topic that both of us have become familiar with over the last year or so. To read our thoughts, click here, or visit Natasha’s blog at http://whilethekidsaresleeping.wordpress.com/

Thanks for having me, Natasha!

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BOOK LOVE: Breath by Tim Winton

When paramedic Bruce Pike arrives too late to save a boy found hanged in his bedroom, the unusual circumstances of the death return him to his memories of adolescence, a turbulent time of unlikely friendships and recklessness that pushed him towards the darker edges of life.

I am a little ashamed to admit that this is the first Tim Winton I’ve read, since he is perhaps the most prestigious author in my home state of WA. I have long had Cloudstreet and Dirt Music on my list as well as this one, but when a friend suddenly gave it to me all other books were cast aside. I read it in a couple of days, and while it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, on reflection I think it was better. I am regularly disappointed by lauded, award-winning books – perhaps the hype kills them for me. Yet Tim Winton’s prose here is beautiful, stark and spare – it’s to-the-point, incisive fiction. The subject matter and the plot didn’t grab me all the way through, but the writing did – Winton absolutely lives and breathes his characters. I’m really looking forward to Cloudstreet now.

NB: At the moment, Save Our Marine Life (Australia)’s page on facebook features an open letter from Tim Winton about the importance of marine conservation. It’s well worth reading.

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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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Finding the time to write

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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My Contribution To Other Blogs

I am sometimes lucky enough to be allowed to write on other people’s sites or blogs. You can check out some of my previous posts by following the links below:

On Writing (10 August 2011) on The Australian Bookshelf

Writer on Tour (14 April 2011) on Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

The literary/commercial fiction divide (14 Feb 2011) on Natasha Lester’s blog http://whilethekidsaresleeping.wordpress.com/

A shifting landscape, a perfect backdrop (13 Feb 2011) on www.lisaheidke.com

Inspiration (9 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

Mothering and writing for a living (8 Feb 2011) on http://anjwritesabout.com/

Endings: Beginnings in disguise (4 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

Stories within stories (3 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

Losing the plot (2 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

The North Yorkshire moors, the perfect setting (1 Feb 2011) on The Random Blog

At long last, meet Grace (31 Jan 2011) on The Random Blog

On writing and editing (31 Jan 2011) on http://www.ahthepossibilities.com/

Sara Foster is grateful for… (31  Jan 2011) on http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com/

Breathing Life into Landscapes (4 Nov 2010) on www.fleurmcdonald.com

On pursuing publication (9 April 2010) on The Random Blog

Finding the time to write (8 April 2010) on The Random Blog

Friends and family readers (7 April 2010) on The Random Blog

Your editor is on your side (6 April 2010) on The Random Blog

When characters get minds of their own (5 April 2010) on The Random Blog

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.