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Nicky the dolphin at Monkey Mia

Sunset at Monkey Mia

I’ve just returned from a short holiday on the Western Australian coast with my family, where we camped at one of my favourite spots, Monkey Mia. Many people know Monkey Mia for the family of dolphins who come into shore – at 8 am there is usually a crowd of tourists standing ankle-deep in water, marvelling at these friendly cetaceans. However, apart from this daily gathering, it is a quiet place in winter. The water is unbelievably tranquil, as clear as polished glass, and the temperatures are still pleasant. From the water, all you can see is the long stretch of the Peron peninsula, where the sand gradually changes from pale yellow to a vivid ochre. It makes for a perfect, restful break.

This one-of-a-kind place has found its way into part of my upcoming novel, along with Nicky, the matriarch of the shore-visiting dolphins, who makes a very brief cameo appearance. How does Nicky fit into a psychological suspense novel that spans five continents and twenty years? All will be revealed in December, when Shallow Breath is published in Australia!

This is a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same …
1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world. 

One April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

What a sensational debut by ML Stedman! Even the strapline is one of the best I’ve read: This is the story of right and wrong, and how they sometimes look the same. I loved so much about this book. The central dilemma is absorbing, and I found myself alternately rooting for (and sometimes angry with) each of the characters as they struggle to find resolution. Throughout the story, the descriptions are mesmerising. My favourite lines are 96 pages in: ‘In a place before words, in some other language of creature to creature, with the softening of her muscles, the relaxing of her neck, the baby signalled her trust. Having come so close to the hands of death, life now infused with life like water meets water.’ I did find the beginning a little bit slow, but it’s well worth persevering. ML Stedman manipulates her narrative like a master, and I’m looking forward to finding out what she does next.

NB: This book has been optioned for a film too, and I hope it gets made. It would be great to see a story based in Western Australia on the big screen.

 

I usually have to brace myself to read the latest news and events of the world, so much of it shocking and senseless. Yesterday I learned about child marriage in northern India, girls who are wedded by their early teens, and have their pregnancies explained to them at the onset of labour. I also came across ‘fracking’, a new method of obtaining natural gas which turns tap water into explosive. And then there are the 25 dolphins that swam free days ago, and are now bound for the entertainment industry on Sentosa Island, Singapore, where the few who survive will be oohed and aahed at by visitors while they adjust to life in their swimming pool prison.

And I wonder, if you want to effect real change, how do you ask people to open up, past their fears, prejudices, beliefs, traditions, sense of selves embedded far deeper than vital organs, and re-examine their lives? To ask them to turn over each heavy stone of truth and see what it might really be made of? For a society to do this successfully, doesn’t it have to happen within each individual too? And if we ask this of others, shouldn’t we first ask it of ourselves? What might our own stones reveal, if we have the willingness to recognise them and the courage to examine their foundations?

A story of love, ambition, and a spirited elephant called Rosie, set amid a travelling circus during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

I had heard lots of good things about this book, but the subject matter didn’t automatically appeal so I took my time in getting to it. However, I’m really glad I did – the characters and the circus jumped right off the page and every time I picked it up I was absorbed. Highly recommended.

Finally, after six long weeks of work, I have finished the structural edit of Beneath the Shadows. It’s lovely to put my head up again, as I’ve literally been working morning, noon and night, around my toddler’s waking hours, to get everything done. I am already thinking of things that need changing or tweaking, but I will get another chance to do that when the copy-editing begins. I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with this side of the editing process, which is ironic since I’ve been a book editor for the last ten years. But editing someone else’s work is fun. Editing my own novels seems to be much more gruelling, since I find myself continually re-examining every aspect of plot, characters and writing, and coming up with more and more problems or weaknesses that need fixing. However, I thrive on the challenge, and so far I’ve had two great editors who have really pushed me to make my books stronger.

So, while I’ve been taking a break, I’ve been dabbling with my bookshelf on goodreads.com.  I now have an author profile, which I’m still working on, and you’ll find my latest book reviews on there as well as on this website. You’ll notice they all tend to be rather positive, but I often don’t finish books I’m not enjoying, and as a result I don’t feel entirely qualified to comment on them! I’m currently reading and loving Water for Elephants, so you can expect another positive review soon!

Lately, quite a few aspiring authors have asked me for advice on what to do when you feel your novel is ready to go out into the world. So, while I have some downtime, I’ll shortly put up a blog or two with some general advice and information. Good luck to you all. Book publishing is a tough world, but it’s a very exciting and fulfilling one too, and I love being part of it.

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…!