Nicola Moriarty: Q&A

Thank you, Nicola Moriarty, for your time in sharing your thoughts with me in this Q&A session.

  • There’s something unique about letters, isn’t there? Could you share with us your thoughts about letters seeing that they are feature strongly in your new book, The Fifth Letter? What is special about letters to you personally?

I completely agree there’s something unique about letters as opposed to email or text or even face-to—face conversation. I think the reason letter-writing appeals to me is because sending and receiving letters was something I loved to do when I was younger. I wrote to my cousin when she moved to England for a year when we were both about eleven. I wrote to my sister when she moved away to study at Yale university (and I filled those letters with teenage angst and confessions) and I wrote love letters to my first boyfriend when I was fourteen!

  • And continuing on the above question… I haven’t received or sent a letter by snail mail in a very, very long time – so long that I can’t even remember the last time (not counting any greeting cards). Have you sent or received a letter by snail mail recently? And if so why was the letter not in email form instead?

I haven’t sent a letter myself for a little while now, but I encourage my 8 year old daughter to write letters to her best friend who moved away to Mudgee last year, because I remember the joy of writing letters to friends when I was young. There’s just something special about sharing stories and secrets and sealing them up inside envelopes and sending them out into the world and then waiting for the all-important response!

  • Can you tell us about the inspiration behind The Fifth Letter?

I have a great group of friends that have been with me since high school (we’ve been in each other’s lives for more than 20 years now!) Obviously our friendships have had their ups and downs, but despite this, we’re all still very close and we have girls’ holidays away together every now and then. These holidays often result in lots of drinking and chatting way into the night and during these late night, wine-fueled conversations, all sorts of revelations from our past often come up. Sometimes we do argue or get frustrated with one another, but usually, we can move past any disagreements.

I found myself wondering what would happen if something really serious, something really dark or sinister come up in one of these chats with my friends? What if it turned out that they were hiding secrets? That I didn’t actually know them as well as I thought I did?

At the same time, I already had this completely random idea at the back of my mind of a group of friends swapping anonymous letters. I think originally I was actually envisioning a group of high school students doing it on a dare or as a bit of fun. The two ideas sort of merged together and from there, the story of a group of long-term female friends sharing secrets in anonymous letters was formed.

I liked the concept of the feeling of helplessness you might feel if you read something heartbreaking in a letter and knew that one of your friends was hurting but you couldn’t help them because you didn’t know which friend it was.

  • What kind of research was involved in the writing of The Fifth Letter?

The story didn’t require a great deal of research, but I did have to find out a bit about certain infertility issues, plus I learned a little about abseiling and I asked the advice of some friends who are nurses to help determine the possible outcomes of a certain injury.

  • Do you listen to music whilst writing? If so, was there a particular set of songs you listened to when writing your new book?

I love to listen to music when I write. With The Fifth Letter, I listened to a lot of 90s music because it gave me a great sense of nostalgia, taking me back to the time when I was in high school with my best friends. I listened to a mix of Greenday, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Smash Mouth, Nirvana, Fatboy Slim, Spiderbait, Jebediah, The Offspring, Soundgarden and Powderfinger.

  • What kind of music do you think the main characters in The Fifth Letter would enjoy? And do they have any favourite songs?

Eden likes a bit of drum and bass and some jazz as well. I think her favourite artists would be Massive Attack, Regina Spektor, Chairlift, Portishead, Tricky, The Submarines, The Sneaker Pimps and Florence + The Machine.

Deb has eclectic taste. Sometimes she’s into hip hop, sometimes it’s old 60s or 80s music, sometimes it’s dance. She usually doesn’t know the name of the song that she’s listening to.

Trina’s into old-school grunge or punk. She likes Weezer, Reel Big Fish, Eskimo Joe and Blink 182.

Joni likes feel-good, fun, poppy kind of music like P!nk or Ke$ha or Katy Perry.

  • Can you tell us what’s next for you?

Yes, I’m working on my next novel, which is about parenting in general plus the divide between working mums, stay at home mums and women without children. It’s also about the judgement between parents and about the sometimes toxic influence of social media groups on women… and that’s all I can say at this stage without giving too much away!

2016 v. 2017:

  1. What was your favourite book/s of 2016?

A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I know it originally came out in 2015, but I only just read it last year!)

Love at First Flight by Tess Woods

  1. What is your most anticipated book/s for 2017?

The Golden Child by Wendy James (I was lucky enough to read an early copy and I could not put it down!)

The Lucky One by Caroline Overington

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

  1. What is the thing you are most proud of having tackled in 2016?

Depression – it decided to re-appear and settle in around about the beginning of autumn. It took most of the year to shake it off my back yet again, but I’m happy to say I’m finally starting to feel like myself now (the happier version of myself anyway!).

Thanks for sharing this with us, Nicola. Thank you for your stories and your courage & determination. I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling more like yourself and look forward to more of your insightful stories into the lives of normal women like us xox

If anyone out there feels like you need some help, please reach out. If you need it, Lifeline Australia can be reached on 13 11 14.

  1. What is something tough you are looking to tackle (or have started to tackle) in 2017?

My health and fitness, it got a little off track towards the end of 2016, so I’m super keen to get it back under control this year.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions Nicola, and all the very best with The Fifth Letter!

You can check out my thoughts on The Fifth Letter, here

About the author

moriarty-nicola-2-credit-steve-menasse

Nicola lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.

Her writing was once referred to as ‘inept’ by The Melbourne Age. Luckily on that same day the Brisbane Courier Mail called her work ‘accomplished, edgy and real.’ So she stopped crying into her Weetbix, picked up a pen and continued to write. She has been fueled by a desire to prove The Age wrong ever since.

These days, she writes everything from novels to football stadium announcements to VW radio ad scripts and Home Loan EDMs to the occasional Mamamia article and the odd Real Estate advert.

Her first two novels, Free-Falling and Paper Chains were published by Random House Australia in 2012 and 2013. Free-Falling was translated into Dutch and German and was awarded the title of ‘Best Australian Debut’ from Chicklit Club. Paper Chains was later picked up for publishing in the U.S. by HarperCollins and will be released there mid 2017.

She has four older sisters and one older brother and she lives in constant fear of being directly compared to her two wildly successful and extraordinarily talented author sisters, Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. Unless of course, the comparison is something kind, perhaps along the lines of, “Liane, Jaci and Nicola are all wonderful writers. I love all of their books equally.”

 

Find Nicola: website | facebook | twitter | goodreads

Review: The Fifth Letter

the-fifth-letter
The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Do you have a group of best friends? Do they know everything about you or do you think you know all there is to know about each other? I have a group of my own best friends; four of us grew close during high school – almost like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina. Like them, 3 of us are married with children and one has just found The One and about to tie the knot in a few months’ time. *sniffs – am so very happy for her*

The beginning of their friendship is almost laughable. It was pointed out to them that they all have 2 things in common: surnames starting with “C” and their star signs (Scorpios). It’s not the silliest thing that have begun deep friendships, of course, but this was the basis that Joni decided that the four of them are meant to be best friends forever. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most innocent start of the group…

scorpio

Years later, they were still good friends. They see each other regularly and even have girls weekend away sometimes. This weekend though, things rather fell apart. They decided to each write an anonymous letter of secrets to tell each other. It really wasn’t that easy to be anonymous when you know each other well and in addition to that, Joni found a fifth letter with a rather menacing tone. What is she to do with it? Is she supposed to do anything about it?

I really enjoyed the beginning of The Fifth Letter. The stage was being set with Joni finding the letter, her confessional conversation with a Catholic priest (my favourite character), then flashbacks to their teen years. I started smiling on page 3 and found at the end of my train trip, that I still had a wide smile on my face. It wasn’t just funny but the flashbacks also remind me of my own memories of my friends. I didn’t actually like any of these 4 ladies even though I can identify/empathise with all of them in one thing or another. Joni, being the main protagonist and whose perspective we read from, can be very frustrating! She is lovely really but oh, she can be so blind! In saying that, however, I also couldn’t really pick the fifth letter writer. And that precious ending, oh wow, I was literally choking with laughter!

What began as a rather humorous and reminiscing read, this novel took a turn into a dark complex of human emotions. These women each have their own issues which they feel they cannot voice yet that is the first step towards healing. The Fifth Letter engages the reader to look beyond the surface, to check our unrealistic expectations of women and see them as a person, an individual, who is not perfect (no one is perfect) and needs loving supports.

Thank you, Nicola Moriarty, for this novel and the chance to reflect of my own friendships. Like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina, I’m sure that we do not know everything about each other and that’s okay… I am certain, however, that none of us harbours any ill will towards anyone in the group 😀

Thank you Harper Collins Publishers Australia for providing paperback copy in exchange of honest review

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Review: Traitor to the Throne

Traitor to the Throne
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you think Rebels of the Sands was amazing, wait ’til you read this Mind-Blowing sequel! Oh My Goodness! This was a yarn that kept pulling at your heart string at every stitch and The Ending… boy, it’s a ‘rug-pulled-out-from-under-me’ moment. This book is Epic and is easily my favourite book of the year (I know it’s only mid Feb but I do think there’s very little chance of it being topped up – YES, it is that good!). Alwyn Hamilton has done an absolutely fantastic job; Traitor to the Throne is a tightly knit tale despite all the twists and turns, she’s got it all under control. I’m exhilarated and exhausted, at the same time; it feels like I’ve just been through a sandstorm. The sand story gets everywhere…

Note: I bought this book as soon as I saw it at the store. I rarely ever gush about books like this so that alone should tell you just how FABULOUS this book is. For now, I need to be left alone, a book hangover of the worst kind; here’s to hoping that no one needs anything from me at work today 😥

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Candice Fox: Q&A

Thank you so much for your time, Candice! I absolutely adored Archer & Bennett and gobsmacked at the opportunity at a Q&A with you.

Warm-Up Quick Qs:
Tea or Coffee?   Coffee.
Green cordial or Red Cordial?  Red.
Red Wine or White Wine? Both.
Vegemite or Nutella? Vegemite.
Cats or Dogs?  Both.
When did you first start writing and what was the road to publication like for you?
I started putting serious words down at about age 12. I’d been writing before then, but on the family computer, which was vulnerable to invasion by my brothers. When my mother got me a computer for my room, I felt like I could write without it being read by anyone I didn’t want to have access to it.

I started submitting manuscripts at 18, and had four failed works rejected by over 200 hadespublishers before hitting on a winner with Hades. The manuscript was originaly accepted by an independent publisher in the UK before that venture collapsed, and I sent it around again in Australia, heavily edited. Gaby Naher decided she would represent me, and she did the hard yards finding someone to take a chance on me at Random House.

Are you a planner? Do you know the ending of your book when you started writing and how it will get there?
I am a very loose plotter for my own work, but working with James Patterson requires me to do extensive planning – 15,000 word outlines and alike. I generally don’t start writing my own work until I have the first quarter worked out in my mind, and then I’ll keep ahead of myself by three or four plot points just so I don’t hit a wall. I never like to know much about the ending. I like it to unravel organically, so that I don’t accidentally foreshadow it along the way or get bored before I get there.

How do you find inspiration for the crime / mystery? Is there a particular publications you read or do you trawl through police reports for past crimes etc?
Basically everything I consume is true crime related, when I have a choice in the matter. I’m married to a very gentle and sweet-natured man, so I have to balance out my gruesome night-time viewing sometimes with lighter content. But I keep up to date with all the latest true crime docos and the dodgy ones from the eighties and nineties, too, for their nostalgic value. I read true crime, I listen to true crime podcasts.
The Neddies list is a good starting point for anyone wanting good quality true crime, but of course, there are great publications from the US which aren’t necessarily well written but valuable nonetheless – sometimes the books are written by FBI agents or profilers etc so they’re not arty but they are packed with useful tidbits.

Which one of Australia’s true crimes fascinate you and why?
the-fallOh, there are so many. I was deeply interested in the Daniel Morcombe investigation – not so much for the processes but for the suspects involved. What a bunch of evil people. And the mystery surrounding the famous blue car still niggles at my mind now and then. There are great lesser-known crimes being reassessed through podcasts right now by The Age etc – the one about Phoebe Hansjuk is great, and the one about Rachael Antonio. I always plug my good friend Amy Dale’s book The Fall about Simon Gittany’s murder of Lisa Harnum. I read the book before we became friends, so I’m not biased. It’s very difficult to move me emotionally – I’m very desensitised to violence. This book disturbed me very much.

How do you find collaborating work? And not just with any author but with one of the biggest names in the publishing industry!
never-neverIt’s great. In some ways it’s very useful that he’s the most powerful author in the world, in that I can lean on his experience and wisdom whenever I need to – if anyone’s going to know what will work in a sticky spot in a manuscript, or foresee a problem long before I will, it’s him. Yes, of course, it also made the whole endeavour very intimidating in the beginning, because I didn’t want to fail at such a rare and wonderful opportunity. But I’m over that now. We’re onto our third work together at the moment. I think we fit together like Lego pieces.

Has writing changed you as a person? Is it therapeutic? Or is thinking about crime all the time make you a little more paranoid?
On the contrary, before I got to write for a living I was as voyeuristic and weird as I am now, I just didn’t have a ‘legitimate’ excuse for it. I’m that person who will interject into an otherwise everyday conversation with anecdotes about serial killers or facts about dead bodies. People used to think I was the ugly duckling in that way, but now that they realise I was a swan the whole time, I feel free to be me.

What can we expect from you next? Is Crimson Lake a stand-alone novel or is it meant to be a serial too? Any more Archer & Bennett books?
Crimson Lake was meant to be a standalone, originally, but it’s caused such a stir that my publishers across the world all agreed I needed to do another one. I’ve just finished editing Last Chance, the second full novel in the Detective Harriet Blue series with James, so now I’m onto the Crimson Lake II first draft. I don’t know if there will ever be any more Bennett/Archers. I don’t rule it out, but at the moment I have to chase what is best for my career, and it’s moving on with Ted and Amanda, and Harriet and her guys.

You can check out my thoughts on Crimson Lake, here

About the author

candice-foxHades, Candice Fox’s first novel, won the Ned Kelly Award for best debut in 2014 from the Australian Crime Writers Association. The sequel, Eden, won the Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel in 2015, making Candice only the second author to win these accolades back-to-back. Also, in the 2015 Davitt Awards, Hades was Highly Commended in the debut category. Her third novel, Fall, was recently published to critical acclaim.

In 2015 Candice began collaborating with James Patterson. Their first novel together, Never Never, set in the vast Australian outback, was released in August 2016. They have also co-written a prequel novella, Black & Blue, as part of the James Patterson BookShots series. They are currently at work on the sequel.

Candice is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings. The daughter of a parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer, Candice spent her childhood listening around corners to tales of violence, madness and evil as her father relayed his work stories to her mother and older brothers.

Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. She lives in Sydney.

Find Candice: website | facebook | twitter | goodreads

Review: Crimson Lake

crimson-lakeCrimson Lake by Candice Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was soooo excited to see Candice Fox was to release a new book. I must admit to being a teeny weeny disappointed to find out that it is NOT an Archer & Bennett but still… It’s a must-read. If you love crime novels, Candice Fox’s books are must-reads!

Despite being told that this is her best book yet, I can NOT make this distinction. I love ALL her books fairly equally and they are ALL my favourites. The mysteries are terrific but the characters and what she made them go through are just mind-boggling. They are fragile. They are broken. They are survivors.

The main difference in Crimson Lake to the Archer & Bennett books to my mind is that it’s cracking hilarious. Wait a minute, Amanda Pharrell is horrendously hilarious. I can see some people might find her annoying and if she’s someone I know IRL, I’d probably want to kill her myself but seriously the stuff she said were Lough Out Loud Funny. Err, yes, I’m most probably that crazy lady on the train… Here’s one of the things she said that cracked me up to no end & I kept going back to it:

“… I’m dead fascinated with your case. I’m so fascinated, someone should pin me in their hair and wear me to the races.”

We don’t know very much how Amanda’s mind works as the novel is told from Ted Conkaffey’s perspective but one thing we do know is that she’s full on contradictions. She’d slunk away for certain confrontations and yet,

“…doesn’t anything scare you anymore?”
“Not really,” she said brightly…

Ted Conkaffey is hiding. He’s tired and he’s sad. He has had no choice but to accept what fate has dealt him to date. The geese found him. Amanda baffled him. Her cases interest his mind and his brain geared up to put these puzzles together. Maybe there is something else he could do even now… Despite being told from Ted’s perspective; Amanda completely took over the whole book. Maybe we’ll have her perspective in the next book?

Aside from these amazing characterisation, I also love Fox’s prose; the way she draws you to the characters then the setting and then weaves tangled weave of mysterious circumstances which leave you guessing ‘til the end. Crimson Lake, with its tightly developed plot, unique characters and a snapping end, is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop
Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop by Amy Witting
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I purchased this book, I bought it because:
1. I like the sound of the title, and
2. the cover fits a task for a reading challenge.
I didn’t realise that this was a follow-up to a book, I for Isobel which I’ve actually read a few years ago though I only vaguely remembered. I read it but I did NOT understand it which is why it remains “un-rated” on my shelf despite being read. Hence, I started reading Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop with trepidation. I don’t know whether I’ve grown up a little in the past few years or what but I actually enjoyed this book. Hence, the 4-stars’ rating.

The novel opens with Isobel’s struggles as an aspiring writer. She’s just taken her first determined step to commit herself as a writer. She’s quit her steady but dead-ending job, having to leave home because of this and found herself in a boarding house without having much left for food. This first part of the book was rather confusing though that is because Isobel herself is confused… this was made obvious when the state of her health was revealed and she suddenly found herself in a sanatorium. It is here, through her interactions with others and certain friendships or even enmities, that she began to accept herself and in doing so, flourish.

“Is it possible to cause so much misery to another human being, simply by being oneself? she wondered, feeling a reflection of that misery. No help for it; she must continue to be herself.”

As always, reading is subjective and what I learnt from this book is probably different from others. I did find this book to be very reflective and rather thought-provoking. With a diverse set of characters to complement and/or as foils to Isobel, Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop is an engaging read. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve read the earlier book as this book can well stand on its own.

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Review: Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, Alison Goodman has once again lived up to my expectations! They’re very tall, let me assure you… If you loved, The Dark Days Club then you would absolutely be blown away by Dark Days Pact. If you think The Dark Days Club was okay & a bit slow, Gurl, you are in for The Ride of Your Life!

Lady Helen is now in Brighton. She is ‘recuperating’ from her illness but really she’s training hard to become a Reclaimer. The Grand Deceiver is coming though and there is division in the Club but most of all, what’s wrong with Lord Carlston? The answer to this last question totally heart-crushing! Even as Helen likes to think that she’s a logical creature, the answer lies elsewhere.

This was a fairly thick book and I read it in 3 (work)days… I could’ve read it in a single sitting but you know adulthood really ruins my reading life! The Dark Days Pact is a surprisingly complex book. It started quite gently and the first layer of deception was acceptable as a reasonable twist to the story but then there’s another and another AND another! It’s a snowball effect that you just cannot see how this will end. The irony is that these so-called Reclaimers and their associates are involved in deception just like those the Deceivers they are supposed to regulate…

I’ll finish with a warning: around the halfway mark, this book becomes completed UNPUTDOWNABLE. There were twists upon twists (plot) and then the feels… your heart will be squashed, pulverized, bandaged, and once again mangled beyond recognition. I am in pure agony waiting for book 3.

Thanks to Harper Collins Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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