Category Archives: Australian Author

Eleni Hale: Q&A

Thank you, Eleni, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing. The very best of luck for your next piece and I hope we’ll get to read it soon 🙂

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Both, it depends if I’m trying to be good or not.

Coffee or Tea? Coffee followed by herbal tea.

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark? I often use a picture my kids drew as bookmarks

Plot or Character? Both, I can’t differentiate. The plot makes the character makes the plot…

HEA or unexpected twist? Can you have both?

Q: Could you please share with us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer? Was there a particular book you loved as a child or how did you love of words translate to writing?

A: Even before I could read or write I made up stories for my little sister. As soon as I learnt to write I began filling notebooks.

I was the kid the adults looked at and said, ‘Wow, you’ve got an imagination, don’t you?’ The world just seemed magical.

I attribute this to growing up in Greece where stories about Greek Mythology were spoken like facts. My grandfather would answer my many, many questions sincerely so that, like Father Christmas in the west, I had to learn that the Greek Gods were not actually real.

In terms of books I loved as a tween/teen: anything by Judy Blume, Virginia Andrews and Anne Rice. I was also quite affected by Go Ask Alice.

The first time I wrote something just for the hell of it and not because a teacher told me to, I was about ten. I remember the idea coming to me and the odd sensation of thinking, ‘I should write this down’.

I got a piece of paper and pen and closed my bedroom door. An idea thumped demanding that I write it down. It felt like something special was happening.

 

Q: Was there a lot of research involved in writing Stone Girl? I understand that whilst the characters & story are fictional, you were writing from personal experience as someone who experienced homes as a teen. What was it that inspired you to make the choice you did that led to where you are now?

Stone Girl was influenced by the homes I lived in as a teenager, the people I met and the vantage point I had on society. It was a story that followed me around long after I tried to forget it. I felt compelled to write it. It wouldn’t leave me alone.

To be honest I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say about that life. It took me a few hundred thousand words to find my way.

But from the start what felt important was that the book should demonstrate how and why things can go wrong for some teenagers and that we shouldn’t give up or judge them harshly.

 

Q: It wasn’t an easy book to read, Eleni, but it is a very important one. The public needs to know but who exactly do you hope to reach with this message? What do you wish others to take away from your book? And your children?

A:  When I got myself out of that world and went to university and landed a great job as a journalist I was suddenly someone with a voice. This is the very opposite of the hundreds, if not thousands, of kids who live just like Sophie in Australia right now.

It bothered me that their/my story wasn’t being told. I read a few whitewashed stories about foster care and I found those difficult and insulting to read. So I did my best to tell it as honestly as I could.

I don’t have all the answers about how to fix the situation but I think understanding and empathy are a good start. Knowing how the system works is half the battle because most people don’t realise this is how kids actually live.

In my wildest dreams I imagine I can be part of the beginning of change where as a society we discuss how we can better serve the most vulnerable kids in our society; those without parents.

My kids:

Do I want my kids to read Stone Girl? Yes, one day. They are only aged two and four so I’ll wait a decade or so. It depends on their personalities.

I would rather educate than shelter because they are going to learn about the world one way or another. Why shouldn’t it be through books? This is a cautionary tale and the world is full of dangers.

Also, I think seeing how a personality can transform the way Sophie does (which is at the heart of what the book is about) is an interesting subject for teens.

 

Q: How would you suggest the public to respond? What’s the best way to approach these kids? I think, in the book, that nurse on the train was possibly the best example?

A: The nurse is lovely isn’t she 🙂 I hope Stone Girl shows how kids end up in trouble and people might not judge as quickly. Treat everyone with respect because that can make a huge difference.

 

Q: What are your top reads for 2018 to date? And which book are you desperately waiting for publication?

A: I am currently ‘reading’ The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (audio book) and freaking loving it!

I’m reading ‘The Centre of My Everything’ by Allayne Webster which is BRILLIANT!

I can’t wait to read Hayley Lawrence’s ‘Inside the Tiger’ which sounds incredible! Very gritty and tough, something I love.

 

Q: What are you working on now? Or what can we look for from you next?

I am currently writing an adult book which is kind of the sequel to Stone Girl with Sophie as the protagonist but quite different. No one will guess what happens next.

You can check out my thoughts on Stone Girl, here, and you can purchase it from following links: Booktopia  |  Dymocks  |  QBD  |  Abbeys  |  Boomerang

 

About the author

Eleni Hale was a reporter at the Herald Sun, a communications strategist for the union movement and has written for many print and online news publications. Her short story fig was published as part of the ABC’s In their branches project and she has received three Varuna awards. She lives in Melbourne, and is currently working on her second book. Stone Girl is her first novel.

Find Eleni on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram

 

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Review: Stone Girl by Eleni Hale

Stone Girl by Eleni Hale

A heartbreaking novel of raw survival and hope, and the children society likes to forget.A stunning and unforgettable debut YA for older readers.

An unspeakable event changes everything for twelve-year-old Sophie. No more Mum, school or bed of her own. She’s made a ward of the state and grows up in a volatile world where kids make their own rules, adults don’t count and the only constant is change.

Until one day she meets Gwen, Matty and Spiral. Spiral is the most furious, beautiful boy Sophie has ever known. And as their bond tightens she finally begins to confront what happened in her past.

I’m at the police station. There’s blood splattered across my face and clothes. In this tiny room with walls the colour of winter sky I hug a black backpack full of treasures. Only one thing is certain . . . no one can ever forgive me for what I’ve done.

Published 30 April 2018 |  Publisher: Penguin Books Australia  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Truthfully, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I saw the chance and grabbed it; I’m spontaneous like that because otherwise, I’m rather indecisive and will take forever and a day to make up my mind. I don’t think I even looked at the blurb at the back of the book and just started reading… boy, did I get the shock of my life!

The novel opens with a shocked twelve-year-old Sophie sitting at the police station. Her mother had died and it is all her fault. Her father is in Greece and she has no other family to care for her. She was placed in the care of social workers and hence begins her journey through the system. About 1/3 through the book, we skipped to 2 years later and Sophie’s life did not get any better… is it possible to even be worse than it already is? Her life is like a roller coaster and she’s about to hit rock bottom…

We only have each other

Stone Girl tells of brutal lives of teens who have been betrayed again and again. First by their parents who reversed the roles by having the children as carers then to disappoint them by leaving (or dying) and/or breaking promises again and again. No wonder these children do not and cannot place any kind of trust in adults. How can you when all they’ve learnt are betrayals and disappointments?

The homes have taught me some important life lessons: need no one, rely on no one, trust no one. Cry inside. Feel but don’t show. If you think you need someone to talk to about deep stuff? Don’t. Sort it out alone. Mask up and survive.

I can’t tell you just how heartbreaking this story is. And to read in the author’s note that she herself has lived through this system back in the 1990s made this book all the more heartbreaking and powerful in its inspiration of hope. It wasn’t an easy book to read and whilst it holds no trigger moments for me, it came quite close. I won’t say that it’s a must-read for anyone because not everyone could survive reading this but I do very much hope that the message it brings will reach those who need it.

It’s not too late…You can if you are tenacious, determined. Try, and never give up… You have a choice to make and pretending you don’t is a choice in itself.

Thanks to the author, Eleni Hale, for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Eleni Hale was a reporter at the Herald Sun, a communications strategist for the union movement and has written for many print and online news publications. Her short story fig was published as part of the ABC’s In their branches project and she has received three Varuna awards. She lives in Melbourne, and is currently working on her second book. Stone Girl is her first novel.

Find Eleni on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Eleni! 😀

Review: Meet Me at the Intersection

Meet Me at the Intersection edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina

Meet Me at the Intersection is an anthology of short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability. The focus of the anthology is on Australian life as seen through each author’s unique, and seldom heard, perspective.

With works by Ellen van Neerven, Graham Akhurst, Kyle Lynch, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Olivia Muscat, Mimi Lee, Jessica Walton, Kelly Gardiner, Rafeif Ismail, Yvette Walker, Amra Pajalic, Melanie Rodriga, Omar Sakr, Wendy Chen, Jordi Kerr, Rebecca Lim, Michelle Aung Thin and Alice Pung, this anthology is designed to challenge the dominant, homogenous story of privilege and power that rarely admits ‘outsider’ voices.

Published September 2018 |  Publisher: Fremantle Press  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I’m so excited to see a book, an anthology, dedicated to #ownvoices ! Finally, something for everyone (or almost). Editors did a fine job in collating stories of representation from a cross-section of those who are different, unique; of voices whom we rarely hear.

There are a couple of poetry which I struggled with… I don’t know how to read poetry! Although what really helps is the blurb at the beginning of each chapter describing who the authors are and sometimes, what their pieces are about. Each one of these authors are amazing humans!

Of course, I am absolutely partial to the Asian stories / authors as I understood them better from the cultural perspective. However, this did not diminish my enjoyment of the other stories (except for poetry as I mentioned above) for each of these stories help me to better understand their side of the story. I mean why else do we read but to open our minds to others and in listening to them, be better able to love as they deserve to be loved. I highly recommend this anthology for all who seek to understand.

Thanks to Fremantle Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Rebecca Lim is a writer, illustrator and lawyer based in Melbourne. Rebecca is the author of eighteen books, and has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, Aurealis Award and Davitt Award for YA. Rebecca’s work has also been longlisted for the Gold Inky Award and the David Gemmell Legend Award. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Turkish, Portuguese and Polish.

Find Rebecca on:  goodreads

Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books as well as a YA dystopian series. Her books have been published in the United States, South Korea and China. Ambelin is a prolific commentator on diversity in children’s literature and a law academic at the University of Western Australia.

Find Ambelin on:  goodreads

Review: The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

It’s 1947 and the war is over, but Juliet Barnard is still tormented by secrets. She was a British agent and wireless operator in occupied Paris until her mission went critically wrong. Juliet was caught by the Germans, imprisoned and tortured in a mansion in Paris’s Avenue Foch.

Now that she’s home, Juliet can’t – or won’t – relive the horrors that occurred in that place. Nor will she speak about Sturmbannführer Strasser, the manipulative Nazi who held her captive. . .

Haunted by the guilt of betrayal, the last thing Juliet wants is to return to Paris. But when Mac, an SAS officer turned Nazi-hunter, demands her help searching for his sister, Denise, she can’t refuse. Denise and Juliet trained together before being dropped behind enemy lines. Unlike Juliet, Denise never made it home. Certain Strasser is the key to discovering what happened to his sister, Mac is determined to find answers – but will the truth destroy Juliet?

Published 30 April 2018 |  Publisher: Penguin Random House  |  RRP: AUD$32.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I read Code Name Verity a few weeks ago so found the premise of this book even more compelling. Unlike Code Name Verity, however, The Juliet Code follows the aftermath of captivity. There is a dual timeline, albeit only a few years apart, of course, to provide the background of her capture and ultimately, on her survival.

Juliet Barnard is not one of those ‘kick-ass-heroine’ or at least, she’s not described as such to begin with. In the opening chapter, she’s a broken woman, fearful of what’s happened during her incarceration in France. In the earlier timeline, she’s compared unfavourably against other women who are better physically & mentally. She is intelligent and determined but not particularly capable as an agent in training but the country is desperate and cannot spare anyone. I love this characterisation of Juliet because it made her completely relate-able.

I loved the glamorously romantic cover and my chronically romantic self fell head over heels over this love story. If you are not a fan of insta-love, however, this book is not for you. Whilst I’m fascinated by war stories, for me, The Juliet Code is a beautiful romance story than anything else. In fact, this romantic story haunts me over the past week since I’ve finished reading and I’ll probably continue to daydream about Juliet & Felix for the next few months at least.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Christine Wells worked as a corporate lawyer in a city firm before exchanging contracts and prospectuses for a different kind of fiction. In her novels, she draws on a lifelong love of British history and an abiding fascination for the way laws shape and reflect society. Christine is devoted to big dogs, good coffee, beachside holidays and Antiques Roadshow, but above all to her two sons who live with her in Brisbane.

Find Christine on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram

Review: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life.

When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died — a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family — Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.

Little Gods is a novel about the mess of family, about vengeance and innocence lost. It explores resilience and girlhood and questions how families live with all of their complexities and contradictions. Resonating with echoes of Australian classics like Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, and Jasper Jones, Little Gods is told with similar idiosyncrasy, insight and style. Funny and heartbreaking, this is a rare and original novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.

Published March 2018 |  Publisher: Allen & Unwin  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

I struggled with this novel. According to GR, I started reading at the end of April. I think I tried for 2 days’ commuting’s worth (approx 3.5 hours) and gave up. Usually, I would’ve nearly finished a novel but I read only about 1/3 of this novel. This was months ago so all I vaguely remember is the jumbled confusion on who’s who. The novel is told from solely from Olive’s perspective and most of the time, she refers to her mother by her name (the same applies to her aunts & uncles). There were 3 sisters and 3 brothers and somehow they formed one big family. It took me absolutely forever to sort them out. Actually, I don’t think I did then…

Today, I decided that the book deserves one last chance. Unbelievably, I caught on fairly quickly and finished the novel in no time at all. I guess the story did pick up after the confusing first third of the book. All the background set up is done and we can actually progress with what’s happened next. It’s obvious from the book’s description that the mystery was a tragedy and it’s something the family does not speak about. I admired Olive’s persistence in finding out the truth and when it hurt (a lot of inferences need to be drawn by the readers as to what’s actually happened; I was rather annoyed with this), she dealt and lived.

I wanted to read this book as it supposedly echoed Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, & Jasper Jones. I loved these three Aussie classics but unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Little Gods. Maybe, I picked it up at the wrong time and so struggled badly with the beginning of it, who knows?! Whilst I totally agree that this novel has a very Aussie vibes, I’m left dissatisfied at the close of the book.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for copy of book in exchange of honest review


About the author

Jenny Ackland is a writer and teacher from Melbourne. She has worked in offices, sold textbooks in a university bookshop, taught English overseas and worked as a proof-reader and freelance editor. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines and listed in prizes and awards. Her debut novel The Secret Son – a “Ned Kelly-Gallipoli mash-up” about truth and history – was published in 2015. Little Gods is her second novel.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  instagram

Review: The Buried Ark by James Bradley

The Buried Ark (The Change #2) by James Bradley

Callie risked everything to get her little sister Gracie to the safety of the Zone. But Matt, the boy she loves, has been killed by Quarantine and Gracie has been absorbed into the Change.

Now Callie must learn to survive in the alien landscape of the Zone, a place where the Change is everywhere, and nothing is what it seems. That is, until she stumbles on a secret from her past that may hold the key to defeating the Change.

Hunted and alone, she finds refuge in the most unexpected of places. Only to find she is in more danger than ever.

Published 29 May 2018 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$14.99

My Blurb (4 stars)

Please note this review is for the second book of the trilogy and may contain spoilers. Here is a link if you’d like to check out my review of the first book: The Silent Invasion

If you’ve read book 1, you know how it ended and I’m sure you were just as frustrated as I was that we had to wait a full year to know what happens next. Thankfully, this book picked up immediately after that ending and what a touching scene it was….

Of course, nothing is ever as it seems! Callie, heartbroken & missing Matt & Gracie, had to figure out how she was going to survive in a place where she stood out as foreign; she is the ‘alien’, the one who does not belong. Strangely, despite her frequent contact with the changes, she remains herself. Is there a way to save the world from being changed?

I must confess to being rather sad as I missed the dynamics of Callie, Matt, & Gracie. In this second instalment of the trilogy, Without giving away too much, I did like a few of secondary characters introduced as her ‘sidekicks’. They were an interesting bunch but I just didn’t feel as connected to them as I did with Matt & Gracie though this could be that these new characters were not there with Callie throughout the whole book like Matt & Gracie did in The Silent Invasion.

The Buried Ark did not disappoint. It is a thrilling read and each time you’d think things are just getting better, they fell apart even more disastrously. James Bradley had aimed for an even bigger explosion to end book 2 and my world, didn’t he just blow the world apart?!

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

James Bradley was born in 1967. He is the author of three novels, Wrack, The Deep Field and his most recent, The Resurrectionist; a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus; and the editor of Blur, a collection of stories by young Australian writers. He is a well-respected critic and regularly reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He lives in Sydney with his partner, novelist Mardi McConnochie.

Find James on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter

Nadia L. King: Q&A

Thank you, Nadia, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing. The very best of luck for your next piece and I hope we’ll get to read it soon 🙂

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Milk

Coffee or Tea? Tea

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark? Envelopes and postcards

Plot or Character? Character

HEA or unexpected twist? Unexpected twist

Q: Could you please share with us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer?

A: Once I learnt to read I was one of those kids who always had her nose in a book. I had a short stint working as a journalist and a successful career in corporate communications. When my husband and I started a family I found my hands full raising our daughters. For years I read everything in sight without penning a single word. Then in 2015 after a case of extremely itchy fingers I started writing fiction. Finally in my forties I find myself working hard at a career in which I had always been drawn to but had never had the courage to pursue.

Q: Was there a lot of research involved in writing Jenna’s Truth? Was there a particular fact or 2 you found during research that surprised you? What were they?

A: The protagonist in Jenna’s Truth is a teenage girl who decides to end her life after being bullied. Because I was writing for a young adult audience I was very cognisant of not giving a how-to lesson in suicide. I decided on drowning and then researched what it feels like to drown, how difficult it is, the physical limitations of drowning, and the injuries that can be sustained. I had this rather romantic notion that you could just walk into a lake or something, take your last breath and die, but drowning isn’t like that and it’s quite difficult to do. Your body will fight drowning until the last moment and it’s an incredibly painful process.

Q: These are very difficult themes to tackle in such a short story! How did you feel about writing the things that happened to Jenna in the story? Was this story ever meant to be a longer one or how did you decide it to be a short story?

A: I feel as if the story of Jenna’s Truth chose me rather than the other way around. In the book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about stories finding their storytellers and Jenna’s Truth felt very much like that. I wanted the story to be as accessible to many as teens as possible so a novella seemed the perfect length. In a classroom context, the story can be read in one sitting. Jenna’s Truth has been positively received by school libraries who often use it with reluctant readers.

Q: It’s mentioned in the book that you actually learned of Amanda Todd from your own teenaged daughter. I must admit that I’ve been anxious about cyber safety for my son even when he was only 3… He’s 8 now and I’m ever more anxious! What are some practical tips you can share with us parents?

A: In my experience the most important thing you can do in parenting is to have an open and engaged relationship with your kids. Keeping the lines of communication open means being honest with your kids. Just because we’re parents doesn’t mean we’re perfect, so role modelling being open and authentic seems to me a good pathway to take. From a cyberbullying perspective, don’t be afraid to block the haters and trolls and to report any abusive social media posts. Retain evidence of cyberbullying and visit https://www.esafety.gov.au for the most up to date information and advice.

Q: What are your top reads for 2018 to date? And which book are you desperately waiting for publication?

A: Some of the great books I’ve read this year include:

Books I can’t wait to read:

Q: What are you working on now? Or what can we look for from you next?

A: Publication can be such a long road. I’ve written a young adult novel about a boy who loves manga and struggles against his abusive father. It has elements of magical realism to lighten the heavy subject matter. The manuscript is currently out on submission and I have no idea if a publisher will want it. I have started another young adult novel based in a small outback country town and have a few other projects on the go. Cross your fingers for me!

You can check out my thoughts on Jenna’s Truth, here, and you can purchase it from following links: Booktopia  |  B&N  |  Boffins Books  |  foyles  |  Serenity Press

About the author

Australian author, Nadia L King, was born in Dublin, Ireland. Nadia is a YA author and short story writer.  She is passionate about using stories to connect with teens. Nadia is a particularly hopeless horse rider but she enjoyed that one time she rode an ostrich. She also loves riding camels, and hopes to one day ride an elephant.  Nadia lives in Western Australia with her family. 

Find Elizabeth on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram