Category Archives: Interview

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

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Kim Lock: Q&A

Thank you, Kim, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing.

Quick Qs
Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Milk

Coffee or Tea? Definitely tea.

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark? I have approximately 1000 bookmarks. There is always one lying around.

Plot or Character? Both! Also voice.

HEA or unexpected twist? Anything that suits the story, and is well executed.

Q: How long have you been writing and/or reading? Have the written words always been a big part of your life?
A: I’ve been reading (and writing) for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child I have
always had a book with me; I grew up with The Baby-Sitters Club, The Gymnasts and Nancy Drew.
My first ‘novels’ were written on a typewriter, cut down into little pages and stapled into books. I
still have them! They have intriguing titles such as, ‘I Want Some Cake’ and ‘The Mushroom Ring at the Bottom of My Garden’.

Q: Could you please share with us your publication journey?
A: After spending several years working on a manuscript alone, my debut novel was picked up from the ‘slush pile’ of an independent press, which gave me great insights into revision and editing as well as invaluable industry experience. My second novel was selected to participate in the QWC/Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program in 2013, and it was after this that I signed with my agent and was offered a two-book contract with Pan Macmillan Australia – those books are Like I Can Love and The Three of Us.

Q: So far, ‘motherhood’ seems to play a big part in your novels… is there any particular scene that was actually a real life incident? Could you also share with us your motherhood journey so far? How are you finding juggling kids and writing?
A: Though no scenes (so far!) are based on any of my own real life experiences, I certainly draw on my own feelings when writing characters’ ‘motherhoods’. When my first baby was born, one of the particular challenges, for me, was trying to reconcile the disparity between how I thought I was supposed to feel (in love, tender, deferential) and how I actually did feel – which was often
bewildered and lonely! The biologically female act of childbearing isn’t always easy in a male-centric world. So I think there are lots of conversations to be had there.
To answer your question about kids and writing – I write when I can! I have to be flexible. Some days I’m able to write a lot, and some days I’m not able to write at all. I spend a lot of time mulling stories over in my head and jotting down notes.

Q: How do you write? Are you a planner? Do you chart a plot before you start writing? Do you listen to music while writing? Just for fun, could you share a picture of your workspace with us (especially if you mainly write at home)
A: That’s a great question! Each book has been slightly different, but I’m definitely not a planner. I begin with a basic idea, a character’s name, and perhaps a rough idea of setting. Then I just start writing, keep writing, and see what comes up. I’m pretty linear – I write from the beginning to the end, with only the occasional deviation if something strikes. My first drafts are awful things, terribly rough, and there are usually tens of thousands of words that get dumped and rewritten within the first few drafts. It’s usually around draft three or four when I’ll write something of a scene map. I can be several drafts in and still adding or subtracting or fixing major storylines. (Luckily for me, I thoroughly enjoy editing.) I’m one of those writers who needs quiet – I find music too distracting. It’s why I also can’t write in cafes or public libraries. I write in my home office with the door closed, or when I’m home alone, or sometimes in the car.

 

My desk is a complete mess! There’s always a rotation of books coming and going, trinkets and pieces of craft that the kids bring me, notebooks and draft manuscripts piling up. My pride and joy is a beautiful Orée keyboard, a treat that I bought myself with a book advance. Please don’t mind the grotty window …

Q: I see you also work as freelance graphic designer, did you design your own covers and/or how much say do you have with your covers?
A: My first novel was published by a small press, and I had the unique experience of being able to design my own cover (with a brief from the publisher, of course!). With my next two books, I was able to enjoy the experience of taking my designer hat off, and just being the author. Which I have loved!

Q: Congratulations on the publication of your Third book (fifth baby?) What’s next for you, Kim?
A: Thank you, Tien! It’s been an amazing three years in the making, this one. I have another book in the works, but this one seems to be coming through a little slower. But I’m taking plenty of notes, and daydreaming…

Q: Please share with us: your top 5 reads in 2017 and your 5 most anticipated releases in 2018

Oh, it’s always hard to narrow it down! A non-exhaustive selection of books that I read last year and loved (not necessarily published in 2017): Plane Tree Drive by Lynette Washington; Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman; I Am, I Am, I Am, by Maggie O’Farrell; Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
And no doubt 2018 will deliver plenty of excellent books, but here’s just a few I’m looking forward to: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht (March); Trick of the Light by Laura Elvery (March); You Wish by Lia Weston (April); and, later in the year, new books from Sarah Ridout and Les Zig.

 

 

You can check out my thoughts on Kim’s books by clicking on these links: Peace, Love, and Khaki Socks, Like I Can Love, The Three of Us

About the author

Kim Lock was born in 1981. She is the author of two previous novels Like I can Love and Peace, Love and Khaki Socks. Her non-fiction has appeared in the Guardian, Daily Life, and the Sydney Morning Herald onlineShe lives in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, with her partner and their children, a dog and a couple of cats.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

Elizabeth Foster: Q&A

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing. I’ve loved Esme’s adventure in magical Aeolia and can’t wait for book 2!

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?

Impossible choice! I love chocolate in all its forms and eat too much of both. Easter is a dangerous time for me!

Coffee or Tea?

I adore coffee but limit myself to one a day – I love the buzz but my adrenals don’t. Peppermint tea is my next beverage of choice.

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark?

I never dog-ear but I do write all over books, marking passages I love. I usually use bookmarks to keep my place. There are so many gorgeous ones to choose from.

Plot or Character?

My ideal reads have a focus on both. I like beautiful writing, which I feel is found more often in character-driven stories, but I also like to feel that the story is going somewhere.

HEA or unexpected twist?

I prefer a story that leaves me with a bit of hope but I’m also partial to a good twist along the way!

Q: Could you please share with us your publication journey?

A: Esme’s Wish took around nine years to come into being, from first idea to published book. I really had no idea what it would take to write a publishable novel, and naively thought it would take only a couple of years. I soon realized there is a huge amount of work involved! I persevered through many rewrites, taking on board suggestions for improvement, until the story was the best I could make it. Esme’s Wish finally made it out of the slush pile at Odyssey Books, who are publishing all three books in the series.

Q: I see that you loved Narnia & Enid Blyton and hence the ‘step into a magical world’ in Esme’s Wish. Aside from these classics, was there any particular real life incidents that inspired you to write this book?

A: Esme’s Wish began as a family project. I started writing the book with my then fourteen-year-old son, Chris. The initial impetus came at the end of the Harry Potter series, when I missed the world J.K. Rowling had created and decided to write a ‘feel good’ story of my own. Once I started writing, I felt more fulfilled and happier all round, so I just kept going! My son eventually decided to write a series of his own and we now edit each other’s work.

Q: What was the inspiration of ‘Esperance’? It sounds rather like Venice but with Greek culture?

A: I always envisioned that much of the story would take place in a canal city and the first one that came to mind was Venice. While a real-life city, to me Venice also has an otherworldly dreaminess all of its own. I visited twice during the long writing of the book and could easily imagine dragons flying over its rooftops! When it came to the Greek influences, I found that references to Homer’s Odyssey kept creeping into the story so I just ran with it.

Q: I can’t get past that opening scene! It’s not something that I’d be brave enough to do, facing off the whole village. When did you actually write this scene? Was this the first scene you wrote for the book or last?

A: That opening scene was written first. Every chapter needed plenty of rewriting, but the scene in the church stayed pretty much intact. I was a fairly quiet teenager, and I would never have objected at a wedding either! Fortunately writing gives you the freedom to do all sorts of things on the page that you might never be game to do in real life.

Q: How did you design the magic system? There seems to be a fascination with water?

A: You’re right about that! I love the ocean and water – as many Aussies do – so I knew it would feature in whatever I wrote. Water is a huge part of our world and often taken for granted, so I was happy to give it a starring role! With regards to the magic system, I made an effort to come up with Gifts that I hadn’t seen dozens of times in other stories, and when I did use a common magical trope, I tried to put my own spin on it.

Q: How many books in the series do you anticipate or have planned for? And what can we expect from Esme in these books?

A: There are three books planned in the series and I am almost halfway through writing the second. The series ages with the protagonist, so Esme turns sixteen in book two. In the first book, Esme is a little stuck in the past, due to the loss of her mother and the alienation she has experienced. She’s still playing catch up on things she missed out on as a child. However, in book two, entitled Esme’s Gift, Esme faces more of the typical challenges of her age group. She goes to school in Esperance and also explores the wider world of Aeolia on a special quest.

I don’t want to give too much away but expect more of the whimsy of book one, interwoven with some darker coming-of-age themes. The first book seems to appeal to preteens keen to step up to YA as well as younger teens and serves as a good introduction to the series. However, the next two are more firmly in YA readership territory and are likely to be more suited for ages twelve and up.

Q: Please share with us: your top 5 reads in 2017 and your 5 most anticipated releases in 2018

A: I am a slow reader and at least half the books I read are classics. My tastes are eclectic: my favourite books in 2017 were Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I also enjoyed a couple of dystopian novels, one old and one new: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (the basis for the movie Blade Runner) and The Pale by Clare Rhoden (another Odyssey author.)

Here’s five new releases I’m keen to read in 2018. The last three in the list are all debut novels by Australian authors.  

The Surface Breaks by Susan O’Neill, a feminist retelling of the The Little Mermaid.

The Muse of Nightmares, Laini Taylor’s sequel to Strange the Dreamer.

The Way Home, the first in the Ashes of Olympus trilogy by Julian Barr, a YA historical fantasy based on Greek myth. (Odyssey Books.)

Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron, a contemporary mystery set on a small island off the coast of Australia. (Midnight Sun.)

Small Spaces, a YA psychological thriller by Sarah Epstein. (Walker Books.)

You can check out my thoughts on Esme’s Wish, here, and you can purchase it, here 

About the author

Elizabeth Foster read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago, when reading to her own kids reminded her of how much she missed getting lost in other worlds. Once she started writing, she never looked back. She’s at her happiest when immersed in stories, plotting new conflicts and adventures for her characters. Elizabeth lives in Sydney, where she can be found scribbling in cafés, indulging her love of both words and coffee.

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

A.V. Mather: Q&A

Thank you, Alison, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing. I enjoyed Refuge very much and am looking forward to your soon upcoming book!

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?  Both have a place in my heart and my greedy little mitts. 
Coffee or Tea?  Tea is my first choice. I can only drink decaf coffee, but I love the flavour and the smell. 
Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark?   I use whatever comes to hand. Failing that, I have been known to dog-ear and to lay books face- down but only in extreme circumstances. I hate losing my place.
Plot or Character? Generally, I would say Character. I have written two books and one is driven by Character and the other by Plot, so I guess it depends on what I want to say with each story.
HEA or unexpected twist? I delight in an unexpected twist.

Please tell us a little of yourself including when you first started to write.
I came to writing late in life, when I was nearing forty. I suppose that I had to live a while first and build up a store of observations and experiences. I had spent most of my twenties working as a Scenic Artist and my thirties as a high school Art teacher. I am a person who finds it difficult to do several things at once. I tend to give my total attention to whatever I am working on, so I didn’t really think about writing until I had quit my job as a teacher. Despite leaving the education system, I still felt a passion for communicating concepts and messages. I didn’t really have an ‘Aha!’ moment. The story and characters came to me in little flashes for about
six months before I wrote anything down. Once a couple of the characters had dug in I was able to concentrate on those images and flesh them out. My first story was an adventure for children, which grew from a unit of work I had developed as a teacher and became Violet Green. Once I started writing in earnest, I found it difficult to stop and the rest has evolved from there.

What was the road to publication like for you? How did you come to a decision to publish via Amazon?
I wrote the first finished draft of Refuge nine years ago, and then took a further two years to edit it. The road since then has been bumpy and taken many a turn. Attempting to forge a career as a writer is very hard work and there is more competition than ever for publisher attention. I decided to publish Refuge on Amazon after parting company with my agent of four years. I had almost made the decision to put it all in a drawer and walk away, when my husband urged me to back myself one more time and give Amazon a go. A couple of writer friends who ePublish were equally encouraging and helpful. The response so far has been hugely positive, and I am so glad that I took the leap.

What inspired you to write ‘Refuge’?
I had been thinking about the main themes behind Refuge for about a year before I started to write it. I knew that I wanted to write for an early teen audience and the message that I wanted to convey. My studies and experiences as a teacher, combined with my own childhood memories, had provided an insight into the psychology of youth and the challenges and dangers young people face. It is often a very turbulent time in a person’s life, fraught with challenges and issues around identity and self- worth. If you throw in any kind of instability it can be very easy for a young person to become lost, confused, or lured into dangerous situations. Sometimes they are irrevocably altered, or lost forever. Although the narrative of Refuge is an adventure story, I also wanted it to highlight these themes and serve as a cautionary tale.

What came first:
1. The characters: Nell or Fray?
2. The beginning or the ending?
My first peek into the world of Refuge was a scene between Dr Fray and Gideon, virtually in the
middle of the book. The story grew backwards and forwards from there. It may be unusual not to begin with the protagonist but when I was just setting everything up it really was all about Fray. Once I had him and his motivations completely fleshed out, I had a world for my story to inhabit and I could view it within those parameters. Working on his character involved a lot of research and the story really came to life.
I suppose starting in the middle of the story seems odd. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I
began with that scene, which then ended up in the middle as the story evolved. I think that the
drama of that scene really defines who the Doctor is and the reasons for his power. Once I had that example of him on paper, I could think about how he came to be this way and who might be affected by his mission. It was a very exciting and satisfying process.

Could you please tell us more about Bedlam and why you used it as part of the story?
My mother was a student of psychology. As I was growing up, she passed on bits and pieces that she had learned or experienced. She often talked about how badly people suffering from mental illness have been treated through history, which fostered in me a sympathetic interest.
Bethlem Royal Hospital, or Bedlam, has always been a place of morbid fascination for me. It was the first hospital of its kind, established in London in 1247 to house and study the mentally ill. They moved and enlarged it in 1676 and it is still used to this day. It is this second incarnation of the hospital that I chose as the setting for Dr Fray’s practise. It was the obvious choice for a man who could be seen as the great, great-grandfather of modern psychiatry. Bedlam was a place of extreme darkness and light – daily acts of torture committed under the guise of care – and the inmates had no rights at all. In its early days, the hospital served as a kind of catch-all for all kinds of people who were outcast from society. Bedlam was run by the Monro family, father to son, who were all members of the Royal College of Physicians and known for their unsympathetic views on mental illness. Fray starts out as something of a shining light against this attitude, living at a time of discovery and advancement and driven by a desire to do away with barbaric treatments. This concept of darkness and light features heavily in the Bedlam scenes, and is symbolic of the struggle in Fray’s own character.

Are you a planner? Do you known how the story will end and how it will get there?

I am definitely a ‘seat of your pants’ type of writer at heart and have had to learn how to plot when inspiration runs out. I have never studied literature or creative writing, so I’ve learned everything through my own research and trial and error.
I literally wrote the ending of Refuge at the ending. I had an idea of where I wanted Nell to end up, but the logic of the how, why and who did not happen until I got there. Quite a bit of the story happens at the end and it took a lot of rewriting before I was satisfied. This made for a frustrating time, but I feel that the story took some wonderful twists and turns that I would not have entertained if it had all been mapped out from the beginning.

What’s next for you?
I am publishing the first story that I wrote, Violet Green. It is a Fantasy adventure story for young readers and will be available as an ebook on Amazon.

Before you go, please share your favourite books where there is a door to another world (asidefrom ‘Refuge’)

Readers will expect me to say the Chronicles of Narnia but I did not particularly enjoy them. I am expanding ‘door’ to ‘doorway’ to include many of my favourite stories that explore the theme but do not feature a traditional door.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll – feature a hole in the ground and a mirror as doorways to a world that is at once familiar and bizarre. I love the imagery, the imagination and the overriding presence of danger. I enjoy it as a metaphor for a child trying to navigate the world of adults and as symbolic of childhood alienation and isolation. I love the character of Alice. She is courageous and pragmatic, emotional and logical. She solves problems by asking questions and thinking.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – a wonderful urban fantasy featuring a character called ‘Door’, who has the ability to open anything. Neverwhere is an exciting, intriguing and mysterious tale in which an act of kindness leads a misfit to discover a world beneath London. I love the symbolism in this story, particularly of the ways in which experience can shape and change us.
Peter Pan by JM Barrie – I may be stretching the ‘doorway’ theme a bit here to include fairy dust but I think it qualifies as a portal to another world. The idea that there is a place just for lost children is a fascinating one for me and provided inspiration for the world of Refuge.
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – doorways are bountiful in this story, beginning with the lovely round one in Bilbo’s hobbit hole. The Fellowship are always stepping, or falling through openings and ending up in unexpected places. I particularly like the abundance of secret, or hidden doorways, that often belie the nature of the place that they lead to. The magnificent gate to the Mines of Moria is an image that has stayed with me since my first reading.

You can check out my thoughts on Refuge, here, and you can purchase it, here 

About the author

I was born an only child in a remote gold mining town in Canada, My family moved to Australia when I was very young and I grew up on stories of eccentric characters in wild places; of exciting rescues, bears that destroyed helicopters and the silence of wolves. My life since has continued to take a few eccentric turns of its own, from studying Visual Arts in Northern NSW, to set painting on a TV series, to teaching art at a boy’s boarding school in Central QLD. Through it all, my love of stories — telling, watching, reading and hearing them — grew stronger and eventually I answered the compulsion to write. I enjoy reading widely across genres and am also interested in art, nature, satire, history, photography, popular culture, psychology, road trips and good stories – real and imagined. I live in Brisbane, Australia with my husband and a constant sense of foreboding.

Find Alison: website | facebook | twitter | goodreads | instagram

Deborah Burrows: Q&A

 

Thank you, Deborah, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing. I adored A Time of Secrets and have been keeping a careful eye for your next book so am very very happy with having one in my hands now 🙂

Thank you, Tien, for those kind words. I’m so happy that you liked Stella in Secrets – she’s one of my favourite people too. I do hope that you like Lily in Ambulance Girls, too. She’s a feisty Aussie girl in the thick of the Blitz mayhem.

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?  It’s chocolate!! Whatever way it comes, I’m happy.

Coffee or Tea?  Coffee in the morning (crucial!) and tea in the afternoon (preferably with scones).

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark?  Ummm. I was known to dog-ear in my misspent youth, but now I’m a scrupulous bookmarker. I use anything, leaves, twigs, postcards, envelopes, pamphlets, anything available – even a real bookmark occasionally.

Plot or Character?   Definitely character, but this comes after I’ve decided on what themes I want to explore.

I usually begin a book with a couple of themes, for instance, anti-Semitism in WW2 Britain, the Australian Intelligence Service, the effect of war on those who fight, the impact of hordes of young American servicemen on a small city like Perth, what it is like to discover that your first love has died in battle in a country far away.

But I can’t begin writing until I know who my heroine will be, and I have a good idea of her back-story. I need to know where and when she was born, her family circumstances, where she grew up and what she is passionate about before I am able to imagine what she will undergo in the course of my book. Then other characters begin to appear in my mind and I need to know their back-stories in detail as well. Every character in my books (even quite a minor one) has a detailed back-story in my mind.

HEA or unexpected twist? Happily ever after! Always!!

What fascinates you so much about history that you have 3 history degrees?

I have always been fascinated by the past. Even as a child I would walk through the streets of Perth imagining how it had looked when my mother was a girl, or when her mother was young. My favourite books as a child were ones set or written in the past.

Also, history is about stories, and I adore stories.

And the study of history allows you to have some insight into why the world is the way it is today. It offers explanations, which I like.

Any other era in history that you like aside from WWII?

The 1920s. Like WW2 it was a time of enormous change for women. But it was a time of hope also, as people wanted to forget the horrors of WW1. And it has the added bonus of great clothes and music!

Any era in history you dislike? Why?

I don’t really dislike any historical period, but some don’t interest me as much as others. I doubt that I would write about the eighteenth century, for example, because I don’t know much about it.

When did you first start writing and what was the road to publication like for you?

I began to write in 2009, finished A Stranger in my Street in January 2011, and by April 2011 I had an agent and a publisher. So I can’t share any stories about having to paper my walls with rejections.

I will say in all humility, though, that I doubt a publisher would ever have considered my first book if I hadn’t paid to have the manuscript professionally edited before trying to find an agent. That really made all the difference. The editor suggested that I make a lot of changes to the pacing of the book. She also suggested that I write new scenes and remove others. Because of my editor I was able to see my ‘baby’ from an entirely new point of view and the flaws of the first time writer were horribly apparent. It’s not easy to accept that what you thought was wonderful needs a lot more work, but I’m so glad that I accepted her advice, because after re-writing I was able to offer a polished manuscript to literary agents, and I was accepted almost immediately.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Ambulance Girls’?

A 1941 newspaper article headed: “WA Girl is ARP Heroine”. It was about Stella O’Keefe, the first Australian A.R.P. [Air Raid Precautions] worker in Britain to be presented to the Queen for outstanding bravery in the London Blitz. Stella was born in a small town 160kms out of Kalgoorlie and (like me!) was a petite girl. (She was known to her colleagues in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Station where she worked as “The Mighty Atom,” which amused me.) In November 1940, at the height of the Blitz, she climbed up to the ninth floor of a bombed and dangerously unstable building in the blackout to rescue a trapped family.

In the article, Stella was quoted as saying, “Other girls at my station have done stickier jobs than this rescue. I am the only driver who so far has not crashed an ambulance into a bomb crater while going to hospital with wounded in the darkened streets. Many times bombs have been so close that I saw the explosion and disintegration of buildings, but the pressure of the job is so intense that there is no time for fear.”

After reading that article the character of Lily Brennan appeared in my mind, and the story soon followed.

Hmmm, I would love to know what’s happened to Stella O’Keefe after the Blitz!

What kind of research was involved in the writing of Ambulance Girls?

I was living in Oxford, UK at the time, and had access to Oxford University’s marvellous Bodleian Library. It is a deposit library, so every book ever published in the UK is in there. I just had to ask and books magically appeared in a few hours. This meant that I was able to read a lot of out of print novels written in WW2, and could peruse any books about the period that seemed interesting.

But I also like to visit the places I write about in my books. So I wandered around central London with a bomb map and worked out which buildings had been destroyed or damaged, so that I could get a sense of the city under siege. I also visited wonderful museums, such as the Imperial War Museum, the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall, and Bletchley Park (where they broke the German Enigma Codes).

And I went to the Westminster City Archives, where I was able to inspect the actual records of the Blitz. I touched the detailed incident reports filled out by the ARP Wardens each day. They listed what bombs were dropped on what streets, the time they hit, the damage they caused to property, and the casualties. That was an amazing experience, because even after 75 years there was still a faint scent of smoke in the yellowing paper.

Was there a particular historical incident you came across during research that really touched you? Could you please share it with us?

This story, from a book that set out people’s memories of the Blitz, really affected me. It still makes me want to cry, for so many reasons:

“She was a beautiful little girl, about eight years old, blonde, the sort of girl you’d see in the old Pears soap advertisements. She was lying on the ground and she was dead. We checked her over but there was no injury except that a piece of shrapnel had taken off the back of her skull. She had a beautiful smile on her face. We took her to the hospital and asked for a doctor to certify her as dead and a young doctor came out. He took one look at her and took off his white coat and said he was going off to join the air force, because he wanted to drop bombs on people who were dropping bombs on us.”

Could you share your top 5 favourite WWII novels, please?

(in alphabetical order)

Enigma by Robert Harris

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Black-out/All Clear by Connie Willis

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve read 3, have got Blackout off the shelf to read, and added the other 2 to my tbr (ack!) ~Tien

What’s next for you?

Ambulance Girls is the first of a trilogy, which all deal with women ambulance drivers in the blitz. The books are loosely connected, so that Lily from Ambulance Girls will appear in the other two, but as a more minor character.

So, at present I’m writing the second in the trilogy, Ambulance Girls: Under Fire.

Eeeek!! I can’t wait 😀

You can check out my thoughts on Ambulance Girls, here

About the author

Deborah Burrows was born and grew up in Perth, Western Australia. She is the author of four novels, all set in the Second World War. Deborah’s inspiration is her late mother, who was widowed by the long shadow of that war and who loved to tell stories about life in wartime. Deborah’s latest novel is Ambulance Girls, which is the first of a trilogy set during the London Blitz.

Deborah’s ‘day job’ is in the law, but she has a passion for history. Perhaps that is why, although she adores the clear skies, beautiful beaches and easy-going atmosphere of her home town, she so loves spending time in dreamy Oxford, where she completed a post-graduate degree in medical history. She now divides her time between the two cities.

Find Deborah: website | facebook | twitter | goodreads

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

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