Tag Archives: #aussieauthor

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

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Review: Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

Esme’s Wish (Esme Series #1) by Elizabeth Foster

This was her last chance.
Her hand twisted high in the air.

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the actions of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about Ariane, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

My Blurb (4 stars)

I do love stories which takes us from our mundane world into another magical one. Doesn’t it just give us hope that maybe one day it’ll happen to li’l normal me? lol

Esme’s Wish is one such story. Esme herself grew up on an island where everybody knows everyone. In the opening scene, she’s attending a wedding… her father’s. Of course, she couldn’t accept this and made her objection known (wowser! It took some guts to stand up in front of everyone you know!). Unfortunately, she wasn’t taken seriously… Still, this image is totally imprinted in my mind!

Esme finally decided to take matters into her own hand and to investigate her mother’s disappearance especially after some strange things were happening to her. In following her mother’s footsteps, she suddenly found herself somewhere beyond this world. A world where magic is strong though it appears to be faltering. A world where her mother has been and disappeared into. The more she finds out about her mother, the more determined she is to find her & fix things.

I have really enjoyed the reading of Esme’s Wish. I must admit it may not be to everyone’s cup of tea as the language is quite flowery & descriptive but I did find it mesmerisingly magical. The magic system is very interesting though not quite yet fleshed out (I am looking forward to book 2!) so this book is very much a world-building one. And what a beaut! It’s just like Venice (canals etc) with hints of Greek gods and magical creatures (dragons and sirens). Yep, if you like your world to be filled with magic, I’d highly recommend Esme’s Wish.

I won this book in a giveaway via another book blog; review is my own honest thought.

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

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Elizabeth! 😀

Review: Haxby’s Circus

Haxby’s Circus by Katharine Susannah Prichard

Run away to the circus with this book by award-winning Australian novelist Katharine Susannah Prichard.

A world of wandering mushroom tents, spawning on bare paddocks beside some small town and then off again … places that smelt of milk and wheat, where the farmer people gave you milk and apples, or melons; you got fresh water to drink and a bath sometimes. A dirty, strenuous world. Cruel, courageous, a hard, hungry world for all the glitter and flare of its laughter; but a good world, her world.

Welcome to Haxby’s Circus – the lightest, brightest little show on earth. From Bendigo to Narrabri, travelling the long and dusty roads between harvest fields, the Haxby family and their troupe – acrobats, contortionists, wirewalkers, clowns and wild beasts – perform under the glaring lights of the big top. But away from the spotlight and superficial glamour of the circus the real, and sometimes tragic, lives of the performers are exposed: their hopes and dreams, successes and failures, the drudgery of life on the road.

Proprietor Dan Haxby lives by the maxim ‘the show must go on’, even when his daughter Gina, the bareback rider, has a dreadful accident. Gina may never ride again, but, with some advice from circus dwarf Rocca, who shows her how to transform her liability into art, she flourishes and discovers a courageous spirit within.

My Blurb (3.5 stars)

An impulse buy based on:
1. eye-catching cover: PINK!
2. I love anything CIRCUS related
3. Sale bin
4. Aussie classics

Did it live up to expectations? Yes and No… it’s a very realistic tale of circus life from the point of view of a woman. I love the glamourous face of a circus. Ever since I read Enid Blyton’s Circus series, I’ve always been enamoured (and a bit jealous) of the adventures of circus folks. This novel, however, does not spare you the drudgery and hard work of that life. And in that way, it’s a realistic story but it also made the novel hard to bear as sometimes the author would list of what needs doing etc. I found this last bit a little boring.

Gina Haxby has just bloomed into womanhood with the admiration of the crowd when she fell and broke her back. She will never again ride her beautiful horses nor perform any acrobatic feats. While her back is hunched, she’s lucky to still be alive and able to walk though it didn’t feel like that to her. She then found a reason to live; to protect her weak baby brother from her father’s expectations. Once again, tragedy struck and she decided not to stay with the circus but took her mother and new baby sister away.

She could not stay away forever, however, as fate brought them all back together. This time, however, she is a woman of strength and can stand on her own. Her little sister is also a strong character of her own and together, they will bring the circus back to its brightest.

I didn’t pay that much attention to the blurb at the back of the book before I started reading so I really was surprised when the first tragedy struck (oops!). I was really heartbroken for Gina as she’s such a lovable character but of course, steel needs tempering and that’s what’s happened. It wasn’t an easy road for Gina but she’s traversed it with help from her loved ones and flourished despite all that life dealt her.

I’ve read one other of this author’s work, Coonardo, and it was such a hard book to read (nature of topic). Haxby’s Circus was also a bit of a struggle as it was such a hard life that I barely felt the excitement of the circus. Plus the way she did lists became annoying and dreary after the first couple of times. Still, I did like the characters and the descriptions of life in Australia in those days.

About the author

Katharine Susannah Prichard was born in Levuka, Fiji in 1883, and spent her childhood in Launceston, Tasmania, before moving to Melbourne, where she won a scholarship to South Melbourne College. Her father, Tom Prichard, was editor of the Melbourne Sun newspaper. She worked as a governess and journalist in Victoria then travelled to England in 1908. Her first novel, The Pioneers (1915), won the Hodder & Stoughton All Empire Literature Prize. After her return to Australia, the romance Windlestraws and her first novel of a mining community, Black Opal were published.

Prichard moved with her husband, war hero Hugo “Jim” Throssell, VC, to Greenmount, Western Australia, in 1920 and lived at 11 Old York Road for much of the rest of her life. She wrote most of her novels and stories in a self-contained weatherboard workroom near the house. In her personal life she always referred to herself as Mrs Hugo Throssell. She had one son, Ric Throssell, later a diplomat and writer.

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

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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

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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…

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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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