Tag Archives: #australianwomenwriter

Review: Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng

Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng

By the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, 2018.

Since her sister died, Meg has been on her own. She doesn’t mind, not really—not with Atticus, her African grey parrot, to keep her company—but after her house is broken into by a knife-wielding intruder, she decides it might be good to have some company after all.

Andy’s father has lost his job, and his parents’ savings are barely enough to cover his tuition. If he wants to graduate, he’ll have to give up his student flat and find a homeshare. Living with an elderly Australian woman is harder than he’d expected, though, and soon he’s struggling with more than his studies.

Published 7 May 2019 |  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I went to see the author’s panel at Sydney Writer’s Festival this year and Christos Tsiolkas, who was facilitating, praised this novel for its quiet splendour (I can’t quite remember the exact phrase he used but it’s something along that line) and I couldn’t agree more! This little unassuming novel was so relatable; it’s easy for me to relate to Andy as I was myself an overseas student but I also found myself to be able to relate to Meg, an older Australian lady.

In Room for a Stranger, we have two seemingly very different people come together and found, in the end, that they were troubled with what is essentially the same thing even if troubles came in different forms. It is very clear that the author knows her subjects well as she drew from her own personal experiences as an “overseas student” and a GP to many older patients.

While the book dealt with our protagonists going about their daily lives: Andy with his parental expectations of good results and Meg with her loneliness, it also did not shy from the hard reality of life: sickness, health, unhappy marriages, and racism (one particularly shocking scene where even I as a reader felt the shame of it and I’ve had my share of scenes…).

A wonderful novel about life – no matter who you are or where you are in life, it is always possible to connect with the stranger next to you.

Thanks to Text Publishing for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

I am a writer, mum and general practitioner from Melbourne, Australia. I have been published in print and online. My writing has appeared in The Age, Meanjin, Overland, Griffith REVIEW, Sleepers Almanac, The Bridport Prize Anthology, Lascaux Review, Visible Ink, Peril, The Victorian Writer and Seizure. My short story collection, Australia Day, won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript and went on to win the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. My latest book is the novel, Room for a Stranger. If Saul Bellow is right and “a writer is a reader moved to emulation” then I am moved by authors like Richard Yates, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami and Christos Tsiolkas.

Find Melanie on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter

A.A. Kinsela: Q&A

Thank you, Alethea, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing journey. I can’t wait to see what’s installed for Nick & his friends!

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Dark.

Coffee or Tea? Coffee for work and friends, tea for relaxation.

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark? Whatever is nearest. Usually a ticket or receipt.

Plot or Character? Ah damn this is a hard one! Can I say both? Character is paramount, but plot is essential as well. Character trumps plot though.

HEA or unexpected twist? I love an unexpected twist!

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

A: I’ve always loved books and writing. I devoured books as a child and spent my teenage years reading while my peers were out socialising. I was also heavily into music, and when I finished school I wanted to be a film composer, so I went and studied music composition at uni. I realised after a year that I loved literature and writing more than music so I switched degrees. I’ve been a publisher, grammarian, psychology examiner, teacher, archaeologist, and more, but writing has always been the driving force in my life. I couldn’t imagine existing without it.

 

Q: In Lightning Tracks, you’ve brought the Roman Empire to Australia, mix in Aboriginal stories, and set it in this present time. You obviously love history and specifically Roman & Australia history? How did this come about and what in particular did you love about Roman & Australia histories?

A: I have always had a fascination with mythologies and cultural stories. My Bachelor of Arts majors were Literature and Classics, so as well as English Literature, I also studied Latin, Ancient Greek and classical literature. In Year 10, I did a week of work experience with an archaeologist and have always had a keen interest in archaeology as well, so much so that I went back to uni in 2010 to study archaeology. I’m particularly interested in Indigenous archaeology, and with my background in writing and teaching I wrote and published Ancient Australia Unearthed, a high school archaeology textbook, in 2014. Lightning Tracks does draw on mythologies from the ancient world, mainly Greece and Rome, and while it contains suggestions of other mythologies, none of them are taken from Aboriginal cultures. As an archaeologist and author, I’m very aware of the dangers of appropriation, so all the mythologies in Lightning Tracks are entirely my creation.

 

Q: I don’t know much of any Indigenous stories/legends so I’m not sure which part, if any, in Lightning Tracks, is actually part of the Australian Aboriginal story. Was there any? How much research did this involve? Are some of the names also derived from an Aboriginal dialect?

A: None of the legends in Lightning Tracks are Aboriginal stories. As a non-Indigenous Australian I have no right to tell these stories, nor can I appropriate them in any way, as they are copyrighted. The fictional legends in the novel may seem at times like Aboriginal stories, perhaps because mythologies are always representative of the people and environment in which they were created. The cultural groups in Lightning Tracks, whose ancestors arrived two thousand years ago and who are now very much grounded in the Australian landscape, have their own unique mythologies that have evolved over time to reflect this existence.

The research for Lightning Tracks was extensive, including visiting sites where parts of the novel are set, learning about different flora and fauna in the different climates and altitudes, ensuring the fictional world of Korelios reflected the archaeological record both in terms of its Roman/Greek roots and the current Australian archaeological record, and many other smaller details that are vital to world-building.

There are three main cultural groups in Lightning Tracks, all of them based loosely on real ancient cultures/regions: Roman/Greek, Persian/Middle Eastern, and North African. The character names for each group reflect their cultural origins. None of the names are Aboriginal.

 

Q: Please share top 3 things you’ve learnt in your journey of writing & publishing this particular book (Lightning Tracks); it could be something you learnt of yourself, about writing/publishing, a particular touching story from a research, etc.

A: I think the top of my learning curve list would have to be self-publishing. Lightning Tracks has come close on a couple of occasions to being accepted by traditional publishers, but never made it past the marketing department, perhaps because the novel crosses genres and doesn’t fit neatly into a single box. Deciding to self-publish was the next logical step. I’d already self-published an archaeology book, so I thought this one would be similar and easier. I can say unequivocally that self-publishing fiction is an entirely different arena to non-fiction!

Second would have to be the importance of accepting that a novel is finished. If I don’t set myself deadlines, I could work on a book for much longer than is necessary.

And third, it’s so thrilling to draw on many branches of knowledge and research and combine them to create something new. I thoroughly enjoy this aspect of writing.

 

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

A: I’m currently reading Found by Fleur Ferris (I adore her work). I’ve ordered Ellie Marney’s Circus Hearts series (they haven’t arrived in the mail yet but I’m looking forward to reading these beauties), and I am always awaiting the next Patrick Ness.

Oooh, you’d love Circus Hearts! Ellie Marney is the BEST! I love Fleur Ferris too though not a big fan of Patrick Ness… just haven’t really got into his books, really. ~T

Q: What are you working on now? Or what can we look for from you next? I’m hoping it’s the sequel to Lightning Tracks! How many books can we expect in the series?

A: I’ve got a few writing and archaeology projects on the go, including a YA novel for my creative writing PhD, and I’ve almost finished the sequel to Lightning Tracks, which I’m aiming to release in mid-2019. There will be three books in the Song Gate series, with an undecided fourth. So stay tuned!

You can check out my thoughts on Lightning Tracks, here, and you can purchase it from following links: Amazon | B&N Nook | iBooks  |  kobo

 

About the author

A. A. Kinsela is a pseudonym for Alethea Kinsela

I’m a writer/teacher/archaeologist/jack-of-all-trades. My latest book Lightning Tracks is a dark YA alternative history/fantasy novel set in Australia. You can read an extract on my website. I’ve also got a little educational textbook about Australian archaeology, Ancient Australia Unearthed.

I’m halfway through a Creative Writing PhD, and I sometimes teach in the School of Education at La Trobe University and host writing and archaeology workshops for kids and teachers.

Find Thea on:  goodreads  |  twitter   |  instagram

Eleni Hale: Q&A

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

Quick Qs

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

Coffee or Tea? Coffee followed by herbal tea.

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

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

HEA or unexpected twist? Can you have both?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

My kids:

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

About the author

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

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

 

Review: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

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

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

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

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

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

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

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

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

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


About the author

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

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  instagram

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

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

Review: The Three of Us by Kim Lock

The Three of Us by Kim Lock

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heartwarming depiction of love against the odds.

My Blurb (5 stars)

The one sure thing I know I’ll come across in this novel is a female character giving birth. Well, okay, maybe I don’t actually know for sure but that’s 3 out of 3! It’s not the focus of this particular novel but it’s there… I remember my reading experience of Lock’s novel (Peace, Love, and Khaki Socks) and I could never forget that birthing scene and it will always forever colour my view of Kim Lock’s novels. She’s just gone from strength to strength!

The Three of Us opens with Thomas Mullet, a 70+ year old man, at his first appointment with a counselor. He’s there because he’s running out of time and needed guidance on what to do before time’s up. And within 5 pages, the first bomb was dropped. And it was a pretty big one…

There isn’t much I could say about the book without giving hints which may spoil it for you. Whatever your first expectation is… that’s not it. What I can say, however, was that it’s a love story; there is heartbreak and there is happiness. This book spans about 50 years of these characters’ lives. It began in the 60s when Thomas & Elsie just begun their lives as husband & wife. When brides are to give up their fulfilling jobs and maintain an efficient sparkling household. It ended in more recent times when wives and/or mothers are expected to work full time and maintain an efficient sparkling household. But still… in the span of half a century, society has not change all that much

‘Society is more tolerant?’

Thomas gave a wry laugh. ‘We like to think so, don’t we? But I reckon it’s just different versions of the same intolerance. There’s still criticism – horrible things still happen because of narrow minds.’

It was a very uncomfortable read for the first third of the book. Mainly because I have an aversion towards a certain trope and I was very anxious for it not to be employed here. By the end of the first third, the second bomb detonated. A little relief with the way the plot is taking but it was still a rather uncomfortable read. Uncomfortable because we do not speak of these things; we do not expect it in our mundane daily life (as an aside, I actually do know one household and… whatever works for them to be happy, you know).

This is the best of Kim Lock to date even though I still preferred her first work (being lighter in mood). However, The Three of Us is a novel we currently need in the world. The world does not change by itself. We change it. And sometimes, we need a prompt, a push, a nudge, a shove, to change it. In The Three of Us, you will find a love story like no other. I would highly recommend it for a bookclub read. I can guarantee you a very lively discussion! Some wine and chocolates are warranted to chill things a little.

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

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

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Kim! 😀

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