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INTERVIEW: Kim Wilkins, author of Daughters of the Storm

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Please welcome Kim Wilkins, one of Australia's finest writers, to the blog today!

Kim and I have known each other for many years! Our first novels were published in the same year and were both shortlisted for the Aurealis Award. Although Kim won, I forgave her and we've been friends ever since. 

Kim is here to talk about her new book Daughters of the Storm, a magical action-packed epic fantasy set in a world much like Anglo-Saxon England.



 

Kim, what is your latest novel all about?

It's about five daughters of a tribal warlord, in a world based on Anglo-Saxon England. Their father falls gravely ill and Bluebell—the eldest daughter and the hard-arse, smashed-nosed, tattoo-covered soldier—is convinced it's an enchantment. The five of them start out on a journey to find their long-lost aunt, who is rumoured to be a powerful undermagician, to help save him. But they find more than they bargained for along the way, and betrayals and bad magic split them apart.

How did you get the first idea for it?
I am borderline obsessed with Anglo-Saxon literature, but it's never about women. So I began to make character sketches about possible interesting female characters, and I particularly wanted to write about a female soldier who was complex and interesting and not the typical "strong female warrior", so I made her ugly and tall and sweary and fiercely loyal and I fell in love with her and decided to write a book about her. Along the way, I came to love all her sisters too: Ash with her terrible burden of magic, Rose who thinks with her downstairs parts, Ivy who is a silly coquette with no idea of how dangerous her ideas are, and the slightly unhinged pious Willow, who hears voices in her head and tries to do what they tell her.



What do you love most about writing?
Everything! Coming up with story ideas, talking about story ideas, writing down story ideas! I feel as though at birth I got the full complement of human emotions—love, anger, fear, wonder—and this extra one called story. Writing makes me feel story and it's the best feeling! Though story also means you always worry when your loved ones are ten minutes late, because you can too easily imagine scenarios where they are horribly killed.

What are the best 5 books you've read recently?
I loved Bitter Greens by you, Kate. So much so that I set it on my undergraduate creative writing course, where my students are currently falling in love with it too. I loved Jo Walton's My Real Children, which is kind of like "light" alternative history but refracted through the very personal and intimate journey of a single woman through the late 20th century. I recently read Jon Ronson's nonfiction book So You've Been Publicly Shamed, which is a very clear-eyed examination of social media culture and mob mentality. I finally got around to The Hunger Games over summer. I usually don't read YA, and I feared it was going to be like Twilight, but it was brilliant. Genius plot, fabulous main character. And over summer, too, my husband read The Lord of the Rings out loud to me. I hadn't read it since I was a teenager and it was amazing to revisit it, but also to hear the rhythms of the language allowed. One of my all-time favourite stories.



What lies ahead of you in the next year? 
I am just in the starting phases of the sequel to Daughters of the Storm, tentatively titled The Sea of Wings. I will be writing large portions of it in the west of England in the second half of the year. Very excited!

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!

BOOK REVIEW: Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins

Monday, May 04, 2015




Title: Daughters of the Storm
Author: Kim Wilkins
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Age Group & Genre: Fantasy Fiction for Adults
Reviewer: Kate Forsyth
Source of Book: An advanced readers copy from the publisher


The Blurb:
The first passionate, magical book in a compelling new series from award-winning author Kim Wilkins.

Lying in a magic-induced coma, the King of Thyrsland is on the brink of death: if his enemies knew, chaos would reign. In fear for his life and his kingdom, his five daughters set out on a perilous journey to try to save him, their only hope an aunt they have yet to meet, a shadowy practitioner of undermagic who lives on the wild northern borders.

No-one can stand before the fierce tattooed soldier and eldest daughter Bluebell, an army commander who is rumoured to be unkillable, but her sisters, the loyal and mystical Ash, beautiful but unhappily married Rose, pious Willow and uncertain Ivy all have their own secrets to keep from her — the kind of secrets that if revealed could bring disaster down upon not only them, but the entire kingdom.

Waiting in the wings is stepbrother Wylm whose dealings with Bluebell's greatest enemy, Hakon the Raven King, would end Bluebell's dreams of revenge on his mother and propel his own desperate grasp for power.

Daughters of the Storm is a richly drawn historical fantasy full of passion, magic and fire, an intimate epic that traces the lives of five complex women as they pursue a quest upon which the fate of a kingdom — as well as their own destinies — rests. 


What I Thought: 
Kim Wilkins has always been one of my favourite writers, and I’ve been eagerly waiting for this book. An early chapter was included in her collection of short stories The Year of Ancient Ghosts, for which I wrote the foreword. 

Most of Kim’s earlier books moved between contemporary times and the past, with a supernatural edge, and so Daughters of the Storm is a new departure for her – an epic fantasy set in what seems like an alternative Anglo-Saxon world. It’s a vividly rendered world, with characters that just leap off the page (I particularly loved the eldest daughter Bluebell, a fierce warrior with a broken nose that does not like people who try and stand in her way!) The story follows Bluebell and her four sisters as they try and discover who has cursed their father, who lies in a deep coma. The writing is superb, the pace just as quick and fluid as you could hope for, and the story twists and turns in all sorts of unexpected ways. Very excited to read Book 2 now!

Kim also writes wonderful non-fantastical fiction under the name Kimberley Freeman – read an earlier interview with her! 


Kim’s website: Hexebart’s Well 

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT – I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK


For all lovers of Historical Fiction! The 2015 Survey of HF readers

Thursday, April 30, 2015


HISTORICAL FICTION READERS 2015 SURVEY



Discovering reader preferences, habits and attitudes - Announcing the 2015 Reader Survey … by M.K. Tod


Writers and readers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought along with their backgrounds and attitudes to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both writer and reader.


What then do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? What are their attitudes to pricing or their favourite reading blogs? These and other questions have been the subject of two previous reader surveys.


ANNOUNCING A 2015 READER SURVEY designed to solicit further input on reading habits, historical fiction preferences, favourite authors and, for the first time, favourite historical fiction. THE SURVEY WILL BE OPEN UNTIL MAY 14. 


If you are a reader or a writer, please take the survey and share the link [https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7] with friends and family and on your favourite social media.

Robust participation across age groups, countries, and other demographics will make this year’s survey even more significant. Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.


Highlights from prior surveys:
HISTORICAL FICTION IS MAINSTREAM: Less than 2% of participants said they rarely or never read historical fiction.
GENDER MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Women and men differ significantly in their reading habits and preferences and their views of historical fiction.
AGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Those under 30 have different preferences for genre and time period 
and have different patterns of consumption and acquisition.

BOOK BLOGS ARE VERY POPULAR: 1,473 participants listed one, two or three favourite blogs.
GEOGRAPHY: Responses to questions such as the use of online tools for recommendations and purchasing and preferred setting for historical fiction varied by geography.
PRICING: Sadly, readers are pushing for low prices. For example, 60% want e-books at $5.99 or less and 66% want paperbacks at $10.99 or less.
ONLINE BOOK CLUBS ARE GAINING POPULARITY: 21% belong to online clubs while 15% belong to clubs meeting in a physical location
VOLUME OF BOOKS READ MAKES A DIFFERENCE: for example, high volume readers have different expectations for book reviews, a higher interest in tracking their books, and higher usage of online tools and social media to augment their reading experience.


Participate in this year’s survey by clicking the link and please share the URL with others https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7 


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes.



SPOTLIGHT: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One of my favourite things to do in the world is re-read a book I have loved. There is no other pleasure quite like it – a consoling combination of nostalgia and rediscovery. Yet there are so many new books being published all the time that I cannot keep up. I’ve found myself racing to always read new books – new books by friends, new books by authors whose work I’ve long admired, and new books by new authors. 

When I was drawing up the list of 50 Things I Want to Do Before I Die (which I call The 50/50 Project since I was inspired to do so by the shadow of my 50th birthday falling upon me), I at first thought I should draw up a list of 50 Books I Must Read. You know the sort of things – those huge, heavy, worthy books that you always feel a little ashamed to admit you’ve never read. War & Peace by Tolstoy. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. 

But then I changed my mind. I may well read these books one day (though I’ve tried Moby Dick a few times now and can’t see the attraction.) But drawing up a list like that only made me feel depressed.

Reading is one of the greatest pleasures in my life. I don’t want it to be a chore. 

So I decided that I’d make sure I re-read an old favourite every month or so instead. And then I’d blog about it. And over time I’d draw up a list of My 50 All-Time Favourite Books.

To begin, I chose I Capture the Castle by the British author Dodie Smith. 



This is (almost) the cover of my old childhood edition - I also like this beautiful dreamy cover:




Dodie Smith is best known for having written the children's classic The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which is a great joy but not, I think, as good as I Capture the Castle.



Dodie Smith with her husband Alec Beasley and their dogs

She wrote I Capture the Castle during the Second World War. She and her husband Alec had left England to live in the US as they were conscientious objectors, and had a hard time of it in the UK at a time when so many people had lost their lives in the war. She was homesick and began to write I Capture the Castle as a way to alleviate her longing for the English landscape and way of life. It is filled with haunting images of moors and marshes and forests and, of course, the castle of the title. 

The novel tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in a half-ruined castle in the middle of a field in Suffolk. Her father is a writer who had a big but short-lived success with a book called Jacob Wrestling, a combination of novel, poetry and philosophy. His second wife is a beautiful but hopelessly impractical artist’s model called Topaz who likes to walk naked in the rain and commune with nature. Cassandra’s elder sister Rose is in despair, thinking life is passing her by, while her stolid younger brother Thomas is clever but has little prospects due to the family’s poverty.

Cassandra wants to be a writer too – though not a “difficult” one like her father. She begins writing a diary to hone her skills, and the story follows the romantic and not-so-romantic entanglements of her family as they try to survive their father’s writer’s block and desperate financial straits.

The book begins: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” and continues in the very natural voice of an English girl living on the edge of a little village in the 1930s. 



A few more of my favourite lines: 





and finally:



I Capture the Castle is a coming-of-age story and a love story and a story about the difficulties of being a writer. It is also one of the most beautiful young adult novels I have ever read. 

I was very glad to read it again. 


SPOTLIGHT: 'Rapunzel' in Bulgaria - a magical puppet theatre production

Monday, April 20, 2015

Today I am very happy to welcome Rossitsa Minovska-Devedzhieva to the blog. She is a puppet theatre director from Bulgaria who has put together a magical production of 'Rapunzel' which draws on older versions of the story, including those by Giambattista Basile and Charlotte-Rose de la Force, who both appeared as characters in my novel BITTER GREENS. 

Rossitsa says: 


I am a puppet theatre director from Bulgaria. The puppet stage is a place where children get in touch with literature, music, stage and fine arts and begin to cultivate their aesthetic taste and love for arts – something we are responsible for. 

Throughout the years I’ve put on stage classical fairytales, such as “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, “Thumbelina”, “The Sleeping Beauty”, “Hansel and Gretel”. 



I “discovered” “Rapunzel” as an adult and was fascinated by the variety of themes weaved in it. Before writing the dramatization, my research led me via Heidi Heiner’s treasury SUR LA LUNE to the wonderful article “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” by Terri Windling. I was excited to learn about the original of Giambattista Basile and was impressed by the life story of Charlotte-Rose de la Force and the way she rewrote the tale.  

I put on stage “Rapunzel” in 2009 with the Sliven Puppet Theatre and the show had a happy life, winning awards at Bulgarian and international puppet festivals.



My recent work in the State Puppet Theatre of Varna – one of the most renowned Bulgarian puppet theatres  - proved that a good story can be important no matter when it was written. The fairytale about the long-haired girl, locked in a tower is full of questions and problems to discuss. I had a new, fresh look at them now, which reflected upon the analysis, the building of the characters, the mise-en-scene, the approach to the whole… 


Together with the talented actors we started a journey in search for our answers, full of curiosity and love. The main themes in our performance are the right to be free, the consequences of over-control in parenting and, of course, the strength of love!  


Retelling the story through the means of puppet theatre art, with the impressive scenography of Svila Velichkova and the beautiful music of Plamen Mirchev-Mirona, I tried to stay true to the widely known version of the Brothers Grimm, but inevitably changed it in a way, using my own voice as a director and a parent.

It happened so, that during the very last rehearsals, Kate Forsyth published several successive posts about “Bitter Greens” and that remarkable woman - Charlotte-Rose de la Force. I really had the feeling that her spirit was flying over the continents, connecting us with an invisible thread and inspiring me and the actors in a magical way!

Nowadays children are attacked by so many art adaptations of the most favourite fairytales, that they can easily get lost.  I thought it’s necessary to take them a bit closer to the literary roots of “Rapunzel”. That’s why I used some new elements, such as the magical acorns from Basile’s “Petrosinella” with which Mother Gothel was defeated. Yes, I followed the plot of the Grimms, but actually nearly everything in it was written by Charlotte-Rose de la Force. And I want the audience to learn about it!

I am thankful to Kate Forsyth for her interest to our work and for being so kind giving me the opportunity to share my theatre experience with “Rapunzel” – one of the most magical, mysterious and exciting fairytales I know, and am sure that many of you love!


THE 50/50 PROJECT: Standing under a waterfall

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I have a secret page on my website that only those that search carefully can find. I call it The 50/50 Project ...


It is a list of all my hopes and dreams - both possible and impossible - & all the places I hope to one day go and all the things I hope to one day do. I call it The 50/50 Project because it was inspired by the inching closer of my 50th birthday and the realisation that there are still so many things in the world I want to do (I found 50 of them, hence the title). The idea is that - as I go somewhere or achieve something - I'll blog about it, and gradually be able to cross off some of these dreams. 

Today I am crossing off:

No 36: Stand Under A Waterfall

I actually did this last year, when I was touring for THE IMPOSSIBLE QUEST in the Top End. Panos Couras, who was then the director of the Northern Territory Writers Centre, took me to swim at Wangi Falls in the Litchfield National Park, 100 km south-west of Darwin. 

It was the most magical place that felt very secret and ancient (apart from the dozens of people swimming there!) Its surrounded by red desert and grey-green bush for hundreds of kilometres, and the water plummets down a ochre-red rock face in heavy white veils. To get to the waterfalls, you need to swim across the waterhole which is incredibly dark and cold. Your arms and legs are greenish-brown under the water, and I could not help being afraid of crocodiles (even though I knew the waterpool was only opened if no crocodiles were sighted). 

Here is my photographic proof! (Thanks to Panos Couras who took the photos)




And to give you an idea of how tall the waterfall is (about 52 metres): 



HISTORICAL FICTION: how do you stop it being a history lesson?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015



HISTORICAL FICTION – HOW DO YOU STOP IT BEING A HISTORY LESSON?


I am spending my weekend at the first-ever Historical Novel Society of Australasia conference, in Sydney. It's going to be a fascinating weekend, with lots of talk about the fascinating past and ways to bring it to life on the page. It's not too late to join us! You can book it at the HNSA Website

In the meantime, I thought I'd post on one of the great challenges of writing Historical Fiction - how do you stop it being a history lesson?

History as a mere collection of names and dates and facts can - in the wrong hands - be mind-numbingly boring. 

Yet history is not boring. It’s full of terror and joy, hope and hunger, desperation and danger. It is full of stories that have the power to enthrall, disgust, amuse, and frighten those that listen. These stories also have an immense power to teach. I was always good at history at school, but I used to joke that’s because I had Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer as a teacher. 


Historians have the same fascination with the stories of the past that historical novelists do, but they approach their work in a different way. A historical novelist has a greater degree of freedom to imagine motives and intentions, to play with possibilities, to put words into their characters' mouths, and to wonder about the stories that have slipped through the cracks and been forgotten. 

Voltaire said that ‘Ancient histories are but fables that have been agreed upon.’ William Stubbs was more direct. He called history a pack of lies. This is the historian’s nightmare, and the novelist’s dream. 


Because a novelist is not interested in pinning down the past like a dead butterfly. They are interested in making the butterfly, miraculously, live again. It can be hard sometimes to realise that the history told in a textbook actually involves real people, who had dreams and were thwarted in them, who had desires that made them act as fools, who had faith in ideas that were proved to be false, or who triumphed against all the odds; people who bled when they were pricked.

This is what historical fiction can do so well. It can make the past come alive again, and seem real, and it can also, very powerfully, illuminate the similarities between the past and the present.

More interestingly, by rendering the past familiar, it can make the present seem strange. We take so much of our lives for granted – health, wealth, long life, i-phones – reading historical fiction can make us startlingly aware of just how much things have changed, as well as how little. 

So how can a historical novelist make sure that their story lives and dances? 

The first thing you need to do is make your characters as vivid and real as possible. History is what happens to people. 

Bring the characters to the history, not the other way around. In other words, know your period of history as intimately as possible and understand how the people of that time thought and spoke and ate and dressed - you must know what forces shaped your character's lives before you can invent them.  

Read as much as you can about your area of interest. Read letters, diaries and newspaper accounts of the time. Read the work of writers who were living and working then, and read the work of contemporary writers who have set their novels at that time. 

To write an historical novel, you must be a glutton for research – and you must be able to resist the desire to prove just how much research you've done. 

The research should make the world come alive for you, so that it inhabits your imagination. It should not be dropped into the text like big lumps of undigested fat. Try and whisk it in well, and strain off what’s not needed. Remember, you are not a history teacher, but a novelist. It is the story that is important, and the telling of the story, not the great globs of historical fact that show you’ve done your research.


A few other tips:


Set the scene and introduce your primary characters straight away – give the reader someone to ‘imprint’ on


Do not litter your speech with too many old-fashioned or foreign words or expressions – think of yourself as a translator who has rendered the speech of their world into the speech of our world. However, don’t use contemporary slang such as ‘OK’ unless writing a time-slip story


Don’t explain too much – allow the reader to pick up historical context by the character’s actions and beliefs – trust in your reader’s intelligence and imagination


Remember the writer’s two secret weapons: suspense and surprise. You create suspense by creating a desire to know in your reader – while surprise stops things from getting boring.


Finally, re-write, re-write, re-write. 


    

Out now! Out now! Out in August!



    
     




SPOTLIGHT: My notebooks for my novel BITTER GREENS

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My novel BITTER GREENS (a retelling of Rapunzel interwoven with the true life story of the woman who first told the tale) is being studied this semester at the University of Queensland. The class tutor (and one of my all-time favourite writers) Kim Wilkins asked me if it was possible to show the students some of the pages from my notebooks. 

I realised I had never posted about my working techniques for BITTER GREENS, and so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. 

            


I buy a new notebook whenever I begin a new book. Normally, I try and buy something really beautiful and special, but for BITTER GREENS I had been given a pile of plain black notebooks and I thought I had better use those first. 

To make them pretty and special, I stuck images on the front:


       


These are the covers for the notebook devoted to the story of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, set in 17th century Paris and Versailles and the abbey of Gercy-en-Brie in the French countryside. The paintings are not of Charlotte-Rose herself, but of anonymous 17th century French ladies that spoke to me somehow. This is the only image I was able to find of Charlotte-Rose de la Force:



This is the cover of my notebook for the scenes set in Renaissance Venice, which tell the story of Margherita (my maiden) and Selena Leonelli (my witch). The image is one of Titian's most famous paintings of the mysterious women who was his muse. It is called 'Woman with a Mirror' and you can see the original in the Louvre (I did!) 

       

The opening pages of my notebook - the pink stick-it note was from a dinner party where I met some Germans who told me the perfect place to set my Rapunzel scenes in the tower - Sirmione in Lake Garda.  I ended up setting this scenes a few miles away at Rocca del Manerba:


       

Some early pages from my notebook.


It is always very important to me that I plan my key turning points as early as possible in the writing process. I try and find the underlying pattern in the story, which is a process I find very exciting and liberating - it helps me know my key emotional beats, and the scenes which I wish to foreshadow early in the story. BITTER GREENS was a complicated story, so I created a graph like this for each of my major characters - seeing where their stories intersected and how many words each section should be. I often change my graph as the story develops and I learn more about my story - in which case, I draw this diagram again and again, as I try to understand the key underpinnings of the story's architecture.  

These are the opening lines of BITTER GREENS, written longhand in my notebook. I often write key scenes longhand first, to slow myself down and think through what I want to say. Typing is an amazing technological breakthrough for writers, but it can lead to quick and facile writing. I like to write slow and deep and thoughtful at times - usually for my most important scenes or when a line or paragraph is causing me trouble and always, always, always, when I am writing poetry.

         

I have a very visual imagination, so I like to be able to "see" things before I describe them. Consequently I am always sticking in maps, diagrams, and photos into my notebooks, or drawing little maps for myself (this sketch is of Margherita's tower)

An early chapter outline

  

Lists of characters

              

Random pages I thought you might find interesting

     

My notebooks are not particularly pretty - my handwriting is awful and my drawings even worse. They are, however, a record of the creative process from the earliest ideas through to the finished product. I date my pages, keep a record of my word counts, and say where I am when I am working on that page (Paris, Venice, Florence and the south of France all feature in these pages.) 

Writing BITTER GREENS was an extraordinary experience for me. No book I have written has ever dug so deeply into who I truly am. 

 I have written a lot on my blog about Bitter Greens - I hope you will go and explore further! Or take a look at my Pinterest pages on Titian's paintings of his muse, Rapunzel  or my inspirational pinboard for BITTER GREENS

But - most of all - I hope you love the book!

THE 50/50 PROJECT: Winning the ALA Award for Best Historical Fiction

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I have a secret page on my website that only those that search carefully can find. I call it The 50/50 Project ...

It is a list of all my hopes and dreams - both possible and impossible - & all the places I hope to one day go and all the things I hope to one day do. I call it The 50/50 Project because it was inspired by the inching closer of my 50th birthday and the realisation that there are still so many things in the world I want to do (I found 50 of them, hence the title). The idea is that - as I go somewhere or achieve something - I'll blog about it, and gradually be able to cross off some of these dreams. 


Today I am crossing off:

No 49: Win A Major Literary Prize

I have been short-listed for lots of awards and won a few. 

'The Wild Girl' was voted The Most Memorable Love Story of 2013 by Australians

‘The Puzzle Ring’ was short-listed for the 2009 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and named an 'Unsung Hero of 2009'  

‘The Gypsy Crown’ was nominated for a CYBIL Award in the US and for the Surrey ‘Book of the Year’ award in Canada in 2009

In Australia, where ‘The Gypsy Crown’ was sold as a 6-book series, Books 2-6 won the 2007 Aurealis Award for Children’s Fiction & Book 5: ‘The Lightning Bolt’ was a CBCA Notable Book 

'The Starthorn Tree' was shortlisted for the 2002 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fantasy & the Western Australian Children's Choice Awards and chosen for the One Book, One City campaign in Brisbane

‘The Cursed Towers’ was short-listed for the 1999 Aurealis Fantasy Award.

‘Dragonclaw’ was short-listed for the 1997 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel and (in the US where it was published as ‘The Witches of Eileanan’), it was named one of the Best First Novels of 1998 by Locus magazine.

Yet I'd always dreamed of winning something BIG, something international ... the Nobel Prize for Literature, for example ....

Well, I'm very happy to say BITTER GREENS, my retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale, has won the American Library Association (ALA) award for Best Historical Fiction in 2015

The ALA  is the oldest and largest library association in the world, and its prestigious awards include the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, the Carnegie Medal, and the Michael L. Printz Award. 

BITTER GREENS was also a Library Journal US Best Historical Novel, and was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and a Norma K. Hemming Award (for which it received an Honourable Mention). 

BITTER GREENS around the world:

               

You may also be interested in my post on THE 50/50 PROJECT: Selling A Million Copies

THE 50/50 PROJECT: Selling 1 million copies!

Monday, March 02, 2015

I have a secret page on my website that only those that search carefully can find. I call it The 50/50 Project ...

It is a list of all my hopes and dreams - both possible and impossible - & all the places I hope to one day go and all the things I hope to one day achieve. I call it The 50/50 Project because I hate the term 'bucket list' (so inelegant). Yet, like many such lists, it is was inspired by the inching closer of my 50th birthday and the realisation that there are still so many things in the world I want to do (I found 50 of them, hence the title). The idea is that - as I go somewhere or achieve something - I'll blog about it, and gradually be able to cross off some of these dreams. 

So its very exciting that my very first blog post for The 50/50 Project is:

No 33: Sell a million books (or more!)

I have written quite a few books - more than thirty at last count. Both books for adults and books for children, ranging from picture books to young adult fiction, plus one collection of poetry. All my books have sold well. Some have sold extremely well. Yet I still had not cracked total sales of more than a million copies. 

Until Bitter Greens, my retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale. I wrote this novel as the creative component of a Doctorate in Creative Arts, along with a 30,000 word exegesis 'The Rescue of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower.' It was published in 2012, the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Grimm Brothers' first collection of fairy tales, a time when interest in fairy tale retellings was at a all-time high.

               

     

The book has since been published in all English speaking territories, particularly Australia, the UK and the US, as well as in Russia and as an audio book. It won the American Library Association (ALA) Award for Best Historical Fiction, was a Library Journal US Best Historical Novel, and was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and a Norma K. Hemming Award (for which it received an Honourable Mention).  

It has sold strongly all over the world, but particularly well in Russia, where I sold in excess of a quarter of a million copies in just two weeks. Thanks to my Russian readers, I have finally cracked the Million Copies Sold glass ceiling. Let's hope I sell my next million much, much faster!

So HOW did it happen? I really do not know ... except that I poured my heart and soul into this book! I spent seven years researching and writing it, I took an enormous risk by writing something very different from the books I was known for, I constantly thought to myself 'how can I make the book better? How can I push myself to be bolder, more daring, more innovative, more surprising?' and I brought to it everything I know about storytelling and writing. I think it has paid off (big happy smiley face!) 


I talk about how I found out about my Russian bonanza in this Youtube interview with Booktopia :

Keep an eye on my blog for other updates to the (now-not-so-secret) 50/50 Project!



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