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INTERVIEW: Jesse Blackadder, author of 'Chasing the Light'

Friday, February 08, 2013

What was the first flash of inspiration for 'Chasing the Light'?

My Antarctic obsession began with an old black and white photograph of two women sitting on the deck of a ship on the way to Antarctica. One of them, Ingrid Christensen, gazed into the camera enigmatically. When I learned she was the first woman known to have seen Antarctica, I wanted to know more.
One problem – there was little more to be found. I discovered that Ingrid, a 38-year-old Norwegian, left her six children behind and travelled to Antarctica by ship four times with her husband Lars in the 1930s as part of his whaling fleet, taking a female friend or two on each trip. But the question of her ever making a landing seemed to be unanswered, and history books cite another Norwegian woman as the first to land on Antarctica. None of Ingrid’s own words have survived, if they were ever written down in the first place. This intrigued me.

You travelled to Antarctica to research the book. That must have been amazing! Can you tell me all about it?

I went the first time as a tourist, on a 10 day cruise from Argentina to the Antarctic Peninsula. It’s a very dramatic and beautiful place, with lots of wildlife, and that’s where most tourists go because the sea crossing is short – just two days. The second time I went as the Antarctic Arts Fellow, with the Australian Antarctic Division’s ship Aurora Australis. That’s a two-week crossing each way to a very remote part of Antarctica – and it happens to be the part of the continent where Ingrid Christensen visited. In fact I went to “Ingrid Christensen Land”, as it’s now known. Going as part of a working ship was completely different and the landscape at the other end was different too – less picturesque in some ways, but very dramatic and with its own incredible beauty. I had five days on the continent, including three days staying out in huts and travelling across the sea ice in a Hagglunds all terrain vehicle. I can truly say I will never forget it. Antarctica is beyond all the superlatives. I’d go back in a moment.

I particularly loved the characters of the three women at the heart of this novel. They were each so different, and yet so strong and full of life. Can you please tell me how you came to create them?

Lillemor and Mathilde almost created themselves – somehow from the little scraps of history that survived they emerged in my imagination almost fully formed. The main character, Ingrid, was harder. What was it that drove her to go to Antarctica four times? There wasn’t a simple answer to that question, and I puzzled over it, revisited it and imagined it over and over again as I was writing. I had to balance my own desires for her as a character – that she was brave, intrepid and adventurous – with historical realities – that she was extremely wealthy and possibly quite spoilt. In the end I had to let the imagined character take over – this is a novel after all, not a history, though it is deeply informed by history.

Lillemor, who tricked her way on board the ship, and uses her charm and vivacity to always get her own way, was actually my favourite character. Was she yours?

Good spotting! Yes she was my favourite. The glimpses of the real woman that echoed down from history were fascinating. Living in London in the 1920s and 30s, doing charity work in the slums during the great depression, marrying a diplomat who divorced his wife and left his children to be with her, travelling twice to Antarctica, keeping a diary (which is now lost) and taking photographs that ended up being published – she was fascinating. I could let her be competitive, canny and self interested, which was fun.

Grief and loss are the haunting themes of 'Chasing the Light'. I felt sure you must have felt some great sorrow of your own in order to be able to capture Mathilde's paralysing sense of loss over the death of her husband, and  Ingrid's abiding awareness of her mother's absence. Can you tell us how you manage to connect with these women and their grief?

That’s true, Kate. I had a major family tragedy when I was just 12, and my two year old sister drowned in our backyard swimming pool. It was a defining moment, when childhood suddenly ended and adulthood began through the experience of profound grief. My mother also died young, at age 46, at a time when we were quite estranged and though that was more than 25 years ago, I still feel a sense of loss, and think about how I could have acted differently. 

I particularly loved the passages with the whales - both the cruel and the beautiful. I've been thinking about them ever since I read the book. Can you share with us your own feelings towards these parts of the book?

I found the research into whaling to be the most disturbing part of the process. Some years ago I spent a week on a humpback whale research vessel in Hervey Bay and that’s where I first learned about deep sea whaling in the Southern Ocean, and the toll it had extracted. We’re talking about 40,000 whales killed in a single season in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The whaling museum in Sandefjord, Norway, where Ingrid lived, has a blue whale fetus in a jar as part of its display and it’s a very sad sight. I live near Byron Bay, so the annual humpback whale migration is part of my life and I find those creatures deeply moving. I mourned them while I was writing.

Finally, I believe you wrote the novel as part of a doctorate of creative arts. Tell me about the process.

I enrolled in a Doctor of Creative Arts at the Writing and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney. It was a great experience, and I was lucky enough to have novelist Gail Jones as my supervisor while writing 'Chasing the Light' – her feedback helped me stop and reconsider during the first draft, and then start all over again with a different approach – something I’m not sure I would have done by myself. It also meant the book was informed by the academic side of my research into gender and Antarctica – I think that’s an invisible, but important influence. I loved being part of the research group – the staff and other students were inspiring and incredibly supportive and it challenged me to think harder and in a different way. I’ll miss it!

If you enjoyed this interview, you may also enjoy an earlier interview I did with Jesse, talking about her novel 'The Raven's Heart'

Jesse's website is here.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you think

BOOK REVIEW: 'Chasing the Light' by Jesse Blackadder

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Title: Chasing the Light’
Author: Jesse Blackadder
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Age Group & Genre: Historical Fiction for Adults

The Blurb:
It′s the early 1930s. Antarctic open-sea whaling is booming and a territorial race for the mysterious continent between Norwegian and British-Australian interests is in full swing.
Aboard a ship setting sail from Cape Town carrying the Norwegian whaling magnate Lars Christensen are three women: Lillemor Rachlew, who tricked her way on to the ship and will stop at nothing to be the first woman to land on Antarctica; Mathilde Wegger, a grieving widow who′s been forced to join the trip by her calculating parents-in-law; and Lars′s wife, Ingrid Christensen, who has longed to travel to Antarctica since she was a girl and has made a daunting bargain with Lars to convince him to take her.
Loyalties shift and melt and conflicts increase as they pass through the Southern Ocean and reach the whaling grounds. None of the women is prepared for the reality of meeting the whaling fleet and experiencing firsthand the brutality of the icy world.
As they head for the continent itself, the race is on for the first woman to land on Antarctica. None of them expect the outcome and none of them know how they will be changed by their arrival.
Based on the little-known true story of the first woman to ever set foot on Antarctica, Jesse Blackadder has captured the drama, danger and magnetic pull of exploring uncharted places in our world and our minds.

What I Thought: 
‘Chasing the ‘Light is a beautifully written novel about Ingrid Christensen, the first woman to ever see Antarctica (and, quite possibly, the first woman to ever set foot there). It’s also about the two women who accompany her there, the grief-wracked Mathilde and the determined and vivacious Lillemor, who is determined she shall be the first – and will stop at virtually nothing to get her way.
Antarctica herself is a character (is it wrong to call a continent a ‘she’? Because somehow that vast, mysterious, and dangerous land just seems like a woman to me).
Sorrow and courage and the singing of whales weave their way through the story, adding poetry and depth – yet the story swings along at a compelling pace, never losing its narrative drive. The novel is not only about the race to be the first woman in Antarctica, but also about friendships, betrayals, and the hidden mysteries of the human heart.

BOOK LIST: Best Books Set In Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Jesse Blackadder, author of 'Chasing the Light: a Novel of Antarctica' shares her favourite Antarctic books:

Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1971 novel 'Antarctica' is considered one of the most prominent far southern genre novels of recent decades, and it certainly was an early influence on me, provoking my fascination with Antarctica. Apparently an eco-thriller set in an unspecified but near future, Antarctica engaged with and challenged many of the conventions of Antarctic literature, reflecting on the glory and foolishness of the heroic era explorers, introducing other cultural perspectives through the character Ta Shu, a Chinese poet who is part of the Artists and Writers’ Programme (his poems and reflections on the feng shui of Antarctica are scattered through the text) and exploring questions of becoming indigenous to Antarctica. Among the many things happening in this novel, women play a central role throughout, working in all aspects of Antarctic life.

Elizabeth Arthur’s 1995 novel 'Antarctic Navigation' follows the journey of a woman who sets out to reenact Scott’s sledging journey to the South Pole. Like Robinson’s novel, it’s epic in nature, and powerfully elicits Antarctica, while raising fascinating and absorbing questions about the nature of life, science and reality. I still can’t believe that I won’t meet its main character Morgan one day.

Leslie Carol Roberts has written a lyrical history of aspects of Antarctic life in her non fiction work The Entire Earth and Sky, which would have been a husky’s breakfast of facts and thoughts, were it not for her skill as a poetic writer. Thanks to that, it’s a stunning meditation on the ice.

We have some fabulous Australian books of Antarctica including Robyn Mundy’s The Nature of Ice, which matches a contemporary story of a photographer in Antarctica with Mawson’s journey; Karen Vigger’s The Lightkeeper’s Wife, which weaves stories from present to past; L A Larkin’s recent thriller Thirst, Craig Cormick’s In Bed with Douglas Mawson which recounts his journey on Aurora Australis and his conversations with Mawson’s ghost, and Tom Griffith’s work of history Slicing the Silence, to name just a few.

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WINNERS ANNOUNCED! Plus a round-up of what I discovered with my survey

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

As part of the Australia Day blog hop, inspired by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out blog and the gals at Confessions From Romaholics blog, I ran a survey about my blog and had some very interesting results.

How do you choose the next book to read?

Most visitors to my blog choose their next book as a result of word-of-mouth recommendations, either from friends or from book blogs. Goodreads was another very popular way to choose a new book (and really this is another form of word-of-mouth recommendation, isn't it?). Many others said they chose the book by browsing bookshops, either in real space or on the internet, and were swayed by the cover and blurb. I must admit I always am! Facebook and twitter were also quite influential, but traditional media such as newspapers and magazines had much less impact. 

I found this very interesting - but it does reflect the changes in my own book choices.

How could I improve my blog?

Most people said they would like more posts about the craft of writing, which really surprised me. I had thought people must be so sick of writers writing about writing. But no! About 70% of the respondents wanted me to give them more insights into my own writing process, and more writing tips. So I shall! I'll need to think about the best way to do it ...

Most people also said more reviews and more interviews - I'll try!

A few made suggestions about the look, and the ease of moving around, and other practical tips - thank you so much! I plan a redesign in the next month or so - please feel free to tell em what you think!

Favourite Genres

Not surprisingly, most of you love fantasy and historical fiction, which are my own favourite genres. A few asked for more romance, which makes me happy as I was planning a Romance Month in February. A few also asked for more crime and mystery, which I must admit I don't read and review as much. However, I love this genre too so this is no stretch for me. 

Should I Give My Blog a Name?

NO! was the resounding answer (though some had some very funny nor lovely suggestions - thank you for these)

So, finally, who are the winners?

Well, I had 55 comments and only 5 books to give away and so this one is a real toughie!

Here is what I've decided:

Tracey Allen - Dragonclaw, Book 1 of 'The Witches of Eileanan'

Alissa Callen - The Starthorn Tree

Eily - The Starthorn Tree

Riz Bulatao - The Starthorn Tree 

Jo-Anne - Bitter Greens

Jen - Bitter Greens

Jess S - Bitter Greens

Allison Tait - The Wild Girl 

Kirstie - The Wild Girl

Teddyree- The Wild Girl

Angelya - The Wild Girl

Lisa Wardle - The Wild Girl

Emma Tingay - The Wild Girl

Jeffrey Doherty - The Wild Girl

Tash - The Wild Girl

Sam - The Wild Girl

Maureen - The Wild Girl

Sharon - The Wild Girl 

Elspeth - The Wild Girl

Spike - The Wild Girl

So that's TWENTY books I'm giving away instead of five. Whew! 

It'd be really good if you could all email me and let me know if you want an e-book or a p-book - and where I can send it. 

Anyone who doesn't email me, I'll try and get to you in the next week or so - please be patient as I am overwhelmed with work at the moment.

Anyone who didn't win a copy - I'm so sorry! I really appreciate your feedback and your support, and I'll try and hold another giveaway soon.

Many thanks!


Friday, January 25, 2013

I've been quietly blogging for a year now and have had so much fun and learnt so much.

However, I still have a lot to learn. Let me know what you'd like this blog to do better, fill out my survey (short & sweet, I promise), and you can have a chance to win any book of mine that you please (including my new novel 'The Wild Girl')

To WIN any book of mine that you like, all you need to do is fill out the survey below, then leave me a comment telling me what book of mine you'd like and why. The competition begins on January 25th and closes at midnight on January 28th, 2013. I'll give away FIVE books, choosing the comments I like the best. So dazzle me with your brilliance!

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Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

This blog is part of the Australia Day Blog Hop, organised by the absolutely brilliant Shelleyrae at Book'd Out, and the wonderful girls at Confessions from Romaholics, which are two of my favourite book blogs. 

Another lovely Australian author doing the BOOK GIVEAWAY BLOG HOP is Elizabeth Storrs, author of 'The Wedding Shroud: a novel of Early Rome'. She is giving away copies of my book 'Bitter Greens', so if you hop along to her blog you can have the chance of winning TWO of my books. What a great way to celebrate Australia Day!

You can also check out the other participants in the BOOK GIVEAWAY BLOG HOP here!

Don't forget to leave me a comment, telling me WHAT book of mine you'd like to win and WHY! And, of course, your email address so I can let you know you've won.

REVIEW: 'The Girl You Left Behind' by Jojo Moyes

Monday, January 21, 2013

Title: ‘The Girl you Left Behind’
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Penguin
Age Group & Genre: Adult Fiction – Parallel Contemporary/Historical 

The Blurb:

What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost

What I Liked About This Book: 
Is there anything more wonderful than discovering a fabulous new author?

I had not read anything by Jojo Moyes before, but was drawn to this book because of its parallel narrative structure and because it is set in France during the First World War, one of my favourite historical periods and, of course, one of my favourite places in the world. 

'The Girl You Left Behind' starts in occupied France during World War I, with the main character, Sophie Lefevre standing up the local German Kommandant. He sees a painting of Sophie, rendered by her artist-husband who is off fighting the German army. The Kommandant is drawn irresistibly to the painting – and to its beautiful, red-haired subject – and begins to show her favour. This attracts the suspicion and contempt of the other French villagers, and sets in chain a series of tragic events. 

The action then moves to modern-day London, where the young widow Liv now owns the painting and becomes the centre of a legal battle by the Lefevre family to get it back. 

I usually find I like the historical sections of a parallel narrative the best, but in this book I really enjoyed both strands and feared and worried for both of the protagonists. There’s romance and drama and suspense aplenty in both sections of the book – I really loved it and am looking forward to reading more books by Jojo Noyes (she has a back list!)

'The Girl She Left Behind' by Jojo Moyes was one of the best books I read in 2012 - check out the others!

Other parallel narratives you may also enjoy: 

INTERVIEW: Emily Rodda, author of 'The Three Doors' trilogy

Friday, January 18, 2013

Are you a daydreamer too?
Yes! I really believe all writers are. I think there should be more daydreaming. It’s a mistake to expect to be always busy. When your mind is idling, you get your best ideas. And not just writers. Daydreaming is good for everybody. It’s good for children to gaze into space, to watch clouds drift past, it’s good for them to think and daydream. 

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Oh, yes, always. From the very first time I could read. I wrote a lot when I was very young, but gave it up after my middle teens, probably because there are so many wonderful writers and I didn’t think I could ever be as good. I didn’t write for a great many years but then I slowly came back to it and of course, have not looked back since.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do? 
I was born in Killara, on the North Shore in Sydney. I was the first child, with two younger brothers.  I live in the Blue Mountains now; it’s very like what Killara was like when I was a child, lots of bush and trees and gardens with that wonderful smell of eucalyptus. I love to read , of course, but I also love cooking and sewing and playing around in the garden. I don’t much like housework or playing sport; I avoid those.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?
I have always been interested in fairy tales, and often use fairy tale elements in my books. Having to make choices between things is a common fairy tale motif; usually there are three choices, three being a fairy tale number. One day I was just thinking idly – daydreaming if you like – and I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be more interesting to have to choose between three doors?’ A book is like a door, I thought. It opens to new worlds, new adventures. I imagined having a book that looked like a door. Then I began to think about what the doors might be like, where they might lead, who might travel through them … and the story grew from there. 

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
On occasion. It’s more a moment in a dream, a picture, nightmarish or beautiful, that I remember forever and which will eventually be worked into a book in one way or another. 

How extensively do you plan your novels? 
I think my writing style is quite intuitive. It seems a natural process to me. I mean, I do think about how the novel should progress, where the story is headed, what I need to do to get to the end … but I don’t write chapter outlines or anything like that. I like to discover things along the way. For example, in the Rondo books, Bertha the pig just appeared in a scene. It was fun to meet her. She wouldn’t leave, and so I thought, perhaps she’s important in some way … So even though I do think about the book a lot, I don’t plan it as such … it’s a lot more intuitive. I’ve been such a massive reader all of my life, I think I just absorbed how to do it, through the skin, you might say.

I always think your books are so perfectly structured. I often use ‘Rowan of Rin’ to teach what I think is a perfect novel structure, for example.
Oh, thank you, that’s so kind of you. Well, Rowan of Rin did have quite a rigid structure. There were seven heroes, each with a failing, so seven tests or obstacles … the story needed that kind of structure though. It was the same with the Deltora Quest books – it was a quest to find seven gems, and so each book was built around the individual quest, each with a satisfying end … you need a satisfying end, I think. 

Where do you write, and when?
I write every day, if I can. I work best in the mornings. I often get up early, around 4 o’clock when the house is quiet and dark. I particularly used to do this when my children were young. I never worked while they were awake.  

What is your favourite part of writing?
The most exciting part is the first handwritten notes – when the story first starts coming. Often it comes like a stream of consciousness, when I’m playing with ideas, asking questions, seeing what answers come. Starting can be difficult, when you know what a big undertaking is ahead. I always say, ‘don’t worry about the first line; just do it.’ 

Then I love that feeling of writing well, and the rush that comes around the middle of the book. When I’m writing well, it feels as if I’m reading the book, rather than writing it.

What is your favourite part of writing?
Promoting! I tend to be shy about my writing. Though I love signing books for children, these battered old books that have fallen in the bath or been dragged around all over the place. That’s really special. 

What do you do when you get blocked? 
I don’t get blocked very often. Usually it means I’ve got my heroes into an appalling mess and can’t get them out. I simply go somewhere else. I might take a walk, or go up to the coffee shop, or have a shower, and usually I’ll have solved the problem by the time I get back. Sometimes I’ll write down what the problem is and start listing all the possible answers – that usually works. 

Do you have any rituals that help you to write? 
No, all I need is a cup of tea or, as a real treat, a takeaway coffee. Though I do like to have a few special little things around me, little gifts from kids . 

Who are ten of your favourite writers?
The Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, Tim Winton. Roald Dahl, Ruth Park, Margaret Mahy.

Photo of Margaret Mahy by David Hallet

What do you consider to be good writing?  
It doesn’t matter how beautiful the writing is, if it doesn’t draw you into the world then the book has failed. No matter the genre, good writing must engage the reader.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Keep writing. Read as much as you can – you will learn to w rite by reading.

What is the secret of your success?
I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I’m a storyteller. People love stories, you know. 

You may also enjoy reading my interview with Michael Pryor, author of the Extraordinaires.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Emily Rodda’s new fantasy series 'The Three Doors Trilogy' uses the device of three magical doors to create a portal for her heroes to set out on their quest. This got me thinking – not for the first time – about what a magical number three is. 

There is the Triple Goddess and the Holy Trinity. The Three Fates and the Rule of Three. Three wise men and three gifts. Three denials.

Bad luck comes in threes, and so, of course, does good luck.

Beginnings, middles and ends. 

Three-act structures.

Blood, sweat and tears. 

The rule of thirds in art.

Trilogies, triptychs, and Freytag triangles.

And, of course, three happens a lot in fairy tales. 

Let me see. 

Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The Three Little Pigs. Three Blind Mice. Three Billy Goats Gruff. 

The Three Spinners. The Devil with Three Golden hairs. Three wishes. Three gifts. Three tasks. Three brothers, and, sometimes, three sisters.

Usually the first two fail in some way, allowing the third to succeed. 

This reflects the pattern of what comedians call ‘the comic triple’. The idea is that two points establish a pattern; the audience comes to expect for the pattern to be repeated; and so the break in the pattern comes as a surprise, which makes people laugh. 

Interestingly enough, many old fragments of Druid mythology also come grouped in three. For example, the old saying: ‘Three things not easily restrained: the flow of a torrent, the flight of an arrow, and the tongue of a fool.’

I always build a plot on three key pivotal moments, or three major obstacles. 

And I live my life by the Threefold Law, the idea that everything you give out to the universe is returned to you threefold.

Three is also, strangely, the date of my birthday (I was born on 3/6/66). 

BOOK REVIEW: Emily Rodda's 'Three Doors Trilogy'

Monday, January 14, 2013

'The Three Doors Trilogy' is a new fantasy series by the wonderful Australian children’s author, Emily Rodda, filled with all of her trademark suspense, adventure and touches of horror.

The first book, 'The Golden Door', introduces a new hero, Rye, the youngest of three brothers living in the walled city of Weld, which is terrorised by giant skimmers that fly over every night. The city decides to send heroes to find and destroy the source of the skimmers; one by one, the young men of the city set forth, choosing one of three magical doors. None return.

After Rye's two elder brothers disappear, Rye decides to set out to find them. He is joined in his quest by a strong-willed, red-haired girl called Sonia who has her own reasons for travelling through the magical doors. Only their courage, persistence and kindness will help them in a journey fraught with dangers of all kinds.

I really love the fairy tale element – the way the quest begins with the eldest brother who does not return, and then the second brother sets out and does not return either, and so it is up to the youngest, Rye, to rescue his brothers and save his world. The device of the three doors is also an old one, but as always Emily Rodda makes it new. 

The second book, ‘The Silver Door’, takes Rye and Sonia to a very different place, a kind of badlands with people scounging what they can from the desert. As well as a wide array of eccentric and memorable characters, there are some truly terrifying monsters to battle..

'The Third Door' is an action-packed and exciting roller-coaster ride with enough chills and shocks to keep the most reluctant reader glued to the page.

Our heroes, Rye and Sonia, continue their heroic quest to find and defeat the enemy of Weld, discovering new things about themselves and their world at every turn. My favourite part of these books was the little bag of magical tricks that Rye was given in the first book - each gift has a hidden power and each is so fresh and inventive, it reminds me why Emily Rodda is Australia's queen of children's fantasy. 



Monday, December 31, 2012

This past year was the first year of The Australian Women’s Writers Challenge – a call to arms for Australians to support our women writers by reading and reviewing their books, and spreading the word about the extraordinary literary talent we have in this country.

The initiative – begun by Elizabeth Lhuede – aims to redress the gender imbalance in the way male and female writers are treated in this country. Male writers are reviewed more often and win prizes more often, even though they do not write more books than women.

I have to admit I've  always had a strong bias towards women writers – my husband will growl, ‘don’t you have any books by men?’ as he searches my many bookshelves for something to read – yet I have noticed that the major literary papers do not review the type of books I really want to read. 

So I decided to join in the AWW challenge by reviewing novels that I had read and loved on a blog which I began for that purpose. I have reviewed and interviewed both men and women, from Australia and elsewhere – and I have made an effort to read more books by Australian women writers. 

In all, I read 95 books in 2012, 26 less than in 2011.

Less than one-third of these were written by men.

Of the 63 women writers, 35 of them were Australian. All of them were utterly brilliant. If you haven’t read their novels, read them in 2013 and discover for yourself the amazing talent of writers we have in this country: 

Parallel Historical/Contemporary

1. Secrets of the Tides – Hannah Richell
A dramatic story of family secrets and lies, set in London & Devon. Hannah Richell is UK-born, but lives in Sydney so I have counted her as an Aussie. 

2. The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton 
A riveting read that moves between contemporary times and the early days of the Second World War

3. Lighthouse Bay - Kimberley Freeman
One of my favourite books of the year, this book has romance, suspense, a dastardly villain, and a cast of strong, defiant women.

4. In Falling Snow  -  Mary Rose MacColl
A fascinating look at the role of women nurses and doctors in the Second World War in France.


5. Raven’s Heart  -  Jesse Blackadder
Set in Scotland in the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, this novel is filled with unexpected twists and turns.


6. The Reasons for Marriage  -  Stephanie Laurens
7. A Lady of Expectations  -  Stephanie Laurens
8. An Unwilling Conquest  -  Stephanie Laurens
9. A Comfortable Wife  -  Stephanie Laurens
Regency romance novels that are thin on story and thick on sex – but enjoyable nonetheless. 

10. The Perfect Rake  -  Anne Gracie
11. Bride by Mistake – Anne Gracie
12. The Perfect Waltz  -  Anne Gracie
13. The Stolen Princess – Anne Gracie
14. The Perfect Kiss – Anne Gracie
15. His Captive Lady - Anne Gracie 
Sparkling Regency romances with just the right mixture of humour, pathos, intrigue and romance.


16. Sea Hearts  -  Margo Lanagan
A haunting tale of love, betrayal and selkies by one of Australia’s most extraordinary authors. 

17. Shadowfell – Juliet Marillier
The first in a romantic YA fantasy series by one of my all-time favourite authors.

18. Flame of Sevenwaters  -  Juliet Marillier
Another fabulous historical fantasy set in the otherworldly forest of Sevenwaters.

19. A Corner of White  -  Jaclyn Moriarty
A startlingly original book that moves between the parallel worlds of contemporary Oxford and the strange and magical Kingdom of Cello.


20. Poet’s Cottage – Josephine Pennicott
An intriguing murder mystery set in Tasmania, which moves between the present day and the tragic past. 

21. A Few Right Thinking Men  -  Sulari Gentill
The first in a series of murder mysteries set in 1930s.

Children’s/Young Adult

22. The Golden Door – Emily Rodda
23. The Silver Door - Emily Rodda
24. The Third Door - Emily Rodda
A new trilogy of action-packed fantasy adventure novels for 8+, by the brilliant Emily Rodda

25. The Forgotten Pearl – Belinda Murrell 
A fabulous historical novel for 10+, set during the Second World War in Darwin and Sydney.

26. The River Charm  -  Belinda Murrell
A beautiful and very moving novel that moves between contemporary times and New South Wales’ early pioneering days, drawing upon the true life story of Charlotte and Louisa Atkinson, Australia’s first female novelists and journalists (and, I proudly must admit, my sister Belinda and my ancestors)

27. Bright Angel – Isabelle Merlin
A charming romantic suspense novel for 13+ set in the South of France.

28. One Long Thread – Belinda Jeffries
A fresh and unusual coming-of-age story that moves between Australia and Tonga.

29. Moonlight & Ashes – Sophie Masson
A really brilliant retake on the well-known Cinderella story, set in a make-believe Prague.

30. The Madman of Venice – Sophie Masson
A romantic historical novel set in Venice, with lots of suspense to keep the pages turning.

31. The FitzOsbornes in Exile - Michelle Cooper


32. You’ll be Sorry When I’m Dead – Marieke Hardy

Next year I aim to read even more books by Australian Women Writers. 
What about you?

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