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KATE FORSYTH'S Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

Friday, January 08, 2016

Every year I try and take part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, in an attempt to read more books written by Australian female authors.

I only managed ten in total this year, much to my disappointment. It may have been more – I’ve had such a busy year that I was not as good as usual in writing down all I’ve read! Also, a lot of my reading was taken up in research books for the new novel I am working on, which is set in Victorian England. 


I will do better in 2016!




1. The Light Between the Oceans - M.L. Stedman

A compelling and beautifully written novel set in a lighthouse in Australia, and telling the story of a lost child, and how one small choice can break apart many lives.  



2. Daughters of the Storm - Kim Wilkins

A historical fantasy set in a world much like the Dark Ages, with an absolutely brilliant kick-ass heroine and lots of brilliantly drawn characters to love and hate.




3. The Soldier's Wife - Pamela Hart

A moving historical novel set in Sydney during the First World War, The Soldier's Wife tells the story of the women left at home, who must struggle on as best they an.  





4. The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty

A gripping and utterly original psychological thriller set in a Sydney suburb much like my own ... unputdownable!






5. The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton 

This is one of my favourite books by one of my favourite writers - entwining the story of a Victorian fairy tale teller, a secret garden, and a murder ... so much to love! 





6. The Tide Watchers – Lisa Chaplin

An intriguing historical novel set during the Napoleonic wars and inspired by the fascinating true-life story of a a British female spy.





7. The Spring Bride – Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie's Regency romance novels are an utter delight! Funny, warm-hearted, and adventurous - I buy them as soon as they are released! 





8. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty 

Another intriguing novel that looks at the dark secrets that can lurk under the surface of even the shiniest of lives, this was so good I gave it to my husband to read!




9. Small Acts Of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger  - Fiona Wright

A collection of interconnected essays inspired by the author's struggle with anorexia nervosa, written with crystalline prose.    





10. The Lake House – Kate Morton

I pre-ordered this book and read it as soon as it landed on my doorstep. Another compelling historica/contemporary tale of secrets and mysteries. Loved it!


Perth Writers Festival round-up - February 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I spent the last few days in Western Australia for the wonderful Perth Writers Festival. Big congratulations to Katherine Dorrington, the program director, for such a lively and inspirational program, and thanks to Maria Alessandrino and the whole team for taking such good care of all the writers. 

I began my events last Thursday with a wonderful event with Sean Williams. I've known him for years, and love his work, but did not know his favourite book is The Weirdstone of Brisignamen by Alan Garner, which is one of my favourites too! I plan on digging it out and reading ti again - its been years!

Sean has a brilliant new series out called TWINMAKER with Book 1 called Jump in Australia. It's an extremely clever Sci-Fi thriller that imagines a world in which technology has completely transformed the world. One of the most wonderful - and dangerous - inventions is a machine that transports you anywhere in the world in just a moment. Called a d-mat, you can catch it to an extraordinary old observatory in the mountain heights of Switzerland, then to the deserts of the Sahara, all in the time it takes to go down in a lift. Of course everyone wants one! I want one! But the whole book is about what this kind of technology could do to our bodies ... and our souls ...


I then talked about my new children's fantasy adventure series THE IMPOSSIBLE QUEST to a tent full of excited kids. It was great fun (if rather hot!), and I impressed all the boys in the audience with my sword-fighting skills. 

 

Book 3: The Beast of Blackmoor Bog has just been released, and it was wonderful to see so many kids eager to get their hands on it. I also had a number of older kids bringing along piles of my other books for me to sign. 

Then, on Friday, Danielle Wood and I did a panel on Fairy Tales with Delys Bird as our very warm and embracing chair. I have written about Danielle's incredible, intense and surprising fairy tale retellings for The Sydney Morning Herald, saying she "writes with acute insight into the inner lives of women, and all in prose so precise and crystal-cut, the whole shines with an unsettling beauty." It was wonderful to hear Danielle speak of her interest with fairy tales and why she "repurposes" them into contemporary social realism. Our books are very different indeed, but we share the same fascinations with these old, beautiful and sometimes very strange stories.

I sold out of all copies of BITTER GREENS and THE WILD GIRL after our talk, which is always a good sign (though a shame as I had another two days at the festival in which to woo new readers).

On Saturday, I had the whole day off but instead of going shopping, going to the beach, or exploring Perth I went straight back to the festival - of course! And I'm so glad I did. 

I saw a wonderful panel with Liane Moriarty, Liz Byrski and Hanni Rayson - I loved so much my cheeks ached. They were all so warm and clever and funny - the audience was in heaven! I have read Liane Moriarty's brilliantly funny & brilliantly sad The Husband's Secret (you can read my interview with her here), but the other two authors were new to me. Can't wait to discover their books!


Then I listened to Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing, and John Darnielle, author of Wolf in White Van, talk about their books, about writing from the point of view of a damaged psyche, their lives and much more. It was fascinating. John made my favourite quote of the day when he said "writing a book is like having a vampire living in your home, festering in their coffin, demanding to be fed blood every day."

Another highlight was listening to Georgina Penney talk in 'Romance is Not a Dirty Word', a panel in which Anna Cowan, the author of Untamed, was meant to be sharing but unfortunately could not make it because she is just about ready to pop out a baby. Georgina did a fabulous job despite her absence, being as warm and funny and passionate as she seems to be in her books. Favourite quote from her website is that she likes to spend her days imagining: "buff medieval Scotsmen in kilts (who have access to shower facilities and deodorant) living behind every bramble hedge."

Then I went to see Erik Jensen, Miranda Richmond Mouillot, and Tom Rob Smith talk about their books, all inspired by real lives and real stories. They were discussing the ideas of truth versus good storytelling, who owns their stories, and what right we have to draw upon them, and many other fascinating philosophical  questions that I have grappled with in my own writing. Once again, I feel I have to read all their books! That is the magic of festivals. 

On Sunday, I was on a panel called 'Drawing From History' with Joe Abercrombie, Juliet Marillier and Robyn Cadwaller, with the elegant Natasha Lester as our chair. Everyone knows Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite novelists (you can check out the dozens of blogs in which I rave about her here), but both Joe and Robyn were new to me. I managed to read Joe's new book Half a King (brilliant! I will rave upon it anon) but Robyn's book The Anchoress is still on my tottering to-be-read pile (sorry, Robyn, I'll get to it soon, I promise). 

I enjoyed this panel hugely. It was so much fun, and I wish we could have talked on for another hour.  

I also went to see Andrea de Robilant speak about his new book, Chasing the Rose, which I ended up buying and devouring on the plane home. It was a wonderful story, and I think I want his life (descendant of Venetian nobleman, lives in Venice and travels the world, rose named after his family ... you get the picture).  

I had an utterly brilliant time, and to top it all off, I sold out of all of THE IMPOSSIBLE QUEST as well!

My display box before my event: 

My display box after my event: 

INTERVIEW: Liane Moriarty, author of The Husband's Secret

Monday, January 26, 2015

I have long been a fan of Jaclyn Moriarty's wonderful books, but I had not ever tried reading a book by one of her sisters, Nicole or Liane. I decided to dip my toe in by reading Liane Moriarty's New York Times bestselling novel The Husband's Secret!

The Husband's Secret is a funny, sad, suspenseful and utterly surprising book that has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and is set to be translated into over 35 languages. CBS Films has acquired the film rights.

I loved it, and so begged Liane to talk to me about some of her creative inspirations and techniques.




Are you a daydreamer too?


Certainly!


Have you always wanted to be a writer?


Yes, my sister, Jaci and I had always wanted to be authors. When we were children, our Dad would commission us to write novels for him. However, it was Jaci who achieved our childhood dream first. At the time her first novel Feeling Sorry for Celia was accepted for publication, I was working as a freelance advertising copywriter, writing everything from websites to TV commercials. Although I occasionally wrote short stories and first chapters of novels that didn’t go any further, I’d let my childhood dream slide. My sister’s news was the inspiration I needed to get me back to the keyboard.  In a fever of sibling rivalry I wrote a children’s book which was enthusiastically rejected by every publisher in Australia. I calmed down, and two years later, my first novel, Three Wishes was published


Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?


I was born in Sydney and I’ve lived in Sydney all my life. I love reading, DVD box sets (my husband and I are the only people left in the world who obediently wait for the box sets rather than downloading them), snow-skiing, chocolate, champagne, coffee, hot baths, sleep, restaurants with flattering lighting, old friends, but also new friends. I’m also quite fond of my two children. I have a six year old son and a four year old daughter.     


How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?


 I came quite late to motherhood and as a result I tend to look at the world of parenting with the wide eyes of a tourist. Last year I became a ‘school mum’ for the first time when my little boy started kindergarten.  It was a brand new experience for me, and I wanted to write about this ordinary, extraordinary world of parenting.  I came up with the premise for the book when I was touring with another author (the lovely Ber Carroll) who was spending every spare moment searching for the perfect necklace to wear to a school trivia night. She and her friends were all planning to dress up as Audrey Hepburn. For some reason the image of those mothers with their Audrey Hepburn hairstyles and outfits stayed with me long after the tour.  I thought imagine if all the mothers were dressed as Audrey Hepburn and the fathers dressed as Elvis Presley? Then I thought, imagine if there was some sort of argument between all those Elvises and Audreys? Then I thought, why not a riot? After that I was hooked.




How extensively do you plan your novels?


I just tend to come up with a premise and dive in and hope that an ending will come to me. It means there is a sense of anticipation because I think, I wonder what’s going to happen? 


Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?


No. Never. My dreams are awful. I always have exactly the same dream: I suddenly remember that I’ve forgotten something EXTREMELY important and the consequences are catastrophic. They were particularly bad when my children were babies and I’d wake up screaming, “The baby, the baby! Where did I put the baby?”  Actually, maybe I do need to write about this and that might cure me of this awful dream.


Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?


No, not really, but what a lovely phrase, “an astonishing serendipitous discovery!” I will hope for an astonishing serendipitous discovery with my next book.


Where do you write, and when?


I write in my home office when my children are at school or pre-school or when they’re playing outside my door with their lovely babysitter.


What is your favourite part of writing?


I love the final twenty thousand words or so of a novel when I can see the end in sight and I know my characters and I finally know what’s going to happen and where I’m going and I’m writing exciting climatic scenes that I’ve been looking forward to writing and everything is coming together, and the writing feels lovely and flowing, rather than awkward and stilted, as it always does when I start a book, and I can’t quite find my voice, and I’m missing the characters from my previous book and I often find myself thinking, Who are these people?   


What do you do when you get blocked?


A walk helps. So does a long shower. Also chocolate.


How do you keep your well of inspiration full?


Conversations with friends seem to give me the most material.


Do you have any rituals that help you to write?


My best ritual is to turn on ‘Freedom’ – a little software programme that turns off Internet access for a specified period of time. Just the act of clicking that little button really does give me Freedom to write. 


Who are ten of your favourite writers?


Elizabeth Berg, Anne Tyler, Maggie O’Farrell, Jaclyn Moriarty, Nicola Moriarty, Dianne Blacklock, Ber Carroll,  Karen Joy Fowler, Kate Atkinson, Lionel Shriver – I could go on, but I see I’ve used up my quota.    


What do you consider to be good writing? 


When I don’t notice the writing at all, I’m so lost in the story.


What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?


 To think of nothing else but the story – not the world of publishing, or what makes a best-seller, or should you self-publish or not, or should it be double-spaced (yes), or should you make it more erotic (probably, if you can! Wish I could) or how will you make sure nobody else steals your ideas (they won’t) – just lose yourself in the pleasure of writing your story. Then edit, edit, edit.  THEN and only then should you think about all that other stuff


What are you working on now?


I’ve decided to set my next book on a tropical island, and I feel that I need to do a lot of research to get this book right. A lot of meticulous research. Editors, publicists, agents and various friends are all generously offering to help out. 

On Liane's website, she says to anyone wishing to email her: 

"If you have just read The Husbands Secret and wish to tell Liane that Easter takes place in spring, not in autumn, please note that this book is set in Australia, where the seasons are upside down.
Easter takes place in the autumn here. It’s true." 

I love that !

Liane's most recent novel, Big Little Lies, was the first by an Australian author to debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Film and television rights have already been snapped up by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon - how cool is that!

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