Archive for the ‘Aussie Author in Focus Series’ Category
Saturday, August 20th, 2011
Today I welcome Fiona Leonard, author of The Chicken Thief to Booklover Book Reviews.
But first of all, who is Fiona Leonard?
Fiona Leonard has had a string of perfect jobs.
Fiona was recruited out of university to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and spent the next ten years being paid to write and travel around the world. During this time she wrote everything from speeches, to ministerial briefings, reports and press releases. Perks of the job included meeting Nelson Mandela and coordinating a tour of Zimbabwe by an Australian rock band (Yothu Yindi). In 2003 she was awarded an Order of Australia medal for her work.
After leaving the foreign service she became a consultant in international politics and trade, meaning she got to write a lot, usually from home (and occasionally in pyjamas).She is particularly proud of a book she wrote on women in export.
A twelve month road trip across the United States and Canada in 2009 afforded Fiona the opportunity to break away from writing about international politics and try something a bit different. Twenty-one states and fifteen thousand miles later she had finished her first novel, started work on her second and had begun to build a freelance portfolio writing for Australian magazines. She also posted over 200 blogs during this period, detailing a journey that author, Daniel Pink described as ‘terrific and inspiring’.
She is now based in Ghana, West Africa, where she writes, blogs, home schools her daughter and plots ways to incorporate more travel into her life.
In The Chicken Thief I noticed you were careful not to specify which African country the story was set in. What what was your motivation for crafting your novel in this way?
In my mind I have a very clear picture of where the novel is set, but I don’t want the reader to bring their preconceptions about real people or events to the story. The President in particular is a character I wanted judged on the way he is portrayed in the book, not on the basis of what people know about a specific person.
I finished writing this novel around the time of the uprisings in North Africa – particularly in Egypt and I was struck by the similarities between what was happening there and what I had been writing about. Not tying the story to a particular country lets you draw parallels with any number of countries.
The Chicken Thief is your second novel. Information on your debut novel Dancing with Zebras is a little harder to find. Tell us about this story and where international readers can purchase a copy?
I self published Dancing With Zebras in 2009 in a very low key way. As much as anything I wanted to put it out into the world so I could move on with my next novel. Writing The Chicken Thief gave me lots of ideas about how I could rewrite Zebras and improve it so, being the perfectionist that I am, I withdrew it from sale until I have the time to rewrite it. (Maybe next year?)
Zebras will always hold a very dear place in my heart as I think all first novels do. It is a strong family drama set against the political and cultural environment of pre-Independence Zimbabwe. The novel traces the return to southern Africa of Sara, a young woman who has spent the previous years studying in London. In the wake of a tragic accident, Sara struggles to reconcile her relationship with her two families – the one who gave her up for adoption and her adopted family.
You are selling the Kindle version of The Chicken Thief at what I would consider a low price point, only $2.99 USD. How did you determine your pricing?
As an unknown author your biggest challenge is obscurity. What you need is for people to be prepared to take a chance on someone they’ve never heard of and I think $2.99 is a very comfortable price for that. Some of my best marketing too is done by people who have read the book and tell their friends. I’ve had a lot of people who’ve convinced their book group to read it, or bought five copies for their friends. I’m incredibly grateful to people who are prepared to help spread the word, and if I can help them by keeping the price down, then I’m happy to do that.
Do you have another novel in the pipeline right now?
I’m currently plotting the sequel to The Chicken Thief. I’m hoping to sit down and start writing in a couple of months with a view to publishing early next year. I never intended to write a sequel, but I had a number of people who were reading chapters while I was writing who started asking whether there would be a sequel. To placate them I decided to leave a couple of loose ends at the end of the novel just in case I got inspired. When I sat down to experiment with plotting I realised there were a lot of threads I wanted to pursue, and now I’m itching to keep writing!
To my knowledge you have chosen to promote both of your novels yourself. What do you enjoy more – the writing of the novel or the subsequent promotion?
I love writing immensely. When I’m working on a novel it’s all consuming – I wake in the night with ideas and become absorbed in my characters. In the past though, the thought of having to also promote my work filled me with abject fear and I avoided it at all costs. But I’ve come to appreciate that authors need to be story tellers and story sellers.
What surprised me is how much I’ve enjoyed promoting the book, I think mainly because it has allowed me to connect with amazing people around the world. If you have a look at The Chicken Thief page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheChickenThief) you can see photos sent in from readers on three continents – I’ve just posted a gorgeous picture of it being read in the Rockies! I love too seeing the way that people connect with the characters – it’s like introducing your best friend to someone and having them really like each other!
I’m always on the lookout for new people to introduce my cast of characters too, so if you’re interested in reading/reviewing, please let me know! You can find me either on my blog – www.fionaleonard.net, facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheChickenThief or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like a copy of this wonderful novel, The Chicken Thief? Read my review.
If so, Fiona has offered to send an eBook (Kindle/ePub) to two lucky readers of Booklover Book Reviews. To enter, simply complete the form below.
Entries close 31 August 2011, 7pm Brisbane, Australia. Winners will be chosen at random.
SORRY, GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED. Winners announced at this link.
Sunday, March 14th, 2010
In support of the AUSSIE AUTHOR READING CHALLENGE I’m hosting in 2010 (sign-up here) I will be posting a series of articles highlighting great Aussie Authors and their books you may be interested in. Today I’m putting the spotlight on MICHELLE DE KRETSER.
De Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia with her family in 1972 when she was 14. Michelle studied French at Melbourne University, and then spent a year teaching in Montpellier before doing an MA in Paris. De Kretser worked for many years as an editor at Lonely Planet Publications and was responsible for setting up their French series. From 1989 to 1992 she was a founding editor of the Australian Women’s Book Review.
Michelled de Krester’s first novel, The Rose Grower, was published in 1999.
Set at the start of the French Revolution, a woman’s private passion is her search to create a repeat-flowering crimson rose. An American falls in love with her sister and she is torn between ethics, reason, revolutionary zeal and unrequited love. [The Book Depository]
In 2003 her second book, The Hamilton Case, was published.
The place is Ceylon, the time the 1930s. Set amid tea plantations, corruption and the backwash of empire, this gripping novel has a pitch-perfect ear for the comedy and a sharp eye for the tragedy of a world at the end of its tether. Sam Obeysekere – ‘obey’ by name and by nature – is a Ceylonese lawyer, a perfect product of empire. His family once had wealth and influence but starts to crack open as political change comes to the island, and Sam’s glamorous father dies leaving gambling debts. And at the heart of the novel is the Hamilton case, a murder scandal that shakes the upper echelons of island society. Sam’s involvement in it makes his name but sets his life on course for disappointment. [The Book Depository]
The Hamilton Case was the winner of the Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize 2005, the Encore Award 2004 (UK), the regional winner of the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Southeast Asia and Pacific) and the Frankfurt Literaturpreis 2007. It was also long listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2005.
De Kretser’s latest novel, The Lost Dog, was released in 2007.
Tom Loxley is holed up in a remote cottage in the bush, trying to finish a book on Henry James and the Uncanny when his dog goes missing, trailing a length of orange twine, tied with firm knots. Tom’s lonely childhood in India taught him to tie knots but not to hold on …The house belongs to Nelly Zhang, an elusive artist with whom Tom has become enthralled. The narrative spans ten days while Tom searches for his dog …and loops back in time to take the reader on a breathtaking journey into glittering worlds far beyond the present tragedy, from an Anglo-Indian childhood to the brittle contemporary Melbourne art scene, from Tom’s scratchy, unbearably poignant relationship with his ailing mother to the unanswered puzzles in Nelly’s past – her husband also disappeared in the bush. And the reader fears for Tom as well as for the dog. Set in present-day Australia and mid-20th century India, here is a haunting, layered work that vividly counterpoints new cityscapes and their inhabitants with the untamed continent beyond. With its atmosphere of menace and an acute sense of the unexplained in any story, it illuminates the collision of the wild and the civilised, modernity and the past, home and exile. “The Lost Dog” is a mystery and a love story, an exploration of art and nature, a meditation on ageing and the passage of time. It is a book of wonders: a gripping contemporary novel which examines the weight of history as well as different ways of trying to grasp the world. [The Book Depository]
The Lost Dog won the 2008 NSW Premier’s Awards Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and ‘Book of the Year’ and was one of 13 books on the long list for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
Praise for The Lost Dog:
“Ruminative and roving in form, an intense, immaculate…novel.” (Kirkus Reviews )
“A wonderful tale of obsession, art, death, loss, human failure, and past and present loves. One of Australia’s best contemporary writers.” (Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) )
To watch a Slow TV video of Michelle de Kretser discussing her writing, in particular her novel The Lost Dog, with Gail Jones at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May 2008 CLICK HERE .
I’ve read mixed reviews about The Lost Dog, but I’m going to give it a go…
A selection of reviews of Michelle De Kretser’s titles from other book bloggers:
The Hamilton Case – Laila Lalami
The Lost Dog – Gently Read Literature
Michelle De Kretser’s novels are also available from Amazon: The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, The Lost Dog
Bibliographic information sourced from OzArts and Wikipedia; Photo by Virginia Cummins
Friday, February 19th, 2010
In support of the AUSSIE AUTHOR READING CHALLENGE
I’m hosting in 2010 (sign-up here
) I will be posting a series of articles highlighting great Aussie Authors and their books you may be interested in. Today I’m putting the spotlight on DAVID MALOUF
David Malouf was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1934, of Lebanese and Spanish parents. He studied at Brisbane Grammar and then Queensland University before travelling to Europe and Britain. Malouf worked as a teacher for some time in England and then returned to Australia in 1968, to teach at the University of Sydney.
He was first known for his poetry collections, Bicycle and Other Poems
(1970) and Neighbours in a Thicket Poems
His first ever novel Johnno, the semi-autobiographical story of a young man growing up in Brisbane during World War II, was published in 1975.
1978 saw the release of the Malouf’s second novel, An Imaginary Life.
In the first century A.D., Publius Ovidius Naso, the most urbane and irreverent poet of imperial Rome, was banished to a remote village on the edge of the Black Sea. From these sparse facts, Malouf has fashioned an audacious and supremely moving novel. Marooned on the edge of the known world, exiled from his native tongue, Ovid depends on the kindness of barbarians who impale their dead and converse with the spirit world.Then he becomes the guardian of a still more savage creature, a feral child who has grown up among deer. What ensues is a luminous encounter between civilization and nature, as enacted by a poet who once cataloged the treacheries of love and a boy who slowly learns how to give it. [Amazon.com]
Praise for ‘An Imaginary Life’ : “A work of unusual intelligence and imagination, full of surprising images and insights…One of those rare books you end up underlining and copying out into notebooks and reading out loud to friends.”–The New York Times Book Review
He then won The Age Book of the Year fiction prize in 1982 for his novella, Fly Away Peter, about three acquaintances and their experience of World War I.
In 1991 Malouf won the Miles Franklin Award for The Great World
. He received the
Commonwealth Prize for Fiction and the Prix Fémina Etranger in France for this title also.
For the two men in this novel, war was supposed to be a testing ground. But it proved to be an ordeal of a different kind. Spanning 70 years of Australian life, from Sydney’s Cross to the backwaters of the Hawkesbury River, this is a novel of lost innocence and witness. [The Book Depository]
His Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Remembering Babylon
(1993) is set in northern Australia during the 1850s amid a community of Scottish immigrant farmers whose isolated existence is threatened by the arrival of a stranger, a young white man raised from boyhood by Indigenous Australians.
Other awards for this novel included the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific Region, Best Book) and the first International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Malouf has also had various short story collections published – Antipodes (1983), Dream Stuff (2000), Every Move You Make (2006) and The Complete Stories (2007). (Follow title links to Amazon for more information on each title.)
David Malouf also enjoy’s writing plays. He wrote librettos for Patrick White’s Voss
and for Baa Baa Black Sheep
, and in 1988 wrote the play Blood Relations
Malouf has been a stalwart of Australian literature:
- In 1987 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to literature;
- Awarded the Pascall Prize for Critical Writing in 1988;
- In 2000, he received the Neustadt International Prize, awarded writers for the body of works created throughout their literary careers; and
- In 2008 he won the Australian Publishers Association’s Lloyd O’Neil Award for outstanding service to the Australian book industry.
Despite all his success over four decades, Malouf remains very humble. His thoughts on being a writer:
“I totally reject the idea of being representative in any way. This whole idea of role models. It’s a terrible idea. I don’t like the idea of being some kind of representative consciousness of the country. You do what you do, the way you do it, out of a kind of necessity. I can’t see how that would be useful to anyone else”.
In an interview with the Weekend Australian Magazine in July 2008, Malouf said:
“I knew that the world around you is only uninteresting if you can’t see what is really going on. The place you come from is always the most exotic place you’ll ever encounter because it is the only place where you recognise how many secrets and mysteries there are in people’s lives”.
See this link for video of David Malouf’s speech on Australian culture and writing at the Mildura Writer’s Festival in
Malouf’s latest work Ransom: A Novel was published in 2009.
What happens when a young prince falls in battle and his body is spirited away to be desecrated and dishonoured? His death is the battle price of another young man’s death, but what price dishonour and a father’s grief? In this exquisite gem of a novel, David Malouf shines new light on Homer’s “Iliad”, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant. His version opens with Achilles, maddened by grief at the death of his friend Patroclus. From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son Hector being dragged behind Achilles’ chariot. There must be a way, he thinks, of reclaiming the body – of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against the old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, an old man sets off for the Greek camp… Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking, Malouf’s fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature – themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all newly burnished and brilliantly recast for our times. [The Book Depository]
Praise for Ransom:
“Lithe, graceful . . . Deeply moving . . . Nothing short of magical. Malouf’s prose is delicate, marvellously alert to the natural world and endowed with a quality that has one name only: wisdom.”
—Sydney Morning Herald
“Fiction, in Malouf’s hands, becomes the art of rendering the world coherent. For this we must be grateful.” —The Australian Literary Review
* I haven’t read a Malouf title yet myself, but I have my eye on An Imaginary Life…
A selection of reviews of David Malouf’s titles from other book bloggers:
An Imaginary Life – Shigekuni
Remembering Babylon – A Novel Approach
Ransom – The Historical Novel Review
Ransom – ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
Bibliographic content sourced from wikipedia.org; Photo from auspost.com.au
Sunday, January 24th, 2010
In support of the AUSSIE AUTHOR READING CHALLENGE
I’m hosting in 2010 (sign-up here
) I will be posting a series of articles highlighting great Aussie Authors and their books you may be interested in. Today I’m putting the spotlight on KATE GRENVILLE
Kate Grenville was born in Sydney, Australia in 1950. After completing an Arts degree at Sydney University she worked in the film industry (mainly as an editor) before living in the UK and Europe for several years and starting to write.
In 1980 she went to the USA and completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Colorado. On her return to Australia in 1983 she worked at the Subtitling Unit for SBS Television. [www.kategrenville.com]
Grenville’s first book, a collection of short stories called Bearded Ladies, was published in 1984.
One of these complete stories is available to read online, “No Such Thing as a Free Lunch“.
“With these 13 stories, a vibrant Australian voice speaks of universal concerns. This is a collection to be savoured as much for the colloquial ease of the writing as for the hypocrisy it exposes.” (Publisher’s Weekly)
Kate’s first novel, Lilian’s Story received the Vogel/Australian Prize for an unpublished manuscript in 1984, and was published in 1985.
Shielded from emotional and physical abuse by layers of fat, Lilian struggles to escape a suffocating existence in the home of her tyrannical Victorian father and her elegant but ineffectual mother. Madness, cruelty and sexuality permeate the family’s upper-crust Australian world. Lilian Una Singer starts life at the beginning of the twentieth century as the daughter of a prosperous middle-class Australian family. She ends it as a cheerfully eccentric bag-lady living on the streets, quoting Shakespeare. This book traces the progress of her life’s journey, and why she made the choices she did. She’s a person large in spirit as well as body, who wants to invent her own story, rather than allow it to be invented for her. Life presents her with many obstacles including the sinister advances of her father – but in spite of this she succeeds. Triumphantly, she makes her life her own, savouring every moment with the reminder that ‘everything matters’. [The Book Depository]
“Lilian’s Story is spellbinding.” (She Magazine, UK)
Read an extract from Lilian’s Story and reader’s notes.
The novels Dreamhouse and Joan Makes History were released in 1986 and 1988 respectively.
Dark Places (Albion’s Story) was published in 1994. It takes up the story of Lilian from the earlier novel Lilian’s Story, but this time tells the story from her father’s point of view. It’s a very different version of events.
In Albion’s eyes, Lilian is a kind of parody of himself in female form: she shares his brain and his spirit, but she comes wrapped in the mystery of female flesh. For a man who grew up in the stifling and warping conventions of Edwardian masculinity, this is profoundly disturbing, and his disturbance finally takes a terrible form. In joining himself – literally – with the repressed female within himself, he seems to triumph, but in the end the triumph belongs to his daughter.[www.kategrenville.com]
Dark Places was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1996 and won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for fiction in 1995.
In 1999, the book for which Grenville won the Orange Prize for Fiction (Britain, 2001)
, The Idea of Perfection
was published. Awarding the prize, chair of the judges, Rosie Boycott, described The Idea of Perfection
as “an exquisite, minutely observed study of two people meeting in their middle years. It’s just a truly jaw-dropping book, extremely real, extremely emotional, and there is writing that just blows you away.”
The Idea of Perfection is about two people who seem the least likely in the world to fall in love. Douglas Cheeseman is an a
wkward engineer, the sort of divorced man you’d never look at twice. Harley Savage is a big, plain, abrasive woman who’s been through three husbands and doesn’t want another. Both of them bring all kinds of unhappy baggage to their meeting in the little town of Karakarook, New South Wales, population 1,374. Being in Karakarook is something of a voyage of discovery for both of them. Unlike Felicity Porcelline, a woman dangerously haunted by the idea of perfection, they come to understand that what looks like weakness can be the best kind of strength. [www.kategrenville.com]
“It’s an outrageously entertaining book – witty, tender and full of no-nonsense lyricism.” (Hepzibah Anderson, The Daily Mail)
An interview with Kate Grenville talking about The Idea of Perfection is available for download at Interviews Archive . An extract from the novel and reading notes are also available online.
In 2005, The Secret River was published. It won many Australian awards, but most notably it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award.
International praise for The Secret River:
A revelation… an engrossing account of early Australian history… she has written honestly and credibly about the complexity of the relationship between Aborigine and white settler.” (Sunday Tribune, Dublin)
“She gives a fiercely intelligent portrayal of a clash of cultures…in consequence the novel works on two levels: the historical and particular, and the philosophical, bringing into question the extent to which it is possible to own anything, even one’s life.” (Times Literary Supplement)
Read The Observer’s Review of The Secret River (guardian.co.uk).
A Podcast of Kate Grenville discussing The Secret River on the BBC’s World Book Club can be downloaded from this webpage.
Grenville’s published novel her most recent novel, The Lieutenant, in 2008.
In 1788 Daniel Rooke sets out on a journey that will change the course of his life. As a lieutenant in the First Fleet, he lands on the wild and unknown shores of New South Wales. There he sets up an observatory to chart the stars. But this country will prove far more revelatory than the stars above. Based on real events, The Lieutenant tells the unforgettable story of Rooke’s connection with an Aboriginal child – a remarkable friendship that resonates across the oceans and the centuries. [The Book Depository]
‘The Lieutenant has a potency and beauty that lingers in both the heart and mind’s eye… the scenes between Rooke and Tagaran are superbly writtten, and Grenville conveys not only the sense of true kinship that grows between them, but also the euphoria of connection and understanding between two people from different universes.’ Sunday Telegraph (UK)
See a video of Kate discussing and reading from The Lieutenant on SlowTV
Kate is also a teacher of creative writing, and has written non-fiction titles on that subject, including The Writing Book: A Workbook for Fiction Writers and Writing from Start to Finish: A Six Step Guide .
A selection of reviews of Kate Grenville’s titles from other book bloggers:
The Idea of Perfection – Jabberwock
The Secret River – Penguin Unearthed
The Lieutenant – A Novel Approach
Saturday, January 23rd, 2010
In support of the AUSSIE AUTHOR READING CHALLENGE
I’m hosting in 2010 (sign-up here
) I will be posting a series of articles highlighting great Aussie Authors and their books you may be interested in. Today I’m putting the spotlight on MARKUS ZUSAK
Markus Zusak was born in Australia in 1975 to an Austrian father and German mother. He is the youngest of four children. Zusak writes in the young adult genre.
Why did he become a writer?
“When I was growing up, I wanted to be a house painter like my father, but I was always screwing up when I went to work with him. I had a talent for knocking over paint and painting myself into corners. I also realized fairly quickly that painting bored me. When I was a teenager, I read some books that brought me totally into their worlds. One was The Old Man and the Sea and another was What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. When I read those books, I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ It took seven years to get published and there were countless daily failures, but I’m glad those failures and rejections happened. They made me realise that what I was writing just wasn’t good enough – so I made myself improve.” - Markus Zusak, Random House Q&A;
After beginning writing at the age of 16, his first book The Underdog
was published seven years later.
The Wolfe brothers, Cameron and Ruben, are a couple of low achievers from the suburbs who are desperate to be winners like their older brother Steve. Cameron dreams, falls in love with Rebecca, and then realises that he’s a fighter, not a loser. Ages 13+ years. [The Book Depository]
He then followed that up with a sequel, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, in 2001. And then a sequel to that called Getting the Girl in 2002.
In 2002, Zusak’s internationally acclaimed I Am The Messenger was published.
Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?
I am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love. [Book summary from Random House]
Read an excerpt from I Am The Messenger.
In 2006 Zusak’s most famous work to date, The Book Thief
, was published internationally.
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. [Book summary from Random House]
Read an excerpt from The Book Thief
Here’s a link to the transcript of an interview with Zusak about The Book Thief.
In this video of an interview with The Guardian (UK) at the Hay Festival in 2009, Markus explains why he decided to use Death as the narrator in The Book Thief and why he’s not keen for his publishers to see the way he works.
Both I Am The Messenger and The Book Thief were Michael L. Printz Honor books (US).
THE MOVIE: According to IMDB a movie based on The Book Thief is ‘in development’ but at the date of writing no release date was publically available…
What’s next? It’s been sometime since The Book Thief was published and his fans around the world are eagerly awaiting the release of his next novel, titled Bridge of Clay which is slated for release on 14 September 2010.
Here is a link to another great interview of Zusak’s with The Guardian.co.uk covering topics such as what books were his favourite growing up, his thoughts on the secret to writing and his advice for new writers, along with his explanation of what ‘Bridge of Clay’ is about….
“I’m writing a book called Bridge of Clay – about a boy building a bridge and wanting it to be perfect. He wants to achieve greatness with this bridge, and the question is whether it will survive when the river floods. That’s all I can say about it for now – not out of secrecy, but you just don’t know what direction a book is going to take, no matter how well you’ve planned.” Zusak, March 2008
Zusak lives in Sydney with his wife and daughter. He enjoys surfing and watching movies in his spare time.
A selection of reviews of Markus Zusak’s titles by other book bloggers:
I Am The Messenger – Vagabondia
The Book Thief – The Reading Life
The Book Thief – Rhapsody in Books
Bibliographic content in this post was sourced from www.wikipedia.org, photo of Zusak from www.randomhouse.com.
Friday, January 8th, 2010
In support of the AUSSIE AUTHOR READING CHALLENGE I’m hosting in 2010 (sign-up here, we’ve just reached 20 participants) I will be posting a series of articles highlighting great Aussie Authors and their books you may be interested in. Today I’m putting the spotlight on GERALDINE BROOKS.
Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issues. In 1982 she won the Greg Shackleton Australian News Correspondents scholarship to the journalism master’s program at Columbia University in New York City. Later she worked for The Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans.
When her poised and sophisticated yuppie assistant at the Cairo bureau of the “Wall Street Journal” suddenly ‘adopted the uniform of a Muslim fundamentalist’, Geraldine Brooks set out to discover the truth about women and Islam. Sometimes adopting a chador as camouflage, she was granted meetings (and often astonishingly intimate insights) by everyone from Queen Noor of Jordan to former Iranian President Rafsanjani’s daughter. She met with Palestinians protesting about ‘honour killings’ for adultery and sheltered girls transformed into warriors by the Emirates’ armed forces. Throughout the Middle East, Brooks was invited into the homes and lives of these women where she found real stories that overturn western stereotypes. Fair-minded and often revelatory, “Nine Parts of Desire” is an extraordinarily rich tapestry of the different lives women lead under Islam, and a captivating and diverse portrait of a little known world. [Book Summary: Nine Parts of Desire - The Book Depository]
In 1995 she wrote a memoir, Foreign Correspondence, which chronicles a childhood enriched by penpals from around the world, and her adult quest to find them.
Noteworthing event in her career as a journalist : While in Nigeria to report on Shell Oil’s collusion with the Abacha military dictatorship, Brooks was arrested and thrown in a lock up in Port Harcourt, accused of being a spy.
This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the “Plague Village,” tucked in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, when an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to the isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes the reader follows the story of the plague year, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice: convinced by a visionary young minister they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of illicit love.
Exploring love and learning, fear and fanaticism, and the struggle of science and religion to interpret the world at the cusp of the modern era, Year of Wonders is at once a story of unconventional love and a richly detailed evocation of a riveting moment in history. Like Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha and A. S. Byatt’s Possession, Year of Wonders blends learning and romance into an unforgettable read.
Praise for ‘Year of Wonders’ : “Brooks proves a gifted storyteller as she subtly reveals how ignorance, hatred and mistrust can be as deadly as any virus. . . . Year of Wonders is itself a wonder.” (People )
I myself read ‘Year of Wonders’ quite a few years ago now but the story and characters remain vivid in my memory to this day – very moving, highly recommended.
Brook’s second novel, March, a retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women from the point of view of Mr. March, the absent father, won the Pulitzer prize for Fiction in 2006. This is a historical novel and love story set during a time of catastrophe on the front lines of the American Civil War.
Praise for ‘March’: “Inspired… A disturbing, supple, and deeply satisfying story, put together with craft and care and imagery worthy of a poet.” – The Cleveland Plain Dealer
* At the time of writing, The Book Depository, has 31% off the normal price for this title, along with their usual free delivery worldwide.
Brooks’ most recent novel, People of the Book
, has been translated into more than 20 languages and was an instant New York Times bestseller.
The complex and moving novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks follows a rare manuscript through centuries of exile and war. Inspired by a true story, “People of the Book” is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called a tour de force by the “San Francisco Chronicle,” this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding – an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair, only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. [Book Summary, The Book Depository]
You can download a readers guide and map for ‘People of the Book’ at this link.
NEWS: Apparently Catherine Zeta Jones has acquired the film rights for ‘People of the Book’.
Brooks, her husband Tony Horwitz (also a Pulitzer prize winner) and their two sons divide their time between homes in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Sydney, Australia.
A selection of reviews of Geraldine Brooks’ titles by other book bloggers:
Bibliographic content in this post was sourced from www.geraldinebrooks.com, photo of Brooks by Randi Baird.
Previous posts in my AUSSIE AUTHOR IN FOCUS Series :
Aussie Author in Focus – John Marsden
Sunday, January 3rd, 2010
In support of the AUSSIE AUTHOR READING CHALLENGE
I’m hosting in 2010 I will be posting a series of articles highlighting great Aussie Authors and their books you may be interested in. This week I’m putting the spotlight on JOHN MARSDEN
John Marsden, born in Victoria, Australia in 1950 is best known for his Young Adult fiction series Tomorrow and its follow-up, The Ellie Chronicles.
John attended many different primary schools and from an early age enjoyed the journeys into magical worlds that reading could provide. After graduating high school he began a law degree at the University of Sydney but soon decided a career in law would be ‘too boring’. He then drifted around for ten years trying different jobs, before begininng a teaching course (which he loved) at the age of 28, and then embarked on a teaching. While teaching, in 1987 he succeeded in getting his first book So Much to Tell
Over the next five years he then produced a raft of successful titles including Out of Time
and Letters from the Inside
Praise for Out Of Time : “In this…intriguing novella by Australian fantasist Marsden by way of H.G. Wells, the time machine isn’t just a thrilling gizmo but a vehicle for exploring the human condition….Sophisticated YAs will enjoy chasing its elusive ripples of meaning.”– Booklist
When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they’re leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong–horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured–including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight. [Amazon.com]
Six more titles in the Tomorrow Series then followed:
A sequel series to Tomorrow, The Ellie Chronicles, While I Live (The Ellie Chronicles), Incurable (The Ellie Chronicles) and Circle Of Flight (The Ellie Chronicles) was then published from 2003 to 2006. This follow up series concerns with the attempts of society and the protagonist Ellie to regain a normal level of functioning in the face of the psychological damage sustained during the war.
‘Tomorrow, When The War Began’
and its subsequent sequels are one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed series of novels aimed at young readers in Australian literature history. It has sold between 2 and 3 million copies in Australia alone and has been translated into five languages, one of them being Swedish, where the series has sold over 115,000 copies. [Wikipedia.org]
The Tomorrow Series is also being made into a movie by Stuart Beattie (screenwriter of Australia and Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy).
See article “Tomorrow” Brings Directing Debut for Screenwriter .
In 2006, John started his own school Candlebark (P-8) set in natural bushland north of Melbourne, Australia.
John Marsden’s most recent work of fiction is a contemporary retelling of Hamlet
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but Hamlet can’t be sure what’s causing the stench. His rage at his mother’s infidelities — together with his greed for the sensual Ophelia and his dead father’s call to revenge a “murder most foul” — have his mind in chaos, and he wants to scatter his traitorous uncle’s insides across the fields. But was it really his father’s ghost that night on the ramparts, or a hell-fiend sent to trick him? “Action is hot,” he tells Ophelia, who lives shut up in a tower with her longings and lust. “Action is courage, and reflection is cowardly. Picking up the knife has the colors of truth. As soon as I hesitate. . . .” In this dark, erotically charged, beautifully crafted novel, John Marsden brings one of Shakespeare’s most riveting characters to full-blooded life in a narrative of intense psychological complexity. [Amazon.com]
Here is my review of Hamlet.
A selection of reviews of John Marsden’s titles by other book bloggers:
Tomorrow, When The War Began – Persnickety Snark
The Dead of the Night – Beth Fish Reads
A Killing Frost – Books and Movies
Hamlet – Terra on the Bookshelf
Bibliographic content in this post was sourced from http://www.johnmarsden.com.au/