Tag: historical fiction

The Lamplighter: A flash fic

The Lamplighter: A flash fic

Maureen’s Halloween inspired free October fiction. A lamplighter gets more than he bargains for when he comes face to face with a ghost …

Q&A with author Deborah O’Brien

Q&A with author Deborah O’Brien

Deborah O’Brien is an Australian writer and visual artist. She is the author of the bestselling Mr Chen’s Emporium, its sequel The Jade Widow, plus A Place of Her Own and The Trivia Man, as well as a dozen non-fiction books. Her latest novel is…

Book Review: The Rarest Thing

Book Review: The Rarest Thing

Title: The Rarest Thing
Author: Deborah O’Brien
Publication Date: November 2016
Publisher: Lomandra Press
RRP – Limited Gift Edition Paperback: $29.99
RRP – Ebook: $14.99
Purchasing Info: ‘The Rarest Thing’ (signed gift edition paperback or ebook) is available direct from Lomandra Press: www.lomandrapress.com.au (It will not be available in bookshops at this stage.)

From Penguin Random House author, Deborah O’Brien (author of historical fictions including the best-selling Mr Chen’s Emporium and romances such as The Trivia Man) comes a new novel that marries O’Brien’s love for the historical with her love for a good romance with depth.


From the press release…

It’s 1966, and a mountain pygmy possum – a species that scientists considered to be long extinct – is discovered in the Victorian High Country and transported to Melbourne where newspapers dub it ‘the world’s rarest creature’. Thirty-year-old Dr Katharine Wynter is a palaeontologist who’s more comfortable with ancient bones than live human beings, particularly men – an exotic species of which she has little personal experience, apart from a predatory professor who has made her working life hell. Having studied the tiny possum in fossil form, Katharine is curious to see it in the flesh, but her visit is disrupted by the presence of wildlife photographer, Scott King, taking pictures for an international magazine.

Soon Katharine and Scott are thrown together on a quest to locate the miniature marsupials in their habitat – the rugged Australian Alps. Along the way, the timid scientist discovers a side to her character she never knew existed, while the dashing photographer abandons his bravado and confronts memories he’s hidden for decades.

As for the elusive possums, the cute little creatures lead their pursuers on a merry chase…

Book Review

I very rarely read romance of any kind, and especially not the new craze that is rural romance. However, when Deborah approached me about her latest novel, I was intrigued enough to give it a shot on the strength of another novel of hers I’d read in the past which allowed for romance in a historical setting with a real sense of pathos and authenticity. Deborah is an author who doesn’t take the easy story-telling route and I knew that any romance story she told would be complex with fully fleshed out characters. I wasn’t wrong.

The two protagonists of The Rarest Thing, Katherine and Scott, both have dark ghosts that haunt their chances at relationships despite their appealing natures. Katherine may be an intelligent and relatively successful academic (given her status as woman in a university in the 1960s) but she faces the derision and the exploitation that some women faced in positions of previously male dominated roles. Scott is handsome, creative and therefore in no shortage of opportunities Katherine imagines, but then, he has his own terrible family secrets.


The novel is prefaced by a quote from Oscar Wilde: To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. Though ostensibly about an expedition to find a pygmy possum, really this story is about coming to terms with who one is as a person and remembering to make the most of every moment. Both Katherine and Scott start The Rarest Thing living part-lives, either because of fear or because of repressed emotions and doubts. In the end, as they find possums, each other, and finally true love, the two realize they can move beyond automaton existence and truly live.

The Rarest Thing is a beautiful, truly Australian romance between two people who have complex and rounded pasts. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Australian nature, history, a positive message and a dash of mature, adult romance.

The Rarest Thing: 4/5 inky stars

Stay tuned tomorrow for a follow up Q&A with the author!

About the Author: Deborah O’Brien is an Australian writer and visual artist. She is the author of the bestselling Mr Chen’s Emporium, its sequel The Jade Widow, plus A Place of Her Own and The Trivia Man, as well as a dozen non-fiction books.




(Dis)Ability in Genre Fiction: A Small List

(Dis)Ability in Genre Fiction: A Small List

A few weeks back I asked my Facebook if they could recommend books to me which depicted protagonists with disability in genre fiction where the story wasn’t an ‘issues’ story (like Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time) or where the person with…

The Allure of Steampunk: An Interview with Richard Harland

The Allure of Steampunk: An Interview with Richard Harland

A short while after the NSW Writers Centre Speculative Fiction Festival I thought about interviewing a steampunk author to go with my posts on steampunk. Of course, I soon thought of steampunk author Richard Harland. I really enjoy his novels and had met him once…

Easter Treat: An Interview with Kate Forsyth

Easter Treat: An Interview with Kate Forsyth

Can you believe it? An interview with the great Kate just in time for Easter (and no I’m not talking about Australia’s favourite LOTR elven Queen). Kate has written a number of books for a wide range of genres and audiences. This is my first ever author interview and I am very lucky that Kate agreed to take the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about her writing.


On Writing…

1. You have written a number of popular series for both adults and children. How do you feel when you finish a series and do you ever think about writing new stories set in those worlds?

Oh, yes, I always have ideas for new books set in that world when I finish- I often know who my characters are going to marry and all sorts of other things that never make it into the book. However, sequels are not always the best idea I’ve got- I have so many ideas all the time and so I always try and choose the one which will make the best story.

As for how I feel- I’m both very happy and very relieved, but also sad. There’s always a period of grieving after each book is finished, and a time when I feel anxious for the book and how it will be received.

2. How visual are you when writing your books? How much do you plan out a novel? (Submitted by Ben)

I have a strong visual imagination and so I have to ‘see’ a scene before I can write it. It feels a little like watching a film and writing down what happens as I see it. This means I have to fully imagine the scene before I can write, and so I spent a lot of time daydreaming about the story, imagine it, wondering about my characters and what they look like and so on.

I plan my stories but not comprehensively. Normally I need my title, my opening scene, my opening line and quite a few key scenes along the way before I begin to write.

3. Do you workshop your writing with other people in the early drafting stages? If so, with who? (submitted by Rhiannon)

No, I have never workshopped my novels and I never shall. I don’t show my work to anyone until I have the novel as perfect as I can make it. I do talk over my novels with my sister, though, and we each have helped each other solve problems or overcome obstacles as a result. My sister is a writer too- her name is Belinda Murrell and she has written numerous wonderful books for children.

4. Does living in the Manly area inspire your work? Are there any scenes from your books that you can point us to that are inspired by where you live?

I love walking along the ocean front a few times a week, I find that very calming and inspiring. There are some scenes set in my novel, Full Fathom Five, which was published under my maiden name, Kate Humphrey, but strangely enough I wasn’t living near Manly when I wrote that book.

5. Would you ever consider writing a fantasy script after the success of Game of Thrones? Would you say yes to a film or tv option of your books? (Submitted by Ben)

I’d love one of my books to be turned into a film or tv show and so, yes, if the offer was amenable I would agree to selling an option. I would have to trust the director and producer however, and I’d like some imput into the project. I may even be interested in working on the script depending on what deadlines I have looming over me!

On Research…

6. As an ex History Honours student I am always intrigued by the so called ‘Is History Fiction?’ debate, in particular the reactions of some historians to authors of historical fiction. For example, Kate Grenville was criticised by Inga Clendinning and Mark McKenna for her comments on her historical novel, The Secret River. Do you have an opinion on the whole thing? Are you a historian and a story teller when working on books like Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl?

I am first and foremost a novelist, which means I create fictional worlds. Nonetheless, I try as much as possible to stick to the facts as I understand them. I believe it is my job to bring the world of the story so fully to life so that my readers feel as though they had been there themselves, feeling all the joy and suffering that my characters feel. I believe historical novels do more to illuminate the past than dry history books because the readers experience the events of the book as if they were inhabiting the skin of the characters- this means they feel as if they were actually there. I rely heavily on the works of other historians for my research, but I am always searching for the emotional truth hidden behind the facts.

7. Even in your fantasy books, it is evident that you put a lot of research into your novels. Why do you see research as so important to your stories?

Research helps me to fully immerse myself in the time and place of my story. It helps me discover the voice of the novel, gives me plot ideas, and helps me find that telling detail that brings a story to life. I love researching- as I always say, it is simply reading with a purpose.

On Being a Reader…

8. What is your opinion of books like 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight? Do you read them? (Submitted by J.C.)

I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey because its simply not my kind of book. I have nothing against romance novels- in fact, I read a lot of them, though usually historical romances. I have nothing against novels with a high level of sensuality either. In fact, I enjoy a good boddice ripper and many of my books have a few saucy scenes. I was a little concerned about the sexual politics of the book, however, after reading a number of reviews and listening to what people had to say about it. I probably would have read it for curiosity’s sake if I was not so unbelievably busy at the moment and if most of my reading time wasn’t taken up with research for my doctorate.

I have read Twilight and I enjoyed it. I thought it was very cleverly structured for maximum suspense, and I think I’d have loved it if I’d been a teenage girl with romantic yearnings when I read it. I didn’t go on and read the rest of the books in the series, probably because I don’t much like vampire novels, but I certainly defend it when I hear people deriding it.

And a final challenge…

9. What’s a question about your writing or your books that you’ve never been asked before but you’ve always wanted to answer?

Have any of your books ever been inspired by a dream?

10. Now answer it!

Yes, many of them, in fact. Sometimes the dream provides the first flash of an idea, somtimes a dream offers up the solution to a problem in a novel I am writing, and sometimes what I am writing about invades my sleeping hours and give me dreams, some of which are truly horrible nightmares. The door between my subconscious and conscious mind seems to swing open more easily than most people, perhaps because I have always remembered my dreams and listened to them.

Thanks so much for your time, Kate!

Kate Forsyth is the author of over 20 books for both adults and children, including Bitter Greens, The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, and The Witches of Eileanan. Kate is currently at a number of events promoting her new novel, The Wild Girl. You can find her at;

Her website: http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/Appearances

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/kateforsythauthor?fref=ts

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/KateForsyth

You can check out my book reviews of The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens Here and Here

Romance in the spotlight: The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

Romance in the spotlight: The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth, Random House Publishers, 2013. RRP $32.95 Australian. The Wild Girl is Kate’s second foray into the adult historical fiction and romance genre and, much like Bitter Greens, her experimentation does not disappoint. A romance story which should appeal to readers…

Genre Spotlight: Historical fiction, Nation Building Australia and Belinda Murrell’s The Forgotten Pearl

Genre Spotlight: Historical fiction, Nation Building Australia and Belinda Murrell’s The Forgotten Pearl

Belinda Murrell, The Forgotten Pearl, Random House Publishers, June 2012. RRP: $15.95 Australian. Western culture makes much of World War Two and with good reason- its scale was horrific, drawing civilians into war on an unprecedented scale and killing millions. It saw two oppressive dictatorships…