Tag: romance

Childhood Favorites: The Teenage Years

Childhood Favorites: The Teenage Years

Last week I blogged about my childhood favorite stories and series. This week I bring you part 2 where I describe the novels that got to me in my teens. Again, in no order. 1. The Merlin trilogy by Mary Stewart Mary Stewart was famous…

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 The Rarest Thing.

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1. You’re a visual artist as well as a teacher and writer. How does your visual work creep into your writing?

That’s a very interesting question. As a visual artist, I’m always experimenting with light and shade and I suspect I’ve carried that approach into my novels, creating dark moments to tone down a tendency to be ‘heart-warming’. Another aspect of being an artist/writer is that I picture the scenes in my head as I write them, as though it’s a film, which means the writing process becomes both a visual and a text-based experience.

2. You write historical fiction. What is it that draws you to the historical?

It’s the time travel, the notion of journeying into the past and becoming immersed in another world. I always think of that famous quote from the novelist L.P. Hartley, who wrote The Go-Between: ‘The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.’ I enjoy exploring those ‘foreign countries’, whether it’s the 1870s in Mr Chen’s Emporium, or 1966 in The Rarest Thing, or the 1930s and ’40s, which is the setting of the manuscript I’m writing at the moment. In many ways, writing historical fiction is pure escapism.

3. Do you have any tips for the aspiring historical fiction writer?

Do your research. Familiarise yourself with the period. Live there in your imagination until you know it intimately, and then just start writing. You can fact-check the details as you go along. Oh, and resist the temptation to dump chunks of historical information into the story, no matter how fascinating you might find them – too much historical detail can overwhelm a manuscript and slow down the narrative. The historical infrastructure of a novel should act like the electricals in a house – everything should work properly, but you really don’t need to see the wiring.

4. The Rarest Thing features a paleontologist main character. Are you yourself interested in fossils or where did the idea come from?

I find fossils fascinating but I have to confess my only experience of paleontology has been watching Sam Neill and Laura Dern in Jurassic Park! Actually, it took me a while to come up with an occupation for Katharine. What kind of job would enable her to accompany Scott King on his High Country trek to locate and photograph the mountain pygmy possum in its habitat? A photographer’s assistant? A journalist? Then my lovely niece Natalie, who’s a zoologist at the Melbourne University, came up to Sydney to measure koala skulls at the Australian Museum as part of her ongoing research into koalas and climate change. I was so intrigued by Natalie’s work that I decided to make Katharine a scientist. A zoologist like Natalie would have been the obvious choice, but I’d already formed a mental picture of someone more comfortable with ancient bones than living, breathing creatures.

5. The Rarest Thing is the first time you’ve self-published a novel. Have you learnt any lessons along the way?

Yes, I certainly have! For a start, I’ve learnt how difficult it is to wear multiple hats: writer, editor, designer, publicist and so on. I’m more comfortable with some of those roles than others. I did outsource a few aspects of this project – the proofreading, for example, and the printing, of course.

I’ve also learnt to typeset a manuscript. I know that sounds odd but it turned out to be a deeply satisfying experience. The way the words fall on the page has always been important to me, and in this case, I could actually tweak the text myself. I worked through the book, word by word, line by line, adjusting the spaces and playing with the layout. It was like knitting a jumper, stitch by stitch – a surprisingly creative process.

6. What was your favourite part of writing The Rarest Thing?

I really enjoyed writing the early chapters where Katharine and Scott meet for the first time and begin to develop a friendship. I wrote those scenes like a ‘meet cute’ romance novel but with hints that the book would deal with some very dark issues. I also loved writing about the Burramys (mountain pygmy possum), both as a character in its own right and as a metaphor for Katharine’s situation.

Thanks so much for answering these question, Deborah, and good luck with your new release The Rarest Thing. For those keen to follow Deborah, you can find her on Facebook here and at her website here. You can purchase her new release novel at Lomandra Press. Finally, you can read my review of The Rarest Thing here.

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…

(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…

Poetry Spotlight: BRB by Maree Dawes

Poetry Spotlight: BRB by Maree Dawes

BRB: Be Right Back by Maree Dawes
Published 2013, Spineless Wonders

BRB is a wonderful verse novel that explores the early days of internet chat rooms and what happens when life on the net becomes more ‘real’ than the trappings of the reality of family and friends. This theme could have become generic internet distrust cliche but Dawes uses the first person to take us inside ‘Bodicea’s’ head to create a complex character with complex reasons for her new found obsession. As another reviewer has pointed out, some will see Dawes novel as an endorsement of the narrative that falling down the internet rabbit warren destroys lives. Really, BRB highlights the truth that we all deep down know- if we don’t get what we need from our everyday lives we will find it elsewhere.

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From the blurb:

Partner away and home alone but for the sleeping children, our protagonist joins online chat. She and her family moved to the country and up till now she’s been bored and disconnected from her everyday world.
She battles with online language and protocol and wonders if anyone in the chat rooms will ever speak to her.
Then online life becomes more technicoloured than the real thing…
Told from the first person point of view this verse novel uses the language and shape of online chat, email, fragments and stream of consciousness to take the reader headfirst into the world of online life in the nineties. For those who were there it will recreate the moment, for those who never were it’s a chance to experience the beginnings of social networking with the humour, excitement and dilemmas it can pose.

I should admit here that I am biased. I didn’t grow up using the internet in the nineties, but rather in the late 2000s when teen angst overwhelmed and I struggled to find an outlet for my then deemed ‘freakish’ artistic obsessions. The internet has changed my life thanks to experiences in multiple different fandoms and multiple different internet mediums including livejournal, twitter, tumblr, dreamwidth and various forums. Without these internet platforms, I wouldn’t be the feminist writer I am today. Without chatting on the internet, I would be several friends poorer.

Reading BRB took me back to the heady early days of my teen internet exploration when I’d have enormous forum msn chats with people I’d never met at ungodly hours of the night, write poetry for each other in the Poetry Thread, and in one particular year, experimented on chat roulette with a bunch of other young girls. There is something intoxicating about the ‘freeness’ of the internet and Dawes captures this freedom (both sexual and artistic) through her seamless verse. Written in the awkward stop and starts of internet chats, complete with the jargon language and names and haunted by the black pitted trolls as well as too good to be true knights in shining armour too often found online, this novel struck a nostalgic chord.

BRB: 4/5 inky stars

Online Book Tour- Close Call by Eloise March

Online Book Tour- Close Call by Eloise March

I am excited today to have Doris on the blog with a spot of advice, to show you just what all the fuss is about and just who Doris is. Don’t be afraid, she doesn’t bite and it has been proven beyond scientific fact she…

Poetry Peek: Books

Poetry Peek: Books

Without further ado, I present to you the first poem in my upcoming poetry collection, My Heart’s Choir Sings. Books The open, sterilized jaws of your flat beckoned, quiet Like the yellowed pages of books That were your long time companions. Their old, musty scent,…

Review: The Reflections of Queen Snow White

Review: The Reflections of Queen Snow White

Title: The Reflections of Queen Snow White
Author: David Meredith
Date Published: 2013
RRP: $1.83

The Reflections of Snow White re-tells the story of Snow White… yes… but also not really. The point of this short novel is not to revise a beloved Grimm fairy story so much as to use Snow’s relationship with Charming to talk about life after ever after and the process of grief. I did a bit of internet research and Meredith wrote this story originally as a short story after multiple deaths in his family. It is therefore a story very dear to his heart. He also has loads of fun playing around with the German origins of the tale and experiments with the fairy story tone.

From the blurb:

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

As I’ve said multiple times before on this blog, I have a ridiculous obsession with authors messing around with fairy stories. I just LOVE it. The more unexpected the direction the better. Ironically, I am halfway through my own Snow White revisionist short story so this ebook came to me at a great time! I loved the mirror reflecting memories at Snow White all with one specific purpose. At first I thought she was a bit dense to fail to notice the mirror’s aim but I guess she was in a funk and it’s hard to get out of one without a lot of external help sometimes. I liked that this ebook deals with life after happily ever after and a mature relationship. My favourite part of the story was actually older Snow White.

My main criticism of the book, (and this could be to do with the fact that Meredith expanded out from a short story), is that the flashbacks feel disjointed and rushed. I wanted to hear more about the conflict in Snow’s early life and hear more from her deepening relationship with Charming. I also found Snow to be passive for most of the story even before Charming dies, probably because there was little time to expand on early events, and she relies on others to get her out of difficult situations. There was also the suicide attempt because she can’t bear an heir. Now that really put my nose out. As a feminist, this kind of thing is a bug bear of mine. Otherwise, a solid read.

Reflections of Queen Snow White: 3/5 inky stars

This book was provided free by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Jill (Poem)

Jill (Poem)

I’m on a poetry roll with my ebook coming out on Saturday 1st! This poem is positively ancient and is based off the relationship between Jill and Rhodry in Katharine Kerr’s Deverry Saga. I am quite fond of it even in its oldness. I hope…