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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Selena Wang Interviews Charlie Higson

Charlie Higson, the author of the Young James Bond and The Enemy series was kind enough to agree to an interview with The Great Raven. I'd also like to welcome special guest blogger Selena Wang, a former student and current member of my lunchtime book club. Selena is a huge fan of Mr Higson's books for young adults.

The Young James Bond books are fast-moving and delightful, set in the 1930s, when the future spy is still at school at Eton. Somehow he always ends up having an adventure worthy of his future self.

The Enemy series - two books so far - is set after a horrible disease strikes people over fourteen, leaving the children to fend for themselves and cope with flesh-eating zombies who may once have been parents and other loved ones. It's one of the scariest things I have ever read - but it is also about friendship, courage and trust.

Selena: Where did you get inspiration for the Young James Bond series?

Well, obviously the James Bond books were inspired by James Bond himself! I grew up in the 1960s when James Bond was the biggest thing on the planet and I was hooked. First by the films, from when I was about six years old, and later on by the books. So, I guess Ian Fleming, who created James Bond and wrote the original books, was also a huge inspiration to me. I had no idea when I was younger that I would ever be asked to write my own James Bond books, but when I was approached the first thing I did was to go back and reread all the books to really get me in the mood for writing my own young Bond adventures.

As I say, writing the Young Bond books wasn’t my idea. I was approached completely out of the blue by someone from Ian Fleming Publications, the company that looks after James Bond. They had an idea to do a series of books about Bond before he became a secret agent. All I had to do was think up the ideas for the stories.

People always ask writers where they get their ideas from. Personally I find the Internet is very useful. There’s an online site called Ideas ‘R’ Us. You simply fill in a questionnaire with things like ‘what type of characters would you like in the story?’, ‘where would you like to set it?’, what genre - thriller, horror, fantasy, comedy - etc. Do you want it to be about secret agents/vampires/zombies/pirates/aliens/school kids/talking animals etc. How long do you want it to be? Do you want it based on real life events? Do you want to use parts of your own life or make it all up…? And so on, and so forth, and it sends you back ideas for books. Actually that’s a lie, of course there’s no such site, although perhaps there should be. But if you think of the online site as your brain it works in exactly the same way - you go through the whole process - of sending all those questions to your brain - and it all starts swilling around in there and with any luck your brain thinks up ideas for stories. As a writer you're always storing these ideas away, everything that happens to you, everything you read about, see on the TV, hear about, dream about, it all goes in there in case it might be of some use. Sometimes ideas for stories, and these are always the best ideas, come to you very quickly, almost fully formed. This happened when I was offered the job of writing the Young Bond books. Even as I was talking to the person who was explaining the idea to me I had an idea of how the whole first book would work and so I agreed to do the series straightaway. Also, writing is the same as any other skill - the more you do it the easier it becomes. The very act of writing one book will give you an idea for three or four other books. Often when you're hard at work you’ll hit on something and think “that’s a great idea but I can’t fit it in this book.” And you put it aside in that great big computer you call your brain and keep it for later.

Sue: LOL! There was one American SF writer who, on being asked where he got his ideas, said that he sent five dollars to a PO Box in the US city of Schenectady where a little old lady made ideas available. It sounds like your real source of ideas is much better!

Selena: Are there any aspects of your personality in either series?

It’s impossible to write a novel without putting quite a lot of your own personality into it. I think many writers would agree that nearly all the characters in their books are based on aspects of their own personality. In the end it is all that any of us really know. Ourselves. Our books also reflect our personalities in that we write about things that interest or excite us. The places I send James Bond, the adventures he gets into, are all things that I am interested in. The new series, the Enemy, is very much based where I live in London. The kids in it are based on the friends of my own boys. But some of the characters, even the girls, have aspects of my own personality. If I was to be honest, I would say that my own character is probably something of a mix of Arran, Ollie and Ed.

Selena: Are any characters in the Young Bond and The Enemy series based on real people?

I take aspects of people from real life, but have never based a character entirely on one person.

Sue and Selena: At the end of By Royal Command, James Bond goes to a new school in Scotland. Are you planning on writing any more about him there?

Not in the near future. I did have some stories about him worked out for his new life and his new school, but I am too busy working on my new series now, and I don't think that Ian Fleming Publications will hang on and wait for me for ever. Maybe they will get someone else in to write his new adventures.

Selena: Are you planning a new series? If so, can you tell us about it?

I wrote a long fantasy novel when I was a teenager and have been rereading it recently, with quite a lot of work it just might be publishable…

Selena: Each book so far in The Enemy series is about a different group, although some characters from The Enemy are in The Dead. Are you planning to combine them in the next book?

Yes, The Fear (book 3) carries on the process of joining up the two main groups of characters.

Selena: Will there be any more Young Bond graphic novels?

Not in the near future, they take a long time to make and don’t sell as many copies as normal novels, so Puffin have no plans for any more.

Sue: Pity! Our students simply love graphic novels and those are doing well in my library. :-(

When in 2011 will the next book in The Enemy series come out? (SB: We live in Australia, Mr Higson, so do you have an Australian release date?)

Assuming that Penguin Australia publish at the same time, it will be out in September.

Selena: How much research did you have to do for Young Bond, because it was set a long time ago?

I had to do lots. Luckily the 1930s were a fascinating time with a lot going on so I found it all quite interesting. I also had to research a lot about Eton school, to make those parts realistic. Doing research gives you good ideas for storylines.

I went to Sardinia to research bits of Blood Fever. Then I went to the Austrian Alps and learnt to ski to help with my research for By Royal Command. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to travel to Mexico to research Hurricane Gold, which I would have loved to do, but I was too busy writing the book! The thing with kids’ books is that the readers need the next book right now! And you all grow up so quickly, so I had to write the books quite fast to keep you satisfied, which meant less time for travel. Lots of my books are set in London because I live in London. I like writing about the city, so I don’t have to travel far to do my research but it is good fun poking around some interesting and obscure areas.

Selena: I really enjoyed all the riddles and puzzles in Double or Die. Did you think of them all yourself or did someone help you?

I did most of them myself, though I did have some help from a couple of guys who make up cryptic crosswords for newspapers. Maybe in the end the clues were too hard, I don’t think any kids solved any of them!

Selena: The Enemy series is based in London, I want to ask if all the streets and place you mention in the series are real? (Such as: the museum, the schools……) - and did you go there for research?

It’s all real. If you wanted you could come over and retrace all the kids’ footsteps. The only ‘made up’ part was Rowhurst school, which is based on my old school, Sevenoaks.

Selena: I’ve also been reading the Alex Rider series. What do you think are some differences between James Bond and Alex Rider?

I think Anthony Horowitz is a brilliant author. I think his books are very exciting with a cliffhanger in every chapter. I probably wouldn’t have started writing kids’ books if it wasn’t for Anthony. Before his Alex Rider series they weren’t really a lot of action adventure stories for boys out there and publishers didn’t think boys liked to read, but of course they do like to read if they’re given the right books, and Anthony’s books - full of action and gadgets and heroism - work really well (for girls as well!), which is why Ian Fleming Publications thought it might be good to try some young James Bond books. So I will always be a huge fan of Anthony.

The main difference is that Anthony’s books are set in the modern world, and are based on the James Bond we see in the new films, and my books are set in the past and are more based on the James Bond we find in the original Ian Fleming books.

Selena: It’s unusual, for the time, that James Bond has friends who are Indian and Chinese. Why did you give him these friends?

Actually I’m not sure it was completely unusual for the time. The mix at Eton was not wide in terms of class, but other countries have upper classes as well! Eton has always had a lot of foreign pupils studying there. There has been a tradition of rich foreigners, and foreign aristocracy, sending their children to the school, as it was considered to be the best in the world. There have been some quite exotic boys at the school, like the future King of Siam. I wanted to show that Bond was able to make friends with all types of people and also that he was an unusual boy, almost something of an outsider, and so had a group of multi-cultural friends. He does also befriend some posh English boys, of course. I wanted to show that perhaps James Bond was more at home mixing with the more unconventional boys at the school

Questions by Sue, Selena’s teacher

I see you’ve been writing for adults till now, but you seem to have settled nicely into writing for children and young adults. Was the change hard?

I wrote several unpublished books in my younger days in a variety of different styles - I was a fan of fantasy, then sci-fi, then Gothic fiction and post-modernist writers like William Burroughs… while I was at university I wrote a couple of very long and complex arty student type of novels. I was then turned on to crime writing by a friend, particularly hard-boiled American crime fiction. I fell in love with that direct stripped down style of writing. There aren’t pages and pages of flowery descriptions, there’s a lot of dialogue, the writers grab you on the first page and don’t let you go. I decided to try writing some crime books in this style found that I enjoyed it. The first one I wrote, King of the Ants, was published. This coincided with my burgeoning career writing comedy for television. But, after four novels, the TV work took over. It took up all my time and, let’s face it, paid a lot better than writing books. Cut to 10 years later I now have three boys of my own and want to write something for them. I was looking around for ideas when I was approached by my old editor from when I’d been writing the adult books, she was now working for Ian Fleming Publications and thought that I might be right for the new Young Bond series. She knew I had three boys, she knew I was a big James Bond fan, and most importantly she felt that my writing style would work very well for children. I obviously couldn’t use so much bad language and had to remove any sexual content but otherwise I didn’t really change my approach when writing for children. The interesting thing, though, is that you cannot take for granted what they will know about the world. The 1930s were a fascinating time politically and I wanted to get a lot of this into my books but I would be writing away and suddenly realize that the average ten year old doesn’t know the difference between a Communist and Fascist, so my job was to explain often quite complex ideas to children in a way that they wouldn’t feel as if they were being given some kind of history lesson. I found this a challenge but, of course, by having my central character, James Bond, a boy himself it meant that other people could explain things to him. I’ve always liked books that tell you stuff, Fleming was very good at telling us stuff, and I think if you get it right kids quite like being told stuff. I was slightly worried when I started SilverFin that they might not like my style so I read it out to my own boys as a bedtime story as I finished each chapter - which is why the books are so violent. To keep up their interest I soon realized I would have to kill someone on nearly every page.

In another Q and A you said you were inspired by I Am Legend for The Enemy, but the premise of that book (which I’ve read) is that everyone turns into a vampire except the hero. Is your zombie disease based on a real one?
This is what it says on Wikipedia about the book…

I Am Legend is a 1954 horror fiction novel by American writer Richard Matheson. It was influential in the development of the zombie genre and in popularizing the concept of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease. The novel was a success and was adapted to film as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, as The Omega Man in 1971, and as I Am Legend in 2007, along with an unofficial direct to video production capitalizing on that film, I Am Omega. It was also the inspiration behind the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.

I Am Legend inspired many and varied horror films and books. The idea of one lone figure in a changed world trying to fight against unhuman foes is very potent. It’s interesting how they treat the monsters in each the different film versions of the book. In the Charlton Heston version, the vampires are given many of the characteristics of the Manson family. And in the Will Smith version they are sort of alien zombie figures. Richard Matheson was very good at trying to bring a level of reality to his fantasy scenarios, he always worked in some kind of scientific and medical background to the supernatural goings-on and rooted his stories in everyday reality. I’ve tried to do the same in my books. The disease in The Enemy is not based on a real disease, no, but I’m in the process now talking to various doctors and scientists trying to find out how it might actually work. I wanted my monsters to have elements of the classic cannibal zombie as well as the vampire. The ultraviolet rays of the sun increase the effects of the disease and so, like vampires, the grown-ups don’t like going out in daylight. The zombie and the vampire are very similar anyway, they’re both undead, they both feast off the living.

In each Young Bond novel there’s a brave and beautiful girl, i.e. a sort of “Bond Girl”. Is this deliberate or did you just want to include female characters? Either way, do you think the girls fit into their time, the 1930s?
The girls are very much Bond girls. You can’t have a James Bond story without a strong female element. Fleming has been criticised for the depiction of his female characters and of male-female relationships and female desires. But he did at least put some memorable and entertaining girls into his books. He was attracted to strong healthy no-nonsense outdoorsy types and most of his Bond girls fit this mould. I wanted my girls to be similar. Wilder Lawless in the first book very much stands up to James Bond and saves his skin on one important occasion. I wanted to get across to boys read that girls could be fun and have a sense of adventure too. I probably had the most fun writing the character of Precious Stone in Hurricane Gold. She starts out a spoiled pampered rich brat and ends up a lean mean fighting machine navigating the terrors of the rat-run alongside James.

The 1930s were a very interesting time, there was a big growth in female equality and a big growth in vigorous outdoor pursuits like cycling, hiking, skiing, whatever. Women started wearing trousers in more ways than one. I think girls and boys did mix pretty well and particularly in England there grew up a strong breed of tough female adventurers who came to the fore in the 20s and 30s and of course fully came into their own in the Second World War, which gave a great boost to female equality.

Thanks very much for your wonderful interview, Mr Higson! We're looking forward to your next book ... and the one after that... :-)

My First Book Trailer - ouch!

It started when I was with the Random House folk at Supanova. They told me about a book trailer competition they're running for teenagers. It wasn't yet up - and when it is up, they will be giving some firm conditions, which are necessary because they'll be putting it up on-line. It has to be copyright-free material. Obviously, I suspect, there will be limitations even on such things as filming your young brother or sister, because of regulations about that (I saw the ladies taking a photo of a costumed con attendee for the RH blog, but not her small daughter). The copyright-free web site they gave me turned out to be copyright-free but not money-free. You have to pay for use of images from the site. While trying to work out if I could maybe put in a school subscription for the purpose, and because the information is STILL not up on the web site (something on YouTube, but not all the information), I surfed for genuinely free sites, but the few I found were limited in what they had.

I realised that I could use some public domain images and music, although the students might not find that of much interest, but I did have to have a sample - and I thought that perhaps we could have a book trailer competition for Children's Book Week, with a lunchtime festival. The trailers wouldn't go on-line, but we could show them at lunchtime and maybe burn a DVD for the library, to show next year's students. That way, we could use what we want and have fun.

As I haven't yet worked out the mysteries of iMovie, apart from dumping existing films on it, and I go back to work tomorrow, I have spent most of my post-Swancon time today putting together a basic PowerPoint book trailer for Wolfborn. It's very crude, but I've learned some things by experimenting and will learn more as soon as I can get someone to sit with me and explain.

Meanwhile, my class can have a huge laugh at my expense and go do something much better, once they work out which book they'd like to use. It's a nice way of making them think about a book they like - and one girl in my class was asking if she could do an animated piece for her assignment last time (too late, alas, or I'd know just how good she is).

I actually found a picture of a wolf howling under TWO moons (there are three in my world, but maybe the third isn't up yet), a Breton castle, some Arthur Rackham fairies (public domain), a dark forest, a bas-relief of Cernunnos, a wolfhound and a - hopefully - public domain portrait of Attila the Hun to go with the "Ruthless villains!" slide.

I'd like to come up with something a bit speedier than the score I used in the end, but I managed to get the right timing for the second half of "The Ring Goes South" from the FOTR score and it kind of worked. There was a nice dramatic flourish during the "Wild Hunt" slide.

Awful as it is, I'm kind of proud at having given it a go. It's an achievement, doing something I haven't tried before (well, PowerPoints, yes, but not with a story, music and theme).

Because of copyright I can't put it up on-line, but if anyone wants to have a look and a giggle, ask me privately and I'll see if i can share the file with you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vale Sarah Jane!

I couldn't sleep this morning, so I got up and went on-line to check out the Swancon program - I'm heading off tomorrow very early and have to finish preparing. I turned on the radio and just now I have heard the sad news. At only sixty-three, Elisabeth Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith to those of us who love Dr Who, has died of cancer.

I liked Sarah Jane from the moment she turned up, pretending to be someone else, to get a good news story. She didn't take nonsense from the Doctor, which is saying something for Tom Baker's version, and when she was ready, she left, even if she didn't get the dramatic exit she'd hoped for. I was so pleased when the character returned and the Doctor had time to explain himself and reconcile with her. And that scene where she and Rose are sharing jokes about him and laughing their heads off!

Elisabeth Sladen was a wonderful companion, one of my favourites, and it was clear she enjoyed what she was doing.

RIP, Elisabeth!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today I am Going To...

Okay, this entry belongs more in Livejournal than in my literary blog, but Livejournal keeps giving me trouble opening, so here goes.

It's only three days till I head for my adventure in Perth, where I hope to promote my book and have fun.

So today I am going to:

finish the house cleaning after breakfast.

have a go at making some Kosher le Pesach chocolate truffles because my oven is still bung and I can't do my usual contribution of orange and walnut cake or macaroons (I have been doing macaroons the last few years because nobody has any room left for a proper dessert after the seder meal.)

go into town, where I will buy a printer cartridge so I can finish printing out the covers for the CDs I;m taking to the convention. George Ivanoff, who has a much better reading voice than I do, has kindly read a sample from each of our books into Garage Band and I've burned some on to CD. I'm not much good at design, but I really can't ask George to do that as well (needless to say, as a professional web page designer he's better at that too!).

meet a teacher-librarian colleague from another school, Lyndi Chapman, in Lygon Street (better take some Wolfborn and Crime Time bookmarks along for her). It will be nice to have a chat with her; she has a nice new school after her old one treated her badly.

go to my mother's place for the first night of Passover. Only Mum, my sister and brother-in-law tonight, so we'll keep it simple. Tomorrow is the big family night and I've promised my nephew Max a Crime Time mug, as he asked. Have to get it done tomorrow afternoon.

do some planning for the paranormal romance panel at Swancon. Nicole Murphy suggests we keep it light because they've put it on at 10.30 pm!

Big day! Better have brekky and get on with it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BURN BRIGHT By Marianne De Pierres. Random House Australia, 2011

Review first published on January Magazine

I have a history with this author. When we first met, at a writers’ workshop at Aussiecon 3, she had submitted 4000 words of adult cyberpunk and I had submitted the same amount of YA fantasy. In the end, my YA novel got 60,000 words in and froze and Marianne became a well-known and highly respected author of, first cyberpunk, then space-based SF for adults.

Now she has entered my territory with her first YA novel, Burn Bright and it is very, very good.

The heroine of Burn Bright, Retra, is a Seal. That doesn’t mean she loves swimming but that she lives in a sealed enclave, one whose lifestyle would make the Puritans look like hippies.

When Retra’s brother, Joel, runs away to Ixion, island of teenage pleasure, where young people party all night (there is no day there), Retra’s family is punished. Unable to stand it any more, Retra flees to Ixion herself, to find her brother.

She finds out a lot of other things too. And one question everybody on Ixion asks sooner or later is: what happens when you get too old?

I enjoyed this, not only because of the storyline but because the heroine grows. She has always been strong, deep down, preparing herself for the pain she will feel from her obedience strip when she escapes, but the girl who arrives at Ixion is meek and easily shocked. As the novel goes on, Retra – who eventually takes the Ixion name “Naif” – is able to show her strength and courage to look after her new friends. Ironically, her Seal discipline is a help.

This is the first of a series, so be prepared for it to end at a dramatic moment.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SALTWATER VAMPIRES By Kirsty Eagar. Camberwell, Victoria: Penguin, 2010

In 1629, a Dutch ship, Batavia, on its maiden voyage, was wrecked off the coast of Western Australia. The captain and some of his crew left in a boat looking for water, then for help. While he was gone, a number of the remaining crew mutinied and committed a mass murder of many passengers. When the captain finally returned, the mutineers were arrested and, mostly, executed, although two of them were left behind, stranded on the coast of Western Australia. We don’t know what happened to them, although there are unlikely stories about “blue-eyed Aborigines”, suggesting they settled down and had descendants.

That much is history – and I researched it for my last book, Crime Time: Australians behaving badly, which made this novel of even more interest to me. The story of Batavia has been used a number of times in fiction, but this is the first time I’ve found it in a vampire story – and what a delicious idea it is! What if, suggests the author, the four main mutineers, led by Jeronimus Cornelisz, had done all that killing for a very specific purpose – to have a source of food for the feeding frenzy that would follow their planned, deliberate turn to the vampire state? What if, in fact, they’re still around in the twenty-first century and have plans yet again? Where better to do it than a small coastal town which hosts an annual music festival?

Jamie is a surfer teen. He’s been feeling bad about abandoning his mate Dale one night, to swim for help when Dale’s father’s boat was on fire. Dale is alive but not well and not talking to him. One night Jamie goes surfing to avoid the daytime crowds, when Dale arrives on his own surfboard – and bites him.

Dale has turned, Jamie is turning and there’s only one way to recover their mortality. Can they do this and save the town before New Year’s Eve when everything is going to go pear-shaped?

Read it and find out!

I liked the suggestion that you can’t just become a vampire – or turn someone to vampire state – without the permission of Piravem, a sort of vampire guild in Amsterdam. Anyone turned by accident is tracked down and killed. Can’t have mortals starting to believe they exist! Those who want to become immortal have to do an apprenticeship, then be approved by the guild. Some people, of course, just won’t do it by the book, so the guild has not been happy with Cornelisz and his friends over the centuries.

The characters are likable and there’s enough normal teen angst to make it more than just another vampire story - “My mate isn’t talking to me, I like his girlfriend, there’s a terrific new girl in town…”

Best of all, there’s no dark, brooding and honourable vampire for the girls to fall in love with! They’re scum, pure and simple.

This is a truly Aussie vampire story, not only in the setting but in the history that goes with it. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Woot! CBCA Notable

I'd like to say Wolfborn was on the shortlist, but as you'll know from my last post, it isn't. It is, however, a Notable. Haven't had one of those since my women scientists book. Some years ago I was told that to get on the Notables list, six judges had to think the book should go on the short list. Effectively, it's an Honourabe Mention.

I can live with that.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The CBCA shortlist for 2011

Here it is - just found it on the CBCA web site a short time ago. I've read some of the books on the older readers list and one on the younger readers list. My personal favourite of the former is Doug McLeod's book, but I suspect it's too over-the-top to win in this particular award. This, of course, is a personal opinion and I will be delighted to be proven wrong - no abuse, please, if you disagree! We're civilized here.

If you've read any of these books, please do put in a comment about it. I mean to do something at my school about reading and voting, if I get the chance to work on it and I can get the other teachers involved. If I can work out how to do book trailers myself I might even run a book trailer competition and see if we can enter the Random House one.

I might even run a competition on this site, with a prize for anyone who correctly chooses the winner, giving reasons why they think it will or should win. Watch this space.

Older Readers:

Crowley, Cath:Graffiti Moon. Pan Macmillan Australia
Hartnett, Sonya: The Midnight Zoo. Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Horniman, Joanne: About a Girl. Allen & Unwin
MacLeod, Doug: The Life of a Teenage Body- Snatcher. Penguin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Marchetta, Melina: The Piper’s Son. Penguin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Wood, Fiona: Six Impossible Things. Pan Macmillan Australia

Book of the Year: Younger Readers. Intended for independent younger readers.

Bauer, Michael Gerard: Just a Dog. Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia
Bongers, Christine: Henry Hoey Hobson. Woolshed Press, Random House Australia
Branford, Anna Ill. Sarah Davis: Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot. Walker Books Australia
Carmody, Isobelle: The Red Wind. Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
McKinlay, Meg Ill. Leila Rudge: Duck for a Day. Walker Books Australia
Murphy, Sally Ill. Rhian Nest James: Toppling. Walker Books Australia

Book of the Year: Early Childhood. Intended for children in the pre-reading to early reading stages.

Champion, Tom Niland & Niland, Kilmeny Ill. Deborah Niland: The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies. Allen & Unwin
Dubosarsky, Ursula Ill. Mitch Vane. The Deep End. Puffin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Lester, Alison: Noni the Pony. Allen & Unwin
Niland, Deborah: It’s Bedtime, William!. Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Norrington, Leonie Ill. Dee Huxley: Look See, Look at Me!. Allen & Unwin
Ormerod, Jan Ill. Freya Blackwood: Maudie and Bear. Little Hare Books

Picture Book of the Year. Intended for an audience ranging from birth to 18 years. (Some books may be for mature readers)

Baker, Jeannie: Mirror. Walker Books
Bancroft, Bronwyn: Why I Love Australia. Little Hare Books
Greenberg, Nikki: Hamlet. Allen & Unwin
Kane, Kim Ill. Lucia Masciullo: Family Forest. Hardie Grant Egmont
McKimmie, Chris: Two Peas in a Pod. Allen & Unwin
Riddle, Tohby: My Uncle’s Donkey. Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books Intended for an audience ranging from birth to 18 years. (Some books may be for mature readers)
Brasch, Nicolas: Theme Parks, Playgrounds and Toys. Macmillan Education Australia
Brooks, Ron: Drawn from the Heart: A Memoir. Allen & Unwin
Davidson, Leon: Zero Hour: The Anzacs on the Western Front. The Text Publishing Company
Dubosarsky, Ursula Illustrated by Tohby Riddle: The Return of the Word Spy. Viking, Penguin Group (Australia)
Lloyd, Alison Illustrated by Terry Denton :Wicked Warriors & Evil Emperors: The True Story of the Fight for Ancient China
Puffin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)

One Arm Point Remote Community School: Our World: Bardi Jaawi: Life at Ardiyooloon. Magabala Books

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Super(Nova) Weekend

Who would have thought I could get so much out of a whole weekend in the dealers' room? I usually like to go to panels, but I had a dealers' room pass and let's face it, I was at Supanova to promote my book. I could have paid for a regular ticket, but Wolfborn was my priority.

At the table, I finally put a face to the name of Sarana Behan, a publicist, and met some of her colleagues at Random House. Michael Pryor was also there for a while on the Saturday, nice to see him. Michael is going overseas, so won't be at either Swancon or Continuum. I snarled a little in sheer envy when he said he was going for research - why can't I travel for research? - and he joked about writing guides to the resorts of the South Pacific, which needed research as well...

Promotion went very well. We only sold three copies of my book on the Saturday, but lots of people wanted signed bookmarks and posters, so hopefully they will buy books later. A lovely lady who has since found this web site and introduced herself as "Sheep Rustler", made my day by saying she and her daughter had both read and loved the book. There was a librarian from Aquinas College who took a poster signed to the kids and some bookmarks to hand out to them. If they don't have the book already, they'll get it now, because why put up a signed poster if the kids can't borrow it? :-) Sarana kept saying, "You can go now if you like", not wanting me to give up my weekend, but every time I was about to get up, I had another person or group wanting me to sign something. A girl could get a really swelled head from something like this, although the real ego booster is when they BUY the thing! ;-)

Yesterday Sarana had moved my seat to the other side of the table, facing the Dymock's stall and that was much better. Every time someone stopped at the stall to sign up for the newsletter or take some flyers and bookmarks, Sarana would say, "Do you like werewolves? There's this one, and the author is over there if you want her to sign for you..." and send them over to me. And whenever I persuaded them to buy, they'd say, "Can I actually get this book?" and I'd point to the pile at the Dymock's stall, where it could be found easily, saying, "Right over there." That worked well and by lunchtime we'd sold seven. (We sold a lot more during the rest of the day). Admittedly two were to a couple of young ladies I had met at the tram stop in town on the way to the con. Three friends were travelling to Supanova. Two were dressed as Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent and were delighted when I recognised them. Their third friend wasn't in costume, but I think intended to be, later. (She bought a copy of my book) In fact, they had all been changing as the day went on Saturday and had brought another change of costume.

This is something I think is wonderful about these pop culture expos, something we no longer have at most regular fannish conventions (except, as far as I know, Nullas Anxietas, the Discworld con, where every other person is in costume). The place is overflowing with people in hall costume. I think I'll take something to Swancon, even if it's only a caftan, cloak and veil, to look vaguely mediaeval.

In the course of the con, I met Nat from Of Science And Swords bookshop, who said he recognised me as a customer and I said with a smile, "Yes, and you still don't have any copies of my book!" Before the con was over, we'd discussed me coming in for a signing. His boss did say, "Look, I'm sorry we don't have your book, but local distributors all want you to buy a minimum $500 worth of books" and of course, they're a small business - a VERY small business, located in an expensive city arcade. I get that, totally - and I feel better about it now I know why.

But the ladies at RH said they should call the company anyway and they'd get some suggestions for a cheaper distributor. So hopefully, that will work out. Fingers crossed! As long as I was there I asked them if they could check out "Sword At Sunset" which may have to come from the US, because our students are starting to read Rosemary Sutcliff and I don't have the sequel to the Eagle Of The Ninth Chronicles. Fortunately, they're all into buying from the US, so if it's available they should be able to get it for me.

By the end of yesterday I'd been invited to be a guest speaker at the Melbourne SF Club mini-con next month. Nice! Promote promote promote! Mind you, some of the members have already bought copies at Nova Mob the other night, which was great.

I had a chat with Marianne De Pierres, author of the very good YA novel Burn Bright, who kindly offered to come talk to my book club about a week after the holidays. There won't be time for anyone much to read the book before then, so far only one has read it because we've only just got it, but I will buy some more so they can read it afterwards. I don't have her adult SF in my library,but this one is an excellent start for them and there's a sequel to come.

That's something nice to tell my dearest book clubbers at our meeting first day back!

Terrific weekend! Makes me feel somewhat better about the fact that the Melbourne Writers' Festival doesn't want me this year for their Youth Day.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

ASIM Issue #50

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine has just released its 50th issue. Okay, I'm biased, being a member of the co-op and I did choose one of the stories for this issue, but I promise it's well worth getting. Because the stories were chosen by most of us, there's a wide variety of story types, from the deeply serious to the downright silly; my own selection, "The Wine Endures" by Anthony Panegyres, a Perth writer, is gently humorous with a touching ending. The issue looks terrific, too, with a "redux" cover by Les Peterson, who did the cover of the very first issue, plus several more. The internals are done by some of the top artists on our list.

We will be selling it at Swancon, but if you're not coming along, you can always order a copy. If you want PDF, you only have three months to get it, which is our agreement with our writers, who can't be expected to surrender their rights permanently.

Speaking of PDF, if you're not one of our regular reviewers and would be interested in reviewing this issue in PDF form, let me know.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Supanova and Me

I don't normally go to Supanova. There are only so many "pop culture expos" you can go to in a year. I've been attending Armageddon with my friend and workmate Jasna and her son Chris, because it's generally cheap and has guest speakers I want to hear. Peter David was there a couple of years ago, the author of those lovely novels about King Arthur coming back and running for Mayor of New York, then becoming President of the US and having a whole lot of fantastical adventures while he's about it. He also did some Trek novels, but that's not why he was invited either - he's gone into graphic novels! There are actors as well and last year we went to hear Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, though the poor sods had to compete with a very noisy event going on in another corner of the hall. They managed well, I should say. They must have had to put up with a lot of weird stuff in the course of attending conventions.

This year, though, I'm also going to Supanova, because my publishers at Random House asked if I'd like to come along and promote Wolfborn. There will also be the delightful Michael Pryor, who wrote those gorgeous steampunk novels I've reviewed on these pages and Marianne De Pierres, who is actually on the con's guest list, but will presumably pop over to the table at the dealer's room as well. I'll be there from Saturday afternoon, after coming from my mother's place, and spend all day Sunday as well, except I'm going to the one-man Lord Of The Rings at the Comedy Festival late Sunday afternoon, so will have to leave by about three.

Anyone want to come and get their copy of Wolfborn signed? Better still, buy one, for a family member or friend if you have your own? :-) Plenty to see and do, even once you've been to the Random House table.

There are going to be some fabulous writers and actors there - more writers, in fact, than at Armageddon - though I'm not sure if I'll get to see any of them except Marianne, because the Random House bunch will probably just get me a dealers' room pass. That's fine. I have Swancon only a week later and there will be plenty to see and do there - and, yes, my book to promote and Fantastic Planet will be bringing copies, so I don't have to lug them myself.

And then off to the one-man Lord of The Rings!