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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Michelle Heeter Interview

Michelle Heeter's YA novel Rigg's Crossing was published in 2012 by Ford Street Publishing, which is known for its confronting fiction. The heroine, found unconscious after a car crash, apparently doesn't remember who she is or at happened, so is called Len Russell, for a name on her t shirt and sent to a youth refuge after leaving hospital. But Len remembers more than she is admitting and some of it comes back in flashbacks. Len's former life was not pretty....

Hi, Michelle, welcome to The Great Raven!

SB: You're a technical and adult writer - what made you decide to have a go at YA fiction?

MH:  I was undecided as to whether to try to get Riggs Crossing published as Young Adult or as general literary fiction. I chose YA, thinking that a book with a teenage protagonist would have more appeal to a younger audience. When I found a publisher, I discovered that I was woefully naïve as to the restrictions of the genre. If I’d known about them, I might have chosen general fiction rather than YA.  In YA fiction, you can’t include any material that is politically incorrect, or that might offend teachers, librarians, or parents. Of course I didn’t write the book intending to be offensive, but sometimes a character will use bad language or come out with a politically incorrect remark. Since several of the characters in the book are professional criminals, it was a major task to tone down their language, yet still be realistic. But even though it hurt my pride to have to cut certain parts of the manuscript, I knew I was lucky to find a publisher who would take the book as it was, then help me through the editing process to make it appropriate for the YA genre.

SB: What gave you the idea for this novel?

MH: A series of disturbing experiences gave me the ideas for the novel, and an extended period of boring, ill-paid jobs gave me the motivation to sit down and write the book. I knew I had a story worth telling, and being bored out of my brain at work made me want to exercise my mind by doing something creative.

SB: How much research did you have to so for this? Dope cropping, for instance, and life in the youth refuge?

MH: For the aspects of dope growing, I relied on a boyfriend who’d been involved in the drug trade before we met. I wrote down what I could remember of his stories and shaped them into a narrative. Then, on several occassions, I asked him to sit down and let me ask him questions while I worked at the computer. I read dialogue aloud to him to make sure it sounded authentic. These sessions were usually late at night, my best time for writing. They also involved a fair bit of alcohol, as talking about his criminal past stressed him. As the session progressed, I would have increasing trouble keeping him in line. He wanted to commandeer the computer and write my novel the way HE thought it should be written. It drove him crazy when I would change his material to make it fit my novel. These sessions frequently ended in screaming arguments.

I did online research about children in state care. I decided not to try to interview any children in refuges, for several reasons.  I couldn’t justify using the trauma that these children had gone through in order to create a novel. I felt like I had nothing to offer in return.  Also, I didn’t know whether I was going to like these kids or the people who looked after them. One of the unfortunate aspects of my personality is a penchant for lampooning people I don’t like. What if someone who’d helped me with my research found herself made into a silly or unlikeable character in the book?  I think it’s fine to use other people’s experiences as material, but skewering someone in print after they’ve done you a favour…No, I couldn’t have done that.

SB: Len seems to get great comfort from working with horses - is this something that is important to you too?

MH: Very much so.  I started riding horses by accident, when I was fat and unhappy with just about every aspect of my life. I had signed up for a dance class at a city evening college, but the class was cancelled. The college asked me if I wanted a refund or if I wanted to take a different class. I picked up the catalogue and chose “Horse Riding 1” on a whim. Horses changed my life. I lost weight, made friends, and developed confidence. Eventually, I was able to part-lease a horse and ride twice a week on my own in Centennial Park.  In the past few years, I’ve become too busy with other commitments to ride regularly. I miss the horses, and hope to start riding again this autumn.

SB: How much of this novel is based on reality?

Hmmm….Most of the characters, even the minor characters, are based on real people. These are people I knew well, people I knew slightly, and even strangers I encountered or observed in public. As for the events in the novel, the murders that take place in the story did not actually happen, but I am confident that they are realistic. Part of doing the research for the murder scene involved staging pretend gun battles with the help of my then-boyfriend, who had unfortunate experience with firearms and with people who are capable of extreme violence.  I thought of it as blocking a scene in a play. I drew diagrams of bullet trajectories and carefully went over the logic of the sequence.  I asked my boyfriend a lot of questions. “Who fires first? Where is the shooter’s accomplice standing? How many shots would he fire? Would he get out of the car before shooting the other guy?” Fortunately, I’ve never had to witness a murder. Thanks to the input of someone who knows the psychology of people who are prepared to kill, I am confident that that the aspects of the book dealing with criminality are true-to-life and within the realm of possibility.

SB: Do you have a favourite character? Len's tutor, for example, has the same name you used for a pen name...did you write yourself into the book? ;-)

MH: Len is my favourite character, and I was rather hurt when readers of early drafts of the novel complained that she was nasty and unlikeable. Her personality is what I would like to be—tough and resourceful. In the end, I had to tone down her hostility several notches.

As for Renate Dunn, I guess she represents what I could have become if I’d pursued an academic career.

SB: Is there any special message you'd like your readers to take away from the book?

MH: I didn’t start the book with any particular message in mind; I just wanted to tell a good story. Now that the book is finished, I guess I’d like people to think about how much human potential is squandered because someone was born into the wrong family or has suffered a series of tragedies.  The derro you see in the park, the girl who does sex work, the man behind bars—all of them have a back-story which is unpleasant or sad.  Very few people are born evil or choose to live on the margins of society.

SB: Are you working on something right now?

MH: No. I have a half-finished draft of a YA book set in America, but I dread the thought of finding an American publisher. Also, the story requires multiple points of view, which I’ve never attempted before. I was having trouble getting some of the characters to talk to me, so I’ve put the project aside for the moment. And unlike when I was writing Riggs Crossing, I have a day job that involves writing and is challenging and absorbing. I no longer have the sense of desperation that motivated me to write Riggs Crossing.

SB:Thanks for answering these questions and good luck with your sales!

Michelle Heeter was born in the U.S.A., studied English at university, spent most of her twenties in Japan, and moved to Sydney in 1995.  She is now an Australian citizen. Michelle started writing for women’s magazines, and eventually moved into technical writing and copywriting. Michelle loves to travel, and enjoys ocean swimming and horse riding.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Pride And Prejudice!

Today is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice. I first read it in Year 12 English. That was also the year I played Lady Bracknell in the school's production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest, another classic of English literature and also deliciously silly. I also had to study Persuasion, and since then I've read most of the others (still have to read Mansfield Park, but I'm holding off, because it IS the last) and also started reading Georgette Heyer, because where else can you go after you finish the few books Jane Austen wrote?

There have been dramatisations of all the books at some stage. There was a movie of Persuasion some years ago and Emma and Sense And Sensibility; the others have all turned up on the BBC.  Emma even turned up as the background to the comedy Clueless, set in modern times.

But somehow, I don't think anything has been done quite as often as Pride And Prejudice. There were two TV versions at least - one with David Rintoul as Darcy, the other with the delectable Colin Firth. Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson played the hero and heroine in 1940. That was the movie in which Lady Catherine was actually feeling out Elizabeth's feelings for Darcy instead of threatening her. Apparently the actress was much loved and couldn't be shown in a negative light. Never mind. Laurence Olivier was gorgeous! It was a nice, gentle film, though once the 1995 TV version came along, it slipped to the bottom of my favourites.  It just can't compete with Darcy and the wet shirt...
;-) Anna Chancellor, who played Miss Bingley in the 1995 version, is a many-times grandniece of Jane Austen, and later did a documentary about her. There have been numerous updates, such as Bride And Prejudice, the Bollywood version, which I thought great fun, and the Lydia character is rescued early and punches Wickham on the nose before she leaves. And, of course, there's the Keira Knightley one, which shows Mr Bennet as more of a farmer than a gentleman and ends with the scene where he has just approved Elizabeth's marriage and declares himself at home if anyone comes for his other daughters. There's Lost In Austen, in which a modern Austen fan exchanges places with Elizabeth Bennet and finds that things aren't quite the way they happened in the novel - Wickham, for example, isn't such a villain after all, and helps her out.

There have been novels - sequels, fan fiction, updates, even a New Ceres story in which Mary Bennet runs off with a Time Lord! I have just checked on Fanfiction Net and found 773 hits under Pride And Prejudice. At least one seems to be a Harry Potter story with Snape as Darcy and Hermione as Elizabeth. (wince!)

So why IS this one so popular? I admit it's my own favourite. I love Emma, but in the end, she has to be more or less rescued by her much older boyfriend - and I suspect that Elizabeth Bennet would think Emma was an idiot. This is the one that most lends itself to interpreting and playing with. There's the intelligent but poor girl, a combination that normally wouldn't get her a husband in this era. There's the snooty man who is actually not that bad, as she realises once she meets his family and staff. Both of them make mistakes (and who can forget that bizarre proposal?). There are the family troubles that bring them together. And it's funny!

How could you not love it? I have read and reread this one and never tired of it. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for? If you have an ebook reader you can download it from Project Gutenberg in a few seconds, or there's always the local library. Go check it out!

Anyone out there got their own favourites? Who else loves this as I do?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Feast Of Ice And Fire: The Official Companion Cookbook By Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sarann Lehrer. London: HarperVoyager, 2012

This book is connected with George R.R. Martin's great fantasy series - the books, not the TV series. If you've been reading them, you may have noticed how often people eat! Whether it's Jon Snow and his fellow Night Watch members having a hot and hearty meal on the Wall, a seventy-seven course banquet at King Joffrey's wedding, Sansa and her lemon cakes or Arya living on what she can on the streets, characters eat - and the author describes their meals with great relish(pardon the pun). In some ways, it reminds me of all the food being consumed in TV science fiction show Babylon 5(and that, too, has a cookbook!). The book opens with an enthusiastic introduction by George R.R. Martin, whose fans presented him with baskets of IAF foods they had cooked when he went on a signing tour for the fifth book in the series. Lucky man!

The Song Of Ice And Fire series is set at least partly in a word like fifteenth century Europe and the food is accordingly period. (Well, mostly, anyway. There are some fruits and veggies that came from North America well after that era, but hey, it's GRRM's world!) The authors of this book, who run a food-connected Ice And Fire web site, Inn At The Crossroads, don't just experiment with food like that described in the novels, they research it in mostly mediaeval and Renaissance era books. So the recipes they have reproduced here are the real thing, adapted somewhat for the modern era.

The book is divided into sections based on the different settings of the books - the Wall, the north, the south, King's Landing, Dorne and "Across the Narrow Sea". There's a chapter at the start, on stocking a medieval kitchen, with some suggested substitutes for ingredients one just can't get in the supermarket, but also some of the basics, such as "poudre douce" and "poudre forte", spice mixtures which are used in a lot of medieval recipes and can be easily enough made up and popped in the pantry for when you need them.

With each recipe, there's a quote from one of the books about the particular dish, then the recipe from whichever early cookbook it came from. Then the recipe is in modern English. You are often given the choice between the medieval or a modern version. I'm rather keen to try the medieval version of apple cakes, which are, we're told, an ancestor of the doughnut, though you don't seem to need to deep fry them. There are also recipes for standard pitta bread and hummus, which appear in the novels as flatbread and chickpea paste. Well, there are a lot of foods that have been around for a while, which don't require you to research mediaeval recipes! (I once found an Ancient Greek recipe for honey pancakes which my Greek library technician told me they're still making). And one recipe, for Tyroshi honeyfingers, is taken from Apicius's Roman cookbook.

The authors are very adventurous in their cooking, but I think I might skip the honey-spiced locusts!

A wonderful, well-researched book that should be of use both to those who want to try some of the foods described in such detail in the books and to those fantasy writers who want a starting place for their own writing. I know I'm going to keep this in my own reference collection.

Booktopia Goodies Free Shipping For Australia Day

I've just wandered over to Sean Wright's blog, Adventures Of A Blogonaut, where he tells us about a special being run by Australian book selling web site, Booktopia . In honour of Australia Day, they're offering free shipping within Australia, until Monday night. Follow the link to Sean's web site above for details. I took a look to see which of my books they're selling and found they've got Wolfborn, Crime Time:Australians Behaving Badly, a couple of editions of Your Cat Could Be A Spy ( the US edition, also available, is called This Book Is Bugged) and my three books for Nelson/Cengage, two non-fiction and the chapter book Grey Goo. Grey Goo was my only book that could remotely be called science fiction, as opposed to fantasy; it was written as companion book to a non fiction book on future technology, and I researched the science aspects. They got this terrific artist to illo it, and his cartoony drawings were a delight. Cat is my book on spies. Alas, the It's True! series is no longer going, because it's just too hard to sell children's non fiction, and Cat sold out, but they are now doing it  POD. I don't know if I will ever get a chance to go back to non fiction, but I am very proud of these and had fun writing them.

So if you live in Australia, why not wander over and see what's available?

I will send a signed bookplate to anyone who buys one of my books on this offer - just email and let me know your details.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Author Interview Page Added

If you scroll down through the permanent pages on the right side of this blog, you will find a new one. It's a link to my Ebook Glue-generated ebook of the interviews on this blog. It's available in ePub or mobi. This will update itself as more interviews come up, but there's room for twenty-five before anything drops off the end.

Over the years, my students and I have invited some wonderful writers on to this web site and their responses to questions asked have always been even better than hoped. I am currently waiting on an interview with Michelle Heeter, author of Riggs Crossing and am preparing some for the delightful Geoffrey McSkimming. Meanwhile, why not click through and give yourself a fascinating ebook of interviews with the likes of Marianne De Pierres, Juliet Marillier, Gabrielle Wang, Charlie Higson and Justin D'Ath and more?

Welcome New Followers!

I know I should have done this before, with other joiners, but better late than never! Welcome to three recent followers - I hope you enjoy your future visits to my blog! There's Nyssa1968, an Aussie now living in the UK, who loves Dr Who and whose actual name I know from a bit of piecing together, but won't mention here in case she prefers not to tell everyone. And I follow her blog too. Welcome Nyssa!

Austin Hackney, I don't know much about you except that you seem to like YA fiction, judging by your other follows. Welcome! You've come to the right place here. My other blog, which you have also joined, is mostly for talking about my teacher-librarian issues, and I don't post as often as here, but I hope you like that one too. Welcome!

I first encountered Katherine Langrish on the History Girls web site and on her own, Seven Miles Of Steel Thistles, which I follow with great delight, as it's about folklore, a subject I love. I also have some of her children's novels on my iBooks shelf, and love them too. Welcome, Katherine!

I appreciate all of my wonderful followers, but I want to make a belated thank you to my regular commenters, Sean Wright, the Blogonaut, who also supports me with retweets and Aussie spec fic writers in general on his blog, Lan Chan, Melbourne blogger who is working hard on her own writing as well as reviewing books and takes the trouble to come here and comment, to Stephanie Campisi, a fellow writer and Melbourne-based(for now) blogger whose own web site Read In A Single Sitting is intelligently written and a pleasure to read. Thanks, also, to my semi-regular commenter miki, who joined this site to enter a competition and hung around. She lives in Belgium.

Sometimes you wonder if anyone is reading. Well, I know they are, because at this stage I'm getting around 1500-2000 hits a week! Some of those will have stumbled here by mistake. But not all, by any means, and when someone actually comments, you know for sure. :-)

Give yourselves a pat on the back, guys!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some More Playing Around With Ebooks

Having had fun with Ebook Glue, I thought I'd check the App Store for something I could use to make at least basic ebooks that don't have to be blog posts. I thought that if I can cobble together some of my own stuff, eg already-published short stories, I can also use it at school with my classes and maybe my book club, many of whom are writers, so we can share written stuff. Our Year 7 and 8 students this year will have iPads.

So off I went to the App Store and found a number of ebook apps. I ended up downloading two, because the first one I bought wasn't much use for anything but picture books. If I ever want to share family albums with friends and relatives I might go back to that one, but it won't take much text.

The other one, Creative Book Builder, seems to be working much better for my needs. You can't put the book up on-line as you can Ebook Glue books, but you can email them and I think you can park it in Dropbox.

It's fairly basic and I'm still working out how to use it. It doesn't seem to reproduce italics from a Pages document, either, and there isn't a toolbar to let you fix that. Maybe I'll figure that out eventually, because there seem to be some "import" options. BUT - I not only did a couple of short story collections, I pasted my whole current novel manuscript into it, chapter by chapter, so I can now read it as an ebook while I try to get out of my current state of writer's block. I can't edit the ebook, of course, but right now, all I want is to reread it and see what the problem is. I will also be able to email it to any beta readers I trust. ;-) The app only has ePub and PDF, not mobi, though, so any beta readers with a Kindle are out of luck there.

For anyone who's interested, the app is not that expensive and worth checking out. 

And Another Book For The Shelves!

Today I took my nephew Max and his cousin Dezzy to the movies. After lunch and before the movie, we browsed in the local bookshop, the newly-opened Avenue Bookshop in Elsternwick, which has taken over from the very old Sunflower Bookshop.

Dezzy was looking unsuccessfully for a book on the subject of "deception", having just read and enjoyed one of her father's self-help books on the subject. Max, who wants to be a film-maker and animator, was in the film section as always, curled up with a book on 100 ideas that shaped film. Of course, I always support him in his dreams - he has already made some Lego animations and placed them on YouTube - so I bought him the book he was reading and then couldn't resist getting one for myself - this one!

Brian Sibley has been doing these books on Tolkien-based movies for some time and co-wrote the script for the BBC radio play - which I now have on CD. I do love making-of books. The best LOTR movie book I have read, so far, is the Andy Serkis one, which was not only one of those "how I got the part in this movie" books but had a lot of chapters written by people who did all the technical stuff. It was so very good that I bought a copy for my Senior Campus library, where we have Media Studies and Multimedia. Not that Andy Serkis didn't tell some entertaining anecdotes, such as his little daughter seeing him in his make-up for the deteriorating Smeagol. He'd been worried that she would be scared, but she only said, "Silly Daddy!" But it was a very good book about film-making in general.

This one does have actor interviews, but also interviews with the technical folk - make-up, costuming, hairdressers( and when you have to look after ninety-one lots of wigs and beards just for the Dwarves, that's no small job!), prosthetics artists - much harder than in the last lot of movies, because they now use a kind of silicon instead of latex, much better visually, but has to be replaced each day - even the breakdown artist,  a lady whose job it is to make the costumes lived-in!

I have only read some bits while waiting for the bus and on the tram, but I'm very much looking forward to curling up with this in bed tonight.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Books On My Shelves

The other day I decided I had really better spend the lovely gift voucher I received from the WA school where I paid a virtual visit last year( thank you, Anthony Panegyres! ). So I went to Dymock's and after browsing through the fiction and remembering how many review copies I still had to read, I decided it might be better to pick up a couple of things that could help me in my writing. As I'm a writer of mediaeval fantasy, I wandered over to the history section. 

I love history. Even history textbooks usually have something worth reading for the general public, but my preference runs to "history of" books written for entertainment - I have histories of chocolate, tourism, food, medicine, herbalism, even the Four Humours. 

There were plenty of bios, such as those by Alison Weir, who does bios of the early kings and queens of England, and very enjoyable they are, too, but as I'm unlikely to create a character based on Anne Boleyn in my Next BigThing novel, which is a teen fantasy with werewolves, I ended up choosing two more general books,  The Time Traveller's Guide To Medieval England by Ian Mortimer and Vanished Kingdoms: The History Of Half-Forgotten Europe by Norman Davies. 

The first one is a chatty general introduction to daily life in fourteenth century England, which pretends that you're travelling around the country and tells you what you can expect in different types of household, in the country and in town, sort of a Lonely Planet Guide. It uses medieval writings to back it up. I'm already past halfway and reading about why you really, really  WOULDN'T want to live in this time. Forget the violence, the sexism, the coarse sense of  humour, such as the mediaeval joke about the two merchants chatting about their home life(one says his last three wives hanged themselves in the garden and the other guy asks for a cutting from that tree.) The main reason you wouldn't want to live there is the weird medical practices.

I have only started the intro to the second book, but I know I'm going to like it. It's about all those kingdoms that no longer exist - something that is likely to give me ideas, but also sounds thoroughly entertaining in its own right. The author says he was growing up when the sun never set on the British Empire and guess what? He suggests that people hundreds of years from now will be wondering about OUR lost empires!

I think I've spent my gift voucher well.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Dare You By Aleesah Darlison. Sydney, Walker Books, 2012. Series:Lightning Strikes

Motor bike-loving Ben has just started a new school. His mother has managed to get a new job to help support him and his little brother Joey, who refuses to take off his kangaroo suit. But one problem with starting a new school is the probability that the local bully will make you the object of his attentions. Another, in Ben's case, is that the bully's mother is his own mother's boss...

Despite the humorous cover and writing style, the theme is serious. Bullying is not funny. And all too many children and teens don't report it because they fear it will only become worse. So Ben is forced to go through a number of embarrassing "dares" before finding some friends and the courage to tackle it. The way he handles his situation is just a little fantastical, something highly unlikely to happen in the real world, but it goes well with this kind of story. It's aimed at children from about eight onwards, but should also appeal to reluctant readers in early secondary school, somewhat like the the Aussie Bites series. In fact, it will be going into my own school library.

English Fairy Tales - Just Downloaded From Project Gutenberg

I love Project Gutenberg! There are so many classics, so much useful stuff. I already have some Andrew Lang, but on the Sur La Lune Fairytales site I found Joseph Jacobs, who collected English, Celtic and other folk tales in the nineteenth century and while you could read them on the web site, complete with notes, I opted to get at least one of the books on Gutenberg. I started with the English Fairy Tales book. Even the introduction is charming. He argues that while there aren't too many fairies in them, you aren't going to get children asking their nurse or grandmother for "another folk-tale/ nursery tale."

I have browsed through some of them, as well as the Celtic ones on Sur La Lune and found versions of Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, the Pied Piper, Cinderella, The Juniper Tree and Clever Else. I keep thinking,"hang on, I've read this somewhere!" And of course, I have. There are a lot of stories that just keep turning up over and over, in countries unconnected with each other.

There are evil stepmothers everywhere and heroes and heroines who break their promises to supernatural beings and live happily ever after. Serve them right for trusting humans!

It's all handy for the writing. I'm off to have breakfast and do some writing. There are some good stories to be played with out there!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Earthfall by Mark Walden. Sydney, Bloomsbury, 2012

The aliens have invaded.  Earth has been taken over by huge spaceships and their  floating-jellyfish Hunters and Grendels- huge things that stomp around crushing, killing, destroying. Most people have been turned into obedient brain dead slaves who are building and knocking down and being stored in mass "dormitories" when not in use. But there are still a few in London, the novel's setting, who were not affected, mostly teenagers, and they're fighting back. One of them, Sam, the hero of the novel, is special, for reasons I can't tell you without spoilers. In fact, the above blurb is about all I can tell without spoilers.

I have been reading Mark Walden's H.I.V.E novels and enjoying them very much. Mind you, he painted himself into a corner in the last one, but I have been assured that there will be three more books in the series, so we'll have to see how the author manages to get his hero, Otto, out of that corner. 

Meanwhile, this is the start of a new series. Mark Walden has a background in games design and it shows, as it does in the H.I.V.E series. There is almost non-stop action, involving a lot of explosions, running around, characters injured, characters killed, monsters roaring down the ruined streets of London and the destruction of at least one London landmark. And all this in a modest 280 pages!

I did have some questions about things that didn't quite make sense to me, but again, I can't reveal these without spoilers, and probably they will be answered in the next volume, but all in all, an entertaining read; it has been lying on my TBR pile for far too long, but in the end I read it in a day, on the beach. The story isn't finished, but at least it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, thank goodness!

The book should appeal to boys. As in the H.I.V.E series there are also strong female characters, so girls might enjoy it too. It's not as complex as the H.I.V.E universe and easier to swallow for reluctant readers.

Read it if you liked Charlie Higson's zombie novels. There are no actual zombies, but the enslaved humans almost might as well be, and there is the same flavour, with a wrecked London and teenagers having to hide from murderous enemies.

I have interviewed Mark Walden on this web site, here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Stephanie Campisi's Next Big Thing

Today I would like to welcome Stephanie Campisi to the Great Raven. Stephanie lives in Melbourne, where she goes in to the city every day to work on her writing. She has sold a lot of short stories and is now writing novels. Although Stephanie has her own blog, Read In A Single Sitting , it doesn’t really lend itself to The Next Big Thing, so I have invited her to do it as an interview here.

When her first book comes out, don’t forget you heard about it here first!

What is the [working] title of your next book?

I'm currently editing a middle years' title called Doppel Gang.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I'm a big fan of word play, and love teasing out puns and strange and unusual meanings from words. I've wanted for years to write something involving a “Doppel Gang” (from “doppelganger”, meaning “double walker”), a group of people working in tandem with their “doubles” to overcome some sort of nefarious plot. During the middle of last year I realised that “doppels” could exist in all sorts of ways: shadows, mirror reflections, phantom limbs, imaginary friends, time travelling doubles and so on, and the story sort of grew from there.

3 What genre does your book fall under?

Middle years' fantasy, with a bit of a grimy pseudo-olde London feel.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Gosh. I'd need a lot, given that I have four main characters and their doubles to deal with! Some very, very versatile child actors, I suppose. Perhaps Brenda Song for my mirror image (protagonist), Kodi Smit-McPhee for my narcoleptic character and Chloe Grace Moretz as my amputee character.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Nadia Zhang's misbehaving reflection draws her into the world of disconnected shadows, phantom limbs, imaginary friends, and a man who would use them all to further his efforts to become immortal.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm agented and currently waiting to hear back on my current MG Spatterbaum and Zitherbother, which has been on submission for what feels like a lifetime (but really has only been a few months). There's another novel (The Hotel Astor) in the pipeline to go out on sub after that, and then I suppose that this one will follow. But yes, assuming the best, my agent will want to pitch this one!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Around 2-3 months, but I've been editing for a good few months since then, and expect to do several more solid rewrites before it's in a state to show anyone.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I suppose it's a bit of Frances Hardinge mixed up with some Diana Wynne Jones, a touch of Adam Gidwitz, a dash of Jaclyn Moriarty and perhaps a bit of China Mieville. With luck others will agree!

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I'd just finished a more serious project, so I felt that it was time to switch it up with something ridiculous and zany. My goal with my MG writing is to make each book more ludicrous than the last, and, er, I'm pretty sure I've succeeded thus far!

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

My eerie Brottlesby setting, I hope, and perhaps my villain: a man made entirely out of living tattoos. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Booktopia's Top 50 Writers

I have just seen the list of Australia's fifty favourite writers, including quite a few children's and YA writers, such as Kate Forsyth, Morris Gleitzman, Michael Pryor, Margo Lanagan, John Flanagan, Paul Jennings, Juliet Marillier,John Marsden, Shaun Tan.... Phew! So many, how do you choose?

Anyway, why not go to the Booktopia web site, see what's there and vote? I am going to have to think about this...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

An Old Guest Post

One of the nice things about being on Twitter is the linking. My friend Stephanie Campisi has a "vintage post" software thingie on her blog which brings up things she posted a while back and tweets them. Today's was a guest post I did some time ago on Read In A Single Sitting, not long after I first encountered Stephanie. I sent her a review copy of Wolfborn, as she lives in Melbourne and I had a large stash at author's price, and meanwhile she invited me to guest post, not necessarily about my book, but as an Aussie woman writer. I did a post on books read by boys and girls(follow the link above) because, face it, I'm a teacher-librarian at heart, and talked also about my book. It's a post I'm rather pleased with, so why not check it out and start following Stephanie while you're about it? She has a very enjoyable blog that does more than say,"Oh, wow, this book was, like, GREAT!!!" It includes retro reviews of classics, which I especially enjoy, having read so many of them over the years. And now we have Project Gutenberg, we can just say,"I feel like reading this!" and download them..

Sadly, she never did review my novel, although she loved it, because we're friends now and she doesn't review mates' books, but the guest post is still there! Go have a look.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Searching For Review Blogs

After hearing from the US publicist that they weren't bothering with Wolfborn any more because they hadn't had any responses and the book has been out for a whole three months, I started looking for my own review sites. The general list the publicist sent me didn't have much of interest to me and several of the listed blogs were gone - and she wouldn't tell me which she had approached. Some sort of commercial-in-confidence. Weird!

So I used my librarian skills to find a blog directory that specialised in YA fantasy and SF. Again, I found some that no longer existed. One that looked perfect till I checked the "about" and found the blogger was a devout Christian, which meant she would probably not care for my pagan characters or the gods running around the book.  Pity, that.

I decided to stick to ones which blogged regularly and had posted recently. Not too many, alas. One that had over 1000 members hadn't posted in a year! There were others that looked great, but weren't taking new books due to an overflowing TBR pile. One lady I approached, a librarian, said the book sounded good, but she doesn't do YA, only children's. Fair enough, though no help to me.

I have about three that I will send inquiries. So far, I have had two expressions of interest from the US, my main target, one from Australia and one Aussie living in Sweden. I have some copies in my own stash I will send the two Aussies, and the others have hopefully been sent off by the US publicist. She has five more review copies, so I will keep going till I get some more.

If you're reading this from the US and you have a YA review blog and would like to read a mediaeval fantasy with werewolves, email me with your address and I'll pass it on to the publicist. If you're outside the US and are interested, contact me anyway - I have a stash at work, and I'm on holiday till the end of January, so you will have to wait a couple of weeks, but not much longer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Current Big Thing

Hullo, lovely readers. I know, I've already done The Next Big Thing, about my WIP. 
This is a blog hop, arranged by Vicki M Taylor, a member of a LinkedIn writers group I belong

The questions used are the Next Big Thing ones, but I am talking about my current book, 
which is FINALLY available in US bookshops and on Amazon as a paperback instead of just
 ebook. the idea is to promote and get some interest in your books. 
Please check out the links at the end of this post to see what other writers are doing!

What is the title of your  book?

The title of my current book is Wolfborn. It has just arrived in the US.

Where did the idea come from for the book

It came from a mediaeval romance by Marie De France, the Lai Le Bisclavret, (Werewolf). 
I have used the story's outline but set it in my own world. 

What genre does your book fall under

It's YA fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

In the Wolfborn movie, I would have Sean Bean or Viggo Mortensen as my 
werewolf knight, Sire Geraint, who is betrayed and stuck in wolf skin. 
The young hero, Etienne, his loyal page, could be played by Jamie Bell 
if he was a few years younger. :-) I am still casting the other roles.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book

Teenage boy and friends race against time to save his master, a werewolf knight 
who has been betrayed and stuck in wolfskin, before he becomes a wolf forever!

Was your book self-published or represented by an agency? 

Neither. I was very lucky with this one; I was doing an interview about another book 
in a magazine when a publisher who needed a full manuscript in a hurry read the interview
 and emailed me to ask if she could have a look at the MS. She bought it two days later.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
This one was written and rewritten. The first draft was actually written very quickly
 because the story poured out of me. Then I rewrote ... and rewrote. 
And then it was edited and edited again...

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

I can't recall ever reading anything quite like it, but I am a big fan of Sophie Masson, 
Juliet Marillier and Margo Lanagan, all of whom write novels with fairy tale backgrounds. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

I was reading the mediaeval romance mentioned above, in a collection called 
The Breton Lais. It was about a werewolf knight whose wife betrays him when 
she finds out his secret, making sure he stays a wolf. I thought it fascinating. 
These days we're used to the werewolf, vampire or whatever as the good guy
 in YA paranormal romance, but in the Middle Ages they were evil creatures  linked 
to Satan.Yet here was this story written in the twelfth century in which the werewolf
 was the good guy and probably born that way. The story leapt out at me yelling,
Novel! It's told from the viewpoint of a character I created myself, a teenage boy
 serving in his castle and learning what he needs to know for his own 
knighthood. I added a couple of romances and some characters not in the original. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Fairies! (Or Faeries) Villains! Love! Adventure! Heroism! The Wild Hunt! 
And a big, soppy dog.

And here are some more posts on this subject by other fabulous writers - why not visit them 

And Deborah Teramis Christian:

* * *

Yasmyn and Kaitlyn Interview Marianne de Pierres

Marianne De Pierres

Some time ago, I reviewed Burn Bright on this web site. Here's a link to it:
If you haven't read this series, hopefully the review and this interview will tempt you to give it a go. 
Retra, who becomes Naif, lives in the Puritanical community of Grave, from which she escapes to find her brother, who has gone to the island of ever-night, Ixion, where teenagers party all night and hardly sleep at all. The only problem is - what happens when you're too old? 
In the tradition of Great Raven author interviews, I would like to welcome my guest bloggers, Yasmyn and Kaitlyn, members of my book club, who requested to interview the wonderful Marianne De Pierres, whose book Burn Bright has been on our Literature Circles lists for two years now. They told me they would love to go to Ixion because of the lively club scene! I'm not sure if this is what Marianne intended, but I can see the appeal to teens. Away you go, ladies!

Y/K: Hi, our names are Yasmyn and Kaitlyn and for the last couple of weeks we have been reading Burn Bright. We are very intrigued by your book and we would love if you could answer a few questions.
MDP: Hi Yasmyn and Kaitlyn  - thanks for interviewing me! Best wishes Marianne

Y/K:What inspired you to write this book?
MDP: It was a combination of a number of interests. I was fascinated by the concept of humans not needing to sleep, and I love Gothic architecture - to add to that, I had been reading about the lifestyles of nocturnal animals. Suddenly this mysterious world sprang into my mind. The more I thought about it, the more compelling it became

Y/K: What are all the names of the badges and what do they look like?
MDP: If you go to this page on the website you can see the gang badges and what the look like: 

Y/K: What are your 2 favourite Ixion names? Ours personally are Naif and Suki.
MDP: Suki is definitely one of my favourites, but I must admit I love Lenoir. It sounds so good when you say it!

Y/K: What was Brand looking for or doing when she attacked Krista-Belle and Retra/Naif?
MDP: Brand had developed an attraction for the Young Ones (which was forbidden!). While she fancied Krista-Belle, it was also about spiting Lenoir and showing her followers she didn’t care for his rules

Y/K: What do the Night Creatures look like?
MDP: You know they are quite hard to describe – they are very primitive. Something like this: 

Y/K: Why did you choose Latin as a 2nd language?
I’m not quite sure actually. It seemed to fit with the Gothic feel of the novel. Also, Yunyu tends to play with language in her music. I knew she’d have fun with Latin. **SB: Yunyu is a musician who composed a song, Angel Arias, which is mentioned in the book, You can actually buy it on marianne's web site!**

Y/K: Where did you get your inspiration for the title?
MDP: Burn Bright was easy – it was in my mind from the start. Angel Arias was picked out by my editor because of the song in the story. And then we threw around ideas for Shine Light until we agreed on one.
Y/K: Why was Modai so affected by Leyste’s death?
MDP: Like any species, they have a capacity to show preference and develop intimacy towards others of their kind. Leyste was once his brother.
Y/K: What are some of the things we can look forward to in the next book, Angel Arias?
MDP: Angel Arias reveals a lot about Grave and Naif’s life there. It has the answers to many of the questions Burn Bright poses – but it also throws up new questions which are answered in Shine Light

Thanks very much for the great interview, Marianne! To anyone who hasn't read this series, what are you waiting for?