Meet the Author: Jan Golembiewski

Jan’s top tip for aspiring authors: I really believe in the power of story. If you don’t have a good yarn, even the prettiest of prose has nothing to say. And if you don’t have a good story, then turn away from your keyboard and head for the door. Don’t bring anything with you other than what you’ve already got. And go forth to elsewhere and come back with a story. When I left Australia, I had very little to offer life. I chose the Sahara and returned with Magic.

Jan Golembiewski grew up in suburban Canberra and in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. He has a PhD in psychological aspects of architecture, and he runs his own architectural practice specialising in psychological aspects of design. Jan lives in Sydney with his wife, the novelist Bem Le Hunte and their children (Taliesin,
Rishi and Kashi) and a revolving collection of friends.


Why do you write? The brain is a story telling machine. It looks into the chaos of existence to extract meaning. Communication is as basic as life itself (recent research suggests that even plants do it). But one thing that separates humans from animals, is that we can write and through writing, our stories can benefit humanity as far as it stretches, and as long as readers will be here.

Until now, most of my writing has been scientific and academic – and the benefits of that kind of writing are limited to the topic at hand (let’s say approaches to design to protect against the onset of dementia, useful – but not a pool-side page-turner). Magic is different. It’s my own memoir, and I wrote it to inspire people to reach out beyond the muck of everyday life and to find the swirling lava of pure magic beyond.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I run an architecture firm, specialising in design for bespoke psychological impacts and I spend far more time doing that than writing books. It sounds like a completely different focus, but in its essence, I’m doing the same thing in my day job, only using a different language: in place of words and sentences, I use the language of design to shape people’s worlds and experiences. And like with my words, the narratives I create are for the psychological benefit of those that experience the creation afterwards.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I had some surprises in my publishing journey. Firstly, it took ages, but I wasn’t hit by a string of rejections. If anyone read my manuscript (and bothered to get back) it was to say ‘yes’. One big publisher did just that, only to return a week later with bad news from the marketing department who couldn’t find a sufficient budget to bring a book like Magic to market. On another occasion, I had to turn down a publisher because we disagreed about a vision for the book.

The one thing I thought I’d hate (and thus put off for 20 years) was the editing. But once I started, I realised that it’s a joy and privilege to make the time to read through your manuscript, slashing and re-writing – turning a jungle into a manicured garden. It must’ve started overweight. I slashed 50,000 words – and far more, if I were to count the bits I re-wrote.

So in short, the toughest obstacles were phantasms – the ghosts of other people’s difficulties that somehow haunted me.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I submitted my manuscript with a cover I designed myself. But in truth I wasn’t happy with it. I did a couple of others, but somehow they were all wrong. And then the publisher’s designer sent me his first idea. It was meant to be coloured flames but looked like someone had vomited on a notebook. I rejected it. The publisher wasn’t displeased. I don’t think he’s was impressed either.  The next cover was lifeless. So I sent a brief to the designer detailing the visual themes I wanted to see.  Just as I was thinking I’d have to insist on one of my own covers, the designer presented a third  – and I loved it. I have no doubt it is better than any I could have done myself. It takes a village…

 What’s the best aspect of your writing life? This question is like being asked, “what’s the best bit of the ride?” when you’re still on the roller-coaster. So far it’s been sharing my story with my friends, students and family and the general public. But I just don’t know. The ride hasn’t reached the loop de loop where the fixed camera takes the shot I’ll no doubt see in the gift store afterwards. You never know, I might hate that the world at large knows all my boyhood secrets. I might balk at the reviews.

—the worst? So far the hardest thing has been in paring the story to the bone. While editing has been fun, I’ve suffered when I’ve had to  slash out countries, people and experiences because they don’t add to the overall narrative or because publicity about what happened may have compromised real people in some way. Magic is a true story, and so it has to tell other people’s stories, at least in part. And I feel genuinely sorry for the characters who deserve to be represented in the book, but didn’t ‘fit’.

 What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d embrace the editing phase sooner and with less caution. I’d stop listening to the nay-sayers who complain how hard it is to get published. I think the stories we tell ourselves need as much pruning and re-writing as those we prepare for publishing. Tell yourself a story you want to hear. There, that’s your first lesson in magic!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told that I’d get a killer advance. Sadly it didn’t happen. Instead, I chose to publish with an independent who offered something more important, but less glamorous – passion and commitment.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Good advice is a major theme of my book: I was told to pare back my belongings. Good advice – advice I took so much to heart, that in the end I had nothing more to protect me from the harsh Sahara sun than a loincloth and string bag containing my vaccination certificate, some quinine pills, a hand-traced map of northern Nigeria, an empty water bottle and some tarot cards. It was good advice. It made for a good story, and later for a good edit!

How important is social media to you as an author? I hope it’s not important. When the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit, I was in the first wave of people to quit Facebook. Bye bye to all my ‘friends’, au-revoir to my connected life. For me, integrity is everything. I could no longer believe in Facebook, and I wasn’t going to support them with my patronage.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? What is writer’s block? Is it what happens when you’ve got nothing to say? If so, go and explore. The world is a fascinating, contradictory and extraordinary place once the humdrum of normalcy slips away. Take some risks in your life and in your writing.

I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. But I do teach creativity, and one of the lessons I share is to leave your editor persona turned off until there’s something substantial to edit. Having a strong critic on your shoulder won’t assist the creative and generative impulse – it’ll turn your words (however presentable) a bit anaemic.

How do you deal with rejection? As I say, rejection isn’t the narrative I write for myself. But I understand it can happen, in which case, be rational: there are reasons that a publisher might need to reject a manuscript, even if it’s a heart-rending work of unadulterated genius. It might be a boring reason – a marketing budget overrun for example. Would you prefer a publisher to offer you a half-arsed deal, with a shit cover and without the resources your book needs to make it in the market?

There’s also always the possibility that your work isn’t the genius you thought it was. Once it’s written, it’s essential to read it through again and again, and if you can’t muster a worthy critic when one’s needed, get a professional editor to look at it. What do they say? If it’s junk, do you really want to put your name to it?

In three words, how would you describe your writing? An amazing story.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I live in the heart of a wonderful literary scene, and I’m married to Bem Le Hunte, one of the greatest writers I’ve ever read. My friends also include a bunch of other wonderful writers – Louise Katz, Libby Hathorn, John Zubrzycki, Sofie Laguna, Dominic Smith and so many others, and frankly I’d probably prefer to do something fun with any of them, than be stuck with a total stranger. But the possibility of drawing someone from the dead using some time-travel magic (just to ask a stupid question) wouldn’t lead me to literature, but to music. I’d probably end up with Bob Marley or Leonard Cohen to ask about how they got here (to Sydney in 2018) and how was the journey!



Jan Golembiewski

This is a true story … A young man heads off on a journey to find out if magic still exists in the world, to know its wonder, and to see if it might save him when his own life is unexpectedly at stake. In the Caribbean, he meets a Rastafarian Don Juan who teaches him about the ‘natural mystic’. Fate propels his travels through
the Americas and Europe to locate the source of this knowledge in Mother Africa, where his own emerging mastery of mysticism is tested by the Sahara Desert. He is imprisoned in Nigeria, and tortured, and then sold as a slave.

Magic is an incredible journey, both physical and spiritual, that reverberates with the uniqueness of lived adventure and of a passionate heart and vision. Upon closing the last page of this book, we ache for the innocence to lose our way and travel deeper, to rediscover the savage but delicious nature of the
miraculous in our own lives.

The book is available here.

Meet the Author: Cameron Macintosh

My guest this week is celebrating the release of a new adventure in his popular future detective series for young readers.

Cameron Macintosh was born in Melbourne and has been trying very hard to grow up there ever since. He studied Psychology and Italian at Melbourne University, and Professional Writing at RMIT. Since then, he has written more than 80 books for primary and early secondary students. He has also honed hundreds of books for teachers and students in his other life as an editor in the educational publishing sector. In the few minutes per week that he isn’t wrestling with words on the laptop, he loves playing the guitar, reading music biographies and drawing angry-looking owls.

To find out more, visit Cameron’s website:


Why do you write? It’s just something I feel compelled to do. I think a lot of it comes from being quite introverted – I’m generally a person of few words, outwardly, so writing is how I make my noise.

What do you think you would be doing now if you hadn’t become involved in the world of books and writing? I think I probably would’ve done an art or music therapy course, and gotten into that line of work. I still like the idea of doing something like that in the future, using creative writing as the medium.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think my own rush to get published actually hindered the journey. I sent a lot of things off before they were ready, and then took it pretty hard when they were rejected. I’m taking things more slowly these days, and it’s definitely proving less painful!

I love the idea of a future detective and his robo- dog. What sparked your idea for the Max series? The first spark of the idea came about a few years back on a visit to Pompeii, and the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. I was especially fascinated by domestic items from the Pompeii excavations, particularly the most mundane things like hair combs and cutlery. I found myself wondering if future people will find our domestic items so interesting and mysterious. From that question came the idea to invent a character in the distant future who actually does find our present era fascinating, and who makes a living from investigating long-forgotten everyday items that would be familiar to a present-day reader. Max Booth soon popped into my head to apply for the job!

How involved have you been in the development of the series? Do you suggest the ideas for new titles to your publisher or is a brainstorming session? How closely do you work with your illustrator? So far it’s been quite simple – I conceptualise and write up the stories, and hope the publishers like them (so far so good!). I’d envisioned Max being a series from the get-go, so I was very excited that Big Sky were open to the idea of further adventures.

As far as the illustrations go, I write the illustration briefs as I write the manuscripts, and our illustrator, Dave Atze, interprets them beautifully. I get to see Dave’s rough sketches and comment on them, but he really understands the characters and the feel of the stories, so it’s been an incredibly smooth process with the three books we’ve released so far.

Do you have any detective buddies who give you clues about how they solve crimes? Sadly not, but if you know anyone, feel free to give me their email!

How does your experience as an editor influence your own writing? Although I never trust my editorial eye when it comes to my own writing, I do think my editorial background has helped me write more concisely, and to be aware of my own convolutions. Having worked in-house, it’s also given me an appreciation of how incredibly busy publishing people are, and how passionate they are about what they do. I implore everyone out there to be very nice to them!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The freedom to work strange hours is something I’ll never take for granted. Being a total night owl, this suits me extremely well.

—the worst? Constantly facing your own demons and insecurities as part of your job is arguably a strange way to make a living… but then again I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not much. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way, and experienced so many knockbacks, but they’ve all paved the pathway to the opportunities I enjoy now, and hopefully more in the future. As I mentioned earlier, I think I’d probably take the journey a bit slower, and pay more attention to who’s publishing what in the genres I’m interested in.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? You might possibly require a secondary source of income! (That aside, go for it – it really is the best job on earth.)

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My teachers at RMIT constantly encouraged us to keep actively seeking out constructive criticism, particularly by joining a writing group. They were so right about this. I’d be in all sorts of bother without my trusty writing posse.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Don’t take rejection personally – if you’re struggling to find a publisher for your book, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. There are so many factors at play in publishing decisions – if you really believe in your work, keep polishing it and sending it out. You never know when it will land on the right desk at the right time.

How important is social media to you as an author? I haven’t needed to use it to market my educational writing, but now that Max has taken flight I’m working to build up that side of things. It’s a very useful promotional adjunct, and I’ve already found it a great way to connect with kindred spirits in the writing community.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t know if I’d call it writer’s block, but there are definitely times when ideas just aren’t there when I need them. I usually find physical exercise helps clear the mental fog. If that fails, I often make a spiderweb-style mind map, writing the main problem I’m facing in the middle, and branching out with any possible solutions, however ridiculous they seem. It’s amazing how often seemingly disparate ideas link up to get me back on track.

How do you deal with rejection? I’ve experienced enough that it should be water off a duck’s back by now, but it’s never enjoyable. I do allow myself a few days of sulking! I think it’s reasonable enough to feel deflated for a while, especially if you’ve put a lot of heart and sweat into a story and other people aren’t seeing its potential. But I try to get back on the bike pretty quickly.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Clear, fun, unpretentious (I hope!)

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? He isn’t a children’s author by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have to be Dante. I was lucky enough to study his work at uni, with the guidance of some incredible lecturers who were able to draw out its astonishing levels of meaning and symbolism. It was extremely humbling, to say the least, and I’d love to know how he structured his work days (200 years before coffee made its way to Italy!).


Max Booth Future Sleuth

Stamp Safari

Written by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze


A tiny piece of paper from the year 2019 might not sound very interesting to most people. But Max and Oscar – Bluggsville’s sharpest sleuths – aren’t most people! Max has a hunch that this ancient patch of paper might be valuable, and extremely rare.

Max is right – this isn’t just any old piece of paper. It’s a strange, sticky thing called a postage stamp, and it’s more than 400 years old! It’s an exciting discovery, but before long, it leads Max and Oscar into some very sticky situations…

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Check out Cameron’s blog tour at the following sites:

Monday Nov 12 – Wednesday Nov 21

Monday Nov 12

Wednesday Nov 14

Thursday Nov 15

Monday Nov 19

Tuesday Nov 20

Wednesday Nov 21

For details about Books on Tour visit

Meet the Author: Rachel Nightingale

What do rainbow cupcakes have to do with a writer’s life? Today’s guest author Rachel Nightingale reveals this and more as part of the book tour to celebrate the release of the second book in her YA fantasy series.

Rachel was a highly imaginative child who used to pretend she was a gypsy wandering the woods on her way home from school. Once she realised creating stories gave her magical powers she decided to become a writer. Some years, and many diversions later, she is the author of Harlequin’s Riddle, published by Odyssey Books, and also, rather unexpectedly, an award winning playwright.

She is currently writing the final book of the Tales of Tarya trilogy – which by complete coincidence is about the power of creativity to shape the world – and desperately trying to ignore all the other stories clamouring for her attention. Rachel lives in regional Victoria with a very bossy cat, her family, and the cutest dog in the world.

For more information about Rachel, go to


Why do you write?  Two reasons – one is because I’m a better, saner, nicer person when I do. The second is because if I didn’t get the stories and ideas that bounce around inside my head onto the page, I’d probably explode.

How has your theatre experience influenced your writing? There are aspects of performing that you have to experience to understand – the energy buzz that comes from the audience when they love what you are doing, the anticipation when you’re about to step onstage at the beginning of a show, and the sheer, utter panic of improvising and knowing you could fall flat on your face at any moment. They’re emotional, physical, visceral experiences and I hope I’ve captured some of that in my books. Plus if I hadn’t personally experienced the magic of the theatre I don’t think I would have even had the idea to write about a world where that magic is actually real.

Your series is a fantasy, which draws on your imagination, however you are also an experienced editor. This skill is obviously an asset to a writer – does it have a downside, for example when you are working on the first draft? That’s a really great question. I think it did when I first started editing professionally, because it was really hard to turn my analytical brain off, which meant my creative brain didn’t get a look in. Now I think I’ve worked out how to balance the two so I can let the creativity flow but at the same time I’m conscious of how I’m using language as I put it on the page. It means I have to do less reworking later, which is great.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Children. I wrote Harlequin’s Riddle around the same time my son was born, and when it was published last year he was starting Year 11. The thing is, children take a lot of time, and so do books. No first draft is ever going to be perfect, and if you send a book off to a publisher before you’ve spent the time to craft it into the best book you can make it, you’re not doing yourself any favours. But finding that time when you’ve got young kids is pretty tough. So getting the books to publishable standard took a long time.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had come across Nadia Turner’s artwork in a shop near where I lived. Beautiful prints of gypsy wagons and animals with top hats – they were stories in themselves. I thought her artwork would be perfect for my covers. I’d been rejected by the ‘big five’ Australian publishers and was considering self-publishing, so I approached Nadia, gave her a copy of Harlequin’s Riddle and luckily she also thought my stories and her art were a perfect match. Then I got offered a publishing contract by Odyssey Books. It’s not usual for the author to organise the cover, so I had to go to my publisher with Nadia’s artwork and go ‘um… I commissioned this a while back, what do you think?’ Fortunately my publisher loved it (of course, because Nadia’s work is AMAZING!). I’ve been lucky enough to get to keep the artwork from both covers and I can’t, can’t wait to see the cover for book three!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I write fantasy I figure rainbow cupcakes are an important part of the image, so once a fortnight I go to my local café and have a hot chocolate and rainbow cupcake whilst working on book three. Then I Instagram it, which hopefully makes all those cupcakes a tax deduction. It doesn’t get better than that! Mind you, I also LOVE getting to talk to people who love my book, because writing is a very isolated job.

—the worst? Writing is a very isolated job! I actually enjoy that to an extent because I’m very introverted, but the problem is it leaves me with my own thoughts a lot, and the anxiety can creep in.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d do more classes and read more books on the craft of writing. When I was starting out I had the stupid idea that reading books on how to write would stop me finding my own voice. But there are so many different facets to writing, from grammar and sentence construction to point of view, pace, structure… it’s never ending. I’ve developed an understanding of those, and hopefully some skill with them, over many years of writing and editing. But I could have saved a lot of time and got rid of some of my bad habits earlier if I’d trusted the expertise of others rather than stumbling around figuring out how to do it myself.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tough one because I decided to become an author at the age of eight, so it would need to be the sort of advice an eight-year-old would understand. Maybe ‘make sure you always put money aside to feed your stationery obsession’?

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to craft good writing. It takes time to find a publisher. It takes time to get known once you actually have a book out there. It’s so easy to get discouraged.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Writing is a craft. No matter how talented you are, you need to be willing to keep working at it. I edited a book a while back which had chapters from different authors. One of them had been around a long time and was very esteemed. I pointed out to him that he overused a certain word throughout the chapter, and in all his years of writing no one had every pointed that out before – and he realised he overused it everywhere. We all have personal quirks we are blind to and things we can improve, even when we’ve been writing for a long time.

How important is social media to you as an author? We’re told all the time that it’s important, so there’s this sense that you have to do it. I wrote a whole blog post on why that’s really hard for me as an introvert. My publisher’s advice, which I think is great, is to do what you are comfortable doing. For me that’s mainly blogging and Instagram. It can take up so much time, and I need that time to write!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have done. What worked for me to overcome it was that I went back and reminded myself of why I wanted to write. I did this by re-reading some of the books I’d loved as a child and teenager. It helped me get back in touch with the magic of story telling.

How do you deal with rejection? Chocolate, wine, and cuddles with my puppy dog, Snowy.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Magical, imaginative, visual.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Zelda Fitzgerald! I think it’s one of the greatest injustices of the world that she’s not given the proper credit for her contributions to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. He virtually transcribed parts of her diary for Tender is the Night. Her writing is original, lyrical, poignant and so, so beautiful and I feel terribly sad that she lived in an era where she didn’t get to express herself creatively. I don’t know if she would be a great source of advice, but she would be a fascinating person to talk to.


Columbine’s Tale is the second book in a Young Adult fantasy trilogy, The Tales of Tarya, about the gift of creativity and where it can take you.

For three hundred years the traveling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?

Tragedy and an ancient mystery plunge Mina ever deeper into the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, known only to a select few artists, a place where dreams are transformed into reality. In Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers somehow attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, pursued, plotted against, beset by divided loyalties between the travelers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.

 Check out Rachel’s visit to the following blogs as park of her Book Tour.

Monday Oct 22 – Sunday Nov 4

Monday Oct 22

Tuesday Oct 23

Thursday Oct 25

Friday Oct 26

Monday Oct 29

Tuesday Oct 30

Wednesday Oct 31

Thursday Nov 1

For enquiries about Books on Tour visit