Meet the Author: Carmel Bird

Carmel’s top tip for aspiring authors: Take the whole thing very seriously – it’s a vocation or a job – it isn’t a hobby. It’s also a gift and a privilege.

Winner of the Patrick White Literary Award, and three times
short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, Carmel Bird is the
author of eleven novels and eight collections of short fiction.
Carmel grew up in Tasmania, and she has an international
reputation as a storyteller, essayist, editor and teacher.

Why do you write? Having the freedom to write is a great gift. (This next bit will sound pretentious). I feel it is a vocation, something I do that enables me to explore the meaning of life on earth through the medium of words. I always rejoice that I live in a country and at a time when it is possible to pursue a life as a writer.

 What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I suppose I’d have to be dead.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I had to develop confidence and self-belief. Once you have those, you are on your way.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I selected the designer, the wonderful Sandy Cull, and she and Transit Lounge were with me all the way in the design of the text and the cover and the whole package. The result is a sheer delight to me.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The pleasure I derive from shaping words, images, ideas into narrative.

—the worst? Never having enough time to do all the research I want to do, and never having enough time to write all the things I want to write.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My editor Meredith Rose told me I needed another story to complete one of my collections. I said I didn’t have one. She said: ‘You’re a writer. Write one.’

How important is social media to you as an author? I am not sure how effective it is in promoting fiction, but I enjoy using it (mainly Facebook) and not to use it is possibly risking some form of obscurity.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have never experienced writer’s block, but I have had it reported to me by students of writing. There is a simple exercise I have given them – and I must say it never fails – they dedicate fifteen minutes to this exercise: ‘Write down the word ‘fear’ and just keep writing freely. Write or type as quickly as you can without thinking.’ What happens is that at the end of the fifteen minutes they seem to have found their way. I know it sounds too easy.

How do you deal with rejection? In all areas of life rejection is a challenge that has to be dealt with. Writing is no different. When a story of mine is rejected I send it somewhere else. I won’t give up.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Sharp, serious, and a bit amusing.

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? Well, today it would be Julian Barnes because I have just read his latest book ‘The Man in the Red Coat’. And I always love his writing. He could tell me anything about anything and I would love to hear it.

BOOK BYTE

Field of Poppies

Carmel Bird

Keen to escape the pressures of city life, Marsali Swift and
her husband William are drawn to Listowel, a glorious historic
mansion in the seemingly tranquil small town of Muckleton.
There is time to read, garden, decorate, play chess and
befriend the locals.
Yet one night Listowel is robbed, and soon after a neighbour is
murdered. The violent history of the couple’s adopted Goldfields
town is revealed, and plans for a new goldmine emerge.
Subtle and sinister details unnerve: the novels that are studied
at book club echo disappearances and colonial transgressions,
a treasured copy of Monet ‘s Field of Poppies recalls loves and
dreams but also times of war.
Atmospheric and beguiling, this is a novel that seduces
the reader with mysteries and beauties but also speaks of
something much larger. The planet is in trouble, but is the
human race up to the challenge? Are Marsali and William
walking blindfold into a hostile world?

The book is available here and from leading booksellers.

 

 

 

Meet the Author: John Kinsella

John’s top tip for writers: Never give in.

John Kinsella is the author of more than 30 books. His many awards include the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Poetry. His most recent works include the poetry volumes Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016) and Open Door (UWAP, 2018). Story collections include Crow’s Breath (Transit Lounge 2015) and Old Growth (Transit Lounge, 2017). Recent novels are Lucida Intervalla (UWAP, 2018) and Hollow Earth (Transit Lounge, 2019). He often works in collaboration with other poets, artists, musicians, and activists. He is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University, Western Australia.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because it’s how I best communicate and because I feel writing can offer alternative directions for thinking and behaving.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Unimaginable. But I would still be trying to stop forests being destroyed and working towards justice and rights issues. If I didn’t write, I’d still be a reader. Reading is more important to me than writing. Reading and trying to stop the damage in whichever non-violent way I can.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Early on, probably my own disruptive and turbulent behaviours.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the covers? I am always involved in the making of my books. Cover designs are usually the choice of the publisher, but I get some input and in the end it’s always a collaborative effort, even if it’s a matter of choosing which version from the array the designer has come up with. In this case, one of my brother’s artworks was used. Many of my covers have been designed around his unusual and indelible art.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? That it’s an ongoing process — that my work in one way or another, even across genres, is interconnected, to my mind at least!

—the worst? I like proofs because I don’t like errors — or if there are ‘errors’, I want them to be intentional and to know what they’re about… but my eyes get strained by the time the third pass proofs are signed off on! So proofs are a conundrum!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start sober. I’ve been sober for almost a quarter of a century now since giving stuff up, but I wish I’d been sober from the beginning of my writing life.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Oh, nothing really — one finds one’s own way, whatever that is.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Never give in.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Never give in.

How important is social media to you as an author? Not at all — I think it’s a delusion.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I switch from genre to genre to avoid it. If I can’t write, I walk or (continue to) work to save the environment (which I also do when I can write). There’s always too much to do — no time to worry about those kinds of blockages!

How do you deal with rejection? It’s part of a writing life. I accept it and move on and try again. If I believe in a piece of work, I believe in it no matter what. I like critical input, but I also know myself as a writer, I think. Either way, I don’t give up on something, I keep working at it.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Strange, specific, activist.

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? A technical poetry discussion with John Milton would be interesting, though we’d run into problems with his tacit and less than tacit approval of violent acts of correction. Novelist? Probably Carson McCullers… an hour with her would be intense. Her writing life was complex… I am not sure what I’d want to be told about it other than what she’d hope to have written if she’d had a longer life. Maybe she wouldn’t have known.

BOOK BYTE

Hollow Earth

John Kinsella

Fascinated by caves and digging holes since childhood,
Manfred discovers a path through to another realm via a
Neolithic copper mine at Mount Gabriel in Schull, Ireland.
The world of Hollow Earth, while no Utopia, is a sophisticated
civilisation. Its genderless inhabitants are respectful of
their environment, religious and cultural differences are
accommodated without engendering hate or suspicion, and
grain not missile silos are built. Yet Ari and Zest accompany
Manfred back to the surface world. ‘Come with me and see
my world.’
So begins an extraordinary adventure in which the three
wander the Earth like Virgil’s Aeneas, Ari and Zest seeking
re-entry to their own world. The Hollow Earthers are shocked
at the cruelty and lies of the surface world, the dieback
spreading through the forests. Yet they are seduced by the
world’s temptations.
Kinsella’s parable draws on a rich tradition of Hollow Earth
literature and science fiction including Bradshaw’s The
Goddess of Atvatabar (1892). With strange beauty, its alluring
trajectory vividly captures our 21st century world in crisis.
Like Manfred we are often blindly complicit in the earth’s
downfall. ‘Happiness is under our feet.’ sings the narrator in
this passionate, layered and compelling new novel.

The book is available here.

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Sallie Muirden

Sally’s top tip for aspiring authors: If you haven’t already, do a creative writing course at a reputable institution. It isn’t just what you learn from a writing teacher. You will receive feedback from your peers in the workshopping setting and you will make writing buddies that will support you on your journey.

 

 

Sallie Muirden is a writer who lives in Melbourne. Her first novel, Revelations of a Spanish Infanta, won the 1996 HarperCollins Fiction Prize. Her second novel, We Too Shall Be Mothers, was published in 2001. Her collection of poetry, The Fable of Arachne, was published in 2009. Her third novel, A Woman of Seville, was published in 2009. And her new novel Wedding Puzzle is published this month. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and she taught creative writing for a long time. She has also worked for many years as a teacher of English language to migrants. She grew up in East Malvern and South Yarra but she has lived in the suburb of Northcote for more than 28 years. She loves surf beaches, zumba, swimming, reading, meditation, cats and watching Australian rules footy.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? When I started writing at 19 and 20 it was to record my thoughts and understand my feelings in a diary. Nowadays writing is a habit and I almost exclusively write for pleasure and to relieve tension. I always feel much better after a good writing session. It is a mental exercise in make-believe, but it is better than daydreaming because you make an art object with your thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would probably be teaching English to migrants, as this has been my main professional occupation over recent years.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? In the early days it was finding my own voice and writing fiction that didn’t sound like Virginia Woolf. With my last three novels it has been the painful realisation that it is going to take many drafts before a manuscript wins the admiration of publishers.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I have been involved all the way with Transit Lounge, since I first signed the contract. I have been allowed to keep the novel I wanted. With the cover a designer created a number of possibilities and fortunately the publisher and I both liked the same cover the most.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect is when I feel I am breaking new ground in early drafts. Redrafting is also deeply satisfying when I see my novel becoming a cohesive whole.

—the worst? The humiliation of a nasty personal review in a major newspaper can ruin your fragile confidence and stop you taking creative risks.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would spend more time writing and less time teaching and not worry about money as much because in the end the writing is invaluable and I can live on a small income and still be okay.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t listen to the stories of authors who write a novel in six months. It can work for some but for most writers it is a long and painstaking endeavour. Taking time can only improve your novel and bring it closer to perfection and/or publication.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Listen to your editors.

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s absolutely crucial to boost interest and tell people about your work. However, I really admire writers who can get along without it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’d call it ‘writer’s time out’ rather than ‘writer’s block’. I have gone for long periods when I’m not writing because I am prioritising other things such as employment. I end the ‘writer’s time out’ by quitting work and getting up very early and sitting at my desk. When I have the house to myself and my mind is brimming with energy the writing starts to flow again.

How do you deal with rejection? I just remind myself how many attempts it took J K Rowling to get published the first time with Harry Potter.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Musical, intelligent, nostalgic.

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’d like to spend time with Margaret Drabble because I met her at a book launch once and she seemed a lovely person. I’d like her to tell me how she came to write her first three amazing novels. I’d like the honest truth about her own life at that time.

BOOK BYTE

Wedding Puzzle

Sallie Muirden

 

 

On the morning of her wedding, 24-year-old Beth Shaw drives
down the peninsula to the Portsea Hotel. She is uneasy and
confused because she has just learnt something devastating about
her fiancé, Jordan, that completely changes her view of him.
As Beth’s old schoolmates and her relatives arrive for the big day
at the bayside idyll, Beth contemplates her childhood in suburbia.
She worshipped the school relay runners, one of whom was Jordan’s
high school sweetheart. Painful memories of earlier disloyalties
and betrayals resurface. Her dreams and wedding threaten to spin
out of control. Will the truth ever be known? And must she make a
fateful decision about more than just her wedding arrangements?
Award-winning author Sallie Muirden deftly evokes the
contradictions of human behaviour, and growing up in the ’70s
and ’80s. With its Austenesque feel, Wedding Puzzle is an astute,
entertaining, and often tense comedy of manners, that considers
our choice of partner and the decision to marry as the key
moment in our lives.

The book is available here.

 

 

Meet the Author: Sofia Goodsoul

SOFIA’S TOP TIP FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS:  Put your trust into a pen and paper. You will never know when you are ready to write your ‘Harry Potter,’ unless you write it.

sof1Sofia Goodsoul is an author, kindergarten teacher, publisher and mother. Her poetry writing has grown from a hobby into a great passion. Now she can’t live a day without writing poems, riddles and stories for young children. The children give themes and inspiration for her books. Nian the Lunar Dragon is Sofia’s  second rhyming picture book.  She is now working with Marina Kite on her third rhyming narrative Eazy Peazy Lemon Squeezy. Sofia lives in Melbourne with her family and pets. She loves going to Zumba classes and taking long walks with her husband and Mack the family dog.  All her spare time Sofia dedicates to her writing and publishing career. You can find out more about Sofia and her books by visiting her website http://www.sofiagoodsoul.com.au/ 

She is also on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/sofiagoodsoul

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Firstly, I treat my writing as a kind of meditation. We all try to relax our minds by applying different techniques. Some people buy colouring books, others listen to music… I write. I found that writing takes the stress away and totally occupies my mind.

Secondly, as a teacher, I see that some social and behavioral issues have to be discussed with children, but can’t find appropriate literature. My first picture book Frog Todd was written about name calling and taunting.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I have been working as an emergency kindergarten teacher for over a decade. Being an active teacher gives me the opportunity to communicate with children, who provide themes and inspiration for my books.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Believing that I am worth publishing, I guess.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? I love visiting schools and kindergartens with my book presentations. I always use lots of props and involve children in story telling. It is the most exciting part of my writing life.

—the worst? I am not good at handling critiques, even if they are constructive.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would connect to like-minded authors earlier.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Once you start writing, it will take over you completely. Now I can’t live a day without writing poems, riddles and stories for young children.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A long time ago, one of my teachers expressed concern about my style of writing and suggested that I needed to be briefer and more concise. All my stories are not longer than 500 words:-)

BOOK BYTE

9780994324214.jpgNIAN, THE LUNAR DRAGON is an entertaining, beautifully illustrated rhyming narrative for young readers about the legend behind the traditional Chinese celebration of the lunar new year. According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year commences with the new moon (Latin: luna) at the beginning of spring.

Long ago, Nian the dragon lived in the deep ocean to the east of China. Nian was a strong and ferocious dragon, which no creature could defeat. Once a year, Nian climbed ashore to hunt for cattle and human prey. The people of the nearby villages and towns lived in terror, and each New Year’s Eve they had to leave their homes to save themselves. One day, a monk came to the village. He knew a well-kept secret about how to scare Nian away and free the Chinese people from the danger and their fear.

The book is available from http://www.sofiagoodsoul.com.au/shop

and http://www.wheelersbooks.com.au/books/9780994324221-nian-the-lunar-dragon/

and http://www.amazon.com/Sofia-Goodsoul/e/B01824L8YW