Blog Tour Part Two: Interview with Author, Lynette Noni

 Hi Lynette, and welcome back to the Book Muse! Last time I interviewed you, I think Akarnae had just come out and it was my very first interview as a book reviewer, so this is very exciting to have you back.

 

 

The Whisper duology is quite a departure from the Medoran Chronicles – what inspired you to venture into a different genre and plot?

 

I wrote Whisper when I was waiting on edits for the second book in my Medoran series. I had itchy fingers, so to speak, and I was desperate to be writing something, but I knew it made little sense to start drafting the third Medoran book without first knowing what might change in the second. Instead, I began to dabble with something new. At first, I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was doing, but the voice of the main character really spoke to me (ironic, really, given that she doesn’t speak at all for the first half of the book!). All it took was the prologue — a page and a half — for me to be ensnared by “Jane Doe”, and filled with questions. Who was this girl? Why was she locked up underground in a secret government facility? Why did she consider herself a monster? And so the questions went, until I was desperate to unravel her mystery. So the simple answer to your question is that I was curious, and I needed answers.

 

 

Both Whisper and Weapon are filled with secrets – which drive the plots and ultimately, give Alyssa her drive to discover the truth after she starts to Speak. How hard is it when writing like this to hold things back until they need to be revealed?

 

In Whisper, it was quite easy, since I had no idea what those secrets were and was only uncovering them as I went along, so I held nothing back as I wrote. In Weapon, however, I knew that the plot was going to twist and turn in such ways that I needed to sit down and map it all out so that I didn’t end up with one huge mess. Seeing everything laid out visually (I use a whiteboard with different coloured markers) helped me pinpoint the moments when things needed to be revealed to the greatest effect, so it was quite “easy” (relatively speaking) to make sure things happened in the right timing.

 

 

With so many characters lying, I never knew who to trust – was this your aim for readers as well as Alyssa, and what drove this aspect of the novels?

Interestingly, it’s actually very rare that any of the characters lie outright. I’m very careful about this in my books since I have massive trust issues in real life and don’t like people who lie, so I get a bit nose-wrinkly about characters who do the same. Instead, I make it so they misdirect the truth, answering something honestly but incompletely, making the main character — in this case, Alyssa — jump to the wrong conclusions. There is a lot of this misdirection in Weapon, and you’re right that as those revelations come out, it becomes hard for Alyssa (and readers) to know who to trust. That was my intention, so I feel as if my work here is done!

 

 

It’s so exciting to read books set somewhere I’ve been like Sydney – I recognised all the sites you mentioned and loved her jaunt to Taronga Zoo which I guessed was a Vivid trip in May or June. Does Sydney have the potential for so many hidden sites like you created, do you think?

 

I think that with a little bit of imagination, any city has the potential for hidden sites. I decided on Sydney because it’s somewhat familiar to me, but also because it has iconic landmarks that people from across the globe would recognise. And for the super passionate readers, I wanted people to be able to walk the paths my characters travelled, should they so choose to go on that kind of adventure.

 

 

Going on from the last question, I can now never see Sydney the same – I’ll always be imagining hidden entrances or facilities underground. What kind of research into Sydney and its hidden histories or sites did you do, and what are some really good resources to explore?

 

I do a lot of author events in Sydney, and my publishers are based there, so I visit a number of times each year. When I do, I make sure to get out and about and see things, which in turn mean I learn things. A few specific examples:

  1. I’m friends with Australian fantasy author, Traci Harding, and when I mentioned to her that I was writing a book that has a few scenes at Taronga Zoo, she said she knew one of the senior zookeepers there. So the next time I visited Sydney, Traci met up with me and her zookeeper friend, who took us behind the scenes at the zoo and shared all kinds of interesting things. Many of those things didn’t end up in the books, but they still helped lay a map in my mind of what I later stretched creatively into fiction.
  1. While on a visit to Sydney for the Supanova convention, the guest services manager (a Sydney local) took me on a night-time tour of the harbour area, and as we were walking through The Rocks, she explained the history (and the origin of the name), which led me to research further into it, with much of that information ending up in Weapon.
  1. I met up with some Canadian friends in Sydney for a short holiday, and we did a heap of touristy things, including heading out to Quarantine Station for a ghost tour. For the sake of being careful with spoilers, all I’ll say is that a lot of that Q-Station experience (and history) worked its way into Weapon.

So basically, when I see, do, or hear things that inspire me, I go back home and do deeper research into them, but also use a lot of creative license to turn them into fictional settings/ideas.

 

When researching, what is the first thing you do – read, plan or another tactic to begin the journey?

 

Oops, I think I jumped the gun on this question and answered previously!

 

 

Both books deal with the power of words – is this an important message for you, about using your voice, and what drove it?

 

Absolutely. Words are incredibly powerful, and the can make or break a person — or the world. An encouraging word can brighten someone’s day, just as an insult can ruin it. But in Weapon, and even in Whisper, the message goes beyond the words. It’s our thoughts that have the true power. Because our thoughts give power to our words, and our words give power to our actions, so we have to be so incredibly careful about what we think, what we say, and what we do. But… that power works both ways. We all have the capability and therefore the responsibility to use our voices. So let’s use them for good!

 

Whisper and Weapon suggest that the Xanaphan and Speaker Generations was limited in Sydney. As the author and creator, do you imagine a wider world of Speakers throughout Australia or the world? And would there be other groups like Lengard, the Remnants and SCARs?

 

There were a number of different ways I could have gone about this, but for the sake of limiting the series to a duology, I had to simplify things and contain them to one place. But it’s entirely possible that the drug was tested in other countries. Indeed, Australia could have been one of the last countries to enter the drug trial, for all we know! Without having gone down that path in the series, there’s no certainty with my answer, but I like to think there are other Speaker communities out there!

 

 

When writing this duology, what was your writing process?

 

This is a terribly basic answer, but it’s also the truth: one word at a time! (The same for any book or series!)

 

 

Cami and Arryn were my favourite characters – they felt like they were the most genuine, apart from Alyssa. Was this done on purpose, or did it evolve organically, and what other characters did you feel were genuine and wanted the best for everyone?

 

All of my characters evolve organically. I never set out with labels on my characters as I write them, I just start to get to know them through their actions and dialogue and it shapes who they become. But I’m also a big fan of healthy female friendships, so it was important to me in Whisper to have someone there for Alyssa, and that helped mould Cami’s character. With Arryn, I knew there was something different about her all the way along, and I had fun uncovering that, while softening her towards Alyssa (and vice versa) as they got to know each other better, building their relationship on mutual trust and respect. As for other characters, there are plenty who were genuine, with only a few who weren’t, but given how much happens in this fast-paced duology, it was difficult to give too many characters a lot of screen time. And for the sake of spoilers, I think it’s best I don’t name names!

 

 

When you started this duology, had you finished The Medoran Chronicles, and what inspired it?

 

Oops, this is another question I jumped the gun on earlier, sorry!

 

 

Some of the surprises worked really well – are those sorts of things hard to cultivate?

 

As mentioned earlier, I was very careful in mapping out the twists and turns, especially in Weapon. That made it relatively easy to know when and how to work in the “big reveals”.

 

 

If you could Speak, what do you think you’d like to be able to do, and what would you Speak into existence?

 

I’m not entirely sure, but I guess the most obvious answer is to say I’d like to be a Creator, so that I could do anything I wanted? BUT I also quite like Cami’s healing power, so maybe that? Then again, I could still do that as a Creator… So let’s stick to my original answer!

 

If Alyssa had a favourite Disney Princess, who would it be, and would the others have favourite Disney characters as well?

 

Maybe Mulan? Who doesn’t love Mulan! And it would depend on which other characters you had in mind. Cami would likely be a huge Disney fan, and I feel like Smith would be secretly obsessed. Ward would indulge them all (while being amused); Kael would just raise an eyebrow and roll his eyes while stealing all the popcorn; Enzo would be the first to press “play” and sit right up close to the screen; Arryn would be checking to make sure they weren’t in any danger while they watched, and would be taking notes on fighting techniques (to later demonstrate with Enzo); Riley would be leaning back and enjoying being with them all; Schrödinger would be dozing in the corner… It would be quite the scene!

 

Similar to the last question: Can you sort the Remnants and the main characters from Lengard into Hogwarts houses?

 

That’s a lot of characters, so I’ll just stick with the ones I mentioned above (minus Dinger). And I feel as if a lot of them are crossover houses, so you’ll have to bear with my indecision here!

Alyssa: Ravenclaw x Gryffindor x Slytherin

Cami: Hufflepuff x Gryffindor

Ward: Gryffindor x Ravenclaw x Slytherin x Hufflepuff (SORRY!! He has elements of them all!)

Enzo: Gryffindor x Slytherin

Kael: Ravenclaw x Slytherin

Arryn: Slytherin x Hufflepuff x Gryffindor

Smith: Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw

Riley: Gryffindor x Hufflepuff x Ravenclaw

 

 

Finally, what’s next for fans? Can you tell us about any future projects?

 

Aside from The World of Throne of Glass which I’m working on with Sarah J. Maas, I have a few things in the works, but since I don’t know when this Q&A is going to be posted, I’m unsure if any announcements will have been made. So all I can say is to keep an eye on my social media accounts for very exciting news of what’s coming next!

 

Any further comments or anything I’ve missed?

 

I think you got it all! Thanks so much for having me!

 

August Round Up 2019

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I managed to read sixteen books in August, and the break down is below for each challenge and collectively in lists and tables. Several were read for review purposes, some for quiz writing purposes and others for my own reading. Some reviews are only going live in September, but others are up and ready to be read.

#Dymocks52Challenge

To date, I have read 135 books, and am up to 66 for my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and to date, have only one book bingo square to fill, with each post except the final one written and scheduled. I haven’t really added to my Popsugar Challenge this month but am still aiming to finish it by the end of the year.

I did add to my Jane Austen reading challenge with a Pride and Prejudice retelling by Fiona Palmer – I still have to add more reads to this challenge. As I am on top of all my review books at the moment, I might have time to read more for this challenge, even if I do not review each book, I read for it. I also took part in a blog tour with Corella Press – a cover reveal and an interview with illustrator, Kathleen Jennings. August also meant Love Your Bookshop Day, and my post about it is here.

In other book news, my new bookcase arrived, and my books are now sorted out nicely, and easy to find. Heading into September, I am busy with quiz writing and editing work, so it’s a good thing I have so many reviews already scheduled so I don’t have to worry about writing them.

Until next month!

Books 119-135

  1. The Battle for Perodia (The Last Firehawk #6) by Katrina Chapman
  2. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda
  3. A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison
  4. The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep by Holly Webb
  5. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis
  6. Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls by Ann M Martin
  7. The Truth About Stacey by Ann M Martin
  8. Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M Martin
  9. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
  10. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel
  11. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer
  12. Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook by Judy Revenson
  13. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  14. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey
  15. The Loneliest Kitten by Holly Webb
  16. The Land of Long-Lost Friends by Alexander McCall-Smith
  17. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writers Challenge

  1. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  2. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  3. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  4. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  5. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  6. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  7. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  8. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed

Book Bingo

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Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages:Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three: BINGO

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019 

Row Four: – BINGO

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Row Five: BINGO

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Row Six: BINGO

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

Row One:  – BINGO

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019*

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast:The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person:Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains:The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenRow Five: BINGO

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

Jane Austen Reading Challenge

Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Emma

Persuasion

Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Pride and Prejudice retelling

 August Round Up – 16

 

Title Author Challenge
The Battle for Perodia Katrina Charman General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Rowan of Rin Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Pinch of Magic Michelle Harrison General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off Delphine Davis General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #aWW2019 -September release
Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Truth About Stacey Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Anne Saves the Day Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
While You Were Reading Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
The Unforgiving City Maggie Joel General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
Matters of the Heart Fiona Palmer General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Jane Austen Challenge
Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook Judy Revenson General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers

 

Valerie Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Kensy and Max: Out of Sight

 

Jacqueline Harvey General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
The Loneliest Kitten Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Land of Long Lost Friends

 

Alexander McCall-Smith General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Lily and the Rose Jackie French General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – reviewed in September.

Corella Press Blog Tour: Interview with Kathleen Jennings

Hi Kathleen, and welcome to The Book Muse.

When did you first start illustrating for books, and what attracted you to doing so?

 I’ve always drawn on things (lecture notes, people), but I started seriously illustrating about ten years ago, when my first book cover (for Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales, from Small Beer Press) was published.

I love stories and storytelling, and that is what attracted me to illustrating: this very immediate, physical way of telling tales and playing in other people’s stories.

 Have you always enjoyed drawing and illustrating? What other things do you enjoy?

 Yes, although I planned to do something with prose before I started working on my art. I remember a Little Red Riding Hood book we had with beautiful soft illustrations, and Garth William’s illustrations for the Little House books, and of course (and most of all) Pauline Baynes’s illustrations for Narnia: illustrations have always been important to me, but I enjoy it more the more I do it. Levelling up, getting a bit more control, pulling off an effect I’ve been trying to get right.

I also write (I have an Australian Gothic novella, Flyaway, coming out from Tor.com next year!), and do a bit of research and tutoring at university, and I’ve been a lawyer and a translator, among other things.

 What is your favourite medium to use when illustrating?

 I really enjoy the graphic simplicity and mystery and engineering considerations of cut-paper silhouettes, like these Corella illustrations. But I also enjoy the chatty narrative possibilities of pen-and-ink (a proper dip pen with a Hunt Crowquill 102 nib), and I do a lot of documentary/life sketching with Pitt marker pens. Lately I’ve been playing around with linocuts, as well. So: all of them! But I’m very fond of having a strong traditional media base, although I often tidy things up digitally and add digital colour.

 How long have you been working with Corella Press?

 I’ve been working with Corella since they started and I designed their logo! So many sketches of little parrots.

 

 Do you work primarily with Corella Press, or are there other authors and places you work with?

 I work with lots of publishers and individual authors. Small Beer Press have been with me from the very beginning, but I’ve worked with Tor.com, Candlewick, Little, Brown, Simon & Schuster, and Walker Books UK. Locally, I’ve worked with Ticonderoga, Twelfth Planet and Fablecroft, among others. And I do a lot of work with Angela Slatter, a Brisbane-based British Fantasy and World Fantasy Award winning author.

 Did you enjoy creating the artwork for the books being released in this series?

 The artwork for these Corella covers has been a great deal of fun. The books weren’t selected when we started, so I was needing to design a matched, linked set of images that saidAustralian Mystery and Crime, and then incorporate elements specific to each book as those emerged, and make them beautiful, too — or at least pleasing to me.

 It’s a ridiculously fine and lacy piece, too — about 29cm round and all hand-cut, and such a pleasure to pick up and peer at the world through.

 What are your plans for future projects?

 So many! I’ve just finished a map and ornaments for Holly Black’s Queen of Nothingand chapter headers for the 10thanniversary edition of Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. There are a few secret projects with favourite authors in the works, but a fairy-tale book with Juliet Marillier, through Serenity Press, has been announced. And I want to experiment more with linocut illustrations.

 Do you have any artists or illustrators who inspired you, or whose work you always enjoy seeing? Who are they and why?

 So many! It’s hard to choose. But Rovina Cai’s work is enchanting, and Charles Vess’s illustrations have always been an inspiration. Pauline Baynes is the first illustrator I recognised as such: she isNarnia to me, but it’s her illustrations for Tolkien (especially Farmer Giles of Ham) that taught me a lot about the fun and possibilities of it. At the moment I’m collecting Angela Barrett’s and Evaline Ness’s picture books — Evaline Ness’s Do You Have The Time, Lydia, in particular, is vigorous and human and an important reminder to just do the work that needs to be done.

 

Kathleen also sent through these concept sketches of the artwork she created:

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Credit: Kathleen Jennings (c) – Preliminary sketches of final cover art for Corella Press, sent to me by the illustrator for use. 

 

Thanks Kathleen

 

 

 

Book Bingo Fourteen – Non-Fiction Book About an Event

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Welcome back to Book Bingo for July! For this fortnight with Theresa and Amanda, I am ticking off the non-fiction book about an event with The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretheton, accompanied by an interview.  

A book with a red cover is covered in Book Bingo Eighteen, I updated this card after checking that square off.

 

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In 1904, Alicks Sly killed his wife, Ellie, and then killed himself, leaving four children orphaned, and at the hands of the state. Whilst their daughter was adopted, the three sons were sent to orphanages, and the experiences they had would affect them for the rest of their lives.

Here, she takes an ethical and sociological look into a crime that changed a family forever, and that, according to the interview I am including here, happened fairly often and possibly with similar disastrous and life altering results. In times when people could not get the help they needed, it seems this may have been the only solution for some, and in this case, a crime that I felt still had questions that may never be answered left at the end.

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Row Two:

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)*

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture:

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Interview Tanya Bretherton The Suicide Bride

suicide bride

  1. Welcome to The Book Muse Tanya, it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Thank you very much for having me.

  1. You’ve written two true crime books about Australian crime – what drew you to this genre, and these cases?

As a reader, I am a big fan of crime stories, particularly those that seek to explore the darker side of human nature.  As a writer I am attracted to the true crime genre because it provides a very dramatic backdrop to tell deeply personal stories.  Loss, tragedy, heartbreak and desperation are all there – both before the crime is committed and they are present in its aftermath as well.  Both The Suitcase Baby and The Suicide Bride begin with true crime events, but they unfold as personal stories.  Crime stories, in some way or other, are always stories about families and secrets.

  1. Can you give a brief explanation of the term suicide bride for my followers who may not have read the book yet?

I began the journey of writing the book by examining at one horrible true crime event in particular. In January 1904 in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney, two young brothers discovered the bodies of their parents in the family home.  Thirty-two-year-old Alexander Sly murdered his wife Ellie, with a cut throat razor, and then killed himself.  Their four children, all under the age of eight (Bedford, Basil, Mervyn and baby Olive) were orphaned.

As I began to explore the social and economic context in which the crime was committed, I discovered to my horror that this was not the only case like this.  In the late nineteenth century there were many cases of husbands who planned their own suicide and factored the murder of their wife as part of that act (hence the term ‘suicide bride’).  In the year of 1904 alone, there were murder-suicides attempted and committed by husbands in every single month in every state of Australia. The cases all shared some remarkable and macabre similarities with the Sly murder-suicide case.

  1. What was it about the Sly case in particular that you found interesting, and why?

It is hard to imagine a family story more tragic than that of Alexander and Ellie Sly.  I had to know what happened to the children.  As a researcher, I have studied child protection and from what I knew about trauma and its long-term impacts, I knew the outcomes for the children in this case were not likely to be good.  I wanted to know how a child’s life might unfold in the wake of something so tragic and at a period in history which had a reputation for being very tough on children.

During the research process I also discovered something unique about the Sly family.  I don’t what to give too much away, but there is a twist in the book which I think readers will find as fascinating as I did.

  1. Was it hard trying to determine what really happened with limited resources and evidence for the Sly case, and in turn, the fate of the children, and where did these challenges arise from?

I undertake a lot of research before I even start to write a true crime book, because I want to see if there is enough material to sustain both a big picture account of the event, and a personal story as well.  I was well down the research road before I decided that there was enough viable material to write The Suicide Bride.  With this book I had the unusual situation of having too much material, so I had to make decisions about which stories I was going to focus on, which characters were going to play the leads, and who would play the minor roles.  In the end, those choices came down to decisions of the heart not the head.

  1. When writing true crime, what are the most important, or most informative sources for you, and why?

I tend to write social history and life history narratives disguised as true crime stories.  For this reason trial transcripts, inquest documents and those resources that might traditionally form the foundation for a true crime account play a lesser role in my research process.  I do a lot of genealogical research for my books, as I think there are powerful discoveries to be made in uncovering how deeply a crime event impacts loved ones and how long it reverberates down through a family.

  1. Do you find looking at these crimes from a sociological perspective rather than a criminology or criminal investigative perspective gives a different insight into the crime? What do you think the differences are?

There is no doubt that sociology deeply influences both how I analyse true crime events and how I write about them.  In sociology, a lot of emphasis is placed on understanding the roles we play in collective settings, social norms, and the labels that we use to categorise people.  I think this is important because it gives us a deeper understanding of the really complex context that underpins crime. In exploring murder, for example, law and order perspectives consider the question of motive: why would person A kill person B?  I think sociology can help fill the bigger canvas of ‘why?’ by asking what is the social, the economic and the familial context for ‘why’.

  1. What sparked your initial interest in true crime stories in particular, and do you plan to look into further cases that we might not know much about, or that might not have been solved?

I think my interest in the true crime genre goes way back to childhood.  We didn’t have many books in our house when I was growing up, but my Dad was an avid reader of murder mysteries.  So almost every book in our house had a dead body in it – that probably had an impact on an early reader!  To this day I write stories that have a twist in some way or other, and if I don’t find that twist, I will abandon a subject as a possible book and move on to another case.

Yes, I definitely have a number of books planned!  I always like to select cases that have not had a lot of exposure to date.  I am developing two more Sydney-based true crime books at the moment.  Both of these books will also deal with issues of women and crime.

  1. Do you think we will ever find out why Alicks Sly committed the murder-suicide and left four children orphans?

The murder suicide of Alicks Sly and his wife made national news.  It was a big story at the time.  Alicks Sly was a local spiritualist and medium who believed he could communicate with the dead.  He saw visions and heard voices.  The family were also profoundly poor as well.  All of this absolutely fascinated the public at the time, and retrospectively we continue to reflect on the different ways in which this crime can be viewed.  Was Alicks mentally ill?  Was there a pattern of violence in the home prior to the final tragic incident?  I think the same questions that investigators were asking about the Sly case in 1904, we are still asking about murder-suicides that occur today.  We might draw a clinical set of conclusions as to why this kind of crime occurs, but this analysis will always fall short in the face of something so tragic and heartbreaking.

  1. How often do you find living descendants of the families involved to talk to about the cases, and what are the ethical issues you navigate when you encounter them?

To date, I have chosen historical true crime stories that are very old.  This means there aren’t any relatives (still living) who were directly impacted by the tragedies.

  1. Are there any legal issues or obstacles you face when looking into these old crimes, and like the previous question about ethics, how does it affect the outcome of your book?

I purposefully select cases that I know won’t present me with the kinds of ethical dilemmas that will disrupt the writing process.  I want to be able to write unencumbered by those responsibilities.

Any ethical questions I face during the writing process tend to be more abstract and relate to writing in the spaces of grey that exist between rigid depictions of good and evil. Can a person be a villain and a victim at the same time?  Can a criminal act ever be a noble choice?  I hope that I offer up enough evidence to the reader, that they get to decide.  I want them to make the moral call on the crime, the criminal who committed it and how they feel society should have handled what happened.

  1. Finally, what do you hope writing about these crimes does to help society and possibly those who have links to those involved, and can this have a positive impact on crime solving?

I think true crime stories are often written as psychological portraits, and this plays an important role in helping us to understand the pathology that can underpin some criminal behaviour.  But there is also a wider social and economic context for crime.  Putting moral questions about crime and criminals aside for a moment, people who commit crimes may be labelled criminals, but they are also people looking for solutions.  We may not agree with their approach to problem solving, we may even abhor it, but understanding what drives people to commit crime remains important and conflicted terrain for us all to reflect on.  In both The Suitcase Baby and The Suicide Bride, a criminal act resulted from absolute desperation.  The people in those stories were looking for solutions.  They made unthinkable choices, terrible choices.  In the end what they found was not a solution at all.  Their choices also created even more heartbreak for the people they cared most about.  I can’t claim that my books have any impact on the field of criminology, nor the methodologies we use to catch criminals, but it is fascinating terrain to work with in terms of character and story.

Thank you for joining me on The Book Muse, Tanya and good luck with your future projects.

Blog Tour Part Two: The French Photographer Interview with Natasha Lester

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Cover of The Paris Seamstress.

Hi Natasha, and welcome to my blog, The Book Muse. Thank you for joining me here today.

First of all, congratulations on the new novel, it was exceptional, and had everything a good novel should have to tell a very powerful story.

  1. Jessica reminded me of Estella – both are women of their time, yet still strive to achieve more than people expect of them. What is it that draws you to write characters like Jess and Estella?

If women like Estella and Jess had never existed, then I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have now, the opportunities that I have had over my lifetime. But there is still much that needs to change. So I write these stories to honour the women who have come before me and who have made many aspects of my life possible, but also to show how far we still have to go in many other respects.

  1. Jess is based on a real-life journalist, Lee Miller. I’ve researched Lee, and she sounds fascinating. How did you stumble across her story, and what was it about her story that inspired Jess?

I came across Lee Miller when I was writing The Paris Seamstress. She was mentioned in an article I was reading, specifically that, after writing about and photographing a war for years, she had turned to writing cooking articles and recipes once the war was over. I wondered how that might have felt and I was compelled to look further into her life. When I realised she began her career on the other side of the lens, as a model, I was fascinated by how the transition from model to war photojournalist had evolved. Then, when I discovered that, at her death, her son never knew of the incredible articles his mother had written during the war, never knew of the exceptional photos she had taken, I knew for sure that there was a story in there waiting to be written.

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Natasha Lester, Image from Hachette Australia
  1. Your characters reflect and explore the spectrum of humanity and human emotion. When writing, did you find doing this enriched the story, and how challenging (or not), did you find it to explore someone like Amelia or Warren Stone?

Warren Stone was very challenging to write. But the more I read about the experience of the women war correspondents, the more I knew that men like Warren had existed. The difficulty was in not making him seem pure evil, in making us understand his motivations and in giving him humanity. There is one scene in the book that uses direct reportage from one of the female correspondents, Iris Carpenter, about a sexual assault that she stumbled upon. When I read her memoir and the words she wrote about that incident, I found it incredibly difficult to imagine how the man involved was anything less than a monster. But I had to imagine, in Warren, who is an accumulation of many men and many incidents, more than his despicable acts; I had to strip them away to find the person beneath and the reasons why he might behave in the way he does in the book.

  1. Fashion plays a large role in this novel. The beauty of fashion and photography bookends the reality of war, and the bland clothes Jess wears during the war. Where did your fascination with fashion start, and do you have a favourite designer you’re drawn to for inspiration in writing these stories?

I’ve always loved clothes. My real interest began when I lived in London for two years and wonderful vintage stores like Steinberg and Tolkien were at my doorstep, and the V&A museum was there to be visited each weekend. One of my absolute favourite designers is Vionnet; she was a true artist. I am also currently obsessed with Christian Dior, as I am writing a book called The Dior Bequest.

  1. How do you think the war affected Jess and her interest in art, photography and fashion before, during and after the war?

I think you could not photograph and write about the things Jess saw without being deeply affected by it, without needing to seek out the other things besides war that humankind can create; beautiful things like art and photography. I think she spent the rest of her life trying to strip away what she saw during war and attempting to replace those pictures, layer by layer, with things that inspired other emotions than sadness and other actions than violence.

  1. Looking at what we saw on the page, how much of your planning for plot, character and backstory never makes it into the final copy?

So much! When I wrote the first draft, I had no idea how the book would end. I had no idea how Victorine would fit into the story, and that she would become such an important player. I had no real idea what D’Arcy would do once she arrived at the chateau in the contemporary storyline. Once I sketched all that out in the first draft, I went a bit overboard, as I always do, in the second draft, adding in lots of the research and deeply fleshing out scenes. So a lot of that has to be cut in the end as it slows the pace too much. The first and second parts of the historical storyline in particular were trimmed quite a lot.

  1. I adored Victorine, and I hope other readers do too. Her story was heartbreaking but revealed the reality of war and war orphans. When researching this, did you find experiences like Victorine’s were common, and what country had most of the stories you found from?

Her experience was so common, especially in France where the exodus of people out of Paris and Northern France in late May and early June 1940 left so many lost and abandoned children who were never reunited with family. The Russians also experienced a huge and devastating number of war orphans, numbering in the millions.

  1. One of my favourite things about this novel was how you developed the relationship between Dan and Jess, starting with respect, which led to friendship and then love. To me, this was something that was extremely important to the story, because we rarely see friendships like this celebrated. When writing, what led you to write this relationship in this way, and did you find it effective to do so for the plot?

This was always going to be a book about a friendship between a man and a woman, a strong and important friendship, that eventually turned to love. But that initial friendship, and their mutual respect, was to be the foundation for all of it, and without that, I don’t think their relationship would have been anywhere near as powerful as it is. I say in the back of the book that Jess and Dan were like gifts from the writing muse and they were; they came to me easily and quickly and their relationship almost developed by itself without me having to do more than type out the rush of words in my head.

  1. Warren Stone consistently tried to jeopardise Jess and embarrass Dan. Was this inspired by any truth, and did anything like this happen to your inspiration, Lee Miller?

As I mentioned earlier, Warren Stone is an amalgamation of men and incidents. One of the books I read for my research was called Never a Shot in Anger;it was the memoirs of one of the Public Relations Officers during WWII who was responsible for dealing with the press. So much of what happens to Jess is recorded as fact in his book and the troubling part of it was that he wrote about those incidents with no understanding of how wrong it all was. To him, it was just the way life was at that time. It’s quite shocking to read. And there was so much more that I left out and didn’t have the space to include. This is the part of the book that worries me the most – that readers won’t believe these things could possibly have happened. But they did!

  1. Each part is told from a different point of view and in various times and years. I enjoy the dual time line set up, because I feel it makes the story richer. Do you find a format like this effective, and what makes you decide on the dual timeline set up?

It makes it richer for me as a storyteller too, although it is so very challenging to pull off. So many character and points of view and story threads to juggle and eventually weave together. I decided on it for this book simply became I enjoyed writing that way for The Paris Seamstress. I like the way that it allows a mystery to unfold and for the reader to become involved in solving the mystery.

  1. Taking into consideration what has been discussed already, are there any sources for fashion, Lee Miller, war orphans and the war in general that you explored that might not have been mentioned yet?

The main sources were the actual articles written by the female correspondents at the time. I read most of Martha Gellhorn’s pieces for Collier’s Weekly, Lee Miller’s pieces for Vogue, Iris Carpenter’s pieces for the Boston Globeand Margaret Bourke-White’s pieces for Life. In their articles, I heard their voices, saw what concerns they had, what they deemed worthy of attention, and how they wove a story together. It was extremely useful, especially when I compared their pieces to the articles written by the men at the time.

  1. One scene that was written effectively was the scene at the concentration camp. It was powerful and drove home the reality of war. Can you tell my readers more about where the inspiration for this scene came from, and why you decided to include it?

That was a hard scene to write. But I knew from the outset that it would be in the book as all of the women talked about the effect that seeing the camps had on them. There were so many important points I wanted to make in that scene: about the fact that so many people thought rumours about the camps were untrue, that the camps could have been liberated earlier if more people had listened and acted, that  civilians in towns with camps on their doorstep ignored the plumes smoke and the smell of death for years. That, of course, we must never allow such a thing to happen again. It’s the hinge moment of the book and, without that scene, so much of what follows would not have been brought to bear.

13. Apart from the scene in the book, what more can you tell us about the occupation of Hitler’s Munich residence, and how being there affected those who raided the home?

It was fascinating to read Lee Miller’s piece about her stay in Hitler’s Munich apartment. I couldn’t believe how much souvenir raiding went on, how many soldiers took his cutlery and linen, and I wondered what it would feel like to be living in the apartment of such a man. Most who stayed there seemed to think it the ultimate sign of victory and took great heart from it; it allowed them to ridicule a man who, two years before, had been so feared that nobody would have ever thought to ridicule him. It made him a defeatable man rather than an immortal monster.

  1. Without giving too much away about the ending, can you tell us why you decided to write a realistic, bittersweet ending, and what this process was like after everything you set up for the characters?

The ending was hard to write but I couldn’t see another way for the story to end that won’t seem too convenient and too unbelievable. War changes everything for the people involved and its bitter aftermath extends for decades; the pain doesn’t end just because the war itself is declared to be over. I wanted to be true to that in the ending of this book.

  1. Any additional comments?

Just that this is my favourite of all my books, the book of my heart, and I hope everyone loves reading it as much as I loved writing it.

Thank you for joining me here today, Natasha, and congratulations again.

Booktopia

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Check in Four – forty-five to sixty.

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My fourth check in, and most current one as of the 12th of August, 2018, takes me to sixty books for the year, and in July I managed to read an entire Kate Forsyth series, as well as historical fiction, an #OwnVoices book, female focussed books, and one with  fascinating link to ancient history that I adored, as well as memoir about race, feminism and religion that unpacked how various identities can often be at conflict and how this affects you as a person and how you see the world, but also looked at how various aspects of one’s identity can inform a world view and understandings.

From Cromwell’s England to the desert hospitals of World War One, a haunted house and survivalists, dragons and China, and memoir, along with a good dose of fantasy, this list is as diverse as the others, with a large dollop of Kate Forsyth, whose books are always delightful.

My next post of this nature will begin with the latest Kensy and Max adventure, and from there, who knows what else will come?

Books forty-six to sixty

  1. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart
  2. The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1)
  3. The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)
  4. The Herb of Grace by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #3)
  5. The Cat’s Eye Shell by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #4)
  6. Children of the Dragon: Relic of The Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  7. The Legacy of Beauregarde by Rosa Fedele
  8. The Lightning Bolt by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #5)
  9. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn and Interview
  10. The Butterfly in Amber by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #6)
  11. When the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson
  12. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer
  13. The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
  14. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel
  15. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

From here, there will be many review books to come, some feminist fairy tales, crime, a whole mix – anything could be read and that is what is so enjoyable about the challenge and these posts – getting to see what I have read so far, and where it all fits in.