Isolation Publicity with Petra James

 

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

Petra James is the author of the Hapless Hero Henrie series, and the second book came out in May in the midst of the pandemic. Part of her publicity for this book is the following interview we arranged ages ago, just after I read the first book for Writing NSW. This interview was done before the advent of online events, so doesn’t reflect the changes that other authors have made.

Hi Petra and Welcome to The Book Muse
It’s lovely to be here – thank you.

1. The second book in your Hapless Hero Henrie series is out in May – what is the basic premise of this novel?

Henrie is on her first Hero Hunt – with Alex Fischer from Hapless Hero Henrie and a girl called Marley Hart, who has rung the Hero Hotline seeking a hero. There’s a mystery about Marley’s great aunt Agnes (an archaeologist), a missing gold statue, a secret from the past, and a new villain.

2. How many books do you think you have planned for Henrie Melchior’s story?

At the moment, it’s just the two books but Violetta Villarne (from Villains Inc) has a habit of popping up when she’s least expected so I wouldn’t be surprised if she has more to say and do. She loves making trouble …

3. This is one I’m really looking forward to after getting to review the first book for Writing NSW earlier this year. Where did the idea for House of Heroes come from – a family where no girls have been born for decades?

Thank you so much for your wonderful review of Hapless Hero Henrie. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it.

I’m the youngest of four girls and I was supposed to be a boy but, obviously, I wasn’t so I grew up with this sense that I wasn’t quite who I was supposed to be. I took this idea to the extreme by wondering what dramatic events could be set in motion if a girl was born into a family business, governed by tradition, and males.

I also wanted to reclaim the hero space for girls because, of course, girls can be heroes too!

4. What, if any, events and appearances did you have planned for the release of this book before the pandemic crisis forced their cancellation?

We’d really just started talking about this when COVID struck but I was hoping to attend some bookshop book clubs, visit some schools ….

5. Out of all the characters you have created, do you have a favourite, and why this character?

This is always a tough question to answer. I guess each new character is like a new friend so there’s a joyful sense of discovery as you get to know each other. So Henrie is probably top of the list at the moment because she’s the main character of my latest book. But then all the characters in my other books are like old friends, and old friends are equally cherished.

6. How did you get your start in children’s publishing, and what is your job within the industry these days?

I worked for a literary magazine in the UK when I left university and soon realised that publishing was the job for me. I loved every part of it. And still do. I’m a children’s publisher now – working with amazing authors, illustrators and designers. I feel pretty lucky to have such a job.

7. Do you have a favourite children’s book, series or author, or many, and what are they?

I have so many favourites. For so many different reasons. This question could take me months to answer. And I’d probably want to keep changing it. It would be like the Magic Pudding of answers – I could never ever finish it.

8. How do you think children’s books and stories have changed over the years, compared to what you may have read as a child?

I think there’s a much greater range of stories now with so many more authors writing for children. I think humour is more prevalent too.

9. Growing up, what sort of books did you find yourself drawn to in particular, and why?

I loved all the Enid Blyton books, especially the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. I planned for a while to be a spy. And Ferdinand the Bull was my favourite picture book, probably because my dad loved this story and read it to me constantly.

10. What was it about the arts, writing and publishing that made you want to make a career in this industry?

It was a serendipitous discovery. I feel as though it found me rather than the other way around. And once in the publishing/writing world, I knew no other career could ever fit so well.

11. Can you tell us what is next for Henrie and the House of Melchior?

That is a question without an answer … for the moment.

12. In times like these, how important do you think the arts are going to be for people so they can get through it?

Creativity is fuel for the soul. Our physical worlds may have shrunk but the world inside a book is immense. We may not be able to leave the house but we can still explore the most magnificent inner worlds by reading, singing, dancing, playing the ukulele, writing, haiku-ing …

Anything I may have missed?

Thank you Petra, I look forward to more Henrie Melchior stories.

Thanks so much to you and I hope you enjoy Henrie’s Hero Hunt.

Isolation Publicity with Jenna Guillaume – author and freelance journalist.

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

what I like about me

Jenna’s debut, What I Like About Me, which I hope to be reading and reviewing soon, came out in Australia in 2019. This year, it was meant to be released in America, and Jenna was due to head over to America for a book tour when the corona virus hit, and closures meant she wasn’t able to do so. In lieu of this, like many authors, she’s trying to do online tours and promotion, and her stop on my blog is part of this, and is another interview in my Isolation Publicity series.

Hi Jenna, and welcome to The Book Muse

  1. Your book, What I Like About Me. Has been out in Australia for a year and is just being released in America. Is this an exciting move for an Australian author?

It’s so exciting! I honestly didn’t really expect What I Like About Me to be published in America as I know it’s a hard market to break into, and it’s a very Australian book. It was a very lovely surprise. We consume a lot of American culture here so it’s nice to have a story of my own going back the other way.

 

  1. Did you have to edit your book for an American audience, or did you leave it as it is?

I did have to make some edits, although perhaps not as many as you’d think. It was mainly language – caravan became RV, servo became gas station and so on. I also had to take out a reference to Minties, because apparently they’re a dog treat in America, not a human treat.

  1. Do you feel it is important for Australian books to maintain their Australian identity when entering the international market?

I’m really passionate about seeing Australian books tell Australian stories, and retain as much of that identity as possible in international markets. As I already mentioned, we consume so much American culture here. It’s vital we hang on to our own culture, and having it embraced internationally is always going to help with that.

  1. Where did the idea for What I Like About Me come from, and what is it about Maisie that you think makes her more relatable than some of the middle grade or young adult protagonists in more popular books?

What I Like About Me initially started out as a romance, so I started with the dynamic of the core four characters who would be involved in the romance plot. As I developed the character of Maisie, the story morphed into being more focused on her own internal journey with loving herself – although of course the romance is still there.

I wouldn’t say Maisie is more relatable than other protagonists, but I do hope readers can connect with her. I poured a lot of my own personal experiences and emotions as both a teenager and an adult into her – especially regarding my relationship with my body. She’s comes from a place of authenticity.

 

  1. You started out as a writer with places like Buzzfeed, Junkee, Sydney Morning Herald and ABC News. Do you still write for these places, and where did you get your start?

I started my career at Girlfriend magazine, working there for five years, before I worked at BuzzFeed for another five years. I now freelance in addition to writing books, so the publications you mentioned are those I currently write for (amongst others). After a decade split across just two workplaces, it’s nice to branch out and write for a lot of different titles!

  1. You’re represented by my first interviewee in this series, Danielle Binks. How did you meet, and do you enjoy working with her?

Danielle and I ‘met’ online, on Twitter, purely because we have similar interests and enjoy chatting about things like pop culture and romance books and, of course, YA. We met in person for the first time at the Sydney Writers’ Festival a few years back, and she became my agent a few months later. She’s a dream to work with. We’re totally on the same page about a lot of things, and it’s wonderful to have someone as knowledgeable and passionate as Danielle in my corner.

  1. Is there another book on the way that you can tell my readers anything about?

I’m currently editing my second book, which is out with Pan Macmillan in August. It’s Weird Science meets Jenny Han – two girls accidentally create the perfect guy, and he complicates their lives in ways they would never have anticipated. It’s a very fun rom-com that I’m excited to share with people.

 

  1. The important stuff: Cats, dogs or both?

DOGS! Although I am trying to grow out of my previous anti-cat prejudices.

  1. Favourite kind of writing snack?

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.

 

  1. Which Hogwarts house would you belong in if you were attending Hogwarts?

I’m a Ravenclaw through and through!

  1. What is it about rom-coms that you love, and what was the rom-com that began your love of the genre?

Rom-coms are just so comforting. You know they’re going to have a happy ending. They’re the best form of escapism, and necessary in times like this. I’ve loved rom-coms for as long as I remember – I can’t even tell you what my first one would have been. I know I watched Clueless for the first time when I was about nine, but I’m sure there were some earlier than that. I guess that’s the first one I actively chose to get from the video store though.

  1. You might hate me for this question, but top five rom-com movies – what are they?

Oh my god this is so tough! Okay, don’t hold me to this because it may change in future, but right now:

  1. When Harry Met Sally
  2. 10 Things I Hate About You
  3. Clueless
  4. Love Actually
  5. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
  1. When writing, do you prefer typing on a computer, or using a pen and paper? Is one or the other more effective for you?

Computer, 100%. My handwriting is terrible and my arm hurts after writing like two sentences. I’m too used to computers now.

  1. Do you have a favourite bookseller, and why are they your favourite?

Ooooh I love so many bookstores, but I have a soft spot for Better Read Than Dead in Newtown because I go to book club there and they do other great events, plus it’s just such a homey and friendly place. Also Kinokuniya in the Sydney CBD, which is where I had my first book launch! They have an incredible range and a great YA section in particular.

  1. Like Danielle, your job is in the arts. How important do you think the arts are, in times of crisis and at other times as well?

The arts are vital. I know it can feel ‘frivolous’ or not important, but while they may not contribute to our physical health or immediate survival, I think they’re absolutely necessary for our mental health. They keep us sane and bring us joy even in the darkest times.

  1. Do you prefer the blue cover, or the yellow cover?

I cannot possibly pick a favourite. I like that both variations are out there!

 

  1. In this time of crisis, what art forms – movies, podcasts, television, books etc – do you find yourself turning to when you need a break from everything that is going on?

I definitely go back to my go-to comforts – rom-coms, and movies and shows I loved growing up. There’s something about nostalgia that provides a safe space. I am also super into kdramas, because they tend to have romance-focused plots, and having to read subtitles forces me to get offline when I am otherwise addicted to my feeds.

 

  1. What books are you looking forward to reading this year?

I’m so excited for Danielle’s debut The Year the Maps Changed, as well as Kay Kerr’s Please Don’t Hug Me and Anna Whateley’s Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal.

 

  1. Which events were you the most excited about this year that have been cancelled or postponed?

Oh man. I was going to be in America at the end of April to do some promo events for What I Like About Me and also see my faves BTS perform, and now that trip has been cancelled which I’m super bummed about. And although I was going to be away when it was on, I’m still devastated to see the Sydney Writers’ Festival be cancelled. There are so many events that had a lot of work put into them that have now been called off. It’s just so heartbreaking. I know when we can all finally gather and go to these events again, it’s going to be all the more meaningful.

Any further comments?

It’s a really tough time right now. Be gentle with yourself and don’t feel guilty for reaching for joy. Also, I know there’s a lot of financial pressure on many people, so even if you can’t support your fave artists and small businesses with money, a recommendation, review or tweet of appreciation and support can be really meaningful! And don’t forget the joys of libraries, which all have online services you can access without leaving the house.

Isolation Publicity: Suzanne Leal Blog Tour, Author of The Deceptions

3

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

Leal, Suzanne - credit Kelly Barlow

The third in my Isolation Publicity Series is part of a blog tour for a book called The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal, which is based on stories she heard from her landlords who had lived through the Holocaust. It’s a riveting and moving read, exploring the Holocaust and hidden stories and secrets and how these can affect generations of a family. My review is more expansive. Enjoy this interview and the review.

9781760875275

Hi Suzanne, and welcome to The Book Muse

  1. Novels and books about hidden stories like The Deceptions are some of my favourites, and often very powerful narratives. What has led you to writing these stories as an author?

Hi Ashleigh, and thanks so much for having me.  You’re absolutely right: in my new novel The Deceptions everyone has something to hide or a secret they don’t want revealed.  I’m very interested in what people try to hide or what they simply leave unsaid.  Often the things we don’t know about a person – and what they don’t wish to discuss –  are the very things that are most interesting about them: the trauma they have had to overcome, the country they were forced to leave, the loss they have experienced.   It is these hidden stories that, once known, give us a new insight into people we may have thought we knew well.

  1. Did your experiences as a lawyer help you understand how people in unimaginable situations, like your characters in The Deceptions, make decisions that we may think are immoral or dangerous?

I started my legal career in criminal law, then moved into refugee and immigration law and now child protection. In each of these areas, I deal with people in crisis, whether this is because they risk going to jail or have fled their homeland or have lost their career.  My work has taught me a lot about the difficulties people face in their lives, the mistakes they make and how they might try to make up for them.  When I read about the difficulties facing people during the Second World War I often wonder how I would have behaved.  Would I have behaved as admirably as I might hope I would?

  1. Some people think all war novels are the same. Yet as someone who reads a lot of these sorts of novels, I find each one tells of a unique aspect. Is this something you think novelists in general aim to do?

I’ve never really thought all war novels are the same for truly no two writers will ever tell a story in exactly the same way.  Writing a novel takes time and, for me at least, is a difficult thing to do.  I have to be absolutely taken by the story I have to tell to enable me to keep going with it.  That involves discovering the essence of each of my characters: who they really are and why they behave the way they do.  This is what many most writers do – they really drill down into their characters – and in so doing, make each work unique.

  1. You credit your landlord, Fred, for starting your career as a writer – can you expand on how you feel he helped you enter this career?

For seven years, Fred and Eva Perger were both my neighbours and my landlords.   They were also Czech and Jewish and had both survived the Holocaust.  As we became closer, Fred started to confide in me about his experiences during the war. These confidences became regular interviews and in the space of a year, I had five hundred pages of transcript describing events and places with an honesty and photographic recall that still astound me. These interviews formed the basis for my first novel, Border Street, which opened my career as a writer.

My new novel, The Deceptions, was inspired one of the stories Fred and Eva had each told me.  As teenagers, they’d been sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto outside Prague.  Whilst there, they got to know a Czech gendarme whose job was to guard the camp but who was also having a clandestine relationship with one of the young Jewish women detained there.  Some months later, the gendarme and the young woman disappeared from the camp.  After the war, he returned home but her fate remained unknown.  Over the years, I found myself wondering what had happened to her.  I didn’t have enough information to research her actual life – I didn’t even know her name – but at the same time, I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  In the end, I gave in and, using my imagination, I recreated her instead.  From there, The Deceptions emerged.

  1. Which do you prefer – being a writer, or fighting for justice in a court room?

I like the combination.  As a lawyer, I sit on a tribunal where I make decisions about people who come before me.  I might be called on to decide whether a person should have a taxi licence or a building licence or a tattooing licence or a firearms licence.  I might also be asked to decide whether a person should have the right to work with children.  To make decisions like this, I need to know a lot about a person’s background, behaviour and motivation. This makes my work fascinating.

As a writer, I love to sit alone and to try to put into words those things in life that puzzle me or shock me or surprise me.  I love sitting down to get out on paper all the thoughts that would otherwise clog up my head.

  1. What is it about World War Two and its stories in particular that you are interested in?

I am interested in World War Two because of the unbelievable horror of the Holocaust.  I find it absolutely impossible to contemplate what it must have been like to have been part of it.  Because I became so close to my neighbours, Fred and Eva Perger, who were both Holocaust survivors, I found myself thinking about World War Two a lot.  I found myself wondering how I would have behaved had I been part of the war: would I have behaved well, would I have been altruistic or would I have simply focused on myself?

  1. What is it about dual timeline narratives in historical fiction that you think is an effective and powerful means to tell the story?

I’ve always liked reading dual timeline narratives.  Last year at Storyfest – the Milton-based festival directed by Meredith Jaffé- I interviewed Natasha Lester and I love the way she intertwines her stories of contemporary life and historical fiction.  A dual timeline narrative was important for my novel The Deceptions because it is very much an exploration of the legacy of war through the years and through generations.

  1. What do you prefer writing – historical fiction, or another genre? Why?

I like writing both historical and contemporary fiction, although I find writing historical fiction more difficult because of the all the research required.  More than anything, I’m interested in how we live now, how we manage our relationships, our work, our losses and how we find the strength to get through hard times.

  1. Have you shared your story with Fred and Eva’s family?

Since Fred and Eva’s death, I have stayed in contact with their daughters, Helena and Renata, to whom I have dedicated The Deceptions.  Helena and Renata read the manuscript early on because I wanted to make sure there was nothing in the book that might upset them.  For although the character of Hana is in no way based on their mother, the places Hana is taken during the war are the same as the places Eva was taken.  Helena and Renata checked my Czech for me and have been incredibly supportive of me.

  1. When did Fred and Eva start telling you their stories about the Holocaust?

I lived beside Fred and Eva for seven years.  After a year or so, they began to tell me about their wartime experiences.  It wasn’t until I’d moved away from them that Fred and I met each week to record his life experiences.

  1. For many people, the Holocaust is a distant event, that’s sometimes just a number. Yet it affected millions of people, has millions of names attached. How important do you think it is to continue teaching it and letting the world know about stories like Eva and Fred’s story?

I think it is fundamental to keep telling stories of the Holocaust so that the horror of it might never be forgotten and never repeated.  It is difficult to comprehend the deaths of millions of people, so difficult it can lose its impact.  More confronting can be the story of one or two or three people whose stories we follow so closely we can immerse ourselves in their lives and get an insight into their experiences. This, I think, is the particular power of fiction.

  1. What impact do you think stories with named victims will have on the teaching of the Holocaust, beyond the usual names such as Anne Frank that we all know? Is it your hope that more stories like this will not only expand knowledge, but expand understanding and empathy?

There are so much Holocaust stories of so many people from so many different backgrounds.  To expand these stories is fundamental to an understanding of the horror and reach of the Holocaust. I think it is also important not to forget that the damage war causes has a long reach: it stretches through time and down the generations.

  1. Finally, what are you planning for your next book, if there are any plans?

I’ve just finished the first draft of my new novel, which continues the theme that so interests me: how do we find hope and resilience in the midst of troubled times?

Thank you Suzanne, and good luck with future endeavours.

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

cropped-Readings-and-Musings-on-all-things-books-Aussie-authors-and-everything-in-between.jpg

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

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

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.

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

the french photographer
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.

Natasha+Lester_AUTHOR+PIC
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