May 01

Books Writers Read with Ellie Marney

Author Interview
Author: Ellie Marney (Website, Blog, Twitter, Goodreads)

ellie marneyI am very pleased to welcome Ellie Marney to Reading Upside Down. Ellie is the author of the Every series, a trilogy of YA romantic thriller crime novels.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
Searching for Women Who Drink Whiskey – by Miranda Kennedy

It’s a non-fiction book about a foreign journalist living in India, and the women she encountered while living there. It’s research for the new book I’m writing, which features an Anglo-Punjabi girl as one of the leads. I’m trying to get as much info about Indian women’s lives – especially the expectations and roles placed on them – for this book as I can! Women Who Drink Whiskey is written from an outsider’s perspective, but it still has many snippets of usefulness.

Non-fiction is certainly not my usual category. I dabble in non-fiction, but the vast bulk of my reading is from YA, and I often dip into adult fiction. My last adult fiction book was The Ash Burner by Kari Gislason, and I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin in YA.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
YA is most definitely my fave category, but as far as genre goes, I’m a bit mixed – I prefer spec fic or crime, but I’m always happy to check out good contemporary, and if there’s a dash of romance in there I won’t complain. I’ve been reading science fiction and speculative fiction since I was a kid. I think good sf and specific, like all good literature, examines what it means to be human. And for me, crime is about ethics – what is good and evil? What makes people make the choices that they do? I find those questions, addressed in an oblique way with great characterisation and plotting, really fascinating.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
Dozens of books could go on my re-read pile! I sometimes go back to the Harry Potter books, for a comfort read. I also pick up the Tomorrow series by John Marsden, and The Curseworkers series by Holly Black, or anything by Melina Marchetta, to see how the real pros do it. I often re-read Stephen King’s and Helen Garner’s stories. The book I keep returning to, though, is The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris – that’s a hugely underrated and beautifully written book, even if the subject matter is kind of gross.

Where do you read most often? Why?
I love to lie on the couch with a cup of tea and read – if I could do that all day I’d be in heaven.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
I love The Outsiders by Susie Hinton. That book makes me feel like I’m thirteen again. I also have fond memories of reading the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (I got that one from my dad), and the crime classics by Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. One series I’ve brought with me through the years is The Belgariad by David Eddings (I’m still wondering if someone will make Pawn of Prophecy into a movie one day).

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Mainly recs from friends or online – nothing beats word of mouth. But I’ll also take notice of an interesting premise in the blurb, or a great cover.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
I guess I’d put in Every Breath, my first novel – it has a lot of meaning for me. And a book by someone else… Oh that’s hard! How about a feminist classic? The Wanderground by Sally M Gearhart. I love that book, and I’d like to know how women are faring 100 years from now…

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
Sure! I just released the final book in the Every series, Every Move, and it felt great to finish the series. I felt like I lived through Rachel Watts and James Mycroft growing up, and although writing the final book was hard, and a bit heartbreaking, it was satisfying to end their story.

Since late last year, when I knew the series was wrapping up, I’ve been working on a new YA book, tentatively titled No Limits, set in the Mallee area, featuring a secondary character I cribbed from the Every series, Harris Derwent. Harris is a great character – I had to work really hard to make sure he didn’t scene-steal too much in Every Move, because he has such a strong personality! – and in this new book I could let him off the leash. I also had to write a gutsy new female character who could match him, so Amita Blunt was born… Right now I’m deep in the thick of drug rings and undercover police work in Mildura, with a hefty dose of romance – like I said, I don’t mind a bit of romance.

every move

 

Ellie Marney is an Australian author of YA Fiction. Books in her Every series published by Allen & Unwin – Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move – have received enthusiastic reviews from readers. You can find out more about Ellie at her website and you can chat with her on Twitter (@elliemarney) and Instagram (@elliemarney).

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Apr 24

Books Writers Read with Allison Tait

Author Interview
Author: Allison Tait (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Allison TaitI am very pleased to welcome Allison Tait to Reading Upside Down. I met Allison first as a blogger, then became aware of her extensive experience as a freelance writer. She is wonderfully generous about sharing her knowledge about writing and publishing and I was delighted when she brought her talents to bear into the children’s fiction realm with her fantastic adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I have just finished reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was surprised by how much I loved this book, given that I hesitated to pick it up for so long because my response to Eat, Pray, Love was not favourable. It just goes to show you that you should never give up on an author after just one book. I’m also reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which is an ongoing project. I really enjoy it while I’m reading it, but I find it very easy to put down and wander off.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
My favourite genre is crime fiction, though I’ve gone off it a bit of late. Perhaps because I did some bingeing last year. I like crime fiction that is built around an amazing ongoing character. I loved Ian Rankin’s Rebus books, and I wish more than anything that Kate Atkinson would write more Jackson Brodie novels. I think I enjoy crime fiction because I am a person who likes a solid plot and a solid ending. You tend to get that with crime fiction.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
I like to re-read The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I’ve probably read the whole lot at least 8-10 times. It is a grand story full of detail and I enjoy it every time.

Where do you read most often? Why?
I read wherever I can. These days I am so busy with writing all the various things I write, as well as the social media commitments that seem to eat my life (I do my own, plus several clients), as well as the general business of parenting and running a household, that reading time is even more precious – so I snatch it where I can. I do have a favourite chair (I am turning into an old man…), tucked under the window of my dining room. I like to be there.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
Since the first book in The Mapmaker Chronicles series was published last October, I have been asked this question more times than I can count! My answer is getting better, but it’s still very difficult! How do you choose one old friend from so many? So I’ll give you my new, improved answer:

My favourites include Callie’s Castle by Ruth Park, the entire Trixie Belden series, and the Famous Five. Storm Boy by Colin Thiele remains memorable because it made me weep buckets – and I have never been able to re-read it, so clearly I am still traumatised.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
I choose on word of mouth. Anyone who says that social media doesn’t sell books is not looking at it the right way. I read The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion – and chose it for my Pink Fibro Online Bookclub to read – because I saw so many people talking about it on Twitter. Same with The Signature of All Things – I tried so hard to ignore that book, but it kept popping up in my Facebook feed and other places, so I caved in (glad I did).

But reader reviews do matter. Mostly when I’m selecting books for the bookclub, I’ll swing by Goodreads to see what’s being said about the book. I discovered All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr via Goodreads and it was the most glorious experience I’ve had with a book in a very long time. If you haven’t read that one, please do.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Well, I would put The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World in the time capsule (though I would feel bad about not including books two and three as well… imagine wanting to know what happened and not being able to find out!), and… you know, I think I’d pop Storm Boy in there. Let those future readers feel what I felt.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I have just finished the copy edits on The Mapmaker Chronicles: Breath of the Dragon, which is a wonderful feeling. I really feel as though it’s on its way now. As for writing projects, I’m redrafting a novel (for adults) that I’ve been working on for some time, and just tinkering with a new character (for children) who appeared in my head late one night recently. I was very happy to see her because, having written two instalments of The Mapmaker Chronicles last year, my writing brain has been hibernating for a little while.

Prisoner of the Black Hawk

 

Allison Tait is an Australian author who is published across multiple genres. She has written for magazines and newspapers, is published online, blogs and is a presenter at the Australian Writers’ Centre. Allison’s junior/middle fiction series The Mapmaker Chronicles, written under the name A L Tait, is a fantastic adventure series for young readers. The second book, Prisoner of the Black Hawk continues the story that began with Race to the End of the World. You can find out more about Allison at her website and Facebook page and can regularly find her chatting on Twitter (@Altait). You can visit The Mapmaker Chronicles website for more information about this great series published by Hachette.

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Apr 17

Books Writers Read with Janeen Brian

Author interview
Author: Janeen Brian (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Janeen BrianI am very pleased to welcome Janeen Brian to Reading Upside Down. Janeen is a popular and award-winning Australian children’s book author with a her latest picture book, I’m a Hungry Dinosaur, just about to hit the bookstore shelves.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung. Celebrating Australia; a year in poetry by Lorraine Marwood. Let in the stars; new poetry for children; edited by Mandy Coe and a swag of picture books from the library.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
I really like reading Australian fiction; particularly historical fiction. I want to fill in the gaps left by a drought of knowledge from school, but I find it fascinating to see how the life that we now know has evolved through so many different eras. I particularly like reading the Ruth Park and Jackie French style of writing and topics.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
The Simple Gift a verse novel by Steven Herrick. Also Not only in Stone by Phyllis Somerville.

Where do you read most often? Why?
In bed. Or, if it’s the weekend, outstretched on one of our leather sofas in the family room.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack, not only for the story, but mainly because it is the only book I can ever remember having been read to me.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Never just by the cover; but certainly the blurb or review or a friend’s recommendation.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Where does Thursday go? I think this book was a gift. The writing flowed, it was accepted straightaway and illustrated by the wonderful Stephen Michael King. It won an Honour Award in 2002 CBCA Awards In Early Childhood and a Notable in Picture Book category. It’s been published in UK and USA and translated into 11 languages. It never fails to get a lovely response from children and adults alike. And I still love reading it aloud.

The Harp in the South by Ruth Park because I think she captured the most amazing era of Australia’s ‘strugglers’ and wrote it how it was, with a fabulous array of characters. I was introduced into another world.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I’m writing a children’s historic novel called Walking for Gold, which has been accepted by Walker Books.

In the 1850’s, goldfever changed the character of Australia and the goldfields changed the face of the landscape. But although much has been written about life on the goldfields and especially about the thousands of Chinese, or sojourners, who came out to Australia to work the mines and to escape the poverty and wars at in China, not much has been written about a particular trek to the goldfields.

Because of huge disquiet with the European miners concerning the vast numbers of Celestials arriving, the government imposed a poll tax, payable by the ship’s captain, on every Chinese landed at Victorian ports. So, wily captains began to drop their Chinese cargo in South Australia and let the Chinese walk up to 500 kilometres to the goldfields.

My story involves 12 year-old Yong, the son of a Headman, or a villager who could speak English, who came out to Australia, by sailing ship, with the rest of the villagers. It was a duty, not a desire and Yong aches to get to the goldfields, earn enough to keep the family in food, and go back to China.

After their ship is wrecked in Guichen Bay, Robe in South Australia, all sorts of trials and tragedies occur on the arduous trek, including the death of Yong’s father, the threats of a drunken guide and a broken promise. The Yong who finally arrives in Ballarat, is not the same boy who set out.

I'm a Hungry Dinosaur

 

 

Janeen Brian is a well known and respected Australian children’s author and poet. She has written more than 80 books, has poems in 16 anthologies, and has published more than 200 poems, stories, articles and plays in national and international children’s magazines. Janeen’s latest book, I’m a Hungry Dinosaur, is a sequel to her 2013 story I’m a Dirty Dinosaur, both illustrated by Ann James and published by Penguin. You can find our more about Janeen by visiting her website and Facebook page.

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Apr 10

Books Writers Read with Anita Heiss

Author Interview
Author: Anita Heiss (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook)

Anita HeissI am very pleased to welcome Anita Heiss to Reading Upside Down. Anita is an amazing author and public speaker, passionate advocate for indigenous culture and issues, and someone who has been a wonderful inspiration for me personally in many ways.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’ve nearly finished Being Jade  by Kate Belle and will then read The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert by Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Pat Lowe (illustrated by Mervyn Street)

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
I read across genres and this year I am trying to make every second read a ‘fun’ book. That is, I read a lot for research but I like to escape with a good novel. A large proportion of my reading is by Aboriginal authors, so I guess my favourite genre is Aboriginal literature (yes I think you can say it is a genre). I like the range and diversity of voices and how much I can learn about Australian history, culture and society in this genre.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has been a favourite since school.

Where do you read most often? Why?
In bed and at the beach! They are both places where I feel at most peace and can completely immerse myself in a book.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
I wish I could say I do but not really. I found my love of reading later in life.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
I do listen to what friends recommend but I don’t take much notice of reviews because they are so subjective, and I’ve seen first hand how inaccurate and biased reviews can be. I follow a lot of writers on social media so I try and grab their books when I can. I attend a lot of festivals and nearly always buy the books of those I share the stage with. I also like to promote and showcase Aboriginal literature so try to stay on top of what’s being published by houses like Magabala Books, IAD Press and Aboriginal Studies Press.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
My own book would be Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937 (Scholastic, 2003) because it reflects a significant aspect of Australian history that wasn’t discussed or embraced by our nation for a long time, and still needs to be engaged with fully. Hopefully in 100 years time things will be different.

The other book would be The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, I think humans will still be needing this kind of guidance in the next 100 years.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
My current project is about the Cowra Breakout during World War II when over 1000 Japanese POWs escaped from the #12 compound on the outskirts of Cowra. It’s titled Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms and will be the first work about the breakout that also includes the local Aboriginal community in the story. It will be released through Simon & Schuster in 2016.

Tiddas

Dr Anita Heiss is the author of non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, children’s fiction, poetry, social commentary and travel articles. She is an engaging public speaker, a creative disrupter, an enthusiastic communicator on social media, and her regular Grateful blog posts are a wonderful reminder to focus on the amazing people, experiences and moments that are part of our everyday lives. Her most recent novel is Tiddas, published by Simon & Schuster. You can find out more about Anita by visiting her website and blog, and following her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Apr 02

Review: Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein

Review: Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina GermeinThunderstorm Dancing
Author: Katrina Germein (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Allen & Unwin, 1 April 2015
ISBN: 9781743314593
Genres: fiction, picture book
Source: ARC received from publisher

A rollicking rhyming story about a family who dance up a wild storm while the wind and rain swirl outside. Rhythm, rhyme and family mayhem... Perfect for reading aloud, this playful, energetic story will have young children leaping into action.

When a sunny day at the beach turns stormy, a little girl runs for cover. Her daddy and brothers are wild in the wind and lightning, and her poppy is as loud as thunder. They fill the house with stamping and crashing while Granny plays piano to their riotous thunderstorm dancing... until the storm passes and they all fall down. Then, in the stillness, the girl is ready to play. What will she be, now that the rain has stopped and there's a glimmer of sunlight?

NB: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Author Katrina Germein has captured all of the wonderful movement, energy and excitement of a storm in her latest picture book, Thunderstorm Dancing.

Starting at the beach as dark clouds approach, a young girl and her family go from relaxed to bustling busyness as they move inside to escape the storm. Once inside, they dance and move about, as each family member represents a different aspect of the storm from rain and clouds to lightning and the warm sun that appears when the storm clouds clear.

The text has a wonderful sense of movement and pace, building to a crescendo and then suddenly easing as the storm passes as quickly as it arrived. The rhyming text and wonderful selection of sound and movement words are perfect for reading aloud, drawing those listening into the whirlwind of the storm and then leaving them in the comfort of the sunshine that appears when the storm moves on.

Judy Watson’s illustrations complement the energy of the text perfectly, reflecting the dual focus on the family and the weather and cleverly incorporating each family member into the different elements of the thunderstorm.

I love that Thunderstorm Dancing drew me into the energy of the storm. I found myself reading the text more quickly as the storm built to its peak and then letting out a deep breath as the storm passed and the sun came out. The story offers children a way of connecting with the emotion and impact of a storm in a positive way.

Thunderstorm Dancing is a wonderful classroom resource, with obvious opportunities young children to dance and move to the rhythm of the story as well as inspiring older children to use rhythm and rhyme to create their own weather stories.

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Apr 01

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants

Today is the official release date for Don’t Think About Purple Elephants. It’s time for my little purple elephants to go out into the big wide world.

The book was launched at the Newcastle Writers Festival Family Fun Day on the 23rd March, but the official publication date isn’t until today, the 1st April, so in the interest of good manners and doing these things properly, I would like to introduce you to Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, my first picture book.

don't think about purple elephantsDon’t Think About Purple Elephants is a story about Sophie, a little girl who worries. She doesn’t worry during the day when she is busy, but at night time, when everything is quiet and still and there aren’t any distractions, Sophie’s worries stop her from getting to sleep.

Her family tries to help, but nothing seems to work until her mother comes up with a clever idea that might just involve a purple elephant or two…

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants was inspired by my own experiences with my daughter, who suffered with bedtime anxiety when she was 7-years-old. Her worries kept her awake and I struggled to find a way to reassure her and help her calm her mind so that she could sleep well.

The purple elephants in the story were inspired by a bedtime game we played to help her refocus on something light-hearted and positive just before going to sleep. We would think about different coloured animals and tried to add a new animal to our list every night – purple elephants, pink giraffes, green meerkats, turquoise sloths… The list went on and on, becoming a fun and rather silly game that left us both smiling.

As Don’t Think About Purple Elephants hits the bookstore shelves today, I want to thank my daughter for allowing me to share this part of her personal story. She has been very generous in allowing me to talk about her issues with anxiety when she was younger and I think she gets as much pleasure as I do from hearing stories about how ‘her’ purple elephants are helping other young children relax at bedtime.

Susan + Purple Elephant

I also want to thank Gwynneth Jones, the amazing illustrator who brought my story to life. Gwynne’s illustrations have added so much to the story, offering children a visual contrast between calm and anxious emotions and bringing so much humour to the story to ensure that it is entertaining as well as offering a gentle message about dealing with anxiety.

Thank you to Anouska, Alison, Mark and everyone at EK Books who have been so supportive throughout the publication process.

Finally, thank you to the many writers and illustrators I know who have encouraged me to write. I feel very blessed to be part of such an amazing community of creative people who are not only passionate about connecting children with wonderful stories, but are also very generous in supporting each other and new voices within the children’s book industry. Particular thanks to the local Newcastle SCBWI and CBCA groups.

So, here it is, my first picture book. I hope that you enjoy reading Don’t Think About Purple Elephants and I would love for you to share your thoughts about the book. You can chat with me on Twitter or Facebook, or email me at the address listed on my contact page. You can also share your comments on Goodreads with a rating and/or review. Don’t forget to use the #purpleelephants hashtag if you share photos or links on Twitter or Instagram.

You can find more information about the book on the Purple Elephants website.

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants is available at all good bookstores and online (including Booktopia, Bookworld, Boomerang Books and Fishpond)

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Mar 30

Monday Update: 30th April 2015

Inspired by Sandy Fussell, I’ve decided to adapt the ‘It’s Monday, What are you Reading?’ meme into a weekly summary including lists of what I’ve written, what I’ve learned, what I’m reading and what I’ve read, and any miscellaneous links  or articles that have caught my attention over the past week.

don't think about purple elephants

The Week in Review
Last week was dominated by the launch of my picture book Don’t Think About Purple Elephants (illustrated by Gwynneth Jones and published by Exisle Publishing imprint, EK Books). I shared some photos from the book launch here. I was interviewed on 720 ABC radio Perth on Tuesday morning about my experiences as a parent dealing with a child with anxiety (which inspired the book).

 

What I’ve Written

All I’ve written over the past two weeks have been lists of things that I need to write, find, buy, share, post, email, upload, return and organise. I’m hoping to get back to some regular, focused writing this week. I have a long list of story ideas that I want to work on and I also want to put together some workshop notes to use in school visits.

 

What I’ve Learned

It’s hardly a new revelation, but over the past few weeks I have been reminded that the children’s book writing community is an amazingly supportive, encouraging and uplifting place. I have been overwhelmed with the encouragement I have received by other writers, illustrators and book industry people about the launch of Don’t Think About Purple Elephants. I am very grateful for the many message of support I have received about the launch last weekend and the official release of the book on the 1st April. This was also reinforced at the wonderful SCBWI dinner we held during the kids’ program of the Newcastle Writers Festival and the Writers Festival itself. I wasn’t able to get to the main Festival because of commitments with the book launch and friends visiting from out of town, but the kids’ program was amazing and I was fortunate to sit in on sessions with Anna Fienberg, Sarah Davis, Susanne Gervay and Deborah Abela, all of whom were wonderful.

 

Recent Reads

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, so my reading time has been very limited. I haven’t completed an ‘It’s Monday. What are you Reading?’ post since late January, so I won’t recap every book I’ve read since then.

 

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Books that I have completed in the past few weeks include:

Havoc by Jane Higgins (Text Publishing)
The Road to Hope by Rachael Johns (Harlequin Mira)
The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth (Scholastic)
Celebrating Australia – A Year in Poetry by Lorraine Marwood (Walker Books)
The Wedding Wallah by Farahad Zama (Abacus)

 

Bedside Book Pile

 

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These are the books that I am either reading or planning to start in the near future:

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Corgi)
The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski (Bloomsbury)
Son of Death by Andrew McDonald (Hardie Grant Egmont)
The Mapmaker Chronicles #2: Prisoner of the Black Hawk by A L Tait (Hachette)
New Boy by Nick Earls (Puffin)
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver (Hodder & Stoughton)
Through My Eyes: Emilio (Allen & Unwin)
Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar and Anita Roy (Allen & Unwin)
The Program by Suzanne Young (Simon & Schuster)
Something Nasty in the Slushpile compiled by Sammy Looker (Constable)
The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon (Allen & Unwin)
Terry Pratchett: A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday)

 

Random Thoughts, Links and Articles
If you’re looking for some entertaining book-related tweets, check out the #VeryRealisticYA hashtag on Twitter.

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Mar 27

Books Writers Read with Katrina Germein

Author Interview
Author: Katrina Germein (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Katrina GermeinI am very pleased to welcome Katrina Germein to Reading Upside Down. I have loved Katrina’s books since first discovering Big Rain Coming several years ago.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’m reading Tales From The Half Continent by D.M. Cornish. It’s a companion book of stories to the Monster Blood Tattoo series. I love the Monster Blood books. Usually I read realistic fiction, adult and young adult, and I don’t tend to seek out fantasy so I was surprised when I enjoyed Book One: Foundling. The series is just so beautifully written. I savoured all three books.

I also have a pile of picture books beside me because, I always do. Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb is the most recent addition. It’s a superb book.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Picture books speak to my heart. I’m a hopeless collector and gushy reviewer but beyond picture books I tend to read literary fiction, chick lit, historical fiction and a little bit of science fiction and fantasy. I like short stories as well as novels and enjoy poetry sometimes too. Occasionally I read memoir and biography. I don’t read much non-fiction. Maybe I don’t have an absolute favourite genre but I can say that I don’t really read crime, mystery, murder, erotica or romance.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
Not really. I know lots of people who re-read favourite books and sometimes I feel like I’m missing out but the experience of reading a great book can be quite intense and I’m never really sure if I want to go through it again. Also, there are always so many new books that I want to read. But maybe I should try it one day.

Where do you read most often? Why?
Wherever. In bed. On the lounge. In the sun. In the bath. On a plane. In the park.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
No. I can’t choose a single favourite. I’m lucky to have parents who kept my childhood picture books. I have shelves of favourites.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Sometimes it’s a recommendation from a friend but most often it’s me quietly reading the blurb. The word war puts me off, as does Great Depression, winter and divorce, not that those themes don’t infiltrate my reading anyway.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
For my own title I’d choose Big Rain Coming. It’s my first books so it feels extra special. People seem to like it. I’d also choose The Secret River by Kate Grenville. Because it’s amazing.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I’m not sure what my current writing project is, really. I’m kind of dabbling between a few picture book manuscripts. One is about an unlikely hero. (It’s been done before, I know. But I think the world is crammed with quiet, gentle heroes so I’m writing about another one.) And maybe something about a frog. (Also been done before but I never tire of frogs.)

Much of my time at the moment is taken promoting my latest book, Thunderstorm Dancing. I’m very proud of this one. Judy Watson’s illustrations are outstanding and I feel like together we’ve created something good. I hope others think so too. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Thunderstorm Dancing

Katrina Germein is an Australian author of numerous picture books including Big Rain Coming, Little Dog, My Dad Thinks He’s Funny (review), and My Mum Says The Strangest Things. Her latest book is Thunderstorm Dancing, illustrated by Judy Watson and published by Allen & Unwin. You can find out more about Katrina and her books by visiting her website and Facebook page. You can also find her on Twitter (@KatrinaGermein) and Instagram (KatrinaGermein).

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Mar 23

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants Book Launch

Sometimes Sophie worried.

So begins my picture book Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, but I could have just as easily say ‘sometimes Susan worried’. Take Saturday morning for example, when I woke to cloudy skies and stomach full of butterflies.

The launch of my debut picture book was held as part of the Newcastle Writers Festival Family Fun Day on Saturday. Gwynneth Jones, the illustrator, and I sent our Purple Elephants out into the world surrounded by friends, family, colleagues and the Newcastle community in an event that was so wonderful that I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. Like Sophie, my worries were unnecessary and I can confidently assure you that trying to not think about purple elephants was just as impossible for me as it was for Sophie in the story. There were purple elephants EVERYWHERE!

Gwynneth Jones and Susan Whelan

I’ll share more about the book in the weeks to come, but for now I want to share some of the wonderful snapshots of the Don’t Think About Purple Elephants launch. If you can get to the end of this post without thinking about purple elephants, then you deserve a gold star.

Visitors to the Newcastle Writers Festival Family Fun Day were welcomed by a very friendly group of purple elephants.

Purple Elephants

Next, everyone followed the purple elephant footprints to the Lovatt Gallery,

purple elephant footprints

where they found…

purple elephant cupcakes and biscuits

purple elephant cupcakes and biscuits

…delicious purple elephant cupcakes and biscuits (huge thanks to Julie Swane for the amazing cake decorations and the biscuits!)

Then it was time for the launch to begin, with our wonderful literary fairy godmother (and fabulous author) Kaz Delaney officially launching Don’t Think About Purple Elephants.

Kaz Delaney

Kaz Delaney

Next it was time for Gwynne and I to say our thank yous and share a little about the story…

Susan Whelan

Gwynneth Jones

…with time for a quick hug as we handed over the microphone.

Gwynneth Jones and Susan Whelan

I know it doesn’t always work like this, but I feel very blessed that I was able to develop such an amazing friendship with Gwynne as we worked together to create Don’t Think About Purple Elephants. Her wonderful illustrations brought so much to the story.

We then shared Don’t Think About Purple Elephants with the crowd.

Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones

Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones

After the official launch, we had lots of fun signing books and chatting with people. There were so many friends and family there, as well as people from the local community attending the Family Fun Day, and we were very grateful for the wonderful comments from everyone about the book.Signing Dont Think About Purple Elephants

Before we knew it, it was time for us to take part in our storytime session, reading the book again for children in the City Library.

Susan Whelan

The librarians did a wonderful job of recreating a special illustration from the book, so that children could sit on the ‘grass’ and look up at the clouds, just like Sophie.

Storytime reading area

Of course, these are just brief moments from a day filled with amazing people and lots of excitement. I am grateful to Newcastle City Library and to MacLeans Booksellers who set up amazing displays for our book throughout the library (with Gwynne on hand to tweak the book arrangements as needed).

MacLeans Booksellers book display Dont Think About Purple Elephants display

Dont Think About Purple Elephants book display

It was an amazing day, made possible by the hard work of so many people. Thank you to Carol Edmonds, Julie Swane and your team of librarians who did so much to support us. Thank you to the Newcastle Writers Festival for including us in the program and to MacLean’s Booksellers for being such enthusiastic supports of authors and illustrators in Newcastle and beyond. Thank you to Katrina McKelvey for your help with organisation on the day and your ongoing encouragement. Thank you to the wonderful writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers and others who are involved with the local CBCA and SCBWI groups who have done so much to encourage us along the way. Big hugs and thanks to Kaz Delaney for everything you have done at every stage of this story.

Thank you to our wonderful publisher, Exisle Publishing, who have made this who process such a positive one for Gwynne and myself. We’re very grateful for the opportunity we have been given by Exisle through their imprint EK Books to share our story with the world.

Thank you to our friends and family for your patience, encouragement, excitement and support as we have been on this publication journey. Thanks especially to those friends who travelled to attend the launch and to all those who took photos and generously shared them with us over the weekend.

Thank you to Gwynneth Jones, who made creating this story such an amazing experience. I am in awe of your talent.

And, finally, thank you to my wonderful purple elephants who made Saturday such a fun day. The sight of you all walking into the room together is one of my very special memories from the day.

Purple Elephants

For more information about the book, visit the Don’t Think About Purple Elephants website.

don't think about purple elephants

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Mar 13

Books Writers Read with Tania McCartney

Author Interview
Author: Tania McCartney (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Tania McCartney2I am very pleased to welcome Tania McCartney to Reading Upside Down. Tania is the founder and creative inspiration behind Kids’ Book Review, a talented author and illustrator, and a wonderful friend.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
The Strays by Emily Bitto. Author/Publisher extraordinaire Louise Park was raving about it on Facebook so I headed straight to a bookshop. I’d been promising myself to read more adult fiction, as much of my life is drenched in tales for kids, and I’m absolutely loving the depth and sophistication of Bitto’s work. Jane Hawking’s Travelling to Infinity (which inspired the movie The Theory of Everything) is next in line.

Testament to the utterly irresistible nature of children’s books, however, I have an 8-Volume Puffin Classics box beside my bed, pilfered from my daughter’s room. It contains such candy-coloured classics as The Secret Garden and Huck Finn, which I’ve never read. Seeing as though my reading window at night is around 40 minutes before the good old head-drop, I’m unsure how long it’s going to take to wade through these!

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Picture Books. And I’m not even six. There’s something about them. They quite literally send my heart racing.The brevity of text, often so rich in meaning. The words trapped in the pictures. The colour, the texture, the prettiness. I love it all, most especially the books that surprise and sit firmly outside the square.
I’m also increasingly loving Middle Grade fiction, which combines rich and magical storytelling with more sophisticated language and plots. And as for adult books, historical fiction and biography is my thing. Real life sure can be stranger and [oftentimes] more enchanting than fiction.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
I remember reading Danielle Steele’s The Promise about 19 times in my teens. Nowadays I rarely re-read books—but only due to time constraints. One day I’ll re-read lots—and top of the list will be Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients and At Home by Bill Bryson.

Where do you read most often? Why?
Almost always in bed at night or in the morning during a luxurious lie-in weekend (rare!). I think this is the spot because it’s so comfy! and I’m rarely interrupted. I don’t like being interrupted when I’m lost in a book—it’s like someone coughing at the movies. I also read on planes and on holidays, preferably in a hammock. I’ve even been known to read whilst stopped at the traffic lights (beep! beep!).

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
The No Such Thing by Penelope Janic is the first book I can remember adoring as a very young child. Richard Scarry and Golden Books were great loves, too. I simply adored the Saggy Baggy Elephant. Then, of course, there’s Dr Seuss and PD Eastman. Green Eggs and Ham and Are You My Mother? were my all-time favourites.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Almost always it’s by recommendation, whether direct or via the zeitgeist. Like most people, I can be sucked into bestsellers or award-winners; I still have an Award-Winner pile I’m yet to wade through, including Anna Funder’s All That I Am and Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel. I do tend to read favourite authors, too (can’t miss anything by Bill Bryson) but I must say that reviews rarely sway me because they’re so subjective. I’m a reviewer – I understand this!

Even more rarely, I’ll pluck a book from a bookstore shelf and buy it from the blurb and first page. It would have to knock my socks off, though. I’m hesitant because I’m very impatient with books that don’t hold my interest. One of my old bosses – a prolific reader – once told me that life’s too short to waste it on a book that doesn’t engage you. So I like to try to ensure I spend my time and money on a Sure Thing.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Tricky question! I suppose it would have to be my first children’s book, Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, because of what it represents (the beginning of my current authorship journey). It’s what Started it All, despite having written professionally for 25 years before its publication. The second book would be Let the Land Speak by Jackie French—a) because it’s so important and b) I can’t wait to see how right she is.

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I’m currently working on a picture book series with Tina Snerling, based on An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids. It’s very exciting because it’s heading into an overseas market or two. I’m also busily working on some junior fiction, and very, very best of all is the fact that I’m finally plunging headlong into my own illustrated picture books. That’s both daunting and thrilling, but then, I’ve always loved rollercoasters.

My most recent book has just been released – This is Captain Cook (National Library Publishing) with friend Christina Booth as illustrator and collaborator. I’ve wanted to do a book series like this for a very long time – it’s just glorious to finally see it on the shelves. The book sold out of its first print run months before publication, so it’s been a wonderful result so far, and we’ve just signed for book number two! Watch my website to see who we’re covering next …

This is Captain Cook

Tania McCartney is an award-winning Australian author for kids and adults. The founder of Kids’ Book Review and the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, she is an experienced book and magazine editor, publisher, illustrator and speaker. Tania has lived in Paris, London and Beijing, and currently lives in Canberra with her family and a mountain of books. Visit Tania’s website for more information about her books, illustrations and other projects.

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