This helpful video, “teaching old dogs new tricks” is from the author of The Rescue Dog, Things Your Dog Wants You to Know and Dognitive Therapy Laura Vissaritis – a book with a lot of heart and wisdom.
Welcome Australian author Barbara Hannay to my blog.
“A former English teacher, Barbara Hannay is a city-bred girl with a yen for country life. Many of her forty-plus books are set in rural and outback Australia and have been enjoyed by readers around the world. She has won the RITA, awarded by Romance Writers of America, and has twice won the Romantic Book of the Year award in Australia. In her own version of life imitating art, Barbara and her husband currently live on a misty hillside in beautiful Far North Queensland where they keep heritage pigs and chickens and an untidy but productive garden.” https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/barbara-hannay
Earlier this week I asked Barbara to share with us a little bit about her life, her writing and her inspiration. I love this very personal and pictorial response, thank you Barbara.
Barbara at her desk.
Barbara Hannay’s Favourite Things:
Thank you for sharing with us today Barbara. I love these pictures – they say it all – words +love = happiness – smiles all round.
PS Barbara has a new book out – The Country Wedding: https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-country-wedding-9780143783312
Welcome Anthea to my blog. Anthea is a Western Australian writer who has just had her debut novel, The Drifter, published by Penguin Random House Australia. Anthea’s book is a most enjoyable read; it is an authentic, original story that gives voice to many contemporary issues in a complex yet enjoyable read… Themes of fractured families, death and atonement and survivor guilt are explored skilfully in this heart-warming coming-of-age drama.
Anthea has had what may seem a magical passage to publication. A woman in a hurry, she wrote her first novel The Drifter in five weeks, and pitched it to Penguin Random House in five minutes. She was then signed to a two book deal. WOW!!! I can hear the gasps of appreciation (we all know how hard it is to score a publishing deal) and to have written this book in just five weeks? Amazing! I invite Anthea to tell us about her writing journey.
Anthea have you always yearned to be a writer?
Absolutely! I have always loved books and writing, but I learned early on that it was an impractical passion on which to base a career, so I shoved the urge deep down inside me and left it to fester in a nice way, while I worked in radio, organising and writing interviews. It was a fascinating job (with access to free books – yay!) but once I had children I found it hard to fit radio shifts in with my two small kids and a husband who worked away much of the time, so I felt as if it was time to finally give it a bash.
When did you first start writing?
As an adult, I started just before I wrote The Drifter. I haven’t ever studied writing because I hated the thought of anyone reading my work, and I think I’d be too confused by input from a writing group or formal course. I think I last wrote in year ten at school, although I had a kind of journal in my early twenties. The Drifter was the first time I sat down and plotted out a manuscript, although I did have a false start a year before with a manuscript that never really resolved itself. I think Drifter worked for me because I wrote it down scene by scene on little yellow cards and literally worked from the top of the pile to the bottom, in order.
What inspired The Drifter?
The Drifter was inspired initially by my love of the country and my home-town. I knew I wanted to write a rural romance, so the idea of a drifter coming to town seemed a good way to do it, because it allowed the protagonist and therefore the reader to discover how the community and the farm worked at the same time. Just before I wrote it my father died of Alzheimers disease in a nursing home in Perth after a long and horrible illness. There are a couple of themes that came from that time – the idea of what makes a good death, and a good life, and the idea that you never really lose the people you love – because you can take them with you. Dad’s death showed me that, and I take him with me everyday.
Five weeks to write a complete novel- seems like an incredible feat, how did you achieve this?
My number one rule for writing the Drifter – get out of bed! Writing the Drifter was a mad, joyful dash for me – I had always wanted to write, I had found my plot and my themes, and I couldn’t write it fast enough. The Drifter was a wonderful experience. It was the coming together of my love of the country, of writing, of the people I grew up with, of laughter, and of my dear dad. The Drifter came galloping out of me at three o’clock every morning, surrounded by the wonderful warm and quirky women of Yealering, the beautiful countryside, and the strength of their relationships and love. The romance between Cate and Henry was so much fun to write, but I think I wrote the manuscript quickly, thousands of words a day, because I already knew the characters so well and because I had something to say, about friendship and about death. My farm is described in the book, our old dog, the place we buried him, members of my family, friends – everyone got stuffed into the Drifter’s pages.
Getting the attention of a publisher – how did this happen?
This was the hard part, and I think it is probably difficult for most writers. For two years I sent Drifter out into the void, with no response whatsoever. I sent it to all of the major publishers and never heard back, I entered it in a competition two years in a row, where it only had to be in the top 15 entries of 28 to get to the next round – it wasn’t. It sat in slush piles and it was rejected by agents. And so it would have gone on, unless the wonderful Romance Writers of Australia hadn’t come to my aid. They have a yearly conference with a valuable offer – the chance to pitch to a number of agents and publishers for five minutes! The year I pitched the conference was in Melbourne. I flew to Melbourne and stayed a few days. I was too freaked out to actually attend the event – I pretty much wandered about the city chanting my pitch to myself like a mad woman. And somehow it worked – I lined up outside a door, someone rang a little bell and I sat down in front of Ali Watts from Penguin and said, Hello, my name is Anthea Hodgson – and I’ve written a rural romance about death. This one small act of bravery resulted in a two-book deal with my dream publisher – I was so lucky Ali took a chance on me, with no training or track record, and with no online presence. It was both exhilarating an extremely humbling to be handed my dream. I never mind the early starts – they are a privilege!
Tell us a little bit about your next book and when we can expect to see it.
Well! Funnily enough I’m just finishing it off now. Penguin was silly/generous enough to offer me a couple of extra weeks, so I’m obsessing and tinkering about at 3am again, getting it ready to deliver. It will be out around August of 2017. This novel might be called The Cowgirl, or perhaps The Firebird, I’m not sure, but it follows the story of Deirdre, the wonderful old battle-axe who stole so many scenes in The Drifter. It is her story – how she came to be such a tough old nut, and is also the story of her granddaughter Teddy, who is trapped on the farm, milking the cow – just as her grandmother has always done. Or is she? What lies buried next to the old pepper trees – and could it change her life?
Where can readers connect with you?
I am hoping to do some library talks around Perth and some country areas early in the new year – check out my website and I’ll keep you posted!
My facebook is Anthea Hodgson Australian Author
Website is Antheahodgson.com
As you can see – I like to keep it simple..!
Thanks you for sharing so generously with my readers and congratulations on writing a fantastic book!
Thanks so much! I’m so happy you enjoyed The Drifter – as you can tell – it’s very close to my heart!
Here it is December 2016 already. I cant believe it – this year has flown by, life has been busy; a grandson was born and he is now 8 months old. Recipes have been tried and tested and many books have been read and reviewed – around the one hundred seventy mark thus far.
I am enjoying sharing the joy of reading with my grandson (with appropriate titles) – it is never too early to encourage a love of reading.
Recently I invited a couple of ardent readers to share some of their favoruite reads on my site – to broaden the type of book reviews available here. I hope you find some new favourite books and authors. Thank you Bec and Brenda.
The reading year has not yet wound up – there is a blog tour ahead; the launch of Rachel Amphlett’s new police procedural series, Scared to Death. There is a Q & A with debut Perth writer Anthea Hodgson, a Christmas menu to compile and share and a series of “best of 2016 reads” for you to comment on and…more reviews.
Seasons greetings to you.
Welcome to my blog Ann Girdharry.
Ann Girdharry was born and educated in the UK. A trained psychotherapist, she has worked for many years as a manager in the not-for-profit sector, for agencies working with: carers, vulnerable older people and those with dementia, survivors of abuse, and victims of racism and racial attacks. Today, she lives in Montpellier, France with her husband and two children.
Let’s talk childhood. What aspirations did you have as a child?
When I was a child, my ambition was to be an astronaut. I loved science.
Well, I can tell you that would never have worked out, at least, not the astronaut part – sometimes I can get travel sick even in the back of a car!
I went on to study science, actually Biochemistry, but was turned off by all the animal experimentation and lack of ethics in the pharmaceutical industry. This was a problem for me because the pharmaceutical industry is the main source of funding for research in this field.
Let’s talk books and influences. Who is your favourite author? Do you have a favourite book?
I have read many good and enjoyable books over the years and I like to read widely.
In the mystery and suspense genre, my favourite book is Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. This has been on my ‘to read’ list for a long time and I just finished it recently. It’s a wonderfully written book – full of tension and great story-telling. Towards the end, I actually slowed down reading it, because I didn’t like the idea of it coming to an end – and I think that shows you how good it was.
If, one day, my books sat alongside this one on a bookshelf, I’d be very happy!
How long has the road to becoming a successful writer been for you?
The road has been long and it’s been happy.
I’ve always been creative and imaginative. I won my first story writing competition at school at age fifteen and writing remained a side-line hobby for most of my life. For unknown reasons, after the birth of my second daughter (I have two daughters) I fell into a period of creative frenzy. Perhaps it was the effect of spending long periods of time in the house with two small children, perhaps it was the child birth, maybe it was simply emotion– I don’t know – but I wrote every day and I absolutely had to write. Everything spilled out – poetry, short stories, flash fiction – and it was that period that pushed me to refocus on my writing and which finally led to me creating this novel.
Let’s talk writing. What do you love about writing?
If I didn’t write, I wonder if I might go a bit strange? That’s probably an exaggeration…
The truth is, I’ve always had an ‘over-active’ imagination, so writing is a great channel. Once you’ve learnt the art of writing, it becomes a passion.
I see you are well travelled. Tell us about that.
I know that I have a nomadic streak and I often feel restless. I think this has been passed down to me through the generations.
My ancestors were indentured labourers who moved from the poor suburbs of India to work the sugar plantations in what was then British Guyana. That was about five generations ago, and Guyana is long since independent. In return for their labour, my ancestors ‘earned’ their plot of land in Guyana and that’s where my parents were both born.
My mother came to England to work as a nurse, then as a midwife, and I was born in the UK. For my own part, as an adult I’ve lived in the USA, Norway, spent a few years back in the UK and now I live in France. In my life, trips to India and Guyana have been important to me and I have family and cousins all over the world (my father was one of ten, and my mother one of six).
My family history definitely influences my world view. It also influences my on-going support and interest in the issues of settlement and successful integration of immigrant communities and refugees.
How do you choose where to site your books?
I choose places that have had an impact on me (good or bad) and which I can describe in vivid or attractive detail. I remember reading at one time of a writer who was living in (I think) Bangkok, specifically to research his new book (I think this was Jo Nesbo) – I am not in that situation! So I draw on my own past experiences to choose settings.
Let’s talk early careers – How has your work with the vulnerable and disenfranchised influenced your writing?
This is an integral part of my writing, although the influence often comes in as an undercurrent rather than as the main theme of my stories or characters.
Certainly, my understanding of psychology and my experience of working for and with people in various situations of crisis, brings a humanity to my writing and, I hope, an insight. My characters are perhaps not the usual ones you find within the pages of books, especially not the usual ones you find within a suspense thriller.
Let’s talk about the characters in your book? Who influenced your portrayal of Kal?
Firstly, Kal is many young women I’ve known wrapped into one. She’s got guts – she’s determined – she’s going to fight against the odds and the odds are stacked against her – I’ve known several young women just like that.
She’s got a tiny part of me in her (from when I was younger, and I hope, the best parts though with time and how memories can fade, perhaps I’m deluding myself there!).
Part of her is made up of a person who can understand detail, who pays attention to detail, who has been taught to interpret and theorise based on detail and instinct. This is built from a certain temperament and a certain mind set, that again, I’ve seen and met close-up in people that I’ve worked with and for.
Let’s talk next book.
Good Girl Bad Girl is the first book in the Kal Medi series.
Kal has more adventures and difficulties to face and I’ve just started writing the second story. If you want to be in on it, you might want to join my Reader’s Group (you can find details on my website). From time to time, I keep in touch with my Reader’s Group, and they’ll be the first to know as the new book progresses.
If you want to know more about Ann check out her social media sites here:
Penguin Books Australia
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennifer has always harboured a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. Her house, which was left to her by her father, is on a hilltop overlooking valleys of messmate and mountain ash. She lives there with her family. A pair of old eagles live there too. Black-tailed wallabies graze by the creek. Eastern spinebills hover among the callistemon. Horses have always been her passion. She grew up on the books of Elyne Mitchell, and all her life she’s ridden and bred horses, in particular Australian stock horses.
I have read three books by Jennifer; Billabong Bend, Turtle Reef and her latest Journey’s End. I have been impressed by all three. I love the connections to the land; the flora, the fauna and amazing Australian rural settings. The narratives are engaging, the social and environmental issues add considerable weight to these contemporary reads. A favourite read you ask? I think Jennifer’s writing is becoming more and more special and appealing with each release, Journey’s End is outstanding… but I loved the cover of Billabong Bend (and the narrative which took me to a landscape I have yet to witness first hand).
Please welcome Jennifer to my blog.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jennifer Scoullar
Let’s talk childhood. What aspirations did you have as a child?
As a child I was an avid reader, and felt a very special, secret connection with animals and plants. I wrote stories, poems and began my first novel when I was eleven. I think it was some sort of a plagiarised version of The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell. I wrote three chapters before I lost the manuscript, but I knew I’d grow up to be a writer.
Let’s talk early careers; studying law… and the paths to the road of writer and… foster carer.
My childhood ambition may have been to write novels, but things soon changed. I think every one of us has something important, deep down inside, that we always meant to do. Then life takes over and you don’t do it. That was how it was for me.
I went to University and studied law. I worked as a prosecutor with the National Crime Authority and as a defender with Legal Aid. I got married, had kids, got divorced, became a foster mother to many more children … and all the while a little, annoying, nagging voice – the voice of me as a child – reminded me that I was supposed to be a writer. I’m very grateful for that voice. In his wonderful essay ‘Why I Write’, George Orwell says, ‘If a writer escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.’ He also said ‘never use two words when one will do’. More good advice.
Anyway, one day I saw a little wasp buzz past, and it struck me as amazing that for one moment, that insect and I shared the same time, the same place, the same space. I wondered what else we shared. This got me thinking about unlikely connections. I sat down and wrote my first novel, Wasp Season.
Let’s talk writing. Tell us about your family influences…
I grew up in a house full of books, and in a family of story-tellers. My father told fascinating stories about his time as a jackaroo in Queensland. My mother didn’t only read to me and my brother. She was a frustrated writer herself. Mum could invent wonderful tales on the spot, with recurring characters and highly original plots. The Magic Professor series was my favourite. A little girl (me) went for a walk in the bush and fell down a wombat hole where she found a science laboratory complete with a magic professor. They became friends, and he’d invent potions to help her with problems. Trouble was, they always backfired hilariously.
My grandfather was the editor of a country newspaper, and would secretly write letters to the editor to encourage engagement with readers. Sometimes he had fiery arguments with himself. My great aunt, the writer Mary Fullerton, died before I was born, but I have her novels and poems. My mother was very proud of Mary’s friendship with Miles Franklin, and her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement.
What do you love about writing?
I love the writing process – the rhythm of the prose and the pleasure of getting a sentence just right. I love that everything happens the way I want it to in my imaginary world. And as an introvert, I love the seclusion.
People often ask me about the solitary nature of writing. It can be no other way and fortunately I embrace solitude. If you don’t, you probably have no business being a writer. Many writers are loners. I’m a complete hermit. Some people ask me how I put up with being on my own so much, but I ask them how they put up with all the interruptions.
In any case, I’m not really alone. I have my characters, and I have the ghosts of readers. I feel an uneasy intimacy with future readers through my written words. It’s an uneasy intimacy because writers gently impress themselves onto readers’ private space. Even though writers are invited by readers to do so, it sometimes still feels like an imposition.
Let’s talk books and influences. Who is your favourite author?
I can’t choose one. Elyne Mitchell, author of the Silver Brumby books, is still one of my favourites. I adore Charles Dickens. What a master story-teller! Nobody draws characters better or with more humanity. I love his warmth of feeling, his sentimentality and his ability to draw the reader in emotionally. I love the way he sets a scene, painting a vibrant picture by evoking the sights, sounds and smells of a place. But most of all I love the courage he shows by engaging with social issues, attacking and exposing injustice wherever he sees it. I love Barbara Kingsolver for the same reason. Her work often focuses on biodiversity and the interaction between people and their environment. She inspires me to do the same.
Do you have a favourite book?
It changes all the time. Currently it would be a tie between Where The Trees Were by Inga Simpson (my former writing mentor) and Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver.
Let’s talk about the characters in your books – your novels are character driven narratives – how do you construct a character? Fully formed before you begin writing? Influenced by people you know?
For me, the possibilities of place always come first. My stories are always inspired by some natural place that particularly interests me. I try to write animals and landscapes not as mere background or setting, but as essential parts of the narrative. So once I’ve decided on where, the characters evolve organically from there.
Sometimes they are influenced by people I know. This is particularly true of the main character in Journey’s End, Kim Sullivan. She was inspired by my old school friend, Kim Gollan, a real-life bush regenerator. Currently she’s on remote Lord Howe Island, restoring habitat for the Lord Howe Island Giant Phasmid, the world’s rarest insect.
Let’s talk about themes in your work. Conservation and nature are themes that feature in your novels. Can you talk to us about rewilding and how dingoes feature in this landscape?
I’m fascinated by the notion of rewilding – restoring flora and fauna to their historical range. The theory has gained popularity after conservation success stories such as bringing wolves back to Yellowstone, and the large-scale return of Europe’s apex predators like lynx, bears and wolverines.
Australia is beginning to embrace rewilding. Quolls, bilbies, bandicoots and bettongs are being returned to parts of their natural range. Plans are afoot to bring Tasmanian devils back to the mainland after a four-hundred-year absence. Many ecologists advocate reintroducing dingoes to control introduced pests like rabbits, cats and foxes – a concept I explore in Journey’s End. Yet rewilding isn’t just for our land. It’s a concept for our minds and spirits as well.
Let’s talk about research for your books – you obviously have a great deal of knowledge about your settings and the flora and fauna of the region – how do you research for your books?
For Journey’s End the research trip was particularly simple. Twenty years ago, my real-life friend Kim established the Dingo Creek Rainforest Nursery at Bobin on the edge of Tapin Tops National Park. I had the great privilege of staying at their nursery, and having a guided tour of Tapin Tops by two passionate botanists who love and understand the sub-tropical rainforest found there.
However, I’ve always been an amateur naturalist myself, and am fascinated by everything wild. I read a lot of non-fiction. At the moment I’m reading a book called Once and Future Giants – What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth’s Largest Mammals. Also a book about Australian wildflowers, a book on Tasmanian history, and the 40th anniversary edition of Born Free by Joy Adamson, A Lioness of Two Worlds
Novels with relevant subject matters are also must reads. For example, one of my works in progress has a fair bit of falconry in it. Reading novels such as H is for Hawk and My Side of the Mountain adds to the knowledge bank.
Lets’ talk next book? Are you currently writing a new novel? Where will it be set? What issues do you want to draw our attention to?
I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new contract for a sweeping historical saga that will be out in the first half of next year. I’m very grateful to Penguin Random House for allowing me to explore this new genre.
It’s said that history is written by the winners. I want to write a fresh version of history, giving a voice to the outsiders, and to the animals teetering on the extinction precipice. My new book begins in late 19th century Tasmania, and is the first novel of a trilogy. It’s the story of Luke Tyler, a man unjustly condemned to prison in his youth, and of Isabelle Holmes, the girl he loves. The narrative follows their lives over a twenty-five-year period. It’s a compelling love story.
As in all my novels, animals play an important part. For example, I also tell the story of one of the last Tasmanian tigers, soon to disappear from Earth after a twenty-five-million-year reign. Apart from a little gem, Coorinna, written in 1957, there is no historical fiction concerning the Thylacine. I think it’s time to fill the gap.
My new novel explores the forces that caused the extinction of the greatest marsupial predator since Thylacoleo Carnifex the mighty marsupial lion, vanished forty-five thousand years earlier. What if the ultimate culprits weren’t the men who shot and snared them? What part did xenophobia play? And could the heroic actions of one young fugitive determine the fate of an entire species? I’m having a lot of fun writing this one.
Keep in touch with Jennifer here: