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:
Welcome Nicki Edwards.
It’s 6:45am and I’m in the staff room waiting for my shift to begin. Other nurses arrive. Some, like me, are morning people. Others grunt and mutter their greetings. They need coffee first. Someone asks about my latest book and a discussion ensues about who will be the inspiration for my next hero and heroine.
This morning I have been assigned two patients. There’s nothing difficult about either of them. Both are hemodynamically stable (their blood pressure, heart rate and temperature etc. are within normal limits) and both should go to the general surgical ward later that morning. This means I’ll get two post-op patients. A busy day.
My first patient is a man who had part of his bowel removed two weeks earlier. After a night in ICU he was discharged to the ward, developed sepsis and was readmitted to ICU via theatre. I looked after him when he was intubated but of course he doesn’t remember me. I stick my head in his room. He’s sound asleep and I don’t wake him. I tell the night duty nurse I know his history and she just gives me a quick update on his progress. Other than low blood pressure, he’s fine.
The other patient is buzzing, asking to pain relief. He had bilateral knee replacements and required an ICU stay for pain management. I introduce myself and take handover. While re-educating the patient about using his PCA – patient controlled analgesia – I check all the equipment is working and the alarms on the monitors are set correctly. I also check the IV fluids and the analgesia in the pump.
While moving around the room, I chat to the patient. I work in a big hospital but in our city there are only three degrees of separation and I often know my patients. If I don’t, I find that by asking a few questions, I can form a quick connection. My favourite question is: ‘What footy team do you barrack for?’ This always gets a patient talking.
I begin my assessment on the knee replacement man starting with questions to assess his pain level and conscious state. I check his pupils, and perform neurovascular obs. All normal. I check his circulatory system, checking temperature, blood pressure and heart rate among other things. His IV fluids run out and I find the order and hang up another flask. Then I listen to his chest. It’s quiet in the bases of his lungs and I remind him of the importance of deep breathing and coughing and the risk of pneumonia. I show him how to use the incentive spirometer to help expand his lungs.
I assess his abdomen. It is soft and there are bowel sounds. Good. His urine output via his catheter is low. It’s been borderline all night. I make a mental note to flag that with the doctors when they do the round.
I like to write my notes early, but a buzzer sounds and I check my other patient. He’s awake and his stoma bag has exploded. Everywhere. He’s mortified. On the plus side, at least his bowels are working, but I kick myself for not checking if it was full. Twenty minutes later he’s cleaned up and sitting out of bed. I’ve put fresh linen on his bed even though I expect he will go to the ward. I return to the other patient in time to record his 0800 observations.
There’s a commotion at the nurse’s desk. The internal medical emergency phone rang and I hadn’t even heard it. A ward nurse wants his patient reviewed by the ICU doctors. She’s barely conscious with an elevated respiratory rate, a low blood pressure and a temperature of 39.
I go back to my patients but keep an ear on the conversations at the desk. The doctors need to intubate the patient on the ward. I overhear something about a possible bleed on her brain and a discussion about tubing her then transferring her to a larger hospital. We don’t look after neuro patients. The nurse looking after the patient doesn’t have the qualifications to care for a ventilated patient and the patient is in a room not set up to take ICU patients. And ICU is full.
The nurse in charge asks if either of my patients are ready for the ward so they can bring the sick patient into the ICU. I decide the bowel surgery guy would be easier to move but when I go into his room he’s vomiting. I clean him up again and assist him back to bed. His blood pressure plummets and his legs crumple beneath him. I yell for help and colleagues rush in. The nurse in charge informs me I need to go to the ward to help the doctors tube the patient now!
I wash my hands, leave the mess behind and bolt out of ICU. It’s only 8:30am.
On the ward I find more chaos. A doctor is keeping the lady’s airway open delivering oxygen via a bag valve mask. One nurse is setting up the airway trolley for intubation. Another nurse rushes in and hands me syringes of propofol, fentanyl and midazolam – all drawn up, labelled and countersigned – before racing off to find IV pumps and poles. I check the drugs and lay to them to one side.
The tiny room is packed. One of the doctors is trying to put in an IV line. He’s had two unsuccessful attempts already. I try and miraculously hit the vein first go. I want to cheer, but don’t. My ED nursing experience comes in handy in ICU.
Outside, a crowd is gathering. The patient’s tearful sister is being looked after by two nurses and a pastoral care worker. Orderlies stand waiting to transfer the patient’s bed into ICU once she’s been intubated.
The ICU Consultant’s calm manner rubs off on all of us. We take a deep breath and exhale slowly. We run through checklists. Does everyone know what their role is? Yes.
Moments later the lady is sedated and a tube is passed down her throat and connected to the ventilator. I fiddle with the buttons to make sure she’s breathing properly while the doctors clean up. Within minutes the orderlies swoop and the bed, piled high with equipment, is wheeled into ICU.
While I’ve been gone, my colleagues have sent the man with the knee replacements to the ward, cleaned his room and taken over the care of my other patient without question or complaint. It’s all about teamwork.
My stomach growls and my head reminds me I needs caffeine. I check my watch – 9:15am.
The ICU Consultant looks at me and grins. “I’ll bet this makes it into your next book.”
He’s spot on.
Nicki Edwards is the author of The Peppercorn Project, published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $29.99
Australian writers are awesome! Caring, genuine, generous, talented…I hope you get a chance to meet and listen to the personal stories of some of these fabulous authors soon. Though I didn’t have the stamina to sit it on every event I enjoyed the day immensely. Thank you all for making day one of the festival so memorable.
Coffin Road by Peter May ($29.99), published by Hachette Australia.
About Peter May:
Peter May’s books have sold several million copies worldwide and have won awards in the UK, the USA, and France. He is the author of:
Peter May was named Scottish Young Journalist of the Year Award when he was twenty one.
Peter May had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.
One of Scotland’s most prolific and successful television dramatists, he garnered more than 1000 credits in 15 years as scriptwriter and script editor on prime-time British television drama. He is the creator of three major television drama series and presided over two of the highest-rated drama serials in his homeland before quitting television to return to his first love, writing novels.
Born and raised in Scotland he lives in France.
Let me extend a big Australian welcome to Peter May.
Let’s talk childhood. What aspirations did you have as a child?
I knew I wanted to write from the moment I picked up my first pencil. My father was an English teacher and my mother was an avid reader. They taught me to read and write before I went to school, and at the age of four years I wrote my first book. It was only a few pages long but it turned out to be the first in a long line of attempts to write a successful novel. I discovered the evidence of that first foray into writing when many years later I rediscovered the manuscript, if one could call it that, in a dusty box in my parents’ attic when I was clearing out their house. It was called The Little Elf. My mother had shown me how to sew the pages together just like a real book and I had made a cover for it, colouring it red and writing the legend “designed in England and made in Scotland”. I have since scanned all the pages and made a short slideshow with a musical accompaniment which I have put on YouTube for anyone to read. So clearly my aspiration was and always has been to write. Here is a link to my first story: http://youtu.be/XTxOEfwclh0
About your writing. How long has the road to becoming a successful writer been for you?
The road to success has been a long one. When I left school there was no career path to becoming a writer and so I turned to journalism as a way of making my living by writing. And it was only then that I took the advice that everyone had been offering me for years, which was to write about what I know. So I wrote about a journalist, and that was the first book which I had published, at the age of 25. But even then my course towards becoming a novelist was subverted by a career change which took me into television. Having published my first book, I developed the character and idea for a television series which was taken up by the BBC. I went on then to become a screenwriter and spent most of the next 20 years working in television. It was not until 1996 that I finally quit the world of television to try and make my living writing books. Even then it was nearly 15 years and 12 books later before I had my first major success with “The Blackhouse”, since when I have never looked back.
Let’s talk journalism, scripting writing/producing and novel writing. In Australia you are well known for your crime novels, in The UK you are a Richard and Judy superstar, a talented television scriptwriter and producer and a Scottish award winning journalist. Is there nothing word related you can’t do?
Ha ha ha, I don’t know about that. But words have always been my stock in trade, they have been my means of expressing myself, not just verbally but visually, using those words to paint pictures for my readers, as well as exploring the human psyche.
What do you love about writing?
I love that when I am writing I am transported from my desk and my study by the power of the imagination to anywhere in the world that I may choose to go.
Who is your favourite author? Do you have a favourite book?
I do not have a single favourite author but several who have influenced me over the years, including such writers as Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, H.E. Bates and others. My favourite book is probably “The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B” by the Irish-American writer J.P. Donleavy, because it taught me how to break the rules of grammar and freed me to develop my own style of writing.
Do you have a favourite band/song? The song, album and video you recorded, Runaway, depicts a major life changing event in your teenage years “also providing the inspiration for the new book which I am currently writing. I have already clocked up 45,000 words as I blog this. And what is the working title of the book? Well, “Runaway” of course!” Has music inspired any of your other books? (And we can we see another video please?)
The most influential band during my formative years was, without doubt, The Beatles. They provided the soundtrack to my growing up years. All of my earliest experiences, particularly in affairs of the heart, were related to one Beatles song or another. But I loved much of the music of the 60s and 70s. It was an exciting time, and music was breaking new ground at every turn of the record. My earliest books were all written to the sounds of my favourite bands. But I found, in the end, that music was proving too influential, colouring the mood and content of my writing, and I gave it up and now write in silence. I cannot say that music has influenced any of my books other than “Runaway”, but I still write, play and record music today. Here is an example. The song is called “Big Bad Wolf”, and it tells the story of the initial rejection of my breakthrough book “The Blackhouse”: http://youtu.be/IR1SR9afWSI
Tell us more about the eco warrior within you. (My reference is to Coffin Road – bees and science) and I believe the China novels have an eco/conservation theme.
I believe that writers have an obligation to address matters of universal importance. Much of my writing in the China Thrillers, and in my latest novel “Coffin Road”, has involved warning of danger in the unfettered exploitation of science for purely financial gain. Many scientific advances such as the development of genetically modified foods or pesticide and herbicide-resistant crops, are sold to us as being beneficial to mankind when very often they are exactly the opposite. “Coffin Road” was motivated by my concern about the effect on bees of a breed of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Bees are vanishing at an unprecedented rate and their disappearance altogether would be a disaster both for the planet and the human race. Bees are responsible for producing anything up to half of all the foods that we eat, and the link between their demise and the use of these pesticides is now irrefutable. Having thoroughly researched my subject I felt that both the bees and the silent majority of the human race needed a voice, and “Coffin Road”, I hope, has given them that.
Let’s talk about the settings of your books. France, China, Canada, Scotland, Hebrides….all so different. What attracted you to these particular settings for you crime novels? Are you also a master of languages? Gaelic? Chinese? French?
Ha ha. No. I speak and write in English, I have become relatively fluent in French, but I speak no Chinese or Gaelic. Languages are not my strong suit. As far as settings are concerned I go where my stories take me. I never write about a place I have not been to, so I have travelled widely, and hopefully in my books I take my readers on those same journeys with me.
How did you research your books?
All my research is conducted in depth, on the Internet, in books, and in journeying to the settings of the various stories. I also enlist the advice of various experts in the different fields about which I am writing in any given book. Being fearless in my research is something I learned as a journalist and now I almost enjoy the process of research more than the actual writing.
Are you currently writing a new novel? Where will it be set?
I have just finished writing the sixth and final book in the Enzo Files series which is set in France. It will be out next January.
If you want to know more about Peter check out his social media sites here: http://about.me/petermayinfo