Guest Post by Kim Lock

Recently I had the pleasure of reading Kim’s new book The Other Side of Beautiful, it was outstanding. I am a fan of Kim’s writing and storytelling and when I finished this particular read I asked myself, and then asked Kim, how does she write each book so differently, each as standalones, each a unique story? When I read her response I had a big AHA moment. Thanks so much Kim for enlightening me.

Carol: How do you write each book so uniquely?
Kim Lock: Good question. Let me think.

When I get up in the morning, here’s what happens: I shuffle into the kitchen, squinting. I put the kettle on; I sit and drink a cup of tea and wait for my brain to catch up with the phenomenon of daylight and being vertical. Once that has happened, there’s another cup over a book, or perhaps my emails. This – the squinting, the tea, the brain catch-up – happens without fail every morning. Of an evening, there’s the couch and chips or chocolate and an hour or two of Netflix. These are the comforting rituals that bookend my day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Between those morning and evening rituals? It varies. I’ve recently released a new novel, The Other Side of Beautiful, so lately there’s been publicity work to attend to. If I’m writing or editing, I’ll make that a priority for most of the day. Sometimes I’ll head into the garden, or drag myself to the shops for groceries or errands. Go for a run. Oh, and I have two home-educated preteens so there’s that.

This quiet unpredictability? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although I must be clear: while I don’t love schedules, I also don’t especially enjoy dramatic surprises. Sometimes shock feels too much like fear. While I relish the ebb and flow of an unscheduled day, I also like to know, at least loosely, what to expect. (Call me contrary, but what human isn’t?)

So, I write fiction, returning again and again to the subjects I’m fascinated by, but with the steering wheel in front of me. (Or so I tell myself, until the characters have other plans.)

I’ve found my books shelved under contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, Australian fiction, historical fiction, thriller and noir, romance, humour and adventure. I’m told I write ‘genre-straddling’, ‘commercial-literary hybrid’, writing that perhaps ‘isn’t easy to categorise.’

But like most writers, I just write to try and understand the human experience. I write to try and make some sense of this nonsensical world, to explore the what-ifs that fascinate, frighten or engage me.

The funny thing is, as much as my novels are all different, I also know I am always writing about the same thing: women’s experiences of reproduction and motherhood in patriarchy. Becoming a mother upended everything I thought I knew, and became the bedrock of my feminism – and the obsessions that fuel my writing. But because I’m driven by novelty, I’ve also written about the army, adoption, psychological abuse, domestic ménage a trois, 1960s Australia, politics, mental illness and health, loneliness, happiness. I’ve written about the quiet joy to be found in solitude, in company, in the present moment. I like to include humour into my work; if it makes me laugh, it keeps me going.

What I love most especially is a new idea. I get delighted by small, bright changes. (You should see me when the bulbs in my garden sprout!) I love learning something new or having my stale old beliefs knocked about or eliminated entirely. (I admit this is sometimes challenging – hello motherhood – but it always works out to be a good thing, even if I complain about it at the time.) And I love it – love it – when people act in a surprising way, or do something out of what I had perceived to be their character.

In The Other Side of Beautiful, Mercy Blain has been stuck in her house for two years. To Mercy, newness and novelty are anathema. In order for my character to find herself – to dig into those same questions with which I as the writer am obsessed – I had to shove her out into the world. So, in the opening scene, I set her house on fire. Then I asked myself, Alrightnow what’s she gonna do?

Now what? I suspect it’s a question I’ll keep asking.

Review: The Other Side of Beautiful – Kim Lock

The Other Side of Beautiful

Kim Lock

HQ Fiction

ISBN: 9781867214915

Description:

Lost & Found meets The Rosie Project in a stunning break-out novel where a vulnerable misfit is forced to re-engage with the world, despite her best efforts.

Meet Mercy Blain, whose house has just burnt down. Unfortunately for Mercy, this goes beyond the disaster it would be for most people: she hasn’t been outside that house for two years now.

Flung out into the world she’s been studiously ignoring, Mercy goes to the only place she can. Her not-quite-ex-husband Eugene’s house. But it turns out she can’t stay there, either.

And so begins Mercy’s unwilling journey. After the chance purchase of a cult classic campervan (read tiny, old and smelly), with the company of her sausage dog, Wasabi, and a mysterious box of cremated remains, Mercy heads north from Adelaide to Darwin.

On the road, through badly timed breakdowns, gregarious troupes of grey nomads, and run-ins with a rogue adversary, Mercy’s carefully constructed walls start crumbling. But what was Mercy hiding from in her house? And why is Eugene desperate to have her back in the city? They say you can’t run forever…

Exquisite, tender and wry, this is a break-out novel about facing anxiety and embracing life from an extraordinary new talent.

My View:

This is a fabulous read- moving, engaging, authentic in setting and characters (particularly the caravanning community) and written with a vulnerability that is captivating. This book is such a delight to read.

Do you read a book and go – yes so and so will enjoy this? Or my sister-in-law/daughter /family/friend will love this? This is one such book. I loved it, and have recommended to so many. Now I am recommending it to you.

Review: Dog Rose Dirt – Jen Williams

Dog Rose Dirt

Jen Williams

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008383800

Description:

What if your mother had been writing to a serial killer?

A convicted murderer with a story to tell

Serial killer Michael Reave – known as The Red Wolf – has been locked in Belmarsh Prison for over 20 years for the brutal and ritualistic murders of countless women.

A grieving daughter with a secret to unearth

Ex-journalist Heather Evans returns to her childhood home after her mother’s inexplicable suicide and discovers something chilling – hundreds of letters between her mother and Reave, dating back decades.

A hunt for a killer ready to strike again

When the body of a woman is found decorated with flowers, just like his victims, Reave is the only person alive who could help. After years of silence, he will speak to Heather, and only Heather.

If she wants to unearth the truth and stop further bloodshed, she’ll have to confront a monster.

My View:

Dark dark dark!

Picture this – full moon, late at night, reading, reading…. new pup needs a toilet break before we go to bed – we put on her lead and we go for a wander around the garden…it’s midnight or later… we walk around and around in the light of the moon; its forty minutes and we are still walking (these “things” needed to happen before we could go to bed). We hear noises. We keep walking- hesitantly, reluctantly (me) purposefully (me) timidly (dog). I am feeling just a bit apprehensive (thanks scary book) 😊 Eventually the dead is done and we scurry inside and go to bed.

I slip into sleep – into dreams (not good ones) and wake up shouting “NO!” and snuggle closer to the husband. I had such a bad feeling…. such unease. Thanks book. I finished reading this in the daylight.

To sum up: a dark dark read- atmospheric, compelling. Read in the daylight.

Dog Rose – a type of climbing rose

Review: Local Woman Missing – Mary Kubica

Local Woman Missing

Mary Kubica

HQ Fiction

Harper Collins

ISBN:9781867226369

Description:

Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find…

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times bestselling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My View:

I have mixed feelings about this one. The premise is exciting, the first few chapters are captivating, the red herrings are well planted. However, I wasn’t captivated, I wasn’t staying up late to finish …and a few situations just didn’t sit well with me – no spoilers but interested to hear what others think…and whilst the ending was very clever it also was too neat a wrap up for my liking.

Maybe this is more about me? Lately I have been finding the genres I usually are drawn to are just not doing it for me. Is it because I am super busy? (It’s Open Studios here in 4 weeks and I have a lot of prep work to do) Is it because I have read too much of the one genre and need a break from that for a while? I will try mixing up my reading a little more.  Sorry Mary – I have loved your previous works but just didn’t love this one.

Missing …

Found: Maggie Dog

If you have been wondering where i have been of late, we got a new addition to the family and she is taking a bit of settling in but is making lots of progress.

Maggie is a staffy x – crossed with something with long legs🙂 She is submissive and a bit cautious of the world – she is what is becoming known as “a covid puppy” born in a time of lock downs with less opportunity to be socialised. But this little girl has a warm heart and just wants to be part of the family.

She is learning that we are here for her and that together we can learn so much.

Her favourite things are; Me, food and third Garry and the lounge.

Maggie Dog

Review: Winter in Sokcho – Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

Winter in Sokcho (Hiver à Sokcho)

Elisa Shua Dusapin

 Aneesa Abbas Higgins (Translator)

Scribe

ISBN: 9781922585011

RRP $22.99

Description:

As if Marguerite Duras wrote Convenience Store Woman — a beautiful, unexpected novel from a debut French-Korean author.

It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North’s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an “authentic” Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows — the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she’s pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.

An exquisitely-crafted debut, which won the Prix Robert Walser, Winter in Sokcho is a novel about shared identities and divided selves, vision and blindness, intimacy and alienation. Elisa Shua Dusapin’s voice is distinctive and unmistakable.

My View:

This quietly spoken little book is quite remarkable! I loved the voice, I loved its style – minimalist yet full of poignant, expressive moments captured succinctly and in an unassuming manner.

This is a book that demands much fanfare!! This is a read I will be recommending to all I see. It is exquisite reading and perfectly translated.  I don’t think my words can do this book justice, all I can do is suggest you pick this book up and start reading…you will find time disappears as you enter the protagonist’s world.

We all wish to be seen.

Perfect. Memorable. The best read in many years.

Review: False Witness – Karin Slaughter

False Witness

Karin Slaughter

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460757062

RRP $32.99

Description:

He saw what you did … He knows who you are. The stunning new standalone from the no.1 international bestselling author

AN ORDINARY LIFE …

Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.

HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST …

But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average … a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.

BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP …

Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT.

If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Calli, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice …

My View:

Looking for an author who never disappoints? Look no further. I can highly recommend every single book this author has written.

This book comments on bullying, addictions, predatory behaviour…redemption. There is so much behaviour I recognise (but not quite so violently as Ms Slaughter writes), and I love how thrilling, engaging, tense and passionate writing can shed the light on so many issues without preaching or ranting.

As always Karin Slaughter is a great writer! 5 stars from me.

Review: Lucy and Copper

Lucy and Copper

Mandy Foot

Lothian Children’s Book

Hachette

ISBN: 9780734420282

RRP $16.99

Description:

Smudge has been Lucy’s best friend since she was little. But these days, Lucy is too big to ride her beloved pony.

Lucy is sure no one can replace Smudge, even when Pa brings home a new horse called Copper. Can Lucy grow to love Copper just as much?

A story that will warm the heart of every animal lover, from the bestselling author-illustrator of Joey & Riley and The Wheels on the Bus.

My View:

This is the perfect book to transition your pre-schooler from the first easy read/picture books type of beginnings to following along with an actual narrative, a great read!  

A perfect bedtime read, engaging, not too long and the illustrations are gorgeous.

Review: Catch us the Foxes – Nicola West

Catch Us the foxes

Nicola West

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781760857479

RRP $32.99

Description:

Some secrets you try to hide. Others you don’t dare let out … Twin Peaks meets The Dry in a deliciously dark and twisted tale that unravels a small town

Ambitious young journalist Marlowe ‘Lo’ Robertson would do anything to escape the suffocating confines of her small home town. While begrudgingly covering the annual show for the local paper, Lo is horrified to discover the mutilated corpse of Lily Williams, the reigning showgirl and Lo’s best friend. Seven strange symbols have been ruthlessly carved into Lily’s back. But when Lo reports her grisly find to the town’s police chief, he makes her promise not to tell anyone about the symbols. Lo obliges, though it’s not like she has much of a choice – after all, he is also her father.

When Lily’s murder makes headlines around the country and the town is invaded by the media, Lo seizes the opportunity to track down the killer and make a name for herself by breaking the biggest story of her life.

What Lo uncovers is that her sleepy home town has been harbouring a deadly secret, one so shocking that it will captivate the entire nation. Lo’s story will change the course of her life forever, but in a way, she could never have dreamed of.

My View:

This book had many interesting/intriguing parts but unfortunately, I could not suspend my disbelief to comfortably ride out this narrative.  I think this is a book that will divide readers – you will either enjoy or like me will walk away feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with the ending.  

The plusses – some great moments of intrigue, dilemmas, social issues highlighted …the best creepy character – Michael (very subtlety but creepily portrayed), many twists and turns.  Bound to cause lots of discussions in book groups.

The minuses –   so many “about faces”, my inability to suspend my disbelief, it felt like the book was trying to be too many things and not sure what that “thing” should have been.  The social issues that were sympathetically highlighted then later ridiculed /condemned. The ending…you either will love or hate it.

If you have read this, I would love to hear your thoughts.