AWW Feature: Susan Johnson on Landing an Idea

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I’m happy to welcome Susan Johnson to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of The Landing.

Susan is the author of ten books; eight novels; a memoir, A Better Woman; and a non-fiction book, an essay, On Beauty.  Several of my books have been published in the UK, the US, and in European translation (French, Polish) as well as in Australia. She has also written for newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Times, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and Q Magazine of The Courier-Mail).

She has lived in the UK, France and Greece but returned to Brisbane, Australia, to live with her two sons in 2010.

The Landing is a funny, delightful and poignant novel that lays out the human condition – looking for love in all of its many forms with secrets, polite lies, desperation, compromise and joy.

“Jonathan Lott is confused. His wife has left him for a woman and he doesn’t like living alone. Is it true that an about-to-be-divorced man in possession of a good fortune is in need of a new wife? Would Penny Collins do, divorced herself, school teacher and frustrated artist? What about beautiful Anna, blown in from who knows where, trailing broken marriages behind her? There’s a lot happening at The Landing, where Jonathan has his beach house, and he’s about to find out how much love matters.”

Please read on to learn how Susan got the idea for The Landing…

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

by Susan Johnson

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ is one of the most common questions asked of writers. I always say, well, it’s like dreaming: how do you get your dreams? How is my dream so different from yours and why is your dream yours alone?

The answer to the question is really that a book – or an idea – comes from everything that makes a writer up, where he or she was born, who they love, what his or her mother was like. In other words, a book represents the sum of the whole, a kind of outcrop of personality.
The idea for The Landing came to me in a rush, following a visit to a friend’s beach house on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland, Australia. Driving into this little hamlet near a lake, he started pointing out who lived in which house, and all the scandals of the town, how so-and-so had run off with so-and-so and how that guy had gone broke and how that woman was a drunk.
I got home and immediately wrote a scene in which a heartbroken man drives into a little hamlet. Suddenly it was as if the little hamlet was as if on a brightly lit stage, with all the action happening, like a play. It gave me a perfect framing, if you like, a nice fence around the yard: I just had to find out exactly what to put in it!
I’ve lived away from Australia for a long time now – in London for ten years, France and Hong Kong for a couple years more – and returning to Queensland, to Brisbane, the city where I started my young adult life was fascinating to me in lots of ways. I was born in Brisbane, but grew up in Sydney, returning to Queensland to finish my last years of school and to start uni and work as a cadet reporter on the local newspaper, The Courier-Mail. I came back to Brisbane to live in 2010.
There’s been lots of changes since I last lived here in the 80s, and as a writer I was keenly observant of those changes. Soon my little idea started fanning out into a comedy of manners about contemporary Brisbane life – everyone in Brisbane asks where you went to school, for example. I love small English novels – Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, Penelope Fitzgerald – that take a slice of existence and examine it for its griefs and foibles – while also managing to be funny.
I’m also interested in the idea of shame, and its many impacts. In one of my earlier books, The Broken Book (2004) inspired by the life of the late Australian writer Charmian Clift, I did a lot of research into unmarried mothers, and the shame and grief those women experienced. I wanted to write a bit more about that and, over time, a French character developed, a woman who has effectively re-invented herself, powered by a deep shame.
I guess everything I am goes into a book: my own knowledge of exile, my personal history, and yet a book is never just an autobiographical expression. The act of writing is above all an act of empathy, and so I believe a woman writer can write a male character, or a male writer a woman, a straight writer can write a gay character or else a writer in the present moment can write about a character from the imagined past or the imagined future.
The books I love best tell me something of the great mystery of existence. I want that – something of the pain and grief and joy and wonder of being alive – but I also want to make my dream as recognizable and truthful as your dream. It won’t ever be the same dream, but in the end I hope it resembles yours just a little.

Available to purchase from

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Review: The Waiting Room by Leah Kaminsky

 

Title: The Waiting Room

Author: Leah Kaminsky

Published: Vintage: Random House Au September 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on September 01, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Waiting Room is the debut fiction novel from Leah Kaminsky, a physician and best selling non fiction author.

Dina is a family doctor living in contemporary Israel with her husband and young son. Haifa is a world away from the Melbourne suburbs where Dina grew up, the only daughter of holocaust survivors. Eight months pregnant with her second child, Dina is exhausted and increasingly anxious. Her marriage is strained, she is tired of her patients needs, and she is terrified by an escalated terrorist threat in the city.

As Dina struggles to simply get through a single day, overwhelmed by traffic, a broken heel, demanding patients, and a promise to procure apples for her son, her behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. She finds no comfort in the casual assurances of her husband, nor the ghostly opinion of her long dead mother, who berates, cajoles and nags her daughter for her failings.

The sentiment of The Waiting Room is haunting and moving, relieved only by a rare glimpse of dark humour. The prose and dialogue is sharp and articulate. The pace builds until Dina’s day reaches an explosive conclusion.

The Waiting Room is a short but powerful novel about survival, terror, love and death.

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

Seasoned Traveller 2015

Israel

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Review: The Simple Act of Reading Edited by Debra Adelaide

 

Title: The Simple Act of Reading

Author: Edited by Debra Adelaide

Published: Random House June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 25 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“The idea for this book was simple, as simple as the act of reading itself: how compelling it is when authors write about books, other authors or just moments in their reading lives that have been significant for them.”

Edited by Debra Adelaide, The Simple Act of Reading is a collection of short personal essays from twenty one of Australia’s celebrated writers.

Luke Davies writes of childhood correspondence with Herge, the author of TinTin. Joan London praises The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower, while David Malouf recalls the first time he read Jane Eyre. Catherine Keenan shares the joy of her young daughter cracking the code of the written word, and Anita Heiss writes of discovering her love for reading when studying for her doctorate in her late twenties.

I recognised myself in several of the essays, I was just like Kate Forsyth describes herself, in ‘Books are Dangerous’;

“When I was a child, I was such a bookworm that I troubled and bewildered even my very bookish parents. I would borrow six books at a time from the local library, and have read them all by the following day. I used to walk home from school reading. I would become so absorbed in the book that I would walk past my turn-off, and some considerable time later look up, finding myself blocks away from home. I’d miss my stop on train journeys. I would not hear my name being called in class. I would read so late at night that I could hear the kookaburras’ weird cackle as I reluctantly turned the last pages.”

In fact little has changed :)

The Simple Act of Reading is an engaging collection that will appeal to book lovers everywhere.

And this, from Sunil Budami in ‘In Your Deams’ is the perfect retort for the question oft asked of bookworms;

” So, if you can recall the question: if we forget most of what we read, then why do we read? You might as well ask why we dream, or live at all, given how much we forget of our dreams and lives. Yet just as I cannot imagine being alive without dreams, I couldn’t dream of living without reading.”

All profits from The Simple Act of Reading will be donated to The Sydney Story Factory

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

 

Review: The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

 

Title: The Secret Years

Author: Barbara Hannay

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin  August 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 23 to 25, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Secret Years is Barbara Hannay’s 49th book, in which she blends a contemporary and historical narrative to present an engaging novel about family, heroism, heartbreak and love.

Army logistics officer Lucy Hunter is relieved to be home in Townsville after her six month deployment in Afghanistan but she isn’t prepared for the changes in store for her. Her mother has exchanged her childhood home for a sterile condo apartment she is sharing with a new man, her grandfather’s health is failing, and her fiance, Sam, has cold feet. With several weeks of leave ahead of her, Lucy is at a loose end until she discovers a box of wartime memorabilia that contains clues to her family’s history that neither her mother or grandfather are willing to talk about. Hoping to understand the secrets of the past, Lucy travels to Cornwall, a place where she just might find her future.

Moving between the past and present, the narrative shifts between Lucy’s journey to unravel her family’s secrets, and the story of the relationship between Lucy’s cattleman grandfather, Harry, and his aristocratic bride, Georgina. Emotions run high in both timelines through scenes of wartime drama, desperate passion and captivating romance.

I liked Lucy and I sympathised with her desire to understand the past. The mystery stems from the discord between Lucy’s mother, Ro and Lucy’s grandfather, Harry, which Lucy learns is related to her mother’s brief time in England. I also enjoyed Lucy’s romance with the dashing Nick.

But it was the story of Harry and George’s courtship and marriage that I found particularly entrancing. Their love is touching, and their wartime experiences are exciting, if also sobering.

The story takes us from Australia’s coastline and outback, to London during the Blitz, from the wild bluffs of Cornwall to the jungles of Papua New Guinea as the Japanese invade. Both the contemporary and wartime settings are vividly described, as are the characters experiences of them.

The Secret Years is well written with appealing characters and a moving story. Another winning romance.

Available to purchase from

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Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Also by Barbara Hannay

 


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Review: The Crushing Season by Peta Jo

 

 

Title: The Crushing Season

Author: Peta Jo

Published: August 2015

Status: Read from August 18 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Peta Jo’s second novel, The Crushing Season, is an engaging story about friendship, family, love and loss.

Leah, May, Tate, Alex and Benny are the best of friends. They met in high school and more than fifteen years later, despite the separation wrought by their busy lives, remain close. When May is hit by a double crisis, her friends rally to support her, but none of them realise how badly she has been affected, until she does the unthinkable.

I became quite attached to all of the Crushing Season’s protagonists, who are wonderfully developed characters. Tate is a feisty news editor, struggling to balance her commitment to her work and new motherhood. Leah runs her own successful restaurant, but is plagued with a history of bad relationships. Benny is a frustrated writer on the verge of giving up on his dreams. Laid back Alex is suddenly anxious about his future. May is the linchpin of the group, whose gentle and caring nature never hints at the dark secrets she holds close.

The dynamic between the friends is skilfully rendered. I enjoyed their rowdy reunion, their affectionate ribbing and bickering, and of course the way they supported each other in times of crisis. Even when their bond is complicated and strained, the connection is clear. In many ways, they remind me of my own close circle of friends whom I don’t see as often as I would like.

Peta Jo’s exploration of the books somber issues such as abuse, depression, suicide and guilt, are thoughtful and compassionate. Most importantly, the characters emotions are sincere, and their behaviour genuine. Though there is real sadness in The Crushing Season, there is also plenty of heart and humour, which often made me smile.

Well paced, with excellent characterisation and a strong plot, The Crushing Season is an affecting tale, both achingly poignant and truly heartwarming.

Please CLICK HERE to learn more about Peta Jo and The Crushing Season

The Crushing Season is available to purchase via

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AWW Feature: Peta Jo and The Crushing Season

I’m happy to welcome back Peta Jo to Book’d Out today to celebrate the publication of The Crushing Season, her second novel.

Peta Jo is a seasoned journalist and subeditor who shamelessly embraces the side of her that writes fiction. Her first book, Feral Bells, was released in 2011 under the original title of Wedding Etiquette For Ferals at the Queensland Brides’ Wedding and Honeymoon Expo before being picked up for distribution by Bermingham Books in 2012. She currently works from home as a subeditor for regional Queensland newspapers whilst simultaneously feeding, entertaining, educating and, above all, loving her two children (and husband, though he requires far less educating).

About The Crushing Season

In the smoky haze of a small town’s cane harvesting season, May grew up as the silent bearer of her father’s vicious beatings. But four schoolmates save her with the simple act of their friendship.
Now in their thirties and busy with their own lives, the four friends are unaware how important they still are to May: Tate, a ballsy newspaper subeditor is struggling with her new role as mother; Alex, a bohemian soul has let his anxiety get in the way of his future happiness; Leah, the “boy mad” gal is one French backpacker away from her next heartbreak; and Benny, a die-hard romantic is about to give up his dreams and surrender the fantasy of being with the one girl he’s ever loved… Leah.

But it’s May that holds their friendship together and she is up to something that will change their lives forever. “

****

My review of The Crushing Season can be viewed HERE, in the meantime please read on as Peta Jo shares her personal connection with her story…

Seven People by Peta Jo

It had been a bad year for us. Two family members had attempted suicide.
It got so that, when the phone rang, I braced myself for more bad news.
The first call was like a blow to the side of the head. He was en route to the nearest ICU, hours away. It wasn’t looking good, and I rang another town’s hospital, desperate for information to disseminate amongst our shocked family.
He survived.
The second call, one month later, was like stomach pain. Miraculously, they found her in time (she’d driven away and hidden herself, to spare her family the pain of finding her).
She, too, survived.
But that’s not the case for many. Lifeline studies showed there are almost seven deaths by suicide in Australia each day. That rate more than doubles for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
My second book, which dealt with suicide, languished as we focused on family and tried to even our keel.
What was to be a short sabbatical from writing stretched out though, as my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died soon after.
We slipped quietly into mourning. I’m kind of still there two years later.
In fact, I can barely fathom the masses of families and friends of SEVEN people each day, suffering in such a way.
How the world continues to function at all, with so many people grieving, confounds me.
But there is nothing to be served by pretending these things don’t happen. There’s nothing weak about someone’s struggle with poor mental health.
So while this was written before our own experiences with suicide, I hope The Crushing Season opens up a supportive dialogue for everyone, helps those dealing with the fallout to feel less alone.

****

The Crushing Season is available to purchase via

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Review: Private Sydney by James Patterson & Kathryn Fox

 

Title: Private Sydney {Private #10}

Author: James Patterson and Kathryn Fox

Published: Random House Australia August 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:
In the latest addition to the Private series, James Patterson teams with Aussie crime author Kathryn Fox, introducing the reader to Craig Gisto, and his staff, in the Private Sydney agency who have two cases to investigate in this crime thriller novel.

The first involves a surrogacy scam, a murdered woman and a missing baby. Gisto’s agency is accused of negligence when a couple hires Private to run a background check on a woman who has volunteered to be their surrogate. Within hours of turning over the report, the woman is murdered, an 8 week old baby in her care abducted, and the identities of the couple prove to be false. Gisto and his team have few leads and work hard to unravel the scam, determined to find the missing infant.

The second case involves the missing CEO of a billion dollar company. Stonewalled by the man’s business partner, Gisto begins to suspect large scale fraud is the issue. However it soon becomes clear that whatever Eric Moss has done, he has made some dangerous enemies. Despite attempts at intimidation, Gisto refuses to back off, especially when threats are made against the missing man’s daughter.

Short chapters, an economy of words, and a sense of immediacy keeps the pace moving quickly. The plot is well crafted and not entirely predictable, with some smaller subplots that fill out the pages. Studded with action, there is also a touch of romance. You don’t get much more than a general sense of the characters, but it is enough to satisfy.

The Australian setting, which moves from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains, should appeal to Patterson’s international and local fans.

Private Sydney was exactly what I expected, a quick, easy, entertaining read.

Private Sydney is available to purchase from

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Review & Giveaway: Long Bay by Eleanor Limprecht

 

Title: Long Bay

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Published: Sleepers Publishing August 2015

Status: Read from August 15 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Drawing on official documents and extensive general research into the period, author Eleanor Limprecht blends fact and imagination to create a convincing narrative that tells the story of a woman forgotten by history in her novel, ‘Long Bay’.

Born in Paddington, New South Wales in 1885, Rebecca Sinclair was the fourth of six children, raised by her mother who was widowed when Rebecca was two. She married at nineteen, birthed a daughter, and four years later, alongside her husband, was convicted of manslaughter for the death of a mother of three who died after an abortion procedure performed by Rebecca went wrong. Rebecca was sentenced to three years hard labour in Long Bay and while imprisoned, Rebecca birthed her second daughter.

Limprecht builds on these known details of Rebecca’s life with her imagination, informed by research, creating a story that depicts a childhood of poverty, a marriage marred by bigamy and violence and the events that led up to the tragic event that resulted in her being jailed. Long Bay illustrates an era where women had limited control over their lives and often struggled under the weight of deprivation and hardship.

There is no doubt that Rebecca’s story is fascinating and I was intrigued by the details of her life, but the writing is often quite dry and unsentimental, lacking the emotion that could have breathed more vitality into the narrative. Yet the story is rich in period detail, evoking the city landscape and era well.

A thoughtful and readable novel, I did enjoy Long Bay. I feel it is a story that will interest readers of both historical fiction and non fiction, especially those curious about women’s lives and issues at the turn of the century.

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of the author, I have 1 print edition of Long Bay to giveaway to an Australian resident

Please leave a comment on this post and then

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Entries close August 30th

 

Long Bay is available to purchase via

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LBTrailer from Sleepers Publishing on Vimeo.

Review: The Callahan Split by Lisa Heidke

Title: The Callahan Split

Author: Lisa Heidke

Published: August 2015

Status: Read from August 14 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

The Callahan Split is Australian author Lisa Heidke’s sixth novel but her first foray into the world of self publishing, supplementing her successful career in traditional publishing.

Professional doubles tennis champions, sisters Samantha and Annie Callahan, have each others backs both on and off the court. Riding high after winning a gold medal at the Olympics they are favourites to win the Australian Open, until Annie’s new boyfriend drops a bombshell just before their first match, and the girls relationship begins to falter. Samantha, ambitious and driven, is irate as a love-struck Annie loses interest in their childhood goal, and is completely devastated when her sister severs their partnership to pursue a singles career. Without Annie by her side, Samantha is lost and is forced to wonder if winning is really everything.

The Callahan Split is a story about sisters, Samantha and Annie share a close personal and professional bond which is severely tested when their goals in life no longer coincide. The main theme takes Heidke’s protagonists on a journey of self discovery, but it also explores serious issues such as depression, anxiety, and abandonment.

I didn’t relate particularly well to either sister initially. I found Samantha’s single-minded focus and emotional immaturity draining, and Annie’s desertion selfish. To be fair, the sisters have their reasons, not the least being their mother’s abandonment, which had a significant impact on them both, and I wasn’t entirely unsympathetic to the pressure they were both under as elite athletes trying to stay on top. Most of the story unfolds from Sam’s perspective, and I grew to appreciate the hard earned growth her character experienced. I felt her relationship with Violet and her family, and her romance with her coach, Bear, also softened her sharper edges somewhat.

I have to admit, I’m not that interested in tennis, though I spent several sleepless nights watching the Australian Open in 2003 as Andre Agassi and Serena Williams claimed the title, while nursing my newborn daughter, however I did enjoy the behind the scenes look this elite level sport, including the gossip about the on and off court antics of the players.

A tale of personal and professional adversity and triumph, The Callahan Split is an engaging story, another winner for Lisa Heidke.

Available to purchase via

Amazon,  Barnes & NobleKobo, iBooks
Available in paperback via Amazon

Also by Lisa Heidke

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Review: The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

thebeastsgarden-forsyth

 

 

Title: The Beast’s Garden

Author: Kate Forsyth

Published: Random House AU August 2015

Status: Read from August 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers fairytales, most notably ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, a variant of Beauty and the Beast, Kate Forsyth weaves a compelling tale of romance, war, heartbreak and courage in The Beast’s Garden.

The Beast’s Garden opens in 1938 as Hitler begins to persecute the Jewish population of Berlin. Nineteen year old songstress Ava Falkenhorst is stunned by the violence, and horrified when close family friends, the Feidlers are targeted simply for being Jewish. When Ava’s childhood friend Rupert is transported to Buchenwald, and her father threatened with arrest, Ava permits the attentions of Leo von Lowenstein, a high ranking handsome Nazi officer torn between duty and honour. Though their marriage secures Ava’s father’s safety, Ava, who is determined to help the Feidlers and others like them, can’t trust that Leo will not betray her and hides her subversive activities, unaware that her husband is also working against the regime he serves.

With authentic and compelling detail Forsyth explores life under the Nazi regime in the lead up and during World War Two. The terrible suffering of the Jewish population and their attempts to defy Hitler are exhaustively documented, but rarely is mention made of the Germans who rebelled against the Gestapo in both small and significant ways. Forsyth acknowledges the efforts of the German people who risked their own lives to mitigate the attrition, and real historical figures, such as Admiral Canaris, and Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen of the Red Orchestra Resistance, who actively worked to disrupt Hitler’s rule.

Not that Forsyth shies away from illustrating the experience of Nazi rule for the Jewish. Threads of the story illustrate the harrowing experiences of Rupert, imprisoned in Buchenwald, a concentration camp ruled by Karl-Otto Koch and his sadistic wife known as The Witch of Buchenwald; and life for Rupert’s sister, Jutta, in Berlin as she becomes involved in the resistance and struggles to stay one step ahead of the SS.

It is the relationship between Ava and Leo that echoes the fairytales we are familiar with. Ava, the innocent, brave beauty, Leo the ‘Beast’; an unlikely love, besieged by tragedy, that blooms, like the roses that feature in their courtship. Rich characterisation ensures neither Ava nor Leo are mere cliches, and though there is a happy ending, it is hard won.

Skillfully crafted, The Beast’s Garden is another magnificent historical novel seamlessly melding truth and fiction, from Kate Forsyth. A wonderful tale of daring and courage, of struggle and survival, of love and loyalt, this is a ‘must read’.

Please CLICK HERE to learn more about Kate Forsyth and The Beast’s Garden

The Beast’s Garden is available to purchase from

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Amazon US I Amazon UK

and all good bookstores.

Also by Kate Forsyth


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