Lychees or Peaches? with author Pamela Freeman: don’t get between Pamela and her drum kit!

 

 !cid_320F7CC6-059E-4458-9745-780E4A0B91C3@optusnet_com

 

 

1 Hard questions first: Lychees or Peaches?

Um…nectarines? Peaches if I must.

 

2 Okay, nectarines it is then (you’re such a rebel Pamela.)  If you were written about in a newspaper, what would the headline say?

Funnily enough, I received a copy of an article about me today.  The headline read:  Top Author Shares Secret With Students.  I’m okay with that one.

 

3 I wonder what that secret was – I bet it has something to do with drums – I guess we have to enroll in your novel writing course to find out! What is your favourite line from a book or movie?

This is hard…I’m a bit of a media girl. It’s likely to be a Monty Python line, like: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Or We would like: a shrubbery. I also love the first line of George Orwell’s 1984: It was a cold, clear day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.

 

4 Which genre do you usually write in? And why do you think this is so?

This is a hard question for me as I’ve just changed genres. In the past, I’ve written mostly fantasy (plus science fiction, mystery and non-fiction).  But my most recent novel is for adults and it’s straight history, set in World War I.  It’s called A Soldier’s Wife.  I suspect I may be writing more of historical fiction – I started a few years ago, with a book about Mary MacKillop’s childhood, but it’s been growing on me. I enjoy the research, I think.  I used to do a lot of research for my day job, and I did find that when I started full-time writing I missed that element, so maybe that’s why I’ve turned to history.

 

5 Tell me a secret about yourself that nobody in the whole world knows? Go on tell me, nobody but me is listening.

I blush to admit it, but I don’t have many secrets. I talk too much for that and my husband knows me too well. Can I use one that he knows?  I have a passion for real estate.  I’m one of those people who are constantly going online to check out what’s open for inspection.  I like to ‘keep an eye on the market’ just in case – even though we have no immediate plans to move!  My husband indulges me in this.  At least it’s a cheap hobby!’

 

6 If that’s the case, Pamela, I’ll remember not to tell you any secrets!  What is your latest book about?

The last published book is a non-fiction book about how Australia changed during Mary MacKillop’s lifetime (a project book, really).  The next one coming out is the fourth Betony book, Princess Betony and the Hobgoblin.  And my current novel is the WWI book, A Soldier’s Wife, which is with the publisher at the moment.  I’m waiting to find out if they’re going to publish it.

 

7 Good luck with A Soldier’s Wife! How did you come up with the title? Did it come to fistycuffs with your editor?

Not so far, but the cover designer hasn’t got hold of it yet!  In my experience, that’s when you are most likely to be asked to change the title. In fact, I’ve changed it twice already. My first working title was 1916, which sounded like a text book; then I called it The Home Front, but I thought that sounded boring.

 

8 When you daydream about singing on The Voice (I know you do) which song do you sing and if you could have any celebrity judge in the world turn for you who would it be?

I love Joel so I would pick him.  As for songs…. so, in my daydream, I sing a lot better than I actually do, of course, so I could handle songs I couldn’t really sing… something jazzy from the 30s, maybe? There’s a Bessie Smith song I heard recently (at a Hugh Laurie concert) which is so much fun and yet so heartbreaking that I couldn’t resist it. It’s called Send me to the Lectric Chair, and it’s a woman singing to the judge, asking him to give her the death penalty because she’s killed her unfaithful lover. Sounds appalling, but it’s a hell of a song! Judge, Judge, please Mister Judge, send me to the ‘lectric chair…

They would turn, oh yes they would!

 

9  What do you really, really, really, love?

My drum kit

 

10 Can you show us a quick snap of your work desk? No tidy spic and span ones please. I won’t believe you.

 

chair

 I don’t write much at a desk.  The great advantage of writing in a chair is that it stays neater than a desk!

 

11 Lovely, lovely chair, I think you might have the secret to writer’s back health. Okay, serious stuff now: where can we purchase your latest book?

My kids’ books are available in most bookshops – or they can be ordered anywhere,  Dymocks, Booktopia, Amazon.  You won’t find Betony at Big W, because it’s a small (gorgeous) edition and they can’t shelve it, but once it’s out in paperback you’ll be able to get it there too (next year).  My adult fantasy books can be ordered also – I would recommend Pulp Fiction books if you want them quickly (0732362750)

 

Thank you for taking the time to do Lychees or Peaches, Pamela!

Pamela Freeman teaches a novel writing course at the Australian Writers’ Centre in Sydney, her next one starts in June, and I think there is still a couple of spaces if you are quick!

 

Pamela can also be found on Facebook at pamelafreemanauthor

 

 

Lychees or Peaches? With author Ian Trevaskis: why we all need a Border Collie named Peggy

Kicking off our new author interview series, Lychees or Peaches, is author, Ian Trevaskis. Let’s go Ian!

 

 

1 Hard questions first: Lychees or Peaches?

Definitely lychees

2 If you were written about in a newspaper, what would the headline say?

Acclaimed Author Admits He Made It All Up!

3 What is your favourite line from a book or movie?

“Take no prisoners!” from the movie Lawrence of Arabia

4 Which genre do you usually write in? And why do you think this is so?

Children’s picture books. Because I’ve never really grown up.

5 Tell me a secret about yourself that nobody in the whole world knows? Go on tell me, nobody but me is listening.

Back in the good old days when I was a kid I had a Border Collie called Peggy. We would often sit on the back verandah and discuss the day’s events. She was never judgemental and I could tell her all my fears and aspirations. She would occasionally nod and offer a lick. 

6 What was your latest book about?

‘Edge of the World’ brilliantly illustrated by Wayne Harris is about a fishing village near the edge of the world grieving for a mother and her children drowned at sea. Toby, the husband finds some magical silver pots in his nets and over time paints the village and brings life and hope back into their world.

7 How did you come up with the title? Did it come to fistycuffs with your editor?

Simple – the village was near the edge of the world! My editor (Donna Rawlins) and I figured that was probably an appropriate title and there were no fisticuffs, probably due to the amount of wine consumed when making the decision.

8 When you daydream about singing on The Voice (I know you do) which song do you sing and if you could have any celebrity judge in the world turn for you who would it be?

I can’t sing to save myself and I’m not prepared to kid anyone to the contrary.

9 We won’t ever force you to sing, Ian – it could result in a national disaster! What do you really, really, really, love?

Apart from my gorgeous wife and four incredibly talented children, it would have to be the complete series of ‘The Famous Five’ by Enid Blyton.

10 Can you show us a quick snap of your work desk? No tidy spic and span ones please. I won’t believe you.

This looks way too tidy, Ian. Someone needs to go in a mess it up!

11 Serious stuff now: where can we purchase your latest book?

‘Edge of the World’ can be ordered through Walker Books Australia (a paperback edition was recently released) or from any major bookstore if they don’t have it in stock.

 

Thanks for taking the time to do Lychees or Peaches, Ian!

If you’d like to find out more about the mysterious Ian and his tidy desk, he has a website here!

Crossing ethical lines: Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall by Jane Jervis-Read

9781922057433

Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall by Jane Jervis-Read

Xoum Publishing 2013

121 pages.

 

Jessica is a divorced and single health worker whose children have moved on with their lives, leaving her to negotiate her relationships from a distance and to grapple with a ‘hollow and sore heart’. When she becomes increasingly entangled in the life of her client her own needs allow her to go where logic might tell her she shouldn’t.

From the beginning we know we are in the hands of an author who cares about words and what lies between them. Jane Jervis-Read creates a haunting and wanting aura with her sensitive writing:

But she will already be walking out the back, screen door sighing closed behind her, slippers scuffing the concrete, spanning the distance between the kitchen and the shed. The corrugated roof casts a shadow over the entrance… But inside the shed a world awaits. From the window I watch the shadow drink her in. p2

When Jessica takes on the job as carer to Eloise we follow her tender path along a road that both she and we know she shouldn’t go down. It echoes the decisions we fail or neglect to make, or choose to ignore, that allow us to follow the heart in search of something we need. It puts the question to us that we may not like to explore, should we go to places we know we shouldn’t for the sake of cotton-balling the heart?

It meant something when Eloise pulled me in. It meant I am sad and the world is falling like leaves around me. It meant you are a warm heart next to me and your heart loves and listens where mine is hollow and sore and calling out like a wild, hungry mouth. It meant I need you…Something is starting and something is ending. I need relief from my sorrow and you are it, your hand is it, your warm heart beating beside me is it. p66

As we would in reality, Jessica questions her actions and explains them away with care:

She was crying with growing intensity. You don’t leave someone alone in that state. You don’t say, Sorry but my shift is over.’ You can’t clock off. This may be that sort of job to some people but not to me. p53

And Jervis-Read does not shy from bringing truth to the story by allowing Jessica go into this blindly. Jessica knows she goes where she should not; she knows she has blurred ethical lines:

Her thigh slid between mine. I waited. What was I thinking in this moment? I can’t remember. Only the feeling of heat, from her bath-thickened flesh…Maybe I told myself, ‘You have come this far without knowing why – what reason is there to step out now?’…How wild and misguided a life can become, but the body maintains this simple truth: the elegant curve from the waist to the hip. p 83

And nor are the characters allowed to waft away in romantic views; the story is not without the tendrils of uncertainty you might find in a relationship wrought with baggage, illness and dependency:

Eloise smirked. She leant towards me and her robe fell open at the top. ‘I’ll follow you,’ she said. ‘If you go.’  p 63

The characters are beautifully painted on the page. We feel for Jessica as she navigates the emotions left in the wake of her divorce from her husband, and the feelings of estrangement from her children that seem to open her up as they go on with their lives:

Was I a good mother to my children? I think I was. Why then did they move away? p67

And out of this we accept and forgive Jessica. Had we only had access to the facts of the story – lonely carer takes advantage of a patient overcome with sadness for the loss of her life due to mental illness, and engages in physical intimacy – we might judge and condemn Jessica. Enormous credit goes to Jane Jervis-Read for enveloping the facts in a beautiful story that leads us to understand and forgive the characters.

When Eloise sobbed that guttural sob I recognised my own voice in her throat. I recognised the sobs of my children, of my mother too. I remembered my mother weeping when my father died and how I had held her. Eloise clutched at me and pulled me in through the blankets. She cried in my arm. p53

Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall is a beautifully written, honest and elegant tale of longing and loneliness; it turns the light on what a person will allow themselves to do to abate and caress those feelings and it tackles the questions around crossing ethical lines. Set in the university area around Carlton, Melbourne. I highly recommend you take on this novella and see how you fare.

Jane Jervis-Read and Alice Grundy from Seizure talk about her novel and novellas in general in a great audio interview here

You can purchase Jane’s book here.

Passages of Writing: At Swim-two-birds by Flann O’brien.

Book: At Swim-two-birds, Flann O’brien. First pub. 1939. This ed.Penguin Modern Classics 2001.

Why:  This is one of my all time favourite books, as with all books it’s not to everyone’s taste. I’m reading it for the second time as I always promised myself I would.

It’s the pacing and rhythm, the unique details in aid of the ‘show don’t tell’ rule, the many stories in one  (meta-fictional aspect) and as the book goes on the bizare happenings like the characters of a story who revolt against the author, that get me.

Three fifties of fosterlings could engage with handball against the wideness of his backside, which was large enough to halt the march of men through a mountain pass.

p9

I know the studying you do in your bedroom, said my uncle. Damn the studying you do in your bedroom.

I denied this.

Nature of denial: Inarticulate, of gesture.

p11

I closed my eyes, hurting slightly my right stye, and retired into the kingdom of my mind. For a time there was complete darkness and an absence of movement on the part of the cerebral mechanism.

13

There was nothing unusual in the appearance of Mr. John Furriskey but actually he had one distinction that is rarely encountered – he was born at the age of twenty-five and entered the world with a memory but without a personal experience to account for it. His teeth were well-formed but stained by tobacco, with two molars filled and a cavity threatened in the left canine.

p9

Passages of Writing: Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis



Book: Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis. 2010 Alfred A. Knoph.

Why:  When you think of describing fear, it’s not this that you think about but boy can you feel it, and see it.This is that fear/anxiety about life.

And, fear in, ‘spray-on tans and the teeth stained white.’ – perfect.

Texting is (naturally) creeping into modern books, but always seems so out of place, as though authors know they have to put it in as it’s what (most) people do (almost) everyday, but just can’t get it feeling natural. It’s perfect here, playing a kind of secondary narrative to the topic – fear.

It’s inspiring – off to pretend to be B.E.E. for a while now…..

When I scan the darkened room, smiling back at unfamiliar people, the fear returns and soon it’s everywhere and it keeps streaming forward: it’s in the looming success of the film we just watched, it’s in the young actors’ seductive questions about possible roles in ‘The Listeners’, and it’s in the texts they send walking away, their faces glowing from the cell light as they cross the cavernous lobby, and it’s in the spray-on tans and the teeth stained white. ‘I’ve been in New York the last four months’ is the mantra, my mask an expressionless smile.

p16

Passages of Writing: Truth by Peter Temple.


Book: Truth, Peter temple. First pub: The Text Publishing Company 2009. This ed: The Text Publishing Company 2010. pbk.

Why: he could have said, ‘ran his fingers through his hair.’ Which is very boring. No, he was consulting his hair. They had a meeting. Stalling and having a think. Big difference.

‘Explain the building to me Mr. Manton, Just an outline.’

Manton’s right hand consulted his hair.

P8

Elizabeth Jolley interview with Julie Proudfoot

At the time of this interview ( October 1999) Elizabeth Jolley had just released her fourteenth novel: ‘An Accommodating Spouse’, and released only one more book in 2001: ‘An Innocent Gentleman’ . Sadly, she passed in February 2007. This interview was conducted for Mystic Ink Magazine.

 

When reading Elizabeth Jolley’s work with her strong characters you can be forgiven for imagining a woman with a domineering presence. Her presence is powerful, but you will also find yourself drawn in by her quietly endearing sense of humour, her modesty, and her generosity that come through with such warmth when she speaks. This humbleness and humour, you will find, is also present in her work. In her book,  Central Mischief: Elizabeth Jolley on writing her past and herself,  Jolley says, “I want, in my writing, to be optimistic and fond”. I think this sums up her personality as well as her writing.

Her words are full of meaning, and will entice you to read her work again and again, and her work can bear many readings, leaving you enjoying and seeing more of her depth of understanding of people and her exploration into the human mind while enjoying her fascinating characters.

Jolley’s work has often been referred to and studied by feminist groups for her strong, independent, and sexually confident female characters, but Jolley has denied having developed feminist issues in her work. Simply saying she enjoys writing real and interesting female characters.

J.P. Elizabeth your writing is very often the private details and internal
thoughts of your characters’ minds about their lives and relationships,
topics many of us avoid discussing in our own lives. Do you feel it takes
courage to be true to your thoughts when you write?

E.J.  Much fiction writing examines the private details in human life,
especially thoughts and wishes. Any writing needs courage because some
people might dislike your work.

J.P.  Helen Garner recently referred to writing as a ‘sickness’that must
be attended to’. How do you feel about your writing life?

E.J.  I don’t see writing as being a sickness. It is an art, which has to
be kept alive, and worked at with an excitement and the hope for something
special to occur.

J.P.  Do you believe anyone can write or is a talent required?

E.J. A talent or an interest in writing is help but great discipline is
needed to carry on the wish to write. A feeling for language and
compassion for human individuals are needed, also constant observation, the making of
a quick note, and mixing with people.

J.P.  Do you have a set writing routine?

E.J. No, I work whenever I have the chance and get up very early to make
time.

J.P. When you write a novel do you write prolifically and then go back to choose what to
leave in or out or do you go ahead and write the novel chapter by
chapter?

E.J. No, I never write prolifically, I write small unmatched fragments
and weld them into a story or novel in what I feel to be the best way (for
me) I re-write, and always rearrange order of events to structure the work.

J.P. Elizabeth I have read that you were writing for twenty years before
publishing, do you feel there are constraints or processes involved in
publishing?

E.J. I was not accepted by publishers and their readers because, I think,
at the time I was offering “different” material here in Australia.
Everything has been published now, except the novel I am not finished
with. It is hard to get in the Eastern seaboard publishers if you live in
Western Australia, and I feel that this was the case.

J.P. You have the ability to convey immense feeling and meaning in your
work. Would you attribute this to your abilities as a wordsmith, or
perhaps your understanding of human nature?

E.J. I try to understand human nature sexual and otherwise, if there was
no mystery about life and death etc. I suppose there would be no writing? I
suppose that is the case. I love language and people and places

J.P. There is often sexual tension in your work, in your opinion how much
sex, if any, is good for a story?

E.J. There is a “lot of sexual tension about.” – sorry for the cliché.
Sexual matters create tension of all sorts between people; most mistakes
in life are sexual in origin. I would not place too much in a story or novel
and by suggestion is more powerful than straight boring telling. ‘Crude’ is
not a good thing either, it becomes boring.  I try to be interesting!

J.P. At a reading from your most recent book, The Accommodating Spouse,
you read a childhood story of your own, and spoke of the importance of
recollecting and writing our own childhood. Why, in your opinion, is it
important to write our childhood?

E.J. If people want to write their child hood it may be soothing to them,
also experiences which belong to one person might not be known about by
other peoples and can become interesting material in a book – but not
overdone in length or in incident. However, writing about your own
childhood can be a bore to other people, as our dreams may be boring to
other people.

J.P.  In your work there is a strong sense of place coming through, I am
referring to the Australianness and Britishness of the landscapes and
characters. Do you feel your work can be enjoyed cross-culturally?

E.J. Yes I think people like to read familiar backgrounds and they like
to be offered a wide variety of backgrounds. British, Australian and
European backgrounds are very important to me to show things about characters. I
hope I am being enjoyed a bit in different places – rather awful to see
one of your own books being sold for 5 cents on a charity stall!

J.P.  Elizabeth you have a website on the Internet, do you find this
helpful in bringing you additional exposure, and have you ever considered writing
and publishing e-books through the Internet?

E.J. I know nothing about web sites. I do not have anything to do with
computers except to supply grandsons with “the necessary” and the money
for the computers’ needs. I can’t even type and I can’t ‘compute’, – that’s
how I am; I do not fret over this.

© Julie Proudfoot Melbourne 1999.

Review, Geography by Sophie Cunningham

Geography by Sophie Cunningham book review

‘Geography’ published in 2004 is about travel, desire, and longing for love and children. It’s a story that unfolds at the time internet communication was a new and an exciting way to connect with others mentally and spiritually. It’s Catherine’s story, told to her new friend as they travel through India together, about a Love so consuming it broke her.

The experience of reading this book – and it is an experience – was for me unusual in that I found myself more emotionally engaged than I have ever been with a book before. And I’m not afraid to say that I did have cause to have a little cry at the desperate situation Catherine found herself in. A testimony to the writing as it has the ability to connect with the reader emotionally.

There is a sense of lamentation and sadness entwined through this book which is told mostly in hindsight and is mostly, achingly sad. Perhaps this may not be the same experience for all readers and perhaps it is so for me because I can directly relate to some of the book: the time frame of the eighties fits my life, the base of travel between Melbourne and the US parallel my life, and the beginnings of the internet hooked me as it did Catherine. These things, that are the life of a Melbourne girl in the eighties, may not resinate with others the way it did with me.

But it is the intensity of longing for another and the destruction on Catherine’s life by a relationship all-consuming and out of control portrayed so acutely that is the core of this story. The confusion of not knowing why or how the longing is happening and not being able to or wanting to stop it comes through intensely. And It cannot be ignored that Cunningham’s ability to take a reader to that place is writing at its best if not its most intended.

‘Despite, or because of, the danger of unhealed wounds, of loss of blood, of pain, I let him inside me…I …had to bite my tongue to stop myself saying ‘I love you.’ Even though I didn’t, even though I didn’t love him… he drew blood and all over I could feel the bruises bloom.’ (Pg 232.)

I was looking and hoping for, in the exploration of travel, an explanation in an emotional and human sense and I was not disappointed:

‘Travelling is like a night of heavy rain. It can clear away the heat and dust of the day, of all that has gone before. It can teach you how to be light, to let go. I wanted to drive, I was going to keep moving until I understood how I might do things differently.’

Perhaps this is a book only for those who lived and loved in the eighties and the internet boom, perhaps it is for those who love travel or those who know longing for love or children, but mostly I think this is simply a book for women who live and breathe and feel and love the best of writing.

I wish I had a hard copy and not an e-book, because I want to keep this book, that Sophie Cunningham summed up exquisitely in the dying pages in a poem by Raymond Carver – Late Fragment,  on my shelf with my favourites.

And did you get what
You wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
Beloved on the earth.

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