From the beautiful and talented Maple Bee a song for all my Mamma friends for Mothers Day. xx
From the beautiful and talented Maple Bee a song for all my Mamma friends for Mothers Day. xx
The Autumn sunshine in Sydney has been glorious but I was in the writing shed watching the dappled mellow light in my backyard. I’m happy to say Currawong Manor has now been cut from a massive 170 000 to a much trimmer word length. The process wasn’t as horrendous as I had feared; I could feel sparks begin to fly in the manuscript as I worked. I lost several characters but I already know they will re-appear in later books. Two of them were most insistent they had to go together, which was creepy because of who those characters are – but I can’t say too much about them without creating spoilers.
The hardest part was only having a month for the edit with my daughter home on school holidays for half that time. Thankfully, I had wonderful friends who took my daughter to the cinema, on excursions, and – being a Unique Enfant (only child) – she enjoys holiday care at her school.
On completion I felt as if a brass band should be playing and an auditorium of people screaming their praises to a soundtrack of Gladiator. In reality I had the school-run, lunches and everyday life to contend with. I did steal one precious day from the edit to take Daisy to the mountains so we could enjoy the Autumn light together.
I’ve been reading some fab books lately. Katherine Howell’s Silent Fear, Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens, Thea Astley’s An Item on the Late News, Jo Wood’s autobiography of her life with the Rolling Stones and the terrifying Poppet by Mo Hayder. When I get a chance, I shall write some reviews for them and post here. I am longing to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and UK’s Louise Millar’s psychological suspense books. I’ve also just started Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell which I’m loving. A great read for cosy Autumn afternoons.
My book club, The Magic Hat read Thea Astley’s An Item from the Late News in our last meeting. I have to admit I had never read any of Thea Astley’s books before and I was surprised by what a page-turner and how darkly powerful this literary novel is. My full review is on Good Reads if you are a member.
This is a photo from my friend Mary’s wonderful Facebook page, My Love Affair With Newtown. It’s a new coffee shop opening down the south end of King Street near the Union Hotel. It looks like a little dolls’ house and with the small space, chandelier and books, it reminds me of my own lounge-room in Little Brick. I feel tempted to paint my lounge hot pink. I think that’s going to be my winter project. Our lounge room is very small like this, crammed with books and a chandelier. Hot pink might make it more cosy than the Antique White it is now.
We were fortunate to see John Bell’s wonderful Henry 4 at the Opera House recently. I just loved it as the words are brought to beautifully to life by the excellent actors. It was such a fab interpretation with more hip to it than a boxed set of Mad Men. From the moment it began with electric guitars being thrashed as the stage set was trashed, it was a wild, eloquent ride though age-old issues regarding power, self-responsibility and family. Issues as relevant today as when Shakespeare wrote it. Here’s a brief promo clip from YouTube where you can get a sense of the majestic power of the words. A most inspiring night of theatre. If you feel blocked with your writing; this two-minute clip will help you get your groove back.
If you are on my Facebook you will have seen I was deeply saddened by the news story that broke in Sydney this week when Madeleine Milne, a 13-year-old schoolgirl who loved drawing dragons, being creative and helping others became the youngest ever recorded suicide in NSW due to a bullying incident at her school. Her grieving father went public with the story in an appeal to everyone – parents and schools – to communicate more and take the time to listen to your children. The pressures on our young people are enormous these days. When I was growing up there was always bullying but somehow we had the resilience to endure it. This was however before the media began to promote the mean-girl attitudes that are so prominent today. We live in a society that cushions children so much from all hardships (and even not-so-hardships – I was shocked to discover everyone now gets a prize in pass-the-parcel!) We leave young children on technology that contains messages and images their undeveloped brains may not be able to compute. I don’t have any answers as I’m only on my L-plates with parenting, but I feel we are letting our young people down terribly when children this young are taking their own lives unable to see any light in winter’s dark embrace. And Madeleine is far from the only child who has suicided over bullying. A quick Google search will show you other horror stories.
If you do have children – please take on board this plea from Madeleine’s father:
“We all let our busy lives get in the way. The school was busy and didn’t get back to us, we were busy. I’d just say make the time.”
Fight back against the sexualisation of children and the mean culture in the media. Ensure your school has a zero tolerance to bullying and cliques. Help your child develop resilience rather than cushioning them against the inevitable crap and hard times of life. This little girl’s story touched so many people as it could have been any one of us with children. As one of my Facebook friends, Dianne eloquently said:
‘13 is such a violable age. They are full of promise and act tough, but they are fragile like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. Handle them with care.’
Enjoy your week. As I wait for the next stage of the edit to return, I’m planning and researching my next book and also writing my Young Adult book that I’ve been having fun with for years in-between my bigger books.
And a gentle reminder that I shall be appearing in Melbourne in June 14 along with Livia Day and Poppy Gee for Sisters in Crime on a panel called Something Rotten in the Apple Isle. You can find more details of the event HERE.
Thank you for visiting me.
Love Josephine xx
But before I turn off my computer I wanted to share with you the beautifully dark and dramatic paperback version of Dornen Tochter (Poet’s Cottage) in Germany. I love it so much. I’ve been most fortunate with all my covers because I couldn’t be more thrilled with all of them.
I plan on cutting back my blogging to once a month unless really huge news happens or for my book reviews as I really need to submerge myself fully into the world of my books.
So roughly around the time of the full moon I shall be updating.
Thank you for visiting me.
This is a review for The Australian Women Writers Challenge which you can read more about HERE. In the coming year I plan to review a host of female Australian writers, so watch this space. I always buy books from Australian writers in the popular fiction genre and they tend to form a tower in my room. It’s difficult to find time to read them with all the research reading required for my own books, not to mention my Magic Hat Bookclub, so The Australian Women Writers Challenge is an opportunity for me to lessen that tower of books.
For my first review I went with Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper.
First a disclaimer:
I’ve known Kate Morton as a writing colleague for years and we share the same agent. Along with many other writers and readers we also share a love of parallel timeline stories, mysteries, Enid Blyton, Barbara Vine and Daphne du Maurier. And so virtually any story Kate creates is going to be my cup of tea.
I love the cover design. It’s a gorgeous image and I had to look twice to check it wasn’t Kate herself.
The production team did a spectacular job with the end papers, which are reminiscent of a Persephone book (another thing I share with Kate is a love of Persephone books). And The Secret Keeper even had a brief Peter Pan mention.
I also love the title which lets you know exactly what this book is about. It also fits in nicely with Kate’s previous titles in its rhythm.
This is a big book. I had to cull several books to fit it on my shelf but I was prepared to do so because the cover design is so lovely.
I finished reading this book on a rainy Sunday night which of course is the perfect weather for a story such as this.
It’s always strange to read an author you know as you have to left go of your relationship to slip into the story, but as usual Kate lured me swiftly in to her web of parallel worlds of 1940s Blitz London, the smaller Australian thread in Tambourine Mountain and the present day/1960s and 2011 strands.
The book opens with a cracking scene as sixteen-year-old Laurel attempts to uncover the mystery behind why her mother stabbed a stranger to death as she looked on from her tree house. You always get a very strong visual sense when reading Kate’s books, which no doubt her drama training helped her develop.
I did spot the twist very early on, which is not Kate’s fault. It was more to do with so many people revealing online there was a twist and so I was on the hunt for it. If I’m going to be picky (and scratching hard for something here), the siblings never felt as developed as the leading characters. I kept getting confused with the siblings who weren’t in it a lot. And the characters seemed a bit too Downton Abbey ‘nice’, but that is also the broad appeal of Kate’s work as well.
In this book Kate seems to be having fun with us. The words play games and bounce along at times.
Kate’s skill is bringing history to life in a ‘can’t put the book down’ way. You catch glimpses of what it was like to live through 1940s Blitz London. I have been reading These Wonderful Rumours! A Young Schoolteacher’s Wartime Diaries 1939-1945 by May Smith.
This also gives you an insight into exactly what it was like for people living when normal life was ‘sort of as usual’ except bombs were going off down the road. One thing I really got from These Wonderful Rumours! was the effects of disrupted sleep from being summoned to air raid shelters in the middle of the night. And do you go coat shopping or to the cinema if they are sounding the raids? I can’t imagine living under the stress of this for years. I would highly recommend his book for the chirpy school teacher’s diaries of her war years.
But back to Kate and The Secret Keeper. I admire Kate’s elegant use of words and phrases which create such evocative pictures in your mind, such as on page 185 when the very-likeable Jimmy tries on his father’s suit. He reflects that his father ‘had always seemed such a giant but now it was possible he had merely been a man.’ Such a poignant world revealed in such few words.
And the vivid description on page 188 where Jimmy’s photographs reveal world of ‘private places suddenly made public’ of people’s homes who have been bombed.
The team leader, Mrs Waddingham, is described in Chapter 14 as having lips as tight as a ‘dachshund’s arse’. A glorious image which made me laugh out loud.
And so I finished the Secret Keeper as the rain pelted down outside with a satisfied sigh. I stroked that lovely book cover tenderly and slowly adjusted myself back to my ‘real world’ of Sydney 2013, realising I had to get ready for the school run but reluctant to bid farewell to her characters just yet.
And that is exactly how a great book and story should make you feel. Like many people around the world I am eagerly anticipating Kate’s next book.
On page 246, one of Jimmy’s photographs is of a little girl of 3 or 4 wearing an enormous pair of borrowed bloomers, an adult cardigan and tap shoes. She taps a little dance as she waits for the family who were never going to arrive to take her home. Jimmy’s images are said ‘to record individual tragedies such as a little girl losing her entire family which would otherwise be swept as easily as dust beneath history’s carpet.’
Kate’s The Secret Keeper also reminds us through a ‘can’t put it down’ good story of the human side of the Blitz. I was reminded of The Secret Keeper when I saw this recent quote on Good Reads.
Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this. Dave Eggers
I gave The Secret Keeper four stars out of 5.
Hello, I’m up before dawn as we are taking Daisy to the hospital for an operation today.Any good energy sent to my daughter for healing very appreciated. I may be offline for a couple of days as I will be staying in the hospital. Just wanted to share this video clip I made recently for a behind the scenes glimpse of some of the inspirations of Poet’s Cottage. I’m no Orson Welles or Maya Deren but for a first attempt I didn’t do too badly. If you enjoyed the book please share the video with your contacts and on your social networking sites. It’s around 5 minutes. I shall make a smaller version as well.Thanks so much! xx
I was contacted on my Facebook by the ‘real-life’ gardener of Stanley who broke the sad news to me that Marguerite Eldridge (Meg) died in Tasmania last week. Her funeral service was today.
Readers of Poet’s Cottage will know that this creative, gentle lady formed one of the early inspirations for my character of Birdie Pinkerton (although I should point out, so as not to sully Marguerite’s reputation in any way, that Birdie rapidly took off into her own character).
It was Meg’s husband Lin who first told me the name of the cottage – once his cottage – that I felt so drawn to, which gave me the title for my book. He was kind enough to invite me to their home overlooking the sea, where I met Marguerite.
Although my time with this inspiring lady was very brief, I felt a strong bond with her which was intensified through reading her truly delightful self-published books on her life in the postcard pretty sea-fishing village. Memoirs such as Marguerite’s are invaluable because from the accounts of ’ordinary’ people you get a true rhythm and beat of a time and place. Her books were a great help in adding colour to my novel Poet’s Cottage.
Marguerite was kind enough to write me several much treasured cards and notes. When I last saw her she still had her twinkle, and her pretty face was as youthful as ever, but she did confide to me that she hoped she would still be alive the next time I visited Stanley.
I think this lovely spirit, who never saw the need to leave the great beauty of Stanley, would be surprised if she knew how much she had meant to me. It does give me some small joy to know that through my own novel, Poet’s Cottage, Marguerite’s books live on as well.
Marguerite’s book, Stories Of Stanley Tasmania, is definitely worth hunting down and reading if, like me, you love stories of daily life in small communities. Marguerite was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011 for her Artistic services to Stanley.
My most sincere condolence’s to Marguerite’s partner, Lin, and her family and friends.
Exciting news today that Poet’s Cottage continues its European tour with the rights being sold to Spain. So happy to know my Tasmanian mystery will now be available to Spanish readers.
And for regular readers, you may recall that I had a photo shoot last year with the very talented Carla Coulson, of which I posted about HERE in the post Life’s so Light.
Carla has released some of the images from that shoot on her beautiful blog which I’ve followed for years CARLA LOVES PHOTOGRAPHY
I am still pinching myself that not only did I get to meet Carla but I also had the honour of being photographed by her. We worked with a vision/mood board that must have raised Carla’s eyebrow when she first saw it. It included Agatha Christie/the Rolling Stones and a few other slightly different inspirations. Carla, bless her, had an image of Kate Moss with her daughter that she wanted to reproduce the look of.
I am delighted with how she represented our family as I wanted to show our creative and laid-back style. If you enjoy the photos please leave feedback for Carla. And Carla does do workshops and shoots in Sydney if you are interested. All the details can be found on her website.
Finally some advance notice that I will be appearing in the following talk, Something Rotten in the Apple Isle in Melbourne in June for Sisters in Crime. It should be enormous fun and I’m thrilled it has a Tasmanian theme. You can read all about it on this link HERE. I know I have the fab Carmel Shute to thank for that title. Would love to see you there if you can make it. I am sure it will be a hoot.
I am planning and dreaming new books into existence this week. I have loads of ideas. I’m never short of a great idea it’s just making time to write them all out. And this year I have joined the Australian Women Writers Challenge HERE which I think is a great idea. I did join it in 2012 but was flat out with research reading. However I do think it’s a worthy cause and a wonderful idea to support other Australian Women writers across genres. I have committed myself to the Miles level and so no excuses for not tackling the tower of books in my bedroom now!
David and I made the Irish Echo last week to see Mike Scott and the Waterboys, one of our rare nights out. I’ve loved the Waterboys forever and so thrilled to have the moment immortalised.
Thanks for visiting me. Keep Creative and Inspired. xx
It takes me ages to adjust back to the different rhythm of Sydney and I am always glum at having to return from Tasmania.
We enjoyed our time in Bicheno, a sea-fishing village on the east coast of Tasmania. A highlight was the fairy penguin tour where the penguins are so accustomed to their human audience they cross between legs to reach their burrows. It had to be the best fairy penguin tour we’ve done.
I had ideas for a future book set in Tasmania and yes, I fell in love with another house, this time in Cygnet.
We ate too much from Mures Lower Deck. Screamed at Swansea over a huntsman loose in the car (except of course for David who doesn’t share my spider phobia). Saw Neil Gaiman produce ‘old magic in the air’ at the glamorous State Theatre in Hobart and David Byrne perform his brand of hip magic to an enthusiastic 5000-plus crowd at the too-cool-for-school Mona Foma.
I bought a ton of books from the always wonderful Imperial Bookshop in the city. I love browsing for hours in this secondhand shop where many treasures lurk. It’s the only bookshop I’ve encountered where the owner says a couple of the selected books were over-priced and he would have to reduce them.
I signed copies of the B-format of Poet’s Cottage in Dymocks and Fullers. Both stores were packed and the registers were constantly in action, I’m delighted to report. It’s always lovely to meet the staff in these stores and get to know faces behind names. If you are in Hobart and would like a signed copy both stores now have ample stock. It really was so great to hear how enthusiastic the staff were not only over how beautiful the cover is but also how pleased they were to see it was set in a Tasmanian sea-fishing village.
It was also a thrill to see the airport in Sydney is also well stocked with the B-format of Poet’s Cottage. I always feel a rush of excitement when I see it on the shelf.
I loved hearing shop assistants in Tasmania call me darling, and was enthralled as always by pink-eye potatoes, fresh fish, the silver-grey light, and the spectacular scenery. It was a wrench to leave the land of my ancestors.
But for now I have to shake off our too-brief Tasmanian break. My daughter has an operation due. I have a new book to plan and the school year is about to resume.
Returning was made a little easier by seeing Mike Scott and The Waterboys play at the beautiful art-deco State Theatre in Sydney. It was a great concert with a mix of their new darkly poetical material paying tribute to Yeats and some of their old classics. which bought the audience to their feet.
But for me, all roads always lead to Tasmanian seas.
It’s the shortest space of time I’ve ever written a book, it took on its own life and is double the size of Poet’s Cottage. Some days I can make myself write to a word count. If I know I have a 5000 word limit I put that figure in my head, I seem to naturally break just before I hit it. Currawong Manor however, lured me along its strange, twisty and winding corridors to a far bigger book than I had envisaged when I began.
David who has read, made corrections and suggestions for me says its the best book I’ve ever written (If he had said anything else I wouldn’t record it here of course).
I do like this photograph as to me it reveals the reality of the everyday life of a writer. The screen’s illumination, the characters, the isolation when creating (apart from a friendly cat friend who is willing to purr away the long hours by your side). It’s not glamorous but it’s intense, challenging, deflating and amazing all at once.
And so the story is told. The characters have blessed me with their insights, their deceptions, their dreams and their stories yet again. Now the book goes to Selwa Anthony, my agent and then onto the publishers. Eventually it will make its way to the public.
But for this moment in the early quiet hours of my small home, it’s just the story, the cat and me. I do find it hard to say goodbye to the characters at times.
I am flying to Tasmania to spend a few days with my family in yet another Tasmanian sea-fishing village. I will be seeing Neil Gaiman talk down there which I’m looking forward to. We will have a bottle of champagne by the Tasmanian sea to celebrate the book’s conclusion on this stage of its creation.
I have my notebook packed as already the next book (which has been waiting patiently its turn for years) is eager to come through. I’m really looking forward to this one.
Thanks for visiting me and keep creative. xx