Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Me & the Writing Panel Author Event

So I went to an author event on the weekend and all I took photos of was me and some Star Wars cosplayers who were wandering around the library. Which was so bizarre:

Darth Vader was really tall.
He also had this breathing sound effect going the whole time, LOL.
My kids wanted to know if the spikes on Darth Maul's head were actual bone implants, haha. I don't know, but it looked pretty genuine. Wish I had peered in closer... 

That R2D2 was actually used in Empire Strikes Back. We could look but not touch. (Although I got my head pretty close, haha)

The author panel was part of the 'grand finale' of the Sci Fi Month, of which I had no idea. I was mainly going to catch up with YA author Paula Weston. (And seeing Marianne De Pierres would be a bonus, too)

Official flyer I half read before committing to the event

When I got out at the carpark (at Logan North Library) I had a startled moment as I looked up through the second storey windows and saw Darth Maul and Darth Vader standing next to a Death Star backdrop, gazing out over street. The place was buzzing. With random sci-fi characters and people dressed up. To enter the library, you had to walk through a Stargate  (classic!)

The Brisbane Regional Youth Orchestra  was fully set up in one section of the library, playing Star Wars tunes (such atmosphere!) while storm troopers and jawas looked on. There were other professional sci fi characters wandering about, ones I am not geeky enough to know who they were (haha). 

On to the actual event. 
(of which I managed to take zero photos...)

Marianne De Pierres (author of the Burn Bright series, among others) was the host, and four sci fi/fantasy authors were on the panel (see event poster above). They had a great vibe and camaraderie amongst them (good times!). Marianne posed questions and each author approached their work in different ways, so it was cool to hear all different perspectives.

Here's some of the questions and responses, all paraphrased by me (the authors, of course, were much more eloquent)

How do you go about plotting?

Rowena: believes we all have an innate sense of story and authors need to trust that. If the story is working, she'll feel good about it. If not, something about the direction of the plot just feels clunky and she reworks it. Approaches her work: I want x and y to happen, but I let characters take control of how it all comes together.

Kev: I start with an idea. What if? Then let the characters tell the story. Much more fun that way.

Trent: Writes in notebooks, sometimes elaborately, but then always ignores the notebooks. Later on (post-project) finds earlier notebooks and has a moment - oh! that's right! I was going to do that! Makes diagrams and maps but in a chaotic way. Uses diagrams to discover new things. Most important thing to him is being open to the weird things that happen along the way. Like following the white rabbit. Any other way is boring, for him. Needs to discover along the way. (He showed us a "small" notebook, which was A3 in size and full of scribbled notes, drawings, etc)

Paula: Talked about how working out details are important as she is working on book two of a four book series. She has a rough idea for each book in the series covering the story arc and individual character arcs. Important to lay the seeds for the big reveal in book four (me: instantly, I am DYING to know what the big reveal is...)

Marianne: Mentioned for her there was no right way/no magic recipe and that for each book it can be different.  When writing mystery/crime she plots more. She talked about plotting over a series and joked about you just write into the terror :D

What do you do when your plot hits a dead end?

Paula: One word: Foofighters.(LOL!) She goes for drive with the Foofighters blaring and everything becomes clear ;) Music is really good for her brainstorming, but when she is actually writing, she never plays music. Dead ends often mean she is trying to force something with her characters for the plot that doesn't match who they are.

Trent: (shamefully confesses) he does not write in a linear fashion. If he gets stuck, he just writes a different scene from a different part of the story. I love what he said here: About a third of the way into the first draft, he has an epiphany about what the final scene will be. Then everything else is just a dance towards that final scene. 

Kev: forces himself to write when stuck. Just writes any random scrap of dialogue, anything, and often what he begins writing leads him through to the next part.

Rowena: Talked about believing in her instinct for the story. If she does get stuck, she goes back through what she has already written. She fixes up previous scenes and polishes things up and gets to know the characters better and that often unblocks the path. 

Random comment from Marianne: if you know the rules of writing, you can break them. (have to know the rules first)

Talking about characters. Do they arrive fully formed? Or do you get to know them?

Paula: For Shadows, Rafa arrived fully formed. MC Gabby was more complex: she is like two characters in the sense that her present character had amnesia and her past shows a completely different side of her, unknown to herself. Paula shared an awesome tip from her editor who posed Paula the question:  why are gabby and Maggie friends? (as opposed to Maggie just being the requisite side character for plot's sake) and it forced Paula to discover more of Maggie's background (she discovered Maggie's own pain and story) and she went back through and was able to add depth to their relationship.

Marianne strongly recommends this book to everyone: Nancy Kress 

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints

Where do they find characters? Is it a mixture of pure imaginatoin, seeing a random person or people they know?

Marianne: her strongest characters are partially based on someone she knows.

Random discussion with all author going for it: Often start with rough shape of personality type. Paula mentioned she doesn't base her characters on someone, but often thinks her characters have a similar personality to so-and-so and when she is stuck on what a charatcer would say/do she thinks: what would so-and-so do? (ie her cousin/friend with that assertive personality...) 

Discussion turns to how the character themselves are different to the author's perception of the character which is different to the characters perception of themselves which differs from the reader's perceptions of the character which differs to the other characters perception of the character and how it changes of the course of the novel, etc, etc and etc.

Rowena refers to the Johari Circle. Rather well, by memory. And how you can use all that info to flesh out a character and give them depth/discover things. 

Just substitute 'us and ourselves and organisation' for your characters to see how the Johari thing works  in this context
Marianne asks how to keep characters fresh, referring to the main character of the book and not always writing in the same "voice"

Here my notes get fuzzy and I make some random note about goodreads and LOL (?)

Nuggets I wrote (not sure who said what)

  • Don't cater for the public. Tip: Don't read a review and consider someone's thoughts and adjust your character accordingly. Try and forget all that and be true to the character. (Having said that, one author said they realised through reading reviews that perhaps their characters were rather too unlikeable and realised it's important to give them a shred of likeablility, haha)
  • Characters just are who they are (everyone nodded profoundly at this)
  • Marianne deliberately changed her new series from 1st person to 3rd person to avoid sounding the same in first person to her previous series. 

Then the audience asked a heaps of questions and I relaxed and didn't write one more word ;)

What I loved most about the event was just hearing the authors chat so openly about things. Also, authors are such fun people (huge generalisation, but I am going with it). Afterwards, I chatted to a few of the authors. Marianne was just. so. nice. She is friendly and funny and clever and really generous with her time.
Australian cover. Out now.
UK Cover. Jan '13 release

Likewise with Paula Weston, who I got on so well with. Gosh, I had a great time chatting with her. I am also really pumped for Paula as her Aussie YA debut, Shadows, has a four book deal not only in Australia, but also in the UK and the US. Her book, Shadows, is one of my favourite reads this year, even though I don't do paranormal YA, haha, it was brilliant and addictive and sexy. Cannot wait for Book #2, Haze.

Also, can't wait for my next author/industry event. Now that I am closer to a capital city I am pumped about the opportunity to attend stuff like this. 

May the force be with you,


Friday, August 24, 2012

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie’s Tea Shop.

Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours.

They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter.

A mesmerising story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.

‘Perfectly strange, and absolutely comical and heartfelt ... Jaclyn Moriarty is one of the most original writers we have.’ – Markus Zusak

So, I am entirely blown away by this book. While reading, I had this little mantra chanting though my head, every other page: my gosh, Jaclyn is brilliant.

Truth: I have read A Corner of White twice in the space of one month. I also dreamt about it once <3

I believe: Jaclyn Moriarty is one of the most original, greatest Australian writers out there (past and present)

Oh, so you have NO IDEA what this book is about? The blurb is surreal and utterly intriguing. I was captured from the beginning, gorgeous prose and 'what's going on here' vibe sucked me in. The characters are the best kind of teen characters: likeable and silly and fresh. Dreamers and admirable and absolutely the kind of kids you want to either be, crush on or hang out with.

This story follows two worlds: Earth, specifically, Cambridge, England and the Kingdom of Cello, specifically, Bonfire, the Farms. In each world, our main characters are teenagers, one who has lost his dad, the other has ran away from her dad. I loved the mirrored coincidences between their problems. During the book, these two teens find a crack in their world in which they can communicate ~ [through the art of the letter ;)]

Moriarty writes the best epistolary stuff.  

There's lots of mystery and tons of deliciously breath-taking world building.

This book is so gorgeously different to the Ashbury/Brookfield books. It features that same whimsical, delightful prose. The same vibrancy of characters and the nuances of their relationships. The same silly grin will appear on your face while reading it. But this book went even deeper. Amongst the craziness and surreal moments, there was a sense of truth and longing and justice and life and sorrow.

Me, getting all rave-y and emotional: The thing is, this book is not just brilliant, creative, gorgeously surreal, yet real, all at once. It really resonated with me. Something about it stirred me up. This book is such a testament to creativity and life and it contains complete magic for teens and adults (and mature children). I was truly transported and delighted while reading A Corner of White. Spellbound, mesmerised and in awe of Moriarty's imagination and gift for pulling these gorgeous, creative and crazy threads together into an something nothing short of brilliant.

If just the creativity and imagination in this book weren't enough, I was genuinely moved by these characters. Even, surprisingly, to the point of tears (These came, I am sure, from pure pleasure of being a a part of the characters lives and a true sense of empathy). A Corner of White defies genres. Not only is it a vivid experience, it's also emotionally resonant. The story, while deliciously crazy, somehow had a ring of truth to it. Utterly heartfelt and moving.

Oh, do I ever recommend this: absolute highlight of my year (not just in terms of reading, but as an experience. Good times were had)

I so hope this book falls into many many hands. I think it's a game-changer, guys. Definitely worth the wait (oh, a million times over).

Love always,


YES ~ This is the first book in a series.

Thanks ever so much to Pan Macmillan Australia for my proof copy
Look out for this one in Australia in September <3

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Interview with Aussie author Ambelin Kwaymullina :)

It's my privilege to have here with me on the blog Aussie author Ambelin Kwaymullina. Her Young Adult debut, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is an original, adrenalin-packed and thought-provoking sci-fi/fantasy, post-apocalyptic/dystopia with a gorgeous Aussie flavour. (make sure you check out the book trailer at the end of this post!)

Nomes: There are so many things to love about The Interrogation of Ashala
Wolf but the thing that struck me the most was how vividly the entire
book played out in my mind. I am huge visual person and I loved the
richness of the setting. You have a talent for not only describing a place,
but for transporting readers there. I am really curious about how you
crafted your setting and if visual inspiration played a big role in bringing
your story to life.

The setting in your book is so full of life it seems to be a character

unto itself. The Firstwood brims with life and a strong sense of history.
Are there any locations you imagined while bringing the Firstwood to

Ambelin: When I’m writing, I see everything happening in my head. Because of that,
its really important to me that I describe everything as well as I possibly can
– I want my readers to see what I see, or rather, what Ashala sees, since the
book is told from her perspective. I drew much of the ecology of the Firstwood
from tuart forests, which grow in WA, and are one of the rarest forests on
earth. There were once thousands of hectares of tuart trees, and now the last
of them survive in remnant forests. It seemed right to me that these tough
old trees would live through the end of the world, to grow again into the vast
forest that Ashala lives in. Some of the other plants in the Firstwood exist in
this world too - the ‘’stumpy black trunk with long grasses spraying out the
top” is a grass tree, and the “shrub hung with brown pods filled with black
seeds” is a red-eyed wattle.

Of course, the ecology has changed somewhat, being as the Firstwood exists
three hundred years after the end of the world, when the tectonic plates have
shifted and formed a new, single continent. So there are animals around that
don’t exist now (saurs and sabers) and others that don’t live in Australia, like
wolves (although form the description in the book, wolves are more like a
cross between a dingo and a coyote than wolves as we know them now). I’m
really looking forward to having the chance to explore the Firstwood more in
the next book in the series.

Tuart Forest (wikipedia)

Nomes: You mention in an earlier interview how connected you feel to your
country - "For me it is the purple hills, red earth and endless blue sky
of the Pilbara region of Western Australia where my people, the Palyku,
are from. (This sounds incredibly moving and gorgeous!)" (source). Do
you think this strong connection you feel influenced the setting in your
novel and how Ashala feels about the land?

Aboriginal people, like Indigenous people elsewhere in the world, have a
strong connection to their homelands, their country. Ashala’s ancestors were
Aboriginal people, although she lives three hundred years after the world
ended when people no longer distinguish between themselves on the basis of
race. But she carries that inheritance, and she has that same love and deep

connection to the Firstwood that Aboriginal people have to their country now.
I wanted to capture in the book that feeling inside that Aboriginal people
have for their homelands, and that I have for the country of my people in the

Some stunning pics of Ambelin's heritage, the Pilbara Region in Western Australia:

Nomes: I love how you contrast the stark facility in which Ashala is detained
against the wild and free (though still somewhat deadly) landscape of
the Firstwood. Did the contrast evolve naturally or was it a conscious
decision to develop it that way?

Ambelin: I think it evolved as the book was written. But it was also a product of the
kind of place the centre is. There’s actually parts of the centre that are trying
to look a bit more friendly, like the little houses where they’re putting the
detainees, and the park. But the government fails miserably to make it seem
like anything other than the prison it is. We’re seeing the centre from Ashala’s
perspective, too, and she’s unconsciously contrasting it with the freedom she
associates with the trees and open sky of the Firstwood.

Nomes: While The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is set in the future, it also has
a strong sense of the past. It was easy to picture how the world was
before, during and after The Reckoning. You've captured the changing
nature of landscapes and how that affects people beautifully—how do
you feel about the way we treat the land now? And what we can do to be
better, as caretakers?

Ambelin: It breaks my heart to see the ancient places of the earth destroyed. And
we are putting, not just the many ecosystems of the planet, but our own
species in jeopardy. For some time now, scientists have been warning us
about reaching ecological ‘tipping points’, where human beings will have
done irreversible damage to the planet that sustains us. And I think the
way for each of us to start being better caretakers is to simply be informed,
and get involved. In the age of the internet, most of us have easy access
to information. It’s not difficult to find out about small improvements we can
all make to our daily existence to live in a more sustainable way, or about
campaigns we can get involved in to protect forests or oceans, or about big
ideas that will change the world.

In any given day, we all make a thousand choices, and those choices create
the future. As long as we know that, we can all change the world.

Nomes: I love the saurs in your book. I know they are powerful and
deadly but a part of me imagined them as a little bit cute. Did you have
any images in mind that helped you bring them to life?

Ambelin: I think they are cute, in their way – and certainly mischievous, although you
wouldn’t want to get on their bad side! I very loosely based the saurs on a
species of megafauna, megalania prisca – big carnivorous lizards that lived
in Australia thousands of years ago (although I gave the saurs much longer
necks). To get an idea of how they might move, I looked at perentie lizards,
which can grow up to two metres long. If you’ve ever seen a perentie stalk

along the ground, I imagine the saurs would move in pretty much the same

megalania prisca

Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
"There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below ... And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me." Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala s Tribe - the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf @ Walker Books
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf @ @ goodreads

Ambelin Kwaymullina
Ambelin Star Kwaymullina is a Palyku person whose family comes from the north-west of Western Australia. She was born in Perth in 1975 and is both a writer and illustrator. Currently she works as a Lecturer in the Law School at the University of Western Australia. (source)