Peter Watt – Author Interview

Your Frontier series, which some might know as the Macintosh and Duffy family saga, has followed the Macintoshes and Duffies from Colonial Queensland to South Africa during the Boer War, Europe and the Middle East during World War 1, and now to Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region leading up to and during World War 2. How has it been as a writer weaving the stories of the Macintoshes and Duffies through these historical times and places?

I guess writing the family saga has been an opportunity to entertain and educate readers about our past. I think if I had not chosen the life that I did I would have loved to have been either an archaeologist or history teacher. My role model in pursuing the saga is Professor Michael Roe, who taught me Australian history at the University of Tasmania, back in the mid 1970s. When I research and write the novels – including those outside the family saga – I feel the wonderful professor’s eyes looking over my shoulder, to ensure historical accuracy. Maybe I aim for a High Distinction from him.

Your Papua trilogy also leads up to and includes World War 2. Is this a time you want to write more about, or will you soon move on to post World War 2 or another time period?

So far I have only reached WWII in all my writing but there will be at least two more novels in the family saga post WWII. I have considered using my characters Karl Mann from the Papua trilogy and David Macintosh from the Frontier series to team up and fight those forgotten campaigns of Korea, the Malayan Emergency and Konfrontasi, leading into the Vietnam campaign. I knew such soldiers when I was in the regular army, back in my own enlistment in 1969 for three years.

You have written: “Research is vital to producing a credible novel that is historically based. I think readers expect not only to be entertained but also educated.” How would you describe your approach to combining entertainment and education in your last novel or in your current work in progress?

Once I reach 1963 I will then pursue novels set in the 19th century to remind readers of our forgotten, colourful past. I guess I love picking up musty old books with stories of people and events that were truly exciting and history changing.

As usual much of my time is taken up in research of events that happened before I was born but close enough to a time that many of our older population remember with the latest books. So accuracy is vital. Get just one tiny detail wrong and credibility is lost. I am pleased to relate that a few old WWII diggers I know gave me the thumbs up. It was not hard because it was their stories I was writing. My current work for release next year takes the reader to 1945 and the end of the terrible conflict. It was interesting to hear men who were facing the Japanese in the Pacific say that the defeat of Hitler in Europe did not mean a lot to them. How could it when they were still fighting and dying against an enemy who refused to surrender?

You have mentioned that you are a fan of Bernard Cornwell’s novels. What other kinds of novels do you enjoy reading?

Besides Bernard Cornwell (who is also a favourite of Wilbur Smith) I read our own great story teller of Africa, Tony Park. I guess because of having to research I get little time to seek out new authors, so my head is still in the past with greats such as James Clavell (who was an Aussie former POW of the Japanese who made it big in Hollywood), James A Mitchener, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith and Joseph Wambaugh (a former cop from LA who wrote great cop stories). More recent authors have been Tom Clancy and our Aussie author, John Birmingham. I guess I like novels that grip you and hence try to write the same turn-of-the-page style.

Where, in your opinion, do writers sometimes go wrong with wartime historical fiction, and what can an aspiring novelist do to avoid or fix such things in their manuscript?

It is interesting to pick faults in some writers of war novels. As an example, the myth that Aussie soldiers were landed on the wrong beach at Gallipoli has been discounted by recent research into British military records. An over flight by British recon aircraft very shortly before the landings discovered the beach we were supposed to land on was covered by Turkish artillery. It was artillery that killed most soldiers in WWI. There would not have been ANZAC Day if we had landed on the original choice, as it is likely very few would have survived the shelling to reach the heights and a retreat would have been ordered. I still read in popular novels this myth of the wrong beach being told. Those authors should learn to carry out more intensive research. Maybe my days as a police investigator, coupled with academic training, has taught me to be thorough and not simply copy what was written before.

Given the subject matter of your novels, do you or your publisher have any plans for readers around the centenary of ANZAC Day that you can share?

As I still remain one of the least known writers in Australia, the government does not know I exist, and because of my age I do not fit into the publicity machine. I think the great British writer, PD James summed it up. It is worth quoting her:

“I imagine I will continue to undertake major writer tours as long as I continue to write and have the strength. But this method of selling books, promoting the writer rather as if he or she were a pop star, seems a curious, even farcical concomitance. I note that today a new writer who is young and physically attractive starts with a considerable initial advantage. He or she will be a hit on the publicity trail. The image is promotable and acceptable.”

Are there any major surprises coming up in your future writing, or more of what your readers enjoy and know you for?

Future books will be written along the lines of historical saga. My genre is shrinking, as readers turn to whatever the media promotes, but I love history, and I think I am not completely alone. After all, history telling is about ghosts. Who does not like a good ghost story?


Peter Watt’s author website:

Peter Watt on Facebook

Peter Watt is willing to Skype with book clubs and writing groups to answer questions about his books. If your book club or writing group would like to Skype with Peter about his books, you can contact him via his author website or via Facebook.

Fans of Peter’s books can also join the Fans of Peter Watt books Facebook group.

The Australian Literature Review

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Stephen Ormsby – Publisher Interview

Jack Dann - JubileeDirk Strasser - Stories of the SandSatima Flavell - The Dagger of DresniaBevan McGuiness - The Only Evil

You and your wife, Marieke, run Satalyte Publishing. For those unfamiliar with Satalyte, what kinds of services does Satalyte offer for writers?

Satalyte Publishing is a traditional publishing house. If your novel is accepted by us we will edit and design the novel. We talk to the author through every stage of the process, producing a result that we will both be happy with. A novel needs to find an audience, and if an author is not happy with the way their novel looks, then they are going to struggle to sell it.

Currently our submissions process is closed, as we had well over 200 submissions in the first six months. We will open it on an ad-hoc basis, but at the moment I am approaching the authors I want to publish.

We have also started a new branch: Satalyte Book Services. This offers the opportunity for a self publishing author to work with us and allow them to create something they would be proud to release. This service will brand the author’s novel as they wish. If you want to self publish, we will build a professional product for you. Obviously, this is a fee based service.

Satalyte is still relatively new. What has it been like starting a publishing business?

When I decided to start the business, Marieke announced that we were pregnant. Even with the knowledge of having that new difficulty in our lives, I pushed on. To say that it wasn’t my wisest choice would be an understatement. Would I change it now if I got the opportunity? No.

For the first nine months of getting the business set up, Marieke was carrying our youngest daughter. A week before Elizabeth was born, we released Great Southern Land. We both hope to build this business up as a legacy for our children, and to make a difference much like Text does.

It’s exciting, frustrating, intense, difficult, fun… and that’s a standard week. We put in a lot of hours a week to produce our works, and struggle to do so much between Marieke, myself and our incredible intern, Lyss. (PS: If you would like to intern with us, please contact us! Help us bring great and creative literature to life.) We love the thrill of meeting our readers, and the best way we see to do that is to get to as many events as possible.

Satalyte has some established authors such as Jack Dann and Dirk Strasser, as well as some early-career authors such as Tarran Jones, whose short stories Dance of the Gods and The Old Jenson Place were shortlisted in competitions on this site in April 2011 and December 2011). What makes Satalyte different from other publishers and attracts authors to choose Satalyte?

We’re not sure, to tell you the truth. I think it’s that everybody is getting to know us, and they see that we do get to the events and that we push all of our titles all of the time. We like to think of Satalyte as a big family, and this means that the authors pitch in! That means if we do a convention, such as Supanova, we will have authors there behind the desk selling not only their book, but the range of Satalyte titles to a customer.

I think that they feel part of something new, exciting and potentially big. That’s how we see it.

When you have Jack Dann telling you that you’re making all the right noises, you have to believe it.

Satalyte promotes authors’ books at events such as the recent Foster Show in regional Victoria. How important is marketing and publicity – an area that is sometimes neglected by small publishers – to what you do?

Marketing is everything after the book is released. In the case of the Foster Show, it’s a chance to meet our potential new readers in our most immediate vicinity. The other side of it is that we need to keep selling books to keep relevant, and the best way to do that is to be out there. As we have authors in almost every state, we can have someone signing almost all the time. That gives us an opportunity to market an event as a Meet and Greet.

Also, we try to launch as many of our novels as possible. This gets us into the bookstores, which gives attention to our releases, which, if the event goes well, has the bookstore more willing to stock Satalyte titles. It all about push, push, push, but being seen as doing it the right way.

What do you look for in submissions sent to Satalyte?

This is what got me into so much trouble early on. I found so many great works out there, just being neglected by everybody else, that I signed up way too many books for our own good. I think we have just got through that initial block and still have a great backlog of titles. We also have some of our authors wanting to release more than one title with us, which is the main reason we have closed submissions.

We also have a bulldog! Our intern, Lyss, does all of the submissions reading now, and we have found she has a very good eye for it.

At Conflux, we were involved in pitching sessions, which really exposed Lyss and I to the authors. That changed things for me, as it was the first time I looked at an author for both their words but also how sociable they appear. In the day of social media, I’m starting to see that an author needs to be willing to get amongst the readers, as they love being able to be personable with their favourite new author.

Satalyte publishes across a variety of genres but are there some particular kinds of fiction that Satalyte is becoming known for or would specifically like to build on with more books of that kind?

This was all personal choice based on my reading over 35 years. I suppose I’ve read more science fiction and fantasy than anything else, and that shows with our releases. Another thing may be that I was known in the spec fic scene a little more early on.

We realised this and made a determined effort to fill out our list with a select set of genres. We continue to look for titles in as many genres as possible. We see this as the best way to be found, using the logic that if you like one of our titles in a specific genre, then you may just be willing to try one of our titles in a different genre.

We will probably continue to have more speculative fiction titles, due to recurring authors, and I don’t mind that. It gets us to the Confluxs, Continuums and Nat Cons, which are a buzz.

What are some of the new books can readers look forward to from Satalyte this year?

Are you really for this? We look like having some twenty more titles (in both paper and ebook) out this year, including:

The Rebel: Second Chance by Jack Dann
Tales of Cymria by K. J. Taylor
The Cloak of Calliver (The Talismans Book Two) by Satima Flavell
Into the Heart of Varste (Across the Stonewind Sky Book Two) by Ged Maybury
The Art of Effective Dreaming by Gillian Polack
North of Dragonlands by Stephen Dedman
A Quiet Place by Andrew McKiernan
The Morgan Template edited by Paul Collins (including names like John Alderson, Patricia Bernard, Russell Blackford, Paul Collins, David Lake, Sean McMullen, Wynne N. Whiteford, Jack Wodhams and A. Bertram Chandler).

Our titles are (usually) listed early as pre-orders.


Satalyte Publishing’s website:

Satalyte Publishing on Facebook
Satalyte Publishing on Twitter

Jack Dann - JubileeDirk Strasser - Stories of the SandSatima Flavell - The Dagger of DresniaBevan McGuiness - The Only Evil 

The Australian Literature Review

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Belinda Murrell – Author Interview

Your Lulu Bell illustrated children’s books have been quite popular. What, in your experience, makes a good author/illustrator/publisher team for producing an illustrated children’s book series?

Of all my books, the creation of the Lulu Bell series has definitely been a collaborative effort. The series is about a girl called Lulu, growing up living in a vet hospital and it was partly inspired by my own childhood as the daughter of a vet. I wrote the first four books initially before pitching them to my publisher Zoe Walton at Random House. We then worked closely together to refine the language, tone, positioning and title of the series. When illustrator Serena Geddes was originally briefed to create the roughs she came over to my home, met my children and pets, and took some of her inspiration from family photographs. Serena and I have a very close working relationship where we frequently get together or chat on the phone to discuss the illustrations or ideas for covers, and have lots of laughs. The close relationship between author, illustrator, publisher and editor means that we share ideas, listen to feedback and work together to create the best possible series. There are now 11 Lulu Bell books, with another two being launched at the Sydney Writers Festival in May. The books have been translated into Afrikaans and Portuguese, so I am thrilled that kids as far away as South Africa and Brazil will be reading my stories. It is so exciting to see the books doing so well and I feel very lucky to have such a strong team working with me on Lulu Bell.

You have a series of time-slip novels for readers aged about 10-14. For those unfamiliar with time-slip novels, how would you describe the concept of time-slip and the appeal time-slip novels have for readers?

I love the concept of time-slip, and it obviously appeals to many readers as well, as I get hundreds of letters from children telling me how much they love them. My time-slip books each tell the story of a modern day child who finds an old piece of jewellery which is a link to someone who lived in the past. The protagonist then goes on a voyage of discovery, slipping back in time, to solve the mystery, find out what happened to the historical characters, and explore what life was like back then. I’ve always been fascinated by history and the idea of travelling back in time. I also love the idea of taking a modern day character, with all their experiences and foibles, and putting them in a completely unfamiliar environment where they have to deal with the dangers and difficulties that were faced by our ancestors. Through this experience, each of my modern day protagonists discovers something about their own life, strengths and inner courage. Each one is a stand-alone book, with a different setting and characters. My time-slip books have been recognised with various awards, and I am particularly thrilled that for the last four years, one of my books has been shortlisted for the KOALA and YABBA awards, where thousands of children around Australia nominate and vote for their favourite book.

You have described the character dynamics between two characters in your novel The Sequin Star, set in Australia during the Great Depression, as: “One is escaping poverty and the other is escaping wealth – can the two find happiness together.” What were some of the joys or challenges in depicting these character dynamics?

My character Rosina is a real battler, but a chameleon, who is very good at reinventing herself. She was a wonderful character to explore because she is strong and confident and resourceful, largely because of her tough life and having to fend for herself with limited resources. Kit on the other hand, has grown up in a wealthy family, but with his own challenges, particularly a distant father, the early loss of his mother and the weight of family expectations. Kit is very drawn to Rosina’s strength and flamboyance, while Rosina appreciates his sensitivity. I particularly loved creating the character of Rosina, both for her personality and for her occupation as a circus performer. Some of the challenges were researching and understanding traditional social expectations in the 1930s to ensure that my characters were believable and their relationships reflected these values.

What are your thoughts on the relative importance of historical accuracy and entertaining storytelling in historical fiction?

This is a tricky one. Firstly, it is very important to me that my books are as historically accurate as possible – and I do often get people writing to me to check tiny details. For example, were egg beaters invented in 1895? Or would a 15 year old girl really drive a circus truck without a license in 1932? So it’s important that I do thorough research over many months and double check my facts – reading memoirs, historical texts, letters and interviews, and visiting the settings. However I also believe that my primary purpose is not to deliver a history lesson. My primary motivation is to create a vivid world and to write an enthralling story, which children will want to keep reading. So the history needs to be accurate, but I need to tread lightly so that the story is not bogged down by the facts.

You have written: “Elizabeth Bennett has always been one of my favourite protagonists and I imagine that in many ways, she was based on Jane Austen herself.” To what extent would you say that any of your own characters are based on yourself?

Lots of my characters have a little spark of me in them. One of the obvious ones is young eight year old Lulu Bell, growing up living in a vet hospital just like I did as a child. She is the eldest child in her family – practical, caring, creative, sometimes a little bossy, and a tomboy who is good at solving problems. Like me she has a father who is a vet, a mother who is incredibly patient with all the animal chaos, a younger sister who is dreamy and imaginative, and a little brother who is funny and naughty, plus of course loads of loveable animals. Likewise some of the characters in the time slip books have elements of me – sometimes shy and awkward, sometimes bold and adventurous. But one of the characters that I admire the most is Charlotte Atkinson, the Mamma in The River Charm. She is a woman with true grit and courage, who would do anything to protect her children, and while she was not based on me, I like to think I too would be a formidable adversary if anyone was threatening my beloved children.

You speak often at schools, conferences and literary festivals. What are some of the things about your writing that people ask about most at these events?

People are fascinated by the process of creative writing – how do I research, how long does it take me to write a book, do I plan a book, how long does it take, where do I work, what do I do about writer’s block and the editing process. I often show them my notebook, which I carry everywhere with me – filled with jumbled notes, ideas, research data, character sketches, mind maps, lists of names from different historical periods, photographs of settings or people, and diagrams where I plan out my story arc. This is my first stage of planning a book and it looks rather disorganised. Next I write a synopsis of the story, covering the setting, characters and the basic plot, which I share with my publisher before I begin writing. Once I have signed the contract with Random House, I begin work on writing the story, setting myself word goals – for example 5000 words per week, to help me meet my looming deadlines. I often emphasise that for me, the researching stage and the editing stage each take about three or four months, almost as long as writing the first draft. And my number one tip for writers block? Just keep writing!

If your next book had to be science fiction, what do you think it would be about?

I worry about what the future will be like for coming generations, as our current first world lifestyles are simply not sustainable. Issues like climate change, loss of species, pollution, over population and the misuse of resources, mean that life will be very different for future generations. So if I was to write a science fiction book, I think it would focus on how life and technology changes in the future to manage these problems, and perhaps encourage readers to think what they could do now to protect our planet. And it would definitely have robots to do the housework!

What can readers look forward to from you over the rest of the year?

This year will be a busy one!! The six books in my time slip series has just been re-released with beautiful new covers, plus I have four new titles being launched in the Lulu Bell series, (two in March and two in June) which means lots of touring. I have trips planned to the Somerset Celebration of Literature, the Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference, Voices on The Coast, Sydney Writers Festival, Geelong festival and book tours in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria visiting lots of schools, so I will be away for about one week every month for the next few months. In addition I am also actively involved as an ambassador for Room to Read, Books In Homes and the CBCA, doing various events to promote children’s literacy. After writing five new Lulu Bell books last year, I have just started work on writing another book in my time slip series, set in Melbourne during the 1920s, exploring rebellious teenagers, Russian spies and an abandoned mansion. It’ s due out in March next year so I really need to get cracking on it!!


Belinda Murrell’s author website:

Belinda Murrell on Facebook

The Australian Literature Review

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Elisabeth Storrs – Author Interview

     The Lavender Keeper

You are involved in organising the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australasia conference, to be held in Sydney on March 20-22 this year. What is one thing you are personally looking forward to at the conference, and what makes this thing particularly special to you?

The HNSA conference will be the realisation of a vision that started back in 2012 to organise a forum for historical fiction lovers to celebrate the genre. HNS’s founder, Richard Lee, has pledged support to HNSA to help it develop a regional presence and establish a ‘third’ conference in addition to HNS’s current UK and US events. We plan to hold the event biennially while rotating the cities in which it will be held. I’m personally looking forward to meeting all the wonderful people with whom I’ve been corresponding who are attending from far and wide: New Zealand, US and Ireland, as well as those from interstate Australia. I’m also very excited to finally meet all the authors who have generously agreed to appear on our program. We have over 40 speakers, so there will be a lot to talk about.

You have had a novel published by Sydney-based Murdoch Books, followed by a novel published as an independent author and, more recently, have signed a three-novel deal with Amazon’s Lake Union imprint. Could you tell readers a bit about the progression of these publishing arrangements and how they have worked for you?

I wrote my first novel, The Wedding Shroud, over a period of ten years and was thrilled when my agent finally secured a contract with Pier 9 at Murdoch Books. It was like a dream come true. Unfortunately it was released in the same week Borders collapsed and the book industry was thrown into a spin. Luckily, the digital revolution had begun. When circumstances lead to Pier 9 being taken over by Allen & Unwin, I decided not to assign the rights and self-published the book internationally. I then released the sequel, The Golden Dice, in 2013. ‘Going indie’ was fantastic as I was freed of restraints and could choose how to market my book aggressively using pricing strategies that were then frowned upon by traditional publishers (but are now being adopted by them). I also discovered a huge readership in the States. Altogether, my books have received over 300 reviews on Amazon, and over 2000 readers have added them to their Goodreads lists. As a result of this, Amazon’s publishing imprint, Lake Union, approached me out of the blue and offered me a three book deal to re-release The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice in April this year, with the third book in the trilogy, Call to Juno, being released in April 2016. This is a fantastic opportunity for me, as Lake Union will produce a print run for release in American bookstores. The novels will also be translated into seven different languages and be produced as audiobooks.

For those unfamiliar with your novels, how would you describe your fiction?

The Tales of Ancient Rome trilogy is set in the early Roman Republic but, more importantly, it explores the civilisation of the Etruscans. These people were incredibly sophisticated compared to their Roman neighbours who were still fighting turf wars when Etruria had already established a vast sea faring empire. Etruscan women were afforded independence, education and sexual freedom compared to their Roman and Greek counterparts. As such they were considered wicked and decadent. The Wedding Shroud tells the story of Caecilia, a young Roman girl married to an Etruscan nobleman, Vel Mastarna, to seal a truce. Determined to remain true to ‘Roman virtues’, she finds herself faced with conflicting moralities while slowly being seduced by the freedoms her husband offers her. The Golden Dice continues Caecilia’s tale after war is declared. I also introduce two other female characters: Pinna, a Roman tomb whore, and Semni, an Etruscan artisan. As such, my books explore themes of destiny versus self-determination, and tolerance versus prejudice, while accenting the lives of women in ancient history.

What advice do you have for independent authors or for traditionally published authors who want to be proactive about how their books are published and publicised?

I believe that the snobbery that has existed amongst publishers and authors alike concerning self-publishing needs to be banished. The advent of improved digital technology, publishing portals, and savvy marketing strategies means that an author doesn’t have to wait to ‘be discovered’. They can make success happen themselves. However, this means running a professional business. An indie author has to be publisher, printer and publicist as well as a writer. I now understand the value of the backlist. I am still selling copies of The Wedding Shroud even though it was published in 2010. If I hadn’t produced a version myself, it would have been long forgotten. Also, writing a series means that readers can enter at different access points. This leads to cross-selling between titles. Lake Union understands this. That’s why I was prepared to enter into a traditional publishing contract again.

Who are a few of your favourite historical novelists, and what makes their novels stand out for you?

My favourite historical novelist is Mary Renault. Her prose is lyrical and compelling. When I read The Persian Boy and The King Must Die as a school girl, I was immediately hooked on the idea of writing about the ancient world myself. I also enjoy Hilary Mantel for the effortless manner in which she establishes the pathology of her characters within the historical framework of Tudor politics. More recent favourites are Hannah Kent, Alice Hoffman and Madeline Miller.

Other than historical fiction, what kinds of fiction do you most enjoy reading and why?

Of late, I’ve enjoyed reading Henning Mankell’s Wallander series. It is dark and nuanced yet easy to read. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time at the moment for reading, due to organising the HNSA conference.

What is next for you as an author?

I am currently writing Call to Juno to a deadline which has required me to be extremely disciplined. I have finished the first draft and am now refining the manuscript. I really enjoy the editing process, so I’m feeling a little more under control. Facing the blank page every morning and knowing I needed to produce a certain word count by night was very daunting.


Elisabeth Storrs’s author website:

Elisabeth Storrs on Facebook
Elisabeth Storrs on Twitter

HNSA conference website:

     The Lavender Keeper

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Marianne Curley – Author Interview


For those unfamiliar with your fiction, how would you describe your novels? 

My novels are adventures in paranormal fiction that draw you in and sweep you away to another place, or another time, where you might find yourself hiding out in John of Gaunt’s bedroom or on a white bridge between worlds where only your soul mate can stop you from crossing over. They are novels about first loves, best friends, trust, loyalty, second chances, right and wrong, good versus evil, and figuring out what’s really important in life.

You have written: “In Old Magic I had toyed with the concept of what might happen to the present, or the future, if a figure from the past was tampered with or even killed. I took this concept further and thought of writing a story about organised manipulation of the past, and the potential havoc it would create.” What is one of your favourite stories about time travel, and what makes it work so well for you as a reader? 

Strangely, for someone who loves time travel, I haven’t read many time travel books, but I did read one recently, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, which is an intelligent, brilliantly plotted story of love, choice and sacrifice. It works for me as a reader because the scientific technique used to travel through time is not overly complicated or detailed, but is enough to satisfy, allowing the reader to be drawn in to the tense unfolding mystery, and the characters. Presented at different ages as they pass through time, we see their growth through their failures and desperation as they struggle back and forth, believing in their ability to do what they must in order to save the world.

You have written: “I am inspired every day by my surroundings. I live on a mountain with beautiful scenery of waterfalls, rainforests, fresh-water creeks, interesting foliage, and an abundance of Australian wildlife. The birds are especially beautiful. I am also greatly inspired by music and always have songs playing when I am writing. I love to listen to dramatic music or songs that tell a passionate or epic story.” What is an example of a particular song or sight that inspired you, and how did this come through in your writing? 

My idea for my first published novel, Old Magic, came to me while I was with family picnicking on Dorrigo Mountain. I was sitting on a bench watching my children walk across an open field when a mist rolled in from behind them. The image was magical and my thoughts started to spin and come alive with ideas. When the mist rolled to where I was sitting and I felt it on my skin, it was as if I felt the mountain, and I knew in that moment that I would write a book about a girl who lived on Dorrigo Mountain, who had the rainforest in her heart and the ability to work magic running through her veins. This sight, and others of the Dorrigo National Park that I saw that day, stayed with me as I wrote Old Magic. I drew on these memories particularly when I created the forest chapters where spells were cast and time travel occurred.

Has your approach to writing novels changed significantly since you wrote your first novel? If so, how has it changed? 

There was a seven-year break between my fourth book and my fifth due to my battle with bone marrow cancer – Myelofibrosis, for which I spent six months in hospital having a stem cell bone marrow transplant, which included treatment for a crushed back fracture after sustaining a fall during chemotherapy. When I was writing again, I noticed big changes in how books were published, with the swell of electronic books, the influx of social media, and instant technology had become second nature to most of the population.

Nowadays, I tend to do more planning and taking notes, but that is mostly due to having to take medication that affects my short-term memory recall. As for my style of writing, my method and technique, nothing much has changed. The way I visualise my scenes has worked for me in the past and I still go for walks, listen to music, and browse through photographs for inspiration, though these days the photographs are online and saved to my Pinterest boards.

When writing your The Guardians of Time trilogy, what challenges did you encounter in making each novel stand alone as well as belong to the trilogy? 

Initially, other than knowing this trilogy would be time travel of an organised kind, my first idea for it was that there would be a girl, her brother and the brother’s best friend – three main characters, three teenagers with special talents linked together for an important cause, but with a book for each of them to tell their story. Right from the start I had determined to write each novel as an entity in itself. The challenges were making sure each novel stayed true to the main theme while they continued to move the story forward towards its dramatic conclusion.

What kinds of stories did you enjoy as a child and teenager, and have these had a significant impact on how you write your own fiction now? 

The first book I read that swept me away was Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. I was eight, and from that moment I was hooked on reading. I always searched for the novel without pictures, the longer the better. By the time I was a teenager I was reading epic novels of great struggles, formations of empires, tragic love stories and historical fiction – the stuff of Leon Uris, James Clavell, James A Michener, Colleen McCullough, Anya Seton and of course who of my age hasn’t read Margaret Mitchel’s Gone with the Wind?

I grew up wanting to write my own epic novels. I always had a story in my head. I tried different genres and found my place in writing for young adults. The compulsion that stemmed from my younger days to tell the epic story is still strong inside me today. It’s why I write paranormal fantasy, so I can immerse my heroes and villains in the dangers of the journey, the sacrifices they must make along the way, the fierce romances, battles, tragedies, and the eternal struggle of good versus evil.

If you could bring a fiction writer back to life for one day for the sole purpose of discussing fiction writing, who might you choose and why? 

This is a really hard question because there are so many. Firstly, there is Dickens, who wrote the book that launched me into the amazing world of reading. But then there are the classics authors such as Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, whose works I have admired and have inspired me in many ways, or the more recently departed Sara Douglass, whose Axis Trilogy and Wayfarer Redemption Series were some of the first fantasy works I had read and thoroughly enjoyed. But then there was Bryce Courtenay, a writer whose work I have loved and admired since The Power of One. A prolific writer of everlasting saga’s, I would love to chat with him over a cup of coffee.

What is next for your fiction writing?  

Next for me is the publication of the second book in The Avena Series. It’s called Broken and will be in stores in March 2014. I am currently working on the third and final book in The Avena Series. The first draft is complete and I will be spending the next few months polishing this. After that, I’m looking forward to starting something completely fresh and new.


You can read more about Marianne Curley and her fiction at


The Australian Literature Review

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Chris Allen – Author Interview

   The DeltaGhost Watch

For those unfamiliar with your fiction, how would you describe your novels?

I think the best summation would be – old school action thrillers with a modern edge, or cold war novel/modern action movie hybrid.

Who is one of your favourite fictional characters and why?

I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t say Bond, but not for the reasons you may think. When I was a kid the Bond films only came around once every couple of years and there were no video stores then either. So, unless there happened to be one of the old Sean Connery films on TV, I developed my attachment to the character via Ian Fleming’s books. The books were pretty raw with none of the flash of the movies, and I prefer that.

Fleming created the character of Bond loosely around his service as a Naval officer during the war while fleshing him out with characteristics and exploits of other people he knew at the time. Inherent in that development were all of the normal human failings and flaws which grounded Bond in a reality that readers could relate to while he was having these incredible adventures in unreal situations. I loved reading those stories as a kid and I still do. It should come as no surprise that Fleming is my primary influence!

You have written: “I always wanted to create some kind of international agency, because of all the things I used to watch and read as a kid – The Professionals, The Man from U.N.C.L.E and so on. When the time came to get it down on paper, the agency became Intrepid.” An agency such as Intrepid supplies your main character goals (missions) and motivations (to bring criminals to justice). Do you find it difficult personalise these goals and motivations for your main character, or do you find that his values are in sync with those pursued by Intrepid to an extent that he gladly carries out the missions give to him?

I try to keep my main character, Alex Morgan, as grounded as possible. He is after all a human being and I don’t subscribe to the idea of a hero being a machine who doesn’t get affected by what he does. Morgan very much believes in Intrepid. Intrepid exists to protect the underdog unencumbered by borders or bureaucracies which appeals to Morgan’s sense of what is right rather than what happens to be politically expedient at the time in the eyes of one particular nation. He suffers the physical and mental scars of his profession but he prevails.

It’s very important for Morgan to believe in what he’s doing in order for him to justify the violence that is occasionally required. The tag line I use for Intrepid is: ‘No Name. No Country. No Borders. No Limits’, and that’s exactly what Alex Morgan is all about.

You have written: “I absolutely think about the audience [for my novels]. I set out to write thrillers with international appeal […].” How have you built international appeal into your novels?

Firstly, I work hard to give each story and very international flavour. Not just in terms of locations but also with characters. Secondly, I have deliberately made Intrepid an international agencies with the individual members representative of many countries. This is something I will continue throughout the series and will expand upon by adding new characters to ensure that the organisation grows and develops. Fundamentally, the international-ness comes from Intrepid not being the instrument of just one country or another.

In your opinion, what makes a good espionage thriller? Or what is a good espionage thriller you have read, and what made it work so well?

For me it’s all about a compelling story grounded in reality, great characters, heaps of pace and action and, of course, escape. Think Fleming, Le Carre, Higgins, Forsyth, Cussler et al.

You have written that the hardest part of being a writer has been: “Making sure that each story stands on its own right as an epic tale, while still maintaining the overarching themes of the series.” Could you discuss how you made your novels stand on their own while still maintaining the overarching theme of the series?

I’ve always held the view that a person should be able to randomly come across one of my books anywhere – whether it be in a book store, a library or just borrowing it from a friend – and enjoy it without ever having read one of the others. So, in simplest terms, each book represents a new mission and, if I’ve done it right, each story should provide a sufficient thread for the reader to grasp the grand narrative of the series by the way I (attempt to!) entwine the attitudes, experiences, character traits and motivations of the principal characters into every story.

Occasionally I may reference a previous story but hopefully that will entice a reader to go back and discover the earlier books and connect the dots.

You have written: “Book one in the series, Defender, took me a decade to write and book two, Hunter, was roughly six months, so my writing process has vastly changed.” What advice do you have for writers starting out who want to get their debut novel written over the next 6-12 months?

Plan! Plan! Plan! Honestly, plan in your own way but just get the bones of the idea down before you set off. I find that the best thing to have down before you start writing are the major reference points of the story. These don’t need to be very detailed but enough for you to know where you’re going. How you’ll get there is the fun part. That’s where you get to be creative!

What is next for your fiction writing?

I’m currently finishing the third novel in the Intrepid series, working on the development of a TV pilot, and planning a new series of thrillers which I’m really excited about.


You can read more about Chris Allen and his fiction at

   The DeltaGhost Watch

The Australian Literature Review

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Banafsheh Serov – Author Interview

The Russian Tapestry by Banafsheh SerovUnder a Starless Sky by Banafsheh Serov  

For those unfamiliar with your fiction, how would you describe your debut novel, The Russian Tapestry

The Russian Tapestry is based on my husband’s grandparents, Marie and Alexei Serov. It’s a love story set against the turmoil of WWI, the Russian revolution and civil war.

Marie Kulbas, the daughter of a wealthy Estonian merchant, is a young law student, excited about her new life in the vibrant city of St Petersburg. Ahead of her is a life of invitations to glittering balls, sumptuous midnight suppers and ballets in gilded theatres. This idyllic world however is threatened by the start of the war and the departure of her beloved brother and fiancé to the German Front.

Alexei Serov is a Colonel in the Tsar’s Army. From a long line of professional soldiers, Alexei is a fine horseman and an excellent shot, fiercely loyal to his country and to his men. His allegiance to the army surpasses everything, including his duty to his wife and daughters. His role is clear, until he meets Marie and emotions rise in him that he’s never felt before.

Running parallel to the story of Marie and Alexei is the tragic tale of the Romanov’s and a cast of supporting characters whose lives become entangled. As war escalates, and their world starts to crumble, they each discover a love that they will cling to in their search for a path to safety.

You have written of The Russian Tapestry: “It’s the weaving and threading of anecdotes recited at family dinners with lessons in history.” Many aspiring novelists run into difficulties trying to turn family history into a novel that will also appeal to readers outside their family. What advice do you have for making family history appealing as a novel for a wider readership? 

For a book to have appeal the characters must face mounting conflict. No conflict, no story! It makes little difference if the characters are real or fictional, if they’re just ambling along with little conflict in their lives, then there is no appeal for the reader to continue with the book.

In The Russian Tapestry, the setting of war and revolution creates a natural backdrop for conflict. All the characters in the book are forced into situations that require inner strength and resilience for them to survive. Alexei and Marie have the mounting problem of being in relationships with other people when they first meet. In real life, they met during the civil war but for the interest of story telling I have them meet years earlier at the start of the war. That way, even as their attraction grows, their obligations and circumstances keep them apart, adding tension and obstacles to them coming together.

What is one of your favourite novels, and what makes it stand out for you as a reader? 

I’m lucky that, as a bookseller, I’m exposed to a wide range of books. I read widely – both fiction and non-fiction – and especially love discovering talented emerging writers. It’s hard for me to pin down one favourite book, but if pressed I’d choose The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. It literally took my breath away and since then, I’ve read all her books. I love her skill in seamlessly weaving history (often choosing real life characters) into her fiction. Vikram Seth is another one of my heroes along with Tolstoy and Hugo for their sheer ability to write epic novels.

Writing a historical novel set in another country, as you did with The Russian Tapestry, can be challenging to do well. What were some of the challenges you overcame when writing The Russian Tapestry

Starting out I knew very little about Marie and Alexei’s life other than a skeleton of family anecdotes bandied across the dinner table. When it came to writing The Russian Tapestry, the main problem I had was how to fit what I knew about Marie and Alexei’s lives in the context of historical and cultural background.

Researching proved problematic. Although there is a plethora of books on the Western Front, there are hardly any books in the Australian market on the Eastern Front.

As for cultural nuances, my husband is a second generation Australian and grew up in a household with no Russian cultural influence. We had travelled to Russia in our twenties, but of course visiting a country does not give one the familiarity with a culture as growing up with it.

I started by reading whatever I could get my hands on. Russian novels proved great help in reference to cultural nuances. By chance I came across a set of WWI encyclopaedias that proved a god send in providing me with extensive diary entries, essays and factual information on the Eastern Front.

Together, the Russian novels and the encyclopaedias became the foundation for which I could then build my setting. It was tough and I still worry I did not get all the references to culture right. Having said that, I’ve since had plenty of Russians who have read and enjoyed The Russian Tapestry contact me, so maybe I’m worrying unnecessarily.

What has it been like for you making the transition from unpublished novelist to published novelist? 

The Russian Tapestry would not have had the success it enjoys today without the enthusiasm and dedication of the editors, publishers, designers, sales team and publicist that work tirelessly to bring the book to the attention of readers. Ultimately the goal of any writer is to have their books read (this is also the scariest aspect since you’re opening yourself to criticism) and to have a major publishing team behind me is certainly preferable to trying to do it on my own.

As for my day-to-day life, little is changed. We own and operate 6 stores (5 book stores and 1 news agency). I generally work 3 days in Your Bookshop stores and juggle that with looking after my family and writing. It’s hard when time is at a premium but having been published twice, and knowing that I have a publisher, who’s interested in my work, gives me the discipline to push through even as I feel like giving up.

What kinds of stories did you enjoy as a child and teenager, and have these had a significant impact on how you write your own fiction now? 

Growing up, we didn’t have the range of books available that young adults enjoy today. As a young girl in Iran, I enjoyed Roald Dahl and had read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but the first book I remember being immersed in was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. I was ten at the time and stayed up all night to read it. After that I read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell which I suppose set me on the path to reading epic historical fiction.

If you could bring a fiction writer back to life for one day for the sole purpose of discussing fiction writing, who might you choose and why? 

I get amused when asked these questions because I often fantasise about being a Doctor Who companion and visiting 19th century authors in the TARDIS. If I was to meet any author, it would be a toss between Victor Hugo or Leo Tolstoy and I wouldn’t bring them back to life but travel to meet them in their lifetime.

What is next for your fiction writing? 

I’ve just finished the first draft of my next novel. It’s different to The Russian Tapestry and my memoir, Under a Starless Sky, in that it’s not steeped in personal family history.

Keeping with the theme of history and migration, it’s a story of three generations of women in one family and the tragedy that tears at the fabric of their relationship.


You can read more about Banafsheh Serov and her fiction at

The Russian Tapestry by Banafsheh SerovUnder a Starless Sky by Banafsheh Serov  

The Australian Literature Review

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