Launching…

15 May

 

For those who live in my local area, I would love to see you at one of my events in Lismore or Byron Bay.

On Thursday May 17 (this Thursday) I will be discussing both my recent novels ‘Paris Syndrome’ and Melt at the Lismore Book Warehouse. There is a charge of $5 to cover drinks and snacks.

On Thursday May 31, Author Sarah Armstong will be launching ‘Melt’ in Byron Bay, with a Welcome to Country by Delta Kay. This is a free event (with drinks and snacks! )

RSVPs to both these events are appreciated to help with catering.

*****

Reveiws, reviews, reviews…

‘Melt’ and ‘Paris Syndrome’ have both been getting some lovely reviews, which warms the cockles of my heart on these cool autumn mornings.

Melt

It’s a lovely romp of a RomCom, involving Climate Change, Mistaken Identities and Antarctica! 

Karl Kruszelnicki (Dr Karl) (on Twitter)

I wish I could find more books just like this one!

Bree, One Girl Too Many Books 

Paris Syndrome

YA novelist Lisa Walker has woven a multi-layered story of love and loss… Highly recommended.

Alison Paterson in Magpies Magazine

This is a quirky affectionate read that will have teens laughing one minute and tearing up the next.

Riverbend Books

There are more reviews of both books on my website. 

‘Melt’ release day – write what you know…

2 May

I came to writing after a varied career. I worked as a wilderness and backcountry ski guide for many years, then in environmental education and then in community relations for the national parks and wildlife service.

My life has seeped into my work. My first novel, ‘Liar Bird’ was about a woman working in community relations for national parks – so, yes, somewhat autobiographical… In ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’, my protagonist Edie works at a university dissecting and drawing crab larvae – a position I held myself while I was doing my first degree in Zoology. My third novel, ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ features a woman doing a pilgrimage around the ‘Big Things’ of coastal Australia. And I have visited more than a few Big Things in my time…

‘Paris Syndrome’, my first Young Adult novel, is about a young girl in Brisbane who yearns for Paris. I grew up in Brisbane and spent a fair amount of time wishing I was somewhere more exotic.

I think authors often find that the more they write, the further from autobiography they go. Basically you just have to start making things up! Which brings me to ‘Melt’…

I’ve never been to Antarctica and nor have I presented a TV show and yet, this is what my protagonist Summer does. I did research it extensively though. If you’ve never survived an Antarctic storm in the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, I can highly recommend it. It helped that I’ve spent a lot of time in snowy environments. I could visualise the hardships and the beauty of living in that environment. I loved being in my protagonist, Summer’s head as she saw Antarctica for the first time…

The sea edge is rimmed with turquoise cliffs of ice. They are brilliant, luminous. I hadn’t dreamed they’d be that colour. My mouth is hanging open again. I shut it. We drop lower and I see black dots on the white. ‘Penguins,’ I squeal.

Rory jabs me hard this time.

‘Ow. Penguins,’ I repeat in a more subdued manner. ‘As you’d expect.’

‘Melt’ is a fish-out-of-water comedy about a young woman impersonating a TV science superstar. She is learning glaciology and climate science on the fly, building a secret igloo, improvising scripts based on Dynasty, and above all trying not to be revealed as an impostor. I had a lot of fun writing it.

‘Melt’ is freshly hatched today and widely available in ebook and paperback worldwide, including through the links below.

Lacuna (paperback) Amazon Australia (paperback and kindle) Booktopia (paperback and ebook) Amazon US  Amazon UK 

It will be launched in Byron Bay on May 31st by author Sarah Armstrong. More details here.

I am also doing an author talk about ‘Melt’ and ‘Paris Syndrome’ at the Lismore Book Warehouse on May 17, 6pm. RSVP to: 66214204

‘Melt’ is on Goodreads here.

LISA WITH MELT 2

 

‘Paris Syndrome’ ebook giveaway

17 Apr

Hello,
The lovely people at HarperCollins have given me a few ebooks, so I’m giving one away. The book will be available through the Bluefire Reader app using a code which I’ll supply to the winner. If you’ve already read it, you can pass the code onto a friend.
To go into the draw head over to Instagram or Facebook!
x Lisa

9 Apr

Sharing this post from the lovely Kim Kelly’s website. Looking forward to being part of the Millthorpe pop-up in May!

Kim Kelly

melt cover

It’s such a lovely pleasure to welcome author Lisa Walker onto the blog today. Lisa’s latest novel, Melt, will be released in May, a sparkling story of love, climate change and finding out who we truly are, set in glorious Antarctica – and I adored it. Here, Lisa gives us a glimpse of all that inspired her to take us there…

CONJURING ANTARCTICA

I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot, but I’ve never made it to Antarctica. It’s exerted a mysterious attraction, but has remained elusive. Sometimes I think that the places we don’t see are more powerful than the ones we do. They maintain an almost mythical status, like Narnia or Hobbiton.

In writing about Antarctica, I think it helped that I’ve spent a lot of time in snowy places. I could visualise the hardships and the beauty of living in that environment. I’ve done many different jobs…

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A touch of Paris in Brisbane

8 Apr

I first heard of Paris Syndrome a few years ago. The condition is a form of culture shock and is particularly experienced by Japanese tourists who become distressed when Paris doesn’t live up to their romantic expectations. It was a strange idea to me, that people could have such an idealised view of Paris that they would fall sick when it failed to deliver. Yet, it is true. Few other cities come with such a wealth of fantasies attached.

Paris is the City of Love, after all, the most romantic place in the world. It is easy to believe that it’s a city full of accordion players and elegant women walking poodles but, as wonderful as the city is, that is not the reality of Paris today.

A few years ago, I dragged my family along on a Parisian literary pilgrimage. We drank café au lait at the Café de Flore, where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to hang out discussing existentialism. We browsed the bookshelves in the historic Shakespeare and Company bookshop, where writers can sleep for free among the books while working on their novel. We strolled around Victor Hugo’s house, where he wrote Les Misérables, and gazed out at the manicured park and chimneyed apartments outside. In Paris, I felt that I was at the centre of something – in a place where ideas are the lifeblood.

So I was very tempted to write a novel set in Paris, but, well, it seemed a little obvious. I decided to subvert that idea. The jarring clash between reality and imagination which causes Paris Syndrome was more interesting.

I grew up in Brisbane, which has its own charms – it’s warm, liveable and not too big – but it sure ain’t Paris. The character of Happy came to me. A Brisbane girl who dreams of walking the streets of Montmartre. Of skipping stones in St Martin’s Canal. Of popping into a photo booth in the Metro and flirting with an eccentric Frenchman. A girl who is so crazy about the movie Amélie, that she imagines when she gets to Paris her hair will morph into an elfin bob as she rides her scooter past the Arc de Triomphe.

So, while I do adore Paris, I decided to set ‘Paris Syndrome’ in Brisbane. Instead of the Seine, Happy has the Brisbane River. Instead of the Eiffel Tower, she has the much smaller replica which sits outside a café in Milton. Gradually she starts to realise that problems aren’t solved by changing locations. Life unfolds wherever you are.

You can read more about ‘Paris Syndrome’ over on my website.

IMG_1085 (002)

Where it all started – at Amelie’s greengrocer in Montmartre

paris syndrome cover low res

‘Paris Syndrome’ release day and launch

18 Mar

It’s always a moment of mixed emotions when a book goes out into the world, but ‘Paris Syndrome’ is particularly special.

‘Paris Syndrome’ is my first book with a young adult protagonist. The first novel I ever wrote, which will never see the light of day, was a young adult fantasy, but I turned to adult fiction after that. Many years ago, a publisher said to me, ‘You know, you have a great voice for YA.’ I never forgot that, and at last decided to give it another go. I have always loved reading young adult fiction. Things seem closer to the bone and that adds extra power to the story-telling.

So today my protagonist Happy goes public. She’s a quirky Brisbane girl who’s obsessed with Paris. I loved writing her story and hope she goes well. Bon anniversaire Happy! If you live in my local area, I’d love to see you at the launch.

And if you’d like to watch a 15 second book trailer with some accordion music to get you in a Parisian mood click here

Paris Syndrome

30 Oct

It’s only five months now until my debut Young Adult novel, ‘Paris Syndrome’ is published and I’m in the thick of proof reading. HarperCollins have been kind enough to send me some reader copies – this means they are un-proofed and they don’t have the final cover. They contain mistakes. Possibly many mistakes. (Thank goodness for editors!) They look pretty good to me though.

Here’s what HarperCollins are saying about it over on their website.

Can romance only be found in Paris, the city of love?

For fans of John Green, this funny and poignant coming-of-age story is about that crazy thing called love. And how it can be found anywhere.

Happiness (Happy) Glass has been a loner since moving to Brisbane and yet still dreams about living in Paris with her best friend Rosie after they finish Year Twelve. But Rosie hasn’t been terribly reliable lately.

When Happy wins a French essay competition, her social life starts looking up. She meets the eccentric Professor Tanaka and her girl-gardener Alex who recruit Happy in their fight against Paris Syndrome – an ailment that afflicts some visitors to Paris. Their quest for a cure gives Happy an excellent excuse to pursue a good-looking French tourism intern, also called Alex. To save confusion she names the boy Alex One and the girl Alex Two.

As Happy pursues her love of all things French, Alex Two introduces Happy to her xylophone-playing chickens whose languishing Facebook page Happy sponsors.

But then sex messes things up when, confusingly, Happy ends up kissing both of the Alexes. Soon neither of them is speaking to her and she has gone from two Alexes to none …

In a preemptive celebration, I’m giving away one of the reader copies over on Facebook. If you’d like to play ‘spot the mistakes’, head over there. Otherwise, hold on for April!

Impossible Things – Science, Denial and the Great Barrier Reef

1 Aug

My essay, ‘Impossible Things – Science, Denial and the Great Barrier Reef’ appears in the latest issue of Griffith Review. This is a personal essay about my experience of working in scientific research on the Great Barrier Reef in the early 1980s and looking back on that today, knowing what we do about the effects of climate change on the reef.

The essay was prompted by a feeling of shock, grief and guilt after the coral bleaching in the summer of 2016 which killed over half of the northern section of the reef and a quarter of the reef overall.

I started going to the barrier reef as a teenager studying biology at university. They say that memories laid down in this period of your life are the most vivid and that’s the case for me. If I ever need to conjure up a picture of paradise, I think of being on a little boat off Lizard Island and looking down into the water, seeing giant clams and reef sharks and plate after plate of coloured coral stretching down into the depths.

Although my life took me away from the reef for many years, hearing that so much of the reef had died felt like news of a car crash. I had to go back.

So this is an essay about returning to the reef. It is also a reflection on the erosion of confidence in science as a decision-making tool and how this relates to the denial of climate change in Australia and overseas.

I will be on a panel at Byron Writers Festival on Saturday morning (5th of August), where I will join chair Julianne Schultz as well as Jim Hearn, Bri Lee and Phillip Frazer, talking about The Perils of Populism.

Bad Pilgrims – Cycling the Shikoku Pilgrimage

13 Mar

In April last year, I spent three weeks cycling the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage in Japan. We only got to Temple Forty, but we had an amazing time. Here’s my article in Metropolis Japan.

Bad Pilgrims

My husband, my son and I are in a fast food store in Tokushima on the island of Shikoku, about to embark on a pilgrimage to the eighty-eight Buddhist temples which ring the island. This pilgrimage usually takes six to eight weeks to walk. As we only have three weeks we plan to cycle. That should be plenty of time, we think.

The pilgrimage is my idea. I have been obsessed with it for many years. I have, in fact, written a whole novel about a woman who wants to do this pilgrimage. It is counter-intuitive to do it now, when I have already written the book, but I like to mix things up.

‘I will not complain if things do not go well while on the pilgrimage, but consider such experiences to be part of the ascetic training,’ states the oath in our guidebook. As our plan is to ride 1200 kilometres on a bike designed for short urban commutes this seems ominous.

The commandments in the guidebook are more specific, ‘I will not harm life, steal, commit adultery, lie, exaggerate, speak abusively, cause discord, be greedy, hateful or lose sight of the Truth.’ While we finish our hamburgers we debate whether this means we can’t eat meat. We decide that it probably does.

After a couple of false leads, we find the bike hire down in the basement outside the train station. The staff, two friendly gentlemen, seem surprised that we want the bikes for three weeks. We hand over a bond of thirty dollars per bike and set forth with no other identification needed. Only in Japan.

At the first temple I persuade my family that we all need to buy a hakui, or white vest. This identifies us as pilgrims. The writing on the back asks Kobo Daishi, the revered founder of the pilgrimage, to keep us safe. At any rate, it will be good for visibility on the roads.

I also buy a tote bag, some paper ‘prayer slips’ to give to people who help us and a brocade-covered book which will be stamped at each temple. There is a range of other paraphernalia which we decline.

Our guidebook says that Tokushima area, our starting point, is the place of spiritual awakening. As we cycle around the island we will pass through the place of ascetic training, the place of enlightenment, and finally, the place of nirvana. That’s something to look forward to.

The procedure for temple visits is outlined in our guidebook and, if done correctly, would take quite some time. We distil it to a ten minute version which includes bowing, hand-washing, bell ringing and book stamping.

Despite our efficient temple visits, by the end of day one we are already behind schedule. We’ve fiddled around with our backpacks – on back or in basket? – dealt with a flat tyre and experimented with GPS and riding attire. The walking pilgrims smile and wave at us as we go by. And then again as they go past us shortly after. I sense we are becoming a running joke.

We had intended to spend the night in the bell tower of temple six, but shortly after temple five it is getting dark and starts to rain. We find a little henro, or pilgrim, hut beside the road and call it a day. The host of the shelter, an old man, drops by and soon returns with two more tatami mats for sleeping. He mimes a squatting action and points at his house to indicate we can use the toilet. We buy pork curry at the convenience store down the road and skulk out, hoping no-one will notice what bad pilgrims we are. The rain patters on the roof and we curl up on the tatami mats in our sleeping bags. Extraordinarily, this pilgrimage is unfolding just as I’d imagined.

The next day brings the start of the osettai – traditional gifts to pilgrims. I buy some mandarins and an old lady throws in some dried sweet potato. I give her one of my prayer slips and she looks chuffed beyond belief. Throughout the journey we are showered with lollies, hot drinks and fruit. I feel like the whole island is cheering us on.

On the third day we tackle temple twelve, the ‘pilgrim crusher’, named for its location on top of a mountain. We push up a 400 metre pass, then on the long ride down I get a flat tyre and we retire to the nearest village for repairs. Some lovely ladies insist on giving us lunch as osettai and we even manage some conversation. When we eventually make it to temple twelve there is snow on the ground.

After a week we hit Kochi prefecture, the place of ascetic training, and finally leave the walking pilgrims behind. We stay in henro huts plastered with prayer slips, in free rooms in temples and in our tent. We aim to find campsites with the hat-trick – hot baths, a convenience store and a toilet.

We camp next to a ropeway station, on a rocky point with crashing waves, beside a lively frog pond and in a patch of wasteland with a large boat as a wind shelter. After an eighty kilometre ride down the last wild river in Japan we find a campsite in the dark and set up to a rising orange moon. We sleep in a temple garage and watch sunset bathe the bell tower in a soft golden light.

I learn that singing keeps your spirits up when you’re on a narrow ramp in a dark tunnel and that the less you have, the easier it gets.  I also learn that large grapefruit will always be given as presents before climbing hills. I think I am becoming a pilgrim.

At temple forty, the furthest point from temple one, we run out of time. Hiring a large car, we dismantle our bikes and slot them inside. We return the car at Takamatsu, one days ride from Tokushima. Even though we have not reached nirvana, or even enlightenment, we have passed our ascetic training with flying colours.

We ride into Tokushima to find that the long-heralded cherry blossom season has at last arrived. Every time the wind blows, petals fall like snow. We wheel our bikes back down into the basement and the rental man seems pleased to see us. After some confusion, where we pass money back and forth between us, we establish that there is no more to pay – the deposit is enough. Our bicycle hire has cost us less than five dollars a day.

We’ll be back. How could we not when enlightenment and nirvana are still to come?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cynics on the Camino

23 Jan

It’scamino been an awfully long time between posts on this blog. But I have an excuse – I have been off exploring. Among other things, I walked the Camino pilgrimage in Spain, something that’s been on my hit list for a while. I was very happy to have this article about my walk published in The Age Spectrum: 

Hiking 800 kilometres across Spain was my idea. Several friends had done it. All said it was life-changing. I didn’t need a walk to change my life, my motivation was more mundane. My husband, my two sons and I had decided to travel for six months. We liked to walk and the Camino would be cheap. Done deal.

My main mistake was not allowing enough time. It shouldn’t have been hard with six months to spare, but flights out of Santiago were so much cheaper a few days earlier. Thirty days will be plenty, I decided from the distance of Australia. We don’t have to do it all.

But as soon as we start, not finishing is unthinkable. It is a mission. We have to complete. We do the maths. Twenty-five kilometres per day with no rest days will bring us in on time. We are all fit and used to walking, we’ll be fine.

‘A hell day. Collapsed in albergue,’ reads my journal. We are used to wilderness and hills. The hard surfaces and endless stretches of flat terrain wear us down. My boots disintegrate, leaving deep blisters as a mark of their passing. My sons and I remain stoic but my husband, an intrepid and enthusiastic bushwalker, moans constantly. ‘I only want to finish so I can tell people how bad it is,’ he says. I take to walking well away from him. I have enough to deal with. ‘I wake up with a horrible cold, a deaf ear, a sore knee and a HUGE bedbug bite on my cheek. Only two more thirty k days and we will be back on schedule,’ records my journal. We feel like prisoners on a forced march. But we will not stop.

We bond in shared mirth at our guidebook, which was pressed upon us by a delightful American woman at the start. Our guide, John Brierley, suggests that we attach a sign to ourselves – ‘I am a pilgrim who walks in silence. Peace be with you.’ He meets the devil – identified by his black-feathered staff – on the track and cries with delight upon locking eyes with a silent shepherd. In our weakened state, we also find the trackside graffiti hilarious. ‘Don’t quit before the miracle,’ says one scrawl and ‘If God wanted us to stay in one place he would have given us roots,’ declares another.

I’ve had better walking, I’ve got to say. It is pretty in parts, but nothing compared to Tasmania, New Zealand or Scotland. But still, it grows on me. The albergues – dormitories where we spent the night – are a revelation – remodelled mediaeval churches, mudbrick hillside cottages and architect showpieces. Many ask only for a donation and throw in breakfast and dinner as well. Most of the wardens, or hospitalleros, are big-hearted and generous. They practice what they preach. One night in an ochre-walled town we drink too much red wine while the hospitallero farewells the sun with his bagpipes. Other wardens, like the one we call the coffee Nazi, have clearly had enough of pilgrims.

The towns are remarkable too, each one distinct. Some are seedy like Wild West towns – red-dirt streets framed by looming cliffs. Others are pretty, all cobbles and flower boxes and bright-blue doors. Ancient villages clinging to hillsides remind me of Nepal. Opulent cathedrals and churches are a given, as is the twiggy mess of stork nests in their eaves.

The other pilgrims are also extraordinary, though often bizarrely annoying. Valentino, a handsome middle-aged Italian, struts up and down in underpants and gold chain and snores like a chainsaw. The over-religious Australian, ‘I’ll thank God by taking a photo,’ Cynthia and the ‘I’ve got five Camino apps, but this one is best,’ Seattle guy are also memorable. As is the English mountain bike rider determined to ride her bike on every inch of the track, no matter how narrow and rugged. ‘You can feel the power on the path,’ she says. We become very fond of a young German couple who turn up magically with information whenever we lose one of our party. This happens more often than you’d think, considering the whole way is marked with yellow arrows. The spirituality and niceness of everyone gets a little wearing at times. Where are the bogans, we wonder?

They say that everyone cries or finds romance on the Camino. Some do both. My moment comes without warning at the Iron Cross, the highest point on the walk. It is the place where traditionally pilgrims place a stone in memory of those who are not with them. I trip on a rock and fall flat on my face in front of the cross – the metaphor is not lost on me. Then, remembering my parents, who died within a month of each other, I start to cry and don’t stop for over half an hour. A nice American woman helps me up and insists on taking my photo. I look miserable, covered in dust and tear-streaked. The Camino has broken me.

Later, my husband cries too, when watching a child play hide and seek. He finds it poignant. I think we may both have Stockholm Syndrome. My younger son escapes unscathed but my older one falls for a Turkish girl he meets in Leon and, skipping the last section, hitchhikes to Santiago to be by her side. A few days later we run into him by chance outside Santiago Cathedral. He is perched on a stone wall smoking a cigarette and looking melancholy. He doesn’t want to talk about it.

I asked my husband the other night how he feels about The Camino now. ‘It was a profound experience,’ he says and he’s not even joking. ‘It was humbling.’

‘I wouldn’t mind doing The Camino again,’ says my younger son out of the blue as we chat on Skype one evening. Oh memory, you are a fickle beast.  I’d do it again too.