Archive | January, 2013

Australia Day Blog Hop Giveaway – My review of ‘Nine Days’ by Toni Jordan

25 Jan

nine daysWhat better way to celebrate Australia Day than by recognising a wonderful Australian writer… This post forms part of the Australia Day Bloghop hosted by Book’d Out and Confessions from Romaholics. All bloggers participating in this event are giving away books – so don’t forget to visit all the other participating bloggers. Details follow at the end of this post…

‘Nine Days’ is a departure from romantic comedy for Toni Jordan, whose two previous novels ‘Addition’ and ‘Fall Girl’, I both read and loved. ‘Nine Days’ was inspired by the photograph on the cover, which was taken during World War Two, and shows a young woman farewelling a soldier on a train station. Around this image, Jordan has built a story from the point of view of nine different but interrelated people, recounting a significant day in their lives.

This is not historical fiction, the stories range across time, coming up into the present, but they all interlink around the central story, providing different angles and insights. As in her other novels, Jordan’s writing is zesty, witty and easy to read, however the really impressive thing with this one was that it had nine different, and totally believable voices. The stories are all set in the same Melbourne suburb and the photograph, along with a coin and a pendant, provide a motif to link them together. Really, it reads as a series of linked short stories more than a novel, but whatever you call it, it worked.

Writing a novel from nine points of view is an ambitious undertaking. The risk is that the reader won’t be able to become emotionally involved enough with any one character. At the end of each character’s story, I was sorry to be leaving them to move onto the next. However, by the end of the book, I felt satisfied with having met such a diverse array of characters and this deepened the impact of the final story when it came. The last story is Connie’s, the young woman in the photo and it’s probably not giving too much away to say that it had me in tears.

I picked up this book expecting to feel disappointed by Jordan’s departure from romantic comedy, at which she excelled, but found exactly the opposite. Mixing both light and dark, ‘Nine Days’ is storytelling at its best. While not comedic in tone, the writing is fresh and easy to read. Jordan says in the acknowledgements that she is not a writer who has a profusion of ideas; rather her creative brain is, ‘like a desert across which the odd ball of tumbleweed occasionally rolls.’  I’ll certainly be watching out for the results of the next ball of tumbleweed that rolls on through.

This review is my first for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013. 

 

And now – the giveaway. To go into the draw to win a copy of my new novel ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’, read an extract hereaustraliadaybloghop and write a sentence (or sentences) of your choice from the extract in the comments section.

For example: ‘Don’t ring Daniel!’

The giveaway closes 28th of January and a winner will be announced by the 4th of February.

Happy Australia Day.

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The Next Big Thing – I answer ten questions

23 Jan

The Next Big Thing is a blog chain where writers answer ten questions about their writing, then tag other writers to do the same. I was tagged by Lisa Heidke, the author of four wonderfully witty novels including her latest, ‘Stella Makes Good’. You can read her post here. My answers follow.

(And an apology in advance – if you leave a comment on this post I may not get it for a couple of days as I am offline.)

1. What is the title of your current book?

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’

2. Where did the idea come from?

I had the idea that I wanted to write a story about a girl who was incredibly inept at social situations and felt like an outsider in her own town. It grew from there.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

It’s been called Chick Lit, zany romance, romantic comedy, romance with social commentary and a comedy of beach-town manners. I’m fine with any or all of the above.


scarlett johansen4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The protagonist, Edie, says that she’d like to be played by Scarlett Johansen in the movie of her life, so I’ll have to go with that or risk offending her (but imagine Scarlett Johansen looking slightly daggy with red hair, rather than blonde and va va voom.)

The male protagonist needs to be played by someone who does good ‘angsty dark-haired musician’. Is there a younger version of Eric Bana or Alex Demetriades around? I’m sure there is.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Dumped by text-message, Edie flees Sydney for the refuge of her childhood home taking only a wilting bonsai to remind her of her failure.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It is published by HarperCollins and I am fortunate to be represented by Sophie Hamley at Camerons Literary Management.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

About six months (but then another year to polish).

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a hard question, but my editor compared it to ‘The Other Side of the Story’ by Marian Keyes and that’s pretty hot stuff, so I’ll take it. I must also admit to being influenced by ‘Zigzag Street’ by Nick Earls, which probably falls into the ‘zany romance with social commentary’ genre.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration for Edie’s story came from a few different places. One of these was seeing the way that surfing was so much a part of life in the town where I live, I wondered what it would be like to be an outsider – a girl who is scared of the water. While I am a surfer myself, my kids are fairly apathetic about it. In a town with such a strong surfing culture, whether you do or don’t surf becomes an important part of who you are.

Another source of inspiration came from a job I held a long time ago. In the book, Edie gets a part-time job drawing crab larvae at the local university and, in an effort to supplement her income, also takes up erotic writing. Way back when I was studying zoology, I actually had a job drawing crab larvae for one of the professors at the university. It is very intricate and quite boring work and unfortunately I didn’t have a sexy boss like Edie does to take my mind off things.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Darling Head, where the story is set, is a fictionalised version of my hometown, Lennox Head. Edie’s anxiety about being outed as an erotic writer in her town stems in part from my own feelings about having my first novel ‘Liar Bird’ accepted for publication. I immediately imagined everyone I knew poring through its pages, trying to recognise the characters. Eventually I realised, as Edie does, that it’s actually not all that bad.

 

I would now like to introduce you to three very exciting writers – Susanna Freymark (formerly from Byron Bay, now Sydney), Jennifer St George (from Byron Bay) and Inga Simpson (from the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane).

Susanna’s debut novel, ‘Losing February – a story of love, lust and longing,’ is released, most appropriately, on the first of February. It has been described in The Hoopla as ‘un-put-downable’. Could be a few late nights coming up with that one…

Jennifer St George’s second sexy romance, ‘Seducing the Secret Heiress’ has just been released – congratulations Jennifer! Her first novel, ‘The Convenient Bride’ got rave reviews for its characters and blazing hot passion. Whew…

Inga’s novel ‘Mr Wigg’ will be released in July. Having read a little bit about it, all I can say is that I’ll be making sure my diary’s clear for that one… It sounds wonderful.

Susanna , Jennifer and Inga will be posting their answers to The Next Big Thing next week so head on over to their blogs to check them out.

 

You know what they say about sex – what’s in a name?

9 Jan

I have terrible trouble with book titles. My first novel, ‘Liar Bird’, started off being called (ahem) ‘Toading – a tale of lies, lust and feral pests.’ Yes, it’s quite embarrassing, but I feel better for having shared. Clearly it was never going to make it to a bookshop near you with a title like that. My good friend Jane Camens came up with the title ‘Liar Bird’ and I never looked back.

So, you are now asking no doubt – what title did I used to have for ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’Sex Lies title before alighting on this one? Well, it used to be called, ‘The Greatest Child Failure in History.’ The protagonist, Edie, believes she is a terrible failure because she doesn’t surf, unlike her surf-champ dad. The trouble was that as the story grew; this particular theme didn’t feel quite as central as it was in the start. Some folks also gently suggested that it was not a very good title. In fact it was a bit of a downer.

So, I had a powwow with my publisher and she suggested ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’.  Just off the top of her head in a coffee shop. Just like that. It totally fits with the story. It looks great on the cover of the book. It’s easy to say. And of course it has that magic word – sex.

But is sex a double-edged sword? It has been suggested that the key to a good cover is that people should not feel embarrassed reading it on the train in the morning.  Hence those dreary grey covers that have proliferated in bookshops this year. Anyway, there’s no mistaking my cover for one of those. It’s bright, it’s beautiful and I couldn’t love it more.

I now suspect that the duller the cover, the more suspicious your fellow commuters will be as to what lies within. What do you think?