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Sex, Lies and Bonsai – writing the outsider

12 Jun

have you everMy writing desk has a view of the sea. From here, at any time of day, I can see surfers skimming across the waves.  What would it be like, I thought, to live in this town and be scared of the water? To have skin that burns instantly in the sun? To have a rich and imaginative inner life but be so shy that no-one ever gets to know that part of you?

Darling Head, where ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is set, is a serious surf town – one where the wetsuit is the look on the street and the clothes shops stock only surf wear. The town even has its own lingo – been gettin’ any? is the usual greeting. It is, in fact, very much like my own home town. While I am a keen surfer myself, my kids are not really into 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.

Into this town I threw Edie – a shy redhead whose father is a former surf champion, a girl who hasn’t been in the water since she was twelve. Edie’s father is the town celebrity, but Edie has spent her whole life feeling like she doesn’t belong. While she escaped to the city for a few years, a failed relationship finds her washed back up in her childhood home.

In search of more money, Edie takes up erotic writing. And of course, there is something much worse than being the water-shy daughter of a surf champion – being outed as an erotic writer in a small town. I’m sure we all know the terror that comes with exposing an intimate part of ourselves to the cruel light of day…

While ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is a comedy, it is a tender one. It’s about the joy of finding someone who makes you feel like it’s okay to be the crazy mixed up person that you are.  Edie has spent most of her life trying to hide what she sees as her peculiarities. I wanted to see what would happen if she was brave enough to let them all come out.

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ has become the little book that could. It’s now out with HarperCollins in the UK and HarperCollins in the US . Go little book. This book trailer for ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’, set in my home town, sets the scene.

Some links to buy…

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in the US: 

HarperCollins

Barnes and Noble

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in the UK :

Foyles

Amazon

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in Australia:

Booktopia

Angus and Robertson 

tile sex lies

 

Releasing Wild Books on the Camino

6 Jun

“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”
— Henry Miller
The Books In My Life (1969)

bookcrossings pic

I first walked the Camino about two years ago with my husband and two sons. It was an intense experience. We averaged twenty-five kilometres a day for thirty days – no rest days. There were blisters, bed bugs and tears. It wasn’t the most enjoyable walk of my life, but it was memorable. In a large part, the pleasure was about meeting people and the shared experience of doing a walk with such a long history.

This week, I’m going back. We’ll start walking on Sunday. The main reason I’m returning is that I’m writing a novel set on the Camino and I want to refresh my memory, get some new colour and smells for the book.  I’m not doing the whole Camino again, just the section from Leon to Sarria. And I plan to take it a bit easier than last time.

Last week I did a radio interview about my two new books, ‘Paris Syndrome’ and ‘Melt’. The interviewer pointed out that in both books, a book is left behind for someone else to read. She asked me if I had ever done that and, well, I have.

I like the idea of leaving books around for others to pick up as they wish. I helped to set up a street library in my home town, which is a similar principle. It’s interesting to see how often the shelves turn over and what books people leave behind.

This week I came across Book Crossings. It is a community of almost two million people who have released over twelve million books into the wild. Each book is given a special identification number and its journey across the world can then be tracked. I love the image of wild books crisscrossing the globe, making friends wherever they go.

I thought to myself, what better place to release books than on the Camino? You have a multi-national tribe of people, who hopefully have time to read, going past every day. I’ve decided to take some of my books and set them free along on the path. They say that the Camino gives you what you need, so I hope they will find their perfect readers.

 You can follow my Camino book releases on Facebook  Instagram or Twitter.

boots and books

 

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

 

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…

View original post 499 more words

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

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winner of the Australia Day Blog Hop Giveaway

30 Jan

Thank you to everyone who visited my blog and a big thanks to Shellyrae from Book’d Out for hosting the blog hop. I have randomly chosen a winner and it is Gemmie Alliston. Congratulations Gemmie, I’ll have that book on it’s way to you very soon!