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A wandering tale – finish my story to win a 5 night holiday

6 Aug

If you’re heading along to the Byron Bay Writers Festival and you wouldn’t mind a 5 night luxury holiday then this ‘finish the story’ competition is for you. All you have to do is pop along to the Elements of Byron tent and register, read the beginning of the story which I’ve written and then write a 500 word ending within 2 weeks of the festival. The details of the competition are here. And that picture is me in the setting of the story.

Author Lisa Walker at one of the Elements of Byron sites for A Wandering TaleI’ll also be on two panels at the festival, ‘Meet the Locals’ at 9am Saturday and ‘Pathways to Publication’ at 4pm Sunday. Hope to see you there!

This is how the story starts…

I wake from a dimly remembered dream. There was a whale. And a rainbow. As I drink my morning glass of water and lemon juice it comes back to me. The whale had blown a rainbow out of its spout. I wash my glass in the sink. The image delights me.  

On my train to the city I ponder the dream. It was a sign, I decide. I need to do something inspiring. Go somewhere that will lift my spirits. I fold my newspaper as the train pulls into Town Hall. I have it – I will go whale watching. In Byron Bay.

The idea dances in my head as I jostle my way up the stairs. Byron Bay – it must be twenty years. Had I really partied on a beach-front roof as lightning forked across the sky then stripped off and run naked into the sea?  I shoulder my bulging handbag as I push through the turnstile. It’s hard to imagine now.

That evening after dinner I buy flights on impulse in a mid-winter sale and pick a place on the internet. It looks beautiful – nestled next to the beach, amongst paperbark forest and wetland. Perfect. I book for three nights – Ruby will love it. I imagine us bonding again as whales leap in front of us. We had so much fun together on that whale-watching trip to Nelson Bay, six years ago when she was ten.

Ruby has been so moody since the divorce. Even when she’s home she shuts herself in her room and barely speaks to me. I miss her – this holiday will be my chance to get to know her again.

Big Things – a taste of Nostalgia

19 Mar

big banana 1972In my book, ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’, my protagonist Arkie and her friend Haruko are sometimes bemused and sometimes captivated by the Big Things they encounter on their journey. While they agree that some Big Things are better than others, it turns out that even the most lacklustre have their attractions. The Big Pelican has eyelashes to die for and a rather flirtatious look about it and inside The Big Shell, Arkie can hear the roar of distant seas. The Big Prawn is rather intimidating. A twenty-five metre prawn would be enough to make me flee the water forever, Arkie reflects.

While Big Things first started in America it is probably safe to say that no other country has embraced them with quite the gusto of Australia.  Big Things were originally conceived of as extra-large agricultural products, designed to show travellers how country folk live. They were, in effect, farming theme parks. But that original intention later expanded to embrace practically anything that could be reproduced in a super-sized form.

Big things kicked off in Australia in the 60s with the Big Scotsman, The Big Banana, the Big Stubby and the Big Staircase.  While some folks were sporting Afros and peace symbols, eating pork with prunes and carrying flowers, others were busy building Big Things.

The 70s was the decade of pet rocks, hot pants, pineapple cheese balls, curly perms and platform shoes. It also brought us the Big Captain Cook, the Big Crab, the Big Macadamia Nut, the Big Pineapple, the Big Penguin, the Big Mower and the Big Cow. Quirky times.

Some will remember the 80s as being all about pedal pushers, Rubik’s Cube, prawn and avocado cocktail, big hair and acid-wash jeans. But, more importantly, this decade also brought us nineteen big things including the Big Bulls, the Big Mandarin, the Big Avocado and the Big Chook. It’s a wonder people got anything done at all in the 80s with all those Big Things to build.

To me there is something quite surrealistic about Big Things. They raise questions such as, why would you build a Big Cow? Or a Big Prawn for that matter? I suspect that the answer is, Why not? As Arkie says, they are an opportunity to reflect, Magnified to many times its normal size, a cow forces me to consider the essence of ‘cowness’. Cows of course are sacred to Hindus and are often revered as a symbol of wealth and abundance in other religions too. Is building a Big Cow therefore a subconscious effort to call forth good fortune?

Even if you don’t believe, like Arkie, that Big Things are deeply meaningful, you may still think, as I do, that there is something weird and sweet about them. I don’t know about you, but somehow they always make me smile.

PS. The photo is taken circa 1972 of my sister and I with my mother at the Big Banana.

This blog originally appeared at Starts at Sixty.

The Japanese Connection

5 Mar

???????????????????????????????This post originally appeared on Book’d Out

In ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ my protagonist, Arkie, meets her friend, Haruko at Byron Bay railway station on New Year’s Eve. Haruko introduces Arkie to her own way of celebrating. First there is bingo at fourteen minutes past nine, then soba noodles at fourteen minutes past ten and a prayer at fourteen minutes past eleven. At fourteen minutes past midnight Haruko gives Arkie a present in a drawstring bag – the Seven Lucky Shinto Gods. These gods become a touchstone for Arkie on her journey. There is fat and happy Hotei, whose stomach you rub for good luck, Ebisu, the god of fishermen, Bishamonten, who heals the sick and Fukurokuju the god of wisdom.  Arkie’s favourite, the only goddess in the group, is Benzaiten. Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows, her shrines are usually situated near water. She is fertile and a competent wife. Everything I am not, Arkie thinks.

Haruko tells Arkie that every New Year’s night the Lucky Gods travel around to houses on their treasure ship. Arkie must draw a picture of the Lucky Gods and place it under her pillow. If she has a good dream then it will come true.

I was drawn to the Lucky Gods because I kept seeing them everywhere I went in Japan. Sometimes they were ancient statues covered in snow, sometimes little models for sale on the street. I began to notice how the individual god’s names popped up everywhere. Ebisu, for example, is both a brand of beer and a locality in Tokyo. I bought a model of the Lucky Gods and brought it home. It sat next to my computer while I wrote the novel and gave me inspiration when I flagged.

Haruko’s present becomes an integral part of Arkie’s journey but she also introduces her to many other facets of Japan. When Haruko writes a trendspotting proposal about pilgrimages she includes a picture of Tori gates – archways which guide you from the everyday world to the spiritual. The picture is from a temple near Kyoto where you walk through hundreds of Tori gates on your way to the shrine at the top of a hill. This shrine, called Fushimi Inari, is for the fox goddess, Inari, who is also associated with fertility.

Inari appears in my story in the form of a white foxy dog with a mysterious influence.

‘Inari possesses you through your fingernails,’ Haruko says.

‘What happens if you are possessed by Inari?’ says Arkie.

‘You go a little crazy,’ says Haruko.

Strange things start to happen. Each way Arkie turns she finds a little bit of magic. A dusty teapot picked up on the side of the road could be Tanuki, Haruko tells her. Tanuki is a racoon dog who is a bit of a trickster. Tanuki takes many forms and often turns himself into a teapot, Haruko says.

Under Haruko’s guidance Arkie’s pilgrimage becomes much more than just a journey to the Big Things. Two worlds merge and every day is filled with new revelations.

 

mary ryanHappily Ever After? 

I will be talking with author Jennifer St George and the always hilarious Mandy Nolan at Mary Ryans Bookshop Byron Bay at 5.30pm on Thursday 12th of March. Join us to explore the joy of books, writing and love. 

This is a free event, but bookings essential on 6685 8183. 

Finding magic in the everyday

12 Feb

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This post originally appeared at 1 girl… 2 many books as part of my blog tour which is still continuing.  Why not hop on board? 

I come from a scientific background, so I’m basically a pragmatist. But on the other hand, I tend to think that there’s more going on in the world than meets the eye. I think every writer has moments when life imitates art in a way which raises hairs on the back of your neck. Coincidences multiply until you start to feel that the act of writing is almost magical.

I had a couple of funny experiences when writing ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’. I wrote the scene at the Big Redback where Arkie and Haruko find a garden gnome that looks like one of the Seven Lucky Gods early on, before I’d been to any of the Big Things. Eventually I decided I’d better go to the Big Redback and check it out. And lo and behold when I got there I saw this gnome nestled among the bushes exactly as I had already described it in the story.

Another strange thing happened one day when I was struggling with the story and decided to go down to the beach for a swim. I threw down my towel and noticed an abandoned dog collar next to it. The rusty old tag on the collar read ‘mojo.’ Just like Arkie, I had found my mojo! The mojo dog tag immediately joined my little shrine of lucky objects next to my computer.

I don’t really think that there’s anything magical about these events, but it is so interesting the way that once you tune in to something you start to see it everywhere. I expect that’s because you’re so hyper-alert to your story you start to feel like you’re inside it.

I do enjoy this hyper-alert state that I get when I am writing because it makes every day an adventure. It’s like living inside a novel. At the moment I am writing a novel whose protagonist is totally obsessed with all things Parisian, especially the movie Amelie. The other day I went down to our local market and was delighted to find an accordion player there, playing what sounded like a French tune. I was even more delighted when a girl next to me, who would have been about the same age as my protagonist, exclaimed, ‘Oh, that’s the theme song from Amelie. That makes me so happy.’ Life imitates art! I bought a baguette and went home feeling revitalised for my story.

I suppose one of the things that characterises my writing is the idea that we don’t need to look elsewhere to find what we seek. As Haruku says in my book, ‘Everything you need, you already have.’

 

I have been out and about talking about ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing’ and still have a couple of events to go on the Gold Coast and Brisbane (see below) so if you’d like to come along I’d love to see you there.

Thursday 26 February 2015

10:30 AM             Event – Elanora Library, The Pines Shopping Centre Guineas Creek Road, Elanora QLD

This is a free event but bookings are recommended by phoning the library on (07) 5581 1671.

Friday 27 February 2015

10:00am                 Victoria Point Library, 7/15 Bunker Road, Victoria Point QLD 4165

This is a free event but booking are recommended on (07) 3884 4000

 

Release day – it’s a pilgrimage to what?

1 Feb

eiffel tower small 2It’s taken about four years for ‘Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing‘ to come from first idea to publication. This is a good thing in a way as it’s given me plenty of time to get used to the idea that I’m going to have to answer the question – what is your book about?

What I usually say is – ‘It’s a story about a woman doing a pilgrimage to the Australian big things.’ I’ve noticed when I say this that people often look puzzled, so then I add, ‘you know, the Big Prawn, the Big Pineapple…’ And then their faces clear.

But before the Big Things, there was the pilgrimage…

Undertaking a pilgrimage usually hints at a desire for transformation or redemption, which is the case for my protagonist. The story opens at Byron Bay railway station on New Year’s Eve where Arkie plans to end it all. However, as you may know, you’d be waiting an awfully long time to throw yourself under a train in Byron Bay. Arkie is a trendspotter who has carelessly lost in quick succession her husband, her lover and her ability to spot trends,. Hence the need for a pilgrimage.

When I originally started writing this book, I envisaged a story about a woman walking the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan, which is a trek taking 60 days and going to 88 Buddhist temples. I read a lot of books about it and it sounded wonderful, but I wasn’t sure when I was ever going to find the time to do it. So, rather than hold off writing the book until I could research the pilgrimage, I decided to write about someone who wants to do it, but can’t. Arkie, I decided, would have her pilgrimage right here in Australia.

The idea for the big things came to me one day as I was driving past the Big Prawn — more or less as it does for Arkie in the book.

So that’s what my book’s about – a pilgrimage and big things.

PS. The Eiffel Tower is not one of the Big Things in the book, but I was there and my book was there and I couldn’t resist…

 

I will be doing a number of events in the coming weeks and I’d love you to come along. Here are the details:

 

Tuesday 10 February 2015 – Sydney

1:00 PM                Ashfield Library – Details here.

6:30 PM                Margaret Martin Library (Randwick)

This is a free event however bookings are required online  http://randwickcitylibrary.eventbrite.com

 

Thursday 12 February 2015 – Lismore

12:00 PM             Literary Lunch

La Vida Restaurant and Bar, 3/178 Keen Street, Lismore, NSW 2480

Tickets are $35 and include a two-course lunch and a glass of wine. Tickets are available via the Book Warehouse Lismore, (02) 6621 4204.

 

Thursday 26 February 2015 – Gold Coast

10:30 AM            Elanora Library

This is a free event but bookings are recommended by phoning the library on (07) 5581 1671 or online here.

 

Friday 27 February 2015 – Victoria Point, Qld

10:00 AM Victoria Point Library

This is a free event but bookings are recommended by phoning the library on (07) 3884 4000

 

I am also doing a blog tour, starting today! Hop over there if you’d like to follow along.

best wishes,

Lisa

Hanging out with the Asia-Pacific Writers in Singapore

26 Jul

merlinda bobis ap writersLast week I had a whirlwind trip to Singapore and back and my head is still spinning. I was there for the Asia-Pacific Writers and Translators (AP Writers) annual conference. This was the first time I have been to one of their conferences, but I don’t think it will be the last. Mixing with such an eclectic and talented group of writers from around the region is highly addictive.

 

 The attached pictures were taken by Tim Tomlinson and show: Myself and Merlinda Bobis on the ‘Links and Fragments’ panel and the  readers at the ‘Author Showcase’. Clockwise from top left: Renee Thorpe, Tony Birch, Qaisra Shahraz, Suchen Christine Lim,  Menka Shivdasani, Marc Nair, Aaron Lee, Agnes Lam, Myself, Merlinda Bobis and Jane Camens. You can find out more about these writers here. 

The AP Writers Executive Director, Jane Camens, invited me to sit on a panel called Twisting the Truth: Truth in Fiction, Lies in Non-Fiction. Also on this panel were Aussies David Carlin and Liz Porter and Indian author Shreekumar Varma.

I also felt privileged to chair a panel called Links and Fragments into Narrative Wholes. What can be done when a novel gets stuck? On this panel were Tim Tomlinson from New York, Nury Vittachi from Hong Kong and Filipino/Australian author Merlinda Bobis. Here are the hot tips: Tim says read around the topic, Nury says set yourself a deadline and Merlinda says dance!

The readings at the conference were a definite highlight. They were so varied, like a meal of delicious morsels. It’s hard to pick favourites, but I did love Merlinda Bobis, putting her tip above into action with her one woman play based on her novel ‘Fishhair Woman’ which I have just read and loved. My friend Jessie Cole also read from her beautiful new book, ‘Deeper Water’ which is released on the 1st of August.

Discovering all these wonderful writers from the Asia-Pacific has been an amazing experience. If you are interested to learn more about AP Writers you can find them here. Their next conference is in Manila in 2015.

 

A big thank you to Jane Camens for inviting me and to the Australia Council for the Arts for sponsoring my trip.

Fully Sick Backpackers (a short story)

7 Jul

You wouldn’t think changing a hotel’s name would cause such a stir.

I knew that even if I lived to 100 I’d never be a local, but I hadn’t counted on becoming the town pariah in my old age. Not that I care.

I can thank Kenneth’s sister’s son, Derek for the name.

“These scones are fully sick Aunt Jean,” he said to me while tucking in to some afternoon tea after football training.

Well, I saw red. I had him by the ear, before he could stutter out an explanation.

“It…it…it…just means they’re totally awesome.”

The things they come up with. You have to laugh. But the name grew on me. I suppose you could say it was a bit of an ‘up yours’ to the ladies of the CWA. They wouldn’t have me on the committee because I’m from east of the Divide. Not that they said so, but I knew.

The ‘Settlers Rest’ was Kenneth’s first love. And his last. You’d think it’d been in the family for generations, not knocked up in the sixties, the way he carried on about it.

He’ll be turning in his grave now. I’m counting on him getting over it before we meet again.

“The traveling salesmen, that’s our market,” he’d say. “They know a quality hotel when they see one.”

“Move with the times Kenneth,” I’d say. I’d show him the young people in the street with beads in their hair and bags on their backs. Christ knows what they saw in this town. Australiana, I suppose. “We need to get some of them in here. That’s the market of the future.”

“Dirty troublemakers, the lot of them.” Kenneth would say, banging the jugs down on the bar. “Scare off our clientele.”

I always thought they looked nice though. I’d see them down at IGA, pondering over groceries in their foreign accents. It made me wonder what supermarkets were like where they came from, that they seemed to find ours so strange.

Kenneth’s mother hasn’t spoken to me since the sign went up. Her loss.

I’m quite proud of it, especially the smiling Buddha that Derek painted. He said that’s what they like and it seems to’ve worked. He’s a pretty talented kid, though his mother doesn’t think so.

Kenneth was wrong about one thing. The traveling salesmen love my backpackers, particularly the girls. Dear little things they are, with their pierced noses and threadbare clothes. They probably like it here because I remind them of their grandmothers.

I’ve been run off my feet since I got into Lonely Planet. Try Jean’s traditional Australian cooking, it said. Seems that not only are they exotic to me, I am exotic to them.

My scones are their favorite.

“Is this a spashal Orstaylian recipe ma’am?” a lovely American boy asked me.

Got me thinking. I wouldn’t mind seeing a place where they don’t make scones. What do ladies bring to cake stalls in those countries?

If I close my eyes I can picture them leaping out of a Cadillac in sunglasses and high heels with a plate of Pecan Pie in America. I can see them skiing down through the pine trees holding a steaming Apple Strudel in Austria. But what do the mothers do in Japan when the school needs to raise money? Hold a sushi stall?

I asked one of the young Japanese girls.

“Yes, yes, sushi,” she smiled and nodded.

I’m not sure that we understood each other. The idea that there might be completely different ways of doing things wouldn’t leave me alone. Night after night I worried about it. If it wasn’t supermarkets in Sweden or petrol stations in Peru, it was toilets in Tokyo or ice-cream in Indonesia.

Eventually I knew I’d have to find out for myself.

I’ve sewn the Australian flag on my new backpack and I’m counting down the days.

I can hear Kenneth turning in his grave right now.

 

This short story was a winner in the ABC Regional Short Story Competition in 2005 and was read on ABC Radio National. 

High Anxiety – my so-called writing process

24 Feb

stressed-woman-cartoon-266x300I was tagged in this fascinating blog chain about how writers write by Kate Belle. Kate and I met at the Elizabeth Jolley Conference, which was the prelude to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference, in Fremantle. As I recall we managed to walk out of one session and — unknowingly — in by another door. Strangely the session we’d just walked into was identical to the one we’d walked out of. It was baffling.

Since meeting Kate, I have gone on to read her novel, The Yearning, which is a beautifully written and very sexy story of a girl’s ongoing obsession with her much-older lover. Kate’s second novel is out in a few months and it sounds like a ‘can’t miss’. Find out more about Kate’s writing here:

Web/Blog: http://ecstasyfiles.com/

Facebook: http://facebook.com/KateBelle.x

Twitter:     @ecstasyfiles

Email:       ecstasyfiles@gmail.com  yearning

So, let me tell you about my so-called writing process…

What am I working on?

I’m finalising my next book which is due for publication in early 2015. It is a story about a trendspotter who has lost her ability to predict the next big thing. So in an effort to find her mojo, she sets off on a pilgrimage with a difference – a big difference.

I am also in the very early stages of something rather different (for me) — a young adult novel. I’m a bit out of my comfort zone, but so far, I’m loving it.

And, I’m just about to submit my thesis for a Masters in Creative Writing – so fingers crossed for smooth sailing there.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, my first two books ‘Liar Bird’ and ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ fall into the genre of chick-lit or romantic comedy. They feature quirky protagonists and are both set on the NSW far north coast, which is where I live. My next novel is a bit of a departure from that as it features an older protagonist and it isn’t as much of a classical rom com, in fact she has some fairly serious issues to deal with. But there’s still plenty of humour and romance and for those who like quirky, I’m pretty sure it ticks that box too.

My writing probably differs from others in its genre in its particular sense of humour. Humour is such an individual thing and all I can do is follow my mind where it takes me and hope others find it funny too.

Why do I write what I do?

Good question. I’d like to pretend it’s a deliberate choice, but in fact this seems to be the only sort of story I can write. I’ve played around with a lot of different styles of writing, but I keep coming back to stories with a humorous bent, written from the point of view of a female protagonist. This goes for my current young adult project too. When you’re on a good thing…

How does my writing process work?

I would love, love, love to be a plotter, but the only time I seriously tried to do this I failed dismally. As soon as I had a plot outline, I completely lost interest in the story. The only thing that keeps me writing is a desire to see how the story is going to turn out. I start with a character I love with a problem she needs to resolve and hit ‘go’. And yes, I do end up in cul-de-sacs and dead ends — it’s inevitable and it’s infuriating, but that’s what first drafts are for. I rely on my writing group to tell me to keep going when I’m convinced — as I often am — that I’m writing the stupidest story ever.

I would now like to introduce you to two writers who will be revealing all about their process this time next week.

losing februaryFirst up, Susanna Freymark. Susanna and I first met at a writing retreat near Byron Bay, many, many years ago and we have also spent a week at Varuna together. As I recall Susanna’s writing process involves loud music and frequent trips to cafes. Her debut novel, ‘Losing February – a story of love, lust and longing,’ was released last year and was described in The Hoopla as ‘un-put-downable’. I can vouch for the fact that it is.

You can find Susanna’s website here .

sweet seductionJennifer St George is a Byron Bay based writer and we first met at my book launch for ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’. Late last year, I attended Jen’s launch for the print release of ‘Sweet Seduction’, which is a compilation of her two novels, ‘Seducing the Secret Heiress’ and ‘The Convenient Bride’. Jen’s books get rave reviews for their characters and blazing hot passion. I did notice that plenty of people were fanning their faces during the reading at her Byron Bay launch.

You can find Jennifer here:

Susanna and Jennifer will be posting about their writing process next week so head on over to their blogs to find out more about this mysterious and individual thing — the writing process.

Very superstitious? (Australia Day Blog Hop)

24 Jan

???????????????????????????????     I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but I do have a tendency to see meaning in things that may be meaningless to others. Often the world seems deeply mysterious to me. Perhaps that comes with being a writer. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in Byron Bay.

I have recently returned from a month in Japan. It was my fourth trip there, so clearly I like it. One of the things I particularly enjoy is seeing the Shinto shrines dotted all over the country. Everywhere you go there is a Tori gate that welcomes you to the spirit world. The Shinto religion has many gods and even objects like trees or rocks are revered for their kami or spirit.

On one of my previous trips to Japan I discovered the Seven Lucky Shinto Gods. Soon I started seeing them everywhere. They seemed to be calling me, so I bought a little model of the gods and took them home. My Seven Lucky Gods look a little like the seven dwarfs. They are all plump and smiling. Each one is about the size of a thimble and dressed in brightly coloured robes.

I am a bit of a collector of objects of significance. When I start a new writing project, I am often scanning for a touchstone that will symbolise the story. The object sits next to my computer while I write and it seems to give me courage. I suppose that’s superstitious, but writing is a leap of faith and you take help where you can.

I am currently working on my next novel, which is to be published by Random House in early 2015. The protagonist is a trendspotter who has always been able to predict the next big thing. Until one day she finds she can’t. She needs some help and this is where the Seven Lucky Gods come in.

It wasn’t until I had those gods sitting on my desk that this story really started to take shape for me. It’s been the same for my previous two novels. While I’m a pretty rational person usually, when it comes to writing I need my lucky object.

Do you have a superstitious habit or ‘lucky’ object that you rely on?

Comment on this blog to go into the draw to win a signed print copy of my current novel ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ (or if you’ve already read that one I can send you ‘Liar Bird’).

Happy Australia Day and a big thank you to Shellyrae from Book’d out for organising this Australia Day Blog Hop! australiadaybloghop2014

Vivid and sensual – The Pagoda Tree by Claire Scobie

1 Nov

the pagoda treeThe Pagoda Tree is the first novel by journalist Claire Scobie, whose previous book was a travel memoir, Last Seen in Lhasa. Here, Scobie turns her gaze from Tibet to India.

The novel is set in 1765 and is the story of Maya, who is destined from birth to become an Indian temple dancer or devadasi. Scobie’s inspiration to write the book came from a visit to a temple in Southern India. Here she saw the names of 400 dancing girls engraved upon the 11th century walls. From this starting point grew Maya’s story.

Highly trained in dancing, music and love-making, the temple dancers were married to the God Shiva and often became courtesans of powerful men. Devadasis had a level of control over their lives not given to other Indian women and were the only women taught to read and write at the time.

Mentored by Palani, a powerful devadasi, Maya becomes a dancer of rare beauty and skill. But while she is destined to be given to the prince, the turbulent times cast her adrift. Set during the British colonial era, the book shows the effect of the occupation on Indian traditions.

Maya’s dancing captivates the Europeans as well as the Indians. In Madras she forms a risky liaison with a young British trader. This clash of cultures drives the story. Her lover, Thomas, is torn between his desire for Maya and his ‘true life’ waiting for him back in England. His choice is complicated by the birth of their daughter, a girl with no status in either culture.

This carefully researched novel provides an insight into Indian culture. The title of the story refers not only to a temple but also to a common expression among the British of the time. ‘Shaking the pagoda tree’ was a term for making quick, easy money. The cruelty of some of the British colonial practices forms a backdrop to Maya’s story.

Scobie says that researching the story was hard due to the lack of historical records about the dancing girls. In writing The Pagoda Tree she sought to bring their untold story to life. This is a vividly told and sensual novel which will be especially enjoyed by those with an interest in India.

For those in the Byron area, Claire Scobie is conducting a workshop on travel writing in Byron Bay on the 7th of December. See www.nrwc.org.au

My blog seems to have become strangely popular in Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago of late. So if you’re reading this from there – a big hello to you! I’m glad to be getting to some exotic locations, if only in spirit.