Tag Archives: writing

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

 

‘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

 

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

 

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

What’s that Freud guy doing in my book?

29 Aug

 

freudI’ve been asked quite a few times about the quotes from Sigmund Freud which start each chapter in ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ so finally, at the urging of the lovely Kate Belle I have decided to share.

 

‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ is all about sex, love and intimacy. For me, the process of writing it was not only one of telling a story, but of meditating on these themes and what they mean. I wanted to explain in psychological terms, but in a subtle and humorous way, why Edie acts the way she does. Why does she feel so heartbroken at the beginning? Why does she feel like a failure? Why does she fall so deeply in lust with Professor Brownlow? And why, when she eventually falls in love, is it so obviously right for her?

 

Giving Edie her best friend Sally who is a psychologist of sorts was a way for me to explore these themes in a fictional way. And when I researched (Googled) sex, love and intimacy all roads led to Freud. Although he was sometimes a bit of a crackpot, the impact of his radical theories on childhood, sexuality and relationships are still with us today.

 

Initially I put my research into the story in the form of university essays on Freud from Sally. Sadly, in the editing process it became obvious that this wasn’t working. So, in order to keep this theme going I introduced the little Freud quotes.

 

It soon became apparent that Freud and I were on a similar wavelength. For every chapter in the book, he had something totally appropriate to say. I never had to try too hard to find a relevant quotation. Take ‘One is very crazy when in love’ (chapter 2); Love and work…work and love, that’s all there is (chapter 4) and ‘Everywhere I go; I find a poet has been there before me’ (chapter 11). Absolutely perfect!

 

I’m sure many readers just skim over the quotes and that’s totally fine, but for me they are the frame for the story and an extra little layer to ponder. For those who are so inclined.  You can check out ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’ in this preview.

 

 

Do I really need to ditch the tracksuit?

31 Jul

This year I decided to take a year off my community relations job in order to focus on my writing. Being a full-time writer sounds kind of glamorous. To me it evokes an image of a sultry looking woman in black beret, a cigarette holder hanging out of her mouth as she bangs away at her keyboard in a funky cafe. That woman may be out there, but she isn’t me.

As I write this I am wearing tracksuit pants that seem to have the remains of last night’s dinner on them, I haven’t washed my hair for at least a week, I am drinking Coles brand green tea and I haven’t shaved my legs since, um…  Too much information? Sorry.

I suspect that many writers are like me – we sink into total slobdom when not required to make appearances in the world. Which brings me to the Byron Writers Festival.  I have attended at least ten years of the festival, and this year for the first time I will be on the other side of the platform looking out. Yay!

I’m looking forward to it, but it also strikes me as being a strange thing – to herd a group of people who are more used to conversing with imaginary friends than real people onto a stage. While writing requires inappropriate thoughts to be shared – it’s called honesty – other forms of communication don’t always call for this. Perhaps this is what makes writers’ festivals good entertainment. Often you are watching someone who is totally unpractised saying whatever comes into their head. It can be refreshing.

So anyway, I’m planning to wash my hair in a couple of days and shake the dust off a nice frock. I think I might have some lipstick stashed away somewhere. And as for what comes out of my mouth? We shall see…

 

Catch me looking well groomed (or at least clean) at the Byron Writers Festival 1.15 Friday and 10.45 Sunday. 

Chopsticks, what chopsticks? Why you need to stay on good terms with your editor.

28 Jun

 

Picking up continuity gaps in movies is great fun – life jackets disappearing and reappearing as the Titanic goes down, swords changing from hand to hand in Lord of the Rings, eyes opening and closing on dead bodies… But what about continuity gaps in novels?

 

I have just finished the copy edits for my next book, ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsais’ – about five days work. It is as good as I can make it. No doubt when I read it again I will see mistakes I should have fixed, but for now it is the best I can do.

 

Editing is a very humbling process. In the interests of full and frank disclosure, I can now reveal that, yes, I had completely forgotten that they were eating with chopsticks at the moment when the father started banging his plate with his fork. And yes, I had also forgotten that the main character had thrown her phone into a fishpond in the chapter before she miraculously pulled it out of her pocket again.  In my previous book, ‘Liar Bird’ I had somehow managed to forget that Cassie had just chucked a hissy fit about having no television in the chapter before she started happily watching the news on TV.

 

The trouble with writing is that it doesn’t happen in real time. When it takes over a year to get from beginning to end it is very easy to forget these trivial matters of continuity. In my next book, which my agent is currently reading, I lost a dog for a good ten chapters.

 

Editing a book always reminds me of that cartoon of a pondering fifties style woman – ‘I can’t believe I forgot to have children.’ Easily done, I would say.

 

So when you read a book which hangs together, where the main character keeps the same name, she doesn’t lose her dog, she doesn’t magically change car brands and she remembers that she’s a vegetarian – you can be sure that an editor has been there before you.

 

Have you ever noticed any continuity gaps in novels?

Writing about sex is hard – but not as hard as stand-up comedy

14 Jun

Well…

Monday night was the big night. After six weeks of baby steps we comedy virgins took the stage at the Byron Services Club. It was pretty packed, especially considering that it was raining torrentially. I must admit that for a while there I was hoping a flash flood might cut Byron off, or a tornado rip through the town, or at least a tree bring down a power pole leading to the event being cancelled.

But no, there we were. And there they were. Ready to be entertained.

                Learning comedy has been enlightening. A good comedian looks like they’ve just popped in to share their thoughts with you. But in fact, developing  a routine is a rigorous process from ideas to writing to rehearsal to learning to performance.

I have learnt about the importance of the premise, the illusion of spontaneity and finding a comic persona which is a reflection of your authentic self. And then, having found your authentic self, you need to lay it all bare to a room full of strangers and hope to hell they have the same sense of humour as you. Because comedy is not a monologue, it is a conversation. It is something that happens between the performer and the audience. It takes two to tango.

                Five minutes is not a long time. But it is way long enough for a lot of things to go wrong. As our esteemed leader Mandy Nolan said on the night, ‘Tonight we’re going to find out whose chutes aren’t going to open.’ Five minutes can be an eternity if you’re in free fall.

We started with a group of fifteen, but as we came closer and closer to the day, several of my classmates discovered other pressing commitments. On the big night only ten remained. In the interests of getting it over with quickly, I went up first. And what else would I talk about, but writing.

It was a fun night. What struck me was the diversity of the performances. It seems obvious, but people really are so different! There is something very warming about seeing others share their struggles in a comic way.

I don’t think I’ll be back for more, but I’m pleased that I pushed my boundaries and gave it a go. And, did my parachute open? You can be the judge because here it is…

Lusting after the TV weather man – ‘Yearn’ by Tobsha Learner

9 May

I loved the cover of Yearn so much I just had to pick it up. The voluptuous, tattooed woman floating with a crimson parasol had the allure of the off-beat. She promised a lot, but could she deliver?

Erotic fiction is difficult. Badly written, it is smutty, embarrassing or just plain boring. Too much sex and it becomes the opposite of erotic. I am reminded of the over-achieving couple who doggedly set out to have sex every day for a year. Ho hum, I bet the champagne corks were popping at the end of that year. Anais Nin, anyone? Let’s face it, if you can do this genre well you’d be mad not to build a career around it. Tobsha Learner, a part-time Australian, is the bestselling author of four novels and two previous collections of short stories, Quiver and Tremble. She’s good with titles too.

Not only erotic, many of the stories in Yearn play with magic and fantasy. Ink is the story of a young biographer using ancient sex magic to get revenge on an older and more famous rival. In Fur, a girl is transformed by the visits of a fantasy lover with some connection to her cat. In The Alchemy of Coincidence a sculptor conjures up her dream lover while preparing for her new collection.

Other stories are more romantic. In Barrow Boy a self-made man has an epiphany after reuniting briefly with his childhood sweetheart. Pussy and Mouse is a surprisingly moving account of a lonely call centre worker finding love online and in Flower, an older woman learns to appreciate her body’s beauty. There is sensuality as well as sexuality; ‘The woman didn’t walk so much as flow… an assemblage of fluid molecules seamlessly gliding through space.’

I enjoyed the way Learner plays with sensuality – fur, porcelain, weather… Who hasn’t been stirred by a warm breeze or a sudden storm? In Weather, a woman fantasises about the TV weatherman. ‘Fog was interesting – a short push with both hands… suggesting that … he might be capable of a little rough play…’ There is also humour; ‘…don’t forget the patches of fog in the north-east… oh yes, oh yes, sweeping rain, and yes! The breaks of sunshine!’ Weather has never been so sizzling.

Learner’s writing is good enough to avoid the perils of purple prose. Plenty of variety, no ho hum. Read this one in private.

 

This is my seventh review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.