Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Author Interview: Angela Slatter

Following the release of Corpselight, the second book in the Verity Fassbinder trilogy, I got some time to send Angela Slatter a few questions about the book, and about writing and reading. Below are her answers! I'd like to thank Angela again for taking time out to answer my questions, and also Jessica Skipper for facilitating the interview. Enjoy!

Congratulations on the release of Corpselight! And thank you for taking some time to answer my questions!

Thank you so much, Bethwyn, and you’re more than welcome!

You’ve mentioned in other interviews that the Verity Fassbinder books started out as a short story, “Brisneyland by Night” – did Verity keep asking for more of her story to be told, or was it fans of the short story asking for more? Verity strikes me as someone who would be trying to nudge you to write more about her.

Haha! Several people kept at me about how it would make a good novel, and it didn’t take long for me to realise Verity’s voice was still in my head. That if I paid attention to her, she’d tell me more stories. Vigil actually started as a mix of short stories and three novellas! Not a process I’d recommend for anyone undertaking their first novel … or indeed any novel!

I have read that you like to plot your books, but also like to see where things go: have the characters in the Fassbinder books taken you in new directions that you didn’t expect?

Yes! I’m kind of partway between plotter and pantser – I work out a rough structure and know what my high points are going to be, where the story needs to turn. But that also gives me leeway; and I’m not averse to writing out of order. There’s a lot in Corpselight about Verity’s family that I did not expect at all!

I’m currently finishing off Restoration, the last Verity book, and the same sort of thing is happening, characters showing up and saying “Hey, more of my story, please! I’m really interesting.”

Verity often refers to books and libraries for information, and has had ‘itchy fingers’ to borrow books from others before: is this a reflection of you, too? (I love Verity’s library setup, by the way!)

Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: Yes, yes, yes!!!

You have really made your mark as someone very good at writing within short story and novella formats. How is it going writing novel-length work, not to mention a trilogy of them?

Challenging! It’s a different set of skills – and after I’d finished Vigil I felt as if I’d forgotten how to write a short story! But it’s just a matter of going back to first principles, reminding yourself of the shape of the different forms. I found it much easier after Corpselight to return to the short form because I think I’d been through the process before.

One of the reasons I do the plotting structure thing is to help me keep on track with the longer pieces. It’s like the Pirates’ Code, good guidelines.

Community and family come across as being incredibly important, particularly with the extra information we get about V’s family in Corpselight. It seems as if V has created her own family and community: was this something that was important to you in writing, or came about naturally?

I’ve always been fascinated by how we create our own families – not just the people we share blood with, but the friends we gather around ourselves. I’m fascinated by devotion between people, not necessarily the romantic kind, but the supportive friendship kind. How people find each other, gather, and take care of each other, especially in a time when so-called “traditional” family structures seem to breaking down, we’re taking the chance to make something different for ourselves. If there’s a vacuum, we try to fill it.

You have mentioned in another interview about maybe needing a Weyrd Bestiary to keep things straight – do you keep notes for this? (I imagine I would get them a bit confused!) Any plans to put something like this out as a companion book to the series?

Ha! No, not yet. If the series were to continue then I think I’d need a bestiary and a database to keep track of people and their powers! But, yes, it would be a cool little artefact!

What kind of reader are you? Serial reader (many at once), or one at a time? And do you mix up your fiction and nonfiction?

I’m the most appalling serial reader. I have about five or six books on the go at once. My nonfiction reading tends to be mostly for research for stories, though, so I’m not an habitual reader of non-fic!

And finally, some quick questions!
What are your current favourites?
... reading? 
Re-reading John Connolly’s A Game of Ghosts – he’s the author whose work I wait for every year. I say I’m going to pace myself, but I never do.
Black coffee for day-to-day, with intermittent peppermint tea to make sure I don’t start seeing through time and space.

Out and about: Whiskey, neat, single malt.
Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, or my housemate’s chicken coleslaw, or my Mum’s lemon meringue pie.
...loving about the current season?
That I’m not melting in summer!

Book Review: Corpselight by Angela Slatter

Title: Corpselight
Author: Angela Slatter
Series: Verity Fassbinder #2
Publication Date: July 11th 2017

Synopsis: "Life in Brisbane is never simple for those who walk between the worlds.

Verity's all protecting her city, but right now that's mostly running surveillance and handling the less exciting cases for the Weyrd Council - after all, it's hard to chase the bad guys through the streets of Brisbane when you're really, really pregnant.

An insurance investigation sounds pretty harmless, even if it is for 'Unusual Happenstance'. That's not usually a clause Normals use - it covers all-purpose hauntings, angry genii loci, ectoplasmic home invasion, demonic possession, that sort of thing - but Susan Beckett's claimed three times in three months. Her house keeps getting inundated with mud, but she's still insisting she doesn't need or want help...until the dry-land drownings begin.

V's first lead in takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it's clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful."

My thoughts: I love this trilogy, and I love this book. In the first book of the Verity Fassbinder books, Vigil, we met Verity and started to discover a few things about her slightly unusual job description, and the company she keeps, and also a little about her own nature. In Corpselight, we get so much more. We start to learn way more about Verity's family, getting back stories from those she knows (or thought she knew?) and discover even more about the Weyrd world and the people and creatures that reside there.

As this is the second book in the trilogy, I am being even more vague than usual, but I am kind of desperate to chat about this book with someone soon. The characters that Slatter creates in this trilogy are just...fascinating, and flawed, and wonderful. Even the 'evil' characters have multiple sides, and Slatter doesn't shy away from showing flaws in her main characters, either. Verity is still one of the most amazing, strong (literally), and awesome characters that I have had the pleasure to read, and, while I know the final book isn't due out til next year, I am already eagerly making grabby hands toward it.

I still love that Slatter has created a world within an already existing city - Brisbane, QLD - and how easily she melds the two together. It comes across as seamless, and I don't always like things set in Australian cities as they can come across as being one-dimensional (just bush, or sand, for example. Or heat.). In Slatter's case, however, the city takes on a new shape, and yet still seems itself. We get to look underneath the cover and discover what the glamour is hiding, and I just adore that. In between my gasps of shock whilst reading this book, there were sighs of happiness and appreciation, and just sheer joy (although a lot of those may have come from Verity talking about libraries and books - her love of them rivals my own).

All in all, I highly recommend the Verity Fassbinder books - they are amazing to read, and I am already contemplating a reread.

{I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'Even amongst the Weyrd there are death tourists. Who'd have thought I'd be the one to raise the tone of a place?'

You would like this book if: Well, obviously you will love it if you enjoyed the first one; if you are a fan of gentle detective work with darker, fantastical themes, and an alternate world that Normals don't even know.

Tea to drink while reading this book: With the slight Japanese influence from the kitsune, I would say something with Sencha. I am partial to T2's Sencha Vanilla, or Sencha Peach (though my husband is more of a Sencha Mango fan!).

Rating:  9/10

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review: A Paris Year by Janice MacLeod

Title: A Paris Year
Author: Janice MacLeod
Publication Date: 10th July 2017

Synopsis: "On her first day in Paris, Janice MacLeod, the author of the bestselling book Paris Letters, began a journal, recording in illustrations and words nearly every sight, smell, taste, and thought she experienced in the City of Light. More than a diary, it's a detailed and colourful love letter to one of the most romantic and historically rich cities on earth. Combining personal observations and anecdotes with stories and facts about famous figures in Parisian history, this visual tale of discovery, through the eyes of an artist, is sure to delight, inspire, and charm."

My thoughts: This book is a lovely one to sit down to. Beautiful watercolour artworks by the author are interspersed with photographs she has taken, particularly of street art. I particularly loved the section where she was looking for a specific colour - photographs blended with little swatches of watercolour paint as she tried to find the right shade.

The written anecdotes are sometimes nostalgic, sometimes adoring (particularly of the changes in the season), and sometimes deliver straight facts or insights into how the author thinks. I mostly enjoyed these, but some parts I found myself getting a little... well, bored. I think that was because I wasn't personally interested in the topic of some of the sections, and as they tended to spread over a couple of days, I found I had to stop myself from skipping large sections. Otherwise, though, I find this a delightful, restful read, with absolutely gorgeous artwork to match. A lovely one to pick up and peruse.

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!]

A favourite line from the book: 'You truly notice the genius of the arborists in Paris once spring begins to bloom. Boulevards burst with blooms for miles, and monuments seem framed by petals.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy beautiful watercolour artwork; you love reading about Paris and all the small moments of each day within the city.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I am pretty sure you ought to go with coffee for this one, as that seems more like the beverage of choice for Parisians.

Rating:  6.5/10

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Goals // July

I have been posting so randomly lately, with a post here, then a break of ten days, then three posts, then a break of a week. Sorry about that! And, right in the middle of that, I am going to try something new out! (*cue confused but celebratory parade with band* - I imagine this sounds something like Genie from Aladdin singing 'hail the conquering hero' and then winding down suddenly...)

I have been rediscovering my love for another blog, The Dainty Squid, written by the lovely Kaylah. She has been writing her goals blogs for a little while now, and I am feeling inspired by her, so I wanted to give it a go. Things could go terribly wrong! Or terribly right? Who knows!

July Goals

  • Get back to my own editing - I finished the first draft of a novel a few weeks back, and I started editing it, but kind of stalled about a week ago. I really want to get back to it, and whip that novel into a shape that is pleasing to my eye.
  • Start looking for places to enter my work for publication - oh this is so nerve-wracking. I hardly do this. At ALL. I have written multiple short stories, multiple poems (and nearly self-published my own collection of poetry once), and written two novels, plus a lot of a couple of others which remain unfinished. But do I ever send them off anywhere, or attempt to get the published? Nope. I dream about being published, but it just isn't happening because I'm not doing anything. This really needs to stop. So, this month, I want to contact 3 locations about publishing my work.
  • Get back to Tabata - part of my recovery is to get some vigorous exercise, like Tabata, four times a week. I have been pretty much failing this lately because of countless migraines, stomach pains, and one random ovarian cyst rupture that took five days to heal even slightly. I am feeling a bit beaten up at the moment (by my own body), but this is part of my health-improving-plan, so back to it I go!
  • Quit sugar! - Yes yes the white poison. I am actually not too bad with this, but I do have the habit of gorging on chocolate when I get my period, or eating way more fruit than I probably need to. Now, I am not quitting sugar forever, and I have been doing a lot of research about this, but I want to try and quit as much sugar as possible for at least a little while and see how I go. This is also kind of important for my recovery, too, so here goes nothing!
  • More time outside - a main part of Winter for me is kind of not leaving the house much at all, which is actually lovely sometimes, and really stifling at other times. I want to try and get outside and hang out with some trees a little more when the weather is permitting, and just breathe a bit more fresh air. Going to aim to do this twice a week at least - proper outings where I am not just standing on my back verandah.

Writing those down as making me feel way more driven and happy at the moment, and I am going to try and keep that going by heading off to get some more stuff done, maybe even some editing! I will review how I went at the beginning of next month, and see if this has been a successful experiment! ^_^

Does anyone else have some goals for the month? Do you find reading about other people's goals inspiring?

Love to all who read!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Title: Solar Bones
Author: Mike McCormack
Publication Date: 28 June 2017
RRP: $19.99AUD

Synopsis: "Marcus Conway has come a long way to stand in the kitchen of his home and remember the rhythms and routines of his life. Considering with his engineer's mind how things are constructed - bridges, baking systems, marriages - and how they may come apart.

Mike McCormack captures with tenderness and feeling, in continuous, flowing prose, a whole life, suspended in a single hour."

My thoughts: This is a remarkable book. Its style alone dictates that - written in a prose, run-on, stream of thought way that just keeps going, no full-stops at all. I found it surprisingly easy to drop into, and remarkably hard to tear myself away from. The way it is written sometimes lulls you into a gentle wondering, and sometimes seems anxiety-provoking, grabbing onto you and holding you with the urgency of its text.

Marcus is an interesting character, and not because he does anything particularly remarkable or magnificent. During the entirety of the book, he stands in his kitchen, remembering things that have happened, occasionally coming back to the present, trying to break himself out of the reverie, but generally always heading straight back into another memory.

I was gripped by this book, from the very beginning. I love the way McCormack set it all out, and how the storyline weaves in and out with those of his wife and children, how we hear from them but also hear what Marcus is thinking as they speak to him. This book manages to remind the reader of the complexity and wonder of a single life - and how that can be so easily lost amongst the world, the politics, the disasters. How it can be reduced to a number, and how that single life can want so much to just be acknowledged.

There is something wistful and wonderful about this book and, while occasionally my own thoughts tore me away from the narrative, I was gripped for the majority of the book. I highly recommend you check it out.

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'this moment here
this crowded room with its clutter of chairs and tables
these people, with their separate thoughts and lives
I was overwhelmed with a sense of what a strange privilege it was to be able to sit in this coffee shop among other people who did not wish me any harm and who would, more likely than not, be happy for me if they were to know that I was having a good day'

You would like this book if: you want to try something a little different, with a style all its own; you enjoy literary fiction that focuses on a single life, and its intersections with others.

Tea to drink while reading this book: it was really hard to drink anything whilst reading this book - if you do, just be prepared to have the book still in front of your face so you don't miss anything.

Rating:  8.5/10

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Book Review: The Garden Apothecary by Reece Carter

Title: The Garden Apothecary
Author: Reece Carter
Publication Date: July 1st 2017

Synopsis: "Health and wellness is a booming sector in Australia. We eat clean and we detox our pantries. But what about our medicine cabinets and the lotions and potions we use on our skin? Shouldn’t we take as much care with those as we do with food? 

In The Garden Apothecary, Herb Nerd Reece Carter shows you how to grow and make your own gentle herbal remedies, taking you right through from growing your own plants to concocting your own tinctures and ointments. 

Using forty of his favourite recipes, Reece reveals how you can use organic raw ingredients to relieve a wide range of everyday ailments, naturally.

The Garden Apothecary reveals how natural remedies can help you:
* boost your immunity and fight flus and colds
* relieve stress and sleep issues 
* improve your digestion and gut health 
* increase your vitality and libido; and
* resolve skin and beauty problems.
This book will inspire you to take hold of your health with remedies backed by traditional use and modern science that can all be rustled up from your own garden or pantry."

My thoughts: I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a book all about herbs - I love them! At the moment, my herbs are struggling to recover after the hot Australian sun scorched them over summer, but I am always happy to see my thyme spilling out over the side of its pot, or to grab a few leaves of peppermint for some fresh mint tea.

Carter has put together a really lovely book here: the photography is beautifully styled, and the I really loved the way all the information is set out. Carter gives you a little idea about basic techniques to use for preparing your herbal remedies, as well is a few chapters on different topics, such as gut health, but it is in the recipes where this really shines.

The methods are simply laid out, and Carter has done his best to indicate what he means by certain terms. I have bookmarked quite a few things to try out, including Fresh Feverfew Tea as I suffer from migraines, and the 'Chill Pill' Bath Bomb because I love bath bombs! Carter also has a whole section about ways and means to grow your own herbs, which was really well done.

Whilst I knew quite a lot of what Carter talks about here already, I still learnt quite a bit, and it is so nice to have a book with simple recipes nearby so I can choose what herbs to grow and how to use them.

[I received a review copy of this book from Harlequin Non Fiction in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

You would like this book if: You are interested in herbalism, natural remedies, or making your own candles!

Tea to drink while reading this book: Carter has so many herbal concoctions here for all different ailments - I suggest trying one out while you peruse the rest of the book!

Rating:  7.5/10

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Book Review: Rooms of One's Own by Adrian Mourby

Title: Rooms of One's Own: 50 Places that Made Literary History
Author: Adrian Mourby
Publication Date: 26 June 2017

Synopsis: "Writers' relationships with their surroundings are seldom straightforward. While some, like Jane Austen and Thomas Mann, wrote novels set where they were staying (Lyme Regis and Venice respectively), Victor Hugo penned Les Miserables in an attic in Guernsey and Noel Coward wrote that most English of Plays, Blithe Spirit, in the Welsh holiday village of Portmeirion.

Award-winning BBC drama producer Adrian Mourby follows his literary heroes around the world, exploring 50 places where great works of literature first saw the light of day. At each destination - from the Brontes' Yorkshire Moors to the New York of Truman Capote, Christopher Isherwood's Berlin to the now-legendary Edinburgh cafe where J. K. Rowling plotted Harry Potter's first adventures - Mourby explains what the writer was doing there and describes what the visitor can find today of that great moment in literature.

Rooms of One's Own takes you on a literary journey from the British Isles to Paris, Berlin, New Orleans, New York, and Bangkok and unearths the real-life places behind our best-loved works of literature."

My thoughts: This is a lovely little book to sit down with and fly around the world from your armchair. Mourby has done the leg-work for you: checking out places from almost every continent and giving you descriptions of both the place as it was and as it is now, as well as details about the author in question: their life, their writing, sometimes their death.

I was happily ensconced with this book of an afternoon, and it didn't take me a long time to power my way through it. I really loved some of the descriptions, but it does pay to notice that the ones you are most interested in tend to be the ones you know more about previously. A few of the authors in this book I had not come across before, or had only a vague idea of whom Mourby was speaking, and that kind of made the experienced a little muddied.

A few of Mourby's descriptions (or perhaps this was just is writing style) left a little to be desired for me, too, as occasionally I felt he got too caught up in his own feelings about a place or a person, and departed from the 'story' a little too much. However, this was interspersed with some really beautiful sentences, so overall the book was an enjoyable read.

My particular favourites were Beatrix Potter in Cumbria, and Lafcadio Hearn in Japan. Some of the descriptions made me want to get back to reading the author's work, and I think that was a perfect result.

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exhange for an honest review. Thank you!!]

You would like this book if: You enjoy small forays into the world of writers and their places of production.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Scour the interwebs for your favourite author's preferred beverage. Drink in abundance (unless tis alcohol, then please drink responsibly).

Rating:  6.5/10

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