Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Heartstone by C.J Sansom

Purchase Information:
Imprint: Mantle
ISBN: 9780230711259
Binding: Trade Paperback
Pub. Date: 1/09/2010
Pages: 638
Category: Crime & Mystery
Book 5 in the Shardlake series.

Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII's invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis.
Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of "monstrous wrongs" committed against a young ward of the court, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth.
Once arrived, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a war zone; and Shardlake takes the opportunity to also investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettipace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam. The emerging mysteries around the young ward, and the events that destroyed Ellen's family nineteen years before, involve Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Events will converge on board one of the King's great warships, primed for battle in Portsmouth harbour: the Mary Rose...

This book came in the mail from Pan Macmillan, and was a nice surprise. This is the fifth book in the Shardlake series, which began with Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign and Revelation. This is the first book in the series I have read.
Shardlake is contacted by Queen Catherine Parr with a request for Matthew, from an old employee. The employees son has committed suicide and had put in a request with the Court of Wards about a young man he used to tutor. That 'monstrous wrongs' were done to the boy. The mother asks Shardlake to look into her sons request to see why he had gone out of his mind and killed himself. Shardlake takes on the case. He has to travel close to Portsmouth where the King's warships are stationed waiting for the French invasion. Shardlake has also decided to look into the past of a woman he regularly visits at the Bedlam. He knows there is something there and wishes to find out the truth.
Matthew Shardlake is a champion for those less fortunate, and has to try and find the truth in everything, which doesn't make him many friends, and gets him into trouble. His assistant Barak helps him, but in this book begins to tell Shardlake that this time maybe he should leave well alone. Barak is his sort of voice of reason. I enjoyed Matthew and Barak's characters, they are good friends and work well together. Matthew feels he needs to find the truth while Barak questions his motives and tries to make him see the consequences of his actions. I felt for Matthew, having a disfigurement didn't make life easy for him, he dealt with the abuse that people gave him, and got on with his life. I liked how he helps those less fortunate, even if it puts his life in danger. Once he's on to something he won't stop until he has the truth, thinking that even if it hurts people the truth is always the best. His friend Barak is quite a strong secondary character and has more of a extroverted character. This gets him in a bit of trouble with a recruiting officer and he has to ask Matthew for help to get him out of going to war. His wife is pregnant and he worries about her and doesn't want to leave when the have to travel to Hoyland Priory where the young man lives. When Matthew discovers the truth to both mysteries, it pits his life in danger. He ends up on the Mary Rose, the King's greatest warship, and is there when tragedy strikes. What happens to Matthew changes him and his outlook. Maybe he doesn't need to go chasing down the truth all the time. The ending comes together nicely, and everyone goes about their lives again. Some are changed forever though.
Hearstone is a very large book with a lot of story. It is richly described, almost as if the author has been there and seen everything. There was lots of mystery and intrigue to keep me interested. Sometimes with such large novels the plot can be lost and you lose interest. I never felt that with Heartstone. The conclusion is rather epic, and the author ties history and fiction together so well, you wouldn't know the difference. I liked the addition of  people who were alive in 1545, the most obvious being the King and Queen, but also minor characters who Shardlake meets and interacts with. Heartstone is compelling, sumptuous, thrilling, and kept me turning the pages. If you like history with your mystery, Heartstone is the way to go. I wish I could read the other books in this series. I give it 4.5/5.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Almost 100 Follower Giveaway Update

Just an update on my follower giveaway.
 Since I have over 170 followers now the first winner will choose three books, the second winner will choose two and the third will choose one.
Thanks to everyone who has already entered. If you haven't here's the link.

The books you get to choose from!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: To Kill A Warlock by H.P Mallory

Purchase Information:
The murder of a dark arts warlock. A shape-shifting, ravenous creature on the loose. A devilishly handsome stranger sent to investigate. Sometimes working law enforcement for the Netherworld is a real bitch.

This is the first book in the Dulcie O'Neill series. I enjoyed To Kill a Warlock. H.P Mallory is a great new force in the Urban Fantasy genre. 
Dulcie is a fairy, and she works as a Regulator for the A.N.C (Association of Netherworld Creatures). Dulcie ultimately polices Nehterworld creatures. When a Warlock is murdered Dulcie finds herself a suspect, but when more Netherworlders are found murdered, Dulcie is right in the the middle of the investigation. She's a pretty kick-ass character. It's always good to read strong female leads. Although, Dulcie has a few issues and I sometimes felt a little bogged down with them. She has the help of Knight, a hot paranormal investigator who asks that she not tell anyone he's there. She suspicious and doesn't like keeping it from her boss, Quillan, a sexy Elf she has had her eye on, and the inspiration for her writing. I really liked the idea of Dulcie wanting to become an author. Some of the scenes she writes are pretty funny. You get a little love triangle between Knight, Quillan and the sexy resident vamp with a nightclub, Bram. (Who had the name before the author). There's a great supporting cast with her Wiccan best friend Sam, a sadistic demon who owns an S&M club, her fellow regulator a hobgoblin and the scary monster she's hunting. The author brings everything together so well, a little like making a potion, with enough plot twists, action, romance, betrayal, and murder to keep almost everyone entertained. I can't wait to see where H.P Mallory takes Dulcie next.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interview & Giveaway with Fantasy author Sam Bowring

Sam Bowring has been writing and performing stand-up comedy since he was sixteen years old. He has been on radio and written for several television shows. In 2006 Sam was nominated for Best Emerging Comic at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and for Best Newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Sam has also written several plays.

Welcome to Strange Candy Reviews Sam! Thanks for joining us.

SCR: Seeing as this is a Spotlight on Australian Authors can you tell us a bit about where you grew up?
I grew up in Glebe, Sydney. Opposite our house was a park around Blackwattle Bay, in which you could catch the filthiest of mullets, and big black sea slugs which could be used, believe it or not, to have sea slug fights.

SCR: What is your fondest memory from your childhood?
One time as an experiment, I took a rubber glove out into the laundry, tied it firmly onto a tap, then turned the water on full blast. The result (I was surprised to learn) was that the glove filled up quickly and exploded. Terrified of getting into trouble, I decided I had to do away with the evidence – but I also knew that gloves come in pairs, and what could be more suspicious than a single intact glove sitting about without its partner? So not only did I bury the exploded glove deep in the vegetable patch, but I also buried a perfectly good glove too. Best to be thorough about getting away with such great and terrible crimes.

SCR: Did you family have a favorite holiday spot?
Ulladulla was the recurrent destination. There was a channel from Burrell Lakes out to the ocean, which would empty with force as the tide went out, which was a hell of a lot of fun to ride along in … although I’m told that the sand has now closed in, and the channel is gone. I also remember a huge rockpool, where I used to catch little blue damselfish, and where an octopus once stole my sister’s thong right off her foot. When I visited it again recently however, there was nothing much to be seen alive in there. Can’t say I didn’t feel a little bit guilty.

SCR: Could you give us a little overview of your books?
They’re about a blue haired boy prophesied to forever destroy the balance between light and shadow, whose soul gets ripped into two different entities. One part gets taken by each side, and they grow up separate to each other in enemy lands. There’s a big ensemble cast too, including an undead mage, an insane dragon, shape-changing mud monsters and a particularly malevolent psychic bird.

SCR: You're also a television writer, playwright and stand-up comedian. Do you ever find any of these conflicting with another?
It’s difficult getting established in any writing field, so maybe the worst to be said about trying to do all those things at once, is that you feel yourself pointed in many directions, whilst making little progress. On the other hand the different disciplines will often inform each other, and cross pollinate.

SCR: What first inspired you to write fantasy? Is it a genre you enjoy reading?
I got this idea in my head when I was a kid that reality is boring … and although I don’t necessarily hold to that anymore, it was habit-forming at the time, and consequently most books I read are fantasy. As for what inspires me to write in the genre, I guess it is the freedom to invent, to imagine absolutely anything, and to dream and escape. Plus goblins are fucking awesome.

SCR: The premise of two boys and one soul is quite different. What was the initial thought that spawned this idea?
I started thinking about the story in school over ten years ago, and I’m afraid I’d be lying if I claimed to have any idea where it came from. Guess you’ve got to occupy your mind with something while the girls aren’t kissing you.

SCR: Is there a message in your books like you would like readers to grasp?
Yes, but it is very wrapped up with the ending, so I can say nothing about it here.

SCR: The world you have created with Fenvarrow and Kainordas is impressive. Do you ever find the world building difficult?
Sometimes – the biggest challenge I guess is, because you are making up the rules of the land, you then have to stick to them. With the magic systems, for example, it was sometimes hard keeping track of all the nonsense I had already made up about them previously, and what was therefore now ‘possible’ and what was not.

SCR: Did you encounter any problems while writing your books?
Plenty – for example, coordinating a big cast, and getting them where they need to be at the right times, with the right companions, is quite a balancing act. One technique, when I run into an issue or block, is to lie down, tell myself I am just going to think about it for a few minutes, and then fall asleep instead and dream about velociraptors.

SCR: The last book in your trilogy, Soul's Reckoning has been released, what do you have planned next?
I’ve just finished a play about feral cats, and I’m moving onto another fantasy, set in a different world.

SCR: Are there any new authors that have grabbed you interest? If so, who are they?
You know what – this is embarrassing - but I don’t read very much at the moment. Mainly it’s on the toilet. I think this is because after writing all day, I usually want to do something that doesn’t involve words. So I’m not really up on what’s coming out at the moment.

SCR: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Everyone is more concerned about how they come across, than how you do. So don’t worry about going down the shops in your pajamas.

To win a copy of Sam's first book in The Broken Wells trilogy, Prophecy's Ruin, just answer: What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Please leave your email in the comment.
Update: Giveaway ends Oct 2nd!

I have two other current giveaway's on my blog. First there's my Almost 100 Follower Giveaway, where you can win books from some of my favorite Australian authors. There are 10 books to choose from.
and Cynthia Robert's blog tour. Cynthia has over $600 in prizes up for grabs!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Interview with YA author Jack Heath

Jack Heath is the award-winning* author of five action-adventure books. He started writing The Lab when he was 13 years old and had a publishing contract for it at 18. He's 23 now, but all the older writers still make fun of him.
He is also the founder of New Poe, a website on which writers submit, critique, and win prizes for short stories.
When he's not writing or web-designing, Jack is performing street magic, composing film music, teaching or lecturing at schools and festivals, or playing a variety of instruments including the piano and the bass guitar. He stoically ignores his lack of qualifications or training in any of these areas.
Jack was born in Sydney in 1986, but has resided in Canberra since age 9. He didn't intend to end up there, but he's afraid of big cities, small towns, places where no-one speaks English, and places where he doesn't know anyone - so every passing day makes it harder to leave. He lives with his girlfriend, Venetia Major (head jeweller at Zoisite Designs) and their cat, Onyx.
He's been worried about our world's impending doom through environmental catastrophe since reading Stark by Ben Elton when he was 14. In 2008, Jack's books were the subject of four mini-documentaries by Broken Bush Films, entitled The Jack Heath Chronicles. You can visit him at his website, (where his bio came from) his blog and New Poe facebook

SCR: Hi, Jack and welcome to Strange Candy Reviews. Thank you for joining us for an interview.
JH: It's a pleasure - thanks for having me.

SCR: Since this is a Spotlight on Australian Authors, can you tell us about where you grew up?
JH: As a kid I lived in Wollongong and Melbourne, but I've been in Canberra since I was nine, so I guess you'd say I grew up there. It's a weird city - lots of people work here and live elsewhere, so we have all the amenities of a major metropolis, but sometimes the town seems to be deserted. Walking around in the middle of the night, you feel like Robert Neville from I Am Legend. Plus, almost everyone seems to be either a public servant or an artist of some kind. Someone once told me my book, Money Run, was unrealistic because almost everyone turned out to be a government spy. But I couldn't imagine a world in which that wasn't the case.

SCR: What is your fondest memory from your childhood?

JH: I've always thought people who are nostalgic about childhood are romanticising it. Mostly what I remember is getting pushed around. But when I was twelve, a friend and I used a year's worth of weekends to make a computer game called Butterfly 660. When we were finished, it won Game of the Week and made us slightly internet-famous. That was fun.

SCR: Did your family have a favourite holiday spot?
JH: There was this house on a hill in Malua Bay that we used to rent out for a week each year. Every day my brother and I would run down to the beach, throw ourselves into the surf, read on the sand for a while, and then realise that it was a long, long way back up the hill. I should have said that as my favourite childhood memory, probably. Whoops.

SCR: Can you tell us a little about what your books are about?
JH: My new book, Hit List, is about a pair of teen thieves who stumble across a distress call mid-robbery. They discover that there's a woman trapped inside the headquarters of the largest intelligence agency in the world, and they decide to rescue her - but there are some nasty surprises waiting for them inside.

SCR: What first inspired you to write?
JH: I've always loved books, and I've always been the kind of person who tries to create the things he likes. (Hence the computer game.) As soon as I discovered that there were people who made books for a living, I decided to be one of them.
SCR: What made you choose action-adventure as your genre to write about?
JH: For all my posturing about how I was going to be a writer when I grew up, I didn't do any actual writing until I was thirteen. My English teacher gave me a novel which was all about eating disorders and divorce, and as a thirteen-year old boy, I was only interested in helicopters and explosions, so I decided to write about them. I guess the action-adventure stuff was a rebellion against the angst-fiction that saturated the market when I was growing up. Thanks to Catherine Jinks, Anthony Horowitz, Robert Muchamore, Charlie Higson, et cetera, I think kids today are much luckier when it comes to having access to exciting books.
SCR: How long are characters strolling around your head before they have a proper story?
JH: Not long at all. In fact, often it happens the other way around - I have a story in mind, and I ask myself, "Who's the right guy or girl to solve this problem?" and that's where the hero comes from. I think coming up with the characters and the plot simultaneously in the best way to make sure they're a good fit for each other.

SCR: Is there a message in your books that you want your readers to grasp?
JH: I always include a moral, but I don't necessarily want my readers to grasp it. The Lab was about how no-one can survive without a social support structure, Third Transmission was about free will versus cause and effect, and Hit List is about how no-one can be their own moral legislator. But these meanings are all semi-hidden. I like the idea that the readers who are looking for a message will find one, but everyone else will just have a wild ride.

SCR: Who have been the major influences in your life, writing wise?
JH: When I first started writing The Lab, I was extremely reluctant to read anything that wasn't by Robert Silverberg, whose sci-fi novels of the fifties, sixties and seventies my Dad had been addicted to and subsequently so was I. Then I discovered Matthew Reilly, and I realised that the action scenes in my action-sci-fi book were going to have to be much flashier to compete with him. Not long after that I started reading crime fiction - Peter Corris, Tara Moss, Lee Child - and I started to learn how to plot something with more subtlety. All these people have been very influential.

SCR: If your books were turned into movies, who would you like to play the leads?
JH: The Six of Hearts books were all written with my younger brother, Tom Heath, in mind - but movies take a long time to get off the ground, so he may well be too old to play the part by the time shooting starts. As for the Ashley Arthur books (Money Run and Hit List) I'm not sure who would be best - one of the great things about books is that the characters look different in the heads of each and every reader, and so whoever the actor is, you're going to lose that interactivity. I guess what I'm saying is, I don't mind who plays my characters, as long as there's a role for Milla Jovovich somewhere. She rocks.

SCR: Have you had to do any 'hands on' research for any of your books?
JH: My aforementioned brother, being an actor, has lots of friends who are stunt-men. I had loads of fun doing fire-arms training alongside them, and I think it's really enhanced the gunplay in my books. I've also done some stunt-driving, and toured prisons both here in Canberra and in Texas. But for the most part, I do my research the wrong way around - I don't work out what I need to know and research it, I just keep my eyes and ears open and any time I learn anything, I wonder how I could use it.

SCR: Are there any new authors that have grabbed you interest? If so, who are they?
JH: It's always really hard to tell, based on a first novel, who is going to stick around and who's going to disappear. But I'm keeping a very close eye on Steph Bowe (Girl Saves Boy), Dan Wells (I Am Not A Serial Killer), Angela S. Choi (Hello Kitty Must Die) and William Kostakis (Loathing Lola). I don't think we've heard the last of any of them.

SCR: There are ten seconds left on the clock. Do you cut the blue wire or the yellow wire?
Whichever one links the battery or timer to the detonator - however, that's the one that's most likely to be booby trapped. Damn, I'm running out of time. Yellow, I'll cut yellow. No, wait -

SCR: Thanks again for stopping by.
JH: ...

I still haven't found out if he cut the yellow or the blue....oops.

Answering this question 'Do you cut the yellow wire or the blue wire', will gain you an extra three entries into my Almost 100 Follower Giveaway.
If you haven't entered yet please do. If I reach 150 followers I'll add another winner, which could be you. Unless you've cut the wrong wire of course.....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Questions for Alexandra Adornetto

I have been lucky enough to score an interview with Alexandra Adornetto, author of Halo. I thought it might be a good idea to have you guys leave some questions that you would like to ask her for the interview. So just leave your question for Alexandra in the comments section. You have until this Saturday 18th September. As a bonus, if you've entered my Almost 100 Follower Giveaway, you will get an extra 5 entires for leaving a question. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P Mallory review

You can purchase Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble from Smashwords.

A self-deprecating witch with the unique ability to reanimate the dead. A dangerously handsome warlock torn between being her boss and her would-be lover. A six hundred year old English vampire with his own agenda; one that includes an appetite for witches. The Underworld in a state of chaos. Let the games begin.
I was lucky enough to have the author contact me to review this ebook. Jolie owns a new age shop in Los Angeles, where she gives readings and has the occasional vision. Jolie's life is thrown into turmoil when an extremely handsome man asks her for a reading. He also books an appointment for the next three weeks. After their last reading, Jolie finds out he is a Warlock, whose name is Rand, and that he wishes to hire her. She's skeptical, but he is offering her a nice sum for her troubles. They head off to Chicago as Rand has a client who wishes to find out who murdered her father. Here she discovers that she can bring back the dead. And not into zombies, but exactly as they when they were alive. It seems she is a witch and her whole life is about to change. She has become the focus of Bella, who is trying to align all the creatures of the Underworld. Bella will do anything to have Jolie but with Rand's help they begin their own recruitment process. In the meantime Jolie is falling for Rand, dating a werewolf she 'reanimated', getting kidnapped by Vampires and being forced to work for Bella, She escapes with an unlikely ally and tries to have the fairy King side with them. It seems everyone wants Jolie to further their own plans, without asking Jolie what she wants. Of course this annoys her and she can be pretty feisty. I liked Jolie. She wasn't stunningly beautiful, more of a girl next door type. Although she does have some serious self confidence issues. It's never annoying, she doesn't really complain but treats it as a fact of life. This novel reminded a bit of MaryJanice Davidson's Queen Betsy series. I liked her personality, she was kind, funny and a little quirky. It takes her awhile to accept what she is and even longer to believe she can actually make a difference. Rand is rather distant from her, and she pretty much has to squeeze answers to her questions out of him. He really fights his attraction to Jolie, and tries to push her away. Of course when he succeeds her is jealous, whether he wants to admit it or not. You can feel the chemistry between, and it literally sparks of the page(or screen, as the case may be). I felt like slapping Rand to wake up to himself and just admit what he feels for Jolie. Rand is hot, distant, stubborn, arrogant and all male. It's fun reading about him trying to deny his feelings for Jolie, and when she realizes the effect she has on him she tries to convince him they should be together. He can switch from warm and cuddly to cold and aloof so quickly, it almost gave me whiplash. Her best friend is the tall, beautiful one, and Jolie  is sometimes envious of her friends looks and can't help comparing herself to Christa. Christa can come off a little ditzy, but in her seems to be charming. She has an interest in photography and is actually quite good. Jolie really tries to encourage her pursuit of her hobby. Their friendship is strong, and they bring out the best in each other. She is sometimes the comic relief, but it doesn't feel like it's on purpose. I was glad Jolie had such a great friend to help her through her troubles.
Bella is the villain and is sufficiently evil. She seems to get what she wants, and does anything so that she always will. She has no qualms about stepping on or destroying anyone in her path. She's one that you love to hate. 
Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble is great read and I found it light and funny. The conflict between the characters keeps you interested and I really found myself wanting to read more. The premise of the story grabs your attention, with an impending war, that Bella seems intent on instigating. This story is a great addition to the Urban Fantasy genre. I am looking forward to reading the next installment in Jolie's story, which the author has also graciously allowed me to read.
I give it 4/5. Stay tuned for an interview and giveaway with H.P Mallory.

Don't forget to enter my Almost 100 Follower Giveaway

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Interview with Van Badham

Van Badham is the award-winning writer of more than 30 internationally produced plays for stage, music theatre and radio. Her theatre plays have had seasons at the Sydney Opera House, the Wharf studio, the Seymour Centre, the Victorian Arts Centre, Perth's Blue Room and the Adelaide Festival. She has had plays and musical theatre staged at seven Edinburgh Festivals, in London and on the UK touring circuit, in America, in Iceland, Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria and in Germany. MIT Press in the US published her 2003 Edinburgh hit Camarilla. Her scripts for radio have been broadcast by the BBC World Service, Radio 3 and Radio 4. In 2007, Van's play The Gabriels became the first Australian play selected for New York's Summer Play Festival.

SCR: Since this is a Spotlight on Australian Authors can you tell us about where you grew up?
Geographically, I grew up all around Sydney, in Canberra and finally in Wollongong, where I went to uni. Spiritually, because my dad ran dog tracks and betting shops and RSL clubs and sports bars, I grew up around adults and race-calls and loud carpet, metal ashtrays and soft-drinks served in schooner glasses. That is what my childhood looks and smells like when I think about it - not one specific place, but this continuum of bistro meals and poker machine jackpot tunes. I'm an only child and I was usually *the* only child around all these adults - a lot of writers seem to have formative experiences as observer/outsiders and that's definitely how I remember my childhood. 

SCR: What would be the fondest memory from your childhood? 
From my early childhood, about 3 or so, I remember very clearly a day in our house in Canberra when I suddenly found myself completely alone and while it's not my "fondest memory", it's probably one that defines me a lot more than merrier recollections. I think my parents had gone next door to see the neighbours, and I was supposed to be napping or watching television, but I remember getting up and walking through the house and finding it silent, and empty. I went outside - we lived in a very quiet part of a very quiet suburb and there was just no sound or movement anywhere - no cars passing, nothing. The front garden had a border of these plasticky, conical conifer trees, and in that awful silence they seemed to stand like dark, sinister guards over some kind of magical edge to the world - and I had a sense that were I to cross the border past them, I would be lost forever. Then, this completely white butterfly appeared from amongst the conifers, and landed on my hand, the only moving thing in the world. I walked back into the house and the effort of keeping my hand still enough for the butterfly to keep sitting on it all the way into the kitchen made me calm enough to run through some kind of 3-year-old's contingency plan for what to do if I was the only human being left in the world - how to stand on things to open the fridge door, whether I'd sleep in my parents' room if they weren't coming back... The whole episode maybe only lasted five minutes, and then my parents came back into the house and the instant I saw them the butterfly flew away. All these years later, though, I remember the whole scene so clearly - and that experience of moving from a familiar world to a strange, magical or corrupted world is still very tangible to me. This is probably why one of my favourite writers is John Wyndham - his best books are all about the corruption of familiarity and it's obviously something that echoes for me. 

SCR: Did your family have a favourite holiday spot? 
Yes, we used to go away to a caravan on the Hawkesbury River at Lower Portland and my childhood summers were swallowed by adventures on riverbanks and in spinifex, cycling through orange groves, taking packed lunches on wallaby trails and climbing trees. On rainy days and humid nights, I'd curl up in the caravan and read and read and read. It probably only amounted to a few weeks of my life in total, but it taught me the aesthetic value of mud and brought me into close contact with all manner of curious frogs and small mammals. These are vital experiences for growing children.  

SCR: You're a debut Young Adult author, how does it feel?
It feels like coming home. It feels like every book I've ever read, every story I've ever liked, every plant and animal and rock I've ever looked at twice, every brilliant and stupid experience I associate with my normal/insane teenage years was for a purpose. I love writing and I've written a lot of things I'm very proud to have done but writing Young Adult fiction is like taking yourself on a spirit-walk to your own past and recovering all the objects that you'd lost and old friends you thought you'd never see again. It's an amazing discovery to do something that is - I will be honest - absolutely sleep-destroyingly hard work and trance-like and magical at the same time. There is, of course, a great benefit in writing paranormal fiction, where you get to indulge the darkest and most fantastic parts of your imagination. You feel incredibly free.  
SCR: Can you tell us a little about 'Burnt Snow'? How many books do you have planned for this series?
'Burnt Snow' is about a perpetual "new girl" and social outsider, Sophie Morgan, who decides, when she starts another new school at the end of Year 11, that she wants to take control of her own identity. She's a nerd, but the popular girls at the new school don't realise this, and when they invite her to hang out with them, she sees it as an opportunity to remake herself. At the same time, she meets this boy, Brody Meine, who's an even more extreme outsider than she is, who she is monstrously attracted to, and while she's trying to reconcile being in the popular group with liking this very damaged boy, and trying to wrest herself out from her mother's domineering shadow, and work out where she's going with her life, the world around her grows dark and threatening. Whenever she and Brody are together, bizarre things happen - there's a huge storm, then the goth girl in their Modern History class has this violent seizure, the windows of a room spontaneously shatter, things catch fire... and then she becomes convinced birds are stalking her, and statues are talking to her... and the membrane between the familiar world and a parallel dark world of magic and curses and witchcraft, starts to dissolve. Sophie doesn't know who to trust, or who's a threat to her - she's falling in love with this boy and wants him so desperately but he seems to be the source of all the danger, and other people start getting hurt. So the story is about a girl who's not just in an extraordinary situation but a really complex one, where the choices aren't easy and the dangers are unpredictable 

'Burnt Snow' is the first in an initial saga of three. I'm writing the second volume now and it's torrid - stories develop a life of their own and I am racing to catch up with what's happening to Sophie Morgan as her world gets more and more dangerous. After the three, I'm going to work on another set of stories that I had the idea for when I was recently travelling through Japan - I became fascinated with Japanese history and pop culture and want to bring manga aesthetics into my next project. After that, depending on who's left standing at the end of The Book of the Witch trilogy, I may revisit some of those characters again... I'm curious as to how the characters may change as they get older and their lives get more complicated... 

SCR: What first inspired you to start writing?
My earliest memories are of sitting on my Nanna's lap with her arms around me, and her reading to me from a book in her hands. I was fascinated and entranced by words and by stories from a very, very young age and when the adults around me realised this, they did everything possible to encourage my interest in books and reading. My first book is dedicated to my Nanna because she taught me to read, and my parents also encouraged me to write down the stories I would make up so I wouldn't forget them. My mother cleaned up an old typewriter and patiently taught me to type when I was five, so having basic ability as well as the technical means to write, I pounded things out every crazy thought or dream or observation that I had on that keyboard every day until eventually it was replaced by the first in a long succession of computers. My typing speed these days is abnormally fast - I can actually type faster than I can think, which helps the writing process no end. I write a lot, and a lot of different things, and when people ask me how I do it, the honest answer is that it's because I don't have to remember where "P", "Z" or "H" are. It makes an enormous difference. 
SCR: How is writing a novel different to writing a play?
They're incredibly different. They use completely different registers of expression. The narrative of a play is actually contained in the process of how the human voices and bodies on stage react to the emotions your script suggests for them and how they simultaneously communicate that to an audience, whereas writing books is about furnishing a world created entirely of printed text. People assume you have more "control" in a book because you are not only writing dialogue but conditioning the way people speak with adverbs (this is a massive no-no in the theatre, where one lets actors work out their own rhythms of speech), and using descriptive language to define characters, objects and settings (see previous point, but with designers and designs), not to mention being able to comment on the action with authorial voice or play around with points of view and tensing means the story becomes subjective to whoever is telling/retelling it. The reality, though, is that theatre is a LOT more structured an experience than a book - yes, every show may be played differently by the actors, and every production may be different (unless you see 'The Lion King', but that's a topic for another time!), but once the play starts, 50, 100, 300, whatever people who are sitting in that room experience the exact same thing in the exact same place at the exact same time in, usually, the exact same way until the curtain comes down. That's not a bad thing - there are wonderful advantages to the collective experience of being part of an audience - but it is sooooo different to books, where what the reader experiences is a unique, completely personalised experience of conjuring an imagined sensual world, and they can do anywhere on earth, at whatever time they like if there's enough light to read by. To create these two different experiences means writing in two completely different ways. It took an adjustment period for me - I had to be reminded by my editors several times that it was up to me to get the information in the text clear from the outset, because there wasn't going to be a designer along to decide on everyone's hair-length or hat angle before the characters made their first appearance. 

SCR: Do you prefer writing plays to writing your novel? Which is harder of the two to write?
I like both. I think I am particularly enjoying writing the novels at the moment because the stories of the books are not stories you can really tell in the theatre. Also, just the process is such a change - it's so lovely to be using words in a different way, and pushing all my technical skills in a direction I haven't explored before. It's like mapping a new country. They are not harder than the other to write - like anything, it's as easy to write a crap book or crap play as it's super-freakin'-difficult to write an amazing one. 

SCR: Was writing a novel the natural progression from writing plays?
Not at all. It came completely out of nowhere. I'd had vague ideas about writing various other novels - over the years I'd started a "literary fiction" novel, a political thriller and a long adventure story for younger readers, but with 'Burnt Snow' an idea hit and it just all poured out. The only preparation writing plays had given me for it was fast typing speed, an ear for dialogue and the discipline to sit at my desk and thump it out.  

SCR: What was your motivation behind the idea for 'Burnt Snow'?
It's still surprising to me that this book happened, because I'd spent so many years just writing for the theatre and I thought that's all I'd ever do... but I'd found myself back in Sydney after years of living in London, and I ran into some people from high school totally randomly, and was thinking about school a lot as a result. I had the sense of being back somewhere that I thought I knew and finding it really different, and it was actually shocking seeing people who in my memory would be 17 forever carrying around babies and buying glasses for their husbands at the mall. At the same time, I'd been thinking a lot about the "magic world" - one of my family members seems to have developed some kind of latent psychic gift, and everyone I'd talked to about it revealed that they similarly had friends or relatives with "insights". So I was thinking about my past, and high school, and magic and how someone revealing they think they have some kind of paranormal power just totally changes your relationship with them... and then - bang - one day it just started writing itself across the screen when i was supposed to be doing something else.  And the more I wrote, the more everything in my life just adjusted - like magic - to me writing the story... my job had ended and I had the time to sit alone and write, I got a little grant to go back to the UK and start my life over again... and then (at the time convinced, totally, that I was going to grow old, mean and withered and die single and alone in a house full of cats), I met my boyfriend ON MY BALCONY when I went outside to have a cup of tea and this gorgeous, brilliant, hilarious man turned out to be my new next-door neighbour. It was an intensely emotional and incredible time and an ongoing progression of inspirations to finish the book.  

SCR: Brody is your lead male who is very mysterious. He appears to have the 'bad boy' vibe. What is it about the 'bad boys' that we find so appealing?
Hmm. It depends on your definition of "bad". All animals are curious and human beings have a particular inclination to explore unknown places, ask unanswerable questions and obsess over puzzles until they work them out (at which point they're usually discarded and forgotten). Certainly, in my experience, a large part of excitement and thrill is based on unpredictability; a large part of Sophie's attraction to Brody does come from her curiosity about him being such a loner, and the secrets he won't share, and that without a lot of information provided to her, she can't possibly predict his behaviour or what will happen when they're together. Which is exciting - when you're 16 and going to school where everything is timetabled and pre-planned for you and you know exactly what you'll be doing every Tuesday at 1.15pm for the next year, unpredictabilities are, by their rarity, something to be cherished. Also, the wondrous, insane-making part of the falling-in-love process is the mystery and tension of not being entirely sure what will happen next - do they like you? will they call? will he kiss you? what's happening? - and I think everyone whose ever begun a relationship has spent the early part of the courtship secretly cursing the other party as a "bad boy" (or an evil witch!) when phone calls are being waited for. So, the appeal of the "bad boy" vibe is the attraction to the mysterious.
I think also that the way men, like women, are pressured to conform to very strict social norms, particularly at high school where all that ridiculous masculinity crap is at its most brutal, means that those with the courage to be different and keep their own counsel tend to earn the "bad boy" moniker, because their acts of resistance to the group mentality mark them as both tough and a little bit wicked. Strength, of any kind, is always attractive, as is the confidence you gain when you appreciate your own victories, and I think these qualities are radiated by those with the authentic "bad boy" vibe. 
Sometimes, of course, the signifiers of strength and confidence are confused with those for brutality or egomania, and for people who make the identification mistake (and it happens), disaster results. These fakers are not "bad boys" so much as Bad Boys and to be avoided at all costs. Boys who hit people to feel strong  are just weaklings with fists and men who pork anything with a heartbeat aren't confident so much as sexually exploitative slimebags. There really should be a warning label stuck to these turdburgers at birth, but there you go. 

SCR: Burnt Snow is written from Sophie's point of view. Was writing from a seventeen year olds perspective difficult?
It was and it wasn't. Obviously, I have the advantage of having *once* been 17 so I didn't come to the job with no experience. I also remember so much of being that age because when I was a teenager I kept vast, VAST notes and diaries of everything that happened to me, and so many photos, so my memories of that time were reinscribed for my brain directly as things were then happening, and now it means that I have all the notes to look back upon. I'm super lucky that I am still best friends with my best friends from high school and it doesn't take long for our personalities to revert to their 17 year old state when we're retelling the stories or even just hanging out with one another. A lot of writing Sophie was just finding ways of reaccessing a state of being that I'd tucked away in some corner of my brain. I read lots of teen magazines to remind myself of my old preoccupations, and I made scrapbooks out of the magazines to understand what Sophie and all the girls would be wearing, what TV shows they'd be watching, what their immediate environments would look like. To be fair, I am not Sophie and Sophie's not me - all I could do was remember the details of her world, she had to find her own way in it.

There's all that, and I'm incredibly immature. It's true.  

SCR: Why do you think we have such an obsession with all things paranormal at the moment? 
"Paranormal" is just the new name for a slice of a bigger and very, very old genre that can be called fantasy or speculative fiction, the Gothic, dark fiction, wizard lit, magic realism, folklore, mythology, fairy stories, national epics, horror, imaginative fiction or one of a million other names all of which essentially equal "stories about people and magic". I don't think it's a contemporary phenomenon - I think it's the oldest form of storytelling and stories of the fantastic and magical have been around to entertain people since... well, since people! It's easy to enjoy these genres and forms simply because:
a.) Doing the laundry is boring. Flying through the air on the back of a dragon is interesting.
b.) Boys who kiss you at a party and then say they will call you and then don't are boring. Boys who kiss you at a party and then sprout horns and confess they discovered on their 18th birthday they were the scion of a king and a she-devil and are on a quest to... are interesting. 
... and these stories are ALWAYS popular because we need them to cope with the laundry and stupid boys that don't call but at various times we take our entertainment to trend - hence all those fab Hammer Horror movies in the late 1960s, but late 1800s Britain and America going mad for ghost story anthologies, and Buffy and Angel on TV in the late 1990s, but those brilliant "Fantastic Stories" printed in story magazines in the 1940s/50s. "Paranormal" is just a word for the same thing in book form but which happened at the end of the 00s.  

SCR: Since you're a debut YA author, are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest? If so, who are they?
Actually, since taking on this project I've been really careful to AVOID new authors grabbing my interest. I currently have a big pile of books I am waiting to throw myself into when the third Book of the Witch is finished - I know what I'm like and if start reading I won't stop. Additionally, I am trying to keep my imaginative world sealed off from what other contemporary authors in the genre are doing - I think there's a very real danger for some writers to read things in their genre and then start second-guesing ways they can be different or "novel" (ho ho) from what they are reading, which makes their writing insincere, cynical or nervous or awkwardly structured as a result.  
SCR: If you were able to go back to being seventeen is there anything you would change if you could? 
I would never drink alcohol. The most precious thing I've got today is the strength of my judgment and the idea I ever sold it out to the Bacardi Breezer corporation in return for unrecoverable nights of staggering around, feeling sick and passing out fills me with a genuine horror. 

Thanks very much to Van for stopping by. If you haven't read Burnt Snow, you have no idea what you're missing. 
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