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5 minutes with author Kerry McGinnis

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Kerry McGinnis, a novelist and memoir writer based in Bundaberg, Queensland. She has travelled across outback Northern Territory and Queensland and worked as a shepherd, droving hand, gardener, stock-camp and station cook. She is the author of memoirs <em>Pieces of Blue</em> and <em>Heart Country</em> and the novels <em>The Waddi Tree,</em> <em>Wildhorse Creek</em>, <em>Mallee Sky</em>, <em>Out of Alice</em> and more. Her latest title, <em>Croc Country </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with McGinnis about inspiration, <em>The Hitchhiker’s Guide</em> <em>to the Galaxy</em>, and a life beyond the bitumen.</p> <p><strong><em>Over60</em></strong><strong>: What’s your best writing tip? Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard?</strong></p> <p>Kerry McGinnis: I think the best writing tip I have is: Write what you know. Everybody is an expert on something — the parent of an autistic child knows that condition, just as a hairdresser knows the salon or the nurse the ward. I know the bush and station life. It is not only easier to have a full depth knowledge of your subject, but the tales you spin from them have the authenticity that makes them believable to your readers.</p> <p>Positively the worst tip? You must wait for inspiration to strike. Now that sounds to me like the teenager saying, “I’ll do the dishes when I feel like it.” Of course they’ll never get done. Because honestly, who feels like washing dishes? Writing is like any other work, productivity is the key and that isn’t achieved by waiting for inspiration. Decide on your subject/theme/whatever and get on with it. Books don’t write themselves.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>Probably Douglas Adams’ <em>The Hitchhiker’s Guide</em> <em>to the Galaxy</em>. Poor Arthur Dent’s helplessness in the face of the indifferent and chaotic Universe reminds me irresistibly of the rages of John Cleese doing his block in <em>Fawlty Towers</em>.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>I write every day that I’m home save Sundays. This means four to five hours work or as long as it takes to produce three pages that satisfy me. I’m not fast, but once started I do daily rewrites before beginning on the next three pages. Once I have the first draft done I may do all-day stints at the computer, but by the last draft I limit myself to about 30 pages a day so that I can catch mistakes. The more familiar you are with the work, the easier it is to miss them.</p> <p><strong>Character or plot, which is more important to you?</strong></p> <p>Character every time. The plot simply gives your character something to do. It is rather daunting to think of producing 100,000 words. You have to have something for your characters to do that will display their attributes to the reader and a place to do it in, so my background or setting is to a large degree also a character in the novel.</p> <p><strong>How has your time in the bush influenced your writing?</strong></p> <p>In every sense. It is my subject; it forms the background and basis of my characters as well as the plots they become immersed in. This of course depends on what is possible given the country/isolation/circumstances and, also important, weather or season. City people accustomed to all-weather lives sometimes fail to grasp how it affects everybody who lives beyond the bitumen. Dirt roads and unbridged rivers can throw quite a spanner into the day’s plans, as can bushfire, disasters, dust and storms. Navigating them adds to the uncertainty of life for characters between the covers of my books.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>Maybe I’m lucky but I’ve never had to. It’s like washing those dishes. Just get in and start. Maybe the day’s work won’t be worth keeping but meantime you are writing and sooner or later, if you keep going, the words will flow again and begin to please.</p> <p><strong>Is there a cliché you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>I love Reginald Hill’s bold use of “It was a dark and stormy night”. Writing schools actually warn their pupils against this cliché, but he used it anyway and it fitted beautifully. What’s more is while he was using it, his character acknowledged its riskiness!</p> <p><strong>What do you do when you’re not writing or reading?</strong></p> <p>I like to garden because I love flowers, though Bundaberg is not an ideal spot for roses — rust and black-spot and every other pest thrives in this humid climate. But hibiscus do well here, and the tougher seasonal blooms. I also play the harp and greatly enjoy the fortnightly get-togethers with the Harp group I belong to. And I go to the gym and walk most days through the wetlands only a kilometre from where I live. Lots of water birds, scrub turkeys and terrapins.</p>

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Prince William and Prince Harry’s “devastating breakdown” revealed in new book

<p>The rift between Prince William and Prince Harry is the most “profound” among the recent generation of the royal family, royal author Robert Lacey said.</p> <p>The biographer, who serves as a historical consultant for the Netflix series <em>The Crown</em>, is set to release the book <em>Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – the Friendships and Feuds </em>in October.</p> <p>“Raised to be the closest of brothers, the last 18 months has seen a devastating breakdown of their once unbreakable bond,” the book’s synopsis reads.</p> <p>In the book, Lacey explains “what happened when two sons were raised for vastly different futures and showing how the seeds of damage were sown as their parents’ marriage unravelled”.</p> <p>Lacey said he had been “astonished” by the information he had uncovered for the book.</p> <p>“I have been astonished and sometimes moved to tears by the fresh details and insights I have discovered in researching this story of family conflict,” he said in a press release.</p> <p>“These two brothers — once inseparable and now separated by much more than mere distance — have been acting out the contradictions that go back into their childhoods and even before that: into their parents’ ill-fated marriage.</p> <p>“We have seen conflicts between heir and spare in every recent generation of the royal family — but nothing so profound as this.”</p> <p>In the 2019 documentary <em>Harry &amp; Meghan: An African Journey</em>, the Duke of Sussex shared a glimpse into his relationship with his older brother.</p> <p>“Part of this role and part of this job, this family, being under the pressure that it’s under, inevitably stuff happens,” he said. “But look, we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I’ll always be there for him and I know he’ll always be there for me.”</p> <p>Another book on royals, <em>Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family</em>, will be released in August. The biography, authored by journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durnad, promises to go “beyond the headlines to reveal unknown details of Harry and Meghan’s life together, dispelling the many rumours and misconceptions that plague the couple on both sides of the pond”.</p>

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5 trendy words that are actually ancient

<p><span>Hip dudes have been friending each other for centuries. Legit!</span></p> <p><strong>1. Legit</strong></p> <p>Legit as a shortening of legitimate has been around since the 1890s. It started as theatre slang for things associated with legitimate drama (versus vaudeville or burlesque). From the 1920s on, it referred to authenticity. If you were ‘legit,’ you were being honest.</p> <p><strong>2. Friend (as a verb)</strong></p> <div class="slide-image">When did friend become a verb? The answer is sometime in the 1400s. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb friend means ‘to make friends or to help someone out.’  One example of its usage from 1698: ‘Reports came that the King would friend Lauderdale.’</div> <p><strong>3. Unfriend</strong></p> <p>If you could friend someone, it was only natural, according to the productive rules of English word formation, that you could unfriend her too. The word appears in Thomas Fuller’s 1659 book <em>The Appeal of Injured Innocence</em>, ‘I Hope, Sir, that we are not mutually Un-friended by this Difference which hath happened betwixt us.’</p> <div class="at-below-post addthis_tool" data-url="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/5-trendy-words-that-are-actually-ancient"><strong>4. Hipster</strong></div> <div class="tg-container categorySection detailSection"> <div id="primary" class="contentAreaLeft"> <div id="page4" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide listicle-slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>Hipster shows up in a 1941 dictionary of hash-house lingo, meaning ‘a know-it-all.’ The word hip appeared in the 1900s and referred to being up on the latest trends.</p> <p><strong>5. Dude</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <div id="page5" class="slide-show"> <div id="test" class="slide listicle-slide"> <div class="slide-description"> <p>In the 1880s, dude had a negative, mocking ring to it. A dude was a dandy, someone very particular about clothes, looks, and mannerisms, who affected a sort of exaggerated high-class British persona. As one Brit noted in an 1886 issue of Longman’s Magazine, “Our novels establish a false ideal in the American imagination, and the result is that mysterious being ‘The Dude.’”. By the turn of the century, it had come to mean any guy, usually a pretty cool one.</p> <p><em>Source:<span> </span><a href="https://www.rd.com/funny-stuff/funny-trendy-words-ancient/">RD.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Written by <span>Brandon Spektor</span>. This article first appeared in <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/5-trendy-words-that-are-actually-ancient" target="_blank">Reader’s Digest</a>. </em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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JK Rowling reveals history of domestic abuse and sexual assault

<p><span>JK Rowling has opened up about her experience with domestic abuse and sexual assault for the first time, in a lengthy and highly personal essay written in response to criticism of her public comments on transgender issues.</span></p> <p><span>In a 3,600-word statement published on her website on Wednesday, Rowling went into detail about how she became embroiled in an increasingly bitter and polarised debate around the concept of gender identity.</span><br /><span>The author said she was a “domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor”, citing this alongside her belief in freedom of speech and experience as a teacher as reasons behind her position.</span></p> <p><span>“I’m mentioning these things now not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but out of solidarity with the huge numbers of women who have histories like mine, who’ve been slurred as bigots for having concerns around single-sex spaces,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>The note came after the author took to Twitter to share a series of messages over the weekend about people who identify as trans.</span></p> <p><span>One tweet read: “If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives.”</span></p> <p><span>Since then, prominent figures have come out against Rowling, including Daniel Radcliffe and Eddie Redmayne, who both worked in the hugely successful Harry Potter franchise.</span></p> <p><span>Rowling said she was motivated to share her thoughts after reading about proposed “gender confirmation certificates” in Scotland, which allows trans people to change their sex on their birth certificates based on how they identify and not medical and psychiatric reports.</span></p> <p><span>She accused those who disagreed of “groupthink” and “relentless attacks”, saying that even though she believes trans people deserve protection due to the high rates of domestic and sexual violence they face, she did not agree that trans women who have not undergone hormone therapy or surgical transition to have access to single-sex spaces.</span></p> <p><span>“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>She also confirmed that she was in her 20s when she dealt with physical abuse for the first time. “If you could come inside my head and understand what I feel when I read about a trans woman dying at the hands of a violent man, you’d find solidarity and kinship,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>Citing an unnamed poll, Rowling claimed that those who did not support preserving single-sex spaces were “only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is”.</span></p> <p><span>She said she had been contacted by “huge numbers” of women who were afraid to speak publicly about trans reforms, and decried institutions and organisations she once admired for “cowering before the tactics of the playground”. She said she believed misogyny and sexism were reasons behind the 4,400% increase in the number of girls being referred for transitioning treatment in the past decade.</span></p> <p><span>“I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. </span></p> <p><span>It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or – just as threatening – unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class … It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves,” she wrote.</span></p> <p><span>The essay sparked a heated debate on Twitter, with Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, tweeting: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.”</span></p> <p><span>In a second tweet, she said: “I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”</span></p>

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5 minutes with author Imbi Neeme

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Imbi Neeme, a novelist, blogger and short story writer based in Melbourne. Her blog <em>Not Drowning, Mothering </em>won the 2010 Bloggies award for best Australian/New Zealand Weblog. After winning prizes for her short fiction works, she was awarded the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize for her manuscript <em>The Spill</em>, which was this month published as her debut novel.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Neeme about characters, Shakespeare and tips to prepare manuscripts for publication.</p> <p><strong><em>Over60</em></strong><strong>: What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>Imbi Neeme: <em>Less </em>by Andrew Sean Greer. I loved this book’s gentle humour and hapless protagonist. Plus, it really packs an emotional punch at the end. I cried.  </p> <p><strong>Character or plot – which one is more important to you?</strong></p> <p>Gah! This is like choosing a favourite child (which my children regularly ask me to do). Ultimately, I need both character and plot to keep my interest. If there is a very interesting person where nothing much happens to them, that’s a wasted opportunity to me; same applies to an interesting situation with thinly drawn characters. But, if I absolutely had to choose, I’d choose character. People are endlessly fascinating!  </p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>I have no routine to speak of. It’s really a “grab whatever time I can” situation. I blogged during the years that my children were very young and learned to write in short, sharp bursts. There’s no gentle, easing into it for me. I just open the laptop and go.</p> <p>When writing the first draft of a manuscript, my aim is always to write 250 words a day, although I might increase it to 500 words when I’m in full flow. I set my expectations of myself low so I get a sense of satisfaction from achieving my target and can close my laptop without resenting everyone and everything else in my life.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>I certainly have periods where I’m writing less, either because life is too busy or I’m somehow not in the mood to write. However, I’m always thinking about writing – either my current manuscript or an idea for a new short story or a blog post. As long as I’m thinking about writing, I don’t feel like I’m truly blocked. </p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>I don’t like it when authors over-describe their characters – as a reader, I like to be left a certain amount of space to imagine them myself. So if a protagonist ever looks in a mirror and describes themselves or what they’re wearing, my eyeballs start rolling so much I can’t read any further.</p> <p>Don’t tell anyone, but I love a proposal scene, no matter how corny. Seriously, I cry any time anyone proposes to anyone.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>If I had to choose just one, I’d choose Shakespeare. That way, I’d know once and for all who he was and if the name was just a pseudonym for a collective of writers (I’d have extra food on hand, in case it was a large cohort). Reportedly, Shakespeare wrote <em>King Lear </em>under lockdown conditions. I could ask if this was true and, if it is, make him (or them) apologise at once to a whole generation of writers who are currently feeling deeply inadequate.</p> <p><strong>Do you have any tips for writers looking to publish their manuscript?</strong></p> <p>I think it’s important to give all feedback you receive along the road to publication proper consideration, even the feedback that makes you want to shout and stamp your feet. I don’t mean that you have to do everything everyone tells you – ultimately, you remain the boss of your manuscript. But when someone suggests something that you don’t agree with, it’s good to at least ask yourself <em>why</em> it’s eliciting that kind of response and see if that’s something worth addressing.</p>

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5 minutes with author Katherine Firkin

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Katherine Firkin, a writer and TV news journalist based in New York, US. Having worked for over a decade in journalism – with roles at the <em>Herald Sun</em>, <em>7 News</em>, 3AW Radio, Nine’s <em>Today </em>show and Network Ten – Firkin has now jumped into publishing with her debut novel <em>Sticks and Stones</em>.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Firkin about creating backstories, Andrew Sean Greer, and how her journalism career influenced her crime fiction writing.</p> <p><strong><em>Over60</em></strong><strong>: What is your best writing tip? Alternatively, what is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?</strong></p> <p>Katherine Firkin: There’s a quote by American author Libba Bray, which I have as the screen saver on my laptop: “Write like it matters, and it will.”</p> <p>This concept kept me on track as I worked through the many drafts of my debut novel <em>Sticks and Stones</em>, as it reminded me to always give 100 per cent to my writing. There are times – particularly at the start of a novel – when the process of creating an entire manuscript can feel utterly overwhelming. But if you keep turning up, fully committed to whatever it is you are trying to create, you can have faith that eventually the writing will take shape.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p>I really enjoyed <em>Less</em>, by Andrew Sean Greer. It’s a satirical novel that follows a second-tier author on a literary tour around the world. The writing is fabulous, fast and witty, and the flawed protagonist made me simultaneously cringe and laugh.</p> <p><strong>How has your experience as a crime reporter influenced your fiction writing?</strong></p> <p>There’s no doubt my career as a reporter has influenced my writing. One of the unique aspects of the job is that you are constantly on the road, visiting new places and meeting people from all walks of life – it gives you an incredible insight into the lives of those that perhaps you may not socialise with in normal circumstances.</p> <p>You also tend to see people at their absolute best, or in their most vulnerable moments. For crime or court reporters, it tends to be more of the latter. I’ve sat across from a mother who’d lost her son only hours earlier, I’ve watched parents identify their deceased son after he was struck by a train, I’ve sat in funerals of murder victims, I’ve had people beg for help in finding lost relatives… These are things that I don’t take lightly, and they certainly stay with me as I develop my stories.</p> <p><strong>Which comes first, character or plot?</strong></p> <p>With <em>Sticks and Stones,</em> I had a very strong sense of the opening scene and the central crime that was going to be committed. From there I spent a huge amount of time developing my characters, writing their backstories, and just generally creating their lives in my head. I don’t like to start writing or even consider an overarching plot until I know who I have in the book. And I’m not a planner – once I have a general sense of what I want to happen I start writing and let the characters dictate how things play out.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>Being a reporter is not a 9-to-5 job, so I don’t have a set routine with my writing as far as hours or days are concerned. However, I’m definitely a morning person and I try to be up by 5am every day, so I can get an hour or two of writing in before my reporting shift begins. On days off I can get as much as six hours of solid writing done, but on most days, I tend to average two to three focused hours.</p> <p><strong>Based on your experience, what is the most common misconception readers get from crime novels?</strong></p> <p>There seems to be a misconception that writing crime is easy, because the language tends to be simpler than, say, historical fiction. While it’s true that no one reading my book is going to need to reach for a thesaurus, I’m not convinced it would have been any easier if I’d chosen to tackle any other genre. Every style has its challenges, and when you write crime you have to pay particular attention to pacing and timelines.</p> <p><strong>What trope in thriller grinds your gears?</strong></p> <p>I’m not too worried by tropes in thrillers, because I truly believe that any concept can be successful if it’s executed well. Having said that, I made a conscious decision not to have a journalist running around solving crimes – I’m yet to meet a reporter who has the time, desire, or skills to play detective on their days off! I also avoided giving my lead detective Emmett Corban a particular ‘past’ or ‘dark secret’ that he needs to overcome.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>I’m going to go old school here and choose two women who influenced my childhood enormously: Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton. </p>

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A beginner’s guide to reading and enjoying poetry

<p>One of the things you get asked most when people find out that you’re a poet is whether you can recommend something that could be read at an upcoming wedding, or if you know something that might be suitable for a funeral. For most people, these occasions – as well as their schooldays – are the only times they encounter poetry.</p> <p>That feeds into this sense that poetry is something formal, something which might stand to attention in the corner of the room, that it’s something to be studied or something to “solve” rather than something to be lounged with on the sofa. Of course, this needn’t be true.</p> <p>We’ve seen over the past couple of months how important poetry can be to people. It’s forming a response in advertisements and marketing campaigns, it’s becoming a regular part of the public’s honouring of frontline heroes and, for people who write poetry more often, it’s becoming a way to create a living historical document of these unprecedented times – this latter point was the aim of the new <a href="https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/write/">Write where we are Now project</a>, spearheaded by poet Carol Ann Duffy and Manchester Metropolitan University.</p> <p>In years to come, alongside medical records and political reporting, historians and classes of schoolchildren will look to art and poetry to find out what life was like on a day-to-day basis – what things seemed important, what things worried people, how the world looked and felt and was experienced. Write where we are Now will, hopefully, be one such resource, with poets from all over the world contributing new work directly about the Coronavirus pandemic or about the personal situations they find themselves in right now.</p> <p><iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/407507872" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>So the crisis has perhaps brought poetry – with its ability to make the abstract more concrete, its ability to distil and clarify, its ability to reflect the surreal and strange world we now find ourselves in – back to the fore.</p> <p>Many of you might be thinking now is the time to try and get to grips with poetry, maybe for the first time. A novel might feel too taxing, watching another film just involves staring at another screen for longer, but a poem can offer a brief window into a different world, or simply help to sustain you in this one.</p> <p><strong>How to enjoy poetry</strong></p> <p>If you’re nervous around poetry or are scared it might not be for you, I wanted to offer up some tips.</p> <p><strong>1. You don’t have to like it</strong></p> <p>Poetry is often taught in very strange ways: you’re given a poem and told that it’s good – and that if you don’t think it’s good then you haven’t understood it, and you should read it again until you have, and then you’ll like it. This is nonsense. There are poets and poems for every taste. If you don’t like something, fine. Move on. Find another poet. Anthologies are great for this, and a good place to start with your poetry journey.</p> <p><strong>2. Read it aloud</strong></p> <p>Poetry lives on the air and not on the page, read it aloud to yourself as you walk around the house, you’ll get a better understanding of it, you’ll feel the rhythms of the language move you in different ways – even if you’re not quite sure what’s going on.</p> <p><strong>3. Don’t try and solve it</strong></p> <p>This is something else that goes back to our educational encounters with poetry – poems are not riddles that need solving. Some poems will speak to you very plainly. Some poems will simply move you through their language. Some poems will baffle you but, like an intriguing stranger, you’ll want to step closer to them. Poems aren’t a problem to be wrestled with – mostly poems are showing you one small thing as a way of talking about something bigger. Poems aren’t a broken pane of glass that you need to painstakingly reassemble. They’re a window, asking you to look out, trying to show you something.</p> <p><strong>4. Write your own</strong></p> <p>The best way to understand poetry is to write your own. The way you speak, the street you live on, the life you’ve lived, is as worthy of poetry as anything else. Once you begin to explore your own writing, you’ll be able to read and understand other people’s poems much better.</p> <p>I would say this as a poet, but poetry is going to be even more central to how we rebuild after this current crisis. Poetry, especially the teaching of how we might write it, has this wonderful ability to create a new language, to imagine new ways of seeing things, to help people to articulate what it is that they’ve just been through. The way we move forward, as a community, as a society and, in fact, as a civilisation, is to push language to new frontiers, to use language to memorialise, reimagine and rebuild, but also to remember that poetry can be an escape, something to be enjoyed, something to cherish.</p> <p>With that in mind here is a poem I wrote for Write where we are Now.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/137321/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/331106/original/file-20200428-110779-1fegtkr.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=237&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption"></span></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-mcmillan-535042">Andrew McMillan</a>, Senior Lecturer, Department of English, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/manchester-metropolitan-university-860">Manchester Metropolitan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-beginners-guide-to-reading-and-enjoying-poetry-137321">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 novels with a real sense of place to explore from your living room

<p>Everybody knows the concept of “desert island books”, the novels you might pack if you were going to be marooned on a desert island. Thanks to the pandemic, many of us are indeed now marooned, except that instead of lazing on palm-fringed beaches, we’re in lockdown – in urban apartment blocks, suburban terraced houses or village homes.</p> <p>A good book can help us forget about the world around us and also substitute our longing for pastures greener. It can take us from our sofa to the beaches of Thailand (as in Alex Garland’s <em>The Beach</em>) or to the streets of New York (as in Paul Auster’s <em>City of Glass</em>).</p> <p>So, as someone who researches and teaches literature, I’ve chosen five novels that allow me to be elsewhere in my mind, whether that’s a glorious English countryside setting, the streets of a European metropolis, or the urban sprawl of an unnamed Indian city.</p> <p><strong>Kazuo Ishiguro: <em>The Remains of the Day</em></strong></p> <p><em>The Remains of the Day</em> tells the story of Stevens, the aged butler of Darlington Hall, and his ill-judged life choices that saw him being involved, albeit only on the fringes, with British fascism in the interwar years.</p> <p>This allusion to British fascism in particular is something that makes this novel stand out: it is a subject matter not often discussed or even taught.</p> <p>But at the moment, I can particularly take solace in Ishiguro’s beautiful descriptions of the countryside that Stevens – unused to the freedom of travel – encounters during his journey across south-west England:</p> <blockquote> <p>What I saw was principally field upon field rolling off into the far distance. The land rose and fell gently, and the fields were bordered by hedges and trees … It was a fine feeling indeed to be standing up there like that, with the sound of summer all around one and a light breeze on one’s face.</p> </blockquote> <p>As the lockdown drags on, this is a feeling I am longing for.</p> <p><strong>W.G. Sebald: <em>The Emigrants</em></strong></p> <p>This collection of four novellas is predominantly set in England and Germany but also offers glimpses of the US, Egypt, Belgium and Switzerland. Focusing on a different protagonist in each novella, Sebald portrays how the long shadows of the second world war have affected individuals – but also how Germany has engaged with its troubled past.</p> <p>His descriptions of the town of Kissingen’s illuminated spa gardens, with “Chinese lanterns strung across the avenues, shedding colourful magical light” and “the fountains in front of the Regent’s building” jetting “silver and gold alternately” conjure up images of times gone by and a town as yet untroubled by the scourge of antisemitism.</p> <p>Sebald’s narrative is a collage of fiction, biography, autobiography, travel writing and philosophy. His prose is so full of quiet beauty and eloquence that it always helps me forget my surroundings and enter a quiet and contemplative “Sebaldian” space.</p> <p><strong>Patrick Modiano: <em>The Search Warrant</em></strong></p> <p><em>The Search Warrant</em> pieces together the real-life story of Dora Bruder, a young Jewish girl who went missing in Paris in December 1941.</p> <p>Modiano attempts to retrace Dora’s movements across Paris and his book is full of evocative descriptions of quiet squares and bustling streets where she might have spent some time.</p> <blockquote> <p>In comparison with the Avenue de Saint-Mandé, the Avenue Picpus, on the right, is cold and desolate. Treeless, as I remember. Ah, the loneliness of returning on those Sunday evenings.</p> </blockquote> <p>From the first page it is clear that the city of Paris assumes the status of a character – and as readers we can follow the narrator’s (and Dora’s) movements on a map.</p> <p>If we are familiar with Paris, we can picture where they are. By tracing Dora’s possible steps, Modiano evocatively recreates the twilight atmosphere of Paris under occupation.</p> <p><strong>Rohinton Mistry: <em>A Fine Balance</em></strong></p> <p><em>A Fine Balance</em> is a sprawling narrative that takes the reader all the way to the Indian subcontinent.</p> <p>Set initially in 1975 during the emergency government period and then during the chaotic times of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Mistry’s novel focuses on the lives of four central characters whose lives are on a downward spiral, from poverty to outright destitution and, ultimately, death.</p> <p>Mistry does not whitewash the reality of urban poverty in India. His narrative does not hide away from disease or overcrowded slums with “rough shacks” standing “beyond the railroad fence, alongside a ditch running with raw sewage”. His are not places where we might want to be. But as readers, we become utterly engrossed in his characters’ lives – we hope with them, we fear for them and, at the end, we cry for them.</p> <p><strong>Elena Ferrante: <em>My Brilliant Friend</em></strong></p> <p>Elena Ferrante’s novels take me straight to my favourite city of Napoli. Starting with My Brilliant Friend, the four novels chart the intensive relationship between two girls, Elena “Lenù” Greco and Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo, who grow up in a poor neighbourhood in the 1950s.</p> <p>Reading Ferrante’s sprawling narrative conjures up images of Napoli and makes me feel like I am standing in the Piazza del Plebiscito or having an espresso in the historic Caffè Gambrinus. Together with Lenù, I can see Vesuvio across the Bay of Naples, the:</p> <blockquote> <p>delicate pastel-colored shape, at whose base the whitish stones of the city were piled up, with the earth-coloured slice of the Castel dell’Ovo, and the sea.</p> </blockquote> <p>I can feel, hear and smell Napoli around me. Reading about the city might not be as good as being there in person; but, at the moment, it is a close second.</p> <p>Of course, books can’t stop a global pandemic. But, for a short while, they can let us forget the world around us and, instead, transport us to different places, allowing us to at least travel in spirit.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/135367/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-berberich-319477">Christine Berberich</a>, Reader in Literature, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-portsmouth-1302">University of Portsmouth</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-novels-with-a-real-sense-of-place-to-explore-from-your-living-room-135367">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Duchess Camilla makes acting debut in charity project

<p>The Duchess of Cornwall has performed her first ever character role since joining the British Royal Family as she joined Oscar winners for a charity reading.</p> <p>Appearing alongside Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi and actors Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad, Duchess Camilla took part in the sixth episode of<span> </span>James and the Giant Peach, with Taika and Friends<span> </span>on YouTube.</p> <p>“I’m not much of an actor but I’ll do my best,” Camilla told Waititi, a New Zealand filmmaker, before she began reading the Roald Dahl classic from her Birkhall residence.</p> <p>The Duchess played the part of the Ship’s Captain in the story. One of her lines read: “Holy cats! Send a message to the Queen at once! The country must be warned!”</p> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4g1wRIMNV9M"></iframe></div> <p>The project is an initiative from the Roald Dahl Story Company to raise funds for Partners in Health, who are working on the front line amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>The Duchess, who is royal patron of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, said in a statement: “I hope this campaign will raise vital funds to support those most in need at this very challenging time – as well as helping families and children currently in lockdown to find a moment of comfort through the joy of reading.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">The Duchess of Cornwall has joined <a href="https://twitter.com/TaikaWaititi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TaikaWaititi</a> and The <a href="https://twitter.com/roald_dahl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@roald_dahl</a> Story Company for her first character reading in Episode 6 of James and The Giant Peach with <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TaikaAndFriends?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TaikaAndFriends</a>. 📖 <a href="https://t.co/lMcITcoDb7">https://t.co/lMcITcoDb7</a></p> — Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) <a href="https://twitter.com/ClarenceHouse/status/1265629629194416130?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 27, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>The readings have also been joined by a number of other celebrities, including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Chris Hemsworth.</p>

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JK Rowling unveils new book and will donate all royalties

<p>JK Rowling has unveiled a new children’s book, which she is releasing in chapters each weekday for children to enjoy during these “strange, unsettling times”.</p> <p>The author announced the news on Twitter, saying the upcoming book – titled <em>The Ickabog</em> – is not a spin-off of her best-selling <em>Harry Potter </em>series.</p> <p>Rowling said she wrote “most of the first draft” more than 10 years ago, while she was still writing the <em>Harry Potter </em>books.</p> <p>“A few weeks ago at dinner, I tentatively mooted the idea of getting <em>The Ickabog</em> down from the attic and publishing it for free, for children in lockdown,” Rowling said in a statement on Tuesday.</p> <p>“Over the last few weeks I’ve done a bit of rewriting and I’ve decided to publish <em>The Ickabog</em> for free online, so children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.”</p> <p>Chapters of <em>The Ickabog </em>are being published every weekday until July 10 on <em><a href="https://theickabog.com/">The Ickabog website</a></em>.</p> <p>Rowling also invited young readers to draw illustrations for the story in an official competition being run by Scholastic. Winners will see their artwork in the book, which will be published in print, eBook and audiobook in November.</p> <p>“Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things: we aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!” she said.</p> <p>Rowling is pledging all author royalties from the book to “projects and organisations helping the groups most impacted by COVID-19”, she wrote on Twitter.</p>

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Creating writing: 3 tips to start

<p>Always wanted to write, but had no clue where to begin? It can be daunting to get started and put the first sentence on that blank page. Author and creative writing lecturer Ronnie Scott shared some tips to help you get on track to writing your first novel.</p> <p><strong>Start where you are</strong></p> <p>Looking for inspiration? Take notes – the best ideas might just be waiting in plain sight.</p> <p>Scott advised aspiring writers to carry a notebook and get into the habit of writing down what they see in their surroundings. “It gets you into the habit of thinking, thinking visually, and then translating that into words,” he said.</p> <p>Apart from improving your writing skills, these notes can also help spark ideas and develop the seed for your future stories.</p> <p><strong>Allocate time for research</strong></p> <p>Research is important to provide your story with rich details and authenticity – but it can also distract you from writing the story itself. Scott recommended separating the research stage from the creative parts of the work.</p> <p>“Allocate yourself an hour of research, for example,” he said.</p> <p>“Then for the next days of your work, you are absolutely just going to play in the document … you’re going to write down anything that comes into your head.”</p> <p><strong>Challenge yourself</strong></p> <p>If you have a great story idea but don’t know how to put it into writing, take on small challenges. For example, you can try creating a 200-word version of the story or allocate an hour to get as many words as possible on the page.</p> <p>Even if the end result isn’t satisfactory, the exercise could yield new learnings. “You [might] have something bad on the page,” Scott said.</p> <p>“You can come back to it tomorrow. You can read it critically, you can think, ‘Okay, what was I trying to do here? Why didn’t it work out?’</p> <p>“You unfortunately have to probably go through a bit of creative discomfort to get yourself to finish something, but once you do that, there are really great things waiting on the other side.”</p>

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How the Queen came to hold 7 Guinness World Records

<p>It’s been 68 years since Queen Elizabeth II took over the British throne, and ever since, the 94-year-old monarch has made history many times over.</p> <p>Among her many accomplishments are Guinness World Record titles, which the Queen holds quite a few of.</p> <p>From longest-reigning queen to the wealthiest, here are some of the Queen’s Guinness World Records.</p> <p><strong>Oldest British Queen</strong></p> <p>On 21 December 2007, Queen Elizabeth II was given the title of oldest British queen at the age of 81 and 244 days old.</p> <p>The record was previously held by the monarch’s great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria.</p> <p>Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on 6 February 1952 following the death of her father King George VI.</p> <p>Her reign surpassed Queen Victoria’s on 9 September 2015, after ruling for over 63 years.</p> <p>As of the Queen’s 94th birthday on 21 April 2020, she has ruled uninterrupted for 68 years and 75 days.</p> <p><strong>Oldest current monarch</strong></p> <p>In 2015, Queen Elizabeth became the world’s oldest monarch when the former title holder, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, died at the age of 90.</p> <p><strong>Longest-reigning living monarch</strong></p> <p>While the Queen currently is the fourth-longest reigning monarch in the world, she does hold the title of the longest-reigning living monarch.</p> <p>The top three longest-reigning monarchs include King Louis XIV of France, who ruled for 72 years and 110 days, followed by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who ruled for 70 years and 126 days and King Johann II of Liechtenstein, who was ruler for 70 years and 91 days.</p> <p><strong>Most countries to be head of state simultaneously</strong></p> <p>The Guinness World Records revealed Queen Elizabeth holds the record “in terms of the number of independent nations for which the same person is lawfully Head of State at the same time” with 16.</p> <p>Acknowledging that this makes her “possibly the most powerful woman in the world,” the book of records states: “While the Queen's role is nominal and ceremonial (exercising no political powers), more than 139m people in 15 Commonwealth states (plus the UK) recognise her as their monarch.”</p> <p><strong>Most currencies featuring the same individual</strong></p> <p>Queen Elizabeth’s profile is featured on the coinage of at least 35 different countries, while Queen Victoria’s image appeared on currency from 21 countries and King George V appeared on 19.</p> <p><strong>Wealthiest Queen</strong></p> <p>In 2012,<span> </span><em>The Sunday Times</em><span> </span>estimated the Queen’s total wealth including fine art, jewellery and property, to be £310m (AUD 579m).</p>

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How to read Shakespeare for pleasure

<p>In recent years the orthodoxy that Shakespeare can only be truly appreciated on stage has <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11956151/Sir-Ian-McKellen-Dont-bother-reading-Shakespeare.html">become widespread</a>. But, as with many of our habits and assumptions, lockdown gives us a chance to think differently. Now could be the time to dust off the old collected works, and read some Shakespeare, just as people have been doing for more than 400 years.</p> <p>Many people have said they find reading Shakespeare a bit daunting, so here are five tips for how to make it simpler and more pleasurable.</p> <p><strong>1. Ignore the footnotes</strong></p> <p>If your edition has footnotes, pay no attention to them. They distract you from your reading and de-skill you, so that you begin to check everything even when you actually know what it means.</p> <p>It’s useful to remember that nobody ever understood all this stuff – have a look at Macbeth’s knotty “<a href="https://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/if-it-were-done-when-tis-done/">If it were done when ‘tis done</a>” speech in Act 1 Scene 7 for an example (and nobody ever spoke in these long, fancy speeches either – Macbeth’s speech is again a case in point). Footnotes are just the editor’s attempt to deny this.<span class="attribution"><a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/" class="license"></a></span></p> <p>Try to keep going and get the gist – and remember, when Shakespeare uses very long or esoteric words, or highly involved sentences, it’s often a deliberate sign that the character is trying to deceive himself or others (the psychotic jealousy of Leontes in <a href="https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-plays/winters-tale/">The Winter’s Tale</a>, for instance, expresses itself in unusual vocabulary and contorted syntax).</p> <p><strong>2. Pay attention to the shape of the lines</strong></p> <p>The layout of speeches on the page is like a kind of musical notation or choreography. Long speeches slow things down – and, if all the speeches end at the end of a complete line, that gives proceedings a stately, hierarchical feel – as if the characters are all giving speeches rather than interacting.</p> <p>Short speeches quicken the pace and enmesh characters in relationships, particularly when they start to share lines (you can see this when one line is indented so it completes the half line above), a sign of real intimacy in Shakespeare’s soundscape.</p> <p>Blank verse, the unrhymed ten-beat <a href="http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/sonnetstyle.html">iambic pentamenter structure</a> of the Shakespearean line, varies across his career. Early plays – the histories and comedies – tend to end each line with a piece of punctuation, so that the shape of the verse is audible. John of Gaunt’s famous speech from Richard II is a good example.</p> <blockquote> <p>This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,<br />This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars.</p> </blockquote> <p>Later plays – the tragedies and the romances – tend towards a more flexible form of blank verse, with the sense of the phrase often running over the line break. What tends to be significant is contrast, between and within the speech rhythms of scenes or characters (have a look at Henry IV Part 1 and you’ll see what I mean).</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6u009U1q69A?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p><strong>3. Read small sections</strong></p> <p>Shakespeare’s plays aren’t novels and – let’s face it – we’re not usually in much doubt about how things will work out. Reading for the plot, or reading from start to finish, isn’t necessarily the way to get the most out of the experience. Theatre performances are linear and in real time, but reading allows you the freedom to pace yourself, to flick back and forwards, to give some passages more attention and some less.</p> <p>Shakespeare’s first readers probably <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/apr/01/reading-shakespeare-book-plays-emma-smith">did exactly this</a>, zeroing in on the bits they liked best, or reading selectively for the passages that caught their eye or that they remembered from performance, and we should do the same. Look up <a href="https://shakespeare.folger.edu">where a famous quotation comes</a>: “All the world’s a stage”, “To be or not to be”, “I was adored once too” – and read either side of that. Read the ending, look at one long speech or at a piece of dialogue – cherry pick.</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/pjJEXkbeL-o?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p>One great liberation of reading Shakespeare for fun is just that: skip the bits that don’t work, or move on to another play. Nobody is going to set you an exam.</p> <p><strong>4. Think like a director</strong></p> <p>On the other hand, thinking about how these plays might work on stage can be engaging and creative for some readers. Shakespeare’s plays tended to have <a href="https://www.shakespeareswords.com/Public/LanguageCompanion/ThemesAndTopics.aspx?TopicId=37">minimal stage directions</a>, so most indications of action in modern editions of the plays have been added in by editors.</p> <p>Most directors begin work on the play by throwing all these instructions away and working them out afresh by asking questions about what’s happening and why. Stage directions – whether original or editorial – are rarely descriptive, so adding in your chosen adverbs or adjectives to flesh out what’s happening on your paper stage can help clarify your interpretations of character and action.</p> <p>One good tip is to try to remember characters who are not speaking. What’s happening on the faces of the other characters while Katherine delivers her long, controversial speech of apparent wifely subjugation at the end of The Taming of the Shrew?</p> <p><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ti1Oh9imI8I?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p><strong>5. Don’t worry</strong></p> <p>The biggest obstacle to enjoying Shakespeare is that niggling sense that understanding the works is a kind of literary IQ test. But understanding Shakespeare means accepting his open-endedness and ambiguity. It’s not that there’s a right meaning hidden away as a reward for intelligence or tenacity – these plays prompt questions rather than supplying answers.</p> <p>Would Macbeth have killed the king without the witches’ prophecy? Exactly – that’s the question the play wants us to debate, and it gives us evidence to argue on both sides. Was it right for the conspirators to assassinate Julius Caesar? Good question, the play says: I’ve been wondering that myself.</p> <p>Returning to Shakespeare outside the dutiful contexts of the classroom and the theatre can liberate something you might not immediately associate with his works: pleasure.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/136409/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-smith-221714">Emma Smith</a>, Professor of Shakespeare Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-oxford-1260">University of Oxford</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-read-shakespeare-for-pleasure-136409">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Rachael Johns

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Rachael Johns, a romance writer and English teacher based in Perth. Her novel <em>The Patterson Girls</em> was named the Favourite Australian Contemporary Romance in the 2015 Australian Romance Readers Awards and General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2016 Australian Book Industry Awards. Her latest book <em>Something to Talk About </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Johns about Marian Keyes, stay at home activities, and her favourite romance tropes.</p> <p><strong>Over60:</strong> <strong>What is your best writing tip?</strong></p> <p>Rachael Johns: To be a writer you must also be a reader and you must read LOTS, inside and outside your genre. Read for pleasure but also with a critical eye, trying to learn from your favourite authors and the bestsellers.</p> <p><strong>How have you been holding up living with coronavirus restrictions?</strong></p> <p>As an author, I’m quite used to living a quiet life at home, but having my family around all the time has made being creative a little bit harder. I’m using the downtime when I can’t focus as much on writing to read lots, catch up on TV and have finally taken up knitting – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.</p> <p> <strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p><em>The End of Cuthbert Close</em> by Cassie Hamer.</p> <p><strong>What do you think makes for great romance?</strong></p> <p>Chemistry, conflict and emotion. I love when there’s a lot of playful banter between the two main characters – when they’re clearly attracted to each other, but they can’t or don’t want to act on these feelings for some reason.</p> <p><strong>What does your writing routine look like?</strong></p> <p>I try to keep to school hours, Monday to Friday. First hour or so involves admin stuff – like emails, interviews, chatting with readers on Facebook/Instagram and then I get serious. I aim for about 2,000 words a day, and if I don’t make those words during the week, I try and make them up on the weekend.</p> <p><strong>Do you deal with writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?</strong></p> <p>Usually if I’m stuck mid-book it’s because I’m trying to make the characters do something that isn’t really true to their personality. Once I remember this, I go for a long walk or take a shower and try to brainstorm what else could happen instead that is within their character.</p> <p><strong>What trope grinds your gears? Alternatively, is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>I’m not a fan of the really alpha male hero, but aside from that, I’m open to most romantic tropes. My top favourites however are ex-lovers reunited, friends to lovers, and a good love triangle.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with? </strong></p> <p>Ooh, tough choice – can I really only pick one?! If so, I choose Marian Keyes – I’d love to pick her writing brain but also just hang out with her because she seems so warm and funny!</p>

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Why rereading Harry Potter might be the next best thing after your friendships

<p>Humans are innately social creatures. But as we stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19, video calls only go so far to satisfy our need for connection.</p> <p>The good news is the relationships we have with fictional characters from books, TV shows, movies, and video games – called parasocial relationships – serve many of the same functions as our friendships with real people, without the infection risks.</p> <p><strong>Time spent in fictional worlds</strong></p> <p>Some of us already spend vast swathes of time with our heads in fictional worlds.</p> <p>Psychologist and novelist <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22yoaiLYb7M&amp;t=122s">Jennifer Lynn Barnes</a> estimated that across the globe, people have collectively spent 235,000 years engaging with Harry Potter books and movies alone. And that was a conservative estimate, based on a reading speed of three hours per book and no rereading of books or rewatching of movies.</p> <p>This human predilection for becoming attached to fictional characters is lifelong, or at least from the time toddlers begin to engage in pretend play. About half of all children create an <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Imaginary-Companions-Children-Create-Them-ebook/dp/B000TTVQAU/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?dchild=1&amp;keywords=marjorie+taylor%27s+imaginary+friend&amp;qid=1586910704&amp;sr=8-1-fkmr0">imaginary friend</a> (think comic strip <a href="https://calvinandhobbes.fandom.com/wiki/Hobbes">Calvin’s tiger pal Hobbes</a>).</p> <p>Preschool children often form attachments to media characters and believe these <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-28765-005">parasocial friendships</a> are reciprocal — asserting that the character (even an animated one) can hear what they say and know what they feel.</p> <p>Older children and adults, of course, know that book and TV characters do not actually exist. But our knowledge of that reality doesn’t stop us from feeling these <a href="https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/soco.2008.26.2.156">relationships are real</a>, or that they <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333748971_Parasocial_Interactions_and_Relationships_with_Media_Characters_-_An_Inventory_of_60_Years_of_Research">could be reciprocal</a>.</p> <p>When we finish a beloved book or television series and continue to think about what the characters will do next, or what they could have done differently, we are having a parasocial interaction. Often, we entertain these thoughts and feelings to cope with the sadness — even grief — that we feel at the end of a book or series.</p> <p>The still lively <a href="https://twitter.com/reddit/status/1128051192288796672">Game of Thrones discussion threads</a> or social media reaction to the <a href="https://www.popsugar.com.au/celebrity/Offspring-Season-5-Preview-34780442">death of Patrick</a> on Offspring a few years back show many people experience this.</p> <p>Some people sustain these relationships by writing new adventures in the form of <a href="https://www.fanfiction.net/book/Harry-Potter/">fan fiction</a> for their favourite characters after a popular series has ended. Not surprisingly, Harry Potter is one of the most popular fanfic topics. And steamy blockbuster <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/hayleycuccinello/2017/02/10/fifty-shades-of-green-how-fanfiction-went-from-dirty-little-secret-to-money-machine/#58583ef3264c">Fifty Shades of Grey</a> began as fan fiction for the Twilight series.</p> <p><strong>As good as the real thing?</strong></p> <p>So, imaginary friendships are common even among adults. But are they good for us? Or are they a sign we’re losing our grip on reality?</p> <p>The evidence so far shows these imaginary friendships are a sign of well-being, not dysfunction, and that they can be good for us in many of the same ways that real friendships are good for us. Young children with imaginary friends show more <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19630910">creativity</a> in their storytelling, and higher levels of <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/1131670?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents">empathy</a> compared to children without imaginary friends. Older children who create whole imaginary worlds (called <a href="https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cdev.13162">paracosms</a>) are more creative in dealing with social situations, and may be better problem-solvers when faced with a stressful event.</p> <p>As adults, we can turn to parasocial relationships with fictional characters to feel less <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022103108002412">lonely</a> and boost our mood when we’re <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2008.00197.x">feeling low</a>.</p> <p>As a bonus, reading <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377">fiction</a>, watching high-quality <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-44293-001">television shows</a>, and playing pro-social <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21171755">video games</a> have all been shown to boost empathy and may decrease <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jasp.12279">prejudice</a>.</p> <p><strong>Get by with a little help</strong></p> <p>We need our fictional friends more than ever right now as we endure weeks in isolation. When we do venture outside for a walk or to go the supermarket and someone avoids us, it feels like <a href="https://www.newswise.com/coronavirus/why-social-distancing-is-so-difficult-how-research-explains-our-behavior/?article_id=728360">social rejection</a>, even though we know physical distancing is recommended. Engaging with familiar TV or book characters is one way to <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550612454889">rejuvenate</a> our sense of connection.</p> <p>Plus, parasocial relationships are enjoyable and, as American literature professor Patricia Meyer Spacks noted in <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/are-rereadings-better-readings">On Rereading</a>, revisiting fictional friends might tell us more about ourselves than the book.</p> <p>So cuddle up on the couch in your comfiest clothes and devote some time to your fictional friendships. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/apr/08/rereading-favourite-books-pleasure">Reread an old favourite</a> – even one from your childhood. Revisiting a familiar fictional world creates a sense of <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08824096.2017.1383236">nostalgia</a>, which is another way to feel less <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-20034-013">lonely</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23163710">bored</a>.</p> <p>Take turns reading the Harry Potter series aloud with your family or housemates, or watch a TV series together and bond over which characters you love the most. (I recommend <a href="https://ir.ua.edu/handle/123456789/3189">Gilmore Girls</a> for all mothers marooned with teenage daughters.)</p> <p>Fostering fictional friendships together can strengthen <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.160288">real-life</a> relationships. So as we stay home and save lives, we can be cementing the familial and parasocial relationships that will shape us – and our children – for life.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/136236/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/elaine-reese-1027041">Elaine Reese</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-otago-1304">University of Otago</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/missing-your-friends-rereading-harry-potter-might-be-the-next-best-thing-136236">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Tony Abbott hits back at Malcolm Turnbull’s Peta Credlin claims

<p>Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hit back at Malcolm Turnbull over claims of a “bizarre relationship” with a senior staffer. Turnbull spoke about Abbott and his former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, to ABC’s 7:30 which is mentioned in his new memoir <em>A Bigger Picture</em>.</p> <p>“He worshipped and feared her and she, on the other hand, treated him with disdain,” Turnbull told the ABC’s 7.30.</p> <p>“It was as though she felt, ‘I’ve created you, you’re my creation’, and she felt she owned him.</p> <p>“It was a bizarre – a truly bizarre – relationship.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">Coming up tonight, <a href="https://twitter.com/leighsales?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@leighsales</a> interviews former prime minister <a href="https://twitter.com/TurnbullMalcolm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TurnbullMalcolm</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abc730?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abc730</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/auspol?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#auspol</a> <a href="https://t.co/VkHJjbFtNX">pic.twitter.com/VkHJjbFtNX</a></p> — abc730 (@abc730) <a href="https://twitter.com/abc730/status/1252129925500264448?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 20, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>On Tuesday morning, Abbott was quick to respond.</p> <p>“I am aware of some pretty odious comments that one of my successors made last night,” he told Seven’s Sunrise.</p> <p>“Anyone who’s watched Peta Credlin on TV would know what an extraordinarily capable person she is.</p> <p>“She was an important part of the Abbott Government, she was a fine thinker, a greater organiser and a trusted colleague.”</p> <p>In a chapter titled ‘Tony and Peta’, Turnbull’s memoir revisits the relationship between Abbott and the woman who briefly served as deputy chief of staff in his own office while the Liberal Party was in opposition.</p> <p>When Abbott overthrew Turnbull as leader in 2009, Turnbull switched camps.</p> <p>Turnbull said that despite Abbott’s “carefully cultivated image as the hairy-chested, bike-riding, firefighting alpha male, complete with a swagger that would put a sailor to shame”, he was a pussycat when it came to his chief of staff.</p> <p>“You were really dealing with Peta and Peta was running the country and that was obvious, and dominating Abbott,” he told 7.30.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">On the dynamic between <a href="https://twitter.com/HonTonyAbbott?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HonTonyAbbott</a> and Peta Credlin. “You were really dealing with Peta. I mean Peta was running the country, and that was obvious, and dominating Abbott.” - <a href="https://twitter.com/TurnbullMalcolm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TurnbullMalcolm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abc730?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abc730</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/auspol?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#auspol</a></p> — abc730 (@abc730) <a href="https://twitter.com/abc730/status/1252178719763918848?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 20, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Turnbull’s ‘no holds barred’ memoir is a scathing analysis of his three-year tenure as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia and hypocrisy within the Liberal Party is a theme he returns to often. If Turnbull isn’t slamming his successor, Scott Morrison, for his “cringe-worthy ‘daggy dad’ persona”, he’s calling Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton a “narcissist who was self-delusional” for thinking he could ever be prime minister.</p> <p>The personal lives of Nationals MPs Barnaby Joyce and George Christensen are also discussed in this book, including Turnbull himself being “sickened by the hypocrisy” of Christensen, who is a devout Christian but regularly visited “seedy” nightclubs in Manila.</p> <p>Christensen has since defended the trips, saying he was visiting his Filipina fiancée.</p>

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5 minutes with author Nicole Alexander

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Nicole Alexander, a novelist and fourth-generation grazier based in Moree, New South Wales. Her debut novel <em>The Bark Cutters </em>was shortlisted for an Australian Book Industry Award in 2011. Her latest book, <em>The Cedar Tree </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Alexander about Ernest Hemingway and how being a grazier has influenced her writing.</p> <p><strong>Over60:</strong> <strong>What is your best writing tip?</strong></p> <p>Nicole Alexander: Writing is about redrafting and refining, making that manuscript shine like a pearl.</p> <p><strong>How has your agricultural background influenced your writing?</strong></p> <p>As a grazier I’m very aware of my surroundings. Our landscape is a living breathing entity and because of that I treat the land as a character in all of my novels. The setting is the background to the narrative, but it is also the tapestry that the story unfolds upon and getting the detail right ensures that the work has a strong sense of place. It’s a sense of place that defines us and moulds us as individuals and having that reflected in a work of fiction can only make the story stronger and more authentic.</p> <p><strong>What book are you reading right now?</strong></p> <p>I’ve just finished Elliot Perlman’s <em>Maybe the Horse Will Talk</em>, a political satire set in Melbourne’s corporate world. Perlman’s take on the #metoo movement is emphasised by the use of overblown characters and a distinct lack of subtlety. Playful and witty.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you laugh?</strong></p> <p><em>Olive, Again</em> by Elizabeth Strout. The sequel to Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book <em>Olive Kitteridge</em> takes up from where we left the retired schoolteacher. I love feisty Olive as she struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Olive’s community is not so joyful and she herself is in her twilight years, so the narrative is not always uplifting but Olive’s life is a microcosm of our society – murder, inheritance, mayhem, retirement homes and children who should know better. Through it all Olive remains, obstinately, Olive.</p> <p><strong>Is there any books by other authors you wish you had written?</strong></p> <p>I think that there are particular works that only certain writers can craft and each of us have our own gifts. One book that stands out for me is <em>Cold Mountain</em> by Charles Frazier. It tells the story of W. P. Inman, a wounded soldier from the Confederate army who walks for months to find the love of his life Ada Monroe. It reminds me of Homer’s <em>Odyssey</em>. I don’t think anyone else could have written it.</p> <p><strong>When it comes to writing, do you plan ahead or go with the flow?</strong></p> <p>I tend to plot part of the story and then see where the narrative takes me as the characters development. Flexibility is important to the story arc – otherwise as an author you risk limiting narrative possibilities.</p> <p><strong>Which author, deceased or living, would you most like to have dinner with?</strong></p> <p>I’ve always been drawn to Ernest Hemingway for his wonderful stories and the sparseness of his prose. His experiences as an ambulance driver during the Spanish Civil War and his larger than life persona would I imagine ensure an intriguing dinner companion.</p> <p><strong>Is there a cliché that you can’t help but love?</strong></p> <p>‘The oxen is slow, but the earth is patient.’ Some say the quote is attributed to Buddha but there is no firm reference. Either way it’s a marvellous saying!</p>

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5 books to keep young people happy during lockdown

<p>Stories can be mirrors that help young people express feelings about a given situation. They give children a vocabulary for what is happening. But, because of how <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html">fiction works in the brain</a>, stories can also be windows. When we read fiction, we inhabit other bodies and feel the concerns of other people. This helps young people to develop empathy – but has another profound effect. Reading stories makes us feel experienced and increases resilience.</p> <p>I’ve chosen some wonderful books that all function both as mirrors and windows for children as the world faces the effects of Coronavirus. They are beautifully written and/or illustrated and should fire young imaginations, while comforting the whole family.</p> <p><em><strong>The Red Tree</strong></em></p> <p>This is a beautiful picture book – sparse of text – with lush landscapes in <a href="https://www.famousauthors.org/shaun-tan">Sean Tan’s</a> magical style. The reader loses themselves in pages that are achingly evocative of yearning, loss and wonder in a kind of heady cocktail of intense emotion, boredom and stoicism.</p> <p>Dark leaves fall in our character’s bedroom, but by the end, they have coalesced into a beautiful red tree.</p> <p>There is space here for even a very young reader to express what they think is happening page by page. The art could stimulate imitation. I can also imagine making a little red tree trunk and branches and adding a leaf to it, day by day.</p> <p>There is very little reading to be done, so a slightly older child could also “read” it to a younger one.</p> <p><em><strong>The Mousehole Cat</strong></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/antonia-barber/">Antonia Barber</a> sets her classic story on the Cornish coast. The narrative is about a cat who saves the day when her community is threatened. It is wordier than many picture books, but narrated by the cat in clear, beautifully written prose – it’s a pleasure to read aloud.</p> <p><a href="https://www.booksillustrated.com/artist.php?id=5">Nicola Bayley</a>’s illustrations are engaging and immersive – who wouldn’t like to go to the seaside right now? – and the characters easily inspire affection.</p> <p>Touching on concepts of scarcity and sacrifice, this is a very empowering story for a young listener or reader. The smallest character in the story is the hero who saves everyone – by singing. It would be easy to live in this story for a while, going fishing from the laundry basket, practising storm singing, repeating some of the turns of phrase.</p> <p>The illustrations are inspiring for young artists and could also be the basis of remembering visits to the seaside, pretend beach picnics or natural history lessons.</p> <p><em><strong>Comet in Moominland</strong></em></p> <p>A trip to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/tove-jansson">Tove Jansson’s</a> Moominland always makes everything better. Here, the family flee from an approaching comet, meeting many favourite characters on the way.</p> <p>The much-beloved Moomins are eccentric hippo-like people, very accommodating of difference and otherness. That said, many of the characters have their little ways, and being accommodating isn’t always comfortable. The realism of the relationships gives even the silliest of Jansson’s stories the texture of real life.</p> <p>Quirky line drawings are immensely endearing and the story, while exciting with elements of real fear, never feels as if it will end badly. The language is fun, with word play and characters’ attitudes and, again, the child is the hero. It’s not hard to draw a Moomin, and there are endless opportunities for drama. Year twos or threes can probably read it to themselves, with someone on hand for the tricky bits, but it’s fun enough to engage older children, and silly enough for littlies.</p> <p><em><strong>The Wee Free Men</strong></em></p> <p>Tiffany Aching comes from chalkland, where nobody has it easy, and everyone works hard. When a rift opens on her doorstep and her despised little brother is taken, she discovers she’s not ordinary, after all. Armed with a cast-iron frying pan, she takes on the full force of Fairyland.</p> <p>This is a riotous out-loud read from the late <a href="https://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/about-sir-terry/">Terry Pratchett</a>, featuring a tribe of “pictsies” who speak in a Scottish accent that sounds a lot like the stand-up comic Billy Connolly. Tiffany’s gran has recently passed away – and the danger feels quite real – but we know that Tiff will get us through. She certainly does, battling forces of depression and self-doubt to do so – another young leader in a time of community danger. Even hardened teenagers might smile at the best bits and tweens will devour it whole. Children as young as six or seven can follow along.</p> <p>The narrative is a role-play bonanza and there are opportunities to investigate British folklore, identities in the United Kingdom and gender roles. Illustrations in the text might inspire art and mapping the settings would be an interesting exercise. Further adventures of some of the characters could be written, and geography lessons about chalk grassland would be easy to work in.</p> <p><em><strong>The Book Thief</strong></em></p> <p>For resilient older children and teens, <a href="https://www.chipublib.org/markus-zusak-biography/">Markus Zusac’s</a> story is set in a time of many lives lost – Germany during the second world war – and narrated by Death. It is gorgeously written (an international bestseller, adapted for film) and, while the subject matter is difficult, the narrative pulses with life and hope.</p> <p>For a young person engaged with current events, questioning authority and impatient of parental efforts to shield them from the grimmer elements of our current reality, this book could be a lifeline.</p> <p>Liesel Meminger is illiterate when the story begins, but takes a book that has been dropped at her brother’s graveside. As she begins to read and to leave childhood behind, she steals many more books. Love, death and the importance of even futile actions inform the story of Liesel’s coming of age and provide ways of thinking about what it means to be human.</p> <p>This could be read together silently, perhaps taking chapters in turn, rationed out as a treat for discussion or not. It’s a natural accompaniment to history lessons, geography, or some <a href="https://www.duolingo.com/">online German instruction</a> and watching the film could lead to a discussion of adaptation. But perhaps you could just leave a copy of it out for anyone who needs it to find and make their own.</p> <p>Many of these titles are available electronically, but local bookshops are delivering and posting orders. After all, there’s nothing more comforting than snuggling behind the protective embrace of an open book.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/134260/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mimi-thebo-1002534"><em>Mimi Thebo</em></a><em>, Reader in Creative Writing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-bristol-1211">University of Bristol</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-five-books-to-keep-young-people-happy-during-lockdown-childrens-author-134260">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 minutes with author Katherine Scholes

<p>In <em>5 minutes with author</em>, <em>Over60</em> asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Katherine Scholes, a Tanzanian-born novelist based in Tasmania. She has sold more than two million books in Europe, with translated editions in Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Portuguese among others. Her novel <em>The Blue Chameleon</em> won a New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and <em>The Stone Angel</em> was longlisted in the International Dublin Literary Awards. Her latest book <em>The Beautiful Mother </em>is out now.</p> <p><em>Over60</em> talked with Scholes about <span>Dostoyevsky, memoirs, and reading in bed.</span></p> <p><strong>Over60:</strong> <strong>What is your best writing tip?</strong></p> <p>Katherine Scholes: Write the story that only you can tell. Begin by looking at the palette of your life – family history, personal experiences and interests, the people and places you know. If I find something in my story research that connects with my own story, however slightly, I always take note of it.</p> <p>My biggest rule is that all the main characters must change as a result of the things that will happen to them in the drama. I plan some of the changes in advance and others take me by surprise. I carefully keep track of them all as I work.</p> <p><strong>What book(s) are you reading right now?</strong></p> <p>I’m reading the new Marian Keyes novel <em>Grown Ups</em>. As always, she delivers humorously insightful pictures of family life, and tells a great story. Excellent escapism! Next, I’m going to revisit <em>The Hospital by the River</em> – the autobiography of one of my heroes, Dr Catherine Hamlin. She died recently at the age of 96, while still involved in running the fistula hospital she and her husband Reg established in Addis Ababa over sixty years ago. In the difficult times we are in, I want to read about people who are brave and compassionate.</p> <p><strong>What was the last book that made you cry?</strong></p> <p>To be honest, it was my own novel <em>The Beautiful Mother</em>. While it’s not ultimately a heart-breaking story – more one of wonder and hope – there is a section that made me cry not just when I first wrote it (that’s normal) but every single time I re-read it, right up to the proof-checking stage. My editors said they had the same experience. Intense emotional engagement is what I most want from a book, so the tears are good ones.</p> <p><strong>What book do you think more people should read?</strong></p> <p>Self-published memoirs. I find a wealth of amazing stories, characters and settings in these books and often use them in research. I’m well aware that the content would have been lost to the world if someone hadn’t gone to the effort and expense of publication. The books are easy to discover online or through libraries, but they often struggle to find the readership they deserve.</p> <p><strong>Paperback, e-book or audiobook?</strong></p> <p>Lots of people just love a good old-fashioned book, and I’m one of them. But every format has its advantages. Audiobooks are great for listening to while travelling and walking (even falling asleep). E-books offer easy, instant access – especially ideal in today’s strange world. They can also be a good way of reading long novels in bed. Some readers commented on the size and weight of my last novel <em>Congo Dawn</em>. They didn’t want the story to end, but they were getting sore wrists!</p> <p><strong>What do you think is the most challenging work you’ve ever read?</strong></p> <p><em>Wolf Hall</em> stretched the boundaries of my background in English history. I still loved the book, but I knew I wasn’t grasping the full story. Before that, it was <em>Crime and Punishment</em> by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which I studied at school. I never thought I’d get through it, but the main character has lingered with me now for many decades.</p> <p><strong>What do you do when you’re not writing?</strong></p> <p>I try to move around, as I always spend far too long sitting at my desk. Every day I walk along the beach outside my house, with my dog Darcy (She’s a staffy-whippet cross, if you can picture that!). Usually my parents come along as well. They often share anecdotes from their lives spent in England, Wales, Cornwall, Tanzania and Tasmania – which makes the times extra precious.</p> <p><strong>Which author, dead or alive, would you most like to have dinner with? </strong></p> <p>Graham Greene. I’m inspired by his novels, especially the ones set in Africa like <em>A Burnt-Out Case</em>. I’ve got a treasured copy of <em>In Search of a Character: Two African Journals</em>, which is a publication of his research notebooks. I wish I could be as disciplined as he was. He wrote to a very strict daily schedule – however, at least it also involved a glass of wine, a nap and a good dinner.</p>

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