Book Review: The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn

 

The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2017. A tantalising story about the last day in the life of the eccentric and elderly writer, Ava Langdon. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Blue Mountains, the author has very skilfully drawn an exquisite character, inspired loosely on the real life writer, Eve Langley. She dresses in men’s clothing, drinks from a sherry bottle in the park and apart from her machete which she carries with her, obsesses over her writing.

There is hardly a plot, as the author, almost poetically takes us through a day with Ava meandering around the township of Katoomba. We are inside her head as she imagines the stories of the locals who are wary and barely tolerant of a person they little understand. A recluse, we are given a tour of her derelict hut yet happy in her surroundings, she asks for no pity. There are hints of how she has arrived at such a place, alone and destitute. Our idea of how an elderly woman should behave is challenged as we’re taken with her to the café, the library, soup kitchen, the Post Office, the pub, and hospital.

A surprise visitor brings us a glimpse of her past and as the book ended, I was left wanting more of her sad back story. Not a long book,  I enjoyed reading it, and the language was evocative and superbly crafted, but it might not be to everyone’s taste.

Advertisements

Book Review: The North Water by Ian McGuire

North Water is another book shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2016. Set in 1857, the story is about a whaling expedition which goes horribly wrong. There is conflict between two main characters, Drax, a disgusting and violent man and Sumner, a doctor.

The opening line “Behold the man” sparked my interest. The next paragraph led me down a path of the grotesque. The ensuing pages unfolded such violence, savagery and cruelty that I was tempted not to read on.

Drax and Sumner have dubious and contrasted pasts but we only learn about Sumner. I wondered what must have happened, for a man to become like Drax, who in the end, like the rest of the characters, I cared nothing for.

This book without formal warning is not for the faint hearted. I wondered if it was necessary to describe the killing of baby seals in such horrific detail. For me, this sort of violence was unnecessarily graphic and added little to the plot. Toning down the violence would have enhanced the book. The reader gets that it’s a tough life and harsh conditions without it being rammed constantly down our throats. The only thing that compelled me forward was the fact that there was another purpose for the expedition which becomes clear half-way through. Getting past this point, the story becomes one of survival which gripped me until the end. I wanted good to overcome evil and was rewarded for my patience, but what a journey I had to take to get there. Well written with evocative language, the fact that I shivered with the men in the freezing conditions, is a testament to where the author wanted me to be.

Read it if you dare.

Book Review: Everything to Live For by Turia Pitt

 

Turia Pitt at 23, with a loving partner, great job and everything to look forward to, entered an ultramarathon in 2011 and was caught in a bushfire which changed her life forever. With burns to 65% of her body, her survival was miraculous as was her battle to adapt and fight.

I’d read a bit about Turia over the years from the media. What happened to her and other competitors was tragically avoidable. Her gut wrenching story unfolds bit by bit with the help of writer, Libby Harkness. The details of what happened and why, are clearly explained. I found myself caught up in the emotion, particularly when I read about her bravery and the steadfast courage and love from her partner, family and friends.

No parent wants what happened to Turia for their child and her mother’s dedication and belief in her daughter is incredibly moving. I challenge you to read it and not be affected. It truly is a story of inspiration not just of Turia but everyone around her who never gave up.

For anyone who is going through a hard time and thinks they can’t do something,  read this book and I hope you’ll soon see that with the right mindset, you probably can.

Are you remembering where you were when Princess Diana died?

I thought I’d share a story below that I wrote for inclusion into my collection of short stories released earlier this year. I hope you enjoy it.

The Robbery

It’s funny how we remember where we were and what we were doing during the big moments in our lives. The ones that are forever etched in our minds and dragged out at unexpected times.

Like when Diana died in 1997. The morning after a wonderful overnight stay in the city, I arrived home to relieve my mother-in-law, Grace, of babysitting duties. The day was overcast and cool, not unusual for August in Melbourne. Twenty minutes later, Grace rang to say someone had broken into her home while she’d been staying at mine. With two kids in the car, I was on the freeway on my way to Grace’s house, when I heard the news for the first time on the radio. There’d been an accident and Diana was injured. The headline held me. I remember thinking, from the words the announcer used, that it wasn’t that bad.

Arriving at Grace’s, my focus shifted to her. The house ransacked, a window broken and stuff strewn everywhere. Questioned by the kids, I grappled to explain to them what a burglary meant. Could it happen to us they asked? The rise and fall of their anxiety required all my energy to calm them, and my mother-in-law. Dealing with the police who were in autopilot – questions, writing, bland expressions reflecting a run of the mill problem – somehow steadied me. It wasn’t a big deal. I wanted to take Grace’s mind off the fact that someone had rifled through her draws, invaded her sanctity and peace of mind. But it unnerved us all. What if Grace had been home alone? With my own husband, Michael, away, what if this happened to me? My euphoria of partying from the night before completely disappeared.

Then I remembered Diana. But Grace’s television had been stolen and I didn’t own a mobile phone. I wanted an update. News about her was better than what I had in front of me.
“Make a list of everything that was stolen for the insurance company,” the well-built twenty-something policeman said.
“Will the robber come back?” My nine-year-old daughter Sarah frowned with concern when she asked him.
“Probably not,” he said kindly. Then to my mother-in-law, “They might revisit once you’ve replaced everything. They know what you have now.” Writing something on his clipboard, he missed the look of horror and fear across the faces of my mother-in-law and the kids.
“Mummy, will the robber come to our house too?” my six-year-old daughter Lily whimpered. I scowled at the policeman imploring him not to educate us with statistics. But he was already on the move to examine the broken window.
“No, darling. Not at all. He doesn’t know where we live.” I don’t know why it came out. It was stupid. Home burglary was usually random. I knew that. But it satisfied her. “Why don’t you both go out and see if you can pick some flowers for grandma’s table?”

The other policeman who looked to be in his thirties smiled at me. Did he understand my stupid response? Did he have kids too? I glanced at the gleaming wedding ring on his finger – mine looked dull in comparison.
“We notice that the garage window is also broken. Have you checked the garage?”
“Oh, that window was already broken. A branch fell on it a few years ago and my husband was going to fix it but …” Grace choked on the words.
I rushed to her side, put my arm around her and pulled her close. The tissues I’d stuffed in my pocket for my hay fever came in handy for both of us.
“He passed away not long after the window broke,” I explained.
“Sit down, Grace,” I said. “I’ll make a cup of tea. Officers, would either of you like a cup of tea or coffee?”
“No thanks.”
I left Grace slumped on the couch dabbing her eyes with the twenty-something policeman sitting next to her.
“Are you OK to give me some details?” I heard him ask. “A bloke is coming to dust the window for fingerprints. Then you can arrange for it to be fixed. It shouldn’t be too much longer.”
“Yes, thank you,” she sniffed.

Filling the kettle, I watched the kids through the kitchen window. They were chasing a butterfly around the backyard. Their worry had been fleeting, while mine was still anchored. How will Grace feel about sleeping here tonight, all alone? Should I offer to stay until Michael gets back from his business trip? I’d dropped him at the airport this morning, before picking up the kids. I looked at my watch. He’d still be in the air. I’d have to wait at least until this evening before getting him at his hotel. I wondered if he’d heard about Diana before he boarded.

I rummaged in the cupboards for the tin of biscuits. Lifting the lid, I released the aroma of dark chocolate and peppermint. Picking two, I took them outside.
“Girls, come and get a biscuit!”
They ran to me, their arms outstretched, pretending to be airplanes. They swooped past, plucking the biscuit from my hand then ran to the back of the garden.
“Where are the flowers?” I called out.
“They’re coming, Mum,” Sarah replied.
“We’re planes flying high in the sky to see where the best flowers are for Grandma’s table,” Lily explained, swooping by me again, bits of biscuit spilling from her full mouth.

I tried the door to the garage and stepped inside. It was as it had been. The old curtain flapped from the chilled air squeezing through the splintered cracks of the grimy glass. Dust had settled thickly on the workbench and the scattered tools. A creeper had wound its way through a concrete roof tile and around a dark wooden beam. Cold seeped from the cracked concrete floor through to my thin shoes and into my feet. Dry, rust-brown splatters were still smeared on the sides of the bench, but the rest had been washed away from the floor. I sneezed twice to expel mildew. Nothing had been touched since my father-in-law had fallen here, the electric saw still going in his hand. I wondered if Grace had ever stepped foot in here since that day. Whether she had made peace with herself for having been only metres away in the house, while he lay here for hours. Dying.

“Mum! Mum. Where are you?” Sarah voice pierced my ears. Shivering, I glanced around for one last time and spied the radio. Should I get a news update on Diana? But Sarah’s nagging call pulled me out and I closed the door behind me.
“Yes, what is it?” The words came out sharper than I intended.
“Can we have another biscuit? Please?” she pleaded.
“Please? Mamma, please.” Lily’s occasional lisp hung in the air.
“Only one more,” I said, pulling my cardigan around me. “Stay here.”

Setting a plate with several biscuits I took two more outside before taking the tea into the lounge room.
Grace looked lost in the big armchair. It was as if I was seeing her for the first time: her tired eyes peering through their dark circles as she took the steaming cup with shaking hands. I offered her and the policemen a biscuit, but I was the only taker.
“It’s cold in here. Do you mind if I put the heater on?” I asked.
Grace nodded but her attention was on the older policeman.
“I’m worried that he might come back,” she said. “Could he return?”
“Highly unlikely,” he said. “Perhaps you could have someone stay with you tonight?”
He glanced at me.
“Of course. I’m happy to stay with the girls or you could come back to my place?”
She looked doubtful.
“It’s better to help her settle if she does stays here tonight … ideally with someone here,” he explained to me. “Then you might like to get deadlocks on the doors and windows. It’s always good to make it as hard as possible for the perpetrator.”

This is not like falling off a bike where you have to get back on immediately, I thought. Was he a psychologist now? I was irritable. The plans for today had already been dashed, not that I could remember what else I was going to do, apart from clean the house. Still, what right did he have to give advice? And why was I angry at him instead of the burglar? Or Michael. He should be here dealing with this, not me.
But all I did was nod agreeably and answer the door when the bell sounded.

A man in blue overalls stood there holding a bag. “Ah, err, hello. I’m here to do the fingerprinting.”
I stepped back onto the shoe of the older policeman who had crept up behind me.
“G’day Steve. This way, mate.”
He showed Steve to the broken window while I joined Grace in the lounge.
“Just the fingerprint guy.”
She nodded. We could hear the murmured voices of the three policemen. The room was growing warm from the wall heater’s blast. Grace’s face was flushed.
“Why did this happen to me?” she whispered.
“It’s not you. It was just an opportunity. That’s all.” What did I know? I had never been robbed. “It’s probably some young kid on drugs looking to get his hands on anything he can sell quickly. Chances are he won’t even remember where he’s been.”
There was hope in her sad eyes. “Do you really think so?”
“Yes, I do.” I thumped my empty cup onto the coffee table. “This is your home and you deserve to feel safe. Now, I’m going to call a glazier to come and fix the window and the locksmith to change the locks. Then I’ll duck home for some clothes and we’ll stay for a couple of days with you.”
“Thanks, love. I don’t know what I’d do without you. But I feel a bit guilty about pulling the girls from their beds and their routine.”
“They’ll think it’s fun. And anyway, Michael won’t be back for a few days. It’ll be company for me too.”
Her grateful smile made me forget my own selfishness.

The police eventually left and the clean-up started as, outside, the heavy clouds burst. The girls arranged the flowers on the table then sat down to draw a picture each to pin to the fridge.
Sweeping the glass and the invasion away as best we could, I told Grace about Diana. She clasped a withered hand to her mouth. Tears sprouted and the emotion of the day spilled out.
“That poor woman,” she said. “Hasn’t she had enough? I pray she’s alright.” Of course we both knew of Diana’s problems: her husband’s infidelity, her growing boys, the divorce, her work with children, the gossiped affairs. It was the soap opera of the nineties hitting the front pages of our papers, dominating the news and our lives, as if Diana were a part of it.

Then Grace gasped from her bedroom – her grandmothers priceless diamond ring was gone. It had been earmarked for Sarah. An emerald and ruby engagement ring for Lily was also missing.

I left the girls and went home. Flipping between radio stations to get news, all I got was inane music for the ten minutes it took to get home. Grabbing clothes for us all and a portable television, I jumped in the car. While I stopped to give way on the freeway on-ramp, a song by the Spice Girls was cut off with the announcement that Diana was dead. It was only the beep of a car horn behind me that made me move. I don’t remember the rest of the drive. I wiped the tears away as I walked through the front door and told Grace.
The glazier arrived soon after. “Have you heard the news?” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “It’s just too awful.”

Now, here I am, ten years later, with Grace in a home, Michael living with another woman and both daughters overseas. And all I can think of, as I see my own shattered kitchen window, is where I was the day Diana died.

(Extract from Out of Nowhere: A collection of short stories by S.C Karakaltsas which is now available in paperback or eBook – https://sckarakaltsas.wordpress.com/my-books/stockists/)

An afternoon of historical fiction.

L-R Chris Foley, Alison Stuart, Elise McCune, me, Gabrielle Gardner

 

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being on a panel of authors to talk about war and romance historical fiction. The afternoon, hosted by the Historical Novel Society of Australasia was attended by more than twenty people eager to talk and hear about this genre.

Joining me were some illustrious names; Alison Stuart, Elise McCune, and Gabrielle Gardner, all fabulously talented writers. The panel was superbly chaired by Gabrielle Ryan, who herself is an accomplished writer. We discussed our books, our thoughts on genre, how and where romance fits in during wartime; and numerous other topics on and off the panel afterwards, over a cup of tea and a delectable array of sweet delicacies. I chatted about my forthcoming book, A Perfect Stone, set in the backdrop of the Greek Civil War when 38000 children were evacuated on foot over the mountains of Northern Greece.

The whole event was skilfully pulled together by Chris Foley and Alison. It was a wonderful afternoon and for me a terrific experience to talk about my work, thanks to the Historical Novel Society of Australasia.

Looking forward now to being a participant at the Conference in a couple of weeks.

Book Review: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

I finished Eileen a little while ago and mulled over what to say. Short listed for the Man Booker Prize 2016, it’s a story about a girl trapped in a dreary life, caring for her alcoholic father at night and  working as a secretary in a dead end job in a boys’ prison during the day. She dreams of breaking free and after meeting the beautiful and smart, Rebecca,  is pulled unwittingly into a crime with unexpected consequences.

Eileen is not a girl you can like nor is she a girl with too many redeeming qualities. But she is a girl, who at certain times in our own lives, reflects a tiny, teeny bit of ourselves. She has the maturity of a child in the body of a woman, full of uncertainty, yet so seemingly self-aware of every one of her flaws, and there are many. The story drags at times and much of her thoughts and inadequacies become repetitive, so much so, that even if I wanted to like her, her character allows no-one to feel pity.

I admire the author’s ability to get deep inside the head of this character. Except for the contrasting Rebecca,  grotesque glimpses of other characters are a mere sideshow to Eileen and her obsession with self. We’re left wondering about Rebecca and whether Eileen in her final act was ever truly empathetic for anyone else. I think not.

Overall, a challenging read but I’m glad I persevered. Did I like it? I can’t say I did, but then everything we read shouldn’t be about entertainment. It took me out of my middle class comfort zone that’s for sure. Well done to the author.

My First Interview

 

Along with another author, Gabrielle Gardner, I was recently interviewed by the Historical Novel Society of Australasia (HNSA) where I talk about my published books, Climbing the Coconut Tree and Out of Nowhere. I also talk about writing my current book, A Perfect Stone which is due out in 2018.

Check out the extract below reproduced from HNSA’s blog 4 August 2017.

Interview with Sylvia Karakaltsas and Gabrielle Gardner

S.C Karakaltsas lives in Melbourne and began writing in 2014 after many years in corporate life. She wrote and published her first novel called ‘Climbing the Coconut Tree’ in March 2016. Inspired by true events on an island in the Central Pacific in 1949, the novel is a tale of a naive young man who stumbles into a world of violence and murder. Her collection of short stories called ‘Out of Nowhere’ was published in May 2017. Her short story, ‘The Surprise’ has been shortlisted in the Lane Cove Literary Awards 2016. She is a member of the Phoenix Park Writers Group, Monash Writers Group; Small Press Network and Writers Victoria.

Gabrielle Gardner is a previous Varuna fellowship winner (2013) and a recipient of a 2015 Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her manuscript Sweetman’s Road.  Her manuscript The Tenant at Holders Farm was runner up in the Jim Hamilton long fiction award in 2014 with the Fellowship of Australian Writers. She has had short stories published in four Stringybark anthologies, the international flash fiction collection 1000 Words or Less : Vol 2 and was shortlisted for the Scarlet Stiletto Awards in 2016. She has had non-fiction pieces published in The Big Issue and The Victorian Writer. She is currently finishing an associate degree in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. She blogs at Gabrielle Gardner  “ Reading, Writing & a Few Dog Stories”.

What is the inspiration for your current book?

Sylvia: I watched a documentary early last year, about 38000 children who were forcibly evacuated, mostly on foot, from Northern Greece during the Greek Civil War. There were many who never saw their families again. I was already playing around with a story of two children and decided to incorporate the Greek Civil War into my setting. I then discovered my husband’s aunt had been one of those children and my research and obsession began.

Gabrielle: I was inspired to write this story after several years volunteering at a nursing home every Thursday. There, part of my brief was to have conversations with the elderly residents (mainly women) and listen to their stories of the past. I was hugely impressed (and saddened and moved) by their resilience in the face—often—of poverty, isolation, lack of love and opportunity. Their unfailing attitude was ‘you just had to get on with it’. Many were rural women who lived without even the company of other women. So often they longed for more – love, fulfilment, adventure, education, even the opportunity to do paid work – and having none of these, they ‘just got on with it.’ I wanted to create a fictional composite of these women so that they might be, in some small way, acknowledged, remembered and understood. Bridie Bowden is that woman.

Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

Sylvia: There are a couple of themes. Like my first book, Climbing the Coconut Tree, the rise and spread of communism in the aftermath of the second World War plays a big part. Secondly, A Perfect Stone is essentially a story of child refugees which when you think about, is as relevant a story today, as it was then. Thirdly, I explore the issues of race segregation, like the Macedonians who in Northern Greece are still remain isolated from their culture and heritage now.

Gabrielle: I wanted to explore the circumstances of isolated, disadvantaged rural women of the early 20th century. I know not all women in this demographic were so disadvantaged but many were and their stories are, I believe, under-represented in Australian fiction.

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?

Sylvia: My first novel was set in the Pacific in 1948 and A Perfect Stone is set in the same year. Although quite unintentionally, I find myself drawn to the aftermath of World War 2 which produced huge change and unintentional consequences still felt today.

Gabrielle: Oh, many! But the first half of the 20th century, especially in Australia, is incredibly rich with tales worth telling. I dread them being forgotten.

What resources do you use to research your book?

Sylvia: Like everyone, the internet, YouTube, articles, books, but I also like to interview people who experienced that time. I’ve also been to Northern Greece which helps me to visualise the landscape.

Gabrielle: I suppose the usual – Trove, Google and my father’s books, including an original edition C.E.W. Bean, but mainly the oral stories of the women in the nursing home.

What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?

Sylvia: I think both are important if they add to the story. To dump facts and figures for the sake of it while nice for some readers, may not be useful for the story. Authenticity brings about a flavour for the time and place but can be open to interpretation. Although I wonder about accuracy. In my first book, I interviewed people who were very definitive in their recollections about what happened. Yet when I looked at the facts, their point of view while accurate for them and their way of life, was very different from others of a different culture, race or class. History can often be a person’s interpretation of events from their point of view. Omission is just as bad as recording inaccurately. When researching for Climbing the Coconut Tree, for example I found data around the size of the population on Ocean Island that was inaccurate.

Gabrielle: My mother was very cavalier about accuracy. One of her life mottos was ‘a man on a galloping horse won’t notice’, and another ‘oh, just chuck it in and see if it floats’. So precision has never been my strongpoint. But I do value and aim for authenticity.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

Sylvia: I love my main characters, Jim as an old man of 80 and his 10-year-old self. The old man is a curmudgeon given to eccentricity and reminds me a lot of my own father. He’s a fun character to write as a relief to his serious and naïve 10-year-old self, Dimitri.  They both move me and I’m in love with their vulnerability as much as their strengths and flaws.

Gabrielle: Well, they’re all my treasures now but I do love Bridie’s husband, Jack. My Beta readers have all loved Jack. (One says she wept for him.) My ASA mentor insisted I ‘fill out’ Jack a lot more. While Bridie didn’t gain much pleasure from living with Jack he too was a man of his time – hard working, reliable, honest to a fault, loyal to friends but at the same time—and through no fault of his own—inhibited and emotionally unavailable. He might have loved in his own way but his inner world was securely locked away from everyone else, except perhaps his mates when they got together to spin a yarn.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

Sylvia: I’ve only been writing for three years and started off by being a pantser with my first novel. This carried on with A Perfect Stone – then I got stuck. So that’s when I decided to plot out the story – it helped me sort out the end. With my first book, Climbing the Coconut Tree, I had no idea what I was doing. It took me two years to research, write and publish which I guess is really not that long. I began A Perfect Stone 12 months ago so expect to have it out sometime next year. It’s taken a bit longer because I’ve been writing contemporary short stories and published a collection in May 2017 called “Out of Nowhere.”

Gabrielle: No doubt I’m a panster. I’ve tried from time to time to plan a plot but it just paralyses me. Consequently I have several manuscripts of about 30,000 words going nowhere because I’ve painted myself into a corner and couldn’t get out. C’est la vie! I began Sweetmans Road in 2012 but it’s had an enormous amount of input – Varuna, ASA mentorship, RMIT Professional Writing course.

I have 2 other completed full manuscripts that I wrote fairly quickly – a year or so but they need work still.

Which authors have influenced you?

Sylvia: Nicole Hayes, a YA writer, mentors my writing. As for other authors, I love Hannah Kent, Emily Bitto, Sonya Hartnett, Brooke Davis, Richard Flanagan, Anthony Doerr and Geraldine Brooks to name a few who have influenced and inspired my writing.

Gabrielle: Generally – Alice Munro, Penelope Lively, Ann Patchett, Tim Winton for his ability to write about place, Sonya Hartnett – too many to list – but for this manuscript specifically I owe a lot to Marion Halligan’s Lovers Knots and Matthew Condon’s The Trout Opera for the way they both move around in time, voice, and place while keeping the story flowing and engaging.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Sylvia: Setting a goal to write is great. Sitting down and writing without the baggage of your own judgment is even better.

Gabrielle: Not sure I’m in a position to give advice, given that this book is just about to start looking for a home! However – write! – just do it! Redraft over and over, the first draft is never as good as it can be, nor the second, nor the third. Give it to other writers to read and ask them to be honest, especially about plot. Best of all, read your work out aloud to yourself, hear how it sounds and adjust accordingly.

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

Sylvia: Unpacking a box belonging to his late wife, eighty-year-old Jim Philips discovers her diary and a small stone which triggers an avalanche of secrets and memories he’s hidden, not just from his bossy middle-aged daughter, but from himself. The memory of a treacherous march of survival through the mountains of Northern Greece to escape the Greek Civil War causes him to confront his heritage which he’d turned his back on after arriving in Australia. His daughter has no idea about her father past until he has a stroke and reverts to his native tongue.

Gabrielle: I’m very excited about my next attempt at the G.A.N. I’ve always wanted to write a novel for adults but with a child as one of the protagonists. Think Sonya Harnett’s Thursday’s Child. This one is called Down the Green Road, about a single father, a mother mysteriously missing and their nine-year old daughter. I’m 20,000 words in, so not past the paint-yourself-into-a-corner zone yet!

Climbing the Coconut Tree by S. C Karakaltsas

Inspired by true events, this is a story about eighteen-year-old Bluey Guthrie who, in 1948 leaves his family to take the job of a lifetime on a remote island in the Central Pacific. Bill and Isobel, seasoned ex-pats help Bluey fit in to a privileged world of parties, dances and sport.  

However, the underbelly of island life soon draws him in. Bluey struggles to understand the horrors left behind after the Japanese occupation, the rising fear of communism, and the appalling conditions of the Native and Chinese workers. All this is overseen by the white Colonial power brutalising the land for Phosphate: the new gold. 

Isobel has her own demons and watches as Bill battles to keep growing unrest at bay. Drinking and gambling are rife. As racial tensions spill over causing a trail of violence, bloodshed and murder, Bluey is forced to face the most difficult choices of his life.

S.C. and Gabrielle are appearing in our Meet the Author satellite event on 20 August at the Mail Exchange Hotel, 688 Bourke St, Melbourne from 2.30-4.30 pm discussing Historical Romance and War fiction with Alison Stuart and Elise McCune. More information and tickets are available from the HNSA website. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/satellite/

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses.You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Purchase a ticket and you will be entered in the draw to win a $100 Dymocks Gift Card.

Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.

Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!

Visit our website to purchase your tickets now!

Subscribe to our newsletter for interviews, reviews and news.