Waiting on Wednesday: New Australian Fiction

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly prompt hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are looking forward to. This week I've picked Kill Your Darlings' 2019 anthology of New Australian Fiction. 

A childless couple find an abandoned baby on the beach. A twilight car accident has a man lost in the bush. Two men on the coast share an unspoken love.

A father is prosecuted by his small-town community. A young woman has a threatening first date.

A writer is terrorised by the ghosts of his fiction. Drugs drive childhood friends apart. City folk visit a room for crying.

 New Australian Fiction features brilliant writers with distinct experiences, voices and styles from all corners of Australia.

Together they showcase the strength and diversity of Australian short fiction at its best. These stories will move, entertain and enlighten you.

As a fan of the KYD magazine, I'm excited to see how this short story collection pans out - it's promising to be timely and insightful, hopefully shining the spotlight on some brilliant new talent on the writing scene!

Releasing 1st October 2019 from Kill Your Darlings

{Guest Post} Strong female characters in YA fantasy By Bronwyn Eley

Saturday, 7 September 2019

What do you think of when I say ‘strong female’? Do you think of an overzealous, over-confident, opinionated and harsh-looking female? I guess some would. Because, for some, women will forever be seen as the ones who love, the carers, the ones you go to for comfort. This is not a bad thing. But women being anything more than that – women who are bold with their emotions, confident with their sexuality, ambitious in the workplace – can be seen as going ‘against our true nature’.

But what is so important to me, when writing, is representing reality. I’ve met women who are as above: caring, homely, sweet, there for you when you need them. I have also met women who are cold, cruel, lost, confused, angry, selfish and vapid. I have met women who are intelligent, brave, ambitious and passionate.

What I believe is that ‘strong women’ encompass many – if not all – of these qualities. That a ‘strong woman’ might still be vapid and cruel at times, but she will have the capacity to overcome those petty emotions and be a better person. Representing strong women in YA – in all books – does not mean we present perfect women. Women who are only brave, intelligent, beautiful and ambitious. Because that’s not realistic. Show me one woman who has never made a mistake – who has never been cruel or selfish – and I will fall over from shock.

Having negative qualities does not mean she is not a strong woman. In fact, having the strength and self-awareness to know when she has made a mistake and overcome it...that is strong.

Elizabeth Bennet (or, rather, Jane Austen) said it well in Pride and Prejudice when Darcy is listing the qualities he believes mark an accomplished woman. That she must have thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages. That she must conduct herself in a manner worthy of respect. Basically, he was talking about upper-class women who must be ‘perfect’ at all times.

When Elizabeth says she is not surprised that Darcy has only met six accomplished women in his life, Darcy asks why she is so ‘severe upon her own sex’.

Elizabeth’s response has, to this day, stuck with me. She says ‘I never saw such a woman, I never saw such capacity.’

The fact that Darcy seems to believe it is a slight against women that Elizabeth doubts finding a woman with such qualities is extremely naive. This is perhaps what Austen intended. Women are complex creatures, just as men are. Humans are complex and just because we have flaws and negative qualities does not mean we aren’t good people, that we aren’t strong.

Relic was my first attempt at writing young adult fantasy and I hope that I’ve done it justice. From the beginning, it was extremely important to me that all my characters – women and men – were represented in a true light. I chose to set my novel in a city that – for the most part – did not discriminate based on sex. I wanted to give my female characters every chance to be who and what they wanted to be. This is one reason I made Kaylan a blacksmith. Being traditionally a man’s occupation, it is not uncommon in the city of Edriast for there to be female blacksmiths. Kaylan is not the first and she won’t be the last. In Edriast, there is no gender segregation when it comes to occupation. Women can be blacksmiths. Men can be nannies. There are jobs. These are humans. They do the work; it’s as simple as that.

This is certainly a personal ideal of mine; something I wish was a reality. It might be someday!

YA is an incredibly important genre because of who it is aimed at. That’s not to say people outside the ‘young adult’ age bracket don’t read YA. I am outside that bracket and I write YA, as well as read it. YA is not just for young people. It is for the young at heart, for people who crave adventure, for people who want to remember.

But, of course, YA is read by young adults... by people whose minds are open and still forming, gobbling up anything and everything in their journey to find out who they are. So the characters that they read can have a huge influence on who they become, on what they see as normal, on what they see as right and wrong. Stories have incredible power to shape us.

YA fantasy is an interesting genre too because it is often set in a world that is like our past – in medieval times. During those times, women were treated like property. Women were seen as the weaker sex. Women were seen as mothers, were seen as a means for pleasure for men and were limited in too many ways. So it’s interesting that in YA fantasy, in a setting so similar, that we often lean towards representing these kick-ass, savvy and powerful women. Strong women in this world is not uncommon, right? But take those all qualities that we desire or expect out of a strong woman and chuck them in the past, in a world without technology, without the comfort many of us are used to and what happens? We get women who can fight, women who are not limited, women who are heard. This is not true of all YA fantasy but authors take this unique opportunity and let their female characters embrace it. As a reader myself, I have come to expect this in YA fantasy. I want women saving the world, going on adventures, being bold, being challenged, making mistakes and rectifying them.

There’s still work to be done with how both women and men are represented in literature. For me, with Relic, creating realistic women was one of my top priorities. Showing how women really are, while also showing that it is not just bravery and skills with a sword that make a ‘strong woman’. Strong women still make mistakes, still cause others pain, still suffer themselves and perhaps they are stronger for it.

About the book

Relic by Bronwyn Eley
Released: 12th September 2019
Published by: Talem Press
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 497
In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow. As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow's life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity.

When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place. It's an appointment that will kill her. As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade...

That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics. A rebel force plans to put an end to Rennard's rule and Kaylan suddenly finds herself embroiled in a cause that might just be worth fighting for. But no cause is without its costs.

As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she'll leave her mark on the world. Relic is the absorbing first novel in The Relic Trilogy, a thrillingly dark YA fantasy series.

About the author

Bronwyn joined the military right out of high school, where she learnt (among other things) to disassemble and reassemble a rifle blindfolded. After that she spent a lot of her time travelling around the world. Her favourite places (so far) are Scotland, Mongolia, Iceland and Ireland. Bronwyn finally found her natural habitat when she landed her first job in the publishing industry. While she has always been a writer, it was only when surrounding herself with books that she realised her life’s dream was to become an author. Relic is her first novel. Bronwyn lives in Sydney and spends her time eating chocolate, reading and practicing her martial arts.

{Guest Post} Global writing for the next generation of authors By E.J. Miranda

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Today author E.J. Miranda has stopped by on the blog to discuss an important issue for writers - how do you help readers on a global scale connect with your story? Read on to find out more!

How do you, as an author, connect people around the world through your writing? We live in a time where the internet allows us to know what is happening in other countries in just a couple of seconds. We are all connected as a big online community where, with just a couple of clicks, we have information readily available to us. But, how can you take this sense of connection to the next level as a global writer? How do you build a community and generate awareness of other cultures through your stories and characters?

It all comes down to having a real message to the world and educating yourself on how to transmit to create the biggest impact. To be a writer, you must be a good reader. This is a given. You must be curious. You must ask questions and be willing to seek the answers for yourself. You must connect to the people you are intending to write about. It is only when you understand something, when you do your research, when you seek both sides of a situation, that you will truly gain a good sense of what you will be writing about. Otherwise, you will be blindly writing about a subject that you only have superficial knowledge about and this reflects on the writing.

My personal take on global writing is that it allows you to create a sense of cultural awareness, encourage respect to other countries’ cultures, and connect readers of different backgrounds by giving them information and allowing them to make their own conclusions on how different or similar their cultures are. I strongly believe that when people have information and a true understanding of other cultures, they are able to make more educated decisions on their words and actions. We live in a time where it has never been more important to be respectful and aware of the world’s cultural diversity. We can only grow together and evolve as a society if we encourage respect, tolerance, and an open-minded approach to others.

As a writer, each book represents an opportunity to impact your readers and move them emotionally. As an example for you, when I was outlining my first book “Julian Fox, The Dream Guardian”, I knew that I wanted to leave a bigger message to the world. I wanted my book to be more than just an entertaining story, and I wanted to make the readers actually think. My personal way of connecting people around the world is through history and cultural awareness. I wrote about locations and historic events I have spent years researching about.

My take on global writing was creating different characters of diverse cultural backgrounds, aiming to be as accurate and respectful as I could be. I also wrote about characters that not only are from different countries, but they lived through very difficult historic events, such as the Black Plague, the Spanish Inquisition, the construction of the Great Wall of China, among others. I personally chose history as a way to connect people by giving them information on the events that happened and let them make their own conclusion on how these “past” circumstances are still occurring today. These events may have taken place in another country, but learning about them could actually allow the readers to see just how similar we all are and even encourage conversations on global solutions.

As you can see, this is only one approach to global writing, but there are many others you can choose to pursue. The main idea is to always connect your readers to the rest of the world, leave an emotional impact on them, and encourage a positive change through your writing.

About the author

E. J. MIRANDA is an avid reader, an enthusiastic traveler, and a passionate author. Her great sense of humor and love for nature have granted her a rebellious writing style: her approach describes the adventures of life, but in such a way that each reader can have an individual take on the matter. Her inspiration comes from her curiosity about other countries’ cultures and peculiarities. A few countries in particular which spark her curiosity are Colombia, Italy, Costa Rica, England, Belgium, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. 

 Her favorite places to visit are historical sites and museums, locations that allow her to explore important and even overlooked details. She currently lives with her husband in Colombia, but frequently travels to Houston to visit her daughter and son. E.J. Miranda has a degree in tax accounting, but she prefers interacting with people to calculating their taxes. To learn more about her life and work, visit www.ejmiranda.com.

A glimpse into the life of an illustrator - Interview with Kathleen Jennings

Friday, 30 August 2019

Yesterday I posted about two new historical crime novels coming out from Corella Press - don't forget to check out the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Millwood Mystery or Bridget's Locket! One thing which fascinated me about both covers was the detail in the illustrations, so today Kathleen Jennings is here to share some insights about her creative process (and a few book recommendations too!)

How did you first get into becoming a book illustrator?

I always planned to be a writer, but I was working as a lawyer and a translator and had a lot of hobbies, so made myself pick the ones I could do, would do, and wanted to do every day. Drawing made the cut, because I could at least draw a smiley face. I started doing a weekly illustration challenge and putting it on my blog, and Small Beer Press found it. The first book cover I did was for them, for Greer Gilman’s Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales.

What does your creative process usually involve?

The publisher or art director usually tells me the sort of direction they’d like to take. If possible (and it isn’t always) I read the book. Then I make a series of thumbnail (small) sketches to show different ways I could illustrate the cover or internal pictures. The publisher chooses one and I refine it to a more detailed pencil sketch. When that is approved, I do the final piece of art. It could be cut out (as for Corella), or drawn with a dip pen, or another technique. When that final piece is approved, I usually scan it in and clean it up on the computer, and sometimes I add colour then.

If people like seeing that process, I sometimes put posts about it up on my blog: tanaudel.wordpress.com.

Do you have a favourite work that you've made to date?

I do really like this whole design for Corella. It is a circular design, all in one piece, and it feels like lace. 

Small Beer Press published Kij Johnson’s The River Bank, a sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I had a lot of fun with that project, learning to see through (my favourite Willows illustrator) E. H. Shepard’s eyes, and I am still very proud of it. It’s a great book, quite apart from the illustrations: fun and nuanced and respectful and new. 

I also did a scratchboard illustration of the colour scarlet (with digital colour) for an art exhibition. I can see, now, where I could have improved it, but I enjoyed getting all the references in. But I can’t pick just one work — I love playing in all these books! 

What are the best/most challenging aspects of designing a piece?

Drawing violins and pigs: these are both quite difficult. But mostly the challenge is the best bit: being limited by the book, the genre, the shape, the technique, the deadline, and then climbing around in that frame to make something that pleases me and the publisher and that works as a picture. But because I am a writer and a storyteller and occasionally do academic research, I also really enjoy climbing around someone else’s story and commenting on it, ornamenting it, supplementing the story with hints and allusions. 

I have an Australian Gothic novella, Flyaway, coming out from Tor.com next year. I wrote and illustrated it, and it was quite tricky! I’m used to bouncing off someone else’s thoughts; it was odd being constantly in my own head.

What advice do you have for other people looking to forge a career in illustrating?

Draw a lot. Put it out there regularly. Be professional. Be generous. Make connections outside of just artists: be friends with writers and typographers, publishers, agents and translators. 

And learn and accept criticism and work hard: but also try and find what you like, and do that well — if you do it long enough it could become a new style, and there are some excellent illustrators who just work with stick figures, or dots. If you can learn to communicate and tell a story, you’re more than halfway there. 

Look after your back.

On the bookish front, what have been some of your top reads recently?

I’ve been judging a book award and the winners haven’t been announced, so I can’t tell you! But let me see: 

Oh, I just read Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike, an enchanting little murder mystery where two friends in a detective club in an English boarding school in the 1930s end up investigating a murder. 

Stevens was one of the keynote speakers at the Diana Wynne Jones convention in Bristol earlier this month, and so I also reread Howl’s Moving Castle so that I could give a talk about contract law in it. If people haven’t read it, or have only seen the (very good) Studio Ghibli movie, it’s a wonderful fairy-tale novel — whip-smart and based on a John Donne poem. 

And I picked up another copy of one of my favourite books in a second-hand store in Bristol before I came home (always have multiple copies, the better to lend them out again!). It is W. Grahame Robertson’s Time Was, a collection of reminiscences of his friendships with people like half the Pre-Raphaelites, and Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt and Ellen Terry! Gentle and wistful and funny and full of artists and actors and Edwardian bohemians.

You can check out more of Kathleen's work on Redbubble and her online portfolio. She also has a Patreon for people wanting her monthly calendar design and other behind-the-scenes content early!

Review & Giveaway - The Millwood Mystery & Bridget's Locket and Other Mysteries

Thursday, 29 August 2019

About the books

Bridget's Locket and Other Mysteries is a triptych, including one novella-length story and two short stories from Mary Helena Fortune, writing as Waif Wander, who is suggested to be the first female crime and mystery writer in the world. Bridget’s Locket tells the story of a migrant dressmaker’s search for justice when her travelling companion meets a terrible fate. Joined by two stories about falling in love with a fugitive from the law and murder and bigamy amid goldfields and through the streets of Melbourne, this volume promises a tour of 19th Century Australian crime.

The Millwood Mystery is a single spellbinding novel by Jeannie Lockett, author, journalist, teacher, and women’s advocate. Alongside Fortune, Lockett wrote phenomenal crime and mystery. The Millwood Mystery is a family tragedy. When Barbara Neill is found dead in her home, the only suspects are also her only relatives. It is the tale of a community’s suspicions and how they have the potential to destroy innocent lives.

I'm excited to share these two new Australian historical crime releases about to come out from Corella Press - a non-profit teaching initiative run predominately by students at the University of Queensland. They've found these 19th century Australian gems and published them for the first time in novel form, as they originally were released in small snippets of newspapers at the time.

Both Bridget's Locket and The Millwood Mystery retain their historical charm and read authentically as they were written all those years ago while still maintaining enough suspense to keep the pages turning. It's a great initiative to see these pieces of writing gain traction and be revived, and it was equally interesting to learn more about the authors' lives as well - which were almost as engrossing as the stories themselves!

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Open internationally, entries close 30 August 2019 (AEST).
1st Prize – A beautiful silhouette pendant (6 pendants available)
2nd Prize – Bridget’s Locket and Other Mysteries eBook
3rd Prize – The Millwood Mystery eBook

Physical books will be available for purchase from 30th August, on the Corella Press website: https://www.austlit.edu.au/corellapress

Watch out for my interview coming out tomorrow with Kathleen Jennings who illustrated the covers for these books!