Buying Local. Or not.

I was part of a discussion this week. A mother wanted to purchase her child an item and was wondering whether she could buy it locally, pointing out the place she knew would have stocked it had closed. I offered that she could probably purchase the item in the next suburb, at the locally owned store, where the item was in stock and the price was $44.95.

Other mothers in the discussion offered up online alternatives, saying the item was available online for cheaper at $39.95 from the UK or USA. With most of these suggestions came the catch cry “I like to buy local but…”

I bit my tongue as unbeknownst to them, I was in fact the owner of the local shop in question and the price difference they were loudly proclaiming was simply GST. This is not about GST though; it is about what you choose to support.

Here is the thing, you either buy local or you don’t.

It IS that simple.

You either buy from a local store, who employs local people, who pays taxes to your government to provide you with services, or you don’t.

You either support the local store that supports the community, or you don’t, and the community loses that local store. The landlord loses the rent, the school loses the prizes that store would have donated, local and national charities lose the funds that store would have raised, and the community has one less place to congregate.

You either buy local or you don’t.

As another dear local store closes over in the next suburb, a toy store, I see people bemoan the loss of another local store and that all the local stores seem to be closing. “Such a loss isn’t it…” “What a shame..”  “They are such a great little store.”

A store, unfortunately, cannot survive on platitudes. They require your support.

“I like to support local, but…”

 Image

The monolithic international stores who sell their stock at cost or just above, who are exempt from tax in our country (be it right or wrong) will not support your community, nor care if your local school has a raffle coming up and needs donations. They will not hire local people nor pay taxes to go towards our infrastructure or healthcare. They will just continue with their aggressive marketing plan to wipe out small local stores until they are what remain.

There is no ‘but’. You either shop and buy local or you don’t.

And if you don’t buy local and support local; you will lose local. Probably forever.

It really is that simple.

.

Tanya Caunce for TLC BOOKS

www.tlcbooks.com.au


The Mothers Group by Fiona Higgins

‘All those things no one ever tells you about motherhood. It’s like secret mothers’ business. Lots of my friends had babies before me, but not one of them ever told me it would be this hard…It’s like a code of silence.’

The Mothers’ Group tells the story of six very different women who agree to meet regularly soon after the births of their respective babies.

Set during the first crucial year of their babies’ lives, The Mothers’ Group tracks the women’s individual journeys – and the group’s collective one – as they navigate birth and motherhood as well as the shifting ground of their relationships with their partners.

The Mother’s Group is brilliant. From the first pages the story drags you in. From its brutal honesty about motherhood and all its challenges to the uglier sides of our own personalities. This book really doesn’t hold back. At times its easy to put your judgemental hat on and feel quite superior about how far above this group you are. Until you realise with somewhat disturbing clarity; you are in fact exactly like these women.

You do the wrong things, you make the wrong choices, you feel downtrodden and as though the world is against you. And you definitely judge. But the beauty of Fiona Higgins writing is that even with all that recognition, it never makes you feel bad, just human.

As the story evolves you are drawn into the complex and at times very confronting lives of this group of women. They are not women who would choose to be friends. They are thrown together through circumstance, motherhood is the one tie that binds them together but it could also be the one thing that will drive them apart.

From the first few chapters The Mother’s Group has a sense of impending drama and it doesn’t disappoint in that department. This is in its simplest form, a book about relationships, but it is so much more than that too. It has everything you could want from a really great thrilling read. It hurtles a long at an astonishing pace and doesn’t let up, all leading to a blinding climax that you will not see coming. There are so many twists and turns that it feels as though the book has nothing more left to shock you with but it just keeps delivering.

I cannot recommend this enough. As a mother to a young child this resonated on so many levels. As a woman it did too. The combined effect was mesmerising. I couldn’t stop reading Fiona Higgins and you wont either. This is one début author who will be around for a long time to come.

Courtney for TLC Books


The Queensland Premiers Literary Awards: a considered response.

The Queensland Premiers Literary Awards: a considered response.

What do awards do in the scheme of things; do they really have a purpose?

Should not the individual just strive to be the best they can and not need an award to prove it?

What has a writing award got to do with my life?

Literature in Queensland won’t die because there is no more QLD Premiers award will it?

These are all questions I was fielded in the last 24 hours when I was shocked by the news that the QLD Premiers Literary Award (PLA) had been cancelled. I felt the need to have a little chat about what awards do and the significance of the PLA and why it does disappoint and even devastate some people. And what will be done in response.

What do awards do in the scheme of things; do they really have a purpose?

Literary awards are important. They do a number of things simultaneously. They tell publishers, writers, poets and illustrators, what is considered to be “the best,” and thus the standards they must strive to attain. The crafting of story, the sentence structure, the history explored, the imagination unleashed are all expertly done and held up as what is expected from future authors.

Award winning books have helped to shape the world of literature and therefore our culture and attainment of knowledge. Literary awards raises”the cultural appreciation of great writing in the country while advancing the careers of both established and emerging writers” NBA website. Reading these books can broaden your horizons and make you more culturally aware. In fact – that is what they are supposed to do.

Should not the individual just strive to be the best they can and not need an award to prove it?

Writers don’t get paid a lot of money. I know, seems criminal but there you have it. If they are lucky they can scrape by with a living doing what they love and are compelled to do, but in all but a very small percent, they will not be sipping champagne on a private yacht anytime soon.

Awards are important to writers as many many books get published every year and the awards and those books that are long and short listed get recognised as works worth reading, of being in a bookstore, or library, or a school text. The most prestigious awards not only give honours but lead to significantly increased sales. They are an important part of the business.

Author Michael Gerard Bauer commented on a PLA discussion on our Facebook page;  “I can tell you if you’re fortunate enough to win an award like that (the PLA), it is a great help financially and also in terms of publicity. And it’s not just the winners who gain it’s also everyone who gets recognition through the shortlists.”

What has a writing award got to do with my life?

Reading and literacy are an integral part of our everyday life and culture. The books that get awarded by various awards highlight events, themes, issues or people that we should know about. These books prompt discussion and investigation, thought and debate which is critical in any society that values individual input and a learned population. If you aren’t aware of the world around you how can you make informed decisions on your present and future?

Think of any topic that causes discussion, passion or debate and it has been the subject of a book that has won a literary award, for the reason that it has been presented in a way to inspire or encourage critical thinking and engagement with the issue, not simply a verdict.

Literature in Queensland won’t die because there is no more QLD Premiers award will it?

Probably not, no. But the community of writers and creative thinkers will reassess how they are viewed in Queensland. And like I, they will despair at the thought that people don’t value literature and the arts in Queensland as the newly elected Premier is acting on Queensland’s behalf. I know that it won’t die… because we will do something about it.

Literature in Queensland and the community surrounding it will stand up and shout louder about what is important; to them, to their readers, to the state and the country about why writing, reading and the arts in general is important to our society and culture as a whole.

They will shout louder and longer and stand stronger to get the point across. They will share their love of writing with more people, they will share their love of reading with more people and illustrate that a world without creativity and the arts is a very dark place indeed. Sound a little dramatic? It’s supposed to, because if you stand by and say it won’t happen “the government would never decimate the arts..” WITHOUT first protecting and defending them, then you will watch the arts slip away.

The Queensland Government “decided not to proceed with the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in 2012 which will save Queensland taxpayers $244, 475″ Gov’t statement 3/4/12

That savings is equal to approximately 18.3 cents per person in the state.

It is the National Year Of Reading.

I will finish with a quote from a very learned man, who had to make hard and harsh decisions and who was also hard pushed for budget cuts and saving every penny where he could, his life and many millions of others depended on it. When Winston Churchill was asked why he did not cut funding for the arts to help the war effort he replied ‘then what are we fighting for?

Tanya for TLC Books


An unexpected love affair….

…with Stephanie Laurens.

I can see you judging those romance covers; “look at the chiselled abs” you say, “what kind of a name is On A Wicked Dawn you mock. Three weeks ago I would’ve been right there with you, probably daring you to flick through the pages and find a reference to someone’s member. My reading tastes err more towards science fiction, fantasy and horror – the grislier the better. So when started reading my first romance novel I admit my hopes were not high. I expected nothing more than some swooning, a few unrealistic protagonists and predictable plot lines. Oh how very wrong I was.

I took a leap and bought  What Price Love by Stephanie Laurens.  From the first page I realised why Laurens is a best seller. Adventure, spies, murder, passion, action, conspiracy, deception and of course mushy, mushy love are just some of the reasons why you find yourself awake at 3am, not caring that you’ve got to get up in five hours, only that you find out what happens in the end.

The very next day I came into work I ordered the rest of the author’s books. The first one was so amazing that it didn’t even occur to me until later how risky it was ordering and buying in all her other books the next day, just from the impression one of Laurens’ book made. It wasn’t even the first in the series, which amazed me even more. Lauren’s writes her novels in such a way that it’s not imperative to read in chronological order – each book makes a great stand-alone novel.

These are not your typical “Oh I love him, even though he treats me horribly *swoon* I’ll just go over here and pout and wait for him to rescue me”.  No, no and no. These heroines have backbone to spare! Even when contrasted with domineering male protagonists – perhaps even because of that – these characters show an amazing amount of depth and substance. Combine that with murder plots, jealous conniving women and of course romance and you have a winning combination.

My foray into the world of romance novels has definitely been a rewarding one – I thoroughly encourage anyone brave enough to accept the challenge and be seen with a romance novel in their hands. Laurens’ will make it well worth your while.

Neek for TLC Books


National Bookshop Day: or why bookshops rock!

It’s National Bookshop Day on Saturday!!

On August 20, booksellers around the country will act like little kids who have had too much red cordial, happily buzzing around with a sense of pride and elation that their stores are being recognised for being an important part of our culture and our communities.

As the owner of a bookstore, I can tell you we don’t do this for the money! All of the booksellers and owners I have come across are passionate about reading, learning, literacy and the communities they dwell in. They also tend to be a little quirky with a tendency towards OCD, but that’s another post altogether.

Jon Page of Pages & Pages Booksellers put it well when he said:

“While reading is generally a solitary activity it is also a social one. Readers love to share their thoughts on books and the books themselves with friends and family. So while we often read by ourselves we want to share our reading experience with others. The bookshop is essential to this sharing process.”

I love the conversations that I get into with customers about all sorts of different genres and writing styles. On any given day I have numerous conversations with passionate readers about what they have just read, what they will read next and what they are looking forward to.  This morning alone I have:

  • Helped one customer to find two books on explaining IVF to children, and where they came from.
  • Chose two books as presents for a grandma visiting her grandchildren in Scotland, both Australian stories by Australian authors.
  • Talked to an avid crime reader about branching out from Scandinavian Crime and trying Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
  • Sourced a book on a tricky relationship situation for a customer
  • Talked to two authors about upcoming books
  • Found the perfect distraction for a pirate obsessed child at home with the flu
  • Discussed and sourced books for a customer doing a paper on ‘People and Place’ at university.

All of these discussions and books found for people represent the service that booksellers do all the time, because they love books. That is also why we organise book groups and events and story time for children, because reading is as essential to us as food, water and oxygen.

Booksellers also form a conduit between the author and the reader.  We are very privileged to be able to meet authors and get a glimpse into why and how they write, which we then share with our customers.  Occasionally we even get to have those authors in the store to meet their readers, which is always a thrill.

This is why National Bookshop Day is so exciting for us, everyone will be reminded of the place around the corner that isn’t just a store selling books, it is in fact a doorway to new worlds, new learning, an escape from the everyday or a journey, where you can meet like minded people who share the same passion for reading and get encouragement and advice to read new books.

As author of Loathing Lola, William Kostakis so eloquently put it:

“There’s more to a bookstore than simply selling books. Thanks to the RedGroup collapse, all anybody wants to talk about is the fact that bookstores are dying. Well, maybe places where they just sell books are dying, but bookstores that are active parts of the community; connecting readers with books, authors and each other… they’re thriving. There are 1000 things that bookshops like TLC can do for you that Amazon can’t, you simply have to step inside and ask.”

I look forward to wishing everyone a happy National Bookshop Day!

TLC Books is having it’s own special celebrations on National bookshop Day – see our website http://www.tlcbooks.com.au or http://www.fb.com/event.php?eid=128524687240633 for details.

Like us on facebook for all the news and reviews :) http://www.fb.com/tlcbooks

Tanya Caunce for TLC Books


The magical secrets of book ordering.

So many people ask me about how I choose books for the shop I thought I would share with you the top secrets of the trade, passed down from bookseller to bookseller via an ancient ritual.

Each month I literally go through hundreds of books from many publishers and decide what to order for the upcoming months. Did you catch that? Hundreds of books. And on big months, I would say thousands when you look at October lists (pre-Christmas) and dealing with over 20 publishers. Can you imagine, as a bibliophile, how you have to rein in the urge to buy it all? I seriously feel like cackling “mine, mine, mine, they will all be mine!” but I refrain and act professionally when all I want to be is a kid in a candy store.

So the secrets? There are none. There is not even a specific equation for choosing the books we sell but there are some important factors. Let me elucidate:

Is it a good book?

Yes, I know this seems really basic, but you’d be surprised. Every book I stock doesn’t have to rock my world or change my view of society, but I have a preference for well written and well crafted novels containing characters you can relate to. Believe me, there are many books out there that don’t have these qualities but yet they crowd publisher lists

We, my staff and I, read a lot of what we stock about 3-4 months prior to release, the publishers issue reading copies and it really helps us sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. I love both non-fiction and the more literary style novels, Courtney loves crime, fantasy and fiction, Laura loves children’s books, historical fiction and general fiction and Neek is the fantasy and young adult queen.

If we don’t read the whole book, we often get a sample chapter to see the writing style and get a grasp of the content. This makes a lot of our ordering decisions for us. If the author is really well established we generally rely on their reputation. Having said that – there are a few established authors I don’t order in, as their writing has turned woeful and I can’t honestly recommend them. Patricia Cornwell, I’m looking at you.

Quite often I or a member of staff will champion a book, basically, read it and fall in love with it and recommend it to everyone we know – because we just want to share its sheer awesomeness. I love this, because it means we’ve found a great book and we get to have other people discover it too. It’s a bookseller’s biggest thrill and I order bucket loads of those books when we find them.

Who is it for?

One of the advantages of being an independent bookstore is that we have our own community of readers. Quite often I will order in a book because I am specifically thinking of particular customers when I order in a title; often along the lines of “Oh, she’s doing a degree in anthropology, she will love this” or “wow, he has been looking for something on this, it’s all about wolves in their natural habitat”. You get the gist.

To be perfectly honest, it’s like I am picking out birthday presents for customers every month, making sure that everyone will find something they love on the shelf. Which is really fun.

Seriously, really fun.

The cover.

Yep, I’m going to say it. A book can be amazing and wonderful or shoot rainbows from its pages but if the cover is really bad (I’ve seen some shockers) then I won’t order in as many. So really, this is a quantity decision rather than a “will I get it” decision.

As much as people protest that it is shallow to contemplate a cover in a book buying decision, it really isn’t. Many people won’t give a book as much of a chance if the cover doesn’t reflect what is described through the blurb on the back. The cover will attract the wrong people who will read the blurb and feel a disconnection with the book already. Game over.

Does it fit in with the shop?

I have seen some great business books, fabulous sport books and a variety of amazing design books. But we do not have a place for them. I will order on customer request, and will mention those books to particular people but we have a limited space and we simply don’t have enough demand for some books.

Outlay – do I have enough money to put it on the shelf?

I would love to order some more of the quirkier and beautiful design books as well, but at $200+ a pop that is a lot of money to be tied up sitting on a shelf for the off chance. So we keep it to a restrained amount.

Same as I would love to have a range of deluxe edition leather bound volumes. But then I would have to cut back elsewhere, so for now, those will wait.

Being in a business, I have to watch where my budget is spent and as I don’t have a wealthy benefactor or rich silent partner (I am currently seeking candidates for these positions, applications are open) I have to stick to that damn budget or go broke spectacularly.

Things that do not factor in:

Publisher promotions.

The publisher offers a free bag/hat/steak knives with the book. If the book isn’t worth reading, then no amount of free stuff is going to help.

Publisher Promises.

“Love this book or your money back!”

“We guarantee this book!”

“This book will do the dishes for you!”

All well and good, and to be fair, the promise is usually right – it is quite often a good book, but if it isn’t, it won’t be on my shelf. There would be nothing worse for someone to read a bad book and then have to go online to ask for their money back. That’s why booksellers are here – so we can help people make the right choice on what to read in the first place.

Only having what I want to read

Let me assure you – this is NOT the case. I will happily go on for the rest of my life without reading about composting, knitting or what really went on in the Korean War. Other people DO want to read about these things (I know, hey?) so I supply a selection that I know to be well researched and well written.

So that’s about it.

I hope you have enjoyed that little foray into what I do on a constant basis for my little bookstore. It’s a never ending task which I am happy to say, I love to bits, even if it can get overwhelming at times. I mostly get it right but can still get it wrong… apparently I’m not perfect. Who knew?

Tanya - TLC Books

http://www.tlcbooks.com.au

http://www.fb.com/tlcbooks


Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor – a release we are REALLY excited about

Necklaces made of wishes, black markets of teeth and a wishbone on a cord. Nothing is as it seems here. Wishes are not granted by genies and lamps. Karou is not the love-crazed protagonist. And this book is like nothing you’ve read before.

Karou has been the apprentice to the wishmonger her whole life and working for this chimera can mean dealing with some interesting individuals – both human and otherwise. Hidden from the human world are her adoptive family of chimera who deal in wishes and for reasons unknown require copious amounts of ill-gotten teeth. When she’s not trading wishes for molars, Karou is just like any other seventeen-year-old art student in Prague…with blue hair that grows that way naturally.

There is more to this story than sketchbooks filled with monsters and underground markets of teeth. Someone is tracking Karou. Something is hunting the chimera. Somewhere Karou’s home is burning and the answers to the mysteries of her life seem to exist in a place she can’t get to.

Past, present and future collide into a collage of devastation as all begin to realise that some secrets should remain hidden. Lives will be lost and others found. Friend will resemble foe and sanity becomes insane in a war where there can be no victor. Love may just find that it has no place in a world that is burning.
An epic adventure, tear wrenching heart-breaker, laughter-fit inducer and so very, very much more, this book has it all. Taylor has certainly set the bar high for this trilogy and I have every confidence that she will exceed the standard in the books to follow.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is, dare I say, perfect. I’ve not encountered a fantasy work like this in such a long time I’d almost forgotten that originality still exists. This book is the Luke Skywalker of fantasy – our saviour from a literary world full of clipped angels and vampires with glitter problems.

-Neek for TLC Books

Want some more info about the author? Check out her website: http://lainitaylor.blogspot.com/


30 Day Book Challenge

Having posted this on our facebook page, I thought I would also post to our blog, why constrain a challenge to just one audience? 

Plus, I haven’t started it yet, so this will be the official start… again. Yes, it has been that kind of week. 

Thanks to the 30 Day Book challenge facebook page, we have some fun for you!

Similar to the 30 Day Song Challenge, the 30 Day Book Challenge is a challenge that lasts thirty days, where users post links to their wall, one per day for the appropriate category. Here’s the guide:

Day 1 – Your Favourite Book

Day 2 – Your Least Favourite Book

Day 3 – A Book You Read to Feel Good

Day 4 – A Book You Read to Feel Down

Day 5 – A Book That Reminds You of Someone

Day 6 – A Book That Reminds You of Somewhere

Day 7 – A Book That Reminds You of Your Past

Day 8 – The Book You Can Quote Best

Day 9 – A Book With Your Favourite Character (Male)

Day 10 – A Book With Your Favourite Character (Female)

Day 11 – A Book By Your Favourite Writer

Day 12 – A Book By Your Least Favourite Writer

Day 13 – A Guilty Pleasure

Day 14 – The Book That No One Expected You To Like

Day 15 – The Book That Depicts Your Life

Day 16 – A Book You Used to Love, But Now Hate

Day 17 – Your Favourite Drama Book

Day 18 – Your Favourite Comedy Book

Day 19 – Your Favourite Action Book

Day 20 – Your Favourite Romantic Book

Day 21 – Your Favourite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book

Day 22 – Your Favourite Horror Book

Day 23 – Your Favourite Thriller/Mystery Book

Day 24 – Your Favourite Animated or Children’s Book

Day 25 – Your Favourite Non Fiction Book

Day 26 – Your Favourite Series of Books

Day 27 – Your Favourite Stand Alone Book

Day 28 – The Most Obscure Book You’ve Ever Read

Day 29 – Your Favourite Book As a Kid

Day 30 – Your Favourite Book This Time Last Year

Good luck with narrowing down all those choices, I am having palpatations just “thinking” about it! 

Cheers, Tanya 

for TLC Books


Author Interview with Isobelle Carmody

At the start of April I was very pleased to announce to my staff that we were interviewing the lovely Isobelle Carmody author of The Little Fur series, The Legendsong Saga, The Gateway Trilogy and Obernewtyn Chronicles as well as countless others. All of which as firm staff favourites to read and recommend.

As Neek, a TLC staff member (or Isobelle’s biggest fan – cue nervous laughter and manic devotion), put it:

Isobelle Carmody’s writing it is like a smorgasbord of greatness with a side of fantastic, drizzled with some awesome sauce.

After calming the staff down and managing to get all of them breathing normally again, I was barraged with many suggestions of questions to ask her, MANY questions. First and foremost was “Tell us what happens in the next Obernewtyn book! Well, I am happy to say, we do get a tantalising glimpse… but more so we get an understanding into why Isobelle loves to write, her relationship with her characters and what a passionate author she is.

Thank you very much Isobelle for being interviewed, and sharing your passion with us.

isobelle_carmody

You’re one of Australia’s favourite fantasy authors – what is it about this genre that you love?

I think I see in it what most people do, as a reader and writer. It allows me to step outside the constraints of everyday life where we have to hang the washing and do our wretched tax and argue with some official over something and shop for dinner and buy band aids and Drano and washing powder. Not in order to escape vacuously, as is often the perception, but in order to think about things that matter to me. Like what it means to have free will and yet to co exist with others who also have free will that might infringe upon mine; about why some people are cruel and why some are courageous; about how it is that someone grows up to be Mother Teresa while someone else become Hitler; it is about what makes a person able to sacrifice themselves for others; about what is required of me if I want to be a friend to someone; about what the difference is between a human who is cruel and the cruelty of a cat to a mouse it has caught; about how important powerful people can make decision that a child can see will cause great harm, as if they and their children were going to be exempt from the consequences. In a way, it I like dreaming – a way and a space to deal with all of the thoughts and puzzles and conundrum that arise from that everyday life, only unlike dreaming, you are fully conscious. I guess that is the best way to put it. Writing fantasy is like conscious dreaming.

Isobelle, we literally have hundreds of fans of your writing eagerly awaiting your next book, just from our little shop. Does that translate into a lot of pressure for you when you’re writing?

carmody obernewtynAbsolutely. It is the publishers who put the pressure on, of course, though probably more for their own economic reasons than anything else. But I certainly feel it whenever I am anywhere in public. For instance I was recently signing books at Supanova in Melbourne and there were literally hundreds of people asking when the next Obernewtyn book was coming and if I was ever going to write Darkbane or the last Billy Thunder book. But I never feel bad about that pressure because I truly work as hard as I can so the delays are not because I am slacking off, and in a way it is satisfying to be able to tell people to their faces what I am doing and why.

What’s the most difficult part of being a writer?

Odd as it sounds, sometimes the sitting and typing for hours. I get really sore elbows and back. I get physically bored. You are supposed to get up and move around every twenty minutes or something but I am so engrossed that I never do. Then I pay for it. There is no real downside other than that. I love what I do and I even love it when the going get tough. I love being demanded of by the story and I love conquering the problems. Sometimes when the next round of editing comes, my heart sinks a little, but it never seems to be that hard to re engage a story – even a huge one. I think that is because I write what I want and so it is never just pounding out words to meet a deadline or a word limit. I am always inside what I write. It always matters to me.

You write short stories, picture books, series for younger readers (I love Little Fur!), young adult and fantasy. Which do you enjoy the most? Do you have a pet favourite?

I think my best writing overall is in short stories, other than in Greylands, which I wrote like a short story. In a way they are the hardest thing to write because there is a very intense focus on them and you can never forget the form. Picture books are never quite easy for me, either, though having said that my favourite picture book is Journey from the Center to the Earth and I love that story. I love reading it aloud to kids and Marc Mc Bride’s pictures are fabulous. What I really enjoy most these days is being able to draw as well as to write. That started with the Little Fur book, and they are very special to me. And of course now The Red Wind and the next two books in that series are waiting for me. Both sets of characters in those books come very much from stories I made up for my daughter and so they are full of us and our lives, which again make them special. Strange as it sounds, going back to what I said right at the start, they come from things that are happening in the world around me. About my relationship to the world. Writing lets me think about it. For me, to write is to think.little fur

In regards to Obernewtyn: These characters have been around for quite some time now, and I know many of our readers feel like they are visiting old friends when they read and reread the series. When you write do you get the same feeling? 

Absolutely! My dear editor said recently that she was not sure she liked Dameon and I defended him as ferociously as if he were my best friend. I mean how could anyone not like Dameon?! Re entering that world is like slipping on a favorite coat. I love the feel and familiarity of it, and the questions it was asking when I was 14 are still really important to me- in a larger sense, is it possible for human beings as a race to grow morally and ethically; in a more personal sense- what do we gain and lose as individuals when we chose to become part of a group or give ourselves to the ideals of a cause?

So come on, dish, who’s your favourite character? Or if you can’t choose, who is the easiest to write?

Favourite character? Hm. Well I love writing Elspeth when she is sharp and terse because I’m not often like that. I love the rudeness of the Crow and the sorrow of Sorrow. I guess I really liked all of the Little Fur character because of their voices- I loved doing the audio CD of them for Bolinda SO much. I have just finished recording The Red Wind, red windtoo, and in that loved the voice of the monster. One of the easiest characters to write was Alyzon Whitestarr. I’d love to go back into her again. But no, I can’t pick one favourite. It’s like the one I am in at the moment is the most interesting and engrossing, and that is Elspeth, of course.

It seems like you put a lot of thought into naming your characters and landscapes, what’s your inspiration for all these names?

The names have to have the right feel. They had to resonate to the characters character. They have to have meaningful poetry.

Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?

Anything about my childhood unless it is a very specific question, then I like it because sometimes it lets me remember something I had not thought about. Someone recently asked for my first memory and that provoked some fascinating thoughts

What book(s) are you reading now?

Peter Handke’s The Weight of the World, Sebastian Faulks One Day in December and Haruki Murakami’s interviews with victims of the Sarin Gas attack on the Tokyo underground. Utterly riveting mostly for the difference in how the Japanese react to disaster in their midst as compared with how we or American would act. And of course it is reiterated by how they are reacting to the current disaster. For me it is especially interesting because in the final Obernewtyn book, Elspeth deals with a people who are ancestors/survivors of Asians, and the book is very much drawing on my reflections.

Please, please, please taunt us with a titbit of information from your new book The Sending, the 6th book in the Obernewtyn series, due out September 2011.

Hmm didn’t I just do that in the last answer? Ok, we will meet Straaka’s brother in The Sending and he has a really interesting character arc. That’s it. Hope you enjoy the next book and that you feel it has been worth waiting for!

Want to no more about the Obernewtyn series? Go here obernewtyn.net

More about Isobelle? Go here http://www.isobellecarmody.net

Tanya Caunce for TLC Books


Author Interview with John Connolly

johnconnolly I have just had the incredible opportunity to have an interview with one of my favourite authors, so unashamedly I need to say this: I AM HAVING A FANGIRL MOMENT. I should be way more mature than this but I figure anyone reading this will get over it.

Every time I read a John Connolly book I am transported and entranced. If you try to talk to me I will say whatever I need to, to get you to go away as quickly as possible so I can keep reading. I will not have heard or registered a thing, I once agreed to watch a Spice Girls DVD and the blame sits squarely on John Connolly’s shoulders. I was engrossed in Every Dead Thing at the time.

I cannot tell you the glee, excitement and sheer joy I exuded when he agreed to be interviewed and the agony of wondering what questions to ask… you see, it’s one thing to be fangirl but you don’t want to come off as such. Suffice to say, I took two weeks to work out the questions to ask and whittle them down from 147 to 10. John was absolutely wonderful in answering them comprehensively and with great speed, further deepening the awe devotion respect I hold for the man.

I hope you enjoy the interview and the insight we get into a fantastic author. John has a new book due out in May called Hell’s Bells which is the sequel to The Gates, a young adult series I can thoroughly recommend.

Thanks again John, hope you can come to Australia soon as I would love to buy you a drink!

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John, you write crime, psychological thrillers (sometimes with a dash or two of supernatural) and now you have started a series for young adults with The Gates and the Hell’s Bells. Do you have a preference for one genre over the other?

No, not at all. I suppose I view them all as being part of the same undertaking.  Most writers only have a limited number of subjects that interest them, and to which they return over and over.  Childhood is one of my subjects, so The Book of Lost Things, The Gates/ Hell’s Bells, and many of the Parker books are concerned with children and childhood.  In the Parker books, it’s often how the sins of one generation impact on the next, while the other books are more directly concerned with childhood experience.  I suppose, too, the supernatural connects them all.  It was a genre that I loved as a boy, and I still have a huge fondness for old ghost stories, most English 19th/ early 20th century.  In the end, I think I’m a genre author, in the sense that I’m curious about the possibilities of genre fiction, and I’m not snobbish about it, unlike some of my fellow mystery authors.  It’s curious that there remains a deep distrust of the supernatural among more traditional practitioners of the crime novel.  It harks back to the genre’s rationalist roots, I think, but the reluctance to countenance experimentation with other genres is very depressing.

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What was your inspiration for The Gates series?

I had the idea for the book around 2000 or 2001.  Basically, I thought it was a lovely idea: a small boy discovers that his neighbours are trying to open the gates of Hell.  I just couldn’t quite figure out how to do it until I began reading about the Large Hadron Collider, and suddenly I thought, ‘Hey, that’s it!’  It gave me what Hitchcock called the McGuffin, the thing that powers the plot, but it also enabled me to bring in all kinds of odd science, and that in turn gave birth to the footnotes, and the twin narrative in the book: the story being told, and the slightly sarky commentary on it by this author figure who is both me and not me.

What would you graffiti on the Large Hadron Collider?

‘Warning: Not To Be Used Without Adult Supervision.’ 

The Gates and Hell’s Bells are both hilarious and full of quirky logic and physics. Is physics a personal passion or something you looked at purely for the book?

I studied physics in school, but I wasn’t very good at it.  It’s only lately, returning to it as a adult, that I’ve begun to get a handle on it.  In the end, the books are anti-magic, in a sense: the universe is quite extraordinary enough as it is without the need to bring in wizards and dragons.  I think, too, that all authors are magpieish by nature: we look for shiny things that interest us, and we hope that they might interest other people too.  These books are full of little shiny things that I just find fascinating, or odd, or funny.

Religion and aspects of it feature in a lot of your books, does that stem from an Irish upbringing?

Well, I was raised a Catholic, and that’s still my faith, although I don’t go to church very much anymore.  I still drop in occasionally when passing, though.  I suspect I just don’t like being preached at anymore, and it really doesn’t matter what religious form that preaching takes.  I think that a lot of mystery fiction I love – and I’m thinking of James Lee Burke in particular, although what I’m about to say equally applies to a lot of the heroes of darker mystery novels – concerns individuals who are searching for redemption, and for me that word comes freighted with a certain amount of spiritual baggage.  Also, someone once said that all crime writers are secretly moralists and, again, seen from a certain angle morality casts a certain spiritual shadow.

Music features heavily in some of your books, with The Unquiet having an accompanying CD. Do you listen to music while writing? What are your favourite artists to write/listen to?

No, I can’t work in anything but silence.  I can’t even read while listening to music, or certainly not music with lyrics.  But music and books are my twin passions, and compiling the CDs for the books gave me a way to combine both, as well as pointing readers in the direction of artists whom they might not have encountered before, and songs that resonated with me as a writer, either lyrically or thematically.  As for favourite artists, I’d take A Walk Across the Rooftops by The Blue Nile on to my desert island, and most of Neil Young’s work.

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Your characters over the years have been quite diverse, do you have a favourite?

There’s a lot of me in Parker, and he’s become a means of examining the world.  On the other hand, David in The Book of Lost Things is very much me as a child, and I have a huge fondness for that little book.  I suspect it may be the best thing I ever write, and I’d be quite content if that judgement was passed on me.

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You were a journalist before you started publishing novels, did you always want to be a novelist or was it a progression? Basically, did you always want to be an author?

I saw journalism as a way to be paid to write, but I got frustrated after a few years.  Basically, there were better journalists than I on the paper (The Irish Times) and better feature writers too.  I’d like to think I was good enough for the newspaper, because I still think it’s the best newspaper in Ireland, and it was very supportive of me.   Had I stayed on I’d have been happy to be a journalist, although I think there might always have been that niggling sense of incompleteness.  In the end, I wanted to write fiction.

Who are your favourite authors? And do you derive inspiration from them and their writing?

The greatest novel in the English language, for me, is Bleak House by Charles Dickens.  After reading that, all other fiction felt a bit thin.  Ross Macdonald and James Lee Burke are probably the greatest influences on my mystery novels – Macdonald for his empathy, and Burke for the beauty of his prose, and the depth of his compassion.  But I’m the product of every author I’ve ever read and loved, from Enid Blyton to E.E. Cummings.  It would be hard to pinpoint their inspiration directly, though: I just know that they’ve made me the writer that I am.

I know this is a hard question, but if you could only have 5 of your books forever – which five would they be?

Mine, or those of other writers?  I don’t think mine are going to last forever.  None of us is writing for posterity; we just have to write as if we are.  But other writers?  Hmmm.  Bleak House, certainly.  The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.  The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.  The Collected Poems of E.E. Cummings.  And, because they make the world a brighter, happier place, the Jeeves & Wooster novels of P.G. Wodehouse.  A desert island existence wouldn’t be so bad with those writers for company.

Tanya Caunce for TLC Books


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