The November issue!

Well, the stylish November issue is in the house. As well as the usual reviews and news, it’s got interviews with author and bookseller A S Patric, whose short story collection The Rattler is published by Spineless Wonders in November, Brian Falkner who has a new YA series kicking off in November with Recon Team Angel: Assault (Walker Books), Frank Moorhouse, whose ‘Edith Trilogy’ wraps up with Cold Light (Random House, November) and, of course, Ray Martin, whose new book Ray Martin’s Favourites (Victory, November) contains the stories behind some of his favourite interviews.

In the same issue, Eloise Keating looks at changes to sales repping and Andrea Hanke investigates the finer details of digital rights. We report on the Melbourne and Brisbane writers’ festivals, Reuben Crossman reflects on the international book design awards and Kate Cuthbert interviews two digital advocates working in romance publishing.

The 2011 Inkys longlist

The 2011 longlist for the Inky Awards for teenage literature has been announced.

Longlisted Australian titles for the Gold Inky include:

  • Pig Boy (J C Burke, Woolshed Press)
  • Good Oil (Laura Buzo, A&U)
  • Just a Girl (Jane Caro, UQP)
  • The FitzOsbourne’s in Exile (Michelle Cooper, Random House)
  • Graffiti Moon (Cath Crowley, Pan Macmillan)
  • This is Shyness (Leanne Hall, Text)
  • Black Painted Fingernails (Steven Herrick, A&U)
  • Silvermay (James Moloney, HarperVoyager)
  • The Comet Box (Adrian Stirling, Penguin)
  • All I Ever Wanted (Vikki Wakefield, Text)

Longlisted international titles for the Silver Inky include:

  • Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare, Walker Books)
  • Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, A&U)
  • No and Me (Delphine de Vigan, Bloomsbury)
  • Where She Went (Gayle Forman, Doubleday Children’s)
  • Bright Young Things (Anna Godbersen, Puffin)
  • The Agency: The Body in the Tower (Y S Lee, Candlewick Press)
  • Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins, Penguin)
  • First Light (Rebecca Stead, Text)
  • Marcelo in the Real World (Francisco Stork, Scholastic)
  • Violence 101 (Denis Wright, Walker Books)

The shortlist is announced 1 September. Readers of insideadog.com.au will vote for the winning titles and voting is open until 18 October. For more information go here.

INTERVIEW: Gordon Reece on ‘Mice’ (A&U)

Reviewer Clare Hingston spoke to Gordon Reece about his new YA psychological thriller Mice (A&U).

Mice raises some very difficult moral questions. Do you believe good will triumph over evil, or is it more a case of survival of the fittest?

I think few of us see the world in such black and white terms any more and I doubt even Superman himself believes that good will triumph over evil. It would be wonderful to have that conviction, but I think we’ve all seen too much. Even defining ‘good’ and ‘evil’ isn’t straightforward—is an act ‘evil’ if it’s carried out for ‘good’ reasons? In Mice Shelley and her mum are involved in something that will stand their moral code on its head; an act whose corroding influence prepares the ground for the—hopefully unexpected—finale. I wrote the novel in stages, sending each finished section to my agent, Debbie Golvan, for her opinion. I remember her saying when she’d read the final section—‘I’m not sure I know these people any more.’ And, in a way, that was precisely the point of the novel. The survival of the fittest is an interesting lens through which to read Mice. It’s arguable that in some ways, in spite of the odds stacked against them, Shelley and her mum do prove their fitness to survive. It’s certainly closer to my intention than the triumph of good over evil.

How do you relate to Shelley and her mother, and to what extent do you identify with the ‘mousey’ aspects of their personalities?

I should start by saying that my definition of a human mouse isn’t necessarily a person who’s painfully shy or socially inept—in fact, Shelley and her mum are intelligent, talented and successful in many different ways. For me, what makes them ‘mice’ is their inability to deal with confrontation—verbal, physical or psychological. And in a world where so many people seem to thrive on confrontation, this leaves them dangerously exposed and vulnerable. Many of Shelley and her mum’s ‘mousey’ characteristics—bookishness, intellectualism, a love of classical music, respect for the law, speaking well, politeness—are almost defining features of English middle-class culture. I came from an essentially working-class background and I know I kicked against what I saw as these ‘unmanly’ characteristics. I recall a school report describing me as ‘aggressively anti-intellectual’ and I can remember smashing my glasses I was so frustrated that I had to wear them. So there’s a degree to which middle-class culture itself is seen as ‘mousey’ in the UK. When Hamish Hamilton dropped my first children’s book way back in 1985 and I thought the door to a writing career had been closed forever, my reaction was quite telling I think. I tried to join the army.

Mice is ultimately a very empowering novel, but what inspired you to write a book that deals so extensively with the darker side of humanity?

I suppose I’ve always written stories that dealt with the ‘the darker side of humanity’—even when I was at school—not horror exactly, but more thrillers, stories that invariably revolved around a violent act and some sort of twisted psyche. If I was to indulge in amateur self-psychoanalysis I’d say this was due in part to my personal history and in part to the books that have influenced me most strongly. When I was nine my brother-in-law gave me a bag of American comics which had, in amongst all the superheroes, several issues of ‘Uncanny Tales and Astounding Stories’. These horror and sciencefiction short stories changed my life—I was immediately addicted to these dark melodramas and I crammed my school essays with their ecstatic vocabulary. I really believe they taught me how to write (people underestimate how well written a lot of those comics were). They also gave me a healthy appetite for plot, for plot-driven narratives, usually with a darkly ironic twist in the tail. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Ananda Braxton-Smith on ‘Merrow’ (Black Dog Books)

Ananda Braxton-Smith first came to attention with her YA nonfiction book The Death: The Horror of the Plague. She tells Natalie Crawford about her latest offering, Merrow.

There is a beautiful sense of landscape (both emotional and physical) in Merrow, particularly in relation to the character of Neen. Did it ever seem to overwhelm her adolescent journey?

Merrow’s landscape came first; the characters grew directly from that. They emerged from the cliffs and the sea and all that lies beneath; out of deep waters and caves, and so forth. I was very aware while writing that the caves were acting as Neen’s psyche, and the sea as her emotional element, though I tried not to know it while writing for fear it might become a lifeless landscape. Neen and the island reflect each other. Shifting ideas, shifting ground; new stories, new caves; heat waves; tempers fraying. I love a good pathetic fallacy. What’s good enough for the Brontes and William Falkner is good enough for me. I never felt the conflation of Neen and her environment to be getting out of hand. Once up on her own feet she remained central to her own story, and everything else served that.

The trend at the moment in young adult fiction is for more glamorous historical settings. What drew you towards the lives you have written in Merrow?

Food tastes better when you’re really hungry. I wanted to include this simple pleasure; the pleasure of knowing one’s hungry and then satisfying the hunger. Rich people don’t get hungry like Neen and Ushag. Neen and Ushag live a survival-life as does much of our contemporary world. They are resilient and inventive because of it, two qualities I much admire and which are responsible for human survival into the present time. I wanted to display Neen’s skills and capacity for survival in a way which I hope respects the actual abilities of young people. Neen’s work is not just a training for real life, it is real life. Finally, as I needed Neen to have access only to her oral tradition, she had to be (romantically) illiterate. She needed her natural wits about her, her voice to be straight and true, and her reasoning untrained by medieval rhetoric. Continue reading

The new issue has landed!

Ah, there’s the new-magazine smell again. Yes, the May/June combined issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine just arrived in the office.

This issue has a gazillion reviews of as-yet-unpublished books (okay, 75), including such highly anticipated titles as Rebecca James’ Beautiful Malice (A&U, May), Fiona McGregor’s Indelible Ink (Scribe, June), Peter Rose’s Roddy Parr (Fourth Estate, July), Leanne Hall’s Text YA prize-winning This is Shyness (August) and Benjamin Law’s debut The Family Law (Black Inc., June). (If you want to know what some of our reviewers’ top picks were you can read about them in this post.)

As well as all those reviews, the May/June issue includes Kalinda Ashton (The Danger Game, Sleepers) writing about how she got where she is today, Kabita Dhara on the publishing scene in India, author interviews with Susan Maushart, Ben Groundwater, Bill McKibben, Amanda Braxton-Smith and James Phelan and lots more besides.

Subscribers, it will be on its way to you very soon. Non-subscribers, you’ll find a list of places you can buy a copy here. (Or you could, you know, subscribe: $130 a year. Bargain.)

Interview: Foz Meadows on Solace and Grief (Hybrid Publishers)

Self-proclaimed geek and first-time novelist Foz Meadows speaks to Kate O’Donnell about Solace and Grief, her young adult urban fantasy.

Solace and Grief, in spite of its gothic appearance and dramatic plot, is also a very funny story with witty characters. Was it hard to find a balance of light and dark?

Yes, at times. Whenever I’m writing a tense or emotional scene, it feels like there are three different writers in me vying for control—a dramatist longing for tragedy, a closet romantic, and a comedian who looks for the humour in everything. And I do mean that literally. When I was 13 or so, I took it into my head to give names, faces and distinct character attributes to three different parts of my personality, and 10 years later, it’s still hard to resist thinking of myself in those terms, especially when writing. In that sense, then, the balance of the story is a bit like the balance of my personality—skewed. I have to fight with myself on multiple fronts. At the same time, humour often creeps in unannounced, but in ways which, once I notice, feel completely natural. I’ve always had a healthy appreciation for irony and the absurd—the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series is one of my favourite things in the entire universe—because life is so rarely a straight-up choice between laughter and seriousness. More often, the two are blended together; poignancy is a mix of different emotions, not an absolute state. Reality seldom misses an opportunity to tromp all over the drama of human existence with the Gumboots of Inopportune Timing, so why should fantasy be any different?

Continue reading