Welcome to my blog!

Why Jacaranda you ask? In case you are reading this the other side of the world and are not sure, Jacaranda is the name of a beautiful tree, which blooms around Oct/Nov, mostly in the Eastern states of Australia. Its flowers are the most exquisite shade of blue-purple, the nearest comparison probably being hyacinth blue, so who could not be inspired to write by such a spiritual colour? When the jacarandas start to blossom, you know it's exam time, but you also know that Christmas is just around the corner. It is said that if a jacaranda flower falls on your head as you walk underneath a tree, good fortune is sure to follow, so guess who did a lot of walking under jacaranda trees! Watch this space for changing images of this lovely tree!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The importance of on-location research

Warning – This posting contains a plot spoiler!

As part of my MA in Professional Writing I have been undertaking research for the novel I am attempting to write. Some of this has concentrated on what I call 'on-location research', i.e. visiting an unfamiliar place to get the look and feel of it.

This type of research activity not only accords with my love of travelling to places unknown and talking to people, but was also heavily influenced by John Le Carré speaking on a YouTube promo video about his most recent book A Man Most Wanted. Le Carré mentions that he travelled to Hamburg and sat in the armchair in the foyer of the Hotel Atlantic, where one of the main characters in his book, Tommy Brue, the 60-year-old Scottish director of a private bank, would have sat when waiting to meet the young German human rights lawyer Annabel Richter. Le Carré also went to the offices of Fluchtpunkt to check the veracity of his tale of an asylum seeker.

Notwithstanding this, it was not until I recently viewed the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, that I fully appreciated the importance of this type of research. Warning: If you have not yet seen the film or read the book upon which it is based, don’t read on!

For those of you who have seen the film, you may remember there is a scene towards the end of the film in which Mikael Blomkvist visits Australia to trace the long-lost granddaughter of Henrik Vanger, the aged former CEO of the Vanger companies. Blomkvist finds her herding sheep in a remote gulley. Everyone, but everyone, (including me - an ex-pat Brit!) in the Sydney cinema where I saw the film said “That’s not Australia!” And indeed it wasn’t as this scene would appear to have been filmed in Spain.

The moral of this story is obvious – don’t fake it until you make it – but go there!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Twenty-four Seven

Such a common phrase these days, but Twenty-four Seven is the title of a book by first-time Australian author Shirley Eldridge, the launch of which I was privileged to attend earlier this year. It was inspired by her time as a telephone counsellor with Lifeline. As Shirley says in her author's note:

'We often see and hear about Volunteer Fire Fighters, Surf Lifesavers and SES workers, who all perform fantastic work and save lives. But, because of the confidential nature of telephone counsellors' work, we never get to see or hear about the thousands of lives they save, nor the peace of mind they bring to many of their callers.
This book honours all telephone counsellors, past and present, and acknowledges the contribution they make to humanity.'

Notwithstanding the above, Shirley's book is a gripping read - yes, about telephone counselling - but also about the female protagonist, Cherie Dexter, as she struggles with the demands made on her by her telephone counselling business Twenty-four seven and those of her ageing father, only to confront a far worse life and death situation.

Dennis Jones & Associates are distributing the books into book shops. Copies of Twenty-Four Seven are available on line from www.shortstoppress.com. Part of the proceeds of sales go to Lifeline Australia.

And a quick note to those of you, who may be members of a book club, there's a bonus in the way of a list of discussion points at the end of the book

Friday, April 9, 2010

Conspiracy or coincidence?

Is it conspiracy or coincidence that three of the world's top English-speaking novelists have recently published new novels? To wit: Sebastian Faulks A Week in December, Don De Lillo Point Omega, and Ian McEwan Solar. (Go to my website to read my reviews of these works.) I suspect it's good marketing strategy. Now, all we need is my idol of idols, John Le Carre, to publish his new novel, which I understand he has been writing. Any guesses as to the subject matter? My money is on China, Iraq, Iran and/or Afghanistan.

Confirmation or coincidence?

I recently went to see the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which as most of you will know is the screen version of Stieg Larsson's novel by the same name. (As an aside, it is intriguing that the original Swedish title 'Men Who Hate Women' was not adopted for the English-speaking audience in either the print or film version. Is this a cultural 'thing'? I must say I don't think it would have attracted many English-speaking people to either read the book or view the movie.)

Nevertheless, the main point I want to make in this posting is that I wrote a scene (rather badly) for my novel, and nearly jumped out of my seat when there is my scene played out large as life on the screen. I'd like to add here and now, rather ashamedly, that I had not read any of Larsson's post-humously published novels, let alone seen this film before writing my scene. Again, is this one of those 'signs' that I am on the right track? (See previous posting.)

Another admission I'd like to make is that I seem to be developing a bad habit of seeing a film before reading the book upon which it is based - or is it that film producers are bringing out their wares earlier and earlier? What do you think?

Passion, power and politics

Passion, power and politics - so read the poster for Opera Australia's latest producton of Tosca by Puccini, which I was privileged to view recently at the Sydney Opera House. Although familiar with this opera, the rendition was quite unlike any other I had seen and was set during the Fascist era of Italy. However, what really struck me was the similarity between the overarching theme of the opera and my novel - a heroine prepared to sacrifice herself for the man she loves in a world corrupted by power and politics. Rather like the proverbial drowning person clutching at straws, I take some comfort from these revelations that they are a 'sign' to me I'm on the right track with my book!