Some Say


by Mike

Some say that he swam from Australia to the UK with his book synopsis.

Still others say that he can write novels by staring at his computer whilst drinking dry martinis.

All we know is that he is called Paul Burman and his debut book is out today!

Buy it here.


Coming and Going


by Kathleen

Nuala’s labor started when she was dreaming of her little sister who had died nine months ago. “It’s going to be the best thing in your life,” said the skinny eight-year old girl, who had been killed by a drunk driver.

The dream occurred in vivid light and ended in darkness, like a lid shut tight. By nine a.m., she and her husband Charlie took turns cradling their newborn son.

Afterwards, Nuala nurtured Davey in sustained euphoria. She didn’t care if she slept or ate or ever left the apartment. Good thing, too, because that winter the temperature rarely rose about zero.

In February Charlie’s boss turned forty, and his third wife was throwing a party in their penthouse। Charlie told Nuala, “We’ll only stay a few hours.” Seeing her face, he said, “One hour.”

Nuala’s bereft mother, Anita, imagined babysitting might be healing. And Davey drank pumped milk from a bottle without fuss, because his grandmother had begged to feed him from the beginning.


Nuala cinched a belt over a pleated skirt that was too big. Any extra weight she had gained while pregnant slipped off in weeks, and more pounds had followed.

“You look beautiful,” her mother said. “Have fun.”

Nuala stepped into a night so cold her lungs seized up for a second, refusing such frigid air. Inside their rusty car, she rested her head against Charlie’s shoulder. “Let’s phone with our regrets.” She wiped the steamy car window. “Look, she’s waving Davey’s hand good-bye.”

Charlie found a parking place after much searching. Arms locked, they skidded, bending into the wind. “We can say we got the day wrong,” he said, which was preposterous. They needed to show up.

He was anxious for Nuala. After meeting a stranger, she and the other person often watched dumbstruck as the person’s secrets hung in the air. Rarely, people loved Nuala’s spooky intuitions. More often, they stalked off, angry.

Charlie’s boss kissed Nuala’s cheek and marveled at how lovely she looked. His wife Natalie asked, “Why are you doing this?” when Nuala requested a non-alcoholic drink.

A dark-haired woman named Jessica hiccupped, telling Nuala. “You’re a dead-ringer from my childhood. My best friend. Whose name escapes me, because I’m drunk.”

Seeing Charlie, Jessica lurched toward the couch. Charlie claimed he didn’t know the woman, but Nuala didn’t believe it.

With their coats on, Charlie said, “No one will remember whether we say good-bye or not. So, no hanging around the doorway.”

Halfway up their stairs, they could hear Anita singing.

Not a drop of blood.She never suffered.Shes in heaven now.She's in heaven.

“Yoo-hoo!” Nuala called.

Anita jumped up. “So soon? Davey’s asleep.”

As Charlie waited to take Anita home, she said, “Sometimes I forget. And when I remember, it’s like my little girl’s just died all over again.”

Nuala hugged her mother and they cried together.





Coming soon!


Interview with Gary Davison, author of Fat Tuesday, coming soon.

Hyperfiction – Boldly going where?



Though I've never been a fan, I could always appreciate the appeal of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' genre. You know the sort: a basic framework for a story with three or four diversionary tracks the reader can follow:
  • If Noddy goes home to wash and wax his little yellow car, turn to page 78;

  • If Noddy summons up courage to ask Mrs Bear out to dinner at Chez Big Ears, turn to page 101;

  • If Noddy trades his car in, buys an AK47 on the Toy Town blackmarket and goes postal, turn to page 132.
If one pathway doesn't excite, then come back and try another. It's like getting three books in one, and might even be seen as the literary precursor to the video game, Nintendo 64, Xbox, etc. It's certainly attracted a lot of kids into reading.

With this in mind, I thought I should overcome my prejudice about reading novel-length slabs of text on a monitor and get hold of some examples of hyperfiction, which I duly did a while back. I'd come across a couple of excited articles about the wonderful potential of hyperfiction and wanted to sample them for myself, so loaded one on to my pc and one on to my work laptop, began flicking from page to page... and felt my interest sink faster than a lead balloon. Since then, they've been sitting there, sulking or skulking on my hard drive, and I've failed to interest anyone else in having a read.

Why?

It isn't just the fact that these texts can only be viewed on screen, which kills my eyes after a few thousand words, because if the hardware was any better this still wouldn't win me over. No, even with a hand-held digital book, I can't imagine being enthralled by the notion that what I have in front of me is not so much a story as an almost-endless series of permutations without direction: turn right if you like, or turn left, turn back if you're in the mood, jump forward perhaps, make your own choice, make another choice, read this character's thoughts, discover another character, and another, or another setting.

Navigating the menu alone makes me feel as if the story-teller's craft has been sacrificed to creating endless links and cross-overs instead. Whilst a sense of design undoubtedly exists, the sense of being taken on a journey, the sense of purpose, has been replaced by the frustration of being left to wander in a random manner through an unnavigable maze.

The idea---the potential---intrigues me, but I haven't discovered an extended piece of hyperfiction that captivates me yet. Which might also mean that this is just waiting to be written!

Angels Overhead



by Kathleen

Nothing: no space, no time, no Thomas. No light, sound, needles poking him—no tubes forced into him.

That much had surfaced.

Afterwards, a tug. The atmosphere stirred and he heard birdsong. He lay lost in dimness, while a girl slammed a metal railing.

Becca said, “You make me sick!”

Such a feathery, caressing sound, Becca’s anger.

“Why did you ask me here then? Why can’t you leave me alone?” Another girl. He summoned her name but none came. Just the voice. “Bitch.”

Birds trilling above his head. Angels fluttering their wings.

Later, faint sensations seeped through him, as if filtered through damp wool. Thomas remembered his daughter, Becca, and the second girl, Ashley—daughter of Julia. How he loved Julia! In secret. In dark nothingness, he had always loved Julia. But she was married to George.

George knew. Before they got in the car, George had confronted him. Suddenly, after years. Their daughters graduating from school. The way you look at her, he said, is unreal.

After that, George yelled and threatened and Thomas had yelled in response. Both of them wild with rage. Love was uncontrollable, not reasonable.

Hydroplaning, he recalled that sensation. What progress he was making, remembering the car hydroplaning.

Thomas woke perhaps a week later. Or maybe only a few minutes. Awake, asleep now, he couldn’t pretend. Fatal car crash in torrential rain. George was gone but still taunting him: Come on, it’s over. What are you, chicken?

Every time he woke now, Thomas sustained consciousness longer. His eyes opened and rolled toward the light. Julia sat by his bed, knitting. She told him she was learning from a book, which kept sliding off her lap.

Thomas tried to speak. He said Julia but no sound come out. Nonetheless, she dipped toward him, her face circled in light. He touched her hair hanging down.

Why hadn’t he touched her hair eons ago? Oh, yes, he remembered.

The gulf between reality and what he had wanted was so enormous he had wondered why the geography alone didn’t kill him.

Now the world had changed. He touched Julia’s hair and cheek and she said, “Hello.”

Thomas had yearned for her so desperately, he feared the immensity of his desire would overcome him; he’d black out. But now Julia was touching his hand and for once he feared nothing. He kissed her fingers and she restored him. He became whole.

The Author's Cut

Director’s cut, extended edition, restored version – you’ve probably stumbled over these phrases in the context of a film, but in the context of a novel? Not likely. Although some classics have been altered a little from edition to edition – for corrections, adding prefaces and notes – but very few have had, say, their endings changed. Tweaked a little, yes, but nothing major. Henry James some minor alterations to Portrait of a Lady (something about too much ambiguity or whatever). It’s not as if there’s a version of Gone with the Wind where Rhett comes back a second after not giving a damn and says, “Sorry about that, Scarlet. I got caught up in the moment.” If he did, there would probably be rioting.

The final version of a movie is less final apparently. Once a director becomes prominent enough, they can go back to their older work and re-cut it – sometimes to get closer to the version they had in mind that the studio didn’t agree to for whatever reason, sometimes to fix technical aspects, and sometimes simply because they’ve rethought the material over the years. Milos Forman’s director’s cut of Amadeus has about twenty minutes of extra footage, all worthwhile, but given that the theatrical cut already runs close to three hours, you can see why some of it had to be trimmed. I forget how many versions of Blade Runner there are – I also forget why.

But novelists don’t re-cut their books, however prominent they become. There aren’t any “extended editions” or “author’s versions” in circulation. At least, as far as I know it’s unheard of, but someone please jump in and correct me if I’m wrong. You have to wonder why that is. Well, maybe you don’t, but it struck me that once a novel is printed – that’s it. Done. No more changes except for correcting typos. I suppose you could argue that if a book is successful, there’s no point in changing the ending or editing it in any other way. And if it’s not successful, you might feel somewhat indignant, not to say a little humiliated, at the idea of changing an ending or whatever other changes occur to you in order to make the book successful. On to the next, as they say. (I don’t know who “they” are, actually.)

And how about DVDs with additional commentary tracks? Impossible in a book. Well, more annoying really – until books finally go digital – which we can assume is still quite some way off. There are annotated versions of classics, but that’s more to clarify specific details in the text, enlighten problematic aspects, etc., than to reveal how the book was created. That’s probably a good thing, too, because it would likely take away some of the magic. Once someone teaches you that disappearing-reappearing acts can only be done with identical twins or objects, it’s not as intriguing seeing the item disappear at one end of the stage and then reappear at the other end.

But – it could be utterly brilliant to see someone completely deconstruct their own work. The mystery might be gone, but the craftsmanship would still be there. I suppose that’s what workshops and author’s lectures are for, but think of your favorite book, now imagine the author took you through it step by step and revealed it in all its technical glory. Significant, enthralling, and instructive? Or maybe unnecessary, boring, and sacrilegious? It could very well go either way. Some DVD commentaries are wonderful, others are disappointing. Some movies are improved by being revisited and reedited, and others should be left well alone. Personally, I’m not looking for a trend of reediting published books to get started or having alternate endings float around in different editions.

I do think that once you’ve published, you need to accept whatever mistakes you’ve made and try not to repeat them. You can’t expect to be the same writer and the same person – forever. You can only hope to still be proud of what’s done, however amateurish it seems in retrospect. And you can also pray that no one amplifies its importance by putting it on a school curriculum. Although now that I think of it, forcing school children to study it may be precisely the way to make sure it’s not taken seriously, much like Shakespeare, whom people have a tendency to edit at their own discretion.

I’d be grateful if someone could find a version of Hamlet where he stops whining after the first act and doesn’t set off a chain of death and despair. If there had been DVDs in Elizabethan England, Master Will probably would have done it himself. The savvy old playwright may have written several alternate endings and versions for all of his plays, to be selected according to the audience’s wishes. He may have done a lot of things, given the opportunity, or he may have only smiled at me and said, “Woman, get thee to a nunnery.”

It did occur to me to end this post about three hundred words sooner, but this was the shortest I could whittle it down to. Consider it the author’s cut.

Issue 2 of TVFH on Sale Now

Issue 2 of The View From Here is now for sale!

Interviews with ...

World's longest running Literary Agency AP Watt

Author: Tom McCarthy

Articles:

London Literature Festival

Best of Booker Prize

Industry News
Original Fiction

& much more!

ISSN 1758-2903

See a full preview and order your copy here.

Next month's issue available from the 12th September:

Sticky


by Kathleen

Gillian’s college boyfriend, Des, the one who had broken her heart, reentered her life ten years after she married a rich, hard-driving banker. She had long since abandoned her career to work free-lance. As it turned out, so had Des.

Summers were always slow, and by August they gave up trolling for projects, preferring to meander through lush parks. When the air grew too hot and their rapport too intense, Des admitted that if she wasn’t married, he would refuse to see her again. “Nothing sticky,” he said.

Luckily, Gillian’s snug marriage kept them safe: No life-altering possibilities swarmed in their minds. All they did was talk.

True, Des stroked her arms, begging her urgently for—a kiss. But he didn’t mean it. Des always stayed in control. Gillian did not, exactly. His hands charged her entire body, thrilling her so that invisible sparks filled the air.

They bought Popsicles and found a bench overlooking the river. Des laughed at what a various and satisfying sex life she must enjoy, if she wouldn’t even consider him.

“Really, Gillian, it can only get better.”

She shook her head. “It’s too much already—reclaiming myself afterwards.”

Des whistled. “How long have you been married?”

“George doesn’t take marriage literally.” Orange Popsicle dripped on Gillian’s shorts.

“Oh right. There’s what’s her name.”

“He’s very passionate with me, though,” Gillian said. “Rosemary mostly fans the flames.”

“For you or him or both?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why not?” Des asked, finishing his Popsicle. “Don’t you do anything for yourself?”

“Well—” Gillian blushed but decided talking was innocent. They could say anything to each other. She wasn’t even looking at Des; she spoke to the wind. “I have a fool-proof method.”

Des sputtered in delight. He hadn’t meant that. His question had been rhetorical. But now that she’d mentioned it, he needed details.

She stood up and he grabbed her wrist. “I’m sorry I laughed.” Des pulled her onto the grass and they gazed at the sky.

“Please,” he said, closing his eyes. “Tell me.”

She scooted away and he crawled close to her, placing a hand on her hip until she lay beside him. “Tell me what you do that’s special.”

“I didn’t say it was special.”

“Just tell me,” Des said.

So she did, and he whistled again. “Will you show me?” Her hair flew in her face. “Please,” he said; please, three times.

Her unconsidered response was: “But I could be arrested.”

“I didn’t mean here,” Des said. “I meant, show me in private.”

Odd how nearby his apartment was.

You Get What You Need

by Kathleen

In high school, Cole fantasized a life where he conversed with the pretty girls. They existed in a separate realm, and he couldn’t imagine how to get from here to there. Still, he dreamed of sidling close to one and offering a painfully polished observation. Yet even in his imagination, the girl looked straight through him. If he repeated his rehearsed line—still in his mind—the girl scoffed: “Heard you the first time, Cole.”

A wiry, restless boy, Cole’s yearning, expressive face wore a terrible veil of acne, the ornate patches shifting like ant colonies over his skin.

His
impossible desire didn’t diminish. Instead—the opposite. It careened out of his mind, down to his gluey tongue. He tried silly, off-beat phrases he intended as compliments: nothing typical. “You move so fluidly,” or “You cast both shadow and light.” But, exactly as he had imagined, the girls looked through him.

In November, he stayed late, making up a History test he’d skipped for a dentist appointment. With the Novocain still numbing his mouth, he zipped his jacket and his jaw clicked.

Outside,
windswept branches swayed with messages. Every edge appeared in high relief. Scudding through frost-bitten leaves, Cole slid toward the hurdlers’ track. The picture in his head switched imperceptibly as if an optometrist was showing him different lenses: is this clearer…

… or this? Gawky Stephanie was jumping hurdles. Amelia, her beautiful girlfriend, watched. Hanging on the chain link fence, Amelia cocked her head at him. She stared at Cole, her blue eyes shot with sunbursts.

Cole’s head swiveled. Was she beckoning someone else? No one slouched behind him. How she could possibly be selecting Cole? He ventured closer, and Amelia tossed her dark hair, which glinted with a blue sheen in the encroaching dusk. Wasn’t her friend Stephanie amazing? Amelia held Cole’s elbow.

She and Stephanie had been friends since kindergarten, but now in high school, Amelia was gorgeous, while Stephanie, the school’s best track star, no longer possessed a visible chin. But who was pimple-faced Cole to criticize?

He searched for a witty remark, something smarter than: Yes, Stephanie’s amazing. But he couldn’t be funny. Cole could only pull off “funny” when he was sincere. Sincerity was hilarious.

Squinting at the hurdles, Cole found a clue. What made Stephanie spectacular was suspense. Her rhythm varied. At some hurdles you feared her long legs might tangle her up.

“They never do, though,” Amelia said, draping an arm around Cole.

He breathed Amelia’s clouds of breath, eager to remain there forever.

Later, he puzzled, why him? Was Amelia looking for someone to admire her friend when Cole happened by? Or had she watched him in class, choosing her moment?

Days later, when they were already intimate, Cole asked her. And Amelia said, “Destiny’s funnier than sincerity.”



Novels for Breakfast

by Stella

While Mike suns himself on vacation, Kathleen works on a new sketch (risking sweetness!), Paul waits for his book to come out next month, Naomi spends time with her inspirational rabbit, and Jen makes sure the newsroom is chock full of news, I've been thinking about my next post. But I got sidetracked when a friend emailed me this article about cellphone novels.

Cellphone novels are a cultural phenomenon in Japan. Basically, the authors gradually write them as a series of text messages - similar to online novels, only in much shorter installments, incorporating emoticons and texting slang. I don't really want to get into whether this phenomenon is positive or negative, since I've never read a cellphone novel. The thing that surprised me is how successful the format apparently is - millions of novels as well as millions of readers. And! I'm seeing an opportunity for literature to branch out.

Cereal boxes! Cereal Novels! Ha ha ha... ha?

Just think about it for a minute. You're having your cereal for breakfast and naturally you want to read something - why not the fragment of a novel? How long does it take to finish a whole box of cereal, a week maybe? Then next week the new box will have the next fragment, and so on and so on. Of course there'd be problems deciding what content is appropriate for the format. Can you make an R-rated cereal box? Now there's a question.

(By the way, though I'm more kidding than serious, I mean no offense to cellular novelists and cellular novel readers. I was simply surprised by the concept.)

Caroline Hamilton Interview part two




To read the first part of the interview with Caroline Hamilton, author of Consumed, please click here.



In Consumed, you explore and mythologise womanhood as a primal force which can be both creative and destructive, and have not only developed Lilith as a positive and powerful figure, who is both seductive and unyielding (The Book of Vassalissa was a particular highlight for me), but have also created an enduring character in Katarina. What ideas and/or people, if any, inspired the characters and directions you took in this respect?

My grandma was an influence for me, and the Katarina character was (very loosely) based on her – I guess I took some aspects of my grandma, but then extrapolated, developed and finally created a character that – whilst there were elements of my grandma in her – the character was her own unique being.

What is one of your favourite parts of the novel, and why?

I love the opening paragraph – it was the very first thing that I wrote for the novel and it has remained unchanged throughout the entirety of the book’s development.




I intended asking you about that opening paragraph. It's quite unusual to engage the reader through opening with a series of direct questions, but it both establishes the voice of Amelia perfectly and gives the reader notice that this is a story that will challenge convention.

I really heard the opening line in my head “Tell me something…” and I loved the directness of it. I guess coming from a background of performance poetry, my writing reflects that speech / first-person type of narrative. I am used to speaking, talking to the audience, and I love it because it’s very personal: you as the reader are going to enter my world – I am not simply going to describe it to you, I am going to involve you, plonk you right in the middle of it. Whilst I have tried to write in other ways, it never, ever rings true. So that first paragraph I love because it just sets it all up. And it’s interesting that you say it establishes the voice of Amelia – because I agree, totally; yet some of the feedback that I have gotten over the years is that the voice of Amelia isn’t strong enough. So… go figure…!

I believe you’re currently engaged in writing a book about your father, who was deported from Poland to Siberia during World War II. Can you tell us anything about this book?

This is proving to be rather difficult – whilst it is, for the most part, non-fiction, I am also fictionalising it and extrapolating the story. It has been particularly hard because I have to imagine my father’s life (he died when I was very young). Also, I am finding that part of the story is the search for his story. It’s a long process.

Do you have favourite books or authors, and if so what and who are they, and what do you particularly like about them?

Margaret Atwood – not all of her books though, but I love Oryx and Crake.
The Harry Potter series. (Come on! They’re classics! Great stories! Wonderfully executed!)
Italo Calvino: If on a winter’s night a traveller… (a story about a story about a story).
Patrick Suskind: Perfume (beautiful, lyrical, dark and sinister).

There are so many books that I like! I also love non-fiction. All kinds of non-fiction…

Although available in Australian bookshops, through the ABC Shop online and through ABC Books Worldwide, are there plans to publish or directly distribute Consumed overseas?

I would love for it to go overseas. Because the story is sinister yet kooky, I think it would go well. But maybe I’m biassed because I wrote it! I just think that Australia can be a little conservative when it comes to publishing, and that sometimes overseas audiences can be less so.

How do you write? Do you have a particular routine or habit that you’re able to follow? Is there a particular environment you prefer to be in? Do you have a particular process you follow (long-hand followed by word-processing), a patchwork of notes, etc?

I write when I can... which is not nearly often enough! Plus my partner and I now have a baby – so we’ve been kept very, very busy. I have a notebook with me wherever I go and try to write ideas and thoughts down when they first arise. Then, when I do find the time to write, I get all my notes together and just begin the process. I would like to be as disciplined as Sylvia Plath was (didn’t she get up at like 5am and do an hour of writing before getting kids ready for school?!) but I do like my sleep a bit too much! I have been known to take myself away on writing retreats and these have been hugely productive. I guess I just try, as much as I can, to get to the business of writing. Even if I think what I am producing is crap and half (or more) gets chucked away. It’s important to keep going, keep going, keep going. To be honest, about 80% of the words are flushed down the toilet – for a variety of reasons: it doesn’t fit in the story, the characterisation is wrong, etc. Nothing really ever gets fully lost though. These bits might end up in another story, you never know.



Is there any advice you could offer aspiring and emerging writers? Is there a piece of advice you feel you have most benefited from?

The first draft of a story is just that – a first draft. It’s usually the nuts and bolts of the thing, but it is in a really raw state. It’s after the first draft that the hard work comes in, and believe me, writing can be very hard work – it’s not just about producing words, sometimes you have to let go of ideas if they are not working, or two characters might become one. I remember cutting about half the book, getting rid of scenes and re-writing and restructuring. But mostly, the best advice I can give is to keep asking yourself what it is that you are doing:




  • Where is the story going? Is it going where you think it’s meant to?

  • What is the story about? (This may seem like a stupid question, but if you can’t say in one short sentence what the story is about, then do you really know yourself?)

  • Be humble, listen to advice, and keep true to your vision.


Thanks, Caroline.


***



Described as 'a sensuous tale of food, madness and revenge', Caroline Hamilton's Consumed can be purchased from ABC Books Worldwide (click here), the ABC Shop (click here) or off-the-shelf in Australian bookshops.

Caroline Hamilton Interview part one



Having raved about Caroline Hamilton’s debut novel Consumed (ABC Books, 2008) on my PaperBooks blog earlier this year (click here to read review), I was delighted to catch up with Caroline recently and interview her for The View From Here.



Can you describe how the story of Consumed grew? Did it spring from a completely different idea and gradually change shape, or from a phrase you liked the sound of, or the idea for a character, or...?

I have always been obsessed with writing about food, and I do say obsessed because since I began writing, a lot of my work (particularly the earlier stuff which was mostly performance poetry) used food metaphorically. Food is sensuous, sexy, necessary, sometimes it can be gross, people abuse it, rely on it and in the wrong hands it can be used to kill people (think of The Young Poisoner's Handbook). During some of the research for Consumed I remember reading about this serial-killer grandma-figure in America called Nannie Doss – sweet old lady who ended up being somewhat of a ‘black widow’ type character. And it was all in her apple pie that just happened to be laced with rat poison!!!

Anyway, I digress. I wrote the first paragraph of the book. And that is where the idea came from. It really ‘just happened’. I started writing and the story grew… and grew… and grew. Obviously, there was a lot to do with structuring, character development etc that happened along the way. BUT, the idea really came from that first paragraph.

Originally I called the book Appetite and whilst I liked this, I knew it wasn’t right. So then when I hit on the title Consumed the story came along in leaps and bounds – having the right title is very important – it can influence the writing very much.


By what path did you find a publisher and how straight-forward or time-consuming was this?

Well… I was very lucky, but I also worked hard at getting the manuscript out.

Originally, there was another publisher (who shall remain nameless!) who was interested in seeing a first draft. But… people come and go and so when it came time to submit the manuscript, the people I was dealing with had left and the new people just weren’t interested in it.

Then, I entered it into the Varuna Awards for Manuscript Development and was one of the recipients. This meant that HarperCollins had first right of refusal. They helped me shape the story, but eventually they did exercise that right of refusal – but through it all I got a great agent, and finally ABC came on board. It’s interesting to note though, that finding the right publisher is very important. In retrospect, I can truly say that whilst the initial rejections were disappointing, ABC really were the ‘right’ publisher because they ‘got’ the book, ie understood it, and let me drive the story.



What was the experience of working with a mentor at Varuna like?

Great! Scary! Sometimes it can be hard to allow someone in to your writing process. But, even though writing is (generally) a solitary undertaking, if you are serious about getting published then there comes a time when you absolutely have to let people in. Ultimately, you want people to read your work – and not just your mates!

I was very lucky to have Michelle De Kretser as my mentor – she basically told me to keep going, and she also asked me a lot of questions about what I was trying to do, what the story was about, etc, etc. And I guess what really helped me was that I had assumed that people would just pick up on certain things whilst reading the story, and if they hadn’t, then what did I need to do to change this? Plus, by the end of first draft, it is very difficult to remove yourself from the story; as a writer you are just so invested in it all. It’s really great to have someone look at it with fresh eyes – especially if that someone tries to get the best story out of you, rather than trying to get the story they would like to see (the difference being that some people are too caught up in what they want to read and take no notice of what the writer is trying to do!)


Some of the qualities that, I believe, give the story a timeless appeal are the focus on food, hunger and satisfaction, love and revenge, sensuality and violence. That you’ve also drawn on fables (Baba Yaga) and biblical references (Lilith in the Garden of Eden) reinforces the universality of some of the ideas and characters. Can you say something about your connection with the roots of these stories? Where did you first come across them or did you discover them through the process of writing the novel?

Some of it was through research – I wanted to have myth / legend / and a lineage of women that was based in fable, truth and stories that are handed down from mother to daughter, so I looked up as many different versions of the Vassalissa story that I could. I’ve also always loved the Lilith story, and I remember reading a story in high school called Children of the Dust (a bit of a post-apocalyptic world, kind-of John-Marsden-ish) that introduced me to this fable. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of this stuff was just percolating inside me, ready to come out, and that in order to help it along I did some research as well.

Through reflecting on the significance of food and its preparation, did the writing of Consumed change your own attitude to food in any way? Perhaps you could describe your perfect meal?

Ooh… perfect meal… look, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do the whole degustation menu thing and never actually had the opportunity – it’s about twelve courses, each one has its own wines etc. They’re supposedly not big courses (they wouldn’t want to be!) but it’s all rather decadent and lasts for hours (a bit of a Babette’s Feast). You get to try all these different flavours… that would make me pretty happy (as long as it didn’t involve Brussels sprouts or celery – I cannot stand these two vegetables – I don’t know why, I just hate them). But the other side of it is that I love to try anything weird, I’ve always wanted to try cheese in a can!

I love a good roast, I have a fantastic recipe for an oven-baked-chorizo-paella-type-thing that is legendary; bacon and eggs are a massive fave of mine, as is a good smoked-salmon bagel with cream cheese and dill (love dill!). I will try any kind of food… except I don’t know that I could eat chicken feet. I have actually killed a chicken, and yes a turkey, before, and that was quite disturbing, but I figured if I can eat it, I should be able to kill it.

When I visited the US I got completely addicted to ranch dressing… and I have been known to crave KFC. (Sad but true.)

Did writing the book change my attitude to food? A little, I guess. Look, when you’re researching there’s a lot of interesting and weird stuff that comes up – it doesn’t have to end up in the book, but you read this stuff and absorb the ideas. One of these things (that didn’t end up in the book) was recipes that involved human placenta. One that I will never forget was this recipe for placenta lasagne. I couldn’t think of anything more bizarre that I would never, ever even contemplate trying.

I was about to say that all this talk of food is making me hungry, but on that last note my appetite has disappeared!



Part Two of this interview will appear on Monday.

Click here for Part 2.

***

Described as 'a sensuous tale of food, madness and revenge', Caroline Hamilton's Consumed can be purchased from ABC Books Worldwide (click here), the ABC Shop (click here) or off-the-shelf in Australian bookshops.

For the printed edition of this interview at TVFH go here.

Rabbit Writer - Feed me.

Trying to develop a scene.

Rabbits are hungry. Always. And their whiskers tickle.

Books are Like Girls in Short Skirts



















by The Lone Ranger

Like the title of this post? It was an unusual parting remake on Three Counties Radio whilst talking about Hi Ho Books Away on their show!

The DJ seemed to think I was Mike. Strange.

Listen to the radio interview below ( I forgot to mention The View From Here - I think Mike is a bit mad with me!)

And do you think books are like girls in short skirts?
In what way could this be true?!





For more on Hi Ho Books Away ( or "Readers brought to Book") :

Click here to see the video.
Click here to see the results.

Photo Credit: ibm4381