On Chatham Island time with David Mitchell

The WORD Christchurch event with novelist David Mitchell ran on Chatham Islands time. With no session before or after, time was flexible. It started a little late and David was generous with his time, going well over the nominal finishing time. David was thankful for the restorative properties of Whittaker’s Hokey Pokey chocolate and a power nap. He was on top form with the conversation flowing easily between him and Rachael King – an award-winning author in her own right. David assured us we could go at anytime, he didn’t want to hold anybody’s babysitter up but we could have listened to this self-effacing Englishman all night. It was amazing for us starstruck fans to hear it took three days to get over his own fanboy awe and introduce himself to Haruki Murakami at breakfast.

On Middle Age and the role research plays in his novels

He used to go off around the world whenever he wanted to research his books, staying at backpacker hostels when he was researching Cloud atlas on the Chatham Islands, and drinking with the locals. Now he negotiates absences from home with his wife, and he stays at comfortable hotels. Interspersing quality time at home with stints at literary festivals allows his wife to have time to do things, and him to tuck the children into bed. He wrote Crispin Hershey from the Bone Clocks as a foil against believing the publicity machine. Several of the literary festivals Crispin attends have since invited David – a great way to travel to parts of the world – a tip for new authors maybe? He chooses the literary festivals he attends carefully, hoping to pick up useful experiences and nuggets of information from the places he visits, and they may later be woven into his books. Should we expect to see Iceland featured in a novel sometime?

Sometimes there is no substitute for being there. Without having ridden a bicycle in the snow in Europe, he wouldn’t have known that despite how many clothes you put on you still end up with snow up your nose, down your neck, up your sleeve and in your armpit:

Snow’s up my nose, snow’s in my eyes, snow’s in my armpits, snow howls after us through a stone archway into a grotty yard with dustbins already half buried under snow, snow, snow. Holly fumbles with the key now we are in…

Hugo Lamb with Holly Sykes, Bone Clocks

On Children

Rachael explored the Faustian aspects of David’s work, and whether we fear more for our children than ourselves. Rachael and David discussed how now having children has affected them, and their fears for their children and the world they could inherit. The world ravaged by climate change and desperately short of oil David describes in the last chapter of Bone Clocks is a warning.  Despite recurrent themes of death and cheating death, he doesn’t like to write too much sadness in novels. They are ultimately are for your enjoyment. David said as a parent he would never write anything in a novel that hurts children – if he puts them in harm’s way ultimately he always kind of saves them.

Cover of The Bone Clocks Cover of The Thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet Cover of Cloud Atlas Cover of number9dream

On writing and being a nerd

The upcoming new Slade House novella and the Bone Clocks are part of an overarching Uber novel where characters and references pop up in other novels. He delights in these nerd-like aspects of his work, creating links between characters in his books in a Tolkienesque way. He’d like to put more of this in his work, but he feels he is already asking a lot of his readers with the way he structures his novels.

On the fantasy scale he feels he is only about a 3 or 4, partly due to his books being character and not plot driven. Despite being a bit of a nerd and creating back stories for his characters, he doesn’t have his entire novels mapped out. He has an idea where the novel is going, the characters drive how it gets there. The characters need to develop depending on the limits of the period and the setting as with Orito Aibagawa the daughter of the Japanese Doctor in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. His wife warned him not to make her a whore and he always listens to his wife! Orito needs to come and go from the island of Edo-era at will. The problem was the island of Edo-era the one window on the West for Japan at the time  had very restricted access, so he makes her a doctor’s daughter she has a certain status which means her presence is not questioned and she can move around freely he also gave her a disfigurement or why would she still be single.

He pleads guilty to research. David limits his writing output, so he can spend a couple of years researching novels such as The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and he relishes it. David says when he is researching he scoops information up. Later it shines light on your work as sun on leaves synthesises results.

Last time he was in Christchurch he had barely four hours to research the Chatham Islands in the Christchurch public library, taking notes from Michael King’s A land apart : the Chatham Islands of New Zealand  before we gently chucked him out at closing time. The character at the start of Cloud Atlas who collects teeth from skulls on the beach comes from that research. He would dearly have loved to able to have met Michael and shouted him a drink.

Scoop information up – later it shines light on your work, as sun on leaves synthesise results.

A very very cool lady – Swedish crime star Camilla Lackberg

Dennis and Camilla LäckbergMe and my Dad like to go and listen to writers. We’ve been to Lee Child, Rebecca Macfie, and last night we saw Camilla Läckberg, Swedish crime writer. She has written 8 crime novels (and cookbooks and kids’ books), sold 12 million copies, been translated into 37 languages. Camilla is in New Zealand for the Auckland Writers Festival, and appeared in Christchurch courtesy of them and The Press Christchurch Writers Festival.

We claimed our spot early, and chatted to a Timaru couple who are big Camilla fans. In a librariany diversion, the woman talked about the crime writers she liked, and how she remembers what library books she’s read (initialises the book).

Camilla proved to be a funny, smart woman (in fabulous vertiginous shoes) with as many good stories in life as on the page. She is a gun Latin dancer, courtesy of an appearance on Sweden’s version of Strictly come dancing (see her in action at her first pro-am competition). She writes about Fjällbacka, a small fishing community on Sweden’s west coast – her real-life hometown. Fjällbacka is proud of her, and there are even guided tours related to her books. Journalists occasionally visit and ask for Camilla, and her Mum goes to meet them and poses for photos.

Buried angels

Camilla spoke to Ruth Todd of the PlainsFM show Bookenz and kicked the evening off by reading the opening few pages of her latest book Buried Angels. Describing the process of writing it, she said the story began as a picture in her head – a huge dining room table set for Easter, empty, where did everyone go?

Cover of Buried AngelsThe other crucial strand of the book germinated after a guided tour of Fjällbacka. The guide talked about the Swedish connections of Hermann Göring. Camilla stumbled upon a real life mystery. Göring had been married to a Swedish woman Carin von Kantzow. She died in 1931:

Her death came as a great blow to Göring. He named the baronial hunting lodge he built from 1933 Carinhall, in her honour. It was there that he had her body re-interred from her original grave in Sweden, in a funeral attended by Adolf Hitler.

After the breakup of Göring’s estate, Carin’s Swedish family were sent her cremated remains in the 1950s. But in the early 90s, another coffin was found and it was identified as Carin. Discovering this was “one of those moments when you can hear angels singing” – who was the other body? What happened? Perfect fodder for a crime writer who incorporates history into her work.

Detective Patrick Hedstrom and Erica Falck

Buried Angels and Camilla’s other books feature Detective Patrick Hedstrom and Erica Falck, crime writer and researcher. She sees the couple as “one main character”.

Patrick is ordinary, he “doesn’t listen to opera, doesn’t listen to jazz, likes Bruce Springsteen”. He is based on her first husband, an economist, not her second ex-husband who is a policeman.

The couple were dating in her first book – the “five times a night thing” and eight years later: “It’s Saturday night, maybe we should?”

She “started lending her own life to Erica” and considers the pair her best friends:

It’s embarrassing to turn 40 and have two imaginary people as your best friends.

Writing career and style

Camilla LäckbergCamilla’s dream was always to be a writer. And it seems crime writing was her destiny. Her first book – when she was 4 – was about Santa and his wife. It started off happy, but in four pages “it goes straight to hell” and “Santa’s wife is beaten to death”.  She was infected with the “book bug” by her father and from the age of 7 was a big Agatha Christie fan:

I liked to be in her universe … she was a very very cool lady.

She still reads mostly crime fiction, citing Peter Robinson, Val McDermid, Denise Mina and Michael Connelly as her favourites.

Camilla started her working career as an economist, but did a crime writing course when she was on maternity leave and her first book started as an assignment. Her writing style is to write the historical sections of her book sometimes in between, sometimes all together. But the parts set in the present day she writes chronologically:

When I am on page one, I don’t have a clue what’s happening in page 70.  I know about 2% of the book at the start … I know my final destination.

When the manuscript is finished, it goes to her editor who Camilla proclaims is strict but amazing.

She writes mostly at home, sometimes in pyjamas and her best time is writing is when the kids are at kindergarten and school:

In my view, inspiration is a myth … my best writing advice is “Glue your butt to a chair”.

Scorpio books at Camilla Läckberg

“There’s a fine line between having an imagination and having a mental illness”: Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris is probably most well-known as the author of the Chocolat, which was later made into a movie, starring Johnny Depp.  She has written 14 novels, including Runemarks and Runelight for younger readers, and 2 cookbooks.  I’m a huge fan of her writing so I was looking forward to spending an hour with her at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival on a Saturday afternoon.

Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure, a follow-up to Chocolat, is Joanne Harris’ latest book and most of the session focused on this. When asked why she keeps revisiting Vianne Rocher, Joanne admitted that Vianne keeps on knocking at the door, and she keeps wondering what happened to her and where she has gone.  Over the course of the three books, Vianne has changed and some readers haven’t been happy with this.  As Joanne pointed out though, the nice, comforting thing about stories is that things stay the same, but life has changed Vianne.

Another reason Joanne wanted to revisit Vianne and her family was that she felt that both she and her characters had unfinished business.  She wasn’t daunted about writing about Muslims, but a lot of people couldn’t understand that. As she explained, she was writing about people who were Muslim or Christian, not about the actual religions. Her story is simply about ‘individuals living in certain circumstances, facing certain situations.’  She just wanted to write the story and people would get what they wanted to get from it.

Joanne delved into her characters and where they came from.  A lot of people are quite disappointed that she doesn’t look or act like Vianne, but that there are aspects of her personality in the character. The relationship that Vianne and Anouk have in her books is very much the relationship that she has with her own daughter. The most memorable thing she said about characters and the way that they get inside your head is that ‘there’s a fine line between having an imagination and having a mental illness.’

Joanne felt that she had been put in the camp of ‘comfortable writers who write with a quill pen’ but she has also written some quite dark stories.  She’s a seasonal writer, so her lighter, sunny books have been written when it’s sunny, and her darker books in the dark and gloomy months.

You may not know that she’s also written books for younger readers (aged 12 years and up) called Runemarks and Runelight.  Joanne started writing from the minute that she realised books weren’t enough, and she would write continuations of stories she loved and would bring her favourite characters back to life in new stories.  When she was first published she told her publishers that they were never to give her a deadline and never to tell her what to write.  Something that I found really interesting was that nearly all of her books have been published out of sequence and giving readers the illusion that she writes a book a year (which she doesn’t). If you follow her on Twitter @JoanneChocolat, you’ll know all about her writing shed, which has its own personality (and has more followers than her).

The hour flew by and I could have listened to Joanne talk for another hour. I highly recommend Joanne’s books, especially Lollipop Shoes and Runemarks, and they’re all available in the library for your reading pleasure.

Capturing Quake Stories – Where to start?

Like many folk in Christchurch, I tend to stay in my neighbourhood these days, taking solace from the small signs of recovery I see – a wall fixed here, a pile of rubble cleared away, the tradesman’s van outside number 35A that indicates repairs are taking place inside. When I walked past the battered Arts Centre today, earthquake memories came flooding back. The question is what to do about these memories.

Freelance journalist Amanda Cropp has some suggestions. Her workshop ‘Capturing Quake Stories’ gave attendees some techniques for getting these memories down on paper. She believes it is important to do this for two main reasons. Firstly, the quakes are important historial event for our city and if you have younger children they may not remember much about them. Recording earthquake stories will help children understand what they’ve been through. Secondly, it informs people who haven’t lived with Old Bucky since September 2012 what it’s been like for us. Our stories are often not the stuff of headlines. They are the stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

After the quake, Amanda Cropp’s editor at The Australian Women’s Weekly asked her to keep a diary. Some of the stories in it were published in the magazine and received positive feedback from readers who appreciated hearing the human side of the event. Amanda kept writing and went on to publish Shaken, Not Stirred: Family Survival in a Quake Zone.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t kept your own diary. The author gave us some exercises to start capturing our stories now. She suggested writing about what we ate for dinner on the evening of 22 February and use our senses to record our experience. We brainstormed about what it was like to lose electricity. We wrote about one precious thing that was lost or saved in the quakes. We described a place that had been important to us that had changed. People read their paragraphs, often with shaky voices, but as we kept writing the stories became fluent and fascinating.

It was very apparent that we all experienced the quakes differently and that each person’s story is valid. We’re living in history and our experiences are important.

Once you’ve written your quake stories, you can self-publish your work for your family and friends.

If you’d like to share your story, why not donate your earthquake story to Christchurch City Librarie. Use this form or add your material to the Canterbury Earthquake Kete..

The multi-talented John Boyne

John Boyne is one of my favourite authors, so I was very excited about having the chance to ask him some of my burning questions this morning. John is an incredibly talented writer, who writes for both adults and children, and he’s probably best known as the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I asked John about his quirky protagonists, writing for children, and how libraries have affected him as a reader and as a writer.

What do you like most about writing for children?

I had never really thought about writing for children. My first four books I wrote were all aimed at adults, so when I wrote my first children’s book (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) it came as a surprise to me. I entered a world I wasn’t familiar with – children’s book festivals, schools, and having to talk to children. I also discovered the wealth of contemporary children’s literature, which I had ignored as a reader since I was a kid.  In the year before The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas came out, I delved into that world and discovered what I was missing.  Children’s literature had changed a lot since I was a kid.  It had become more serious and explored adult themes in a non-patronising way.  It felt like a fresh challenge and I thought I could do both, I could write a novel for adults and a novel for children. I thought, why shouldn’t I if I have a story to tell.

How does writing for children differ from writing for adults?

The only main difference is that children’s stories feature child protagonists. They have children at the centre of the story and you see things through their eyes. I don’t change the language at all.  A school I visited in Dublin recently were studying Noah Barleywater Runs Away and the teacher got the children to write a list of words from the book that they didn’t understand and they had to look them up in the dictionary. I was quite pleased that those lists were so long and that they had to go and look them up because it showed me that I wasn’t dumbing the story down and using simple language. My children’s books are always told in third person narration, and when I think of children’s novels, I think I should always write them this way. I feel that I don’t want to put myself into the total mind of one child.

Barnaby Brocket is special because he floats.  If you could have a special ability what would it be?

I think I’d like to be in two places at once, because over the last 6 or 7 years I’ve spent so much time travelling. I like travelling and I like invitations to visit places, but I also like being at home. I’d like to spend all the time at home, in my own house, while at the same time being able to travel the world.

Barnaby meets lots of interesting characters in his travels all over the world.  Who is the most interesting character that you’ve ever met?

It would have to be John Irving. I was a huge fan of his growing up and he was the writer that really inspired me to be a writer. When I published my first novel in 2000, I sent him a copy of the book and wrote him a letter. He read it and wrote back, and we struck up a friendship. We’ve known each other since and when he was on tour in England this Summer I went with him as his interviewer. He has great insights into literature, how novels work, and all the time I’ve spent with him has been inspiring.

Oliver Jeffers has created some fantastic illustrations for Noah Barleywater Runs Away and The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket. Did you have any say in the illustrations or did you not see them until the book was published?

With each book we talked about it in advance and what we thought it should look like. I was very clear with Oliver the first time around that I just wanted him to do whatever he felt was right. I asked him to do Noah Barleywater originally because I love his work and think it’s wonderfully imaginative and creative. He’s very talented so I didn’t want to put any restrictions on him. 

Your characters, particularly your protagonists (Barnaby Brocket and Noah Barleywater) have brilliant names.  How do you come up with their names?

I’d had this name, Barnaby, for a while and I thought it was a great name for a character. I just tried different names and I thought an alliterative name would be good. I also liked the name Noah and the connection with water. You try different sounds and figure out what seems to ring true. You want your characters to be memorable and Barnaby Brocket is a memorable name.

Your heartbreaking novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has just been re-issued as a Vintage Children’s Classic.  How does it feel to have your book considered a ‘classic’?

It makes me feel about a hundred years old! It’s flattering, especially since the book has only been out for six years.  I hope that 50 years from now it feels like it’s earned its place on that list.

How did you find the experience of having The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas turned into a film?

It was exciting.  I had a very good relationship with the director and the producers, which a lot of writers don’t have.  I made a conscious effort at the start that I would be helpful to the process, not troublesome. A lot of novelists make that mistake, of selling the film rights and wanting to control aspect of the film. Whatever happens with the movie, it doesn’t change the book. I think they did a great job and that they really understood the book. 

How have books shaped you and what part have libraries played in this?

A huge part.  I grew up in Dublin and down the road from my house there was this really big library, in this really old building which is still standing.  As a kid, my mum took me and my siblings down there every Wednesday and we would get our three books.  I so looked forward to it!  It was so exciting to go inside this big, old building and I thought it was amazing that you got stuff for free.  The adult’s stuff was on the ground floor and the kid’s stuff was upstairs.  Like most kids, I loved re-reading.  You would go back to those books you loved, and get them out week after week.

How important are libraries to writers?

In a lot of libraries now, reading groups take place, creative writing groups meet, and libraries have become much more of a place to meet and be part of a collective experience of literature.  Book clubs and reading groups have been incredibly helpful to authors over the last 10 or 15 years, and I think libraries have played a great part in that.

John Boyne will also be appearing with Jane Higgins and Helen Lowe at the Why YA? Panel on Sunday at 9:30am.

Capital Letters: John Lanchester

John Lanchester signs my copy of “Capital”.

My festival kicked off with an interview with John Lanchester. You can’t help but feel the odd twinge of fluttery tummy when you are about to meet up with such a literary luminary – I seem to be becoming hooked on this particular form of terror. But he was a pleasure to chat to. It won’t be obvious from the transcript, but he thought carefully before he answered each question. It was fascinating stuff, see for yourself:

I’ve read all your novels John, but none of your non-fiction work. Yet I get the impression that you move effortlessly between these two types of content. Is that true and do they challenge your writing in different ways?

I wouldn’t say effortless, but I tend to do the thing that I’m interested in at any one point in time. In my book about my parents (Family Romance), I wanted to explain their story to myself because there was a mystery in my mother’s story that I only found out after she died and I wanted to make sense of it. The best way to do that seemed to be to write it and I didn’t think of it as: “OK now I’m writing a non-fiction book”, that wasn’t how it came about. I just wanted to tell it to myself. I finished that and started on Capital (a novel) and Whoops! (non-fiction) grew out of that.

The writing skills that I used for these books, both fiction and non-fiction are a weirdly similar skill set.  The word for fiction comes from a word for shaping things on a potters wheel and not from the word for “I make things up” and shaping is the core skill that goes from fiction to non-fiction. Crucially the tools that I use for both fiction and non-fiction involve shaping and selecting. The way you present characters is amazingly similar, I think, between fiction and non-fiction. For example when I wrote about my parents, everything in that book is true to the best of my knowledge, at the same time you do end up using fiction techniques to make people seem real.

Library users have an expectation that librarians have read every book and can comment on all of them. I love Capital and want customers and friends to read it, but when I describe it (possibly in somewhat gushy terms), I can see the lights go out, one at a time. How would you describe the book in a couple of sentences. I need help!

If I could have summed it up I would have written it in that many words! I was interested in the size and scale of everything going on in London and the length is part of that. At what point do you think that what you’re saying puts people off?

It’s when I use the words “stock” and  “market” and “crash” in the same sentence!

It was really “global” and “financial” and ” crisis”, but that mightn’t have been much help in keeping the lights on either! The specifics of what really happened are very baffling to people which is partly why I wrote Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. Let me know if you ever get a good succinct description of Capital that works, I’d be interested to hear what it is.

There is an unsettling refrain running throughout Capital: “We want what you have”. Did you mean that to refer specifically to money and possessions or did you intend it to have a wider meaning?

A lot of the characters think that the wanting and the having is all about money. It was clearer to me after I was finished with writing the book that they tend to think it is about money, the idea that what they have is mainly economic. The extent to which some of the characters in the book come to realise that there are lots of kinds of capital other than financial capital, is one of the organising principles of the book, because to varying extents they all tend to forget that.

Right now in Christchurch there is a lot of writing about the city going on. People are being encouraged to get their quake stories down and to share their experiences. After all, we have had a disaster, in a city that we love and we have a whole lot of fascinating characters too. The same skeins are present in Capital. What pointers would you give to potential authors to pull these three strands into a cohesive whole?

The difference between a man-made crisis and a natural one is that it’s a lot easier to seek for meaning in a man-made one. The financial crisis touches on things that had causes that you might have been able to prevent at a societal level if not at an individual level. A man-made catastrophe you can kind of study for lessons and think through, whereas  natural disasters are just great ill fortunes – nothing to be done about that and so would be harder to develop them into grand themes in novels.

I first heard about all your books in book clubs. What do you think of reading groups?

Book clubs are definitely a good thing. There is one tiny negative thing – overwhelmingly they are great but lately I’ve noticed that there is a trend nowadays for everyone to read the same book at the same time. I don’t quite understand what the drivers of that are. It is so much more common than 15 to 20 years ago. I feel that monoculture is bad in all fields of life and the same goes for what we read. People live longer and longer nowadays and reading and variety of reading is a way of keeping your brain active. It’s not going to stay active all by itself and it is going to be less stimulated if you’re all doing the same things at the same time.

What’s your take on libraries, how important have they been in your life?

Very, very important. It’s a really sore point that we have just lost a library in our street, just 30 metres from where I live. I’ve more or less grown up in libraries and my children were doing that too. It was a very, very important part of their early childhood. I do hope you will win the fight for libraries as places where people can be without having to buy a product.  You don’t browse for socks or  toothpaste, but you do browse for books and the act of browsing is what facilitates the discovery of newness and libraries are so important for that.

One last question, are you an e-book reader?

I use an e-reader for travel, it saves me about 10kgs in luggage weight. I’m not theological about it, but I am surprised by the extent to which I prefer physical books. I didn’t know that before I got an e-reader but I find I vastly prefer physical books. They’re just much much nicer!

Soul Food (at last) – The Press Christchurch Writers Festival 2012

The Press Christchurch Writers Festival  has been a long time coming. I had tickets for the October 2010 festival and the May 2011 one but we all know what happened to disrupt those plans!

However, times have changed and it’s great to be able to celebrate the Christchurch festival in style. I have an interview with Joanne Harris and I’m very excited at the propect of meeting her. She is the author of  Chocolat in which chocolate maker extraordinaire, Vianne Rocher, meets her red headed gypsy, Roux. (Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp played the characters in the movie.)

I’m reading, or should I say indulging in, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure at present. It’s the third novel in the series and Joanne Harris explores issues of  faith, acceptance and love in the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Her writing style is sensual and insightful. Armande’s peach tree is a central motif. Its fragrance is described as “a sleepy, end-of-summer scent that seemed to leave a glow in the air like a trace of sunset”. Wonderful stuff.

I shall also be speaking to Felicity Price, New Zealand’s own author of fast-paced, witty chick-lit with teeth. Felicity has written six novels and numerous nonfiction works, runs an award winning PR company and was awarded the ONZM in 2009 for her services to business and the arts. The three novels in her Penny Rushmore series reflect her own life to the extent that her character confronts the stresses and challenges faced by a modern day woman trying to juggle work, parenthood, marriage and friendship. The Dominion Post describes her work as “chick lit meets feminism”. Her writing style is fun and engaging, but there’s more than a grain of truth behind her words.

Only three more days until we can immerse ourselves in all-things-literary in Christchurch again. It’s great to see this cultural event back on the calendar and my heartfelt thanks goes out to the organisers and sponsors for making it happen. It’s going to make a big difference to me and many other book lovers and writers. It will lift our spirits and feed our souls. Bring it on!

Double happiness!

Double HappinessIt’s my Double happiness time! I get to blog on another literary festival and it’s The Press Christchurch Writers Festival right here in Christchurch. I’ve been on the blog team for this event twice before and each time the earth moved.

Third time lucky.

It was only after I’d submitted my selections of preferred events (from my very readable and striking lime green Festival booklet) that I realised I’d chosen only easy-on-the-eye male authors who’d apparently all been born under wandering stars – seems this festival is about the importance of Place for me. See for yourself:

  • Aaron Smith: Shanti Bloody Shanti (An Indian Odyssey)
  • John Lanchester: Capital (London) and Fragrant Harbour (Hong Kong)
  • Chris Cleave:  Incendiary and The Other Hand (Great Britain)
  • Joe Bennett: Double Happiness – How Bullshit Works (the whole world)

There’s no way I could live down a totally male line-up, so I added some ladies to the mix:

The main character in The Secret River gets to the heart of the importance of Place in our lives with this quote:

A chaos opened up inside him, a confusion of wanting. No one had ever spoken to him of how a man might fall in love with a piece of ground … He had not known until this minute that it was something he wanted so much.

How about you, do you have a place that you’ve fallen in love with? And when can we expect to see the book?

Writer’s festivals aren’t just for adults

There is a great line-up for The Press Christchurch Writers Festival this year, and not just for adults.  Christchurch school children get the chance to listen to some of our best writers read their stories aloud, and some of our international guests are just as well-known for their children’s stories as they are for their adult novels.

John Boyne, Joanne Harris and our own Rachael King are all fantastic writers who write unique and interesting stories, both for adults and children. John Boyne is probably most well-known as the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and in the last couple of years John has also written two stories for children, called Noah Barleywater Runs Away and The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket.  John is also known for his adult novels, including The House of Special Purpose and The Absolutist.

Joanne Harris is known for her adult novels, including Chocolat and Five Quarters of an Orange, but many of you may not know that she has also written two teenage novels featuring Norse gods, called Runemarks and Runelight.

Our very own local author, Rachael King, has also recently published her first children’s novel, called Red Rocks, which is just as amazing as her adult novels, The Sound of Butterflies and Magpie Hall.

As well as the sessions with these authors I’ll be attending the Read Aloud Schools Programme (featuring Gavin Bishop, Rachael King and Kate De Goldi) and the Why YA? panel, where John Boyne, Jane Higgins and Helen Lowe will discuss Young Adult literature as a genre.  I’m also very excited to be interviewing John Boyne about his books for young readers and his writing.

Follow our pre-, during, and post-Festival words:

Following The Press Christchurch Writers Festival

It’s not long till Christchurch becomes Literary Love-in City. The Press Christchurch Writers Festival kicks off on 30 August 2012.

We’ll be there – reporting on the events and nabbing facetime with some of the authors.

Follow our pre-, during, and post-Festival words:

We’ve got a rather alluring blidget on this page – you are welcome to use it to embed our coverage on your blog or news site.

I’ll be on stage for the FREE and blog & Twittertastic session In so many words with panellists:

Make sure you’re in touch with the official Festival information too, we’ve got brochures in our libraries (it’s an exotic shade of green, you can’t miss it) and: