Q&A with Australian Debut Author Meredith Appleyard

I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Australian debut rural romance author, Meredith Appleyard.

Meredith, thank you for taking the time to stop by The Australian Bookshelf to talk about your debut novel with Penguin Random House, The Country Practice.

South Australia is my favourite state in Australia (I fell in love with the Clare Valley and Barossa!), why did you choose to set your story in country South Australia?

Born and bred in SA, and although I’ve travelled I’ve always ended up back here. I am country South Australian and proud of it! The Flinders Ranges are one of my most favourite places, and I love the Outback. The fictional country town of Magpie Creek is set in the country around Peterborough/Orroroo – there is something about the wide open spaces, the scrub and salt bush, against the bruised backdrop of the Flinders Ranges.

You’ve worked as a nurse and a midwife in country settings. What does your healthcare background bring to your writing?

An understanding of how complex and multi-dimensional small country communities are. Ive met some wonderful people and worked with a few real characters over the years. And Ive had some amazing experiences and the opportunity to make a difference in some peoples lives.

Who are your favourite Australian authors who write rural fiction?

I enjoy Rachel Johns, Tricia Stringer, Helene Young, Bronwyn Parry and Fiona Palmer.

Some of my favourite authors too! And just for fun, when writing do you prefer…

Coffee, tea or hot chocolate? Coffee to get me started, tea to keep me going.

Plotting, pantsing or both? A bit of both I reckon. I need to have a rough idea of where Im going but am more than happy if my characters take me someplace else! Its what makes it fun.

Quiet solitude or background noise? Im definitely a quiet solitude kind of a writer.

A warm, sunny day or a rainy day? A bit of variety works. Easy to write happy and sunny when it is!

Typing or pen and notepad? Typing. I sometimes think the pathway for my creativity is through my fingertips. I love the whole cut and paste thing, and Im not afraid of select and delete either!

 

The Country Practice

After working in a London hospital emergency room, a month as a GP in rural South Australia can’t be that hard – or can it?

Meghan Kimble is taking control of her life. Newly single, she’s returned to Australia to follow her dream of working as a GP. And her first stop is a month-long locum in the colourful community of Magpie Creek.

It’s been months since the town has had a doctor and Meghan is generating more than her fair share of attention, especially from forthright farmer Sean Ashby. A handsome man with a difficult past, Sean isn’t shy about making his intentions known to the redheaded medico.

Against her better judgement, Meghan finds herself charmed by the enigmatic Sean. But time is against her and when love threatens to derail her career plans, she is forced to reassess her priorities in ways she never imagined. Is Meghan ready to fall for all that life in Magpie Creek has to offer?

Set in vibrant small-town Australia, this heart-warming contemporary rural romance heralds an exciting new voice in Australian fiction.

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Book Review: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

Wolf Winter  Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, February 2015

 Synopsis- A brilliantly written and gripping historical Nordic Noir thriller with all the intrigue and atmosphere of Burial Rites, the pent-up passion of The Piano and the suspense of The Tenderness of Wolves.

There are six homesteads on Blackasen Mountain.

A day’s journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather.

But now it is summer, and new settlers are come.

It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour’s walk from their cottage.

The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

To the wife who is not concerned when her husband does not come home for three days; to the man who laughs when he hears his brother is dead; to the priest who doesn’t care; she asks and asks her questions, digging at the secrets of the mountain.

They say a wolf made those wounds. But what wild animal cuts a body so clean?

 Review- Wolf Winter is a ‘historical Nordic Noir thriller’ set in the 1700’s in Swedish Lapland that’s been compared to the award-winning Icelandic novel Burial Rites.

The story is set on Blackasen Mountain where six homesteads lie. There’s an empty town one day’s journey away. Entering the small fragmented community is a new family of settlers. Maija, her husband Paavo and their two daughters Fredericka (14yrs) and Dorotea (8).

Soon after their arrival, the girls stumble across a body near their cottage; the man’s been cleanly slashed down the middle. The villagers claim it was a wolf or bear, but Maija is adamant that the injury causing death was perpetrated by a human. One of their own. Maija will stop at nothing- no matter who she upsets- to uncover the man’s murderer. The local Priest, also newly arrived, reluctantly joins her and soon the pair are undergoing an uneasy investigation. On Blackasen Mountain there’s a power struggle between mountain and people, and between the families in the settlement.

After their cow dies (and with it their milk/ meat supply), Paavo goes to the coast to get a job, just before the snow sets in. Known as a Wolf Winter, Maija and her daughters must fight to survive against the elements of the cold, lack of food and heating, and isolation.

That’s as far as I’ll go into the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it. Wolf Winter is a wonderfully written story that does compare favourably to Burial Rites (read recently and rated 5/5), in the sense that it’s a brooding historical novel where the star character is the setting, Blackasen Mountain in Sweden. I don’t feel like I ever really got to know the human characters in much depth, but I was drawn to them, particularly Maija and Fredericka and the inner conflict they faced. There’s a blurry line between reality and the supernatural, so much so that I was often left questioning what was real and what was imagined. This element to the story really draws in the reader; it adds layers to the suspense and complexities of the characters. I can’t really describe why I loved this book as much as I did, but it took me on a journey and I didn’t want it to end.

Overall Rating

5/5

“Highly Recommended!”

Wolf Winter can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

 

 

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2015 Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference

Wonderful Australian Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice, would like to get word about the upcoming 2015 Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference to be held in March 2015.

hsna2015 Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference

 On the weekend of 20-22 March 2015, the Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) is holding its inaugural conference at the historic Balmain Town Hall, Sydney, exploring the theme of ‘The Historical Novel in Peace and War’. The conference will be a celebration of the historical fiction genre in a weekend of talks, panels, debates, book launches and readings.

balmainBalmain Town Hall

The opening night reception will be held at the prestigious State Library of NSW on Friday 20 March where a lively round table debate will be conducted on the topic: ‘What can historical novelists and historians learn from each other?’ The two day informative and interactive weekend program on 21-22 March will showcase 40 speakers discussing craft, research, inspiration, publishing, social media and personal histories. Among these are internationally acclaimed historical novelists such as Kate Forsyth, Colin Falconer, Felicity Pulman, Toni Jordan, Juliet Marillier, Sulari Gentill, Sophie Masson and Jesse Blackadder.

The Day One sessions conclude with a ‘First Pages’ competition where aspiring historical novelists will have their submissions read aloud to industry experts. The session will also provide other attendees with a chance to learn what attracts agents and publishers when seeking new historical fiction. And you won’t want to miss out on our ‘In Bed with History’ panel on Day Two where Kate Forsyth, Colin Falconer and Jesse Blackadder will read some of their saucier excerpts!

There are three skills-based super sessions that are being run concurrently with the main conference program. Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry expert, Irina Dunn. Dr Gillian Polack is offering two small group workshops focussed on how to weave research into compelling and authentic historical fiction. The third session will focus on how to use social media to build an author platform with author Elisabeth Storrs and review blogger, Margaret Bates. In addition to the super sessions, the HNSA is pleased to be partnering with Swinburne University of Technology to provide the opportunity to submit an academic paper to a special edition of The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction on the theme ‘Phryne Fisher and Other Fantasies: The Female Detective in History’.

There will also be some exciting social events. The conference will be launched at the Friday opening night reception where attendees will also celebrate the launch of Felicity Pulman’s Unholy Alliance. At the conference dinner on Saturday, attendees will have opportunities to mingle with leading authors and join us for the launch of Sherryl Clark’s, Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War, and listen to our after-dinner speaker, Kate Forsyth. Why not book your ticket to sit next to one of our author hosts as a special treat?

The HNSA is offering some great deals! The first 40 ticketholders to purchase a Standard Whole Conference Ticket will receive a free copy of either The Lace Balcony by Johanna Nicholls, The King’s Shadow by Barbara Gaskell Denvil, The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans or My Holocaust Story: Hanna by Goldie Alexander. The first 50 fully paid ticketholders to the conference dinner will receive a free copy of Sherryl Clark’s, Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War. And all ticketholders to the opening night reception will receive a free e-book bundle of Felicity Pulman’s Janna Chronicles!

So why not register for the HNSA Conference now! You can buy tickets here!

More information about the conference program and speakers can be found at www.hnsa.org.au

 

Help us spread the word about the conference. Here’s a tweet you could use.

Register for #HNSA2015 Conference for some great #historicalfiction and #giveaways!

http://ow.ly/IVL7x

 

Follow us on Twitter @hnsaustralasia and Like us on Facebook

Join our mailing list to obtain advance notice of all our announcements.

Join us on the HNSA Facebook Group where you can participate in all our discussions relating to historical fiction.

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Guest post with Patricia Bracewell on Emma of Normandy: England’s Twice-Crowned Queen

Today, author Patricia Bracewell joins us to chat about how Emma of Normandy inspired her to write a historical trilogy based on this infamous figure’s life. Emma led a fascinating life!

Emma of Normandy: England’s Twice-Crowned Queen

Historical novelists are story tellers, not historians; nevertheless, they can often pluck a figure from the past – someone who has been ignored or cast into shadow by some larger event or the mere passing of centuries – and by imagining their lives can resurrect them from history’s footnotes. Case in point: Emma of Normandy, the heroine of my novels Shadow on the Crown and The Price of Blood.

 shadow800   9780525427278_PriceOfBlood_JKF.indd

If you’ve never heard of Emma you are not alone. Most of the historical figures who lived before that pivotal date of 1066 – especially the women – have faded into a kind of mythic fog. Yet the career of Queen Emma laid the foundation for the Norman Conquest that would occur 14 years after her death and would change the face of England.

The daughter of a Norman duke, Emma arrived in Canterbury in 1002 as the peaceweaving bride of the Anglo-Saxon King Æthelred II. Although it sounds like a medieval fairy tale – the daughter of a mere duke gets to wed a king! – it was nothing of the sort. Emma was the first royal bride in nearly 150 years who came from foreign shores, and she was probably regarded with suspicion by just about everyone. She was Æthelred’s second wife and stepmother to his eleven children, six of whom were sons. Emma’s first task, of course, would have been to provide the king with yet another heir to the throne, so it’s unlikely that her stepsons welcomed her with anything resembling enthusiasm.

There were other factors at work, too, which must have made Emma’s first marriage an ordeal rather than a triumph: England was under siege. Year after year, waves of Viking armies ravaged the kingdom. In 1013 Emma and her young children, one of them barely a year old, would be forced to flee to Normandy when such a voyage must have been perilous. Æthelred abdicated his throne and he, too, took refuge with his wife’s Norman kin – doubtless a bitter reunion for all.

Emma fleeing England. Image from Cambridge University Library, The Life of Edward the Confessor. Wikimedia Commons.

Emma’s life, though, was one of reversals of fortune that sound like – well, like something out of a novel. King and queen would return to England, but Æthelred, bent on vengeance against those who had sided with his Viking enemies, did not balk at murder to achieve his ends. His actions would lead to an elder son’s rebellion, and although the king would die in his bed, Vikings bent on conquest would strike again and the widowed Emma would be trapped in a London under siege. Some say she made a deal with the Vikings; others claim she tried to flee and was captured. Either scenario is grist for a novelist’s mill. In the end, a Viking warlord was crowned king of England, and one of his first acts was to take Æthelred’s widow to wife. Emma was once again anointed queen of England, yet one must wonder what she was thinking and feeling as she went to her new husband’s bed.

And that’s only the first half of her story. Queen Emma would experience more reversals of fortune in the years to come: despair, heartbreak, triumph and treachery before the final curtain. But as a novelist studying the events of her life, it seemed to me that the drama of the years from her first marriage to the early days of her second was really quite enough to be going on with. I determined to write a trilogy that would cover those years, and in it I would incorporate all the intrigue and peril that Emma must have known. The first two books of my trilogy are complete. The third will appear as soon as I can commit all the right words to paper – words befitting the dramatic life of this remarkable queen.

 

PB_BlogPATRICIA BRACEWELL taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. The first novel in her trilogy about Emma of Normandy, Shadow on the Crown, was published by HarperCollins in 2013. The second book in the series The Price of Blood has just been released. In researching her novels she has traveled to Britain many times as well as to France and Denmark. She has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Oakland, California.

Website: www.PatriciaBracewell.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaBracewellAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/patbracewell

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Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables  Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Simon & Schuster, 2014

 Synopsis- Anne Shirley is unforgettable, and this beautifully packaged edition of L.M. Montgomery’s classic novel is as memorable as its heroine.

When Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables, she surprises everyone: first of all, she’s a girl, even though Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew specifically asked for an orphan boy to help around the farm. And second of all, she’s not just any girl: she has bright red hair, a wild imagination, and can talk a mile a minute.

But she also has a sweet disposition and quick wit, and Anne (spelt with an e; of courses!) soon finds her place in Avonlea, making a friend in her neighbor Diana Barry and attending the local school, where she spurns the advances of the popular and handsome Gilbert Blythe when he commits the ultimate sin of making fun of her hair.

Anne has a temper as fiery as her hair and a knack for finding trouble, and she also has a big heart and a positive attitude that affects everyone she meets. This classic and beloved story makes a wonderful gift and keepsake’s

Review- I can’t believe it’s taken almost 30 years for me to finally read this children’s classic! Anne of Green Gables has been on my reading wishlist for a very long time and when the opportunity to review the new boxed set edition published by Simon & Schuster I  knew I’d finally have my chance!

It’s such a beautiful boxed set and it looks lovely on my bookshelves! Though I haven’t read the entire series yet, I have just finished reading the first novel, Anne of Green Gables. I zipped through this novel quite quickly, which is unusual for me when it comes to classics (I usually read them over several weeks or months) but it was such a lovely, quick read that I couldn’t put it down. Anne is a fiery, intelligent and very likeable protagonist. She’s orphaned at a young age and is adopted by Marilla and Matthew of Green Gables. Though they’d expected a boy, the boisterous new arrival quickly warms their hearts and Anne becomes a treasured addition not only to their family as well but the community of Avonlea too. I must admit I found her talkative (now that’s an understatement!) nature a little exhausting at first- much like her adoptive parents- but I soon warmed to her and found her rambling nature quite endearing-also much like her parents. A coming of age story that advocates success and happiness for the most disadvantaged. A great story, in a beautiful collection which I fully intend to read more of!

 

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

 

Anne of Green Gables library edition can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

At Bookish Gifts you can find beautiful hand typed (on a vintage typewriter) Anne of Green Gables quotes.

Anne of Green Gables "Because when you are imagining" Quote Hand Typed on Vintage Typewriter

 

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Bookish Gifts on Etsy

Some of you  may have noticed that I’ve opened an online store on Etsy, Bookish Gifts.

It’s come about as a culmination of my two loves; reading and writing. I’ve spent the past year recommending books and loaning books to friends and colleagues and I decided that I could make this hobby into a small business and so Bookish Gifts was born!

A shameless plug I know, but if I can’t promote my bookish online store on my book blog than where can I do it?!

So, what’s it all about?

I have on offer:

I also have a range of downloadable products including guided journals incorporating mindfulness in a range of options;

journals

For those who like to travel vicariously through stories set in exotic locations, or anyone looking for book recommendations prior to travel, I’ve created a range of Top 10 lists. Books to read before you travel to

  • India,
  • France
  • Italy and Australia will be available soon.

More and more titles are added every week.

To my readers, followers and anyone that stumbles across my blog, I’m offering a site-wide coupon for 10% off any product you buy until 31st January 2015. (coupon  code below)

AUBOOKS1

Book and reading concept vector design

As I’m just starting out, I’d like to improve the store in anyway I can. So please leave a review if you purchase any products, and please stop by and like my new Facebook Page which is looking very lonely!

Thanks!

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Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Paperback

TBR pile

Penguin 2013

 Synopsis-Meet Don Tillman. Don is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. But he has designed a very detailed questionnaire to help him find the perfect woman. One thing he already knows, though, is that it’s not Rosie. Absolutely, completely, definitely not.

 Review- I am so glad I finally picked up this book to read. It’s been on my TBR shelf for sometime, but I felt a little nervous about reading it because it has got such raving reviews from fellow friends and bloggers- I really wanted to like it too! Thankfully, I did. In fact I loved this quirky story about a gentics professor named Don Tillman with “Aspie” traits on his quest to find true love, known as “The Wife Project.” Simsion has produced a wonderfully funny, moving and surprisingly believable world in which the characters exist. I laughed out loud, I was moved close to tears and most of the time I just couldn’t put it down because I was eager to know what would happen next. It’s one of those novels that I envisioned playing out in my mind as I read it, thinking the whole time how great this would be as a romcom movie! There’s not much more I can say, other than I loved it!

Overall Rating

5/5

“Highly Recommended!”

The Rosie Project can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

 

 

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