Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Woman’s War (A Mother’s Home front Battle)

Told through the eyes of Rosie, A Woman’s War explores the harsh realities she endures and the array of emotions she experiences from the home front, while her twin sons are away fighting in the War (1914-1918). It is set in working class Collingwood, against a background of historical events. Beginning with the declaration of the war, the novel reveals Rosie’s reactions to the fast paced announcements and her sons enlisting at the end of 1915. During the following years, Rosie is one of many women who come together to help each other and Australia through these unprecedented times.

Rosie, is indicative of women, who for four long years helplessly witness their husbands, boyfriends, brothers and even fathers swayed by the relentless pull of ‘mateship’ to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The novels demonstrates how women, like Rosie who is only in her mid to late thirties, attempt to maintain home and industry, contribute to the war effort, and sustain relationships with men who have embarked. 

The reader is provided with an insight into the horror of trench warfare and air battles principally by means of the heart-rending and graphic letters Albert, one of Rosie’s sons, writes from The Western Front (France) during 1916 and 1917. Letters from other men to women complement the central theme of communication between Albert and Rosie.

The novel focuses particularly on two events—the Battle of Pozières, where Australians suffer their greatest casualty rate, and the battle of Messine Ridge, where miners take on the unthinkable task of tunnelling under the German trenches and blowing them up from underground. Albert, after witnessing the death of his twin brother Tom at Pozières, escapes the depressing, disease-ridden and muddy trenches and transfers to the air force, witnessing the Messine Ridge explosion from the sky.

A Woman’s War concludes with Albert receiving belated news that he has fathered a baby in Scotland and Rosie nursing Albert of his post war injuries. Germany has surrendered—the war is over, but while her son’s fate is fickle, Rosie knows that the devastation and repercussions of this event will be something with which she will continue to battle.

Jacqueline and John Dinan

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Historical Novel Review Issue 61 (August 2012)


The HNR is the best and most complete guide to contemporary historical fiction. In 2012 Solander merged with the HNR to form one quarterly 64 page magazine. It is available exclusively to members of the society.

HNS hopes to be able to offer back issues of HNR in packs available for purchase by libraries and collectors. This service is not yet available, but if you would like to register your interest, please contact HNS

Th August 2012 issue of HNR contains:
§  Cover Story, The Olympics: An Elusive Event in Historical Fiction  |  by Ken Kreckel

§  Historical Fiction Market News, a column with the latest book deals and publications in historical fiction  |  by Sarah Johnson

§  New Voices, a column focusing on debut novelists Moonyeen Blakey, James Hawking, Regina O’Melveny & Jean Zimmerman  |  by Myfanwy Cook

§  History & FilmStrange in Fact, but True in Law: Garrow’s Law  |  by Bethany Latham

§  Interviews with novelists Iris Anthony (by Elizabeth Cole), Nick Brown & Anthony Riches (by Edward James), Clare Clark (by Karen Howlett), and Jean Fullerton (by Myfanwy Cook), as well as Louise Richardson on judging the Walter Scott Prize (by Lucinda Byatt)

§  Feature on horses and riding in HF (by Duncan Noble)

§  Reviews of almost 300 of the latest and greatest books in historical fiction and nonfiction, including Editors’ Choice titles

Saturday, September 22, 2012

GENRECON: 2-4 November 2012


A GenreCon discount code has been established for all HNSS members, to allow us to purchase discounted weekend passes prior to September 30th, 2012: HNSS12. The discount drops the price of the weekend ticket down to $250, for a saving of $35.

Tickets may be purchased here.

GenreCon is a celebration of Australian genre fiction, bringing together diverse communities of genre writers under one tent to explore writing craft, discuss the business of writing, and engage with a research stream featuring industry specialists whose fields are of interest to creators.
It’s also a weekend long party and networking opportunity for like-minded writers and publishing professionals united by their love of romance, fantasy, science fiction, crime, young adult, and other sub-genres that have been routinely segregated to their own corner of the bookshop. Genre fiction often gets overlooked at Australian literary festivals, but it’s the source of many of our most enduring stories and it bridges media such as film, games, and comic books in addition to fiction. We’ve started GenreCon to celebrate creators of genre works and the contributions they’ve made to the Australian literary landscape, and to foster the next generation of genre writers as they build their careers.

GenreCon is an initiative of the Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) being presented under our Australian Writer’s Marketplace (AWM) brand. The Queensland Writer’s Centre is Australia’s largest non-profit membership organisation for writers, and works to promote skills development and professional practice throughout its annual program of workshops and masterclasses.  Our passion is getting writers where they want to go and assist them at all stages of their career.
The Australian Writer’s Marketplace is Australia and New Zealand’s only guide to the writing industry, providing submission and contact details for the print media and publishing industry through our publications, website, and workshops run at festivals around Australia.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Authors Alive!

I am very much looking forward to this Wednesday. The Sydney Chapter of the Historical Novel Society (HNSS) exists to promote all things historical fiction, and it is so rare that Sydneysiders get together to celebrate this genre.

HNSS is proud that two of its members - two of Sydney’s most authentic and talented novelists - are going to share their passion in Balmain. Completing the list of readers are two authors from other genres (LA Larkin and Stuart Campbell) who will also engage the audience with their talent, and much as we are also looking forward to these readings, we are glad that a healthy serving of historical fiction is to also feature on the menu.  

Authors Alive! An exciting and varied menu beckons
(this Wednesday Sep 19 at 6.30pm, Balmain Town Hall Meeting Room, 370 Darling Street) 

Elisabeth Storrs is kicking off the night with a reading from her epic ‘The Wedding Shroud.’ Having read this novel myself (you can read my review here), I can say hand on heart that anyone who is in love with classical history will not be left disappointed by the intricate detail and human intrigue contained in the pages of her masterpiece. For the uninitiated, this is a drama set in 406BC, in Rome’s pre-Imperial days. Its protagonist is a character torn between two very different worlds, which makes for a very compelling yarn.

Elisabeth is a fellow co-founder of HNSS, and I have witnessed her unstinting dedication and quiet efforts behind the scenes to help create a chapter in Sydney which can benefit all aspiring and existing novelists. So I am glad that the limelight is first to fall on her at this event.
Ursula Le Guin on 'The Wedding Shroud':                                                                                                                                     "All the drama and sensuality expected of a historical romance, plus a sensitivity to the realities of life in a very different time and world"

Next up is Garry McDougall. Be warned that he is a literal mine of information on history, politics and culture, and all historical fictionistas should be rushing to have a word with him after his reading (please leave a piece of him for others!)

'Authors Alive!' is also Garry’s own brainchild, and he has worked hard behind the scenes to create this forum for authors and readers, spicing up the event by attracting different authors with differing styles. Garry is himself going to share a very enticing dollop of Australian history with all attendees this Wednesday.

McDougall's 'Belonging' is based on an eminent photographer and medico, and follows his struggles, loves and dilemmas, climaxing with Federation and the murderous Boer War.

It is clear that anyone who has read to Garry’s novel 'Belonging' has not been left unmoved. The style of writing contained in its pages is said to be very sure and accomplished with a great feel for detail and idiom.

The novel’s protagonist is a doctor who arrives in the legendary Gundagai in 1901. This medico is none other than Louis Gabriel, who is passionate about new medicine and photography, yet who struggles to integrate into his new surroundings since he is new, black and overqualified.

These readings should be quite a treat for all of us venturing to Balmain this Wednesday. We shall revel in the writing of HNSS’s finest, whose voices will make their incredible stories come alive.

James Vella-Bardon is a co-founder of the HNSS.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

These are a few of my favourite things….

To gain a glimpse into the lives of historical fiction authors, we thought it would be fun to start a series of interviews to ask them to share a few of their favourite things. Colin Falconer has been kind enough to be the first to kick off. Colin has written so many books that it is hard to find space to list them all! Here is his Goodreads page for his entire bibliography. His most recent book is Stigmata which introduces the reader to the Cathars of C13th France.

Born in north London, Colin worked for many years in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has been a novelist for the last twenty years, with his work published widely in the UK, US and Europe. His books have been sold in translation in Bulgaria, Brazil, Belgium, the Czech republic, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey. Also Iran, but they just steal it over there.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz. He also completed a nine hundred kilometre walk of the Camino in Spain.
He lived for many years near Margaret River in WA, helped raise two beautiful daughters with his late wife, Helen. While writing, he also worked for many years in the volunteer ambulance service. “I’d be at my desk typing, then thirty minutes later I’d be crawling into an overturned car." 

So here are a few of Colin's favourite things....

Book as a child and as a teenager?
I started reading as a teenager. My favourite book? Catch-22. I was astonished that you could use language that way. James Bond. Hemingway. Portnoy’s Complaint. Graham Greene. The entire Pan Book of Horror Stories series. No discernment. Also no historical fiction. I HATED history. That love affair came later, after I divorced formal education.

Hilary Mantel - daylight second. I think her prose style is extraordinary and her technique flawless. God is a woman! I also love Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. I read it at least once a year.

Period of history?
To write about? Don’t have one. But I wish I’d lived in Asia as a debauched white trader in the 1920’s. Maybe I did. I still love Asia, but it’s too sanitized now.

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Character in one of your own books?
Phillip, in my most recent novel, “Stigmata.” I so admire his courage, his devotion to his young son, his sheer bloody minded determination, and his integrity as a man. He’s a good guy but with so many human flaws. I would have loved to have had a beer with him but of course I can’t, because he lived pre-beer and he’s not real. At least, not technically.

Scene you enjoyed writing?
Any scene between William of Augsburg, that damned hypocrite monk in “Silk Road”, and his translator and muscle, Josseran Sarrazini. God, they hated each other! But their scenes together always came out either funny or poignant. I could write a five page scene between those two in ten minutes any hour of the day or night. 

Place to write?
Don’t care. Give me a laptop and access to emergency bourbon, I’m good to go.

Step in the process of writing? E.g. researching, drafting, editing etc
I love the research if it means going somewhere murky. The book research - not to so much. But I’m absolutely diligent about it. I love editing my books. I get too anxious when I’m writing first drafts to really enjoy it. I sometimes hold my breath for five pages or more, don’t know why. Can’t be good for me. 

Method of writing i.e. longhand or typing?
I can type with four fingers as quick as I can think, which I guess tells you something about how slow my synapses are.

TV program /movie?
Don’t watch much TV - Modern Family because of the relationships. Very funny.
Movies - The Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Empire of the Sun, The Last Emperor, Gladiator; the commercial historical epics, which is what I write and what I love.

Comfort food?
Thanks so much for sharing, Colin. Best of luck with Stigmata!

1205AD: Philip of Vercy sails away from the roasting wasteland where he has passed the last year. As a Knight of the Realm, he has fought the infidel in the Holy Land. Now, after twelve months of savage, bloody warfare in the scorching sun, he is finally coming home to his castle, to peace, and to his beloved wife.

But France offers neither comfort or peace. His wife has died in childbirth, his young son is dying, and, in the south, his Cathar countrymen are being brutally persecuted. When Philip hears rumours of a healer in the Languedoc, a young woman blessed by God and marked with Christ's Stigmata, he rides out on a desperate quest to save his son.

His journey takes him into a vision of hell that outstrips even what he saw in Outremer. Disgusted by the senseless slaughter, Philip gradually becomes embroiled in the Cathar cause. And then he finds his miracle: Fabrisse Berenger, the daughter of Cathar parents. She is bewildered by her strange wounds, but Philip is fascinated by them...and more fascinated by the serene goodness of Fabrisse herself.

Together, their destiny will be decided in the snows of the Black Mountains where they must make choices not just to save their lives, but their souls.

You can buy Stigmata at Amazon UK. Colin blogs at Looking for Mr Good Story and will be appearing at the Ubud Writers Festival in Bali in October and the Belgrade Writers Festival in November.

Interviewer Elisabeth Storrs is the author of The Wedding Shroud. She blogs at Triclinium. You can also find her on Twitter.