Sunday, December 11, 2016

Interview with Peter Watt

Our guest today is Peter Watt, who has just released his latest novel When the Moon Burns. Peter has been a soldier, articled clerk to a solicitor, prawn trawler deckhand, builder's labourer, pipe layer, real estate salesman, private investigator, police sergeant and adviser to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. He has lived and worked with Aborigines, Islanders, Vietnamese and Papua New Guineans and speaks, reads and writes Vietnamese and Pidgin. He is also a firefighter with the N.SW Rural Fire Service. 

What or who inspired you to first write?

Like many with the writing gene I knew from a very early age that I wanted to write.  In the 1960’s I read every author I could such as James A Mitchener, Leon Uris, James Clavell, Wilbur Smith, John Steinbeck and many others.  I was drawn to the history and sweeping stories written by the great authors mentioned.

What is the inspiration for your current book?

The inspiration that drove the newly published While the Moon Burns was our place in history in the years 1945 to 1951.  It has been the theme throughout all the Frontier series which has taken the reader of this series from the Queensland frontier of 1862 onwards.

Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

The theme is incorporated into the ongoing generations of the two families. That is, the reader of the Frontier series observes the changes to our attitudes influenced by the national and international events of the time.

Which period of history particularly inspires or interests you? Why?

I guess the history of the 19th century has the most appeal as it was a century of rapid technological change, colonialism and the century when we grew our own culture in Australia.

What resources do you use to research your book?

Research is primarily done through the use of personal eye witness accounts found in libraries and old photographs. The old saying that a picture can speak a thousand words is true. The internet is a good source of specific things such as names of characters pertinent to the time written about.

Which methods/ strategies do you employ to write?

 I allow history to guide the actions of my characters.

Is there anything unusual or even quirky that you would like to share about your writing?

If any thing research can get a writer into trouble.  I remember once going to my library to research women’s underwear in 1868.  I found a couple of books on the subject, as I required the information for a seduction scene where the hero undresses the heroine.  I booked them out, and heard one librarian say to the other as I was leaving, “Ï think that man must be some kind of pervert.”

How long does it generally take you to write a book?

I devote six months to fighting bushfires which generally sees me out every second day on one fire ground in the fire season.  So, my research and writing is the other half of the year -generally through the colder, wetter months. That does mean a 10 hour day, seven days a week.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

My first book, Cry of the Curlew was originally rejected for main stream publishing.  A letter from the publisher explained why it was not up to standard, and I rewrote the book to comply with what was required by publishers.  The second time around it was recognised as what the public wanted in a mass market release.  The books are now in many languages -and the rest is history. The advice I would give originates in my army days when I was fortunate enough to do a course with the legendary Australian Army Training Team Vietnam as an advisor.  They had a shoulder patch that had one word which has stuck with me in many things I have done in life – PERSEVERE!

Thanks for sharing your experience Peter. All the best with your new book!

Peter's books are available from Pan Macmillan.

You can check out his website at including a full list of his Frontier series.

With tense and immediate battle scenes, a blockbuster plot
and unforgettable characters, Pter Watt has crafted a
sweeping epic befitting Australia's dramatic and inspirational
Peter FitzSimons
From the jungles of the Pacific to the boardrooms of Sydney, the
stakes have never been higher when you're fighting for love and
survival. And while the Duffy and Macintosh families may fight on
the same side in one war, the battle between these two famili
es is
far from over.
For Tom Duffy, the purchase of his ancestral property Glen View means his daughter will have a
home to return to after the war and, hopefully, for the next generation of Dufs. But the Macintosh
family won't let this land go without a
fight and when Sarah Macintosh, the daughter of his old
nemesis, challenges his ownership, he knows he's in for one hell of a fight.
Meanwhile in Sydney, Sarah has taken over from her father as the head of the Macintosh firm
and, while the Nazi investment
s she made might be in tatters, she has big plans for herself and

the family business. And Sarah she isn't afraid of playing dirty.

While Sergeant Jessica Duffy, Captain James Duffy and Major David Macintosh have managed to
make it this far through the lon
g war, will all they are fighting for still be waiting for them when they
return home?

With tense and immediate battle scenes, a blockbuster plot and unforgettable characters, Peter Watt has created a sweeping epic befitting Australia's dramatic and inspirational history." - Peter Fitzsimmons

In the war across the seas, the Duffys and the McIntoshes are on the same side. But on home turf, the battle between these two dynasties rages on. After fighting in two world wars, Tom Duffy's purchase of his ancestral property, Glen View, means a home for the next generation of Duffys. But the Mcintosh family won't easily surrender this land, and when they challenge his ownership he knows he's in for one hell of a fight. Meanwhile in Sydney, Sarah has taken over from her father as the head of the Mcintosh firm. She has big plans for herself and the family business, and isn't afraid to play dirty. Sergeant Jessica Duffy, Captain James Duffy and Major David Mcintosh have survived countless battles the world over, but will all they are fighting for still be waiting for them when they return home.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Interview with Juliet Marillier

Our guest today is Juliet Marillier who has recently released Den of Wolves, the new book in her Blackthorn & Grim series.

Juliet was born and educated in Dunedin, New Zealand, and now lives in Western Australia. Her historical fantasy novels and short stories for adults and young adults have been translated into many languages and have won a number of awards including the Aurealis Award (four times), the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Prix Imaginales and the Sir Julius Vogel Award (three times.) 

Juliet’s novels and short stories combine history, folkloric fantasy, romance and family drama. Her lifelong love of myths, legends, folklore and fairy tales is a major influence on her writing. Juliet’s eighteen novels include the six-book Sevenwaters series, set in early medieval Ireland; the Bridei Chronicles, based on Pictish history; the Viking duology Wolfskin and Foxmask, and the Shadowfell series. She is currently working on the Blackthorn & Grim series for adult readers, combining elements of history, fairy tale and mystery. The first Blackthorn & Grim novel, Dreamer’s Pool, was published by Pan Macmillan Australia and Penguin USA late in 2014. 

As well as writing full-time, Juliet acts as a mentor to developing writers and presents workshops on the writer’s craft. She is a member of the Committee of Literary Advisors at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, and is a regular contributor to the award-winning blog, Writer Unboxed. Her website is at When not writing, Juliet is active in animal rescue. She shares her house with a small pack of waifs and strays. Juliet is a member of the druid order OBOD - The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

What or who inspired you to first write?

My parents were keen readers and musicians, so I can’t remember a time when they weren’t reading to me, singing or telling stories. I started writing pretty much as soon as I’d learned how to wield a pencil. The stories that inspired me most strongly were myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore – I loved those windows into worlds of enchantment and mystery. My mother was my greatest supporter, reading my efforts, typing stories out for me, and always being nice about my work even though some of it was probably not that great! We were very fortunate to have a wonderful Children’s Library in Dunedin, New Zealand, where I grew up. It was housed in its own two-storey stone building, and had a really extensive and interesting collection for its time. That library and its rather scary but very clever librarian (who also happened to be my best friend’s mother) were very influential in my life.


What is the inspiration for your current book?

My most recent book, Den of Wolves, and the series, Blackthorn & Grim, are not only built around
fairy tales / folklore, but also have a theme of characters working their way through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Both the main protagonists, embittered healer Blackthorn and her hulking companion Grim, come to the story carrying a heavy weight of past trauma. Inspiration for this particular idea came in part from reading some powerful non-fiction books on military PTSD, notably The Good Soldiers and Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel. The third inspiration came from readers who asked me to write a novel with an older female protagonist – my central female characters are more usually aged around 17-25, simply because people led shorter lives in the period of my stories and their major life events happened at a younger age than they do now (marriage, childbirth, going to war, supporting a family.) Blackthorn is that older character, and a very damaged one.


Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?

Apart from PTSD – how it affects people’s lives and the ways people survive it – Den of Wolves has a theme of fathers and daughters. It also looks at different ways of being brave, and different kinds of love.


Which period of history particularly inspires or interests you? Why?

I love the grey areas of history, such as the time of the Picts – those periods and cultures that left few, if any, contemporary written records. Historians still argue about some aspects of Pictish culture, such as matrilineal succession to the kingship. Those times provide fertile ground for writers of historical fiction! I loved researching my Pictish series, the Bridei Chronicles, and my Viking-era novels, Wolfskin and Foxmask. But I’ve been strongly drawn to early medieval Ireland. I love Irish mythology, unsurprising since my own forebears were from Celtic countries. The society of early medieval Ireland had some unusual elements such as Brehon law, a remarkably fair and thorough legal system that among other things provided protection for the rights of women.

As a writer of historical fantasy, I’m very much aware that in my earliest books the history was flawed. I didn’t know then that readers who were happy to accept a big dose of magic and the uncanny would at the same time expect accurate history (the stories are set in the real world with a dash of folkloric magic.) After those first three books, I started researching my history properly. The Blackthorn & Grim series contains only one real historical character, whose name will allow the astute reader to work out the exact period. But it’s far more fantasy than history. And far more a story about the characters’ personal journeys than either. I’m interested in seeing my characters grow, change, learn, make their errors and meet their challenges, come unstuck and (mostly) put themselves together again.


What resources do you use to research your book?

Because I’ve written several earlier novels set in the same general place and time period, I have a solid personal library of books on Ireland in the period before the Anglo-Norman arrival (and after – my standalone novel Heart’s Blood, based on Beauty and the Beast, is set in the 12th century.)  I have a book of historical maps, one that deals with legal systems, books of Irish names, books on birds and animals, trees and plants, geography, herb lore and so on. A collection of fairy tales, folklore and mythology, and scholarly commentary on the same. The internet is useful for pointing a researcher in the right direction, but print books are still my main resource. Over the years I have also visited the locations of my novels, walked the ground, taken photos, got a feel for how it might have been back then. Nothing beats actually being there, even when the physical landscape has changed markedly.

Which authors have influenced you?

Oddly enough, mostly not fantasy writers, though as a young adult I was an avid Lord of the Rings fan, so Tolkien certainly played a big part in my development. A major influence was historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett, especially her Lymond Chronicles, for the combination of magnificent period detail and an edge-of-the-seat story that is not resolved until the end of the sixth large novel. Vivid, unforgettable characters. Dunnett was recommended to me when I was a teenager, by that children’s librarian I mentioned earlier! I love the elegant simplicity of style shown by Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier, both of whom I discovered quite early. For quirky imagination and subtlety of character interaction, plus understated humour, Tove Jansson (the Moomintroll books.) Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, first encountered when I was about 12, was also a big storytelling influence. I love a good love story. Most of my novels contain one.

Which methods/ strategies do you employ to write?

I usually complete one fairly substantial novel a year as well as some short fiction, so I have to be organised. I am a planner – research, then a story outline, then a chapter plan all get done before I start. I don’t do lots of complete drafts. I revise as I go. Write three chapters and revise. Write three more chapters and revise all six. And so on. By the time I get to The End, most of the manuscript is quite well polished. The actual mechanics of writing – always straight onto the laptop, using Word. For my earliest books I wrote in longhand first, but that soon became too slow.

Is there anything unusual or even quirky that you would like to share about your writing?

I’m writing from the local café today, because my five dogs have become expert at distracting me when I work at home. They sit around my feet making ‘Feed me!’ eyes. And every time I get up from the computer there’s a stampede for the front door. ‘Yay! Walkies!’


How long does it generally take you to write a book?

Since my first novel, Daughter of the Forest, was published in 1999, I’ve written 20 novels and one collection of short fiction. So I’ve done slightly better than one per year. Generally speaking, it takes me a year for an adult novel from first research to submitting the finished manuscript. 


What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Follow your heart – write the story you feel passionate about, not something you believe will suit the current market. Learn your craft. Don’t expect instant success – writing is a testing journey with many ups and downs, and you will need to work hard. Find a support group of fellow writers, either online or in the real world. Lastly, READ. Read as widely as you can, well outside the genre you are writing in. Good writers start out as avid readers – reading is the most painless way to learn how to write well.

Many thanks for sharing your insights and experiences, Juliet. 20 novels is an amazing achievement. Good luck with Den of Wolves.

‘A new book by Juliet Marillier is always a cause for celebration.’ Kate Forsyth

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring to justice the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help Lady Flidais take care of a troubled young girl, Cara, while Grim is sent to Cara’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—rebuilding a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies…

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again side by side or to fight their battles alone.

Den of Wolves and all Juliet's books are available via PanMacMillan

Juliet will be appearing in 'The Long Haul:Writing Multiple Books and Series at HNSA 2017 in Melbourne on 8-10 September.

This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses. You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Manuscript assessments will be conducted by industry experts, Alison Arnold and Irina Dunn. Our free extended academic programme is open for general admission but bookings are essential.
Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!

Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!