Monday, June 26, 2017

Interview with Justin Sheedy

Our guest today is Justin Sheedy who is the author of five books and whether they be don’t-read-on-the-bus-hilarious or cry-in-every-chapter-heroic, he is passionate to share OUR Australian stories. His Australian World War II historical fiction trilogy began with Nor the Years Condemn (2011) followed by Ghosts of the Empire (2013) and now concludes with his latest release, No Greater Love. Sheedy’s saga brings to vivid life a stunning true story in our ANZAC tradition yet one which until now remained untold in Australian historical fiction: the story of how our nation’s best-and-brightest youth volunteered for the most dangerous job of World War II, crossing the planet to become the pilots and aircrew who flew against the might of Nazi tyranny. Given the ‘best-and-brightest’ fact upon which his saga is based, Sheedy hopes his readers will fall in love with his characters, their ensuing loss ramming home for the reader the anti-war message that he intends.

He lives in Sydney where he enjoys connecting with his readers at his regular book signings, via his Facebook, Twitter and blog at

What is the inspiration for your current book?

Imagine a man who, when he was 21, was a real-life young superman physically and mentally, beloved by his family due to his sparkling intelligence and personality. Though he volunteered to leave his family and cross the planet to fight the worst evil imaginable. This he did in the most exciting way possible and he won, living to his 90s only to be surrounded by the ghosts of all his friends from the fight who remain forever 21. Imagine his story is true and there were 37 000 young men just like him. Who once lived just down the street from where you live right now. THOSE once young Australians are my inspiration.

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

In my latest, No Greater Love, an exploration of whether Australia’s history is one of perpetually fighting other people’s wars due to our national selflessness or national lack of self.
Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?
World War Two because, as subject matter for historical fiction, it’s the greatest drama ever. There is no more exciting, heroic, tragic, horrific, good versus evil dramatic story for a writer to bring alive. It’s also when, more than any other time in our Australian history, we showed the world how to win wars.

What resources do you use to research your book?

Veteran interviews, historical fiction & non-fiction, documentaries, family-loaned personal diaries, the internet (often beginning with Wikipedia as a “research road-map” for more detailed research), online correspondence with historical societies and local councils internationally.
What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?
Authenticity.  My goal & reward is to have my readers thoroughly yet instantly immersed in the history I cover though they may have no prior knowledge or prior interest in it. To immerse them like this I must present the history to them in an accessible way. Though of course I intend forensic-standard accuracy, I find some writers lose their readers with accuracy for its own sake. In a nutshell, if you tell all the facts, you’ll never finish the story, let alone keep your reader happily time-travelling.

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?

My main character, Colin Stone.  “Stoney” to all.  A classic ‘rough diamond’ character, the boy from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ (the mean streets of Great Depression era St. Kilda). He is the abandoned child who becomes the greatest fighter pilot of them all, the soul from the gutter who rises to the top from where he sees a world only worth leaving.  Since creating him, “Stoney” has become real for me and I love him; he’s the underdog, the unselfish hero, the classic Aussie warrior who (based in historical fact) wins war because of the unconventional way he fights it, who lacks respect for Authority because Authority gets young men killed.

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?

A fusion of both.  I think a superb “structure” for any narrative is one of the most rewarding things for the reader and something I strive for by plotting. Yet at my every stage of writing every book I find myself with NO idea what I’ll be writing tomorrow. But this happens SO often that I force myself to say: “You always find it. Have a little faith in yourself.” Re how long it takes me to write a book, from my first, a 365-pager in 4 years, to my fifth, same length in 18 months, seems each time I have to re-invent the wheel a bit less.

Which authors have influenced you?

In terms of my Australian World War Two historical trilogy, I would nominate Ken Follett for his gripping WWII fictions, our Kate Grenville for her emotive Australian historical fictions, and Roald Dahl for the way he evokes his own war experiences as if with the involuntary perfection of a child’s eye.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Write what thrills YOU. If you write it well, it will thrill others. To write it well, re-write it until it’s the book it DESERVES to be. (That’s one third Paul Hogan, one third me, one third Peter Carey, and the rest is just good luck.)

Tell us about your next book or work in progress.

Currently polishing a novella to be part of a free ebook “bundle” with other authors as promotional tool for our currently published works. Title of my novella: Other People’s Wars.

To abandoned child, Colin Stone, World War Two grants an escape from the mean streets of St. Kilda. A natural warrior, his talents qualify him to join an elite group of young men. The shining ones. Who fly Spitfires against Nazi tyranny. Rising with them, from the top Colin Stone looks down on a world that has doomed his first true friends.

Bringing to vivid life true Australian war history and events, "No Greater Love" is a saga in the classic mold, featuring the drama, beauty, heroism and horror of one young man's war journey through stunning Malta, Egypt and North Africa, Sicily, England and Europe. It is a portrait of the once-in-a-lifetime characters the war places on his path, of the tragic, wholesale waste of war, on occasion even the profound humanity of his enemy, and of his evolving perception of his world for what it is.

Though standing on its own as a ripping and also highly emotional read, "No Greater Love" is the third and final chapter of Justin Sheedy's now widely and warmly cherished World War Two novel trilogy begun with "Nor the Years Condemn" and "Ghosts of the Empire". Continuing and now concluding their portrait of shining young men destined never to grow old, No Greater Love is the full and rich story of Part 1's reader-favourite character, Aussie rough diamond Colin Stone ('Stoney'). It is the story of his war, of his loyalty and devotion to his friends, of his enduring love for the mother who abandoned him, and his dreams of being held by her once again.

Many thanks Justin for sharing your passion for world war history with us.

You can purchase Justin's books at the following links:

Nor the Years Condemn DYMOCKSAMAZON

Ghosts of the Empire DYMOCKSAMAZON


HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. Justin Sheedy will be appearing on Sunday 10 September at in the following panel:

Worlds at War: The Appeal of 20th Century Historical Fiction

The history of the early to mid-20th century now falls within the definition of ‘historical fiction’. Why do novels depicting the great conflicts of modern times hold such fascination? And has war fiction replaced Tudor fiction as ‘the favourite flavour’ for readers and publishers? Julian Novitz discusses these questions with Paddy Richardson, Elise McCune, Justin Sheedy and Julian Leatherdale.

Justin Sheedy is also appearing in our Sydney HNSA Meet the Author event on 26 July 6.00 -8.00 pm at Gordon Branch of the Ku-ring-gai Library with Winton Higgins, Kim Kelly, Michelle Morgan and Elisabeth Storrs (Chair). Bookings essential. More details can be found on the HNSA website.

HNSA 2017 is a celebration of the historical fiction genre which 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!

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