Sunday, 17 February 2013

Manic Monday: Q&A quickie with Ali McNamara

British author Ali McNamara has come out with a sequel to her book, From Notting Hill with Love Actually - this time dubbed From Notting Hill to New York... Actually.

It surrounds Scarlett O’Brien, who's utterly addicted to romantic films and is convinced her Sean is Mr Right. But the day-to-day reality of a relationship isn’t quite like the movies. With Sean constantly away on business, Scarlett and her new bestie, Oscar, decide to head to New York for a holiday. Scarlett and Oscar make many new friends during their adventure. And Scarlett finds herself strangely drawn to a TV reporter, Jamie. They appear to have much in common. But Scarlett has to ask herself why she is reacting like this to another man when she’s so in love with Sean.

We put Ali in the hotseat about her latest novel...

Why do you think '90s rom-coms, like Notting Hill, still resonate? In my opinion, they have more thought put into them, better and more interesting plots, and even though you know the ending will be the same - i.e. the girl and boy will get together - the journey you take with them along the way is so much more enjoyable.
What tips do you think people can take from '90s rom-coms, which they could possibly apply to their own love lives? Life never goes according to plan, but as long as you have some laughs along the way, everything is usually OK in the end!

What happens when your life doesn’t unravel like a perfectly plotted rom-com? How to deal then? Start again in a new city, with a new leading man/lady or a whole new set of characters. Failing that, just smile and realise life never is quite like it is in the movies – it’s actually much stranger!
This interview will feature as part of an article, dubbed 'Nineties guide to romance', in DUO Magazine in March 2013.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Q&A with rom-com author Lisa Walker

How would you sum up Sex, Lies & Bonsai in a nutshell? Well, it is very apt that you should use the word, nutshell, because it is a story about coming out of your shell. Edie, the protagonist, is a shy misfit and I wanted to see what would happen if she was brave enough to let all her rich inner life come out.

Whats an average day in your life like? With school holidays, my new book coming out, Christmas etc. it seems like a while since I've had an average day. But as I recall, it goes something like this: wake up about 6.30, go for a surf, see my son off to school, do as much writing as possible until he comes home again, do a bit of yoga or go for a walk, make dinner, tool around on Facebook or read until about 10, then crash out. I lead a pretty quiet life really.

Where did the idea for the funny crab sex scenarios in Sex, Lies & Bonsai come from? Quite a while ago I did a degree in zoology and got a part-time job drawing crab larvae for one of the professors. I decided to give this job to Edie and from there it seemed a very short step to sexual fantasies involving crabs. You know how your mind wanders when youre doing a boring job...

Most interesting thing youve done for book research? I recently did a tour of 'Big Things' from my home in Lennox Head (not far from the Big Prawn) up to Tewantin near Noosa, which is home to the Big Pelican and the Big Shell. I am blessed, or possibly cursed, to live in an area with a multitude of Big Things. These feature largely (ha ha) in my work in progress.

In your debut novel, Liar Bird, your depiction of the fashionable Sydney PR world is spot-on. Did you ever work in that world? Not exactly, but I did work in Sydney for six years and I have worked in public relations, so I extrapolated. I always look at the Sun-Herald social pages too, and that glamorous, but rather vacuous party image is the one that I had in my mind. I'm glad it seemed spot-on!

Youve worked as an igloo builder and wilderness guide in the Snowy Mountains and in community relations for National Parks. Wildlife and nature is obviously important to you. Do you think itll always be a theme of your books? Not necessarily, although it does come naturally to me to write in a character or two with environmental interests as I know a lot of people like that. For example, in Sex, Lies & Bonsai, Daniel, Edies ex, is an environmental lawyer.

Did you always want to be an author? what made you go from radio plays to novel writing? Well, at first I wanted to be a dolphin trainer, but after that, yes. For a long time it didnt seem like an achievable goal, so I did other things. But then I eventually decided that I needed to give it a serious try or stop thinking about it. From that moment it took almost 10 years to get published! The radio play was a bit of a fluke. I just went along to a workshop on writing radio plays, then had a go at turning one of my short stories into a play and, voila, it was accepted by the ABC sheer beginner's luck. Having the play produced was a lot of fun, but I think the novel is my natural medium.

Any hints on what youre working on next? I'm doing a Masters in Creative Writing at the moment and as part of that I have pledged to write a romantic comedy about climate change. It's a funny idea, but someone has to do it, right?

Why romantic comedy? And what do you think makes a story of this genre zing? While I read very widely, my favourite type of novel is one that lifts my mood and makes me feel good. For me, that means romantic comedy. Id like to think that readers will laugh a bit, maybe cry a bit and come away smiling from one of my books. When I think about the romantic comedies I have enjoyed most, they all have in common distinctive believable characters. Great dialogue is also essential. I love those old movies with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant where the dialogue sizzles. It's so witty and I try to aim for a bit of that feel. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Being an only child

By Carla Caruso

I’m currently writing a story where the heroine’s an only child. I have two sisters, so have no experience of this. I did some research, asking a writer friend, Laura, exactly what it’s like. Here she fills me in. Perhaps you relate?...

What do you love and hate about being an only child? I love that I really enjoy my own company. I can always find a way to occupy my time and I’m very rarely bored. I genuinely enjoy spending time alone – I recently went to Canada and New York by myself, for example, and had a ball. I definitely think only children learn to create their own fun!

Although I grew up living with just my mum, my dad was always involved in my life and both parents were and are enormously proud and supportive of everything I do. It’s nice to know there’s a team of people who are always passionately on your side! If I’m honest, I was spoiled rotten as a kid, and that was pretty nice.

There was nothing I really hated growing up, though at times I definitely wished for a sibling. Not because I genuinely felt anything was lacking from my own life; more because all my friends had brothers and sisters and the grass is always greener when you’re a kid. I do think there is perhaps more pressure on only children – a heavier weight of expectation from parents and other relatives. (Until I was 12, I was also the only grandchild in my family, so everyone had plenty of ideas about what I should and shouldn’t be doing!)
Did you ever feel envious of those with siblings? Absolutely. I often thought it would be fun to have someone else to hang out or gossip with. In my teens, I even thought it would be fun to have a sister to fight with! Even as an adult, I do still catch myself occasionally feeling wistful that it’s just me, particularly because my husband has a younger brother and sister that he’s really close to – I think it would have been nice to have that kind of relationship myself.

Do you think it has made you more grown-up/independent or more sheltered? Are you more self-contained or less? I wasn’t babied or sheltered – my parents divorced when I was very young and I had some tough times growing up, so I’ve certainly never been under any illusions about the way the world works. But I’m very grateful for that, because it’s made me self-sufficient. As I've said, I’m 100 per cent comfortable on my own, and I genuinely believe this has been a big part of why I’ve always had healthy romantic relationships – I know I’d be OK alone if it came to it, so I’m comfortable about the boundaries I set in relationships. I think being an only child definitely helped me learn to respect myself at a young age.
I also think I’m better with money as a result of being an only child. I’ve always been a good saver, and even though I’ve been married for six years we still have separate bank accounts (in addition to a joint account). I really value my independence, even in the context of a happy marriage.

Who did you look to as a peer not having an older sibling? Hmm, this is a good question! I’m not entirely sure. My best friend and I have been inseparable for 20 years, and there was certainly nothing I didn’t run by her. But thinking about it, my mum and a lot of her female friends were real role models to me growing up. Mum always included me in her social life, so from a young age I was around successful, independent women and involved in adult conversation. I think this played a big part in shaping who I am today.
How do you think being an only child has impacted on your personality? It’s definitely made me strong, independent and self-sufficient, but I do think it’s probably contributed to the issues I have with assertiveness. I really struggle to stand up for myself in a lot of situations, and I think perhaps that has something to do with not always feeling able to speak my mind growing up. With it being just me and Mum, I was (and still am) always very mindful of her feelings, so I probably did bottle up a lot of stuff that would have been better off expressed and dealt with.

If your parents are driving you up the wall, who do you turn to? Haha, good question! These days it’s the husband and my best friend. They’ve heard it all!

Do you think being an only child enriches or plays havoc with your relationship with your parents? A bit of both! I’m close to both my parents and feel I could tell them literally anything. However, there is that sense of expectation as well – there are no brothers or sisters to absorb some of the focus, so anytime I disappoint them it’s magnified. And because they’re super proud of me, I have to be judicious about the things I do tell them, because anything I say is immediately relayed to every other family member and friend of the family. (Sometimes I think friends of my parents who haven’t met me must think I’m the most insufferable show-off, just based on how much the parentals brag about any minor achievement.) I’m glad I’m an only child – I love my family and wouldn’t be who I am today if I’d had siblings. Having said that, if I have kids, I will probably have more than one.