Book review: The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden — Isobel Blackthorn

About The Stars in the Night Harry Fletcher is a confident young man. Harry’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide. Only the War to End All […]

via Book review: The Stars in the Night by Clare Rhoden — Isobel blackthorn

Remembrance Day

On December 1, my WWI novel will be released.

The Stars in the Night is the product of my many years of research into Australian WWI literature, and of course my love of narrative.

History is a story, when all is said and done.

Like the Southern Cross constellation, Australia at the time of the Great War was a significant and enduring feature of the southern hemisphere, but was relatively unknown in the northern hemisphere.

The Anzacs changed that. They became better known than our southern bright stars.

My book is dedicated to their sacrifice, endeavor, and legacy. They were a mixed bunch of fellows, ranging from godly teetotallers and idealistic heroes to raffish no-hopers and irreverent likely lads. In between was the majority of ordinary, decent, naive and complacent everyday blokes, every one of whom volunteered to serve. Among the many reasons they signed up, one stands clear: they wanted to participate in the war which would ‘end all wars’.

A century on, we’re still searching for a way to do just that.


The fact that my book now sits on a library shelf seems very surreal. I must visit and take a photo before someone borrows it – NO, wait, I really want someone to borrow it!

There is this thing where authors get paid micro-microcents for each time their book is borrowed, but really, you wouldn’t want to hold your breath to use it for a cup of coffee. What’s much much much more exciting is that the story could possibly, maybe, perhaps, get into the hands of a reader. An actual live person turning pages.

The thought that somebody unknown might go in and have a look at my imaginary world is just amazing. It’s strange how even the chance that it might happen affirms the world of The Pale as somehow more real.

And very motivating. Right, out of the blog and back to writing Pale #2!

What am I doing? Moral agency and the writer

Sometimes I look up from the imaginary world I’m writing and take note of what’s around me. Sometimes I ask, What am I doing? Is this worthwhile? Can stories have value? Is this how I want to spend 2018?

A dear friend recently sent me this link from Literary Hub on the moral agency of the fiction writer. I include it here because it makes total sense. The quote is from Susan Sontag’s At the Same Time: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning, and addresses the morality of the writer:

“Obviously, I think of the writer of novels and stories and plays as a moral agent. . . This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense. Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate—and, therefore, improve—our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgement.”

See the page with many more snippets of Sontag’s wisdom at

I have been re-reading this passage as I write. It seems to me to be very apt for the stories that come out of Odyssey Books, where nothing exploitative or repulsive gets a look in. Odyssey – where books are an adventure – and very often, a moral one at that!


Thanks to the British Library free Flickr stream for the image taken from:  “Italien … mit 12 Städteplanen und 40 Ansichten in Stahlstich”, by Georg von MARTENS, p. 1775, Stuttgart, 1846.

Sci-fi rules … or might soon

I have just read Fascinating article about genre boundaries in this month’s Writers Victoria magazine, The Victorian Writer (as in, writers who live in Victoria, not those who write like Dickens necessarily!).
In ‘Crossing the Streams’, author Claire Corbett writes that ‘the genres all need each other and dividing them up is pointless … Sci-fi in particular plays well with the others’.

Corbett argues that all genres use the techniques of romance, crime, horror, etc, to keep their narratives going, and that ‘sci-fi is on the verge of swallowing pretty much all literature whole because, as Kim Stanley Robinson points out, the reality we are living in now is pretty science fictional’.

I looked up Corbett’s author page and it’s very impressive. Check it out at

Launch day!

This evening is the launch of my sci-fi, dystopian novel, The Pale. I’m very excited and just a little bit nervous.

All I have to decide is what to wear, what to say, and what to read. Problems every author should have 😉

Scary scene number one

This afternoon, I took my courage in both hands and visited my local library branch with the usual pile of books to return … and a copy of My Very Own Book.

I respectfully asked whether the library was happy to speak directly with authors, or whether whoever was in charge of book-ordering would prefer to be approached by the publisher.

Well, they asked me to sit at their desk while they called the library events manager over, who phoned the acquisitions librarian (at another branch) and was very excited to hold, feel, and flip through the book; read the author bio; and take my business card. They were also clearly happy to hear that I would be launching The Pale at Readings Carlton – because (OMG) they use Readings’ monthly book-review magazine as a guide to purchases!!!

Result: they will order in a copy – one to start with, they said 🙂 – and put me on their list to invite as a featured author in the 2018 calendar of events. Result is right!

My tips from this terrifying event:

  1. If you don’t ask, you can never get YES for an answer – this goes for Readings as well as the library
  2. It is definitely worthwhile to have a good-looking, ‘pretty’ business card (I have MOO’s ‘Chelsea Groves’ as seen above)
  3. Elijah Toten’s cover art on The Pale is a real winner (I already knew that!)
  4. Just go for it. They can only say no. Plus I don’t think any librarian would be rude to an author, so libraries should be a safe space for us.