I’m getting a bit excited about the release of the next book in my dystopian survival series. Broad Plain Darkening (The Pale #2) will be published on October 20th. Thank you to my awesome publisher Odyssey Books.
If you are keen to reacquaint yourself with the canini and to meet the equii, this is the sequel you’ve been waiting for. Oh, and there are some interesting humans as well, not to mention the humachines of the Pale…
In the meantime, I’m playing with a number of online tools to create posts and notices. The beautiful wolves above are from Canva’s extensive library of free images.
Today I’m pleased to host S.C. Karakaltsas on Something to Say, an occasional blog series in which I chat with creatives who have a timely event or launch to talk about.
S.C. Karakaltsas is the author of two historical fiction novels, Climbing theCoconut Tree, and A Perfect Stone. Sylvia has also written a contemporary short story collection, Out of Nowhere. She has received awards for two of her short stories and has work published in the Lane Cove Literary Awards Anthology and Monash Writers Anthology. In her spare time, Sylvia also blogs and reviews many amazing books at https://sckarakaltsas.com/
Welcome to STS Sylvia. What project are you talking about today?
Thanks for having me. My current project is my new novel called A Perfect Stone.
A Perfect Stone is set for release today, I see. Congratulations! Is there one aspect of the novel that you relate to most – a favourite character, scene, or effect? Can you tell us more about that?
A Perfect Stone is a dual timeline historical fiction novel set in 1948 during the Greek Civil War and Melbourne in 2016. Released 10 October and launching 18 October, I am very excited about this project.
It’s a story told from the point of view of eighty-year-old Jim, who finds something which triggers the memories of the childhood he’s hidden, not just from himself but from his overprotective daughter. When Jim has a stroke and begins speaking in another language, his daughter is shocked and confused. Jim must confront what happened when, as a ten-year-old, he was forced at gunpoint to leave his family and trek barefoot through the mountains of Northern Greece to escape the Greek Civil War in 1948.
I fell in love with my character Jim. He’s endearing and vulnerable but also quite eccentric in some ways. He makes me laugh and he makes me cry and he reminds me of a few older men I know, including my own father.
That sounds really interesting. What do you think drives you to pursue your creativity? Is it family history or the past in general, for example?
With my novels, I’m inspired to tell little known stories. In my first novel Climbing the Coconut Tree, I was inspired by the double murder of two Australians living on a phosphate mining island. In A Perfect Stone I was inspired by the fact that 38,000 children from the ages of 2–14 were forced to leave their homes without their parents during the Greek Civil War. Of the ones who survived, many ended up behind the Iron Curtain and some never saw their families again.
I write short stories as well which are mostly contemporary looks at life in suburbia, poking fun or digging at the unexpected things that happen. I wrote a short story collection which was published last year called Out of Nowhere which was well received.
Many writers describe their processes using analogies – the famous Hemingway one, for example, in which he says that writing is simply a matter of sitting in front of the typewriter and staring at a blank page until you start to sweat blood. Others speak of stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?
My process is purely and simply sitting down and writing to see what comes out and it often shocks me. I only started writing four years ago after having spent years in the corporate world and I’m staggered that I can string at least a sentence together let alone a whole novel.
That’s amazing. Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
Persistent, single minded, wide-eyed and dogged.
That sounds like a recipe for even more success. Thank you so much for joining me in Something to Say, and all the best for the release and launch of A Perfect Stone.
You can find the books by SC Karakaltsas at these links:
Today we’re speaking with the Melbourne writer Deborah Sheldon.
Some of Deborah’s latest releases, through several publishing houses, include the noir-horror novel Contrition, the dark literary collection 300 Degree Days and Other Stories, the bio-horror novella Thylacines, the dark fantasy and horror collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (winner of the Australian Shadows Award “Best Collected Work 2017”) and the monster-horror novel Devil Dragon. Deborah’s short fiction has appeared in many well-respected magazines such as Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, SQ Mag, and Midnight Echo. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing.
Something to Say: Welcome, Deb! That’s quite a list of achievements. What project are you talking about today?
Deborah: Award-winning press, IFWG Publishing Australia, is releasing my noir-horror novel, Contrition, today – September 3rd. The back-cover blurb reads:
In her late teens, Meredith Berg-Olsen had all the makings of a runway model. Now in her late forties, after everything she had been through – including horrors that John could only guess at – she looked bloodless instead of pale, skeletal instead of slender, more dead than alive…
John Penrose has two secrets. One is the flatmate he keeps hidden from the world: his high-school sweetheart, Meredith. His other secret is the reason he feels compelled to look after her.
Contrition is a horror story with noir undertones and an atmosphere of mounting dread.
STS: Is there one aspect of Contrition that you relate to the most – a favourite character, scene, effect? Can you tell us more about that?
My novel has two timelines: the present day and the 1980s. For the latter, I drew upon my own memories of high school for inspiration. If some of my old chums were to read Contrition, the basis of a few events might seem vaguely familiar. Since I hadn’t thought about my teenage years in a long, long time, it was interesting to sift through the memories, both good and bad. I think doing so gave the novel’s earlier timeline its rawness and pathos.
STS: What do you think drives you to pursue your creativity?
My brain is hard-wired to write. I started writing when I was a kid, and I’ve been a professional for 32 years. I’ll write until my dying day. There are two of me: the subjective self who lives this life; and the “observer” who squirrels away occurrences, feelings and thoughts to use in fiction. Every experience is potential fodder. I often reassure myself while going through a rough time, “Deb, elements of this will make good stories.” And it helps!
STS: That’s an interesting way to approach hard times. I like it! Now, many writers have described their processes using analogies – the famous Hemingway one, for example, in which he says that writing is simply a matter of sitting in front of the typewriter and staring at a blank page until you start to sweat blood. Others speak of stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?
I see each writing project – whether it be a short story, novella or novel – as a kind of jigsaw puzzle. I know what “picture” I’m trying to create. I just need to find some way to put all the pieces in the correct order. I’m technique-driven. To use another analogy, I build a story like an engineer builds a bridge.
STS: Jigsaw-like, that’s excellent. Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
Something to Say is pleased to welcome Pernille Hughes, whose debut novel has just been released. So exciting. Brand spanking new book!
Photo by I. Hughes
STS: Welcome, Pernille. This must be a thrilling time for you! Tell us something about your project.
My debut novel Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s was published on August 3rd. It’s a Romcom, a second-chance love story, a HEA story, and ‘getting up again when life punches you in the face’ story.
STS: That’s HEA as in Happily Ever After, yes?
It certainly is! Tiffanie Trent gets dumped by boyfriend Gavin on their 10th anniversary. Heartbroken and homeless, Tiff, a bookkeeper at an old-school boxing gym, figures that at least she has her job. But then the owner drops dead, leaving her floundering. When she then inherits the gym, Tiff, not sporty at all, needs to decide if she can take it on, defy the naysayers who say she can’t do it, and bring the club and her life into a better state of play.
STS: And Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s was just released last week on August 3rd. That’s awesome. Is there one aspect of the story that you relate to most – a favourite character, scene, effect? Can you tell us more about that?
As well as sharing Tiff’s reluctance to take part in physical exercise, I relate to her coming to see that she needn’t let others tell her what she is capable of. A teacher once said I couldn’t be a writer and I believed her, abandoning writing for about ten years. When I had my kids I turned back to the words to keep my brain clocking over and saw that actually I get to decide whether I am a writer or not. Tiff gets to examine her life too and understand that she determines what she can do, not others.
Photo by C. Knappe
STS: I’d like to meet that teacher now! What is it that drives you to pursue your creativity, despite that lack of encouragement?
Without wanting to come across as scary, the voices just rattle around in my head and need to come out onto the page. I’ve been making up dialogue since I was little, verbally playing out scenes either in my room, or say, if we were walking on holiday. Additionally I’m conflict shy and so always end up coming away from issues and spending the rest of the day making up what I should have said and wished I’d said. Writing stories is great for getting it out, although it doesn’t make me better at wading into conflicts.
What pushes me to get my writing out there is partially a desire to make others laugh with my words and also to get validation for them (so, I’m ‘giving’ and ‘needy’ at the same time…). Also, as a stay-at-home mum, words and my stories are my marketable commodity.
STS: Many writers have described their processes using analogies – stitching scenes together, following characters on a journey, immersing themselves in a storyline. What can you say about your process?
I visualise my process as sculpting. First I’ll write what I call a Vomit draft, just splurging words onto the page, only writing forwards and chronologically, not going back to correct anything, even if it means writing ‘something about XX, here’. That feels like choosing the material, like clay or stone.
The next draft will be looking at the ugly lump of words and deciding what the form of it is, what the essence of the piece will be and beginning to shape it. Each draft is then shaping the clay/stone until the sculpture is defined and the final draft will be the polishing. I like to have everything rounded off in my stories, ideally no loose ends, so when I’m asked to make edits, I find it really hard. In this analogy it’s like having to add an arm or something to a contained piece and then having firstly to make it look like it was always supposed to be there in the balanced piece and secondly smoothing the edges so no one can see the joins.
My stories start from an idea and then conversations around that idea come into my head. Until now my Vomit drafts have been extremely loosely plotted, after which I’ve found that when starting the first proper draft, I work best if I have a fully plotted plan and know the arcs of my key characters so that the choices they make from the start are true to their needs.
STS: That’s amazing. I love the name Vomit draft! Thank you for that – I’ll feel better throwing out great chunks of draft one now. Finally, what five words would you use to describe yourself as a writer?
Contemporary, Funny (hopefully), Plotter, Un-ambiguous (I’m not a fan of an ambiguous ending), Distraction-prone (ach, Twitter, you are my downfall…)
STS: Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your news with us today, Pernille, and I look for to a HEA future for your writing!
Today we welcome Shelley Nolan to Last Word of the Week. Shelley joined the authors at Odyssey Books in 2017. Her next novel will be published later this year.
LWOTW: Welcome, Shelley! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Shelley: I’m sure there were earlier pieces for school or fun but I started what I consider to be my first real story when I was sixteen, during computer class on a Wednesday afternoon. Intergalactic Heroine for Hire featured a teenage heroine who looked remarkably like my best friend at the time and she even had the same name. Sharon was accidentally transported to another world where she had to defeat a bunch of brain eating aliens before she was able to return home. It was another ten years before I finished that first draft and it was pretty bad, I must say. One day I hope to go back to it and see what my matured writer’s brain can do with the story.
LWOTW: I hope you do! It sounds like a great plot. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning, Shelley?
I am a perpetual dreamer, my head in the clouds most of the time as I explore what if scenarios. I think that is an essential part of being a fiction writer, especially when it comes to writing speculative fiction. I fuel my imagination by reading as widely and as often as I can, losing myself in other authors’ imaginary worlds. As for planning, I get an idea and start jotting down notes and then I get to a point where I feel reading to start writing. I have been trying to plan more but often find the story carries me away on a new tangent as I write it. Love it when that happens.
LWOTW: I agree, reading is very good food for writers. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
For me, holding my first book in my hands and knowing that I created it was a huge highlight. That a publisher had seen something in my story and been willing to release it to the world was an amazing feeling. I’d had plenty of family and friends tell me my stories were good, but the vindication of having a complete stranger, someone in the industry, tell me they thought I could write was a big confidence booster.
LWOTW: It’s a great feeling. So, what are you most busy with at the moment?
I’ve been working on a paranormal fantasy novella series and am currently revising the fourth in the series. I’m also eagerly waiting for the release of Dark Justice, my first book to be published with Odyssey Books, and jotting down notes for more books set in the same world.
LWOTW: If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
We have all been there. We all have ups and downs with our writing careers and experience moments of self-doubt and can benefit from advice from those who are further along than us. So find your tribe, writers you like and trust to join you on your writing journey. I have made friends with some amazing people at writing festivals and other events over the years. We now share our stories for critique, give help when needed and receive it in return. In my experience, authors love helping other authors, so get out of your writing cave and find people you admire, like and respect and you will become part of a wonderful community.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour, Shelley?
RED. Bold and vibrant. I love the brightness and the way it captures the attention. Red is the ultimate extrovert, a contrast to my introverted nature. I have a red kettle, toaster, handbag and flask. Even my filing cabinet is red.
Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing, Shelley.
You can find Shelley and her wonderful books at the links below:
I read somewhere that you don’t become a writer; you discover you are one, and I suppose that’s what happened to me. People always talk about their love of books as a child, but I also had a love of stories and storytelling. So much so, that I often made up my own and told […]
Here’s a great cover reveal for a new instalment in Jane O’Reilly’s Second Species trilogy – Deep Blue, the sequel to Blue Shift.
Add this blurb, and it’s yet another book I can’t wait to get my hands on!
Jinnifer Blue opens her eyes to find herself in a ship that is the source of her darkest nightmares. Her plan to expose the horrific truth behind the government’s secret Second Species programme has failed, and now she’s being turned into a weapon by her worst enemy . . . her mother.
At the other end of the galaxy Caspian Dax, ferocious space pirate and Jinn’s sometime lover, is facing an even more terrifying fate. He’s being forced to fight in the arena on Sittan, a pitiless, ruthless alien landscape where blood is the only prize that matters. They will use him, destroy him, change him.
Jinn has only one chance – to go to Sittan and find Dax before his mind is completely destroyed. She must rely on her friends and one old enemy, leave her beloved ship the Mutant behind, and travel to a hostile planet. But hardest of all, she must keep faith that when she finds Dax, there will be something left of the man she knew.
One thing’s for sure: the fight has only just begun