Saturday, 30 March 2013

Fancy a roll in the hay?

Pigs might fly

We're in Sydney and it's Easter, so where else would I find myself but the Sydney Royal Easter Show? I read the show programme with my kids and we made a list of the things we wanted to see. The Supercoat Flyball Challenge (a kind of mini doggy Olympics), carnivorous plant show judging and diving pigs (I kid you not) were top of the page.

As we drove out to Sydney Olympic Park our hopes were high. My boys wondered if they'd get to shear a sheep or milk a cow. I pondered the fact that rural romance is one of the fastest growing genres in Australian fiction and my thoughts turned to fit young farmers with tanned biceps and strong thighs striding around in butt-hugging denims and plaid shirts...

Dear reader, I could not have been more disappointed. My farmer fantasies may have come straight out of Aussie TV show, The Farmer Wants a Wife, but most of the guys at the show would have been more at home on The Biggest Loser - and clearly knew more about cheese dogs than sheep dogs. Now I'm no country gal, but I know a good thing when I see one - and an enormous, bread crumbed, cheesy phallus, deep fried and smothered in ketchup is not one of them.

So if you're a city chick looking for rural romance, I'd say don't bother heading out to the Easter Show. You might be better off staying at home with Rachael Treasure's 50 Bales of Hay. Publishers HarperCollins say Treasure's collection of 12 short stories 'will have you clamouring for a stock whip, a saddle and a jackaroo' and is 'guaranteed to get your tractor revving.' It's also supposed to be very funny.

Laughter and chocolate are famously two of the best aphrodisiacs, so why not grab 50 Bales and a Lindt bunny and have yourself a very happy Easter...

Tales of lust in the dust

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Remembering Lisa Lynch

It's been nearly nine years since I moved to Sydney and most of the time there's not much I miss about the UK apart from family and friends. Unlike many of the expats I meet, I don't miss Marks & Spencer's ready meals or pine for the Great British pub. What I miss are the newspapers - The Times on Saturdays and Sundays, The Guardian on weekdays and The Daily Telegraph whenever I visit my parents.

Lisa Lynch: Gone but not forgotten

Sometimes when I'm stuck with whatever I'm writing or have a few minutes to fill, I'll click through to the online versions of the British papers and see what's happening 17,000 kilometres away in the motherland. That's how I happened across the obituary of one Lisa Lynch on The Guardian's website. I didn't know her but she looked way too young to be the subject of an obituary. I looked at her blog to find out more. This is what I read:

"Lisa Lynch studied journalism with a view to one day editing Smash Hits. But then something called the internet happened, and as kids stopped cutting song lyrics out of magazines and started downloading them instead, Lisa found herself writing about wallpaper instead of Westlife. At the age of 28, while editing her second interiors title, Lisa discovered a lump in her breast - a lump that spawned not just cancer, but a blog, a book and a writing career. Talk about milking it."

Lisa also had a separate blog about her battle with cancer.  It's brilliantly written, very honest and funny - and  hearbreakingly sad to read.

I said that I was reading her  obituary so you know how Lisa's story ended. She was just 33 when she died, not from cancer of the breast but from the cancer that spread to her bones and her brain. Like I say, I didn't know Lisa but I wish I had. I read her blog and will read her book, The C-Word, too

Lisa Lynch, great writer, great girl, great loss to the world, you will be missed.  

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Do you remember The Thompson Twins?

Iconic 80's Brit band the Thompson Twins had big hair and stony faces, quite at odds with their upbeat brand of pop music. (Remember "Hold me now' or 'Love on my side'?)  They were a household name in the UK when I was at uni but I had all but forgotten them by the time I moved to Sydney. Until I met one, that is. Standing on the sidelines at a kids' soccer game one Saturday morning, I started talking to the dad next to me. I didn't know him but he turned out to be Michael White, Thompson Twin turned author with some 38 books to his name.

The Thompson Twins - back in the day
A few weeks later I interviewed him for The Australian and we talked about his writing career. He told me that when he's in the middle of a book he doesn't like to read novels because the voices of the characters in the book he's reading compete with those of the characters he's creating.

I didn't think about his remark again until I was writing Burned and discovered exactly what he meant.  I still read, of course, but it was much more important to me to read non-fiction, especially newspapers. The little filler stories in newspapers often give fascinating glimpses into the lives of others, into situations too bizarre to be dreamed up, into characters we might never otherwise encounter. They can provide inspiration for plot points, character development and more besides.

So for the last couple of years, I haven't read as much as I would like. But now Burned is in the capable hands of my editors at Random House and we're counting down to publication on June 3rd, I'm hungry for all the books I've missed. Here are just a couple I'm planning to tuck into very soon:

Wonder by R J Palacio.  Beautiful cover, intriguing blurb: 'My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.' Can't wait to read this and have already bought two more copies as birthday presents for friends.

Love this cover

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. So much has already been written/said about this quirky rom com that I feel I need hardly say more. Interestingly, the Penguin website promises: "It will make you want to drink cocktails." Never has a book tempted me more.

Keen for a cocktail?

It's autumn in Sydney and the soccer season is almost upon us. This year as I rug up on the sidelines, I won't be wondering where the coffee cart is or even pondering the off-side rule. I'll be looking around at the other parents and wondering how many of them were big in the 80's.

Friday, 8 March 2013

The best companion

I'm a blogging virgin. I've posted a few words on other websites it's true, but this is my first date with my very own blog. So please be gentle with me...

Having been persuaded by my old friend, Shouty Dad, that I should start a blog, the big question was what to call it. As usual, I was paralysed by the fear of not getting it right. To start with I liked friends with words, but realised Google would probably auto-correct anyone searching for my blog and redirect them to words with friends. And then they'd get so engrossed in a game of WWF they'd forget they were ever even looking for this blog in the first place. I went round and round in circles, trying to find something simple and easy to remember, that wouldn't get old too soon.

The week wore on and I started writing a story for Rendezvous en France magazine about  plans to commemorate the centenary of the Great War in 2014. It reminded me of reading Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth, a book given to me by my mum several decades ago which moved me more than any other I have read. It's been 20 or so years since I read Testament but I still remember sitting on a bench in a lush little garden in Ubud discovering the terrible personal sacrifices and tragedies behind the famously bloody battles of WWI.

I was in Bali with my then boyfriend. It wasn't a serious relationship and we were often irritated by each other. One thing he found particularly galling was the fact that I was more interested in Vera Brittain's book than I was in him. I would sit and read in silence, a huge lump in my throat and salty tears dripping from my cheeks. I guess it wasn't what he'd come away with me for and perhaps I should have been sorry. Truth is, I remember thinking at the time that if he'd asked me to choose - 'the book or me' - I would have chosen the book. No question.

So that's where the name of the blog comes from.  Sometimes there is simply no better companion than a good book.