September 18, 2018
With blossoms bursting on the fruit trees and the year reinventing itself with the spring, it seems a good time to launch a new piece of creative fruit—my second novel, Songwoman. After a long gestation, I’m delighted to present it to you here, nestled among my blood plum blossoms. You can find it in book shops from October 1, 2018.
This novels continues to swim in the waters of Britain’s tumultuous, mystical Iron Age, but is far more grounded in real history than its big sister, Skin. Songwoman covers the period of Roman colonisation spanning AD 47-52, when a powerful and charismatic War King, Caratacus, led a resistance campaign of guerrilla warfare that threatened to de-rail the formidable machine that was the invading Roman army.
So many inspiring thinkers and their ideas have fed into this book. Firstly a Welshman called Gwilym Morus-Baird, who is a scholar of the Welsh Bardic tradition and teaches courses in Welsh mythology. Many a morning I awoke before dawn to listen, enthralled, to his live seminars on the symbolism contained in ancient Welsh texts, such as The Mabinogi and The Book of Taliesin.
I was also hugely influenced by the ideas of fellow Victorian, Dr Lynne Kelly, who you may have heard on Richard Fidlar’s Conversations. Lynne has conceptualised a theory of how pre-literate societies held and organised vast knowledge systems in memory and orality. Her book, The Memory Code, gave meaning and purpose to so many seemingly mysterious monuments from the ancient British landscape. Her work was a doorway through which I could walk right into the lives of my Iron Age characters.
As always, my greatest inspiration is the country I live on, the bush, trees, gardens and animals that are my lungs and spirit and animate my every day.
I hope you enjoy Songwoman. Let me know if you do, and go well.
SKIN goes roaming
January 18, 2016
Not much posting lately due to being deep in second novel-land. But I’m very excited to announce that SKIN will appear in various international territories early this year, including the US on the 19th April, under the title ‘Daughter of Albion.’
German, Dutch, Swedish, UK paperback and Vietnamese editions will follow shortly thereafter. One of the most enjoyable parts of SKIN’s foreign travels has been watching the various covers that different publishers have designed. Check ’em out…
Dutch edition, Luitingh-Sijthoff
Swedish Edition, Forum
US Edition, Thomas Dunne
German edition, Penhaligon
July 9, 2015
August is shaping up to pretty big month for SKIN.
Firstly it is being released in its narrative home—the UK—on the 6th August. My publishers have been doing some really creative pre-publicity including a roof top party complete with goody bags (and mead!)
I was surprisingly pleased to see my book blurb re-interpreted as a beer label.
Also in August I am doing my first two festival appearances, at the Melbourne Writers Festival and Bendigo Writers Festival. Please check out my events page for further details, and I’ll hopefully see a few of you there.
Lastly I’m doing a talk and a workshop at Harrow in Central Victoria on the 15th August. So if you are a reader or writer from that neck of the woods—I’d love to meet you.
May 7, 2015
‘A beautiful and brilliant book. A masterpiece.’
The Wisdom of Trees
April 1, 2015
I love my local book-sellers, New Leaves. Last Friday they threw me a little do to celebrate the launch of my book. (Doesn’t the book store look nice?)
Anyway, I prepared a few words to say on the night about how much I have loved moving to this small community among the trees. This is part of my speech:
“I wrote a book set in the Celtic Iron Age because many years ago, when I backpacked through the UK, I felt a very powerful connection to the sacred sites of ancient Britain, especially Somerset in the South west. As I wandered around the misty stones of Avebury and the sacred springs at Glastonbury, I felt like this was a place to which I could be Indigenous. This could be my country. My dreaming.
I did a lot of research and I discovered a culture that valued education, and women, and especially trees. The Iron Age Celts worshipped trees. The Birch, the Elder, the willow, the Oak. Each species held its own wisdom, its own lesson.
I had a nomadic childhood spanning several different cities, but I’ve always been drawn to live among trees. As an adult, I’ve interspersed my city-based life with stints living in the Blue Mountains, Bathurst, Mallacoota and the Black Forest.
When I had children, I stopped moving around, started writing, and lived for ten years in Melbourne’s inner-west…the longest I have ever lived in one place.
For the first time I felt what it was to put down roots, to have a history somewhere. And it was good. But there weren’t enough trees.
So almost two years ago, my family and I tore out the roots we had grown in Melbourne and re-planted ourselves here in Woodend, where it’s all about the trees. The very same week we moved, I was phoned by Text Publishing and offered a two-book deal for my novel SKIN. I had turned over my own ‘New Leaf’!
So the book has been largely written here in the clean air and crisp days of Woodend. I have worked in a farmhouse out at Cobaw and then up at Duneira in the mists of Mount Macedon.
It was a very lonely experience at first, moving here. I knew nobody and I holed myself up in my writing studio for about 6 months before I even had a coffee with someone local. But the solitude, the intense quiet and the oxygen of the forest have sunk deep into my writing, and I don’t feel like it would be the same book if I hadn’t written it here.
I hope it has captured part of the breath, the long view, and the sense of peace and reflection that can only come from living among bush and beside mountains. I hope it has some of the wisdom of trees.
Now I’ve made lots of lovely friends and cannot imagine wanting to live anywhere else. I’m not a religious person but I do often say that living here I feel closer to God. Maybe the Iron Age Celts were onto something: maybe God and the trees are the same thing.”
April 1, 2015
Now that the champagne has all been drunk and my last remaining house guest has headed off up the Hume highway, I finally have a moment to post some pics of Skin’s launch party last Thursday at Readings in Carlton.
We kicked off with the dulcet tones of an actual and proper harp, played by the lovely Polly (many thanks, Pol) and followed with the vocal harmonies of Miranda’s Picnic, my singing group, which made for a very musical (and rather atmospheric) beginning, if I may say so myself.
Then words were said by editor extraordinaire, Penny Hueston, and by the comic genius that is actor/director/writer Peter Houghton. I never thought my serious historical novel would inspire such hilarity. Then just as I was getting tummy cramps from laughing, he got all profound and emotional and I ended up crying instead.
The rest of the night was spent signing and smiling with the odd sparkling in between. Launches are lovely for first-time authors; a great affirmation after the years of solitude that novel-writing entails. But the very best thing was the faces staring back at me as I stood, knees shaking, behind the podium: family, old friends, brand-new friends, writing buddies and dog-walking buddies. Sort of like a wedding, except without the cake, seating plans, and of course, the groom.
So thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who came along and to Text, who sure know how to do a do.
Ready set go
February 26, 2015
Shinier than a disco mirror ball and more sparkly than a junior jazz ballet concert, print copies of SKIN have finally hit the book stores and it’s fair to say that I’m excited! My local book store, New Leaves, has made a very nice display, which only looked slightly less impressive when I bought one of the copies!
It’s a nerve-wracking thing, launching that first literary effort into the public eye, so I’m very grateful for a lovely bit of praise from Isobelle Carmody (“deeply layered and profoundly original”) as well as the news of a US edition to be released next year with Thomas Dunne Books.
My publicist at Text has been busy organising a flurry of events and appearances, so please check out my events page if you’d like to come along to grab a signed copy. I’m especially looking forward to returning to my favourite ex-haunt—the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville—where I’ll be doing their March Book Club. I’m also very excited about appearing at the Wheeler Centre with Abigail Ulman and Annie Buist as part of their Next Big Thing series on March 16th.
Now excuse me while I pour a glass of sparkling water (still Febfast!) and pray that the gods of reviewing look kindly upon me.
The Mysteries of Iron Age Britain
October 30, 2014
Well, after three years of intermittent, dabbling sort of work, followed by two years of crazed, obsessive work, I have finally pressed send on the very, very final draft of my first foray into novel-land…Skin.
Of course there is always the chance that my editor will email with ‘just a last few things’ as we both have been doing for the past month, but I’m pretty sure that this is it, and that any remaining mistakes will be preserved in perpetuity in the pages of the final product.
So, for those who don’t know, Skin is the story of a young woman’s rise to power in Iron Age Britain on the cusp of Roman invasion. It’s a bit historical, a bit literary, and a little bit fantastical. It will be published in Australia by Text in late February next year, and in the UK, Sweden and Germany later in 2015.
It has been a serious pleasure to write. Not least because it took me on a research tour of one of my favourite places in the world: Somerset, UK.
Here is a picture of Glastonbury and surrounds at sunset viewed from the verdant slopes of the Tor.
I first came to this part of England with my dear friend Sarah in 1993 and was immediately struck by the spiritual ‘pull’ of the countryside and all its ancient stones and ruins steeped in history and legend. For the first time, I experienced a sensation of my own ancestry arising from place—something that I had never known as a white Australian. I realised at that moment that everyone is Indigenous to somewhere. Was this my place?
an ancient breed of sheep!
Over the ensuing two decades I have harboured an enduring passion for ancient Britain, particularly its elusive culture of druidism, which is a cornerstone of my upcoming novel. I particularly enjoyed wandering around England’s various recreated Iron Age villages and imaging a life lived by the sun and the seasons, where there was meaning in every stone, leaf and trickle of water.
Recreation Iron Age loo
an Iron Age roundhouse
I’m very excited about Skin finally breaking free of the confines of a word doc and entering the world, and very excited to hear what you all think. See you at the launch!