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Today’s feature Guest Post is by author Lisa Bigelow as part of the virtual blog tour for the novel We That Are Left. We That Are Left is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99 and is available now.
Writing, Working and Learning
By Lisa Bigelow
Over the last ten years I’ve juggled writing between work and post-graduate study. In order to switch between the different writing modes needed to do each task I’ve found it helpful to create different physical environments. I wrote much of my novel on my laptop, often in a café without wifi so there were no distractions, I did my paid work in an office whenever possible, and study was done on a desktop computer in my spare room at home. I often took my novel scenes for a walk or a swim or to a gym session and let a conversion or incident play out in my head before rushing home to write it all down.
Every now and then I picture myself living in a little cottage beside a beach, writing in a sunny room and taking new characters out for a walk along the shore. For now that dream is only possible on holidays, but one day…
About We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow
A moving debut novel about love and war, and the terrifyingly thin line between happiness and tragedy, hope and despair.
Melbourne, 1941. Headstrong young Mae meets and falls head over heels in love with Harry Parker, a dashing naval engineer. After a whirlwind courtship they marry and Mae is heavily pregnant when she hears that Harry has just received his dream posting to HMAS Sydney. Just after Mae becomes a mother, she learns Harry’s ship is missing.
Meanwhile, Grace Fowler is battling prejudice to become a reporter on the afternoon daily newspaper, The Tribune, while waiting for word on whether her journalist boyfriend Phil Taylor, captured during the fall of Singapore, is still alive.
Surrounded by their friends and families, Mae and Grace struggle to keep hope alive in the face of hardship and despair. Then Mae’s neighbour and Grace’s boss Sam Barton tells Mae about a rumour that the Japanese have towed the damaged ship to Singapore and taken the crew prisoner. Mae’s life is changed forever as she focuses her efforts on willing her husband home.
Set in inner Melbourne and rural Victoria, We That Are Left is a moving and haunting novel about love and war, the terrifyingly thin line between happiness and tragedy, and how servicemen and women are not the only lives lost when tragedy strikes during war.
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Firstly, congratulations on the release of Off Reservation. Is Matt Rix’s character going to be part of a continuing book series?
Yes, The Fighting Season was designed to introduce the character, his background and some of his back story. I wanted Off Reservation to show the reader that he could operate outside of the military context. My plan into the future is to slowly unravel his life and have him operating further outside of a legal framework. He might not always realise that he is breaking the law, as the premise is that he is fallible and therefore manipulated by different government agendas and people with money and power.
You mentioned previously that Steph’s character was a challenge when writing The Fighting Season. In your latest novel, Off Reservation, which character was the most challenging to write?
This time the hardest character to write was Glyn, the Welsh SBS Officer. The SBS have a different culture to that of Australian Special Forces, so the danger was that Glyn and Matt would seem like the same person to the reader if I didn’t capture and convey their culture correctly. I have worked with Royal Marines and the SBS before, and I wanted to make sure that they were still seen as the highly credible force that they are. Glyn’s personality is also a little foreign to me. My default is to be self effacing, where an Alpha male like Glyn is always on the attack, so that took a lot of observation of people like that.
How did you brainstorm for writing Off Reservation?
To start with, there were a few scenes I just wanted to write. The ship under way scene at the start, Matt being released from 2nd Commando Regiment and the fight scene in Istanbul. I already had an idea that I wanted to write these. However, I think what you are asking is how do I structure the plot? Well, I sit in a cafe and just start day dreaming about a movie I’d like to see. I come up with a plot, then some twists, a setting and then I write a start and finish point and then the chapter descriptions in between. In this way I can start to imagine different scenes and interactions. For Off Reservation I actually went and walked the ground too. London, Istanbul, Sydney – all the locations except Iran, where I had to rely on lonely planet – I’m not sure the Iranians would love to have me poking around there cities looking for inspiration. Not yet anyway.
What book has grabbed your attention lately and why?
I have just finished Tribes, by Seth Godin. I’m in the middle of designing an online mentor business for people looking to join the Australian Defence Force. It’s called WarriorU and I wanted to make sure that I understood the most contemporary way to reach the people that matter, my tribe, so to speak. I highly recommend it. I have also just finished Chris Allen’s Defender. I don’t read other authors fiction while I am writing, so that I can be sure there is no crossover of thought or ideas. I’ve been waiting to read this for so long and I wasn’t disappointed. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Chris writes a James Bond in the future, he’s that good.
What can readers expect next in your writing endeavours?
I am currently writing a non-fiction book. We haven’t gone firm on a title yet; however, the premise of the book is a lifestyle engineering manual based on the principles of Special Forces. Each chapter starts with a military story from my career and is then broken down to its component parts, so that the reader can gain some insight and perhaps adopt the techniques, skills or attitudes that are conveyed. The chapters range from time management, mental resilience, nutrition, physical training and life planning. I’m writing the parenting chapter at the moment, and while I‘m not a parenting expert it has been interesting researching the principles behind what I do naturally, based on special forces training.
About Off Reservation by Bram Connolly
Australian Special Forces commander Matt Rix in another action packed adventure.
Ultra-tough and ultra-lethal, Australian Commando Captain Matt Rix is one of Special Forces’ most lethal operators. But when a training exercise goes horribly wrong, he is given an ultimatum that brings his world crashing down. There is only one choice left to him and that’s to go ‘off reservation’.
What follows is the frantic pursuit of escaped Taliban commander Faisal Khan. Chasing Khan across Turkey would be easy; stopping a nuclear weapon he has received from falling into the hands of the world’s most feared terrorist organisation, that’s going to be the hard part.
Rix might be disgraced and discarded, but he should never be underestimated. Nothing is ever as it seems…
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The Late Show is the first novel I have read by author Michael Connelly, and I was not disappointed. The story’s lead character Reneé Ballard, often depicted as a strong protagonist, was genuine and intense, in a gripping tale that was a stand out read. A great series starter.
Review copy received from Allen & Unwin Australia
About The Late Show by Michael Connelly
Los Angeles can be a dangerous city – never more so than in the dead of night.
Renee Ballard works the night shift at the LAPD in Hollywood, beginning many investigations but finishing none as each morning she turns her cases over to day shift detectives. A once up-and-coming detective, she’s been given this beat as punishment after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor.
But one night she catches two cases she doesn’t want to part with: the brutal beating of a prostitute left for dead in a parking lot and the killing of a young woman in a nightclub shooting. Ballard is determined not to give up at dawn. Against orders and her own partner’s wishes, she works both cases by day while maintaining her shift by night.
As the cases entwine, they pull her closer to her own demons and the reason she won’t give up her job – no matter what the department throws at her.
The Late Show by Michael Connelly is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $32.99.
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What a powerful, thought provoking read. The portrayal of May’s character was stunning. Set in an era that was contentious, uncertain and undeniably controversial. Hello, Goodbye by author Emily Brewin was enthralling reading that I could not tear myself away from. So many sad moments in the story that affected May’s character that as the reader, could not help but feel the effects. The conclusion had me elated, in that something finally went some kind of right for the protagonist. My heart was pounding and my gut was churning throughout and by the story’s conclusion, I was left breathless. The author’s depiction of events and the character challenges, collectively, made for some stunning reading. A book for the fave reads list to be sure.
Review copy received from Allen & Unwin
About Hello, Goodbye by Emily Brewin
It’s 1968 and free-thinking country girl May Callaghan’s world is turned upside down when she finds out she’s pregnant to her boyfriend Sam, who is awaiting draft orders. A profoundly moving story of love during a time of great social change, with an ending that will leave you cheering.
May Callaghan is seventeen years old and on her own. At least that’s how it feels.
Her devoutly religious mother and her gentle but damaged father are fighting, and May’s boyfriend, Sam, has left their rural hometown for Melbourne without so much as a backward glance.
When May lies to her parents and takes the train to visit Sam at his shared house in Carlton, her world opens wide in glorious complexity. She is introduced to his housemates, Clancy, an indigenous university student, and Ruby, a wild bohemian. With their liberal thinking and opposition to the war in Vietnam, they are everything that May’s strict Catholic upbringing should warn her against.
May knows too well the toll that war has taken on her father, and the peace movement in the city has a profound effect on her. For a while, May’s future burns bright. But then it begins to unravel, and something happens to her that will change her life forever.
Hello, Goodbye by Emily Brewin is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.
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