Tag Archives: kathryn heyman

ABC Book Club, Season 11, Episode 1: #bookclubABC

Standard

Image stolen from Marieke Hardy’s twitter account.

It’s back. Life can resume again as Book Club is here. JByrne is of course sleeveless because she hasn’t been working those delts to keep them hidden by sleeves. Marieke is flawless. And Ace, oh my, sleeves rolled up to show off those exquisite forearms and he’s wearing stripey blue and yellow socks. Or is it green and yellow? #sockwatch The exact colour is an enigma just like Ace.

Before we get into the actual show let me take care of a few housekeeping issues:

1) I’m dyslexic, there will be spellos, grammos, typos, and just plain wrongos.

2) JByrne = Jennifer Byrne

Ace = Jason Stegersaurussex

Marieke = jamiest bit of jam.

3) I am unsponsored but if anyone wants to bribe me I love wine and notebooks… and money. Money is my favourite. 

Now onto the show. Joining the heavenly regular panelists are Michael ‘the dagger’ Robotham (known as Robo-Tham from previous episodes) and Clementine Ford. I am wet your pants excited about the Fordinator being on. I hope there is plenty of talk of about uteruses.

The panelists get down to business and discuss books that have been released during their hiatus. Australian author Sarah Schmidt’s 
See what I have Done
 gets a shout out. I’m excited because I’m reading that at the moment. 

And of course they pay tribute to the brilliant Heather Rose who has taken out the Stella Prize this year with The Museum of Modern Love. Rose remembers vividly once getting a royalty cheque that was for less than the envelope would have cost. Thankfully she is getting the recognition she deserves now and more royalties. Big congrats to an outstanding Australian woman writer.

Onto the bones of the show. JByrne says that they’re looking at Sydney author, Kathryn Heyman’s, newest offering, Storm and Grace. JByrne says that it has been touted as the literary thriller of the year. That’s a big call seeing how it’s only April, but then again, she’s an author capable of making a big call. Let’s see if the panelists agree.

They do the dramatic recreation thingo. It looks like a romance movie or teenage coming of age movie. One where the lead female’s ultimate coming of age involves getting boinked. I’m not getting the thriller vibe from this footage. I might be getting slightly hard in the bra region but definitely not suspenseful.

Robo-Tham liked it. He found the book claustrophobic and uncomfortable. That’s exactly the feeling he wanted to get. He respects the level of research that she must have done to get the sensation of deep sea diving just right. Heyman’s research included free diving and deep sea diving. She definitely went all out.

Ace says it’s not a thriller because there is little suspense over the major crime. But he quite liked it. He says it’s a book about an “unusual” relationship and a very odd man. Marieke corrects him and says, “abusive relationship.” Preach. Let’s stop using euphemisms for family violence. They’re not “robust relationships.” They’re abusive. They’re criminal. Let’s not sweep it under the metaphorical rug with niceties.

JByrne was sucked in by the sexyness. Oh myyyyy. It’s a repeat of episode one of season ten where JByrne yearned for Heathcliff’s inky eyes. JByrne we need to talk. Let’s do coffee and Aunty Robin will tell you all about love and life. You’re not simply getting warm in the underpants region over literary bad boys, you’re getting excited for literary wife beaters. 

The knife comes out, Marieke says it’s a year 9 romance and the names of the characters, particularly Storm, are lame. She slams it as badly written and badly structured. So harsh. I think my mouth will never shut again because it is hanging open in shock. Brutal. All I can say is, brutal.

Marieke goes on to explain that her savagery comes from a place of crossness not because she’s a disparaging biatch. She lets us know that she ia quite nice and doesn’t actually enjoy saying awful things about books but she’s cross. She’s super cross because domestic violence is such an important issue and it needs to be explored but she thinks this did it badly. Maybe she wanted something more like Zoe Morrison’s Music and Freedom? I don’t know, but she is not happy. Not happy at all.

She says that Storm is a sleazy creep from the start so why did Grace ever fall for him? She says the seduction and Grace’s vulnerabilities needed to be clearer so that people understood why women get involved with these guys. For Marieke it was a creep from the start becomes a killer and that’s no surprise and wasn’t thriller worthy. 

JByrne is just about crying at this point. Why doesn’t Marieke understand that Storm is sexy? JByrne is all about the sexy. She’s possibly going to overtake Ace in the sexy loving stakes. 

The Fordinator speaks. She wanted the desire to be clearer. She felt that it wasn’t clear why Grace would fall for creepy, controlling Storm. JByrne is looking at her in despair. I can tell she’s thinking, “but he’s fucking hot!” But the Fordinator quite liked the Greek Chorus as a literary technique. JByrne says the Greek Chorus is why it is a literary thriller because Thrillers generally don’t have literary techniques.

I throw my glass of Brown Brothers Moscato at the television. It doesn’t make it. I simply makes a mess of my carpet. I love you JByrne, you are the sun and the moon, but you are wrong, oh so very wrong. Plenty of Thrillers use literary devices. Plenty! I could go on and and give a detailed list (OH, HOW DO I WANT TO GO ON AND GIVE A DETAILED DISSERTATION ON THIS) but I’m supposed to be writing a recap right now, but just know, I’m quietly seething… and sucking at my carpet.

Robo-Tham bravely steps up and explains to Marieke and Clementine the attraction women feel for Storm. He likens it to Trump. People voted for Trump because he talks big. They got sucked in by his confidence and big talk. You know how us ladies love big talk, orange skin, and extreme comb-overs. Amirightoramiright? Ooooo Trumpy, you so sexy. No. 

The Fordinator asks why do all the women have the same attraction. It’s almost as if she thinks us sheilas are diverse. Pfffft. Come on CFord, you know us ladeez are only after one thing.

Now onto discussing what the literary trends for 2017 will be:

  • Progressing from titled with GIRL in the title to WOMEN… Fuck. My book coming out the year is Henrietta Dodgson’s Asylum for Damaged Women. I’m falling into a stereotype before it’s even set. Shit!
  • Australian Domestic Noir, will be big. Phew. I’m not a complete stereotype. My November release is set in Callan Park Hospital for the Insane in 1906. So it’s Australian, and it’s dark, but it’s not exactly domestic. 
  • Angry lady books will be big… Shit. 
  • Spec Fic with a literary bent will be in. SHITSHITSHITSHIT! Another glass of wine goes at the TV, hits the floor again.  Henrietta Dodgson’s Asylum for Damaged Women is Historical Fantasy. I basically take fairy tale princesses and lock them up in Callan Park Hospital for the Insane in 1906. I’m a great big future trends whore instead of a maverick self publisher. I’m not a special snowflake.

    JByrne picks up Michael Sala’s newest book as an example of a book to look out for. I’m cheering at the TV. I used to teach with him. Go buy his book. Yay. Go Michael, go.

    The Fordinator admits that it’s a good time to be a feminist writer. Maintain the rage, sister, bring out Fight Like a Woman.

    Robo-Tham wants less celebrities writing, long pause, children’s books. What was the long pause? I read into everything he does because he’s a Crime writer. Is the pause because you mean not just children’s books but all books, or is it because you want to emphasise Children’s Books but they can run wild on adult? Tell me Robo-Tham, tell me!!! It probably means nothing and he just had to breathe.

    Which leads us to By the Bed. The segment where the panelists say what books are by the bed and I waft into a fantasy world of lying next to Ace’s bed.

    Robo-Tham is reading Rebus novels.

    Marieke throws a curve ball. She hasn’t been reading in bed but reading drunk in the bathtub. New fantasies are emerging. She’s been loving The Last Picture Show.

    JByrne has been reading Storyland.

    Ace has been reading 
    Crimson Lake by Candice Fox Small excited wee for Sydney crime writer Candice Fox. I adore her. More Candice, more L.A. Larkin, more Tania Chandler, more Emma Viskic, more Cass Moriarty, MORE SISTERS IN CRIME. 

    The Fordinator is reading 
    Circle of Friends. She says it’s like a hug. Awwww.

    And now for 
    Hillbilly Elegy by J.D Vance. Will Marieke go full savage on this one as well?

    JByrne does the intro, it’s a memoir but was billed as the inside story of Trump’s people. However the author said its purpose was to start a conversation not to be the ultimate explanation and lesson.

    Robo-Tham loved it. He kept nudging his wife in bed to read her quotes. She told him she had a headache. We’ve all been there.

    Ace said it reminded him of Jimmy Barnes’s memoir. A man who pulled himself up from poverty and an awful life to achieve greatness. And how they both nearly didn’t make it out of their horrific circumstances alive. 

    Marieke charges into this love fest and calls it a flat telling of an interesting story. She is having none of anyone’s shit today. She said it skimmed through interesting stuff that should have been fleshed out. Ace said he loved the skimming. They stare at each other across JByrne. Horns locked. I await JByrne saying something about sexyness. It does not happen.

    The Fordinator starts to say how she felt that the author was an intelligent guy and that the author should have moved passed the “America is the greatest country” rhetoric and actually given the idea some critical thought. He as a white man could pull himself out of despair. It was hard but would it not be even harder for others that aren’t CIS white men?

    Robo-Tham leaps into the thick of things. He talks more about the problems faced by America and white people in poverty and how beautifully J.D. Vance covered it by showing the good and the bad.

    Fordinator is back and asks why is it suddenly now that people care about poverty. Why is it that black and Hispanic people being in poverty is looked away from in disgust but now that it’s a white problem people are fascinated? Marieke and the Fordinator state that the author fails to recognise his own privilege as a white man. And again raise the issue that he never critiques the trite “America is the greatest country” without thinking about if it actually is or not.

    Robo-Tham tells Ford she wanted the author to “attack” his own country where as he could accept that Vance was still backing his own country. Did she want it critiqued or attacked? There’s a difference.

    In the end, the two white male panelists loved Hillbilly Elegy, and one out of the three white female panelists likewise loved it. Yep, that’s enough to get it voted in.

    JByrne concludes by letting us know that Omar and CS are back next week. Hooray, we loved them last year. They’re discussing Exit West and The Monkey’s Mask. And we are treated to a clip of Roald Dahl saying WRITE DOWN YOUR IDEAS!!! Because like dreams, you’ll forget them.

    Watch this episode on iView here.

    Read last year’s season highlights here.

    Buy my shit here.

    Advertisements

    Structural Workshop with the Divine Dr @KathrynHeyman – #SydneyWritersFestival

    Standard

    image

    If loving Kathryn Heyman is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. There, I said it. Everyone else in the Structural Intensive workshop hosted by the Sydney Writers’ Festival was thinking it, I just said it. You would be hard pressed to find a more dynamic presenter, and the best bit was, that Dr Heyman had substance to back it up. I’ll be perfectly honest, I am not going to detail everything that she covered, partly because I wouldn’t do it justice, and partly because if you want to truly learn from Kathryn Heyman then you need to go and do a workshop/course/mentorship with her yourself. What you get out of a course is a deeply personal thing because we are all on different paths in this writing journey. BUT this would be the world’s shortest blog if I gave nothing away for free so here goes…

    One of the first sound bites that really moved me was when Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives why you write.” Now I’ve heard, “if it scares you do it,” “go where the fear is,” and all those other common things before but on that cold, wet, Friday, where I had arrived drenched, late, with a slightly broken umbrella and the memory of my kids crying ringing through my brain, this phrasing, and this women really hit home. For me, I’d got my money’s worth all in that one hit. Because, I’ll let you in on a little secret, come closer, even closer, shhhh, closer, I’m going to whisper this so listen carefully, every single novel I have written deals with exactly the same issue, no matter what the genre or target audience. My chick lit novel coming out in July has a main character who has an intelligent, and quirky main character who happens to have incredibly low self-esteem so can make some pretty dumb choices. My children’s novel coming out next year has a very confident main character but the backstory that never gets explicitly covered is that the mother is deeply scarred and traumatized individual trying to be that super mum who gets everything right. Memoir From the Madhouse (I’ve never shared an excerpt from that so will pop it at the end of this) looks at why we are who we are, how our past demons drive us. I could go on but in a nutshell, I write women’s fiction, no matter the genre, no matter the age range, and the story is always – What happened to the little girl that nobody loved. Fuck, I hope she turned out okay. Until Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives what you write,” I did not realise that I had written the exact same story over and over again as I grappled with my fear. It’s kind of liberating to know that I am on a cathartic journey. It’s even more liberating to know that I love that story and I will tell it over and over again, in as many ways as I like until I am ready to put that issue to bed. Because that story needs to be told. That story needs to be told not just for me but for all those little girls. I’ll keep speaking out. I’ll keep publishing for you. I hope you will join me.

    Now I think you can understand what I meant by saying that this writing gig is a deeply personal journey and you have to go sit at Dr Heyman’s feet yourself to get what you need. However, I won’t be a total spoil sport, there were plenty of general things that were good for everyone. Mainly, it really helps to have a concrete, physical manifestation of conceptual matter. So if there is an obstacle, how about getting another character to embody that. If you have some sort of transformation make sure there is some sort of event or location that can act as a metaphor rather than having it all inside the character’s head. If the character has an internal desire, give it a physical manifestation, as in what action or situation would demonstrate that the desire had been met or totally failed. I’m leaving it there because as I keep saying, you have to go learn from Kathryn Heyman yourself in order to get the real benefit.

     

    As promised, and true to my blog’s about section, unedited, unkempt, and untamed, here is an excerpt from Memoir from the Madhouse.

     

    I am running, running faster than I’ve ever run before. The cold from the dew damp ground runs up my bare legs and covers my naked body with goose pimples. But still I run on. The warmth is fleeting, the wind is chasing me, and they are hunting me. I run naked in the cold dark night and all the while I think – I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy.

    Out of my periphery I see a nurse approaching me. I let out a delirious laugh and keep on running.

    ‘Run, run, run as fast as you can…’

    The wind whips away my words and I still run on. The ground starts to gently slope downwards and in the darkness I lose my bearings. I trip. I roll. Arms and legs flail at impossible angles. The world slows down as sky and earth blur into one. I smile and think about what has brought me here, starkers, in the dead of night, chasing demons, in the psychiatric hospital’s grounds.

     

    6 Hours Earlier

    I sit in Consultation Room 2 staring at my psychiatrist. I have no idea what he is saying. His voice is so soft that I can only make out every second sentence if I’m lucky. Regardless I nod like I understand. I don’t want him to think I’m rude or worse, stupid. My constantly interrupting to say, ‘Eh?’ or, ‘What?’ only results in him repeating his mumbles anyway. So instead I just nod along like I agree.

    ‘Are you anxious about going home tomorrow?’ Finally a sentence I can hear.

    ‘No,’ I lie.

    Of course I’m anxious. I’ve got newborn twins and a two year old. They’re hard work. I have to somehow keep on functioning, no, mumctioning, despite the fact that the twins won’t sleep, which means I can’t sleep either. All work and no sleep makes Robin a dull girl. Perhaps they could be trained to settle one another. One cries and the other rubs their back, then they roll over and swap jobs. That’d be pretty sweet but although I’m in the nuthouse even I know that won’t happen.

    ‘Really?’ my psychiatrist raises an eyebrow. ‘Last time you were supposed to go home you had such an anxiety attack that we had to transfer you to a medical hospital.’

    I shrug. More words are spoken that I nod thoughtfully along too. God only knows what I’ve agreed to in these sessions.

    ‘Do you like cap guns and pillows?’ Nods in agreement.

    ‘Do you still wet the bed?’ Nods thoughtfully.

    ‘Do you have a Christ complex?’ Nods politely.

    ‘Do you like the smell of your own farts?’ Nods vigorously.

    He probably thinks I’m the biggest psycho to ever have graced this Crackpot’s with Babies Unit. No doubt I’ve inadvertently agreed to having a fetish for gingerbread men, partaking in cock fighting as a chicken, and having to burp three times every time I hear the word purple lest the world ends. Not surprising that Doctor Huang is so shocked by my casual attitude.

    Truth be told I’m just quietly packing shit. My husband and I have arranged for a babysitter to come for a few hours a day during baby rush hour. 4 – 7 sucks with the under threes. They’re cranky, they need baths, they need dinner and they need to go to bed. Times that by three and I seriously struggle. The babysitter coming at these times doesn’t help me rest. Just helps me make sure none of my kids are neglected. I want to rest. We can’t afford rest. Fucking money.

    ‘A lot can change in a week.’