Author At Large

This past weekend proved to be a busy one, with events to attend on both Saturday and Sunday. First up was National Bookshop Day, where I had been asked to be a celebrity bookseller for the Younger Sun bookshop in Yarraville. I was only there for an hour, but what an exciting hour it was!

Stepping behind the counter, I immediately reverted to my retailing days, acting like it was my first shift as a new employee and I was duty-bound to work out exactly how the till operated as quickly as possible. Eventually I remembered that I was there in a capacity other than simply manning the register and started actually, y’know, talking to customers and mentioning the fact that, yes, that was my book stacked up on the counter.

The defining moment came when, while talking to a woman and not-so-subtly dropping the fact that I was the author of Vanguard Prime: Goldrush, the young man she was with turned in surprise and said “Really?!”

“Yep,” I replied, and I didn’t get the chance to say much more than that as he ran out of the store to go get his friend. Earlier in the day, the staff at the Younger Sun had set up a blackboard out the front where kids could write the names of their favourite books, and as it turned out the boy who had just fled the store had a friend who’d written down “VP: Goldrush” as his favourite book, without even realising that I was in the store!

When the two guys came back in and explained the story, I don’t know who was more excited – them or me! (actually, I do know. It was me). It was a thrilling moment in a very fun day, and I can’t think the staff at the Younger Sun enough for letting me come in and stuff up their transactions for them!

The next day, I headed out to Eltham Bookshop to participate in a Q&A led by Leanne Hall, the author of the beautiful and brilliant This is Shyness and Queen of the Night. Leanne had read Goldrush in advance of the event and made for a very enthusiastic interviewer – so much so that she actually brought along her own mask in a bid to get included in a future entry in the series!

Author Leanne Hall, aka ‘Supersonic’ / ‘Sam’s Sister’

That’s even more dedication than I’ve managed to muster up so far, having rejected all requests from my publisher to don a spandex costume in an effort to promote the book – trust me, that’s a sight nobody wants to see…least of all me!

I thoroughly expected only a few spare faces to turn up for the Eltham Bookshop Q&A, but store owner Meera is note to be underestimated in her ability to organise an event, with a good-sized crowd turning out to hear Leanne ask astute, articulate questions and for me to blather in response. Many thanks have to go out to Meera, Leanne, and the staff of the Eltham Bookshop for such a fun and successful event.

Meera of Eltham Bookshop and me.

The next time I’ll be out and about will be at the Ballarat Writers’ Festival on September 1st. In the meantime, I’m chatting with other booksellers about some other possible events, and I’m also preparing for my television debut – more on that in the future!

‘Til next time.

My Other Car is a Batmobile

Wednesday night saw me at Tim’s Bookshop in Canterbury, where I got the chance to talk to parents and students from Our Lady’s primary school. One of the best things about it was the Q&A afterwards, where I answered questions ranging from “So what happens in your story?” (something I should probably have covered better in the talk) to “What car do you drive?” (I only realised today I missed the opportunity to say “A Batmobile”).

 

One of the topics I covered was the fact that in Year 2 I was placed in a catch-up class for students who were struggling with their reading and writing skills. I’d had trouble picking up that particular ability in Year 1, so I was behind the other students when I moved up to the next grade. Thankfully, the catch-up class worked and I took to reading and writing with a previously undiscovered enthusiasm.

 

I thought it was important to let the kids know; just because you’re not immediately good at something doesn’t mean you never will be. Also, I drive a Batmobile – not the Toyota Camry that I said I did.

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This weekend, not only will I be at the Younger Sun for National Bookshop Day, I’ll also be In Conversation with Leanne Hall at the Eltham Bookshop at 3pm on Sunday. We’ll be discussing Vanguard Prime: Goldrush and the road to publication. Make sure to come visit!

Where I’ll Be On National Bookshop Day

Saturday 11th August is National Bookshop Day, and I’ve been invited to be a “celebrity” bookseller at The Younger Sun Bookshop. I put quotation marks around “celebrity” as I fully expect nobody to know who I am, and the fact that Andy Griffiths is following me means there’ll no doubt be a huge crowd of kids shouting “We want Andy! We want Andy!”.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you! I can’t wait to meet everyone who comes in, as well as hopefully sell some books (whether they’re mine or somebody else’s). There’s a lot of talk these days about the challenges that bookshops are facing. Let’s show them our support!

I’ve copied the details for The Younger Sun’s National Bookshop Day event below;

 

Join us to celebrate the bricks and mortar bookshop on National Bookshop Day, Saturday 11th August 2012. To thank you for being ace and supporting your local bookshop we’ve got a bunch of fun things planned, including celebrity booksellers, treats and competitions. We are also taking part in ‘The Lost Thing Passport’ competition in conjunction with many other wonderful Melbourne independent bookshops. The passport is inspired by Shaun Tan’s magical book The Lost Thing. Get your passport stamped at participating stores and you could WIN A SIGNED SUITCASE EDITION OF SHAUN TAN’S THE ARRIVAL as well as gift vouchers from participating stores. The winner will be drawn at the end of Book Week on 24th August.

You can also go in the draw to WIN A BOOK A MONTH FOR A YEAR on us if you buy a book from the Sun Bookshop or the Younger Sun on the day.

We will have super special celebrity author booksellers Josephine Rowe (Tarcutta Wake, How a Moth Becomes a Boat) and Chris Flynn (Tiger in Eden) at the Sun Bookshop 2:30pm-3:30pm.

We are also very pleased to announce Kate from the Younger Sun will be returning to the shop to join in the fun on the day. As well, we have a whole list of awesome celebrity booksellers for the Younger Sun! They are:

Cath Crowley 10.00am – 11.00am

Danny Katz 11.00am – 12.00pm

Clare Saxby 12.00pm – 1.00pm

Steven Lochran 1.00pm – 2.00pm

Andy Griffiths 2.00pm – 3.00pm

The Ideas Shoppe: Genealogy of a Book

For ages now, I’ve been meaning to do two things. 1) Write up a list of books that were influential on Vanguard Prime: Goldrush (out now, of course!). 2) Write the first in a regular series of posts entitled ‘The Ideas Shoppe’, in which I discuss the process of writing, focusing primarily on where inspiration comes from.

And then I thought – why not make them the same post?

Before I plunge into it, I think I should take a moment to explain the title. Even before I got published, I was aware that one of the questions that anyone in the creative field gets asked the most is “Where do you get your ideas from?”. It’s a question that can be phrased in many different ways, and it’s a question that can be easily dismissed with the knee jerk response “Oh, I go down and buy them at the Ideas Shop”.

Of course, it’s a sarcastic answer, but I have to admit that I find the idea of the Ideas Shop an enticing one. I love the image of a glowing, golden boutique at the end of a cobblestone lane where you can buy inspiration by the jar. But in lieu of that, I’ll offer what insight into the creative process that I can – but only after adding a ‘ppe’ to ‘shop’ to give it the proper old world aesthetic!

So without further ado, please find ten books that helped me in the creation of Vanguard Prime: Goldrush

(Please note: Not every book in this list is appropriate for young readers. In fact, there are quite a few that are very specifically meant for adults. I like to think that people find books as they’re ready for them, so if something feels like it may not be right for you, give it some time and try it again in a few years. Also, if the formatting is a little off in this post, please bear with it!)

  1. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

My dad bought this book for me when I was 11, and I was totally hooked. The best thing about John Marsden’s writing  is that he doesn’t pull any punches. He deals with themes of race, sexuality and violence in a mature, level-headed manner, never talking down to his readership. It gave me a lot of confidence to not shy away from some of the darker places I wanted to go to in Vanguard Prime – though not necessarily as dark as the places Marsden goes in this series.

 

2. JLA by Grant Morrison, et al.

This was my first exposure to the genius that is Grant Morrison, the Scottish writer that many a fanboy refers to as ‘the God of Comics’. His work has gotten increasingly polarizing over the years, with quite a few readers as ready to dismiss it as praise it – but I am firmly in the ‘fan’ camp. And though his modern work can be arguably esoteric and cerebral, his run on JLA (short for Justice League of America) is as accessible as it is epic.

Published in the ‘90s, it can appear a little dated now (especially when the blue-skinned electric Superman suddenly pops up) but it remains a high-point in the history of comics publishing.

 3. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

This was the book I bought when I decided I was going to write a YA book and I wanted to get a sense of what else was out there. I’d been meaning to read it for years and finally got the chance as part of my research. What’s bold about this book is the anti-hero that Colfer presents us with as his protagonist.

Moral complexity is something that’s not always afforded in books for younger readers. Eoin Colfer is fearless in showcasing a character that many adults may not necessarily approve of, but that kids will no doubt relate to when they read his troubled backstory.

 

4. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I had never experimented with voice very much in my writing, sticking almost entirely to Third Person Past Tense. This was the book that convinced me to attempt First Person Present Tense, something that I’d been a bit snobby about in the past.

It helps that Niffenegger’s story is as complex as it is emotionally engaging, with a pair of characters that have a great sense of reality to them, despite the outlandish premise.

 

5. On Writing by Stephen King

I’d always been a bit dismissive of Stephen King’s work. I remembered reading It when I was too young to be reading it, and even then being underwhelmed by the decision to include a drawing of the moment someone writes “It” in blood on a bathroom wall, which amounted on the page to someone scribbling in felt pen on a piece of grid paper. As I got older, I smirked at the way almost all his main characters were middle-class white men who were either from Maine, or writers, or both.

But somewhere along the line that started to change. It had a lot to do with the number of writers who would cite his On Writing as having had a great impact on their work (including Neil Gaiman, a personal hero). Curiosity getting the better of me, I borrowed On Writing from the local library and found myself pleasantly surprised by it.

Part autobiography, part mission statement, On Writing is a book I would heartily recommend to anyone who has ambitions of becoming a writer. Even those who have previously failed to connect with King’s work will find something to relate to and learn from in these pages.

 6. Third Transmission by Jack Heath

Another book that showed me the places you can take the YA genre, with Jack Heath demonstrating a canny knack at action-based storytelling, incorporating cool sci-fi ideas and a teenage protagonist.

 

 

 

7. Neuromancer by William Gibson

I’m so envious of Gibson’s prose. He describes everything with crystal clear clarity that still manages to be poetic, and he makes it look so easy. This is such an influential book (this is where the term “cyberspace” was first coined) and yet people generally remain somewhat oblivious to it. The movie that’s meant to be in the works may change that, but only if the filmmakers manage to nail the complex plot that’s coupled with an incredible sense of atmosphere.

 

 

8. Shade’s Children by Garth Nix

Like Artemis Fowl, I read this shortly before starting work on Vanguard Prime in order to get a handle on the YA genre, and what I found was an uncompromising, dystopian tale of kids doing whatever they need to in order to survive. In that sense, it has a lot in common with Tomorrow, When the War Began, but with much more of a sci-fi bent.

 

 

9. Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, et al.

I first read this about ten years ago, before the movie came out but long after it had left an indelible mark on the comics industry. Despite being a product of Cold War paranoia, it remains a fantastic example of world-building, taking standard superhero archetypes and fleshing them out so that they read like real people, thwarted dreams and all.

 

 

10. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

There are many things to marvel at in this Pulitzer-prize-winning novel, not the least of which is the thoroughly authentic comic book character that Chabon has his two main characters create. The Escapist is such an interesting character and so perfectly captures the excitement of the Golden Age of comics that it’s actually disappointing that he wasn’t a genuine product of the era and that there aren’t more adventures of his to thrill to. I wanted the characters in Vanguard Prime to feel as well-realised and genuine as the Escapist is in this book. I can only hope that I managed that.

 So that’s it!

Of course, this list doesn’t count the film and TV works that also bore some influence (including The West Wing, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Justice League Unlimited, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Doctor Who, and everything Joss Whedon’s ever done) and the music I’d play to fuel my imagination.

I guess we’ll just have to save all that for the next visit to the Ideas Shoppe.

A Launch, Some Links, and a Little Movie Talk

On Wednesday night, in the Sun Theatre in Yarraville, we had the official launch for Vanguard Prime: Goldrush. It was a great night, which you can read about here, as well as see photos like this one, where I swear I’m less stunned than I seem to be;

And that’s only the first of more events to come. Make sure to keep an eye on the Events page if you want to have me scribble in your book. Also, while I’m on the subject, thanks again to everyone who came out to show their support! I can’t express enough how much it meant.

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The reviews for Vanguard Prime: Goldrush just keep on comin’! Check out what Emily Gale has to say on the Readings website, and if you’re curious about the VP team and want to learn a little more about them, take a look at this post on the Penguin Teachers’ Corner blog. The PDF they link to contains a bio for every member of the team, with exclusive information that wasn’t covered in the book! You know this is exciting because I’m using exclamation marks!

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The more I think about The Dark Knight Rises, the more I realised I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man more. I still fully intend on seeing TDKR a second time, however, as the first viewing wasn’t done on an IMAX screen and I need to know what that experience is like. I did, however, see Amazing Spider-Man in 3D, which wasn’t as thrilling or immersive as I expected it to be. My fiance, however, thought the 3D was great, which was surprising given that she usually hates 3D.

Of course, there was three big superhero movies this year, with Avengers being the big winner. My experience of watching The Avengers was a curious one. As a fanboy, I loved it. As a writer, it frustrated the hell out of me; not because the script bothered me, but because there were quite a few overlaps with my book, which was in the editing stage at that time.

The end credits hadn’t even started rolling before I was thinking of all the rewrites I’d have to do to differentiate it from this multi-billion-dollar-earning movie. The good thing is that it all worked out for the best. Vanguard Prime: Goldrush ended up being a stronger book due to the rewriting I had to do, even if I had a small heart attack at the prospect.

We’re about to start editing Book 2. I’m keeping a close watch on the multiplexes.