Archive for August, 2015

Initially, with paperback in hand, I hadn’t anticipated that I would review Deliria by Chris Heffernan. Two pages in, I was excited by the fresh, lively voice, and by the way Heffernan, through the eyes of his protagonist, depicts Adelaide with acerbic wit.

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The plot is very simple. William is an intelligent twenty-two year old university student who falls hopelessly for the stunningly attractive eighteen-year-old music student, Deliria.

Deliria is trouble from the first. She tantalises William, lures him into her world of petty theft. She’s a femme fatale. And he’s besotted.

What ensues is a series of little adventures, escalating in risk.

Deliria is set against an urbane backdrop of twelfth-century French poetry, classical music and Thailand. Adelaide  portrayed as the antithesis: crass, and distinctly uneventful. William’s thirst for stimulation is met in Deliria, who represents the sort of adventuress commensurate with the uncouth cultural and social fabric of Adelaide that William sees all around him. With a twisted morality and a series of perverse justifications, Deliria is perhaps an inevitable product of an age of shallow, conspicuous consumption, and its nemesis.

In William, Heffernan portrays the absurdities and intensities of an young man caught up in ennui. Acutely observed, William’s narrative is a perfect balance of introspection and observation, with enough self-awareness to endear the reader.

To my mind, Deliria sits comfortably alongside Phillip Roth’s Indignation. It’s a loose yet apt comparison, both books tackling the consequences of an educated young man’s dogged attachment to a single idea, or feeling. Although each author tackles his subject in a markedly different manner.

I found Deliria a thoroughly entertaining read. 5 Stars

Deliria can be found at Odyssey Books and at all good bookstores.

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9781922200365-Cover (1)Probably one of the most exciting and apprehensive times in the long process of writing and publishing a book is the reveal of its cover. The Drago Tree is no exception. And choosing the cover proved far more challenging than I initially thought.

9781922200365-Cover (1)The Drago Tree is set on Lanzarote, a Canary Island off the coast of Morocco. About a third of the island is covered in lava and much of the rest in volcanic ash. Volcanic craters, or calderas, are everywhere. The island is a photographer’s paradise and there must be millions of superb images of its magnificence and its beauty taken by professional and amateur photographers and holidaymakers alike. I wanted to depict Lanzarote on the cover of The Drago Tree, but how could I possibly compete with all those fabulous shots?

9781922200365-Cover (1)At first I thought of capturing a few elements of the story and I asked around on Facebook to see if a local photographer would offer to take a shot. One did, and very generously too. But every time Donal Gray was about to set off with my brief, the day was cloudy, the conditions not right. Months passed and the publication date loomed.

9781922200365-Cover (1)It was then that my publisher started to have other ideas. One night, I asked my daughter, Liz Blackthorn, to see what she could come up with. In a matter of hours she’d mocked up a stylised photo of Castillo de San Gabriel, a small fort in Arrecife, the island’s capital. The image she used was captivating, and the textured effect she applied intriguing.

9781922200365-Cover (1)I sent her design to Michelle Lovi of Odyssey Books. By then I, too, was veering away from a real image and towards something stylised, when Michelle came back to me with a sharp and really stunning shot of the fort. The  design leapt up at the viewer, all brilliantly blue and speaking of Lanzarote’s colonial history. I loved it.

9781922200365-Cover (1)I showed the design to some friends. Feedback was promising. As the days passed, I remained sold on it, but something was privately niggling me. It was the same thing that was niggling Michelle. Where’s the drago tree? Everyone was asking, ‘What’s a drago tree?’ We had no choice but to dump the fort.

9781922200365-Cover (1)By this time it was nudging August and I was beginning to panic. I swamped Michelle with images of drago trees I’d found on the Internet. We had a vintage moment, inserted figures of women looking off at views, and I thought we’d nailed it when I found a fabulous photo of a drago tree with a caldera in the background. Feeling optimistic, I sent it to Michelle. When she replied, I was gutted. The image was for editorial use only. We couldn’t use it. Damn. What now?

9781922200365-Cover (1)All I could do was wait to see if Michelle could conceive of something that we both liked, something that spoke to the themes of the story and depicted a drago tree, which seemed essential.

9781922200365-Cover (1)A few days ago she sent me an email with four mock ups. They all had the mandatory drago tree, and each was interesting in its own way, but somehow none of them conveyed the sort of book The Drago Tree is.

9781922200365-Cover (1)She sent another email soon after, with mock up 5. ‘Something a bit different,’ she said. Curious, I opened the attachment. And there I was, gazing at a single drago tree against a hazy green-grey background. I knew, straight away, that she’d nailed it.

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Thank you Michelle Lovi and thank you Odyssey Books.  The Drago Tree will be released on 1 October 2015 and available through all good bookstores. Pre-orders of The Drago Tree will be available soon. Meanwhile, to read more about the story and a short extract please click The Drago Tree. And to make contact or to go on my mailing list click Contact Isobel here

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Loraine Oliver of Wicked Woman Book Blog gave Asylum 5 stars on  Goodreads
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“Asylum by Isobel Blackthorn was a book I really enjoyed and look forward to reading more by this author. I am getting around to finally reviewing this book even though I finished this book over a month ago, due to being sick.

Yvette Grimm, a 29 year old woman has decided to go to Australia to visit on a visa and try to get a citizenship there even though she knows it is practically impossible unless she gets married. So she goes to stay with her mother Isobel and they get along just fine although her mentioning Yvette’s sister and comparing the two of them really bothers Yvette.

Yvette had a somewhat tragic childhood living with a violent Father and then a broken home after he leaves, and she mainly came to Australia to get away from her boyfriend, Carlos, a likeable man but also a criminal, so she has a lot of issues to deal with, all caused by her own bad choices and being Yvette she rather escape the problems than deal with them, so she takes off to Australia, leaving Malta behind along with Carlos.

On top of this she has a tendency to be quite judgmental even though she has so many if not a lot of the same problems as her friends do. Yvette is having a hard time finding her niche in life as she is used to having a man, and functioning without one is quite challenging to Yvette and quite comical at times as well!

In this book we see Yvette slowly transforming into a person with a lot more empathy towards others than at the beginning of the book, and she also begins to realize the shallowness her everyday life has been and her problems are ones she created for herself! There may be hope for her yet!

I liked the way this author wrote this book and I like how the plot weaves along and things change as the story goes along. I also liked that there were a great cast of characters all well developed that had their place in this book as well. In the end Yvette is more likeable than at the beginning and although her metamorphosis is slow, it is steady and headed in a much better direction than at any other time in her life.

I gave this book 5 stars and would like to read more by this author!”

Cheers Loraine
I’m adding an addendum to yesterday’s blog post as I’ve become a little strident about the difficulties facing small presses.
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If ever there was a model of how the corporate world has an industry stitched up, book publishing is it.
A book publicist mentioned to me in a Facebook comment words to the effect that the Penguins and the Random Houses supply bookstores with reading copies of their new releases at least four months in advance. Four months!! Let’s not be naive about this. That’s a lot of $$ outlay, working on long lead times.
The large publishing houses have whole publicity teams working on promoting new releases. Terrific for those authors propelled along the conveyor belt towards celebrity and bucket loads of prestige. I call them ‘the in crowd’ as there’s no better way to describe it.
Nepotism abounds in book publishing as does elitism. What matters to the corporate publishing houses is in large part who the author is and how she and her book might be marketed, not the quality of her written word.
That is not to say that vast numbers of Editors and staff working for such corporations are not dedicated to the discovery and the promotion of quality material. I fully acknowledge and respect their efforts. My grump is not with them.
The world’s major publishing houses are oligarchs. They are in the business of swallowing smaller imprints and dominating the market. They have become so huge it’s breathtaking. They’re up there with Murdoch and Monsanto.
As I said in yesterday’s post, the large publishing houses overwhelm bookstores with their presence.
The big houses fund literary prizes, help select judging panels and therefore influence which book (one of their own perchance) will win.
They can afford or have already bought copy space in literary review sections of major newspapers and the like.
In other words, the Penguins and the Random Houses are in the business of dictating to the public what to read.
I’ve heard it said that only cookery books are making money in Australia, that numbers of readers are dwindling making it hard to sell fiction.
I disagree with the logic of this view as it omits the fact that marketing and advertising shapes public taste. When will SBS, for example, advertise some works of fiction?
Fortunately for the switched on reader, there’s an alternative, a way to opt out of the factory-style book industry, a way to make a statement of protest against the oligarchs, or simply a way to show support for those struggling to survive alongside it – by buying a small press title.
Such an act is no new thing. I recall buying Virago (now owned by Little Brown) and Women’s Press books back in the 80s based on the imprint as much as the author. I saw it as a political act.
At many small presses, publishers are dedicated to discovering fresh quality writing. They take risks on unknown authors. They keep the whole book industry alive with innovative, imaginative, passionate works.
And they cannot compete with the big guys.
Which is why it is my belief that small presses and their authors need to link arms to help make their presence felt more strongly in the book reading community.
In my view small press authors especially need to come together and take a stand. Many already are. I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t already seen much evidence of the alternative model in action.
More and more I’m seeing my own literary career in political terms – the politics of globalisation that is.
Globalisation has always equalled centralisation (mergers, corporate empires and so on), and the emergence of alternatives out on the rim. I’ve already pitched my tent.
Cheers

Some may wonder why they are not seeing Asylum in their bookstore.

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That’s partly because bookstores are caught up with having to stock the Penguins and the Random House books (if they want to stock a bestseller, they are compelled to also stock x y and z)

Often bookstores don’t have the time to pay attention to the title lists of small presses. They are flat out choosing from the big corporate’s catalogues.

 

Then there’s the matter of returns. Bookstores return unsold stock to the publisher at a cost per book. The big publishers can absorb the $$ loss. They do large print runs, and often pulp that returned stock. Bugger the planet.

Thankfully print on demand services have provided a different and more ethical business model. Only those books purchased are printed so generally there’s no pulping.

But the problem of returns remains and is prohibitive for an emerging small press, who cannot afford to take the risk of having to buy back stock. If suddenly a whole bunch of titles were returned en masse the small press would go under.

So how do small presses sell their titles?  – Online, at book expos, and in any other way they can think of.

Of course, much of the selling of a book comes down to the author. We can’t kick back and let the royalties roll in. Unless our name is Rowling we have to get out there and spruik.

Many bookstores demand from authors that they carry their books on consignment. So the author ends up wearing the costs of delivery, collection of unsold stock and chasing the proceeds from sales. It’s often a thankless process.

Authors have come up with all sorts of other book-selling strategies, from book giveaways to market stalls. It’s all time-consuming and tiring work and detracts from the task of writing but there’s little choice for most of us.

Well, that’s the demystification over. It is what it is and I for one am very happy with my small press.

So, where’s my book? Asylum is available in ebook and paperback formats in all online outlets, and, better still, can be ordered direct from Odyssey Books, or from me, if you want a signed copy. Just send me a message.

You can order Asylum from any bookstore too, worldwide.

Cheers