Author Archive

It’s been a big week for The Cabin Sessions. First I received a warm and thoughtful review in Unnerving Magazine…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and I was then invited to be interviewed.

 

To read the full review, and so much more click on the link.  http://www.unnervingmagazine.com/

Click for more on The Cabin Sessions 

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I signed up late to the 2017 Australian Women Writer’s challenge. Despite those lost months, I committed to reviewing at least six books by Australian women authors, which is known as the ‘Franklin’ challenge. I ended up reviewing seven titles and I would have written more had I not found myself unexpectedly moving house!

What a delightful experience the #AWW has been! I’ve ventured into genres I wouldn’t normally read. I’ve found many absolute gems along the way.

I began with Kathryn Gossow’s Cassandra, an absolutely charming literary coming of age story. “Cassandra is laced with evocative descriptions of rural Queensland. Gossow’s characterisations are convincing and her pacing measured. Early suspense shades into a textured exploration of clairvoyance, dreams, trance states and the predictive powers of Tarot, as Cassie tries to get a handle on her own inner powers; her friend, the ever doubtful Athena, egging her on.”

From there I ventured into crime with Sandi Wallace. I ended up reviewing two titles by this author, Tell Me Why, and Dead Again .  “With wit and a sharp eye for the essentials, Wallace has built a story world that feels real. A page turner with much to savour, Dead Again is a moving and highly engaging read.”

For literary fiction, I turned to Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love “Rose is a masterful writer, her depictions of incidental characters sharply observant, yet her prose is always gentle, haunting. The Museum of Modern Love is a meditation, on art and creativity to a large extent, but above that on pain, physical and emotional pain, the anguish of loss and grief.”

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose, winner of the 2017 Stella Prize. Read more of my reviews at https://isobelblackthorn.com/my-book-reviews/

I went back to crime with L.J. M. Owen’s Mayan Mendacity  my review appearing on the Sisters in Crime Australasia’s website. “In all, I found Mayan Mendacity difficult to put down. Owen has provided her readers with an entertaining story that also informs, without allowing exposition to put a brake on the narrative. Pulling off a story laden with this much technical detail and maintaining a fast pace is quite a feat.”

I then took a detour into historical fiction, unable to pass up the opportunity to review Elisabeth Storr’s  Call To Juno an absolute feast of a read. “This is a story for those who enjoy their historical fiction rich with fine and accurate detail. Call to Juno is intensely visual, bringing ancient Rome to life, composed by an author who clearly knows her subject.”

Finally, I was treated to Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s The Tides Between “The Tides Between pulls the reader in two directions, the desire to continue turning the pages at odds with an equally a strong wish to pause and reflect on its various intricacies, its depth. The only difficulty faced in reviewing a book of this quality is putting it down long enough to scribe reflections. A work I would describe as literary historical fiction, The Tides Between, is a captivating and immersive read.

I’m super excited and just a little bit spooked to be reading from my dark psychological thriller, The Cabin Sessions on The Panic Room Radio Show, hosted by horror/bizarro author and blog radio personality James H Longmore and Dark Poet Princess Xtina Marie.

new release! The Cabin Sessions – for those who like their horror dark and psychological.

 

The question for me is, which segment? Well here’s the weird bit. I recall a section I really like, bring up my Mobi file on my Tablet, scroll along at random…and somehow manage to land on the exact page.

 

Tune in tomorrow, Friday 3rd November from 1.30pm .  http://www.panicroomradio.com/   

If you’d like to hear me, here are more dates for the diary…

I am delighted to share my review of Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s debut novel, The Tides Between.

“In 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bride’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales to the far side of the world.

When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.

As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.”

My Review

Told from three viewpoints, Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s debut novel is a fearless yet endearing exploration of the day-to-day existence of a small cast of characters, each with their troubles, who are incarcerated along with numerous families in the steerage deck of a ship bound for Australia. The Tides Between is an ironic tale in some ways, for the duration of a voyage that spans half the globe, the epic journey that unfolds is one situated at the hearth of human existence.

Corbett writes with a deft pen. The author is unafraid to expose the reality of life for working class migrants making the treacherous voyage to Australia. In true literary fashion, the narrative presses forward through the unfolding realisations of its characters, the backstory interwoven in fragments.

The Tides Between opens with fifteen-year old Bridie clutching a notebook of fairy stories she was forbidden to keep as she boards a ship bound for Port Phillip. What unfolds is in part a coming of age story, as Bridie learns to handle the grief she feels at the loss of her father, and accept the benevolent affections of her stepfather, Alf. Yet The Tides Between is less a story of one girl’s entry into adulthood and more a meditation on trauma and its consequences, and on identity and the power of myth.

These themes are strikingly played out through Rhys, a young Welshman and miner’s son crippled by claustrophobia.  His wife, Sian, is pregnant, as is Bridie’s mother. Will either woman manage to safely birth her child before the ship pulls in at its destination? Will Rhys transcend his anguish? Will Bridie shake off her adolescent ill humour? Can Alf, a man strangled by his sense of duty and obedience, find the courage to confront the ship’s surgeon?

Corbett carries her plot forward with intricate attention to emotional detail. The heaving waters of the various oceans traversed a powerful metaphor for those heaving in the hearts of protagonists Bridie, Rhys and Alf.

Corbett’s writing is visual, metaphoric and intelligent.

“The night air fell like a chill shawl on her shoulders. Turning back towards the hatchway, she heard an eerie drawn out sound from beyond the deckhouse. She halted, nerves feathering her spine.”

It is in this fashion that dramatic tension is maintained, the reader treated page after page to Corbett’s elegant prose.

The theme of fairy tales is prominent, but these are not the stories of children’s books. They are powerful myths rich with significance. Bridie strives to make sense of the world and relationships through the lens of fairy tales, questioning, comparing, speculating. Corbett juxtaposes Bridie’s musings with the reality of her situation, conveyed through the harsh, albeit sensible worlds of her mother.    Meanwhile, Rhys grapples with his own demons. The only time he can cope with being in steerage is when he is on stage, telling Welsh fairy tales to a captive audience. Through the friendship that grows between Bridie and Rhys, Corbett explores the healing power of fairy tales, a release as much for the teller as the listener.

In one respect, The Tides Between is a vivid portrayal of life in steerage. The reader is there with the stench and the lice and the privy buckets. Just as she is unflinching when it comes to portraying the physical hardships onboard, Corbett casts a microscopic eye over the complexities of grief and shame, taboos and social rejection.

Despite its heartrending moments, The Tides Between is ultimately a story of redemption, transformation and hope.

“She had begun to treasure their moments together, like bright beads, slipping through her fingers and puddling at the bottom of memory’s purse.”

The Tides Between pulls the reader in two directions, the desire to continue turning the pages at odds with an equally a strong wish to pause and reflect on its various intricacies, its depth. The only difficulty faced in reviewing a book of this quality is putting it down long enough to scribe reflections. A work I would describe as literary historical fiction, The Tides Between, is a captivating and immersive read.

 

About the author

When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes reviews and articles for the Historical Novel Society and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. Elizabeth lives with her husband, Andrew, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far, far away.

BUY your copy here

I’m delighted to share my review of Artefacts and other stories by Rebecca Burns

 

 

That dandelion. A flash of stubborn yellow in a dark box of space. It had promised sunshine but had tasted sour. Artefacts. A dandelion. A mayfly. A family, bereft. Items and mementos of a life, lived hard and with love, or long, empty, bitter. In these sharply drawn and unflinching short stories, Rebecca Burns unpicks the connection between the lives we live and what we leave behind.

My Review

The short story form is hard to master. There are many strictures and the word length alone demands taut and pointed prose. Few can manage the heights of Alice Munro. The reader waits for that release of breath as the author provides an astute observation or an elegant and original turn of phrase. Which is why, when I read this latest offering from Rebecca Burns, my mind was switched to critical.

Yet from the first, Burns satisfies the aspirations of the short-story reader, with sublime writing and masterful control, finely balanced with moments of apt poetry.

“She soothed his craggy face into easy, jelly smiles.”

And

“A quick tongue ready to cut through the fudge of clerical life.”

Alice Munro writes of everyday life in Canada. In a similar fashion, Burns turns her attention to the everyday lives of her characters, many set in the period of the world wars, others in the collieries of central England. All her stories are told with sensitivity and compassion. If there was one word to sum up this beautiful collection, it is depth, for Burns has plumbed to the nadir of her own self in the writing, at once never failing to miss a moment of irony. Highly recommended.

Find out more about the author  – http://www.rebecca-burns.co.uk/

BUY Artefacts and other stories

I didn’t plan to write a horror novel. Not at first. Although the elements were there from the start.

The genesis of The Cabin Sessions began in 2012, during a period of my life in which I attended an open mic every Wednesday night without fail. The open mic was held in a log cabin up in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, Australia. I was living with the host, Scottish troubadour and gifted songwriter, Alex Legg. Every Wednesday, I would help him carry in the gear. I drank the rider. At the end of the night, making sure I didn’t stagger, I would help pack up.

That year, I was writing short stories in between being Alex’s groupie. I had yet to write my first novel, probably because I was having too much fun going to his gigs. I knew all his songs inside out and loved every single one of them. Naturally.

One night, on the way back down the mountain to our home, I had the idea that an open mic would make a good setting for a novel. Alex enthused straight away. The next day we sat in a cafe in Sassafras and cooked up the story. This is where we sat.

Together we came up with a bunch of characters, including his doppelgänger, Benny Muir, who appears in my short story, ‘All Because of You’, named after one of his songs.

 

Alex supplied me with tips and quips and odd insights that could only come from an open mic host. With a notebook full of jottings, I figured out a plot and set to work.

Three chapters of composing later and our relationship came to an abrupt end. My creative spark for the story was gone and I shelved the project.

Two years went by and my life changed dramatically. I moved interstate. I wrote like fury and as 2014 neared its end, I had my first novel on submission, another serialised on my blog, and my third in the making.

That December, I received news that Alex had passed away. It was a huge shock for everyone. He was loved and appreciated by so many. He nurtured many a talent and was hugely supportive of local musicians. A foundation has been formed to keep his legacy alive. The Alex Legg Memorial Foundation

Taken in Belgrave by Kylie Horner.

It was early 2015 and I felt compelled to preserve his memory. I toyed with writing a memoir of those two beautiful years we shared, a memoir I had conceived when we were still together, one filled with anecdotes from all his friends past and present, but I soon decided the emotion involved would be too intense.

In the process of reminiscing those precious years I had with Alex, I re-read my old notes and chapters of  The Cabin Sessions. For me, it was like gazing at old photos. I couldn’t listen to his music. It made me well up too much. So I buried myself in our ideas.

Then, something astonishing happened. I realised Alex’s passing had liberated my story. I made a critical creative decision, and it was as though I had Alex’s permission to do it. I won’t say what it is. After that, things moved fast. In days I was hacking into those early chapters, revising the characters and tightening the plot. There were times I felt Alex was right there with me, urging me on.

The setting for The Cabin Sessions is a version of Warburton, in the Yarra Valley east of Melbourne. It was there, in a cafe that we first met. Our meeting was powerful. Alex even wrote a song about it.

The Cabin Sessions is my way of paying respects to Alex Legg and the two transformative years I spent with him. Even if my offering is grotesque, absurd, hard-hitting, at times deeply confronting and there is not a skerrick of romance to be found. I honestly believe Alex would not have had it any other way.

I am hugely grateful to HellBound Books for believing in this story. HellBound are based in Texas, USA. That feels fitting somehow.

A book launch of The Cabin Sessions is scheduled for December at Leggacy Sessions, the open mic run by the Alex Legg Memorial Foundation every  Wednesday night at Oscar’s Alehouse, Belgrave.

Go here to find out more about The Cabin Sessions

The Cabin Sessions is now available from Amazon.

I am delighted to announce that my debut dark fiction novel is available for preorder. Just click on the link.

http://hellboundbookspublishing.com/cabinsessions.html

This book is special to me. I wrote it at the same time as A Perfect Square. I see the novels as twins. Both contain dark themes. Both aim to disturb.

With The Cabin Sessions I set out to explore themes of domestic violence and child abuse, by exploring what might happen to people who live in absolute denial, or immobilising fear. At first I didn’t know if I could produce a character twisted enough for my purposes. Then along came Eva Stone. I wrote a piece about her for Bloody Good Horror Books.  http://bloodygoodhorrorbooks.com/?p=112

Writing horror is weird. I enjoy it because I get to unleash my depths. As for all the horror readers out there… #TheCabinSessions   Are you ready to be entertained???