A stunning review of A Perfect Square by Rachel Nightingale!

You pour your heart and soul into a work, slave away for a year, maybe two, and if you are very lucky, a publisher sees merit in it. Then you hope that readers will as well. Sometimes your book finds its way into the hands of the perfect reader. This is one of those times. I am so grateful to receive this review of A Perfect Square.

A Perfect Square - a dark mystery, literary fiction style. Where art and creativity meets the occult and conspiracy theories. When synaesthesia becomes clairvoyant. A must read for all lovers of rich and complex fiction

“When pianist Ginny Smith moves back to her mother’s house in Sassafras after her breakup with the degenerate Garth, synaesthetic and eccentric artist Harriet Brassington-Smythe is beside herself and contrives a creative collaboration to lift her daughter’s spirits: an exhibition of paintings and songs. Ginny reluctantly agrees.

Mother and daughter struggle to agree on the elements of the collaborative effort, and as Ginny tries to prise the truth of her father’s disappearance from a tight-lipped Harriet, both are launched into their own inner worlds of dreams, speculations and remembering.

Meanwhile, another mother and artist, Judith, alone in a house on the moors, reflects on her own troubled past and that of her wayward daughter, Madeleine.

Set amid the fern glades and towering forests of the Dandenong ranges east of Melbourne, and on England’s Devon moors, A Perfect Square is a work of remarkable depth and insight.”

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Some books haunt you. You rarely know this will happen when you are reading them – the sensation creeps up on you after the last page. With A Perfect Square there was a moment as I read where my heart dropped and I knew this book would stay with me. It is the story of two mother-daughter relationships, one in Australia and one in England. The parallels and connections are unveiled slowly, like a spider’s web slowly but artfully woven. Blackthorn uses words beautifully to create settings and lives so real that I felt I was in the room, a silent and at times uncomfortable observer.

Harriet is a menopausal artist whose daughter, Ginny, returns home after a relationship breakup. Her decision to challenge Ginny to co-create an exhibition of art and music in order to shake her out of her depression has unforeseen consequences for both of them. At the same time Ginny’s quest to find her father unlocks secrets that might have been better left in the shadows. On the other side of the world, Judith struggles with her relationship with her daughter Madeleine, as she faces her own creative demons.

On another level A Perfect Square is an exploration of the truth and meaning of art and the nature of creativity. Blackthorn is an exceptionally skilful writer, not only at the technical level (characterisation, description, structure and so on) but at the thematic level. As she writes about the power of art, she evokes a range of emotional responses in the reader. The beautiful language in the book inspired me to create, while at one point I felt heart pounding anxiety and at the end, when I realised how few pages were left, I felt bereft because I didn’t want to leave the characters whose lives I had become absorbed in. The descriptions of art and the creative process are a reminder that there is much more below the surface than we often notice.

I don’t keep many books any more because I’ve run out of shelf space, but this is one that I will keep and return to. A marvellous work. (you can find Rachel here http://www.rachel-nightingale.info/

Wow!!!!

Read more about A Perfect Square here

click to BUY

 

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Artist Spotlight: Gabrielle Powell

I have a lifelong passion for all the Arts, and especially visual art. I like to buy artworks when I can afford them, and I often include art and artists in my writing. So it was no stretch on my part to decide to run a series of artist spotlights. Here’s my first!

I’m delighted to welcome Gabrielle Powell onto my blog. Gabrielle lives on the far south coast of New South Wales, Australia. I’ve long been in admiration of her work and also her values and vision. I’ve often wondered what makes an artist tick, so I asked Gabrielle some questions.

What was the initial spark that turned you to pursue the creative arts? What drives you to keep going? 

I grew up in a creative family where things were made all the time. It was a gift and skill to be able to make things with your hands. There didn’t seem another option For me but to follow the arts and go to art school and gain a degree in Visual Arts. Little did I know that I also had other skills! I guess with the arts – once an artist always an artist – sometimes I don’t make anything but there is always a pull back – a yearning to create. Making things is soothing, contemplative, resolving issues as you go and provides a unique space to just be you and zone out!
Do you have a preferred medium?
I have tried everything! Started with weaving and ceramics then leather work and printmaking, stained glass and drawing – I like variety!! Basket making and ceramics are favourites at the moment.
What are your main sources of inspiration?  
I guess I have always had a love for indigenous arts and find their simple practice and skill inspiring. It all started when I was about 15 and a friend gave me a gourd from Africa – she was actually born in Malawi as I found out when I travelled there! I have pursued connections with indigenous people and their culture all my life as I find it very interesting and I want to know more.
I am also passionate about recycling others’ waste at the moment. Making up-cycled unique things. I’ve always loved second-hand things and going to the tip! So now I use waste to create things.
Do you have a purpose behind your creations?  
Most of my work is for a purpose – my creations are useful. After spending 4 years at art school creating “art” pieces I just want my work to be useful and practical. I want my creations to be enjoyed and hopefully worn out! Most of my pieces are strong sturdy and built to last!!!
You’ve travelled a lot. How have your journeys affected your art?
Travel brings a whole new perspective to life so it also changes what and how you make things. I guess I bring home new techniques and ideas and from Africa colour! Everything I take in comes out in my work even if it’s not deliberate. I just made some colourful design plates which surprisingly had an African feel !
I know you went to Malawi in 2017. What drew you there and what did you take home with you at the end? 
I wanted to try something different and get out of Bega. I found People of the Sun on line. They were taking on interns and I had long service leave so I jumped in and emailed them. They were keen to have me support the artisans and assist with quality control and packing working alongside the artisans and preparing a manual.  I gained a lot on a personal level – new connections, new experiences, new ideas and the gift of colour in such a dry hard landscape was awesome. Prior to this I used a very limited colour palette.
Will you go back?
I would love to go back for sure. I have made connections there and it would be a different experience if was able to go back. I am open to any possibilities and have continued having conversations with the owner and manager.
What are you working on now?
I have just completed an exhibition at spiral gallery Fired+Wired with Daniel Lafferty. So back to making again. I am making some more design plates. I have booked in for a display at the Lazy Lizard Gallery, Cobargo, New South Wales, in April school holidays so some plates for that exhibition might be good.
What does the future hold? Any new projects in the pipeline?
I have quite a few open doors at the moment – not sure which direction I want to go..  I am currently working on an arts health project with south east arts. This is a very creative and inspiring 12 month position bringing art to health environments.
So I’m working until mid-year and then leaving things open to see where my path leads – believing things happen to me for a reason and a purpose. Looking forward to 2018 to see what unfolds. And of course always Saving for more travel!

Gabrielle, thanks so much for chatting!

The Far South Coast is lucky to have Gabrielle Powell living in their midst. But if you like her work, fear not, for she is also exceptionally good at wrapping her wares for posting!

You can listen to Gabrielle talk about her first visit to Malawi on this podcast. http://aboutregional.com.au/podcast-17-gabrielle-powell-and-the-people-of-the-sun/
Check out her website
Connect with Gabrielle on Instagram

Find her wares on Etsy

A pot pourri of bookish things

It’s been a busy weekend of A Perfect Square book promotion. So I thought I’d gather it all together in a single post, for those interested in following my blog tour or finding out more about me and the story behind my story.

A perfect square

The weekend kicked off with a Q&A on Amanda Howard’s book blog, Killing Time.

Janet Emson of From First to Last Page book blog then features a piece on my writing process, called My Devilish Muse, and includes a short extract of A Perfect Square.

Fictive Dream published my flash fiction piece, Margo’s Slippers, and I’m really proud to find my story amongst those of so many fine writers.

To cap it all off, author Patricia Leslie, posted on her website her stunning review of A Perfect Square. Praise doesn’t come any better than this:

“Reading Isobel Blackthorn’s stories is like engaging in high calibre wordplay. The words wash over you, move through you, and lift you intellectually.” 

Let my tell you about my muse

What is a muse? One of nine goddesses presiding over the arts, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Or a woman, or a force personified as a woman, the source of inspiration for the creative artist.

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Using this latter definition, I can say that my own daughter Liz functions as my muse, as she certainly inspires me. But I prefer to think that she has a direct line into me, or that my muse, Scarlet, has a direct line out to her.

I named my muse Scarlet long ago, back when I had no idea who she was. All I knew was that she existed in my psyche and she was dangerous. Who is she?

I hold with Stephen King’s depiction of the nature of the muse in his memoir, On Writing. He describes his muse as a fat guy in the basement, smoking a cigar. Which all seems stable and almost businesslike, although I think that guy would be a controller. Just like Scarlet.

Here’s the story of Scarlet. I’m a survivor. Back when I was very small things happened that so terrified me that bits of me went into hiding, while other bits of me learned to cope. The first bit of me to flee was my muse, that inner self that lives deep in the unconscious, right in its centre, whose only purpose in life is to create.

The muse is the synthesiser, the one who puts all sorts of things together and comes up with something new. She or he is the bearer of inspiration and enormous joy. Those aha moments belong to the muse.

Without her, I was a creative cripple.

Scarlet fled into a dark corner of my psyche and over the years I locked her in a cage. I locked her in a cage because she could behave like a banshee. She had so much energy and it manifested as blind rage. I couldn’t deal with her. Frankly, she was embarrassing.

Every now and then she’d burst out of me and I’d write something, but I was ashamed of what I wrote. I had no confidence, no self belief, and the feedback I sought from others was not good.

She was persistent. Whenever there was a still moment in my life she’d rattle her cage. I’d feel compelled. I’d pick up a pen. Only to rip up or even burn the outpourings of song lyrics, poetry, stream of consciousness writing or part chapters of a novel.

Of course the life of a survivor is not an easy one. I had a lot to deal with both within myself and with the people I attracted into my life.

I battled with an absence of self worth. I even got a PhD thinking that would help, but it didn’t.

Thankfully I got some good advice along the way. And some of the therapy I underwent to make myself whole again was amazing. Through it I learned to recognise Scarlet and understand her needs. I found her to be a wild voluptuous woman who wore a long red gown as if she’d come straight out of Wuthering Heights. The crown of thorns she insisted on wearing a blatant statement of her suffering. Meek was not in her vocabulary.

Sometimes I visited the cage but the circumstances of my life meant I had to keep her under lock and key. I had no choice but to deal with the vicissitudes that had befallen me. She waited. The years rolled on. Then, in the forty-seventh year of my life, Scarlet had had enough.

On the day she broke out of her cage and roamed free I felt an upsurge of energy. Ideas for a book flooded my mind. I became edgy and impatient for change. She’d begun a revolution.

Before long she took over my decision making. She cleared out all the dross of my life. She demanded my full attention. I found her reckless and obsessive. But I let her have her way.

Now I’m fifty-four. I’ve lived for seven years with Scarlet’s ruthless resolve.

The entire contents of me have realigned themselves around this new creative centre. I feel her energy. She has me up at dawn. She has me writing every day. She has me pushing away everything that does not serve her needs. She sucks me inwards, into her realm, and I have become her slave.

In some ways I live a life out of balance. But in the scheme of my whole existence this extreme, out-of-balance way of life is simply bringing me to equilibrium. I would have it no other way.

Love you Scarlet.