Asylum book launch review!

I’m reposting this fabulous review featured in the July 2015 edition of The Triangle community newspaper.

IMG_9423

“Saturday, 20 June saw a wonderful gathering at the Well Thumbed Bookshop, Cobargo NSW, for the launch of Isobel Blackthorn’s latest book, Asylum. Starting the proceedings, Dr Heather O’Connor talked about our most wonderful and recently departed local, Neilma Ganter, found of Four Winds, Mumbulla Foundation and hundreds of other local organisations, who had learned from her father that money was meant to be spent on community, establishing a path of philanthropy in his family.

Dr Rosemary Beaumont then talked about the duality of meaning for the word asylum: a sanctuary, and a prison for the unwanted, along with the fact that 90% of Australians have come from migrant families, from poverty, or have come here to escape unbearable political situations. The movement of people has increased substantially, making the issue of refugees a worldwide issue.

Dr Beaumont discussed the fact that we live in a country that has taken a most inflexible approach to refugees, allowing shameful displays of cruelty, barbarity and inhumanity toward these people, before introducing Isobel, “a spirited individual, doing everything at 100%”.

She said that reading Asylum, she was struck by the author’s word-smithing, and her keen observation and crystalline intelligence, which come through the story.

The launch, hosted by the Well Thumbed team, was a wonderful gathering, with standing room only for those who didn’t arrive early. Asylum has been reviewed to be “the sort of book you want to savour”. It has enjoyed five star reviews and great feedback regarding its engagement. The intention of the book is to get people who don’t usually think about the plight of refugees to think and question the status of these people around the world and in particular in Australia, with her narrow perspectives and inhumane treatment of people in genuine need.” by Elizabeth Andalis

 

Advertisements

Launching Asylum on World Refugee Day

Just got home from the launch of my novel, Asylum, at Well Thumbed Books, Cobargo NSW, as part of local activities for World Refugee Day. We raised $1,000!!! Big thank you to all who came and made it happen. I’m so proud to live in this warm-hearted and generous community.

11169720_1087139511299603_8496934390822413782_o

We showed the world that refugees matter!

IMG_9423

 

Standing room only!!! What a turnout!

 

P1040888P1040897

Asylum is a rewarding read, rather like a meal when you savour every mouthful instead of gulping it down because there are better things to be done!” – book critic Ann Creber.

Read more about Asylum here

Book critic Ann Creber reviews Asylum

I’m delighted to share this priceless feedback on my novel, Asylum, from book critic Ann Creber.

Featured Image -- 736

“What  a survivor [protagonist] Yvette is! 

I thought it was clever and subtle the way the sub-plot (almost) of refugees was woven into Yvette’s story.

Congratulations to Isobel Blackthorn for a moving story of near despair and triumph. There is hope there for so many women in difficult situations.

And of course we are going to expect to hear more of the next  phase of Yvette’s life!  And soon!

Asylum is a rewarding read, rather like a meal when you savour every mouthful instead of gulping it down because there are better things to be done!”  

Here a full interview on Ann Creber’s The Good Life here.

You can read more reviews and an excerpt of Asylum here.

Having a great time launching Asylum

Huge thanks to old school blues maestro Dave Diprose, and visual artist Georgia Matthey for helping me launch Asylum in Melbourne. And to all who came to help me celebrate! I had a fabulous time at Kallista Tea Rooms.

Kallista Book Launch4Kallista Book Launch10 Kallista Book Launch11 Kallista Book Launch 3Kallista Book LaunchAsylum Cover

Read more reviews and an extract of Asylum here

Asylum Reviews

Asylum Cover

 

Today I found two reviews of Asylum on NetGalley which I just had to share!

The first is by Tanya Brough – “Have you ever felt like just dropping everything and running far, far away? To perhaps an island? That is what Yvette Grimm did. She ran from her life in Malta and her boyfriend Carlos (what an oaf!) and met up with her mother, Leah, in Australia. She wants to stay and her mom wants her to stay. There might even be a man on the horizon, but that will always be a complicated situation with Yvette, a romantic at heart. I thoroughly enjoyed Asylum. Yvette is such a lovable, but emotional human. You can even feel her hurt when her mother is a little cold towards her, always talking about her sister. Asylum is just the right book at the right time for me. Yvette, we sistas in arms.” Tanya gives Asylum 5 Stars.

Then Rachel Bustin wrote,” My initial thoughts were that the cover seemed a little bland, but I always go by the saying, ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’. I did like the thought of reading a very strong character driven book, and this is what the book is. The story starts off with Yvette Grimm finding herself back in her childhood bedroom at her mother’s Leah’s house in Australia. She is on a holiday visa at the moment, but Leah has sent off her permanent residency forms. Yvette had to leave her old life in Malta. As you read through the book, you discover what Yvette’s life was like with her boyfriend Carlos through little snippets, and why she had to leave. I love this little quote. The author uses a fantastic style of writing throughout, to the point and very clear. ‘Yvette was seeking refuge from the wreckage of her life’ Yvette’s mother tells her that she must get married to stay in Australia, but Yvette is a sort of a hopeless romantic and believes that you marry for love not convenience. The story follows Yvette through her struggles of belonging nowhere. Yvette takes you to a cockroach infested flat, to a cute little house to singing in a choir and a life changing event. It was a beautiful journey that the author took me on. Laughing in places, crying the next. I loved the character of Yvette, she never let anything get her down, she was always expecting the worst, and this made her a much stronger person. I didn’t like her mum Leah, she seemed very cold towards Yvette, and always going on about her sister Debbie, which made Yvette feel alone at times. I think the main idea of the book is to inform you about the difficulties that people have in gaining residencies. Even though Yvette’s mum and sister live in Australia it doesn’t make her a definite case to live there permanently, just because she stayed with her dad in England when her mother and sister moved back when they were children. I find the topic on political asylum quite fascinating and this book does question that. I would love to read other books with a similar topic to this one, it was a fascinating read. I would recommend to anyone looking for a strong female character lead. I gave Asylum by Isobel Blackthorn 4 out of 5 stars.”

Many thanks Tanya and Rachel. I’m enormously chuffed and grateful. Cheers!

Read more reviews and an extract of Asylum here

The horror inside

I’m new to horror. I’m easily spooked and disturbing scenes in movies can haunt me for decades, the flashbacks as real to me as if they were my own. I can still recall moments in Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, and The Strangers has to be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Pretty tame, I know.

head-with-broken-pot
Head with Broken Pot by Georgia O’Keeffe

So it puzzles me why I find writing macabre scenes that are narrated by twisted and perverse characters so easy. Maybe the time of day is a factor. I do my best writing before sunrise. I’m up every day between four and five. I make a huge strong coffee and sit in the stillness. No distractions, just me and my pen.

Maybe it’s because I’m in control and therefore there are no surprises. But if, when I’m writing a scene, I can make myself laugh so much I’m rolling on the carpet, then I’m just as capable of spooking myself.

I’ve been told that writing psychological horror can be purging or cathartic, releasing the inner demons. Which would mean I have an inner psychopath or two lurking in my depths. Not true. I prefer to think I’m tapping into the collective unconscious. Or drawing on psychos I have known.

Then again, how many of us can say with confidence that we are aware of every dusty corner of our psyche? Perversity breeds perversity, like a virus, and just because you suppress or deny it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We are all corrupt, all in denial, all capable of cruel acts.

When my cat Psyche was a kitten, I stroked her and she rolled on her belly, little paws in the air, her gaze fixed on mine. And my hand circled her neck and I knew that all I had to do was squeeze and she’d be dead. It was that easy. I paused, felt the power rise, an ultimate sort of power, and I knew that there was not much space between realising the potential and committing the act.

Most of us have a stronger moral self, a conscience, that stops us from doing macabre things. I didn’t strangle my cat. I was disturbed it even occurred to me that I could.

My latest novel is shaping up to be more about the banal nature of perversity than it is edge of seat terror. It is more like the movie, Sightseers, or Peter Carey’s The Tax Inspector, than anything by Stephen King. I’ll be relieved when it’s written and I can move on to something else. It isn’t pleasant to dwell in such dark terrain. I’m becoming distant from the world around me, mistrustful, suspicious, on guard. And as for the things I’m discovering in my imagination, they’re unspeakable.

 

Asylum – the story behind the story

Asylum is my first novel. It began life as a story with a number of enticing elements bound together in truth. Like protagonist Yvette Grimm, I was an English-born visa overstayer and I really did invest my hopes in a palm reader’s prophecy that I would meet the father of my children before I was thirty!

Asylum Cover 2

In about six months I produced a first draft. I was pleased with the achievement, producing 80,000 words of fiction is no easy thing, yet the story seemed to meander on, reaching a conclusion that felt flat. So I set aside the draft, reasonably happy never to look at it again.

Yet the title nagged me. ‘Asylum,’ with its double meaning, seemed well worth exploring, but how?

Months later a friend and blogger, Colin Penter,  posted on facebook a link to a book. It was Profits of Doom by Antony Loewenstein. I borrowed a copy from the library and read it from cover to cover in two days. Profits of Doom led me to explore the plight of asylum seekers and I soon found a plethora of online commentary, and much activism around the country. I began to wonder how I could contribute.

It was a gnawing sense of injustice that caused me to return to that draft of Asylum. I axed over half the text, ripping into the narrative scene upon scene until the barest bones were left. I set about making visa overstayer Yvette Grimm an artist because I wanted her to be as different from me as possible and I can only paint walls. I managed to work Profits of Doom into a scene. Things were progressing well but towards the end the narrative still lacked intensity.

That was when a friend, Georgia Matthey, came round for dinner and after I had outlined how things were in the fictional land of Asylum, she began to describe a recent event in her life. Seeing the potential straight away, I grabbed paper and pen and wrote down her vignette and with her permission used it to shape the climax of Asylum.

I could now call Asylum a manuscript and I needed a reader. I was thrilled when writer, feminist and activist Jasmina Brankovich put up her hand. I had to wait weeks for her feedback and when she told me she loved it I knew I could publish with some confidence.

At first I serialised the story in weekly parts on my blog but demand grew for a whole book, so I took the indie path and with the help of Cohesion Press converted Asylum into epub and Kindle editions.

Asylum explores the theme of seeking asylum, Yvette juxtaposing her experiences with those of asylum seekers being held in detention. It is my sincerest wish that Asylum both entertains and contributes to the larger dialogue on the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia.

You can read my non-fiction writing on asylum seekers in On Line Opinion or here on my blog.