Book Review: A Perfect Square

Pleased to share this fine review by author Kathryn Gossow. ūüôā

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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‚Äôs stories is like engaging in high calibre wordplay. The words wash over you, move through you, and lift you intellectually.”¬†

A Perfect Square – esoteric fiction

A Perfect Square is on some level an exploration of the different ways people approach esotericism. Who are these people? Where can we find them? Meet the eccentric artist Harriet Brassington-Smythe, her daughter, pianist Ginny Smith, and the mysterious hidden figure of Wilhelm Schmid, a scholar of the esoteric order of the Rosicrucians.

9781922200457-Cover

I cannot say that conspiracy theory is a major theme in¬†A Perfect Square, but it does enter into one of the story lines, as mother and artist Judith, alone in an old farmhouse on the Devon moors, explores an internet forum, called ‘The Forum’.

My own thinking on esotericism and on conspiracy thinking goes much deeper. Why do the two go together and how? They are united through two words: elitism and secrecy. Simply put, conspiracy thinking always points to some sort of elite. Esoteric practice creates that elite. Esoteric practice generally occurs in secret. Power elites conduct their business in secret. Conspiracy theorists tend to also have an esoteric bent. Esoteric-minded types will always always look behind the scenes to see if they can see what’s going on. They sense the conspiring. But they get hung up on theories. Why bother? When really, conspiracy theories are themselves just mental traps.

Here’s a piece I wrote for the aptly named Paranoia magazine. Where I have tried to stretch my thinking a little further.

http://www.paranoiamagazine.com/2016/08/mastering-art-occultism/

And as for¬†A Perfect Square, I like to think it packs a punch. Well, that was my intention. At the time of writing I was inspired very much by Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. Like Eco, I’m motivated by the fact that there¬†is too much misinformation out there, misinformation that easily takes root in minds rendered receptive through a lack of access to alternative and perhaps accurate information.¬†I also marvel at the way opposers, especially those on the Left,¬†get so hot under the collar when it comes to conspiracy thinking, as though it were a personal affront. Or threat?

A Perfect Square is now available for pre-order, which is quite exciting and I’m very grateful to¬†Odyssey Books for choosing¬†to publish the work.

http://odysseybooks.com.au/titles/a-perfect-square-available-29-august/

I’ve commenced work on another novel, one that explores the ideas of Theosophist Alice A Bailey. If you would like to journey with me as I venture further into this strange realm of the unknown, please contact me and I’ll add you to my mailing list.

A Perfect Square coming soon…

There’s been a circularity at work in the creation of my latest novel,¬†A Perfect Square, ever since the ideas first came to me in 2014. The essence of the story was formed out of my daughter Elizabeth Blackthorn’s Honours thesis in Music. Now that the book is written, Elizabeth has composed and recorded¬†the music to go with it. A link to access her work will be included in the book. A Perfect Square¬†will be released in 10 days. Meanwhile¬†Elizabeth created this book trailer. Her mum is forever grateful ūüôā X

Author Interview – Felicity Banks

I’m delighted to welcome to my blog, Steampunk author Felicity Banks whose debut¬†Heart of Brass is released today! Happy Publication Day!!

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At what age did you start writing?

I was seven years old the first time I attempted to write a novel. It featured cats, naturally. I have two children of my own now, which has given me a new perspective on the many illegal activities of my heroines. My daughter is four, and an excellent storyteller. She once told me she couldn’t go and wash her hands because there was a bear in the hallway. That was the beginning of many hours of free entertainment for me.¬†My son is two, and loves the absurd and fantastic. He once drew a picture of me with wings, so I could fly. I also have a cat who¬†brings live mice into the house and does her best to pretend she’s the injured party.

I’ve written fourteen books altogether, not counting an ever-increasing number of Choose Your Own Adventure-style¬†interactive books (all of which are listed and linked under “Felicity Banks” at the Interactive Fiction Database ifdb.tads.org).

“Heart of Brass” was my third book to be accepted, but the first to be published.

Because the interactive fiction world moves faster than the world of print, “Heart of Brass” already has two interactive sequels. “After the Flag Fell” is included with the novel (the main character is one of the minor characters from the novel), and “Attack of the Clockwork Army” is available as an app through various platforms (it allows you to play as¬†one of Emmeline’s siblings, if you wish). Right now I’m writing an huge interactive¬†tale set in the same universe as “Heart of Brass”, but it is set in 1837 Britain (before Emmeline was born)¬†and doesn’t involve Australia (or spoilers). It will begin release on 17 August 2016, with a new section of the story released as an app each week for forty weeks. The publisher is Melbourne-based company¬†Tin Man Games.

I’m delighted and astonished at the huge number of people who are obsessed with app-based¬†interactive fiction. After all these years of writing, I suddenly find myself with readers around the world waiting for my next story!

What’s your background? Where are you from?

The answer to both is Canberra. It’s the middle of July now and I’m in my annual semi-hibernating state until September.

Who are your favourite authors? Who Inspires you?

I adore Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, Pamela Freeman’s Castings series, Philip Reeve’s Larklight trilogy, anything by Gail Carriger, Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, the Narnia series by CS Lewis,¬†the Samurai Kids series by Sandy Fussell, anything by Naomi Novik, the Quarters series by Tanya Huff, the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, the Woodcutter Sisters series by Alethea Kontis, the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente, the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson, and so on!

I usually read young adult fantasy, because I like a fast-moving plot that also gives me the sense that absolutely anything could happen. Plus young adult books usually (although not always) have less intense sex and violence. I realised quite a while ago that I get terribly bored writing anything without magic, so my own steampunk tales also feature a unique magic system.

Tell me a little about heart of brass.

I really wanted to write a steampunk story set in Australia‚ÄĒthe land of droughts, dreamers, bushrangers, gold rushes, convicts, etc. But I’m not a historian! So before I even wrote an outline¬†I started by reading, reading, reading. Some of my favourite non-fiction writers are Liza Picard (“Victorian London” is wonderful), Krista D. Ball (“Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes” is as good as it sounds), Ruth Goodman (“How to be a Victorian”, including her own experiments), Susanne Alleyn (“Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders”, which is surprisingly useful for the Victorian Era), Bill Bryson (“At Home”‚ÄĒBryson usually writes funny travel books),¬†and Geoffrey Blainey (for absolutely everything Australian). My overwhelming impression from all the research I conducted was that history is far madder than you might think. Cross-dressing (both ways)? Mad scientists? Bizarre contraptions? Famous lesbians? Charming rogues? Cannibalism? Villains? Heroes? It’s all there.

Heart of Brass is a tale of a convict woman whose life was ruined by one small crime… but who quickly discovered that her life wasn’t ruined after all. It’s a tale of a nation and a person realising that high society isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a tale of daring escapes, duels, and literal flight. It’s an Australian story through and through, despite and because of¬†the fact that none of the characters think of themselves as Australian. It’s a tale about a heart that’s powered by magic and steam, but is¬†just as faulty and inconvenient¬†as the usual kind.

heart of brass

Emmeline Muchamore is a well-bred young lady hiding explosive family secrets.

She needs to marry well, and quickly, in order to keep her family respectable. But when her brass heart malfunctions, she makes a desperate choice to steal the parts she needs to repair it and survive.

She is unable to explain her actions without revealing she has a steam-powered heart, so she is arrested for theft and transported to Victoria, Australia ‚Äď right in the midst of the Gold Rush.

Now that she’s escaped the bounds of high society, iron manacles cannot hold her for long.

The only metal that really matters is gold.

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Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including several Choose Your Own Adventure-style stories that take place in the same magical steampunk universe as¬†Heart of Brass. All her interactive fiction is listed under ‚ÄúFelicity Banks‚ÄĚ at¬†http://ifdb.tads.org¬†and most of her interactive fiction¬†can be read as an app.

Heart of Brass is her thirteenth completed novel, her third novel accepted for publication, and her first novel to be published.

The Antipodean Queen Series facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/Antipodean-Queen-Fantasy-Steampunk-Books-1123139861084253
https://felicitybanks.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/heart-of-brass-cover-reveal/
http://odysseybooks.com.au/titles/9781922200587/
YOU CAN BUY A COPY HERE

In conversation with Cli-fi author Sue Parritt

After reviewing¬†Pia and the Skyman¬†a few days ago,¬†it’s a pleasure to speak with author, Sue Parritt and discover what motivates her to write Climate Fiction.

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Starting with the obvious, tell me a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Bournemouth, a seaside town in southern England. At 19 I married my childhood sweetheart, Mark, and seven months later we emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. We have one son, David. After graduating (B.A. University of Queensland 1982, with majors in English Literature, Drama and French) I worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. I now live in a bayside town, Mornington, in southern Victoria, where I spend many hours writing in my beautiful garden studio built by Mark.

 When did you start writing fiction?

I have always loved books. As a sickly child often away from school for weeks at a time, I read voraciously, immersion in fascinating stories enabling me to forget about illness for a while. My favourite childhood books were: David Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Good Wives, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Moonfleet, a novel set not far from my home. My grandparents loved Dickens and I read most of his works from their nineteenth-century editions. My parents stressed the importance of education, provided a houseful of books, recordings of Shakespearian plays and the opportunity to discuss what I had read or heard. My father, in particular, shared his love of literature with me, often reading aloud excerpts from Shakespeare, poems and the Bible.

Writing has been a passion since my teenage years when I wrote poetry, usually reflecting my feelings about social issues or newly discovered love. During my teens and early twenties, I also entered public speaking competitions, often including snippets of my poetry in my speeches. I spoke about the threat of nuclear war, mental illness, and pacifism.

Since taking early retirement, I have written four novels: Sannah and the Pilgrim, the first of a trilogy, which draws on contemporary conservative attitudes towards climate change and refugees to present a dystopian view of a future Australia. Published by Odyssey Books in 2014, Sannah and the Pilgrim was commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award 2014. The second, Pia and the Skyman was published in April 2016, the third, The Sky Lines Alliance is scheduled to be released in October 2016. My fourth book, Safety Zone, deals with gender equality, pacifism and emerging feminism and is yet to be published.

During my employment at the Victorian College of the Arts, I was encouraged by a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television to try my hand at scriptwriting. I have since written several drafts of a feature film screenplay: Feed Thy Enemy based on my father‚Äôs unusual experiences in Naples during and after World War II. So far I have been unable to find a producer, so plan to rewrite the project as a novel. My short TV drama script, ‚ÄėLast Fling‚Äô (based on a short story, published in ITA 1996) received First Prize in the FAW Whitelight TV Drama Award 2009 and I have also written the pilot for a TV series based on Sannah and the Pilgrim.

That’s an impressive achievement. Every author draws inspiration from other authors. Who inspires you?

I don’t have a favourite author or genre. I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are: Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Jolley.

I am inspired to write by the issues facing our twenty-first century world, such as climate change, refugees, war, inequality. By creating speculative fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ordinary people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable future.

Having just read¬†Pia and the Skyman I’m interested to hear what drove you to write it.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

Pia and the Skyman, is the second book in my trilogy of a future Australia scarred by the ravages of climate change and decades of totalitarian government.

In this tale of loyalty, betrayal and duplicity, I focus on a tiny population forced to flee their home and the ramifications when a significant percentage, including hundreds of children, are refused asylum due to unacceptable difference. I present choices for the reader that are intended to be disconcerting as Pia and Kaire risk not only lengthy imprisonment to help those still suffering in apartheid Australia, but become involved in a conspiracy that if discovered, will see them wandering the universe forever stateless.

Age 20, Pia’s heritage is Pacific Islander and European. She is passionate, volatile, adventurous and unwavering in her determination to help liberate her people from generations of domination by an oppressive regime. Intelligent and savvy, she knows how to survive in a harsh world.

Age 28, Kaire is of European descent. A senior pilot from space station Skyz59, he originally came to Earth on a pilgrimage to experience the world of his ancestors but appalled by the society in which he found himself, now assists those trying to undermine the Australian government as well as those fleeing imprisonment for seditious activities. Na√Įve, uncomfortable with conflict, especially if it involves physical violence, Kaire still struggles to cope with Earth-life.

Pia and the Skyman took me a year to write, in sharp contrast to Sannah and the Pilgrim, which, including research, took about four years. As the second book in my trilogy, I already knew the central characters and had a good idea of the plot. I spend most weekdays (10-5) writing and occasional weekends if I have a deadline. My dream of becoming a published novelist has been realised with the publication of two novels and a third to be released soon. I took a risk in giving up paid work eight years ago to concentrate on writing but have no regrets. Writing is making retirement the best time of my life.

You can find out more about sue parritt by visiting her website. www.sueparritt.com
find my review HERE
and you can purchase pia and the skyman at AMAZON and all good booksellers

Pia and the Skyman by Sue Parritt

Sue Parritt’s Pia and the Skyman is the second in her Climate Fiction trilogy, following on from¬†Sannah and the Pilgrim, which I reviewed last year.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

From the very first sentence,¬†Pia and the Skyman engages the reader in the action, Parritt quickly and skilfully establishing the backstory carried over from¬†Sannah and the Pilgrim. Sannah’s daughter, Pia, and her former lover, Kaire, are thrown together to help maintain ‘the women’s line,’ a resistance movement in a climate changed future, set up to help free prisoners doomed to a lifetime in underground desert prisons in what has become an ‘Apartheid Australia.’

Then there’s the matter of Kaire the Skyman and his cohort of clones languishing on a space station that was launched many centuries before with the aim of seeking another planet for humanity. Kaire is not without criticism. “How arrogant to imagine they could wreck one planet then move on to another without a backward glance.”

Lies, deceit, betrayal and tragedy along with a healthy dose of passion carry the narrative along in what turns out to be a remarkably engaging read.

Pia and the Skyman is a thoughtful, carefully considered work. ¬† Parritt’s writing is assured, confident and commanding, a steady pace maintained, the use of passive voice creating an emotional detachment befitting the stark conditions of a climate changed dystopia.¬†“Desert desert go away…let us live another day,” the children in the playground chant.

Parritt is adept at creating an edge-of-survival atmosphere without recourse to over dramatisation. Her setting is vividly real, painted with a simple palette, and fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Her characters are deftly portrayed and immediately recognisable.

The scenario Parritt depicts is not far removed from our own current reality, the story a metaphor for our times, and a logical extrapolations of successive Australian governments’ commitment to off-shore detention of asylum seekers in gulags. Environmental refugees are among us now. How many more will there be if we don’t amend our ludicrous dependence on fossil fuels?

There’s a deeply pacifist moral undertone that runs right through the story, carrying forward values of peace and right human relations, values elevated partly through Kaire, who in a fashion represents the higher moral ground.¬†“Down there [in Aotearoa] his fellow settlers were doing their utmost to live a sustainable life, yet still found time to help those at risk in Australia. He wanted to shout out his admiration, tell them never to give up the struggle.”

Pia conveys¬†values of¬†compassion and goodwill. She¬†acts, decisively and sometimes impulsively, exemplifying¬†the determination and resilience of all the women who sacrifice their own safety for the sake of others in the Women’s Line – a powerful symbol of cooperation, collaboration and resistance founded on principles of solidarity and trust found amongst women in all situations of oppression and hardship the world over.

Through¬†Pia and the Skyman Sue Parritt makes an important statement about the myopia that seems to have befallen our political leaders, especially in Australia. Humanity will be faced with harsh choices if environmental conditions become as brutal as they are in Parritt’s reality. As well they might. And I very much doubt humanity would have the capacity to respond all that differently to that of Parritt’s Apartheid Australia. On the whole we seem incapable of transcending our own selfish, divisive and hate fuelled beliefs. We’ll need a lot of goodwill and far-sightedness to avoid the scenario contained in this trilogy. Sue Parritt might as well be a soothsayer.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN CAN BE FOUND AT ODYSSEY BOOKS