After the fanfare

9781922200365-Cover (1)So, I’ve published a book. That’s fantastic news! All those years of slavish labour coming to a glorious culmination – the release. The Drago Tree is my second novel published by Odyssey Books in this auspicious year of 2015. My year! I’ve made it. Crossed that line that feels like the Grand Canyon. There’s the endorsement. There’s the kudos. There’s the fanfare of the press releases, the radio shows, the launches. Fans grab their signed copies. Friends congratulate me on my success. It’s such a high. Then…

You wait…and nothing happens.

No Google alerts. Nothing on Goodreads. Or Amazon. You run an eye down the urls in your daily book x self x review search and all you see is, ‘be the first to submit a review.’

Doubt kicks in – They don’t like it. They’re not even reading it. They’re using it as a door stop. They’ve left it, face down at page two, on the bus. They think it’s too long, too short, too, too, uninteresting.

You wait…

Someone writes a great review. You’re swinging from the chandelier. You post, blog, tweet, pin it. You get as much mileage out of it as you dare.

You wait…

You think of recycling that one review but pride won’t let you.

You wait…

Is the story really that bad? All those review requests you sent out last week and only one reply? Perhaps you haven’t got the review request tone right. Face it, you’re no good at this game. Then there’s the timing. Requesting book reviews at the end of the year is bad timing. All the prestigious blog reviewers have shut up shop for the year. But what’s to be done? The publishing calendar doesn’t end in August.

You wait…

…feeling jinxed. Review copies go astray in the post, no doubt making the journey from Canberra to Melbourne via Marble Bar. Anticipation has morphed into despondency. You wake each day feeling heavy. You no longer feel a frisson of optimism when you search for a book review.

You wait…

You stop yourself from searching for that one person who told you in a comment on Facebook how much they loved your book, and begging them to join Goodreads.

You wait…

Your local press and community decide not to join in your fanfare and launch promotion. ‘You’ve had a lot of coverage already this year with your first book, Isobel. Now it’s someone else’s turn.’ Turn? Ouch. You know it’s irrational but the rock-solid support you thought you had feels like gossamer. You begin to wonder if anyone will turn up to your launch. You begin to wonder who your friends are, or even if you have any.

You wait…

You bury yourself in your latest work. Tell yourself you’ve raised your expectations way too high and the world doesn’t revolve around you and your book.

Face it, you’re too impatient. It’s only been a few weeks.

You remind yourself of persistence, perseverance, resilience – that’s what it takes to be a writer. You tell yourself not to be so, needy.

You wait…

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On Gilgamesh by Joan London

I’m about halfway through Joan London’s Gilgamesh and toying with writing something on Goodreads. Just now I scrolled through the reviews to read what others were saying but stopped when I realised there were over 1,800 of them. I really only have one word to add – bleak.

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And I realise much of the bleakness comes not from the story itself but from an absence of emotional reaction on the part of the main characters, along with a paucity of introspection. As is typical of much Australian writing the feeling in the story is embedded in the action as the main character, Edith, goes through the motions of her difficult life. She isn’t the responsive type and I’m left feeling empty.

The story is straightforward. In 1937, on a tiny farm in the town of Nunderup, in far southwestern Australia, seventeen-year-old Edith lives with her sister Frances and their mother, Ada. One afternoon two men, Edith’s cousin Leopold and his Armenian friend Aram, arrive, taking the long way home from an archaeological dig in Iraq. Among the tales they tell is the story of Gilgamesh, the legendary king of Uruk in ancient Mesopotamia. Gilgamesh’s great journey of mourning after the death of his friend Enkidu, and his search for the secret of eternal life, is to resonate throughout Edith’s life, opening up the possibility of a life beyond the farm.

Alongside the myth of Gilgamesh, there is a motif of perversion running through the narrative, stated almost in passing in the most matter-of-fact manner. It’s a motif that evokes revulsion and a sense of doom. 

Overall the narrative is restrained. I think the idea behind this style of storytelling is that the reader is free to have their own emotional reactions, unimpeded by those of the characters. The downside is that the characters are more like automatons. The rich roundness of their beings duly muted in the rendering, they are at risk of appearing one-dimensional.

In it’s favour I have to say that the narrative is superbly crafted and poised, the prose elegant. Gilgamesh is definitely a book I would recommend.

Well, that was more than one word!

Narrative as Navigation Through the Self: Isobel Blackthorn’s Asylum

(‘Narrative as Navigation Through the Self: Isobel Blackthorn’s Asylum by Ness Mercieca was originally published in the October 2015 edition of  The Tertangala)

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They say the mind does not create, and that it only cuts and pastes the stimulus it receives from the outside world.

Author Isobel Blackthorn has a talent for this, in fact, I often get the feeling with her that she is cataloguing my idiosyncrasies. I suspect I am not the only one to suspect this, and that she has an arsenal of our traits and habits to be appropriated for the right character at the right time. It’s the literary skill that brought us Plath’s The Bell Jar, and it goes by the name of semi-autobiography.

When I asked Isobel about her creative process, her words confirmed what John Cleese (whose name my computer insists I correct to Cheese) once said about creativity, that the subconscious will reward you with an idea if you spend long enough contemplating a topic. Here it is in Isobel’s words; “I let the story brew inside me for a while, sometimes years, and when some other far larger part of me has it all figured out, I have a powerful irrepressible urge to write. And I go into lockdown and give that other self total freedom.”

The true art to Plath and Blackthorn’s (Plath-thorn’s, if you like) literary style, however, is dissecting the self. Most authors do it; a mood or thought is isolated. It becomes the embryo from which a new self germinates, and it becomes a complex character. (Ever wonder why writers think of their characters like children? Well, there you have it.) Entire books can be populated by these alternate selves of the author, and a narrative becomes the ship through which the self is navigated.

Who’s at the helm, you ask? Isobel speaks not only of smaller selves, but of a larger one who personifies her creativity; “I prefer to think of my source of inspiration as some other greater me deep inside,” she says, “and every time I write a first draft, I’m paying homage to her, to the muse.”

Isobel’s most recent book, Asylum, is the story of such an alternate self. Yvette Grimm speaks with an incredibly honest voice from the perspective of an illegal immigrant waiting to be told to leave Australia, but having no-where else to go. She has been given a personal prophecy that she will meet the father of her children in Australia, and her hopes of permanent residency depend on meeting him very, very soon.

What resonates the most with me, however, is the creative block that all of this brings about in Yvette. Blackthorn made me want something, as a reader, that a book has never made me want before; I wanted Yvette Grimm to paint. Blackthorn played on a knowledge we all have that when you find inspiration, it’s probably because you’ve found something else too.

The Drago Tree blog tour coming soon

Next weekend I’m on tour again, talking about The Drago Tree, this time in cyberspace on my first ever blog tour. Just six destinations and I don’t leave the house! Here are the tour dates.

Blog Tour

And here are the blog links

 

The Drago Tree in the Lanzarote Gazette!

I’ve never featured in a glossy magazine before and I have to say it’s an amazing feeling!

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Lanzarote Gazette, the island’s English language monthly magazine, has given over a page to a feature piece on  The Drago Tree. 

http://thegazettelive.com/flip/oct2015/index.html#p=22

 

You can find out all about The Drago Tree  here And purchase a copy at

Amazon UK

And through all good booksellers. For an author signed copy please use the contact form above.

 

The Drago Tree cover reveal

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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Asylum receives another 5 star review!!!

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