Today it is my great pleasure to welcome writer Lisa Bigelow to Feathers of the Firebird as part of her blog tour for her debut novel, We That are Left. Set in World War Two, and inspired by family history, it is a moving portrayal of the impact of war beyond the armed forces. In this guest post, Lisa writes about the lived reality of history.
Keeping history alive
by Lisa Bigelow
Blue willow china, lemon delicious and floral carpet; history isn’t just about war and famous people in funny costumes. History is in the great aunt’s lounge room that you visited as a child, that time capsule of tin toys and steamed puddings and jewellery that held memories of lost loves and departed siblings. Reaching back into those memories brings a treasure trove of detail to a writer’s storytelling.
As a child of the seventies, I was becoming aware of my surroundings just thirty years after the end of the second world war. When you think of thirty years back from now, you land in the mid-nineteen eighties era of shoulder pads and Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. It doesn’t seem so long ago, does it? So it was surprisingly easy to imagine some aspects of houses and shops and streets in Melbourne and out in the country, during the war.
Having lost my grandfather on the HMAS Sydney II in 1941, I personally felt the weight of responsibility to accurately portray events in the story of this tragedy. Only a few facts were blurred such as the timing of Harry’s final shore leave and sighting of the decoy target off WA. Rather than adopting the old journalism maxim, “never let the truth stand in the way of a good story”, I feel that the truth enhanced this story, along with a dusting of period detail to transport readers to their not so distant past.
We That Are Left by Lisa Bigelow is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.
More about the book:
Melbourne, 1941. Headstrong young Mae meets and falls head over heels in love with Harry Parker, a dashing naval engineer. After a whirlwind courtship they marry and Mae is heavily pregnant when she hears that Harry has just received his dream posting to HMAS Sydney. Just after Mae becomes a mother, she learns Harry’s ship is missing.
Meanwhile, Grace Fowler is battling prejudice to become a reporter on the afternoon daily newspaper, The Tribune, while waiting for word on whether her journalist boyfriend Phil Taylor, captured during the fall of Singapore, is still alive.
Surrounded by their friends and families, Mae and Grace struggle to keep hope alive in the face of hardship and despair. Then Mae’s neighbour and Grace’s boss Sam Barton tells Mae about a rumour that the Japanese have towed the damaged ship to Singapore and taken the crew prisoner. Mae’s life is changed forever as she focuses her efforts on willing her husband home.
Set in inner Melbourne and rural Victoria, We That Are Left is a moving and haunting novel about love and war, the terrifyingly thin line between happiness and tragedy, and how servicemen and women are not the only lives lost when tragedy strikes during war.
More about the author:
Lisa Bigelow’s life revolves around story-telling. An avid reader from age five, her career as a journalist and communicator has been all building and delivering compelling stories about water resources, climate change and any issue that interests her audiences. She recently completed a Masters Degree in Communication and aims to use her writing to illuminate ongoing issues and make them accessible to a wide readership. We That Are Left is her first novel.
Get in touch with Lisa!
- Website: http://lisabigelowauthor.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lisa-Bigelow-Author-1611562128888785/
Today I’m very pleased to be hosting debut novelist and experienced comedic screenwriter and presenter Anna Daniels in a guest post as part of her blog tour for Girl in Between, her first novel, which she describes as ‘a rom-com set in Rocky’ . Read on to know more!
Girl in Between…the rom-com set in Rocky!
by Anna Daniels
It’s wonderful to be with you, Sophie, and your Feathers of the Firebird followers!
My debut novel, Girl in Between, is a rom-com largely set in my hometown, Rockhampton…the Beef Capital of Australia!
For anyone who hasn’t been to Rocky, it’s a tropical city of about 70,000 people, situated on the Tropic of Capricorn in Central Queensland. There’s a wonderful larrikin element to Rocky, heightened by the bull statues astride the roundabouts, and the sense that everyone knows everyone
Jerry Seinfeld has a theory there are some cities in the world, like New York, which are just funny. For me, Rocky fits that bill…it’s just funny!
In deciding to set Girl in Between in Rocky, I wanted to capture the town, with all its quirks and landmarks, so that it was easily identifiable, but I also wanted to make the setting accessible to anyone who’s spent time in any regional Australian city.
I had great fun conjuring up characters and names for the places they work. Ruth, for example, runs a one-woman car wash on the corner of Fitzroy and Albert Streets, and hosts an annual Suds ‘n Thuds disco; Colleen, Ruth’s best friend, works at the popular Rocky café, ‘Bits n Pizzas’, and the central characters, Lucy and Rosie, often have wild nights out at their local, The Whipcrack Hotel.
I remember Gina Riley and Jane Turner, the creators of Kath n Kim, once saying their series was an affectionate look at suburbia, and I like to think that’s how my portrayal of regional Australia in Girl in Between will be viewed….as one of great affection!
Girl in Between by Anna Daniels is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.
More about Girl in Between:
Life can be tricky when you’re a girl in between relationships, careers and cities… and sometimes you have to face some uncomfortable truths. The sparkling debut from comic TV and radio presenter, Anna Daniels.
Lucy Crighton has just moved in with some gregarious housemates called Brian and Denise… who are her parents. She’s also the proud mother of Glenda, her beloved 10-year-old… kelpie. And she has absolutely no interest in the dashing son of her parents’ new next-door neighbour… well, maybe just a little.
When you’re the girl in between relationships, careers and cities, you sometimes have to face some uncomfortable truths… like your Mum’s obsession with Cher, your father’s unsolicited advice, and the fact there’s probably more cash on the floor of your parents’ car than in your own bank account.
Thank goodness Lucy’s crazy but wonderful best friend, Rosie, is around to cushion reality, with wild nights at the local Whipcrack hotel, escapades in Japanese mud baths, and double dating under the Christmas lights in London.
But will Lucy work out what she really wants to do in life and who she wants to share it with?
Anna Daniels is a natural-born comedian. She originally set out to write a screenplay that was part Muriel’s Wedding, part The Castle. Instead, she wrote Girl In Between, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Vogel’s Award. She says ‘I’ve always loved comedy which not only makes you laugh but also pulls at your heartstrings. I think a lot of people may be able to relate to Lucy’s story!’
Girl in Between is a warm, upbeat and often hilarious story about life at the crossroads. Featuring an endearing and irrepressible cast of characters, it will have you chuckling from start to finish.
More about Anna Daniels:
|Anna Daniels has enjoyed great success as a comedic storyteller since kicking off her career by winning the ABC’s ‘Comedy Segment of the Year Award’ for an interview with Russell Crowe. She then went on to co-create the ABC’s first online sketch comedy series ‘Tough at the Top’ with Melbourne comedian, Anne Edmonds. For several years Anna wrote and presented funny upbeat stories for The Project, winning over viewers with her warm, silly, endearing style.
Having grown up in Rockhampton, she particularly championed the stories and characters of rural and regional Australia with affection and humour. As well as The Project, Anna has written, presented and/or produced radio, TV and online content for Queensland Weekender, Red Symons’ Breakfast Show, and the BBC One series, ‘John Bishop’s Australia’. Anna continues to report for The Project and often presents on ABC Radio Brisbane.
Finding opportunities to connect with readers, and overcoming a feeling of isolation, are twin challenges in the early stages of a writing career, when you are still finding your feet–and your voice! Recently, an informal writers’ group formed in London(of which my son Xavier is a member) launched an enterprise to rise to the challenge of both those things: City Writers’ Room, a curated blog site showcasing their writing, starting with narrative non-fiction. Today, I talk to Sandra Teles, one of the City Writers Room group.
Sandra Teles is an actress. Having worked in areas of film, television and theatre, she continues taking her experience to the field of writing.
First of all, congratulations to you and the other editors on the launch of City Writers Room! How did it start? And what were the challenges–and discoveries– you faced along the way to launching the site?
Thank you for talking to us about our new venture. We attended a narrative non-fiction writing course at City University London last Summer. Many of us said we’d keep in touch, as most people hope to after they finish a course. Amanda Riddick took the initiative and got everyone together. Some of us continued to meet once a month to discuss our writing. Few months later, we talked about putting our writing on a kind of writers’ forum to critique it, giving each other feedback, etc. It very soon snowballed into creating our own blog. We discussed why we wanted to do this, who were we writing for, what were we going to write about? And finally, we settled on writing about city living — people, places, the challenges, the insights, topics hidden that we tend to deflect because they may not be mainstream.
The big challenge was finding the headroom to write consistently, and it still is. Many will agree the hardest part about writing is the discipline to write, actually sitting down patiently and being able to face a blank screen and not have anything coming to you — until it does.
You could also have viable ideas but they vanish quickly if you don’t write them down. There’s something to be said about scribbling on paper an idea that crosses your mind, or taking a photo of something that captures your imagination. It could give rise to a topic worth exploring. Ideas are abundant, but it’s a numbers game as only very few stick. So getting involved in this venture together has made us more attentive to those seeds of ideas.
City Writers Room is particularly focussed on narrative non-fiction writing about cities, in all kinds of aspects. Can you tell us more about that?
Since we worked on the narrative non-fiction course at City University, we’ve started with non-fiction. We’re still exploring topics that interest us like travel, history, politics, people, even film; and their relation to cities. I write fiction mostly; but it’s been a fruitful exercise reading and writing non-fiction. Both feed off each other so it would be a shame to not include fiction. The other writers (Carole Allsop, Xavier Masson-Leach, Ellen O’Hara and Amanda Riddick) have a strong point of view with regard to the non-fiction topics they choose to write about.
Can you tell us about how City Writers Room works, as a writing showcase?
We talked about City Writers Room being a forum for ideas, writing about people and places. In that we have the freedom to be as creative as we want so we can fine tune our craft as writers. We all have a voice and finding it takes time. We’ve all been writing in one way or another for years, but all of us felt ready to publish at this point in time. It does leave us feeling exposed but there’s comfort in knowing that we support each other in the endeavor.
Your writers are all very different in their approach to writing. Can you expand on that?
We’re very lucky to have come together on this venture. All our styles are different which showcases more variety. Interestingly, we’ve all traveled and lived in a number of cities. And although we have different interests, our strengths don’t clash, only complement. A couple of us really enjoy writing character profiles, so it might even lead to a further collaboration of some sort. For the time being, we are keeping things flexible. It’s an exciting time for all of us. There’s no expectation to be a particular kind of writer. We can stay true to our sensibilities and explore all kinds of writing styles if we want.
What’s the reaction of readers been like so far?
The feedback we’ve gotten has been hugely positive. We already have writers who’ve approached us to write articles for City Writers Room. That’s a big deal — when you get people excited to collaborate. Everyone has a story to tell and hopefully they see this as a platform to express those stories.
What does City Writers Room hope to achieve in the future?
It would be fantastic to bring together a community of writers (local to international) who are willing to share their stories. City Writers Room aims to uplift, entertain and even question the status quo. It would be great to build a space where writers can feel passionate about their work, feel like they can test their material to see what sticks. We’re taking small steps to get there and for now, we’re keeping an open mind as to the direction it might lead. In the very least, if we are able to kick start a process of writing consistently for ourselves, we will have succeeded in the venture.