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Quintette of Questions: Michael Farrell

Cover art: artwork: ‘Apparent Acquittal’ by Melbourne artist Spiros Panigirakis

Today I’m asking Michael Farrell 5 questions about his latest book!

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

Family Trees.  I knew that was the right title once I hit on it. Like a number of my book titles, it comes from a poem title in the book, but the meaning can be read more generally. Also, I didn’t realise till afterwards how many trees recur in the poems.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book? (or What things inspired you in writing these poems? )

To answer this question, it seems too easy to suggest Jude Law would be a good Pope Pinocchio, but maybe LIzzo would be good also.

In terms of inspiration:

  • 1: reading, especially history, for example Edward Browne’s A Literary History of Persia, also Hardt and Virno’s Radical Thought in Italy 
  • 2: spending time on the SE coast of NSW near Bega, and in my home town of Bombala; pop music: Laurie Anderson, Chrissie Amphlett, Radiohead, Frank Sinatra — and painting — and TV (Kimba, yet again). 

3. What five words best describe your story?

Love, the bush, pop, animals, trees

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

Jeeves and Wooster

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

There are many, but I will plump for Sharkey’s Day, by Laurie Anderson.

About  Family Trees

The poems in Michael Farrell’s Family Trees operate according to a queer and inclusive logic, which binds humans, animals, objects, plants and concepts in familial relationships.

The poems model contact through affection, sharing, and attention – sometimes violent attention. They tell strange stories – tall tales from the country, rambling reminiscences, shaggy-dog stories – of weird and wonderful things: the coffin with legs that walked, an infertile rabbit that fosters a lamb, robots hunting in Kenya for the little white lion of Tokyo, an argumentative sock-puppet, marsupial geese and singing worms, and Pope Pinocchio, who thinks his heartbeat powers Italy.

The characters in these scenarios think, gossip, sleep and work. A phrase, a detail, an object can send them in a hundred directions. Anything can be a twig (or bud or leaf or fruit) on Farrell’s family trees.

Buy  Family Trees

About  Michael Farrell

Photo: Nicholas Walton-Healey

Michael Farrell grew up in Bombala, NSW and has lived in Melbourne since 1990. He has edited two anthologies: Out of the Box, Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets (with Jill Jones) and Ashbery Mode. His book I Love Poetry won the Queensland Literary Award for Poetry in 2018, and was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Awards. Cocky’s Joy was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Awards in 2016. He won the 2012 Peter Porter Poetry Prize for ‘Beautiful Mother’, a poem which includes Hebrew and merges the stories of Jesus and Kimba.

Michael has a PhD from the University of Melbourne: a revised version of his thesis was published as Writing Australian Unsettlement: Modes of Poetic Invention 1796-1945 (Palgrave Macmillan). He is currently a Juncture Fellow at Sydney Review of Books. He also edits a magazine Flash Cove with designer Wendy Cooper.

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So many book launches and author talks have had to be cancelled, I’ve decided to run as many Quintettes as I can to share some great upcoming work – and let you stock up on things to read while we’re all self-isolating.

Quintette of Questions: Christine Bell

Today I’m asking Christine Bell 5 questions about her latest book!

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

No Small Shame isn’t the original title. My publisher ‘stole’ one of my chapter titles for the book, (their words 🙂 ), as they said the original title reflected the story of one of the other main characters more than that of my protagonist. I’d never thought of it that way; but once it was pointed out, it made perfect sense. I’ve known the story by its old title for such a long time, sometimes I worry I might accidentally call the book by the wrong name. Now though, combined with the gorgeous cover, I can’t really imagine No Small Shame being called anything else.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

Once, I would’ve cast Olive Thomas, an early 20th century silent movie actress to play the role of Mary, my main character. Thomas had the exact same look, the unruly hair and defiant eyes. But seeing Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, I can easily imagine her playing Mary, except Ronan’s growing older faster than the book is likely to be made into a movie! Liam Hemsworth would make the perfect Liam. He’s the build, the looks, and could carry all the promise and sweetness lost.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Evocative, heartbreaking, authentic, compelling, tragic.

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

I loved Tom and Isabel Sherbourne from The Light Between Oceans. Their great love created an impossible dilemma. But a greater love has no man than to give up his principles for the happiness of the woman he loves. And ultimately, Isabel gave up everything for Tom in return. The impossible moral choice resonates in No Small Shame.

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

At first, I found this question really hard and then came the answer, boom! There is a scene that could be written and included if the book was made into a movie. It wouldn’t need any dialogue just visuals and the song Angel sung by Sarah MacLachlan. The mood, melody and lyrics all so hauntingly evoke Mary’s relationship with her husband.

About  No Small Shame

Australia, 1914. The world is erupting in war. Jobs are scarce and immigrants unwelcome. For young Catholic Mary O’Donnell, this is not the new life she imagined. When one foolish night of passion leads to an unexpected pregnancy and a loveless marriage, Mary’s reluctant husband Liam escapes to the trenches. With her overbearing mother attempting to control her every decision, Mary flees to Melbourne determined to build a life for herself and her child.

There, she forms an unlikely friendship with Protestant army reject Tom Robbins. But as a shattering betrayal is revealed, Mary must make an impossible choice. Does she embrace the path fate has set for her, or follow the one she longs to take? From the harshness of a pit village in Scotland to the upheaval of wartime Australia, No Small Shame tells the moving story of love and duty, loyalty and betrayal, and confronting the past before you can seek a future.

Buy  No Small Shame

About  Christine Bell

Christine Bell is a Melbourne fiction writer. Her debut historical novel No Small Shame will be published by Ventura Press (Impact) April 2020. In October 2019, Christine was awarded the inaugural Historical Novel Society Australasia (HNSA) Colleen McCullough Residency for an Established Writer. She is a Varuna fellow and holds a Master of Creative Writing (RMIT). Christine has had 35 short fiction works published for children. No Small Shame is her first adult novel.

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So many book launches and author talks have had to be cancelled, I’ve decided to run as many Quintettes as I can to share some great upcoming work – and let you stock up on things to read while we’re all self-isolating.

Quintette of Questions: PJ Blakey-Novis

Today I’m asking PJ Blakey-Novis 5 questions about his latest book!

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

My latest book is Four, a horror novella. The title came about as there are four key characters who take a camping trip into the English countryside, then telling four stories around the fire which they hope will scare the others. Only not all is as it seems, and each member of the group has something to hide. The story contains four shorts interwoven within a longer story.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

If the book was to be made into a film (I can dream, right?), I could see Taron Egerton and Keira Knightly playing the parts of Noah and Martha, with perhaps Daniel Radcliffe as Daniel in the book. Casting Stephen is more difficult as he’s a quieter character, more of an outcast.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Campfire, anthology, ghosts, killers, and (most importantly, I think) revenge.

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple ?

Probably Natasha and Sebastian, from my debut novel The Broken Doll. A lot of our friends think the characters are based on myself and my wife, but if that’s true then it was subconsciously. I just like the way they act around one another, and how they cope with the horrific turns they have to deal with as the story progresses.

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

The first thing to comes to mind is Firestarter by The Prodigy. Of course, fire features heavily in the novella, and there is an atmosphere of anger and vengeance as we reach the climax.

About Four

From the author of Embrace the Darkness, Tunnels, and The Artist comes Four. Four friends spend a night away camping in the English countryside, each taking a turn to tell a horror story that will terrify the others. But the group soon discover that there is more to be afraid of than just some campfire tales, and that no one is as innocent as they seem.

Buy Four

About PJ Blakey-Novis

P.J. Blakey-Novis is a British writer living on the south coast of England. He is the author of four collections of short horror stories to date, a horror novella, two psychological thriller novels, and a children’s book. P.J. has also had stories included in a number of anthologies. 

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So many book launches and author talks have had to be cancelled, I’ve decided to run as many Quintettes as I can to share some great upcoming work – and let you stock up on things to read while we’re all self-isolating.

Quintette of Questions: Angela Savage

Today I’m asking Angela Savage 5 questions about her latest book!

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how hard was it to pick a title?

I found the title for my novel Mother of Pearl fairly early on in the course of writing it. I don’t want to give too much away for readers–there’s a moment late in the novel when you realise the significance of the title–but part of the inspiration came from something a friend once said about a pearl being the perfect metaphor for a baby: an irritant inside of you that emerges as a thing of beauty.

While writing the novel, I also saw an exhibition called Lustre: Pearling & Australia when it visited Melbourne from the Western Australian Museum, where I was struck by this quote from Marilynne Paspaley: ‘The pearl is the only gem that is made by a living creature…it represents life, as every other gem is made by the passing of time and decay.’ Pearls, both literal and metaphorical, ended up permeating the novel.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

I’d have Claudia Karvan play Anna and Asher Keddie play Meg (bringing the Love My Way cast members back together again!). Yayaying Rhatha Phongnam, who did great work in the Thai-Swedish noir Farang, could play Mukda. And I’d have David Wenham circa 1998 play Nate.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Nuanced, thoughtful, transporting, luminous, curious.

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple ?

I’m going with the first couple that sprang to mind: Hana and Kip in The English Patient (and only partly because of the scenes between Juliette Binoche and Naveen Andrews in the film version!).

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

There’s actually quite a lot of music referenced in Mother of Pearl; I even made a playlist on Spotify. My favourite of these is ‘Midnight Lullaby’ by Tom Waits; I actually wrote a scene in the book for the song.

About Mother of Pearl

A luminous and courageous story about the hopes and dreams we all have for our lives and relationships, and the often fraught and unexpected ways they may be realised.

Angela Savage draws us masterfully into the lives of Anna, an aid worker trying to settle back into life in Australia after more than a decade in Southeast Asia; Meg, Anna’s sister, who holds out hope for a child despite seven fruitless years of IVF; Meg’s husband Nate, and Mukda, a single mother in provincial Thailand who wants to do the right thing by her son and parents.

The women and their families’ lives become intimately intertwined in the unsettling and extraordinary process of trying to bring a child into the world across borders of class, culture and nationality. Rich in characterisation and feeling, Mother of Pearl and the timely issues it raises will generate discussion among readers everywhere.

Buy Mother of Pearl

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is an award winning Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her latest novel, Mother of Pearl, is published by Transit Lounge. Her debut, Behind the Night Bazaar, won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and all three of her Jayne Keeney PI novels were shortlisted for Ned Kelly Awards. Angela also won the 2011 Scarlett Stiletto Award for short crime fiction.

Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written By WomenCrime ScenesReview of Australian Fiction, and Hard Labour. She has published non-fiction in Smith JournalSunday LifeThe Big Issue and AsiaLIFE among others.

Angela has appeared as at major writers festivals and events across Australia and in the USA. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing, giving her the Bond villain-like name of Doctor Savage. Angela currently works as director of Writers Victoria.

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So many book launches and author talks have had to be cancelled, I’ve decided to run as many Quintettes as I can to share some great upcoming work – and let you stock up on things to read while we’re all self-isolating.