Macquarie Dictionary

Author Q&A

Good Reading Magazine Blog


8 Questions with TW Lawless

TW Lawless is an Australian author living in Melbourne. The main character in his two books is Peter Clancy; a hard-drinking, hard-living journalist for the ‘Melbourne Truth’ newspaper.


Why do you write crime/thrillers and not in another genre?

I’m a big history buff but I can’t get excited about writing historical fiction and I don’t think I’m a natural for romantic fiction or chick lit. My first book, Homecountry, was originally a screenplay, but I thought it worked better as a book. After that, I was hooked on writing thrillers.

TW Lawless is a pseudonym, why do you use a penname and is there a well-chosen pun in your alias?

It certainly sounds as if there should be, doesn’t it? The truth is that Lawless is one of my family’s ancestral surnames and also happens to be one of my middle names. I just dropped the Bell at the end. I thought Lawless sounded more thrilling. 

Can you tell us a bit about your non-writing world?

Most of the time I am in the writing world but when I come out of it, my wife and I like to spend time with friends and family. We’re homebodies, I guess. Music is a passion and I play guitar—rock, R&B, a bit of jazz— I love it. However, I write every day.

Why did you decide to independently publish your books?

I admit I’m a control freak. I want to be involved in everything. I obviously write the books but I’m also involved in the book cover design, the trailer and website design, social media management, publicity and the business part. As an independent publisher, I have complete creative control.

Did you try the traditional publishing route?

Refer to above.  Art and authenticity drive me, however, I am pitching the books to three agents and publishers in August just to see what happens. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.

Did you ever want to be a journalist like your character Peter Clancy?

I studied journalism briefly but then veered off into the health field. Investigative or music journalism would have suited me best. Though I think the lifestyle may have taken a toll on me.

Thornydevils is a good, strong, sexy read. It’s a prime fit for a TV series or a movie. Have you approached anyone about this?

Not yet. Do you know anyone? I have an idea who I would like to play Peter Clancy though!

What’s going to happen next to Peter Clancy? And to TW Lawless?

If I told you, I’d have to gag you. Let’s just say, I envisage at least ten more Peter Clancy books and me writing until my fingers are full of arthritis.  


10 questions for Adelaide Poet Jackie Barreau

Through a Mother's Eyes: Poems of Love, Loss and Moving Forward by Jackie Barreau. 

Through a Mother’s Eyes was inspired by the death of Jackie’s two sons.

The book would have brought back many memories, but when you finished it, did it bring about much needed release?

It was cathartic, and was much needed therapy and the sense that I think it has allowed me to ‘let go’, if that’s possible.

How long have you been writing poetry and what poets excite you the most?

I started to write poetry straight after the deaths of Luke and Cody in 1998. It wasn’t until my eldest daughter Tayla, was diagnosed in 2012 with a rare tumour and genetic condition that I decided to write a book. I enjoy reading free verse poetry and adore Nan Whitcomb; I think we have a similar style.

The book is filled with many wonderful photos and images; did you choose them and how did you connect them to the poems?

The images were hand-picked by me and I wanted the connection between the poems and the images to be meaningful. I could have gone down the path of iStockphoto or the like, but I wanted to showcase the beautiful local landscapes around S.A. I was fortunate to have a very capable and talented S.A. photographer whose work I was familiar with. The other images of my son Luke’s belongings were also photographed by the same person. Again I wanted this collection of poetry to be personal and that also meant photographing images of Luke’s things.

In one of your poems you say ‘Sometimes we need to experience death before we can truly live.’ Can you explain this for us?

I feel that sometimes after the death of a child, or even a loved one, that you become stagnant and perhaps feel like you are in a holding pattern. Death is something we all will face in our lifetimes (some more than others) but by experiencing death we can learn to live a more fulfilled life, incorporating compassion and other virtues which we may not have had the opportunity to otherwise, in a spiritual or more deeper sense. I firmly believe in life after death and in karma.

How have you found the self-publishing process?

I have loved every bit of it, from the writing, to researching publishers/editors to putting together the cover art and images. It was incredibly time consuming but well worth it as I feel the end result is a well-presented book, that I hope many will identify with and appreciate. I feel a strong sense of achievement and am also incredibly proud of this book.

Not a lot of self-published books are as well presented as this book. How did you come up with the design and the format for this book? It is 215x215 mm.

My aim was to produce the best book I could whilst keeping within budget. Having a basic knowledge of design helped, plus I am also a perfectionist. I wanted an image that portrayed what the book was all about, and once I found the image for the front cover I knew that it was the right choice. A friend who is a graphic designer put it together and I looked at other book covers to find the look I was after. I was fairly set in what I wanted. As far as the book size went, again I looked at others and I liked a book by Adelaide poet Valerie Volk her book was a similar size.

Can you tell us about the other writing you do?

I have a blog where I share my experiences as a bereaved mother, and write about other inspiring individuals. I also write for an online community for infant/child loss and infertility. I enjoy sharing my experience with others that have, or are facing similar ordeals. A few of my poems have also featured in an anthology titled ‘Wings of Love: Poetry and Prose for the Heart’. My first foray into writing was over a decade ago when my short story featured in a collection of stories based around miscarriage, stillbirth, and neo natal death titled ‘A Silent Love’ by author Adrienne Ryan.

A percentage from the purchase price of this book goes to the WCH Foundation, can you tell us a bit about them and how they helped?

My aim was to give back to the incredible staff, nurses and doctors of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) here in Adelaide, via their foundation. WCH Hospital and the WCH Foundation have helped support us through our journey. It was fitting that a percentage be donated back to the Paediatric Palliative Care Service (PPCS) as they nursed Luke through those final weeks and supported us for some years afterwards. Then when our daughter Tayla, was diagnosed in 2012, with a rare disease similar to our son’s, the nurses again were extremely supportive. The WCH Foundation has supported me by being able to help channel funds we have raised so far from book sales and other fundraising activities into a project for the PPCS. They have helped with book reviews and promoted my book on their website and social media channels.

If there was a formula for overcoming grief, can you give pointers to help people?

Is there a formula for overcoming grief, I am not sure. It is a process and it takes time, every individual is different. Don’t rush it, learn to accept how voracious and consuming it can be. But above all accept help. Don’t feel as though you have failed if you need a professional to confide in. Sometimes you need someone outside looking in to give you valuable advice. Talking about it will help the healing process.

I’m sure you hope to never go through anything like what inspired this book, but are you working on another book of poetry? 

I don’t have immediate plans at this stage to write more poetry, but this may also depend on my daughter and her health. I would love to write about other people’s experiences with similar types of health challenges, and also write about my daughter’s journey with a rare disease/genetic condition, possibly in the form of a memoir. Above all I hope to educate and create much needed awareness about rare diseases.


Q&A with Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard, author of Labor Day, chats to us about the stories behind the novel, and the journey of adapting it into a film starring Kate Winslet & Josh Brolin. The DVD is out now!

Can you tell us about the events that inspired the writing of Labor Day?

OK. Long answer for this one.  Here goes:

This novel of mine – though it’s a product of my imagination, not my experience – contains elements of so many of my deepest obsessions.  I think that’s why I wrote it so easily and swiftly – almost as if I were transcribing a story being dictated to me from inside my brain.

Anyone who has read my work for a while can recognize a few obvious connections to my history, starting with the experience of having been, for many years, a single parent of sons (also a daughter), living in a small town not unlike the imaginary town in which I located the novel. I like to think I have a somewhat more stable and grounded hold on reality and life in the world than Adelle (and am, if anything, the opposite of agoraphobic).  But I share a number of her attributes:  For starters, there’s a hugely romantic nature and a love of dancing (though not her abilities on the dance floor; that part is the stuff of fantasy).  On a deeper level I understand well the sorrow and regret a woman feels, when the dream of family life as she envisioned it has left her.  My sons – though I like to think they would weigh in with more positive feelings about their growing up years than negative ones – could certainly identify with the feelings Henry has, of undue responsibility for his mother.  (Henry’s innocent gift, to Adelle, of the Husband-for-a-Day coupon was inspired by a similar gift presented to me one Christmas by my son Charlie, when he was around nine or ten.)

I am always interested – no, fascinated – by children’s perceptions of the adults in their world.  The mysterious subject of sex, the first discovery of one’s own sexuality, and the disquieting experience – for a child of divorced parents in particular – of witnessing a parent’s sexuality even as they embark on their own sexual lives. Complicated enough, when a child is contemplating the idea of his parents together – but the experience for a young person (a boy in particular) of seeing his mother with some other man is one I have thought about for a long time. Ever since my son Willy – then age 7 – responded to my going out on a date for the first time, after separating from his father, by taking a kitchen knife and plunging it directly into the crotch of a cardboard effigy of the country singer Randy Travis that I had propped up in our front hall…

(Willy is now 24 by the way.  A very healthy person who displays no signs of being a psychopath.)

Back to the obsession list.  My experience of having gone through a painful custody battle many years ago – and the horrifying experience of being evaluated as a mother by a guardian ad litem – is in there.  My history as a teenage girl with eating disorders also surfaced in this story, along with the guilt I carry about a betrayal I committed – at around that time in life-- of a classmate’s trust in me, when around age 14 – an event that formed the basis for the first story I ever published in a magazine (Seventeen), somewhere around 1970…

Another experience that found its way into this novel (and one I also wrote about, in non-fiction form, a few years back) was a kind of fantasy love affair I found myself in, when I was myself a young and very lonely single mother, living in a small New Hampshire town with my three young children. I got a letter (first one, then a hundred more) from a man in prison, who seemed to know and understand me better than anyone else.  (I eventually learned – when it appeared he was getting out of prison and coming to visit my children and me – that this man was a double murderer. I first told the story at The Moth in New York, and later wrote it in an essay that appeared in Vogue, and in a collection published a few years back, called Mr. Wrong).

I will add here, that this is the third time in which I have chosen, for the central character of a novel of mine, a character who is thirteen years old.  This is clearly an age that means a lot to me, and though I haven’t been thirteen for many decades, I still feel very connected to that time of life.

One odd little obsession that I included in the novel, with particular pleasure, concerns pie.  Ever since the death of my mother, nineteen years ago, I have set myself the task of teaching pie making to anyone I encounter who expresses frustration with making good crust – and the numbers of my past students have long since entered the triple digits.  (I have also often run large gatherings of pie students at my home, to raise money for my political candidate … always a democrat). I could talk a lot about what this pie exercise means to me – certainly it has to do with my mother, but also with honouring the old ways of doing things by hand, and paying attention to instinct (more than a recipe). And I have to add, I love it that I was able to include, in a work of fiction, instructions for making a pie crust that really will result in a good pie, if followed.

The final obsession I will mention here – and it is the one that inspired my first novel, Baby Love, twenty eight years ago – is babies.  Although I am very different from Adele in many ways, the way she feels about having a baby is how I felt all my life.  And what Frank says concerning the importance of paying attention to babies – and later, his thoughts are echoed by Henry, when he becomes a parent of a daughter –is everything I believe, myself.  I have never met a baby I didn’t like, or a crying baby I didn’t feel I could bring to a state of calm.    I just like babies a whole lot, and loved writing about that part here.

I want to add:  I did not intentionally set out to address any of these topics.  They just came out, because they’re all the things that interest me most.  No doubt this is why I loved writing this novel and wrote it so fast.  I could not stop writing.  I wanted to read it.

Did you have much of a role in creating the movie adaptation?

I had no official role in the movie adaptation, but Jason Reitman, who adapted my novel into a screenplay and directed the film, became a real and trusted friend during this process.  I read several drafts of the screenplay and made small suggestions, but felt that in all the important ways, Jason captured the feeling of my novel.  Of course, I have to add, there is no way the film could contain all the complexities of the novel.  So I always hope moviegoers will feel moved to read the novel after they see the movie, or before.

I will add here that undoubtedly my biggest contribution to the film lay in the pie scene.  From the first time I met Jason, I was very insistent that the pie made by Frank, the escaped convict played by Josh Brolin in the film, should not look like a perfect, magazine-style of pie.  I wanted it to look like a pie made by a real person, a man on the run.  Now, I make great pies, and I'm quite proud of my pie, but my pies definitely look a little, shall we say … rustic. So, Jason suggested that I come to the set, on the first day of filming, to teach Josh how to make the pie.  I was happy to oblige. 

He became a terrific pie baker, by the way.

Once the movie was completed, was the final product what you expected?

I love this movie.  It still makes me cry.

You’ve already had one of your novels, To Die For, adapted into a movie. Was the adaptation of Labor Day a similar experience?

Totally different.  The only similarity between the experiences:  Both novels were adapted into terrific movies.  Since I am talking to an Australian audience here, I have to add that I think Nicole Kidman's performance in that movie is extraordinary.  Her best ever in my opinion.

Is it strange seeing the characters that were completely your own being portrayed by actors and interpreted in different ways on screen?

 It's a huge thrill.  With Labor Day, I got to see an entire town – the town was Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts – transformed into a world I had created in my head.  And there, speaking lines I wrote, and going by the name I had chosen for her, stood Kate Winslet.  A writer's dream.

If one of your memoirs was to be adapted into a movie, who would play you?

Well, I'd want to play myself, of course!

What are some of your favourite books?

Where to begin?  Since yesterday was the birthday of the person who inspired me more than any other to become a writer, I will name just one.  Anne Frank. Had she lived, she would have turned 84 on June 3. I read The Diary of a Young Girl when I was twelve, and knew I wanted to write.

And favourite movies?

Once again … where to begin?  But I'll name one I consider a nearly perfect movie:  The Graduate.  The novel was adapted by my friend Buck Henry, who also did the adaptation of my novel To Die For.

Your most recent novel, After Her, was released in August last year – what’s next?

I'm hard at work on a new novel this very day.  It's about female friendship, and betrayal.

Check out a video of Joynce Maynard talking about Labor Day here:



Ten Questions with Allison V Garcia


Allison chats to us about her love of the supernatural and her book Nothing North


What’s the hardest thing about writing a novel?

The most challenging part for me is wanting the reader to stay engaged with the story right through to the end. After every few chapters, I always check in with myself and ask: “Is this a story I want to read?” and I always keep the reader in mind when introducing new scenes and characters. Even when I decide to kill off a character, I always think about the possible reaction from the reader. In the end, writing a novel gives me great satisfaction, but the story is not for me, it’s for the reader because I’m the one telling a story, and I want to make sure that they’re entertained. The ending for me is very crucial and one of the most challenging parts of writing a novel – I want it to be perfect for the readers.

With each novel that you write, does the process become easier or quicker?

The process of writing has become easier and quicker for me because I have more experience in setting out scenes, exploring moods and growing each character to their full capacity. Trusting in my imagination plays a huge part in storytelling as well. To help things move faster, I conduct a full character profile for each character, no matter how small their role is, and I set out a detailed draft for each chapter. By doing this, it makes it much easier for me to start the story at full speed. Before I even start working on chapter one, I make sure to know these three things: What is happening? Why is it happening? How is it going to end? If I can answer those three questions with confidence, then I know I have a tight storyline and all I need to do is fill in the gaps.

What attracts you to the thriller and supernatural genres?

I’ve always been drawn to the supernatural and anything mysterious because there are so many questions, legends and stories but very few answers. So the “what if?” question always hangs above my head. The world of the supernatural intrigues me because it is so mysterious and worth exploring further. I’m more curious than afraid. I think to some degree, we like to be scared for entertainment and I’ve noticed a rising interest in Halloween and scary movies that have recently come out. It is very true that you can scare readers without turning them off with blood and other gruesome details. I’ve always stayed clear from that anyway, as I don’t want to turn my readers off but I do aim in giving readers a chill down their spine. As a lover of the thriller genre, I sometimes combine the two together because I can’t help myself. I find ways how the two can be combined successfully whilst letting the characters dig deep to solve their current challenge. Anything can happen when writing a thriller - you can make it as dark as you want whilst having the reluctant hero in the end.  It’s really up to me and I love that freedom.

Would you consider delving into any other genres?

I said before in another interview that I would never do that, but never say never. The more I read and research, the more I get interested in testing the waters with other genres. In the meantime, the thriller and supernatural thriller genre are in my mind but I have stretched my wings to children’s picture books recently and it’s so much fun.

How have your family influenced your writing?

I would definitely say that my family history has influenced my writing in some way. I have a very strong family history of police officers and homicide detectives in my blood so their dangerous work influenced my novels in many ways, especially when there is a murder or some desperate cover-up. I remember hearing some of their personal accounts of how dark someone can truly be and how courageous some can be when they’re seeking true justice. My family encourage and support my writing and are amused how I manage to write past twelve o’clock in the morning. Writing at night is the best time for me.

Did any kind of special research go into the writing of Nothing North?

There is a strong supernatural element in “Nothing North” and I did consult a Medium about troublesome spirits and the supernatural. While she clarified that it’s not like what we see in horror movies, it was very good to know that the majority of such supernatural occurrences are not malicious, just misunderstood. Did she believe in the existence of evil spirits? Yes, absolutely, but that’s an answer I’m still debating on. I also read various supernatural books and whilst some are out to scare you, others are very educational and remove any fear and confusion.

How do you come up with characters?

Imagination! I’ve never struggled with creating characters as my imagination seems to have this special “on” button and suddenly I have this wave of inspiration about each character and what they should look like and how they should talk and also any unique habits they have. I’m lucky enough to have never suffered from writers block. Setting up a full character profile is also useful because it helps pave the way and ensures that every character sounds unique. That way, I can always go back and take reference from them and make sure that I am staying true to them and not wandering off.

Which authors have inspired or influenced you the most?

I actually have a small selection of authors that I admire. Stephen King has inspired me to think outside the box because he writes such strong gripping tales in places you would never think of and I love that he’s such a prolific writer – his mind must be exploding with ideas! Susan Hill is another author who knows how to write a good ghost story without the use of blood and gore. Katherine Howell knows how to keep me on the edge of my seat!

What are some of your favourite books?

I can’t go past “The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill. That story kept me up at night. I read it in two days and thought it was brilliantly written. When looking towards home, I can’t go past any book written by Katherine Howell. I love reading how her character, Detective Ella Marconi, continues on solving vicious murders. Her debut novel “Frantic” was excellently written and kept my eyes glued to each page because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next. “Misery” by Stephen King is a classic and shows the irony of someone being obsessed with an author within a book! I like biographies too, like “Papillon” by Henri Charrière.

What’s up next? 

I am in the middle of co-writing and co-illustrating a children’s picture book series called “The Adventures of Max and Oscar: Curse of the Halloween Zombie!” with my sister, Samantha. It’s a super fun journey following ten year old Max and his beloved Dachshund dog Oscar, as they solve supernatural adventures together. Also, Samantha and I are also co-writing together a supernatural thriller series for the grown-ups titled “Cinema 4 – The Dark Force Chronicles”. The story is intensively dark and full of mystery, but no doubt full of action and suspense. I will never write on my own again, and Samantha has a very creative imagination like I do. She comes up with these amazing scenes that I would have never thought of. Together, we balance each other out and feed on our ideas. She’s also an excellent illustrator so it was easy to put together “The Adventures of Max and Oscar.” I suppose magic happens when two Gemini sisters come together!


Q&A with Ursula Dubosarsky


Ten questions with one of Australia's best author's for young people! The new book in Ursula and Terry Denton's Cryptic Casebook series, The Dismal Daffodil is now available at all good bookshops and online.


What are some of the best books you’ve ever read?

“Gone is Gone” by Wanda Gag, “An Episode of Sparrows” by Rumer Godden, and “Come by Chance” by Madeleine Winch.  


Are there any particular books or authors that you read when you were young that inspired you?

I loved detective stories as a child (and an adult) so I think in some ways almost all of my books, from picture books to novels, are essentially mystery stories.  Something at the beginning is hidden or misunderstood, and the plot is a kind of revelation or discovery.  


What appeals to you about writing for children?

The freedom of expression – you can go anywhere in a story for children. For example, I think I’d find it pretty hard to publish a series of books about a guinea pig detective for adults! But in the world of children’s books, everything is possible.  


Apart from the obvious differences in language and subject matter, what are the main differences between adult and children’s writing?

Well, the kind of children’s books I like are really trying to see the world through the mind of a child – not through the mind of an adult trying to tell the child something, if that makes sense.  


Your book with Andrew Joyner, Too Many Elephants in this House, is being used for National Simultaneous Story Time. What’s it like knowing that hundreds and thousands of Aussie kids will be reading your story at exactly the same time?

VERY VERY exciting. Such a simple, clever idea – Andrew and I are absolutely thrilled about it – overwhelmed really. Can’t wait!  


What’s it like working with Terry Denton? Do the illustrations always turn out the way you pictured them?

It’s a huge pleasure - Terry is such a witty, imaginative, crazy and clever illustrator. I never waste time picturing anything – I just wait and see what Terry comes up with!  


How was the character of Coco Carlomagno born?

Well, Terry and I and Anna McFarlane from Allen and Unwin sat around one day, chatting about the idea of a puzzle detective series for children. And Terry started doodling as we kept on chatting, and somehow Coco started to take shape in Terry’s little notebook.  A miracle birth!  


Why did you choose Buenos Aires as a setting for your series The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta)? Have you visited Buenos Aires? 

My husband Avi grew up in Buenos Aires, and I’ve visited it several times. It’s such a grand and fascinating city. The thought of setting the books there was irresistible. And of course, guinea pigs come from South America...  


The Dismal Daffodil is the fourth book in the series. What do you love about writing books in this series?  

As in any book I write it’s the characters I enjoy the most – in this case, guinea pigs.  I really enjoy the relationship between Coco and his cousin, Alberta – and I also love Coco’s nemesis, little Ernesto.  It’s enormous fun thinking of the ridiculous situations, and then inventing and fitting in the puzzles into the narrative.

Can we look forward to more alliteratively-titled Coco Carlomagno titles in the near future?

Yes, coming soon – “The Quivering Quavers” and “The Talkative Tombstone” – where will it all end???