Rhiza Press Blog

Rhiza Press blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Australian books for Adult and Young Adult readers.

Rhiza Catches Up With Patricia Weerakoon About Winning The Caleb Prize

WeerakoonPatriciaEmpire’s Children by Patricia Weerakoon recently won the Caleb Prize for faith-inspired fiction at the Omega Writers Conference. Rhiza Press caught up with Patricia to discuss her novel and what it means to her.

1) Sum up Empire’s Children in one catchy sentence.
Set in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka in the dying days of British colonial rule, Empire's Children is a story of the redemptive power of love over the destructive force of exploitative power, racial tensions and abuse.

2) What first impelled you to write this story?
My father was a tea-maker during the time of British colonial rule of the plantations in Sri Lanka. This novel is both recognition of and a dedication to the Sri Lankan natives like my parents and the Indian indentured labourers like Lakshmi and her parents, who made a life under difficult and often demeaning circumstances.

3) Empire’s Children follows so many individual stories. Did you have a favourite, or one you liked writing the most?
Dr Jega Jayaseelan is my favorite. The illegitimate son of the British superintendent and Indian coolie labourer turned sex worker, he has the resilience to withstand the prejudices of Sri Lankan culture towards Eurasian children and makes an outstanding career for himself. Yet, when faced with the decision, he is unselfish and self-sacrificing enough to give up Shiro, the girl he loves, to his half-brother Anthony so they could find happiness.

4) Which character do you think readers most relate to in the novel?
I hope they relate to Shiro. She is feisty, brilliant and determined, yet deeply vulnerable when it comes to love.

5) Even though it is set in Sri Lanka fifty years ago, do you think there are a lot of parallels to modern day Australia?
Racial prejudices and power play between the rich and poor across countries, cultures and time.

6) What is your favourite part about being an author?
I live with my characters. My readers see only a sliver of my characters’ lives, I know them intimately. I know what happened in their life before they enter the page and what they do long after. They wake up with me and walk through the day by my side.

7) What is the hardest part about being an author?
Letting go of my characters when I move to another novel or story.

8) Explain how you felt when Empire’s Children won the Caleb Award?
Unbelief! My first novel! Surely, it couldn’t be that good? Then a deep gratitude for the recognition from my peers.

 

Read the award-winning Empire's Children for yourself.

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New Historical Book Soars Off the Page

The Kingdom of the Air
by C.T. Wells
 
The stakes are high.
 
Whoever controls the sky above the English Channel
will decide the fate of nations.
 
Winner of the 2014 Caleb Award for unpublished manuscript
Winner of the 2015 Clive Cussler Adventure Writers’ Competition
 
1940. The Battle of Britain has begun.
 
A young Messerschmitt pilot is shot down over Dartmoor. He tries to evade a manhunt, knowing that if he falls into British hands, his war will be over. But when Josef Schafer encounters a sinister agent of the emerging Special Operations Executive, his troubles have only begun. He is returned to occupied France having made an impossible deal with the British.As the air war escalates, Josef is in danger in the sky and on the land. His allegiances are tested as he is torn between loyalty to his Luftwaffe comrades and a French woman whom he is compelled to serve.
 
Acclaim for The Kingdom of the Air:
"From the fiery first chapter, through the high-stakes excitement of electrifying air combat, twisting spy plots and the dark domain of the WW2 French Resistance, C.T. Wells takes you on a sky-high thrill-ride that never lets you down. Great characters and a historically-based story, The Kingdom of the Air is an amazing read; superbly written, it soars from page to page, from impossible, heart-wrenching situations to a surprising climax. Adventure fans and history buffs will revel in this recreation of one of the darkest times in world history. C.T. Wells delivers!” - Peter Greene, Director of The Adventure Writer’s Competition
 
TheKingdomoftheAir es
 
Available in paperback and ebook
from April 1st
 
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A Chat with C T Wells, author of The Kingdom of the Air

WellssmallRHIZA PRESS: Tell us about the your name, C.T. Wells - real name or pen name?

WELLS: Well, yes, it’s real. They’re my middle initials. My first name is Peter, and I get called ‘Pete’  but there are too many Peter Wells out there ranging from dead rock stars to writers of economics textbooks, so I had to go with something else. Initials seemed to work for the likes of Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling, so I thought I’d try that. Oh, and Herbert George Wells went with initials too.

RHIZA PRESS: No relation?

WELLS: Not that I know of.

RHIZA PRESS: So tells us about the new novel, The Kingdom of the Air...

WELLS: It’s a historical thriller, set in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. It centres on a young Luftwaffe pilot called Josef Schafer, who is shot down over England. He is captured, but then he’s sent back to occupied France with a specific job to do for the Special Operations Executive.

RHIZA PRESS: So given that he’s a German, why does he help the British?

WELLS: I can’t tell you that. Its classified. Readers will see how they apply some leverage...

RHIZA PRESS: Aviation plays a large part in the novel. Would you call it a techno-thriller?

WELLS: Maybe a “retro-techno-thriller”, if there’s such a thing. I don’t understand modern technology enough to write a contemporary techno-thriller.

RHIZA PRESS: So did you have to do a lot of research to set the story in 1940?

WELLS: Yes. I usually write with another screen open to check my facts as I go. I don’t want to be a slave to historical accuracy, but it is important to try to be true to time and place. Anachronisms and historical errors can really derail a story.

RHIZA PRESS: But details give a ring of authenticity to the story, right?

WELLS: Sure. I like to know things like the brand of a cigarette or the calibre of a pistol. Or whether wildflowers grow in Normandy...

RHIZA PRESS: What drew you to that era?

WELLS: When we read a novel of this sort, it’s essentially so we can escape from our ordinary life. I find there’s something compelling about the thirties and forties. Close enough to be relatable, but far enough to be escapist. Everything from the styles of that period to the overwhelmingly high stakes of the second world war is engaging for me. Of course, there are some cool planes to write about too!

RHIZA PRESS: The Kingdom of the Air is set against a backdrop of war and espionage in a time of fear and violence. Would you say it is a dark story?

WELLS: It’s certainly set in a grim time of history, and it tries to be real about that,  but it also explores how character can prevail under those circumstances. I think there is a redemptive element to it. It’s essentially an action story, but hopefully readers find some head and heart in there as well.

RHIZA PRESS: You said “heart”... does that mean romance?

WELLS: Yes, but it’s tough for relationships to develop when you’re on opposite sides of a war.

RHIZA PRESS:  The Kingdom of the Air has won some awards – The Caleb Award and The Clive Cussler Adventure Writer’s Competition. Does this make it literary fiction?

WELLS: It’s not necessarily setting out to be something like that. I hope it’s a smart thriller. A gripping story, but maybe there’s something to think about as well.

RHIZA PRESS: And the title, The Kingdom of the Air, is that a reference to The Battle of Britain?

WELLS: Yes, but it’s also a phrase from the Book of Ephesians in The Bible. It alludes to the death and rebirth theme in the story.

RHIZA PRESS: Speaking of death and rebirth, is it true that you nearly died during the publication of the novel?

WELLS: Yes, it is true. I was in Jakarta and on my way to Las Vegas for the Adventure Writers’ Competition Awards and my taxi got hit by an out-of-control  dump truck. My son and I were in a bad way with internal injuries. We had emergency surgery, followed by several weeks in hospital. But we’ve pulled through OK. We’re very thankful to be alive, but it was a very close call.

RHIZA PRESS: Well, we’re all pleased that you’re still here. This is the first novel you’ve published. When did you start and how did you write it while working full time?

WELLS: It took nearly five years from inception to publication. But even if you’re time-poor, you can still produce a thousand words a week. If you do that for two years, you’ve got a full length manuscript. The thing is, you have to keep believing in the story over that period of time. Even Stephen King says he has to write fast to outrun self-doubt.

RHIZA PRESS: Well the story seems to be gathering plenty of interest now. And what’s next for you? Anything else in the works?

WELLS: I’m half way through the sequel now.

RHIZA PRESS: Thanks for sharing with us and all the best for The Kingdom of the Air.

 

The Kingdom of the Air comes out 1 April. 

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