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.

Amanda Deed Talks Fairy Tales and Superman

DeedAmandaWhat was your inspiration for adapting the Cinderella story? What aspects of her story were you most drawn to?

I’ve always loved fairy tales and Cinderella is one of my favourites. What drew me to rewrite it is that Cinderella is basically bullied by those horrible stepsisters and stepmother. This kind of treatment affects a person’s self-esteem, and self-esteem is something I struggled with a lot in my teens. I can’t say I was bullied precisely, but I was teased often, leaving me feeling worthless and unloved.

When I grew up I realised that the very things other kids teased me for were actually my strengths. What a way to destroy a person’s potential. Thankfully I worked through those issues and now have more self-confidence. But, it did leave me wanting to encourage others about their self-worth, and so I decided to weave that theme into my Cinderella story – Unnoticed.

 

How do you think Price Moreland compares to Prince Charming?

Well, he’s handsome, charming (in a good way), and he is the heir to a large fortune/estate. His father is a ‘king’ in the booming railway and shipping industry in America. And, of course, he is able to look past Jane’s apparent servitude and poverty.

Jane is often self-conscious about her appearance and tries to go unnoticed (a very apt title). Do you think a lot of teenagers would relate to this?

Absolutely. When the target of teasing, it would be so much easier to disappear. You’d rather be unnoticed altogether, than noticed and made fun of for your perceived faults. I found that for myself.

I have also witnessed it in teenagers recently. Watching a sixteen-year-old girl walk across the room with her head down—looking uncomfortable to say the least—I asked her, ‘Why are you feeling so awkward walking over here?’

She told me: ‘I feel like everyone’s looking at me.’

I smiled at her. ‘You know they’re actually not. They’re all too busy in their own little world to be taking much notice of you.’

‘Well they should be!’ was her bold reply.

‘So walk like they should be. You are absolutely worth looking at and worth noticing. You are beautiful.’

There’s a kind of confused mixture of wanting to be noticed and accepted, and not wanting to be noticed in case we are rejected.

 

If you could be any fairy tale heroine, who would it be?

I can’t say I’ve ever aspired to be one of the fairy tale heroines, although I do love the way Rapunzel wielded that frying pan in Tangled. I’d more likely aspire to Lois Lane just because she got to fly with Superman. I love Superman. In fact, every time I see a kid in a Superman costume, I ask them if they will take me flying. Unfortunately, no-one has said yes yet.

 

What can we expect in the next instalment Unhinged?

Unhinged will be a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast – another of my favourite fairy tales. However, instead of the beast being a monster, or a physical deformity in a man, the beast will be mentally-ill.

It is very challenging to write. But again, mental health is such a big subject these days, even with teens. I just heard of a Year Twelve student being put on anti-depressants to deal with anxiety. It makes me sad that people so young have to struggle with such deep issues. Hopefully Unhinged, amidst an entertaining story, will give encouragement to people who deal with this kind of illness.

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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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Rosanne Hawke on the Joy of Rewriting

WarWithinsmallI’ve had the joy over the last year to rewrite an earlier novel which is now The War Within. This is how it happened.My children are Third Culture Kids (TCKs), kids who are brought up in a culture which isn’t their parents’. They learn to adapt to the culture they grow up in and can find it very difficult returning to their parents’ own culture. To most TCKs their parents’ culture doesn’t feel like their own. Jaime Richards in the series Beyond Borders felt like this when she returns to Adelaide for high school in Dear Pakistan. I felt like this even moving states as a teen. Our whole family felt the culture shock of re-entering Australia after ten years in Pakistan and the UAE.

My daughter Lenore returned to Pakistan when she was 18 and found the experience very helpful for settling in Australia. This what Jaime Richards also does: returns to Pakistan to ‘settle the ghosts of the past’ and see her friends. Except her experience turns into an adventure that Lenore could only dream of.

The War Within began with Lenore wanting a story about an abduction set in Afghanistan. One of our co-workers had been kidnapped by freedom fighters and this instigated the request for a story about it. That story became a book called Jihad. Jihad in this case meaning a spiritual struggle within. Jasper is having this personal jihad as he faces his grief about his father lost in Afghanistan.

I edited this story a little when it became part of the Borderland series, three books in one volume: Re-entry, Jihad and the new title Cameleer. But when Rhiza Press recently offered a contract to republish and rebrand these books into a series of four called Beyond Borders, I was stoked. ‘You might like to rewrite Jihad,’ the publisher said quietly. ‘Of course,’ I replied. However, I didn’t realise how much I had learned since the publication of Borderland. When I reread Jihad I was shocked to find how much it needed to be better.

I couldn’t wait to rewrite it. The plot was enjoyed by readers, so that stayed the same, but I restructured the novel to include POV chapters for Jasper. I changed the premise of it being a story that Jaime was relating in hindsight to one that was happening now. This eliminated the seemingly POV glitches, and the unnecessary foreshadowing, for now Jaime doesn’t know how it’s going to end and can’t add her two cents worth about the future. It’s become a tighter read, and I believe a more enjoyable and exciting one. I also updated the events in the background of the novel to be consistent with modern world events. Even some technology is thrown in the mix as well.

It was a joy to revisit this story, to rewrite it to a higher skill level with the knowledge that I’d picked up over the last ten years of encouraging other writers.

 

By Rosanne Hawke

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Speaking Aloud about the Unspeakable

4644146This Saturday is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Author Irma Gold talks about how her anthology, The Sound of Silence, speaks out about the experiences of 22 women who have gone through miscarriages.

 Editing this book was an emotional experience and the launches in Canberra and Melbourne were unlike any others I have attended. At both of them strangers – women and men, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and sisters – came up to me to tell me their intensely personal stories of loss, the reasons why they had come to these launches to buy this book. Since then I have received many emails from readers thanking me for the anthology and telling me how it has helped them. These messages have been humbling.

Like this one from Charmian:
I have just sat and read this book from cover to cover! As a mum of two (six, including my angel babies) these stories touched my heart and soul in a way that no other books about pregnancy loss have. I experienced miscarriages when none in my circle of friends had, and felt alone as I waded through loss and grief. The final three miscarriages were particularly hard, given they all occurred in seven months. We have not gone on to have more babies, and I still feel my family is not quite complete. Thanks again for this wonderful resource.

And this one from Justine:
I have just finished reading The Sound of Silence. I must admit it sat on my bedside table for a couple of days before I found the courage to open it. I was anxious about the emotions it might stir up within me. It is a brilliant book, it allowed me to realise I am not alone in my grief and the feelings experienced are so normal. One of my regrets is that despite our best efforts to encourage submissions from men we did not receive any. Men are often forgotten in the grief of miscarriage, so I was disappointed that we weren’t able to represent their stories and perspectives.

It was, however, heartening to receive emails from men, like this one:
Thank you for publishing The Sound of Silence. While it is mostly written for females, it is also an excellent book for (potential) fathers to read as well – some of them also experience similar emotional symptoms when their partner miscarries. :(

When I wrote a post for Mamamia about the anthology and my own miscarriage it received an overwhelming number of comments. There are so many women and men out there who need to talk about their experiences. Today I’m remembering Rafael, the baby I miscarried at twelve weeks. I no longer feel sad about his loss, but blessed that he was, and is still, a part of our family. I am also thankful for the three beautiful children I was able to bring into this world, and conscious that there are many couples who are not so fortunate. These stories are the ones that break my heart the most. At the Melbourne launch a woman told me about her daughter who she has watched go through seven pregnancies, none of which have made it to term. As she told me this story, and the emotional toll it has taken on them all, she wept for her daughter and her lost grandbabies. Her story is one of many.

If you know someone who has had a miscarriage, who may still be struggling through grief, today is the day to reach out. All it takes is a simple ‘How are you?’ and the willingness to listen.

You can buy a copy of The Sound of Slience from www.rhizapress.com.au.

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Friday Chats with Rosanne Hawke

0 RosanneWhat made you become an author?

What finally gave me the push to write seriously was my daughter, Lenore asking me to write a book for her based on a story I told her. She made me become a writer.

What was your first published book?

A book called Re-entry which has been rewritten and is now in its 3rd edition called Dear Pakistan.

What inspired you to write the Beyond Borders series?

I had changed states when I was a teenager, and as an adult I lived overseas in voluntary work with a mission. My children became third culture kids, and watching their culture shock (and mine) as we returned to Australia inspired the series.

 Have you travelled to Pakistan since? Was it still a culture shock?

Yes, the first time I arrived in Pakistan I had culture shock and, as a woman, it took me a year to adjust. In coming back to Australia we also had culture shock. Possibly that is worse because you don’t expect the culture shock to be so bad in your own country, but it was. When I visited Pakistan in 2006 on an Asialink Fellowship to research more books, it was only for two months and the culture shock was less.

Why do you think Jaime is an inspirational heroine in the story?

Jaime is going through a difficult time of her life that people around her do not understand. She has to learn to adapt to different cultures and yet discovers the joy of doing that even though it is difficult each time she moves. During this process she picks up some wisdom and realises her experiences have helped make her who she is, a teen with unlimited potential. 

Who is your favourite character in the series?

Tricky question. Besides Jaime, possibly Jasper in The War Within.

Can you give readers a hint at what they can expect in the next installment of the Beyond Borders series?

In 2002 terrorists attacked an international Christian school in the Himalayas, Pakistan. It was the school that my kids had attended and is the school which inspired Jaime’s school which she visits in The War Within. In Liana’s Dance Jaime writes the story of what happens to Liana when her school was attacked by terrorists a few years earlier.

Do you have any hints for aspiring authors out there?

Read a lot and learn to read like a writer: decide what you like about a writer’s story or technique and takes notes. Write down golden lines, but always put the author’s name underneath so you don’t mistakenly plagiarize. Always find out as much as you can about your characters because your characters will make or break your story. Most importantly work out what they want the most in the whole wide world; something important enough that would motivate them long enough for you to write a story about it. When you’re finished the first draft get your secateurs out and start cutting out the dead wood. Learn to enjoy editing and re-writing.

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