Friday, 17 February 2017

The Big 5 Diary #1

In November last year, we announced the winner of our Big 5 Competition, chosen from a shortlist by judge Sheila Bugler.

Sophie Wellstood’s entry, The Sky is a Blue Bowl, took the first prize - a year-long mentorship by Triskele Books.

That was three months ago. What’s happened since?

Stage One: Sophie made the final edits to her book and sent it to us for editorial feedback.

Stage Two: Catriona Troth, a professional editor, went through the manuscript with both a critical and appreciative eye, in order to give detailed feedback. As a second pair of eyes, JJ Marsh also read the book and offered overall notes.

Stage Three: We compared our reactions and responded to Sophie.

Here’s what Catriona had to say:

Like everyone who read Sophie's opening chapter, I fell in love with Edith and wanted to curl up on a grassy hillside with her and share a glass of cider.
I loved the evocation of the New Zealand landscape, and gentle rhythms of the honey shed.

I did however have a few issues to do with the big cast of characters, and also with the book's structure, especially towards the end. There were some characters I felt were insufficiently grounded before we moved on to meet the next, which allowed them to become jumbled up and hard to tell apart. Others slipped at times into stereotype. And Wyn herself (the book's narrator) could come across as immature and sometimes hard to sympathise with.

The pacing of the novel was a little off - moving almost sleepily at times and then suddenly cramming events together in a way that was exhausting to read. When what had felt to me like the book's main thread came to an end - in a deeply satisfying and genuinely moving conclusion - the book carried on, leaving me with a slightly confused sense of what it was really about.

None of these felt to me like insurmountable obstacles to what could be a really excellent book. I provided Sophie with a four page report explaining my thoughts, plus a set of line edits on the manuscript - lit blue touch paper and stood well back.

Stage Four: Sophie got to work as a result of our opinions.

Here’s her take on the process so far:

It’s been a fairly intense few weeks. Whilst the MS was sitting with Catriona and Jill, I worked on the second novel and various short stories, but kept fiddling with this one. I’d subbed it to a number of agents who were mostly very complimentary but they weren’t in love with it enough to take it on. I knew there were aspects of the plot, the structure and some of the characters that needed overhauling – a couple of plot developments in particular really nagged at me - but I just didn’t have the necessary insight or confidence – or motivation - to know what to change, or how. At times I felt very deflated and tired with the whole thing.

Receiving Catriona and Jill’s feedback and editorial suggestions was exactly the kick up the backside I needed. Two pairs of fresh, professional, experienced authorial eyes and insight; two unbiased brains, two experienced readers. For free.

It’s reassuring to know what works; that scenes and voice are strong and affecting and believable - but by far the most valuable editorial notes have been of the sleeves-rolled-up-don’t-spare-my-feelings nature. I asked for tough, critical notes, and got them. Catriona has nailed the exact weaknesses in character and plot that were nagging at me, and it’s genuinely exciting to go back and re-work these people, what they get up to and the consequences of their actions.

There has been one major, major change (I won’t say what here) which has impacted every aspect of the story – it was something my instincts were telling me to do long before this competition, and it feels right. The knock-on effect of course is that threads become unravelled, some actions are inappropriate or irrelevant, something someone does at 10k needs resolving at 60k, etc etc, but having Catriona’s all-seeing editorial eye – I’ve started thinking of her as my virtual sat nav – means that I can trust her to see where I’ve (literally) lost the plot.

There are some recommendations that I need more time to digest – suggestions around the structure towards the end of the story, how it reaches its climax / conclusion; how it all comes together. We’ve discussed how the beginning and ending of the story are really quite different in terms of pace, and how I might change the order of events – this is something I’m still thinking about. I don’t necessarily disagree – I’m just processing the amount of work it will involve!

I couldn’t be more grateful for this support, though. The story is growing a tougher spine, and (Catriona has picked me up on my liberal sprinklings of mixed metaphors) a new pair of wings. And so have I. Thank you!

Friday, 10 February 2017

BOOK CLUB: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

This month on Book Club, we discuss Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

About the author

Anthony Horowitz is the author of the number one bestselling Alex Rider books and The Power of Five series. He has enjoyed huge success as a writer for both children and adults, most recently with the latest adventure in the Alex Rider series, Russian Roulette and the highly acclaimed Sherlock Holmes novels, The House of Silk and Moriarty. Anthony was also chosen by the Ian Fleming estate to write the new James Bond novel which will be published next year. In 2014 he was awarded an OBE for Services to Literature. He has also created and written many major television series, including Injustice, Collision and the award-winning Foyle’s War.

About the Book

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway's latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She's worked with the revered crime writer for years and his detective, Atticus Pund, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It's just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway...
But Conway's latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript there lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.
From Sunday Times bestseller Anthony Horowitz comes Magpie Murders, his deliciously dark take on the cosy crime novel, brought bang- up-to-date with a fiendish modern twist.


For crime fictions fans, this book is probably the ultimate red herring. Did you come to this book with any pre-conceptions?

(GH)  None at all. I actually listened to the audible version of the book, attracted both by my appreciation of the author (especially his Sherlock Holmes books) and the narrator, Samantha Bond. I had no idea that the main context of the plot was a story inside a story. But I totally appreciated the originality of the storyline.

(JJ) Apart from admiring everything Horowitz does, none. The book took me by surprise and carried me along in both its guises. I too listened to it first but then read it in paperback form. I needed to flip back and forth to remind myself of key clues. The central device is quite a literary sleight of hand, but it's done beautifully here, so most readers will go with the flow.

There was a feeling when reading the novel that the reader themselves was being placed right in the thick of things and used as a character in their own right. Did that feeling come across to you too?

(GH) I did think as I was reading the book that the reader would have far more appreciation of the work if they were crime fiction fans, schooled in the likes of Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie. And as most of us avid crime fans started life in that era of crime fiction, it felt as if we were being included in an in-crowd with lots of nods and winks and Masonic type gestures to make us feel included. However, when it turned out that Alan Conway was actually putting two fingers up to the world that had made him a bestseller, I did feel rather defensive. So, was I included in the story, yes, clearly I had been sucked in!

(JJ) Yes, the reader is very much a character but not necessarily one I identified with. I felt a little as if this was the publishing world term, 'The Reader', which actually means very little. However, as Gilly says, there are all the allusions to classic crime fiction which make readers of crime feel part of the story. The feeling alternates between being included as someone in-the-know and manipulated as the author(s) lead you up the garden path. All these are elements of classic crime.

What do you think are the messages Horowitz may be giving here about authors and publishers?

(GH) I think there's a cross-section of lives on display here, and some of them may be modelled on people the author has met through his career. We see an editor who is committed to her work and her authors, yet feels somewhat trapped by her position. We have an author who feels his real genius is hidden by the restrictions of a publishing world who don't recognise the writer he truly wants to be, and he also feels trapped by the character and books he created. Does he forego fame and millions to write the book he truly wants to write? Although he chose the fame, he hates himself for it and his decision to turn his life around leads to his death. And we have the jealousy and greed inherent in many professions. I'm not sure there are any hidden messages from he author, Horowitz is clearly one talent who is not restricted in his writing, but I am betting one or more of the characters are based on real life.

(JJ) As in the classic central section, Horowitz plays with tropes. In our frame section of the story, those tropes are still there, but updated. He touches on the litfic versus genre fiction debate, takes on populism and snobbery, covers the publishing world with a layer of dust and at the same time, highlights its fragility as artistic endeavour in a commercial world. My favourite mirror trick was looking at the triggers of Conway's imagination. The author's own village, family, neighbours are easily traceable sources of factors in his book. Or are they? This is another favourite reader hobby, to assess how much the writer's real life informs her/his fiction. Another sly smile at the relationship between fact, fiction and interpretation.

So, Atticus Pund and his country house murder. It takes us back to leafy post-war times of Agatha Christie ... looking at the author's interpretation of Alan Conway as a writer - do you think it worked?

(GH) Well, I was just as frustrated as Susan Ryeland to discover the end of the novel was missing so I must have been suitably entertained! I thought the story and characters fitted the period and genre. I suppose nowadays we would tag it as cosy crime. However, even before the denouement of the novel, I did find myself inwardly criticising the writing of Alan Conway. Now, I look back and realise that's exactly what Horowitz intended. He wanted the faux pas in there, the info dumps, the clichés, the pace issues. Conway wanted to come across as all of those things, because he resented being forced to write that way in the first place. And for Horowitz, I can only imagine the level of skill required to deliberately write badly!

(JJ) The striking thing about how the author takes on these two authorial voices is the ability to blend the mechanics of plot with character and setting. The period piece delighted me in so many ways: trains, conversations, details, and slowed-down communication. There is also the innate prejudice of the British towards this odd little foreigner, who suffered his own private battle during the war. The contrasts and similarities with characters such as Poirot are handled with a deft touch.
Yet the painting-by-numbers feel of classic crime is slow in the extreme, yet the reader (The Reader) keeps turning pages because of the characters.

I mentioned the feeling of being part of an in-crowd of crime fiction fans, did you pick up any of the clues dotted throughout the Atticus Punt novel on first read through?

(GH)  Yes, I did. There were lots of mentions of Agatha Christie titles. The 3:50 from Paddington was casually tossed in as a real train journey taken by Atticus's bumbling assistant. There were many nods to Christie's use of nursery rhymes, even the very title is a link. But when Ryeland went through and listed them, I admit I did wonder how anyone could take Conway's writing seriously, but he was very clever in his approach. However, I admit I've never been great with anagrams ...

(JJ) To an extent while listening, but far more so when reading on paper. It's almost as if there's a third detective in this story - the reader, spotting clues and feeling smug at recognising an allusion to those that went before. This is actively encouraged by regular summaries and reminders by Susan's character in particular. It also echoes Alan's own obsession with acrostics and anagrams and clues in plain sight, something I delight in, being a bit of a word-nerd.

What were your feelings about the real-life murder of Alan Conway and the denouement of the novel?

(GH) I enjoyed it immensely. I though Susan Ryeland held her own as lead character and amateur investigator. It almost felt like two stories within one book, but the styles were so different that even though there were echoes in the plot, there was no confusion. The ending was cleverly plotted and believable, and I am glad that after Susan went through to discover the truth, she came through to tell the tale.

(JJ) While I relished the framing device of the contemporary story, I actually preferred the classic village murder story overall. The publishing world and authorial dealing with agents and editors feels a bit too much like a busman's holiday. Yet I can see this is deliberate. Horowitz reminds us all along that we are readers, and getting carried away in a story is to lose one's critical faculties. Getting swept up in the adventure requires resistance and analysis and thought. It's got some of the old Brechtian insistence on distance - a story is a story. Never forget you are reading a crime novel.

Horowitz has a talent for creating characters who although are real enough to step out of the page, are also often incredibly unlikable. It's a difficult task to get a reader to connect with that type of character, how do you think he achieves this?

(GH) I think believability is key. I am a writer and I've known writers like Alan Conway in real life. Frustrated by their own brilliance. And the in-joke is that Horowitz has doubtless known them too. So, although you don't 'care' about him, you care what happens and need to know how his story ends whether good or bad. Also, I think having secondary characters who have flaws but can create empathy in the reader is another reason we stick with the story and have to turn the page.

(JJ) His skill here is by breaking all kinds of writing 'rules'. He switches point-of-view with abandon in the classic story, turning the reader into viewer. We're in everyone's heads, privy to all their thoughts and interpretations, watching a theatre script, not reading a novel. Yet in the framing story, he allows us the smallest letterbox of perception through Susan's own interpretation. Susan dislikes Alan, thus so do we. She likes other characters (no spoilers) and therefore some revelations come as a shock to both of us.

Finally, how did you feel when you turned the final page?

(GH) I think I was tempted to raise a glass and congratulate the author on what was a stunning piece of writing. The talent needed to make something so layered feel to the reader amateurish at times, and yet complex at the same time, is the sign of a master craftsman. The distinct tones, voices and styles he achieves within one novel is amazing. Hats off to Mr Horowitz. And I'm also quite sad to see the end of Atticus Pund when I'd only just got to know him. Highly recommended.

(JJ) Entertained. Impressed. Amused. Sorry, as Gilly says, to say goodbye to certain characters. It's a very clever, sly, witty homage to those who went before. Not only that, but something every crime writer should read and understand. Magpie Murders is a work of craft, to be held up for every apprentice. I will read it again.

You can read our Bookmuse review by JJ Marsh here

Friday, 3 February 2017

The Hero's Journey V. The Heroine's Journey by JD Smith

Character growth is one of the most engaging, human aspects of stories. Natural disasters can occur, accidents can happen, people can die, but it's the way characters react to disasters, the repercussions and reaction to accidents, and the ripple effect of death to those left behind that really make stories connect with readers.

The title Hero's Journey and Heroine's Journey are given to the journey characters go on during a story. They are about the change and internal growth within characters that happens as stories progress. This can be over a single novel, or even a series. The main hero or heroine is the protagonist, but there can be others who go on smaller journeys.

The titles sound male/female, and indeed they originated based on stereotypical journeys, but a female character might go on a Hero's Journey, and vice versa. It's simply the type of journey a given character might go on.

The Hero's Journey is an outward journey, a call to adventure. The hero might feel an injustice, or something has been taken, and sets off either to retrieve what is lost, or find answers. Gladiator and The Hunger Games are great examples of this.

The Heroine's Journey is an inward journey, an awakening. She is perhaps disillusioned, feels something is missing, is unhappy with her life, and has a realisation.

The term Hero's Journey was originally coined by Joseph Campbell, author of Hero with a Thousand Faces. He also controversially claimed there was no need for a Heroine's Journey, because the Heroine was the home the Hero returned to. But many argue that the difference is that of an inward versus external journey, physical versus emotional, or plot versus character driven narrative.

This is his basic pattern for a Hero's Journey, which I'll demonstrate using Gladiator:

ORDINARY WORLD: Maximus is general of the Roman army, victorious and thinking of returning home to his wife and son.

CALL TO ADVENTURE: Emperor Marcus Aurelius asks him to be his heir to the Empire.

REFUSAL OF THE CALL: Maximus is reluctant at first, but following the Emperor's death, is forced on a path he did not wish to take.

MEETING WITH THE MENTOR: Maximus is found by a band of slaves and meets Proximo, leader of a Gladiator camp.

CROSSING THE FIRST THRESHOLD: Maximus fights in the gladiator arena for the first time.

TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES: As the story unfolds, Maximus is tested in the arena. His allies include fellow gladiators, Proximo, Lucilla, and old army friends. Commodus is the enemy.

APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE: After his victory in the Colosseum, Commodus and his nephew enter the arena to congratulate the victors. Maximus must choose between attempting to kill Commodus now and in front of his young nephew, or wait for a better opportunity.

SUPREME ORDEAL: Maximus is wounded by Commodus prior to the final showdown, and they fight to the death.

REWARD (SEIZING THE SWORD): Despite being wounded fatally, Maximus frees his fellow brothers, declares the wishes of Marcus Aurelius and ensures Lucius is safe from his uncle.

RESURRECTION: Maximus is reunited with his wife and child in the afterlife.

RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR: Maximus dies leaving the people of Rome with hope for the future Marcus Aurelius wanted for them.

In contrast to Campbell's Hero's Journey model, below is Maureen Murdock’s model, described in The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness:

HEROINE SEPARATES FROM THE FEMININE: often a mother or societally prescribed feminine role.

IDENTIFICATION WITH THE MASCULINE AND GATHERING OF ALLIES: for a new way of life. This often involves choosing a path that is different than the role prescribed for him/her deciding to gear to”fight” an organization, role, or group that is limiting her, or entering some male/masculine-defined sphere.

ROAD OR TRIALS AND MEETING OGRES AND DRAGONS: Heroine encounters trials and meets people who try to dissuade her from pursuing her chosen path and/or destroy her(ogres and dragons or their metaphorical counterparts).

EXPERIENCING THE BOON OF SUCCESS: by overcoming the obstacles. This would typically be where the hero’s or “shero’s” (a female protagonist on a hero’s journey) tale ends.

HEROINE AWAKENS TO FEELINGS OF SPIRITUAL ARIDITY / DEATH: because the new way of life is too limited. Success in this new way of life is either temporary, illusory, shallow, or requires a betrayal of self over time.

INITIATION AND DESCENT TO THE GODDESS: The heroine faces a crisis of some sort in which the new way is insufficient and falls into despair. All of her “masculine” strategies have failed her.

HEROINE URGENTLY YEARNS TO RECONNECT WITH THE FEMININE: but cannot go back to her initial limited state/position.

HEROINE HEALS THE MOTHER/ DAUGHTER SPLIT:  reclaiming some of her initial values, skills or attributes (or those of others like her) but views them from a new perspective.

HEROINE HEALS THE WOUNDED MASCULINE WITHIN: Heroine makes peace with the “masculine” approach to the world as it applies to herself.

HEROINE INTEGRATES THE MASCULINE AND FEMININE: to face the world or future with a new understanding of herself and the world/life. Heroine sees through binaries and can interact with a complex world that includes her but is larger than her personal lifetime or geographical/cultural milieu.

Of course there are many variants, and stories involving both an external journey and an inward journey to varying degrees, and as writers we can create depth in our stories by incorporating both the Hero's Journey and the Heroine's Journey, either in one or more character.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Triskele Author Feature - JJ Marsh

Once in a while, we like to remind ourselves of why we’re an author collective. Five individuals in three countries bound by a love of writing. People often ask how it works, but rarely why.

Here is the third in our Author Feature series, on why we appreciate JJ Marsh.

Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe. Now based in Switzerland, Jill works as a language trainer, forms part of the Nuance Words project, co-edits The Woolf and reviews books for Bookmuse. She is also a regular columnist for Words with JAM magazine, and an expert on writing book blurbs. She lives with her husband and three dogs, and in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes.

One of my all-time favourite series' character is Jill's DI Beatrice Stubbs. In a recent interview with author, Jane Davis, Jill spoke about the central character of her 6-part European crime novel series, DI Beatrice Stubbs.

JD: Your main character is Beatrice Stubbs. Can you tell us a little about her?

JJ: Metaphor-mixer, serial survivor, bipolar sufferer and lover of good food, she takes her job seriously and believes in justice. Problems arise when justice and the law diverge. Beatrice has been in my head for years, and I finally found the right vehicle for her. She feels like an old friend.

Watch this short interview to find out more about the captivating Beatrice Stubbs.

So, what makes JJ Marsh such a valued member of Triskele Books?

Liza Perrat: First and foremost, I value Jill’s organizational skills for the Triskele collective. So that we stay on track and have continuous interesting output, Jill maps out a weekly Workplan, which I believe we’d be lost without. Secondly, I am in awe of her ideas about how to promote ourselves and our collective, her dynamism and enthusiasm about instigating those ideas, as well as supporting our author friends, both indie and trad published. Thirdly, Jill’s critiquing skills are invaluable. Her no-nonsense, no-holding-back comments help to bring all the Triskele books up to the highest possible standard. I’d like to make a special nod to her blurb-writing skills too. I was floundering with the description for my latest novel and Jill came up with the most succinct, engaging and highly suitable blurb! And finally, Jill has written five out of six of the most brilliant and engaging European crime series. My personal favourite is number five: Human Rites, although the books can be read in any order. All of us are eagerly awaiting the release of number six this spring, while at the same time sad to say goodbye to Beatrice Stubbs.

JD Smith: Jill's talents for organising our tribe are always reflected in her writing, which is concise, well-researched and brilliantly executed. She is a talented and astute critic, and one of the most tactful I know. 

Catriona Troth: To get any disparate group of creative folks to work together, you need at least one person with a talent for herding cats. Someone who can focus on the long game, and also keep track of the steps needed to get there. In Triskele, that person is JJ Marsh. She is the one who pulls our madcap ideas together into a coherent plan. She cracks the whip, though always with a twist of humour. And she holds us all to a high standard in everything we do.

As a writer, she brings to each of her books the rich flavours of the many corners of Europe where she has lived. (Quite literally, as her detective, DI Beatrice Stubbs, is a lover of food and drink.) My favourite, Tread Softly, had me itching to jump on the next flight to Northern Spain, to walk (and eat) in Beatrice’s wake. Her plots are intelligent - a thinking reader's crime stories that don't rely on violence for cheap thrills.

As an editor, Jill is your greatest champion - and your harshest critic if she suspects you are selling yourself short. When I brought out my novel, Ghost Town, I was on the point of choosing a cover that was simply wrong for the book. Jill was the one who insisted I think again – and thank goodness she did!

Gillian Hamer: There are lots of magical facets to Ms Marsh that complete a sparkling diamond. From a writing perspective, she has the imagination, intelligence, experience, wit and warmth to ooze talent and create brilliant characters and page-turning stories.

From a Triskele colleague perspective, Jill has the most amazingly creative brain, she sees opportunities and makes them work, and she is totally committed and determined to succeed and help others succeed too.

Add to that her honesty, integrity and unflinching support - you can see why she is our driving force and why we couldn't survive without her.

What readers are saying about JJ Marsh’s Beatrice Stubbs European crime series:

Cold Pressed
Editor’s Choice – The Bookseller

“This is J J Marsh’s fourth, snappily written crime mystery featuring the feisty but vulnerable Stubbs, a most appealing character. It’s all highly diverting, and an ideal read for those who like their crime with a lighter, less gruesome touch.” Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

Tread Softly oozes atmosphere and JJ Marsh captures the sights, sounds and richness of Spain in all its glory. I literally salivated as I read the descriptions of food and wine. JJ Marsh is an extremely talented author and this is a wonderful novel.” Sheila Bugler, author of Hunting Shadows

“There are moments of farce and irony, there are scenes of friendship, tenderness and total exasperation - and underlying it all a story of corruption, brutality, manipulation and oppression with all the elements you'd expect to find in a good thriller, including a truly chilling villain. Highly recommended.” Lorna Fergusson, FictionFire.

“I loved JJ Marsh's debut novel Behind Closed Doors, but her second, Raw Material, is even better. While Beatrice is fully occupied with the London crime, Matthew, and Beatrice's neighbour, Adrian, decide to investigate in Wales and what starts out as a light-hearted caper turns into something horribly grim. The truth is more terrible than Matthew, Adrian, or even Beatrice, could ever have imagined and the final chapters are heart-stoppingly moving and exciting.” Chris Curran, author of Amazon Bestseller, Mindsight.

 “Some rather realistic – if not particularly laudable – human exchanges reveal honest personal struggles concerning life’s bigger questions; the abstruse clues resonate with the covert detective in me; and the suspense is enough to cause me to miss my stop.” Vince Rockston, author.

“Beatrice Stubbs is a fascinating character, and a welcome addition to crime literature, in a literary and thought-provoking novel (Behind Closed Doors). I heartily recommend this as an exciting and intelligent read for fans of crime fiction.” Sarah Richardson, of Judging Covers.

Behind Closed Doors crackles with human interest, intrigue and atmosphere. Beatrice and her team go all out to see justice is done. And author JJ Marsh does more than justice to the intelligent heroine who leads this exciting and absorbing chase.” Libris Reviews.

“Hooked from the start and couldn't put this down. Superb, accomplished and intelligent writing. Ingenious plotting paying as much attention to detail as the killer must. Beatrice and her team are well-drawn, all individuals, involving and credible.” Book Reviews Plus.

Connect with JJ Marsh online:  

Friday, 20 January 2017

Triskele Books’ New Release

 Come along on the latest Triskele Books’ journey to …

Another Time: 1970s.

Another Place: Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.

The Silent Kookaburra is Triskele Books’ author, Liza Perrat’s new novel, a psychological suspense story that marks a departure from her previous French historical fiction trilogy: The Bone Angel series.

But what's it about?

All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.

Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.

Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.

Wollongong beach

A few questions from Liza's colleagues about The Silent Kookaburra

Triskele Books: Why did you decide to change from writing historical fiction to psychological suspense crime?
LP: I had written three historical fiction novels (The Bone Angel trilogy) based i
n the same French village, and about the same family. I feared another one might just be “too much of the same thing”. I also felt I needed a complete change, to refresh my writing. I will most likely return to writing historical fiction though, one day, as I love that genre.

Triskele Books: Did your Australian background help in writing this story?

LP: It certainly did. I grew up in Wollongong in the 1970s. Having first-hand knowledge of the place, the flora and fauna, and the mentality of those times, really helped. Though when I called on friends to help with memories from that time, I realized each of us remembered different things, which was nice and nostalgic.

What readers are saying about The Silent Kookaburra ...

Compelling psychological drama that delves into the dark heart of family secrets. Chris Curran, author of Amazon bestseller, Mindsight.

A real page-turner with fabulously engaging characters and a gripping plot, the outcome of which I did not guess before the final revelation. Claire Whatley, reader.

An amazing domestic thriller with a gripping storyline, vivid dialogue, a palpable sense of place and time, and a compelling cast of characters that I can't get out of my head. Carol Cooper, Contemporary Women’s Fiction author.

I have to say this was one of the most compelling reads I have read. Carol Ravensdale, reader.

Liza Perrat brings her sureness of touch, vivid characterisation and ability to convey a strong sense of time and place to this story set in 1970s Australia. Vanessa Couchman, author of The House at Zaronza.

Aussie parrot

It’s a delight to watch an author grow into her talent. I admire Perrat’s historical fiction, but here she really comes into her own. In moving closer to the present and to her own Australian background, she produces a riveting tale of human frailty and deceit that kept me enthralled even as I dreaded what might happen next. C.P. Lesley, author of the Legends of the Five Directions series.

… nothing better than a good twist or two in a plot, but this was a first for me – one final hammer dropping on the very last page that made my jaw drop! Cindy Taylor, Book Blogger.

The mystery keeps you turning the pages; the description transports you to another place, another time; and the characters by turns amuse, infuriate, entertain and conjure a sense of poignancy and regret. Tricia Gilbey, writer and reader.

… as well-written psychological thrillers often do, it makes you question everything you think you know, culminating in a true twist of an ending that both shocks and makes you ask "Why didn't I figure this out sooner?" Courtney J. Hall, historical fiction, romance and contemporary author.

EXTRACT from The Silent Kookaburra…

Chapter 1


Knuckles blanch, distend as my hand curves around the yellowed newspaper pages and my gaze hooks onto the headlines.

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY. January 26th, 1973. 165-year anniversary of convict ships arriving in Sydney.

Happy? What a cruel joke for that summer. The bleakest, most grievous, of my life.

I can’t believe my grandmother kept such a reminder of the tragedy which flayed the core of our lives; of that harrowing time my cursed memory refuses to entirely banish.

Shaky hands disturb dust motes, billowing as I place the heat-brittled newspaper back into Nanna Purvis’s box.

I try not to look at the headline but my gaze keeps flickering back, bold letters more callous as I remember all I’d yearned for back then, at eleven years old, was the simplest of things: a happy family. How elusive that happiness had proved.

I won’t think about it anymore. I mustn’t, can’t! But as much as I wrench away my mind, it strains back to my childhood.

Of course fragments of those years have always been clear, though much of my past is an uncharted desert –– vast, arid, untamed.

Psychology studies taught me this is how the memory magician works: vivid recall of unimportant details while the consequential parts –– those protective breaches of conscious recollection –– are mined with filmy chasms.

I swipe the sweat from my brow, push the window further open.

Outside, the sun rising over the Pacific Ocean is still a pale glow but already it has baked the ground a crusty brown. Shelley’s gum tree is alive with cackling kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets shrieking and swinging like crazy acrobats, eucalyptus leaves twisted edge-on to avoid the withering rays.

But back in my childhood bedroom, behind Gumtree Cottage’s convict-built walls, the air is even hotter, and foetid with weeks of closure following my parents’ deaths.

Disheartened by the stack of cardboard boxes still to sift through, uneasy about what other memories their contents might unearth, I rest back on a jumble of moth-frayed cushions.

I close my eyes to try and escape the torment, but there is no reprieve. And, along with my grandmother’s newspaper clipping, I swear I hear, in the rise and dump of its swell, the sea pulling me back to that blistering summer of over forty years ago.

Where to buy The Silent Kookaburra ...

The Silent Kookaburra

Friday, 13 January 2017

Triskele Author Feature - Catriona Troth

Once in a while, we like to remind ourselves of why we're an author collective. Five individuals in three countries bound by a love of writing. People often ask how it works, but rarely why.

Here's the second in our Author Feature series, on why we appreciate Catriona Troth.

Author, editor and litfest organiser, Catriona excels as a connector of writers. She is the powerhouse behind our Indie Author Fairs and last year's Triskele LitFest. With her novella Gift of the Raven and her epic opus, Ghost Town, Catriona proves she can not only transport you to another time and place, but she makes you think.

What Amanda Hodgkinson says about Catriona

Catriona is the perfect kind of writer; the kind whose head is filled with vast libraries of stories, and for whom a deep love of words and form and a desire to communicate is a lifelong quest. The kind of writer who always has a great respect for her readers. That's just one of the reasons why her novels are so beautiful and absorbing. Catriona is the perfect kind of writer for other writers too, helping and supporting them, offering them her time, enthusiasm and her talents, all in the hope of bringing great books to new readers.

What makes Kat such a valued member of Triskele Books?

Liza Perrat: Catriona’s skill as a structural editor has been highly beneficial to the storylines of my own novels. Her drive for perfection, and her motivation to edit, edit and edit again, have brought her own books up to the highest narrative standard. And her skills as events’ organizer have been invaluable for all of our Triskele literary festivals. 

Jane Dixon Smith: Catriona's sympathies and understanding of the time and society in which her novel Ghost Town and novella Gift of the Raven are set is what gives them a special and honest feel, making them so compelling.

JJ Marsh: Triskele and the concept of an author collective arose from a conversation Kat and I had in 2009. Gilly, Liza and I made it a reality in 2011, and when Kat was ready to publish, it was only natural for her to join the team. She's an exceptional editor, a terrific networker whose aim is to help other writers, and most importantly, a brilliant writer. She tackles tough subjects in her work, remaining clear-eyed and unsentimental while delivering enormous emotional impact. Her books are impossible to forget.

Gillian Hamer: There's something about Kat in real life that comes across both in her writing as well as in her editorial work - and for me that is understanding. She has an eye for detail and a human empathy that are great talents to posses in both fields. I rely on her input in each of books, knowing she will see something others don't. And that's what makes her own writing so special too. She writes about things others do not see, it's a special talent in a writer and makes her style her own.

What They Say About Ghost Town

“There is a subtle blend of realism and pragmatism which allows the story to evolve in such a way that despite its subject matter, it never becomes distasteful or inflammatory. There is clever use of colourful street vocabulary which is dotted throughout the text; from South Asian Punjabi, through to Rasta slang, words which imply meaning without always needing to refer to the exemplary glossary. In Ghost Town, the whole vista of the 1980s is captured like a snapshot; a moment of time which embodies a culture one hopes is relegated to history books but which perhaps sadly lingers, alive in memory.” - Jaffa Reads Too

“The city comes alive almost as a character itself. Also the time - early 80s - is evoked so well it brought back vivid memories of songs, of movements, of clothes, of the political spectrum.
Ms Troth has a terrific ear for voices and accents; her characters come fully formed off the page by the sheer virtuosity of her ventriloquism.” - Barbara Scott-Emmett

“It's hard to liken GHOST TOWN to anything else out there, but there were certainly echoes of Alex Wheatle's EAST OF ACRE LANE. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to step out of their comfort zone and explore a little-talked-about pocket of British history.” - Polly Courtney

"Ghost Town is a fascinating exploration of the Coventry riots of 1981 and the events leading to them. Catriona Troth handles her material with a subtle touch and doesn’t flinch from showing the tensions and conflicts within communities and families as well as those outside. Ghost Town works as both a vivid record of a recent historical event and as a cracking good read." - Chris Curran

There’s a pleasurably subtle, gently restless, level-toned yet unsparing quality to many aspects of "Ghost Town", including these ones: the elusive nature of Maia, a reliable narratorial lens and yet a full individual with her own dramas too, whose open innocence manages to remain unsullied by seeing such ugliness and suffering around her; the novel’s smooth inclusion of quite a breadth of facts, terminology and historical detail (including several vivid trips out of Coventry, down to riot-torn Brixton); its successful ambitiousness in being at once a political story, a love story and a coming-of-age story." - Rohan Quine

"This book is challenging on several levels. Sometimes an uncomfortable read, it demonstrates the vital role of fiction in tackling serious issues, such as the threat that is perceived when the demographics of a city change rapidly, particularly at a time of high unemployment." - JE Davis

"Ms Troth has most admirably captured the atmosphere of urban decay, race riots, unemployment and the ever simmering violence of an era I well remember. The characters are well drawn and credible and the storyline most compelling." - Amazon reviewer

What They Say About Gift of the Raven

"The emotions entwined in this story are what really brings it to life. The author makes it very easy to see through the eyes of young Terry, and feel the pain and struggling he must endure. Mix this with the well-described Canadian cultures and history, and the novella becomes incredibly thought-provoking."

"I was enchanted by this novella about a boy searching for his roots and identity. The descriptions of landscapes are beautiful and the writing is lyrical and powerful. Reading this, I was reminded of Louise Erdrich's writing style and ability to create character and history within landscapes. An absolute pleasure to read. Moving and tender."

"A beautifully-written novella that explores the troubled childhood of Terry, and his journey to find his roots with the Haida Gwaii Indians of Canada. As well as Terry's heart-warming story, and the author's lyrical prose that brought these parts of Canada to life, I really enjoyed learning about a culture of which I previously knew nothing."

"This is a truly wonderful story and one which you won't forget in a hurry. It is skilfully written, the characters are full of depth and the scene beautifully set."

Here's Catriona talking about Triskele Books and how it works.

In addition to writing fiction, festival organisation, journalism and reviewing, Catriona is a well-respected editor.

Find out more or make contact here:

Twitter: @L1bCat

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Getting to know our Big 5 Winner ... Sophie Wellstood!

Winner of the Big 5 Comp - Sophie Wellstood
By Gillian Hamer.

Among the many hundreds of entries, long-list, short-list processes, there was in the end one winner, chosen by our head judge, crime writer Sheila Bugler. And that winner was Sophie Wellstood and the opening pages of her novel The Sky is a Blue Bowl.

Sophie will now spend 2017 working alongside the Triskele team to polish her novel to perfection and hopefully see it make its way out into the big wide world. We thought it would be nice to get to know Sophie a little, and introduce her to our followers right at the beginning of her journey.

So ... congratulations, Sophie, on winning our Big 5 competition! How did you feel when you heard the result?
Surprised, thrilled, and a little scared.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself away from writing?
I work in central London, teaching English to adults - a job I love. It's endlessly interesting and rewarding, and can be hugely creative. I also play piano and guitar with my Irish ceilidh-loving friends, go for very long walks in wild places, swim in ponds and spend a lot of time looking through a camera lens.

And a little about your writing?
Recurring themes seem to be wilderness, desire, alienation, abandonment, recovery, grief...all of which sound very grim on paper, but actually there's just as much humour I hope in my writing. Life really can be absurd, even in the midst of the most dreadful times. My unconventional upbringing gave me some of the darkest experiences possible, but also some of the very best, and I'm old enough now to be able to treat it a gift, rather than as a millstone.

I've long felt that my natural home is the short story and poetry, that novels were just too long and complicated and difficult (not that short stories or poetry are in any way 'easy'!). I still feel that to some extent. But after studying for two years at Birkbeck University with Jonathan Kemp, and then later with inspirational author and editor Debi Alper, I found that I could - and wanted to - push the boundaries of my comfort zones and go for it. Writing novels is still a ridiculously long and complicated and difficult process, but incredibly exciting.

The opening 10 pages of your novel connected with all of the shortlisting judges, and was the overall favourite of crime writer, Sheila Bugler, our head judge – what was your inspiration for the novel?
There was no one lightbulb moment as such, but after taking voluntary redundancy in 2010 from a role in Further Education, I thought I'd like to write a dark comedy based around the mysterious murder of an unpopular senior manager - kind of 'in the photocopy cupboard with a bottle of tippex' kind of thing. But that idea quickly proved to have no legs at all, and would likely be libellous anyway. So I began sketching out a very camp nod to the 60s and 70s girls own-style adventure stories I've always loved, and the seeds of The Sky... were sown. In fact, the matriarch of the novel, Edith, was originally named Enid as a direct nod and wink to Enid Blyton, and the seriousness (or lack of it) I then ascribed to the story.

However, as the imaginary world began to take shape - and all writers know this mad feeling - the characters began to shout and boss me around and would not be trivialised. The darkest and saddest of themes began to emerge, and I realised that yes, there is a lot of lightness and love and silliness to enjoy in the novel, but the monsters in the shadows have to be there.

What I was always very sure about, though, was that a same-sex love affair would be at the heart of the novel, and that I wanted to create people who would be as lovely and damaged and as conflicted as I could make them - whilst still being real and relateable enough to engage a reader. We will see! I may or may not have succeeded, but that's part of the whole crazy challenge of attempting to create an authentic, fictional world.

Why do you write?
Initially out of a pure love for reading - which I think if you experience as a child you're set for life - and just wanting to copy my favourite authors and poets. Then, through many solipsistic years, I produced reams of obsessive, angry, fractured woe-is-me stuff - but enough accidentally-nailed-it moments to realise that eventually words can say exactly the right thing in the exactly the right way. Now I hope I'm much more structured, more disciplined, more relaxed, and slightly less precious about it. Writing is what I love, and I hope I can produce reasonably professional and meaningful work, but the world won't stop spinning if I can't. The rejections hurt, though - I'm not that thick-skinned yet.

Which authors would you list as your inspiration?
How much space do you have?! Spike Milligan, Patti Smith, Maya Angelou, Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, Nancy Garden, Carol Noble, Debi Alper, Jonathan Kemp, Annie Proulx, David Sedaris, Denis Johnson, Alison Bechdel, Armistead Maupin, Alice Munro, Alice Walker, Sarah Dreher, Ellen Galford, Fiona Cooper, Keri Hulme, Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Sylvia Plath, Jackie Kay, Julia Darling, Ali Smith, John Cheever, Carol Ann Duffy, Joanna Cannon, Carol Anshaw...and of course, Enid Blyton. 

What did you know about Triskele Books before the competition?
Actually very little, other than what I learned online via Words With Jam.

Why did you enter our Big 5 competition?
I enter many writing competitions - the discipline and focus is important for me, and provides a sense of structure and involvement with other writers and the industry. You know you're being read, even if more often than not the outcome is crushing disappointment! With the Big 5 competition, however, the prize was - and is - an exceptionally generous and exciting opportunity which I knew immediately I wanted very, very much. I've not come across any other competitions offering such a well thought-out and genuinely life-changing prize, and could not be happier to have won.

What do you hope to gain from the experience?
Hopefully the beginnings of a readership base, but prior to that, making the most of this unique opportunity to work closely with and learn from a team of people who are experts in their fields; to get professional advice and guidance and insight into all stages of the publishing process, especially the promotional and media-related side, which I find daunting and excruciating in equal measure.

In an ideal world, where would you like to see your writing career taking you?
I'm traditionalist enough to really want agent representation; to find the right person who gets what I'm on about and with whom I can set out my plans for at least the next two novels (the current, second one is plotted, half-written and will be finished mid 2017; the third is poking up little tendrils of ideas). I'd love to put out a collection of short stories and poetry, too - oh and all my children's stuff as well, and a couple of radio plays! But ultimately, I'd just like to find the right agent and have much more time to write.