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.

A #MeToo Tale Behind Memphis Grace

IMG 8683I can’t say there is a lot I look back on and like about teenager me. I mean, it was the 80s, and I sported an extreme perm, wore crazy shades of makeup and legwarmers even when I wasn’t exercising. It was that era. But that’s not so much what I am referring to - I secretly harbour found memories of the 80s, just ask my three daughters.

What I didn’t like was the me on the inside; the things that went on in my head and heart.

I grew up in a Christian home, and if you had asked me about sex, I would have spouted those words: 'not until marriage'.  In fact, I probably even said that to a boyfriend or six at some point in our relationships. But what my head said, my heart didn’t always follow.

My experiences with someone ‘doing what they wanted’ started at the back of a classroom in high school. I don’t even recall how I got myself into the situation, but while the teacher was up the front talking, I was sitting in the back row with two boys who thought it worth asking the question. 'Could they?' I’d said no.

Their hands did what they wanted anyway. I was mortified; they thought it was hilarious.

As I got older and relationships became more serious, a different pressure emerged. As a young sixteen-year-old, I started dating a guy who I really liked. I quickly thought myself in love. He told me he’d slept with his previous girlfriend. Suddenly, the pressure was on. How far was I prepared to go to keep this guy? How long would he be willing to ‘wait’ for me? I said no, but then, my ‘no’s got weaker. He eventually did break up with me, and it left the lingering question: how do I keep a guy interested, in love with me, if he wanted more than I was prepared to give?

One of my goals in writing Memphis Grace was to help empower young people to make decisions they are comfortable with when it comes to sex and relationships. Grace’s best friend went further than she wanted to, due to the pressure put on her by the guy she thought she was in love with.

We see the impact this can have on individuals, as well as relationships, in the pages of the novel. We also get to go through a similar journey with Grace, as she works out what she really wants in life.

Finding ‘love’ in the arms of a partner doesn’t necessarily bring happiness; but rather, happiness comes when we know who we are and what we want, and remain true to it.

Memphis Grace is available now.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
901 Hits

Processing Grief: An Interview With CBCA-Notable Author Kate Gordon

Kate Gordon author

Who is ‘Kate Gordon’? 

I am a born-and-raised Tasmanian – born in Wynyard, currently living in the big smoke of Hobart. I’m passionate about my island home, and it permeates almost all of my writing. Come and visit us here (not just for Dark Mofo!) and see how amazing this place really is! I am obsessed with folk-alt-country singer, Josh Ritter. I once travelled to the UK to hear him play! I love crows, enamel pins, notebooks, artisan perfume oils, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. I generally read about two hundred books in a calendar year, not counting the literal thousands I read to my daughter. Speaking of which, I have the actual best daughter in the world. My favourite thing is talking books with her.

Can you tell us about ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’ and how it came to be?


I have been working on various incarnations of ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’, for many years. When I was nineteen, one of my friends killed himself. He was a hugely popular kid – funny, incredibly smart, handsome, popular, athletic, completely beloved. Everyone who knew him was in utter shock at his passing, and it rocked our close-knit world. Three years ago, another childhood friend took his own life. He, too, was so loved, and I was completely shaken to the core at his loss. I began ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’, as a way of dealing with his passing, and of – finally – examining the impact that my other friend’s death had on me, at an early age. I wanted to look at the things we tell other people, and the things we hide; how we can never truly know people – even in this world of social media communication, where we feel like we know everything. I also wanted to look at the ways a community might deal with the death of one of its favourite sons; and how we “should” process grief. Word to the wise: there is no “right” way. ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’ is a deeply personal book for me, but I am so hopeful that it might be able to help others, too, who are going through a similar tragedy.

Do Tiger and Wally relate to anyone in your life? 

Wally is definitely my friend who died. My friend was the life of the party – a “jock” but also deeply sensitive and cerebral. He used to quote poetry to me, and it was a complete shock, coming out of the mouth of a sporty, popular boy! Tiger is, in part, me as a teenager – she has all the same insecurities; she tends to push people away when she’s hurting, and she doesn’t always deal well with anger – if at all. But she is also the “me” I wish I had been. She is stronger and more willing to take risks and be adventurous. Her friends are also my friends, in real life. When they read this book, they’ll know who they are!

What message is ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’ trying to send?

JK Rowling said: “Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced...It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”

— Rowling's 2000 interview with the Times (UK)

Suicide is the final stage in what is often a terminal illness. It is what happens when all hope is gone. Wally, in this book, has lost all hope, and all belief that there is a next stage to his life; a future; a way forward. He has love and support and friends, and success, academically and on the sports field. We are taught that, if we are loved and successful, we have no reason to feel depressed. But depression is not the same as sadness, and it doesn’t care about external factors. Family support, hobbies, meditation, a strong social life – all of these can help – but depression can only be treated in the same way any disease is treated: through medical intervention. In the book, Wally never gets the chance to get better; to feel better. But I wanted to show that there is hope. When we talk, when we reach out, when we seek help, it can and does get better. I really wanted this to be a hopeful story and show that you can and will be happy again. You will live, again, and it will be a beautiful thing.

Music plays a huge role in how each of the characters relate. Is music important to you?

Music is deeply, deeply important to me – and not just Josh Ritter. It has always been my escape and my comfort. Whenever I feel down, it’s always music that I turn to – a happy song, if I need a release; or a sad song, if I need to just wallow in misery; if I need to just “feel”. Music was so crucial, in my upbringing. My dad is a huge music fan, and he passed that on to me. I remember, vividly, dancing around the house with him, trying to cheer up, after a heartbreak. I remember just as clearly sitting on my bedroom floor, eating chips and listening to “Romeo and Juliet”, by Dire Straits, or “Fall at Your Feet”, by Crowded House, on repeat, and thinking I’d never feel happy again! Most of my childhood memories involve music, and it’s the same for Resey. I honestly think that books and music have the ability to change our emotions, in a way that people search for with drugs and alcohol. I can go from devastated to giddy with happiness in moments, if you play me the right song (usually Josh Ritter).

How do you feel about the ‘taboo’ often put on conversations about teen suicide? 

According to 2017 data, suicide is the leading underlying cause of deaths among persons aged 25–44 (20% of deaths) and persons aged 15–24 (31% of deaths). That’s a national tragedy, and a national crisis. Why aren’t we talking about it more? I think the answer is that people are afraid. The concept of “suicide contagion” leads to fear of further deaths – fear that young people will glamorise the idea of suicide and carry out “copycat” acts. And so, we sweep the issue under the carpet, believing this will help to prevent more deaths. If they can’t see it, they can’t copy it. Clearly, that approach is not working. Mental health disorders should be treated with the same approach we use for all illnesses. Why are we so squeamish about discussing these diseases, just because they affect the brain, and not the stomach, or the liver, or the breast? We discuss the prostate – a gland that surrounds the urethra, in men, and whose health is tested by rectal examination – with less prudishness than we do depression or anxiety. And so, because we are afraid, or queasy, or embarrassed … people die. In this book, I made a deliberate decision to have the characters talk about what happens to Wally. Because I believe that it needs to be talked about. It’s only through talking – and awareness campaigns – that we can begin to resolve this national tragedy.

Girl Running, Boy Falling is on the 2019 CBCA longlist for Older Readers. 

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
1335 Hits

Starting a Conversation Around the Suicide Contagion

Kate Gordon’s real-life inspired novel Girl Running, Boy Falling does not shy away from starting a conversation around teen suicide.

According to 2017 data, suicide is the leading underlying cause of deaths among young persons aged 15–24 (31 per cent of deaths).

However, a real-life taboo exists around this national tragedy in the fear that a suicide contagion will spread and glamorise the act for young people.

“We sweep the issue under the carpet, believing this will help to prevent more deaths. If teens can’t see it, they can’t copy it. Clearly, that approach is not working,” said Kate.

Sixteen-year-old Therese lives in a small town on a small island.

Therese has always had her feet on the ground. She’s running through high school, but someone in her life is about to fall ...

And when he does, her perfect world falls with him. For the first time in her life, Therese can’t stand being on the ground.

Do you ever look at the sky and think that’s where we belong? Like maybe the world is the wrong way around and we’re meant to be up there, floating?”

The characters of the novel are deeply personal to Kate as it is based off a childhood friend who took his own life and it became a way for her to deal with his passing.

“I wanted to show that there is hope. When we talk, when we reach out, when we seek help, it can and does get better. You will live, again, and it will be a beautiful thing,” says Kate.

Girl Running, Boy Falling is an intimate window into the things we hide but also the conversations we shouldn’t. You can pre-order your copy now here.

KateGordon Promo min

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
1493 Hits

The Story Behind Out of the Cages

2018 view from the walk By Penny Jaye, Author of Out of the Cages

I remember exactly where I was when the story for Out of the Cages caught my attention.

I was living in Nepal. My husband worked for an international health and development organisation and our family was based in Pokhara. That day I had been drinking tea – hot, spiced and sweet – in my Nepali friend’s house and she was sharing a small photo album with me. Most of the people in her photos I recognised, younger versions of my friend’s family; her parents, her neighbours, her children so tiny and cute. But there was one young woman pictured that I didn’t recognise, so I asked my friend about her. My Nepali language wasn’t perfect then, but I understood enough to know that this girl was no longer around. She’d gone to the river to wash clothes and she’d never returned. The family had no answers, she’d just disappeared. 2018 walking in the fields

Nepal is a beautiful country. Beautiful in scenery and in its people. But like every country, it holds heartbreak and one of these is the experience of those who have been trafficked. Every year thousands of people – women, men and children – are trafficked across the border. They are sold into slavery in India, in China, Thailand, Dubai, some even make it to Australia and are caught up in domestic service, visa-less, illegal and trapped. A significant proportion of those trafficked from Nepal, especially the young girls and women – prized for their fair complexions, find themselves sold into the brothels of India. The girl in my friend’s photograph may not have been trafficked. She may have been swept away by the river, or just decided not to come home. No one knows. But the questions in her story were the stimulus for this story. 

I began researching and writing Out of the Cages while we were still living in Nepal. As I read local newspaper articles, met with trafficking survivors and visited rehabilitation homes, I learned more about the stories of these young girls who disappear. There have been other books written about this topic – Sold by Patricia McKormick is one, Rosanne Hawke’s Mountain Wolf another. But I wanted to tell the story of the return. Of those girls who have been trafficked, sold, broken and used, but somehow escape. What does freedom feel like if you’ve forgotten how to feel? Can hope be grown again when you’ve been taught Nepal2it doesn’t exist? And friendship – what happens to friendship when the truth about the past is hard to unravel?

Writing Out of the Cages was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It stretched me from my comfort zone both as a writer and as a person. There are some parts of this story I hated writing. And yet I knew I had to write it: to honour those who have survived, those who fight day in and day out for freedom. And for those who remain trapped, unseen and unheard, this book is my prayer. That one day we will see a world that won’t accept slavery as common place, and those who have been captives will be finally set free.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
2547 Hits

Welcome to Rhiza Edge

Rhiza Edge 2greens

By Emily Lighezzolo, Commissioning Editor

Rhiza Edge was founded on a flicker of an idea – to give voices to often ignored or overlooked teens. We want diverse voices, silent voices, youthful voices – and we want to share these voices.

We are looking for those stories that connect us all – those stories that challenge us or make us think.

Rhiza Edge explores the voice of a child sex worker in the red-light district of Mumbai; a young Pakistani-Australian who can’t seem to fit in with any culture; a teenager dealing with the suicide of her best friend. These characters are real and relatable, and we hope Australian teens think so too.

Youth literature in Australia has seen a surge of popularity with the #LoveOzYA movement. We’re looking more to our local authors for tales and life perspectives. Rhiza Edge wants to champion this movement, going back to our grassroots of great story telling. After all, Rhiza means roots in Greek.
We are looking for Australian authors also wanting to give voice to an overlooked youth in our world.

Often youth literature can censor important and potent issues in our society as they are too ‘heavy’, ‘confronting’ or ‘adult-like’ for young readers. Our school libraries can become parochial. However, here at Rhiza Edge, we believe no voice should be silenced or forgotten. We’re excited to share these voices with you now.

We are collecting global voices, so please check out our titles to learn more or submit your manuscript at our online portal. We hope you, too, enjoy reading Rhiza Edge titles.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
2606 Hits

Finding the Australian Outback

0 Oodnadatta track HawkeBy Rosanne Hawke, Author of Finding Kerra

The seed idea behind Finding Kerra sprang from my childhood, growing up in the semi-outback of central Queensland. My father was a grazier and we lived about ten kilometres from a hot, little town called Banana, where I attended a one-teacher school. I rode to school on a converted cattle truck and it took an hour to pick up all the kids from the neighbouring properties. I was the first one on in the morning, and fortunately, the first one off in the afternoon.

Some of the events in Finding Kerra happened in my childhood: drawing on a windmill platform (I never told my mum, of course), riding horses (didn’t tell Mum that I fell off), a haystack fire in winter, helping with a muster, nearly drowning in a dam. But the setting for Finding Kerra came from my love for the Australian Outback that has increased ever since I rode the Ghan (and a bus) through the desert to Darwin when I was fifteen.0 camel cup2 Hawke

Some years ago, my husband and I took a road trip up past Port Augusta, Beltana, Farina and Marree. We even went to the Camel Cup at Maree to watch camels race and stayed at a station for a few nights. Since then we have travelled up that way again and further north up the Oodnadatta and Strzelecki tracks, Coober Pedy, Uluru and the Alice. More northern treks are planned. Maybe more stories will appear too.

One of my favourite memories of the outback as an author is speaking on School of the Air. I was talking about Mustara and Ernest Giles’ trek to Perth. Students replied interactively that0 Dog Fence Hawkethey had ridden camels and one boy had seen Ernest Giles’ tree where he left a saddle. I was moved that these kids who couldn’t play with each other still had a school community online.

I love the space and atmosphere of the outback. I like to be able to see the horizon and the further away the better. What some call ‘empty spaces’ I think are places full of the magnificence of creation; at Uluru I felt the awe of sitting in a natural cathedral. When I lived in Pakistan, it was this space and huge sky that I missed. Now I live in rural SA. People here still drive utes and lift a finger in greeting as they pass, and the outback is only a day away. Finding Kerra is my attempt at catching a small part of the Australian outback for those who can’t make the trek and for those who will be inspired to go.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
2001 Hits

Catriona McKeown on 'Writing Skeletons'

CatrionaMcKeownI have skeletons in my closet. Do you?

They’re not particularly nice ones. Springing to mind are words like 'anxiety', 'addiction', 'anger', 'depression', 'regret', 'lack of forgiveness', 'financial destruction', 'infatuation', 'fear'. I guess no skeleton is nice, no matter how big the closet is; I mean, they are all about death, decay and an acute lack of life, after all.

But before you roll your eyes and move on to the next story, these clichéd skeletons I’m talking about are skeletons within my world. They are worse than any of the other skeletons you’ve heard about before. They come with a story, every one of them. They’re real stories of real devastation, of real experiences, of real people. You know, there’s that one about—oh but hang on, you don’t know.

You don’t know because they’re my skeletons, in my closet. You’ll only know about them if I crack the door open. If I invite you into my closet to sit for a bit, to look around, to see the hurt and feel the pain, then you’ll know. You’ll know some of the story and understand why they’re my skeletons, and why I’ve been hiding them.

They say to write what you know.

So, should I crack the door open to my closet and let people in, just for a moment?

They say writing is therapeutic.

So, should I write the skeleton down and allow the healing to come to us both?

They say writing gives life.

So, if I write it, will it live again in my mind and in yours?

And so, I write.


You can follow along on Catriona’s writing journey through her website, on Facebook, Twitter and even on Pinterest. Her debut novel, The Boy in the Hoodie, comes out 1 November, 2017. 

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
2083 Hits

Chatting with Lora Inak

DSC 4647What do you mean by ‘the cultural tightrope’?

That’s a great question and one that I’ve asked myself. By the term ‘Cultural Tightrope’ I mean: The act of balancing between the culture you’re born into, and the culture of the place or country in which you live.

Like the traditional circus tightrope we all know, the cultural tightrope can be precarious as it swings and bounces over the journey of the walker. For us first, second, and even third-generation Australians, we sometimes find ourselves on an oscillating tightrope, unsure of where we fit. Are we real Australians? We weren’t born here! Or, if we were, we don’t look like the typical Aussie in TV commercials. Inevitably, we look for cues about what is culturally acceptable should we choose to define ourselves as an Australian, and too often change ourselves to blend in, to balance, rejecting the culture of our forefathers. Alternatively, we deep dive into it, immersing ourselves in the safety of where we know we definitely belong.

As I get older, it increasingly dawns on me just how much the culture within us, and the culture without, affects every part of how we exist. And with this awareness, comes the realisation of just how important it is to understand, accept, and be proud of it. Not only is culture a wide and frameless being, it is also complex in its constant evolution and fusion. So, it’s no surprise that balancing that tightrope can be tough.

 Natalie has to balance two lives—her Syrian and Australian identities. Do you think many Australian teenagers walk this cultural tightrope too? Is it tricky to balance?

The ABS tells us that around 30% of Australians are born overseas. This figure covers the entire population and within it, a wide age range so yes, I definitely believe many Australian teenagers find themselves on that precarious cultural tightrope, but so do a great many adults. What I think varies is the type of tightrope we walk.

As a teenager we want so much to fit in, but simultaneously, stand out as an individual – so the balance is more about what we wear, how we speak, our social activities etc. As an adult, the balance changes focus to how we parent, how we behave in our working life, what language we speak at home – do we encourage our kids to assimilate or adopt their cultural heritage. Of course, it’s not the same for everyone and I’ve made some generalisations but for some, that balance can be pretty tricky.

You’re a Turkish-born Australian. Did you have similar experiences to Natalie when you were growing up? I did. My parents were loving, but also strict and overly protective so I missed out on school camps and mixed sex parties. Sleepovers at friends’ houses were a definite no, as was dating boys. I was in constant terror of being caught walking home with male school mates – but in hindsight, some of it was in my head, and as I grew older, I found my parents weren’t as strict and unreasonable as I’d thought. In fact, when I finally introduced them to my now husband, they were really warm and welcoming, despite him being an Aussie 😊.

What was your first impression of Australia when you immigrated?

In my blog – Tip o The Fez I actually recount my first memory in Australia in a post titled 'Immigrant Girl'. I was only four years old when my family immigrated here, so my memories are a little hazy, but what left an imprint on me was a sense of wonder and magic - that this place, Australia, was full of possibilities. Although I was so young, I believe my senses were spot on. That’s exactly how I still feel about Australia.

 What’s it like to be a debut author? Are you excited or nervous?

Absolutely awesome! I’m excited and nervous and still in a state of disbelief but also incredibly happy. I feel very fortunate that the team at Rhiza Press believe in me and my work, and have given me this opportunity to share my story with others.


Lora's debut novel, Unspoken Rules, is out on the 17th of September on Australian Citizenship Day.

To find out more about Lora, visit her website and Facebook.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
2720 Hits

The Cultural Tightrope

By Lora Inak

DSC 4091If you plug in the term ‘Cultural Tightrope’ into any search engine, you’ll undoubtedly find a mix of explanations, definitions, stories, articles and random websites. I started my research in exactly this way, sifting through page after page of search hits to find the perfect definition and starting point for this article.

After some time, and no real luck, I realised the difficult task of defining my meaning fell on me:

The act of balancing between the culture you’re born into, and the culture of the place or country in which you live.

Like the traditional circus tightrope we all know, the cultural tightrope can be precarious as it swings and bounces over the journey of the walker. For us first, second, and even third-generation Australians, we sometimes find ourselves on an oscillating tightrope, unsure of where we fit.

Are we real Australians? We weren’t born here! Or, if we were, we don’t look like the typical Aussie in tv commercials.

Inevitably, we look for cues about what is culturally acceptable should we choose to define ourselves as an Australian, and too often change ourselves to blend in, to balance, rejecting the culture of our forefathers. Alternatively, we deep dive into it, immersing ourselves in the safety of where we know we definitely belong.

As I get older, it increasingly dawns on me just how much the culture within us, and the culture without, affects every part of how we exist. The food we eat, the people we associate with, the books/movies/music we enjoy, the partner we marry, how we raise our children, our occupation, and the list goes on in a seemingly endless stream.

And with this awareness, comes the realisation of just how important it is to understand, accept, and be proud of it. Not only is culture a wide and frameless being, it is also complex in its constant evolution and fusion. So, it’s no surprise that balancing that tightrope can be tough.

As I learned to appreciate, accept and enjoy the culture I was born into and the one in which I live, I created a personal hybrid where I found comfort, happiness and balance. The tightrope stopped swaying...

So I walked calmly to the other end and climbed off.


Lora's debut novel, Unspoken Rules, is out on the 17th of September on Australian Citizenship Day.

To find out more about Lora, visit her website and Facebook.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
2167 Hits

Danger and Dancing - Chats with Rosanne Hawke

LianasDanceES1. Tell us a little bit about Liana’s Dance. What can readers expect?

Liana’s Dance is a sweeping adventure so if you liked The War Within, you’ll like this novel too. Liana’s Dance also has a touch of mystery due to a family secret. Sixteen-year-old Liana tries to come to terms with living in a dangerous time, especially when her school is attacked by terrorists, but also fights peril from within herself.

2. Like Liana, did you experience danger when you lived in Pakistan?

It’s strange but we never felt we were in constant danger. Sometimes we were in danger due to the environment, like being trapped by snow in the Chitral Valley or getting lost and turning up in a strange village of only men, all carrying guns (we got out of there pretty fast and fortunately weren’t followed). My husband was detained by police twice, once for looking too much like an Afghan freedom fighter and second for letting off firecrackers for the girls’ school where I worked.

During the Gulf War the police said we were in danger since we looked like Americans and had to remain at home. Fortunately the people in Abbottabad, where we lived, knew us and gave us no trouble. The kindness of the people outweighed the dangers. For example, a poor Christian family brought us food while we were house-detained.

3. Liana’s Dance is inspired by your Beyond Borders series. Why did you think it was important to tell Liana’s story now?0 Rosanne

Some readers have been concerned about what happened at the end of The War Within and wanted to know more about Liana. I thought it was good to see what Liana was like when she was Jaime’s age. She has an incredible story of depression and hope; fear and strength; maturity and love. I also believe telling Liana’s story is good for Jaime in helping her navigate her lonely landscape of grief.

4. How do you think Australian teenagers would relate to Liana’s story?

When I wrote the first draft of Liana’s story I thought a terrorist attack on a Western school would never happen, but imagine my shock when some years later, it did. I kept working on the story because some young people do have to walk through frightening situations, even in Western countries. They can emerge fearful or more mature. Also, the situation in which Liana finds herself while travelling with her young music teacher is a dilemma that’s not often spoken about, but can easily become a problem in high school.

5. All right, last question. Liana loves to dance. Are you known to give a little boogie or jig every now and then?

Ha, not likely. I grew up in semi outback QLD and loved country dances and balls. My brother would take me when I was older as the boys at school didn’t know how to dance. Maybe I was a geek.

While in Pakistan some Afghan ladies taught my girls and me some dance steps. Sometimes when I was first writing stories set in Pakistan I dressed in the outfit those ladies made for me, put the Caravans soundtrack on and secretly danced their steps. It helped me think of what to write next.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
2309 Hits

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

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
3058 Hits

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.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
3173 Hits

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. 

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
4775 Hits

Desire, love and betrayal in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka


by Patricia Weerakoon

Patricia Weerakoon, sexologist and author, turned to personal experience when writing Empire’s Children.

The novel, which is set in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka, brought back many childhood memories.

“I am a Tea maker’s daughter,” said Patricia. “The rigid boundaries between natives, Indians and British were a part of my life. This story is a dedication to my Sri Lankan parents and the Indian ‘coolie’ labourers who worked in appalling conditions under the British Raj of the colonial empire.”

Empire’s Children tells the story of Shiro, the native Tea maker’s daughter and her friendship with Lakshmi, the daughter of an Indian tea plucker. They should not have been friends – but they were. It also tells the story of Anthony and William Ashley Cooper, the sons of the British owner of the tea plantations. The Ashley-Coopers should never have had any contact with the girls – but they did. Their destinies are woven together in the dying years of white British rule in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka.

The result is a tale of love and sex in all its complexity, reluctant passion and innocent faith, of power and abuse and one man’s longing to make reparation.

Patricia Weerakoon is a medical doctor turned sexologist and writer. She retired in 2012 after a distinguished career as director of an internationally renowned graduate program in sexual health at the University of Sydney to pursue her passion for writing and public speaking. Her nonfiction books Teen Sex: By the Book; Growing up: By the Book and The Best Sex for Life are gold-standard guides for good sexual practice. Patricia is currently an honorary academic with the University of Sydney. She is also a popular public speaker and social commentator at schools, churches and conferences in Australia.


Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
9574 Hits


imagesapp icon2twitter icon 300x300youtube v2 512