Month: July 2016

Three mobile phones


One skill I’ve developed over the years of working on the railways is the ability not to scream the words “Are you insane?!!!” the minute they come into my head.  This was useful this week, when I saw someone walking down the cutting beside the tracks.  There’s not a lot of space in there and while not actually deadly, it’s certainly not “minimizing the risk” as the Occ. Health and Safety folks say.  Also it upsets the drivers who are inclined to be jumpy over people walking beside the tracks.

I was surprised to discover the trespasser was a young woman.  They usually have too strong a sense of self-preservation for such hi jinks.

“Hang on,” she replied, absent-mindedly poking around in the bushes when I went down and yelled “Hey get off the tracks it’s not safe.”

At length she came up and handed me three mobile phones to hold while she climbed up onto the platform.

“What are you looking for?” I asked, thinking I could help.

“A Pokemon!” said she.

Hence the jaw-dropping moment when I discovered the Pokemon-Go craze.  Apparently my station is a Pokemon-Go point of interest.

Oh Joy!

Best wishes to all you Pokemon-Go players.  Glad to see you around.  But stay safe.



Alison Goodman


Alison Goodman first hit the New York Times Best Seller list with the Eon books. Now she’s back with Lady Helen and The Dark Days Club.

From the blurb –  London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?”

If you like the sound of this, read on …


Tell us about The Dark Days Club.

The Dark Days Club (the Australian title is Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club) is the first book in a supernatural adventure trilogy set in the Regency. I think of it as Georgette Heyer meets the paranormal girl power of Buffy. Each book is set in one of the society seasons during 1812: Book 1 is set in London for The Season; Book 2 is in Brighton during the summer Season; and book 3 is in Bath for the winter Season. The trilogy is also historically accurate with some cameos from historical figures such as Lord Byron and Beau Brummell.  However, I have to admit that the demons I have created, called Deceivers, may not be so historically accurate.

What initially inspired you to write it?

The idea for the book came to me while I was on a tram coming home from a writers’ conference. I had been to a session about researching the Regency era, and as I sat looking out of the tram window, I idly asked myself what kind of Regency novel would I like to read now? The answer came in a rush: a mix of everything I loved about Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer together with the excitement and delight of a supernatural adventure. I scrabbled for a pen and paper and by the time I got to my tram stop, I had the outline of The Dark Days Club.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment, I’m waiting for the copy edit of The Dark Days Pact, Book 2 in the series, which is due for release this coming Christmas/New Year. I’m also working on Book 3, and I’ve just completed a novelette from Lord Carlston’s point of view (the main male character in the series), which will be available soon.

How do you start out with your stories?  In the middle, beginning or end?

I write from beginning to end, and don’t jump ahead. My books always have an element of suspense to them and I find that I can build that more effectively if I write the book chronologically.



What’s your writing process for your solo books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

Before I actually start writing, I spend a lot of time working on structure and building a strong through-line of cause and effect. Alongside that, I also spend quite a while researching. In fact, for the Lady Helen series, I researched the Regency era full-time for over eight months before I began writing the first book. So, while I am working out structure and doing my research, I also write the first chapter to develop voice and build a solid launching point for the novel. Once all of these three elements are in place then I am ready to roll. Generally, I write every day, even if life gets in the way and I only have time to fiddle with a few sentences. That way I keep the momentum. Of course, when a deadline is approaching, then I can be at the computer for ten hours!

I remember hearing your talk about your interest in gender relations in the Regency Romance.  Did you manage to explore it in The Dark Days club?

Yes, female empowerment and gender relations are two of my passions, and the Regency is a great setting in which to explore these themes. Women were, legally, chattels and were thought to have little intellectual capacity although there were many women at that time whose writings, art and social endeavours countered these misogynistic beliefs. In The Dark Days Club, the character of Helen’s uncle is a man who holds these beliefs, and I have based his attitudes on the writings about women that appeared in major newspapers and journals of the time. They are at once hilarious and absolutely awful.

 How do you go with social media?  What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I have a website, a Twitter account, an Instagram account and Facebook author page. I’m not constantly on any of these platforms, but I do offer a writing tip of the day on Twitter, and post photos regularly on Instagram. I also post a journal of what’s been happening, book wise, on my website as well as maintaining a calendar of upcoming appearances. I don’t like to post minutiae about my life (I don’t want to bore everyone senseless) so I generally post when I have some news or I have an interesting picture to share. My focus is on writing the books. My tip would be to choose which of the platforms suit you best and post on those rather than try do them all. Also, if possible link the accounts so that posting on one will post on the others as well.

For anyone interested, here are my platforms:


Twitter: @Alison Goodman

Instagram: @alisongoodmanauthor



What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

Only three? Okay, let me try and narrow it down.

Anything by Joss Whedon, but in particular the Buffy TV series and Firefly. Genre blending at its best.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. So much fun.

The art of Francis Bacon, which is seriously disturbing, and the beautiful Regency portraits of Lawrence.



A large wheelie suitcase

Due to a sloppy head cold, nasty wet weather with a chilly wind playing off the snowfields and an upsurge in customers, last week was a tough one for yours truly.  I’ve had to break out my woolly vests for the first time in 3 years.

The increased visitors were the result of the school holidays, but there were also a large number of extra customers who had lost their gruntle due to buses at the nearby stop.  Trams are slow but buses in city traffic are slooooow.

“Very poor service!” snapped one entitled young woman in crisp, upper-class tones. “I’m going to miss my country train because of you.”

Her posh accent (Melbourne Grammar at least) made my hackles rise but I resisted temptation and refrained from pointing out that she’d cut her connection too fine if it was that important.  That never goes anywhere good.

But the toughest thing about last week was seeing M and C who once again find themselves homeless.

They showed up with a large suitcase having had to put their new-born baby into care with the Salvos.  So at least he is warm and dry.  Apparently they are able to visit him every day too.

Lately when M has showed up scrounging money “for milk for the baby” I’ve wondered if this unseen child actually exists, but their distress last week was palpable.

“It was awful leaving him.  Little M cried and then M cried and then I couldn’t help crying,” said C.

M tells me he was in care from the time he was six. I suspect he fears for his son as well.  Bad luck and small mistakes make a critical mass of difficulties that are difficult to get over.  There but for the grace of God …

Pamela Freeman

castintgsI first discovered Pamela Freeman through her wonderful fantasy trilogy for adults The Castings, but she writes for children as well and over many genres. She’s even written a children’s biography of St Mary Mackillop.  Currently she’s using the name Pamela Hart to write adult historical novels set around WWI

Tell us about The War Bride.

The War Bride is an historical novel set in 1920 in Sydney.  It tells the story of Margaret Dalton and the life she makes for herself after being told that her husband was in fact married when he ‘went through a form of marriage’ with her – but it’s all a mistake, and they are really married. I write these books under the name Pamela Hart (my married name, which I’ve never used before).

What initially inspired you to write the book?

When I was doing the research for my last historical, The Soldier’s Wife, I came across a story about an English war bride, Margaret, who had married her ANZAC husband in England during the war, then came out on a war bride ship in January 1919, only to find that her husband had lied to her about his address and was probably already married. As soon as I read that I knew I had the beginning of my next book.

Then I read about a war bride ship which was so disgusting (mould, cockroaches, rats) that the women refused to travel on it and General Monash transferred them all to another ship.  And I thought, what if I put those two ideas together, so that the husband meets the wrong ship and thinks his wife didn’t come from England, while she is told he was already married, but he wasn’t…

They go on to make separate lives, but of course they later find out the truth…and then it gets complicated!

What else are you working on?

I’m currently writing a book set in 1917, in Italy.  It’s about a woman war correspondent who is reporting on the naval blockade of the Adriatic sea, working around a lot of prejudice against women reporters.  She makes a partnership with an Italian-American photographer who wants to be a war photographer…

War Bride


How do you start out with your stories? In the middle, beginning or end?

I’m with the Red King: I start at the beginning, go on until the end, and then stop.  Of course, in editing, that might all get changed around.

What’s your writing process?

I think a lot about the characters and story before I begin.  I try to figure out what the book is really about – not the plot, but the meaning.  Why it’s worth writing.  And that guides me as I create the plot.

Do you throw a lot away?

Heaps!  It varies from book to book.  The most I’ve thrown away completely is 45,000 words.  But I rewrote one book completely five times, with a different narrative position each time (3rd person young, 1st person old, etc), until I found the right one.

Basically, you have to be prepared to be ruthless.  No change is off limits.  After your first draft is completed, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to the manuscript to make it better.

But if I throw scenes away, I always put them in a ‘bits’ file – for one thing, it’s easier emotionally, and quite often, I find where that scene really belongs is later in the book, and I can go and retrieve it.

Do you write every day?

I wish! No, but most days.  I have a number of family commitments which make it hard to write every day, and I’m not of the ‘you MUST write every day’ school.  If a book’s not ready to be written, there’s no point in forcing it.  On the other hand, procrastination is the enemy of every writer, so you have to know the difference between the book ‘cooking’ in your mind and you just being scared of sitting down and starting it.

Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

Depends on the book.  I’ve done both, and both work – as long as you’re prepared to edit and edit and edit.

I see you are also Creative Writing Director at the Australian Writers Centre. What sort of things do you do?

I teach writing there, and I design the ‘vanilla’ writing classes: we have a pathway going from absolute beginners to a six-month novel writing course.  All of them are also taught online, which is terrific.  I’ve had students from all over the world.

The Centre also offers ‘flavours’:  courses in specialist writing, like children’s, picture books, thrillers, women’s fiction, and so on.  I teach history and speculative fiction writing. I’m very proud of our courses – we have some of the best presenters around!

It must keep you busy. How do you go with social media?

Well, as you know, I’m a Facebook girl.  I started my page on the instructions of Orbit Books’ marketing manager in New York when my fantasy trilogy (the Castings trilogy) was published there, and I really enjoy it.  I’ve also started a page for Pamela Hart.

When I became Pamela Hart for the historicals, my publicity team suggested I try Twitter (@pamelahartbooks).  It can be fun, too, but it feels more like work to me.

What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? 

I am lucky in that my friends on Facebook are terrific about spreading the word – so I let them know when something is published, etc.

Of course, I have a website which I keep updated with news – which can take a lot of time, as I maintain three:, and (for my children’s series).

I rely a lot on my publicity team, and I do public appearances (eg at libraries, or writers’ festivals), and for my children’s books I do school visits.  I’m beginning to feel I need to do more, though!

As for time, it varies a lot – near a book’s launch date I’ll be devoting days to it; six months’ later I’m just maintaining FB and Twitter.

Any social media tips?

A good, clean website so people can find your books and, importantly, find out what else you have written.  So if you have a series, it’s crucial that you make it easy for people to find the list of the books in order, so they can immediately get the next one for their e-reader.

I’m not convinced that social media sells books.  What I do think it does is let your existing readers know when a new book is out, so that the early sales spike and give booksellers and your publisher confidence in your book.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

Argggghhhhh why do you ask me hard questions????!

Ok. It’s all books, I’m afraid.  I couldn’t possibly pick three bits of music or art or films (although Casablanca might slip in there).

When I was tiny, my father used to read to me from the poetry book he had at school, the Roma Poetry Book.  Apparently, even as a three-year-old I would demand to be read to ‘from the book with all the pretty words’.  So that’s number one.

Then, I think, it’s Twelfth Night, which I discovered on my own when I was 10 or 11, and read before I was told it was too hard for me.  I remember rolling on the floor laughing at Malvolio and his yellow stockings.  I went on to become a Shakespeare tragic (still am).

And probably, as third, I would have to pick Lord of the Rings, read when I was 13 (oh, the books that you read when you’re in your early teens!). I’d been reading science fiction, mythology, folk tales etc all my life, but LOTR put me on the full-on fantasy path.

And right now, I’m writing fantasy (for kids), history (for adults), and the occasional poem… so I guess those three books are still influencing me!