30 March 2013

Review: Chasing Odysseus by S.D. Gentill

Chasing Odysseus by S.D. Gentill book cover
* From publisher for review * 

Chasing Odysseus by S.D. Gentill is essentially a modern reader's introduction to Greek mythology in an adventure and action packed plot beginning with the siege of Troy and soon after the famed Trojan war.

We follow the tale through the eyes of strong young female protagonist Hero and her brothers, as they chase Odysseus (Greek King of Ithaca) over sea and land, seeking answers for how their beloved city of Troy was breached and subsequently destroyed by the Greeks.

Chasing Odysseus introduced me to Greek myths and legends in a gentle and extremely accessible way and is suitable for adult or YA readers alike.

If you're interested in Greek mythology but are too afraid to read Homer's Iliad or the Odyssey, then this is a fabulous contemporary place to start.  Chasing Odysseus is the first in a three part series referred to as the Hero Trilogy published by Pantera Press and written by Sulari Gentill, otherwise known as S.D. Gentill in this series.

My rating = ***1/2

Carpe Librum!
26 March 2013

Review: Redemption on the River by Loren DeShon

* From author for review *

Redemption on the River is set up and down the Mississippi River in 1848, and features Silas, our main character escaping dark problems on the farm at home and looking for redemption and a way to make things 'right'.

Silas learns how to gamble, use a knife, falls in love, makes a best friend - a giant of a man named one-ball - and all this against a background of slavery.

Big steamboats, big stakes at the faro gambling tables and lots of danger make Redemption on the River an exciting and action packed read.

The only other book I've read set on the Mississippi is Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and interestingly, I found out afterwards that it was set in 1845 (around the same time as Redemption on the River) although published in 1884.

Now, while I didn't enjoy Huckleberry Finn (2 stars), I'm pleased to say I enjoyed reading Redemption on the River, and the book even permeated my dreams.  I had several dreams about boats on the river while I was reading it; the sign a book is getting to you!

I recommend Redemption on the River by Loren DeShon to those who would like to know more about this era, life on the Mississippi in the time of steam boats, and the gambling lifestyle that went on, also made famous by the 1994 movie starring Mel Gibson, Maverick.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!
25 March 2013

Interview with Major General John Cantwell (ret'd), author of Exit Wounds

After reading Exit Wounds, by Major General John Cantwell and giving it 5 stars in my review, I feel very honoured to interview him here on Carpe Librum!
Author, John Cantwell with his book Exit Wounds

Good Afternoon John and thanks for joining us.  When I attended your event at The Shrine of Remembrance in October last year, you mentioned one of your goals was to get the message about PTSD out into the community.  You also wanted people to know that many people can suffer from PTSD: policemen, bushfire victims, paramedics etc.  Do you feel you have achieved this through the writing of Exit Wounds?
The response to Exit Wounds has been extraordinary. Hardly a day goes by when I do not receive a letter or email (sometimes half a dozen or more) thanking me for speaking out on PTSD. When I talk publically or attend a book signing, many people tell me their own stories about PTSD, either as someone who has wrestled with it or known someone who has. A consistent message has been that people feel my book has "given them permission" to tell their own story. The most gratifying response is when I hear that people who have been struggling with PTSD in silence or secrecy feel encouraged to get the help they deserve. It's a good feeling.  

What advice would you give a person supporting a loved one suffering from PTSD?
PTSD can invoke some difficult emotional issues, such as loss of interest in life, anger, anxiety or mood swings. This can be very hard on others in the relationship. Sleeping problems, chronic tiredness or alcohol can add to the mix. The most important thing is to encourage the PTSD sufferer to seek help. There is nothing shameful about having PTSD; indeed, it is a perfectly normal response to abnormal events. Counselling and medication can do wonders to help restore some equilibrium in the life of someone with PTSD. Early intervention is very important on the road to recovery.

How has writing Exit Wounds changed you?
Writing the book was sometimes difficult, in the sense of forcing myself to confront long-buried painful memories. Announcing to the world that I had PTSD wasn't easy either, because I am essentially a fairly private person. But it was important to me to speak out and help others, and the results of doing so have more than made up for the discomfort of laying my soul bare on the issue of PTSD. The writing process and especially the many talks I have given have also helped to take some of the sting out of issues that have troubled me in the past, so it has been a somewhat cathartic process.

Major General John Cantwell
How has Exit Wounds been received by senior members of the Australian Defence Force?
My book and related efforts to raise awareness of PTSD have been strongly supported by the ADF senior leaders. The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, attended the launch and has used my example in his own talks about the importance of getting help for PTSD. There seems to be a much more open approach to the issue of PTSD in the Defence Force since my book was published, which is great. There is still some way to go but I'm confident that the senior leaders 'get it' and are trying to make the PTSD response and support framework better. 

Which part of the book did you write last?
I wrote the Epilogue last, although I'd had it in my head for a while. I tended to write in the sequence of events that happened. I found I could construct paragraphs and chapters in my head, tossing around the words to get it right. Once I started on a chapter I could generally get it down fairly quickly. There was a bit of polishing and editing but this diminished as I found my voice. My writing partner Greg Bearup mostly helped with the polishing process. I spent a little extra time refining the Prologue, once the rest of the book was finished. 

During the First Gulf War, you shared some horrific moments with two men Steve and Pete, and later they didn't respond to your attempts to make contact.  As a reader, I found this quite sad and upsetting, wondering at their reasons.  Have you heard from them since the release of your book?
Unfortunately I haven't heard from Steve and Pete since the Iraq war in 1991. The letters I sent though the British military system soon after the war came back unanswered, so I suspect the boys left the army shortly after getting home, as so many soldiers did back then. I hope that one day word of my book will reach them and they'll recognise themselves in the story, and get in touch. (I really hope so too John).

Some of the Americans I mentioned in the book, from both Iraq wars, have discovered the book and made contact with me, which is wonderful. Best of all, many of the Australian diggers I described in the section of Exit Wounds covering Afghanistan have become firm friends, especially the wounded and parents of the fallen soldiers.

What do you enjoy reading and can you share some of your favourite books/authors?
The Yellow Birds
by Kevin Powers
In the past I read a lot of military history but I don't find the same allure there that I once found. That said, I recently enjoyed Chris Masters' excellent Uncommon Soldier which is a great account of what makes Australian soldiers special. I occasionally read broader history works, such as 1776 which is David McCullough's account of the dramatic years leading up to American Independence. These days I tend to read fiction more often. Many years ago I read Lord of the Rings at my wife Jane's insistence and loved it; I must have read it half a dozen times over the years. I often re-read books I like. I sometimes dabble in science fiction, and especially enjoy Iain M. Banks works in that genre. I recently finished The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, which is a powerful fictional story of the recent war in Iraq. Kevin is also a poet and the lyrical character of his work is quite special. I met Kevin at a writers festival recently and was struck by his humility and thoughtfulness. Right now I'm almost finished reading Among Others by Jo Walton, which is a delightful story of a young Welsh girl who sees fairies - sounds odd, but its terrific.

Do you or your wife Jane have a favourite bookshop?
We live in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and the little village near our home only has a very modest bookshop, sadly. I love any book store. I particularly love bookshops that encourage browsing and coffee. Lately I often listen to audiobooks, which takes away the wonderful experience of buying a book and holding it in one's hands, but which is another great way to enjoy the skills of a writer (and narrator) while doing something else, like mowing the lawn. At least that way I get some enjoyment from the process!  (Really? *laughs* I can't imagine listening to an audio book while mowing the lawn, that's a new one!)

What's next?  What do you have planned for 2013?
I've got a couple of projects in the early stages of planning.  I think there is room for an account of the Australian experience in Afghanistan, through the eyes of a small group of soldiers. The idea is to follow the true story of soldiers in one particular period of the war, probably 2010, when the fighting was especially fierce. I also plan to walk the Kokoda Track next year, over Anzac Day, along with a number of wounded and emotionally damaged soldiers, plus the parents of some fallen soldiers. That would also make a good story, perhaps a long-form magazine article. Looking further forward, I'd like to try my hand at fiction. I recently entered a piece in a short story competition and found that I really enjoyed the idea of creating a character then making them walk, talk and feel. 

What would you like to tell your readers?
I'd like to sincerely thank those who bought my book and especially those who contacted me to say that it had touched them in a special way. That's a very satisfying response, especially for a first-time writer. And of course, they should recommend my book to their friends!

Anything else you'd like to add?
I really appreciate the opportunity to be part of the Carpe Librum blog!  Thanks John!  And good luck for the Kokoda Track next year, it will be a huge physical and emotional undertaking and achievement for all.

Carpe Librum!
21 March 2013

Review: We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson book cover
We Have Always Lived In The Castle was written by Shirley Jackson and published in 1962, and was one of Time Magazine's 'Ten Best Novels' of 1962.

Essentially a story about the Blackwoods who suffered a mass poisoning which killed several of their family members around the dinner table one night during dessert.  

Constance was tried but acquitted of the crime, and together with her younger sister Merricat, live with their Uncle Julian in the house where it all took place. The family are hated by the villagers and isolate themselves from all outsiders.

It is interesting to note that the author suffered from agoraphobia and has admitted that Constance and Merricat were fictional versions of her own daughters. This is where the interest ends for me though.

This short novel was strange and I never really 'got it'.  Merricat's narrative was dreamy and unreliable at times. At one stage I thought that perhaps Merricat was a ghost, or maybe they were all ghosts, but now I don't think so.  

One of my favourite authors Stephen King lists Shirley Jackson as one of his literary influences and her book The Haunting Of Hill House as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century.  

Perhaps I should have read that instead.

My rating = *

Carpe Librum!
19 March 2013

Author interview with Kate Forsyth, author of The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens

It gives me great pleasure to introduce one of Australia's most successful and prolific authors, Kate Forsyth; author of Bitter Greens and her latest release The Wild Girl.

Kate, thanks for joining us on Carpe Librum.  Let me ask you, with over 25 published books to your name, what do you love most about being a writer?
Kate Forsyth
Everything! I love every stage of writing a new novel from buying myself a beautiful new notebook to building the story, step by slow step, to the actual rush of joy that comes when the writing is going well. I would never want to do anything else. 

Do you plan your novels in advance or does the story unfold as you go?
Both. I spend quite a long time doing my research, immersing myself in the period, daydreaming, pondering the story, scribbling down ideas, sticking photos and maps into my notebook, exploring possibilities, imagining my characters and the setting and so on. I write an outline, and then draw up a rough plan which normally takes up a page or two in my notebook. I play with ideas for the structure, and establish my keystones - the title, the opening and closing scenes, and a few vividly imagined scenes along the way. I cannot start writing until I have these things firmly in my head, as well as the first line. Once I start to write, the story will unfold in new and unexpected ways, and I really love that part of the process too. 

I've read that as part of your research for writing The Wild Girl, you read the personal diaries of Wilhelm Grimm, one of the Grimm brothers. What was that experience like and how does one even gain access to such historic papers?
It was quite amazing, I have to admit. I knew fairly early on that I needed someone in Germany to help with all the research and translations - so many books on the Grimms have never been translated into English. I knew that Dortchen had dictated a memoir to her daughter while on her deathbed, plus there were many other essays and books about the Grimms that I needed help with. I tried for months to find someone to help me but had no luck. One translator I hired was hit by a car, another simply vanished off the face of the earth (or perhaps he simply stopped responding to my emails). 

The Wild Girl
One day I was googling in German, looking for any information I could find on the Wild family, when I stumbled upon a blog written by a German artist and cartoonist called Irmgard Peters. She was recounting an old family story about a white cot that had been passed down through generations of her family. In that cot, she said, slept the Wild girls who told the Grimm brothers all their fairy tales. I wrote to her in my execrable German to see if it was at all possible that she meant the Wild girls as in Dortchen, Lisette and Gretchen Wild, and she wrote back (in perfect English) saying yes, she was the direct descendant of Rudolf Wild, their brother, and why did I want to know. When I told her about the novel I was writing, she was very pleased that Dortchen was at last been brought out of the shadows and asked what she could do to help me. 

She translated Dortchen's memoir (its only a few pages long), and sent me photos of family portraits, and then she corresponded with some of Germany's foremost Grimm scholars on my behalf. Wilhelm's diary had recently been unearthed and one of the scholars was planning to work on it with plans to publish. He told Irmgard and she asked if she might see it and translate it for me, and was given permission. It was so exciting! The diary is not very long and only covers a few years, and Irmgard only translated the pages in which Dortchen is mentioned, but it helped me enormously with the last section of the book. I was unbelievably lucky to have found it! 

How wonderful to have liaised so closely with a direct descendant of Dortchen's brother, Rudolf. It must have been such an unexpected joy!  That leads into the next question quite well.  I was going to ask if you knew if any descendants of Dortchen Wild have read The Wild Girl?
I have sent Irmgard a copy of The Wild Girl and am now very anxious in case she hates what I've done. I do hope she likes it!

I loved reading how Dortchen collected and harvested herbs and plants that she and her father used - in Germany in the early 1800s - to create herbal remedies for sale in the family shop.  How did you conduct the research for this aspect of the novel?
I have always been interested in herbs and natural healing have a large  library on the subject already. However, most of my books are about English herbs and remedies, and so I needed to find out about German beliefs and practices. A few things helped me. Firstly, I borrowed a book on German apothecaries from the university library and struggled my way through it - the book was incredibly arcane and difficult but taught me a lot about some of the stranger remedies like bezoar stones and the breathing in of mercury fumes to help asthma patients (no wonder Wilhelm was so ill!). It also gave me the recipe for laudanum which was fascinating - I had never realised that the apothecaries bought the opium in its raw state and made up the tincture themselves. 

Then, when I was in Germany, I visited an apothecary museum which was really illuminating too. Plus, of course, lots and lots of Google Book searches!

What was the hardest part of writing The Wild Girl?
The research was difficult and took me a long time. Discovering my story was also hard - so little was known about Dortchen's life and her inner world. I turned to her stories for inspiration and was troubled by the darkness and cruelty in many of the stories, particularly in 'All-Kinds-of-Fur' which is an incest tale. It seemed so strange for a young German woman of Dortchen's time to tell such a story to a young man - and it was so striking the way he later rewrote the story to transform it into a story of escape and healing, rather than imprisonment and pain. And then he called the girl in his version of the story a Wild creature ... like that, with a capital on the W. The more I read, and the more I thought, the clearer it seemed to me that there was darkness and cruelty in Dortchen's own life .... but then I really struggled with my right to imagine a tale like this based on a real woman's unknown life. I talked it over with a number of people I really trust, and decided that this is what we do as fiction writers - we spin stories out of fragments of other stories and other lives. 

Which part of the book did you write last?
The last scene. I always write in a linear fashion, from beginning to end, as much as I can.

One of Kate's fav books
The White Queen by
Philippa Gregory
I've heard that you love to read.  What are some of your favourite books/authors?
I do love to read! I have so many favourite authors its impossible to list them all, but I'll give it a go. I love: Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Juliet Marillier, Robin McKinley, Philippa Gregory, Joanne Harris, Tracy Chevalier, Kim Wilkins, Kate Morton, Karen Maitland, C.J. Sansom, Geraldine Brooks, Christopher Gortner, Sarah Dunant, Ellis Peters ... check out my website for more.

Where does your love of history or historical fiction come from?
I think the books I loved to read as a child - Geoffrey Trease, Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy plus many more.

Do you have any literary influences?
I think any book I have ever read which I have loved - and so we're talking thousands and thousands of books here! 

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
I love any bookshop! I especially love old bookshops with hidden treasures in dusty, cobwebby corners ... ooh, me too; love hidden treasures but hold the spiders!

What's next?  What are you researching or working on at the moment?
I'm working on a 5-book children's fantasy adventure, and then I'm planning another historical fairytale retelling - this one set in Nazi Germany.

What would you like to tell your readers?
I hope you love my books!

On that note, thanks so much for joining us today Kate!
16 March 2013

Winner Announced: The Devil's In The Detail Giveaway

The The Devil's In The Detail Giveaway is now closed, and I enjoyed reading about your favourite books and movies with the word 'devil' or 'angel' in the title.

By far the most popular entry was Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.

I received entries from the interview post with author Matthew S. Wilson, the book review and giveaway announcement and at GoodReads where the giveaway was also being advertised and was very popular.

Entries were collated and put through www.random.org, and it gives me great pleasure to announce that the winner is...


Dale's entry was The Devil's Advocate by Morris West.  Dale, please email me with your postal address, and I'll send your signed copy of The Devil's In The Detail by Matthew S. Wilson.  

Thanks to all who entered this giveaway.  For those who missed out, you can read a FREE extract here.

Carpe Librum!
15 March 2013

Review: The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth book cover
* From the author for review *

Last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed Bitter Greens by Australian author Kate Forsyth, giving it five stars. I recently had the pleasure of being contacted directly by the author and invited to read an advanced copy of her latest novel The Wild Girl due to be published on 18 March 2013.

Set in the early 1800s, The Wild Girl is the story of Dortchen Wild, a young girl growing up in the medieval town of Hessen-Cassel in Germany and living next door to the Grimm family.  As most of us know, the brothers Grimm are famous for their collections of fairytales, however it is a little known historical fact that Dortchen Wild told the brothers 1/4 of all of their stories.

Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm make up the brothers Grimm we know today, and Dortchen meets Wilhelm when she's just 12 years old.  The Wild family are incredibly poor and with five sons and one girl (Dortchen's best friend Lotte), several of the brothers continue with their academic and literary pursuits despite their threadbare clothes and empty bellies.

The Wild Girl is based on this true story, and the author Kate Forsyth conducted mountains of research - including reading Wilhelm's diaries - in order to bring Dortchen Wild to life on the page.  It takes place against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars and I found it fascinating to read about characters experiencing the invasions from this perspective.  For some unknown reason I'd always imagined that the Grimm Fairytales were older than the 1800s, but as the author points out in the novel's Foreword, the young brothers lived in the time of Jane Austen, which was quite a revelation for me.

Portrait of the Brothers Grimm
© Deutsche Märchenstraße e.V.

Dortchen's father owns and operates a shop front and she gathers and prepares the herbs and plants that are used to create the medicines, draughts and tinctures her father sells.  I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the novel, and was amazed by Dortchen's knowledge of herbs, tea infusions and medicines for the sick.  

Another favourite part of the novel was the transcribing of stories by the Grimm brothers.  Kate Forsyth was able to vividly portray the image of the brothers eagerly taking notes with quill and ink on parchment as Dortchen (or another person) told them a fairytale or story.  These scenes had a sense of magic, and for a booklover, these segments were a gift.

The Wild Girl is about yearning and love, poverty and sacrifice, but it's also a very dark tale.  Those expecting the same tone as Bitter Greens should prepare themselves for a darker journey, and a greater struggle that lasts almost a lifetime for Dortchen.

Check back soon for a Q&A with author Kate Forsyth, here on Carpe Librum!

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!
04 March 2013

Review: Exit Wounds by John Cantwell with Greg Bearup

Exit Wounds by John Cantwell with Greg Bearup book cover
Major General John Cantwell (retired) has written a sobering account of his career with the Australian Army in the first person, with the editing and guidance of Greg Bearup with the result being the hard hitting and incredibly honest memoir Exit Wounds.

Initially joining the Australian Army as a private, John Cantwell changed over to Officer and went to the First Gulf War in 1990 - 1991 where he survived friendly fire on the front line, navigating through a mine field and poor communication between allied forces.  He also witnessed the horrific impact of war and Coalition Forces fitting bulldozer blades to the front of their tanks and burying Iraqi soldiers alive in their trenches.

After the Gulf War, John began to suffer the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but not knowing what it was, he told himself he was being soft, and to get past it.  This didn't work and eventually John's boss - a Vietnam Veteran - noticed John's distress, and he agreed to see a psychiatrist.  Unfortunately the psychiatrist was dismissive, and told John to stop dwelling on disturbing memories and to get on with work and family matters.

John returned to Iraq in the second Gulf War in 2006 as a Brigadier in an attempt to do some good for the people, believing it would help him heal.  Met with political incompetence and indifference, daily violence and retaliation, it was a daily struggle to make a difference and keep the people safe.  John was exposed to endless violence and death and his body took a beating too, with countless near misses.  He returned home at the end of his posting after 265 days with a broken shoulder and pneumonia and untold damage to his heart and mind.

In January 2010, John (now a General) took over as Australian National Commander in Afghanistan, where tragically ten men were killed during his command, and which he took personal responsibility for.  In response to the unforgivable mix-up of Jacob Kovco's remains, John Cantwell took it upon himself to personally identify and farewell each soldier killed under his command.  His account of a few of these intimate moments brought me to tears, and I believe it will bring the family and friends of these soldiers great comfort to know their loved ones were looked after with so much genuine and heartfelt care.

These sobering moments in Exit Wounds were balanced out with chapters from John's long time wife Jane and several funny moments; the story of the scorpion in particular comes to mind.  I re-read it several times, laughing aloud and enjoying the scenario greatly.

Exit Wounds is a unique memoir from one of Australia's senior Army Officers, once considered for the top role of Chief of the Army, and lifts the lid on PTSD in the ADF for all time.  More than that, John explains how a soldier accumulates psychological trauma and doesn't spare the detail although this reader can't help but feel there are plenty more horrors lurking in his memory.

Exit Wounds is also a testament to Australia's Defence history and involvement in three overseas conflicts and I believe is a tribute to all the fallen soldiers.  My eyes were opened in so many ways, and for that I can thoroughly recommend Exit Wounds by John Cantwell.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

I have confirmation that Carpe Librum will be interviewing the author John Cantwell soon, so if you have any questions for this inspirational Australian, please leave a comment below.
01 March 2013

Interview with Matthew S. Wilson, author of The Devil's In The Detail

Yesterday I met up with Melbourne based author Matthew S. Wilson, author of debut novel The Devil's In The Detail who kindly sat down to a coffee and an interview.

Interview Questions

Matt, in your website bio, you mentioned you lived in London for 7 years and travelled with a notebook to 'capture new ideas whenever they appeared.'  Do you still do that? Do you have a collection of notebooks?  Do you use the same type of notebook each time? Tell us more.
Author Matthew S. Wilson
signing his novel over coffee
(See below for details on how
 to WIN this copy)
My study is littered with notebooks of all different shapes and sizes. I’ll confess to having a preference for Moleskin notebooks and I usually carry one of them with me at most times. There is something rather romantic about pouring my thoughts and ideas into the same brand of notebook used by Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Unfortunately, inspiration tends to strike at a moment’s notice. When I’m not carrying a notebook, I’m left to scribble the idea down on whatever is available at the time. This includes beer coasters, telephone bills or even (writing purists, please avert your eyes) using the ‘Notes’ app on my phone.  (Matt had one of his notebooks with him and showed me his notes which was a great privilege, and peek behind the writer's curtain).

Where does your self-belief that you could become a writer come from?
I suppose it comes from my family, who has always been very supportive of my writing. I also had some very encouraging teachers in High School. Special mention must go to Mr. Schlosser, whose assessment of my To Kill a Mockingbird essay in Year 10 had more impact on my writing than he’ll ever know.

What inspired you to choose purgatory as the location/setting for The Devil's In The Detail?
I wanted to explore the theme of “right vs. wrong”, as it seemed to me that the difference between the two could be so subjective. Purgatory looked to be the perfect location to explore this theme.

In the Christian faith, it’s generally accepted that Saint Peter judges a soul’s passage to Heaven. I realise that religion is now asking us to interpret the Bible much more metaphorically, but I thought it would be fun to present Purgatory in a completely literal way.

With 150,000 people dying each and every day, the logistical challenge alone of judging everyone when they died fascinated me. How is that even possible? Does Saint Peter delegate? What was the criterion for passage to Heaven? It seemed like there was a lot of scope to create a unique, bureaucratic world to tell this story within.

Did The Divine Comedy by Dante (or Dante's Inferno) factor into the novel at all, either as an influence or inspiration?
While I was writing the first draft, several friends suggested I read Dante’s The Divine Comedy. I actually resisted the urge to read it (and still haven’t), fearing that the story I was trying to tell would be overly influenced by it.

When it came time to describe Hell, I did end up researching The Divine Comedy and referenced Dante’s account of the nine levels of Hell. But ultimately Hell is a plot device in my novel. The main story revolves around the life of our protagonist, David. 

What was the hardest part of writing The Devil's In The Detail?
Researching the novel was an enormous amount of work. Aside from all of the reading required on religion and theology (for example, I had no idea that there were nine different types of Angel), I found that there was also a massive amount of research required for the scenes in London. The novel is based on ten flashbacks, drifting back over the forty years of David’s life. The challenge was to ensure that these flashbacks were as authentic as possible, so as to not distract the reader from the story. So where I’ve said that a particular football player scores a goal in a particular game on 14th April 1991, you can be rest assured that it happened!

Do you listen to music when you write?
Music is definitely a massive part of my writing process. Originally a screenwriter, I tend to listen to the music that I think suites the particular scene I’m about to write.

For The Devil’s in the Detail, I listened to a lot of the music that David would have been listening to throughout his life, including Jimi Hendrix (in the 70’s), Dire Straits (in the 80’s) and Radiohead (in the 90’s). For some of the scenes in Purgatory I listened to the scores of films like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, helping me to conjure up the majestic, surreal atmosphere that I wanted to create.

An exclusive for Carpe Librum readers: I was listening to ‘Halo’ by Beyonce when writing the conclusion of the novel. But let’s keep that amongst ourselves, shall we?  Definitely (wink wink).
Everything Is Illuminated
by Jonathan Safran Foer

What are some of your favourite books/authors?  Do you have any literary influences?
Two books that come to mind are Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Both weave such clever stories in an extremely funny, touching way. Both novels are the type of books that I aspire to write.

I also really enjoy Ben Elton’s work, which is always thought-provoking and hilarious.

When do you do your best work?
Because my writing focuses on people, I tend to be at my most creative while sitting in a crowded café. This allows me to tap away on my laptop, surrounded by the sights, sounds and conversations of people around me. It’s also the perfect excuse to get out and enjoy Melbourne’s superb coffee.

I also really enjoy writing in my study late in the evenings. I once heard Paul McCartney say that he wrote the melody for the song ‘Yesterday’ in those few moments before drifting off to sleep and I really think that the brain is at its most imaginative in the last hours of the day, when everyone else is asleep. 

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

My favourite bookshop is Daunt Books in Marylebone, North London. An original Edwardian building, with oak galleries and a spectacular skylight, it’s precisely how a bookshop should look, sound and smell.

But now that I’m living in Melbourne again, I tend to go to Hill of Content bookshop on Collins Street. It was quite a thrill to see The Devil’s in the Detail appear on its shelves last year.

What's next?  What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently about two thirds of the way through writing my second novel. It’s a love story that occurs on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage across Spain. I came up with the story while walking the Camino in 2010. Walking the 800 kilometres across the width of Spain, gave me plenty of time to devise the plot. 
Melbourne Author Matthew S. Wilson
(Photo taken by Tracey Allen, Carpe Librum)

I hope to have the draft completed in a couple of months, with the novel released at the end of the year.

What would you like to tell your readers?
I’d simply like to say thank-you. All of the support that my readers have shown, whether via an online review, e-mail or simply approaching me in the street, has greatly touched me and inspired me to keep writing. Thanks again.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks very much for taking the time to read and review The Devil’s in the Detail, Tracey. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Congratulations on Carpe Librum, it’s lovely to find a website that caters for book-lovers, written and administered by a fellow book-lover. I hope to catch up later in the year.

For your chance to WIN the signed copy of The Devil's In The Detail by Matthew S. Wilson (pictured above), leave a comment below and tell me your favourite book or movie with the word 'devil' or 'angel' in the title.  Entries close midnight Friday 15th March 2013, and winners will be drawn using www.random.org  

For an additional entry in the competition sign up to follow Carpe Librum by email, mention this in your comment and double your chances to win!

Review & Giveaway: The Devil's In The Detail by Matthew S. Wilson

The Devil's In The Detail by Matthew S. Wilson book cover
* From author for review *

David Shepherd wakes in a prison cell, with vague recollections of his cab fare turning ugly the previous night.  He soon learns with a shock, that he isn't in a London Police Station for questioning, he is in fact in Purgatory, having been killed the previous night and is now awaiting trial for his life.

Olivia is an Angel and also his Defence Attorney, and David will soon give testimony in the Court of Saint Peter; the outcome a sentence to one of the 10 rings of Hell or entrance through the Pearly Gates.

The prosecutor drives the case, selecting a specific time period in David's life and then building his argument against him breaking one of the Ten Commandments.  In this way, the reader gets to know the protagonist - David Shepherd - well, in a series of flashbacks.

The Devil's In The Detail has it all really, action, suspense, pop culture references (I particularly enjoyed the music references while other readers will enjoy the sport in the background) and a nice surprise at the end.

At times funny, and at times painfully real and moving, The Devil's In The Detail is thought provoking regardless of your religious beliefs or thoughts about life after death.

I commend this Melbourne based author on his successful debut novel, and give it 4 stars.

My rating = ****

For your chance to WIN a signed copy of The Devil's In The Detail by Matthew S. Wilson, leave a comment below and tell me your favourite book or movie with the word 'devil' or 'angel' in the title.  Entries close midnight Friday 15th March 2013, and winners will be drawn using www.random.org  

For an additional entry in the competition sign up to follow Carpe Librum by email, mention this in your comment and double your chances to win!  

I met with author Matthew S. Wilson yesterday where he answered some questions about his novel and his writing.  Click here to read his interview.
Good luck in the competition everyone and Happy Reading!