On the Air, Live and Alive

It’s been an adventurous weekend, beginning with my first-ever live radio appearance. Now, I’ve done a couple of radio interviews before, but they were always pre-recorded, with all the assurances that any obscenities or demented faux pas would be edited out. At least, in theory. However, this was live, which meant that, as far I knew, there would be no safety nets. If I was suddenly possessed by a demon, and began spewing forth threats against everyone who walked under the sun, well, there would be no escape.

The interview was to be on my local ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) station, 666 ABC, at the uncivilised hour of 7:10AM on Saturday. Which meant that I would, inevitably, not be at my most alert. I have many sterling qualities, but being a morning person is not one of them.  And I can recognise this about myself, which is why the previous evening I spent some time thinking up possible lines to use, and also grimly contemplating the likelihood that I would forget all of my planned lines, and produce naught but several minutes of dead radio air, broken only by the incredulous chortling of the radio personality. This was my nightmare.

However, when I woke up, at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning, none of those concerns was in my mind. I shambled from bed to shower to car, and only really assumed full consciousness when I was halfway to the radio station. When I arrived at the ABC building, the shadows were still lying long, and there were barely any cars on the roads. There were no lights illuminated in the windows, and I began to worry that I had drastically misunderstood the situation. Or possibly come to the wrong building.

I leaned on the ‘after hours’ telecom button, and eventually a member of the staff emerged from the corridors, and cheerfully ushered me in, guiding me through the darkened bowels of the building to the broadcasting room, and delivering me into the merciful hands of my host, Greg Bayliss, a man whose voice I recognised immediately. We howdied, and shook, and then he and the producer bolted off to make some toast and stretch their limbs, leaving me alone with the control room. I briefly – briefly – gave thought to cutting into the newsfeed and reading some pages from The Rook, but sanity prevailed, and I wandered around cautiously, peering at the control boards, and keeping my hands behind my back.

Eventually they returned, and failed to congratulate me for not declaring the creation of Pirate Radio Dan. Instead, they supplied me with a cup of coffee, and I sat down in front of a microphone. Although they told me I didn’t have to wear the headphones, there was no way that I wasn’t putting them on. After a few minutes’ chat, we were thrust onto the air, and I manfully resisted the urge to holler ‘Good morrrrrrning, Canberra!’

Instead, we talked about the book, and last week’s literary festival in Jindabyne, and why on earth I had an American accent when I was born and raised in Canberra. I almost completely forgot that I was on the radio (apart from preventing myself from dropping any swear words into the dialogue), and had a blast. This very blog got mentioned, and I talked a bit about writing, and what I’m working on at the moment, and it went just fine.

Since the interview, a few friends have told me they heard it, and assured me that I sounded okay. (Although one work colleague let me know that I use the word ‘absolutely’ too much. So I set him on fire.)

In other news, there’s a few reviews and articles and interviews for your reviewing pleasure.

I chat with Marshal Zeringue at ‘Writers Read’ about the various outstanding books that I am currently devouring. You can read it at:

Also, The Rook is subjected to the rigors of The Pg. 69 Test, wherein the sixty-ninth page of a book is dissected, and reviewed according to the extent that it represents the book, and whether it might draw a reader in. It’s actually quite merciful, because they let the author do the testing. The diagnosis is at

Julika reviews The Rook at BookVenturer’s Musings at

And although yesterday’s radio interview is not yet available, you can hear a podcast of me talking to 4ZZZ’s Bookclub on the 29th of March. I have reviewed it, and I don’t think I say ‘absolutely’ that much. There’s quite a few ‘uh’s’ though. You can hear my gravelly tones at

On the Air, Live and Alive Read More »

In which I calmly prepare for a TV interview

You read before you the words of a man who is beginning to feel the first nauseating twist of panic in his stomach. Tomorrow there is a television crew coming to my house. And it is not one of those shows where they clean up your house, and do some redecorating, and maybe give you a free TV. No, this is the local branch of the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), who wishes to do a little segment on me and The Rook. I am simultaneously thrilled and nervous.

To begin with, I am a decidedly unglamorous writer. There is not an elegant chamber that I retire to, no artistically cluttered desk that I sit at. I generally write on the couch, with my feet on the coffee table. If I am feeling particularly self-indulgent, there may be a cup of coffee nearby. There may also be an action DVD playing on the TV. This is not the young artiste in his writing salon. This isn’t even the young artist in a garret. This is dude on the sofa, pausing in mid-sentence because it’s the part of Willow where Madmartigan does some sword stuff.

Meanwhile, the house is getting cleaned within an inch of its life. A biblical amount of vacuuming is taking place, and I am trying to figure out how one cleans the stuffed head of a wild boar. (I should add that my house is not filled with trophy heads, Trevor is the only one, and in Australia feral pigs are an alien species that wreaks havoc upon the delicate fabric of the et cetera.)

So, that’s what’s dominating my thought processes at the moment.

In other news, earlier this week, I did a Facebook chat thing for HarperCollins Australia’s ‘Summer of the Supernatural.’ A Facebook chat thing is a good time, but also kind of odd. You keep hitting ‘reload’ on the screen, and you’re never entirely certain if anyone is actually there. Then you’re relieved when someone writes a question, and you want to write a marvelous answer, but you’re also aware that for them, it’s just dead time. So, frantic typing ensues. But, I hope everyone had as good a time as I did.

The Facebook chat thing is available at , just scroll on back to the 13th of March.

Also, I just found a very interesting review of The Rook on Thirteen O’Clock.

Okay, I must go scour some more.


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Launching, and being a Guerrilla Marketeer

It’s a lazy summer Sunday, perfect for lounging around dreamily. And I have been lounging around, but I don’t get to do it dreamily because I am working away feverishly on a multitude of projects. And it’s been an extremely busy week, with lots of Rook-related occurrences occurring.

To begin with, on Wednesday the wonderful owners and staff of the Dymocks bookstore ( in Civic (which is the city centre area of Canberra) were kind enough to host the Australian launch of The Rook.

Now, I had been quite anticipatory about this, because ever since I shyly announced to the world that I had a book which was going to be published, the immediate response of many of my friends and acquaintances was to say brightly, “Invite me to the launch!’ And I didn’t know anything about launches. I’d never attended one. I suspect that they hadn’t either, but they seemed to have quite set ideas about what such things involved. And I didn’t quite dare ask, for fear of looking ignorant.

Thankfully, the Dymocks staff are well acquainted with book launches, and they were able to take me firmly in hand, and make sure that the event involved everything it needed to. They supplied the food, and the drink, and the multitudinous copies of The Rook. All I had to do was show up, say a few things, and sign whatever was thrust in front of me.

I was petrified.

The nerves started building up a couple of hours before the launch. It was becoming increasingly clear that this was going to be an Occasion. My parents would be there. Various friends were going to be there. Members of the public were going to be there. My glorious editor from HarperCollins Australia was going to be flying up from Sydney to attend. And I had to speak.

Now, I’m not a shy person, as anyone who has met me will attest. But this was going to be different. This was a life event, like a christening, or a wedding, or a birth (although I don’t know how many speeches get made at those.) And I was fully prepared to believe that some malignant muse would possess me, and I’d spew forth a selection of epithets and obscenities before collapsing in a seizure onto the cheese platter. Such a development couldn’t possibly good for sales.

But, in the minutes beforehand, I found myself feeling a lot better. People I knew kept flowing in, and I got to chat with them, and embrace them, and blush a little when they pointed out the book that had been shelved in various different locations around the store. My glorious editor, Anna Valdinger, stood up, and with her delicious English accent made a really nice speech, and then I got up, and saw all these faces, and it was all people I knew, and loved. And a couple of complete strangers who’d wandered in, but they were smiling at me as well. And I gave my little speech of thanks, and answered a few questions, and torches and pitchforks weren’t produced.

And then I commenced the signing. Lots of signing. The whole thing is a blur of little tailored messages for people, and the alarming evolution of my signature (over the course of the evening I developed an entirely new way of writing the letter ‘M’ that I am very pleased with.) Now, since I am left-handed, of course my hand was smeared liberally with ink, and I agonized a little that various people’s precious keepsakes would be smeared, but I consoled myself with the fact that they would at least be authentically smeared by the author, and that would probably add some value to it.

Afterwards I went out for dinner with Anna the Glorious Editor, and Jodi who is my earthly representative from HarperCollins Australia, and it was great. I fell into bed that evening, replete with very good Indian food, and satisfaction.

And then the next evening I got to do it all again at Impact Comics ( , which is the comic-book shop that I patronize, and to which I have been coming since I was twelve and it was Impact Records and was contained in a different location. So, when I wandered in, and saw that they were handing out laminated Checquy security passes (which can later be used a magnets!) I almost had a nervous breakdown of joy. I was interviewed by Ryan K Lindsay, Renaissance Man (, and then did yet more signing. Great evening.

Meanwhile, other cool things have been happening. Most recently, if you skitter on over to the fine website of Suvudu (located in the classy neighbourhood of ), you will find an interview with me, in which I talk about various things, including the gestation of a sequel to The Rook.

Also, there have been some very nice reviews released upon the world. Parade Magazine (which, for the non-Americans among you, is a Sunday magazine that is distributed in more than 500 newspapers, and is the most widely read magazine in the USA) put forward The Rook as one of its Parade Picks!

Laura de Leon’s blog I’m Booking It gave her top ten reasons for liking The Rook at .

At , The Book Smuggler says (among other things) that ‘if you’re looking for the antidote to the same old, lackluster, run-of-the-mill UF, look no further. The Rook is awesome. I can only hope for more Myfanwy in the future.’

And also my hometown newspaper, the Canberra Times, featured a review of The Rook by Colin Steele, a man of letters who, for decades now, has figured prominently in my personal pantheon of heroes. And he finished his review by saying “The Rook is certainly cool.’

And life was good.

But the adventures don’t stop there. Yesterday, I engaged in a bit of guerrilla marketing, thought up by the aforementioned Glorious Editor. For those of you who haven’t read The Rook, it’s characterized by a series of letters that explain the world of the book. Anna’s idea was to print out a copy of the first letter from the book, on official-looking letterhead, and then leave them in places where people would find them. They’re already opened, and addressed ‘To You’, and it was thought that finding such a letter might pique people’s interest, and lead them to the book.

Anna had given me a couple of them while she was down in Canberra to make her speech at the launch, and I cautiously took a couple along to CanCon, which is the local annual gaming convention. I thought I’d place the envelopes cunningly, with all the suave insouciance of a Checquy agent. I hoped that someone would pick it up and look around, bewildered. Maybe they’d catch a fleeting glimpse of me in a crowd, my eyebrow raised, and that, when they chased me down, like that, I’d be gone.

Of course, it turned out less immediately cool than that.

To begin with, the place was crawling with people. And there were remarkably few places that one could just leave an envelope. I didn’t at all like the idea of sandwiching it between some of the stacked boardgames at the stalls. These were other people’s places of business, after all, and I don’t want to interfere with their livelihoods.

Then there were many, many tables, but all of those were taken up by people playing board games, or else they were covered in those vast, compelling replica landscapes that people build for their miniature soldiers to do combat on. I’ve always found those things fascinating, but I walk even more carefully around them than I do around museum exhibits. My hands will not bring themselves out of their pockets if there is a reproduction battlefield nearby, for fear that I will knock over a fortification, or inadvertently smear a tiny Napolean, or impale myself on a spire. So that was out.

The laser tag arena didn’t strike me as the sort of place where people would stop what they were doing to pick up an envelope. And if they did, I thought it might get handed in to the guy running it.

In the end, I casually sat down on a handy bench, smiled casually at the young lady who was sitting at the other end with her child, and then casually pretended to read my book while casually sliding the envelope onto the bench, and then casually sauntering away.

I was totally braced for a helpful call of ‘excuse me! You’ve casually left your envelope behind!’ In which case, I was either going to return shamefacedly, or pretend innocence and confusion (“that envelope? Why, it’s not mine. What does it have inside?”), or else bolt away, which I like to think would have added a touch of mystery to the whole thing, but might also have resulted in security getting called in.

But, no helpful calls came, and the convention was not evacuated because of a mysterious open envelope. I wandered around for half an hour, buzzing a little from my awesome deployment of guerilla marketing techniques, and then I casually wandered by the bench, only to see that the envelope was still there, untouched. Rather deflated, my friends and I left, but I do hope that someone picked it up eventually, and that is wasn’t just a member of the cleaning staff who threw it automatically into the garbage.

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The Return

I have returned! I am nestled back safely on my couch in Australia, with my dog panting on the floor, and the sun setting over the mountains. During my sojourn in Japan, I saw many glorious sights: temples, skyscrapers, centuries-old castles, decades-old recreations of castles, and lots of stone Buddhas wearing little knitted hats and scarves. I strolled through museums, and wandered through pachinko parlours. I have ridden upon the bullet train. I have peed upon the bullet train. Which is to say, I have peed whilst riding upon the bullet train. It was great trip, but it’s good to be home.

And, of course, while I was away, on January 11, 2012 Anno Domini, The Rook was unleashed upon the United States of America.

I think that, when your first novel comes out, it’s probably a good thing to be in a country where the book is not going to be available, and you don’t have a phone that will let you obsessively check your e-mail every five minutes. Why, I would say that whole hours went by when I didn’t try to find some opportunity to check the internet. And, as luck would have it, there are astoundingly few temples and castles which provide you with facilities for checking the internet.

But despite my lack of constant observation, lots of stuff kept happening. In fact, it’s been an extremely busy three weeks.

Firstly, a few items were released upon the world wide web, to accompany the release of The Rook. And I shall provide you with links to see them. Behold:

On John Scalzi’s website, at ,  there’s an interview with me regarding the ‘big idea’ that spawned The Rook.

At the website Largehearted Boy, located on the internet at , you can read my playlist for The Rook, and coming up with that was a unique experience.

And there have been some nice reviews, which is great.

CNN identified The Rook as one of its Hot Reads for Summer, putting it next to two of my absolute heroes, William Gibson and Bernard Cornwell. Upon seeing this (at ), my brain exploded with a sharp detonation, prompting complaints from the cleaning staff of the hotel.

MTVGeek described the book as ‘Downton Abbey with superpowers’ which is a phrase that I am going to insist be inscribed on my tombstone. (

Monsters and Critics said some good things at

And the IE Mommy at made me blush with satisfaction.

There have been some other very nice reviews, but I shall have to bring them to the next blog, or this will just be a list of reviews, and I want to tell you about exciting stuff that has been happening in Australia.

To begin with, there were extracts from The Rook published in The Herald-Sun and The Adelaide Advertiser, both prominent newspapers for those of you who don’t live in Australia. And, on iTunes Australia, The Rook was the book of the week!

And stuff keeps happening! Tomorrow, my excellent local bookstore, Dymocks in Civic, is hosting a book-launching event ( . This is my very first public appearance as an author! I am only mildly petrified, but it will help me work out all my panic-impulses, which is very good because the day after tomorrow, Impact Comics, the store I have haunted since my childhood, is hosting a signing event ( , please RSVP if attending.)

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Nosing Around

A small, wet, malodorous dog sits on the couch next to me. Every once in a while, when I am intent on the keyboard, she will press against me or place her nose on my arm, and I recoil violently, and give a sharp exclamation of horror. She finds this entire act to be tremendous fun. I am less ecstatic, but she is so winsome that I cannot bring myself to shove her off the couch. Instead, I eye her balefully, and then turn my attention back to the screen.

Firstly, if you saunter over to the ‘Reviews’ section of this website, you will see four brand new reviews. They come from some extremely good review publications, so I am in (almost) silent awe at the thought that my book has featured in them. The first is from Booklist, which is a publication of the American Library Association. The second comes from Kirkus Reviews, and the third is from Shelf Awareness. The fourth is from Lev Grossman, who had kindly written one of the very first blurbs for The Rook.

Mr. Grossman wrote (among other things) the influential The Magicians and The Magician King, but he is also a senior writer and book critic for TIME magazine, and he put The Rook on his list of seven books he’s looking forward to 2012. At Number Two! Right behind William Gibson! I have not gotten so many excited emails from friends and relations since I announced the book was getting published. Or possibly since I got the puppy.

And, I just realized this morning that it is one month until The Rook will be released upon the readers of the United States of America. The eleventh of January. That is very soon. I will be in Japan when that happens, celebrating a friend’s wedding, which is probably just as well, because otherwise I would be phoning all my friends in the States, and asking them to check their local bookstores for copies of the book. And asking them to move it to a more prominent spot. Still, it’s an exciting thought.

This blogpost was interrupted by no fewer than three dog-nose incursions.


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Good news is good.

Well, I can declare Summer formally arrived. It was one of those blindingly hot days, where you lie about like a beached whale, crisping under the merciless sun and bugling weakly for iced tea. The sort of day that is ideal for a straw hat and a barbecue, which was fortunate, because I happened to be down in the delightful town of Bowral for a barbecue. Whilst wearing a straw hat. Bowral is a couple of hours away from Canberra (which is where I live), but I rather enjoy long car drives, as long as there’s good tunes, and I had the new Florence & The Machine CD, so it was a nice motoring expedition. Except that I have a nagging suspicion that I may have gotten caught out by one of those speed camera set-ups where they take your picture at one point, and then, at a completely unreasonable point located several dozen kilometers and a few distracted thoughts later, they take it again, and then they calculate the average speed. And I fear that my average speed may have been a little above average.


So, one of the things about living in the age of the internet, is that you have to get up pretty early to get the news first. Even when it’s news about you. As a result, earlier this week, I got quite a few emails congratulating me on Publishers Weekly before I knew what they were talking about. But, much to my delight, it seems that The Rook was Publishers Weekly’s ‘Pick of the Week’, and featured in a starred review right on the table of contents, right where everyone could see it. You can see it online at . And, if you want to recreate my entire experience, you should read it while eating some breakfast cereal, and then you should choke in excitement, and spew some Kellogg’s Just Right across the keyboard. I am ecstatic.

ALSO, Mr. Charles Yu, the distinguished author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, wrote a very nice blurb for The Rook, and I agonized for several hours about how to write him a thank-you note without sounding like too much of a crawler. You can read his very kind blurb on the Review page of this very website. And you should read his book, too, because it’s really a grand read.

Good news is good. Read More »

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