This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Laura Poole of ABC Gippsland's Mornings program and have a chat about my forthcoming novel "The Artisan Heart". During our conversation, Laura asked me what was the impetus for me to set my novel in the former gold mining town of Walhalla, what attracted me (a man) to writing in the romance genre and what challenges did I encounter in my desire to portray a character who is deaf. The interview clocks in at just under 11 minutes and I'm really pleased with how it went. You can listen to it now via Sound Cloud. "The Artisan Heart" will be available internationally from September 1st, 2018. DFA.
There are some remarkable human stories around that leave me in awe of the human condition and humbled by the grit, determination and endurance people find in their darkest hours. Darron Eastwell is one such individual. Darron and I were acquainted when we were kids. He and my brother played junior football together and I was the team's trainer at the time. As often happens, lives go in different directions after high school and it's been a good 20 years since we've spoken. Darron and I recently reconnected and I came to learn that he has had quite a life changing experience in the past few years, the details of which are recorded in his powerful memoir "The Day I Broke My Brain".
In May of 2015, successful banking executive Darron Eastwell said goodbye to his wife Bianca, with plans for an exciting day of mountain biking at Tewantin National Park. No one could have known that the day would end with Darron lying in a coma, his very future uncertain. Darron emerged from that experience as a brain injury survivor. In The Day I Broke My Brain, he chronicles his struggles to regain his foothold on life. This is not a book to be read only by those looking for information about traumatic brain injury. Rather, this is a true-to-life story of overcoming the most difficult of circumstances with courage, perseverance, and a dash of humor. Readers will gain inspiration as they walk with Darron through hardship, anguish, and pain.
Author & Public Speaker, Darron Eastwell.
The Day I Broke My Brain is a unique memoir indeed. Given the seriousness of Darron's brain injury - he suffered what is known as Diffuse Axonal Injury, one of the most extreme forms of brain injury - it is quite an achievement for Darron to have written his account. While it isn't a long book, The Day I Broke My Brain is a no holds barred reflection on the circumstances of his accident and his recovery. His wife Bianca contributes her own experience of picking up the pieces in the immediate aftermath of the accident. I thought this was particularly moving because we get an insight of a family dealing with this tragic event, rather than a focus on the individual at the center of it. To have gone from an idyllic life before the accident to having their world thrown upside down was compelling and emotionally absorbing. There was no certainty for them and you feel that the further you read into the book. There are moments of humor throughout as well, particularly during Darron journey through his rehabilitation. It is said that good humor is as much a therapy in and of itself and I'm sure it helped Darron and Bianca many times during their darkest moments. The Day I Broke My Brain is an inspirational story of courage and endurance in the face of an almost catastrophic physical injury. I was moved by Darron's story.
A former career banker, Darron Eastwell is now a public speaker and advocate for Traumatic Brain Injury. Despite the injuries he sustained, he retains that same drive to succeed, which has enabled him overcome insurmountable odds. Darron and his family reside on the Sunshine Coast in southern Queensland, Australia. Purchase The Day I Broke My Brain here. Visit Darron Eastwell here. Facebook with Darron here.
Today, I'm welcoming an exciting dystopian fiction author to the blog with another in my ongoing series of guest posts around Dangerous Ideas. Tracy S. Lawson circled into my orbit recently with her outstanding Resistance series, chronicling a near future America that has come under authoritarian control. A group of freedom fighters emerge from the shadows, railing against the administration's enforcement regime and an epic contest ensues that will decide the fate of the country's freedom. So without further ado, here's Tracy; What if you’d been told you were in danger every minute of every day? What if you were told to take extraordinary precautions to stay safe–until extraordinary started to feel…ordinary? It’s hard to stay afraid all the time. Maybe, after a while, you’d just learn to tune it out. But if you did, whoever it was that needed you to be afraid would have to up their game…
Author Tracy S. Lawson.
In my Resistance Series books, Tommy and Careen, the eighteen-year-old protagonists, live in 2034, in an alternate-reality version of the United States. Most of the freedoms that today’s young adults enjoy have been curtailed, in the name of preventing terrorist attacks. The Civilian Restrictions that have been in place nearly all of their lives forbid people to gather in public places. Cash has been eliminated, and any exchange of goods and services between individuals is not permitted.
The Resistance Series by Tracy S. Lawson.
Only a select few, mostly high-ranking government workers, are granted driving privileges, and the food supply has been brought under government control to protect it from being tainted. When I started writing this series back in 2010, the premise seemed a bit far-fetched. I’d never want any of the young people I know to suffer what my characters endure. But now when I turn on the news, it seems like they’re stealing my stuff. In Counteract, Tommy and Careen meet during a terrorist attack, and when they discover their government is pulling strings behind the scenes, using the attacks to keep people frightened and begging for protection, they join an underground rebel group that will stop at nothing to expose the truth.
Careen & Tommy (art by Will No Name).
There are plenty of books about dystopian societies in which people are treated as children or slaves, ostensibly to protect them. Eventually, the protagonists’ dissatisfaction and/or curiosity come to the fore, and the circumstances of their society’s structure are revealed as an attempt to destroy humanistic attitudes and desires, such as curiosity, creativity, innovation, and hope for the future. There is an optimal level of safety and security. We just don’t know what it is. When we seek security, we must expect to give up some freedom. In today’s society, many kids look forward to the typical teenager’s rites of passage—going places without their parents, dating, and obtaining a driver’s license. Tommy and Careen inhabit a society in which the few remaining restaurants are patronized only by the wealthy. Most people can barely afford the cost of their weekly food allotment, which is assembled and distributed by the government’s Essential Services department. A simple “let me buy you breakfast” is an extravagant gesture, and a pizza date would be completely out of the question. Shopping malls and cinemas have been closed in the name of safety, because large, open places where groups of people gather are easy marks for terrorist attacks. Professional sporting events and concerts are televised, but safety dictates the athletes and artists perform to empty arenas. No one but government officials are allowed to drive cars, because it’s irresponsible to allow just anyone access to something that can be used as a weapon. Growing up is more than just enjoying the privileges of a certain age. In a society where freedoms are curtailed, how would the young people learn to take care of themselves? The teens I asked said that growing up means, in part: -taking responsibility for one’s actions -solving one’s problems, not expecting someone else to drop everything and come to the rescue -not going along with the crowd -being yourself -standing up for what is right
Tommy and Careen, who are among the first generation to grow up with the Restrictions, are lucky to have parents who’ve taught them some of the skills they’ll need to survive. But what of the younger children? And those yet to be born? How long before the individual’s survival skills are completely lost, and the only way to live is at the mercy of the guiding hand that promises safety? The government’s mantra in the Resistance Series books is: “It’s a small price to pay for your safety.” Not just the individual, but society as a whole, will pay the price.
Learn more about Tracy and her books at the Resistance Series Fan Site here. Find Tracy on Instagram here. Facebook with Tracy Lawson here. Tweet with Tracy Lawson here. DFA.
Continuing my series of guest posts around "Dangerous Ideas", this week I'd like to turn the blog over to my friend, Melbourne author Ashleigh Oldfield. Fresh off the back of her brand new release "The Lost City", I asked Ashleigh if she would like to explore a particular idea she had been wrestling with recently. Ash came through with the goods - so without further ado, welcome Ashleigh to the stage... When Dean asked me if I had any thoughts on ’Dangerous Ideas’, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about because there has been a troublesome idea floating around in my head for some time. Once I have finished writing my young adult dragon novels, The Rachaya Series, I really want to sink my teeth into something completely different. I snuck into a university library and hunted down books on topics that I thought might interest me. I came across a section on Mythology from across the continent of Asia, and what I read absolutely fascinated me. I spent hours in the library, reading feverishly. I began to loosely plot a story around the mythos and history of a couple of the places I was reading about.
Cue the ‘Dangerous Idea’ – the world I was researching was brutal. I don’t write about brutal things. I write about magic and wonder and dragons, but this story would not let me go. There are so many themes in my research that I never thought I would tackle in a story – poisons, suicide, torture, dirty tactics in war. It’s not that I want to shy away from such topics – this is straight out of history and is therefore a part of humanity. But am I good enough at my craft to handle these themes? Have my skills as a writer matured to a level where I can write something that resonates with my readers without glorifying or romanticizing atrocities? To leave these events out would be dishonest. And yet there’s definitely a temptation to put this story off, to push it back until I feel my writing skills are an even match for the task.
Ashleigh Oldfield, author.
There’s also the sense of responsibility with my writing about how stronger themes will affect my younger audience. I am a teacher in my other life, and adults have bought my books for their kids several times over simply because they trust me and my professionalism as a teacher. In fact, I was at the opening of a bookstore last night and an elderly lady bought Fyrebyrne Island for her granddaughter for that very reason. If I publish a book with sex and violence, it may well end up in the hands of those I feel a moral obligation to protect – my students and others of their age bracket. I don’t think I could live with myself because I have had a duty of care towards children for a decade and it’s a difficult habit to shake. I also worry that a more adult novel from me would not be very well received. I think of J.K. Rowling, whose follow up to her Harry Potter series, A Casual Vacancy, was largely disliked because it was more adult. People expected something different from her; they expected a certain level of safety from her. With the fiction that I currently write, and the profession that I have, I would be in a similar position, so I guess in a way I also have that fear of failure, that no one will like something I have worked so hard to get right, simply because they expect another Rachaya Series out of me. The fear of failure is, I think, something all creatives have in one form or another and is just something I will have to learn to live with. Having a story embed itself in my brain has made me even more determined to be the best writer that I can be so that when the time comes, I can do this story justice. I still have research to conduct and other books to finish writing first, but I am working harder than ever before so I can craft this story into a work of art.
Ashleigh Oldfield is a fantasy fiction and children’s writer from Melbourne, Australia. Always having a love for the written word, Ash wrote her first stories by moonlight at the tender age of five, long after her parents thought she had gone to bed. To this very day Ash still prefers to write by the light of the moon long after any sensible person has succumbed to sleep. When she is not working on her latest piece of fiction, Ash enjoys drinking good coffee, taking her dog for walks on the beach and hanging out with her two cats. This year, Ashleigh kicked off a weekly podcast with her husband Steve De Niese. Called "The Book Stash", the podcast is a great little show about reading and writing in which Ashleigh and Steve talk about the craft and what inspires them in the journey. For new writers with an eye to improving their own method, The Book Stash is a must listen. Visit Ashleigh Oldfield here. Connect with Ashleigh Oldfield here. Tweet with Ashleigh here. Tweet with The Book Stash here. The Book Stash is on iTunes here. DFA.