The Violets of March, by Sarah Jio – Book Review

Sarah Jio’s debut novel, The Violets of March, introduces readers to Emily Wilson, a writer who has spent several years at the top of her career and in love with life, but who years later finds that she is struggling with the end of her once perfect marriage, and having a devil of a time writing her next book. Mourning the end of her relationship, Emily goes to Bainbridge Island for a long overdue visit with her vivacious but temperamental Aunt Bee. There she finds secrets, a new story to uncover in a decades old mystery awaiting completion, and the keys to mending her heart.

Jio presents  nothing less than a page-turner with her inviting characters, enticing storyline and gorgeous setting. Sign me up please for a home on Bainbridge Island! Emily, and the accompanying characters are warm and accessible. The reader feels for Emily as she tries to find her footing at a difficult time in her life. Aunt Bee is an intriguing character with all of her reluctance to discuss the past juxtaposed with the strong need to have her family nearby. Most of the supporting cast, including Aunt Bee’s best friend, have their own secrets that are tied to what happened on the island in 1943. Secrets that they insist Emily must uncover without their help.

The Violets of March is so good, suspenseful and so thoroughly charming that its simple and direct writing only enhance the sweeping effect of its story and characters. Seeing Emily’s growing up on the island and how she changed along the way was particularly rewarding, and the perfect foil to learning some of the secrets of the island and how they tie-in to the present day inhabitants.

Jio navigates perfectly the delicate balance of delving into the past and keeping the reader engaged in dual narratives via a mysterious diary that makes its appearance in Emily’s room on the island. This was a very suspenseful read – heartwarming as well as romantic. Highly recommended for readers looking for a captivating and refreshing mix of mystery and romance.

Read More Reviews At: Devourer of BooksLife In the ThumbBook Chatter Jenny Loves to ReadBook Line and SinkerJenn’s Booskshelves

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Review Copy

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AudioBook Listening – Here’s The Rules!

Back when I told you that Jen from Devourer of Books was hosting an audiobook week for June (Audiobook Month), I also promised that I would update my thoughts on audiobooks. I still really like them, but my listening to them has gone way down from last year because after engaging in something relatively new, I now have thoughts that guide what I listen to – mainly mystery, horror and lighter fiction.

I find that I am very easily distracted while listening more than I am when reading, so I need to be listening to something where it’s not the end of the world if I miss a sentence or five. The latest audio that I listened to where this wasn’t even as in issue was The Monster of Florence – true crime, I was absolutely terrified and slept with the lights on for two days.

Since my recommendations are pretty paltry at the moment, I recruited my friend Miriam Parker (Marketing Director, Mulholland Books) to give her views on just which audiobooks are the best listening experiences. Take it away Miriam.

I’ve listened to a number of audiobooks in my time, both in cars and on headphones and I’ve come to a few conclusions about what makes me happy in an audio experience.

1.       Comedians make the best readers, even if what they are reading isn’t funny. Case and point: Born Standing Up by Steve Martin is actually quite a melancholy book, but he reads it so well, that it is completely captivating.

2.       Used up all the funny? Choose a British reader. I “re-read” all of Jane Austen’s books and fell in love with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark following this rule.

3.       Books that might be repetitive in print make fantastic audiobooks. I can’t tell you how many times Tom Wolfe describes the various ways that universities cater to high-profile basketball players in I Am Charlotte Simmons, but it made for fascinating listening. I had a “driveway” moment almost every morning when I got to work.

4.       There’s nothing like a pithy essay to make an audiobook stand out. Some of my favorites include Me Talk Pretty One Day, America (The AudioBook) and anything by Bill Bryson. I almost crashed my car (in this context, being that I no longer drive, take this as a compliment) when listening to I’m a Stranger Here Myself because it was so hilarious (and spot on.)

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Now I just have to get Miriam back her so that she can explain to me what a “driveway” moment is.

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What Do You Look For In A Review?

JournalingIf you are wondering where the reviews have been around this place, I can tell you that my review writing muse has taken a pretty extended vacation. I have built up a healthy list of titles that have inspired me to say things that I don’t know how to say. It’s had me thinking a lot about what I should say and what I like to see in reviews.

The number of reviews that I read has taken a nosedive as well as the number of reviews that I write. Correlation? Maybe. But, I have become extremely sensitive in past years to reading reviews and cover copy of books and getting information about things happening 100 pages or more into the story. Reading is about discovery and unfolding for me. Anything happening after page fifty shouldn’t be included in any synopsis/summary/review that I want to read. I go back and read a number of reviews after I have read a book.

The main things I want to know about a book is the style of the writing and what it might evoke (just a tad) who the characters are, where they are, and some glimmer of what they might encounter throughout the book (i.e. hardship, new love, lost love, drama). I never want too many concrete details.

I strive to write the type of reviews that I want to read. I want to communicate the joy or frustration of  the reading experience, who you might meet within the pages of the book, and why you might want to get to know them, but still leave the majority of the book to be discovered. I am curious to see how I talk about books after the muse returns because I suspect that my style is going through a bit of a shift, something which may or may not be noticeable, but still there.

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What kind of reviews do you like to read?

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Cool Down With AC – Agatha Christie’s The Clocks Discussion

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

Last night, Masterpiece Mystery aired The Clocks, the second of the Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Series 6 movies.  The series also includes Three Act Tragedy, and Hallowe’en Party. As part of the Cool Down with AC read/watch-along, I will also be watching a Miss Marple mystery a little bit later in the summer, and I hope you will be joining in. If you missed the movie last night on PBS, make sure you catch it while it’s available to view online!

The Clocks follows the case of Sheila Webb, a young stenographer who goes out on assignment only to be greeted by the eerie scene of clocks strategically placed in the room with a dead body. Fate then delivers her, as she runs screaming out of the building, into the waiting arms of Lieutenant Colin Race who champions her cause and turns to Hercule Poirot for help in clearing her name. But as the body count rises and the evidence mounts against Sheila, it becomes a mystery as whether Poirot can (or wants to) aid the damsel in distress.

So, I now have my second Poirot mystery under my belt, and I have heard a rumor that he does play a bigger roles in some of the novels. This is not one of them. The plot of the film was again altered to create a bigger space and role for him. I wonder whether we will get to see him in action a little more in Hallowe’en Party!

For Discussion:

The discussion throughout this week, so check back and leave any questions that you have in the comments.

So far, how are your enjoying Series 6? Does this episode fall in line with any expectations that might have been building after last week’s episode? Do you have a preference for either?

Have you read the book and the movie? Which one did you like better? Did you get the feeling that one was more effective than the other at telling the story? What worked for you and what didn’t?

How did you feel about Sheila throughout the movie? Did you have any doubts about her or about Colin Race?

Did you guess either the killer or the motive before the reveal in the movie? What tipped you off? Were there clues you picked up along the way, or did you know what to look for based on prior experience with the book?

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Participants in this week’s discussion will be eligible to win a copy of the Hercule Poirot Series 5 set of DVDs which include Murder on the Orient Express, Third Girl and Appointment with Death. If you have something to add to the discussion, don’t be shy!

Also, remember to check out Jen’s giveaway of And Then There Were None and her discussion post on the Christie mystery Endless Nights at Devourer of Books

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That’s How I Blog! Chat With Allie (Hist-Fic Chick)

That’s How I Blog! is my long missing talk show where I interview bloggers about what they read growing up, what’s on their bookshelves and how they fell into the world of blogging. It’s in a bit of transition as I try to figure out the best way to host it and where (it could possibly end up being here permanently), but in the meantime, I have been steadily recording shows. I will be posting them here until I can get all of the details sorted.

I recorded this show a few months ago, when Allie from Hist-Fic Chick had just moved out to California. I met Allie last year at BEA and we quickly became very good friends over a shared loved of books, wine and fine dining. It helped that she lived right across the park from me and could always be lured out to drink and eat pretty regularly. Listening to this interview reminded me (as if I needed reminding) of just how awesome she is and how much I miss her. If you love historical fiction or you think you might love historical fiction you should definitely tune in because Allie gave a TON of great recommendations of historical fiction. We also chatted about some of those racy historical fiction covers, which historical recipes Allie has tried out, what she read as a little girl, if she will ever be able to color code her bookshelves, and much, much more.

[buzzsprout episode=”27511″ player=”true”]

Those reading this post on a feed reader will likely have to click through to the actual blog post to listen to the interview.

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Out of Twenty – Alafair Burke, Author of Long Gone, Answers Seven Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing the which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Alafair Burke, author of the novel Long Gone, played along and answered seven questions.  Here is what Alafair had to say about reading, writing and avoiding spillover in a novel.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

I write crime fiction featuring female protagonists.  I came to writing primarily as a reader and then as a prosecutor.

I was a prosecutor in Portland, Oregon, for several years. After leaving to move to New York, I missed my office. I missed Portland and my friends. And as a long-time mystery reader, I had always wanted to write a crime novel. I thought I’d finally learned enough about the world to give it a try, so I started with a character named Samantha Kincaid, who is a prosecutor in the very office where I served.

By the time I was working on my fourth Kincaid novel, I’d been living in New York for a few years. I thought the anonymity that comes only in a city this big was exciting territory for me as a writer. I was also ready to write a faster paced book with an investigator, instead of a lawyer, at the center. I had a story I wanted to tell that involved Internet dating, and I thought a young New York City detective was the perfect narrator. I actually meant for that book (Dead Connection) to be a standalone, but I knew when I wrote the final chapter that I’d still be hearing more from the main character, Ellie Hatcher.  My next three novels focused on her.

My latest novel, Long Gone, is a standalone thriller about Alice Humphrey, who takes what she thinks is her dream job managing a small art gallery after nearly a year of unemployment.  She thinks everything is going smoothly until one morning she comes to work to find the gallery space vacant, stripped bare as if it had never existed.  Even worse, the man who hired her is dead.  Needless to say, trouble ensues.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the proccess of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

I’m a big believer in exercise to relax both body and mind.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ll be struggling at the keyboard, only to find inspiration on the treadmill.

Alcohol works too 🙂

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

When I got the idea for Long Gone, I knew it would not be an Ellie Hatcher novel. It was right when the economy was getting really, really bad. I take morning walks through the village, and every day, I’d see yet another boarded-over storefront. Literally, a store would be open to customers on Monday, and completely gone on Tuesday. I started to wonder what it would be like to go to work one morning to find that your entire professional life had vanished overnight. That’s the kind of story that has to be told from the perspective of a civilian.

What surprised me is the personal story that emerged from that kernel of a plot idea.  Alice Humphrey truly changes over the course of the novel.  She has to confront truths about both herself and her family.

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

I try to read work that is different from my own when I’m in the trenches with a novel.  I don’t want to risk any spillover in the voice.

Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?

Maybe my very first book would have been better if I’d cut back on some detail, but debut novels are detailed for a reason.  New writers share some of the same habits.  I like to think that every book I’ve written has been better than the rest.  As someone who cares more about the longevity of my publishing career than dollars and cents, that makes me pretty content.

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

I don’t believe in scrapping projects.  I don’t start to write until a voice really speaks to me.  And then I try to write every single day – without starting over – until I finish.  Once you have a beginning, middle, and end, it is much easier to make adjustments than you’d ever believe.  The hard part is getting it done.

What’s next?

I’m working on my next Ellie Hatcher novel.

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Alafair Burke is the author of what the Sun-Sentinal has hailed as “two power house series” featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair’s novels grow out of her love for writing, her experience as a prosecutor in America’s police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and her ability to create strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters. According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair “is a terrific web spinner” who “knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy.”

Her highly anticipated thriller, Long Gone, has already been praised by some of the world’s most respected crime writers: Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Unger, and Nelson DeMille.

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The Ridge, by Michael Koryta – Book Review

What do you get when you mix an isolated Kentucky road with a creepy lighthouse, a rambling old drunk, a troubled police officer, and a retreat for big cats? Well, one thing you get is Michael Koryta hitting his stride with The Ridge, his latest and maybe greatest thrilling supernatural mystery.

Roy Darmus is at the end of his career at a small newspaper when a menacing phone call and later tragedy involving the town’s drunk, Wyatt French, sets him on the trail of a story that he can’t resist. Especially when he finds that it involves the years ago death of both his parents. French also tasks  Chef Deputy Kevin Kimball, a man carrying around personal and professional baggage of his own, with getting to the bottom of a voluntary act prompted by circumstances that offered no other choice. Complicating matters is French’s antagonistic involvement with Audrey Clarke the owner of a cat sanctuary which has just relocated to the edge of French’s property. There is something about the land and the lighthouse that puts just about everyone on edge.

Readers who enjoy mysteries and the supernatural, are in for a treat with the The Ridge, and though I usually balk at most books topping 400 pages, I highly recommend reading it. Koryta’s previous novel, The Cypress House, holds an irrational lock on my heart, but this novel unfolds beautifully, carefully building  the creepy suspense throughout. I scanned the room quite a bit while reading! There is a little bit of everything in the story of  two men searching – one for what happened to his parents so long ago, and the other for the missing piece of the puzzle when his life was drastically altered. There is love and obsession here. Koryta’s storytelling is natural and effortless and he has a knack for writing troubled characters whose rough charm and difficult circumstances unfailingly steal your heart.

In The Ridge, beautiful landscape, lions, cougars and a mystical black panther compete with the people for their place in the story and for the reader’s sympathies. In the end, no one is forgotten when this haunting novel comes to its moving and inevitable conclusion.

Read More Reviews At: Booking MamaJenn’s Bookshelves

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Review Copy.

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Long Gone, by Alafair Burke – Book Review

Ever since cutting the financial strings from her famous filmmaking father, Alice Humphrey has been struggling. Laid off from her job, it takes her months to find a new one without dad’s help. Alice counts herself a success when she starts managing a trendy art gallery in New York City’s Meatpacking District, with an artist whose provocative work sells like hot cakes, and a mysterious silent backer. But when the gallery disappears and her only contact turns up dead, Alice has yet a new job…clearing herself of murder.

Long Gone, Alafair Burke’s engaging first stand alone novel delivers all the twists and turns needed to keep readers turning the pages. Initially Alice’s story is interspersed with, competing narratives of a reckless teenaged girl, a woman with a new boyfriend and a man doing surveillance – so it’s a little slow to open up. One can only assume that these curious asides will begin to weave themselves into the story, and once the connections begin to take shape, the effect makes for an even more suspenseful read in the wait to see the outcomes to their stories and how they involve Alice.

Underlying the mystery of just what Alice has got herself involved in, is who Alice is as a person. Burke ups the ante with her rendering of Alice’s relationships with her best friend,  on-again/off-again flame, and her troubled and tense relationships with her family (scandal-ridden dad, passive mom, and recovering addict brother). Each relationship presents its own set of difficulties begging for resolution, and the book is as much about Alice’s growth in these relationships as she confronts all the trouble that she’s in. Readers might not figure out everything before the end of this novel, but the craziness makes for a satisfying mystery read.

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Review Copy.

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Cool Down With AC – Agatha Christie’s Three Act Tragedy Discussion

Last night, Masterpiece Mystery aired Three Act Tragedy, the first of the Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Series 6 movies.  The series will also include The Clocks, and Hallowe’en Party. As part of the Cool Down with AC read/watch-along, I will be viewing them as well as a Miss Marple mystery a little bit later in the summer, and I hope you will be joining in. If you missed the movie last night on PBS, make sure you catch it while it’s available to view online!

Three Act Tragedy begins with Hercule Poirot playing catch up with friends Sir Charles Cartwright and Bartholomew Strange just as Cartwright is putting the finishing touches on his plan for a cocktail party. When an elderly vicar turns up dead at the party, Poirot doesn’t have any suspicions of murder until a second party with an almost identical guest list ends in death as well. Poirot enlists the help of would be detectives Cartwright and his crush, Egg Lytton Gore.

This was my first Hercule Poirot movie. I haven’t even seen the famed Murder on the Orient Express (but I plan to remedy that since it is available for the next week or so on PBS’s website.)! I finished reading the book shortly before I watched the movie and I was really struck by some major differences with the characters and the structure which were intriguing. I can see why the changes worked for the movie and I had wondered why AC chose to tell this story in the way that she did. Poirot does not play a big part in the book, nor is the story told from his point of view. Definitely an interesting choice for a series detective. I am curious to see whether the other Poirot stories are told in this fashion. The book was definitely more subtle with its reveal of the murderer. I had no clue with the book, but knowing probably influenced the way I watched the movie.

For Discussion:

I’ll be updating the discussion throughout the day, so feel free to check back often and leave any questions that you have in the comments.

Is this your first Poirot movie? If so, did you have any expectations and did it live up to them? For those who have followed Poirot before, how does this adaptation/actor measure up?

Have you read the book and the movie? Which one did you like better? Did you get the feeling that one was more effective than the other at telling the story? What worked for you and what didn’t?

There were quite a few zingers and one-liners in the movie. Did you have a favorite? How did these lines shape the character and feel of the movie?

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Participants in the discussion today will be eligible to win a copy of the Hercule Poirot Series 6 set of DVDs, which will be released on July 12. If you have something to add to the discussion, don’t be shy!

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Out of Twenty – Michael Robotham, Author of The Wreckage, Answers Thirteen Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing the which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Michael Robotham, author of the novel The Wreckage, played along and answered thirteen questions.  Here is what Michael had to sat about reading, writing and full body massage.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

I’m a small town boy from Australia, who has had three careers – first as an investigative journalist, then as a ghostwriter and finally as a crime novelist.

As a journalist I reported on events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union. I was among the first people to gain access to Moscow State Archives where I uncovered the letters, diaries and family photo albums of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra. I also viewed Stalin’s Hitler files, which had been missing for nearly fifty years until a cleaner stumbled upon a cardboard box that had been misplaced.

As a ghostwriter I collaborated on fifteen ‘autobiographies’, working with politicians, pop stars, adventurers, actors and soldiers to capture their voices and bring their stories to a wider audience.

Ten years ago, I sat down to write my own novel. The first 117 pages of Suspect triggered a bidding war at the London Book Fair in 2002. That novel introduced two of my most enduring characters, Joe O’Loughlin, a psychologist with early onset Parkinsons, and Vincent Ruiz a Scotland Yard detective.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process

If you must know, I write while sitting at an outdoor café by the beach, having ordered poached eggs and a strong coffee. I write longhand in bound notebooks, scrawling completely unintelligible sentences that have to be transferred to the computer within hours or I’ll never be able to read my handwriting again.

I write longhand to protect my eyes from the computer screen and because there is something about pen and paper that leads to shorter sentences and sharper dialogue. It’s as though the mind edits more effectively when it knows the result has to consume ink and rainforests.

Watching me write is not a spectator sport. Nobody queues up outside the café. Instead they give me a wide berth. I’m the weird guy in the corner table who is mumbling to himself.

Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

Q. What time would you like your full body massage?

A. Four o’clock will be fine.

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

All of my novels have been based on real life events or triggered by a news story or an experience. The Wreckage is a big international conspiracy thriller set on three continents, but told through the eyes of very normal everyday characters.

The idea began with a story that I read in December 2009 in a UK newspaper. The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime told the Observer that during the height of the Global Financial Crisis, major western banks were on the brink of collapse and so desperate for funds that they laundered $352bn of drugs profits for organised crime gangs.

I then came a second story, a brilliant piece of investigative journalism in Vanity Fair by two Pulitzer prize-winning journalists, James Steele and Donald Barlett. They revealed details of the largest airlift of US currency in the history of the Federal Reserve – 21 shipments over fourteen months – flown into Iraq in the aftermath of the war.  It amounted to 281 million individual banknotes or 363 tons of money. Twelve billion US dollars in total – of which nine billion has never been accounted for.

The Wreckage is based on these and other real-life events and documents even though the characters are entirely fictitious. I have drawn upon the truth to hopefully create fiction that reads like fact.

What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I’m a huge fan of James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and John le Carré but I try to avoid crime novels and thrillers when I’m writing because it’s very easy to be influenced.

When I read a book nowadays, I find myself taking it apart, looking at the pieces, seeing how it works. Why did I love a particular scene or character? What could have been improved? With the truly great book, of course, I can’t take it apart because there are no joins. Everything is seamless and perfect.

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book but ultimately decided not to include it?

I make mention of a bank robbery in The Wreckage – the biggest in history. Three days before the war began Saddam Hussein sent his son and a senior aide to a bank in Baghdad and they withdrew US$920 million. It took two hours and three tractor trailers to carry the money away.

Four weeks later, Baghdad had fallen and Saddam was in hiding. Two soldiers from the Third Infantry Division went looking for a chainsaw to cut away fallen trees from an access road at the new Presidential Palace. They found a bricked up building and inside there were twenty aluminium cases. Another 40 cases were found next door. By nightfall they had discovered 164 boxes – US$656 million.

What isn’t as well known is that three of the aluminium boxes went missing (each containing US$4 million). Five soldiers were involved in the plan. At first they tried to sink two cases in a man-made lake, only to discover it was only two feet deep. When the sun came up the cases were discovered. The third case was found in a tree and five soldiers were disciplined. They were so close to being millionaires.

In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people. What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?

As mentioned earlier, I begin my day sitting in a cafe writing in long-hand. Later I’ll transfer the words onto a computer and begin polishing. Evenings are spent doing research and answering letters and emails from publishers and readers.

I don’t plot my books in advance. I come up with a premise and let my characters tell the story. This is a very organic way of writing, but also quite scary. The benefit, of course, is spontaneity and surprise. If I don’t see the twists and turns coming, neither will my readers.

If you could make everyone read five books, which ones would they be?

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
The Constant Gardener by John le Carré
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

I’m normally hopeless at choosing titles but  The Wreckage came to me straight away. I think it works perfectly because the action is set amid the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis and the Iraq War.

In the past I’ve struggled with titles or had publishers in the UK and US disagreeing. I’ve even had a change a title in some territories. My second novel was originally Lost but came out shortly before the TV series of the same name. My British publishers changed the paperback title to The Drowning Man but in America it remained as Lost, which still causes a lot of confusion.

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in my mid-teens I devoured Ray Bradbury’s novels and short story collections – books like Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man. Not all of his titles were available in Australia, so I wrote a letter addressed to his US publishers. Months later a parcel arrived in the post. It contained all the books that I hadn’t been able to get in Australia, as well as a handwritten letter from Bradbury himself, saying how thrilled he was to have a young fan on the far side of the world.

I became a writer because of Ray Bradbury.

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

I’m definitely a one-book-at-a-time sort of guy. I don’t have a drawer full of ideas and often when I finish a novel I think, ‘That’s it! I’ll never write again. I’ve used up every idea and good one-liner.’

Of course, my wife will find me a few hours later in my basement office (my pit of despair) already toying with a new story.

Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?

After seven novels, I have a cast of main characters. Sometimes they take centre stage as first person narrator. At other times they play smaller roles.

Former detective Vincent Ruiz is the only character to have appeared in every novel. He plays a major part in The Wreckage, tracking down the missing millions in London and investigating the mysterious disappearance of a senior banker.

Of all my characters the psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is probably the most autobiographical. He’s about my age. He has daughters. He has a similar sense of humour and outlook on the world.

What’s next?

I’m working on a new novel for 2012. This one doesn’t have a title as yet, but will feature Joe O’Loughlin and Vincent Ruiz and will involve the disappearance of two schoolgirls – one of whom is found frozen to death three years later. Stay tuned.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism, by Deborah Baker

About Michael Robotham: Michael Robotham was an investigative journalist in Britain, Australia, and the U.S before his career as a novelist. He lives in Sydney with his wife and 3 daughters. Learn more at http://www.michaelrobotham.com. The Wreckage is in stores today.

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