Here are all the Adult Fiction Message Board postings, along with my replies, from my old website.
Monday, January 7
Q Just wanted to say thanks for everything you did when writing The Dark Mountain. Louisa Atkinson is my great Aunty (her sister is my great grandmother) and it was great to read your book on her family life.
Posted by Brett, Adelaide
A You don’t mean you’re Charlotte’s great grandson? Wow! You’re so lucky to have a bunch of glamorous, exciting ancestors – mine seem to have been boringly lost in the mists of time (except for a Fred Jinks who was vice captain of Carleton in the VFL in about 1907).
Sunday, August 12
Q I have just finished reading your first adult novel to be published, An Evening with the Messiah. Firstly, thank you for a great read, I didn’t want to put it down. Your sharp observations when it comes to people and their little quirks and motivations was very entertaining … and eerily spot on. I’m particularly refering to the unbalanced Jamie. I dated that guy! It took me 2 years, my famiy’s distress, and a referral to a psychologist before I could accept that I was with a very unbalanced man – playing mind games with his own agenda, and I was never going to change him. I wonder did you know such a person? Unfortunately it took a lot out of me to have my eyes opened, and I am 44. I also loved Stuart (I am a casual teacher and feel his pain!) and I recognised the annoying Dorothy Boland (I work with her!) … actually I loved all the characters and I can definitely see the potential for a follow up the way you left the ending … here’s hoping
Posted by Richelle, Ballina, Victoria
A Gosh, Richelle, it’s so good to hear that my very first adult book is still being read – and enjoyed – after all these years! It’s like hearing someone has picked up a message in a bottle. And to know that the message is still even remotely relevant … well, that’s even better. I’m so grateful that you took the time to tell me that An Evening with the Messiah isn’t completely dead and gone. As long as people are still reading a book, it continues to have a life of its own …
I have to admit, I never really did know anyone like Jamie. The real-life experiences I used for that book tend to revolve around the experience of singing ‘The Messiah’ in a large choir. However, I’ve read a lot of true crime, and one thing you see in true crime is the same kind of personality patterns over and over and over again. Also, I’ve managed to train my imagination sufficiently to build on a basic premise: if someone desperately wants to become part of an entire family, what would they do?
I’m afraid that book is so old that I wouldn’t be able to write a sequel – I’m just too far away from it. Also, I haven’t had a whole lot of success with my adult books; my children’s books sell better, especially in these difficult times, so I’ve kind of abandoned adult writing for the present. However, I’m really, really pleased and flattered that you even want a sequel. Thanks so much!
Sunday, August 5
Q I have just finished reading The Road (on audiobook) and I don’t know if I missed this, but what happened to Nathan??? I need to know or I’ll worry about him….!
Posted by Robin, Bendigo, Victoria
A Bad news, I’m afraid …
Saturday, November 19
Q I’ve only just come across your name after reading about Umberto Eco’s book The Name of the Rose. However I’m having a lot of trouble trying to order The Inquisitor, The Notary or The Secret Familiar. Amazon have a lot of your books but not these. Are they out of print in the UK? I love reading about the medieval period & your books sound great!
Posted by Matt, Nottingham, UK
A Sorry about the delay in replying, Matt – computer problems. I’m afraid The Inquisitor and The Notary are out of print in Australia, and probably in the U.S. too. (Only The Inquisitor was ever published in the U.S.) I think you might still be able to get The Secret Familiar from the Allen and Unwin website, but the other place you might want to look is betterworldbooks.com – they might have remaindered or secondhand copies. I’m also in the process of getting back various rights so that ebook versions can be published, but that’s not quite sorted yet.
My apologies that I couldn’t help more.
Sunday, September 25
Q I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. I stumbled across Evil Genius (audiobook) at my local library and loved it! While being 42, I don’t read much YA fiction, I must admit to the title catching my eye. After scanning the back cover, I knew it was a must read. The book was wonderful and exceeded my expectations. Cadel is a great character, one strong young man whom I feel kids could really look up to. I just finished Genius Squad yesterday and really look forward to listening to the further adventures of Cadel and notorious SOB, Prosper English! Please keep them coming.
Posted by Matt, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
A Wow, Matt! Forty-two – that’s nearly as old as I am! I’m always so pleased when people my age read my teen novels; it suggests the books have something universal (and maybe even timeless!) tucked in there. I’m also very interested to see that you come from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Could this be a real ranch? If so, that’s an even bigger wow; though I quite understand if it’s the name of a new sub-division.
I’m afraid I have no immediate plans to keep the Genius series coming – I need a rest because they were so hard to write and I’m practically computer illiterate. However I’ll keep writing books, so maybe one day I’ll feel nostalgic for Cadel again …
Sunday, September 11
Q What’s your birthday?? Like not the year – I know it’s 1963- but what month and day and if you know what time were you born??
Posted by Mariana, Denton
A I’m sorry, Mariana, I only know I was born sometime in the early morning, before 5 am. Are you doing my horoscope, or something? If you are, that’s okay, but just to discourage social engineers who might want to stockpile my personal details, let’s just say I’m a Scorpio, born on the 17th of … you guess.
Sunday, August 7
Q Wish you had a newsletter, it’s easier than going to every author that I like to read. Thank you and keep up the good work. Enjoyed every page.
Posted by Linda, Wilmington
A Yep, I guess it would be easier if every author you liked shared a newsletter! Of course, there are thousands of authors in the world, and some of the authors you like might be dead, but …. I do understand! And I appreciate it that you took the time to locate my website and send me a thumbs-up! Thanks for that!
Friday, June 17
Q I found The Road in a book store the other day, and the author was different. I’m just confused.
Posted by Riley, California
A Yeah, I’m sorry, Riley – The Road is a title that’s been used by quite a few authors (including Cormac McCarthy). You’re highly unlikely to find a copy of my book in California – it was only published in Australia. I’m not even sure it’s an e-book. But you might find it over the Internet.
Q I have read your books Evil Genius and The Genius Wars recently and I am now reading The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group. I am doing a school project where I can try and write my own book. I wanted to ask if you can give me some tips on how to write a book and how I can get inspiration on writing a futuristic or very fictional book.
Posted by Dennis, Perth
A The most important piece of advice I can give you about writing a book is this: don’t start writing it until you know exactly what you’re going to write. By this I mean – work out your story and your characters. Make notes about them. Think about where the story’s going to start anad where it’s going to end. Make sure this journey will transform your main character, somehow. And then write a synopsis. A synopsis is a plan, and you if you want to avoid writer’s block, you must have a plan. The more detailed the plan is, the easier you’ll find it to write your book. Because when you’re thrashing about in to micro-details (like syntax and spelling and who says what when) you don’t want to be worrying about the big picture at the same time. It’s better if you’ve already sorted that out before you even start chapter one.
Friday, April 22
Q Very late compliments on your fantastic novel The Road. Considering the dearth of female Australian horror writers it was a breath of fresh if somewhat spooky air. I remember reading it when it was first published and thoroughly enjoying it, and when I came across a copy this afternoon, it shrieked ‘read me again!’ (Not literally, well, no-one else seemed to hear it.) As a child who lived all over different parts of South Australia, I could completely relate to the fear of the road that might just never get anywhere. I think this is why I live inner city and don’t even have a current drivers’ licence. Just wanted to say thanks again for your very unique book, and wonder if anyone has any suggestions as to books that deal with ‘Australian Road Fear’.
Posted by Jayne, Melbourne
A Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement – it’s so nice to know that a novel like that isn’t actually dead and buried but is still being kept alive by the odd reader like you, Jayne. And the idea of ‘Australian road fear’ is very interesting. I mean when you look at things like ‘Wolf Creek’, and the Falconio/Lees case, and even ‘Mad Max’ … it’s true, isn’t it? Though my book was about land fear as well as road fear. Road fear tends to have a human element to it – as if the deserted road breeds a particularly evil type of person (which when you think about it might have its roots in the ancient fear of wandering strangers); land fear is that old Australian sense of being in a hostile place that you don’t totally understand.
You could discuss the topic for hours, really.
Sunday, April 10
Q Having just discovered you – how could I have been so unaware of such a talent! – I have now finished The Inquisitor and The Notary, and they are superb. Both remind me of The Name of the Rose; I think The Notary is easily the better book. The Name of The Rose was engrossing and stimulatingl until near the end, when I felt Eco cheated a little. The Notary is wonderful and stimulating until the very end. And you can pick a paragraph or two at random and be bowled over. For example, the paragraph at the start of Song of the Succubus that begins: “How many sages have written of love? …” Wonderful stuff. I have also read An Evening with the Messiah and Buena Vista, and Evil Genius. I love them all. I think it is the mixture of wit, human understanding, intellectual rigour, the empathy with all sorts of people, and the sense of just plain fun. What a pity so many of your books are out of print. Thank god for libraries.
Posted by Rob, St Kilda, Victoria
A What an absolutely wonderful message, Rob. Thank you so much. Yes, I fear most of my books for adults have fallen by the wayside; you may be interested in the third of my medieval murder mysteries, which could probably be described as the third in the trilogy. It’s called The Secret Familiar, and was probably even less popular than the other two! (Though I happen to think it’s the best of the lot.) Ah, well. At least all three books have been very well received in Spain and Germany (!). And in St Kilda, of course. I really appreciate your enthusiastic reception!
Monday, December 20
Q I do not request an answer to this, but if I could I would pay you a million dollars (unfortunately my report card money only grants me $25) but I would be willing to give support and ideas and research! I am not joking. AND I would not ask for any money if the book is a hit (I am very easy to please). Oh and I’m sorry it is taking me so long to write you that letter, but you have a daughter, so you know how it is with homework and what not. Anyway like I said, I would be willing to help every step, because quite frankly I want to be an author one day and this may be the best practice anyone could ever find!
I also have a suggestion. (First of all I’d like to apolagize for my incessant messages. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.) My advice is not to make a movie of the Genius series. Why? Because although it may be good publicity, the movies are NEVER and I mean not EVER as good as the book. If I were to see the directors and whatevers mess up this perfect series, I would be devastated! Have you ever read the book Eragon? Well I saw the movie and just about wrote the producters an angry letter. Not to be an angry fan or anything, and I wish you and your books only the best, but a movie I don’t think is the right way to go. Just my honest, and humble opinion.
Posted by Riley, Santa Clarita, California
A Sorry, Riley, but I always do everything myself, including research. I don’t share my stuff with anyone until it’s finished – even my husband doesn’t read my books until they’re published (or at least in page-proof form. It’s the way I work and has something to do with keeping my story-telling motivation alive. Once you’ve told the story to someone, you lose a little of the motivation to write it down.
As for the movie issue – well, I honestly don’t think I’m going to be put to the test, since Hollywood appears to be in pretty dire straits at the moment!
Q I’m from New Zealand and I first discovered the Pagan Chronicles when I was twelve. I’m now twenty-seven and I just wanted to say that these books are still, and always will be, a true delight. They still move me to tears, laughter and rage whenever I read them. There’s just something simply wonderful about escaping into the world your words have created. I only discovered a week ago that you’d written Pagan’s Daughter (you should’ve seen me when I found out, it was like I was twelve years old all over again, I was that excited!) and reading it was like being reunited with a long lost friend. The librarian who checked it out for me is also a fellow Pagan fan! (We laughed and bonded over things like Pagan’s cheeky “christ in a cream cheese sauce!” curse.) I intend to buy it as soon as possible to complete the set. Thank you for your beautiful stories. Thank you for Pagan, Roland, Esclaramonde, Jordan, Isidore, Babylonne and everyone and everything else in between. Thank you for sharing them.
Posted by Tanith, Auckland
A What a lovely message, Tanith – and thank you for remaining such a loyal and devoted follower of Pagan, over so many years. Those of my books that aren’t read any more tend to be kind of dead to me, but as long as there are people like you reading Pagan, he’ll always be alive in me somewhere.
Q A quick question and rant from a dedicated and interested fan. Where did the inspiration for Prosper come? He’s a grade A+ villain and the fictional world needs more like him! fictional because I think reality might just crumble if there was more than one! I wanted to take the time out of my day to tell you well…thanks. Thanks for being a great and inspiring writer, for your characters which are there and the good memories I associate with your works. I read Evil Genius back when it was first published, now, almost six years later given that the new year is in a few weeks! I still smile when I glance over and spot the familiar black spine on my bookshelf. I can’t see pop tarts without thinking about their flammable qualities and I have a part of my childhood dreams in the form of your works. I notice a lot of your younger readers are aspiring authors and visionaries, a great dream to follow! A few years ago I was one of them! I’m off to uni now, following a different path that well….it doesn’t end with me getting any kind of book deals out at least. But every time I pick up Evil Genius, spot Prosper’s toothy grin, I grin a little myself! I remember why I loved to write, why I wanted to be that one author who could make it big. So while I grow older each year when I flip through your pages I can still see that aspiring girl frolicking in the pages, giggling at a younger Cadel’s antics and thinking ‘this is how I want to write, I want to grow up and do this!’ It’s something I hope others can get from your books too. It’s some I really cherish. One question niggling at me which was asked before, twice, but I think you misunderstood the question maybe? When Prosper is hiding in Rex’s house, Cadel spots some poptarts in the pantry of Rex’s kitchen. Did Rex buy these before his untimely end or did Prosper, in all his nostalgia, buy them for himself? They don’t expire for AGES after all. Lastly, are you planning on doing any signings in the Brisbane area? I’d love to get a chance to say hi in person and get your scribble somewhere on my copy.
Posted by April, Brisbane
A Thanks so much, April! (I do remember you, as a matter of fact – April’s such an unusual name.) And as for the Pop Tarts question – I never really thought about it, but I guess if the ‘Old Spice’ wasn’t Prosper’s, then the Pop Tarts might not have been either.
Sunday, November 28
Q I love your books, and I mean, how could someone not? Seriously, has anyone ever told you they did not like one of your books? It doesn’t seem possible to me!
I know how hard you work on all your books and that it may be hard to continue a series (which I know nothing about because I’m not an author- yet) but will you be continuing The Genius Wars? Because that would be amazing! I even had an idea for a new character! (if I may be so bold to explain). But if not thanks anyways, you will still be the best author in my eyes.
Posted by Riley, Santa Clarita, California
A Hello again, Riley! Yes, there have been people who haven’t liked my books, because you can’t please everyone all the time – but luckily there have also been enough appreciative readers in the world to keep me afloat! And I’ll be frank with you: if the series became a HUGE success, and I was offered an ENORMOUS amount of money (like a million dollars, say) to write one more sequel, I’d probably think about it. But I don’t even know if I’d be able to write a sequel, even if I wanted to. I don’t know if I’d be able to achieve the quality Iwould need to complete the book. Because even though it’s largely a technical exercise, there always has to be that little spark of emotional inspiration. Which is hard to find if your heart sinks at the thought of sitting down in front of a blank page.
Q Wow! I’ve just read The Genius Wars and I’m just amazed how this book fascinated me! I bought it two days ago and wasn’t able to stop reading it! I have to admit that I only bought the first book because of its cover (German cover)! It was the best decision I could have made! At the begining Cadel is a little bit “strange”, but the more I was into the story, the more I started to understand and like him! The pages just fly by when I read one of your books and I forget the time. It is really well written. There’s no scene in one of these books that I remembered being boring! I only stopped reading to go to work (stupid work)! Now I’m finished with all three books I’m really sad. The End was soooo sad. I cried. I think it was a little fast! I wanted to know what Kale, Cadel and Co. would do next! If Prosper English’s corpse will be found or maybe he’s still alive? That’s the only criticism I can and will give! Anyway thank you for your amazing work! When you say that there will be a 4th book then it will make my wish for Christmas come true!
If I had enough money I wouldn’t hesitate to bring Cadel in all Cinemas around the world. But I believe that’s just a wish! Now that I finished all three books I started at the beginning! It doesn’t gets old! But as for me I imagine that’s not the end! Cadel always has the right feeling when it comes to Prosper! Please answer me in privacy if I spoil too much, but I thinks there’s a possibility that Vadi rescued Prosper or both! And also Wilfrieda is still alive! Did you let this open end for us fans to imagine own stories or is there a possibility that you it will be continued? I know you already said that you won’t continue but sometimes people change their mind – ^^ I have to thank you for the hard time you had while writing these books but the hard work was worth it! I could easily follow your explanations and the more I read the more I loved your characters! As for me I loved the moments with Cadel and Prosper the most! Some of them made me cry and some made me laugh! These books I don’t regret buying them! And I will buy more books from you (also Cadel has a special place in my heart)! I hope you understand what I meant cause English is not my mothertongue! Lovely greetings from a fan oversees! ^^
Posted by Stephanie, Bamberg, Germany
A Thank you so much Stephanie, and I’m sorry about the delay in replying – I had computer problems. I must admit, it’s always particularly gratifying when my books appeal to people who not only live in another country, but who don’t speak English as a first language. I feel as if I’m bringing the world together, in a funny sort of way!
As you say, The Genius Wars ending certainly allows my readers to make up their own stories, but my feeling is that Prosper probably died – because if he didn’t, poor old Cadel wouldn’t be able to start a new life. He’d still be looking over his shoulder all the time, and that’s no way to live. On the other hand, I couldn’t bear to show Prosper dying because it would have been very hard to take. I mean, we’re all quite fond of him, aren’t we? Despite everything.
I’d love to be able to tell you that Cadel will be in cinemas soon, but I don’t hold out much hope. The movie business is in the doldrums, at present, and although there’s a producer trying to pitch the project around Hollywood, he’s not having much luck, as far as I know.
Q I loved Evil Genius, it was awesome! Are you a computer geek? I am learning about computers and was wondering if you could point me to a good site for learning about them. Thanks!
Posted by Thomas, Brisbane
A I am so not a computer geek, Thomas. I’m practically computer illiterate, so my knowledge about helpful computer sites is minimal. In fact my friend Richard Buckland, who teaches computer programming and cryptography at the University of New South Wales, was the person who gave me a lot of the information I used in the Genius series – and it just so happens that some of his lectures are posted on YouTube. So you can always start with them, and maybe follow whatever advice he has about studying computers.
I’m very glad you enjoyed my book, by the way – especially since you’re a computer geek and I’m not. It means I certainly got something right!
Monday, November 8
Q I found your book The Inquisitor by chance. I was looking for some books my mother-in-law had asked for, when I saw the cover of your book. I was immediately drown to it. I just love it! It’s funny but full of accurate historical details, just wonderful! I am an Italian native speaker and have read Eco’ “Il nome della rosa”, but I daresay you surpass him! Thank you so much, a new world of great books has just been opened for me. I intend to read all your other works. Grazie!
Posted by Elisa, Kansas City, Missouri
A How wonderful that someone’s still reading The Inquisitor! I really don’t think I surpass Eco – but thanks so much anyway! There are actually two other books in my ‘Inquisition trilogy’, but they were never published outside Australia – one is The Notary and the other is called The Secret Familiar. Both deal with functionaries of the Inquisition (a notary and a spy), and you would probably enjoy them if you could get hold of them, though I know that The Notary is now out of print. Still, you might be able to find it on eBay, I suppose. Basically, I gave up writing my medieval murder mysteries for adults because there didn’t seem to be a very big audience for them out in the world. So it’s really nice to hear from someone who enjoyed the first one.
Sunday, October 10
Q Thank you so much for replying, I have never written to an author before! I will take on board your suggestions. One last thing, is the physical description of Dr Patrick Hill accurate? Page 163.
Posted by Allison, Canberra
A No, I fear I just made that up!
Friday, September 17
Q Loved The Dark Mountain! My convict ancestor Mary Bolton ‘Grenada’ 1825 worked for Dr Patrick Hill, Colony Surgeon, whom you refer to in the book. Mary arrived with four daughters and I am trying to research her life. I am a museum guide at Lanyon Homestead 1840’s and I study Local Family and Applied History at UNE. I would be very grateful if you could give my any information or point me in the right direction, for researching Dr Hill and his wife Mary Throsby, who lived at Liverpool.
Posted by Allison, Canberra
A I’m really sorry, Allison – I picked up almost nothing about Dr Hill during my research, even though I really did want to find out more about him. I assume you’ve already got hold of a book called Throsby Park by Rachel Roxburgh? It’s an account of the Throsby family between 1802-1940, and Patrick Hill is mentioned in it. There’s also a Berrima Historical Society and a Mittagong Historical Society, and they’re very good; if you haven’t been in contact already, you should. I bet some of their members could help you.
Tuesday, August 30
Q I’m not sure if I should be putting this message here or on the kids page as the books I have just read are Eglantine and Eustace. I read quite a lot of various books and I often find kids are more entertaining than adults – the Harry Potter series being a prime example. I was looking for something a bit different to read and as I have an interest in the paranormal Eglantine caught my eye. Early in my marriage I lived in a haunted house for a couple of years but the ghost there was friendly and never frightening. I do realize that the Allie series is fiction but I am enjoying very much. Would you like to hear more about that house?
Posted by Josephine, Mount Warrigal, NSW
A Sure, Josephine, if you want to post about your haunted house – go for it! I myself have never lived in a haunted house, even though I’ve occupied lots of old houses and once lived in a flat with ghastly unexplained stains all over the carpet (that made me think someone HAD to have been murdered there). Ah, well. Some of us just don’t have the right kind of antennae, I guess …
Friday, August 20
Q I have just finished reading The Dark Mountain and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have never written to an author before (and unlike most people on your message board have absolutely no relation to Charlotte) but wanted to congratulate you on a wonderful book which must have involved an awful lot of research. I also read The Road years ago, and did not realise it was the same author until I looked up your web site. I am looking forward to when you finally get around to more books of that era for adult fiction.
Posted by Jane, Sydney
A Thank you so much, Jane – it’s always such a treat to hear from the readers of my adult books, and the fact that you’ve read two of them is pretty amazing! I don’t know if you realise it, but I’ve already written another book set in colonial Australia, called The Gentleman’s Garden. Though I’m actually not sure if it’s in print any more, it’s certainly available in secondhand bookshops – I’ve seen a few copies myself.
At the moment I have no immediate plans to write any more adult fiction (the young adult books are keeping me pretty busy) but I’m sure I’ll think of a good adult idea again one of these days …
Sunday, April 4
Q Just thought I should tell you The Road is the scrariest book I have ever read. The first time I read it I lived in Mount Isa, an isolated town in outback Australia, the kind of town where, to get anywhere, you need to travel long lonely stretches of highway not unlike the one featured in The Road! I made all my friends read it and it was quite a while before any of us went off on any road trips after that! I’m also a big fan of your kids books. How long do we have to wait for the Abused Werewolves book? Not long I hope
Posted by Dani, Melbourne
A Thanks, Dani – I’m so glad The Road still lingers on in some people’s hearts and minds, because it died a pretty quick death on the bookshop shelves, I can tell you! And of course its main purpose was to put people off outback road trips, so … hurrah!
The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group is slated for publication on October 1st, so you don’t have too much longer to wait – don’t worry.
Sunday, February 28
Q I have recently gotten to the stage where I am frustrated. Books seem to be either well written but the plot and characters are mind numblingly boring or badly written but tell a good rollicking yarn and recently I have been turning to the good rollicking yarns over the supposed literary works. Fortunately your writing is both well crafted and you can tell a good heart rending story with characters to care about – so thank you. I have purchased your books for both myself and my kids who are also avid readers. The only problem with your writing is the late nights it induces when I can’t put the book down. The Gentleman’s Garden sits on my bookshelf alongside my other special books that are never going to the op shop and the kids have a collection on their shelves too. If I am ever asked who my favourite Australian writers are you will definately be in the list.
Posted by Robbi, Lockhart River Indegenous Community, Queensland
A Wow – thanks so much, that’s quite a compliment! I don’t know of any adult who has officially put me on their list of favourite Australian writers; I’ve always had the impression that the audience out there for my adult books is pretty … well, select, shall we say. (That’s partly my fault, of course, because I keep switching genres, from historical romance to horror to chick lit to historical murder mystery – no wonder my audience gets confused.) Anyway, thanks so much for telling me about The Gentleman’s Garden, which obviously lives on even though it’s probably out of print by now.
I know what you mean about rollicking yarns, though. As I get older, and my time on earth gets shorter, I become more and more impatient with books that faff around. I’m like: “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure the clouds were very beautiful and poetic, but can we get to the point, please?”
Tuesday, February 16
Q I have finished reading The Gentlemen’s Garden, for the second time and I really lost myself in it, always a good sign. I found it in the fiction section of the library I run. The story was enjoyable and the viewpoint, that of Dorothea, original. I kept thinking about what happened to her after the curtin fell – falling beneath her station by the standards of her class and time by marrying a Irishman and emancipist. I think I’ll give some of your other titles a go. Many thanks for a great read.
Posted by Peter, Bathurst, NSW
A Hey, Peter – so you’re at the Bathurst Library! I have to admit, shamefacedly, that I’ve never been there, even though I’ve been to Bathurst many times. (The Bathurst Show, especially; best show ever. Good Rivers store, too.) Next time I have a spare hour or so in Bathurst, I’ll have to drop into your library. If it’s anything like Orange library, it’s bound to be terrific.
And thanks for your kind words about The Gentleman’s Garden; it’s a bit of a forgotten book, these days, but I’ve always been fond of it. I guess it’s only through the support of people like yourself that it’s going to be remembered at all!
Sunday, January 31
Q I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoy reading your books Evil Genius and Genius Squad! All this technical detail really impressed me, I’m very interested in computers, so I really like Cadel’s fascination! I’m glad you wrote this books and I cannot wait for the third one! Greetings from Germany!
Posted by Friederike,Paderborn, Germany
A Greetings from Australia! I’m so glad you liked the first two books in the series; I gather that the third one will be published in Germany at the end of the year.
Monday, January 25
Q In The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group will Nina and the rest of the group be featured often or will they just be mentioned a few times?
Posted by Lili, Wheaton
A Interesting question. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can tell you that at least two of the characters from The Reformed Vampire Support Group play a prominent role in the sequel, while some of the other characters play supporting roles (especially toward the end of the book) and a handful of them only receive a mention or two.
Tuesday, November 24
Q I just got done reading The Road. I can’t decide if I liked it or I didn’t. But that depends on what the ending means exactly. The part I don’t get is after John is killed and Peter is waking up and “He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the blast of static, and the chatter of an electronically processed voice. A grim-faced man in a police uniform was leaning towards the driver’s window, knocking on the glass with one end of a big, black torch.” The thing I don’t get is Peter alone or the only one awake? Or alone/only one awake in another time? Or am I totally off entirely? Because I remember his dad hitting the accelerator. Well thanks for clearing this up for me.
Posted by Chris, Seattle, Washington
A Goodness, Chris – I can’t believe you’re reading The Road in Seattle, of all places! That book was never even published in America – I guess you must have got it secondhand, or off the Internet. Unless you’re an Aussie over there for some reason …
To answer your question – I’m sorry if the ending wasn’t clear enough. What I meant to convey was the fact that they’d stopped the car and gone to sleep from sheer exhaustion, and that Peter was awakened when the police finally found them – i.e., they weren’t stuck in the loop any more. If it was a movie, I guess they’d all have hugged each other! It’s a happy ending, of sorts. (Not like The Descent, for example.)
I don’t know if this makes you like it better or not, but thanks for reading it, anyway!
Monday, October 19
Q I also just finished The Reformed Vampire Support Group, and it was so original. I loved how it wasn’t like the Twilight books, and all romantic. I hope you’ll be able to write a second book.
Posted by Sergei, Byfield
A Thanks so much, Sergei! As a matter of fact, I’m writing a second book at this very moment – it’s going to be called The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group, and it won’t be very romantic either.
Saturday, October 3
Q I just finished Evil Genius, and loved it. It was a page-turner. Will there be a second book? If so, what is it called?
Posted by Sergei, Byfield
A Thanks, Sergei. The good news is that there are two sequels to Evil Genius. The first is called Genius Squad, and it’s available in both Australia and the U.S. (I’m not sure where you’re from.) The second is called The Genius Wars, and it will be published in Australia on 26 October, though it won’t be available in America until October 2010.
Monday, September 28
Q I have just read The Dark Mountain and really enjoyed it, but have a question. In Louise’s letter to Charlotte at the end of the book, she refers to Aunt Louisa. Wasn’t Louisa her mother – or have I missed something? Thanks – and am looking forward to reading more of your work.
Posted by Janine, Perth
A And it’s a GOLD STAR to you, Janine – you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! It should have been ‘my mother’, not Aunt Louisa, and it would have been if the proof reading on that book had been better! If you’re not a sub-editor yourself, you ought to be; well done. And if there’s ever a reprint (which I’m sure won’t happen), I’ll see to it that the mistake is corrected.
Monday, September 21
Q I just finished reading The Road, and felt that I had to tell you how brilliant I thought it was. I have driven that road once, by myself, and am glad that I hadn’t read your book before taking that trip. I loved the idea of retribution coming down on John Carr, in the form that it took. I raced through it in about four days, and enjoyed every aspect of it. I too would love to see this in movie form, and hope that might eventuate for you one day. I hate books on tape, and fall asleep every time I listen to one, regardless of the content. I had previously seen you in Orange for The Dark Mountain (loved that as well) book launch for Frost Fest in early August. I picked up the start of the Pagan series at the launch, and also read those five in the series. I visualised it between Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and Kingdom of Heaven (Jeremy Irons/Orlando Bloom). A bit sad when it came to an end! From there I jumped to The Secret Familiar, and am now fascinated by the whole period of medieval history that you are writing about. I have The Inquisitor and The Notary lined up next to read, but have started on The Gentleman’s Garden, to get back to early Australian history. I just wanted to say thanks for the amount of literature you have created. I am so enjoying all of your books that I have read to date, and look forward to getting my hands on many more to come. I also have a 12 year old daughter, who I plan to gift your four Allie’s Ghost Hunters series, so that I can read them first!!
Posted by Jenny, Orange, NSW
A Thanks so much for coming to my defence, Jenny – I think I remember you rolling up with a Pagan, though there were quite a few people there at Orange (happily!); I have to say I really enjoyed the experience, and Orange is such a nice spot. I hope The Inqusitor and The Notary meet with your approval – there’s also a third one in the series called The Secret Familiar, which features an inquisitorial spy, in case you’re interested!
Monday, September 14
Q I just listened to The Road on audio book and I’m sorry, but it’s made my top ten list of worst books I have ever read (or had read to me) and I have read a LOT of books. I can’t believe that it even got published and that one reviewer dared to compare it to Stephen King! It was rambling, boring, try hard and cringeworthy, and your use of profanity contrived and awkward. Unfortunately, just prior to listening to The Road, I listened to Tim Winton’s Dirt Music, a modern classic written by one of the best writers in the world, and I’m sorry, but it just highlighted even more forcefully to me just how awful your book is.
Posted by Tracie, Newcastle
A Well you’re entitled to your opinion, Tracie, because that’s the good thing about Australia; it’s full of different people with different tastes who are all entitled to their various opinions. I myself have personal opinions about the books I read, but I try not to fall into the mistake that a lot of reviewers fall into: namely, the misapprehension that just because I don’t like a book, then it’s worthless. Just the other day, I read a book that wasn’t to my taste – but at the same time, I could see it was a good book. It just wasn’t my sort of book. And I happen to know several people who don’t like Dirt Music; that doesn’t mean the book is worthless.
I never expect to please everyone with every book I write. However, I generally manage to please someone. If you scroll down this message board, you’ll see that a few people have written to tell me how much they liked The Road. (Possibly that’s because they actually read it, instead of listening to someone read it aloud. I never write novels to be read aloud.) There’s even a production company which has optioned The Road, in the hope of making it into a movie. I think it’s presumptious to describe any book as ‘awful’ if it has given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.
The other thing I can’t understand is reviewers who tend to regard the books they don’t like as a personal affront, as if the authors have somehow gone out of their way to launch a personal attack by writing the books in question. Reviewers like this tend to adopt the tone of your message, which is really quite angry. I suppose I can understand your getting a bit annoyed if you’ve paid loads of money for my (talking) book, but most reviewers don’t even have to do that! They’re given free copies! I just can’t understand it!
Monday, August 10
Q My name is Mathew and I’m currently reading your newest book, The Reformed Vampire Support Group and I’m enjoying it very much! You already had me hooked in the 1st chapter, so my hat is off to you. In fact I can see this being a film. I live in the Blue Mountains too and I’m studying writing myself (Creative and Script Writing) and if can grab someone’s attention at the start as you have done, I would be very proud. I will continue to read more of your works. Thank you for your time and well done on your latest work.
Posted by Matthew, Glenbrook, NSW
A Thanks very much, Matthew – I appreciate the endorsement from a fellow Mountains resident! Personally, I’ve found that one way of hooking people in the first chapter is not to start off with a third-person description of landscape. You have to be really, really good to do that and keep the reader interested. People are always much more interesting than landscapes (unless the landscape happens to be an expoding volcano or a flood or something), and I’d only risk opening on a landscape myself if the person narrating had some very strong emotional response to it.
Just a little tip for your next assignment!
Sunday, August 4
Q I was excited to hear that you were going to visit Orange in August, and then frustrated when I realised I’ll be out of town on the 8th. I’ve read and enjoyed many of your books (Bella Vista, The Inquisitor, The Gentleman’s Garden, Spinning Around, The Stinking Great Lie, Evil Genius, Genius Squad, and the first 4 Pagan books), and several others are still in my TBR pile. I’m amazed that you are able to write so well in so many different genres (I’m not even sure what genre the Genius books fall into Cit’s not one I normally read, but I found them both really engrossing). Several of my ancestors were early involuntary migrants to Australia, so I found The Gentleman’s Garden particularly interesting, as well as moving and sad in parts. But I am stunned by what you manage to do in the Pagan books. They recreate the medieval world, are at times hilariously funny, and at others heart-breakingly sad, and all within relatively few pages – that is truly great writing. Thank you for all the reading pleasure you’ve given, and maybe the next time you’re in Orange I’ll be able to tell you so in person.
Posted by Lesley, Orange, NSW
A Well, thank you so much for being such a loyal reader, Lesley; I too am EXTREMELY sorry that I’ll miss you when I’m in Orange – God knows how many people are going to attend my talk if you’re not there to fill the ranks! I notice, however, that you don’t mention The Dark Mountain in your list of my books – if you havent read it yet, you should, because Orange plays a prominent part in that story (which is why I’ve been invited to Frost Fest). I also happen to think it’s one of my better efforts.
Q A very late comment on The Dark Mountain – I read this book with great interest some time ago, but didn’t think to post a comment on your website. I too am a descendant of Charlotte Atkinson – she was my great, great grandmother, her daughter, Florence, my great grandmother and her daughter, Sarah Mabel, my grandmother. My mother Georgina died when I was only 26. Unfortunately, family history was not so important in my early 20s, so I didn’t have the conversations with her that I would love to have now. I couldn’t put the book down – although it was quite disturbing, it was my history. What strong women in the family – I feel that the tradition continues! Thanks again for putting it all together – not many people have their family story in print to pass on to their children.
Posted by Susan, Sydney
A I only hope I’ve done justice to it, Susan; as you might have read in some earlier entries, I think I’ve steered you a bit wrong when it comes to Thomas McNeilly. I suspect he was better educated than I first assumed – not having discovered, while researching the book, that he actually owned a shop in Mittagong which supplied the mines there. (I was sure that he had to be involved in either the mines or the railways, and I guessed wrong.) However, I’m fairly sure I’ve portrayed the rest of your familiar in a realistic light; what you really must do (if you haven’t already) is read Louisa Atkinson’s novels, as well as A Mother’s Offering to Her Children. They’re not exactly easy reads, but they’re extraordianry historical documents.
I do envy you for having such a rich family history! Thanks for letting me use it, is all I can say!
Wednesday, July 15
Q No reply necessary, just a short note to congratulate you on your work and success. I’m an author myself and came across your site while researching for my BA in Writing and also for my next novel. I intend to obtain a copy of your title The Gentleman’s Garden and promise to credit you for any inspiration I get from the story . I note also you worked for Westpac in the past. I am currently with Westpac and have the opportunity to hone my writing skills every day. Hopefully one day I can turn to writing full-time. All the best with your future writing endeavours.
Posted by Randall, Sydney
A Well, I know you didn’t request a reply but this Westpac connection deserves one. I can’t say I remember my seven years at Westpac fondly, but there’s no question that the training I received there, as an in-house journalist, really paid off. It helped me to hone my style and find a ‘hook’ in some of the world’s most boring subjects. Good luck to you; it’s nice to know that the old bank seems to be inadvertantly churning out a series of creative writers! (I’m sure that’s not in its mission statement!)
Tuesday, May 19
Q A few months ago, I borrowed a talking book The Road from my local library and listened to it while driving through miles and miles of tall forest through eastern Victoria. Began to wonder if I’d got caught up in it! Enjoyed it immensely, so much so that I recently borrowed the printed book to read and enjoyed it all over again. Has this been made into a movie? It should be! Thanks for a great read.
Posted by Barb, Eurobin, Victoria
A My word, it’s nice to hear that someone’s been reading The Road – I was afraid that it had simply disappeared into the ether, leaving no trace. Thank you so much for your kind message! It’s interesting that you should have asked about a movie, because the film rights have been optioned by a small production company, and a script has been written, but so far there’s been no luck attracting the right kind of studio interest to raise the money. However, these things can take a long, long time in Australia, so you never know …
Friday, May 8
Q I’ve read both Evil Genius and Genius Squad and can’t wait for The Genius Wars. When will it be released in the United States?
Posted by Gregory, Ontario
A Alas, it’s going to be a while before The Genius Wars appears in the States – around mid-2010, I think. In Australia, however, the publication date is supposed to be late this year (November, possibly), so if you really can’t wait, you might have to get hold of that edition, somehow.
Monday, March 9
Q Who are you trying to be? You’re just a wannabe Stephanie Meyer and Emily Rodda. You should try thinking of your own ideas for once – your writing is disgusting with all the swearing in it. I hope you realize that there is such a thing as copyright and plagiarism. Please reply.
Posted by Bella Cullen, Forks
A Someone who’s borrowed their name from Stephanie Meyer probably shouldn’t be accusing other people of plagiarism, but since you are, let me assure you I’ve never read anything by Stephanie Meyer – or Emily Rodda – so I’m not sure how I could have plagiarised their work, unless I’m telepathic. (My daughter had to alert me to your alias.) Emily Rodda happens to live a few streets away from me, and she’s very nice; I wouldn’t dream of offending her.
Incidentally, you’re on the wrong message board. If you check out the Young Adult message board, you’ll see that you’re in a minority of one – if there is, indeed, only one of you.
Saturday, February 7
Q Have just finished reading The Dark Mountain and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Like a few others who wrote, I am from the ‘Atkinson Clan’ on my father’s side. I have read all that is available of Louisa’s so it has been delightful to learn more of her siblings and particularly Charlotte. Many thanks for a terrific read and although never motivated before I think I will head off, at the next opportunity, to the Sutton Forest area.
Posted by Therese, Sydney
A Oh, you have to go to Sutton Forest, Therese; what’s so wonderful about that area is how much is still left. Oldbury’s still there; Mereworth’s still there; lots of Berrima is still there; the graves in the churchyard are still there … and even better, a lot of the countryside is still there. No one’s built over Gingenbullen, or blocked Oldbury’s view. And the Belanglo forest, of course, continues to loom on the western side of the highway. It’s even interesting to follow the back road through the notorious Bargo Brush, because that area is still pretty undeveloped as well.
I’m glad you liked The Dark Mountain. I was a bit worried about how all the descendants would respond, but it seems to have passed muster!
Tuesday, January 27
Q I was hoping you might give me your opinion on Google Booksearch. I self-publish in the SF and Mystery genres and was thinking of giving it a try.
Posted by Pat, Otaki
A I’m afraid I’m the last person to ask about such things, Pat, because I’ve never had anything to do with Google Booksearch – not to my knowledge, anyway. I don’t even know what it’s for! Wish I could help, but I can’t.
Q I am looking for my great grandfather’s brother Joseph (1864/66) family in australia. You are the only Jinks I found.
Posted by James Jinks, Dublin, Ireland
A I’ve been consulting certain family members on this one (hence the delay in replying!) and apparently my great-great-great grandfather wasn’t a Jinks at all – he was a James Jenks, from Wolverhampton. He came over to Victoria in 1852, with eleven children (!), during the Gold Rush, and settled in Bendigo, Victoria, where the name Jenks turned into Jinks. So I’m afraid I can’t help you with Joseph Jinks – though I know there are other Jinkses in Australia who may be your relatives.
Saturday, September 27
Q I have been looking for tidbits of information on my family history and came across The Dark Mountain. WOW, I have just come across cousins I didn’t know existed!!! I am directly descended from Charlotte and Thomas and I am beside myself with excitement. Buying your book tomorrow and will then contact Jan Gow through the email address. I’ll let you know what I think of your book. I remember going to Oldbury as a very young child for a visit. I was only about 4, I remember we took my grandmother Mildred Watson nee McNeilly with us!!! Can’t wait to find out more. Thank you so much.
Posted by Kimberley, Young, NSW
A I’m beginning to feel like a public benefactor, the way I’ve been bringing all the McNeilly descendents together! And I can’t believe how many there are – imagine if all of Charlotte’s children had actually survived! But she must have been a tough old thing, living as long as she did, so it’s not surprising that she produced such a bushy family tree.
Sunday, September 21
Q Just to let you know that I have just read The Dark Mountain, which I enjoyed, mostly because it was about the Sutton Forest area of NSW where I can relate to many of the names of places. About seven years ago I read The Gentleman’s Garden, while in hospital. It made the stay bearable. I love your Australian history novels and I do hope you write more in the future.
Posted by Lynne, Canberra
A Thank you very much, and I’ll certainly try to write more Australian historical stuff; I do have one idea, but I’m contracted to write a bunch of teen novels first, so it’s going to be a few years before you see any more colonial adult books from me, alas.
Monday, September 15
Q I love your books! I was just wondering if you know where I can get a set of your books here in Minnesota?
Posted by Amanda, Benson, Minnesota
A I’m not quite sure which set of books you mean, Amanda. If you mean the Pagan series, which are published by Candlewick (Boston), then you can probably ask your local bookshop to order them in. The same goes for Evil Genius and Genius Squad, except that they’re published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (New York). If you don’t have a local bookshop, then all these books are certainly available through Amazon. And if you’re talking about any of my other books … well, apart from Eglantine (which is now available in the U.S.), you’d have to buy them through Amazon and have them shipped to you out of Australia.
I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. I’m afraid I’ve never even been to Minnesota, and living where I do, in Australia, I’m not very familiar with the American retail book trade.
Monday, July 28
Q For your book Piggy in the Middle what is the main procedure for cloning genes…like what is the main way for cloning a human gene in the book?
Posted by Tina, SA
A I’m ashamed to say this, but I wrote that book so long ago that I’ve forgotten everything I ever knew about cloning – which wasn’t that much to begin with. And of course, technology has advanced so much since then that the stuff in the book is probably very old-hat by now. I wish I could help you: you may be advised to look up cloning on the Internet. It’s the sort of thing I always do, when I’m researching all my science-based novels!
Wednesday, July 23
Q I was looking for The Inquisitor in Mexico, but I have not found it. I don’t know if you have contacts in Mexico, or some way to buy it online. I’m really interested in that book.
Posted by Hiram, Guadalajara, Mexico
A As far as I’m aware, an English-language edition of The Inquisitor is still available through Amazon (though there might not be many copies left). You can also buy a Spanish-language edition (El Inquisidor) from Roca Editorial (www.rocaeditorial.com). Good luck – I hope you manage to track something down.
Friday, July 18
Q Really enjoyed The Dark Mountain! I have to ask – what was fiction? What I know of my family I could believe most of what you have written. As you stated early in the book- Thomas McNeilly worked for James Atkinson as the “coachman” and it was important that this was his title. This role was fairly high up in the pecking order of servants (and so comparitively well paid). I think James Atkinson met Thomas McNeilly in Kent. James and his father had a farm in Oldbury, Kent ENGLAND so it would make sense that Thomas was a coachman in the area, either for an estate or for travelling up to London. If this were the case James would have to give him a good offer to convince him to come to Australia. It is also interesting which servants stayed on at Oldbury after the family went to Budgong and Sydney. The coachman must have been considered a vital role and Thomas must have been considered a man of good character. I wish you had more of him in your book and the romance of his relationship with Charlotte. Perhaps he was very personable, hard working and the rock for Charlotte. If he was anything like my Dad (his father and his grandfather)!
Posted by Jenny Patterson, Sydney
A I have to be honest and say that Thomas McNeilly was always a bit of a cipher to me; not much seems to be known about his background and – as I mentioned elsewhere on this message board – it’s only recently come to light that the same Thomas who married Charlotte also owned a store in Mittagong, which supplied the Fitzroy Iron works and went bankrupt. So on reflection, it’s highly probable that he could read after all. (I wrote this book a fair while ago!) I really did make an effort, however, to write a story that couldn’t be disproved, and most of the names and dates and events in there are based on fact. The only huge flights of fancy I indulged in were (a) Barton’s eventual fate (no one knows what really happened to him – he seemed to vanish off the face of the earth) and (b) the reason why Charlotte’s first engagement was broken off. Also, there’s no evidence that Charlotte ever did interview a woman who was involved with Barton – I just thought that the Orange/Bathurst proximity was irresistable!
Wednesday, July 2
Q I have just read your book, The Dark Mountain and I have been totally engrossed. I own a farmlet (25 acres) called “Gingenbullen” on Oldbury Road and backing onto the slopes of Mt Gingenbullen, about 1.5km from “Oldbury Farm”. I have been able to visualise every local image that you have created in the book and I even consider that part of the historical action that you describe could have taken place on my property. I have met the current owner of Oldbury at the street party that Oldbury Road holds each Christmas, and I did know quite well a former owner, some 10 years ago, but I have never been onto Olbury land or into the house, but being a scientist, I have read reasonably widely about the Atkinsons, especailly about Louisa. I have recently married (last September) and my wife (Karen) really enjoys the weekends we spend at Gingenbullen, a far cry from our busy lives in Canberra where we are both in the Agriculture Department. It is her birthday in three weeks time and we are spending it (25 26 July) at Lilianfels in the Blue Mountains. What I was wondering is, do you sign or sell signed copies of your book? I would like to give Karen a signed copy as a birthday present and if it was something that you do, I would like to work out an arrangement to obtain a signed book. I have purchased a soft back edition, and I am not aware if there is a hard back edition. If there is, then I would like a hard back copy. Lastly, if you do sign copies, would it be possible for me to collect it from you when I am in the Blue Mountains and would you be prepared to include a short message to Karen? I hope to hear back from you.
Posted by Colin Grant, Canberra
A Unfortunately, I’m not going to be around that weekend (school holidays), but Megalong Books is my local bookshop here in Leura, and the staff there know me. So if you were to get in contact with them (4784 1302, email: firstname.lastname@example.org), they could set aside a copy for you, and call me. I could then sign it and you could pick it up while you’re here. However, that would mean buying another softcover copy (there’s no hardback edition, alas), so …. the only other thing I can suggest is posting the copy you have now to my agent (PO Box 945 Wahroonga 2076 ), and then I could leave it at Lilianfels for you; however there might be a timing problem with that solution – I might not get the book in time.
Lucky you – a farmlet near Oldbury. Wish I had one!
Q An Evening With the Messiah was the first book of yours I read, and The Road is deliciously scary. It wasn’t an idle boast – keep them coming and I’ll keep buying!
Posted by Paul Howat, Cairns, Australia
A You got me. I guess it’s just hard to believe that there are people out there who’ve ‘followed my career with interest’, as they say. Thanks very much for the long-term support – you’re a rare and valuable reader, I reckon.
Monday, June 30
Q I had not heard of The Dark Mountain until recently. I was looking for a new book to read my favourites are Jean Auel and Diana Garabaldon. I actually picked up your book because of the cover when I read the back my heart jumped because it mentioned Sutton Forest and Oldbury. Apparently my great grandmother(Grace) was born at Oldbury which is on her birth certificate. Her mothers name is Bridget Rowlings (my great great grandmother) and her daughter born in 1882 is Grace Eveline Bennis. Just wondering in your research if you have ever heard these names or have any information at all as we have none – just word of mouth. We think Bridget was only there for a short time as she then remarried and moved on, having children elsewhere. Bridget could have been a servant there but we are not sure. We would love to find out more information about them and until I found your book thought it was a dead end. Love to hear from you. The book is fascinating as my mother has always spoke of Oldbury and it’s like living their lives and feels like we are actually inside the house.
Posted by Sharon Honnery, Sydney
A I’m afraid none of those names ring a bell with me, but you might have more luck if you contact Linda Emery, the archivist of the Berrima Historical Society (email@example.com). The society has a lot of files on various past inhabitants of the area, and you may find that distant relatives have made inquiries about the same names in the past. Linda tells me she’s quite happy to help; she was a wonderful help to me when I was researching The Dark Mountain.
Q I’ve just finished The Dark Mountain in one sitting, and I have to say how impressed I am with your writing and your versatility, every time I read one of your books. They’re all on my bookshelf. Thanks for all the reading pleasure you and your talent have given me. It’s a thrill to see the name Catherine Jinks staring out at me in the bookshop, I don’t think twice I just buy and read.
Posted by Paul Howat, Cairns, Australia
A Wow. Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say – except that you can’t possibly have all of them on your bookshelf, surely? The really obscure ones too? An Evening with the Messiah? This Way Out? It’s hard to believe – I’ve only got one copy of The Road myself!
Q I have met Jan Gow and we have been in touch by email. I am waiting for some information from her. I am no great researcher but have been fortunate with what has come my way. Should you be interested at anytime in tales of the family, I would be happy to meet. I have just started your book and am loving it! My great Aunt Essie and her daughter Elizabeth were both teachers. The McNeilly women are intelligent and “determined”! The McNeilly men ar charming and are generous sometimes to a fault. Just like Charlotte (mother and daughter) and James senior! Thank you for such a great gift in your book!
Posted by Jenny Patterson, Sydney
A All I can say is – thank God the descendants seem to like the book. And thank you for not objecting to the way I’ve laid claim to your own family history (which, let’s face it, is a lot more exciting than most!).
Friday, June 27
Q I am a descendant of Charlotte McNeilly (nee Atkinson) and only just found about about your book The Dark Mountain. So sorry to miss the launch! Kaye Mc Bride, a relative, is apparently arranging signed copies with you. Coincidentally I was at Sydney Uni 1981-84 and my father worked for Westpac in Wollongong!
My Family Tree: 1. Charlotte Elizabeth Atkinson m. Thomas McNeilly 2. Edwin Thomas McNeilly m. Annie Elizabeth Johns 3. Edwin Ernest McNeilly m. Vera Ethel Cartwright 4. Edwin Francis McNeilly m. Jean Florence Macarthur 5. Myself m. Martin John Paterson. My husband is a descendant of John Hollands, the convict who James Atkinson arranged for his wife and children to come to Australia!!
Posted by Jenny Patterson, Sydney
A Well, I’ll be damned. That’s quite a coincidence – your marriage, I mean. You should get in contact with Louisa’s descendant Jan Gow (see e-mail address below), because she wants to find out more about Thomas McNeilly, and you seem to be his direct descendant. You should also check out that plaque in Mittagong I mentioned – the one dedicated to Thomas.
I can’t believe how many descendants are popping up! Wish I’d known about you all when I was researching the book.
Tuesday, June 24
Q My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to hear from family. As one of the Family Historians, happy to share too. I do have a photo of Charlotte Elizabeth. Would love to find time to research for Thomas’s other marriage too. I realise I have not thought about him as a person and you have changed that. So come on Thomas! Rattle your bones as we say, so we can find out more about you.
Posted by Jan Gow, Auckland, New Zealand
A Well, I hope you get a response, Jan – if the end result of this exchange is some sort of family ‘reunion’, please tell me about it!
Friday, June 20
Q Just finished reading The Dark Mountain. Pretty special to be able to read about your great great and great great great grandmothers in this way! I just held the book and wished that my mother and great aunts Bertha and Gertrude could read it too. A tearful experience. Is there any way the descendents are able to make contact with each other? I was especially interested in Thomas McNeilly and your development of his character. I would love to see a photo of him! Am so pleased you have written this book.Thank you. Most thought provoking.
Posted by Jan Gow, Auckland, New Zealand
A I’ve declared that all email addresses are confidential on this message board, but I suppose if you wanted to post your own, and ask the other descendants who’ve also posted messages to contact you if they want to, then maybe that would work?
As to Thomas McNeilly, I had a very interesting experience in Moss Vale, on Monday; I was informed by a member of the Mittagong Historical Society that there is a plaque about Thomas McNeilly in the park commemorating the Fitzroy Iron Works. Apparently, the historical society wasn’t aware until very recently that the McNeilly it had been researching was married to Charlotte Atkinson; it was only known that his wife and children were very ill during their stay in Mittagong. I certainly wasn’t aware (until last Monday) that Thomas McNeilly had owned a shop that supplied the Fitzroy Iron Works, or that he fell off a horse and severly injured himself before going bankrupt. Clearly, it was his miserably unlucky life that had attracted the attention of the historical society – not the fact that he was married to an Atkinson. So I’m afraid I might have got things a bit wrong about Thomas; the fact that he owned a store puts a different complexion on things.
With regard to photos, I never uncovered one of Thomas. The only photographs of that family I’ve seen are the famous ones of Louisa and a couple of Edwin McNeilly, Charlotte’s son. In fact I bought a pictorial history of Orange that includes his photo. I have to confess that Edwin looked rather fair (unless he’d gone grey), so I’m not even sure if Thomas had dark hair. Charlotte almost certainly did, and if Thomas did too, I doubt that Edwin would have been fair.
Thank you so much for your kinds words about the book. I was a bit worried about what the descendents might think, so you’ve put my mind at ease.
Q I recently read The Dark Mountain and would like to congratulate you on a job very well done. Your choice of diction was spot on and you structured the story beautifully. I read it in record time and when I finished it I loathed the thought of stepping out of the world you had transported me to. I usually prefer an unpredictable thriller such as what Dean Koontz produces so I didn’t expect to be so involved in this story. You have done well to capture and hold a fussy reader such as I! Congratulations.
Posted by Carol Tillyer, Doncaster East, Victoria
A What an encouraging message! Thank you kindly! And I mean it when I say that I very much appreciate being compared favourably with Dean Kootz, as far as readability goes – because if I could sell as many books as he does, I’d be a happy woman!
Saturday, June 14
Q While reading the recent Women’s Weekly, the name Atkinson of Oldbury leapt out at me. I bought the book The Dark Mountain and enjoyed it thoroughly. I am descended from Charlotte McNeilly through her daughter Flora – my grandmother, nee Violet Garlick, was her daughter. Although I have no further knowledge of family history it was spinetingling to think that Grandma knew Charlotte, the “narrator” of your book. Thank you.
Posted by Susan Williams, Terrigal, NSW
A Yay! I was hoping to unearth one of Charlotte’s descendants! How fabulous. Have you read Pioneer Writer: The Life of Louisa Atkinson by Patricia Clarke? Because if you haven’t, you ought to: there are photos in it of your great-great-grandmother’s artwork, apart from anything else.
I’m so glad you liked the story; I only wish I could have dug up more about the Garlicks in Molong. There were a few tidbits in the Orange Public Library, but hardly anything of any interest.
Monday, June 9
Q Thank you for answering my query. I wonder, in light of the contents and perhaps assumptions concerning Charlotte, snr. whether or not any of her direct descendents were contacted prior to you writing this book. I am a direct descendent of ‘Uncle John’ and when 16 met Miss Janet Cosh and visited Oldbury. It seems to me that the connections to Oldbury ran long and deep as all of my direct male antecedents [the eldest of each generation] carried the name Oldbury. I have since finished the novel and found the relationships that you developed between Charlotte snr. and jnr. and her siblings most interesting. There are parts of the novel which remind me very much of My Brilliant Career….that may only be my perception.
Posted by Nanette, Melbourne
A Oh my God! How fabulous! I was hoping I’d stir up a few descendants, because I never got to talk to any, though Patricia Clarke did, of course, and she was my main source: what I had to do was piece things together from the written records, and I’d really like to know if I got it wrong. For instance, I always wondered why John was never appointed executor, and why he wasn’t a witness at the Barton wedding, and why he didn’t agree to take care of the kids – especially James junior – when they were about to be taken from their mother. I figured the answer had to be some kind of family rift, but that’s just a supposition. If you happen to know more, I’d love you to put me in the picture! I absolutely mean what I said in my introduction to the book: if I’ve missed or misinterpreted anything, I’d like to know about it, because this is a story that deserves to be told in full. (What I’m really hoping is that some of Charlotte’s descendants might surface.)
As for My Brilliant Career, I have to confess that I’ve never read it – but it’s certainly a flattering comparison!
Saturday, June 7
Q Am reading The Dark Mountain and am fascinated to know how you came to use Charlotte and her family. Do you have a connection with the family?
Posted by Nanette, Melbourne
A No, not at all; I first heard about the Atkinsons from a friend of mine, Kim Johnston, when she was renovating the joinery at Oldbury. She did some historical research for her conservation report on the house, and wrote to tell me some of the juicier details. After that, I was hooked.
Tuesday, June 3
Q While in my local A & R bookstore in Bowral this morning (to place my own book brochures on the counter), I saw the poster announcing your visit to the area next month. I then picked up The Dark Mountain and was intrigued to see the story is about Louisa Atkinson. I’ve read many stories about her, and pioneer women like her, for my own research. I’ve been past the ‘Oldbury’ gates a few times. I have bought a ticket to see you at Briars on June 16th. I’m looking forward to it.
Posted by Anne Whitfield, Southern Highlands, NSW
A And I’m looking forward to meeting you, especially if you have anything to tell me about local history! I have to say, though, that The Dark Mountain is less about Louisa Atkinson than it is about her big sister Charlotte – who has received far less attention than the more celebrated Louisa (and who was therefore easier to write about, in some ways).
Tuesday, May 6
Q Thank you for the reply. I was fully aware that the characters in the book were imaginary. What I meant by the reviews is sort of an analysis of the characters by scholars that have read the book. However I was wondering if you know of any well known historical figures that I could relate to either Bernard or Augustin. What I mean by “well known” is a historical figure that if I were to mention to a group of people, they would be able to list some of the characteristics this person possessed. Essentially I want my class to brainstorm the characteristics of historical figure they would all be familiar with, so I could then relate their ideas to the character of either Bernard or Augustin. I apologize if I am causing you any confusion or annoyance, but I would appreciate your thoughts on the subject.
Posted by Arnold, Canada
A Okay – well, as far as I’m aware, there haven’t been any scholalrly commentaries on any of my adult medieval books: just the children’s ones. As for well known historical figures … I dunno. There are some people in the world who couldn’t list five historical figures off the top of their heads. I mean, I could suggest Pope Innocent III as a good comparison to Bernard, because he’s very well known in certain circles, but not in others. Or, alternatively, a famous independent thinker who upset the church, like Galileo, but I don’t know if many people are familiar with any of his characteristics. That’s a really, really hard question. After quite a bit of thought, I’m afraid I’ve come up empty handed. I just can’t help you with that.
Friday, May 1
Q First of all I would like to thank you for answering my previous question about The Inquisitor. I am now in the process of preparing a seminar presentation about your novel in my English class. I have been researching a lot about the Inquisition, however I am having trouble finding reviews by scholars about the characters in the book, particularly Bernard and Augustin. There is simply no one better qualified to answer this question than you, so I would like to ask you if you could describe why you gave Bernard and Augustin their respective characteristics, and why you chose to put these two characters side by side in the novel. I am desperate for some secondary resources so I would appreciate your reply. Also if you know of any other reviews on the novel I would be grateful if you could let me know where to find them.
Posted by Arnold, Canada
A I’m terribly sorry, Arnold, but I seem to have misled you in some way; all of those characters in The Inquisitor are imaginary – and so is the town itself. The inquisition novel I wrote which has genuine historical figures in it is called The Secret Familiar; the inquisitor and all of the heretics in that book were once really alive. The whole set-up in The Inquisitor was pretty much based on the situation in Carcassonne – as I recall, the prison there was also in an old tower – and I also did a lot of research on the inquisition in Toulouse, though I can’t remember which town had the slightly crooked inquisitor, at one stage. Actually, there were only three inquisitorial offices in Languedoc at the time: in Carcassonne, Toulouse, and Albi. The greatest inquisitor of all was probably Bernard Gui, who worked out of Toulouse; he makes an appearance in The Secret Familiar.
As far as The Inquisitor goes, I wanted to show that the medieval inquisition wasn’t necessarily staffed by monsters – just by men of their time – and I thought the best way of doing that was to think in terms of a big, modern corporation. Have you seen the movie Michael Clayton? In a way, The Inquisitor’s Bernard is sort of a George Clooney character, who finally discovers that he can’t toe the company line any more. Augustin is another version of the Good Company man – much more inflexible and rule-driven than the George Clooney character – who finally buckles because he has a sense of honour.
I hope that’s of some help. It worries me that the imaginary element of The Inquisitor might ruin your whole assignment ; I certainly hope not.
Saturday, April 19
Q I just want to thank you so much for giving me such pleasure reading your book The Road. I am off to the library hoping they have more of your books. Its so wonderful to ‘discover’ such a brilliant storyteller. I am very grateful indeed.
Posted by Elizabeth, Sydney
A Hey, I’m grateful that someone’s still actually reading that book! Thanks very much for giving it a go! Unfortunately, I have to warn you – I don’t usually write horror stories (though some of my medieval murder mysteries can get a bit gory, on occasion).
Saturday, March 8
Q Thanks for the reply. There was one aspect particularly that I was interested in – you mentioned Benjamin and Mary’s ‘family’ – do you have any evidence of this fact? I suspect that they had a daughter born in Australia but am having difficulty proving it. If you could provide a reference for this I would be eternally grateful.
Posted by Jo, England
A Could you give me a page number for the Benjamin Vale reference? As I said, it’s been so long since I wrote the book that my mind’s a blank when it comes to minor characters, and I’ll need to work out who he is before I can work out where I found him.
Sunday, March 2
Q I am intrigued to see that you have written about one of my ancestors Benjamin Vale – in The Gentleman’s Garden. He is my 4 x great grandfather. I would love to know how much of your novel is based on factual information and where you found it.
Posted by Jo, England
A To be honest, it has been such a long time since I wrote The Gentleman’s Garden that I can’t remember much about it – except for the fact that, as with most of my historical novels, I worked very hard to get it right, and did a great deal of research before I started writing. While the three main characters were fictional, most of the others (except the servants) were real people. Things like the ball, the Governor’s dinner party, the hail storm mentioned … these all really happened. And Dorothea was the only made-up character at that dinner party, though her exchanges with the other guests (and with everyone else in the book) were, of course, fictional. (The only fictional place, however, was her house; every other location actually existed.)
As far as my sources go – well, I ranged far and wide, using all kinds of books, though my favourite was probably Ellis’s Lachlan Macquarie.
Friday, July 6
Q I’d just like to thank you for the wonderful afternoon I had today at the East Maitland library. Your talk was very interesting and entertaining. I’m looking forward to reading the books I purchased and will be looking for your others releases. Thank you again.
Posted by Sandra Hudson, Duckenfield NSW
A It was great to meet you, Sandra, and I hope you like the books you bought. (Thanks for buying them, by the way!)
Sunday, April 29
Q Great website! I didn’t realise you had written so many books. Keep them coming.
Posted by Peter
A Thanks, I will!