RHA_Intruder_Front cover 21-03-14

Some stories start in dark places and, prompted by the question What if? emerge slowly into the light. This story started five years ago when my daughter was woken by a man standing over her bed. She was eleven years old.

We were lucky. The prowler ran off when she challenged him. And my child is resilient; she recovered much faster than I did.

Motherhood is guilt. Particularly when they’re little. Forgot your lunch, sweetie? That’d be Mum’s fault. Turned up in full uniform when everyone else was wearing free dress? Definitely Mum’s fault.

Mothers are great at taking responsibility. I swear some Mum is out there right now taking the blame for the Ukraine crisis and the fall of the dollar.

We’re  even better at torturing ourselves with terrifying ‘what ifs’. . .

But as the years safely passed, I stopped beating myself up as a mother and found myself responding to that prowler incident as a writer. Turning it over in my mind, intrigued by the fictional possibilities prompted by that most tantalising of questions: ‘what if…?’

What if it happened to a girl who was home alone? What if her mum was dead? What if her dad worked nights? What if the only person who came running when she screamed was the one person she hated most in the world?

And so the story of Intruder began to emerge, each question prompting countless others.

Why does Kat hate her neighbour Edwina? How could her dad Jimmy leave her alone, night after night? How would a vulnerable, motherless, once-bitten, twice shy teen react to a guard dog being forced on her? And how would she respond to the unexpected and unconditional love it offered?

On one level, Intruder is about vulnerability and what we need in our lives to make us feel safe. On another, it is about how the inescapable past shapes and, at times, traps us.

Like all of us, Kat sees the world through the prism of her own experiences. She hates her neighbour; she knows what she saw. A single shocking snippet of reality that sets like concrete in her mind and becomes the bedrock for all her subsequent actions.

The intruder is the catalyst for change in Kat’s life. Bringing her simmering problems with her troubled father, Jimmy, to the boil. Shattering her fragile belief that she is fine on her own. Forcing her to accept help – from the unwanted dog, Hercules, the new boy, Al, and her much-hated neighbour, Edwina. And ultimately, compelling her to face a truth buried in the bedrock of the past.

To paraphrase one of my favourite characters. Intruder is like an onion. It has layers. I hope its readers enjoy peeling them back. :)

Intruder by Christine Bongers – Published by Random House Australia – In bookstores 2 June 2014.

With just a month to go before the Children’s Book Council of Australia releases its Notable Books for 2014, my bedside reading pile is toppling under the weight of must-reads.

So far, three fantastic Australian YA novels have claimed slots in my Clayton’s shortlist:

Life in Outer Spacewildlifegirl defective

What are your hot tips for best Aussie YA reads published last year?

Orphelia and the Marvellous Boy 17910570One of the great pleasures of the writing life  is welcoming a new book into the world. Especially when it is a simply marvelous story by a favourite author.

So if you’re free this Sunday afternoon at 4pm, please join me and Karen Foxlee to celebrate the release of her brilliant Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy at Riverbend Books at Bulimba.

We’d love to see you there. :)

(Note: this is a free event, but please rsvp for numbers to events@riverbendbooks.com.au – and if you can’t make it, be prepared to kick yourself when this book becomes an instant classic. You’ve been warned!)

RHA_Intruder_Front cover 21-03-14Ooh, look what’s turned up in my inbox – the front cover of Intruder, coming out on 1st June!

I love it, I love it, I really do (and so do random teens in my life – including the fourteen-year-old boys, interestingly enough).

Here’s a sneak preview:

I don’t walk past the house next door. I don’t speak to the evil witch who lives in it.
I wish she was dead. Even deader than my mum.
Which makes it hard… because she was the one who came running when I screamed.

Kat Jones is woken at midnight by an intruder looming over her bed. She’s saved by her hated neighbour Edwina – the woman Kat believes betrayed her dying mother.

Kat’s shift-worker dad, Jimmy, issues an ultimatum. Either spend nights at Edwina’s, or accept another intruder in her life – Hercules, the world’s ugliest guard dog. It’s a no-brainer, even for dog-phobic Kat.

When she meets adorkable Al at the dog park, Kat lets down her guard and family secrets tumble out. The prowler turns up the heat, and Kat is forced into an unlikely alliance with her nemesis – finally learning the explosive truth about their shared past.

So, what do you think?

Cover design by Astred Hicks, www.designcherry.com
Cover photograph by Julia Trotti, www.juliatrotti.com

I love my copy editor
1. She points out when my characters find their way all the way up the hallway and halfway up the stairs.

2. She suggests how to tighten the poesis of my descriptions. (I go along with these suggestions because I don’t know what poesis means. Not even after googling it. Twice.)

3. She won’t let me start three paragraphs in a row in the same way.  Starting successive paragraphs in the same way is a no-no.

4. After deleting verbiage, she tactfully asks if I think that works better to improve the pace?

5. I try not to mix my metaphors but have been sprung cramming too many different ones into a confined space. Man, I gotta remember to let those suckers breathe.

6. She calls me on phrases like ‘crabbing backwards’ because crabs normally scurry sideways. Duh.

7. And, technically, characters can’t hiss if there isn’t a sibilant sound in their line of dialogue. Suffering suckotash, how did I not figure that out for myself?

8. Intruder, my soon-to-released YA novel, is nearly 65,000 words long and not a single page has escaped the red pen of my copy editor.

9. Because she’s been specially trained to give a shit.

10. She’s going to make me look good when Intruder hits the bookshelves on 1 June. But right now, I’m a hundred pages into the copy edit, on-screen track changes are sending me blind, Monday’s deadline is staring back at me, and I can’t stop muttering ‘I love my copy editor, I love my copy editor, I love my copy editor . . .

Orphelia and the Marvellous Boy 17910570There’s nothing better than a new release by a favourite author, and Karen Foxlee is right up there for me, along with Melina Marchetta, Markus Zusak and Peter Temple, to mention just a few.

Ever since Foxlee’s brilliant debut with The Anatomy Of Wings, I’ve counted myself a fan.

Her mesmerising follow-up, The Midnight Dress, recently made the American Library Associations’s list for 2014′s Best Fiction for Young Adults and is a front-runner for the upcoming award season Down Under.

Now her middle grade novel Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy has hit the bookstores. I was lucky enough to score a signed copy direct from the Gympie-based author of the beautiful American hardcover with its exquisitely illustrated end papers.

This modern-day fairy tale reminded me of all the reasons I fell in love with reading as a child. It has it all. A cold and nasty villainess A plucky imperfect eleven-year-old heroine. Magic. Wizards. A marvellous three-hundred-and-three-year-old boy, locked in the highest room of the museum, needing rescue. Oh, and a ticking clock counting down to the end of the world…

For me, the most wonderful character was Ophelia’s dead mother, horror writer Susan Worthington, teller of terrifying night tales to her asthmatic daughter.

‘Can’t you just tell me a simple fairy tale?’ Ophelia might plead.

”Oh, darling, fairy tales are for beginners,’ her mother would reply.

Like all good mothers, she reaches out from the grave to lend her child courage, urging her to stay loyal to her friends, and follow her heart.

I cried at the end for all the right reasons, but most of all, because I just didn’t want it to end.

Perfect for nine years and up (and yes, I’m definitely in the ‘up’ category). :)

race wear for drongoes

Look, if you’re going to wear a silly hat, think big I say.

It’s been years since I’ve taken part in our national Silly Hats Day, but this year I’m keen.

drongoes

As revealed at Saturday’s The Inside Story, a racehorse was one of the major inspirations for my children’s book, Drongoes… 

And now, with the Spring Racing Carnival in full swing, Drongo, The Immortal Loser has also hit the adult bookshelves.

Nice to have another drongo author out there….But do you think he has a fascinator to rival mine?

drongo the immortal loser