Archive for the ‘Intruder’ Category

I never wanted a dog. The kids begged for years but I held firm.

Dogs were too needy, too smelly, too sheddy. They were shameless about bodily functions in public. And had an unrealistic optimism about how much others enjoyed having their crotches sniffed, faces licked and legs dry-humped.

It took an intruder in my house, in my eleven-year-old daughter’s bedroom at midnight, to change my mind.

Then I wanted a dog. I wanted Cerberus, the three-headed monster that guarded the gates of Hell. I wanted a killer that would defend our children with his life, strike fear into the heart of any would-be intruder, then rip off his arms and legs, disembowel him, and eat the evidence.

That’s the dog we needed.

This is the dog we got…

Something so fearsome we named him Huggy.

Something so brave he lived in fear of the cat.

Something that smelled so bad (even for a dog), that I eventually asked the vet if there was something wrong with him. (Delicacy prevents me from going into his anal gland problem, but considering that his Daddy is a gastroenterologist, he was one faulty unit).

Yet he won me over. Greeting each day with unbridled enthusiasm. Pushing me aside to clean up the cat vomit (I’d scream in disgust, then point out if he’d missed a bit). Making me laugh a hundred times a day.

His antics inspired the character of Hercules in my novel Intruder (the best dog character ever if I don’t say so myself).

For ten years he slept on our front verandah and his ballsy baritone bark could be heard in Biloela if anyone dared to open the front gate.

Two years ago, I moved him inside at night, gave him a bed in my office (or should I say our office, because he had a fulltime job that he took very seriously – staring at me 24/7.

I got him for the kids, but it was my bed he’d jump onto every morning (but only on Daddy’s side, because they both tended to shed). We’d lie in companionable silence, then go for a morning walk, have breakfast and retire to the office and our respective jobs.

I didn’t want a dog. But for the last twelve-and-a-half years, I’ve had the best dog ever. And I’ve always felt sorry for my former clueless dogless self.

Then a week ago, Huggy refused to go for a walk. He wouldn’t take a treat. And when he lost interest in bacon, I knew.

The vet hospital said his liver was failing, and we would have to make a hard decision if he got any worse.

Instead Huggy took that decision out of our hands.

Yesterday, he took a walk in the garden. Lay on the grass, climbed the front steps, and got onto his bed. A few minutes later his big beautiful heart stopped pumping.

He spared us the pain of a slow dreadful decline. But there’s pain in spades now that our beautiful boy is gone.

We are all so grateful for all that he has given us. And to Wilston Vet for granting him precious extra time with us after his thyroid failed four-and-a-half years ago.

Our Huggy Bear died at home, surrounded by all that he loved. And he really was the best boy, right up till the end.

CBCA 2014 Short list Older Readers

 

Well, I did warn hubba hubby last night: ‘I’m having a cry tomorrow. Just so you know.’

He didn’t know why, of course, until I told him. About the CBCA Book of the Year – Notable Books and Short List announcement.

About how all we writers for young people wait with roiling guts for the announcement at midday. Distracting ourselves with keep-busy work, while all our hopes and fears dash up against the ever-present thought:  So many great books … such a strong year 

So yes, I did burst into tears when I saw Intruder short-listed for the 2015 CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers.

Because until I saw it there in such fine company, I didn’t believe that it would be, that it could be …  Because there were so many great books. It was such a strong year

So, I’d just like to say thank you to the CBCA and offer my congratulations – not only to the 2015 Notable and Shortlisted authors, but to all the writers and illustrators of the 400-odd titles that the CBCA judges deliberated over this past year – here’s to the rich diversity of Aussie books for kids and teens, long may it rule! *clinks glass*

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Choice article from Rocky Life to kickstart Book Week  2014 – Connect to Reading.

Looking forward to connecting with heaps of readers this week at Ashgrove Literature Festival, St Williams Grovely, and Sharing Stories – Connect to Reading with Authors & Illustrators – a Book Week Event for Kids aged 10-13 | Book Links Qld Inc.

Hope to see you round the writerly ridges this Book Week!

 

CBCA QLD Book Week Dinner

funny-kid-jokes-4Every time I start referring to a book as my ‘new baby’, a conversation from long ago comes back to haunt me . . .

A girlfriend and I were caught wrong-footed at a Uni party where a mutual friend was showing off his new baby (a genuine ‘little surprise’ in those pre-procreational days).

One look at the wee babe’s finger-in-the-power-socket expression and hair, and we stammered out something like ‘Oooh, nice booties’ and escaped to the bar.

My girlfriend asked me quite seriously what I’d do if I ever had an FLK, a funny looking kid.

‘Well, I wouldn’t know, would I?’ I remember saying. ‘I’d think it was beautiful and no-one would be game to tell me any different.’

Sigh. So young. Fast forward thirty-odd years, and I’ve found that book babies don’t get treated with kid gloves. If you’ve given birth to an FLK, trust me, you find out pretty damn quick in the world of online reviews where everyone’s a critic.

One way or another, first reviews do put us out of our misery. I know we can never please all of the punters all of the time, but at least I can take heart from the comments coming in; Intruder isn’t just beautiful in my eyes. 🙂

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‘This is contemporary realistic Aussie teen fiction at its best. Christine Bongers’ voice is engaging, drawing the reader in with her easy style and at times lyrical first person narration… compelling coming of age drama addressing identity, belonging and truth.’  CBCA Buzz About Books, July 2014

‘Although from the title and the opening chapters, this book would appear to be a thriller, it is much more than that. It is a complex and exciting story about the relationships that people have and the secrets that they keep from one another…Big themes like death, friendship, parenting, bullying and intruders are dealt with sensitively in this compelling book. Highly recommended. ReadPlus.

Intruder is a story that will be adored by those on the transition between childhood and adolescence.  It has just enough suspense to keep turning the page, but not enough to terrify; its characters are diverse, realistic, memorable and recognisable and show that we all need a little bit of everyone to enrich our lives.’ Barbara Braxton, Australian Teacher Librarian Network, REVIEW: Intruder Yr 6-8.

Intruder by Christine Bongers was impossible to not fall in love with …suspenseful yet not scary, full of real fears and the harsh realities of family life but also moments of laughter and love that transcends all. It really is beautiful.’ Children’s Books Daily

‘I love the gritty realism that defines this author’s writing…Intruder is smart and funny, with authentic characters and poignant moments of insight and affection. Highly recommended.’ You’vegotbuckley’s.edublog, this is the best book, ever…

‘Bongers does a wonderful job of bringing her characters to life with all their foibles; her descriptions of Herc and his interaction with Kat are priceless. There’s a lot of charm in this yarn, mixing humour and tension in a believable scenario that unearths home truths and serves up a warning about the dangers of jumping to conclusions. It also contains a message on the power of family and trust to overcome even the most dire of situations. Kat and dog might not be superheroes, but they make a winning pair.’ Vampires in the Sunburnt Country.

‘A complex, intelligent novel … minor characters are beautifully fleshed out and the dialogue sparkles with life. Recommended.’ Magpies Magazine, June 2014.

‘Intruder is a satisfying read containing some crime, some romance and some drama. It’s a really nicely constructed story about family, grief and healing, and it stars an absolutely charming dog.’ Readings.com.au.

‘This is a book about family, friendship and facing fear, with an unexpected twist at the end … suitable for readers from 11 upwards. The incident with the intruder, while frightening Kat, is handled sensitively with suspense rather than terror, and encourages discussion about personal safety.’ The Reading Stack

Please feel free to add your own review, either in the comments below or by clicking on the following link: Goodreads | Intruder by Christine Bongers — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists.

 

Teacher+Apple+CardThe most common question I’ve been asked since Intruder came out is what age group is it for?

I struggle with this question because I read a lot of YA fiction myself (despite being well outside the demographic). And I’ve always thrown my own bookshelves open to our kids, figuring that anything that was genuinely too old for them would defeat them or go over their heads.

 Choosing what to read is one of the incandescent pleasures of the book lover. And it is one that we deny children to their peril.

Restricting what children read is fraught, particularly in their final year of primary school when so many readers are at their most voracious, poised on the cusp of adolescence, and reaching for a greater understanding of the world that is opening up to them.

I vividly remember my own desire as a child to read books denied to me by virtue of my years. And the truth is that I read them anyway, often perplexed at what the fuss was about.

As an adult, I write layered texts that can be read and appreciated at different levels and ages. If pressed, I might recommend Intruder for anyone aged between 12 and 112, as I know that for different reasons, the story will resonate and appeal across that age range.

Intruder fits easily into the secondary English curriculum, but you can imagine my delight when the Oz Teacher Librarian Network reviewed Intruder for Years 6-8:

Intruder is a story that will be adored by those on the transition between childhood and adolescence. It has just enough suspense to keep turning the page, but not enough to terrify; its characters are diverse, realistic, memorable and recognizable and show that we all need a little bit of everyone to enrich our lives….this story would have great value as a small-group read, perhaps as a book club, where readers can discuss its layers, explore the what-ifs, and perhaps not only gain some insight into the tunnel-vision of the age group, but perhaps develop some safety strategies as well.’ Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, Cooma [click here for full review].

It was a pleasure catching up with so many teachers and librarians at Random House’s Meet-the-Authors do at the Book Garden in Brisbane this week – thank you to all those who were able to come.

For those who’d love to know what they missed, please click here for teacher and children’s writer Rebecca Sheraton’s comprehensive and entertaining commentary on the event.

Also, Teachers Resources for Intruder are now available on the Random House Website.

Just click on the link below and it will transport you directly to a veritable corncucopia of useful classroom activities.

Click to access TR_Intruder.pdf

 

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Really looking forward to catching up with the lovely Belinda Murrell and the ever engaging Tristan Bancks at Random House’s Teachers do in Brisbane next week.

Any English teachers who fancy a scone and a bit of bookish chit chat, please email deb@thebookgarden.com.au – we’d love to see you there!

IMG_0737A third novel is a bit like a third pregnancy –  knowing what’s ahead doesn’t make it any easier – and as the months drag by, you just want to get it out!

Well,  Intruder is well and truly out now, launched last night by the legendary Isobelle Carmody to an enthusiastic home-town crowd at Riverbend Books.

Isobelle Carmody launching Intruder

It was so lovely to be back at Riverbend, the site of my first book launch almost five years ago.

Owner Suzy Wilson pointed out where a slim volume titled Dust has been immortised on Riverbend’s marvellous book wall, sandwiched between Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Nick Earls’ The True Story of Butterfish. 

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Suzy was in her usual fine form – despite sitting up till 3.30 in the morning reading Intruder (she said she couldn’t put it down which is what every writer wants to hear).

And it just got better from there. I’m still reeling from Isobelle’s generosity in taking time out from a schedule that would overwhelm any lesser being and for making the night unforgettable.

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So…Bouquets to Isobelle for  her warm and generous comments, to my lovely agent Leonie Tyle from Tyle&Bateson Publishing for championing my books, to my hubba hubby for shouting the bar, and to my friends, my posse, my blood for supporting me, last night and always.

Oh, and brickbats to the prowler who broke into our house five years ago – finally I get my revenge!Chris Bongers and Isobelle Carmody

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So excited to have international best-selling author Isobelle Carmody launching my new novel Intruder on 31 May.

Prague’s loss is Brisbane’s gain, so we’re going to launch this Queensland-style, on the deck at Riverbend Books, Bulimba.

If you’re in the mood to welcome into the world a ‘gripping new coming of age story’ (thank you Random House, I never know how to describe my books in six words or less) please come celebrate with the pair of us.

It’s a free event, but there will be wine, so please rsvp to events@riverbendbooks.com.au or ph: 07 3899 8555

Love to see you there. 🙂

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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.