Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Interview: Richard Newsome

Hi Richard, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Let's start with an easy one, what are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished The Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle. I had no idea he also wrote Bridge on the River Kwai. I picked this book up because I’d heard it was so much better than the Hollywood adaptation, and it is. It is a very French novel and covers some interesting philosophical issues, as well as satirising various social classes. It is about as far from Charlton Heston as you could possibly get! Next on the ‘to read’ pile is either Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel or Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

Tell us about your latest book, The Mask of Destiny.
It’s the third part of the Billionaire’s series and wraps up the mystery surrounding 13-year-old Gerald Wilkins, his massive fortune and why it seems everyone is out to get him. The action takes place in France, Italy and Greece and covers history dating back to ancient times. I had a great time writing it and it was with a sense of enormous satisfaction, and some relief, to type THE END. I’d started the initial story 12 years ago so I was delighted to finally get it out of me. It was like the world’s longest gestation period. I had to have a Bex and a lie down.

Are Gerald or any of the other characters based on real people?
There are a lot of bits of real people mixed into the cast of characters. Gerald is probably how I would like to have been as a 12 or 13-year-old but never quite got there. I stole a few names for the supporting roles from famous actors; people like Mrs Rutherford and Mr Fry. I nicked the personas of Margaret Rutherford and Stephen Fry to help me picture the characters in my mind’s eye and the names sort of stuck. Same with Mr Hoskins (Bob Hoskins) and the school teacher Mr Atkinson (Rowan Atkinson).

The action in your books takes place in all sorts of fun and exotic locations, is it important for you as a writer to travel to the places you write about?
I try to convince friends that my research trips aren’t junkets to interesting places, but arduous explorations into the deepest regions of my soul. They don’t believe me. My first job out of school was as a cadet newspaper reporter so I do place a lot of importance on actually going to a place to faithfully describe it. And I get great ideas from being on the ground – ideas that I would never have had if I locked myself in the library. In The Mask of Destiny, Gerald discovers the hiding spot of the ancient city of Delphi. The setting was inspired entirely by a hike my wife and I took into the rocky hills above the ruins of Delphi in search of a series of caves. 

Where did the inspiration for the series come from?
I actually came up with the ending of the third book more than 12 years ago, and worked backwards from that. I’m not sure if there was a single inspiration for the story other than a lifelong desire to write a book. I’m very glad I persevered.

When you were writing The Billionaire's Curse, were you planning a trilogy or did that decision come later?
It was always a story in three parts. When I first conceived of the idea, I knew it was going to take a long time to tell. Middle grade books usually don’t go more than 75,000 words and I was never going to be able to condense the scale of the tale into that. So three parts were needed. In fact, a massive clue to the secret behind the mystery is contained in the first three words of chapter one in book one.

You got your big break by winning the Text Publishing Prize, what led you to enter the prize in the first place?
A complete failure to place the book anywhere else! The Billionaire's Curse was knocked back by a dozen literary agents before it found a home at Text. And I’m glad that was the way it worked, otherwise I would never have got to work with an amazing editor in Jane Pearson and a formidable publisher in Michael Heywood. The book is now in nine countries, including the US and Germany, so fate has worked her marvels well.

Will you miss writing the Billionaire's trilogy now that it's done?
Funny you should ask that, because I’ve just signed on to write another three books in the Billionaire’s series. Same characters but a whole new adventure and a whole new mystery. So it will be a six part series. I’m drafting the fourth book right now. It has the working title of The Man with the Silver Nose and will take our heroes into adventures in the United States, the Czech Republic and a tiny speck of an island in Sweden. And yes, I am just back from my research trip.

What has been the highlight of your career as an author?
The unsolicited feedback from parents and readers. Letters from Chattanooga in Tennessee and from the suburbs or Perth. I did a Skype author visit to a class of year 5 kids in Sioux Rapids in Iowa, and they told me how they spend their winters hooning around on snowmobiles. In my next book I decided to include some snowmobiles and since I’ve never ridden one, I emailed these guys and asked for some details. I received a heap of great stories about the risks of riding on frozen lakes and rivers so that’s all going in the book. Fun.

What are you working on next?
Part 4 of the Billionaire’s series, which hopefully will be out in time for Christmas 2012.

By the way, another author tells me it's your birthday today! Happy birthday!

You know, I’m not sure if that author really should be walking the streets without her court-ordered supervision. You might want to call the police.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Interview: Heather Rossiter

What do you think makes the legacy of Douglas Mawson and the other Antarctic explorers so enduring?
Well, that is a loaded question when you're talking to me, because my whole thesis is that Mawson went to the Antarctic and is remembered, but there were 30 other men who went down there too, they have been forgotten, if they have ever really been known. And Mawson is a great man, let us not dispute that. Great organisationl skills, courage and determination, but he had a lot of perosnal failings. One of the was that he would not stand for competition.

It was miserable of him really, to not acknowledge two people in particular, that's Captain John King Davis, the man who captained the Aurora, and also not to acknowledge Frank Wild, who left the 8 man base in the complement that included Charles Turnbull Harrisson, whose diary I have transcribed. And he made no effort to get the men known. However I see that 100 years later as my mission in life, to make people aware of these 30 mostly very young, very brave and quite wonderful men. They had very inadequate equipment, clothing, information, no communication and I think it is very sad that they have been lost to Australian history, because Australian history is a big picture and there is room for these men.

Tell us about your book, Mawson's Forgotten Men.
I think it's an important book for the reason I've said. I also think it's a wonderful book - now I can say that because I didn't write it, I only edited it! It's the diary of Charles Turnbull Harrisson who was one of the complement of that 8 man party that was landed 2000 km to the west of the main base. As someone else has said, perhaps their problem is that they were too good - nothing went wrong, nobody was killed or lost, they went through tremendous bizzards and hazards, what they did was quite amazing. But they have been lost to the public and I would like to bring them back.

The other thing about this diary is that in the Mitchell Library there are not only these two little black volumes, which is the handwritten diary, but there are also his artworks, quite a lot of them. So it's an exceptional record in that you have the pictorial and the literary and they complement each other. I have to say that the publisher has done a great job because they have put the images where the diary is discussing them, not in a group in the middle which is where you often get them. The other thing about that diary is that it's not only cold and courage, there's an underlying narrative with his anxiety for his two young children. 100 years ago children died a lot more than they do now and he was constantly worried about them.

The other narrative is about his wife. Really, it's a 520 page love letter to his wife, she's there the whole time, she's evoked, remembered and constantly addressed. He didn't write that diary for me to read or for you to read, it was his letter to her and what makes that so poignant is that he came back from the Antarctic in March 1913, and he then was lost at sea in December 1914 -  just 18 months later. It was a terrible tragedy so you can imagine Carrie, his wife, going through those two little books, looking at his sketches and taking comfort from them. It was 14 years before she was able to part with them and she gave them to the Mitchell Library and that is why we have this record today. I have brought it out into the public because it's such a beautiful record and I think people will enjoy it and empathise with him. It's beautiful, he's such a good writer and his sketches are more than adequate, they're artworks. 

How did you come to edit and publish this book?
It's Patrick White's fault! Not that I ever knew Patrick White, but I was reading David Marr's biography of Patrick White and I came across a name - Herbert Dyce Murphy - in a context I didn't understand. He's a very distant connection of mine. So out of curiosity I thought, there's more to this man than my family ever told me. So I started being curious. I went to the library and discovered that he'd been second in command to Mawson at the base, and so I kept on going and realised I was writing a biography of him, which was very exciting, and that's when I discovered these diaries.

I had no interest in the Antarctic before, but those diaries those men wrote were so beautiful. They were a release valve, a saftey valve, they could write things in there that they couldn't say - not that there were too many tensions at the western base of which Harrison was a part, nonetheless there were slight niggles that could be acknowledged in that form but otherwise had to be suppressed. But the men came across as such remarkable human beings that I always wanted to know more. I was saying something along the lines of how remarkable these diaries were to Elizabeth Ellis (the Mitchell librarian) and she said "well you, (meaning writers), are the voice of the collection". So that was a bit of a challenge wasn't it? And the diary that had really moved me the most was Harrison's because of what I said abut the narrative and awful conclusion.

I only just realised this but I have tremendous empathy with Carrie because I was also left a widow with a six year old and a four year old so I understand what she went through. So whether that made any difference unconsciously I don't know. Anyway, that's the one I chose to transcribe and it wasn't easy - so many words, over 240,000 which I edited to 150,000 the reader will be pleased to know. But of course, the writing  is so small and it's a real challenge to transcribe that.

How long did the process take?
It was 4 years from go to whoa. I spent the first year trying to get a publisher. I said, I'm not going to  do any work until I've got a stitched deal. I realised that I couldn't get a publisher until I'd transcribed  at least part of it. It took me two years to transcribe part of it and edit it and this last year and the fourth year have been about the process of editing and publishing.

Is there something in the personalities of these men who went down there that suited them for Antarctic exploration?
Even today the men and women who go down for these twelve month stints, there's a desire and a curiousness to know more, obviously,  but there's also bravery. Even today there are risks. It's still a dangerous environment and they don't go in ignorance, they're carefully selected and informed. So there's curiostiy, and love of adventure and courage.

The design of your book is beautiful, formatted like a notebook with illustrations. How much input did you have into that side of things?
The actual design, very little. The concept of his artworks being presented in the text and the selection of those all comes back to me. The designer has done a very good job of using them, the colour scheme is mine. With the first scheme we had, one of  my friends said "what is this, a book of New England knitting patterns?" The colour was just not Antarctic so that had to be changed. I suggested that they look at the Sidney Nolan paintings that he did when he went there.

The colour down there is amazing. I haven't been on the ice but I've seen it from the air. And Harrisson in his narrative is constantly telling us how amazing it is and he's an artist. He's consantly remarking how contrasting the colours are, and they all make this wonderful pattern. For instance he said he never thought he would see emerald green with cobalt blue, but that's what he saw.

Do you feel after  this project that he's come alive for you? 
Absolutely, I know him  intimately- sorry Carrie! Not that way! But I feel I know how his mind works. He was a very fine human being. He was very conflicted, for instance, by the need to kill the beautiful little snow petrels to feed the sledge dogs. They couldn't get back to base if they let the dogs die and they had to kill the birds and he hated doing it. He was such a very good person, very unassuming, modest, never puffs himself up.

When he came back, and I think this epitomises the man, he writes in his diary that on the 15th March 1913, when the Aurora coame alongside the wharf at 7am, he dropped off the ship before it was tied up, he had a swag with his precious sketchbooks and notebooks, he walked up the hill and caught the tram home to Sandy Bay where he lived. He didn't wait around for a hero's welcome. He didn't see himself as a hero - he thought 'I went there to do a job, I've done it and now I'm going home to my wife and children'. That's the kind of man he was.

What are you working on next?
Like all writers I have got another book! This one in a very, very different area and I'll spend 2012 getting that published, even if I have to do it myself!

Autographed copies of Mawson's Forgotten Men are available here.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Chasing the Dragon: The Life and Death of Marc Hunter - Extract

The following is an edited extract from Chasing the Dragon: The Life and Death of Marc Hunter by Jeff Apter (Hardie Grant Books).

He had it all—the heroin chic thing before it was chic, the scars, the swagger, an incredible stage presence. He was a really intelligent, funny, talented man who enjoyed life and thought it was there to be enjoyed. He chose to take big bites.

-James Reyne

During the research for this book, I was related stories of a family man given to lengthy benders, and of a great singer who was reluctant to enter the studio. ‘Marc had the incredible ability to create a parallel reality,’ a friend of his told me. ‘It always came as something of a shock to him when people would shake their heads and say, “Boy, you really fucked that up.” ’

For much of Hunter’s life, he seemed torn between the hedonistic lure of the pop world and the stark realisation that he was trapped in an often facile, remarkably shallow business. Perhaps this cynical, well-read and eloquent man was a little too smart for rock-and-roll. He could see straight through the facade of celebrity and stardom, yet he loved the spotlight. Marc was the kind of person who could readily negotiate his way through a debate on the merits of free will versus chaos theory while ‘comfortably wading in the gutter of [seedy Sydney venue] the Manzil Room’, in the words—and sometimes the company—of writer Anthony O’Grady. He once became involved with a scheme to float zeppelins over Mexico City in an attempt to clean up the ozone, yet he smoked like a chimney. Was he conflicted? You bet.

Mike Caen, a guitarist in Dragon’s final tour of duty, wasn’t the only person to note that Hunter reminded him of legendary louche actor Peter O’Toole. ‘Marc’s wonderful side was very good and his bad side was pretty bad. When he was in a bad mood he could be a real prick.’ Such as the occasion during a 1988 tour, when Hunter’s band mates looked on aghast as Marc emptied a bottle of beer over the head of an over-zealous female fan—neither the first nor last time he’d do such a thing.

Hunter would sometimes regard press interviews as verbal warfare. ‘You expect me to answer that?’ he would snarl at some under-prepared journo. ‘What kind of question is that?’ Then he’d flash a smile and all was forgiven—and forgotten.

Signed copies of Chasing the Dragon: The Life and Death of Marc Hunter are available at Shearer's Bookshop.

You can see a video interview with Jeff Apter here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

On Indies

Every morning on my way to my job as a bookseller, I have a strange encounter. Pasted on the wall of my local corner shop there is a huge Ebay poster which reads:

Buy Now! Buy Ebay! Bye Retail!

Now this is where I stop almost every day to pick up last minute items, sign local petitions, inadvertenly get the celebrity goss and to stop and talk and get ribbed about my chocolate sultanas addiction with the shopkeeper, Ramses.  Whilst I realise you wouldn't technically call Ramses' family business a retail outlet, it is still a fairly odd statement for a shop to have residing next to its front door and I can't help but see the irony.

Now I don't have a problem with Ebay itself, but I do take issue with the idea that retail is an institution to be avoided.  To be navigated for sure, as let's face it, there are retailers who have done nothing but a disservice to the service industry with their profiteering, cost-cutting, public-hating initiatives. I also take umbrage with the general feeling that retail is a the last resort for time-poor shoppers, that it is a shopping experience that lacks inspiration and that people who work in these industries are all unskilled and uncaring.

Am I a lonely voice in the wilderness on this? It feels like it. Recently I have read so many vitriolic articles about retail and some very gloomy ones naysaying my industry in particular. But all I can see are the positives that small retailers or indies bring to a community. So if your opinion is low, let me change your mind and give you some advice about where you should be shopping to make the most of your hard-earned dollars.

I've worked in retail since I was 18. I won't tell you exactly how long that's been, but I will say it's a very long time. I've seen the ins, the outs, the behind the scenes, the good, the bad and the ugly of major retailers and independents (indies) alike, and without embarrassment I can say that I still love it.

Independent retailers are a breed apart. Many are extremely passionate and not just about what they are selling. They generally spend a lot of time and resources ensuring that their customers and their community are one and the same and genuinely feel that way. They also do something extremely wonderful - they provide jobs, they pay taxes and rates and they're so busy working that generally they spend all their money in your communities because they don't have time to go away.

They also do things differently so as to set themselves apart, which means range and choice are always a priority. You always find the coolest stuff in indie retailers and even though their prices are seen to be higher than buying online or through major discounters, they are always the first to offer their regulars a discount or throw in a freebie. Just last week, Ramses threw in a free avocado with my irregular vegetable purchases - can't see that happening at the local Coles. And my boss is tremendously generous even though bookselling is a business subsisting on very low profit margins. I can't remember the last time I shopped online or in a major discounter that anyone offered me complimentary giftwrap, a cheery salutation, a freebie that complemented my purchases, advice about what I should buy my brother's new girlfriend for Christmas, directions to the post office or even a short segue from my purchase to the state of the country.

And whilst that may seem a little too much conversation for some, it's exactly why most indies are the backbones of our communities. We love shoppers, but we also kinda like people as well and even though there are eccentrics and socially-challenged members amongst us, our passion for our product is always paramount.

There are also some tremendous figures that support spending your money locally. Something like 60 cents out of every dollar you spend locally goes back into your community directly. Supporting local independent businesses mean that dollars, jobs, diversity and choices stay local, therefore creating strong, unique communities. Small retailers can usually also answer your questions about the providence of the items you buy through them, which means you can feel confident about your purchases.

Have I convinced you yet?

Tomorrow when I go to work and walk past that sign telling me to farewell retail, again I'll shake my head and genuinely feel sorry for those people who are missing out on the riches that retailers inadvertently give us everyday. I just hope that they realise what they're missing before it's too late.  After that, Ramses and I will swap commentary on the newspaper headlines and off I'll go to work with a smile on my face, a guarantee from a quality "indie" that's an example to all of us.

So give small retailers and indies another go and rediscover your "local".

Written by Megan

Monday, 14 November 2011

How I Became a Famous Novelist: Review

Steve Hely has, according to the cover of his debut How I Became a Famous Novelist, written for American Dad, The Office, 30 Rock and David Letterman. So there's an expectation going in that this is going to be a gag-fest, and at first it seems to be. But the gags later subside as the book becomes a clever and merciless parody of the publishing industry.

Pete Tarslaw is pushing 30, extremely single (possibly due to his lack of personal hygiene) and stuck in a terrible job, where he writes essays for international college students who don't have a good grasp on English. He is contemptuous of the popular novels that line bookstore shelves, and thinks of the authors as charlatans who manipulate the emotions of a gullible book-buying public.

So he decides to join their ranks by writing the most commercially appealing book he can. The finished result, The Tornado Ashes Club, is a truly awful book that becomes an overnight sensation. All that's left after Pete's meteoric rise is his spectacular fall.

I was laughing out loud by page one. The gags are fast and funny as Pete describes his lifestyle and his work. It gets even funnier as he introduces the authors that populate the story (all parodies of actual authors, the fun is in working out who's who). There are some truly terrible extracts from the fictional books that the plot centres on, including Pete's own novel - Steve Hely is a great writer to be able to pull those extracts off.

The publishing process and the industry in general is mercilessly pilloried - one character who is an editor admits that she doesn't even know the difference between a good and bad book. And the scene where Pete sits in a large bookstore and analyses what he thinks readers want based on how they look is gut-bustingly funny.

How I Became a Famous Novelist is a comic novel that really works due to the quality of Steve Hely's writing and the amount of material he has to work with. Readers, writers, editors, publishers and especially critics are parodied, and parodied well, to the full extent of Hely's comic powers. By far the funniest book to be published in 2011.

How I Became a Famous Novelist is also the First Tuesday Bookclub pick for December.

Reviewed by Mark

How I Became a Famous Novelist is available here.

You can read an interview with author Steve Hely here.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sarah Watt: A Great Australian Talent

The staff at Shearer’s were saddened to hear that film maker, animator and author Sarah Watt passed away. 

We all remember the great morning we had with Sarah and William who came to Leichhardt to chat about Sarah’s beautiful and motivational children’s picture book Clem Always Could

Sarah was so gracious and friendly and William in his inimitable style read the book and had kids and adults transfixed. It was a special morning and we fondly remember the event.

William and Sarah’s personal story Worse Things Happen at Sea is a testament to their love for one another and their amazing approach to circumstances that have occurred in their lives.

Our condolences go to William, Clem and Stella. Australia has lost a rare talent and a very nice person.

Written by Barbara

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ruby Blues by Jessica Rudd - Book Launch

Jessica Rudd talking about Ruby Blues.
Much like Jessica Rudd’s writing, the launch of her second novel, Ruby Blues, was a sassy mixture of style and intelligence. Mia Freedman, former editor of Cleo and friend of Jessica’s, officially launched the novel, raving about Jessica’s innate sense of plot and wicked sense of humour.

When Mia first discovered the character of Ruby Stanhope in Campaign Ruby, she immediately transferred her girl-crush form Jessica to the lead character who leapt off the page. Mia describes Jessica’s books as ‘fresh’ with writing that ‘zings’ and ‘one-liners that you want to read to passers by.’

Returning the girl-crush, Jessica expressed her wish that there were more women out there like Mia who helped each other out. Women are under-represented in parliament and boardrooms so Jessica believes it is natural that women compete with one another, but imagine if it were different. Ruby Blues is about women networking to bring each other up instead of tearing each other down, the expectations put on women and the expectations women put on themselves. It also has more hilarious insights into first-term governments, the media, fashion, and relationships that make politics sexy, fun and a living breathing human thing instead of background noise to the balancing act of family, careers and everyday life.
Mia Freedman and Rhys Muldoon at the launch

Jessica wants people to love her characters and love themselves. After reading Ruby Blues that shouldn’t be too hard, as Mia Freedman said, ‘We need characters like Ruby and we need authors like Jessica.’

Written by Natalie

Autographed copies of Ruby Blues are available here.

The Sense of an Ending: Review

Having never read a Julian Barnes novel before, (despite the efforts of Barbara to get me to read Arthur & George), I came to this novel with very little idea of what to expect. I knew Barnes' reputation, and I knew, of course, that The Sense of an Ending had just won the Booker Prize. So it was an absolute pleasure to be enthralled by this wonderful book.

The story is divided into two parts. In part one, the protagonist, Tony Webster, recounts how he first met his brilliant friend Adrian Finn at school. Tony later fell in love with a woman who he had a difficult relationship with, when she later spurns his affections and instead opts for Adrian, Tony is left bewildered, angry and heartbroken. In part two, Tony is over 60 years of age and is forced to reflect on his friendship with Adrian and his relationship to the woman he loved when events bring him into contact with that world once again.

But more than anything, Tony is forced to face himself. Who was he as a young man? How reliable is his memory of that time? How reliable is his memory of himself? Will he ever truly understand how he is perceived by others and how his actions impacted them? The novel is beautifully written, and due to its length (only 150 pages), not a single word is wasted. It's all about memory, age, identity and history. So much is packed in, but it all fits together so well.

I read it over the course of a day, and as soon as I had finished I started it again, reading the entire first part. This was already a completely different experience. The Sense of an Ending is a wise novel that demands your attention and rewards multiple readings.

Reviewed by Mark

The Sense of an Ending is available here.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Win a Trip to Melbourne!

Murdoch Books are offering one lucky Shearer's customer a fantastic prize!

All you have to do to be in the running is purchase a copy of MoVida Cocina, the new book from MoVida restaurateur Frank Camorra, at Shearer's before 31/12/11.

The prize is definitely the biggest one we've ever been able to offer to our customers, and is exclusive to Shearer's!

A trip for 2 people to Melbourne* with 2 nights accommodation plus dinner at MoVida and a masterclass with Frank Camorra in the MoVida Aqui kitchen! 

So come to our store at 99 Norton Street in Leichhardt, or purchase MoVida Cocina online to go in the draw for our best prize ever! You can read all about MoVida Cocina below:

Feel the pulse of its thriving tapas bars, watch the speed and grace of its wait staff, inhale the aroma of sizzling chorizo and savour the salty sweetness of crayfish straight off the grill . . .

From its flagship restaurant in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane, to the opening of its latest venture Pulpo, MoVida has always embodied the heart and soul of Spanish cuisine. By fusing local and international flavours and pushing culinary boundaries, the MoVida restaurants have irrevocably changed the landscape of Australian dining.

MoVida Cocina gives you a closer look at the people, venues and dishes that have made the MoVida bars and restaurants what they are today. Acclaimed chef and owner Frank Camorra takes us behind-the-scenes to reveal special techniques, signature dishes and the pure joy of cooking that infuses his life and work. He also reveals 70 stunning new recipes, including his chorizo-filled fried potato bombs, which featured in a nail-biting episode of 'MasterChef Australia' in 2010.

You can purchase MoVida Cocina here.

You can find out more about MoVida by visiting their website.

*flights to Melbourne are from domestic capital cities only! 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Interview: Janelle McCulloch

Let's start with an easy one, what are you reading at the moment?
I’m actually re-reading an old Australian classic–Picnic at Hanging Rock. I’m writing a book about the story behind the story of Picnic at Hanging Rock, and have uncovered all sorts of startling anecdotes and insights from those who knew Joan Lindsay. A lot of the novel does seem to be based on Lindsay’s life, so I thought I’d re-read it to play dot-to-dot with the information I’ve found.

Can you tell us about your new book, Paris: A Guide to the City's Creative Heart?

Paris: A Guide to The City’s Creative Heart is a fresh look at Paris through design-tinted glasses. It’s a lovely, visually rich collage of the city’s most inspirational destinations, from bookstores, vintage boutiques and paper stores to design museums, whimsical galleries, gardens, architecture, and of course its most interesting neighbourhoods and quartiers, all photographed in glorious detail. It uncovers hundreds of intriguing places and destinations overlooked by traditional guides, but it also acts as a visual inspiration/sourcebook, complete with ephemera, mementoes, notes and photos. The book was intended for creative professionals who travel to Paris for either work or leisure and want a guidebook that offers both a joyous sense of place and a real feeling of intimacy, wrapped up in a tactile package of pleasurable Parisian layers.

What is the process that goes into creating a book like this? Is there a clear vision at the start?

Absolutely. The vision came about because I’ve written several books on Paris, and am always asked where the best places to go are. I wanted to write a ‘creative guide’ to the city, so everyone could benefit from the insights that journalists have. Together with my publisher, Mary Small at Plum, we planned the book, section by section, and then I flew to Paris to photograph it over 10 days. We wanted to create a book that really inspired people and so everything from the copy to the images, which were fresh and quite often whimsical and quirky, is filled with ideas and inspiration.

How many photos did you take for this book, and how do you choose which ones make the cut?

I took 6000 photographs over 10 days, working from 6AM to 10PM. I was constantly shooting, even while walking from one place to another. Some of the best shots–and ideas–in Paris are the unexpected ones, so you have to keep your eyes and mind open! I think Grace Coddington once noted this as well. This 6000 was culled down to 2000 or so, which was then culled to several hundred for the book. The selection was entirely down the Plum’s editors. It would have been too difficult for me to choose!

What's your personal history with Paris?
I have lived or lingered in Paris for more than 20 years, for both short and long periods, and for both business trips and pleasure (although in Paris, even the business is pleasure). I first discovered it in my early twenties when I broke up with the Queen Mother’s equerry and fled to the city to mend my broken heart. What’s that saying? Living well is the best revenge…

What is it about Paris that you think inspires so much creativity?
Paris has a history of creativity that goes back centuries. Aesthetics is part of the French way of life–you could even say it’s an integral element of their collective anatomy–and they take it very seriously. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I do know that it’s a firm part of the city’s spirit and day-to-day life. You only have to look at the architecture, the gardens and the beautifully planned lines of sight everywhere, which cleverly direct your gaze down, around, up and across Paris, to see how talented the French are at great design. To them, everything needs to be beautiful. They get very upset if something’s out of place!

If you had one day to show someone around the city, what would be in the Janelle McCulloch tour of Paris?
I’d start by walking down to the Pont des Arts bridge on the Seine at first light and watching the city wake up. The crisp, delicious morning light is the best light to photograph Paris in and the Pont offers the perfect vantage point to do it. Then I’d stroll to the 6th and one of the cafes in the cobblestoned, pedestrian-only Rue Cler, an open market street that’s always bustling with locals, life and energy. After a coffee here, I’d persuade my friend to pop into the new and used bookstores in the area, which have made this quarter a haven for publishers, writers and media types for decades. (More details on these in the book.) Then we’d wander through the gorgeous greenery of the Luxembourg Gardens to watch Parisians at play before heading for extraordinarily beautiful Le Bon Marché department store to peruse the design ideas, unique gifts and Art Deco architecture in the new, top-floor La Maison d'Edition department. It would be lunchtime by now so we’d stop at Ralph Lauren’s new restaurant on Boulevard Saint Germain for a chic French salad and wine, then grab a taxi to the Marais to visit the must-see Carnavalet Museum (free), a sublime ode to Paris captured through maps, models and replica interiors. (It also has a lovely garden.) From here, it’s a short walk through the Marais to Merci, a fab Parisian store full of whimsy and wit. We’d be tiring now, so I’d advise that we grab the Metro to Notre Dame to climb the towers and see the beautiful (and quintessential) view of Paris as the pink twilight falls over the city-although the top of the Eiffel Tower is also lovely for sunset delights. Then I’d head back to the hotel for a shower before heading out one last time–dressed to the nines–for dinner at the historic Grand Vefour restaurant in the Palais Royal. (Hopefully my friend is paying.) Afterwards, we’d wander through the Palais Royal and the Tuileries and down to the Seine to see the boats, the lights and the magic of Paris. If we had energy–and my ‘friend’ was a male, I’d finish the evening with a kiss under the enchanting lights of the Pont Alexandre III Bridge. But we probably wouldn’t have the energy, and my friend would probably want to skip the prolonged romance and go straight home to bed.

Having worked widely as a writer, editor and journalist for many years, is there something that stands out as a career highlight?
Many, many things, including the sights, cities and islands I’ve been privileged to see, including Harbour Island in the Bahamas, Shelter Island in the Hamptons and Lord Howe Island. But while the travel is magical, the real highlights are the people you meet, and I’ve met some incredible and memorable personalities. I’ve met amazing architects, charismatic movie stars, inspirational hoteliers, truly great designers and writers (including many I admire), and unexpectedly fabulous characters, such as a 80-year-old Parisian who owned a charming antique map store in Paris, and a legendary 90-year-old cowboy and former Hollywood star who was still kicking around in Palm Springs. It’s the people who stand apart in my memory, even more than my bestsellers, my magazine career and all the overseas travel.

And as someone who is intimate with French culture, do you have a favourite cheese?

This is a terrible thing to say but I hate cheese! Will I be banished from the country now?

What are you working on next?
I’m finishing writing a book about Picnic at Hanging Rock, or the story behind the story, and also a book called How To Live An Elegant Life: Following in the Footsteps of Chanel, which looks at French style, where it comes from (it’s largely due to Chanel), and how we can emulate it. Both are out in 2012.

Paris: A Guide to the City's Creative Heart is a Shearer's Book of the Month for November, and is available at 15%off the RRP until 30/11/11.

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