Australian Author Diana Plater, her new book, and the after-effects of trauma

This month I am particularly excited to present an Australian author whose inspiration for her book Whale Rock is as thrilling as the book itself. A journalist, Diana has had first hand experiences of the things she writes about, and I am a little in awe but also more than a little sure that this is an author to watch out for.  She is launching the book at…….. and she would love it if you attended. Meantime, lets get to know her a little:

Meet Diana Plater

DianaThe story which led to my novel, Whale Rock, began many years ago when I was living and reporting from Nicaragua, covering the Sandinista revolution in the mid-1980s. I was a young journalist who had always been interested in politics, and after interviewing one of the women revolutionaries who was visiting Australia I packed my bags, learnt Spanish and went to Nicaragua to live for a year.

It was tough – but much more so for the locals than the journalists and “internationalistas”, who flocked there to pick coffee and help the revolution. There was an economic embargo imposed by the US government, who did not like the idea of a leftist revolution in their own back yard. Later it was revealed that then President Ronald Reagan was also funding the Contras in their war against the Sandinistas.

While there I heard a rumour about a military hospital using unusual methods to treat soldiers for what was then known as war neurosis. The term PTSD hadn’t yet been universally adopted.

I had become interested in the subject of trauma, or in this case, the psychological effects of war when meeting former soldiers there who were suffering from it. A Nicaraguan psychotherapist explained the Sandinistas – as did the Contras — wanted people to believe that none of their soldiers would be traumatised for they were “fighting for the fatherland”.  Thus the secrecy behind the hospital.

I wanted to tell some of this story in Whale Rock as a series of traumatic flashbacks experienced by Rafael, a Nicaraguan former soldier who has lived in Australia for more than 20 years.

Here I have witnessed the impact of the traumatic policies that led to the Stolen Generations. My character, Colin, is based on the Aboriginal people I know and love.

Another character, Vesna, has also been traumatised, covering the war in Kosovo while the main character, Shannon, too is shattered by her grief, as is her estranged husband, Tom. Their son, Maxie, feels their pain but doesn’t understand it.

actual whale rock Tamarrama

Whale Rock at Tamarama, Sydney

Like Shannon I have also suffered from pregnancy loss – two stillbirths between my two children eight months apart. (I later wrote a self-help book, Taking Control, on this subject.)

I wondered how a woman who has gone through that sort of experience could connect with somebody who has also experienced trauma, in this case Rafael’s experience of torture and war. I wondered, too, how people who come to Australia with this sort of background manage to survive in a society that often just doesn’t care.

When a labourer plunges to his death on a building site opposite Shannon’s café the characters must all confront their secrets. Setting the story in Sydney’s Tamarama allowed me to highlight an exquisite Indigenous engraving of a whale and her baby whale, which overlooks the ocean below. The whale rock has deep meaning for Shannon, and of course Colin, and gradually becomes significant to all the characters.

This is a novel which I feel captures the zeitgeist. It is about Australia today and the serious issues we are pondering – immigration, Indigenous issues, the state of the media, politics, the environment. But it’s also about love and friendship – and dancing – told with dollops of dark humour! I hope readers will laugh –and cry — along with the characters but finish the book with hope for the future.

Landscapes and Travel Faces: dianaplater.com
Facebook: Diana Plater Author 
Twitter:@dianaplater 

You are invited to the launch of Whale Rock on Friday, 10th May at 6pm or 6:30pm at Gleebooks 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, Sydney. Music will be provided by Angela Rosero with Diana Plater in conversation with Jan Cornall. RSVP  by phone on (02) 9660 2333 or email events@gleebooks.com.au;  Full details: www.dianaplater.com

Was I right? Her life is as interesting and exciting as her book. Try to come to the launch if you live in Sydney.

Barb

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Making wine, or making vinegar – the difference is in the fine tuning

pink-wine-1964457__340There are days when I feel so frustrated with the world of writing that I wish I had never started. The reality of it all, the hoping for reviews, hoping for readers, the media, working on follow up books, both in The Unexpected Series and my Emotions poetry trilogy has meant feeling overwhelmed. Don’t misunderstand. I love writing but it is hard work and so reliant on what others think, much like the creation of fine wine.

Age or time if used wisely improves the process but like first-time winemakers you need to hone your craft by taking on board the reactions of others.  If you haven’t handled the process carefully then vinegar is the result. It doesn’t mean you give up however you do need to add a bit more thought, to your approach.

I’m Italian and I grew up to the stomping of grapes in the cleverly designed concrete contraption housed in our garage. I lived in Sydney so options for my father and uncles were limited.  They made their own, contraptions that is, contraptions that included a still (an amazing construction of dubious metals) as well as the area that housed the bare-feet grape-bashing once a year gathering of relatives.  In the early years the ensuing results were often foul, at least compared to the wines I enjoy these days, but other times they held a certain appeal and the dregs of those good moments extended into a grape jelly I have yet to taste the equal of.

Why the differences in outcome?  It may have been due to numerous work constraints (real jobs I mean) with available helpers, or perhaps it was the type of grapes purchased.  As time passed and I grew older and understood more, I saw the improvements in the equipment and resulting product as someone new to the growing brood of relatives, added their suggestions to the mix.  My father was many things I was often at odds with (cultural differences) but there was one thing he did that stood out I truly hope he passed on to me – he was a willing learner.

Am I ready for real critique, ready to find out whether the product is wine or vinegar? Who wants to drink vinegar?  Isn’t it good for you? I’m sure I read that somewhere. Regardless the journey has been one of bountiful information. I have learned writers build a bridge to what is often unrelated ideas in order to present a truth.   I have learned how hard it is to do this in a unique and novel way. What I didn’t know was how much of a see-saw writing would turn out to be emotionally, and how hard it would be to wait and see if the end product is vinegar or a fine bottle of red (or white but red sounds better).

Actually, I did know emotions would rise and cause havoc but the colour of our truth is grey and not the black and white we presume.  As Antonio says to his daughter Lia, in Unexpected Obsession:

“What happened isn’t black and white, the truth isn’t black and white. Maybe the facts are, this happened, that happened but the reasons are more complicated, full of grey areas. It’s hard to be open to that but Lia, grey softens the edges, helps us clarify what is important.”

I recalled a writer’s workshop I attended held by the Queensland Writers Centre on honing the realities of marketing. This is the behind the scenes hard work to get the created work out there, a time-consuming and confronting operation. If you didn’t love what you did then you would never attempt writing as a profession.  It is a demanding and selfish task master during the process, and in the necessary extensions of the process. Yet that perfect glass of wine does happen but not if you let things get in the way especially the things that may not be palatable.

Self-publishing has been a little harrowing. Yet it was also a liberating experience as ultimately it is the readers, we will answer to so cutting out the middle man seems fair. Jane Davis says the following:

“Self-publishing is the mechanism that freed me to be more ambitious in terms of where I wanted to take my fiction. Instead of being dictated to, I am free to write about the issues I’m passionate about and fascinated by – the big subjects. Remove the pressure of trying of to mold something to fit the current market – which agents admit is risk-averse and overly-commercialised – and it grows wings. For authors of literary fiction, creative control isn’t just a plus. Increasingly it’s becoming a must.

I don’t know about that, but I do know that I want to make wine and am hoping fervently that readers will take advantage of the current $0.99 sale of my e-Books extended now until the end of March, and that they favour me with a review. I am willing to accept vinegar if I end up making fine wine in the long run. I’m here for the duration but I need your support by way of input and that can only come from reviews.

Till next time

Ciao

Barb

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Calling all poets

Chris original finish 1

The last two months have been a little more exciting for me than normal. I have revised my poetry book Emotions in Eruption with a new cover and a little tightening up in the format because with self-publishing authors have that possibility.

Chris original finish green 1 AmazonI have also been working hard to produce a poetry sibling. This is an edit breath and fervent hope away. The plan is for the new book, Emotions in Evolution, to be a birthday present to myself. No pressure except for that little bit that says this all has to happen before the end of October.

Meanwhile I am constantly being asked why this interest in poetry. Where did this obsession come from? Trust me, it is an obsession. What about, I am also asked, the second novel Unexpected Passion in The Unexpected Series? Surely playing with poetry is a distraction from the novel series? Does poetry sell? Is it a good idea to be split between two genres, three if I include the blogging? Lots of questions and they are all valid.

Poetry tends to scare a lot of people.  As a teacher I often hear moans and groans as soon as the “P” word rears its pretty head, and well before the chosen piece of work is presented to students. Without any idea of poet or topic many choose to recoil and adopt a negative attitude, and it saddens me because this beautiful form is the ideal storyteller.

I’m not here to win you over but I am going to tell you why I write poetry. A recent article featuring Liam Cross clarified the fascination I feel, the draw or pull to the medium, and the satisfaction each time one piece is completed. His philosophy is simple. He believes, and it makes perfect sense, that the “more genres and styles we write in, the more we try out and learn about, the more developed we become as writers. And sticking with this theory, I believe there’s a very distinct benefit to be had from writing poetry, in terms of your capacity to construct a beautiful and gripping novel-length piece of writing.

Poetry is so expressive, and the rules so easily broken. How can we not love it? Being creative is so much simpler and the choice of subjects endless. My first book is pretty much free style, although I try to adhere to rhyme and rhythm in some and certainly, I try to add poetic devices where I can. Why not? Similes, metaphors, alliteration and even repetition are beautiful things to work with. And then, there is irony, humour and the vivid images inspired by the five senses. Yes, of course these things are a major part of writing. However, in poetry the size is limited and so we breathe easier when choosing those pesky and incredible words we are about to manipulate into voicing what we want the world to know.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIn Emotions in Evolution I gathered my courage and tried to be innovative. I mixed my styles and experimented with haiku and the cinquain. Both offer an immensely satisfying opportunity to say a lot with a little, and between researching and playing with structure, both forms also offered a lot of fun. In the future I intend to experiment further because I am addicted to story telling in this way.

I am not a quiet person. I can say too much at times and the discipline poetry affords me has given me pause to think, and then apply that thought to things before me, and in this way see them more clearly. Haiku and cinquain take all this a step further in my second book, and deal with colour, with nature and with travel to tie in my contemporary romance. I feature Sicily and Sydney, an important part of the setting in Unexpected Obsession, and I also feature many of the places my characters will travel to and enjoy.

DIGITAL CAMERA

Will this earn me a living? Probably not. Success is measured as much in satisfaction as it can be in monetary terms. I am very happy joining the hundreds and thousands of writers out there that story-tell following their own rules, and choosing their very own topics, and not fearing to tell the story that needs to be told in as few words as they decide. However if you are game and want to try my work then follow the link below to Emotions in Eruption and don’t be afraid to comment on my covers.

 

Until next time

Barb

GetBook.at/EmotionsinEruption
Smashwords:  https://goo.gl/HRdkkf
Kobo           https://goo.gl/NKKt1s
Barnes and Noble  https://goo.gl/oLV7KM

 

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Spring blossoms

pink hibiscusI have always been entranced by the changing seasons and the beauty they bring.  I grew up close to Centennial Park in Sydney and my parents would often take us there on a Sunday.  We would play  and they would spend the hours bent over, handkerchief on head and small knife in hand collecting what appeared to be weeds, at least by Aussie standards. Italians would boil, strain, chop and make omelettes to grace the sandwiches for offspring lunches.

How sad that said offspring, both of them (and their cousins), would throw the sandwich away embarrassed by the green threads hanging from sliced, home-baked bread and stare longingly at Vegemite or peanut butter on store-bought white.

Oh well, we did enjoy watching things bloom especially the hibiscus, and we did manage to find the occasional blackberries.  I hope they were blackberries and edible but I am alive to tell the tale and I have learnt to appreciate the finer cuisines in life, and thankfully my offspring have not repeated mistakes best forgotten.

Roots, more than one Pretty blossoms to be
Adored with pleasure
Drawn, pulled from the deepest
Part of the earth to grow
To prove beauty is really
From within for are not
The trunks and branch ugly in the
Winter frozen chill.
Delicate, the softest of colour
Combinations, barely there
And yet such a bold fashion
Statement to represent the coming of
A new season,
a new beginning.
I wish we could
be so
simply beautiful.

Poetry from Emotions in Eruption

GetBook.at/EmotionsinEruption

 

butterfly-earringsI was going through some of my earlier blogs from a previous website, and came across one I had written about paying it forward.  It seemed apt considering the last few months.  Having published my novel, I knew it would be a slow process to get readers and reviews.  Let’s face facts. The competition out there is fierce.  To stand a chance you need the support of family, friends and peers and you need hope the rest will come.  However, people are busy with their own lives and don’t always understand what their writer friend needs in order to get out of the starting gate. And peers are busy with their own work. I had factored that into my planning. It turns out I had factored it in at an intellectual level but not an emotional one.

Writers invest so much of themselves in what they do.  Unfortunately when results are slow, doubt about their work and their ability to do it well, rears its very ugly head. It’s normal to react this way but it is also hard to move past feeling this way, particularly since it could be that our work isn’t all it is supposed to be.  As an author you live with that fear on a daily basis, and the emotional repercussions undermine everything you do.  And, it’s not just writers. Whatever decision or choices we make in life can cause us to doubt.  The trick to it is the way we handle things so we can continue and not give up.

My inspiration for handling what comes my way is to remember the film Paying it Forward.  I fell in love with its concept, and I find in these moments when my hold on confidence becomes shaky that the idea of paying it forward takes me away from the self and back into the real world.  It works like this. An individual does something nice for three people.  These three people individually do something nice for three other people, and so it continues until thousands are reached.  What you choose to do for these people is up to you but it has to be something good.

What a wonderful thing life would be if it were that easy.  It’s not though.  Humans have a habit of complicating their own lives, our lives.  We seem to do things for a purpose that suits us rather than doing it for the sake of doing it and giving pleasure or hope. I think when I started writing my novel I subconsciously created ‘broken people’ because I wanted to show what a difference it makes when we pay it forward.  It is Lia’s gentle nature that wins Nico over and not the chemistry between them.  Lia knows how to stand up for herself.  She is strong and determined but she is a giver, and I have surrounded her with difficult people because I think it displays the power that giving holds.

nicoWhen Nico goes to Sydney to bring Lia back he is threatened by the people who love her.  He sees himself as an outsider. It is Lia’s friend Robert who helps Nico understand that what she has paid forward to her friends is extended to him.  They trust her judgement and are willing to take a chance on Nico despite what he did.

“You hurt her.  The only reason I haven’t punched you in that arrogant face, is because you hurt yourself more.” Robert finished washing the coffee cups and wiped his hands on the paper towelling.  He moved closer to the other man and risked a hand on Nico’s shoulder.  “She has us whether she lives here or Italy. You can too, if you let us.”  Nico let the hand sit a little while, before moving away and heading towards the door.

There are so many ways to pay it forward.  You do it by being a willing listener, or by a friendly smile, or simple acts of kindness.  Just recently, a friend sent me some earrings with tiny butterflies all over them. She knows I have been stressed for these last few months and she knows I have an obsessive attachment to butterflies. My cousin sent the most beautiful flowers, and another friend is a willing ear, even though distance makes it hard. Small actions like this strengthen relationships and have moreover, a universal effect.  The receiver of the payment forward is filled with the desire to help others, to pass on the good feeling.

flowers-from-emWith writers, reviews mean so much.  It is the only way we have to take note of the reader’s thoughts.  With bloggers, a like and a comment can make all the difference to their work. It is acknowledging they are reaching you with their words. Reviews and comments are a forward payment that inspires the writer to improve. I personally love reading other people’s work whether it be their books or their blogs or the tidbits of their lives that their social media delivers.  I always review and always comment because I know how much work it entails to put pen to paper. It has been one of the ways I choose to pay it forward in a world that is competitive, and too often heart-breaking. Do I hope to get it back? Of course I do.  I am human but it’s not why I do it.  It’s about paying it forward.

Until next time,

Barb