Navigation pages

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Elizabeth Jane Corbett

Today The Hippo is going international and I'm handing over to Elizabeth Jane Corbett, a debut author in Australia!

Elizabeth's novel, The Tides Between will be published on October 20th by Odyssey Books and she's here to talk about the inspiration for her book, but as usual let me first introduce you all to the lovely lady herself.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Jane Corbett

When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes articles for the Historical Novel Review and blogs at  In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her first novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna Manuscript Development Award. It will be published by Odyssey Books in October 2017. Elizabeth lives with her husband, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne's inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far away.

                                                       *    *    *    *

The Tides Between – an Aussie immigration novel that got hijacked by Welsh fairy-tales

It started with a mid-life crisis. In the lead-up to a significant birthday (let’s not be specific) I wrote a list of all the things I’d like to have achieved by that stage in my life. ‘Write a Novel’ topped the list. See, I’d always been a bookish kind of girl and, having been raised on stories of an author in the family, and, having trained as a librarian (because only clever people wrote novels), I had this always-wanted-to-write-a-novel thing deep in my psyche. On the occasion of my significant birthday, I decided, I’d better make a start before it was too late.

Emigrating to Australia as a five-year-old had been the defining event of my childhood. So why not make it an immigration novel? But not my own story. That was too boring. I’d done a history degree as an undergraduate and loved reading historical fiction. So maybe an historical novel? But I still had four children living at home and absolutely no research budget. So maybe an Aussie immigration novel? So, I could get resources from the local library.

During my university years, I’d been fascinated by Caroline Chisholm, a nineteenth century immigrant woman who advocated on behalf of vulnerable female migrants to Australia. I borrowed some biographies on Chisholm, then broadened my research out to immigration in general. By which stage, to my immense surprise, characters were forming in my head. A young girl was the primary one. I called her Bridie. She had lost her father in tragic circumstances. I had this notion that a creative young couple on the ship would help her come to terms with her loss. Initially, I imagined they were Irish. But wait, hang on, too cliché. Besides, I didn’t have any Irish relations and my proposed research trip would be reliant on long-lost family accommodation. But Mum was Welsh. Maybe my creative young couple could be Welsh?

I knew nothing about Wales at that stage - apart from rugby and male voice choirs. But Rugby hadn’t been invented in the 1840s and, even if I could have invented a scenario in which a whole male voice choir emigrated to Australia en masse, I didn’t think a young girl would find it particularly inspiring. Some quick research told me Wales had a strong bardic culture.

Hmm…maybe my Welsh couple could be storytellers?

While this fermentation was going on, I learned there were Welsh classes in Melbourne. I’d read How Green Was My Valley and realised that Welsh people spoke English differently. I thought maybe a term of Welsh lessons would help me understand why. But, I had no idea the language of my fathers was so beautiful and ancient and endangered. Or that the welsh were engaged in an even-now battle to keep it alive. Somehow, one term of lessons became two, then three. Before, long I realised I didn’t want to stop. I am now one of the tutors at our Melbourne Welsh classes.

So, I had characters, and this love affair with a language going on. Time to start writing. I did a short ‘How to Write a Novel’ course which scared the Bejeezus out of me. I thought: if I worry about everything I need to know I’ll never find the courage to write. I decided to simply let my characters board the ship and see what happened.

The first draft took me about a year. It was a great, big rambling mess that somehow got shortlisted for a manuscript development award. Hmm…so maybe I could write? And I now had a full first draft. Perhaps it was time to learn all those things I should have learned before starting out?

I had the manuscript professionally assessed twice and did some novel subjects at a local Technical and Further Education college. External assessors told me it was a good story, and worth pursuing. While, a voice inside kept telling me to give up. I was wasting my time. No one ever got their first novel published. See, I’d been to realise mine was an unusual manuscript. A young girl’s coming-of-age tale with embedded Welsh fairy-tales that had both adult and young adult viewpoints. Like, where was it going to sit on the bookshop shelves? But I am a pretty stubborn and, though wrestling with self-doubt, I had to see the process through to the end, no matter the outcome.

In the end, I re-wrote the manuscript four times. The ensuing novel, The Tides Between was picked up by Odyssey Books. It will be published on 20th October 2017. On the surface, it is a simple coming-of-age tale that can be enjoyed by teenagers. Yet it also has embedded Welsh fairy tales, which both mirror and inform the plot, and fantasy elements. But although the story is steeped in ancient folklore, it explores modern themes of mental illness, failed marriage, blended families, disillusionment with sacred stories, and how to read them with different eyes. Hopefully that makes it a book with crossover potential. Especially among those who love fairy tales, folklore and a bit of Celtic mysticism with their history.


She fancied herself part of a timeless chain without beginning or end, linked only by the silver strong words of its tellers.

In the year 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie Stewart’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood memories, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father's fairy-tales to the far side of the world.

When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark, double meaning.

As they inch towards their destination, Rhys's past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.

                                                   *    *    *    *

I've been practising my Welsh here at The Hippo in preparation for Elizabeth's post today, so here goes. . . . *clears her throat* . . . .  

Rwy'n credu bod hyn yn swnio fel llyfr gwych Elizabeth 😉

Please forgive me if my pronunciation is a little off!!

You can find out more about Elizabeth and connect with her using the links below:

I'd like to thank Elizabeth for stopping by today and to wish her lots of luck or pob lwc with The Tides Between 🥂

Saturday, 14 October 2017

#BlogBlitz - Her Last Secret - Barbara Copperthwaite

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of author Barbara Copperthwaite’s books and whenever I’m asked for book recommendations her name will be one of the first that comes to mind. Flowers For The Dead was always going to take some beating for me personally, but I can honestly say that Barbara has surpassed herself with her latest book Her Last Secret. . . . it’s A. MAZ.ING!!!!

Her Last Secret is the story of the Thomas’s, Ben and Dominique and their two daughters, Ruby and Mouse. An outwardly perfect family living in an affluent area but scratch the surface just a tiny bit and you’ll see that this is all just a front. To say that they had issues would be an understatement but to call them dysfunctional would be doing them a dis-service.

When the police are called to the Thomas’s house in the small hours of Christmas morning following a suspected shooting, nothing can prepare them for the horror that awaits them when they go inside.

Rewind eight days and we get to meet the family to find out that Dominique is a stay-at-home trophy wife, Ben is a successful businessman, teenager Ruby is your average moody and rebellious teen and Mouse is a quirky little eight-year-old who is excited about Christmas and just wants everyone to be happy.

Just what has happened in the last week that has caused this grisly outcome? 

You don’t really think I’m going to tell you do you? 

Nope, I’m not breathing another word about the plot as I don’t want to give anything away and ruin it for all you lucky people who have yet to read it.

This book can be taken as a cautionary tale about keeping secrets and the consequences of lying. Everyone in the family is struggling with something (apart from Mouse, bless her little cottons!) but no-one has the courage to discuss it with anyone else. 

Her Last Secret is an exceptional book, the way that it gives you a tantalising glimpse of the ending and then rips you back to an earlier time so that you can find out more about what’s happening within the family is brilliant. It’s one of those books that you need to read to find out what happens but at the same time you don’t want to read so quickly because you don’t want it to end. 

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book and I really can’t recommend it highly enough! Barbara Copperthwaite is fast becoming an author to be reckoned with in the psychological thriller genre and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for her readers next! Barbara, YOU ROCK!!!!

                                             About the author

Barbara is the author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD. Both have been Amazon best sellers. She is also the author of THE DARKEST LIES, and her latest book HER LAST SECRET is out on 13 October.

Much of her success is thanks to her twenty-odd years' experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She's interviewed the real victims of crime - and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That's why her novels are dark, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions.

When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.

                                  What people say about Barbara's books:

"Will have you looking over your shoulder and under your bed... Original, gripping, with a deep psychological impact," Sunday Mirror 
"Enthralling, tense and moving," Real People magazine 
"Totally gripping, and scarily believable," Bella magazine

 You can find out more about Barbara and connect with her using the links below:

Don't miss the rest of the Blog Blitz with these fantastic blogs

 With kind thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookouture for the review copy.