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Reading tips from authors at the Sydney Writers – Page 2

Nancy Pearl, Mandy Sayer, Mark Billingham, and Sonia Shah list some of their favorite authors and books...

There wouldn’t have been much point in asking Nancy Pearl about her favorite books because her own books, Book Lust, and More Book Lust, were about that very topic.
Book Lust (and More Book Lust) mentioned thousands of her favorite books, in various genres, and she said she included some that were “under the radar”, or not commonly heard about. But Ms Pearl told me that one book she hadn’t mentioned in either book was George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1), which she said was a re-telling of The War of the Roses.
Ms Pearl said that when Book Lust came out, people wrote in, incensed that she had omitted George R. R. Martin’s book from the list. So she read the book, but hadn’t liked it. Then about a year later she re-read George R. R. Martin’s book, this time liking it, but it had been too late for inclusion in More Book Lust. So she had been trying to talk about his books as much as possible, she said.
Also, Ms Pearl said she often recommended Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy to her students. Ms Pearl said her students had commented on how much she would refer to the novel, so she had to start calling it “the book that shall not be named”.

Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) has been described as the creator of the Regency Romance genre, with The Grand Sophy set in the 1810s. She was comparable to Jane Austen, Ms Pearl said.

Mandy Sayer said that one of the reasons she wrote her memoir Velocity was that her husband, playwright Louis Nowra, told her he would use some of her stories if she didn’t.
Velocity was about Ms Sayer’s childhood and adolescence, and told some gut-wrenching stories.
Another of her books, Dreamtime Alice, was about how, at age 20, she had gone busking across the U.S.A for three years with her father, tap-dancing while he played the drums. She said she had spent the past eight years writing the screenplay for Dreamtime Alice, and a movie was not far off.

Ms Sayer liked One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner; and The Man Who Loved Children, by Christina Stead.
Crime novellist Mark Billingham said he included a catchy strapline on the first manuscript he’d had accepted. On the cover of the 30,000 word manuscript he wrote, “He doesn’t want you alive. He doesn’t want you dead. He wants you somewhere in between.” He said that a year later it was on the side of buses.

The author of Sleepyhead, Lazybones, and Scaredy Cat had a background in acting, and stand-up comedy, and this showed in the quality of the dialogue in his crime novels.
During his session he said “pound for pound” Michael Connelly was one of the best story-tellers in crime fiction.
He mentioned other favorite crime authors: Ian Rankin, Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke, George Pelecanos, James Ellroy, and the old masters Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
He started out simply enjoying crime fiction and reading everything he could get his hands on.
Sonia Shah said her book Crude started as a feature article about the oil industry.
She said she had her own views on the issue of oil, but didn’t want to preach, and just presented the facts and let the reader decide. She also tried to counterbalance the mythology when she wrote about the topic, she said.
Ms Shah liked Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children; The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman; Lolita by Nabokov; and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which was an Afghan novel.
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