Books on Tour – Rachel Nightingale

Rachel Nightingale

Author Rachel Nightingale

This week I’m again taking part in the Books on Tour blog series — this time to help author Rachel Nightingale share details of her latest release, Columbine’s Tale (Odyssey Books), which sounds perfect for young readers with an interest in fantasy, intrigue and a hint of romance. 

You may recall that I previously featured author Kellie Byrnes and her children’s picture book Cloud Conductor (illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn and published by Wombat Books) in this series, and Anne Donnelly who wrote and illustrated Ori’s Clean-Up, a picture book that introduces children to some important messages about recycling and environmental sustainability.

Books on Tour is a project by the wonderful folk at Just Kids’ Lit, who conducted a delightful interview with my book, Every Family is Different (here).

I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know a little bit about Rachel through her answers to my questions. You can find more Books on Tour posts about Rachel and Columbine’s Tale by following the links at the end of this post.

Col Cover SmallQ. Rachel, how would you describe the work that you do and how you do it?

A. I create magical worlds and people them with characters who are curious, brave and adventurous. Every book is a combination of research, daydreaming and writing. I love every part of the process and I love seeking out inspiration, in books and pictures and the world around me.

Q. What can you tell us about your latest writing project/book release?

A. Columbine’s Tale is the second book in the Tales of Tarya series, which is about the power of creativity. It’s about a young woman, Mina, who discovers that when she tells stories she can change the world. She joins a troupe of travelling actors and becomes bound up in romance, danger and a long hidden secret.

Q. Where are the main bookcases in your home or office? Do you also keep books in other places at home (or elsewhere)?

A. I have bookcases everywhere! The bathroom and kitchen are the only rooms without bookcases. There’s one in every bedroom, the study and the hallway.

Q. How are your books organised/arranged?

A. It varies by room. Each of the kids has their own bookcase and filing system. My son has a very long bookcase and one entire shelf is Terry Pratchett, in order of publication. My husband tends to group his by topic so there are different sizes grouped together. I like the look of having taller books together and shorter ones together, so mine are generally by author or topic, but size plays a role too.


Q. What sorts of books predominate?

A. We’ve got everything. We homeschooled both kids at various times, so there are all sorts of non-fiction, educational books, as well as many genres of fiction, Eastern philosophy, historical costuming, Celtic mythology… A wide range.

Q. Describe your favourite reading place.

A. Real or fantastical? Real would be a chair in the living room, with a soft blanket, my cat nestled in my lap, my dog next to me and a cup of tea and a couple of chocolates on the table. Fantastical would be a hideaway somewhere warm, with a view of the sea or the forest. But still with a cup of tea and chocolates.

MermaidQ. What book/s are you reading right now? Why did you choose that book/those books and what do you think of it/them so far?

A. I’ve just started a book called The Mermaid, by Christina Henry. It starts out like a traditional fairy tale, with a lonely fisherman catching and releasing a mermaid. The writing is beautiful, mythic and traditional. But from the look of the description it’s going to go in an interesting direction so I’m really curious to read on. It came in my last Never Never Book Box, which is a fantastic spec fiction subscription box that comes with books and treats every two months.

Q. What are your favourite books and/or who are your favourite authors?

A. I love the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, which brings in elements of British and Welsh myth so brilliantly. Anything by Ursula Le Guin is a fantastic read. And I just finished the Verity Fassbinder urban fantasy series set in Brisbane by Australian Angela Slatter – they are hilarious, great story telling and resonate with all sorts of mythical characters.

The books to save

Q. In the event of an emergency, if you could save just three books from your collection, which books would they be – and why would you choose them?

A. I would have to take the ones that are irreplaceable. Most books I could buy again, but the two my Dad wrote are hard to find now so I would have to take them. The third one would be Chase the Moon, by Catherine Nicolson, which inspires me so much with its romantic story and lush descriptions. Such a beautiful book, and again, hard to find, so I couldn’t possibly leave it behind.

Find out more about Rachel on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use these links to buy Columbine’s Tale and book one in the series, Harlequin’s Riddle.

Follow Rachel on the Books on Tour blog series on these sites:

Tuesday 23 October

Thursday 25 October

Friday 26 October

Monday 29 October

Tuesday 30 October

Wednesday 31 October

Thursday 1 November

Friday 2 November

Shelf Aware – Alice Nelson


Alice Nelson recently released The Children’s House.

Australian author Alice Nelson is a rare talent. She has the capacity to take some of the most challenging, heartbreaking and horrific topics and write about them in ways that are accessible and engaging without compromising on their oftentimes brutal honesty.  In the wake of the release of her latest novel, The Children’s House (Penguin Australia), I’ve been remembering the impact of an earlier work — After This: Survivors of the Holocaust speak (Fremantle Press) — a collection of interviews with Australian-based survivors of the Holocaust. It was released in 2015, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and it remains one of the most compelling reflections of strength, resilience and the healing powers of hope that I have ever read.

Alice was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists for her first novel, The Last Sky, and her short fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in publications such as The Sydney Review of Books, The Asia Literary Review, Southerly Magazine and The West Australian. 

I took great delight in reading her responses to my questions, and was mesmerised by the image of the magnificent floor-to-ceiling shelves that house her collection of books. I’m confident you’ll also enjoy reading this post from my latest Shelf Aware guest.

Alice desk

Q. Alice, how would you describe the work that you do and how you do it?

A. My first love is fiction, and I’m happiest when I’m immersed in work on a novel, though I do find the writing process frequently agonising and usually very slow. I write as much as I possibly can; in whatever spells of time I can carve out for myself.

Q. What can you tell us about your latest writing project/book release?

FCAA. My latest novel, published this month, is called The Children’s House (Penguin Australia). The book had a complex genesis. One level it grew out of a cluster of questions that would not leave me. How do we reconcile ourselves with great loss? What do we do with the complicated burdens of inheritance? How do those whose psyches have been profoundly damaged care for children? What are the best ways to remember and to memorialise? Why is the cost of love sometimes so heavy? These are all questions that inherently have no real answers, but writing the novel was a way for me to immerse myself in these concerns.

On a more tangible level, The Children’s House was very much inspired and influenced by my work over many years with refugees and asylum seekers, and some of the complex friendships I have formed with several individuals.

The novel is out soon and it’s an exciting, but also rather nerve-wracking, time to know that the book is on the cusp of its journey into the wider world.


Q. Where are the main bookcases in your home or office? Do you also keep books in other places at home (or elsewhere)?

A. I’m extraordinarily fortunate in that I have a dedicated library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a sliding ladder. It’s been one of the dreams of my adult life to have such an arrangement, and it gives me immense joy. Of course, despite this extravagant amount of shelf space, my house is also full of stacks of books in various other places, including the ever-expanding pile of books to be read that I keep beside my bed.

Q. How are your books organised/arranged?

A. Despite my much more pragmatic stepson’s efforts to entice me to apply the Dewey Decimal System to the ordering of my library, I’m afraid that it is rather more haphazard than anyone scientifically minded would approve of. Fiction is ordered alphabetically, but non-fiction is arranged far more idiosyncratically, with clusters of books that just seem to belong together. There are sections for various books I’ve used for research, a poetry shelf, a section on birds, a shelf of art books, and assorted other thematic groupings which are mostly intelligible only to me.

Q. What sorts of books predominate?

A. Literary fiction seems to make up the vast majority of my collection, though there’s a substantial amount of poetry, essays and various non-fiction books too. There are also various esoteric clusters of books I’ve collected as research for writing projects. There’s a character in The Children’s House who is an avid birdwatcher, so I have a whole shelf of books on birds and birdwatching. The research for the novel also lead me into explorations of the Romani people of Eastern Europe, the Hasidic Jewish community of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, kibbutzim in Israel and the lives of Catholic nuns, so there are little pockets of all these mysterious and seemingly unrelated texts I’ve accumulated on the strange circuitous journey of writing a novel.

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Q. What are your favourite books and/or who are your favourite authors?

A. There are so many writers I adore and who have been so profoundly important in my life that it’s always hard to narrow it down. I love Anne Michaels, Michael Ondaatje, Chekhov, Siri Hustvedt, Lorrie Moore, Edwidge Danticat, W.G Sebald, Helen Garner, Tolstoy, Louise Gluck, Stanley Kunitz, Marguerite Duras, Colum McCann, Michael Cunningham, Toni Morrison. I have so many favourite books that it’s almost impossible to nominate them in a list but I do think that Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient is a perfect novel; to me it is completely inexhaustible. I could read it a thousand times.

Q. In the event of an emergency, if you could save just three books from your collection, which books would they be – and why would you choose them?

A. I would choose my copy of Let The Great World Spin, which Colum McCann signed for me in New York, the copy of The Rings of Saturn by W.G Sebald that I took with me on my own pilgrimage in his footsteps along the Suffolk coast and a tiny, limited edition collection of essays by Anne Michaels called Infinite Gradation because it is such a rare and beautiful book.

Q. If you could sit down for afternoon tea with your three favourite characters or authors, who would they be, what would you serve them, and what would like to talk to them about?

A. I think I would have to invite Marguerite Duras, Michael Ondaatje and Anne Michaels. We would sit in the sun under a plane tree (ideally in the south of France) and drink Lillet blanc and talk about life, love and the complex inheritances and hauntings of the past. Although in reality, writers are often reclusive and introverted so perhaps I would need to stock up on the Lillet!

After This

Alice Nelson is also the author of After This: Survivors of the Holocaust speak (Fremantle Press).

You can connect with Alice on her website or on Facebook.