Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chit-chat Wednesday and Don't Judge a book by its cover

I am sitting in our local medical centre. I am surrounded by little birds reading out-of-date magazines as I wait for blood tests and arrange for bone density tests. This is not how I planned to spend our January holiday time together. We had thought of picnics, art galleries and beach trips. Life always likes to surprise me.
I like to be surprised by people. I love it when I see young Goths reading from Bibles in the street, old women with tattoos and big tough mean-looking guys who do voluntary charity work. People who don't fit the stereotypes and are true to themselves are people who inspire, amaze and surprise me.
Last week, the ever-cool writer and musician Talie Helene from the Blog A Girl Made of Truth & Wild Horses awarded me The Creative Blogger Award which I was totally TICKLED PINK and chuffed with. In her little blurb about me she said something along the lines of 'don't be fooled by the Victorian scrapbook lavishness of her Blog this woman writes some really killer crime fiction.'
I am so grateful that Talie didn't judge me by my cover. Yes, I do write some very graphic and dark crime and sometimes horror but I do also love pink and girlie frou-frou things.
Several years ago, I won The Scarlet Stiletto Award which is quite a prestigious award for crime writing in Australia. A disgruntled short-listed finalist and her charming boyfriend heckled me as I accepted the award drunkenly whining that 'I didn't need to win as I was already rich (!!!) and 'It was a set up, as I wouldn't have written anything dark enough'.
This little tantrum from the pair gave the Scribe and me much amusement for months and we still get a good laugh out of it. I wish more writers would have public dummy spits! And of course my winning story was very dark. It was called Birthing the Demons and it was about how mothers are often blamed in society for violent acts performed by their children. It was inspired loosely by the James Bulger case and you don't get much more distressing and dark than that.
I'm a Scorpio and fascinated by death and violent acts. But I do love my pink, my pretty, my vintage toys and dolls. I'm not about to start wearing black and baying at the moon to suit other people's perception of what I should look like or write. Don't you think we are rather more complex people than that? I hate limitations set by others or by our ownselves.
And as a writer, I know too well the folly of judging books by their covers. I was never fully satisfied with the covers of some of my published books. Believing their images never matched my words and the tale I was telling. A couple of reviewers even wrote, 'ignore the covers as these books...' etc, etc. Sadly, an author in my position doesn't have a lot that will be listened to when it comes to their covers.
And so Talie's award was even sweeter for me because it meant that somebody out there didn't judge me for my cover. That means a lot.
I am still slowly adding my awards to my Blog and so if you have been kind enough to present me with an award and wondering where it has gone it should be up shortly.
How about you? Do you like to be surprised by people and literature or do you judge books by their covers?
Enjoy your week my sparrows and swans. xx


  1. Your story sounds so interesting- I would love to read it! Yes I am always thrilled when I am pleasantly surprised by someone. I do tend to go through life expecting certain things from people and when my expectations are shattered I get a thrill :) Love hearing about your stories and process... xo

  2. I am never comfortable with any sort of pigeonholing, although I am always amused by the distress some people seem to have over my inability to fit into one of their neat little compartments.

    As you say, I like to think we're all more complex than that!

  3. I have to honest here and say that I judge books by the covers....but I hardly read any fictional books. Mostly home style books an the like. Have a great week.

  4. I saw two books for $20 in Big W and liked the covers, read the back and the front page of the first one...kind of enjoyed it and thought "why not' got them home and started reading and couldn't put the blimmin' things down...then i found the third in the trilogy, bought that and am totally engrossed in it....then i noticed it was a 'harlequin' book which i thought was like a mills and boon! i must admit, i would never have bought them if i'd noticed the publisher first!!! just goes to show. i think harlequin have branched out because it's classed as 'paranormal/sci-fi' (which it isn't really, but i guess everything has to have a label!)
    they are Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study by maria snyder if anyone's interested...really good reads.
    Congratulations on your blog's so well deserved. i so hang for a new post!
    Are any of your books still available to buy, Josephine? i'd love to read them....

  5. Guess what movie WT brought home from the library this afternoon? Rebecca.

  6. just stumble on your blog. and wow you write so well! no wonder you are given so many blog awards, your ideas are very inspiring.

    anyway, hope you had a lovely day! :)

  7. I have an award for you darling !! Pop over to my blog - another one for your collection !

  8. yes, i never like to make assumptions about people, and love to learn more about them as they slowly reveal aspects of their personality as you get to know them. i always admire people who are not afraid to be themselves, original and individual! and i think that it's awful that an author doesn't get to have more input into how there books are presented and are at the mercy of the publisher's marketing department ...

  9. I too love to see people doing things they don't look like they would be doing because of the stereotyped image. I love your blog makeover. I have to add too Josephine I admire your strength in just watching ONE Mad Men a week!! I just couldn't do it!!

  10. Jennifer, I think there is a link to that story if you Google the title and my name it should still be floating around. The Sisters in Crime keep all the winner's stories in cyberspace.
    Thanks Linda. Yes, I am tempted to sometimes watch two Mad Men but restraint is good for the soul. Plus having a four year old cuts into a lot of what used to be television watching time! Glad you liked the new look. It feels a bit fresher to me and I'm mad about that creamy vintage colour yellow at the moment!
    Pinry, I could tell you publishing tales that would perm your bob but I won't. I think you summed it up perfectly as always, it's to do with folk being true to themselves and not putting on the mask to suit other people.
    Noelle Chantal what a beautiful name and comment. I will come and say hello soon!
    Willow, we should have linked pinkies and made a wish. I feel like reading Rebecca all over again! Cat, they can be difficult to get as Simon and Shuster's fiction imprint in Australia Earthlight no longer exists Some bookstores still have them or EBay has them as well. I am sending out copies overseas now to publishers and I don't have many sets left. If I have any spare I will keep a set for you. Hopefully, Poets Cottage will be picked up soon although it is a very different book from the fantastical series.
    Simone, I think we all have more than a touch of judging books by their covers in us. I look forward to seeing your book when it comes out! I am convinced one day I shall be able to add Beach Vintage to my home interior books.
    Rachel, yes, I think you could never be pigeon holed and that in my opinion makes the most interesting books and people! xx

  11. Hi Josephine! As part of my 'allowing myself to be influenced by the best writing I can find' project, I've read a whole heap of the short stories on the Sisters in Crime website - and I mean, I've really read them, I filled pages of a journal with hand-written notes for each story - & I loved your stories: 'Bait', 'Birthing The Demons' 'The Memory of Scars', 'Hail Mary' and 'Tadpole' - that last one is my fave!

    I'll make a point of blogging links to your online crime fiction in my next Writing Obsessed Wednesday post. Seriously, you need to get an anthology of your crime fiction published. Awesome stuff!

  12. Hi Josephine.
    You do right beautifully. I really enjoyed reading this and about stereotypes.
    As a dark skinned, second/third generation South Asian person born and bred in the U.K, I have constantly encountered people stereotyping and making assumptions about me. I have always been put into a racial and religious box, and as a Asian woman pigeon-holed as domesticated, meek and subdued. So I have always challenged stereotypes and learned never to judge others by appearances too.

    PS After reading Rebecca, I enjoyed reading Wide Sargossa Sea. Have you read it?

  13. Hi Talie, Thank you so much again. It really means a lot to me that you have read and enjoyed my stories so much as I value your opinion. I did try to (or my agent did) try to get an anthology of my crime shorts to sell but with no success. I wasn't a 'name' enough for them sadly. Fingers crossed that won't always be the case as I have a lot of short crime stories. A lot of them have won awards and so it would be good to see them in a collection. I am very pleased you liked Tadpole, that was a strange little story. xx
    Hi Mangocheeks, Thank you for your comment. Yes you would have had to face stereotyping and judgment as well. I think we are all guilty to a certain degree of doing so but it's very important we learn not to!
    I haven't read Wide Sargossa Sea but it has been on my list of 'to reads' for a long time. Must find time to read it soon! xx

  14. Thank you Josephine. It was a pleasure to have you visit my blog.


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