Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cleaning out the shed

If I was a famous writer, this might be a notable discovery—but as it is, it is more just a spot of interest. While recently sorting through the accumulation of removal boxes, books and other assorted detritus of life in the shed, I found a box of papers from university days, including a hand-written first draft of some of what was to become Nemesis Train.

The pictured pages are the beginning of what was to become the “Jed” sections of the novel, written about 2000 or 2001. I initially dropped the notebook into the recycling bin but later went back and retrieved it and gave it a closer look.

Also among these papers were assignments completed for a Bachelor of Letters (Literary Studies) in 1999 and 2000. Perhaps not surprisingly, given that Nemesis Train was a major focus of the writing I was doing at the time, a couple of the assignments that offered creative writing options were adapted versions of chapters of the embryonic novel.

These were generally well-received and sparked the first “reviews” of the Nemesis Train material, including the following:

“You offer a subtle, disturbing and startlingly accurate story. . . . well written. . . . You have quite a cinematic eye.”

“A sophisticated and well sustained vignette. Excellent attention to detail and a complex narrative voice. . . . A fascinating story.”

“The story works very well. . . . Extremely well written with a sharp intonation that suits the subject matter and you demonstrate a sense of narrative pacing, and sensitivity to nuances and inflections. Very well done.”

So not only do I now have a tidier shed, I also re-visited some of the pre-history of Nemesis Train and some of its first appreciation and encouragement.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Catching Nemesis Train

A number of people have contacted me to report difficulties with ordering Nemesis Train from the publisher's website (linked to from the site). They have told me they are trying to fix the situation but in the meantime I have added an alternative link to another source—the good folks of Koorong bookstores.

I was also excited to discover Nemesis Train listed on the website of Dymocks, one of Australia's largest bookshop chains.

So if you're trying to track down the book and/or you have read it and want a purchase a copy of Nemesis Train for everyone you know for Christmas, perhaps you are now better equipped to do so.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"A unique and captivating story": ABC review

Another radio moment in the Nemesis Train adventure. My book was reviewed on the Saturday morning breakfast show on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) radio in Brisbane this past weekend.

Of course, it all comes down to contacts and moments. The regular host of Saturday mornings was the MC at a publishers awards dinner at the beginning of October of which I was part. I had previously crossed paths with him and chatted to him for a couple of minutes on the evening. I took a long shot and asked him if he reviewed books on his program and that my new novel was set in Brisbane so could fit. He was interested, I sent him a couple of copies and so it goes.

You can check out their 3.5-star review at their blog.

There's a couple of good lines I will be able to cut-and-paste—with the weight of the ABC brand behind it—"a clever and talented writer" ... "a unique and captivating story."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nemesis Train on Light FM

I recently joked with someone that the publicity tour for Nemesis Train would take about three hours—and that included travel time. But there are a few things happening more than that and I more than spent my three hours in travelling in to Melbourne radio station Light FM to do an interview about the book.

"Your Morning" host Clayton Bjelan was a gentle interviewer and, with my amateur interest in radio, I was happy to be able to check out the facilities from which Light FM broadcast.

The interview was broadcast today and the podcast is available on their podcast page. Enjoy the listen.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reviewed by Compulsive Overreader

One of the blogs I regularly visit and occasionally find book recommendations from is "Compulsive Overreader," the review blog of enthusiastic reader and writer Trudy Morgan-Cole. So it's a privilege to have a review of Nemesis Train on this blog. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In a bookshop near you

There are many steps in the creation and distribution of a book. And another significant step in the process is to see it on a shelf in a bookshop, available for almost anyone to wander in and purchase a copy.

So here it is in a bookshop near you. Just how near will depend significantly upon where in the world you are reading this. But as comedian Steven Wright put it, "Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."

And, of course, like many bookshop experiences, you might have to look for it—kind of like an extra-literary "Where's Wally?"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On location: Brisbane, Qld

It is a few years now since I lived permanently in Brisbane but recently I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the city. It’s interesting to see how a place has changed—and how it hasn't—while one has been away.

But there is an extra interest when visiting a city that is the location for one’s novel. Having spent time as a keen observer of the city and its people, I was reminded of what an interesting place the city and its inner suburbs are. In the Spring sunshine, the Brisbane River winds its way around the city, giving the central business district a unique sense of space and confinement.

But perhaps the most remarkable experience came on the Saturday afternoon. Staying with family in an inner suburb, we headed out to walk to a nearby park. It was warm afternoon with a near-cloudless, Queensland blue, Spring sky.

A couple of blocks away from their home, I looked up and noticed a skywriting plane beginning to do its thing. It caught my attention and more so as I realised it’s first letter was a G. (See chapter “one” of Nemesis Train for the significance.)

I contemplated running back for a camera but realised by the time I did the moment would have been lost, so I just continued to watch the sky. It ended up spelling out the name of an upcoming music festival. But, for just a few moments, the book came to life in an unexpected way while wandering the streets of Brisbane.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Review: A puzzle, but the pieces fit

by Melody Tan

Nemesis Train could simply have been a notebook filled with the journey of the author’s ponderings and explorations of various people’s lives. But what makes it a compelling read is the fact that the reader not only joins the ride as a mere commuter, but becomes a participant in a very real way as well.

This is not a book in the old-fashioned sense of the word, as chapters often appear unstructured and the flow of the book will take most readers by surprise. However, like Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, readers of Nemesis Train will find themselves unwittingly and inexplicably drawn into a story that makes them want to find out more, if only to discover how all the characters fit into the story.

Nemesis Train provokes thought and, more often, encourages the reader to ask questions rather than provides any real answers. Brown chooses to dwell deep in the thought processes of the characters, paying a lot of attention to their state of mind and what spurs them to do what they do.

Brown has a real talent in seeing details that may have been missed by most writers, and certainly by people going about their normal everyday life. Because he takes the time to pause and study the surroundings, he succeeds in painting a clear and real picture in the mind’s eye. The reader is drawn into the world that Brown has created and becomes a part of the book. The interesting, and sometimes quirky descriptions are also often unique and unexpected.

There is often an overarching sense of loss and loneliness present in the book, a sense that life may be a waste of time without any real meaning. However, there are also rare glimpses of wry humour and, through the character Jed Hill, the reader sees hope.

A book that makes a strong statement against war and the detrimental impact it has on war veterans and perhaps the world in general, it also offers grace and understanding to all those involved. But perhaps, it also offers these gifts to everybody, encouraging patience and kindness to those we come in contact with.

And what makes Nemesis Train a rare treasure is the fact that the surprise ending not only helps everything fall into place for the reader, it makes you want to go back to the platform and board the train all over again with your newfound piece of puzzle.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The first review

by Karen Collum

Nemesis Train is a complex, multi-faceted and understated novel by Australian author, Nathan Brown. It enters the territory of literary fiction, yet still retains an authenticity that would appeal en masse. Quirky, left of centre and at times almost random, Nemesis Train teeters on the edge; there were moments when I was close to abandoning my journey with the wanderer, the clerk, the veteran, the musician, the child, the driver and Jed. The intricacy of the characters and their seemingly unrelatedness took me into the realms of frustration; the descriptions of the mundane left me puzzled and at times, unfulfilled; but it also kept me reading to the very end.

The literary devices Nathan employs are well suited to the atmosphere he creates. A variation in point of view is refreshing. The intimate and relaxed first person interludes provided a sense of relief and allowed my mind to rest momentarily before I was immersed once again into the detached, unemotional, observer third-person mode he does so well. There are some playful word choices—gems hidden among the ordinariness of the lives portrayed—that are still resounding with me long after the last page was read. The sparsely placed repetitive phrases helped me maintain a sense of continuity, even though I had no idea where I was headed for the vast majority of the book.

Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of Nemesis Train is Nathan’s dignified treatment of the major theme—that of wanting to make a difference in the world. There are some humorous moments in Jed’s noble quest to change the world, and we are reminded that not everyone needs or indeed wants to be rescued. There is no preaching, no induction of guilt. And it is clear that there is no magic bullet.

The crowning glory of Nemesis Train is the ending. After ploughing through the quagmire of intricate details of unexceptional characters, the ending for me was a masterpiece. It was truly unexpected. That in itself is remarkable. True to form, Nathan manages to weave the subtle threads into a recognisable portrait that is profound because of its simplicity. There are no bells and whistles, no neat bow tied around an awkward situation. Just an acknowledgement of the way life is.

Nemesis Train is not an easy read. I didn’t totally abandon myself or throw caution to the wind. It was, however, a refreshing and intelligent one that required commitment, intentional thought and a dose of perseverance. But my effort was more than rewarded. It really is worth a read—and for me, even a re-read.

For more, see a more personal review at The Unutterable Phrase.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It exists

After more than 10 years with this book as a work-in-progress (I might tell some of that story another time), it exists.

We had an "opening ceremony" yesterday afternoon—opening the boxes, that is—and there it was.

It was a moment of celebration—and self-doubt.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The back cover blurb

Tragedy often happens, unnoticed and unexplained, within seemingly-ordinary city life. Add a day of frustrations to a lifetime of guilt—and so much might be lost in one despairing act.

But there are also people like Jed Hill, a university student with a burden to “change the world,” although not sure what that might mean. Yet his ill-conceived attempts at “making a difference” move toward an unexpected encounter that will change more than one life.

Nemesis Train is a web of characters and events, in which ordinary moments can lead to dramatically different possibilities.