Mud And Glass

I found it. You can stop looking now. I found the perfect novel for a long weekend. It didn’t hurt that I spent Melbourne Cup weekend chilling on the banks of the Murray River, gazing across the watery border to New South Wales and pondering how I was facing south (the river is rather loopy just there, it turns out). In short, it was the perfect opportunity to devour a good book, and Mud and Glass had me hooked from the first tentative nibble.

When I think of an ‘adventure story’, I remember (with much fondness) a range of middle-grade books featuring motley crews of characters each intent on solving The Mystery and proving themselves worthy of the respect of their peers. Members of the Scooby-gang, students at Hogwarts, the expedition party of dwarves, hobbit and wizard that decided to steal treasure from a dragon and found a ring along the way – all these stories were built around the foundational concept of adventure. And yet we keep restricting this word (even if only subconsciously) to middle-grade fiction. What a waste!  Time for us all to embrace the concept again, and I heartily recommend Mud and Glass as the place to start. Let me sum up why:

  • Helicopter chases
  • Secret passageways
  • A lost ancient manuscript. Not just a manuscript, a codex
  • A gang of elderly troublemakers
  • Hidden research
  • Stolen research
  • Faked research
  • A swamp, a cliff and a shifting river
  • Nearly magical cookies
  • Evil bureaucrats
  • Disillusioned drama students
  • Sentient mould
  • Student ninjas.

Need I say more? Mud and Glass is cleverly written, witty, almost completely angst-free and is specifically designed to remind you that no matter what age you are, you are more than just the sidekick to someone else’s adventures. So have a read, have a cookie, and then go out and have an adventure.

PS. You may wish to start by checking which way is north. The Murray will trick you otherwise. Seriously, geography is everything.

 In Laura’s new novel, Mud and Glass, life is straightforward for Dr. Celeste Carlucci, a professor at Krasnia’s finest university. She wants tenure. She wants to know why the Purple River delta disappears as fast as the river can create it. And she wants to maintain her problematic friendship with her colleague, the feisty and infamous Dr. Hypatia “Pace” Garoux. Straightforward, that is, until Pace involves Celeste in her research. Before she knows it, Celeste is being shot at from a hovering helicopter, knifed in an abduction attempt, attacked on a moonlit mountain path, and followed by shadowy minions — all because she and Pace are on the trail of the Littoral Codex, an ancient and indecipherable book, and the key to understanding it: a set of glass tablets, long thought lost, that can reveal the book’s hidden text. The race is on between Celeste and a collection of odd and alarming foes to bring the book and the tablets together at last! Mud and Glass combines riotous adventure, a fond satire of academic life, and a stirring manifesto of resistance against a nascent totalitarian regime.

Biography – Laura E Goodin

American-born writer Laura E. Goodin decided at seven years old to be a writer. She grew up in the unexpectedly rural Sussex County, New Jersey, where the relative lack of opportunities was balanced by the benefits of living among deep, dark woods, ancient mountains, clean, rushing rivers, and an abundance of wildlife, all of which fed her young writer’s soul.

Over the decades, she’s worked as a reporter, editor, technical writer, media manager, web-content developer, writing teacher, and freelance writer, but it was only as she entered her 40s that she determined to return to her childhood dream of writing stories that would amaze and entertain. She was transmuted in the crucible of the 2007 Clarion South Workshop, and went on to gain a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.

Her first two novels, After the Bloodwood Staff and Mud and Glass, have been published by Odyssey Books. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Daily Science FictionAndromeda Spaceways Inflight MagazineReview of Australian FictionAdbustersWet Ink, and The Lifted Brow, among others, and in several anthologies. Her plays and libretti have been performed on three continents, and her poetry has been performed internationally, both as spoken word and as texts for new musical compositions. She currently teaches writing at various tertiary institutions.

She lives in Melbourne with her husband, composer Houston Dunleavy, and spends what little spare time she has in trying to be as much like Xena, Warrior Princess as possible. (This includes horseback riding, fencing, martial arts, camping, and picking up useful skills of all kinds wherever possible.)

 

An Interview With Laura 

“One of the beautifully steampunky bells in our tower”

Your author bio is great, but let’s dig a little deeper. After all, what are blog posts for, if not to blab all your secrets across the internet? How about we play this little game.

What/who/where was the most recent:

 

  • Book you read  

I’m currently working my way through about a half-dozen books:  several by fellow Odyssey authors, as I have resolved to read more from amongst my own clan, and they’re all very enjoyable; a history of Oxford University; a collection of Sherlock Holmes faux scholarship (you know, the ones where everyone pretends the characters were actually real, historical people); The Female Detective, a book published in 1864 that details the crime-fighting exploits of the unnamed title character (yes!  1864!) – if I were to run down all my books-in-progress, let ALONE the towering Mount TBR, we’d be here all day.

 

  • Film/show you watched

I don’t go to movies very often (I didn’t even get to the theatres in time to see Wonder Woman, which grieves me), and I don’t watch much television, so I’ll just mention the two shows I will always watch whenever possible:  any of the Michael Portillo train-journey shows and Yonderland, the best television show ever made ever ever ever.  It’s not being aired anymore, and those of us who love it wept when it stopped after three glorious seasons and a Christmas special, but you can get it on DVD.  We don’t have Netflix, but maybe it’s also available through them.  I also here declare a weakness for the English Antiques Roadshow (the American one isn’t anywhere near as full of eccentric people), and a persistent fondness for the Giles and Sue food-history shows (Supersizers Eat… and Supersizers Go…).

 

  • Skill you learned

Ah, you knew before you asked me what the answer would be!  I have recently become an obsessive, maniacal bellringer.  As in the big bells in church towers that are rung in mathematical patterns.  It’s incredibly intense, exhilarating, and demanding – and much, much harder than it looks.  I love the wild, roaring power and magic of the bells:  a magic that emerges out of the communication between me, the forces of physics, and the massive bells themselves.  (I’m happy to tell anyone who contacts me more about bellringing.)

 

  • Food you cooked/baked

I cook often and (if I may say so myself) well.  Yesterday was bellringing practice, so I did up a batch of coconut shortbread (surprisingly, even though it’s a vegan recipe, they’re delicious in their own right) to share with my ringing buddies.  Now I’m about to go set some chicken stock to cooking (the ludicrously trendy term “bone broth” makes me laugh in derision:  it’s SOUP, people, and it’s been a staple of human civilization for thousands of years).  I’ll add veggies and a bunch of French green lentils (my favorite kind) and make some cheese biscuits (American-style biscuits, closer to scones than anything else), and there will be a cheap, delicious dinner.  EDIT:  The cheese biscuits ended up being sour cherry, cheese, and almond biscuits.  And the soup ended up so thick you could justifiably call it stew.

 

  • Person you hugged

My beloved husband, Houston.

 

  • Money you spent on yourself as an indulgence

I got myself a large Cadbury chocolate bar.  (Life’s about valuing the small things.)

 

  • Gift you gave someone

My husband and I gave our daughter a birthday present of a bottle of wine and some organic chocolate.  I think that was the most recent one.  Before that, I sent a friend a DVD of the movie Bill (from the Horrible Histories mob, who are also the fine folks who gave us Yonderland).

 

  • Charity or local business you supported

I do a lot of my shopping locally.  I think it was probably the local IGA  Interestingly, I was doing some research for a radio play I was pitching, and I found out in the course of that research that while this particular market is now an IGA, which is sort of independent and sort of not, it started out as an independent market more than 100 years ago.  I’m happy to pay a few cents more for things so that I can support them and not one of the megamarkets.  And sometimes their stuff is actually cheaper!

 

  • Hobby or sport you took part in

I have no hobbies:  I just have an endless carousel of ferocious passions that devour my days, nights, soul, and money.  I had a bellringing practice last night (which, luckily, is not one of the expensive passions), and I fenced today (which is expensive, except that I haven’t bought any new gear in years and also I have this deal where I help teach the beginners in return for being able to fence for free).

 

  • Funny experience you had

Hm.  I’m trying to remember.  I live in a house where lots of funny things are said, but I don’t tend to do or witness many funny things being done.  And there are so many funny things said that I can’t possibly keep track of them all, so I don’t.  I’ll take notes next time and get back to you!

 

So now that we’ve managed to get all that personal stuff out of the way, tell me a bit about your book, and what first got you hooked on this story idea.

Mud and Glass started out as a NaNoWriMo novel.  A year or two earlier, I’d written a little just-for-fun story that I posted on my blog (here’s the link:  https://lauraegoodin.blogspot.com.au/2006/07/chapter-1-pit-and-pendulum.html).  I never did much with that little fragment, but I really loved the characters, and the academic milieu I was using as a setting, so I brought them with me into my NaNo attempt that year.  I did get my 50,000 words, and I did come back to the manuscript to finish and polish it.  It was a ton of fun to write in a “second world”, because I could make anything be true that I wanted to, and it didn’t have to match this world at all.  So I just went nuts and put everything I loved into it:  assertive women, heroic old people, secret passages, good cooking, research, books, and derring-do.

 

If you had the power to bring one of your characters to life, who would it be?

Somewhat to my own surprise, I think it would be one of my supporting characters, Drusy Kelso.  She’s old, and a bit physically frail, but completely badass in every other way, and absolutely brilliant.  A good, long conversation with her would be riveting.

 

Which character was the hardest to write, and why?

The main character, Celeste Carlucci, was the hardest, because she starts out very much in her best friend’s shadow, and I’ve never been an in-the-shadow kind of person, myself.  It was hard to make her smart and competent but not yet feeling in charge of her own life.  Of course, plenty of smart, competent people feel that they’re not in charge of their lives, but I always want to give them a good shake to get them to appreciate their wonderful selves, and it was difficult to keep Celeste in that powerless place so that she could find out her own value as her awareness grew through the course of the story.  Also, just in terms of technique, it’s hard to write a character who feels she’s powerless without making her irritatingly whiny, and I knew that would spell death for this story.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

Yeah, again, that would be Drusy Kelso. I put all the things I’d like to be, say, and do as I continue from middle age into old age in one character, and that was Drusy.

 

If you were able to choose an actor to play your protagonist, who would you pick and why?

True, honest fact:  I can hardly tell one famous actor from another.  Also, as a playwright, producer, and director I have a very keen respect for the expertise of directors.  When someone does you the honor of wanting to perform your work, you want to respect the new, exciting, and scary perspectives they bring to it.  It’s not always going to be exactly how you imagined it.  It could be far better, if you just keep your nose out of it.

 

Do you have any plans to write more stories based around this world/these characters?

Oh, yes!  I’m currently working on an interactive story based on one new freshman’s arrival at Purple Bay University, and there are lots of plans to build a university web site that will have lots of backstory and world-building (in a sort of Pottermore way, only without the really expensive animations and programming; sorry, Purple Bay University fans).  There will also be at least one sequel to the book.  My favorite kind of reading is series where each book is more or less self-contained, but each new story lets you enter back into a welcoming and familiar world.

 

If you could see one book (not necessarily one of your own) turned into a movie, which would you pick?

I have no shame.  I’ll say both of my own!  After the Bloodwood Staff has lots of potential for great cinematography, as it’s set in mainly in the Australian wilderness.  Mud and Glass has lots of action and a multitude of settings.  Both books have a fair bit of humor in them, and some characters that I think the actors would have a lot of fun with.  Producers, please don’t be shy.  Get in touch and we’ll talk!

Many thanks for your time, Laura. I look forward to visiting Purple Bay again soon. I do love a shifting (and possibly sentient) river, after all.

     

For more information and updates from Laura, please use the following links:
A Muddy, Glassy Interview with Laura E Goodin
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