bec2012_TNBec Stafford interviews Alison and Nicholas Lochel, authors of the Fyrelit Tragedy.




locehl_zakoraZarkora, Book 1 of your Fyrelit Tragedy, is a huge hit with readers (and you have books 2, 3, & 4 set for release from this November through to October of 2016). Can you tell us about the series and how you first developed your wonderful characters, Neleik, Ervine, and Skye?

Zarkora is the tale of two orphaned brothers on an epic quest to save their little sister after she is kidnapped by a mysterious stranger. The brothers swiftly gain the companionship of a half-giant, a runaway princess and a mysterious hermit, who help them in their quest.

But in the process of tracking down the kidnapper, the farm boys discover a huge secret their late parents had been keeping. It’s a fast paced, four-book fantasy series that would appeal to fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Deltora Quest.

We grew up very close with our two brothers, and our bond was really the inspiration behind the Zarkora books. The characters Neleik, Ervine, Skye were loosely based on us and Justin, our larrikin of a brother. Our older brother Chris inspired the character of T’shink. Over the years, we developed the characters further to better suit the story, but there’s certainly hints of us in them.

Lochel-profileHow fantastic to be able to write as a brother/sister team! When did you first develop your love for writing and when did you realise you’d make a good writing duo? What are the best and also the most challenging aspects of writing with a sibling?

Nicholas – While I was still in high school, I was studying Stage and Screen Acting. I learnt a lot about the structure of a story, character development and script writing. When I graduated, I moved to Sydney with the seed of an idea for Zarkora, and started writing it as a movie script.

But when I moved back to Brisbane in 2006, I found Alison a huge bookworm and writing short stories. We loved the same sorts of books, movies and games, so I pitched her the basic idea for Zarkora and we started developing it as a series of novels. It took us roughly 6 years to plot out the four books and finish the first book in the series, The Fyrelit Tragedy. We’ve always got along really well, but I think it’s really just our shared love of stories that makes us a good writing team.

Alison – The best aspect of writing with a sibling is you always have someone to discuss the story with. We find it’s easier to create and problem solve when you’re voicing ideas and issues out loud. The most challenging aspect would be when we disagree on something. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can be a little frustrating. But like any good working relationship, we talk it out and come to a mutual agreement. We’ve been writing together for 10 years now, and we certainly don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

locehl-zakora 2Who are your creative heroes and what are you both reading at the moment?

Nicholas – We have heaps of authors we look up to, but my creative heroes would have to be J.K. Rowling, Emily Rodda and Roderick Gordon. I am currently reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Helix & the Arrival by Damean Posner and illustrated by our mate, Jules Faber.

Alison – I absolutely love J.K. Rowling, Emily Rodda and Isobelle Carmody (I’m dying to read The Red Queen, the final book in the Obernewtyn series). I recently finished Jinx by Sage Blackwood and Star of Deltora by Emily Rodda, and am currently reading The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Which of your fictional characters Burns Brightest in your mind and why?

Nicholas – I love all of our characters, but it’s T’shink, the mysterious warrior-hermit in our story who burns brightest in my mind. He’s the strong, silent type, but he is also a very complex character.

Alison – I’d have to say Devyn, the main dragon in the story. I’ve always loved dragons, but I have a real soft spot for Devyn. He is a rebellious and savage character a lot of the time, but always comes through for the companions when it truly counts.



Nicholas Lochel grew up in Brisbane, Australia, along with his two brothers and sister, Alison, with whom he is co-writing the ZARKORA series. It was the close bond he shared with his siblings that first inspired the story. He has held a wide variety of jobs over the years, including work as an actor, a bartender and a postie, but his love for stories, and the pursuit of a career as an author, has remained constant throughout. He devotes most of his time to writing, and when he is not seen with a pen and paper or a good book, he can usually be found riding his Triumph motorcycle about town or on some grand adventure.

Alison Lochel, for as long as she can remember, aspired to be an author. At the age of fourteen, she began writing the first book in the ZARKORA series, THE FYRELIT TRAGEDY, along with her brother, Nicholas. Her passion for writing continues to this day as the four-book series nears its completion. She has a cupboard full of dragons, and has been known to read for long periods of time – so long, in fact, that she is often coated by a thin layer of dust. Achoo!




A lone person on an iceberg with a huge ship looming above. It’s icy and cold looking. The title is in bold with colouration that makes it look a little like dirty snow. I have a hard cover copy and the book underneath the dust jacket is black, the title on the spine is in silver foil. Pretty special.


Though we know there is a fully comprehensive crew on board the Oyster, there is a central cast of maybe 12 characters.


I do like Mr Smoke and Mrs Slink. They’re smart, sassy, and protective of Petrel.

Least Favourite

Dolph. The girl has issues.


The Oyster is divided into 3 tribes, and considering everyone lives on an ice breaker ship, it seems somewhat idiotic for this to be the case. Petrel (otherwise known as the ‘Nothing Girl’) is tribe-less, so is ignored by a good proportion of the crew. So when Petrel notices a figure on an iceberg, she is indirectly involved with his rescue.


A strange mania takes over the crew when their captain is murdered. The easiest thing is to blame the stranger.


Not what I was expecting, and yet it pleased me.


After so long on a ship (300 years), some of the concepts have me thinking back to biology class and the issues with inbreeding. There seems to always be mention of babies, but none of the female crew was pregnant as far as we’re told and if the tribes aren’t supposed to co-mingle… yeah, I don’t need to complete that thought.

There is a sneak peek at book 2, Sunker’s Deep, in the back and because I don’t know if I want to read on, so I’m avoiding it.


“Snow falls from the sky,” said Krill, scowling, “and ice, and even a bird on occasion. But a boy?” He shook his head. “No, there’s another explanation somewhere, and it’s got me worried. According to the old stories, there’s nothing north of here but madness. So what if that’s where he comes from? Eh?” He walked to the door, then turned and glared at Petrel. “What if he comes from somewhere north? And what if he’s brought a bit of that madness with him?” ~Krill planting a seed of doubt in Petrel’s mind.


tanner-ice breaker 2Krista:


I think the cover fits the book because it is about about a large boat. But the title did confuse me a little bit. The cover is very attention grabbing and a great visual description of the story.


So many characters! But as the story follows Petrel she is the focus and the most rounded character. There is Petrel and Fin who are both on their own missions. Petrel makes one friend aboard the ship Squid. She also has two Imp companions and their many rat followers. Then it extends to the other members of the crew and boat itself.


Mr Smoke and Mrs Slink. I have to agree with Belinda on this one; they added so much humor and fun to the story. I have to say that I loved Petrel too; she is very brave.

Least Favourite

Dolph is a pretty nasty character. She does have reasons to be upset and angry but I think her character overall becomes more of a villain in this story line.


Petrel is introduced to us as being the only person on the boat that does not belong to one of the tribes. Her parents were considered traitors and now she is an orphan and she plays more of a stowaway role on the story as none of the tribes will take her in. She has to sneak around, steal food, and stay out of the way or risk the possibility of being thrown overboard. One day she is watching the icebergs and notices a boy on the ice. She makes some of the adults on board aware of him, and they decide to bring him aboard, completely causing uproar among all of the boat’s residents.


A stranger on board is against all reasoning and is a bad omen. When the captain turns up dead, the stranger is blamed and a search party and war-like state takes hold of the boat. Petrel decides to rescue the boy, she knows he is innocent. With the help of her friends she must warn the residents of danger and save them all from destruction.


The ending was perfect, pulling the whole story together. It also leaves open possibilities for continuing the stories of these characters.


I did not read anything about the book before going into it, not even the back cover, but I really enjoyed it. In a way, it sort of reminded me of Maria V Snyder’s Inside Out duology (which I loved) It is a great story for young readers and teens. Strong characters and engaging plot.

“Petrel leaned on the rail, watching the ice cave and stamping her feet for warmth. The berg came closer. That’s when she saw him. Laid out on the ice like a dead fish, with a scattering of snow covering his face. A boy, where there should have been nothing but the memory of winter. A frozen boy.’




The cover has a girl against the backdrop of a dark sky, a rat on each of her shoulders. A ship navigating through a glacier studded sea is in the foreground. The title is in a font reminiscent of cogs. It works well to give the book the feel of middle-grade fantasy with highlights on the things that are important to the story.



There are three tribes in Ice Breaker, and neither of the two main characters belong to any of them. Petrel has been an outcast on her ship for as long as she can remember and Fin is new to the ship, the Oyster, having been found half-frozen on a glacier.



Petrel. She’s tough and can survive almost anything. Despite the life she’s led, she’s also kind and able to empathise with people – even the ones who have hurt her.


Least Favourite

I couldn’t pick anyone. I wasn’t fond of Fin at the beginning but as you get to know where he came from and what he’s been through, he grows on you.



It’s an ordinary day for Petrel. Just as she finds a warm enough place to sleep the ship’s children are chasing her off again. To get away she heads out into the frigid cold of the deck, and finds a boy half-frozen on a glacier.



For years the ship has been divided into three factions – all at war with one another. Now, for the first time, they realise that they might all have a greater common enemy.



Ice Breaker has a satisfying, tidy ending. I’m looking forward to the sequel, but there’s no nasty cliff-hanger here.



I devoured this book. From beginning to end, I was hooked. I love the way that Lian Tanner melds real-world ethics to her fantasy without turning her novels into morality stories. Her books are technically for a younger readership but she doesn’t shy away from harsh realities or speak down to her readers; making these novels compelling for people of any age. There’s a psychological depth to Ice Breaker that many YA and adult novels lack. The imagination behind her fantasy worlds never fails to stun me either.


‘And with that she was gone, leaving the boy shocked beyond belief. She had given him a name! She had forced a name on him, when he had neither earned it nor wanted it!’



Familiarity breeds contempt, Do you think it would it be possible for people to stay in such close proximity for 300 years and not all die from our own stupidity?

The theme of theology versus technology is not a new one. Given that current technological trends are fast destroying the planet is it naive to show technology as being something flawless that should be whole-heartedly embraced?

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published August 18th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends (first published November 1st 2013)

ISBN 1250052165 (ISBN13: 9781250052162)


The girls share all the goodies that were in their Hachette grab bags at the Holly Black event in Sydney.

Natasha Obrien-HA, B, C, D, LGBTQ+

Writer, comedienne, career lesbian and blogger. You can find most of Tash’s thoughts at


LGBTQ-abcdSo what’s in a name anyway? Well when we are talking about LGBTQ+ labels, a lot can be in a name. LGBTQ+ individuals use many different LGBTQ+ labels to self identify. A lot of self exploration goes into adopting a LGBTQ+ label. These labels are very rooted in identity and identity politics. So it’s very important to queer people that they are addressed with the right labels. Here is a quick reference list to help you get familiar with some of the most commonly used LGBTQ+ labels. 


Gay: A person who is attracted primarily to members of the same sex. Although it can be used for any sex, it is primarily used to refer to males who are attracted to other males 


Lesbian: A female who is attracted to other women.


Bisexual: A person who is attracted to both persons of both sexes. 


Transgender: Is an umbrella term used to identify persons who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth (CIS gender) or the binary gender system, for example, a person born biologically male who feels they are in fact female. Many transgendered people do not identify with the male-female gender binary. Rather, they feel they exist outside it or in between. Persons with this perspective can also overlap with GENDERQUEER.


Genderqueer: Genderqueer persons possess identities which reject the traditional male-female sexual binary. They do not feel they are either male or female, but rather a blend of the two or a third neutral gender. These persons may also identify as ADROGYNOUS 


Androgynous: Having an appearance that is gender neutral that posses characteristics of both sexes. 


Pansexual: A person who is attracted to persons of all gender identities and expressions. Including Trans and Genderqueer persons.


Queer: Is a general umbrella term used to refer to ANYONE from the LGBTQ+ community. If you are ever in doubt on what label to use to refer to someone you can always use this term.


So there you have it: a quick list of LGBTQ+ definitions. Remember, it’s always best practice to ask someone how they identify rather then assuming their sexuality and gender based on their appearance. When it comes to labels, it’s all about SELF identification. So let’s always honour how our friends choose to identify. 


Best xx



Photo cred. IG @imsteph @promotelovemovement #promoteLove

smythe_Way Down Dark cover imageBefore you open the cover of Way Down Dark, book 1 in a new YA Trilogy by UK author JP Smythe, I advise strapping yourself in tight and preparing for a bumpy, bloody, breathtaking ride.

This dark dystopian story is set aboard a spaceship called Australia. Australia, we are told, is one of many ships that was hastily built, loaded with people and dispatched into space hundreds of years ago. Earth was dying you see, and the ships were sent out in search of a new home for the human race. Only, they’re still searching. Well, Australia is anyway.

Life on Australia is far from idyllic. The book’s dramatic beginning, which is when we meet our central protagonist 17 year-old Chan, ensures there is absolutely no confusion about that. An assortment of gangs and cults reign over the various sections of the ship and the barbaric Lows, who are willing to slaughter anyone in their path, are leading a push towards absolute control.

The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it Chan must head way down into the   darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.

Wow. I was on board Australia with Chan and her story from the very first. The ship, with its hulking size and crude multi-level structure, is so artfully depicted I could see the rough curtain-drawn berths that line every floor and I could smell the hideous stench of the deep dark pit down below.

And Chan’s quest to find meaning within this impossibly bleak existence – to make a difference – pulled me along at breakneck speed all the way to the book’s new dawn conclusion (this is only book 1 of 3 remember).

I have to say Chan is one seriously tough female protagonist. I love the idea that girls who are about her age might read this book and gain something from the character’s fierce independence, her unwavering strength, and her always compassionate heart. And the absence of any real romance thread in the story is a positive. The book is stronger and fresher because of this.

In Way Down Dark, JP Smythe has crafted a Trilogy opening that offers dystopian YA readers something very different to the usual. The book is pretty violent but it also has a strong humanitarian message that gives the story real heart. I found it compelling.

Last year American author Veronica Roth’s hugely successful YA fantasy novel Divergent made a successful leap from the page to cinema screens. Well, Way Down Dark looks to be on its way to becoming a movie too. reports that Studio 8 has just optioned the novel.


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