Perfect North is flying high!

It's still a lovely surprise to see coverage of Perfect North. This month it's in Australian Way magazine, the in-flight magazine on all national and international Qantas flights. So Perfect North is being introduced to the world!

Here's how it looks:

And here's the stand at Melbourne Airport:

The book editing process: Toughen up, princess...

Yesterday I received the telephone call that I had been both longing for and dreading over the last three months – the one from my publisher revealing her thoughts about my second novel, The President’s Lunch.

Delivering the manuscript for this book was difficult. For the year it had taken me to complete the manuscript I had immersed myself in the world of 1930s and 1940s Washington DC. I had travelled to the USA and traced the footsteps of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his family and colleagues.

Farewelling the characters I had grown to admire and love was trying, but I believed the completed package was fantastic. So I waited in nervous anticipation to hear the opinion of my publisher. She will love it, I told myself. It is perfect!

When the call finally came at 2.10pm yesterday I was deflated. As she outlined the few points that troubled her about the novel, elements that needed some work, my heart sank and tears welled in my eyes.

“Can’t you see that is the only way to end the story?” I howled internally.

“Why do I need to work on that character? She is brilliant as she is,” I thought.

Once my publisher had summarised the negatives she went on to say that the book was stunning and that she had adored reading it, that what I had achieved was amazing. But of course I didn’t hear this. My inner wails of protest drowned out her words of praise.

Now I have had time to sleep on her comments and have perused the structural edit I realise many of the points are truly valuable and I’ll take them on board. Similarly, many of the cuts that have been suggested are ones I will probably go through with, however harrowing this might be.

This is the editing process, I suppose, and it's a team effort. It is no reflection on me as a writer. Publishers and editors are attempting to balance my work with what readers want and with what will actually sell.

But as an author this is a very challenging part of the process, when people that have created amazing books for decades tell you what is wrong with your own. It’s not easy, but hopefully my skin will grow thicker over time.

Media coverage - the good and the bad

I was told quite a while ago that you've not really made it as an author until you receive your first bad review. Well it took a little while, but as of this weekend I have finally made it!

Reviews of Perfect North so far have been overwhelmingly positive. But this weekend a reviewer in Spectrum, in a very short piece that really just summarised the book's plot, ended by saying that the story was intriguing but the writing was "wooden and pedestrian". I must admit that when I first read those words I was quite hurt. But not everybody is going to enjoy the style of every book, I reminded myself.

Then I read all of the other reviews and stories that also released this weekend (see below) and my mind was once again put at ease.

A novel is an artwork, no matter who writes it. It is an enormous undertaking that requires much energy and emotion and if it is published then that indicates that it is of great value to at least a segment of the reading public. But as with any artwork, it will also draw negative criticism. All you can do, I guess, is hope that most coverage is positive, as it has been for Perfect North.

Bond's debut novel, Perfect North, has been described as ''strikingly original''. It's a book that is essentially a work of the imagination but one anchored in fact. It takes the expedition, draws out the characters, and presents a work that's both fascinating in its detail and intriguing in its storyline.
The Canberra Times
See full story
To a list of accomplished debuts by Australian novelists this year, we can add Jenny Bond's recounting of public events and fictionalising of private ones in Perfect North.
Sydney Morning Herald / The Canberra Times
See full review
Books that changed me: Jenny Bond
The Sun-Herald
See full story

Perfect North review from the Swedish Ambassador to Australia

Several weeks ago, on the launch day of Perfect North, I was honoured to be invited to morning tea with Mr Sven-Olof Petersson, the Swedish ambassador to Australia (there's a pic of he and I below).
Mr Petersson recently finished reading Perfect North and came back to me with this email:
"Dear Jenny,
Invited to Christchurch by the Kiwi government last week I brought your book. I must confess that it was hard to let go of it once I started reading. I understand completely why your publishing house asked to have a second book written by you.
Of course it was good fun to read about Stockholm and the streets I walked so many times. But what I see as your greatness as a writer Jenny, and what I loved so much in your book, is your ability to describe so well the different characters in the story with complicated, deep and wonderful personalities. As human beings are, they're full of untold feelings and always – as with all of us – have frequent second thoughts!
Thanks for a wonderful book. I would love to see it translated into Swedish!
Kind regards,
I'm humbled and thrilled by the opinion of a person who is not only so well-read, but who also knows so intimately the city that sets the scene for much of Perfect North!

Abbey's Bookshop review of Perfect North

"ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK - This assured and compelling debut novel is based on real events. In 1897 at the height of the rush to reach the North Pole, a Swedish expedition set out to conquer the distance - by hot air balloon. One of the members was a young man related to August Strindberg, part of an accomplished and talented family, and engaged to Anna. When the expedition disappears, and as nothing is heard from them, she too vanishes.

Decades later, the remains of the balloon are found on a remote island, and the newspaper which originally sponsored the attempt sends a journalist, Kurt [sic] Stubbendorff, to the scene. There he finds the body of Nils Strindberg, and a cache of love letters. Moved by their contents, he decides to track down Anna and return them to her. But Anna had her reasons for disappearing, and as Kurt discovers, sometimes secrets need to be kept…

I found this to be a wonderful read, with an interesting narrative structure, psychologically rounded characters and passages of quite beautiful writing. Very satisfying, and very much recommended!"
See review

Perfect North has a German publisher!

We're very excited to announce that German publisher DuMont Buchverlag has, after a small bidding war, purchased the German-language translation rights to Perfect North.
This means the book now begins its international journey that we had so hoped for.
Representatives of Hachette Australia also took Perfect North to the Frankfurt Book Fair this week to speak with other international publishers, so we'll keep you updated with any news.

Perfect North reviews are in!

Awaiting media reviews after a book's launch can be a stressful time. Wondering whether reviews will come through at all and, if they do, whether they'll be positive or not can feel a little bit like holding one's breath!

Fortunately my concerns have been put to rest with a series of very positive readings of Perfect North, including the following...


"This book is so unassuming it could easily slide under the radar of the entire book world. I am telling you now not to miss it ... Perfect North is beautifully told, and I picked it up after being informed it would appeal to those who liked Burial Rites. There are atmospheric similarities, particularly in the fact that some things can most certainly not be undone and must therefore be lived with and each situation made the most of. I loved this book, and it is a privilege to read such great quality work. I'm looking forward to Jenny Bond's next book, The President's Lunch. What will it be like?"
Mercey Valley


"I have been looking for a new author whose work I can fall in love with. I like the idea of supporting an Australian author but was not overly interested in specifically Australian stories. This book hit the mark in every way possible. It's a beautiful piece of writing but not too highbrow. The story, set in Sweden as well as smaller parts in the UK and USA, is one of adventure, love, loss and mystery - but I won't give away any of its several twists. Actually, the true part of the story is fascinating, but the entire novel is an unbelievably intricate and well-planned tale."


"It was absolutely thrilling. I genuinely thought the manuscript of Perfect North would never see the light of day but to have three publishers enthusiastic about my story … I was absolutely floored."
Culture Street


"Perfect North is a fictional account of one doomed expedition to the North Pole in 1897. Three Swedish adventurers set off for the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon but never returned. When their remains are discovered decades later, a young journalist sent to report on the tragedy discovers a journal of one explorer, filled with love letters to his fiancée. Perfect North is Jenny’s first novel, but the manuscript scored her a two-book deal with Hachette. Her second novel will be published in 2014 and she is currently working on her third."
Writing Bar

Canberra Weekly

Launch day

It's a long road from beginning the writing of a novel to seeing it on the shelves. I sat down to write the first paragraph of Perfect North (which, at the time, I had titled 'The Ice Balloon') three and a half years ago. Today it hit bookstores and Big W outlets in Australia and New Zealand and I couldn't be happier. In the next few weeks my publishers take Perfect North to the Frankfurt Book Fair to begin selling it in other territories around the globe.

As the narrative is so heavily wrapped around a true story that is a part of Sweden's history, today my husband and I were invited to the Swedish Embassy in Canberra for morning tea with Ambassador Sven-Olof Petersson and his staff. Here's a picture of me with the very charming (and very tall) Ambassador.

We had a fascinating chat about the story of the tragic balloon voyage that acts as the engine room for the Perfect North narrative. The details of the expedition are still taught in some schools as part of their history curriculum, the embassy staff told us. And the Strindberg family still looms large in the social circles of Stockholm.

It was wonderful to see the factual parts of my novel through a different prism, through the eyes of people that represent the story's country of origin.

The embassy staff were thrilled about the idea of reading the novel and promised to tell me what they think of it. I'll keep you posted on their feedback.

The writing process (or mine, at least...)

The most common question I’m asked about writing books concerns my process. This question always throws me because, to be honest, I don’t think of what I do in terms of a process. The terms implies an order, a system, a precise and methodical journey that is embarked upon each time I write a novel.

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote for only five hours each day. Beginning at five-thirty in the morning he would toil at his typewriter until ten-thirty, when he would allow himself to begin drinking. But he would never take alcohol after dinner as this would impede his ability to begin again, bright and early the next morning.

Having two young children I cannot be as regimented as Hemingway, nor can I drink as much. I’m at my desk three days a week when the boys are in school and at childcare. On those days for the six hours I’m sitting at my computer I write with a single-minded obsession. Similarly, when they boys are in the bath, out with their father or watching television, I scramble to my office and continue.

Even if my domestic responsibilities only allow me fifteen minutes I always manage to get something onto the page. My working time is extremely precious and I don’t want to waste a second. I cannot afford the luxury of writers’ block. I simply write as much as I can in the time that I have.

Occasionally what I have written is gold. When I read it I can’t believe I was the author. More often what lies on the page requires work, then lots more work, to make the words shine. That’s when I begin the task of refining and polishing. This involves going over the scene numerous times, cutting and rearranging as I seek original language and imagery. This can take many days, months even, until I’m completely satisfied.

Sometimes I find it helpful to leave a scene that’s causing me trouble for a few days as I continue with the main story. Following the hiatus I come back to the section with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what a brief separation can achieve. The words begin to flow and the descriptions that previously seemed so distant are suddenly at my fingertips.

This is the way I work. This is my process.

Perfect North's first review!

"Our age is one of moral ambiguity and self-obsession. We should take time out to recognise that we have lost some of the commitment and dignity of this bygone age and try to empathise with the melancholy hearts behind the passion of our lead characters. I personally love the romance at the heart of this book. Not just the romance of love but the romance of adventure, of time and place. The romance of a golden age when all things were possible and dreams could come true. This is an elegant piece of debut writing. Jenny Bond sings a sad song but with a beautiful melody and a story well told."

Perfect North - "A strikingly original and beautiful debut novel"

A strikingly original and beautiful debut novel that weaves together truth and fiction to tell a story of love, adventure and longing.

Prior to the 20th century, over one thousand explorers had tried to reach the North Pole but only three men ever attempted the exploit in a hydrogen balloon. Swedish scientists S. A. Andrée, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel set off in 1897. The journey ended in tragedy, and it seemed the world would never know how or where they met their deaths.

That was until August 1930, when a Norwegian scientific expedition discovered the bodies of two men and the remnants of the explorers’ final camp on a small island in the Arctic Ocean. The news made headlines around the world. A few weeks later a brash young journalist, Knut Stubbendorff, was sent to cover the story and he uncovered a third body among the scientific logs and debris. He also found journals filled with passionate love letters from Nils Strindberg to his beloved fiancée waiting in Stockholm, Anna Charlier.

Wanting to know more about the man who left his love to embark on a journey that was so clearly doomed, Stubbendorff was determined to find Anna Charlier, never considering that she might not want to be found.

In a search that reveals lost loves, deceit and long-buried secrets, Stubbendorff discovers the story that had been hidden for decades, and the people who had been concealing it.