Category Archives: new york limes best smelling author

Look ma! I’ve gone viral!

Remember when Australia had a Minister for Science? Ah, good times, good times. Well, back in those dizzy halcyon days in the distant past (about a month ago) I wrote an angry little letter to Teresa Gambaro. It was just before the election and I was feeling angry and confused about the state of politics in general, but particularly in regards to Gambaro, owing to the fact that she was my local member, an unabashed racist and a chronic snail mail spammer. I emailed it, tweeted it and posted it right here on my little corner of the interwebs. And then this happened:

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 9.15.41 AM

Over the next few days my little rant was shared, retweeted and ‘liked’ more than 10 000 times. I’d had a few posts get shared around before, like this complaint letter I wrote to QANTAS and this dating profile,  but never on this scale. Most amusingly, hundreds of people (including one of my literary heroes and chronic heartbreaker Marieke Hardy) retweeted my post directly at Gambaro. I had friends tell me they heard colleagues discussing it at work, overheard people talking about it in bars and, hilariously, it was printed and read out at the start of a local ALP volunteers meeting. The comments section quickly exploded into a rather chaotic clusterfuck of compliments and death threats, which I responded to here (scroll down to the bottom).

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 9.46.00 AM

Having thousands of people tell you that you are witty and insightful over the course of a couple of days does very strange things to the ego. Imagine if one day 2 000 strangers came up to you in the street and said “Can I just tell you that you are really attractive?” It would be flattering to the point of being unnerving.

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 9.33.43 AM

Vitriolic insults, unsurprisingly, have a profoundly converse affect. Imagine that in addition to those 2 000 compliments per day, you had around a dozen people approach you in the street, spit in your face and snarl “You make me sick and I hope you get hit by a bus and then the bus backs up over you just to be sure and then everyone on the bus gets out and shits all over your ugly, stupid carcass and then after you’re dead someone names a profoundly awful flesh eating disease after you and the disease in question immediately causes everyone you’ve ever loved to vomit blood until they die and they are all buried in a shallow grave that rabid dogs will gather round to ritually piss on!” Sure, you’ve just heard 2 000 compliments and you’re pretty buzzed about that, but damn, those dozen strangers REALLY HATE YOU.


“Uh-oh, looks like someone’s got a case of the Donellans!”

It was something of an emotional rollercoaster, to say the very least. And while it was a rush to have something I’d made become so popular, I certainly don’t think that popularity alone is inherent proof of value or quality. Some of my favourite writers and poets have never cracked the best-seller list, meanwhile Billy Ray Cyrus sold millions of copies of Achy-Breaky Heart (and don’t even get me started on his daughter).

The strangest thing about the whole experience of living the Gen Y dream of going viral was reflecting on the fact that a 400 word rant that took me half an hour to write, edit and post has now been read by far more people than either of my novels. Those two books collectively represent five years of sweat, sleeplessness, agonising over commas and cuts, grinding my teeth over characters and subplots, stressing over cover designs and marketing approaches, dozens of meetings with publishers and editors and one vaguely related trip to the hospital.


I’ve been working on my latest book, Killing Adonis, for 4 goddamn years now. That’s longer than I’ve ever kept a job or stayed in a relationship and longer than it took me to took get either of my degrees. I’ve written parts of it in Brisbane and Lisbon and Pnom Penh and Bogotá and Buenos Aires and New York. I’ve rewritten the ending five times. I’ve changed the title. I’ve added and removed characters and subplots. And at the end of all that, I have a roughly 85 000 word novel that will probably be read by about half as many people as my cantankerous little letter. Of course, the difference is that viral posts tend to buzz around the web like digital bees on blue meth for a couple of days and then die out, whereas books are absorbed more slowly, and are cherished and shared over a protracted period of time. So now I just have to hope and pray at least a few thousand people enjoy this collection of words that I have poured my heart, soul, brain, liver and appendix into, or at least hate it for all the right reasons.

The Next Big Thing

I was selected by my friend Rebecca Bloomer to be part of this blog chain called The Next Big Thing, where authors pick some of their friends and favourites to talk about upcoming works. Thanks to Rebecca for the nomination, I have in turn nominated Mandy Beaumont and Daniel Wynne.

1)   What is the working title of your next book?

‘Adonis Comma Coma’. Or possibly ‘The Hobbit Part III: The Official Film Adaptation’ (legal confirmation pending).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

"it was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times?!? You stupid monkey!"

“It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times?!? You stupid monkey!”

From my ideas factory, which is a facility I have in an underground bunker beneath an abandoned warehouse where I have a team of elves on laptops, monkeys on typewriters and vampires on tablets just pumping out ideas in exchange for biscuits and the odd human sacrifice. (Don’t worry, I just give them tinned Spam mixed with oil, the tears of exploited workers and ground up hundred dollar notes and tell them that it’s the corpse of Clive Palmer. They apparently can’t tell the difference.)

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It falls roughly under ‘dark comedy’, but it would rather fall gracefully into the wise embrace of ‘Booker prize winning literary fiction’ or daintily into the strong and burly arms of ‘supernatural erotic fiction.’

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Lauren-Ambrose-pilot

Lauren Ambrose partially inspired the main character, Freya, so I’d get her for starters. Then I’d probably have to have a lot of long, candlelit meetings discussing the finer points of the script. I’d probably get James Franco to play Jack and then just reanimate the corpse of Ronald Reagan to play Harland Vincetti, because as well being an actor he was also the forefather of the economic ideology that Vincetti uses to incrementally ruin everything.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s basically ‘Arrested Development’ meets ‘Six Feet Under’, but more psychotic and supernatural.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s signed to Pantera Press with an expected release date of September 2013. I had an agent but he wasn’t very useful so I ended up “donating” him to the ideas factory.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Roughly the amount of time it takes to watch all eight seasons of the acclaimed series ‘24′ a hundred times over.

24 - 2 24 - 3 24 - 4 24 - 5 24 s8 24s7cover  24-124_Season_6_poster x 100 =  time required to write a book. 

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

mry I think Scarlett Thomas does similar things in that she discusses lots of strange and disparate concepts through her characters and uses a plot to hang all those ideas together. I’ve been told the manuscript also has a few parallels to Murakami’s work as well. I’m heavily influenced by Japanese writers who don’t over explain everything. I like to credit the audience with a little intelligence.


9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A character in an anime film I saw years ago had this monologue talking about how we are all really three people: The person we see ourself as, the person others see us as, and the person we believe others to perceive us to be. Being a fiction author, that concept of perceived reality vs fantasy vs objective reality fascinated me.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Preliminary scientific research indicates that reading this or any of my other books alters the brain at a subatomic level allowing the reader to change the chemistry of their system at will. This alteration allows them abilities such as excreting pheromones that make them irrestible to their potential sexual partners as well as being capable of great feats of strength, super rad skateboard tricks and sweet guitar licks.



It’s here at last! TEN MILLION HUZZAHS!

Hello there citizens of internetland, I trust you are well. I have a heap of announcements that are so exciting that they really should be all IN CAPS but we all know that can be quite annoying so I’ll try and RESTRAIN MYSELF (whoops…) Zeb will see its full, really really real release (try saying that five times fast) in just a few days. Or a few dozen hours. Or a few thousand minutes. You get the idea. Great big squishy thanks to everyone who has already pre-ordered. You are the best.

 For those currently residing in Australia, you can grab it direct from the publisher HERE. This gets me slightly more money than buying it through other retailers, for those lovely people among you who actually care about your money going to the artist so that they can afford extravagant luxuries like rent, socks and copious quantities of two-minute noodles.


Residents of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Madagascar, the UK, the USA or anywhere else in the milky way, you can get it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. (Amusing sidenote: I once had a friend tell me her slightly eccentric mother had said of Amazon: “It’s so amazing that they can run the world’s largest bookstore from the middle of the jungle!”) UPDATE: Kindle version now available HERE.

Zeb is also available for ITUNES for just $4.99. Seriously, that’s (very very slightly) less than $5. Yes, that’s right, while you’re shopping for Justin Bieber singles or Colonel Claypool’s Bucketful of Bernie Brains albums or old episodes of Xena: The Warrior Princess you can also grab a copy of my book for your ipad.

A list of things that cost less than $5

For those of you who are broke because you spent all your pocket money on yu-gi-oh cards (let’s be honest, we’ve all been there) you should head HERE and see if you can win a copy for FREE (which happens to be my favourite price).



(179 Latrobe tce, Paddington)

September 21st, 5pm

Last but not the opposite of most, don’t forget the launch is next week at Black Cat books followed by a crazy, riotous after party at my house around the corner. Facebook event HERE. This will not be your ordinary launch, no siree Bob. There will be music, performances from some of the best poets in Brisbane, readings, some Qs and some As and all kinds of messy, crazy fun. Finally, here is a great video from one of my favourite people on why books are amazing. Thanks for reading. I hope your day is filled with guitar solos, fireworks and high fives.


Dearest Ministers of Education: please buy 2 million copies of Zeb and the Great Ruckus.

Dear Mr Langbroek (State Minister for Education) and Mrs Collins (Federal Minister for School Education),
I’m sure that your political parties are very busy dismantling essential health services and implementing draconian internet security protocols respectively. I would, however like to borrow a few moments of your valuable time to talk about an important issue, which is the dire lack of fictional texts featuring clockwork birds, obscure musical references, weaponised toffee and bewilderbeasts in the national school curriculum. Currently the new QLD curriculum has Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda as one of the required year 4 texts. Now, I’m sure Emily is a lovely person, and some of my students do genuinely enjoy her work. However, many of them, when faced with the task of reading her work, make a face like this:
Here is an actual quote from an actual student at an actual school:
“It’s boring. And when it’s boring I can’t concentrate and then I can’t do my work. Reading it makes me feel like my brain is made of grey jelly and the grey jelly is tired and grumpy. Also Jill said I smell like a sweaty bear. Can I throw my scissors at her?” Actual students may, to you, resemble strange mythical beasts, given that in your role as two of the most influential people of education in the country you are not at any time required to talk to actual students so much as read reports and analyses written by people who have met them in an academic capacity, which one can only assume is far more efficient.
“Roar! I’m a dragon! Roar! I make no more than a cameo appearance in this book! Roar!”
I’ll admit that Rodda got it right with the bit about dragons. Kids love dragons. I mean, hell, who DOESN’T love dragons? There aren’t nearly enough animals, mythical or otherwise, that can projectile vomit fire. But despite the fact that there is a dragon on the front cover we don’t get to meet the damn thing until the last 20 pages, and even then it only sticks around for a couple of dozen paragraphs before never being seen again. That’s false advertising if you ask me. If you applied the same approach to film advertising then the poster for The Dark Knight Rises would have looked like this:
Now, I understand that politics can be a messy game with few obvious solutions. Sometimes you have difficult decisions to make, like when you have to figure out how to justify extreme cost cutting measures like killing literary awards during the National Year of Reading and essential housing programs for underprivileged members of society whilst still getting away with giving yourselves a pay rise and a multi-million dollar office upgrade.
Luckily, I have an easy solution for you. Simply give the ol Rowan of Rin a rest for a little while and try out this really great new book that I wrote read recently called Zeb and the Great Ruckus. It’s got everything a kid could ever want! Explosions! Guitars! Bewilderbeasts! Action! Magic!  An allegorical warning about the dangers of an overly authoritarian government  valuable life lessons!
As you can see in the chart below, Zeb and the Great Ruckus outscores Rowan of Rin in all five essential learning categories. It also beats War and Peace and Macbeth by a phenomenal margin. Based on these criteria, Zeb’s literary prowess and educational potential is empirically clear. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and we all know that your parties could certainly stand to improve their efforts in regards to Indigenous education now don’t we? On an unrelated note, I’d never realised what a clearly terrible novel War and Peace is until reading this chart just now. Sheesh.
Data analysis courtesy of the Ministry of Truth
I urge you to make Zeb and the Great Ruckus one of the required texts for the national curriculum. I suggest that you put in an order for say, I don’t know, 2 million copies sometime with the next fiscal quarter, and I look forward to seeing a generation of children making this face:
PS: The official Zeb and the Great Ruckus launch party is on the 21st of September at Black Cat books. It will be loud, messy and amazing. Facebook event here, everyone in the world is invited. 


Dearest internet. It’s been a long time coming, but my children’s fantasy novel, Zeb and the Great Ruckus, has finally arrived! It’s been described as ‘like 1984 for kids, but with more magic, music and explosions’ and will be available for your rapturous enjoyment from the 15th of September!

FACT: Reading this book will give you superpowers!*
* Note: imagination is a superpower. You may disagree with this. You may also disagree with the laws of gravity, and you will be wrong about that too.

“This is a story made from pieces of all the dreams you had when you were asleep, but then forgot when you woke up.”

Hello! You are reading this in order to determine whether or not this book will be of interest to you! Well, congratulations, you obviously have fabulous taste! Zeb and the Great Ruckus is a story about magic, music, fireworks, bewilderbeasts, clockwork birds and weaponised toffee. It has some funny bits, some scary bits, some sad bits, and a rather large bit about a cave-dwelling ruttersnarl which we would tell you about but we don t want to give away the ending. If you like the sounds of any or all of the above, then this is the book for you! If you would rather read a complete history of European haberdashery, please consult your local book emporium.

Harry Potter says it’s the greatest book he’s ever read!*

Technically, it’s categorised as a children’s fantasy novel, but as I often say categories are for marketing departments and people who are too lazy to make up their minds about things. This isn’t just a book for kids. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s strange, it’s a protest novel, it’s a celebration of art and music.

*quote attributed to Harold S. Potter – 32 year old amateur taxidermist currently residing in his mother’s house in Tingalpa.


I’m extremely excited about the illustrations, which were prodived by fellow Brisbanite Kathleen Jennings. She recently won TWO Ditmar awards (the oldest and most respected scifi/fantasy awards in Australia) and has also been nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Kathleen has a beautiful, whimsical style that encapsulates Zeb and his companions perfectly. Plus, she has an obsession with Daleks that I find thoroughly enjoyable.


Preorders are open right now through Odyssey Books and the Amazon store so hurry up and make with the clickety clicks already! (Amusing side-note:  I once had a fan tell me “My mother, who is 82 said ‘it’s amazing that they can operate the world’s largest book store from the middle of a giant south american jungle!'”).

You can also check out the facebook and goodreads pages. If you enjoy the book and would like to write a kindly review or even send me an email/tweet/messenger pigeon, that would be hugely appreciated. I’m one of those nice authors that actually replies to emails (most of the time.) If you hate it, please address your grievance to our dedicated complaint service email: Details of the launch party will be announced soon (followed by the super secret after party at my house). You should come. It’s going to be one hell of a ruckus.

Contrary to popular belief, I have not actually been eaten by a rabid bear.

Why hello there! I know, I know, it’s been a while. I’ve been absent from the internet. But it’s okay, I haven’t actually been eaten by a rabid bear, even though that’s what all the tabloids have been saying. Nor have I been EATING rabid bears, as the even less reputable tabloids are claiming. I’ve just been busy living life 2.0 in HIGH DEFINITION WITH SURROUND SOUND! as well as making up very extremely long lies (aka writing novels).  I’m sure you’ve been kept busy what with all the robots landing on Mars and trampires to keep you entertained.

This is what happens when we spend money on science instead of weapons. We get fucking amazing pictures of the surface of Mars (ironically, named after the god of war.)

In any case, as Jesus once said to Thomas, “I’M BACK BITCH!” What’s more, I have this shiny new website that you are currently consuming with your retinas. I hope that you like it and take on it picnics and dance around with it in some sort of jubilant montage like this:

All the content from my old blog What Rhymes With Chaos? will now appear here, but will also continue to be archived at my old typepad. To celebrate the launch of the new site, I thought I’d give you all a present for FREE because that is my favourite price. It’s a little novelette (or long short story if you prefer, no one can ever seem to agree on the definitions of these things). It’s the kind of story Edgar Allen Poe may have written if he worked in an office, took tea breaks with Kafka and Stoppard and had an unhealthy fascination with amatoxins and Tom Jones. If you like it feel free to let me know. If you don’t then JUST SHUT THE HELL UP WHY DONTCHA! I’m just kidding. I’ll still love you (just a little less).

Death of a bureaucrat

“Look ma, I got a book deal!”


Why hello there!

I have an announcement to make. A big one. As in, the size of an obese elephant with elephantiasis that has had an enlarging rhinoplasty procedure recently undertaken. No, I'm not getting married and I'm not pregnant (after all, any IDIOT can get married or have kids!)


I've found a new publisher and I've entered into a long-term arrangement to give them first rights to all my future books. Which, I suppose, is sort of like a business marriage come to think of it. So if you'd like to provide me with large quantities of expensive silverware and white goods please go right ahead! I chose to sign with Pantera Press for a number of reasons.


1) They asked me. Yes, I know, very droll, but I'm serious. Even after having a moderately successful first book that had rave reviews in a number of magazines and decent sales for a first time author with almost no marketing, as well as getting my second book picked up by another publisher, it was still ridiculously hard to find publishers willing to take a chance on an author who refuses to write crime fiction, erotica, vampire romance or diet tips. 

Gay marriage

2) Pantera's motto is 'good books doing good things.' They have a strong philanthropic ethos and they support causes such as the Smith Family's Let's Read program and the Walkley awards for excellence in journalism, because reading is fucking important and some people seem to forget that (I'm looking at you Campbell Newman). They also publish the Why vs. Why series, which promotes public debate on issues like gay marriage and nuclear power. I'm not shy about my political views, but I think whatever side of the fence you stand on it's important to be educated and informed about issues and not just shove your uninformed vitriolic diatribe down other people's throats (I'm STILL looking at you Newman!)

3) Pantera are a family run independant business, distributed through Simon & Schuster, one of the largest publishers in the world. This means that they have the innovative, adventurous and ambitious approach of a great indie publisher partnered with the distribution and marketing reach of a large publisher. Also, their royalty rates are insanely generous. I know art isn't supposed to be about the money, but it is hard to keep that in mind when you've just had to sell a kidney so that you can pay for your phone bill. (I've only done this once. It should be fine. Humans have like, six kidneys, right?) 

The first book I've given them, which will be out next year, is Adonis Comma Coma. It's a twisted dark comedy that I'm going to describe as being a bit like Arrested Development, only more psychotic and supernatural. 


I've just about drunk my own weight in champagne during the last week celebrating, and will now need to drink my own weight in berocca to recover. I want to say a really big thank you to everyone that's supported me so far, whether it's been just reading this blog or my first book or writing reviews on amazon or goodreads or proofing drafts or buying me beers or collaborating on anthologies or whatever. It really does mean the world to me. I promise when you bring out your first book I'll do the same for you! Or you know, your restaurant or particle accelerator or skin moisturiser enhanced with jojoba extract and DNA altering exfoliants or radical quantum theory or whatever the hell else you want reviewed and promoted. 



Inaugural Premier’s Obituary Award

My Dearest Queensland, I have just returned from a weekend swimming in your resplendant blue waters at Stradbroke island, followed by two nights in the majestic sunshine coast hinterland, only to return to Brisbane and discover that Campbell 'I hate the arts so much you'd think they strangled my puppy' Newman has scrapped the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. Bewilderingly, he has deigned to do this during The OFFICIAL YEAR OF READING. Did no one send him a memo? Perhaps they did, and he didn't read it. After all, he has publicly stated that he's 'not into studies and plans.' Not sure how he managed to get an engineering degree, if that's the case…


The money he's 'saving' is a paltry $224 000, an amount that is miniscule in terms of a state budget, but means a great deal to the arts. We are talking about BOOKS here! In the words of George R. R. Martin (via Tyrion Lannister): "The mind need books like a sword needs a whetstone." Newman, it would appear, is all too happy to have some very blunt swords at play.

"If I had to choose between Joffrey and Newman… Hrm. Is there a third option? Stabbing my eyes out with a fork perhaps?"

The loss of the Premier's Literary Award is a devastating blow to the QLD literary community, and if there's one thing I've learnt from a misspent youth reading too many fantasy novels, revenge is a cycle which always ends in joyous victory of good over evil with no sideline ramifications whatsoever. That's why I am, today, right now, announcing the Inaugural Premier's Obituary Award. Whoever can create the most amusing protest (of any kind) against this atrocity, or Mr. Newman in general, will receive:

ReadingMadameBovary_cover  +  Dying +  Cd_ripping

ZEB AND THE GREAT RUCKUS (Um…it doesn't have a cover design yet…)

1 x copy of Reading Madame Bovary The last (ever!?) book to win the Premier's Fiction award

1 x signed copy of my first novel A Beginner's Guide to Dying in India

1 x signed copy of my forthcoming novel Zeb and The Great Ruckus (Due for release later this year).

20 x new release CDs from both major and indie labels. (From my other job as a music reviewer. Selection will depend on what the hell they give me).

All of this will be hand delivered by me. I'll even make you dinner if you like. (Although I am a terrible cook.)

Email your entries (photos/word docs/media files/whatever you’ve got) to jmdonellan(AT)gmail(DOT)com by June 30th. The winner will be decided on August 30th.

You should also sign this petition to have the award reinstated and check out the Queensland Literary awards, recently established by Krissy Keen and Matthew Condon.


Paper girl festival video interview



Writers aren't used to having our faces (or any other parts) on camera. Despite spending most of our lives desperately trying to communicate through the use of various combinations of 26 letters and a small selection of punctuation marks that the modern world is increasingly less interested in correctly utilising, we are a species that is frequently heard but never seen. 

Unless you're J.K. Rowling or Tara Moss, no one knows what the hell you look like. I've read maybe a half a dozen of Irvine Welsh's books and I couldn't even begin to guess at his physical appearance. For all I know he's a morbidly obese man with a prolific beard, terrible body odour, a nipple piercing and a unicorn tattoo prominently displayed on his right forearm.

For this reason it was something of a novelty for me to do this interview with the organisers of the Papergirl festival. It's a really great opportunity for artists and writers to literally shove their work in people's faces. I've submitted a few of my short stories, so if you see someone approach you on a bicycle holding out a rolled up bundle of papers on the 4th of February, take a peek inside…

You can see interviews with other artists participating below. There are still a few days left to submit work! Artists and writers: get amongst it.