Photo by Wolter Peeters – Copyright Fairfax Media

I’m a Sydney writer, journalist and travel journalist who grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve written nine novels, seven for young people and two for adults. Four of them have been translated into Italian, Danish, Dutch and Thai, three have been shortlisted for literary awards. I’ve also worked as a newspaper journalist on publications including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald, Sydney.

Travel is a passion and so I’ve been writing travel stories for the past 10 years, mostly for Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald Traveller/Melbourne Age Traveller and associated Fairfax newspapers.   There are stories from more than 50 countries. They’re all in “Making News” or “Alison’s Travel Writing”.

My travel story, Snails in the Mist, about walking New Zealand’s Milford Track with friends, was placed first in the Lane Cove Literary Awards 2019 travel story category and was shortlisted for three awards. Snails in the Mist will be published in the Lane Cove Literary Awards Anthology in 2020.

I’m also including my husband Rob’s travel writing  in “Rob Mills’ Travel Stories”. Rob is a Walkely award winning journalist who worked for many years on The Sydney Morning Herald in roles including Deputy Editor, Sunday Editor, Night Editor, Chief Sub-editor, Assistant Editor and Page One Editor. We love hiking, cycling, train travel, road trips, travelling with friends and basically just meeting interesting people with different viewpoints, cultures, languages and experiences.

From a fiction writing point of view, my first book for adults, Born into the Country, was shortlisted and published after entry into South Africa’s AA Mutual Life Vita Young Writers’ Award. One of my YA books, The Wishing Moon, was shortlisted for the Australian Multicultural Children’s Award and was a Children’s Book Council Notable book.

Penguin Australia published my young adult dystopian novel, Days Like This, in August 2010. It was a finalist in the 2010 YA Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

My current project,  Cold Stone Soup, is a memoir about growing up in apartheid-era South Africa. It won the Fellowship of Australian Writers 2013 National Literary Awards Jim Hamilton Award for a non-fiction manuscript – please see the item in “Cold Stone Soup”.

It was also a Varuna Writers’ House Scholarship runner-up. An excerpt from Cold Stone Soup has been published in Foreign and Far Away – Writers Abroad’s 2013 anthology. Some of the money raised from paperback sales goes to the charity Book Aid International. This charity increases access to books and supports literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa.

More information about all my books plus review excerpts are in “Published works”.

And one day, I hope there’s a travel book somewhere in there!

Content Copyright © Alison Stewart Writer 2013

68 Responses to Home

  1. Neil Willetts says:

    Alison, I sent a message re Palenque to you some weeks ago and saw you searched for me in Linked-In (which I don’t like to use!). If you wish, I would be happy to communicate further by email; see my address below.


    • Hi Neil, so sorry but I didn’t receive your Palenque message. Did you send it to this site or my gmail? I have been away quite a lot so perhaps it has somehow fallen through the cracks. I don’t really use Linked-In much either, so am most happy if you write to me here or if you prefer, by email. All the best, Alison


  2. Hi,
    I also have had difficulty contacting you, if you could possibly respond to the email address that follows.

    Thank you,
    Marc Humphries


  3. Dear Alison I would like to contact with you regarding your Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park trip as I was reading your article and have some questions. Could we talk via email? Thank you very much


    • Dear Gabriella,
      Apologies for the late reply. I have just returned from travelling in an area with poor wifi.
      I’ll be most happy to try and answer any questions you have about the Kgalagadi. I have emailed you so please contact me that way.
      Best wishes, Alison


  4. Hi Alison,
    Just read your article on cycling the Portuguese Camino and was wondering if you would be able to advise me on where I could hire a bike in Portugal.
    Roy van Amersfoorth


    • Hi Roy,
      If you want to cycle the Camino, probably the best way to organise a bike is through a company. We used Follow the Camino, but there are many good companies operating, such as UTracks – you just have to search for them.
      The bikes they use are generally excellent and they deliver to your accommodation and collect from your final accommodation. This can sometimes be an issue if you hire a bike yourself. You must deliver the bike back to the place from which you rented it.
      However, if you prefer to organise your own bike, your could visit a site such as:
      It offers a reasonably comprehensive list of bike hire options per region.
      Good luck cycling in Portugal. It is a lovely country.
      Best wishes,


      • Thank you for the info Alison. I was planning to walk Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela but then my wife suggested I ride it as I’m a keen cyclist. It would also be only a couple of weeks against 5-6 weeks. I better start planning.
        Thanks again and good luck with any of your new ventures,


      • Hi Roy,
        Apologies for the delayed reply. As you’re a keen cyclist, cycling would be fine. It can be tricky though for people who don’t cycle often and for those, I would recommend walking.
        However the upside, as you mention, is that you can achieve it in a shorter time. This is actually why we cycled instead of walked as one of our party only had a limited time.
        It was definitely an experience to remember and I’m sure you’ll love it.
        Good luck!


  5. Nigel Whittingham says:

    Hi Alison

    Well well. Veronica Congdon has just passed your regards on to me after you saw a pic of us all together on her boat on the Thames. What a blast from the past. Veronica is an old friend of my wife Vee. We’re retired back in South Africa near Knysna, after having lived and worked in UK for 25 years. I’m afraid I’m allergic to social media except WhatsApp. I hope you and Rob are well. Regards Nigel


  6. Hi Alison,I only just looked you up on internet…. very impressive list of works. I look forward to reading some! I Hope you had a good trip home! I didn’t realise till I read your blog that Rob’s surname is Mills. My maiden name is Mills ….. does he have any links to Stephen Mills (Ireland)?
    We are still in Copenhagen and feeling a bit touristed out. We leave for Stuttgart in the morning. All the best Helen Middleton


    • Hi Helen, Lovely to meet you and Mike. We’ve just returned from Malmo, hence my delayed response. No, no relative of the Irish Stephen Mills, as far as he knows, but you never know! I have ordered your latest book, which looks useful and interesting – my daughter has a son and though he’s still a baby, I wouldn’t mind reading some expert literature in this critical area. The earlier book looks good too, but will begin with this one. I will be putting the Norway stories up online as they are published, so you will be able to read them, if you’re interested. Hope you’ve enjoyed Germany. Best wishes, Alison


      • I am finding more interest in Teen Time than the one for older (young adults 17+). It is hard to reach that groupd of people. Am on the computer and am about to order one of your books – ready for a holiday on the beach in Coolum!! All the best, Helen


      • Hi Helen, Apologies for the late response. I am really enjoying your Teen Time – a great depth of insight, showing your experience in this field. It must be gratifying to be receiving a positive response – can you get it on the syllabus? Hope your Coolum holiday is going well/went well. All the best, Alison


  7. Yoni says:

    Hi Alison, I hope this message finds you well! I’m trying to find the Alison who photographed a South African reggae band called ‘Splash’ in the early 1980’s, maybe in conjunction with the Cape Argus? Have I found the right person? Many thanks and hoping to hear from you! Yoni


    • Hi Yoni, Apologies for the delayed reply – I’ve been travelling. While I did work for the Cape Argus, I was a journalist, not a photographer, so no, I’m afraid that Alison isn’t me. Have you tried writing to The Argus to see if they can refer back to the archives? Good luck! Alison


  8. Ava says:

    Thank you so much Alison.

    I have written to many authors in the past, and never had one replied! Thank you so much for replying!

    I would love it if you were to keep me posted!

    Thank you so much again,

    I hope that you continue writing. As you said you could always write some of the sequel and post it.

    Thank you and good luck writing,



  9. Ava says:

    Dear Alison,

    I have just finished reading your book; Days Like This. I think it is an AMAZING read! I will definitely be suggesting it to ALL of my friends and family.

    I just had a few questions for you.
    Will there be a sequel?
    Do Lilly and Kieran get married?
    How do their child turn out?
    Do the committee come back and seek revenge?
    Does Alice survive?

    I would really like it if you replied.
    I just had to say how much I think you bring your characters to life! I loved how it was like I was with Lilly every step of the way.

    Thank you so much for publishing this book and giving me the gift of getting to know Lilly.

    Kind Regards,


    • Ava says:

      I also had to add, my name is Ava. I am 13 years old from Melbourne and I think you have an amazing talent for writing books.

      Kindest Regards,


    • Hi Ava,
      So lovely to hear that you enjoyed Days Like This, felt you could relate to Lily and will be recommending it! It makes writing worthwhile to hear from enthusiastic readers. Fantastic.
      I would love to write a sequel but that would be up to Penguin 😎 They would need to commission it. Otherwise I could always write it anyway and put it online. I will keep you posted.
      Yes, Lily and Kieran are a definite couple and remain so, so you could say they would be married.
      I’m afraid that Alice doesn’t survive but of course fiction is a strange thing and anything can happen!
      Lily and Kieran’s child would definitely have a leadership role in the new society they create.
      In a sequel there inevitably would be conflict, possibly as you suggest, arising from the actions of remnants of the Committee.
      You’ve definitely got me thinking about it, Ava!
      Thanks again for loving books and keep on reading. The world needs people like you!
      All the best,


  10. Yasmina says:

    Dear Alison.
    My name is Yasmina and I’m 10 years old and I live in Holland.
    I have read your book The year the star fell and I love it very much.
    I’m making a book review and I have some questions for you.
    When were you born (date), do you have children, do you still live in Sydney, what are your hobby’s and which book is your favourite?
    i hope you will give you me the answers.
    Yasmina and my mother. 🙂


    • Dear Yasmina (and your mother :)),

      I am so pleased that you liked The Year The Star Fell. Thank you for writing to tell me.

      I was inspired to write the book because my daughter loved horses and we used to keep a horse for her at a lovely place out in the country, called Hidden Valley, about two hours’ drive from Sydney. The landscape in the book was based on Hidden Valley, where many families go at weekends to ride their horses and stay in basic little wood cottages. It is a wonderful world for young people who like to ride in the Australian native rainforests and also across country.

      To answer your questions, I was born in February 1954, I have two children, my daughter Georgia, who is now 28 and a doctor and my son Angus, who is 23 and his just finished his Media degree. We still live in Sydney. I like walking with friends and my husband – we walk in the national parks and also travel to do some nice walks. We have just walked across Cornwall in England and also in Madeira. One of the best walks was the Milford Track in the south island of New Zealand where the landscape is very like you would imagine Lord of the Rings to be set!

      I also like to ride bicycles and we try and cycle whenever we travel. We have just cycled along the Loire Valley with friends and have cycled in many other places. We would like to cycle in your lovely country soon! I suppose that travelling is a hobby and as I also write travel features for a Sydney newspaper, so I can combine my hobby with work.

      And I love reading! Some of the books I have loved are: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Music & Silence by Rose Tremain. I also love young adult writing like The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, Watership Down by Richard Adams, Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn, The BFG by Roald Dahl, Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein, All in the Blue Unclouded Weather by Robin Klein, Taronga by Victor Kelleher, Space Demons by Gillian Rubinstein, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

      Sorry, that’s a lot more than one book! I got carried away.

      I am most happy to answer your questions and I hope that your book review goes well.
      With best wishes,


      • Yasmina says:

        Dear Alison,
        thank you very much for your email :-)!
        Is it possible that you send me a picture of you which I can show in my classroom?

        Best wishes,


  11. David Happold says:

    Dear Alison,

    A neighbour kindly gave me a copy of your article (9 Nov 2013) in The Saturday Age on ‘Africa’s Warm Heart’. Like you, I and my wife love Malawi; we lived there for two years while undertaking research on small mammals. Of all the countries in Africa where I have lived, Malawi is my favourite because of the beautiful and varied scenery, the friendliness of the people, and the pleasant climate. Hence I enjoyed your article very much, and am glad that you presented Malawi in such a positive way in your article.

    Because of my work and interests, I was particularly interested that you are a great grand-daughter of James Stewart. I have read the diaries of James Stewart [as published in Wallis (1952) The Zambesi Journal of James Stewart 1862-1863]. He and the other members of that expedition and those that followed in the latter part of the 19th century were men of great determination and fortitude. I have immense admiration for all of them; at this distance of time, it is amazing that any of them survived.

    Your safari was a much more up-market affair than how we lived when in the field! Our base was in Zomba, and from there we went off on our field trips, either camping or living in little huts. In the 80s and 90s, there were no lovely safari camps in Majete and Liwonde National Parks. We were unable to get to Majete because the road was so poor (although we visited Lengwe NP every month), and the camp at Mvuu did not exist. I receive the weekly newsletter from Robin Pope Safaris, who sponsored your visit; it is wonderful that such safaris and accommodation now exist in Malawi; it brings in much-needed money to Malawi and helps to support local village projects.

    Because of your interest in Malawi, I think you may enjoy a book I published recently on Malawi. It is actually a biography of an English naturalist who lived in Nyasaland from 1912 to 1962 – during more or less the whole of the colonial period. The book is African Naturalist – the Life and Times of Rodney Carrington Wood 1889-1962 published by Book Guild (2011). Besides lots of natural history, there is also material on early naturalists in Nyasaland, social history, travels, geography, conservation … and much more. It is still available from Amazon.co.uk and similar places.

    I feel I must point one error in your article! The buffalo in your photograph are not Water Buffalo as stated in the caption; they are African Buffalo Syncerus caffer. Water Buffalo (Bubalis bubalis) are found only in Asia, although the domestic Water Buffalo occurs outside Asia (e.g. Australia) but nowhere in Africa.

    I found your website, and so the only way I can contact you is through the website. As you will realize from my email address, I live quite near you! If you wish to reply, can you please write to my email address as given below.

    With best wishes and many thanks for your article.

    David Happold (E: David.Happold@anu.edu.au)


    • Dear David,

      Thank you for writing such a detailed email about your experiences in Malawi. I have just bought your book from a UK bookstore via Amazon and look forward to reading it.

      I will write to your email address.
      Best wishes


  12. Brittany says:

    Hi Alison i read your book ‘Days like this’ and i loved it. I was woundering if there was a second book at all thanks


  13. Max Menzies says:

    Alison we have just booked Three Trees for 10 days time as a result of your article in Travel section of SMH today


  14. Hi Tom,
    I think your analysis of Max’s character is spot-on and I particularly like your references to other characters in literature, corrupted by power.
    Also, your portrayal of Max as a faceless manipulator/puppeteer is an excellent interpretation of this character who is an almost stereotypical representation of the rottenness within a society.
    Thank you for sending me the link. I would give you a high mark!
    All the best,


  15. Tom says:

    Hi Alison,
    I am a student currently studying your book, Days Like This, at my school and I have some questions about the character Max. His influences to act the way he does seem very vague and there is not much clarity as to how people like him came to power in the book. Obviously the exact storyline behind The Committee coming to power in Days Like This is left up to the reader’s imagination, but I need to clarify why he (Max) is so unfeeling towards children and has a almost psychotic disposition when it comes to obtaining absolute power (“Answer me” Max shouted. “Have you all forgotten I have the power? I have power over all of you”) actually started, was he always that way or was it just an effect of the other committee members which made him so unfeeling. Your response would be really useful.


    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your email, which made me think about the motivation for the book all over again!

      I’ve fished out some background I wrote when the book was being edited, where I created a sense of the world. I am going to reproduce some of it here and if you like, you can read through it, or skip bits that are irrelevant to your project.

      You are right in saying that sometimes things are left out in order to leave them up to the readers’ imaginations but of course it helps to know the background which explains why characters behave as they do.

      Max is a product of his environment and if you read the “sense of the world” document below, you will see that this environment didn’t develop overnight but rather evolved, thanks to a variety of issues, into the dysfunctional dystopia that forms the setting for the book. Max is in power simply because of an accident of birth – he was born privileged in a society that increasingly came to equate money with power.

      Max, though a deeply unsympathetic character is also a victim of a world he was born into and eventually continued to develop with devasstating consequences. His desire for power and that ultimate prize that no money can buy – “the elixir of youth” – has fashioned his own downfall. The serum that he takes to maintain his life has the effect of removing his humanity, empathy, sense of what is civilised. You can see this to a lesser degree in the behaviour of Lily and Daniel’s parents.

      Max though, who is in a position of absolute power as a senior member of the governing committee, is an extreme representation of greed, lust for power and harsh individualism in society and a living reminder that “Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

      Max, as I said, and thanks to his privileged birth circumstances has been raised with a sense of entitlement (as have all those living within the Wall who are in turn governed by the Committee). Max believes that in a world of limited resources – water, land, food etc – it is those with money who have the right. Money equals power equals survival. Those who threaten your survival are to be feared, and controlled by any means. Hence the very physical manifestation of control – the Wall, censorship, a brutal security force, the delivery of the drugs that will keep you young in exchange for either money or your children etc.

      So as I said, Max and his committee have achieved what they set out to do – they have excluded the less well off, reduced the population to a level that the available resources sustain, excluded people from entering the city to claim these limited resources, repressed troublesome young people, taken control of the society’s wealth (which in its basic form is represented in terms of electricity, water resources and food) and hold absolute power through the use of terror, chemical manipulation of their citizens and the promise of eternal youth.

      You might wonder why Max behaves as he does and you might also wonder whether it is indeed possible for anyone to be so brutal. My answer is that Max and the committee’s motivation is similar to Hitler’s motivation in gaining and holding onto power (or perhaps Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge or those who devised South Africa’s apartheid system): Create a despised underclass, instil fear and disgust in the population, use brutal measures to enforce your laws, maintain control by any means. (If you examine our world, I’m afraid there are still many indications of this kind of behaviour).

      So, in short, Max is a product of his privileged environment, living in a destroyed world where only money can buy power, and ultimately life. He, like all those on the committee, could indeed be considered to be sociopathic personalities. Initially driven by entitlement, fear and hatred, their behaviours are exacerbated by the serum they take to stay young but which in turn destroys their humanity. This is a rather alarmist view of the individual, I admit. One would hope that most people, despite extreme hardship and trauma, would maintain their moral compass. There are decent people in Days Like This; just not that many until the end!

      So ultimately, in this dystopian world, for all the privileged elite, this is a society built on fear and craving – fear of falling foul of the committee, and being turned out; fear of what is beyond the walls, fear of growing old, fear of death.

      If you’re interested, you could read how this world came about in my Sense of the World piece. It’s long so just read the bits that interest you!
      Let me know if there’s anything else you want to know.
      All the best, Alison

      Days Like This – Sense of the world
      What does the world of the book look like physically (does it resemble the Sydney of today at all?) as well as geographically (what are its boundaries)? When and how did this dystopian state come about? Was it the result of a gradual decline? Or was there one cataclysmic event? Does the world remain unstable? What are the hierarchies within the world? Who is in charge? How did they come to power? How do they enforce this power? What is their vision for an ideal world? How do they control the people in the world? Do they govern Sydney or all of Australia? How are food and resources grown and distributed? Why are children and adults affected differently by the water? How does the ‘draining’ of teenagers work? What are the benefits of it for the ruling body? A lot of this information may not end up in the book, but this gives a clear idea of the way world works.

      In terms of the geographical/physical/political/hierarchical mapping, Days Like This is set in Sydney, in the first half of the 21st century, though I don’t think there’s a need to be too specific. From around the turn of the century, global warming (known in the book as “the warming”) began accelerating at a high rate world-wide. There has been a dramatic melting of ice caps, with concurrent surges in sea levels. Some low-lying countries have been inundated; some have had their sea boundaries reduced, while entire cities have disappeared.
      In parts of Europe and America, and where people and countries exist in close quarters, people have become warlike in defence of their arable land, resources and water. Walls and other fortifications frequently have been used to keep out the increasing numbers of refugees. Days Like This draws on some rather chilling scenarios presented by environmentalists like Clive Hamilton and Tim Flannery:

      “Sometime in the next 30 years we face significant destabilisation. Rapidly rising sea levels, maybe up to six metres. And hundreds of millions of refugees because there are whole cities going under. People will bunker down and see enemies everywhere. That tribalism, that breakdown of law and order, is to me the greatest threat.”
      Environmentalist Tim Flannery interviewed in The Sydney Morning Herald, April 2007

      “Australia and the United States are likely to build defensive fortresses around their countries to protect their resources from desperate outsiders and aggressive states created by rapid and unpredictable climate change. Humanity would revert to the norm of constant battles for diminishing resource. Once again, warfare would define human life.”
      From Clive Hamilton’s Scorcher, The Dirty Politics of Climate Change. (Black Inc. Agenda 2007)

      “Oil is running out; the climate is changing at a potentially catastrophic rate; wars over scarce resources are brewing; finally, most shocking of all, we don’t seem to be having enough ideas about how to fix any of these things.
      Almost daily, new evidence is emerging that progress can no longer be taken for granted; that a new Dark Age is lying in wait for ourselves and our children . . . growth may be coming to an end. Since our entire financial order from interest rates, pension funds, insurance, to stock markets is predicated on growth, the social and economic consequences may be cataclysmic.”
      Waiting for the Lights to Go Out by Bryan Appleyard (Sunday Times October 16, 2005)

      Southern Australia, being more remote, has not experienced the same refugee numbers as more densely populated northern countries but dramatic change has still had dramatic outcomes.
      Climate change has rendered the eastern seaboard increasingly arid. Sydney can no longer sustain its large population. Within a short period, there is not enough water, not enough land, especially with rising sea levels, either for habitation or food production. The increased temperatures also mean large-scale food production is unviable, not least because of water shortage – for the most part, food production must happen inside greenhouse facilities. Electricity consumption soars to meet human needs.
      Days Like This is based on the premise that Peak Oil happens around 2015 even as global demand continues to soar. The oil price rises about 400 per cent in only three years. By 2018, the world begins to buckle under the weight of energy and commodity prices. Food and fuel prices jump, economies start nosediving, house prices collapse, stock markets crash. There are emergency summits, diplomatic initiatives, and urgent exploration efforts. Despite this, thousands of companies go bankrupt and millions become unemployed. Once-affluent cities have armies of beggars, crime rates escalate.
      This scenario is based on reading people like Oxford University geologist Jeremy Leggett, author of The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and the Coming Financial Catastrophe, who wrote in a 2006 Macleans Magazine article: “Democracy will be on the run . . . economic hardship will bring out the worst in people. Fascists will rise, feeding on the anger of the newly poor and whipping up support. These new rulers will find the tools of repression – emergency laws, prison camps, a relaxed attitude toward torture – already in place, courtesy of the war on terror. And Big Oversight Number One – climate change – will be simultaneously making its presence felt with a vengeance. On the heels of their rapid financial ruin, people will now watch aghast as their food and water supplies dwindle in the face of a climate going awry. Prolonged droughts will spread, decimating harvests.”
      And from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek in the Chicago Tribune of July 2006: “The consequences of Peak Oil would be unimaginable. Permanent fuel shortages would tip the world into a generations-long economic depression. Millions would lose their jobs as industry implodes. Farm tractors would be idled for lack of fuel, triggering massive famines. Energy wars would flare. And carless suburbanites would trudge to their nearest big box stores, not to buy Chinese made clothing transported cheaply across the globe, but to scavenge glass and copper wire from abandoned buildings.”

      Peak Oil and subsequent decline is a critical factor in the Days Like This scenario though I don’t refer to it for fear of “info dumping”! And obviously there is a “suspend belief” element that must be employed for all speculative fiction.
      But to provide some background info relevant to the book, the effects of a small drop in oil production are predicted to be devastating because petrochemicals are key components on not just petrol for cars but basically for everything else!
      We know that in 2002, about 10 calories of fossil fuels were needed to produce one calorie of food eaten in the US – this assessment was based on the fact that every step of modern food production is fossil fuel and petrochemical powered – from oil-based agro-chemicals to commercial fertiliser derived from ammonia and natural gas to oil powered farming equipment and food transport vehicles to refrigeration for food storage.
      We know that during the 1970s oil shocks, shortfalls in oil production caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple. The oil shocks that indirectly inform the Days Like This world are a new and permanent condition that, combined with warfare, extreme weather and other geopolitical factors, have the ability to cut total supply by half in seven years.
      So in the world of my book, there is no more oil production, energy needs are met by the solar, wind, geothermal power but can only support a far smaller population, and the predicted catastrophic events have set the scene for the book’s dystopian society.
      When Lily’s parents were young, climate change and oil shortages were the worrying issues as they are today, but had not yet accelerated. So, Sydney looked much the same as it does for us today, and still with democratically elected Federal and State governments.
      However, with the abovementioned problems increasing exponentially, fear becomes a catalyst for undemocratic behaviour – the desire to protect what you have at the expense of others. The baby boomers, by virtue of numbers, still hold power. They begin to withdraw funding from programs deemed “unnecessary”.
      Money is spent by necessity on maintaining the solar, wind and geothermal power infrastructure outside the city but as I said, these greener technologies can only support a vastly reduced population – those, in effect, who can pay.
      As well, the technology to enable access to Sydney’s underground aquifers is developed and the water moon scenario is devised but again, only those affluent enough can afford to install the well points that are connected to the grid that draws up water regularly.
      At this point, the Federal government steps down, unable to cope as do the State authorities. Nobody wants to take responsibility for a society that is rapidly descending into anarchy. In Sydney, a “caretaker” committee known as the Central Governing Committee takes control. It is made up of a faceless group of the wealthy and powerful (mostly) men – a bit I imagine like the committee of the rather elite golf club!
      It is easy then to make savage cuts to programs – most involve the powerless/voiceless – the less well off and young people. Welfare and utilities subsidies are withdrawn. Health, infrastructure and education funding is withdrawn and then abolished. Schools and universities begin closing. Homelessness increases. People are hungry, desperate, unemployed and angry. The first street attacks on older people begin as mostly young people, furious at their facilities being targeted, take it out on those they hold responsible.
      People who can afford it cluster into defined “affluent” areas, which we know already as “security estates”. In Sydney, these security homes with their high walls and patrolled neighbourhoods are found around the harbour (yes, I have a map!!)
      The rapid warming means the water levels have risen dramatically over a short period of perhaps 15-20 years. Flatter foreshore areas and their attending houses are inundated and abandoned and barricades built at a variety of levels to hold back the water. Iconic landmarks like the Opera House have had to be walled to prevent inundation (there’s money for this!) and (electricity hungry) pumps used to keep the containment levels between the barricades water-free.
      Despite efforts to make themselves immune from the have-nots, the streets become increasingly dangerous for those seen to be privileged older people. Unemployed and homeless people (many of them young), those refuges who have managed to make it across or around Australia from the desperate countries further north, people from other eastern seaboard cities, throng the streets. Violence is endemic and mostly as I said, it is perpetrated on older people who are seen to hold the power. Children are generally left alone.
      Eventually, the last school closes, which is the school to which Daniel went for two years and Lily for one.
      Shortly after this, the walls are erected, when Lily is 5, Daniel 6 and Alice only about 1. The wall, which encloses a fairly narrow harbour front section, stretches from North Head, across Middle Harbour to Balmoral, along Clifton Gardens, Cremorne Point, North Sydney, Greenwich (poor old Lane Cove is in the water exclusion zone!) and then across the Harbour to Birchgrove, then to Barangaroo, behind Circular Quay and including the legal and financial sector, up along Macquarie Street including Parliament House, sharply back down to Potts Point, Darling Point, Double Bay, Rose Bay and then across to the cliffs at South Head. Vaucluse and Watson’s Bay are included.
      The wall, which curves inwards and so seems more to keep people in than out, is built of a (slippery) material impossible to scale though there are materials devised for maintenance purposes to grip it. Kieran, Ingie et al have some of this which they use to good effect. There is one main entrance set into the wall behind Circular Quay for trucking in food supplies from the food facilities just outside the wall. There are no other ways to exit or enter the water allotment or walled areas other than over the wall, if you can.
      Lily’s first house is in Greenwich on the north shore but they are rewarded with a much better house at Potts Point after they “donate” Alice as a breeder. It doesn’t hurt either that Pym has long-term family connections to Max and his family.
      After the wall goes up, suburbs outside the perimeter are abandoned. There is absolute mayhem, total anarchy to which Kieran later refers, as his family is one of the unlucky ones.
      The have-nots, however are still uncomfortably close, even with the wall, so the Central Governing Committee has a swathe of houses demolished, creating a substantial no-man’s land outside the walls, which can be more properly watched.
      As to how food and resources are grown and distributed, the way of the world has changed in this respect as well. The closure of businesses both large and small has turned people onto the streets and dramatically reduced the numbers making up this new-look community – I imagine only about 5000-20,000 people remain from Sydney’s initial three or four million (though again I would prefer not to be specific in the book).
      The point of this is that with smaller numbers, an old-style barter system can be reintroduced with the Central Governing Committee of course holding all the power. This means that the needs of the community are very specific and in return for fulfilling their explicit functions and as long as they meet a set or stringent criteria, people are rewarded generously with adequate means for survival:
       There must be scientists who will manage the serum program/pituitary enhancing program. They also manage the program that produces the blocking agent that “breeders” must take to stop their pituitaries swelling (the chocolates that Alice is given every day). Science also produces the agent, known as “vitamins” that remaining children (Daniel and Lily) are fed. The scientists would also manage the four “Centres for Scientific Rejuvenation” (drainage facilities) that have been built within the walls – one at North Head, one near Greenwich, one at Barangaroo (east Darling Harbour) and one at South Head
       There must be medical people who manage the breeders
       There must be IT people who manage the computer technology
       Engineers and associated people who run the electricity generation and water generation technology
       Growers and processors who manage the food production facilities that exist just outside the walls (the ones that are raided by Christo/Rosemary’s community) and those working in a clothing manufacturing facility attached to the food production (synthetic materials fashioned from plastics of which there seems to be a boundless supply from which to scavenge but again, I don’t want to go there in too much detail because the word “preposterous” keeps insinuating itself)
       There are many people like Megan and Pym, Lily’s parents, who do very little as such but they earn their place within the walls by donating Daniel and Lily for serum and Alice for breeding. They also have connections like Max
       There are law enforcers who implement what the committee decrees
       If you can’t earn your keep under this barter system, either in one of the areas outlined or in the donation of your child; or if your children are deemed “genetically inferior” as Rosemary’s were, you are put out beyond the walls.
       So the committee alone decides who comes to this city and the circumstances under which they come, to paraphrase a certain former PM!

      In this dysfunctional society with its warming-induced hardships, people must also deal with the fact that global warming has had geological, not just atmospheric (ie. storm and tornado) implications. As Kieran says at one point, things don’t happen in isolation. Polar ice melts change the earth’s crust (it bulges upwards) causing submarine landslides and tsunamis. There are glacial earthquakes, undersea volcanic eruptions. This explains the tsunamis.

      Now to the serum project:
      The serum project is a culmination of research that has been conducted since the 1990s: The new paradigm of treating ageing as a disease first started in 1991 by Dr. Daniel Rudman, an endocrinologist from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Rudman’s landmark study about hormone replacement therapy in older men [the “men” part caught my fancy] was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Rudman stated, “We reversed 10-20 years of the aging process in older men. Fat diminished, muscle tissue and strength increased.”
      The study showed that there was an increase in lean body mass, decreased body fat, increased vertebral bone density, increased exercise tolerance and endurance, improved healing and immunity, and a tremendous increase in overall well-being. This was all accomplished by the simple administration of human growth hormone (hGH). Thus Dr. Rudman’s study provided solid proof that hormonal decline itself is a major cause of ageing and that providing the elderly body with hGH, many symptoms and signs of the ageing process can be reversed.
      This is what scientists attached to the Gerontology Research Centre of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Baltimore, Maryland reported in the 1990s:
      “If a ‘fountain of youth’ is what you’re looking for, human growth hormone (hGH) is about as close as you’re going to get. Our patients treated with hGH have reported enhanced immune function, rapid wound healing, and decreased tremors and aches, as well as increased libido and well-being. hGH is so named because the body’s production of this hormone peaks during the intense growth spurt of adolescence. Natural production of hGH drops off gradually after the age of 20 and continues to decrease by about 14 percent each decade after. Human Growth Hormone (hGH) is secreted by the pituitary gland and is taken into the liver and converted into a protein called somatomedin-C or IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor one.) It is IGF-1 that is partially responsible for the growth hormone functions in the body. Growth hormone (somatomedin) contributes to ongoing tissue repair, healing, cell rejuvenation, bone strength, brain function, enzyme production, and the integrity of hair nails, and skin. Research indicates that daily supplementation of growth hormone may rejuvenate and reverse symptoms of the ageing process and restore a more youthful physiology and conditioning.”

      (HGH produced naturally by the pituitary gland, is only available as a supplement by prescription under a doctor’s supervision. The claims for hGH are similar those for DHEA–that it will reduce signs of aging by increasing muscle, decreasing fat, and giving people a feeling of well-being and energy.
      Growth hormone is a small protein molecule containing 191 amino acids in a single polypeptide chain. It is the most abundant hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Its rate of production peaks during adolescence when accelerated growth occurs. Production rate decreases 14% every decade into old age. Generally, however, it remains in abundant supply waiting to be secreted into the body. For some cause yet to be identified, this all-important gland ceases to secrete the hormone, which tells the body to repair the cells. By receiving decreased amounts of growth hormone over time the body begins to age. Daily secretion from the pituitary gland diminishes with age to the extent that a 60 year old man secretes 25% of the hGH secreted by a 20 year old man. Actually secretion decreases due to lack of instructions from the hypothalamus to growth hormone releasing hormones, which are, as their name implies, hormones which act to release. Adding to this already decreasing dimension is the fact that receptor sites for hGH also become desensitized after a certain age. This causes less growth hormone to be released.)

      Days Like This is based on this premise. But it is taken to another level where synthetic hGH (serum) has proved to be not as effective as the real thing. The real thing is the hGH that the scientists of this new world drain from the pituitaries of young people at peak production time, which is during the intense growth spurt of adolescence, between 17 and 20. So the water also contains a substance that stimulates the pituitary in adolescents, bringing them eventually to maximum yield hormonally, enlarging and ripening it – hence the headaches that Daniel and Lily (but not Alice, a breeder) experience.

      My intention is that the serum project represents what might happen when a community breaks down, when individualism is taken to extremes, when the material is valued above the spiritual and when self-interest is the dominant ethos.
      The committee has achieved what it set out to do – it has excluded the less well off, it has reduced the population to a level that the available resources sustain, it has excluded people from entering the city to claim these limited resources, it has repressed troublesome young people, it has taken control of the society’s wealth (which in its basic form is represented in terms of electricity, water resources and food) and more importantly, it has found a way to hold onto power. But there is one thing these ageing baby boomers desire – a means to prolong their lives, perhaps even eternal youth.
      But equally as critical as the promise of eternal youth is the fact that serum may be used as an effective means of manipulation. That is, to stabilise an unstable situation. Once the committee has gained power, it knows it may be usurped at any time. How better to stabilise the remaining governable population than to:

       Deliver drugs to the population that are desirable beyond belief due to their promise of “eternal life”. They also depress the emotions of adults, removing their maternal/paternal feelings and introducing a craving for youth and a desperate fear of ageing. I think this is important. I don’t want the “fortunate” in this dystopian world to be happy-go-lucky and loving their lives. I want them to be on as equally a grim treadmill, in a way, as their children. They have no say in this choice made for them by the committee. They are as manipulated and controlled as their own children. It’s only the few members of the committee who have total power and freedom of choice. The reader might ask what is the motivation for the elite living so long or for doing this to their children – in fact, the motivation is entirely out of their control because it is chemically-induced by what is put into the water without their permission or knowledge. I try to make their relief palpable towards the end of the book when they no longer are in this stupor and when they are free of their drug-induced craving. Even though many die without the serum, they return briefly to the people they once were – people who value their children and their community.
       Another way to stabilise the remaining (elite) population within the walls is to insist that their children be used for proscribed purposes – draining for serum or breeding purposes. How better to control the children? And by happy coincidence, also control their parents. So my intention is that this horror is actually perpetrated by a very few – those Central Governing Committee members who are older and male I’m afraid (like Max – the only one we meet). It also gives them an awful way to take advantage sexually of young women though I have toned this down a little but it’s important because it is one of the most extreme forms of control/manipulation.
       Also, as in any society controlled by the few, information is censored. So what is seen on the screens is what the committee wants people to see. References to what is happening in the world, the violence and mayhem are removed as this information may be too destabilising. References to happy communities of past days are also removed, as are references to “striving” and spiritual rather than material wealth, unwelcome history is excised (the way the committee took power and the attending violence), and of course there no reference to the serum or what happened when the walls went up – mass destruction and genocide of those less fortunate.
       Another means of control is to make the acquisition of the serum something to be earned, thus rendering it more desirable. So if you cannot afford it, if you can’t offer children or a specific service, you are turned out. This reduces the numbers that need feeding, that need to draw on available water and electricity supplies and so on.
       And finally, when children are confined to their homes (around the time Daniel is 14, Lily 13 and Alice 9) this removes them from the streets altogether where there is the risk that they may meet others and foment unrest. The people Lily sees from her slice of bathroom window are those who have come back over the wall – but she doesn’t know that then.
       Ultimately, for the privileged elite, this is a society built on fear and craving – fear of falling foul of the committee, and being turned out; fear of what is beyond the walls, fear of growing old, fear of death.

      There is the issue of why Megan and Pym still seem to love Alice, despite the drugs which depresses the parental urge. You could argue that they should feel the same towards Daniel and Lily. They can’t be allowed to feel that way however because they are giving up Daniel and Lily to death, while Alice will be returned to them eventually. Her breeding potential to create new humans for both breeding and drainage makes her double valuable and their insurance policy against their own deaths.
      There is also the issue of Daniel being able to last so long in the drainage facility. I like the symmetry of the year between the time of Daniel’s disappearance and Lily’s impending 17th birthday. When floaters disappear from Lily’s vision as she hangs in the draining place, they are in fact being removed for “resting” in order for their pituitaries to revitalise. They are then drained again, and then rested and so on to draw out their lifespan. It seems to Lily as she hangs there that their decline is rapid; in fact it is not as rapid as she imagines.
      Of course, with the making of a new society and the formation of the serum project, there has been trial and error. Initially, the committee goes so far in its genocide that there are no longer enough people to sustain even the reduced community. This is when the breeder program is developed so that there will always be new life to tap in one form or the other (breeding or draining)
      And the serum program has its problems. At first, serum is drawn from all adolescents but some of this is found to be unviable resulting in some horrifying outcomes – deformities, unrestrained ageing, and painful death. Genetic testing must identify those suitable for draining. And scientists have not yet overcome the problem of halting the ageing process once someone stops taking the serum.

      The cave world: I imagine this cave to be located in the Berowra Valley which is near Hornsby about 28km from the city – about six or seven hours’ walk or less if you’re running as Kieran and those who go back inside the walls do .
      If you followed the Great North Walk, or drove along the Sydney to Newcastle Freeway, you would come upon it. There are many sandstone ridges and gullies and volcanic action where cave systems might have been developed. The topography is quite rocky and therefore suitable for concealment. It was once a heavily timbered area but not as much with the warming – but there are still stands of eucalypt, swamp oak casuarina and other more hardy plants that have adapted. This area is near the Hawkesbury River and Berowra Creek, but water flows are much reduced if present at all. However these water sources would explain the presence of the underground water which the cave dwellers tap.
      Christo is the one who discovered the cave system and he is its unofficial leader. The cave group grew from a rag-tag band of people who were put outside the walls and who scratched out a bare living. They had various other living places outside the walls, less secure, before Christo happened on the cave while hunting. It is a perfect place for a long-term community to set up.
      Christo, an engineer, oversaw the development of the system into a proper living space with water and air movement technology. Others with farming knowledge, work on the revolutionary “land enrichment” philosophy that so enthrals Luca. (This incidentally is based on the theory developed by Mudgee farmer, Peter Andrews, who backed it up with astonishing results on ABC TV’s Australian Story. The program showed how he’d rehabilitated his once saline-riddled farm into a lush, productive property in the middle of a drought. The transformation was made all the more remarkable by the contrast to neighbouring properties, which were nothing more than dry, dusty paddocks).
      The cave people scratch a living by raiding the food facilities – an exhausting process involving tracking back to the city. They also take what they can from the abandoned houses that litter Greater Sydney. They plant and harvest to the best of their ability but they are constrained by the need to stay undiscovered and but it is a poor existence materially.
      It is however rich in its sense of community. Though it is not spelled out, there is a democratic system of governance. Thus, as in any democracy, you find opposing views, which are tolerated. Some people would prefer not to make sorties back to the city to try and rescue those hanging in the drainage facilities. Some would prefer not to try and disrupt the conduits that bring electric and geothermal power from hotter areas outside Sydney to the enclave.
      But whatever their differences, this community is united in its rejection of the created world within the walls.


      The rise of the individual, the collapse of community: People’s inability to sacrifice in order to cut their reliance on fossil fuels and their refusal to take seriously the threat of global warming lead to dramatically diminished resources and a savagely selfish world. In Days Like This, this savage individuality finds form in the pursuit of power at the expense of community and is taken to extremes in the manipulation of people to serve the desires of a few.
      Class warfare; young versus old: With money comes power. Age brings power. The retention of power must be at the expense of someone; in this case, young people and the poor. Power and material things are considered critical to happiness. They cannot however provide youth/eternal life.
      Materialism: Our society tells us that only things will make us happy. This belief leads people to sacrifice family and community.
      Gene Manipulation to extend life: Is it immoral to try and dramatically extend life? “We can make it socially despicable,” says bioethicist Daniel Callahan, a senior fellow at Harvard Medical School. “Just like nuclear testing, we can decide that we don’t want it.” Fellow ethicists use equally strong words about the selfishness of the endeavour. “It is evil to focus energy on trying to live longer than 80 years when many poor people now don’t live past 40,” says Audrey Chapman, director of science and human rights at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Others foresee a dangerous future where overpopulation leads to draconian rules about childbearing, and where only a favoured few are allowed to live a second century. Robert Pollack, director of science and religion studies at Columbia University, offers the reminder that one of Hitler’s favourite slogans was: “Politics is applied biology.”
      Some say that to destroy death would be to destroy our own humanity. Not all agree. Says Rabbi Neil Gillman of the Jewish Theological Seminary: “God is life itself, and we are not only justified, but we are obligated to do everything we can to extend life.”

      Without being too earnest, I would hope that Days Like This challenges readers to examine what they value. Is it a sense of historic and literal place, the natural environment and the dignity of the individual or is it a world that satisfies only materially?
      This is not meant to be not a bleak novel but one of hope and redemption. Despite the confronting disintegration of a familiar world, I hope it tells us that there is room for a compassionate society that values decency and integrity and carries a profound belief in peoples’ essential humanity.


      • Tom says:

        Hi Alison,
        Thanks for your information about Max it was very helpful for my assignment. The back story was really interesting as well and helped a lot. I had to make a show bag filled with items about his character and I thought you might be interested to see it. Here is the link:

        Thanks very much,


  16. Maureen Evans says:

    Hi Alison
    If you are interested? I have my own life story to share with you, if you are needing material. I tried to find a direct email address to write so I could share more but this link was all I could find.
    Kind regards


    • Hi Maureen,
      Thank you so much for sending me you story, which is complex and difficult in parts. You are indeed a survivor and must be a resilient person.
      I would strongly advise you to write it yourself. It is much better to tell your story directly I think, than tell it through a third person.
      I don’t know where you are living, but centres like the NSW Writers Centre have really useful short courses on life writing. There is a market for this.
      Let me know what you think.
      Best wishes


  17. Jordan says:

    Hi Alison, my partner loves your book sweetwater night and I am desperate to try and get my hands on a copy. If there is anything you could do it would be greatly appreciated.
    Please contact me if possible.
    Kind regards,


  18. Hi Alison
    I enjoy reading your stories in the Nature section of traveller in SMH. Would you be the right person for a story suggestion? We have an amazing new nature retreat just 45 minutes from Sydney full of the most wonderful fauna and flora http://www.billabongretreat.com.au
    Please email me if interested
    02 4573 6080


    • Hi Paul,
      Apologies for taking so long to reply – I’ve been away.
      Your establishment sounds lovely and I will certainly bear it in mind. I love the Colo River area and have hiked there a bit. I am however currently concentrating on overseas projects.
      This may change in time; will let you know.
      In the meantime,
      Best wishes


  19. Hi Ella,
    I’d be happy to. Not sure if you want personal stuff or stuff about my books, so I’ll give you a bit of both – just let me know if you want anything more.
    I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa but I came to Australia in my twenties. I worked as a journalist in Wollongong and Sydney but then started writing books.
    My first book was an adult novel, published in South Africa, called Born Into The Country, about the apartheid regime’s treatment of those who were banned and persecuted.
    My second book was also a novel for adults but published in Australia, about leaving your country and settling in to a new one (there might have been a note of autobiography there!)
    Then I had my children, who are now grown up – Georgia is a doctor and Angus is still at university finishing a media degree. Having children made me interested in the different phases of growing up so it was easy to start writing books for children and young adults.
    Georgia and Angus were often inspirations for those books. For instance, Georgia loved horse riding and she had a horse in the country outside Sydney. My book, The Year The Star Fell, was based on incidents that happened at that time of her life – riding horses, some school bullying, trying to resolve issues with friends and so on.
    I have written nine books – seven for children and young adults and two for adults. I have also written a memoir called Cold Stone Soup, which I hope will be published, about growing up in South Africa.
    Some of my young adult books have also been published in Italy, Denmark, Holland and Thailand.
    Days Like This was published after I entered it into a worldwide competition called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards in 2010. I was lucky enough for it to be a young adult finalist and Penguin published it. It is different from my other books which are all realistic narratives whereas Days Like This imagines a time in the future and is a dystopia.
    The idea for the book sprang from my concerns that we may not be treasuring our natural resources enough. Perhaps we are making choices that are good for us now, but might be bad for the future world that our children and grandchildren will inherit.
    The book explores the possible extreme consequences of making choices that are selfish – we may end up with a world where resources are so limited and precious that it may become completely acceptable to exploit people to serve the needs of a powerful elite.
    But apart from all that, Ella, I hope it is also just a good story! 🙂
    I also do a fair bit of travel writing and I am off to wildest Africa soon to canoe along the Zambezi River, hopefully nowhere near any hippos or crocs!
    If there are any other questions, I would be most happy to answer them.
    Best wishes


    • Ella says:

      Hi Alison
      Thank you so very much, i will tell you if i need anymore facts/help
      thanks again!!!!:)


      • Ella says:

        Hi Alison
        Bookselling went great, lots of people want to read days like this now!
        I am sooooo glad I chose to do Days Like This now!!!
        Thank you for the facts they helped a lot, my teacher said I chose a great book and that I spoke with confidence, and usually I hate that kind of thing and I am shy and quiet, I dont know what happened, i just felt heaps more confident!!!!
        I would read it over and over again, but I have to return it to the library.
        Thank you for inspiring me… I love your books they are amazing!!!!!!!
        THANKS SO MUCH ALISON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        ELLA. M
        Eastbourne, Wellington.


      • Hi Ella,
        I’m so pleased that Bookselling was a huge success and that your presentation was a hit.
        You write so well yourself and sound so smart that I would never have doubted it!
        Thank you for choosing my book and for inspiring ME! Thank YOU, Ella!
        All best wishes
        Alison 🙂


  20. Thank you too, Ella!
    Good luck for your May 24 bookselling and I look forward to hearing how it went!
    Best wishes


    • Ella says:

      I forgot to add thanks SOOOOOOOOOO very much for replying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      I thought it was very nice


      • Ella says:

        i forgot to mention for the booksellig we need to get some facts about the author, and i cant seem to find anything about you!! i was wondering if you could possibly help me, you don’t have to though


  21. Ella says:

    Hi Alison…
    I am a 12 yr old girl from eastbourne wellington and i got days like this out from the local library and i absoulutley LOVE IT!!!!!!!!! It is an amazing book and i thought it was great to read. We are doing this thing at school called bookselling, its when you take a book into school and talk about it to try and get people to read it, i have decided to do Days like this. I thought lots of people my age would like to read it.
    hope to hear a reply!!!!
    keep writing


    • Hi Ella,
      I really loved receiving your message and hearing that you enjoyed Days Like This. It’s wonderful for a writer to know that people like what you have written, so THANK YOU ELLA! Otherwise it’s like writing in a vacuum.
      Bookselling sounds like a great way to recommend books that you have enjoyed to your friends. I always like to hear book recommendations from my friends and often there’s lots to talk about.
      Congratulations to your school for this idea which encourages people to read. And we all know that reading is such incredible fun!!
      Best wishes and happy reading,


      • Ella says:

        thank you for your reply Alison you are an amazing author and i an looking forward to reading more of your books
        p.s: i am doing bookselling on May 24 i will tell you how it goes
        thanks for replying!!!!!!
        ella (again)


  22. ladyredjess says:

    Dear Alison,

    I’m writing on behalf of the Australian Women Writers Challenge team and would like to thank you for your participation in the AWW challenge this year. I was also wondering if you’ve seen our feedback survey?


    It’s very quick (10 questions, mostly check boxes, takes 2 minutes), and will provide useful feedback to Bookseller & Publisher.

    Even if you didn’t reach your goal this year, your feedback is valued, and I hope you’ll join us again for AWW Challenge 2013.

    Kind regards,


  23. Theresa Miller says:

    Hi Alison, my daughter enthusiastically recommended your book to me. I am horrified that she has read it. She did not comprehend that Max repeatedly raped at least two 13 year old girls until they became pregnant. With the consent of their parents. I do not care whether they were addicts or not, it is the ultimate betrayal and it is a revolting situation to include in a YA novel. My daughter might have an advanced reading age however she does not have the maturity to deal with the issues you raised, And you have failed to deal with them. Unless the fact they were all killed off – rape victims and perpetrator is meant to be a satisfactory method of handling this topic? When I discussed the suitability of this book for her age group my daughter was distraught to think that it could be banned. She is not yet mature enough to recognise when she should close a book, switch off a tv, walk away from a conversation. So I am livid that she has absorbed this reading material and will have to work through the issues it has raised. And before you say that is a positive thing. It is not. She was innocent, naive and trusting and looking for a good story.


    • Hi Theresa,
      Thank you for writing to me. I understand that you are upset, however I have some very real concerns about the issues you raise and so I am going to answer you at length.
      I am impressed that your daughter enthusiastically recommended my book to you, and hope that she will not be discouraged from discussing books and reading with you.
      The segment of the book which deals with the sexual abuse of minors purposely has no graphic references because of the obvious sensitivity of the subject matter. The inference was subtle (and this was consciously done in consultation with the publisher, Penguin). However, I believe that this segment was necessary for the purpose of the book, which is to build a world where people have forgotten what parental and community responsibility entails; and how their greed and focus on materialism and individualism has rendered many, but not all, less than human.

      My intention with Days Like This (apart from trying to write a compelling story) was to try and challenge young readers to think about what we value. Is it a sense of historic and literal place, the natural environment and the dignity of the individual or is it a world that satisfies us only materially? I hoped readers might think about the kind of world we are creating. This is common to dystopian fiction and one I believe that drives its popularity with young people. They can examine difficult issues safely and perhaps think about how they can contribute as they grow into positions of authority to create a better, more inclusive world.

      You say your daughter did not comprehend that “Max repeatedly raped at least two girls etc” and yet you drew her attention to this specifically. Again, I wish you had rather discussed with her the themes of the book – which among others are, as one review (by a secondary school librarian, Mandy Kilpatrick) puts it: “Corruption in society, powerlessness of teens and people wanting to ‘play God’ with science. This coupled with the setting of a dying world (post global warming) mean that there are many teaching opportunities contained within this text.”

      From my point of view, I believe discussion of our value system which the book raises would be far more useful than a narrow focus on a highly negative element. And I am disappointed that you have not read the book as it is intended, which is actually an affirmation of life, love, and community. In fact it is not meant to be a bleak novel but one of hope and redemption. Despite the confronting disintegration of a familiar world, I hope it tells us that there is room for a compassionate society that values decency and integrity and carries a profound belief in peoples’ essential humanity.

      Days Like This insists that there is a place for those, both young and old, who cannot embrace the values of the new world. There is room in society for compassion and trust and for honouring the natural progression of life to death. Lily must find this place but her search will require courage and a profound belief in the decency of human nature.
      Again as Mandy Kilpatrick writes: “Lily’s story of betrayal, heartbreak and redemption, her amazing courage, survival instinct and compassion make her a character that young adults will want to relate to.”

      Perhaps that is what your daughter liked about the book. It is wonderful that she did not focus on the grim and depressing building blocks of the novel but rather “enthusiastically recommended” it.

      I am also a little taken aback that you believe the book should be banned or carry a warning. As a parent I’m sure you recognise that this would only encourage young readers to go looking for the offending segment rather than focusing on the book as a whole and its ultimately life-affirming message.

      Finally, we live in a highly confronting world and I think that young readers, who use the internet, watch the television news and discuss issues with friends are well aware of this. We would all love to wrap our children in cotton wool but it is impossible. Of course you are within your rights to censor what your child reads and, probably far more importantly, accesses online.

      From a reading point of view however, I’m afraid you would have to include the most popular young adult dystopian series: The Hunger Games. If you read it literally rather than looking at Suzanne Collins’s intentions, you could not possibly find the central tenet of the book acceptable for young readers – the deliberate and violent exploitation of young people, often younger than ten, as TV entertainment as they are forced to hunt and brutally kill one another in an arena. Shocking stuff indeed.

      I probably won’t change your mind Theresa, as I recognise and respect the depth of your feelings but I hope you will at least consider what I have written, maybe even discuss it with your daughter.

      May I leave you with the following – Chloe Mauger’s review of Days Like This in the November 1, 2011 issue of Reading Time (the quarterly journal published by the Children’s Book Council of Australia):
      “Set in a dystopian future after global warming has led to the surviving wealthy families of Sydney being ‘safe’ enclosed behind a huge wall, while outcasts beyond the wall are presumably long dead. Lily, twin brother Daniel and younger sister Alice live a rigidly proscribed life with their strangely cold and aloof parents, never allowed to leave the house and forced to take strictly monitored medication during the weekly visit of the fearsome Blacktroopers. When Daniel, suffering from disabling migraines, suddenly disappears one night, Lily knows she must somehow escape before something terrible happens to her, too.
      “This riveting, strong, fast-paced novel is set in a nightmarish world where it is extremely dangerous to be young. The inventive plot is peopled by interesting characters who face environmental, physical, and psychological challenges in a very unsafe and unpredictable world. As well as being an un-put-downable read, this novel belongs with other thought-provoking dystopian novels such as Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World or more recently, Gillian Rubinstein’s Terrafarma and so on, raising many philosophical and moral questions for discussion by secondary readers. Recommended.”


  24. Jen Hewitson says:

    Well done on your book ‘Days Like This!’ I am in the middle of reading it and think it is brilliant.


    • Hi Jen,
      Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write and tell me your thoughts about Days Like This. I’m so pleased you like it and I really appreciate your email.
      Take care and best wishes,


  25. Jordan Ku :P says:

    Hi, I’m a twelve year old girl and I’m turning thirteen this year. I live in Australia with my family and attend Prairiewood Highschool. On most weekdays I would visit my school library. A few days ago I saw ‘Days Like This’ on one of the bookshelves and suddenly felt this nagging feeling about the book. I read the blurb and it was interesting so I borrowed it. I’ve finished the book today and I wanted more of it…it was awesome! One of the best books I’ve ever read that has gotten me so engrossed in it! Excellent! Unreal! Fantastic! I’d say it was real page-turner and I mean it. I’m grateful that books ever existed and such inspiring authors, each with their own unique set of writing skills. I’m sorry if I wasted your time from reading such a long comment and I hope I didn’t upset you! Thanx Alison, I really enjoyed reading ‘Days Like This’ and I look up to you from admiration and respect. I wish you a happy and healthy life.

    Jordan 😛


    • Hi Jordan,
      Firstly, my apologies for taking to long to write back but I have been away from Sydney and not checking my email as regularly as I should.
      But you made my day with your lovely comments, Jordan. Thank you so much for all the terrific things you have said about Days Like This. It’s really wonderful for writers to read messages like this because sometimes you feel as if you are writing away in a bit of a vacuum. To know that there are people like you who scour library shelves and enjoy the world of the imagination is very uplifting.
      I’m so pleased you got a nagging feeling about my book which drove you to read it!
      Take care and best wishes,


  26. Dear Ms Stewart

    As a matter of courtesy, I would like to let you know that Read it! Loved it! (www.readitlovedit.com) has listed The memory shell as a Tough times book for 14-15 year old girls.

    If you have any queries or problems with this inclusion, please let me know.

    Warm regards

    Mr Gavin Jones
    Read it! Loved it!

    Email me at mrjones@readitlovedit.com
    Follow me at @readitlovedit

    Read it! Loved it! is featured in the School Library Association of New Zealand May 2012 issue of ‘Collected’
    (http://www.slanza.org.nz/collected.html or download the PDF at: http://www.slanza.org.nz/magazine/May2012.pdf)


    • Dear Mr Jones,
      Thank you for listing The Memory Shell in your Tough Times for girls list – I’m enjoying scrolling through your lists; you have some wonderful writing there!
      Best wishes for your excellent website,


  27. Eduardo Saez says:

    Hi Alison, Not sure if you are the Alison I’m looking for, do you remember a Rumanian Violin player name Joan Melu and he gave a concert with no audience?? I found this man about five years ago in downtown Las Vegas.. I read an article that you wrote back in the early 80’s…
    I don’t know why I’m writing to you, anyway if you want some photos of him let me know and I’ll be happy to send you some..

    Eduardo Saez


    • Hi Eduardo,

      Apologies for not replying sooner. Unfortunately, I am not the Alison Stewart you mention, though I am a journalist as well as a writer. There are quite a few of me however! Far too many, in my opinion! Good luck with tracking down the “right” Alison Stewart.
      Best wishes,


  28. Alan Birch says:

    Hi Alison,
    I came across your name while searching authors on the net and decided to start at the beginning and managed to source a second hand copy of Born into Country all the way from Norwood in South Africa.
    It bought back lots of memories and reflections of my of my time in Cape Town during Apartheid, I look forward to reading Cold Stone Soup when it is available.
    Kind Regards
    Alan Birch


    • Hi Alan,
      You were lucky to source a copy of Born into the Country as it’s been out of print for quite a while!
      Yes, the apartheid years encompassed a strange time – hard for people who didn’t experience them to comprehend such extreme behaviour. I’m hoping someone will publish Cold Stone Soup, which deals with growing up in that world.
      Hope you and your family are well.
      Best wishes


  29. indigo says:

    hello, i am a thirteen year-old australian girl and i got days like this for christmas, i started reading it two days ago, i love it, i am almost finished 🙂 it is such a great book, i cant put it down!


    • Hello Indigo,
      It’s terrific to hear that you have enjoyed Days Like This. I also like getting books for Christmas – the more the merrier!
      Anyway, thanks for letting me know; it means a lot to any writer to hear this 🙂
      All best wishes for 2012, Alison


  30. Joe Biancke says:

    I have tried to send a photo of you on the Rovos trip to the email you gave me, but to no avail. If you will e-mail me at my attached address, I will try again.
    Best wishes,
    Joe Biancke


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s