Queensland author, Anita Bell, who also writes as AA Bell, is this year’s proud recipient of the Norma K Hemming Award for her psychological thriller Diamond Eyes. This prestigious award is sponsored and administered by the Australian Science Fiction Foundation to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in science fiction or fantasy in works produced either in Australia or by Australian citizens.
When I caught up with Anita to congratulate her on her recent award, she was understandably jubilant, ‘I’ve been doing a lot of champagne glass clinking’, she said.
Other awards and credits Anita has received for Diamond Eyes include:
2007 – 2010 QUT Scholarship awarded for the development of Diamond Eyes (AA Bell) as a research project.
2009 – Highly Commended award for an unpublished manuscript, Jim Hamilton Awards, Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW)
The multi-award winning story is about a young, blind woman named Mira Chambers, who lives in two worlds at once: the real one she can feel but not see; and the colonial past, which she can see happening all around her, but not feel. When the story opens, Mira is trapped in a very dark and frightening place in her life. With the arrival of two medical scientists who begin an exploration of Mira’s strange perspectives it becomes a story of Mira’s fight for freedom, understanding and independence.
The story is set throughout the south east corner of Queensland from Toowoomba to the islands of Moreton Bay and from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast.
The ninth generation Queensland writer from Lockyer Valley explains, ‘The mental health facility in Diamond Eyes is located on a fictional island in Moreton Bay, but it’s an amalgamation of three real locations: Peel Island, which was formerly a leper colony; St Helena’s Island, famous for its use as a Gaol; and the Challinor Centre in Ipswich, formerly known as the Sandy Gallop ‘Benevolent Asylum’. Aspects of those centres provided Anita with rich sources of inspiration, not only for settings, but also for quirky and memorable characters.
Anita worked in the spooky halls of Sandy Gallop for nearly 10 years. ‘I was mainly in the office, where the architecture was really quite exquisite, but it was a very old and chilling place to work, especially at night,’ she said. ‘Many of the old buildings are still historically listed, and have been extensively renovated as part of the new Ipswich University’s campus. Some of the scariest buildings were demolished and turned into car parks, including some that were built over dungeons – complete with brick walls and shackles!’
Diamond Eyes is the first book in a trilogy of fantasy thrillers. Some of the secondary characters from the trilogy have appeared in some of Anita’s other stories. ‘Allowing them to come to the new series with fully developed back-stories made sense to me and I think adds an extra layer of believability’.
Anita’s publishing repertoire includes:
The Diamond Eyes series of Fantasy Thrillers under the pen name AA Bell (HarperCollins Voyager):
Diamond Eyes (2010)
Leopard Dreaming (2012)
Thrillers for Young Adults as Anita Bell (Random House Australia):
Crystal Coffin (2001)
Project apocalypse (2006)
For children as Anita Bell:
Fluff on my Brain, (30 Australian Ghost Stories, Random House Australia, 2004)
Voices from Beyond, (30 Australian Ghost Stories, Random House Australia, 2004)
Terror under the Rockies and Winkle, (Stories for 8 year olds, Random House Australia, 2005)
The Moon Serpent’s Garden, (Picture This!, Pearson Australia, 2009)
Kirby’s Crusaders series of novellas as Anita Bell (Random House Australia) :
Tagged by Dead Dogs (2003)
Hunt the Hunters (2004)
Anita has also written these choose-your-own-adventure stories for State Library’s popular Summer Reading Program for children and young adults that are available online:
Kirby and the Deadly Dungeon
Enter the Dead Zone
As Anita fulfils State Library’s working definition of a ‘Queensland Author’, it is my job to obtain all of her imaginative works for the John Oxley Library’s collection where they will be housed for future generations of researchers. (I purchase them if they are published outside Queensland and obtain them through legal deposit if they are published within the state. Click here for State Library’s working definitions of ‘Queensland Author’ and ‘imaginative works’.)
If you are an emerging Queensland author of imaginative writing (or if you know of someone else who is), please, please let me know so that I don’t miss out on obtaining your early works for the John Oxley Library’s collection!
Like many other readers, I now have another great title to add to my reading list!!
Dr Leanne Day
Queensland Authors Librarian