Interview with local resident Colin Bisset – First time digital novelist, ABC radio broadcaster and Feng Shui Consultant

Recently one of my more mature clients (75yrs plus) rang me and was telling me about how he had just checked his iPad and was most impressed with his property ad online, but maybe could we tweak something just so the Google ranking was even better. Impressed and slightly shocked I asked him what tablet he was using and he said the latest mini iPad which his 3yr old granddaughter had taught him how to use…

Thus meeting Colin Bisset to discuss his new novel, Not Always to Plan, I had as many questions about the book as to how he was marketing his novel which he has launched purely as an e-book! Colin Bisset, a resident of the Sutherland Shire since 1996, has always had budding ambitions to write a novel.This year, in April, his dream was realised when his first book was released through Momentum Books.

“Not Always to Plan” is a book about death, family, marriage and finding your own way while being a parent, child, sister, daughter, son. A well-to-do, but not obscenely wealthy family living in a leafy beachside suburb of the Sutherland Shire, Ruth, Tom, Natasha and Ryan all have issues to deal with.  The novel has the background setting of a relaxed beachside suburb which we can all relate to. References to the local theatre and the café by the beach where certain characters go, make you feel like you are reading a book about a family you might know in a town you do know.

How long did it take to write Not Always to Plan?
I wrote about 16 chapters about 5 years ago and then left it, wrote another book but then came back to Not Always to Plan two years ago. So it was definitely a work in progress. My agent gave both books to the publisher and they decided to go with Not Always to Plan as my first novel.

What would you say the book is about in one sentence?
It’s about a family and 4 individuals in particular and how they are disconnected from their feelings and letting life pass them by before something happens which gives them the wake-up call/ opportunity to change direction.

How did you come up with the storyline?
Sometimes I start writing and the characters take on a life of their own and send me down a path. I am always jotting down ideas and I really wanted to explore the idea of how people find their purpose in life. So often we let life drift along without really knowing where we’re heading. How do we arrive at that point where we feel we’re on the right track? That’s what I wanted to write about while enjoying the chaotic way we go about it!

What made you set it in this area?
Write about what you know, they say, and I’ve lived here long enough now. I also wanted to write about a normal family – the father’s a dentist, the son has just left uni, the daughter works in a shop and the mother looks after an elderly parent. So they’re pretty normal. And I could just see them pottering around Cronulla, going to the beach, walking to the post office, taking the train up to Central. I’ve changed some things, obviously, but I think people from this area will definitely recognise places I’m writing about.

How are you marketing your 1st novel?
It’s a real journey! Especially as this novel was not an easy genre to classify so as a print book it might have get lost on the bookshelves. The book went “live” so to speak on Easter Monday, there was no fanfare, no book “launch” in the traditional sense, it really was a bit of an anti climax. But it was released to the world not just to Australia and that’s pretty exciting. Like most authors nowadays I have a website, a facebook page and a twitter account with a daily marketing strategy. At least this way I don’t have to go to every bookshop I know and re-arrange my book to the front window when no one is looking!

How did you choose the publisher?
They chose me! But I’m really happy as Momentum Books is the digital publishing arm of Pan Macmillan so they have loads of experience and handled the ebook exactly as they would a print version – same editting and design processes. This is a new area for all the big publishing houses so I’m pleased to be part of that.

Well I couldn’t put my e-book down, I became endeared to your characters very quickly and found myself saying cheering on a certain female in certain chapters without giving anything away. What genre would you classify the book and where do you recommend we purchase from?
I suppose it falls into general or family fiction – it’s not all sex’n’shopping so it’s not chicklit but there are elements of that in it. It’s meant to be a page-turner and the characters are all ages so I think there’s someone for everyone to identify with. It’s on Amazon, of course, but probably the best place to check it out is on Momentum’s own website.

Colin, I know you are already so busy with your radio work and your Feng Shui consulting but do you think you will write another novel at some stage?
No doubt about it! I can’t wait to get into the next one – I love the whole writing experience. I’m working with several ideas at the moment. And of course my Design Files are popular on ABC Radio National so it’s a fairly safe bet to assume my next novel will have a design slant…We’ll see.

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Feng Shui: A Good Night In

A popular misconception about the practice of feng shui is that its main focus is wealth creation. Put a water feature here, a windchime there and what’s to stop a cheque for thousands of dollars plopping into your mail box? But there are many things more valuable than money and one of them is sleep. A good night’s sleep means you are rested and fit to face whatever the next day throws at you. It gives your body time to recover and rebuild and it allows us to have wonderful dreams. It’s one of the first things I look at when I’m assessing someone’s home. Even if we can’t easily change where our home is located, most of us have the ability to create the best bedroom in which to sleep.

A well-placed bed is, I think, one of the most important things to address in the home. So what do we need to do? Just as the best building sits against a protective slope, so a bed is best placed with its head against a solid wall. The movement of chi within the home basically follows a path from door to door and from door to window. These are active areas. A bed placed underneath a window means that the flow of chi coming through the bedroom door moves toward the window meaning the energy over that bed is active. This means disturbed sleep patterns. Whereas a bed with its head set against a solid wall is supported by this quiet mountain-like energy. If your bed has to be under a window, think about installing solid shutters to close the wall down (at least at night) and add a solid headboard. For a child’s bedroom this is especially important as they are susceptible to strong currents of chi. But for guest bedrooms, don’t worry – it means your guests won’t overstay their welcome!

Given that chi moves from door to window, that often means that the bed is positioned directly between a door and the bedroom window. Not much you can do about this but it’s more important that the head of the bed is against a wall. Adding bedside tables gives additional support. For couples, try to make sure that the bedside tables and lamps are identical to reflect balance in the relationship. I usually advise people to keep the wall above the bed clear of any artwork as this draws energy over the bed (just as your eye is drawn to the artwork). If you must have artwork on that wall, keep it to the wall above each bedside table instead.

The energy of a bedroom should be quiet. Large windows with big views, busy artwork or artwork with aggressive imagery, and too many mirrors can all disturb this feeling of tranquility. For large windows, think of curtains to frame the view and soften the atmosphere at night. Generally keep artwork to a minimum. For couples it’s a good idea to have an image of you both together (and looking happy!). Avoid pictures of the kids or other members of the family as this room is for you and your partner, so claim it. For mirrored wardrobes, try opening them at night and if you find you sleep better then think about replacing them with solid doors or covering them with opaque film. I know someone who draws a thin curtain across her wardrobe mirrors at night, which gives a lovely soft atmosphere to the room as well.

Think about the imagery of your bedroom. This is your private sanctuary and it represents the inner you. Don’t overload bedside tables with work-related reading. Put something you find beautiful there instead so that it’s a gift to you every time you wake up. It goes without saying that the room shouldn’t appear disorderly or cluttered to you.

If you’re single and looking for a partner, check whether your bedroom is really set up for one or two people. I often see single people living in bedrooms that have only one bedside table, a small bed and imagery of single people – the whole room screams singleness.

Of course bedrooms aren’t all about sleep. Add some spice with a touch of red (a cushion, perhaps) and warm lighting. Think of bringing in different textures – velvets, mohair, even a good fake fur – anything that feels good against bare skin.

The list of do’s and dont’s for bedrooms goes on but ultimately the main thing to get right is the bed placement. After that, the rest is pure pleasure.

As the Italians say, I wish you golden dreams. (And I promise I’m not talking about money).


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Feng Shui Expert – Colin Bisset

Our new blogger, Colin Bisset, is a Feng Shui expert and writes for ABC Radio National By Design…

Someone once said to me that feng shui is all about seeing if a building loves its landscape and if the landscape loves it back. If that’s all good then life supposedly should be a smoother journey for those who live inside. And certainly I’ve had a client who had a precarious life after moving to a cliff-edge house, and numerous others who have felt life is passing them by after moving to a home that is difficult to find, tucked away from everyone else.

As someone who walks regularly by the ocean, I’m forever looking at the various blocks of flats and houses that line it and wondering about their feng shui. What would it be like to live there, I ask myself (something I ask myself pretty much anywhere I go, actually). Surely there can be little better than gazing out on to a sunlit, turquoise sea dotted with the white sails of yachts? In a storm, however, living next to the sea is a different story. Swept by strong winds and  salt-laden air, to say nothing of the noise of crashing waves, this is an incredible force of nature that can make any house feel as though it’s under attack.

For some this is part of the exhilaration and wonder of living next to what is essentially a wilderness. For others, it is simply overwhelming. One client of mine told me that his family was always sick when they lived in a seafront house that was hit by the full force of the southerlies, which cleared up when they moved to a more sheltered spot. It’s a reminder that while our homes may well be a reflection of who we are, the  buildings we live in also can affect our life experiences.

We need to be mindful of our own strengths and weaknesses when we choose where to live. The wonder is that when we get it right then there’s no holding us back.

Colin is available for consults:
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