Meet Cheryl Adnams

Today I’d like to introduce Aussie author Cheryl Adnams, and her series set in the McLaren Vale district of South Australia. Apart from producing some of Australia’s finest wines, it’s also an area rich in wildlife and natural beauty. With national parks, scenic vineyards and miles of pristine beaches, this part of Australia provides wonderful settings for readers to enjoy. Over to you Cheryl!


Hi Jennifer, and thanks for having me visit.
I’ve always had a love affair with McLaren Vale. The wineries are many and varied, conveniently located close together and only a forty minute drive from my house in the south of Adelaide. So it was a no-brainer that I would base my first novels in the wine region on the Fleurieu Peninsula that I love so much.

My three books in what I call the Mullers of McLaren Vale series follow each of the three sons, who are taking over the century old winery from their retiring father Harry, and the strong women who come into their lives and change them forever. Writing these stories was a good excuse to visit the region more often to do research. Like I needed an excuse! I had the opportunity to do some Grenache grape picking at Yangarra winery, getting up very early in the morning to enjoy a crisp start during the 2015 vintage. The picking was hard work as the Grenache bushes are low to the ground. But a good grape stomping followed by a delicious breakfast (including some of the lovely wine) made it all worthwhile.

The McLaren Vale wine region is unique in that its rolling hills and vineyards butt up against the coast and some of the most stunning, white sandy, turquoise blue water beaches in South Australia. In the last few years I have on occasion rented a lovely little blue house down at Port Willunga as a writing retreat alone and sometimes with friends.

The old Port Willunga Jetty has so much history and the famous Star of Greece restaurant perches on the cliff above, named for the ship that was wrecked only one hundred metres offshore in 1888, now a popular dive site. The rapidly crumbling jetty and the storage caves dug into the cliffs make it one of the most photographed places in South Australia. The area and the jetty get a mention in the McLaren Vale novels too.

Much of the coastline is a sanctuary, particularly the Aldinga Reef area. The birdlife is abundant and kites can often be seen soaring along the golden limestone cliffs looking for prey. Dolphin pods are a regular sight and the area is also a haven for shingleback lizards (otherwise known as Sleepy Lizards) as well as several species of protected flora.

Spot the deadly Blue Ringed Octopus, master of camouflage!

When the tide goes out on the Aldinga reef, there is some great marine life spotting to be had. Baby Port Jackson sharks and crabs of all sizes skim the reef pools, and I’ve even spotted a blue ringed octopus, thankfully before I made the mistake of stepping on it. 

I am very proud of this beautiful region and all it has to offer. It’s so close to the city of Adelaide, but it feels like a thousand miles away once you’re there. You can feel the stresses of the city just falling away when you turn the corner and see the turquoise waters of the Spencer Gulf stretching out before you. I would encourage everyone to come and see this stunning part of the world, but really I just want to keep it all to myself!

Author Bio

Cheryl Adnams lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has published four Australian rural romance novels and a Christmas novella. Cheryl has a Diploma in Freelance Travel Writing and Photography and has lived and worked in the United States, Canada and spent two years with a tour company in Switzerland and Austria. Her passion for Italy, volcanology and cycling have made their way into her stories and her favourite writing retreats include Positano on the Amalfi Coast and Port Willunga Beach just south of Adelaide. When she’s not writing, Cheryl is still creating in her busy full time job as a trainer and learning designer.

Find Cheryl’s books on Amazon,  Kobo and Itunes.
Don’t forget to check out Cheryl’s stunning new novel The Girl From Eureka


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Annie Seaton

I’m on a mission to promote Australian & New Zealand rural fiction, and am turning my blog over each week to a different rural Aussie or Kiwi author. Some will be well-established writers and some will be new, but they will all have something unique to say. I’d love more readers to discover the richness and variety of our home-grown genre.

To kick things off, here’s multi award-winning author Annie Seaton. Annie and I both share a deep love of and commitment to Australia’s marvellous landscapes and wildlife. And like me, Annie’s writing seeks to raise awareness of the threats that wild Australia faces. Add in big dollops of mystery, romance and adventure, and you have a recipe for winning fiction! Anyone who knows my work will understand why I love Annie’s wonderful books. I hope you’ll love them too! 🙂


Hi, and thanks for having me visit, Jennifer.

I’m Annie Seaton, and I live at the beach on the east coast of Australia. I always dreamed of being an author, and after working as an academic research librarian, a high school principal and a university tutor, I took up a writing career, and discovered my true niche.

My Porter Sisters series, Kakadu Sunset, Daintree and Diamond Sky, is published by Pan Macmillan Australia. I’m also published with Harper Collins in the Harlequin Mira imprint. Whitsunday Dawn (2018) is the first of these books, to be followed by Undara (July) 2019, Osprey Reef (2020) and East of Alice (2021).

My recent books have created a new genre: eco-adventure romance, a genre that gives me a voice for raising awareness of the threats to our beautiful Australian landscapes and wildlife. Over the past few years, I have used fiction to variously examine and raise awareness of:

  • the threat to the environment by coal seam gas mining beneath Kakadu
  • wildlife smuggling in the Daintree
  • the need for the correct environmental rehabilitation of mine sites in the eastern Kimberleys of WA
  • the threat to the Great Barrier Reef by coal mining and export
  • endangered species in unexplored environments.

I am currently researching the effect of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and genetic engineering of coral for my 2020 book Osprey Reef.

Researching a book in the actual environment and living in that setting for a few weeks is essential to me as an author. I am fortunate to write full time, and each winter, I’m able to travel with my husband to camp and live in the settings that I will use in future books. This enables me to evoke the atmosphere so much more realistically: the unique smells, the feel of the wind on your skin, and the sound of the birds, the wildlife, the waves or the desert wind. The actual essence of a setting is how you experience and feel it through your five senses. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch written well and woven through my characters’ perceptions, help the reader believe they are there in the story themselves.

My books blend disparate elements – mystery, romance and environmental issues, and explore Australian landscapes and wildlife. I begin with a setting: each story is first inspired by landscape. The idea always comes to me from the natural beauty of landscape… a desert sunset, a wave breaking on a reef, the beauty of Australian wildlife, a dark forest or one of the many natural inspirations of our beautiful country. The need to preserve the pristine nature of these beautiful Australian settings drives my stories. I then explore the issues that threatens this landscape, and I begin my research—both in the landscape I am writing about, as well as online and in libraries, reading books and digitised newspapers. By the time I have researched the issues, my characters have begun to come to life in my thoughts.

My most recently published book Whitsunday Dawn examines the threat to the Great Barrier Reef by the proposed development of a coal loader. As well as greedy political decisions, the reef is endangered by many natural threats and human interventions, and I wanted to raise awareness of these dangers in a maybe not-so-fictional scenario.

My upcoming book, Undara, raises the issue of endangered species in the Undara Lava tubes in northern Queensland, and again explores the issue of human greed impacting on the natural environment.

Undara Caves

We visited there a few years ago and listened to the guide telling us about the tubes that had never been entered by a human, and the likelihood of hitherto undiscovered species existing in the lava tubes. It planted the seed for a story.

There are so many threatened environments and endangered species, there is a story to be told wherever we turn. I’d like to share a brief excerpt from Undara:

“To their right, a high ceiling of honeycombed grey rock rimmed the edge of the clearing. A pile of tumbled rocks rose in what looked to be a manmade cairn where the grey rock met the ground. High above them at least a dozen snakes hung from the intertwined branches. As she watched, the milky, bulbous eyes of a striped green snake looked back at Emlyn and she suppressed a shiver. A soft noise came from in front of them and the boys walked over to the rock cairn. All three of them looked up. A large gap in the green canopy revealed a triangle of midnight-blue clear sky. The noise became louder, and suddenly, with a huge whooshing sound, the space filled with dozens and then hundreds of small black bats as they flapped up to the open space and disappeared into the dusk.

Her eyes were wide as she took in the amazing spectacle, forgetting that she was with anyone else. Soon the space was full of bats and the snakes moved along the branches, their forked tongues flicking in and out as they stretched for the bats in mid-flight.

‘Bingo. Got him,’ Jase yelled with a fist pump.

A snake as thick as a man’s wrist slithered down the tree branch and disappeared into a fissure in the rocks behind. Emlyn shivered; a bat was secured firmly in its jaw.

‘Absolutely beautiful.’ Her hushed voice was almost reverent as she watched the spectacle of nature unfold in front of her.”

Undara will be released on July 22 but is now up for pre-order in print and digital format. (You can find all the links here: https://www.annieseaton.net/undara1.html )


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

 

 

 

The Aussie & NZ Rural Fiction Showcase is Coming!

Lofty Enjoying The Sunshine!

I am proud to be part of Australasia’s small but close-knit community of rural fiction writers. We are in turn supported by many loyal, generous and enthusiastic readers –readers who can’t seem to get enough stories set in regional Australia & NZ. Lucky for us!

In an uncertain and rapidly changing publishing landscape, Aussie & NZ rural authors are shining stars. We’ve been regularly outselling other genres for years, and this popularity shows no sign of waning. You might think this would lead to robust competition between us – it does in some other genres. However far from being rivals, we are friends who help each other extend the popularity of our writing.

A win for one is a win for all! The website Australian & NZ Rural Fiction demonstrates this principle, as it is built and run cooperatively by the authors themselves.

 

Another wonderful thing about Aussie & NZ rural fiction is that so many of our authors are women (apologies to Greg Barron and Peter Watt!) Gender parity has been slow in coming to the literary world. The UK’s prestigious Women’s Prize For Fiction and Australia’s own Stella Prize are attempts to redress this inbalance. But our own genre transcended this boundary long ago. Aussie rural literature written by women is not new. Quite the contrary, it’s steeped in history. From Henry Handel Richardson’s (yes she’s a woman) Fortunes Of Richard Mahoney, Nancy Cato’s All The Rivers Run through to Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds, the drama, difficulties and romance of the bush has long been the stuff of great narrative tales. And the tradition continues!

In celebration of this proud tradition I will be showcasing Australian & New Zealand rural writers on my blog each week. I hope this helps new readers discover the richness and variety of our hugely entertaining and home-grown genre 🙂 


Congratulations to the winners of last month’s prize draw! I shall be emailing you shortly.

Journey’s End

It’s been a worrying time, with bushfires threatening our farm beside the Bunyip State Forest.. We had to evacuate, horses included, but are now home, and trying to get back to normal. So I’m pleased to belatedly announce that Journey’s End is available internationally. Here’s a Q&A with editor Kathryn Ledson about the book.

(1) For a lawyer, you know a heck of a lot about wild places and wild creatures. Where did this passion come from? Was it childhood influence or something that coincided with your change of career?

I think I was born this way. Perhaps we all are, it’s just that I never outgrew my natural childhood wonder at nature. I didn’t grow up in the country. We lived in suburban Melbourne. Our house backed onto a railway line, and I could tell the time by the trains. Our back gate opened onto a broad, shady laneway and wild paddocks lay between us and the tracks. A canal, where I wasn’t supposed to play, flowed past the end of the lane.

That was decades ago now, and the overgrown paddocks and canal are long gone. Yet I still recall each detail of that special world. Waiting for the spotty, stone-coloured eggs of the purple swamp hens to hatch. Collecting handsome emperor gum caterpillars, resplendent in emerald coats and bright red standards. Raising them on leafy sprigs kept in jars of water until they spun cocoons and emerged as stunning moths as big as my hand. Stalking the handsome water skinks, which when startled, would spring into the water and swim away with snake-like grace. I knew some of them by name, telling them apart by a distinctive stripe here, or a missing toe there. That heartfelt connection I formed with the natural world has lasted me a lifetime. It caused me to seek out wild places, and for the last thirty years I’ve lived on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Bunyip State forest.

(2) You write in a genre that we’re calling eco-romance. Some people are quite misguided about novels with romantic elements. They are often dismissed as being light-weight, poorly written, and so on. Your novels are far from poorly written – in fact, they are beautifully written, and touch on issues that others might prefer left unsaid. Can you tell us about some of the issues you’ve brought into the light in your other novels?

A compelling story is always the most important thing for me, but I also explore rural conservation issues in all my novels. Brumby’s Run has cattle grazing in Victoria’s high country. Currawong Creek has coal seam gas mining on the Darling Downs. Billabong Bend has water use in the Murray Darling. Turtle Reef is about protecting the Great Barrier Reef. And my first novel, a little eco/thriller/horror story called Wasp Season, is about invasive species – namely European Wasps. The wasp queen has her own point of view!

Journey’s End

(3) Let’s talk about Journey’s End – tell us first about Kim Sullivan.

Kim Sullivan is the main character, and is a Sydney botanist. She and her husband inherit Journey’s End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment. They dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. However, when Kim is tragically widowed, selling up is the only practical option. She and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey’s End to cast its wild spell on them all.

The family decides to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants, and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is, until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals …

(4) You write emotion so well, Jen. I found myself hopping from laughter to tears to anger, even shame. All of your books have well defined themes. So what’s Journey’s End really about?

In some ways the novel is about a woman’s journey through grief and out the other side. It’s also about Kim finding the courage to step outside her comfort zone and rediscover what’s fundamental and authentic in her life. When she sets about rewilding Journey’s End she not only restores her land. She restores her mind and spirit as well.

(5) We’ll talk more about that in a minute… I remember you saying once that if your characters must inhabit the city, then you get them to the country, as fast as possible. I’m keen to know about Tarringtops – where the property Journey’s End resides, and where Kim Sullivan takes her children. Does Tarringtops exist? Did you go there?

Tapin Tops National Park

Tarringtops is a fictional blend of Barrington Tops and Tapin Tops – real national parks high on the Great Eastern Escarpment of the Great Dividing Range. And the character of Kim Sullivan is inspired by my old school friend, Kim Gollan, a real-life bush regenerator. Presently she’s on remote Lord Howe Island, restoring habitat for the Lord Howe Island Giant Phasmid, the world’s rarest insect.

Twenty years ago Kim and her husband Pete established the Dingo Creek Rainforest Nursery at Bobin on the edge of Tapin Tops National Park. I’ve had the great privilege of staying at their nursery, and having a guided tour of Tapin Tops’ subtropical rainforest by two passionate botanists who love and understand it.

(6) I was completely convinced that Kim Sullivan is an expert horticulturist, and it’s hard to believe you’re not. How do you know so much about, for example, wild orchids, dingoes and trophic cascades? What sort of research do you do?

Well as you can imagine, having real-life Kim as my friend helped a lot for this particular book. But I’ve been an amateur naturalist all my life. I’m fascinated by everything wild and have some kind of David Attenborough complex. I read a lot of non-fiction. At the moment I’m reading a book called Once and Future Giants – What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth’s Largest Mammals. Also a book about Australian wildflowers, a book on Tasmanian history, and the 40th anniversary edition of Born Free by Joy Adamson, A Lioness of Two Worlds

Novels with similar subject matters are also must reads. For example, one of my works in progress has a fair bit of falconry in it. Reading novels such as H is for Hawk and My Side of the Mountain adds to the knowledge bank. I also immerse myself in locations when I can by taking research trips. When you visit a place, maps turn into landscapes and you get a feel for the people. And of course there’s always Dr Google.

(7) Journey’s End takes us beyond Australia’s borders and touches on a very topical issue – racism. Tell us about Taj.

A Snow Leopard

Taj is an Afghani refugee who has been given asylum in Australia through the Interpreter Resettlement Program. He comes from Nuristan province in the north-east, an area which doesn’t conform to the stereotype of Afghanistan being a place of deserts and bombed out landscapes. Nuristan is instead a place of mountains, rushing rivers, and vast stands of oak, cedar and pine. These wild forests of the Hindu Kush reach all the way to the snow-capped summits of the Pamir range, known as the roof of the world. Next stop, China. Snow leopards and bears still live there. Wolves too.

Taj is Tingo’s town handyman, but like many refugees, he once had a very different career. I’ve met a Pakistani taxi driver who was an orthopaedic surgeon back home, and a cleaner who was a lawyer. It’s hard starting out in a new country and Taj has a haunted past. It takes him a while to find his feet.

(8) As well as animals and the environment, children always play an important role in your novels. Taj has a very special relationship with both Kim’s children. Can you tell us about this?

Kim has two children, 11yo Jake and 7yo Abbey. Both children have highly emotional responses to Taj, who is working around the house and yards, preparing the property for sale. Jake hates him. The children’s soldier father was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, and perhaps understandably, Jake can’t get past the fact of where Taj comes from. Abbey on the other hand loves him – she is drawn by the gift Taj has with animals, and by his gentleness.

(9) Journey’s End is a love story in more ways than one. There’s a gentle, budding romance, and a worrying one. This book explores the love between adults and children, humans and animals, female friends, animals and nature. For you, as its writer, which of these romances came most easily to the page?

As you might guess Kath, the romance with the animals and nature came most easily. Followed closely by the love between the animals and the two children. I completely understand that intense childhood connection with the natural world. Because, as I said before, I never outgrew it.

However, this time I didn’t have my usual struggle writing the human relationships. I think this is because of my respect for Kim and the fact that I’m secretly in love with Taj. He’s a wolf-whisperer. What’s not to love?

(10) What about your writing process. I was well into my third book before I discovered mine. Do you have one? What’s yours?

I write very consistently, daily if I can. I’m not a fast writer – a thousand words a day is about as much as I can manage, and I often write less, but it’s amazing how quickly the words add up. I edit as I go, producing very clean manuscripts that don’t require much redrafting.

I do chapter summaries as I write, noting characters, POV, location, and main plot points. This is an invaluable tool during the redrafting process. If I want to add scenes I can see straight away where they will fit in best. I roughly plan the book before I start, putting plot points on a whiteboard, following a three-act structure. It always changes a lot in the writing, but it helps to have some sort of guide.

(11) I think your books are more than just greatly entertaining. They’re important and I think should be widely read. For example, I love that you’ve shown in Journey’s End how we can SHARE our environment with its indigenous plants and creatures, instead of culling or destroying them. What else would you like your readers to take away from this story?

Journey’s End has several main themes. It’s about a woman’s journey through grief and out the other side. It’s about finding the courage to live an authentic life. It’s also about overcoming prejudice. Both Taj and the dingoes are unfairly judged throughout the story, Taj by Jake and the dingoes by the town. Prejudice is a very destructive force that is based in fear. It’s only when people confront their fears that positive change can happen.


 

 

My Writing Goals 2019

Journey’s End

2019 is already promising to be a busy and exciting year! I’m writing a sequel to Brumby’s Run, the novel inspired by my love for the wild horses of the Victorian high country. I can’t resist finding out what happens next to Sam, Charlie and the brumbies!

I’m also re-releasing two books to an international audience – Journey’s End, Book 5 in the Wild Australia Stories and Wasp Season, a quirky little eco-thriller that was my first book.

However right now I’m editing The Memory Tree, the third book in my Tasmanian Tales series. Here’s a sneak peek …

Sarah frowned. ‘The fools didn’t know what they had.’ She turned to face the sweeping panorama across the Derwent River. A cold wind whipped off the water. ‘And now Tasmanian tigers are gone forever.’

‘Is anything ever really gone?’ said Penny. ‘They were here just a blink ago. There are traces of them everywhere ‒ in the rivers, in the trees. We’re breathing the same air they did,’ she kicked at a rock, ‘… walking the same ground. Look back in time and they’re just behind us. Look too far ahead, and we’re gone too.’

The Memory Tree

The Memory Tree will be released in  September. This is the blurb:

Playing God is a dangerous  game …

When forest protests engulf a tiny Tasmanian timber town, one family’s century of secrets threatens to destroy a marriage – and bring down a government.

Matt Abbott, head ranger at beautiful Binburra National Park, is a man with something to hide.  He confides his secret to nobody, not even his wife Penny. The deception gnaws away at their marriage.

Matt’s father, timber and mining magnate Fraser Abbott, stands for everything Matt hates. Son disappoints father, father disappoints son – this is their well-worn template. But Fraser seems suddenly determined to repair the rift between them at any cost, and Matt will discover that secrets run in the family. When Sarah, a visiting Californian geneticist, tries to steal Matt’s heart, the scene is set for a deadly betrayal.

The Memory Tree is a haunting story of family relationships, the unbreakable ties we all have to the past and the redemptive power of love.


 

Happy New Year!

A Happy New Year to all my friends and readers! It’s a beautiful sunny New Year’s Day here in the southern Victorian ranges – one of the loveliest places on earth. I’m looking forward to a wonderful year full of riding, writing and reading.

I’m also looking forward to publishing three more novels. Two will be international publications of books already released in Australia: Journey’s End and Wasp Season. I’m busy revising them at the moment to make them the best they can be. It’s a great privilege to be able to revisit a previously published work. Thank you Pilyara Press!

 

THE MEMORY TREE

The third book I’ll publish in 2019, The Memory Tree, will be a brand new release in Australia as well as in the rest of the world. It’s the third in the Tasmanian Tales trilogy, and will be out in the second half of this year.
Like the novels preceding it, The Memory Tree pays homage to my love of Tasmania’s unique flora and fauna, and particularly the Tassie Devil. Here’s a brief synopsis …

THE MEMORY TREE – coming soon

‘Playing God is a dangerous game …
When forest protests engulf a tiny Tasmanian timber town, one family’s century of secrets threatens to destroy a marriage – and bring down a government.

Matt Abbott, head ranger at beautiful Binburra National Park, is a man with something to hide. He confides his secret to nobody, not even his wife Penny. The deception gnaws away at their marriage.
Matt’s father, timber and mining magnate Fraser Abbott, stands for everything Matt hates. Son disappoints father, father disappoints son – this is their well-worn template. But Fraser seems suddenly determined to repair the rift between them at any cost, and Matt will discover that secrets run in the family. When Sarah, a visiting Californian geneticist, tries to steal Matt’s heart, the scene is set for a deadly betrayal.

The Memory Tree is a haunting story of family relationships, the unbreakable ties we all have to the past and the redemptive power of love.


Now to announce the December winners of this month’s prize draw!
They are 57glorygirl@gmail.com and c.carr@sheldoncollege.com.
Congratulations. I shall email you soon to ask which two of my eBooks you would like. Australian readers may choose one print book instead.
(I have contacted the winners of the Christmas Turtle Reef giveaway privately.)

HAPPY READING in 2019!

 

Launch Of ‘Turtle Reef’ plus a Q&A

 

Today is launch day for the international edition of TURTLE REEF! I’m very proud to share this book with the world, for it showcases one of my favourite places – Australia’s amazingly beautiful Great Barrier Reef. Here I talk about Turtle Reef with Kathryn Ledson, Senior Commissioning Editor at Pilyara Press

Kathryn – Lawyer turned author – what happened?

Jen – This is a great lesson in following your passion.  I never had a burning ambition to be a lawyer. I simply chose law because I had high enough marks to get into it – and it made my mother happy. The course was great. Studying law is excellent training in critical thinking, and it teaches intellectual discipline. But when it came to practising law, my heart wasn’t in it.

When I was a child, I did have a burning ambition though – to be a writer. Ten years ago I remembered that, and thank goodness I did. Finally I’m doing what I should be doing. In his wonderful essay ‘Why I write’, George Orwell says, ‘If a writer escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.’ Well, I didn’t escape from my early influences, and am very glad I went back to my roots.

Kathryn – Your fans must know how passionate you are about the environment. How did it come about? Has it always been a part of who you are or did a single incident get your attention to its plight?

Jen – A passion and love for the environment has always been a part of me. I think I never outgrew my childhood wonder with nature. Children are fascinated by caterpillars, and autumn leaves and ant nests. I still am. When people find out that I have animal characters in my stories, they often say ‘I didn’t know you wrote children’s books.’ This puzzles me. It’s as if for some reason we’re expected to outgrow our emotional connection with animals.

Kathryn – You write environmental or eco-romance. Do you think you’ve invented a sub-genre of the very popular “ru-ro”? Are you hoping more authors will join you in using fiction to highlight issues around the environment? (Or would you like them all to stay away 🙂 )

Jen – It’s true that very few people are writing Australian rural fiction with environmental themes. But internationally, other authors are doing it, and very successfully at that. Take Barbara Kingsolver and her New York Times best-seller Flight Behaviour for example. She brilliantly weaves rural fiction with a climate-change theme, when the annual migration of millions of Monarch butterflies goes horribly wrong. So I’m already in very good company.  I don’t know why more Australian authors aren’t writing adult fiction with animal characters and conservation themes. I think there should be more of it. Readers love these stories.

Kathryn – TURTLE REEF shines a light on some of the ever-present dangers to our Great Barrier Reef. Tell us about the story that shows this.

Jen – Well, simply put, Turtle Reef is the story of a love triangle between a farmer, a scientist and a coral reef. The main character, Zoe King is an unlucky-in-love zoologist who has sworn off men. She moves from Sydney to the Queensland sugar town of Kiawa, for a fresh start, and at first, it’s a dream come true, working at a marine centre, with the wildlife of beautiful Turtle Reef. But things quickly go wrong. First, she falls for Quinn, her boss’s boyfriend. Then, animals on the reef begin to sicken and die. Things aren’t exactly what they seem in picture-postcard perfect Kiawa. When her personal and professional worlds collide, she faces a terrible choice. Protecting the reef will mean betraying the man she loves.

Turtle Reef was inspired by my passion for the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral ecosystem on our blue planet, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It holds a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of most Australians.  I wanted to share my love of the Reef, and pay tribute to its unique wildlife. I wanted to showcase the important part it plays in the human and animal life of Queensland’s coastal communities. And I wanted to entertain readers with a passionate and unusual love story. If Turtle Reef sparks debate about reef protection, that’s a bonus.

Kathryn – Your character Zoe is a force to be reckoned with, but I admit I was sceptical when I first started reading TURTLE REEF. Even though I know and trust your skills as a writer, I couldn’t see how you could pull off what clearly needed to be pulled off. Sydney girl arriving in a tight-knit rural environment, tackling age-old standards to save the reef. Taking on the very beautiful and talented local girl and falling in love with her childhood sweetheart! (What were you thinking!!) But you did pull it off – beautifully so – so, what is it, do you think, that makes Zoe’s journey such a riveting and believable one?

Jen – Zoe is simply a fabulous main character – She’s brave, intelligent, honest and passionate and was inspired by a real life ocean hero, Dr Eugenie Clark, known as the ‘Shark Lady’ who died last month and did her last dive at the age of 92. She was a pioneering marine biologist who dedicated her life to shark research, and defied social expectations about women’s roles in science. But Zoe is also a flawed heroine. She’s naïve – almost gullible at times. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is far too forthright for her own good. And although she’s a zoologist, her knowledge of animals is almost entirely theoretical. In fact she’s actually scared of horses and dolphins. Yet life in rural Queensland and her job at the Reef Centre brings her in daily contact with these very animals. Throw in a crush on the boss’s boyfriend and a mystery out on the reef, and Zoe faces some serious challenges. That’s always interesting. We can all relate to somebody being thrown in the deep end, so to speak. Fortunately, Zoe’s pretty resourceful.

Kathryn – TURTLE REEF doesn’t just address issues around the reef. You clearly have a very special place in your heart for children and horses and love to write about them. There’s a beautiful bond that forms between a damaged boy and equally damaged horse. Without giving away too much, can you tell us a bit about it?

Jen – Ah, you’re talking about Josh, and Aisha, the Arabian mare. And you’re quite right, I do have a special love for children and horses. The healing effect that horses have on children is a favourite theme in my fiction. However that positive impact can work both ways. In Turtle Reef, Zoe befriends Josh, a teenage boy with an acquired brain injury. Josh might not have good people skills, but he’s very wise when it comes to animals, especially horses.  He’s able to help the mare Aisha, as much as she helps him.

Kathryn – In TURTLE REEF I loved the character Einstein and learning about her very special attributes. Tell us about your eight-legged friend and the message she has for your readers.

Jen – I’m intrigued by Einstein as well. Einstein is an octopus. These misunderstood creatures are usually cast in such an evil light. Take the giant, murderous octopus from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, for example, or Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid. I think the octopus gets such bad press because it is an alarmingly alien animal. Eight suckered arms. Three hearts pumping blue, copper-based blood around its boneless body. However, I’m a big fan — jet-powered, masters of camouflage, shape-shifters, and highly intelligent. If people want to know about Einstein’s capacity for maternal self-sacrifice, they’ll have to read the book …

Kath – I always learn so much from reading your books. How much did you already know about the reef, its inhabitants, stuffy old rural farmers and their outdated methods? Was much research required and how did you conduct it?

Jen – Oh, you know me Kath. I’m such a nerd when it comes to these things – an amateur naturalist from way back. I actually did know quite a bit about the reef already. But Zoe is a marine zoologist after all, and I’m not. So I took a research trip to Bargara, on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.

Zoe’s love interest, Quinn Cooper, is a fifth generation cane grower. I had a lot to learn about the joys and challenges of sugar farming. The cane trains were especially fascinating. Did you know that Queensland has 4,000 kilometres of narrow gauge track? And that these picturesque little locomotives still transport almost forty million tonnes of sugar cane to the mills each year? Breathing life into Zoe’s character was even more interesting. It involved some island hopping, some snorkelling on coral reefs, some whale-watching and sitting around on moonlit beaches with hatching turtles. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!

Kathryn – Finally, you know so much about it all, but can you tell me this: if I punch a Tiger shark on the nose, will it go away?

Jen – It does sometime work. Sharks are reactive animals, big sooks really, and don’t like getting hurt any more than you or I do. Their noses are vulnerable because they bear organs called Ampulae of Loranzini which are used to detect slight water pressure changes like the movement of an injured fish flopping around. These organs are very sensitive and hopefully a good hit to the nose will work – or a jab in the eyes. Hope you never have to try it Kath!

 

Huge Australian Rural Fiction Book Giveaway – and winners of this month’s draw

 

Hello and welcome to the huge Australian Rural Fiction Christmas Book Giveaway! We at Australian Rural Fiction  are proudly seventy wonderful Aussie authors bringing our big Australian country stories to you across many genres.

Why has this come about?

We wanted to see more of ‘us’ out there. We wanted to have more of us easily accessed in the one place, to discover our country’s big stories – and we have many bestselling and award winning authors bringing those stories to you via our website.​
We’ve given readers one place to find out the news every day, and you can also join our Facebook group.

ENTER OUR HUGE CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY!

We have the most fantabulous, awesome and generous Christmas contest that will sort out the summer…and probably winter…reading for six lucky winners.
Four Australian winners and two international winners.

There are FOUR prizes of fourteen signed print books for the Australian readers, and TWO prizes of eight e-books each to two international readers.

Complete the first entry options and the others will magically appear! The more options you take up, the more entries you get! And the best part… invite a new friend to the Facebook group every day for an additional FIVE entries per day! Enter HERE!

And now for the winners of my monthly prize draw.
Congratulations to glynismc@icloud.com and toni.long@outlook.co.nz. I’ll be emailing you shortly to ask what books you’d like. Happy Reading!

 

For The Love Of Historical Fiction

I’m an eclectic reader who enjoys a wide variety of genres: romance, suspense, literary fiction, crime – although I do draw the line at horror. The first Stephen King novel I attempted scared me witless! But among the genres, historical fiction is one of my absolute favourites.

From Jean M. Auel’s The Clan Of The Cave Bear to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall — I love them all. It’s intriguing to contemplate life without modern conventions and conveniences. Without advanced science and medicine. Without the women’s movement, workers unions and children’s welfare laws. Without the general understanding that poverty can drive good people to do bad things. Living in the past involved hardships and injustice that we can barely imagine.

But what about the advantages of living in the past? Village life offered a powerful sense of community, with strong family ties. Children played outside instead of watching screens all day. People lived closer to nature, and died in their own beds surrounded by loved ones, instead of in hospitals surrounded by tubes and machines.

History books tell us what happened, but novels give us a sense of the how and why. They draw us into the inner lives of people across time and place — inviting us to imagine their untold stories. The best historical fiction also reminds us of the mistakes of our past, so we can avoid repeating them.

They say history is written by the winners. In my historical novels Fortune’s Son and its sequel The Lost Valley, I wanted to write a fresh version of history, giving a voice to the outsiders, including the animals teetering on the extinction precipice.

The books follow the trials and tribulations of the Abbott family from the 1880’s to post World War 2 Tasmania. But they also tell the story of the last Tasmanian tigers (thylacines) soon to disappear from the Earth after a twenty-five-million-year reign. Apart from a little gem, Coorinna, written in 1953, there is no historical fiction concerning the thylacine. It’s time to fill the gap

To celebrate the upcoming release of The Lost Valley I’m giving away five Advance Reader Copies (Aust addresses only) and five eBooks (overseas readers). To enter, just comment below naming one of your favourite historical novels. Good luck! (drawn 02/09/2018)  

 

Building A Launch Team – The Lost Valley

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The Lost Valley

Gone are the days when authors could simply write books and then rely on their publishers for marketing and publicity. To be frank, this has pretty much been my default setting. But it’s now best practice for authors to take control of their publishing journey, and an important first step is to build a launch team – so here goes!

A launch team consists of a select group of fans and supporters, who will help build some buzz around a new title. The main way they can help is by writing reviews, particularly on Amazon. Nothing boosts a book’s chances like having a solid number of online reviews shortly after its release. This can be achieved by letting people read your book early. For many readers, it’s a cool perk to be the first ones in the know. They get to give early feedback. They get to tell their friends, “I’m reading a great book that isn’t yet available to the public.” That’s the plan, anyway.

So in light of this, I’m enlisting interested people to join my marketing team by giving away digital advanced readers’ copies of my upcoming release. The Lost Valley is Book 2 in my Tasmanian Tales trilogy, that began last year with the publication of Fortune’s Son. The trilogy tracks the lives and loves of the Abbott family, from the late 1800’s to present day. The final book, The Memory Tree will be released next year.

Fortune’s Son

Billed as a Tasmanian East Of Eden, The Lost Valley follows the trials and tribulations of Tom and Harry Abbott, grandsons of Isabelle Abbott, whose story is told in Fortune’s Son. The Lost Valley is now available for preorder and will be released on 27th August (eBooks release on the 20th August). However I’ll provide an early digital copy for those of you interested in joining my launch team. Members will review and/or rate The Lost Valley online when it’s officially released. I’d also appreciate early feedback either by email or by joining my Facebook launch group. Simply leave a reply below, and I’ll send you the download link. Included is a free eBook giveaway of Fortune’s Son for those yet to read it. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!