Q&A with Pamela Cook

Pamela Cook PicPlease welcome fellow rural author, Pamela Cook to Pilyara. She’s also  a fellow horse lover, which makes her doubly welcome. Pamela is a writer, teacher and mother of three gorgeous daughters. She also manages a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, birds, fish and horses and her favourite pastime (after writing) is riding her handsome quarter horse, Morocco. And now it’s over to Pamela, to answer some questions about her wonderful debut novel, Blackwattle Lake.

Hi Jenny and thanks so much for having me on your blog.

1. Tell us about your call story Pamela. How did you receive your first offer of publication?

BLACKWATTLE_LAKE_CoverI’d been writing for just over ten years and had spent more than five of those years working on a literary style novel. In November 2009 I took part in Nano – National Novel writing Month, a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I put that one away and went back to my original which I entered in the QWC/ Hachette Manuscript Development Program in 2010 but had no luck. I entered again in 2011, submitting both novels and was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the program with my nano novel, Blackwattle Lake. This was an amazing opportunity – a one on one with a publisher, who had read my book. After taking Vanessa’s advice on board I revised the manuscript and sent it back at the end of April 2012 and was ecstatic to receive a phone call about 6 weeks later saying Hachette wanted to publish it. although I hadn’t heard of rural fiction in 2009 when I wrote it this genre had become hugely popular in that period of time, which no doubt helped me get my novel over the line.

2. What is your novel Blackwattle Lake about?

Blackwattle Lake is about Eve Nicholls, who inherits the property where she grew up. On her return to the farm she has to deal with the ghosts of her past – both the dead and those still living but is also drawn back to her love of the land and of horse riding. A series of unexpected events force Eve to confront her painful memories and find the courage to re-connect.

Pamela Cook pic 33. What or who inspired this story?

It began with the image of a woman standing at the gate of a rural property, unable to get in as the gate is locked. My daughters and I have 6 horses between us, so I decided to follow the old advice “write what you know”. Doing it as a nano forced me to keep writing and not stop to revise along the way so the story just flowed and came out pretty much as it is in the published book – with a few tweaks and revisions of course.

4. Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?

The property Eve inherits is based on Darkes Forest Ranch where we keep our horses, just south of Sydney. That’s the place I pictured in my head as I was writing. We also have a holiday house on the south coast of NSW which inspired parts of the setting and the town. The horse scenes are pretty special to me – I didn’t take up riding until later in life and it has been an amazing experience to share with my three daughters.

5. What do you see as the major themes in your book?

Eve’s story is about courage, forgiveness and belonging. It’s a huge step for her to return to the farm because of a past tragedy and the fractured family relationships that ensued. But once she’s back there Eve re-discovers her love of the land and of horses and also the sense of being part of a community, all of which she had completely forgotten about – or at least chosen not to remember. In facing the past Eve not only has to forgive others but must forgive herself.

Thank you for visiting Pamela, and telling us about your terrific debut novel. It’s funny, but I didn’t realise I was writing rural fiction at first either! I really relate to that part of your call story. Forgot to ask you what’s next, but I believe your second novel Essie’s Way, is due for release in December 2013 – just in time for Christmas. Congratulations!

BLACKWATTLE_LAKE_CoverFor Eve Nicholls, walking up the driveway of her childhood home brings up many emotions, and not all good. The horses that she loved still dot the paddocks but the house is empty, and the silence inside allows her memories to flood back. She’s glad to have her best friend Banjo the kelpie with her . . . and a bottle of bourbon. Her plan is simple: sell the farm, grab the cash and get the hell out.

Despite Eve’s desire to keep a low profile, within days of her return she runs into all the people she hoped to avoid. At the house she is surrounded by memories and worse. But with a lifetime of clutter to sort out, there’s plenty to take her mind off it all. Slowly, she begins to discover the girl she used to be: Angie Flanagan – adventurous, animal-loving, vulnerable. When tragedy strikes, Eve realises that changing her name all those years ago in an attempt to hide from her past has not changed the truth of what happened or who she really is.

Blackwattle Lake is an engaging debut for those who long to uncover who they used to be, and who they might still become.

Contact details:

Website: www.pamelacook.com.au

Blog: www.pamelacook.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PamelaCookAuthor?ref=hl

Twitter: @PamelaCookAU

BB2013_Nominee

Sunday With Mr Wigg

Inga Simpson PhotoIt is with great pleasure that I welcome Inga Simpson to Pilyara this Sunday. Inga is one of my absolute favourite authors! I’ve had the privilege of working with her as my mentor, and I consider her to be, along with Mark Tredinnick, one of Australia’s foremost nature writers. Just read her wonderful essay Triangulation (it won the 2012 Eric Rolls Nature Writing Prize) and I think you’ll agree with me. Inga’s recent release, Mr Wigg, has enchanted reviewers and readers alike with its unique and beautiful voice. ‘Sure to become an Australian classic,’ says one. ‘Reawakens our sense of what is right and good about the world,‘ says another. But enough of my raving! Time to hear from Inga herself  …

Welcome to Pilyara, Inga. Could you tell us please, about how Mr Wigg came to be published?

Mr WiggFrontCoverFinalI participated in the 2011 QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program, where I received a whole lot of great feedback from the publisher and went away and reworked the novel before resubmitting it. I felt reasonably confident the book would eventually get up but there was a bit of an extended conversation before I felt it was close. I had been expecting the call for a few weeks, forwarding my home phone to my mobile every time I went out … When the call finally came, I was at the train station saying good bye to my partner for a week or so. I saw the  number but the train was pulling in – I stressed out and didn’t take the call. Once I had put my partner on the train, the publisher called again. After twice dropping the phone on the floor of the car I managed to answer: CONTRACT!

What is your novel Mr Wigg about?

Mr Wigg appleMr Wigg is about the final year of one man’s life. He lives on what is left of the family farm in rural New South Wales, tending his magnificent orchard, cooking with his grandchildren, and telling them stories. Living alone is becoming more and more tenuous, but he takes on an ambitious project – forging a wrought iron peach tree – which all comes about because of a fairy tale about a Peach King.

In a way, it’s also a love story. Although Mrs Wigg has recently passed away, he reminisces about their life together. She was a bit of a character – with a particular fondness for the colour aqua.

What or who inspired the story?

To an extent, my paternal grandfather. He grew magnificent peaches! White ones
especially, which I’ve never tasted the likes of since. Wigg is the family name of one of his French ancestors, which really stuck in my head. When I travelled to rural France and saw the way people live – with their village plots and walled orchards, and so much emphasis on growing and cooking and sharing food – I wondered if my grandfather had been living out that part of his genetic  heritage without having ever been to France.  A character began to take shape, and I was calling the novel “Mr Wigg” long before I started writing. Mr Wigg took on his own character as the book evolved but some of the details, and Mr Wigg’s stories about the old days, are borrowed from my family.

Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?

Peach treesThe novel celebrates the spirit of the landscape where I grew up, and the time – the 1970s. A way of life, too, that has largely been lost. Blacksmithing and woodturning were crafts practised in my family and I value the richness of having been raised among those traditions.

There is something of my childhood memories of my own grandfather in Mr Wigg, too. An honouring of his orcharding skills and generous approach to life.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?

Change was a big theme for me while writing Mr Wigg. Not just ageing, but the decline of big farming families, the landscape, and rural way of life. Care for the environment, too, and respect for our fellow creatures – living in a connected way within the natural world.

Thank you Inga, for answering my questions about your gorgeous new novel. I absolutely loved it, and can’t wait to read whatever comes next!

Mr Wigg

Mr WiggFrontCoverFinalA novel that celebrates the small, precious things in life by a fresh Australian voice.

It’s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm. Mrs Wigg has been gone a few years now and he thinks about her every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders when he’ll see her again.

He spends his time working in the orchard, cooking and preserving his produce and, when it s on, watching the cricket. It s a full life. Things are changing though, with Australia and England playing a one-day match, and his new neighbours planting grapes for wine. His son is on at him to move into town but Mr Wigg has his fruit trees and his chooks to look after. His grandchildren visit often: to cook, eat and hear his stories. And there s a special project he has to finish…

Trouble is, it’s a lot of work for an old man with shaking hands, but he’ll give it a go, as he always has …

Now, for the winners of the prize-pack draw announced a few weeks ago! Drum roll please! Brendat39 and Beverley Mayne. I’ll email you shortly for the address to post the prizes. Congratulations, and thank you to everybody who entered the draw.

BB2013_Nominee

A Spicy Sunday With Kate Belle

Please welcome Kate Belle to Pilyara. Kate is the author of The Yearning, which is rocketing up the charts – and it’s not just because of its intriguing cover! Kate is a very fine writer, friend and member of my talented writing group, The Little Lonsdale Group. And now its over to Kate for an in depth Q&A …

KateBelle-trad lores zoom‘Thanks for having me over here Jen and hello to all your faithful readers.

I’ve taken over a month to get to this post, only because I’ve been writing my second novel and watching with envy as Jen overtakes my word count! Having traversed some of the writing journey with Jen, I’m very excited to see her second novel, Currawong Creek, released. I was planning to share a little post about my hounds because Jen is constantly amused by my hot-to-cold relationship with them, but I might leave that for another time.’

Kate, How did you receive your first offer of publication?

‘The Yearning was written over about 4 years while I worked part time and cared for my pre-school daughter. I attended two consecutive Year of the Novel courses at Writers’ Victoria where I met Jen and a number of other wonderful writers who are published (or soon to be.)

During these courses I ‘grew up’ as a writer and was able to develop The Yearning into a mature enough manuscript to try my luck in the publishing world. My first break came in August 2011 when I attended the Melbourne Romance Writers Australia conference. There I met Sheila Drummond, who agreed to look at The Yearning and rang me immediately after the conference with an offer to represent me.

Sheila started shopping The Yearning around late that year, but it would be another 12 months before she secured an offer for it. In the meantime she managed to get me a contract for two erotic novellas with newly launched Random Romance imprint. At the time I was working in a restructured job in the public service and was pretty miserable. When voluntary redundancies were announced I eagerly put my hand up. I had surgery on my knee in September 2012 and as I lay in bed recovering I received a redundancy offer and a contract for The Yearning on the same day. It seemed like divine coincidence. I crossed my fingers, signed them both, and prepared to start a new life as a full time writer in 2013.’

What is your story about Kate?

Yearning lo resThe Yearning is an exploration of love and desire, and the social and emotional boundaries we are willing to cross to get what we want. It’s an intimate account of the thrills and dangers of first love. My sixteen year old protagonist, who remains unnamed throughout the novel, lures her charismatic teacher, Solomon Andrews, into an illicit affair with erotic love notes. The pair are discovered and separated, but she can’t let her memories of Solomon go and is haunted by their affair until they meet again by accident twenty five years later. The ramifications of the affair have reverberated throughout both their lives and the two must come to a deeper understanding of their sensual relationship and what it really meant.’

What or who inspired The Yearning?

‘I find this question a difficult one to answer. The Yearning evolved over a long time. The letters my protagonist sends to Solomon come from unsent letters I wrote to lovers. In early drafts parts of the letters headed up each chapter.

Some of The Yearning was initially put together from a collection of short stories I saw had a common thread. In truth, I think I drew much of the emotional content from my own unfulfilled longings for a relationship in my past that was never quite fulfilled. I felt a spiritual connection to this person, but being at different points in our lives meant we chose to leave the relationship behind. This experience has provided great fodder for writing about unrequited longing.’

Are there any parts of The Yearning that have special personal significance to you?

‘The year The Yearning is set is a special year for me. 1978 was the last year we lived in the country town of Benalla, where I grew up. I was on the cusp of teenagehood and sensed an enormous change encroaching upon me. It was the year I learned about Countdown and boys and politics. Australia was in the aftermath of massive social, political and cultural change after the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. Civil rights, Aboriginal rights, Women’s rights movements were all shaking a sleepy Australia awake. It was a powerful time of change, a national coming of age if you like, and a perfect time in which to place a promiscuous teacher and his love struck student.’

What do you see as the major themes in your book?

‘It’s clear from reader responses there are many discussion worthy themes in The Yearning. I can’t tell you the number of people who have contacted me once they’ve finished it to tell me they can’t stop thinking about it, can’t sleep, need to talk to someone about it. It’s that kind of book.

Most chapters are introduced with quotes from the biblical Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) because that text reflects the passion of erotic love and the stanzas I chose capture the essence of the chapter theme. The sexual/emotional power play between Solomon and his student demonstrates the complexity of student/teacher attractions. The reader is prompted to ask, who holds the power? Who is seducing who?

I believe my anonymous protagonist’s experiences in love, sexuality and family are common to many women. I think lots of female readers will relate to her feelings of obsessive first love and loss, her expectations and disappointments in marriage, her joy in her children, her frustrations with her family, her attempts to live authentically in spite of the expectations of those around her.

The Yearning also talks to the cycle of damage done to men by their fathers (and mothers), the difference between sex and eros (or lust and love), the arbitrariness of the age of consent and how it isn’t really a protection from the ramifications of entering a mature sexual relationship too young.

It’s a complex book and I hope those of you who choose to read find much to enjoy in it.’

Thank you Kate for your thoughtful responses and congratulations again on your gorgeous book! And next time, I definitely want to talk about those dogs of yours …

Yearning lo resIt’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.

Read an extract here: (http://issuu.com/simonschusteraustralia/docs/the_yearning_by_kate_belle)

Buy The Yearning:

Ebook: Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/The-Yearning-ebook/dp/B00BSVMRC4) or iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/the-yearning/id576561492?mt=11)

Print book: Target, Kmart, Myer, Collins, Dymocks, Big W, Eltham Bookshop and other independent bookshops (http://www.truelocal.com.au/find/book-shop/) and major airports.

Reading group questions here (http://books.simonandschuster.com.au/Yearning/Kate-Belle/9781922052643/reading_group_guide#rgg)

Kate is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets.

Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Blog/website: http://www.ecstasyfiles.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/katebelle.x

Twitter: @ecstasyfiles https://twitter.com/ecstasyfiles

BB2013_Nominee

A Satisfying Ending

The Final ActI’m sixty thousand words into my work-in-progress, two-thirds of the way through a novel which will end up being about ninety thousand words. If it was a screen play, I’d be entering the final act.

In the first third of the manuscript, the first act in screenwriting terms, the premise is set up for the reader. What sort of a story is it, and what  is it about? Who is the heroine and what does she want more than anything? Who is the antagonist? In many ways the antagonist becomes the engine room of the story. Meeting this character provides the reader with an answer to the final important question. What is the main conflict going to be?

Which wayIn the middle third of the manuscript, or second act, life is becoming progressively more difficult for my heroine, Nina. This is when an author can torture her main character, in fact it’s almost mandatory! Plans fail, alliances break down, dreams are dashed. Nina’s choices become harder and harder. She has, as the ancient Greeks would say, her long, dark night of the soul. My god, is Nina ever in a bind! But she never gives up. She remains single-mindedly determined to achieve her goal, whatever the sacrifice.

Minette Walters 2

Minette Walters

I’m about to launch into my last thirty thousand words – the final act. If I don’t provide my readers with a satisfying finish to the story, I’ll have wasted my time. But I must admit that, despite doing a lot more planning this time, I don’t know exactly how the book ends. I once watched a fascinating documentary on English crime writer Minette Walters. It followed the progress of her novel The Shape Of Snakes. Half way through this complicated psychological thriller about a twenty year old murder mystery, Minette still didn’t know who had committed the crime. Quite the panster! Apparently she writes all her books like that.

“It’s like flying by wire. You embark with nothing, just a tightrope across a chasm. It’s a much more enjoyable way to write because I have to work it out along with the reader. If I don’t know who did it until half way, the reader is going to be fairly fazed as well.” M Walters

There’s a lot of truth, for me anyway, in what she says. Plotting too carefully, can kill the interest and excitement in writing the story. It becomes a chore. So I won’t worry about my ending, not just yet. I’ll just pray for a visit from the plot fairy!

BB2013_Nominee

Sunday With Jenn J Mcleod

Today please welcome author Jenn J Mcleod to Pilyara. Jenn quit Sydney’s corporate chaos to buy a little café in a small town. She now spends her days running a unique, dog-friendly B&B on her NSW property and writing life-affirming novels about friendship, family and small towns in which country roots run deep. Her debut novel A House For All Seasons, has impressed everybody with its moving story of friendship, family and forgiveness. And now, it’s over to Jenn …

Jenn J McLeod_54A1139 t‘Thanks for having me Jen. I just finished a fun interview for the Sweet Escape website.  It’s a confession really – about how authors fall in love with their fictional characters. As a writer of fiction, I get to play around with features, quirks and characteristics all the time – a bit like a Mr Potato Head (only more attractive!) or maybe a Police Identity-sketch kit (only not so creepy!) As a pantster (the industry term for writing by the seat of one’s pants rather than plotting) I sit at my desk and let the story take me on a journey. Then, along the way, I fall in love with my conflicted characters – the good, the bad and the flawed.

Just like a Mr Potato Head can never be George Clooney, made-up people don’t need to be perfect either. As one of my characters says in House for all Seasons, “I’m a flawed person trying to be good”, and I think it’s the ‘do good’ rather than the ‘be perfect’ that makes a person beautiful. So yes, flawed characters make for a more authentic story, and readers relate to authenticity. They expect it from their authors.

My approach to inventing fictional settings for my small town stories also involves a kind of morphing of favourite features. Four small NSW towns influenced the Calingarry Crossing township in House for all Seasons: Sawtell, Bellingen, Bowraville and Ulmarra – only I plonked it just west of the Great Divide.

I admit to loving a small town setting because small towns provide the perfect stage for conflict and drama – mostly because everything seems amplified and more personal in a small town. I also enjoy debunking small town generalisations. For a start, ‘small town’ in no way means small-minded. And there are other perceptions – namely that people in small towns are laid-back, open and friendly (almost cliched). But underneath they can be quite insular, cliquey, wary – especially of newcomers. I think balance is the key.

When it was time to type the words the end on my latest release, House for all Seasons, I struggled to let go. I’d fallen in love with my made-up town and wasn’t ready to leave. So, although I didn’t intend linking novels, next year’s release – The Simmering Season – picks up secondary threads, weaving them into a school reunion story with a difference; one that brings home more than memories for Calingarry Crossing’s publican, Maggie Lindeman.

With some terrific reviews  for House for all Seasons, there is a recurrent comment about both my characters and setting – they are authentic. Authenticity is what my publisher said made her fall in love with House for all Seasons. The secret for me is writing what I know. I moved to a small town, many years ago now, where knowing everyone in town is comforting – until there’s a secret you want to keep! I remember those early days of my tree-change when I moved from Sydney to buy a small cafe in a small country town. Such mixed emotions: excited, terrified—humbled by the wonderful welcome of a very friendly community. It was like coming home. ‘Coming home’ has provided me with an author platform from which to create and promote my small town stories like House for all Seasons: In a country house surrounded by the past, four friends will discover… small towns can keep big secrets.

House for all Seasons Jenn J McLeodHouse for all Seasons is a story about coming home and of country roots that run deep.

In order to claim an unexpected inheritance – the century-old Dandelion House on the outskirts of Calingarry Crossing – four estranged school friends return to their hometown after twenty years and stay a season each to fulfil the wishes of their benefactor, Gypsy.

  • Poppy, a tough, ambitions journo still craving her father’s approval;
  • Sara, a breast cancer survivor afraid to fall in love;
  • Amber, a spoilt socialite addicted to painkillers and cosmetic procedures;
  • Caitlin, a third generation doctor frustrated by a controlling family and her flat-lining life.

House for all Seasons is a story of unravelling friendships and of ties that will forever bind four women to each other and to the century-old Dandelion house.

There are such fabulous town names in Australia. Not until I started coming up with names (checking them in Google to see if they already existed) did I discover some beauties, like the NSW town called Willow Tree. Isn’t that lovely?

Do you have favourite fiction town names – or perhaps know of some uniquely Australian town names to share?’

Aussie Auhor MonthThanks Jenn, for a fascinating post! I know a lot of people, including me, are looking forward to your next release. Don’t forget that in honour of Aussie Author month I’m giving away two of my books (Brumby’s Run and Wasp Season; see previous post). To go into the draw, just leave a comment saying why you love Aussie stories. Winners announced 30th April.

Aussie Author Month – Rural Fiction (Plus A Giveaway!)

Aussie Auhor Month. 2 pngApril is Aussie Author Month and celebrates the uniqueness and quality of Australian literature. It was started in 2011 by a group of reviewers and readers who wanted something special to celebrate Aussie authors. Genre and style doesn’t matter, it’s about a love of literature and a desire to promote home-grown reading to a wider community. Another important aspect of Aussie Author Month is recognising that literacy in this country isn’t as widespread as it should be, particularly among Indigenous and remote communities. It aims to raise awareness and fundraise for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Indigenous literacy FoundationI’m an Aussie rural author, and am proud to be part of a burgeoning publishing success story – one being led exclusively by women writers. In a challenging time for publishers, Aussie rural lit has defied the trends with sales more than tripling in the past four years. Authors such as Rachael Treasure, Nicole Alexander and Fiona Palmer routinely outsell other local fiction.

One reason for the popularity of this genre, is that the heroines are generally tough, independent and capable people. Unlike the characters in a lot of chick-lit, they are not obsessed with shopping and finding a man. But there is another, more important reason. At the heart of this sort of fiction is a passion for the Australian countryside. Speaking personally, while I love to explore the complexities of human relationships, my narratives are always informed by the bush, together with its flora and fauna.

Brumbies In The BushAustralia’s wild landscapes are powerful settings. In cities, many people live lives so far removed from nature, that they rarely even touch the earth. But at what cost? The cost to our declining environment? The cost to our hearts? I think the world is hungry to reconnect with nature, to ground itself. The rural lit genre taps into this vein. When we lose touch with wildness, we lose touch with who we really are.

To celebrate Aussie Author Month I’m giving away a copy each of Brumby’s Run and Wasp Season. Just leave a comment saying what you love about Aussie stories for your chance to win! Winners announced April 30th. Aust & NZ entrants only.

BB2013_Nominee

Inaugural Stella Prize Shortlist

Mateship With BirdsThe shortlist for the inaugural Stella Prize has been announced. This major new literary award celebrates Australian women’s writing. It’s named after Stella Maria ‘Miles’ Franklin, and rewards one writer with a significant monetary prize. Congratulations to the shortlisted authors! The winner will be announced in Melbourne on 16 April, and will receive a cash prize of $50,000.
The shortlisted titles are:

  • The Burial (Courtney Collins, A&U)
  • Questions of Travel (Michelle de Kretser, A&U)
  • The Sunlit Zone (Lisa Jacobson, Five Islands Press)
  • Like a House on Fire (Cate Kennedy, Scribe)
  • seaHearts_353-200x0Sea Hearts (Margo Lanagan, A&U)
  • Mateship with Birds (Carrie Tiffany, Picador).

Chair of the judging panel Kerryn Goldsworthy said the shortlist ‘features a wide variety of subject matter and genre … The list contains a collection of short stories and a verse novel; it includes fantasy, speculative fiction, two historical novels and one that has been described as Australian Gothic,’ said Goldsworthy. ‘There are stories set in the past, the present and the future; there are stories set in both urban and rural Australia as well as in other countries and imagined places.’

The Sunlit ZoneGoldsworthy also commented that the judges noticed a strong common theme in a number of the shortlisted books. ‘Sea Hearts, The Sunlit Zone and Mateship with Birds all explore in thoughtful, imaginative and unexpected ways the relationships and the boundaries between the human and the non-human, showing where those boundaries are weakest and might be broken down.’ It is a great thrill to read this last comment. The theme of blurred boundaries between the human and non-human world is of great interest to me, and one that I explore in my own books.
It’s wonderful to see it coming into fashion!
.BB2013_Nominee

One Little White Lie – Loretta Hill

Loretta HillPlease welcome Loretta Hill to Pilyara. Loretta is a number one best-selling author of contemporary fiction set in unique Australian settings. Her books sell like hot cakes. In fact her new novella One Little White Lie is currently sitting at the top of the ITunes charts! Today she gives us an insight into her writing and hints about what’s coming next.

Good Morning Loretta. Tell us about the sort of stories that you write?

Broadly, I write commercial women’s fiction which incorporates some romance.  Specifically, I have written two big outback stories set on the Pilbara. They are called, “The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots” and “The Girl in the Hard Hat.” These stories are about strong woman trying to work in a male dominated environment against the glorious backdrop of Australia’s red north. I have also written two romantic comedies set in urban Sydney, “Kiss and Tell” and now just released this month by Random Romance, “One Little White Lie.”

So tell me about your latest release?

One Little White Lie CoverOne Little White Lie” is a romantic comedy novella that will be released as an e-book only.

 It’s about a girl called Kate who is the current project of the match maker from hell. She knows that her best friend is not going to stop fixing her up with strange men unless she tells her that she is happily dating someone. Who knew that one little white lie could so blatantly backfire?

The imaginary boyfriend she described to her friend suddenly walks into her life and starts making himself comfortable in it.  Trapped by her lie, poor Kate is powerless to stop him. But the real question is, does she really want to?

Where did this idea come from?

HardHat cover finalWhen I was much younger, I’m talking high school, my single girlfriends and I always used to get a giggle out of talking about our dream guys.  When you’re young and going through all that teenage angst, you always think you’re never going to meet anyone. I always thought, wouldn’t it be great if one day my fantasy guy just appeared in my life as if he’d always been there.  This is sort of what I did to Kate. It was such a fun story to write. I think everyone’s been in an embarrassing situation brought about by their own foolishness.  You know the feeling where you just wish the ground would open up and swallow you. I loved giving Kate exactly what she wanted in exactly the wrong way.

What are you working on next?

Steel caps coverAt the moment I’m working on the third and final instalment to my Fly in, Fly out Girls Series. The title is The Girl in the Yellow Vest. It will include some characters from my previous two books but also a lot of new ones. The job is now in Queensland at the Dalrymple Bay Coal terminal. I think this one is going to be heaps of fun. If readers haven’t tried one of my books before, I know Random House is offering a free e-sampler. (http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/loretta-hill/loretta-hill-sampler-9780857980304.aspx)

Thanks Loretta, and I look forward to your next great read! For more information about Loretta and her books see www.lorettahill.com.au

BB2013_Nominee

Rough Diamond

Kathryn LedsonNow for a real treat – a guest blog by author Kathryn Ledson, talking about Rough Diamond, her debut release with Penguin Books. Kath and I have been mates for years, so I’ve been privy to the development of this marvellous new series, starring reluctant heroine, Erica Jewell. Now it’s over to Kath.

“Thanks Jen. Rough Diamond came to me in a flood of romantic scenes starring Erica Jewell and Jack Jones. By the seat of my pants and on the edge of my seat I poured love onto the page. And that, I thought, was all I had to do. I finished my manuscript – almost 120,000 words – and submitted it. Only then did I discover that something called a PLOT wouldn’t go astray.

Rough Diamond Front Cover FinalI’d already done a writing course; a pretty good one, in fact. But when I enrolled it hadn’t occurred to me that I might one day write a novel. I was a corporate gal. Surely I’d return to that world and carry on in a different career, one that involved writing?

At the end of 2008, when Erica Jewell announced herself and demanded my full attention, I felt I had no choice but to give her space to exist. That seems crazy – I understand that – but it’s true. Her desire to be was so powerful, so all-consuming, I rejected other writing opportunities in favour of getting this novel out of my head. The problem was that I hadn’t taken “How to Write a Novel” as part of that writing course. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing!

Rough Diamond was already a seed that had been planted back in the early ‘80s by a television show called Scarecrow and Mrs King starring Kate Jackson, fresh from Charlie’s Angels. Is anyone out there old enough to remember it? I recently bought Series One and started watching it again. It was really very corny as so many shows were in the ‘70s and ‘80s and I only watched one episode. But back then I’d loved it! It was my weekly escape. I’d imagine being (the widowed or divorced – can’t remember) Mrs King and having a dreamy looking (well, I thought so) tough guy whisk me into an exotic, sexy world of spies and espionage. Poor Mrs King was so daggy, turning up at black tie events in her cardy and sensible shoes, but the spy fell in love anyway and rescued Mrs King from the shelf by marrying her (which is what all women wanted). Of course, the wedding – the happily-ever-after – meant the death of the series, as it usually does.

Erica Jewell is a bit more fashionable than Mrs King, but no more competent in her efforts to assist Jack Jones and his team of vigilantes save Melbourne from terrorists. She does quite fancy Jack – he’s gorgeous of course – but she was put off men when her lying-cheating-bastard husband took off with some bimbo in a sports car (that’s Erica saying that, not me). And Jack himself is commitment phobic since he lost his wife and parents in New York on that fateful day in 2001. He is drawn to Erica – probably confused as to why – and there’s an ongoing dance of attraction between the two that I plan on drawing out for many books to come!

So far, so good. Emerald Island (no. 2) is well under way with Erica finding herself on dangerous turf in a war-ravaged land trying to find the missing-in-action Jones. He doesn’t want to be rescued by a woman, but she reckons she’s not leaving there without him. I’m not sure how it’ll all end up – surely there’ll be tears, spiders, some romance and … book 3?

NB: I’ve since had so many teachers – official and unofficial including great talents like Jen Scoullar – I finally kind of worked it out and managed to score a two-book deal with Penguin. I’m still learning today, though. I don’t think we should ever stop.”

ROUGH DIAMOND

Rough Diamond Front Cover Final“What I want in life makes a very short list: no debt, no surprises and definitely NO men. Except the ones at work and the mechanic and the ones who get the spiders out of your car.” Erica Jewell, Rough Diamond.

The shock ending to Erica Jewell’s marriage has left a huge hole in her bank balance and a bigger one in her heart. So now her life goals include no more men! That is, until she finds one bleeding to death in her Melbourne garden one stormy Friday night.

Jack Jones is a man whose emotional wounds are more life-threatening than the bullet in his shoulder. Under orders, he recruits Erica to his secret team of vigilantes, and Erica suspects her safe, predictable world is about to be turned upside down.  And she’s absolutely right.

Funny, romantic, and action-packed, Rough Diamond introduces Australia’s own Stephanie Plum – the unforgettable Erica Jewell.

Well thank you Kath, for telling us about the process that led you to write Rough Diamond. I’m always fascinated to hear these stories. Thanks also for the shout-out, but you didn’t need help from me. You’re a natural at this romantic comedy stuff! Looking forward to the rest of the series. If you’re after an entertaining summer read, I highly recommend Kathryn’s books. e-Rough Diamond was released by Penguin on 20 December. The physical book will be in store on 30 January 2013. Feel free to contact Kathryn via her new website: www.kathrynledson.com.

Finally, I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas, and thanks so much for the support you’ve shown me. See you in the New Year!

The Next Big Thing

next-big-thingI’ve been tagged in “The Next Big Thing” by author Loretta Hill. She writes fabulous novels about strong, capable women and the men who love them, in rich Australian settings. I’m instructed to tell you all about my next book by answering these questions and then to tag another author to tell you about their Next Big Thing. So here I go!

What is the working title of your next book?

My next book is called Currawong Creek, and it will be released by Penguin in June 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve been a foster parent for fifteen years, and am fascinated by the complicated relationship between carers, children and birth parents. I’m also a sucker for a handsome country vet! These interests come together in Currawong Creek.

What genre does your book fall under?

Rural romance/Commercial women’s fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

David WenhamNaomi Watts for Clare Mitchell, Isabel Lucas for Shannon Brown, a young David Wenham for Tom Lord and maybe Jack Thompson for Harry.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When Brisbane lawyer Clare Mitchell becomes the unlikely carer of a little autistic boy, her life is turned upside down.

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

Currawong Creek will be published by Penguin, and is represented by Fran Moore of the Curtis Brown literary agency.

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

It took me about a year to write Currawong Creek.

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

I can’t think of direct comparisons with particular titles. The novel is chock full of dogs and horses though, so I’m sure that readers of Cathryn Hein and Rachael Treasure would thoroughly enjoy it.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The beauty of Queensland’s Bunya Mountains was my initial inspiration. I wanted to set a story there.

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

If you love kids, dogs, horses and the bush, you won’t go far wrong reading Currawong Creek.

Karly Lane 2I’ve tagged the lovely Karly Lane to tell you about her Next Big Thing on her blog next Wednesday 26th December. Karly is the best-selling author of North Star, Morgan’s Law and her new one, Bridie’s Choice. Can’t wait to hear what she has to say!

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