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 Helene Young

It is a tremendous pleasure to welcome Helene Young to my Sunday blog. Helene is an acclaimed romantic suspense novelist who lives in Trinity Beach, on the edge of the Great Barrier  Reef in North Queensland. Her work as a senior pilot with a major  regional airline takes her all over the east coast of Australia. She is the RUBY-award-winning author of the popular romantic suspense novels Wings of Fear, Shattered Sky and her new one Burning Lies. In 2011 Helene was voted the country’s most popular romance novelist.

It was a great thrill and privilege to be Helene’s Penguin publishing buddy in July, with the release of both Burning Lies and Brumby’s Run on the same day. And now, it’s over to our flight Captain, taking us through her Call Story and giving us an insight into what is important to her  …

Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Jenny. I’ve enjoyed reading Rachael and Cathryn’s call stories. They’re proof that dreams can come true with hard work and a little dash of luck. Here’s mine!

I’d been writing with intent for almost ten years before I received my call.  Along the way I discovered Romance Writers of Australia and its fantastic network of writers. I entered all the RWAustralia contests and I was fortunate enough to be a finalist a number of times, but never a winner. The feedback was encouraging, but I wasn’t quite hitting the mark.

In 2007 I decided I needed to be brave and write a romantic suspense story that had been simmering in my imagination for some time. That was the start of the Border Watch series, set in the aircraft I fly and based in North Queensland where I live. Wings of Fear (Border Watch), which was my fifth completed manuscript, finalled in the RWAmerica Golden Heart contest.  That same year I pitched to Bernadette Foley from Hachette at the RWAustralia conference. My resume of contest results was enough to give the manuscript credibility and she asked to see the full manuscript.

Her answer was, ‘You’re not there yet, but…’ She gave me detailed suggestions for improving the manuscript with the offer of resubmitting if I felt I could work with her ideas. It would have been easy to take that as a rejection, but I rolled up my sleeves and several months later I sent her the next version. Then waited…

My husband and I were heading off on holidays to go sailing in the Whitsunday Islands and I was hoping she might call, but was terrified the answer would still be no. I also knew phone reception would be sporadic for the next ten days.

We dropped anchor for the first night and my husband was peeling the foil of a bottle of champagne when my mobile rang. It was a Sydney number. No voice will ever sound as sweet again as  ‘Hello, Helene, this is Bernadette Foley….’ The smile lines were tanned into my face!

I always get a little spine tingle at stories like that! Could you tell us a little bit about what’s important to you?  This could be writing related, or something else altogether.

I thought ‘What’s Important to Me’ would be an easy post to write, but it wasn’t! Family and friends are important, sense of community is up there as well, but the idea was harder to nail down than I thought.

Ultimately I think making a difference is important for me. I’ve spent most of my working-life teaching people something – the restaurant trade, adventure sports, flying, and now writing.

As a flying instructor nothing could beat the satisfaction of the mile-wide smile on a student who’d just completed their first solo flight. As a climbing instructor, seeing the wonderment and pride in the face of a young teenager who’d successfully climbed a sheer cliff then abseiled back down was pure gold. Receiving emails from writers to say something I’ve said in a training course has turned a million watt light bulb on in their mind is a reward all of its own.

I’m never going to change the world, but if I can help someone achieve one of their goals along the way then my day hasn’t been a waste.

I can understand now why some of my teachers at school carried on long past their retirement date because the job was its own reward!

Wow Helene! You certainly like heights, don’t you – flying and climbing! And reaching great writing heights as well. How fortunate your students are, to have a tutor who’s so generous about sharing her knowledge. Thank you for telling us about your passion for teaching and for sharing your Call Story.

Helene’s new novel, Burning Lies, is out now and is earning rave reviews.

“Lies, all lies. It didn’t matter how attractive he might be. She didn’t really know this man . . . He was living a lie and she didn’t know why.
”

Kaitlyn Scott is searching for the truth about her husband’s death, even if that means revisiting the most painful day of her life. But what she uncovers is a criminal willing to stop at nothing to keep his secret.

Ryan O’Donnell, an enigmatic undercover cop, is investigating arson attacks when he is drawn into Kaitlyn’s world. He tries to fight his attraction for her, hoping the case might put his own demons to rest, but it only threatens to push him over the edge.

With Kaitlyn and Ryan on a collision course, the arsonist seizes the chance to settle some old scores. As the Atherton Tableland burns, the three of them are caught in a fiery dance of danger and desire, and not everyone will come out alive.

Visit Helene at http://www.heleneyoung.com

Find Helene on FB at : https://www.facebook.com/HeleneYoungAustralianAuthor

Follow her on twitter at: https://twitter.com/HeleneYoung

(3) Plan B – The Conference Pitch

Last week I told the story of how I found my dream agent. Problem was, I still didn’t have my dream contract with a major publisher. Maybe my agent could use a little help? A writer friend of mine, fellow rural author Margareta Osborn, had asked me to go with her to the Romance Writer’s Conference in Melbourne.

‘I don’t write category romance,’ I said.

‘You don’t have to,’ said Margareta. ‘All sorts of writers go. It’ll be fun … and you get to pitch face to face to editors. Not just any editors, but key industry professionals like Beverley Cousins of Random House, Annette Barlow of Allen & Unwin and Belinda Byrne, a commissioning editor at Penguin’.

‘Really?’ I said, my ears pricking right up.  ‘Editors?’ Now, all I needed was a novel to knock their socks off. I already had two manuscripts with Curtis Brown. Maybe I needed something fresh, something that fused my passion for the land with an equally passionate love story. It was January, and the conference was in August – eight months. I could only try. Thus Brumby’s Run was born. I wrote and wrote, revising as I went, and had a polished first draft just in time for the conference.

Belinda ByrneI scored pitch sessions with Bernadette Foley of Hachette and Belinda Byrne. I agonised over my pitch, practised ad nauseum and was sick with nerves. The five minute pitches were reduced to three minute pitches. Not much time to impress anybody. Then the moment arrived for that long walk into the room, and I was the one who wound up being  impressed. Both editors were so friendly and natural, and did everything they could to put me at ease. And best of all, both of them took my three chapters and synopsis.

Ten days passed without word, so I sent out polite reminders. Far from being annoyed, they both asked for the full manuscript. Then, after several encouraging emails from Belinda, she asked to meet me, and in October I received an email headed Penguin Letter of Offer for Brumby’s Run. At last!. I printed that letter out and carried it with me for weeks, looking at it occasionally to check it was real. My agent was happy too, cheerfully returning emails once again and launching into contract negotiations with great gusto. And the rocky road to publication was suddenly an easy, downhill run.

 

Heading for Ireland on Monday, to take up a month-long residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Soooo … my next post will be from the Emerald Isle. Pretty amazing, huh? (I’m almost jealous of myself!)