Meet Pamela Cook

Pamela Cook writes page-turning women’s fiction set in escape-worthy places. Her novels feature tangled family relationships, the ups and downs of friendship and explore life issues like grief, belonging and love. Her novels include Blackwattle Lake (2012) Essie’s Way (2013), Close To Home (2015) and The Crossroads (2016). Her September 2019 release is Cross My Heart. Pamela is the co-host of the exciting new podcasts Writes4Women and Writes4Festivals, and Assistant Program Director for the Storyfest Literary Festival which takes place in Milton, on the south coast of NSW, Australia in June each year. Pamela is proud to be a Writer Ambassador for Room To Read, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries. When she’s not writing, podcasting or festival planning she wastes as much time as possible riding her handsome quarter horses, Morocco and Rio.


More Than Research: Re-connecting Through Equine Assisted Learning.

Like my lovely host Jennifer Scoullar, I’m an animal-lover and horse rider. I only came to riding as an adult – apart from a few trail rides when I was in my teens – but have always had a sense of the power and sensitivity of horses.

Back when I was researching the Black Saturday bush fires for my first novel, Blackwattle Lake, I came across an article about horses being used as a unique form of therapy. Overcoming trauma by spending time with horses in a supervised, supportive environment was helping some of the victims of the fires come to terms with their experiences.

Intrigued, I kept that article from The Good Weekend and always knew I’d write about it someday. So when it came to finding a form of therapy to help a traumatised child in my latest story, the idea appeared instantly. I read quite a few pieces on the various forms of therapy, watched some you-tube videos and checked out websites but it was spending a day actually working with horses at Horsanity that really helped me to understand how life-changing working with horses can be.

I’d gone to the centre purely to research the process for my book but in a very short time found myself immersed in the sessions in a much more personal way.  The small group session included a combination of talking to the practitioners, spending time purely in the presence of the horses – in this case, a small herd of magnificent Friesians – and then grooming and doing groundwork with a particular horse. This was followed by deep reflection on the process and the emotions it triggered. A huge part of the process – this form being equine-assisted learning rather than actual therapy – was to slow down, listen to both the horse and your own reaction and to take the time to truly connect in the moment. Dealing with my own grief after losing my closest friend wasn’t something I anticipated but those feelings decided they wanted out and while this sort of loss isn’t something you ever really recover from, working with the horses was a hugely cathartic, helpful experience

I came away with invaluable information for my book but also feeling refreshed, grounded and more at peace. I’m hoping that the information I’ve included in my plot for Cross My Heart will intrigue readers, even those who are (weirdly!) not horse lovers.

While Equine Therapy and Equine Assisted Learning remain quite left field, they are being used more and more to help both children and adults overcome trauma, including returned soldiers and victims of domestic violence. Tapping into the primal wisdom of these beautiful creatures for my novel was such a joy and it’s an experience I hope to repeat some time in the future.


                     CROSS MY HEART
When a promise kept means a life is broken …
Tessa De Santis’s child-free marriage in inner-city Sydney is ordered and comfortable, and she likes it that way.
Leaving her husband and successful career behind, Tess travels to an isolated property where the realities of her friend’s life – and death – hit hard. The idyllic landscape and an unexpected form of therapy ease her fears, and her relationship with Grace begins to blossom.
          Cross My Heart is a haunting story of guilt, redemption and friendship set in the beautiful central west of New South Wales.
            * Universal Buy Link – click here


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

The Writing Process Blog Hop: Writers Reveal Their Process

Writing process 1It’s great to be taking part in this blog hop on The Writing Process. Thanks to the lovely Pamela Cook for tagging me. If you missed Pamela’s post last week you can find it here. Pamela is the author of Blackwattle Lake and Essie’s Way, published by Hachette. Apart from writing, Pamela is a 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.

Essie's Way coverPamela lives in the southern suburbs of Sydney and spends as much time as possible at her “other” home in Milton on the south coast of NSW. Being a country girl at heart and spending so much of her time around horses enticed Pamela to “write what you know” and she’s more than happy to now be a writer of Rural Fiction. Connect with Pamela via her Website, Twitter or Facebook.

And now for my own responses to The Writing Process questions:
1)   What am I working on?
I’m finishing copyedits for Billabong Bend, a star-crossed love story set in the riverlands. It will be released by Penguin in May of this year. My current work-in-progress is a novel set in cane country, near the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. See my early attempt at a blurb below.

cane fieldsUnlucky-in-love zoologist Zoe King has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to the small sugar town of Kiawa means a fresh start and she is charmed by the region’s beauty – by its rivers and rainforests. By its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast.  And by its people – its farmers and fishermen, unhurried and down to earth, proud of their traditions.

Her work at the Sea-Life Centre provides all the passion she needs and Zoe finds a friend in Bridget, the centre’s director. So the last thing she expects is to fall for her boss’s boyfriend, sugar cane king Quinn Cooper. When animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. To protect the reef must she betray the man she loves?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Like Pamela Cook I write rural fiction, currently a very popular genre. The main point of difference with my novels is a passion for the plants, animals and birds of the bush. This shines through in authentic stories set in Australia’s magnificent wild places, with various environmental themes at their heart.

3)   Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always enjoyed a deep affinity with nature, and I channel my passion for the environment into my books. The natural world is full of drama, risk and exquisite beauty – perfect fodder for a novelist! I also enjoy an old-fashioned love story. For me, a good romance is not just about two people falling for each other. The original, medieval concept of a romance always involved a quest, and I think a modern one should too – it is the heroine’s search for herself. For until a character discovers her authentic core, she can’t genuinely connect with another person. So I like to show a woman coming into her strength and fullness as a human being.

4Save the Cat 2)   How does my writing process work?
I’ve written six novels now, and am beginning my seventh. My first manuscript took more than two years to write. Of course you don’t know quite what you’re doing with a first novel, but you learn a lot about the craft along the way. Once I was published I had to be more practical about my process in order to meet deadlines. Although I’m a pantster at heart, I now plan a lot more, using a loose, three act structure. This plan is flexible however, and doesn’t prevent the story from evolving organically. With my new novel I plan to write 1,000 words a day, five days a week. Let’s see how I go!

Next week three wonderful writers share their thoughts on the writing process:

Kate Belle 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. Her first book, The Yearning, was released in 2013 to rave reviews. Her second, Being Jade is due for release in June 2014 (Simon & Schuster Australia). She blogs regularly at The Ecstasy Files and as a guest to whoever will have her.
Blog/website: http://www.ecstasyfiles.com
Facebook:      http://www.facebook.com/katebelle.x
Twitter:  @ecstasyfiles https://twitter.com/ecstasyfiles
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6572571.Kate_Belle
The Reading Room: http://www.thereadingroom.com/kate-belle/ap/2394119

Kathryn Ledson has worked as a PA in the corporate world, for Hayman Island’s PR team, and as Peter Ustinov’s PA during his Australian tour. She has also been on the road with rock bands Dire Straits and AC/DC. She now works as a freelance editor, but her passion is writing popular fiction for Penguin. She is the author of Rough Diamond and the newly released Monkey Business. Connect with Kathryn via her Website , Facebook or Twitter

A.C. Flory is an Australian indie science fiction writer who is a master of world building. The questions she asks most are why and why not? I love that her writing is not human-centric. In her first published novel Vokhtah, the characters are entirely alien, deeply observed and intriguing. It is the first book of a trilogy and I look forward to the rest of the series. She has also published a fabulous collection of short stories set at the end of the 21st century called The Vintage Egg (Postcards From Tomorrow). Connect with A.C. Flory via her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Congratulations to Karen Stalker for winning a signed copy of Currawong Creek in the Australia Day prize draw, and thanks to everybody else for entering! Karen, I’ll send you an email shortly.

BB2013_Nominee

A New Year With Pamela Cook

Pamela Cook New Author PicPlease welcome successful author Pamela Cook back to Pilyara. What an auspicious way to begin the new year! In addition to being a novelist, Pamela teaches writing. She’s also a horse lover, which means we have a lot in common. (The name of her blog is Flying Pony) Pamela’s latest release, Essie’s Way, is a touching story about finding yourself and learning from past mistakes. Today she talks to us about the importance of setting and place in her books.

‘Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Jennifer. Setting and a sense of place are very important in my writing. When I began my first novel, Blackwattle Lake, I started with an image of a place, and a character in that place: a woman standing at the gate of a horse property. I had no story, no outline and no idea what was going to happen but the strength of that image and that setting pulled me through. Essie's Way 1The setting for that novel is a mixture of two places: the riding ranch where we agist our horses, at Darkes Forest just south of Sydney … and the area around Milton, about two hours further south. We have a holiday house there at Little Forest and it’s my favourite place in the world. Somehow I manage to while away hours and hours there doing very little.

I’ve been holidaying on the NSW south coast all my life and it’s wonderful to now be able to share it with my daughters. And with my readers. The south coast is more untamed and a little wilder than the north – there are so many places where you can escape and feel completely isolated. Although the water is colder, it’s clear and clean and the beaches are blissfully empty (apart from school holidays of course) which is a huge contrast to the crowds on Sydney beaches in summer.

Essie's Way 2Essie’s Way also began with an image, but this time of an older woman who was playing the violin on the verandah of a shack near the ocean. Although I didn’t have a specific place in mind the stretch of beach I imagined was deserted and surrounded by bush. As the story progressed and the fragments came together, the place in my mind became one with a beach bookended by headlands, a very small town that only comes to life in the tourist season and farmlands close to the ocean. Thanks to trusty Google earth, I found a place that roughly fitted the description, packed my dog Bridie in the car and (just like Miranda, the main character in the book) headed south. While I was familiar with the south coast I hadn’t been to this particular place before but when I arrived at Potato Point I wasn’t disappointed. The “town” if it could be called one, and the beach fitted the image in my head perfectly.

To anyone else the resemblance might not be the same but walking on the windswept beach, wandering across the rock platforms I could just picture Esther standing there, fishing rod in hand, gazing out at the stormy blue ocean. There was no shack on the cliff and there were no horses grazing in paddocks nearby but it didn’t take much to imagine. The sense of alone-ness and freedom I felt standing on the beach were the same feelings I wanted Miranda to have when she visits the beach in search of the grandmother she’d always thought to be dead. Miranda is a city girl, a lawyer with a busy job and lifestyle and not much time to connect with herself. It’s here in Pelican Point (the fictional place in Essie’s Way, that she’s able to find some sense of peace and start to really think about the direction she’s taking in life.

There are a few city locations in Essie’s Way too – Miranda lives in Erskineville and hangs out in Newtown and the book opens with her trying on a wedding gown at a store in the QVB.

But it’s the rural locations that really inspire me. I love writing about the way place impacts on character and I hope to do more of that in my next book. At the moment I’m not sure exactly where it will be set but there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be somewhere down south and there’s an even better chance I’ll be taking off on a road trip to do a little research!’

Essie's Way coverEssie’s Way – A captivating story of family, love and following your heart, from the author of Blackwattle Lake.

Miranda McIntyre thinks she has it all sorted. A successful lawyer, she s planning her wedding and ticking off all the right boxes. When searching for something old to go with her wedding dress she remembers an antique necklace from her childhood, but her mother denies any knowledge of it. Miranda is sure it exists. Trying to find the necklace, she discovers evidence that perhaps the grandmother she thought was dead is still alive.

Ignoring the creeping uncertainty about her impending marriage, and the worry that she is not living the life she really wants, Miranda takes off on a road trip in search of answers to the family mystery but also in search of herself. Ultimately, she will find that looking back can lead you home.

Connect with Pamela:
Webpage: www.pamelacook.com.au
Facebook
: www.facebook.com/PamelaCookAuthor
Twitter: @PamelaCookAU

BB2013_Nominee

 

 

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