The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur (Reviewed by Hayley Shephard)

I decided to give Fiona McArthur’s new book, The Homestead Girls, a whirl to challenge myself as I’m currently addicted to non-stop, passionate romance and shirtless men. It’s a departure I’m glad I took. I’ve always loved strong female characters who don’t let their predicaments define them.

The Homestead Girls follows five women who come to live at Blue Hills Station on the outskirts of Mica Ridge, a small country town in the middle of a crippling drought with a trustworthy and life-saving Flying Doctor Service. Two of these women, Daphne and Billie, are part of the medical team, treating injured farmers and the town’s residents. When not working hard, Billie looks after her wayward teenage daughter Mia. We also have Soretta, whose grandfather owns Blue Hills Station, and Lorna, an 80 year-old housemate with the energy of a teenager.

These five women rely on each other to push away from issues in their lives. Some issues lie in the field of romance (the men who also serve with the Mica Ridge FDS have a certain presence), while others are more complicated. As a group, they grow stronger, and give each other support and strength.

Lorna’s companionship with Soretta’s grandfather is beautiful; a lovely side story. They make each other laugh and are observed by the others to be in better spirits. It was one of my favourite things about the book.

Even though it is not all romance, it does have a happy ending – one that feels well deserved for all the characters. But if you want to know exactly how it ends, you’ll have to read it yourself!

This certainly won’t be the last Fiona McArthur I read.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls


The Homestead Girls

by Fiona McArthur

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been more…

About the Author

Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia. Fiona’s love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She’s been a midwifery expert for Mother&Baby magazine and is the author of the nonfiction works The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents. She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She’s constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls

Fiona McArthur, author of The Homestead Girls, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona McArthur

author of The Homestead Girls

Six Sharp Questions

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1.    Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does this book mean to you?

Five women, a sheep station in drought and the 22-year-old granddaughter’s last ditch measure to keep the farm after her grandad is seriously injured. A flying doctor, a flight nurse, an 80-year-old ex-bush nurse and 16-year-old diva meld into The Homestead Girls and become a family in the harshness of a desolately beautiful landscape.

2.    Time passes. Things change. What would be the best and worst moments you’ve experienced in the past year or so?

We’re talking books and writing here –right?
So the best had to be seeing Red Sand Sunrise up on the shelves and selling well. Crazy fabulous reviews, people telling me that was just how it was, and the fun of getting out there to research in an area I knew too little about.

My worst is nothing compared to some people. I’m just happy to be here.

3.    Do you have a favourite quote or passage you’d be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

It was raining in Adelaide, they’d called off the cricket, and that was only four hours away. It looked promising all day but the dry electrical storms set everyone’s teeth on edge.

An hour and half across the boarder they had a deluge. None at Blue Hills. The heat increased the pall of anxiety in the homestead and the air palpated with tension.

Soretta chewed her nails as she watched the sky because the house water tank was almost empty. Lachlan had gone into town to order another tank just in case the heavens opened and Klaus had started up the old bulldozer and scraped the empty dam another few feet deeper in case they had a downpour they could capture.

Billie had offered to pay the water carrier to bring a load for the house, but it wasn’t just the house that needed water. Soretta was praying the water table they were using from the bores to keep the stock alive would hold up. Everyone felt it so close to rain that the waiting was torture, made worse by hearing of rain everywhere else. It had passed them by before.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls

red-sand-sunrise4.    Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life…

I write when everyone else is asleep. So I get up at 4am to write before I get ready for work at 6. Nobody talks to me then. Please don’t talk to me when I’m writing. On writing-at-home days I’m vague, my eyes are constantly flicking from place to place as my brain lives in two worlds. My husband just shakes his head. I guess that would be interesting to live with – or not.

5.   Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I love writing stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things. It’s my theme. The upsurge of  interest in rural romance and rural comtempory fiction allowed me to write my medical version of the big books I put off writing. Current marketplace is an incredibly exciting time for someone like me so it influenced me to take a gamble, stop my three small books a year of steady income, and write one big book. Great satisfaction in that.

6.   Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?tomorrow-when-the-war-began

Tomorrow When The War Began. Because I want them to actually read and if they are ill-educated they probably need to be enticed into falling in love with reading. The Tomorrow series started one of my son’s reading.

Harry Potter for the same reason. And Harry was out of his comfort zone and had to make friends.

The Old Man and The Sea – because simple can be incredible.

Pride and Prejudice – because we don’t need that much civilising and other people had to do it harder.

Kings In Grass Castles – because some people did it really tough and we need to honour them. I think of the women in this book.

Fiona, thanks for playing!

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls


The Homestead Girls

by Fiona McArthur

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and in desperation has opened her station house to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

About the Author

Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia. Fiona’s love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She’s been a midwifery expert for Mother&Baby magazine and is the author of the nonfiction works The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents. She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She’s constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls

 

Lisa Joy, author of Yes, Chef!, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Lisa Joy

author of Yes, Chef! 

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Sydney, I spent a good deal of my childhood at dance class. At 21, deciding I wasn’t cut out for the famished life of a ballerina, I moved to London where I lived for seven years and worked in the restaurant industry, in fashion retail and as the production assistant for the British TV series Midsomer Murders. I started writing short stories in high school but didn’t consider a career as a novelist until I moved to Melbourne six years ago.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

A ballerina, an actor and then a writer. I guess I’ve always been a dreamer. My imagination made childhood games more interesting and adult disappointments easier to deal with.

Author Lisa Joy

Author: Lisa Joy

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Having a dream unrealised was better than having a dream that failed. I was basically too scared to put my writing out there for a long time and found it hard even to show friends my work. Now I know the only way to grow and become better is to try and keep trying.

4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I saw Van Gogh’s Bridge in the Rain at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and was captivated. I began reading all I could about Japan and hope to one day spend time there and write a travel and food diary.

I found Joanne Harris’s foodie novels, Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange very inspiring. Her writing is laced with delicious foodie descriptions. It’s how I hope my writing will be some day with practise.

Salman Rushdie introduced me to magical realism with Midnight’s Children. Reading his novels makes me want to be a better writer and I can imagine myself writing something that combines food, friendship and love in a magical way.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel? 

I love the escapism that novels and creative non-fiction provide. I enjoy learning something new about a people, place or time and fiction can provide that in an entertaining and emotional way. Novels and memoir are what I read most and I hope to write both one day.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Yes, Chef! is set in the world of high-end restaurants and celebrity chefs. It’s told through the eyes of the PA to London’s most notorious chef, a smart and sassy woman who is approaching thirty and trying to figure out what she really wants from life while getting carried away in a wirlwind of reality cooking shows, opening nights and kitchen scandals.

Grab a copy of Lisa’s new book Yes, Chef! here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

An authentic insight into the foodie world from someone who’s been there and lived it. I’ve worked in a number of different roles and establishments in the restaurant industry including being PA to a well-known Melbourne chef. I think readers will want to call up their best friends after reading Yes, Chef! and head out for a nice meal and a bottle of prosecco. Either that or they’ll want to take a foodie trip to Italy or Istanbul as my heroine, Becca Stone, does.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?midnight-s-children-vintage-classics

There are many fiction writers I admire greatly – Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Joanne Harris, Kate Morton, but having met Fiona McIntosh I must say I admire her enthusiasm, energy and tenacity. I attended her fiction masterclass as a fantasy writer and emerged with the beginnings of a women’s fiction book. One year later Yes, Chef! was picked up by Penguin. I really admire the time and energy Fiona spends helping new authors realise their potential and their dreams.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

As a new author I’m well aware my best work is yet to come but I learn something with every experience and have made my number one goal to keep improving with every book. Of course, my imagination runs away with itself sometimes, dreaming of film adaptations, but I try not to get too carried away with this and just keep writing.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t listen to too much advice. Find a mentor that you trust, someone who’s had proven success in the genre you write in and then keep referring back to their advice. Above all, write because you love it, because it makes you happy and keeps you sane, not because you think it will make you a lot of money or because you think becoming published will make you feel fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful thing to see your dreams realised, but you shouldn’t place so much pressure on yourself to achieve the reward that you fail to enjoy the process.

Lisa, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Yes,Chef! here


Yes, Chef!

by Lisa Joy

Sassy foodie Becca Stone is over her job taking reservations for one of London’s most successful restaurant empires. So when she is unexpectedly catapulted into working as PA to celebrity chef Damien Malone, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime.

Becca is quickly caught up in an exciting whirlwind of travel, reality TV and opening nights, and even her usually abysmal love-life takes a turn for the better. But as Becca is slowly consumed by the chaos of life in the spotlight, she begins to lose touch with her friends, her heart and even with reality. Working with Damien has its challenges and she is soon struggling with his increasingly outrageous demands and sleazy advances, all while managing the ridiculous requests of his self-centred wife. It takes a disastrous trip to Italy for Becca to realise that she may have thrown away exactly what she’s been looking for all along.

Inspired by Lisa Joy’s real-life adventures, this deliciously funny and romantic story is a tantalising llok at the trendy restaurant scene: a world where chefs are treated like rock stars, and cooking isn’t all that goes on in the kitchen.

About the Author

Lisa Joy began writing stories in her teenage years, but decided she needed to get her heart broken and live in another country before pursuing a career as a novelist. Born in Sydney, she spent most of her childhood wearing pink tights and leotards at ballet class.

At age 21, deciding she wasn’t cut out for the famished life of a ballerina, she left her safe and somewhat predictable existence behind and travelled to London, where she worked as a television producer’s PA, in fashion retail and the restaurant business. Having fallen head over heels in love with London, travelling Europe, eating amazing food and the occasional stint on stage and screen, Lisa stayed put for about 7 years, until finally, family called and she returned to Australia to work as PA to a well known Melbourne chef.

Her writing took a dramatic turn for the better after she attended a commercial fiction masterclass with author Fiona McIntosh. She now lives in the picturesque Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne on a small acreage farm with her husband and four chooks where in addition to writing novels, she grows vegetables, berries and herbs to supply to some of Melbourne’s best restaurants.

 Grab a copy of Yes,Chef! here

Steve Strevens, author of The Jungle Dark, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Steve Strevens

author of The Jungle Dark

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in England, in Ely near Cambridge. Emigrated as a family to rural South Australia. A year later moved to Swan Hill in Victoria where I spent a couple of (very bad) years at school before signing up for the RAN two weeks after my 16th birthday.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I wanted to be a farmer when I was young but have no idea why. At 18 I just wanted to survive the navy and at 30 only wanted to live a peaceful life.

Steve Strevens copyright Steve Strevens

Author: Steve Strevens

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

No strong beliefs that have changed over time. I’ve become mellower and resigned to the fact that even though ‘they’ say you can do anything you want – even change the world – the reality is you can’t. I’m ok with that. A realist.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

I always liked to read and I reckon I’m just a story teller. This has never been a ‘career path’. As for great effects, I suppose my father writing books and plays influenced me, as did his exposing me to World War 1 poetry. When people say they are influenced or changed by events, I always wonder how. Writing came gradually from an early age and I’ve been lucky to have been published extensively in many ways and in many places.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Books are tactile. They feel and smell great when they are new – and old – so they’ll never be displaced. They’re totally different from all the other stuff in the question.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It’s the true story behind the iconic song ‘I Was Only 19’. It’s graphic and honest and confronting. But it’s also a story of inspiration in that even though things may not always be as you want them to be, hardship can be overcome, even if only to a certain extent not completely.

Grab a copy of Steve’s new book The Jungle Dark here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Intolerance. Love is not all you need, as someone wrote, kindness is. Oh, and we need to understand that everyone has something to offer. We might not like what they say but we should listen because there just might be something there. You never know.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I admire most the people who overcome difficulties without complaint. Those who suffer the slings and arrows without losing perspective. Those who work their way through what life deals them.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To live peacefully and happily and to be kind to others. That’s it.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

To write. People who paint are happy to have their paintings on the wall so writers should simply write and share their stories with others. Publication shouldn’t the reason for writing. Also, talk to the keyboard. Write as you speak. Don’t try to ‘write’ Just tell the keyboard the story as you would the person next door.

Steve, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Jungle Dark here


The Jungle Dark

by Steve Strevens

The powerful true story behind the classic Aussie song I Was Only Nineteen.

On 21 July 1969, the soldiers of 3 Platoon crouched in the scrubby Vietnamese landscape listening to the news on the radio: Neil Armstrong had just stepped onto the moon.

Moments later, Platoon Commander Lieutenant Peter Hines stepped on a mine and the platoon was engulfed in a maelstrom of dirt, smoke and blood.

This is the true story of Frank ‘Frankie’ Hunt and the other soldiers of 3 Platoon, A Company, 6 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment who became the inspiration for Redgum’s 1983 hit song I Was Only Nineteen – the anthem for the veterans of the Vietnam War.

The Jungle Dark traverses the deep unhealed wounds of Vietnam soldiers and the song that finally brought them home.

About the Author

Steve Strevens emigrated from England in 1959, and joined the Navy two weeks after his 16th birthday. He served in Vietnam, Malay and Borneo and then became a freelance writer. He was a regular contributor to The Age and has been published in many major newspapers and magazines, both here and overseas. He is an award-winning journalist and has edited two regional newspapers. Steve’s eight books include Slow River and the critically acclaimed biography of Bob Rose.

He lives on the far south coast of NSW with his partner and their two ageing, loveable, but quite mad, dogs.

 Grab a copy of The Jungle Dark here

Nine Naughty Questions with… Rachael Johns, author of The Road to Hope

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rachael Johns

author of The Road to Hope and many more…

Nine Naughty Questions

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1. I wonder, is a Romance writer born or made? Please tell us a little about your life before publication.

I was made from heartache mixed with a liberal dose of teenage dramatics. I’d never been a huge reader in school (aside from the entire Babysitters series) but I was a mad romantic, crushing on the same guy for almost five years. We ended up “together” for five months and when we broke up at the end of year twelve I was devastated. I thought my life was over and for some reason turned to writing as a form of therapy. I wrote 80000 terrible words about me and that guy but by the end of it, I’d caught the bug. It took me fifteen years after this before I finally got published. During those fifteen years I also did a writing degree, became a teacher, got married, had three kids and moved to the bush.

Author: Rachael Johns

2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why Romance readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?

I think romance readers rock and I love that they are as invested in the characters as me as a writer. I think the reason they’re invested and devoted is because romance characters usually experience universal emotions – love, grief, anger, loss, etc – that make them easy to relate to and barrack for. Romance, although it can take readers on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, guarantees a happy ending and in today’s often sad world, I think this feel-good escape is wonderful. Obviously all my books have a little part of me in, but I don’t feel exposed.

3. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Road to Hope is linked to my first book Jilted and is about nurse Lauren Simpson and Doctor Tom Lewis. Lauren featured in Jilted and I myself had nicknamed her The Nasty Nurse, never intending to use her as the heroine in a future book. However I had such great feedback from readers wanting to go back to Hope Junction that I decided to write another book set in that town. The Road to Hope is a story about overcoming life’s hurtles and making the best of what is thrown at you. It’s about giving yourself and others a second chance. It’s mostly set in a rural hospital and nursing home and so there are a whole host of elderly eccentric characters which were hugely fun to write about. And for those readers who loved Jilted, you’ll be pleased to hear The Road to Hope opens at Flynn and Ellie’s wedding.

Grab a copy of Rachael’s novel The Road to Hope here

4. Is the life of a published Romance writer… well… Romantic?

Hmm… I’d like to tell you that it is but the truth is that aside from a few times a year when I hang out with writer friends at conferences and wine and dine, my life is pretty much the same as any other working mum. I get up, organise everyone for school, drop them off, come home do laundry, emails, etc and then sit at my laptop and pray for words. I’m interrupted by school carnivals, sick kids, dogs that need walking… I think you get the picture. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a job I can do from home and, in winter, from my bed with my electric blanket on. What’s better than that?

5. Of all of the Romantic moments in your life is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the Romantic elements in your writing? If so can you tell us about that special moment?

It’s very sad but I can’t think of many truly romantic moments – maybe I’m hard to please or maybe the lack of them is why I turned to writing romance. One pretty special day for me was when my husband proposed. He’d asked me (hypothetically) what I would like in an ideal proposal and I told him chocolate, champagne, fairy lights, rain and all my pets (at the time I had two guinea pigs, two budgies and a cat). Three months later it was raining and he whisked me out onto his patio. He had fairy lights strung across the awnings, chocolate, wine and all pets out there as well. He got down on bended knee and asked me to be his wife. After he went to all the trouble of getting the animals organised, of course I said yes. It may not have been everyone’s idea of romance, but I think that’s what makes a good romance novel – the romantic moments are tailored very specifically to the hero and heroine of that book. What works for one couple, would seem wrong for another.

6. Sex in Romance writing today ranges from ‘I can’t believe they’re allowed to publish this stuff’ explicit to ‘turn the light back on I can see something’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a romance novel?

In my books I don’t close the door but neither do I explicitly describe the sex scenes. The heat levels also vary from book to book depending on the characters. To me the emotion is the key to writing a truly fulfilling sex scene – I want to be inside the characters’ heads as much as their bodies when they are making love, to see/know how their feelings and opinions are changing and growing about their lover and also about themselves. Sex in a book shouldn’t be gratuitous, it should change things and be absolutely essential to the plot, otherwise I don’t want to read (or write) about it.

7. Romance writers are often Romance readers – please tell us your five favourite (read and re-read) romance novels or five novels that influenced your work most?

1. Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding – This was the book that brought me back to reading in my early twenties and one of the few novels I’ve re-read.
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – classic romance. I simply love Austen’s heroes, especially in this book.
3. Faking It by Jennifer Crusie – a book that had me laughing pretty much on every page. The sex scene stood out as being fresh and funny, not clichéd at all.
4. Northern Lights by Nora Roberts – my first ever Nora Roberts book and one of the books that got me hooked on romance.
5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – the only book I read in high school and a story that stayed with me.

8. Erotic Romance writing is ‘so hot right now’, do you have any thoughts on why?

I think it’s always been hot, just before a certain book came out a few years ago and took the world by storm no one that read erotic romance admitted to it.

9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read and write – it’s really as simple as that. I don’t understand when I hear writers say they are not readers. To me, these passions go  hand in hand and you can learn a lot from reading other people’s work. Oh and when you are ready, submit your work to publishers. It took me a long while to realise that one of the reasons I wasn’t getting published was because I wasn’t putting my work out there.

Thanks for joining us Rachael!


The Road to Hope

by Rachael Johns

Nurse Lauren Simpson is known in Hope Junction for the wrong reasons – and she’s over it. Watching the man she’s always loved marry someone else is the last straw – she decides to get out of Hope. But her resolve is tested when the hot new locum doctor arrives in town.

Doctor Tom Lewis also has skeletons in his closet – including a painful breakup and devastating family news. He’s hit the road with his vintage ute and surfboard, to travel the outback and live in the moment.

When Tom and Lauren meet the attraction is instant, but for Lauren Tom threatens to be just another fling and Tom has his own reasons for hesitating. Everyone else – their friends and patients – can see how perfect they are together, but just what will it take for them to admit this to themselves?

A brand new Hope Junction story of fresh starts and second chances.

Grab a copy of The Road to Hope here

Nine Naughty Questions with… Helene Young, author of Northern Heat

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Helene Young

author of Northern Heat and more…

Nine Naughty Questions

———————————-

1. I wonder, is a Romance writer born or made? Please tell us a little about your life before publication.

I think a romance writer is probably born. According to my mum I was always an optimistic little soul who resolutely refused to find anything but a silver lining in every cloud. (That may well annoy those around me!) I started writing angsty poetry when I was a teenager, moved to short stories with unhappy endings, and then graduated to articles for community newsletters. When I sat down to write a book, however, the story was a romance. Since I’ve always been a lover of crime fictions as well as happy endings it’s not surprising I write romantic suspense. Two stories for the price of one!

Author: Helene Young

2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of Romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why romance readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?

I think as a writer I definitely need to pour my heart and soul into my characters. Romance readers know authentic love when they see it and that means we as writers need to live and breathe it.  I do draw on some of my own experiences, but I don’t feel exposed by telling those stories. However recounting the experiences of people who’ve provided inspiration for my characters can be emotional…

3. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Set in remote Cooktown, Northern Heat is a story of redemption, but also about finding the courage to walk away from violence. As my heroine, Kristy, says, ‘Tomorrow is a new day.’

While the research into domestic violence was harrowing, I met many women who’ve lived through hardship and emerged stronger, more resilient and determined to make better choices for themselves and for their children. It takes courage to trust enough to love again and I hope I’ve done their stories justice.

Grab a copy of Helene’s novel Northern Heat here

4. Is the life of a published Romance writer… well… Romantic?

Lol, nothing romantic about a full time job requiring upwards of 50 hours a week plus writing a book a year! But come July we’ll be casting off the mooring lines and heading Roobinesque, our 40ft catamaran, north into the Coral Sea – that’s going to be a whole lot more romantic than managing 260 pilots!

5. Of all of the Romantic moments in your life is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the Romantic elements in your writing? If so can you tell us about that special moment?

My romantic moment was when Capt G, a mere work colleague at the time, scooped me up in his arms and carried me off a sports field after I’d badly damaged my knee in a touch footy game. He stole my heart as he whisked me away to the local hospital. That was 30 years ago :)

6. Sex in Romance writing today ranges from ‘I can’t believe they’re allowed to publish this stuff’ explicit to ‘turn the light back on I can see something’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a Romance novel?

I think love scenes are very important to a romance, whether the bedroom door is closed or open! But it needs to show the emotional connection between the characters, even if they’re enjoying smokin’ hot sex. And it needs to be true to the characters. I think readers expect a sensuous element in romances and the rise of erotic romance would suggest that it’s increasingly important.

7. Romance writers are often Romance readers – please tell us your five favourite (read and re-read) Romance novels or five novels that influenced your work most?

1. Hungry as the Sea by Wilbur Smith, because it was the first romantic suspense I’d read. Althought I doubt Wilbur Smith thinks he writes romance!
2. Northern Lights by Nora Roberts, becaues the heroine flies a float plane!
3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, because Elizabeth was so quick witted and Mr Darcy so honourable but constrained.
4. Tai-Pan by James Clavell – just because.
5. Dune by Frank Herbert – I find something new every time I read it.

8. Paranormal Romance writing is ‘so hot right now’, do you have any thoughts on why?pride-and-prejudice

Paranormal romance offers pure escapism which lets our imaginations take off. I’m not a huge reader of Paranormal but I do love the Psy Changeling series by Nalini Singh and Kerri Arthur’s Dark Angels series.

9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?

You can’t edit a blank page so get writing! So many people start a book and never finish it so the first big hurdle is to get your story down on the page. Also remember that all those ‘writing rules’ are for guidance. Sure you need to be concious of grammar, punctuation and spelling, but every writer has a unique process. Developing your voice and your writing process is all part of learning your craft.

Thanks for joining us Helene!


Northern Heat

by Helene Young

In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is living under an assumed name and rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown’s youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and a chance to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark.

After tragedy tore her family apart, Kristy fled to Cooktown with her feisty teenage daughter, Abby. She hoped being part of the small community would help them both heal, but Abby’s sports coach is turning out to be a compelling distraction.

When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger in Cooktown. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they’ll both lose someone they love.

Grab a copy of Northern Heat here

Sally Gardner, author of The Door That Lead to Where, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sally Gardner

author of The Door That Lead to Where

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Birmingham, raised in London and went to quite a few schools due to the fact I was dyslexic. It’s one part of life I have no regrets about leaving. I remember it exceedingly well and didn’t like being a child. We’re all brought up by giants, some more monstrous than others. In the end we become giants and the art is not to forget what it felt like to live under them.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

We all have dreams. We have dreams that our parents put on us when we are young, we have conventional dreams that we think we should have, and then we have the main dream, the thing we really want to do, which we sort of know from the beginning. What I told people at the age of twelve was that I wanted to be an artist. At eighteen, I told people I wanted to go to theatre school, and be the best set designer in the country. What I wanted to be at thirty was a children’s illustrator, and what I never told a soul ever, was my main dream, and that was to be a writer and tell my stories.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Sally Gardner, June 24, 2013.

Author: Sally Gardner

That I would find the love of my life. I didn’t, but I did have three wonderful children and other amazing things have happened to me, but the love of my life never appeared. Maybe it did in a way in the sense that it is now writing.

4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Edith Sitwell’s Facade. I first heard it with my father in his study and I just adored the jamboree of words, the jumble of sounds, and the joy of language. Mixed with William Walton’s music I thought it was absolutely fabulous. I think a book that had a profound effect on me was The Lost Domain by Alain Fournier. It is a coming-of-age story, is completely magical, and is a book that made me want to be a child again just so that I could read it for the first time again. The illustrator and writer who had a profound effect was Edward Gorey. I discovered him when I was 16 and that love has never waned.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel? 

They weren’t necessarily open to me. I am severely dyslexic and to this day people find the idea of writers being dyslexic a contradiction. I was very artistic though, and went into theatre mainly because I love story. I couldn’t imagine working without a story. I was very lucky to have been taken to the theatre a great deal when I was younger and I had a huge love of the theatre. When I went into illustration, I still thought the main dream I had to be a writer was impossible and I would never achieve it.

6. Please tell us about your novel, The Door That Led to Where

I always start a book with a question, even if it’s just to myself. The question I asked was: Would three boys, who I would call ‘Govian failures’ after our ex-education minister Michael Gove, fare better if they went back to 1830s England, than they would do here in the present? I was thinking about a particular lad who had been educated from age three to five, and then again from fifteen to seventeen, who was mainly self taught. He wanted to be a correspondent at the Houses of Parliament, and I was wondering if he stood a chance of getting a job at, say, The Times. Would they even let him though the front door? The resounding answer was no, they wouldn’t. That young man happened to be Charles Dickens. Where are they young men of today who are the future Dickenses, and are we over looking them in favour of a tick-box education? In London particularly boys at the age of seventeen are either mummified or villainised. The one thing they’re not seen as is young men. I think we make a terrible mistake in doing this. We leave too many pathways open for fanaticism, radicalisation and anything that would give a young man a sense of power and respect.

Grab a copy of Sally’s new book The Door That Led to Where here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I always hope that if my work does anything it encourages people to ask questions, to think a bit more about where we are going. If it does that I feel I have achieved quite a lot.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I absolutely adore Angela Carter, I love magical surrealism in all its formats. And I would have to say the book that’s been my bible has been the Grimms’ Fariy Tales. I think basically all my stories are fairy tales. The other writer that I stand in awe of is Charles Dickens.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?on-writing

My goals are to have good, original ideas, and try and stay true to the world novel, which in the 18th century meant something new and unexpected; a novelty. I still think my ambition is to have original ideas and thoughts and to play as much with language as I can. As well as the vague hope that one day I might win the Carnegie Medal, which I am absolutely over the moon to have done.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

My main advice is to not get published too young. There is a horrifying trend at the moment of finding two year olds who are trying to write Proust. I would encourage everyone to grow up, work on their ideas and publish them a little later. When people ask me about how to become a writer, I always suggest that they read Stephen King’s On Writing. It is one of the best books he ever wrote, and is also a very true and direct story about being an author and what that might entail. I also think you need to read a great deal, and try not to use the word ‘like’, if you can help it. I have a slight aversion to ‘like’. If I read a book and in the first paragraph there is a ‘like’, I think to myself, can I manage another 300 pages? I think that a ‘like’ asks you to stand outside the story, when you should feel like you are all the way inside it. The other thing I feel very strongly about is that you don’t need an adjective with ‘said’. Whatever is being said has to hold all the power.

Sally, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Door That Led to Where here


The Door That Led to Where

by Sally Gardner

When the present offers no hope for the future, the answers may lie in the past.

AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change – but he could never have imagined how much.

Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth – and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past – 1830, to be precise – where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain’s means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They’ve gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose – and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?

A fast-paced mystery novel by one of the UK’s finest writers, The Door That Led To Where will delight, surprise and mesmerise all those who read it.

About the Author

Sally Gardner grew up and still lives in London. Being dyslexic, she did not learn to read or write until she was fourteen and had been thrown out of several schools, labeled unteachable, and sent to a school for maladjusted children. Despite this, she gained a degree with highest honors at a leading London art college, followed by a scholarship to a theater school, and then went on to become a very successful costume designer, working on some notable productions.

 Grab a copy of The Door That Led to Where here

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