Nine Naughty Questions with… Alissa Callen, author of Beneath Outback Skies.

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alissa Callen

author of Beneath Outback Skies

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.

A lifetime ago I was a counselor and saw firsthand life doesn’t always deliver a happy ending. So I was drawn to the romance genre where I could guarantee my characters would always receive a happily-ever-after. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, it was natural my hyperactive imagination then played itself out against a bush backdrop. I now live on a small slice of rural Australia in central western NSW that provides constant inspiration, whether it is our river pumps failing (yet again), the grass fire that consumed our front paddock or simply the sight of my Little Farmer cuddling his dog on the back of the ute.

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?

A romance novel, or any novel, is a work of fiction. But like any creative project a little piece of an artist or author will bleed onto the canvas or page. And it is this emotional intensity and authenticity that will engage an audience and transport them into another world. As the thoughts, feelings and actions of my characters are intrinsic to them, no matter how much my own emotions might leach into their fictional lives, I don’t feel exposed.

3. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Beneath Outback Skies is a novel featuring red dust, romance and secrets.

Paige Quinn will let nothing and no one distract her from caring for her wheelchair-bound father, Connor, and fighting for her remote, drought-stricken property, Banora Downs. Least of all a surprise farm-stay guest named Tait Cavanaugh, whose smooth words are as lethal as his movie-star smile.

Except Paige can’t help noticing that, for a city-boy, Tait seems unexpectedly at home on the land. And he does ask a lot of questions.
It doesn’t matter how much he helps out or how much laughter he brings into her life, she soon suspects he is harbouring a big secret – the real reason he has come to Banora Downs.

Grab a copy of Alissa’s novel Beneath Outback Skies here

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

I’d love to say yes but reality will argue otherwise. I wave my husband off to work wearing boring pyjamas and with glazed over eyes as mentally plot my next scene. Hours spent on the computer also preclude intimate candle-lit dinners and at times even regular dinners. Grilled cheese sandwiches are my regular ‘go to’ food when lose track of time.

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?

One special and ‘I’m never doing that again’ moment was the day our first child was born. There is something about a baby that deepens any relationship and strengths the emotional connection between two people. Needless to say I went on to have three more children.

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?

The heat level of a book, let alone the inclusion of a sex scene or scenes, depends on both the genre as well as an author’s voice. For some stories the romantic journey of the characters is shown solely as an emotional one, while for other books both the emotional and physical journey will be charted.

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. Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen

2. Persuasion – Jane Austen

3. Border Laird’s Bride – Allison Butler

4. The Rider of Lost Creek – Louis L’amour

5. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne

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

The publishing landscape is always changing and it is so interesting to see what the next ‘hot’ thing will be. The advent of e-readers and tablets has added a new dimension of accessibility and anonymity that suits the erotic genre. No longer will print covers of erotic romance books raise eyebrows on the train or bus commute home.

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

To read. Anything and everything. To also not lose sight of the magic that happens when you put fingers to the keyboard. Now, more than ever with social media, writing is a business and the joy of finding the perfect word or having your wayward plot ducks line up in a neat row can sometimes become stifled.

Thanks for joining us Alissa!


beneath-outback-skiesBeneath Outback Skies

by Alissa Callen

A captivating rural romance featuring an indomitable young woman determined to save her family farm, and the city-boy who is not all he seems...

Paige Quinn will let nothing and no one distract her from caring for her wheelchair-bound father, Connor, and fighting for her remote, drought-stricken property, Banora Downs. Least of all a surprise farm-stay guest named Tait Cavanaugh, whose smooth words are as lethal as his movie-star smile.

Except Paige can’t help noticing that, for a city-boy, Tait seems unexpectedly at home on the land. And he does ask a lot of questions…

It doesn’t matter how much he helps out or how much laughter he brings into her life, she soon suspects he is harbouring a big secret – the real reason he has come to Banora Downs…

Grab a copy of Beneath Outback Skies here

REVIEW: The Raider by Monica McCarty (Review by Hayley Shephard)

the-raiderLooking for an historical book to read, where the actions and emotions of the characters involved are realistic? Where passion is always high, and the atmosphere is so sensual it’s bordering on primal? Then look no further than The Highland Guard series by Monica McCarty, and more recently her new novel, The Raider.

Think of The Highland Guard, after which this gripping series is named, as the ancient equivalent of the FBI or the ASIS. Each member must fight for Scotland’s freedom during the War of Independence.

Robert Boyd, whose warrior name is Raider (you can guess why), helps us to remember that warriors can still be vulnerable to their surroundings and make mistakes. So many authors of historical romance forget this and write about figures of the past that barely seem real – go figure!  Monica McCarty’s warriors, however, are human and thus susceptible to love in whatever form that may come in. And falling in love, as Raider learns, means making sacrifices and accepting that some things cannot be changed, otherwise you risk losing the one you love.

Raider comes to realise this after he takes an English woman hostage. Though he might be the strongest man in Scotland, he is just a man when 821in the presence of this woman, aptly named Rosalin. Rosalin, the sister of a powerful Englishman and seemingly his enemy, forces him to see and acknowledge things that he doesn’t want to- both inside and out.

Rosalin thankfully is not a damsel in distress; she pushes and pushes, never giving up.  Unfortunately, most authors give their characters a happy ending after only the slightest of hiccups; they make their “heroines” do anything and everything for the man they love.

More importantly, the constant upheavals in this story are not softened by unrealistic moments of passion. Some historical romances depict moments of “passion” as a turning point in the story, where the characters come to an understanding and realise everything will be alright. In this story sex is depicted as a way for the two main characters to show their love and frustration at the situation they have been dealt with. Not only that, but it helps them to forget for a while and imagine a happier world.

So as I said before, if you want a more realistic read then pick up The Raider or any other book in the series. The tension can be unbearable, but in the end well satisfying.


Grab a copy of The Raider here

Nicola Moriarty, author of Captivation and Paper Chains, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Guru asks

Nicola Moriarty

author of Captivation and Paper Chains

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

I was born, raised and schooled in Sydney – but as that sounds a bit boring, I’ll be a little more specific. Let’s see, I was born in Hornsby, raised in Kellyville and schooled in Baulkham Hills. Nope, still not overly exciting. Ahh, if only I was born on a yacht in the Caribbean, raised in a jungle in Brazil and schooled in a boarding house in the country. Oh well.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books because one of my primary school teachers  (Mrs Walsh – she had cascading curly hair and I adored her) had made a big fuss over a story I wrote. When I was eighteen I wanted to be an actress because I was performing in various amateur theatre productions at the time and I loved the rush of being up in front of an audience and becoming a different person. At thirty I very much wanted to be a writer – so it’s lucky that that’s what I seem to be doing!

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

I believed that I would never get married because I thought that marriage was too conventional for me. Ha! I’ve been married now for just coming up to eight years.

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

First off, Coldplay’s song ‘Warning Sign’ definitely helped me to write my first novel. I love listening to emotional music as I write, it helps me to get into the right head-space. Secondly, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult – I can specifically remember exactly where I was when I was reading the final chapter of this book. I remember being outside on our balcony in the apartment we used to rent in Parramatta, and there was a huge storm and when I read the final twist I absolutely SOBBED. And I thought, I would love to be able to affect readers in this way. Finally, the play ‘Death of a Salesman’ – however it wasn’t the actual play that reached me, it was while I was involved in an amateur theatre production of it. I had a very minor role, and while I and the rest of the cast were backstage I decided to write a spin-off for all the minor characters. Creating the small play and then watching it come to life (we performed it for the rest of the cast and crew on closing night) reminded me how much I loved creating something.

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

I love to write, it makes me happy, it’s hard to stop – simple as that!

paper-chains6.    Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest release was a supernatural romance novella called Captivation… But my latest full-length novel was called Paper Chains, and that’s about fate, friendship, post-natal depression, loss, love, London and Luna Park.

Grab a copy of Paper Chains here

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

First I want them to use my book to escape from the world for just a little while. And then I want them to be left with that feel-good glow, even if it’s just for the rest of the day after they finish reading. Finally I want them to be hungry for more words – and not necessarily just my words!

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

captivationCan I name two people, is that okay? Liane and Jaclyn Moriarty – my two wildly successful author sisters who encourage and support me and who’s novels I absolutely adore. When I read Liane’s books for the first time, I generally end up neglecting other things in my life because I can’t put it down – my writing, the washing that needs to be hung out, my children… her books make me laugh out loud and they make me cry and they twist my stomach. Jaci has an amazing ability to constantly reinvent herself. One minute she is writing YA fiction that connects with her readers on an unprecedented level, next she is creating a novel that is quirky and clever and sweet and sad. Now she’s moved on yet again – to a magical realism trilogy that is utterly delightful. How does she do that?!

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

Here is my most ambitious and ridiculously unachievable goal: I want to write a book that EVERYONE loves. I mean every single person who reads it, thinks that it is amazing. And even those people that haven’t read it, they just love the look of it. Oh and even those people that haven’t seen it or heard of it, they have this strange, psychic connection with it that they don’t quite understand, but they can identify that it is love for a work of fiction somewhere in the world. Too much? Yeah, I guess I got a bit carried away there didn’t I?

10.    What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write when you want to write, when you’re in the mood and you’re feeling creative. Let your fingers trip across the keyboard, let your pen run away with your hand. Try out different styles and different genres. Take a creative writing course. Eat chocolate. Quit smoking (contrary to Hollywood movies, you don’t need to be a sleep-deprived, chain-smoking, coffee-drinking struggling romantic to be a writer – although cappuccinos are okay).

Nicola, thank you for playing.

Check out Nicola’s books here

Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Final Round of Voting

There is only one more week of voting left to decide who is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

This is the longlist as voted by you, congratulations to all the novelists for making it onto this extraordinary list.

But the job isn’t finished. We need your final vote to decide the order of the top 50.

Vote for all your favourite authors, and spread the word, tell your friends and family to get voting! The poll closes 5pm Saturday.

Next week we’ll announce the Top 50 as voted by you and decide who, in 2014, is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

 

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 5

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

This is it folks. Your last chance to push your favourite authors into next week’s final round of voting. Last year’s winner Kate Morton is also in this heat!

Next week we’ll have the top 100 authors from all the heats for you to vote for!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 4

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Heat 4 is full of some huge names and exciting newcomers. Who will you vote for?

Thanks to everyone who has voted so far, the response has been incredible! And thanks to all the wonderful authors and publishers for spreading the word!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 3

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Today’s list is full of the most popular writers in Australia today, it’s a tough one!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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