2013 Romance Writers of Australia Conference: Top 10 moments

Recently our Romance Specialist Haylee Nash flew the flag for Booktopia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle. These are her stories.

dancing up a stormFor those of you who have never been to a Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Conference, or indeed any kind of romance conference, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a modestly sized room, filled with women. Hundreds of women. Each of these women are writers, romance writers, who spend their day behind a computer (if they’re lucky enough to be able to live from their writing) and in the rest of society are often derided for writing “those books”. So it’s fair to say that these women don’t often get the pleasure of speaking about romance, certainly not with fellow enthusiasts. Now to this joyous scene add oodles of champagne, a nautical theme and a conference venue that  is far enough away from most attendees to require staying at the hotel, sans husbands, significant others, kids, pets or any other responsibilities. Into this melee I walked, and, rather than wincing at the noise and leavig, I grabbed a champagne and, with stupidly big grin on my face, entered the fray. Continue reading

Australian Romance Author Showcase with…Cathryn Hein

As part of Australian Romance Month, Romance Specialist Haylee Nash will be interviewing one Australian Romance author per day. Much like a beauty pageant, each author will be using their charm, wit and grace (and the power of social media) to take home the Booktopia Romance Bestseller crown. Booktopia invites bestselling author of rural romance Cathryn Hein to the stage.

1. Describe the perfect date.
A beautiful spring day, al fresco dining with delicious food and wine, some gentle music or perhaps the sound of the ocean or birdsong, and the man I love. Although I could just as easily be suckered in by  a trip to the SCG to watch my beloved Sydney Swans in action. Throw in a hot pie and a big win, and perfection is found! Continue reading

Cathryn Hein, author of Heartland, answers Six Sharp Questions

heartlandThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Cathryn Hein

author of Heartland and more…

Six Sharp Questions

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

Heartland is the story of Callie Reynolds, a young woman who, since the death of her sister, has spent her life running from those who care for her. When her grandmother dies and leaves her Glenmore, a property Callie has always loved, she’s torn between what her heart aches for and the powerful need to honour her sister’s memory. All she wants is to sell up and move on, but the world keeps conspiring against her. The farm is full of memories and longing. Then there are the animals she’s been saddled with and an injured neighbour she feels responsible for – all surmountable problems. Until a very sexy and determined ex-soldier comes along and complicates matters…

Continue reading

Cathryn Hein, author of Heart of the Valley and Promises, answers Nine Naughty Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Cathryn Hein

author of Heart of the Valley and Promises

Nine Naughty Questions

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

I was brought up in Mt Gambier, in South Australia’s rural south east and had an idyllic childhood dominated by beach holidays and horse mania. After studying agriculture at Roseworthy College I worked for a couple of pasture seed companies before a doing a complete about-face and becoming an investment advisor. I’ve always written – short stories and bad angst teenage poetry at school, followed by umpteen attempts at full length fiction that never made it past the 10,000 word mark. Only when my partner and I moved overseas did I realise it was now or never. Once I’d experienced that first ‘I’ve just written a 100,000 word book’ high there I was no stopping me!

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 sometimes think reading romance is like a benign drug addiction. There’s such a rush of feeling and absolute satisfaction when you reach the end of a brilliant love story that all you want to do is experience it again. I call it the Happily Ever After High.

Feeling exposed comes with the territory. Despite writing characters that can be nothing like yourself, there’s always some piece of you on the page. There has to be to make it real. Many quotes about writing, like Hemingway’s ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed’, exist because they’re true. You do bleed. In my case, it’s often from banging my head over and over against the desk in acute frustration.

3. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Heart of the Valley is my tribute to the magnificent NSW Hunter Valley, a place I fell in love with during my pasture seed days.

It tells the story of Brooke Kingston, a talented equestrienne whose world is turned upside-down after a terrible accident. When her well-meaning family, desperate to get her to Sydney so they can take care of her, hire a farm manager to take over her beloved property she digs in her spurs and refuses to leave. But Lachie Cambridge proves more than a match for Brooke…

Due to his job, my partner and I move around quite a bit, and this lifestyle has had a great affect on my concept of home. For me it’s wherever Jim is. For others home will always be a place. Heart of the Valley explores this theme. Is home a place or is it where your heart lies?

Click here to buy Heart of the Valley from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

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

Ha ha. It has its moments!

But there’s a great joy to the lifestyle. It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to live your dream, and that flows over into your relationships and overall life.

5. Of all 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?

I have a couple of special moments that I use for comparison. Adolescence is a great mine of emotion. Everything feels so intense when you’re young, over-hormonal, and enchanted by the endless possibilities and adventure of love. If I can recapture that on the page then I’m a very happy camper. As for revealing those special moments? Now, that would be telling…

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’t see a thing’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a Romance novel?

 I think it depends on the novel and the characters. Some of the most intensely satisfying romances have no sex at all. Others simply wouldn’t work without sex because it would be impossible to think of the characters not getting it on. Sex in some instances can really raise the dramatic stakes for the hero and heroine, while in others the same scene could be pointless. Each book dictates what works.

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?

Number one would have to be Jilly Cooper’s Riders. My copy has been read so many times that it’s in tatters. Polo would follow very closely, along with Rivals and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous. These books are an absolute hoot to read and completely over the top, but I simply adore them. Rupert Campbell-Black is one of my all time favourite heroes – he’s just so naughty! I also love the way she makes the animals characters in their own right. I think that’s definitely rubbed off in my own work.

Paullina SimonsTully. It’s not a romance but the complexity of the characters amazes me. I’ve read this book many times and it never fails to keep me entranced. The book polarises people because the main character, Tully, is so difficult, yet at the same time she’s utterly compelling. You may not like her but you can’t stop reading her story.

Michelle Paver’s A Place in the Hills. I wish I’d written that book.

Andrew Nicoll’s The Good Mayor. I adore the way Nicoll captures the absurdity of being in love. The Mayor does so many undignified things, which he knows are silly and only add to his hopeless state, but he can’t help himself. He’s so in love it hurts!

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. One of the sweetest romances I’ve ever read. I sighed so hard at the end of that book. Absolutely gorgeous.

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

It’s the complete fantasy of it. If the world-building is done well, a good paranormal can take you to a land of pure magic; another realm where anything is possible. Sometimes we don’t want the real world, not even a tiny fictional scrap of it. We want to kick back and bury our nose in pure escapism. Paranormal romance caters for this need plus, being a romance, readers are guaranteed of a good dose of that addictive happily ever after high!

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

Write. Don’t fiddle and faff. Write. Because the more you write the better you get. Then, when you’ve finished that first manuscript, put it away and write another. You’ll be stunned at how much better the second book will be.

Take the time to learn your craft. Writing isn’t easy – it’s very hard work and like any profession you need to hone your skills.

Always remember that everyone has a different process. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Some people are intricate plotters, nailing every tiny aspect of the book before they write a single word. Others are more organic and follow wherever their characters lead them. Some people write extremely rough first drafts then polish like crazy. Others – me included – can’t write another word until a chapter or scene is absolutely perfect. Whichever way you work, make sure you understand it. Once you’re published you’ll have deadlines, so knowing your process – how long it takes to write and edit your work – is vital.

Find good critique partners. They are treasures you can’t do without. Not only for their feedback on your work, but for their understanding and support during the dark times. And believe me, there will be dark times.

Join the Romance Writers of Australia. This is an extraordinary organisation. With them you’ll find information, education and amazing support. And friendship!

Cathryn, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Heart of the Valley from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

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