Fly In Fly Out
Penguin Books AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Engineer Jo Blaine works fly in fly out -aka FIFO- on an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean. Arriving home after a long journey back to Western Australia, all she wants is her bed. However the discovery of a very unexpected man in her house has her wishing she’d stayed on the rig.
Somehow Jo finds herself being talked into accepting a room mate, someone to water the plants, feed her cat and just generally look after things when she’s on shift. That normally wouldn’t be a problem, except the room mate is going to be Stephen Hardy who orchestrated Jo’s most embarrassing moment as a teenager. A moment overseen, a whisper into another ear and Jo’s life changed forever. It didn’t help that she’d had a crush on him at the time….a crush that doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere over the years.
Stephen feels bad about what happened when they were teens and the events that led to Jo leaving home. He hadn’t seen her since and now he feels the need to make amends and maybe looking after her place while she’s away can be the way that he does that.
Jo is used to dealing with things on her own and keeping things to herself. Even as her dream starts to come true and she and Stephen become closer and closer, she can’t bring herself to confide in him the messy truth of her family history and why she really left after that night long ago. Stephen knows that something is going on but the truth is something he could never have imagined. He has to wonder why Jo kept that from him, why she would not trust him with this information about herself.
Fly In Fly Out was originally published by Penguin Australia’s digital first imprint, Destiny Romance as Unforgettable You last May. Even though it followed Irrepressible You, the events of the book occur before that one so it’s probably a good idea to bring this one out in print first. I heard extremely good things about both Irrepressible You and Unforgettable You and so I was keen to be able to read this and see exactly what everyone had been talking about!
Jo and her younger sister Amy had a difficult childhood but now they are both successful in their professional lives. Jo works as an engineer currently on a rig in the Atlantic Ocean and Amy runs her own hairdressing and beauty salon. Amy dates widely and often, Jo more rarely. The sisters are quite different – Jo is a tomboy who prefers soccer and a more relaxed fashion sense whereas Amy wears 1950’s style dresses and heels every day. They’ve had their ups and downs but at the moment are quite close and it is supposed to be Amy who looks after Jo’s cat when she’s on the rig….until Jo ends up with a house mate.
Despite adamantly not wanting a room mate, Jo is worn down relatively quickly and Stephen tries hard to make her feel as though her life is being made easier. Soon Jo really looks forward to coming home off the rig, especially when their friend’s subtle ways of pushing them together seem to be working. The attraction that Jo has always had suddenly seems mutual – and acted on.
I really enjoyed the way things progressed between Jo and Stephen. Because of her job, which is far away and often without ways of communicating, they have to make the most of the phone calls when Jo can manage them and it’s a good way for them to get to know each other as adults. From Jo ringing just to check on her cat, it turns into long snatched conversations, sometimes with a little bit of naughtiness (usually on Stephen’s end, Jo is in plain view on the communal phone). Things are going well – they’re enjoying each other’s company when she’s back in Australia, more and more. And it’s getting harder and harder for Jo to leave and soon she begins thinking that maybe, she’s had enough of the FIFO life.
Despite the fact that a huge number of Australians work FIFO on the various mines around the country or further afield like Jo, I don’t actually know anyone that does it. I imagine how difficult it must be to build relationships when you work a three weeks on one week ofs schedule or even two months on and one off. You can be dating someone for a year but only spent the equivalent of a couple of months with them. Communication can be difficult, it’s hard to read context in an email, phone conversations can be brief and impersonal. You have to do the best you can and make up for it if possible, when you’re back in the same place. Stephen and Jo I think have no problem with the physical but to be honest, both are keeping things from the other. Jo is hiding her family’s true history and why she really left the area they grew up in as a teen and Stephen is not really talking about his previous relationship, its demise and why he hasn’t really persisted in ending it properly by selling their joint apartment.
I have to admit, I didn’t expect the subplot around Jo’s family or how serious it would turn out to be. Although it probably would not have escalated to be half as serious as it was if Jo had actually talked to Stephen point blank about what was happening and what had been going on when she was younger. Especially after Stephen’s sister stayed with him in Jo’s apartment and became caught in the crossfire, in a manner of speaking. Jo really could have saved herself a lot of trouble and heartache if she’d been honest with Stephen after the first couple of incidents, rather than keeping it from him. Also Stephen was clearly scarred by his treatment of the teenage Jo (which the result of wasn’t even his fault anyway) and had become almost incapable of being assertive and stating what he wanted, such as his ex agreeing to sell their apartment so they could split the proceeds and start over.
I enjoyed this – I liked reading more about the FIFO lifestyle and I like that it was Jo who worked abroad and Stephen who was kind of left behind waiting for her to return. Turned things on their head a bit, which is always fun. I will have to see if there are plans to release Irrepressible You as a paperback. If not, I’ll be tracking it down on my kindle/iPad in order to read Amy’s story.
Book #259 of 2014
Fly In Fly Out was read in 2014 and so still counts towards the total for that Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s book #95
And now thanks to the lovely people at Penguin AU, I’d like to welcome Georgina to the blog to answer a few questions.
Q1. Hi Georgina and welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. To kick off – how long have you been writing and what was the road to publication like for you?
Thanks so much for having me! Wow, that’s a big question. I’ve been writing full time now for four years with a few stops and starts for international moves and the odd bad hair day.
The road to publication was so forked that it was a little hard to know what to do most of the time so I just focused on getting my writing to as good a standard as I could. The first thing I did was write three interlinked but stand-alone novels back to back. That took a year. I then spent the next year editing them, getting them professionally edited and working out how query publishers.
I managed to get super lucky when I was listening the Dear Bitches podcast one day and heard Carol George and Sarah Fairhall from Penguin Destiny chatting away about their imprint. They were so charismatic and seemed so nice, I submitted my manuscript that night. What resulted from all that was a three-book deal and I couldn’t be happier.
Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: do you have a favourite place to write, such as a study or in a café and is there anything essential to the creative process like coffee, music, chocolate etc.
Tea is integral. I’m a scary hairy Grinch without it and usually don’t get anything decent down on the page without at least two giant mugs. That’s for the morning. I’m not above the odd glass of wine in the evening before writing difficult scenes or anything a little naughty.
I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated study (lair) with two massive white boards that have far too much scribble and swearing on them. Once I’m ensconced behind my desk with my mug of tea that’s the working day started. Optimistically it’s thirty or so minutes of emails and social media until the caffeine kicks in and then the internet gets turned off and I get down to work. Oh, and music is pretty important. If I’m writing I like chilled out stuff. Editing? Anything loud and violent! I edited the entirety of my last novel to thrash metal.
Q3. Are you an extensive plotter or more a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style writer?
I’m a total pantser but I do need to have my characters and their back story firmly plugged into my imagination before I start and that can take up to a year to happen. I am crazy-lucky to also have a husband who’s brilliant at plotting. He reads my first draft scribbles every other day and tells me if I need to ramp up the tension, conflict or humour. So far we’ve managed to make it work without throwing too many projectiles at each other!
Q4. What attracted you to making the FIFO (fly in, fly out) lifestyle a major part of the story?
I’ve spent the last fifteen years since I met my husband around FIFO people in the oil industry and before that I had family that were FIFO before it was even an acronym. It actually didn’t seem an odd idea to have a FIFO character at all because it was such a normal way of life. However, it was only after a lady engineering friend challenged me to write a story with a FIFO gal that I really started to think of the tricksy side of a relationship between two characters when one is away a lot of the time.
Q5. Fly In Fly Out started life as a digital only book named Unforgettable You. It came after the story of Jo’s sister Amy, which was Irrepressible You but takes place before. Will we be seeing Amy’s story in print as well in the future?
I hope so! I adore Amy and I have to confess, Irrepressible You was so much fun to write that it would be a little sad if she didn’t get to swan around in a print book. However, that’s up to the lovely people at Penguin.
Q6. When I started the book, I didn’t expect the seriousness of the situation that runs through the book with Jo’s family. It shines a light on some very serious issues – was there anything in particular that made you want to explore them or just a need to have them out there?
I think the romance genre is one where issues like domestic violence, addiction and abuse can all be explored in a way that seeks empowerment and positive solutions for the victim and sometimes even for the perpetrator. That sounded kind of stuffy didn’t it? Essentially, growing up in a difficult family myself, I found romance novels to be one of the only things that kept me sane as a young woman. The best novels I encountered back then were the ones that really got dark and dealt heavy stuff before the happy-ever-after and that’s what I wanted to write.
Q7. What do you like to do to relax away from the keyboard?
I’ve just moved to Scotland so there’s a lot of exploring going on. Who am I kidding? I’m basically just walking around pointing at hairy cows and trying not to stare at the guys walking around looking hot in kilts. (The day I discovered the male employees at a local bank wore kilts to work was a day I started to think a lot more about my finances!) But on the whole I’m going to say my idea of a great time is puttering away in the kitchen, glass of vino by my side with good friends and good conversation to keep me company.
Q8. Share five favourite books and/or authors
This is such a hard one! This last year alone has been brilliant for new books. I’ll just stick to romance shall I? Because if I don’t, things are going to get exponential.
Unrestrained by Rhyll Biest – (Hot and hilarious)
Unbound by Cara McKenna – (Hot and love her realistic hero and heroine.)
Fairway to Heaven by Lily Malone – (Soon to be released by Harlequin Escape as Fairway I think. Great book that’s even more amazing in the way the author tackles some serious lady medical issues that never get touched on in romance.)
Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Anything by Joey W. Hill
Q9. And lastly…what’s next for you?
Hopefully more writing! And a little relaxation after the huge and horrendously stressful move my husband and I made from Brunei Darussalam to Scotland in late 2014. And there’s also that massive pile of books sitting on the shelf I haven’t gotten around to reading yet either…
Thanks for your time Georgina! Looking forward to seeing more of your books soon.