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Review & Author Q&A: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner

Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband
Barbara Toner
Penguin Random House AUS
2018, 373p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

When Adelaide Nightingale, Louisa Worthington, Maggie O’Connell and Pearl McLeary threw caution to the winds in the most brazen way imaginable, disgrace was inevitable.’

It’s September 1919. The war is over, and everyone who was going to die from the flu has done so. But there’s a shortage of husbands and women in strife will flounder without a male to act on their behalf.

And in the southern NSW town of Prospect, four ladies bereft of men have problems that threaten to overwhelm them.

Beautiful Louisa Worthington, whose dashing husband died for King and Country, is being ruined by the debts he left behind.

Young Maggie O’Connell, who lost her mother in childbirth and her father to a redhead, is raising her two wayward brothers and fighting for land she can’t prove is hers.

Adelaide Nightingale has a husband, but he’s returned from the war in a rage and is refusing to tackle the thieving manager of their famous family store.

Pearl McLeary, Adelaide’s new housekeeper, must find her missing fiancé before it’s too late and someone dies.

Thank God these desperate ladies have a solution- a part-time husband who will rescue them all. To find him, they’ll advertise. To afford him, they’ll share . . .

I loved the idea of this book. Post-WWI Australia is not a setting I encounter a lot and I was very intrigued with it. It was a very strange time – whilst men were away at war women had to take on roles they would previously not have done. There were men who had not gone to war (Australia did not have conscription for WWI and therefore all that signed up were volunteers) found their jobs given to returning soldiers or that those soldiers had returned to reclaim the jobs they’d had before they left. There had been the Spanish flu epidemic on the tail end of WWI and many areas had been drastically affected by both. Whereas flu generally killed the elderly or the very young, this one killed those in the prime of their lives.

All four of the women are struggling, in different ways. Louisa is now a widow and is also being targeted about her husband’s debts. Although Adelaide’s husband returned, he’s struggling and isn’t interested in her claims that the family general store is being ripped off by the manager. Maggie is very young, left to raise her hellion little brothers and Pearl is new in town. She’s taken a job as a housekeeper but her real reasons for being in Prospect, NSW are to try and find her wayward fiancé, who returned from the war and disappeared.

As women in 1919, they are restricted by social expectations and also aren’t particularly taken seriously. Adelaide can’t get anyone to listen to her about the general store manager, the men that Pearl must talk to in seeking her fiancé won’t give her any answers. Louisa has her own problems and Maggie needs a firm hand to help her pull the boys into line. And perhaps get back the land that is rightfully belonging to her family. The idea of hiring a man to ‘share’ between them is a great one, albeit scandalous, should anyone ever find out the man’s true reason for being in town. A man will be able to do the things that they as ladies cannot do, conduct conversations that they cannot indulge in. Unfortunately, the choice is entrusted to someone else and they send them…..Martin Duffy.

From first glance it’s appallingly obvious that Martin Duffy is not the man that any of the ladies need. He doesn’t have the confident and assured manner to deal with many different types of people but that doesn’t matter to several of them, who rather fancy that Martin Duffy could become less of a figurative husband and more of an actual husband. Although Martin does do his best to investigate the various problems the four ladies are happen, he’s rather inadequate for the task. I think some of the story does fall a bit flat because it relies a lot on the premise that these four women have faith in him to help them out. Their attitudes towards him are quite interesting – and there’s a lot of bickering over who has the greater problem and needs him to sort it out for them first. The women are not what you’d call friends – they’re from different walks of life, different social classes, they have various feuds and foibles between them and at times their relationships really do reflect this is a forced situation. Four women who need a man to sort something for them in a world where they cannot reliably do it for themselves. Of them all, Pearl is the most capable. She really only needs a man to accompany her to the railway construction sites in order to try and get some information from the men working there to find if her fiancé has been through this area. She is able to keep Adelaide’s house, mind her child and be the voice of reason at almost every turn. Maggie is young and panicked, saddled with a stressful situation and judged by quite a few of the locals. Adelaide came across as high strung but she had the right idea and I did find the journey for her and her husband very interesting – I wish a bit more could have been spent on it. Louisa was the character I had the most trouble connecting with and there were a lot of…..unresolved issues with her story. My favourite part of the story was Pearl and her love interest.

I did feel a little of this story was left unfinished but in the below Q&A with author Barbara Toner there’s a bit of information that helps with that feeling!


Book #20 of 2018

And now……10 Questions with Barbara Toner

Q1. Hello Barbara and welcome to my blog. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To start, could you share your road to publication?

This is the twelfth book I’ve had published and I wrote it without finding a publisher first because I wanted to take my time with it.  Once a book has been commissioned (as the sequel to Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband has been) then there is a deadline and this creates an urgency, which can he helpful but not necessarily.  When I was more or less happy with it, I gave it to my agent, who offered it to Bantam who offered us a deal. But if you mean how was I first published, then I did write a commissioned book. I’d just had my first baby and was looking for some guidance on combining motherhood with a career. When I couldn’t find it, I decided to write it and Double Shift, A Practical Guide For Working Mothers was commissioned.

Q2. Let’s talk writing! Are you a meticulous planner or a wing it and see where things go writer?

Bit of both. I do a lot of thinking before I start and I make a long list of everything I know about the book I think I want to write. This is very helpful for brain sorting.  With some books I’ve stuck very closely to the original outline but with this book I knew where I was headed but that was it. I   worked out the twists and turns as I went along.  There was a lot of plotting because I had four heroines whose stories needed to be entwined.

Q3. Is writing a full-time occupation for you or do you balance it with other work?

It’s full time. I spent most of my life combining books with journalism and that was easily done and very rewarding.

Q4. Is there anywhere you prefer to write (such as a study/office or café) and anything you consider essential for the mood, such as coffee/tea or music?

Mostly I write at my desk in my study. I work for about five hours a day with a break for lunch.  I get up and wander about as often as I can remember or when something in the plot is bothering me.  Usually I do a couple of hours revision before lunch and three hours new work in the afternoon.  No tea, no coffee, no music.

Q5. How much research did you have to do for the 1919 small town setting for Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband?

I did quite a lot of reading about rural NSW in 1919.  This helped me with the political and social landscape but   then I only fact checked when the need arose. I’ve almost certainly made mistakes in the interests of a good story for which I apologise to anyone offended by them.

Q6. What made you include the walers in the story? Was there a prior interest or something that just came up?

The curious thing about the walers was that I wanted Louisa to be under siege and was tantalised by the idea of   horses being delivered to her in the dead of night.  I was well into the book before I came across the walers and they fitted perfectly into the plot that was unfolding for her.

Q7. You’ve written both non-fiction and fiction titles. For you, how different (or similar!) are the processes?

The process is very different.  Factual books require meticulous research and a lot of analysis then cross-checking of the information.  Fiction for me is largely about dreaming a world into existence and making it both accessible and compelling to people other than yourself.

Q8. For some fun…….what 3 things would you want if you were stranded on a desert island?

Laptop, wi fi and water. I’d be utterly useless.

Q9. What 5 books or authors would you recommend?

Authors:  EM Forster, Patrick de Witt, Elizabeth Strout, William Thackeray, Richard Pike Bissell

Q10. And lastly…..what’s next for you? Can you share anything about what you might be working on or have plans to?

As above am currently writing the sequel to this book, set in the same place about the four ladies ten years later.

Thanks once again for joining me on my blog! ~Bree

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Author Q&A With…….Adam Crettenden

Today I am happy to have Adam Crettenden here for a chat. Adam is the author of two books and recently took the time to answer some of my questions on reading, writing, his career and life. Thanks Adam!

Q1. Hi Adam and welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. To get us started….tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you Bree. I work full-time in the racing industry and have been a commentator for almost 25 years. I’ve done plenty of other things aside from my full-time work to make the most out of life, and writing a book seems to have been that ‘next thing’ to do.

Q2. Your first book is a non-fiction about the famous racehorse Subzero, winner of the 1992 Melbourne Cup. How exactly did that come about and what was the research and writing process like?

Subzero’s Melbourne Cup win was a turning point of my life. 1992 was the year I did a school project on the racing industry and it was the first Melbourne Cup I went to. I vividly remember the events of that day and have fortuitously encountered Subzero many times in his promotional duties in the years since. His owner, Graham Salisbury has always been keen for a book to be written and I decided to catalogue some photographs which led to some further research and from there I just carried on writing a manuscript. I loved the research and discovering the stories (many previously untold) but initially found the writing quite cumbersome because of my naivety to writing. I employed a freelance editor to work with me and I completely wrote the book three times over before I had a manuscript worth taking to a publisher.

Q3. From there you’ve expanded to writing a children’s book, Sam Junior’s Day. What gave you the idea to focus on something completely different?

A lot of Sam Junior’s Day was done before Subzero. My illustrator, Caitlin Tolsma did her work in 2015 on the project but then Subzero came along and demanded my complete attention which put the children’s book on the backburner. Sam Junior is our family border collie who is quite habitual, but a kind and playful dog who just wants to please everybody he meets. He is part of our family and it is a joy to have this book completed for him.

Q4. You’ve chosen to publish Sam Junior’s Day yourself. How have you found the process in comparison to publishing Subzero which was published traditionally with one of the “big 5 publishers”?

Completely different. Obviously, to have Penguin Random House guide me through the production of my first book was a massive help. It took away the need for me to think of printing, distributing and marketing. I could solely focus on the editing of the manuscript. Part of the Sam Junior’s Day journey was to experience the self-publishing world and I’m so glad I’ve done that because there were a number of challenges along the way and I learnt a lot about things such as formatting which is critical, depending on the platform you list on.

Q5. Having seen some different sides of publishing, what do you think is the biggest challenge as an author?

It will always be surrounding the story you are portraying. I believe Subzero was a strong enough story that it could have been written and commercially published by anyone who had the dedication and passion to write an accurate account of his life. Subzero was a strong topic, and that’s what attracted the eyes of a major publisher. As the author, I then had to produce the writing to reflect that strong topic, which was greatly enhanced by the staff at Penguin.

Q6. Are you a reader yourself? If so, what do you like to read?

I have a chuckle to myself regarding my reading habits. As a kid, I generally hated it. I was a kid who played sport and that’s all that interested me. The only book I enjoyed through my entire school life was Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. It left such an impression on me that wrote every essay I could in Year 12 on it and making English my best subject – the one subject I never really cared about! I still have that book on my shelf today. However, as I’ve grown older, I have become a reader, particularly sports biographies. I’ve collected many Dick Francis novels over the years and since many of his stories are based on horse racing, I find them quite easy to follow his fictional plots.

Q7. What does the future hold for you, writing wise?

Not entirely sure. After Subzero was released, I thought that would allow me to move on to the ‘next thing’, but I am currently considering writing something else – can’t say too much just yet though.

Q8. And lastly for a bit of fun…..if you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you consider essential?

I’m a practical man so I’ll say a hammock, a pair of sunnies and a satellite telephone to call for the fully-fuelled speedboat whenever I’m ready to leave.


Buy Subzero from Booktopia (also available in print from good bookstores) as well as Amazon & iBooks
Buy Sam Junior’s Day from Amazon & iBooks

Check back tomorrow for my review of Sam Junior’s Day featuring a very special little guest reviewer!

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Author Q&A With…….Penelope Janu

Today I am super excited to welcome new author Penelope Janu to my blog. Penelope is the author of In At The Deep End which is one of my favourite books so far in 2017. It features independent and feisty Harriet Scott, daughter of adventurers and Per Amundsen a Norwegian Naval officer who is a bit of a control freak (spoiler alert, he is delicious). Penelope patiently answered my questions on writing, life and attractive Norwegians.


Q1. Hi Penelope and welcome to my blog. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer some questions for me. To start, could you provide a little of the story of how you came to be published?

Thank you very much for having me here. So how did I come to be published? I started writing creatively around five years ago after enrolling in a creative writing course (it taught me useful things about the craft of writing, and gave me the courage to actually put words on the page, and workshop with other writers). I pitched In at the Deep End to Harlequin Mira at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in 2015, and sent the manuscript to Harlequin in November. A couple of weeks later I got a call from Jo Mackay, the publisher. She loved it! Yay!


Q2. Share a little about how you write…..are you a meticulous planner or a wing it and see what happens sort of writer?

I’m definitely not a planner. I start with two main characters that do things that interest me (writer and publisher for the first manuscript I completed, environmentalist/ teacher and naval officer/scientist for In at the Deep End, and diplomat and speech pathologist for my most recent manuscript). Then I think up a theme—it was climate change for In at the Deep End—and the characters take over from there!


Q3. Is writing a full-time occupation for you, or do you balance it with other work?

I left my full-time position as an academic a few years ago. Since then I’ve worked casually for a solicitor who helps refugees with legal problems. And of course, like any other person with children or carer responsibilities, I do unpaid work at home. But I’m lucky enough to be able to write almost every day.


Q4. Is there anywhere in particular you like to write (such as a study or café) and anything you consider essential for the ‘mood’ like coffee or music?

I have a study but … I like to have things going on around me when I write, so I usually work at the kitchen bench. This also means I have breaks to do things like hang out the washing. I write in coffee shops as well (the bustle again?). I’m planning an extended thank you to all the coffee shop proprietors who put up with me drinking endless cups of tea while typing madly.


Q5. What made you choose the story of Scott and Amundsen as the backdrop for a contemporary romance story?

This comes back to your ‘wing it and see what happens’ style of writing. The first manuscript I wrote involved a Norwegian hero called Lars. I wrote 100 000 words of that story without giving Lars a surname. So, as Lars was from a Norwegian background, I looked up common Norwegian names. ‘Amundsen’ came up in my search, and so did ‘famous Amundsens,’ including Roald Amundsen, the man who led the first team to the South Pole. I’d already started In at the Deep End and knew the heroine would be an environmentalist called Harriet. She became Harriet Scott (namesake of Robert Falcon Scott, the second man to the pole), and Lars’s cousin Per became Per Amundsen. Then I had to weave in the history … as I read more and more about Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, my task became so much easier. Two people with similar interests but different ways of doing things. Harriet and Per personified!



Q6. Anything that even mentions Antarctica is a must read or watch, in terms of TV for me. I’ve even looked up the prices of tourist flights (not going to happen!). Have you ever been….and if not, do you plan to?

I haven’t been to Antarctica but I would love to go there. I even looked up jobs in Antarctica to see whether I might get something on a research station in the future (there didn’t seem to be anything on any of the scientific bases that required my skill set!). I’d mostly like to go to the Ross Sea and Ross Ice Shelf regions, where Scott and Amundsen went. Hopefully one day!


Q7. Harry, our heroine in In At The Deep End suffers from a terrible phobia of water, restricting for an adventurer often on a boat. Was that something that was difficult to portray on paper and did you have to do any research in order to incorporate it into the story?

I have a medical professional friend who works with people who suffer from severe anxiety. This was a useful starting point into my research into phobias and, most importantly, how people deal with them while trying to live their lives. Harriet is a strong woman yet she is vulnerable—being able to portray the way she dealt with her fears was challenging, but I was happy with how things were resolved in the end. There is no easy solution to these issues and I hope I showed that in the novel.


Q8. What books are on your summer reading list?

I was away for a week over Christmas and enjoyed reading Victoria Purman’s The Three Miss Allens, Cassandra O’Leary’s Girl on a Plane, and Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. I read Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game last weekend and loved it. I’m currently re-reading Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones, using the excuse that I’m seeing it a theatre production of it next week. I adore this novel!


Q9. Usually I ask authors what 3 things they’d like with them if they were stranded on a desert island. In the spirit of In At The Deep End what 3 things would you like if you were stranded on Antarctica?

I’d like to say my family, but if I were stranded maybe they would be too, so I’d worry about them. I’d rather imagine them home safe and sound. So … I’d take a fat notebook, pens, and a novel. One I can read and reread, and that takes me back in time, and makes me laugh—maybe a Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer.


Q10. And lastly….what is next for you? Can you share anything about what you might be working on or what is coming up?

I spent most of last year writing a companion novel to In at the Deep End. The hero of this story is Per’s twin brother, Tør. He’s a diplomat (and very likely a spy—but that’s a secret). The heroine is an Australian woman who works with children as a speech pathologist. She’s good at reading people—but has a great deal of trouble reading Tør.  Simmering tension, secrets and lies, and a very feisty heroine. I loved loved loved writing this story!


Q11. I lied, one last question…..if you’re done with Per, could I have him? 🙂

Sure you can, provided Harriet doesn’t mind …

Thank you for the interesting questions. I really enjoyed answering them (and I’m seriously chuffed that you like Per!)


Thank you so much for taking part Penelope and I can’t tell you how excited I am to hear that Per’s twin will be getting his own book. Sadly I feel that Harriet probably would mind and I suppose my husband would too *sigh*

My review of In At The Deep End will be up later today so make sure you check back!


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Author Q&A With……. Tricia Stringer


Today I am delighted to feature popular author Tricia Stringer on my blog. Tricia has written several historical fiction novels and five rural romance novels, the latest of which is A Chance Of Stormy Weather and she patiently answered a few of my nosy questions on writing and life.

Q1. Hi Tricia and thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To get started, can you describe what the process of becoming a published author was like for you?

I began writing for children. That was where my early study developed. I went on to self-publish some adult stories and then Harlequin Australia purchased the fourth novel I’d written, ‘Queen of the Road.’ That short summary makes it sound easy! It’s been an exciting and sometimes terrifying rollercoaster journey and one that still sends me to those extremes.


Q2. Are you a meticulous plotter when you write or more of a wing it type of person?

I like to describe myself as organic. The story has a rough beginning, middle and end and then I let the characters loose.


Q3. Do you write full time or balance your writing with other work? Is there anywhere in particular you like to write and anything (eg music or coffee) that sets the mood?

I prefer silence when I’m writing and I have an office all set up. I get so absorbed in it (just as when I’m reading) the rest of the world recedes. I start at 8am and write five days a week. I aim for 2000 words each day. Sometimes that’s quick and other times it might take me all day! There are many other things that have to be done as part of my writing life and they take up another few hours. I do work a short time each week in a bookshop which is my chance to talk books with other people. I try to keep my weekends for family and other things.


Q4. You mention in the Acknowledgements that your latest novel, A Chance of Stormy Weather began life as a self-published title over ten years ago. What was the journey like to take it from that first draft to being published in its current form?

This was a dream come true. I wrote this book originally over twelve years ago and it took me a couple of years. It was also before there was a rural romance genre. People like Rachael Treasure were writing stories but the genre didn’t have a label. The tag on my original cover read ‘From the city to the country … a rural romance.’ So I do like to think I helped bring this genre to life. It completed the journey for me when Harlequin liked the original story so much they wanted to publish it. Of course there had to be changes. Technology alone has changed so much since I wrote the original but it was fun to bring it to the current day and a much wider audience.


Q5. A Chance of Stormy Weather differs a little in that our main character, city girl Paula is married as the book opens. What were the challenges in regards to creating conflict and orchestrating the relationship between Dan and Paula, rather than developing that between two characters getting to know each other?

It was a challenge as two newlyweds madly in love don’t usually have conflict however they haven’t known each other long so their relationship is still developing. I certainly don’t believe marriage is ever the end of relationship development in any case. Paula has also arrived in a very different environment which is a challenge for her. I found setting very important to the conflict in this story.



Q6. I found that I could identify with Paula and her struggles adapting to rural life – I hate mice! I get one in my house and I completely freak out. Do you think that the rural romance genre might have romanticised a lot of the farming lifestyle?

Rural romance has huge variations within the genre, some are more fanciful than others. I usually begin with something that is important to rural communities and build the story around that. The romance is a bonus. In Paula’s case we get to discover farming life through the eyes of someone who has never experienced it. The variable hours, preoccupation with the weather, isolation, importance of community and so much more. Hard to explain to people who haven’t lived it.


Q7.   What will you be reading over the summer?

I am currently reading ‘The Wonder’ by Emma Donoghue. Can’t put it down, very compelling reading. Next on my TBR pile is Hannah Kent’s ‘The Good People’, then ‘Daughter of the Murray’ by Darry Fraser.


Q8. What three things would you like to have with you if you were ever trapped on a desert island?

Pile of books, never ending supply of ice-cream, ipad.


Q9. What do you like to do away from the keyboard?

Walk, read, spend time with friends and family, travel, some kind of craft.


Q10. And finally…..what’s next for you?

I am currently working on edits for ‘Jewel in the North’ which is the third in my Flinders Ranges series. And I’m working on a new book. Something quite different. It’s commercial women’s fiction this time. I am enjoying a different direction.


Thank you for joining me here on the blog Tricia.

My review of A Chance Of Stormy Weather will be up later today


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Author Q&A With…….Victoria Purman


Today I am very happy to welcome South Australian author Victoria Purman to the blog. The author of over 10 books, Victoria was kind enough to answer a few of my questions on writing and life to celebrate the publishing of her most recent book, The Three Miss Allens.

Q1. Hi Victoria, welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions for me. To kick off – when did you first start writing and what was the road to publication like for you?

I always harboured a dream to be a novelist and began writing terrible World War Two romances with a high school friend when we were fifteen. Fortunately, they never saw the light of day! Life got in the way (husband, work, three sons) but I finally realised about five years ago that I should go back to that dream. So I went to a writing workshop at the SA Writers’ Centre, joined Romance Writers of Australia, wrote my first book and have never looked back!


Q2. Let’s talk writing routines! For starters, do you have one? Or do you write whenever you can find the time?

I have to be very disciplined because I have deadlines to meet. For instance, I have three this year already. So I do try to write every day. I’m writing single titles books of about 130,000 words, I simply can’t fall behind. So I do words every day. I work part-time so that gives me two whole days a week to write – unless the dog needs to go to the vet!


Q3. Do you write full time or balance it with other work? Is there anywhere in particular where you prefer to get your writing done?

As I mentioned, I do balance my writing with other work. It’s actually good for the soul to go into an office and talk to people. One, it gives me the excuse to get out of my thongs (summer) or ugg boots (winter) and put on make-up! And two, writing can be very solitary, so talking with a wide range of people actually inspires me. One of my work colleagues was actually very inspirational when writing “The Three Miss Allens”.


Q4. Always an important question…..are you a meticulous plotter or do you sit back, type and see where the story takes you?

Oh god, no. I’m not a plotter at all! I so envy those people who can plot. I find that it makes me bored with the story and then I get distracted. I like to have a general idea about what will happen in the final pages, but there were some plot twists in “The Three Miss Allens” that literally came to me as I was typing. And I think they are some of the strongest parts of the book.


Q5. I’ve never been to South Australia but your books make me want to! Can you share a little about the setting of The Three Miss Allens?

You definitely should come! The Three Miss Allens is set in a fictional town – Remarkable Bay – on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. The peninsula is real, but I decided to create a town for the book. It’s always easier that way, I think, because I can take some artistic licence with businesses and landmarks. Having said that, Remarkable Bay was totally inspired by the lovely seaside town of Port Elliot. It sits right on Horseshoe Bay, which is totally gorgeous.



Q6. How much research did you have to do for the historical component of the story?

I did lots of research for the 1934 and wartime sections of “The Three Miss Allens”. Everything from the clothes women wore, beach etiquette (it was frowned upon for men to swim “topless” in South Australia back then and there were police patrolling the metropolitan beaches!), to food and the dairy industry! The beauty of the internet means that I can type in absolutely anything and be taken to reputable sources of material from which to learn and take inspiration. And I did do numerous visits to Port Elliot for inspiration, too.


Q7. In the modern-day portion of the book, Roma has bought an old house that needs restoring to its former glory. I’m a bit of a tragic for TV shows featuring renovations/restorations and it’s something I’d love to do one day. Have you ever done anything like that or would you, if given the opportunity?


My husband and I have renovated two houses and we’ve now sworn never to do it again! I do love makeover shows – most especially “Selling Houses Australia” – it’s amazing what a decent paint job and a couple of throw cushions can do! I’m pretty handy with a paintbrush and filling in small cracks, but I’m a firm believer in getting in good tradespeople to get the job done properly! We’re planning a major bathroom reno to get rid of a 1980s spa bath and I’m dreading it! All that red brick dust…


Q8. Would you prefer to be a modern-day heroine or a belle of the ball from historical times?

Definitely a modern day heroine. I do think that for the majority of people, the good old days weren’t such good old days. In “The Three Miss Allens”, I made a particular point not to romanticise the past. I don’t think it was a great place to be if you were poor, living with a disability, or were different in any way. And if you were a young woman pregnant out of wedlock, it could be hellish.


Q9. What’s on your summer reading list?

I’m interviewing authors at Adelaide Writers Week again this year so I have a box of books to read for that. I’ve just finished “His Bloody Project” by Graeme Macrae Burnet and I’m about to start “The Good People” by Hannah Kent and “Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms” by Anita Heiss. As well as a deadline on my next book, they’ll keep me busy!


Q10. And to finish off, what can your readers expect to see from you next?

I’m in the final stages of my next book, a family saga which begins in the post-war years in Australia and follows four families through to the present day. It’s loosely based on my own mother’s story of migration to Australia and her time with her family at the Bonegilla Migrant Camp near Albury. More than 300,000 Australians went through Bonegilla, and I thought there were some fantastic stories to explore about that era in Australia’s history.

Thanks for having me, Bree!


Thank you Victoria, for your wonderful answers and I am looking forward to seeing that family saga (hopefully) soon!

My review of The Three Miss Allens will be up later today.



Author Q&A: C.S. Pacat

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Today is the release day of the highly anticipated Kings Rising, third and final novel in the Captive Prince series. To prepare I have been re-reading the first 2 books over the last few days and they are even better than I remember. Whilst I await the arrival of Kings Rising I am delighted to welcome the author, C.S. Pacat to my blog. She kindly answered a few of my questions on writing and life.

Q1. Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions. The Captive Prince trilogy began life as a web serial before being picked up by Penguin. What was the transition like from publishing it online yourself to moving to a traditional publisher?

It’s been incredible, an amazing privilege to work with a publisher like Penguin, and to have them be so supportive of the series.

I think what’s so exciting about publishing at the moment is that the internet is opening doors for new kinds of books–it’s allowing books like Captive Prince the opportunity to connect to readers and garner the kind of viral attention that can then propel them into the mainstream.

Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: do you write full time or balance with other work? Are you more of a plotter or do you like to wing it?

I write slowly, more like moss covering a rock. Because I write slowly, I have to write every day. I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time, and the routine is: begin around 10am, write until dinner, then (often) write again until around 10pm.

I’m a compulsive planner, I like to plot everything in advance. I typically have a three-stage process: a “blue sky phase” where I just come up with as much cool stuff as I can think of, then a period of creating characters and plot, then I map out scenes.  Only after that do I start writing manuscript.

Q3. Do you have a preferred place to write such as a study or café? And is there anything that’s essential to your creative process like music or coffee?

I write at a cafe, because I have learned to guard against my weaknesses! I can’t write productively at home: I procrastinate. Luckily, there are a few kindly cafes in my local area who will let me nurse a single coffee for six hours. At night, if I’m planning to do a night shift of writing, I’ll head out again to a hotel lobby or bar. I listen to music while I write, and use noise cancelling headphones.

Captive Prince

Q4. Where did the inspiration to write the Captive Prince trilogy come from?

I wanted to write the book that I wanted to read. I love high-octane escapism, adventure, swordfights, chases, escapes, true love, intrigue, high stakes, biased viewpoint – and homoerotica, themes of sex, power and sexuality. So I started with all of those elements that I love, and built from there.

Q5. For those who haven’t yet read the two released books, how would you describe them in one sentence?

A homoerotic fantasy adventure with a slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance between two princes from rival nations.

Q6. And for the diehard fans patiently, agonisingly waiting for Feb 2nd, can you give us a tiny tidbit on Kings Rising? Anything?!

The first chapter of Kings Rising can be read on the Penguin website as an exclusive sneak peak ( I can’t reveal anything more, but I will say look out for chapter 8, which contains one of my favourite scenes in the whole series.

Prince's Gambit


Q7. Name five of your favourite authors and/or books

Dorothy Dunnett is my favourite author, both for the Lymond Chronicles and the Niccolo series.

Iris Murdoch, particularly The Bell, The Philosopher’s Pupil, The Word Child.

Tom Stoppard, my favourites being Travesties, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Arcadia.

I always feel like a dork answering “Shakespeare” to questions like this, but I am a Shakespeare nut, and am always reading and re-reading the plays.

For something more recent, I read the Ancillary trilogy by Ann Leckie this year, and loved it.

Q8. What three things would you want to have if you were trapped on a desert island?

Provisions, books and a friend.

Q9. What do you like to get up to away from the keyboard?

I love to horse ride, and I go riding fairly frequently. My indoor hobbies are reading and gaming on my PS4. But truthfully, I spend most of my time writing, because it’s what I love to do.


Q10. And lastly….what is next for you after the publication of Kings Rising?

I’ve started work on a new series, a YA fantasy, with some magic elements. I’m in the building stage now, setting up the tensions and intensities between characters–I’m really excited by the series, and can’t wait to start writing manuscript.

I’ll also be releasing a series of three short stories set in the Captive Prince universe, which will be available later in 2016. Stay tuned!


To learn more about C.S. Pacat and the Captive Prince series visit her website and follow her on twitter


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Q&A With… Australian Author Fiona Palmer

Fiona Palmer

Today I’m excited to welcome Aussie rural author Fiona Palmer to my blog. In celebration of her latest release, The Sunnyvale Girls (which is out in stores today – run out and buy a copy!) the lovely people at Penguin Australia arranged for me to be able to ask Fiona some questions on life and writing. Check back in later today for my review of The Sunnyvale Girls.

Q1. Hi Fiona and welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To get started – what was the road to publication like for you?

It was a quick one. Writing my first story The Family Farm took three years in-between working and have two kids. But once I had the manuscript polished enough I sent the first three chapters to Penguin. Not long after I had a requestion for the whole manuscript, then an email from the publisher who loved it. I didn’t realise how amazingly fast that was until I talked to other authors. I was in the right place at the right time.

Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: do you have a favourite place to write (such as a study or café) and is there anything you consider essential to the creative process such as coffee or music?

Gosh, I’m so boring when it comes to writing. I get the kids off to school and then head into our office. It’s your average cluttered shared space, one of those ‘everything’ rooms where stuff that doesn’t have a home go. I do like a coffee or chocolate when I have a mental block. (Not sure it works but I’ll keep trying it) And I love music playing in the background, it can really help me get into the moment and focus. Sometimes the songs slide on past without me even hearing them but they are there when it counts.

Q3. Would you consider yourself an extensive plotter of more a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of writer?

Definitely a plotter. I will have the story churning through my mind until I can see the character and what will happen to them. Once I’m happy with this rough synopsis I type it out (3–5pages) and it becomes my guide. Sometimes I can go off in different areas, so I don’t follow the guide down to the letter. As the story grows better ideas can pop up or the characters want to tread a different path and I’m open to that also.

Q4. What motivated you to include the story of Italian prisoners of war located in Australia into The Sunnyvale Girls?

I grew up knowing there had been many Italian POW’s on farms in the area. Some Italian POW’s returned after the war and worked hard until they had their own farms. So that was the initial inspiration that led me down that path. I wanted to write a story about them and connecting it to rural Australia. Then once I learnt about Giulio Mosca, an Italian POW on my friend’s farm, it grew into a big story.

Q5. Like Toni and Flick, you have also visited Italy. Can you share something of that experience?

Oh I loved Italy. I’m ready to go back. It’s a shame I can’t win the competition!! I had many experiences over there that were just amazing. Finding Giulio’s family, driving on the wrong side of the road (literally), getting locked in the Florence train station toilets, seeing the statue of David, the Duomo, living in a medieval village that sat on a hilltop and walking through the farming countryside. Gosh I could rattle on all day and I haven’t even started on the food!

Sunnyvale Girls

Q6. The Sunnyvale Girls balances both a contemporary story with the life of character Maggie back during the time of the Second World War. Did you find this easy to achieve or were there any difficulties or complications in blending the two into one book?

This was new for me, I’d done flash backs in my previous book but nothing that was in a different era. I loved the challenge in trying to make it authentic and to do that I talked with many of the older generation in my town. All the real little stories they gave me just fitted in so perfect with what I needed for Maggie. Her sections were my favourite to write and at times I found them the easiest.

Q7. You have farming experience yourself and your care of the land and respect for those who work it comes through in all of your books. What do you feel are the greatest challenges currently faced by farmers that people perhaps aren’t that aware of?

The isolation. It’s hard to know if someone is struggling with life if you don’t see them for weeks on end. It’s a tough life, one that people love and that’s why the thought of having to leave seems like the end of the world for some. I can understand that. My town has 5 houses in it and a shop. Even if the shop closes I still don’t want to leave. This is home for me. It is hard when you have to drive for miles just to interact in sports or other activities. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q8. Share 5 of your favourite books and/or authors

  • Dinner at Rose’s by Danielle Hawkins
  • Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure
  • Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  • The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
  • Ransom by Julie Garwood

 Q9. What do you like to do to relax away from the keyboard?

Watch my favourite TV shows and movies. I love to sit back and relax, let the screen take my mind away. Or reading a book. My two favourites.

Q10. And lastly….what’s next for you?

I’ve just finished the 3rd book in my YA series called The Betrayal. Now I’m getting into my next rural book called The Farmer’s son. I love both genres and love the break it gives me switching between the two.


Thanks so much for your time Fiona. Fiona is currently touring Australia in support of The Sunnyvale Girls and you can check out the dates here and see if she’s coming to a place near you.

Visit Fiona’s website here
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Her page at Penguin AUS


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Author Q&A With…. Jenny Bond

JennyBond3Today I’d like to welcome Australian author Jenny Bond to the blog. Jenny’s debut novel, Perfect North was released last year and focused on an attempt to conquer the North Pole via a hydrogen balloon. Her second novel is The President’s Lunch, revolving around Franklin Roosevelt’s time in the White House and to celebrate its launch I was given the opportunity to ask Jenny a few questions about life and writing. My review of the The President’s Lunch will be up later today.

Q1. Hi Jenny and welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions for me. To get us started – when did you first begin to write and what was the road to publication like for you?

Thank you for inviting me in for a chat! My background is as an English teacher. When, after a decade in the classroom, I decided to try my hand at something new my husband suggested I write a novel. Despite spending my life and career reading and analysing books, the idea was completely foreign to me. Anyway, I took his advice and wrote Perfect North the following year. The seed of The President’s Lunch was already germinating before Perfect North was completed. I submitted the manuscript of Perfect North to a number of publishers and I was astounded when they all showed interest. I chose to join with Hachette because of the passion they showed for my writing and my stories.

Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: do you have a favourite place to write (such as a study or café) and is there anything you consider necessary to the creative process, such as coffee or music?

I have two young children around whom my work week is shaped. Fortunately, I can write anywhere and at any time, although I prefer daylight hours in the comfort of my own study. I find music, emails, Facebook and Twitter a distraction when I write and I try to avoid using the internet except for research purposes. Hot drinks (coffee & tea), and lots of ‘em, are essential for any Canberra writer during the winter.

Q3. Your books must require quite some extensive research. Are you an extensive plotter once you begin writing, or a more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type?

I fly completely by the seat of my pants. I try to do most of my research before I begin writing as I like to have all the facts floating around in my head when I begin on the narrative. While I have a general idea of the plot when I write the first sentence it is not until halfway or even further into the manuscript that I know how the tale will conclude.

Perfect North

Q4. What I know about the White House comes from binge-watching all seven seasons of The West Wing over a few months. What was your process for researching The President’s Lunch and how long did it take from first idea to completed manuscript?

Sadly, I have never seen The West Wing, although I have been told Jed Bartlet very much resembles Franklin Delano Roosevelt (minus the wheelchair). I read as much as I could about and by the Roosevelts – biographies, autobiographies, diaries and letters etc. I also researched the time period and the politics of the era extremely thoroughly. Then I took a research trip to the US and Canada and visited Franklin and Eleanor’s homes in Hyde Park (NY), New York City, Campobello Island (New Brunswick, Canada) and Washington D.C. Being guided through their houses and speaking with people who knew them was extremely valuable. The insight I gained into these two extraordinary individuals gave colour and life to the narrative.

Q5. What drew you to writing about this time in history and the Roosevelts?

My mother, a Depression-era baby, spent a great deal of her adolescence at the ‘pictures’. By feeding me a well-rounded diet of Hollywood movies from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, she passed on her love of film and a fascination with the era. My interest in American politics was born at university when I was forced to complete an American history course as a prerequisite for another course. I can’t remember what the other course was, but I became completely enamoured with America’s past.

Q6. What’s the hardest part of blending fact and fiction?

It is a very fine line an author walks when writing historical fiction. I have to know the real life characters so well before I begin writing that I feel entirely comfortable to speak and act for them in scenes of my own imagining.

President's Lunch

Q7. Are there any books you’d recommend for readers who might want to know more about FDR or this particular time in American history?

Blanche Wiesen Cook’s two volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt (Eleanor Roosevelt 1884-1933 and Eleanor Roosevelt The Defining Years) is a must-read. Likewise, Jean Edwards Smith’s award-winning biography of the president, simply titled FDR, is informative and thoroughly entertaining.

Q8. What do you like to do when you’re away from the keyboard?

I like to spend time with my husband and sons. This usually involves being outdoors, playing soccer or cycling or watching my eight-year-old master the skateboard. I am a fitness nut and enjoy running, swimming and cycling. Canberra is a great place to be outdoors. Travel is also a pursuit I am passionate about. Whether for research purposes or pleasure, going away is what I look forward to most in life.

Q9. Share five favourite authors and/or books

  • Emma by Jane Austen. I came to read Emma quite late in life and it immediately became not only my favourite Austen, but my favourite book. I also developed a serious literary crush on Mr Knightley.
  • The Cider House Rules by John Irving. I began reading Irving as a teenager and immediately fell in love with his unexpected storylines and unique characters.
  • Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I read this book when I was fourteen and it scared the bejabbers out of me. I slept with a bible, garlic bulb and crucifix for the time it took me to complete the book. I still think it is the best horror ever written.
  • A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. I read this book about the French Revolution while I was in Paris. The experience somehow deepened my appreciation of the novel.
  • How to Eat by Nigella Lawson. I first encountered Nigella on TV when I was living in London more than a decade ago. I thought her no-nonsense style of cooking and her on-screen charisma was phenomenal. I immediately purchased her seminal work and have been a devotee ever since.

Q10. And lastly….what’s next for you?

I’m currently about seventy five per cent through my third novel. It deals with the life and career of English pirate, Samuel Bellamy.


Thanks so much for your time Jenny – and when you get a chance between books, you should definitely watch The West Wing. It’s very entertaining and the acting is brilliant.

Visit Jenny Bond’s website
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The President’s Lunch is published by Hachette Australia. You can purchase it here

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Author Q&A With… Australian Author Lisa Joy

Lisa Joy Photo

Photo Credit: Meredith Wilson

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Aussie author Lisa Joy to my blog. Lisa’s first novel, Yes, Chef! is out today with Destiny Romance, Penguin Australia’s digital imprint. It’s a super fun story set in London revolving around Becca, a personal assistant to a demanding chef and her quest for fulfillment in her career and love too of course! I had the chance, thanks to the always-awesome crew at Penguin to ask Lisa a few questions about her writing and her own life. Don’t forget to check back at midday today for my review of Yes, Chef! but in the meantime, get to know some more about the woman behind it!

Q1. Hi Lisa and welcome to my blog! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Congratulations on the publication of Yes, Chef! To start, can you tell me how long you’ve been writing and how you came to be published?

Thanks for having me Bree, I really appreciate the support and hope your readers enjoy Yes, Chef! I certainly had a lot of fun writing it.

I began writing seriously about five years ago. I’d not long moved from London to Melbourne when the idea for a series of fantasy novels came to me. From that moment I knew I wanted to write, but for some reason I could never seem to get a good momentum going with my fantasy story. I kept stopping to re-write parts and started from scratch at least three times. So, when I found out author Fiona McIntosh was running a commercial fiction masterclass, I booked myself a place hoping she could give my writing a proverbial kick up the backside. She certainly did. I learnt more from Fiona in 5 days than I had from countless writing courses.

On the final night we were all having dinner and I started telling stories about my work in the restaurant business. It wasn’t long before I realised the whole table was fascinated. I discovered that my job, something I had always thought of as ordinary, was actually quite interesting to those not involved in the industry. I began writing Yes, Chef! that very night. Looking back, it was a big mind-shift from fantasy to chick-lit, but once I’d started writing Yes, Chef! there was never any doubt that what I was writing was a romantic comedy. I submitted to Penguin because an associate publisher from the global publishing house had given a talk at our masterclass. She was very inspiring and I could tell their authors were nurtured with great editorial support. Almost one year to the day after Fiona’s masterclass they offered me a contract for Yes, Chef!


Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: do you have a favourite place to write (eg study or café) and is there anything you need such as coffee or music, that’s essential to the creative process?

I wish I had a routine. I talk a lot about setting a routine, but it never seems to stick. I wrote Yes, Chef! on my iPad while my fiancé and I lived in a one bedroom apartment in Melbourne. We’ve recently moved to a 9 acre property about an hour outside Melbourne and now I write from a desk overlooking our veggie patch and citrus orchard. I absolutely cannot concentrate with music playing; I always end up daydreaming rather than writing. Coffee is a must when writing a work in progress and chocolate is essential when going through a copy-edit.


Q3. Are you a meticulous plotter or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?

I used to be a meticulous plotter. When I was trying to write my fantasy novel I felt I needed to know exactly what was going to happen in the last book before I could finish the first. I now realise that’s rubbish as the characters take me where they want to go anyway. I do like to have some structure laid out though.  When writing Yes, Chef! I decided there would be 8 parts each with their own food related title. It helped me to keep a good pace and hit the right notes in the story.


Q4. Is Damien based on anyone you’ve encountered in particular (names withheld of course!)

Ahahaha! I was expecting that question. Damien is so despicable it would be great gossip if he was based on someone real. He is actually an amalgamation of a few bosses, male and female, I’ve had over the years, but mostly he is a figment of my imagination designed to create conflict in Becca’s life.


Q5. You and Becca share a job although I’m sure your boss is much more considerate than Damien. What’s the most exciting thing about being PA to a chef and what are your general day to day duties?

Yes, my boss is the very opposite of Damien. Thankfully!
I don’t travel with him like Becca does with Damien. There’s really no need for a PA to travel with a chef unless they also cook and my cooking is not quite up to standard 🙂

On a day to day basis I respond to image requests and media enquiries about his restaurants. Just like Becca, I discuss event, interview and appearance requests with my boss. I’m basically the middle-woman between him and everyone who wants something from him. I organise his travel and review his recipes before they’re published. It’s a varied and interesting job but I guess the most exciting thing for me personally is getting to work with people who are top in their field and truly passionate about what they do.


Q6. What made you choose to set Yes, Chef! in London?

I lived in London for about 7 years and even though I have been back in Australia for 5 years I still miss it. There are times, usually after I’ve watched a movie or TV show set in London, that I will physically ache for the city. Setting Yes, Chef! there made me feel as though I was back there, even if it was only in my mind.


Q7. As I mention in my review, I’m a food channel addict. Do you have any favourite cooking shows?

I love Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I can’t think of anything better than getting paid to be a foodie-tourist. He’s funny and smart and takes you to places the guidebook probably wouldn’t.


Q8. What is your favourite thing to cook?

I’m pretty spoilt at home. My fiancé is an amazing cook and does most of the cooking (and the washing up!!!). My specialty is baking. We have an enormous lemon tree on our farm so at the moment I’m enjoying baking lemon cakes and lemon delicious pudding or lemon shortbread. Recently we made lemon marmalade – it was delicious.


Q9. Share five of your favourite authors and /or books

– Ian McEwan’s Atonement – wonderful storyteller with brilliant economy of words.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – I’ve read it more times than I can remember.

– Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children – grand magical-realism tale.

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris – her writing is laced with delectable foodie descriptions.

– John Milton’s Paradise Lost – every now and then I will open a random page and marvel at the beauty of his prose.


 Q10. And lastly…what’s next for you?

I’m heading back to Europe to research my next novel (such a chore but somebody has to do it). I’m calling it a lush foodie adventure-romance set in the UK and Italy about deciding what you really want from life and then doing everything you can to achieve it, even if it goes against what others expect of you.

Yes, Chef!

Thanks so much for your time Lisa! I can’t wait to read that next novel.

Visit Lisa’s website
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Yes, Chef! the novel on facebook


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Author Q&A With…. Australian Author Fiona McArthur


Today I am thrilled to welcome lovely Australian rural/romance author Fiona McArthur to my blog to help celebrate the release of her latest novel, Red Sand Sunrise which is published -today- by Penguin Books Australia. As well as being an author, Fiona is also a midwife and has spent 25 years working in rural communities. She’s also a clinical midwifery educator and helps teach emergency obstetric strategies working with midwives in doctors in rural areas. As well as Red Sand Sunrise she has written over 30 romance novels as well as a non-fiction book called The Don’t Panic Guide To Birth.

My review of Red Sand Sunrise will be posted on the blog a little later today but for now….enjoy learning a little bit more about Fiona and her work.

Q1. Hi Fiona and welcome to my blog! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To get us started – how long have you been writing and what was the road to publication like for you?

Hello and thank you for inviting me. I love your web page and am awed by the amount of books you read. Seriously. I loved that you read Red Sand Sunrise before asking me here. That is very cool. Thank you!

To the questions. My road to publication was more of a dirt track than a road. I started when I had four boys under ten and reached book length publication when I had five boys, about ten years later. But pretty well after the first short story I sold ‘Mum’s Joy Of Soccer’ (who had young sons?) to the Australian Women’s Weekly, I knew it was what I wanted to do. It’s still what I want to do.

Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: you seem to wear many hats so how do you balance writing with other commitments? Do you have a favourite place to write (such as a study or café) and is there anything you consider necessary to the creative process like music or coffee?

I’d love to have a cafe nearby where I could sit incognito and type away oblivious to the world, but I live 25kms out of town on a farm, and work three days a week. Of course if I did sit in a cafe to write on a consistent basis I’d meet the lovely mums I’ve met as a midwife and we’d be chatting about babies and I’d forget all about writing.

Seriously, I mostly write at the kitchen table because I write between 4:30 and 6:30 most mornings before I go to work. I started at that time when the kids were little and it was the only time I could forget the world and nobody would drown in the bath when I wasn’t paying attention. Now it’s habit and if I’m done, it’s done for the day, and I feel good. Otherwise I feel vaguely guilty and unsettled. Queer I know. Earl Grey tea for the first hour is essential and Nescafe coffee sachets to finish. 🙂

Q3. Are you a meticulous plotter or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type?

Like the cafe I’d love to plot. Can’t do it. I try. Occasionally I brainstorm with friends who are very helpful. Usually when I want to pitch a book to a publisher. Then I forget where the story was supposed to be going and the characters take me where they want to go. The really cool thing is it usually comes out at almost the right word count. No idea how that happens.

 Q4. What made you choose remote outback Queensland as the setting for your latest novel, Red Sand Sunrise?

The outback has been one of those ‘always going to write’ goals. I fell in love with A TOWN LIKE ALICE, and was always going to write a book set out there. When Penguin said ‘yes ‘I was thrilled. Now any trips we make out there are all grist for the mill.

Q5. You have worked as a rural midwife for many years – care to share an interesting experience from your line of work?

You know I find that the hardest question and it comes up a lot. Funny I find it hard when I’ve written more than thirty medical romance books on the subject from my imagination. But those scenes are a mix of everything, everyone and no one. It has to come from work and my own experience but I don’t recognise the scenes as being a particular day at work. And if something does appear with a real event I think – Nope! I can’t say that.

So when you ask me to share an interesting experience, I seize up, and my brain darts around like a trapped bird in a room banging into walls.

How about – I had the most amazing birth in The Midwife’s Little Miracle where she births at sunrise, on her own, on a mountain. There was a glimmer of truth in that. Is that okay?

Red Sand Sunrise

Q6. I thought the character of Blanche was quite hilarious but I also admired her motivation and her determination. Was she based on anyone you know personally or have encountered?

I seriously love that you love Blanche. She was one of my favourite characters ever. She looked a bit like a friend of my mums, she sounded like an older midwife I used to work with, but she was herself. She cracked me up. I LOVE tough older ladies.

Q7. I’ve had 2 precipitate deliveries so the thought of being so far from a hospital fills me with dread! However the luxury of leaving for a larger town at 36wks isn’t always an option for rural women who have many other commitments such as other children and farming work. Is an Eve in every small town as ideal a solution as there can be for rural women?

Hugs on the precipitate deliveries. Love to talk to you about that one day. I have quite a few in my books and I’d hate to be offending anyone. They do happen, mums usually say they feel like an express train has hit them, but luckily babies are tough little creatures, and they seem to manage fine. As do their incredible mothers.

But wow. Awesome question. Thank you for asking it. Interestingly there is a system like this set up for Aboriginal women in Western NSW. With a birth centre as well. It was my initial concept for the book, that a passionate midwife would be an invaluable resource for women in isolated communities, yes. Absolutely. But to be feasible, the number of babies needs to be adequate unless she does lots of other jobs. Which is fine too. But how does she keep up her skills if unexpected babies come only rarely. It’s a dilemma. Maybe a rotation of newly qualified midwives for short stays could work with promoting the concept. Or the midwife seconds to a tertiary hospital every year for a week or so. Or does the Advanced Obstetrics course every few years. See. I did think about it. 🙂

All interesting ideas and I know I was thinking how much I would enjoy doing a few weeks every year in an isolated area. There is a midwife in town I admire who has been relieving out western Queensland at Christmas for about twenty years. Actually she has a bit of Blanche in her. 🙂

I also think the Flight nurses give amazing care and support and the phone communication, the Flying O&G, and clinics are amazing.

Q8. What advice would you give to an aspiring rural romance novelist?

Same as I give to mothers. Believe in yourself.

With writing if you want to do something badly enough nothing will stop you. My process is start the book and don’t get side-tracked until you finish it. Then polish it up. Other people do it differently but I didn’t make the leap in skill until I finished a full book. Then the light came on.

Q9. Share five favourite books and/or authors

Diana Gabaldon – Cross Stitch – all time fav.

Peter O’Donnell – Modesty Blaise series – Sabretooth as favourite. Did you know he wrote as Madeline Brent? There was an amazing historical Australian novel there as well from him writing as MB.

Georgette Heyer – have every one – very tattered and well loved. Devil’s Cub as favourite.

Anya Seaton – Green Darkness. Admit I haven’t read it for years but just re-bought it on kindle as I always said it was my favourite. I wonder if it still is?

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion- Just cracked me up.

Q10. What do you like to do to relax when you’re away from the keyboard?

I love great hotels but also love camping in my little old caravan. Not that keen on sleeping on the ground or getting wet when it rains. Love kayaking – we have a great river here, and paddle boarding at Hat Head. Then there’s always reading and watching movies. And now I can say I love visiting Florence after last week. 🙂

Q11. And lastly….what’s next for you? Anything you can spill on future projects?

Present project is Flying Doctors for Penguin and there’s a fab older lady in that book, too. Totally different to Blanche but she makes me smile just thinking about her. Might be two or three of those that are linked with more women’s fiction than medical emphasis. Plus one Mills and Boon a year as I love the medical romance because I can write about anything anywhere and still be excited. And I’d love to publish my non-fiction Breech Book. Then there’s the Time Travel Midwife books which one day I will start.


Thank you so much for your time and your wonderful answers Fiona. For anyone who is interested in the setting of Red Sand Sunrise, Fiona has some amazing pictures here on her blog from the research trip she did. Definitely worth a look – they set the scene in the reader’s mind beautifully. Thanks also to the fab people at Penguin AU for making this Q&A possible.

Visit Fiona’s website
Follow her on twitter
Red Sand Sunrise at Penguin AU