In this issue:
How to write your next
Plan your writing career like a pro
Build a loyal community of readers
one fan at a time
What a writing life on the
road is really like
And much more...
MEL & SAM HAMMOND
WRITER ON THE ROAD
AUTHOR SUCCESS STORIES is a product of Writer on the
Road Publishing. Full versions of interviews appearing in the
magazine can be found at the Writer on the Road podcast,
available for download on iTunes or at
Mel & Sam can be contacted via email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on
0400 703 836.
Issue #1 of AUTHOR SUCCESS STORIES published 17
December 2018. All rights reserved by Writer on the Road
Publishing. Content may not be reproduced without written
Welcome to the launch issue of Author
Success Stories. This is a bumper
Christmas issue, so sit back and enjoy
the eight interviews we've got lined up
for you. Wherever you are on your
writing journey, remember - it's the
journey that matters.
Mel & Sam
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HAVE BOOKS, WILL TRAVEL
When a plot idea forms it's time to go and look
for the right setting. Being inspired by the
seasons as well as the towns and landscapes of
Oz is what keeps JENN J MCLEOD writing a
book a year.
HARD WORK, LUCK & TIMING: HOW
TO WRITE A BESTSELLER
For NATASHA LESTER, it's all about pre-drafts,
drafts and a love of all things vintage fashion
that inspired her to write her latest bestseller,
The Paris Seamstress.
A ROOM OF HER OWN
There's nothing like crossing the threshold of
your writing room and immersing yourself in
your story, says DARRY FRASER. It takes
discipline to write every day and there's nothing
like the vibe of entering your writing space to get
EMBRACING THE CREATIVE
Writing rural fiction has taught PAMELA COOK
that each story is unique, and that the writer's
most vital task is to unleash their subconscious
and enjoy the creative process.
MIDNIGHT SERENADES, TANGOS,
AND HAPPY ENDINGS
ALLI SINCLAIR's passion for research and flair
for dance has inspired her to write best-selling
novels and support her fellow writers.
AUTHOR SUCCESS STORIES - ISSUE 1
TABLE OF CONTENTS
YOUR WRITING CAREER
Developing a career as a writer takes time,
perseverance and a passion for what you do. For
ANNIE SEATON that often means ten hours a day, six
days a week at her computer.
AUTHOR, PILOT, SAILOR, PLOT
Finding the time and space to write is often a
challenge for HELENE YOUNG, but luckily for us
she manages it every time.
WHY BUILDING A COMMUNITY
OF LOYAL READERS MATTERS
Interacting with readers through social media is
important but don't underestimate the value of
meeting your personally. think book signings,
author events and library visits, advises
DON'T FORGET TO CHECK
OUT THE BONUS EXTRACTS
OF OUR CONTRIBUTORS'
WORKS IN PROGRESS, DUE
OUT IN 2019
AUTHOR SUCCESS STORIES - ISSUE 1
P A D D O C K T O P R I N T
P A D D O C K T O P R I N T C O N T . . .
P A D D O C K T O P R I N T C O N T . . .
BOOKS BY JENN...
A PLACE TO REMEMBER
Come home to
the country, to
Creek, and to the
secrets and lies.
THE OTHER SIDE OF
When offering to
drive her brother
to Byron Bay,
to mention her
SEASON OF SHADOW
When it seems
her, she sets off
on a road trip
Nana Alice in
JENN J MCLEOD
Praised for her authentic and relatable characters and
sense of landscape, Jenn finds inspiration by travelling to
new places and making every book a journey. Australia’s
Nomadic Novelist is best known her Seasons Collection of
stories – four life-affirming novels featuring friendship,
family, and contemporary country life (including House for
all Seasons) – her fifth novel, A Place to Remember, is
available in print and as an e-book worldwide. You can
connect with Jenn online where she wastes good writing
time posting travel pics and having fun on Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram peddling her ‘Paddock To Print’
philosophy to encourage readers to buy Australian-made
HAVE BOOKS, WILL
A plot idea will form and I’ll go
looking for the right setting.
Sometimes the setting finds me. I
am inspired by the seasons and by
towns and landscapes I know.
Authors, no matter how successful
they are, have moments when their
plots just fall apart... My advice to
aspiring authors is to share the
journey with somebody you trust.
Excerpt from The Timekeeper's Store, part of Jenn's soon-to-be-published
short story collection
The time is exactly 11:11 am.
I know this because clocks surround me. I am the town’s watchmaker, and like my father before me I keep the
small town of Tanglewood ticking over. I am also a watcher of people, although I confess to mostly observing
Millicent York from my workroom at the front corner of the jewellery store. I know the exact time each
Thursday to lift my head – such is the lady’s weekly routine these past few years.
The main street is wide and tree-lined, but there’s no missing her, even among the Saturday-morning cafe
crowd outside Miss Pink’s Patisserie. Millicent York is a woman who demands to be noticed. So stylish and selfassured,
should Tanglewood’s entire population of ten thousand fill the cracked footpaths to bursting, the lady
would still stand out. This morning, however, espying her from my workroom, there is something about her
appearance that has me fearing the worst.
Millicent York is dying.
I am desperately aware that death is only a matter of time. That’s the thing about being a watchmaker – time
too easily becomes the overriding focus. Despite being good at what I do – after fifty years, I should be – I can’t
replace the broken cogs of a person’s life. I can’t stop them from wearing down, stop time draining away
memories, or halt the clock hands that count down a person’s life.
What I do is set the time on a watch before handing the timepiece over.
What happens after that is up to the owner.
(© Jenn J McLeod)
BOOKS BY NATASHA...
turmoil, this is the
story of the special
A KISS FROM MR
A sweeping story
of love and
from England to
the 1920s to the
tragic, the story
follows a young
woman ahead of
her time amid
the fragile hearts
and glamour of
Jazz Age New
Before becoming a writer, Natasha Lester worked as a
marketing executive for Harlequin in the UK. She then
returned to university to study creative writing, completing
a Master of Creative Arts at Curtin University as well as
her first novel, What is Left Over, After, which won the
TAG Hungerford Award for Fiction.
Her first historical novel, A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, was
published in 2016, followed by Her Mother’s Secret in
2017, and The Paris Seamstress in 2018. She is now an
internationally bestselling author, having decided that
playing with words is more fun than experimenting with
When she’s not writing books, she loves to collect vintage
fashion, drink tea, read, travel, dream about Paris, and
have fun with her three children.
An interview with Natasha Lester
Mel I am privileged to be talking to the
beautiful Natasha Lester. We're talking
about Natasha's book, 'The Paris
Seamstress'. It's been getting great
reviews already. What attracted me
was not only the beautiful cover but all
those beautiful gowns that you've
been putting on your website. Would
you like to tell us about those?
Natasha I'm quite fashion obsessed,
particularly in vintage fashion. I've
loved vintage fashion for a long time,
and I'm a self-taught fashion
historian. I've never done anything
academically in the area but I read
widely about fashion history and it's a
passion of mine, so I always like to
include it in my books. All of the
dresses the main characters wear are
based on genuine pieces from the
time and I do describe them in a little
bit of detail, which a lot of readers
When it came to writing 'The Paris
Seamstress', which was an entire book
about the birth of the ready-to-wear
fashion industry, that was my dream
come true. I could let my passion for
fashion roam completely wild. I did a
lot of research into the birth of readyto-wear
in the late 1930s and early
1940s and looked at some of those
designers who really led the way in
that industry – many of whom we
don't hear of anymore, which is such a
shame. They were absolute
trailblazers for their time and some of
their clothes are so iconic. They still
haven't dated. They’re timeless, they're
Mel Your idea and your inspiration
for this came, in part, from a podcast
you were listening to on early New
York. I was fascinated when I heard
Natasha This book was a little bit
torturous to start. The very first germ of
the idea – even before the podcast –
was I'd been to see a documentary 'Dior
and I', which was about Raf Simons and
his tenure as the head of Christian Dior.
I loved the documentary and the gowns
But while I was watching, I had this very
clear vision in my head of a mother and
daughter working together in a Parisian
atelier. But whilst that was in my head,
there wasn't a story. It was literally just
a one-scene vision. I thought, ‘I can't
really do anything with that. I need a
story.’ And I didn't have one.
And so I played around with writing. I
like to do what I call my pre-first draft,
which is 20,000 words that I knock out
in November and then let sit for a
couple of months before I see what
story is in there.
So I’d written this 20,000 words and I
still didn't know what the story was. I
was starting to panic. And that was
when I happened to sit down and put
on the Bowery Boys podcast, which is
a podcast about New York. This
particular episode was about the
Garment District in New York. It's kind
of a broad episode – it covers a lot of
fashion history of New York. One of
the little snippets in there was that it
was really the Second World War that
allowed New York and other places
around the world to find their own
fashion industry, because Paris was
suddenly shut off from the rest of the
world because of the German
occupation. Up until then, everything
that anyone wore anywhere in the
world was a direct knockoff of a
I knew that Paris had been heavily
copied but I didn't realize the extent to
which it had happened. Young girls –
and the Stella character in 'The Paris
Seamstress' – were employed to go
along to the Paris fashion shows and
sit in the audience, subtly sketching
the designs into their program and
basically then sell them on to the
department store buyers in the USA.
They would then make up their own
genuine Chanel copies.
Once that whole copying industry was
shut down by the war, everybody else
around the world had to discover their
own fashion sensibilities and start to
allow designers to design clothes
within their own country. So it was that
podcast episode that made me think,
‘Okay, I can take that vision I've had of
the mother and daughter sitting in the
atelier, and attach that to a story
about the birth of the ready-to-wear
industry in New York in the 1940s.
That can be my character's journey.’
Mel This is a new way of research.
There a lot of people out there doing
our research for us nowadays, aren’t
Natasha Yes, absolutely. Podcasts
are amazing. I realized when I was
struggling to start 'The Paris
Seamstress' that I had been spending
so much time writing that I hadn't
been getting out and doing other
things to spur on my own creative
inspiration. I hadn’t been going to
galleries, I hadn’t been going to the
theatre, I hadn't been listening to
podcasts, I hadn't been reading widely.
I made a deliberate choice to sit down
and listen to my podcast and do things
just to keep those creative juices
flowing. We are so lucky. There are so
many different things you can do
these days if you are having a creative
I also had a fabulous trip researching
this book. I actually hired a private
tour guide in Paris to take me around
the historical fashion area, which is
called Le Sentier. She was amazing, so
she got me into an atelier. I spent a
couple of hours there watching the
women at work and it was really
interesting. Up until that point, my
intention for Stella, the main
character, was that she would be a
traditional seamstress – using needle
and thread, or a sewing machine.
But the atelier that I visited makes the
silk flowers for couture dresses. I
hadn't realized that that was a
separate part of the fashion
manufacturing process. There are
seven traditional metiers in Paris
attached to haute couture – leather
work, flower work, lace work,
embroidery, etc. I was in one of only
two existing flower work studios,
watching the women make these
amazing flowers. It is incredibly
complicated and incredibly amazing
to look at. I just sat there for hours,
snapping photos, asking them
questions about what they were
My guide also took me around the
Marais area in Paris, which is a big
setting for the book. There are lots of
old nobles’ townhouses in the
moraine called hôtels particuliers, and
one of those is essential kind of
setting in my book. A lot of those
amazing houses were abandoned and
derelict during the Second World War.
My guide took me to places that I
didn’t know existed, like the theatre of
the Palais Royale. We walked through
the courtyard of the Palais Royale on
our way to the Frontière, and there
was a waiter outside sweeping the
path. My guide started chatting to him
– she obviously knew him – and it
transpired that he had the keys to the
theatre of the Palais Royale. He asked
whether I would be interested in going
in and having a look, and I said, “Yeah,
that sounds great” – not really having
any idea what I was about to stumble
upon. We walked up this amazing,
winding staircase, got to the top,
walked into theatre – and I think I
literally stood there immobile for five
minutes looking around. It was the
most gorgeous, splendid, amazing
place. While I was standing there, an
entire scene for the book appeared in
my mind. If I hadn’t gone there, I
would never have found that place.
Moments of serendipity that you
haven't planned are an amazing part
of on-the-ground research, and they
set book apart and make it better.
Mel Putting in the effort, putting in the
research, mulling over ideas, and
letting your subconscious do some of
the work brings out a much better
Natasha Ninety percent of the work of
a novelist is thinking time, not actual
writing time. As I mentioned before, I
do a 20,000-word pre-first draft in
November every year – and then my
three kids are off on school holidays
for the entirety of December and
January. It actually works quite well
because it means I don't write at all
over that time. Those 20,000 words
just sit in my head and starts to
unravel into a story, rather than a
mess of words that I would never let
I sit down in February when the kids
go back to school, and I write a first
draft. Then every time the kids have
school holidays, I aim to finish a draft
that I can let sit for two or three
weeks. I think about it and come back
to it with fresh eyes. I can’t finish a
draft and then look at it again the
next day and see the problems
inherent in it. I need to step away and
have that thinking time. That’s where
the most valuable ideas occur. I also
always take a good month off around
Every year I don't write, that's my
research time. I’ll go away overseas
and do on-the-ground research, and
also just sit for a couple of weeks at
home and read lots of books related to
the different themes and ideas in the
novel. In the course of those years, I'm
not actually doing any writing at all –
but that's the most valuable time.
Even when I’m doing the dishes, I have
a notepad in the kitchen. I tend to find
that every time I'm doing something
mundane, when my mind’s not
occupied, that's where you have all the
ideas. Or walking, or during meditative
yoga. I'm the world's worst meditator
because I literally lie there with a
million different scene ideas
happening in my head. That’s where
the work of writing occurs. It’s when
you're doing the thinking, having the
ideas. Then really it’s just a matter of
sitting down at your desk and turning
those thoughts into words and
Mel Did you go to New York for
research as well?
Natasha Yes! I hired a guide there
who was a specialist in New York's
garment district. He took me around
the historical garment district, which is
quite near Times Square. There's not
much left there now – a lot of it is
moved out of the city – but you can
still see the old buildings that used to
be clothing factories. I also went to the
Parsons School of Design archives,
because they hold the collection of
Claire McCardell fashion illustrations. I
sat in there for a day looking over all of
her illustrations through the 1940s,
just to see how she used to draw,
because every illustrator is different –
particularly for her, working in space
where it's a quicker process than
couture, say. She didn't have the time
to watercolor – they're really just
pencil sketches with swatches of fabric
attached to them and written details
about the bottoms and the belts and
that kind of thing.
Mel The buildings in those places in
those places so lovely. You talked
about your beautiful lodgings in Paris.
Natasha They're just so lovely. The
Marais has restored those buildings
and returned them to their former
splendour. What I love most about
them is that from the street it’s just a
set of wooden double doors and you
don't know what's behind them. Then
you open the doors and traditionally
you enter into a courtyard, not the
house. The courtyard is usually a
beautiful, formal, manicured garden,
and behind that is the house. It's stone
and it's just so amazing and there’s
sense of anticipation as you open the
wooden doors and step through into
the courtyard, and look at what lies
Mel Does your work mean there's a
resurgence of sagas in the publishing
Natasha Yes, I think there is. At the
Romance Writers Conference last year,
if you looked at the list of publishers
and agents who were attending, many
of them mention family sagas. I love
those kinds of stories. I love writing
anything that takes place over a large
period of time and involves multiple
generations of family, multiple
locations around the world… They’re
wonderful stories that literally sweep
you away and that's what I aim to
write. Hopefully I'll sweep one reader
away, at least.
Mel I wonder whether it’s because of
what's happening in the world –
whether we're actually closing down
and wanting to see some more
Natasha The news is so depressing
lately, and you have to make yourself
watch because you have to know
what's going on in the world and to be
the advocate for change in the areas
that most affect you – particularly with
everything that’s happening with
women at the moment. It’s all really
important but it is hard to always be
struggling and fighting and looking at
what’s happening and despairing. You
research something like the Second
World War and see all of the terrible
things that happen and think, ‘How can
we ever let something like that happen
again? Why don't we learn from
history?’ Then you see the evidence all
around you of us not learning from
history. It's really quite sad. I think
that's probably the hardest part of the
research for me – that sense that we
don't learn and we keep making the
same mistakes. I feel like sweeping
everybody up and passing them some
of the things that I’ve read – if
everybody sat down and read this,
surely we wouldn’t still be doing these
So yes, maybe it is something like that.
I love to read books that help me to
escape from all of that, just as I love
reading books that are realistic and set
in the nitty gritty of what's happening
right now. It helps you reinvest and
inspires you to keep fighting. Perhaps
it is a sign of the times that we need to
have both, the escape and the reality.
Mel I wanted to talk a little bit about
the writing process, which you touched
on already. You’ve got intricate plots
and dual narrators – it must take a lot
Natasha Again, if I knew how I did
that, I’d be a much better writer. I'm an
inveterate pantser – no matter how
hard I try to plot, it doesn't work. My
ideas don't like to be forced. They like
to unfold page by page, as they do for
a reader. I have to unravel it – what is
the plot, what is the story? At first I
didn’t even know this book was going
to be a dual narrative. At first it was
purely a historical story. The
contemporary narrative got written
later and then threaded in throughout
the story. I don't recommend doing it
that way, but that's just how it works
for me. I just write my first draft and
get it all out.
I’m working on 2019’s book, which is
called 'The French Photographer' at
the moment. Because it worked for
'The Paris Seamstress', what I’ve done
is just written the historical storyline
first and then written the
contemporary storyline. In the second
draft, I start to look at how those two
storylines can be woven together. If I
was to write a few chapters of one and
then think, ‘Oh, the contemporary
storyline should come in now,’ and
write a few chapters of that, I would
lose the thread. I need to be immersed
in one storyline until I’ve nutted it all
out, and then immerse myself in the
other storyline. So the first draft is
historical storyline, then the
contemporary storyline. Draft two is
threading them together and adding in
all the research that I've done. Draft
three is making sure the plot is
working and the pacing is working and
all of that. That's about the point
where I do a bit more planning. I have
a couple of charts and tools that I sit
down and do to make sure that the
narrative has enough tension and the
pace is working. That comes quite late
for me. I don't know that I recommend
following me. It's been a bit chaotic,
but it works, so I have to go with it.
Mel A couple of comments on your
blog were, ‘How could you possibly
write six drafts? That's so many.’ There
seems to be this idea that you can
chuck something out in a couple of
drafts and it's good. And I really want
to dispel that myth. The process is
hard. Sometimes things don't work
and you’ve got to get back to the
Natasha Absolutely. My first book was
thirteen drafts. Since then I have
gotten a little bit quicker, but it’s still
constant rewriting. I know there are
some writers who do their first draft
and send it to their publishers. I think
those writers do more planning and
spend more time on that first draft. My
first draft is an eight-week rush to get
it all out before I lose the story. So it’s
very messy. I don't even do a
spellcheck of it. I think multiple drafts
is absolutely the way to go, because
you have to keep pushing yourself to
make it the best you can be. I never
want to make it ‘good enough’. I want
it to be the best I can possibly make it
at the time, and for me that only
comes about through a constant
process of rewriting and revising.
Mel Perseverance is just the key to
Natasha Absolutely. As a writer, you
also need to get used to rejection
because it happens all the time, even
when you're a published writer like I
am. I’ve been rejected by other
overseas publishers with 'A Kiss for Mr
Fitzgerald' and 'Her Mother’s Secret'.
Last year I also changed things around
with the way my rights are managed.
Little, Brown – a major publisher in the
UK – made me an offer to publish all
four of my historical novels, which was
great. A couple of weeks later Grand
Central offered to publish 'The Paris
Seamstress', so it will be out in the UK
and the USA as well as Australia and
New Zealand this year, which is very
exciting. I can't even imagine how it
would feel to hear that there are people
on the other side of the world reading
Mel International rights become quite
Natasha Absolutely. Even if you go in
with the best of intentions and the best
advice, it still might not work out. You
have to be prepared to constantly
reassess the way you’re managing your
subsidiary rights – audio and everything
else. If you’re pressured to make
changes, it can be hard. It often means
that you've got to take rights off some
people to give them to other people.
The biggest thing about being a writer is
understand that you are managing your
own business and you have to be across
every part of that business. It's not just
the writing – it's the marketing, the
publicity, the contracts, the legalities,
the selling of your rights and your
products and your creative output. And
you have to constantly be assessing
every part of that to make sure it's
working the right way. Sometimes you
have to make decisions that aren't nice
and they're really hard, but you just
have to have faith in yourself. You know
in your gut what the right thing to do is,
and you just follow that through.
Mel Have you also sold your ebook
Natasha Yes. Hachette have bought
rights here in Australia and Little,
Brown in the UK. I’ve also got 'The Paris
Seamstress' coming out in audio on
the 27th of March. I love listening to
the audition for the narrator – it’s
really fun because your book becomes
a different thing when it's spoken
aloud. It's no longer just the words on
Publishers jumping on audio rights is
starting to become much more
common, particularly as audio is
starting to pick up and increase
market share. It's still quite tiny but
the growth is massive. I'm a huge fan
of audiobooks. I always have one to
listen to in the car. It’s becoming more
common to have a simultaneous
release because readers can get the
book in whatever format they want. I
don't care which method people use
to listen or read it – whatever works
best for them.
Mel I should imagine that the meatier
sagas would make great listening.
Natasha I've listened to bits of my
previous books and you can easily get
swept away. It is a different kind of
experience to read the words on the
page. We're really interested to see
how the narrator works with The Paris
Seamstress because her audition was
Mel You sometimes teach with the
Australian Writers Centre.
Natasha Yes. I cut back a bit on
teaching last year and then even more
this year, just because teaching is
often weekends and weeknights – and
publicity events are also nights and
weekends, so something has to give.
But teaching is the thing that always
inspires me and reminds me how
lucky I am. When I started out I had
some great people teaching me, so if I
can return the favor to anybody I
would love to. I am teaching a course
for the Australian Writers Centre in
Sydney in April. I've also got a couple
more coming up. My plan is to run a
writing retreat on the east coast,
probably somewhere in New South
Wales. I've been getting quotes in from
venues. It's just a matter of finding the
time to sit down and go, ‘Yes, that's
when I can do it,’ and getting it all
Mel Tell us about 'The French
Photographer'. Have any podcasts or
documentaries dropped out of the sky
to inspire you?
Natasha 'The French Photographer' will
be out in late March next year, so I've
just finished the first round of structural
edits on that. It’s interesting now that
I'm doing more historical research. Each
story comes out of the research that I've
done for the previous book. So The
French Photographer came out of
something I found when I was
researching 'The Paris Seamsrtress', and
my 2020 book came out of something
that I found when I was researching 'The
French Photographer'. Each book is
inspiring an idea for the next, and in
each book I bring back the main
character from the previous book in a
bit of a cameo role. It's a bit of
continuity. People who've read the
books really like to see them pop up
again, albeit briefly.
Mel It’s been a privilege to talk with you,
and I wish you all the best for 'The
French Photographer' and all those
other books that you've got coming out.
BOOKS BY DARRY...
THE WIDOW OF
After a night of
violence on the
fate hangs in the
seems that, after
all, she might
need to do the
one thing she
has avoided at
all costs …
DAUGHTER OF THE
historical, a 19th
tale of greed,
Unsure of her
place in the
world, a young
woman looks for
but she finds
that the two
things are almost
in her times.
Darry Fraser is an author of Australian historical and contemporary
fiction who lives and works on Kangaroo Island.
Writing is her journey. After years e-published, 'Daughter of the
Murray', an Australian historical, was published with Harlequin MIRA
in 2016. Her next book, 'Where The Murray River Runs' was released
in December, 2017, and The Widow of Ballarat, December, 2018.
The Australian landscape is home and hearth - the rural, the coastal,
the arid lands and the desert. The history, the hidden stories, the
and the powerful connections between humans are her story drivers.
She is a daughter, a sister, and an aunty, and mother to Hamish the
Wonder Dog. She has an extreme fondness for plain potato crisps,
dark chocolate, fresh licorice, and loves a bold berry-flavoured red
wine (not necessarily at the same time).
A ROOM OF HER
You need to be very present as to
how things transcribe from your
thoughts to the keyboard. That’s
what your first draft is all about,
which is usually absolute
BOOKS BY PAMELA...
Will the lies they
tell and the
hide lead to
or will fate bring
before its too
CLOSE TO HOME
letting go is
story of family,
takes off on a
road trip in
answers to a
Pamela Cook is a city girl with a country lifestyle - and too many
horses. Her stories feature complex women, tangled family
relationships and a fine thread of romance. Her first novel,
Blackwattle Lake, was published in 2012 after being selected for the
Queensland Writer’s Centre/Hachette Manuscript Development
Program. Her following novels were Essie’s Way (2013) and Close To
Home (2015) and her fourth book, The Crossroads was released in
December 2016. An eclectic reader, Pamela also enjoys writing
poetry, memoir pieces and literary fiction and is the co-host of
Writes4Women, a podcast focusing on women, writing and feminism,
and the sister podcast Writes4Festivals which covers regional writers’
festivals in NSW. When she’s not writing she wastes as much time as
possible riding her handsome quarter horses, Morocco and Rio.
Pamela teaches writing courses and workshops through her
business, Justwrite. www.justwrite.net.au
The support you get from other
writers is probably the best thing
about being a writer.
If you keep pushing through, your
subconscious will keep throwing
ideas at you.
You can't analyse it at the
beginning. You actually have to do
it... Each story has its own process.
Excerpt from Pamela's current manuscript - Cross My Heart
Even now, the click of a closing door could still make her flinch. One long, deep breath, the familiar citrusy
scent of furniture polish and she was back. Home. There was no place quite like it.
A faint glow softened the darkness beyond the hallway. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. She
hurried towards it, the heels of her boots beating a staccato rhythm on the polished timber, the wheels of her
suitcase drumming along behind. She stuffed her keys into the handbag dragging on her shoulder, dumped it
on the living room floor and heaved a sigh of relief. Her hands found the nape of her neck, rubbing out the
kinks - the usual long haul gremlins. Something cracked beneath her fingertips - sinews, bones, muscle, maybe
all three - and she let out a gravelly groan. A massage would be perfect right about now.
Finally, a movement from the far corner of the room. Josh spun around in his chair, pulling the headphones
from his ears. The screen of his laptop shining brighter as he turned.
'Shit Tess, you scared the hell out of me. I didn't even hear you come in.'
The knot between her shoulder blades tightened. 'Yeah, I noticed.' She dropped her hands to rest by her sides,
made an effort to lighten her tone. 'What are you doing?'
'Trying to make some headway on this project. Not getting very far.’ He swivelled his chair back to the desk in
front of him. ‘How was the conference?'
Same old question, but at least he bothered to ask. 'Fine.' Same old answer, but it was too late to bother with
details. She walked over and stood beside him. Once upon a time she would have laid an arm across his
shoulder, leant down and brushed a kiss to his lips. Once upon a time he would have greeted her at the airport -
or at least the door - with a dozen red roses. She’d never had the heart to tell him the scent of them made her
gag. Or why. Not that it mattered now. She swallowed down the burn in the back of her throat
'Did you dazzle them all with your brilliance?' He kept his eyes on the screen as he spoke but there was a smile
in his voice.
She coughed. 'Naturally.'
'Have you eaten?'
'I picked at a few things on the plane.' To be honest she could do with something decent in her stomach,
something that didn't come in a foil container and smell like it belonged in a soup kitchen. Something they
could share over a chilled glass of wine while they sat side by side on the couch, caught up on their respective
weeks. Laughed. But the fridge, no doubt, would be empty and in all probability she'd be eating alone. She gave
her neck another twist, closed her eyes and waited for the pop. Blinked her way out of her daydream. It was
late and they were both tired. 'Might just have a shower and collapse into bed.'
He half turned, one of his hands hovering on the touch pad, the other cradling his chin. Had he sensed the
note of disappointment in her voice? 'What?' His head angled slightly in her direction but his gaze was still on
'I won't be long.' Fingers tapping against the shiny surface of the desk.
Ugh! How many times had she asked him not to do that? And it was a lie, of course. He'd be up all night. As
always when a deadline was looming. But then, when wasn't one?
She lifted her suitcase, a cramp stabbing at the arch of her foot, and grabbed the bundle of unopened mail
from the island bench. Quite the pile.
Was it that hard to open a few letters?
She glanced back to where he sat, completely absorbed with the numbers on the screen. She could strip off and
dance naked around the room and he probably wouldn't bat an eyelid. She let the case thump against each step
as she dragged it upstairs, making as much noise as possible, daring him to bite. She could hardly complain.
They were both as bad as each other when it came to work. Focused. Determined. Driven. It was what had
drawn them together in the first place. Five years of marriage and they were both still the same in that sphere
of their lives.
Even if other things had changed.
There was no point thinking about it now. Not when the spray of hot water on her skin was beckoning, closely
followed by the cool weight of high thread-count sheets on her arms. She tossed the mail onto the bed, the
dozen or more envelopes falling like a hand of cards across the crisp white doona. Probably bills or bank
statements; nothing that couldn't wait. She peeled herself out of her jacket and pants, unbuttoned her shirt,
laid her clothes across the chair in the corner of the room and headed for the ensuite. Her bra and knickers hit
the tiled floor, and she stepped into the shower. The moan falling from her lips as the water streamed, almost
scalding, onto her scalp was positively R-rated but there was no one around to hear.
Certainly not Josh.
Oh, the irony. Over a week, she'd been away. Plenty of phone messages, some of which could only be described
as sexting, and now here they were under the same roof barely able to utter two words to each other. Not that
she was up for anything anyway but the option would have been nice. Having some sort of conversation would
have been even nicer. How long had it been since they’d talked about anything meaningful? She tipped her
head back, let the heat pummel her face, wash away her question. A few more minutes of mindless soaking and
she turned off the taps, stumbled out and reached for a couple of towels.
White, thick, fluffy and perfectly arranged on the rail. She gave her body a quick dry, wrapped her hair up in
a turban. As a kid she’d been scolded for going to bed with wet hair, told she would catch ‘her death of cold’
whatever the hell that meant. Now it was cut short it hardly mattered. A quick rub and just like that, it was
ready to go. The bathroom was surprisingly clean. Everything gleaming and in its place - no smears on the
mirror, tiles without a mark, the lid down on the toilet seat. Of course. It was Thursday so the cleaner had
been. Yes, it was an extravagance she'd justified to her mother on more than one occasion, but then the office
hours they both kept didn't leave much time for household chores. Hard work might be its own reward but a
floor you could eat off and clothes pressed by an ironing service weren't too shabby either.
She finished drying off, tossed the towel in the laundry basket and pulled on her pyjama top. The usual
remnants of air sickness lingered from the flight but they'd be gone by morning. Once she'd had a good night's
sleep and sorted out her body clock.
Lamp on, light off.
There was something so comforting about your own bed. Even if you were in it alone. She sank into it, pulling
the covers up to her chin as she curled into a ball on her side and closed her eyes. Serious bliss. A rustling noise
had her eyelids flickering: the unopened envelopes scattering to the floor. No problem, they could be dealt with
in the morning. Everything was easier to deal with in the light of day.
Mel and Sam's Book of the
Listen to the podcast here:
Set on a small island off the coast of Australia, Beneath the Mother Tree
interweaves myth in a contemporary, spine-chilling mystery. A dark and
magical exploration of the boundaries of love and our concept of belonging.
BOOKS BY ALLI...
THE BURNING FIELDS
When a longhidden
she risk all to
family or will she
lose the only
man she’s ever
what it takes
to fulfil one’s
true meaning of
An adventurer at heart, Alli Sinclair is a multi-award-winning author
who has lived in Argentina, Peru, and Canada. She’s climbed some of
the world’s highest mountains, worked as a tour guide in South and
Central America, and has travelled the globe, immersing herself in
array of exotic destinations, cultures, and languages. Australia has
always been close to Alli’s heart as she loves the diverse landscapes
and the rich multicultural heritage of this wonderful land.
She holds an annual Writers at Sea cruise retreat and presents
writing workshops around Australia. Alli has recently branched into
work for film and is involved in international projects. Alli’s books
explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between
family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of
discovering old and new worlds, and loves taking readers on a
journey of discovery. Her latest book, Burning Fields, is an historical
set in 1948 in northern Queensland. Alli’s website is:
AND HAPPY ENDINGS
Writing is about friendship,
camaraderie, finding something in
common with someone else and
being able to understand each other.
I love that people are interested in
finding out more about what I do or
how the industry works. It's the
engagement with the people that
absolutely makes it.
There are a lot of people who subscribe to the ‘write what you know’
ethos. Certainly when you start writing, it's really good to write
about things that you know. But people who write things set in the
Regency period or ancient Greece – how are they ever going to
know that? If you've got a story to tell, as long as they research it
well, I think you can write about anything.
Blurb for Alli's upcoming novel - The Cinema at Starlight Creek
How far would you go to follow your dream? Queensland, 1994: When location manager Claire Montgomery
arrives in rural Queensland to work on a TV mini-series, she's captivated by the beauty of Starlight Creek and
the surrounding sugarcane fields. Working in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but Claire has never
let that stop her pursuing her dreams-until now. She must gain permission to film at Australia's most
historically significant art deco cinema, located at Starlight Creek. But there is trouble ahead. The community
is fractured and the cinema's reclusive owner, Hattie Fitzpatrick, and her enigmatic great nephew, Luke
Jackson, stand in her way, putting Claire's career-launching project-and her heart-at risk. Hollywood, 1950:
Lena Lee has struggled to find the break that will catapult her into a star with influence. She longs for roles
about strong, independent women but with Hollywood engulfed in politics and a censorship battle, Lena's
timing is wrong. Forced to keep her love affair with actor Reeves Garrity a secret, Lena puts her career on the
line to fight for equality for women in an industry ruled by men. Her generous and caring nature steers her
onto a treacherous path, leaving Lena questioning what she is willing to endure to get what she desires. Can two
women-decades apart-uncover lies and secrets to live the life they've dared to dream?
The Cinema at Starlight Creek comes out on May 20 and is up for pre-order!
The Australian Rural Fiction Facebook group is a support network for
writers and readers of rural fiction all across Australia. If you're
passionate about all things rural, check it out
BOOKS BY ANNIE...
Olivia is drawn
into a dangerous
stop at nothing to
ensure their plan
even if that
Ellie Porter loves
her job. Soaring
she feels free
from the losses
of her beloved
Porter is one
Annie Seaton lives near the beach on the east coast of
Australia, fulfilling her lifelong dream of being an author.
Annie’s Porter Sisters series is published in print in
Australia and New Zealand with Pan Macmillan, and she
has a contract with Harper Collins for four books in the
Harlequin Mira imprint. Whitsunday Dawn is the first of
these to be followed by Undara in 2019. Annie also has
many books published digitally internationally across many
genres. You can find them in a convenient slideshow on
her website: annieseaton.net
Each winter, Annie and her husband leave the beach to
roam the remote areas of Australia for story ideas and
An interview with Annie Seaton
Mel I have with me the beautiful
Annie Seaton. Annie is the author
of eighteen best-selling novels,
including her latest, the bestselling
'Whitsunday Dawn'. She also travels
Australia in her caravan with her
husband. Annie, your writing
journey began in 2012. Would you
like to tell us about why you started
Annie In 2011, I was a high school
principal and it was becoming very
stressful. I was getting close to the
young retirement age, and I looked
at my career and thought, ‘I don't
need this anymore.’ A friend of
mine said to me, “What are you
going to do now?” Whatever I do, I
throw myself in boots and all – I
think it’s the OCD personality and
ADHD and all of those things I knew
when I was a teacher.
It’s been my dream to write all my
life. I wrote a novel when I was
eleven, I wrote a short story when I
was about 33, but I had lots of
stories in my head that I'd never
done anything with. My friend said,
“Have a go at it!” So I did, and I was
offered a contract within five weeks
by Lyrical Press in New York for a
novella that I ran off called 'Winter
of the Passion Flower'. That was my
first foray into writing.
Since then, I’ve been
very fortunate to pick up a contract
with Entangled Publishing in the
U.S. and I've written nine
contemporary romances for them.
One of them was actually released
on the same day as 'Winter of the
Passion Flower' – it was a
coincidence, two different
publishers in the U.S.
'Holiday Affair' came out on the
12th of March 2012, and was set in
my hometown because we hadn't
started to travel at that stage. It
absolutely amazed me because it
was on U.S. and UK bestseller lists
within 5 weeks. To date I've sold
40,000 copies of 'Holiday Affair',
which made me realise, ‘I think I can
do this writing thing.’
Since then I’ve written another
romances, historical romances,
paranormal romances, and
steampunk romances. Then I was
contacted by a good writer friend,
Fiona McArthur, who said, “Have
you got a romantic suspense? I
know that Pan Macmillan are
looking for some new romantic
I hadn’t, although I did have an
idea. I had 5,000 words of a book
that was inspired by our trip to
Kakadu in 2013. She said, “Send it
off.” So I sent off the 5,000 words.
In the interim I headed off to a
writers workshop in Italy with
Fiona, and we were literally in
Dubai International Airport waiting
for our flight to Rome when I had a
lovely email from Haylee Nash at
Pan Macmillian. She said, “I love,
love, love your 5,000 words! Any
chance of making it into a series?”
I said, “Yes, actually, it's the first of
She said, “I'm taking it to an
acquisitions meeting on the 11th of
June.” So we had champagne and
curry for breakfast in Dubai. A few
weeks later, I was in London and I
got a lovely email from Pan
Macmillan offering me a three book
deal for 'Kakadu Sunset' and the
two following books, 'Daintree
Sunrise' and 'Diamond Sky'. I still
get goosebumps thinking about it.
The novels took a year to write.
They're heavily researched in terms
of setting, through our trip to
Kakadu, our trip to the Daintree in
2014, and our trip to the east
Kimberleys in 2015. We also took a
side trip to the Whitsundays – we
got sidetracked going somewhere
else – and the trip resulted in
Researching setting is very
important to me. I take lots of
photographs. I observe the sights,
the sounds, the smells, the feel of
the air on my skin – and I'm
gratified to read a lot of my reviews
talking about how people get such
a sense of setting when they read
my books. That's very important to
me as a reader as well.
The content research is also
important. In 'Kakadu Sunset', the
hero has Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder – he was an army
helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. The
heroine is a conventional helicopter
pilot. There's a lot of stuff about
hydraulic fracking and the Northern
Territory government. So there was
a lot of intensive research in factual
things. I took a a helicopter training
flight in the Whitsundays, because if
I'm writing about a helicopter pilot I
need to be up there and know what
it feels like. I did a half hour training
flight and learned to fly the
helicopter with the foot things, so
when you read 'Kakadu Sunset' and
get to her flying, I did all of that. I
also needed to know about saving a
helicopter when it was in a free fall.
I had a wonderful contact who took
me through it.
My next two contracted books
(after 'Undara' that coes out in July
2019) will be set in very different
locations, one on the ocean
('Osprey Reef' – 2020 with Harper
Collins) and one in the desert ('East
of Alice' – 2021 with Harper Collins).
They focus on issues threatening
the landscape, and a sense of
community and family.
One of my favourite destinations
for research is the Whitsunday
region where emerald green islands
sparkle in a sapphire ocean.
Secluded beaches, coral reefs and
towering hoop pines are all part of
the Great Barrier Reef World
Heritage Area. It is a stunning and
pristine landscape threatened by
human activity and I thoroughly
enjoyed the research there for
For me as a storyteller, presenting
the authentic settings that I have
experienced personally is as
important as the historical research
of the time periods that I explore. I
have been variously described
recently by some of my reviewers
as an eco-adventure author, and an
'activist eco-writer'. I am passionate
about the preservation of our
pristine landscapes and I enjoy
raising a variety of environmental
issues in my stories, as well as
exploring community relationships
and the importance of family.
The research for my current release
'Whitsunday Dawn' was very special.
We were fortunate to spend a total
of three months (over different
periods) in the region last year as I
researched. Not only did I explore
the setting in depth as we went to
the islands, but back on the
mainland I spoke to locals who had
lived there in the war years when
part of the story is set.
The locals described for me the war
years at Cannon Valley and provided
a rich tapestry of life in the region
when it was only a tiny settlement of
farms and fishermen. The historical
research was deep, and I also used
primary sources on the National
Library Trove site.
Mel You said in another interview
that you do seventy percent of your
reading as eBooks now.
Annie I did, until our recent trip.
I've got probably a thousand books
loaded on my iPad. It's very
convenient to take it away when
you're traveling. But I find if I'm
reading on a device, unless it really
grabs me I think, ‘Oh, I'll just check
my email, I'll just check my
Facebook…’ So I read print books,
too. Being a librarian – from many
past lives in the public sector, the
school sector, the medical sector,
the university sector – there is
nothing like the smell of a book.
The process for publishing print and
eBooks is also different. eBooks with
my U.S. publishers generally took
about six months through writing,
editing, cover, and publication. With
the print market and a traditional
publisher like Pan Macmillan, the
process is almost two years. With
my current publisher, the research
and writing now takes me twelve
months. The editing process, cover
process, and preparation for
marketing is about nine months.
Mel I know you're a bit of a
photographer. Would you like to
talk us through that part of your
Annie For many, many years, I said
to my husband, “One day I want a
good camera, I want to take
photos.” I just think I have a natural
talent for framing a photo, like
putting the tree in the right place.
I've done no courses, it's nothing
learned, and when we first started
travelling I had a little digital
camera that didn't take very good
photos. But when we went to
Kakadu, I had my iPad and I took
some fantastic photos. Pan
Macmillan actually considered a
couple of them for the cover
of Kakadu Sunset. It was through a
photograph of a beautiful sunset at
Yellow Water in Kakadu that the
title of 'Kakadu Sunset' came to me.
That came first, before the story.
About two years ago, when I went
to Italy, my husband bought me an
Olympus EM10. It takes the most
magnificent photos. I've really
learned and I've discovered a
passion. Not only do I love framing
photos and taking them, I love
sharing them, and I use a lot of my
photographs. I design covers for
authors and use a lot of my own
photographs so the covers will be
unique. I've learned to use
Photoshop and in my spare time I
do it for relaxation.
Mel Tell us about your process.
How many words do you write a
day? How many hours do you
Annie When I set my mind to
writing, I can write between 2000 to
8000 words a day. My best day ever
was 8500. If I don't write 2000,
that's a very slack day for me. If I
get 3000 to 4000 a day, five to six
days a week, I can get a book out
pretty quickly if I set my mind to it.
I spend a lot of time mentoring
aspiring writers. It's a part of the
journey that I really love doing
because 6 years ago I knew nothing
about Romance Writers of
Australia, I didn't know any authors,
I knew nothing about writing. It
takes determination, it takes drive,
it takes passion, and it takes bloody
hard work and a lot of hours, to the
detriment of life balance. I'm
notorious for not having a good
I also have a private editing
business. I've edited almost 300
clients over the last six years, and
I'm pleased to say that I have a
ninety-eight percent record
of getting them to contract. So
something's working there. I'm
very conscious of author voice, and
I've edited some books where I
haven't corrected grammar or
expression because that's the
author's voice and I love it.
I try to be at my desk by 8.00am,
and I will stay there without
moving, except to get coffee, until
my husband gets home from
school at 3:30 apart. After having
some quality husband time, I will
edit or do covers from about 7.00 til
11.00pm every night.
When we’re on the road, I work in
the car as well. Ian says I don’t see
anything as we travel because I’m
always on the laptop. He tells me,
“Oh, look, there’s an emu,” or “Oh,
look, there’s some roadkill,” or
“Look at that whistling kite!” And
he’s telling lies – I do see it all. On
one trip, I had the edits due for 'Hot
Rock' while we were away, and we
were camped on an unpowered
site. We couldn’t get a powered site
– we never book in advance. So I sat
in the laundry of the caravan park
at Taylors Beach for a whole day
and did the edits for 'Hot Rock'
while I charged my laptop.
Mel Something I’m seeing a lot is
authors wanting to churn out books
in twenty days and get rich
tomorrow. Why do you think that
Annie There are so many people
out there that want to take your
money and take your dreams and
try to give you a shortcut, and it's
so disappointing. Okay, maybe one
out of a million of those people
make their fortune. With my very
first book, Winter of the Passion
Flower, in the first year my royalties
cheque sold 80 copies and I made
Four or five years ago the average
eBook author was earning $179 a
year. I read an article last week that
said the average Australian author
earns earns $12,000 a year. You
can't live on $12,000 a year. People
think, ‘I'm going to write a book, I'm
going to do it in 12 days, I'm going
to sell a million copies and give up
my day job.’ No. Don't.
Mel You’ve chosen to go the
traditional route for these books,
rather than indie publishing, and I
can see why because it's given you
a high profile.
Annie I fought long and hard about
getting an agent. I have strong
views on being represented,
because I'm a control freak, and to
break into the U.S. market is very,
very hard. But I signed with a U.S.
agent, which was difficult to do. I
probably had thirty knockbacks
before I had success. But they're in
talks with Audible.com at the
moment for getting the 'Kakadu'
series into audiobook in the U.S.,
which would be wonderful. [2018
update: I now have an Australia
agent at The Nash Agency.]
Two of Entangled Books are with
Audible and it's a fabulous
communication process. I was
contacted by the narrator, who
asked me if I had any particular
nuances that I wanted them to
include. 'Dangerous Desire', one of
my romantic suspense that's set up
at Airlie Beach, and 'Holiday Affair'
are both available. They got a New
Zealand narrator for one and an
Aussie for another and I absolutely
love them. So fingers crossed for
'Kakadu Sunset' and the other two
books in the series.
'Dangerous Desire' and 'Seductive
Secrets' are an example of the
hybrid theme. 'Dangerous Desire' is
published by Entangled Publishing
in the U.S., and the prequel
'Seductive Secrets' was contracted
but they decided they didn't want it.
They gave me the rights so I selfpublished.
So I've got a two book
series, one with a publisher and
one self-published. [2018 update: I
now have the rights back and it’s
published as Deadly Secrets.]
It's interested to see the difference.
I've moved away from U.S.
publishers because I hate what they
do to my Australianisms. Not only
the spelling, but expressions. With
my first book, 'Holiday Affair',
there’s a scene where my heroine
loses her temper with the hero and
throws her keys at him. She says,
“You're nothing but a
sanctimonious bastard.” The U.S.
editor said, “You can’t have that in a
book. Bastard is such a dreadful
word.” I'm thinking, ‘Well, in
Australia, it's a swear word but it's
not that bad.’ Do you know what
they changed it to? She called him
For all of my readers of Holiday
Affair who don't like that Annie
Seaton calls someone an arsehole
– that's not me. When you sign with
a U.S. publisher you have to defer
to the editor's advice. There was a
similar thing in Outback Affair,
when they made me include trailer
parks. I’ve had Australian reviewers
saying, “Who is this woman who
thinks we have trailer parks in
Australia?” It hurts because you
have no power. You sign your
rights away in a U.S. contract.
I might be a bit cynical. I don't want
to put people off U.S. publishers –
it was a wonderful start for me,
and I wouldn't be here today if it
hadn't have been for those books.
But it's hard. I'm now with an
Australian publisher and selfpublished.
BOOKS BY HELENE...
On her remote
cattle station, Ivy
facing the end of
all she holds
novel of high
Fletcher drags a
from a stricken
yacht, she finds
Helene is a writer, a pilot, a sailor, a photographer, and a recently
retired airline captain, cruising the coast of Australia with her
husband, Graham, aboard their catamaran, Roo Bin Esque. (She’s a
Lagoon 400 and she’s a sexy, voluptuous boat so we thought an
Australian version of Rubensque suited her style and her curves )
She has published six award winning novels and her seventh,
RETURN TO ROSEGLEN, released in July, 2018.
After a 27 year career in aviation, finishing as an airline captain and
senior manager in the Qantas Group, she has taken some time out to
go in search of adventure, explore new places and, most importantly,
meet new people. Helene loves being able to weave those
experiences through my stories and she hopes she can transport her
readers to some of the magical places she has been privileged to
visit, either whilst flying or sailing.
Islands are an amazing way of
trapping your characters together and
turning up the heat on them - I do
quite like that idea.
Treat landscapes as though they
were another character.
Excerpt from Helene's current manuscript - One Lie at a Time
Prologue - August 1983
The flowers in the buckets outside the gift shop are jaunty, full of spring despite winter’s chill. Maybe I should
buy a bouquet? Would he like that gesture? Maybe not. I glance around and can’t help but smile, despite the
tension that holds my muscles taut like a typewriter ribbon.
Train stations are so enlivening. People beginning a journey, ending one or pausing midway as they change from
a taxi to a train. Gare Du Marseille is a busy station at the best of time, but as offices empty and workers return
to their families, or their lovers, or their favourite bar, the concourse becomes crowded. Men in suits, women in
high heels and matching bags. Others in the uniform of cleaners, shop assistants, or the black and white of a
restaurant worker. The students amble in clusters, girls linked by their arms, long hair falling down over padded
shoulders, cigarettes dangling from languid fingers. I used to be like that. Without a care in the world except
which class I should skip and who was really my best friend.
Everywhere there is purpose, a reason to be there. The shafts of sunlight through the glass ceiling casts a cross
hatched pattern on the floor like the sights of a hundred sniper rifles.
A group of young men alight from a train on the platform one over. Suntanned faces, backpacks that tower above
their heads, cargo pants with bulging pockets. They’re laughing, and I see no malice, just joy that the world is an
adventure waiting to greet them. They have flags stitched to those packs. Australian. I recognise it because I have
a friend who’s from Brisbane, a town somewhere on the east coast of Australia. I’ve never been there, but I’d love
to see Margareta again. She studied with me six years ago in Nice. We were boarders together, best friends. I love
seeing the blue aerograms she sends waiting on the mat for me when I come home. Maybe I should book a ticket,
make the long journey.
But then, what of my lover? Would he wait? I’m young, but not naïve. His bed would be warm before I landed in
Australia. But what would it matter provided it was empty when I came back? He wasn’t alone when we first met.
I’m not the first student to fall in love with my professor. I don’t think a man like him can ever be shackled to
just one woman. Maybe that’s enough.
I make my way to join the queue at the ticket counter and the young Australians are heading towards me. One
moves aside for an elderly couple and glances my way. I’m struck by the blue of his eyes against his warm skin.
His hair is long, blonde streaks through caramel, and it curls around his ears and sideburns. When he smiles it
feels as though the station shifts and I stumble, bumping the man next to me who blows a stream of smoke in my
I can’t look away and this traveler from the other side of the world seems frozen to the spot, his broad shoulders
holding their load easily. I’m accustomed to the attention of men. The silky blonde hair and pale skin I inherited
from my Swedish mother show off my grey eyes to advantage. I’m slim with high breasts and long legs. My
mother’s lessons in style were not wasted on me either. But my cheeks heat and I smile at this man, caught in
déjà vu, before the moment is blown apart. Literally.
The flash of light hits first, then wave of sound pulverises my ear drums. The first particles of debris lift in the
air, followed by larger pieces that whirl like crazy birds in a storm, flying higher and faster until gravity
snatches them back to earth where they cut through timber and flesh like scissors through tissue paper.
I’ve been knocked flat, the man beside me has cushioned my fall. I try to breathe, watching the maelstrom above
me. For an instant there is only silence, or maybe my ears can’t hear, then the screaming begins, the wailing,
high pitched and feral. The choking dust bites, the smell acrid.
I roll off the man and my stomach heaves. Blood is pouring for a wound in his head, broken glasses hang from
one ear. I look around. How could it be so normal one instant and so unrecognizable the next? People are running
likes startled crabs on a summer beach. People with blood pouring down their faces, staining their clothes.
‘Are you alright?’ The face above me blots out the broken roof and the accent is unmistakable, if faint.
‘I don’t know.’ I try to sit and he crouches beside me, like a giant bear with worried eyes and capable hands.
‘Here.’ He’s forcing a hanky at me. Its pristine white and sharp creases are surreal. ‘We need to get out.’
We do. I nod, but my legs won’t support me and I’m left on my knees.
‘Put your arm around my neck.’ He’s bending low and I smell fear, sweat, blood from the tiny trickle I can see on
his bare arm. He grabs my arm, drapes it over him and I’m caught by the back pack.
Then he’s on his feet, managing an ungainly jog. His friends are ahead of us, helping people, herding them
towards the entrance. The alarms are piercing and add to the pounding in my head.
Will there be another explosion? More violence? Cradled by a stranger I’m confronted by the carnage in the
station. A woman, with a child who’s screaming, has only a ragged and bloody stump left to comfort her. I retch
and turn my face away trying to swallow the fear, the disgust. It won’t matter how many die, the injured will
bear their wounds until they turn to dust. France will bear more scars.
We reach the doors and plunge into the light. Across the road I see a familiar face, wreathed in smoke as he takes
another drag on his Gauloises. His smile sickens me as I see the truth for the first time.
My rescuer turns left. Did my lover see me? Does he know?
Ambulances are arriving along with gendarmes. I struggle to get down. What will this mean to me?
‘Hey, I’ve got you,’ the man says. ‘You’re safe now.’
I wish it were true, but I’ll never be safe.
BOOKS BY RACHAEL...
LOST WITHOUT YOU
one dress, and
the secret that
binds them all…
A fresh and
poignant novel of
past decisions …
THE ART OF
grow up to be big
been best friends
… or so they
How can four
sisters build the
futures they so
want, when the
past is reaching
out to claim
Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum
24/7, a chronic arachnophobic, a Diet Coke addict, a
podcast junkie and a writer the rest of the time. She rarely
sleeps and never irons. A lover of romance and women’s
fiction, Rachael loves nothing more than sitting in bed with
her laptop and electric blanket and imagining her own
In 2016 The Patterson Girls was named General Fiction
Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards.
Rachael has finaled in a number of other of competitions,
including the Australian Romance Readers Awards.
Rachael lives in the Perth hills with her hyperactive
husband, three mostly gorgeous heroes-in-training, two
ginger cats, a cantankerous bird and a very badly behaved
It’s important to connect with your
readers, and when you’re local it’s
easy to connect with Australian
readers. Sometimes we
underestimate the value of meeting
Excerpt from Rachael's current manuscript - Hard to be a Woman!
Friday, 3rd May 2019
‘I think Chloe and I are getting back together.’
What? I almost gagged on the sip of prosecco I’d just taken and the rest of the flute’s contents splashed over my
fingers and onto the 1000-or-something-thread cotton sheets as I stared at my partner. He may as well just have
announced he’d decided to run for the American presidency. We were both as naked as the day we were born
and I’d barely recovered from the mind-blowing orgasm he’d just given me. It was actually the third since he’d
swept me into the room forty-five minutes earlier. Christos had, what some would call, an over-active libido and
I had no complaints.
Or at least I didn’t, until that moment.
Oh. My. God! As I yanked the sheets over my bare chest, I searched his flushed face for some kind of sign that
this was some kind of sick joke – his skin was shiny and we both smelt of sex. Damn good sex. If you’d asked me
the kinds of things I expected to come out of my lover’s mouth mere moments after we’d done the deed, that was
the absolute last thing I would have told you. I was comfortable, confident, in our relationship. But Christos
didn’t look like he was joking. His head was drooped and although his eyes – the colour of burnt caramel –
refused to meet mine, the serious expression on his face turned my insides to ice.
But hang on, he’d only said, ‘think’, ‘I think Chloe and I are getting back together.’
‘What the hell do you mean you think you’re getting back together? Are you? Or are you not?’
He slowly raised his head and when his gaze met mine, I noticed his eyes were watery. No. Dread poured into my
stomach and slithered up my chest like a snake working its way up my oesophagus.
‘I’m so sorry, Ged. I’m crazy about you, but first and foremost I’m a dad and the best thing for the kids is if
Chloe and I make a go of things again.’
Make a go of things? Again? He made it sound so casual, so easy, but I couldn’t believe my ears. I glanced up into
the corners of the room to check for cameras recording this unbelievable conversation. Surely I was on some
kind of reality TV show where people are pranked for the sheer entertainment of the audience.
But there were no cameras. Only a man who thirty seconds ago I thought I knew better than anyone else in the
world. A man who, despite his complicated living situation, I believed only had eyes for me.
‘Oh, fuck. You’re serious?’
He nodded glumly and once again uttered that awful word. ‘Sorry.’
‘Sorry?’ I shrieked, sounding more like a banshee than I’d ever wanted to but unable to control my voice. I
couldn’t believe he’d done this. This was Christo’s week with his kids, so as we often do during those weeks we
can’t see each other at night, we’d arranged a mid-afternoon rendezvous at a fancy city hotel, just around the
corner from our office. He’d known what he was planning to say when we’d arranged to meet and yet he’d still
followed through on our fortnightly Friday “appointment”.
I felt sick, dirty, like some kind of harlot.
‘Why couldn’t you have told me in a text message like a normal bloody person? Or at least in a café where I
could have thrown a hot drink over you?’
We both eyed the half-flute of prosecco still in my hand but no matter how mortifying the situation, no way was
I wasting good alcohol on him. In lieu of tossing it all over Christos, I poured it down my throat instead and then
threw back the sheet and leapt from the bed.
Rage burned within me as I scrambled to find my clothes. I snatched up my tangled-together black lace knickers
and skinny jeans off the floor – it was casual Friday at work – and yanked them apart. I couldn’t put them on fast
enough. My top had landed on the plush velvet armchair and my knee-high boots were near the door but where
the hell were my socks and bra?
‘Ged. Baby. Please. Don’t be like this.’
Holding my dusty pink blouse against my bare breasts – he didn’t deserve one more eyeful of my naked skin – I
glared at him. ‘How the fuck do you expect me to be like?’
Oh Lord, my eyeballs prickled painfully but I didn’t want to cry in front of Christos. To hell with the bra. It had
been a gift from him anyway.
Turning away, I tugged the blouse over my head, snatched up my handbag and jacket and made a dash for the
door where I yanked on my boots and fled. My heart raced and the tears came fast and furious as I ran down the
corridor. A cleaning man glanced up, presumably to smile, but took one look at me and retreated quickly back
into the room he was attending to.
At the elevator area, I stabbed my finger so hard at the down button that it hurt. I winced but the pain had
nothing on the ache in my heart. How could Christos do this? Was he insane? He didn’t love Chloe – not in the
way he loved me – I was sure of it.
I glanced over my shoulder, half-expecting to see him running after me, ready to tell me he didn’t mean it. That
he’d made a mistake. But all I saw was the cleaning man venturing back out into the corridor.
Maybe I should go back and talk to him? Make him see sense.
This mortifying thought was fleeting as I heard my grandmother’s voice loud and clear in my head. Gralice was
never backward with sharing her opinions. You do not need a man to give you value. Certainly not one who could
treat you with such disrespect.
No matter how much I loved Christos, I wasn’t about to beg.
The lift pinged and thankfully the doors opened to reveal it was empty. I rushed inside and as they closed, I
scrutinized my reflection in the mirrored walls. What a mess. Mascara streaked down my bright red cheeks like
some ghastly painting, my hair had taken the term “bird’s nest” to a whole other level and my nipples,
annoyingly still aroused, were clearly visible through my crumpled blouse. There was no chance I was slinking
back to the office looking like this.
Thank God it was Friday and I had a whole weekend ahead to drown my sorrows in wine, salted caramel icecream
and Coco’s soft fur. I emerged into the fancy hotel lobby, feeling as if everyone’s eyes were on me and, as I
rushed out onto Little Collins Street, dug my mobile phone out of my handbag. I couldn’t call my boss because I
wasn’t sure I could talk without crying and overwrought female wasn’t the persona I wanted to give off in the
office. No matter how hard Gralice and other feminists who had gone before me had tried to make the workplace
a fair and equal place for both women and men, the latter were still the king pins in the media world and it
wouldn’t do my professional image kindly to be seen wailing over one of them.
I started tapping out a message instead: Sorry. Something’s come up. Family emergency. I need to take the rest of
the day off. Will explain la
My typing was interrupted by the buzzing of my phone. I grimaced at the word “Mum” flashing up at me. I
didn’t feel like talking to anyone right now, least of all my mother who would immediately pick something off in
my voice and start an interrogation. I pressed the little icon that would send her a message telling her I was in a
meeting and then finished typing the message to my boss.
I’d barely pressed send when a message from my mother popped up – since when had she got so speedy at phone
typing? Only two years ago she didn’t even have a mobile and now not only did she have a phone but also an
Instagram account, Facebook, Snapchat and a YouTube channel, but that’s a whole other story. And possibly my
fault since I was the one who’d dragged her into the modern age, got her on Facebook so she could see all the
photos my sister-in-law posted of her grandbabies.
Don’t forget, you’re picking Gralice up for her birthday dinner tonight. And wear something nice – I’m filming the
whole thing. At the end a little emoji of a movie camera.
My heart slammed to a halt. Could this day get any worse?
I adored Gralice and wanted to celebrate her eightieth birthday, just not tonight. Not when all my family would
be there and I’d have to either pretend everything was okay or admit it wasn’t and subject myself to their
sympathy. An image of me sobbing on the sofa between Granddad Philip and Granddad Craig landed in my head.
That probably wasn’t something Mum wanted on her You Tube channel.
And wear something nice? The audacity! I’d worked in fashion mags for goodness sakes.
Hurt, confused, angry, I was staring at the screen as I headed towards my tram stop, working out how to respond
to my mother when, all of a sudden, I felt myself flying forward. As my hands shot out to break my fall, my
phone catapulted out of my grip. Two seconds later I heard the crunch of whatever iPhones are made of against
the bitumen as a car drove over it.
No. My whole life was in that device – my emails, my appointments, my banking, all my photos of Christos. And
hang on, was that blood I could taste on my lip? Dirt in my mouth? Pain throbbing in my ankle.
Yes, was the answer to all three. Apparently, this day could get worse.
‘Are you okay?’ sounded an elderly male voice.
I raised my head just enough to see not only was there indeed an elderly gentleman peering down me, but a
small crowd had gathered around him.
‘Shall I call an ambulance?’ someone asked.
‘I’ve got a first aid kit in my bag,’ announced another.
‘No. No. I’m fine.’ I felt as if I’d been hit by a freight train as I tried to heave myself to my feet. A couple of
people reached out to help and within seconds I was upright again, but it immediately became clear that standing
on two feet was going to be a problem. My ankle hurt so bad I had to lift it off the ground and hover one leg.
‘I think this is yours.’ A twenty-something with a grotty cap on backwards and a skateboard under one arm held
out the remnants of my phone. The sight brought tears to my eyes all over again.
‘Thank you.’ I took the pieces and shoved them into my bag; a trip to the Apple store was imminently required.
‘Looks like you’ve done a right number on your foot,’ said the old man. ‘Can we call someone to help you?’
Immediately my mind went to Christos. ‘No, thank you. I was just heading to the tram. I’ll be fine once I get
‘Let me call you a cab.’ The concerned gentleman was already leaning into the road, his hand outstretched.
Almost immediately a grubby once-white taxi slowed to a stop by the curb – at least one thing was working in my
favour. The gentleman held the door open for me and I couldn’t get in fast enough. As I snapped my seatbelt into
place, he said something to the driver and then offered me a final kindly smile before shutting the door behind
him. My rescue crew on the pavement waved me off like I was on a royal tour and I forced myself to wave back
when all I wanted to do was bury my head in my hands and bawl.
‘Where you headed?’ The driver had a strong British accent, Geordie I thought, although it had been over ten
years since my gap year backpacking around the UK.
I told him my address in Carlton, was thankful when he didn’t complain about the short trip and even more so
when he didn’t try and engage me in conversation. Was there anything worse than beauticians and taxi drivers
who wanted to know your whole damn life story?
As he parked on the street outside my colourful apartment block, I glanced at the price on the little screen and
dug my purse out of my bag.
‘It’s all paid for. Your granddad gave me a fifty when you got in. Said I could keep the change.’
Ah, so that accounted for why he hadn’t grumbled about the distance. After Christos’s behaviour I’d been
beginning to lose hope in humankind but the stranger’s actions helped a little to remind me the world wasn’t all
bad. I would get over this – it would likely just take a little time and a mountain of alcohol.
I thanked the driver and then limped into the building, grateful not only that my apartment was on the ground
floor but also that I didn’t run into any of my neighbours in the lobby. If I hadn’t already looked a sight for sore
eyes with my tear-stained make-up and terrible hair, the grazes I could feel burning on my face had sealed the
Pity it wasn’t Halloween – I wouldn’t even have to hire a costume!
My adorable, five-year-old, groodle greeted me as I pushed open the door. I sunk to the floor and buried my face
in her soft fur. ‘Oh, Coco. You won’t believe my day.’
She let me unload, listening intently as I poured out my heartache. If she understood, she’d be as distraught as I
was – she adored Christos. Let’s face it, everyone did. All my friends – especially the coupled ones – were hugely
jealous of our relationship.
Dating a divorced father of three had never been a walk in the park, especially because he and his ex were
involved in the new custody trend of nest parenting where their three kids stayed in their marital home and
Christos and Chloe took turns living there, one week on, one week off. They’d bought a two-bedroom apartment
to use on their weeks ‘off’ – they had a bedroom each and strict rules about keeping the communal areas clean –
but recently it had become more Chloe’s place as Christos had all but moved in with me and Coco on his non-kid
In theory having a week-on-week-off partner was pretty much the perfect thing. I had plenty of evenings where I
didn’t have to share Netflix with anyone and I always knew that sex and companionship were just around the
corner. But oh how I missed him on those long weeks between. A fresh wave of pain washed over me as I realised
not only would there be no more Friday lunchtime rendezvous’ but that I wouldn’t be coming home to Christos
ever again. I looked around my apartment and it suddenly felt cold and empty.
Coco whined and for a moment I thought she too was voicing her distress over our break-up, but then she pulled
back, went over to the door and put her paw against it, indicating her desire to head outside. I hauled myself to
my feet, then, grabbing a tissue and my keys, clicked her lead onto her collar and took her out into the
communal garden area at the back of the building.
Each step felt like torture. I wondered if I’d actually broken my ankle. Perhaps I should get an x-ray. But the
thought of going to the hospital or even to a doctor… it was too much. When Coco had done her business, we
went back inside and I hobbled to the freezer. Wasn’t ice supposed to fix everything?
I popped a couple of Panadol and then, with my foot dressed in the finest of frozen veggies and elevated on the
sofa and Coco on the floor beside me, I opened my laptop and logged into Messenger.
Happy Birthday, Gralice. Hope you’re having a great day. Really sorry but I can’t drive you tonight. I tripped this
afternoon and sprained my ankle. It’s pretty bad. Also broke my phone – so if you need to contact me for the next
couple of days it’ll have to be via email or here. And, I hope you don’t mind but I’m not feeling so great and think
I’ll have to give tonight a miss. Can I come round next week and give you your present? xo
I felt bad bailing on Gralice’s big birthday bash, but she’d have the rest of our family to celebrate and this felt
more like Mum’s party than hers anyway.
I decided not to break the news to my mother for a few more hours in order to prolong the lecture that would
inevitably come – at least she couldn’t call me – and, in an aim to try and distract myself from the train wreck
that was my heart, turned my attentions on the next issue. Buying a new phone. It soon became apparent that
anything I ordered wouldn’t arrive until next week at the earliest.
How was I supposed to live that long without a phone?
I wondered… would Uber Eats deliver a non-food item?
D O Y O U H A V E A S T O R Y
T O T E L L ?
Listen to these interviews and many more at the Writer
on the Road podcast, available on iTunes or at