Author Success Stories - Issue 1


Tips and advice from bestselling authors as they share the successes and challenges of the writing journey. Whether you love reading great fiction or aspire to pen your own novel, each author has something to share. Author Success Stories celebrates the creative in all of us and inspires us to be the best we can be. And remember, it's the journey that matters. Enjoy interviews, advice and new writing by some of our bestselling authors.






In this issue:

How to write your next


04 16

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

21 43

And much more...




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 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





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.




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.



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

you started.




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.




ALLI SINCLAIR's passion for research and flair

for dance has inspired her to write best-selling

novels and support her fellow writers.


January 2019






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.



Finding the time and space to write is often a

challenge for HELENE YOUNG, but luckily for us

she manages it every time.




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








OUT IN 2019


January 2019


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 . . .



Come home to

the country, to


Creek, and to the





cattle station

hiding three

decades of

secrets and lies.



When offering to

drive her brother

to Byron Bay,

Sidney neglects

to mention her

planned detour





When it seems

everything Paige

trusts betrayS

her, she sets off

on a road trip

with six-year-old

Matilda, and

Nana Alice in




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

fiction. @jennjmcleod_nomadicnovelist



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)







boundaries and


turmoil, this is the

story of the special


between a

grandmother and







A sweeping story

of love and

ambition moving

from England to

Manhattan, and

the 1920s to the



romantic and

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

lipstick colours.

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

comment on.

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

were amazing.

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

Parisian design.

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

anyone read.

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

behind that.

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

of work.

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

drawing board.

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

writing life.

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

my books.

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

the page.

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

locked in.

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.




After a night of

violence on the

goldfields, Nell's

fate hangs in the

seems that, after

all, she might

need to do the

one thing she

has avoided at

all costs …






An Australian

historical, a 19th

century fast

paced adventure

tale of greed,


and overwhelming


Unsure of her

place in the

world, a young

woman looks for

security and


but she finds

that the two

things are almost

are incompatible

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).



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




One family.

Three women.

Will the lies they

tell and the

secrets they

hide lead to

more heartache

or will fate bring

them together

before its too




For Charlie

Anderson the

only thing

harder than

letting go is

moving on.

A captivating

story of family,

love and

following your

heart. Miranda

takes off on a

road trip in

search of

answers to a

family mystery...



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.




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

his laptop.


'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.



When a longhidden


secret is


everything Rosie

believes is

shattered. Will

she risk all to

rebuild her

family or will she

lose the only

man she’s ever






A sweeping

saga about

love, truth,

grief and


what it takes

to fulfil one’s


Weighed down

by secrets,

betrayals and



Charlotte finds


questioning the

true meaning of

heritage, family

and love.



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:




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




Olivia is drawn

into a dangerous

game where


businessmen will

stop at nothing to

ensure their plan

goes ahead,

even if that


eliminating her…



Helicopter pilot

Ellie Porter loves

her job. Soaring

above Kakadu

National Park,

she feels free

from the losses

of her beloved

family farm.

The Daintree


survivors, those

who can

weather the

storms, heat

and floods.

Doctor Emma

Porter is one

such survivor.



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:

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

seventeen contemporary

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

suspense authors.”

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

'Whitsunday Dawn'.

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

'Whitsunday Dawn'.

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

spend writing?

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 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

an arsehole.

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.




On her remote



cattle station, Ivy

Dunmore is

facing the end of

her days.

Increasingly frail,

all she holds

dear is




A gripping

novel of high

drama and

desire by



master of



When Darcy

Fletcher drags a

handsome sailor

from a stricken

yacht, she finds

herself drawn


his mysterious




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.



Four women,

one dress, and

the secret that

binds them all…

A fresh and

poignant novel of

family, journeys,

past decisions …

and dresses.





Little secrets

grow up to be big

lies. They’ve

been best friends

forever. They

share everything

… 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

readers personally.

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?










Jenn J









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

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