Monthly Archives: May 2013

Paris in Sprintime … well that was the plan!

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Hi everyone,

Refreshed from a wonderful sojourn in Perth and Freemantle I’m still feeling romantic so today I’m interviewing Elizabeth Martin – a writer of RomCom – romantic comedy for the uninitiated. Knowing how busy Elizabeth is as a writer, wife, mother of three boys and a GP; I decided on a whirlwind tour, all expenses paid, to Paris. After all it is the capital city of romance and I thought it might prove inspirational.

We’ve taken in the sites and sounds; the wine, the coffee, the croissant, hot chocolate, more wine, a crêpe Suzette, some champagne, crusty French bread and some more wine. Now it’s time for a cruise on the River Seine. My French isn’t what it used to be and now we have a very nice young gendarme asking us to follow him. We giggle – no problem – he’s gorgeous!

            He’s brought us to the police station, “For your own safety,” (spoken in a very sexy French accent).

            So … I shall conduct the interview whilst the very nice gendarme, whose name is Claude, plies us with hot strong coffee in the vain hope it will restore a level of sobriety. Hic! Excuse me it must be something I ate. Elizabeth collapses into giggles and just to let you know – the floor is moving.

            I take a deep breath as Elizabeth takes a large gulp of coffee and we begin. I ask Elizabeth what she’s currently working on.

           “I’ve just finished my second novel The Teahouse in the Lime trees which is the sequel to my debut romantic comedy The Coffeeholic and the Café. It’s being edited then I’ll send it out there, with fingers crossed.” Elizabeth scrabbles in her bag and pulls out a note book, “This is the blurb I’m working on, which is almost harder to write than the actual novel.”

             I totally agree!

            “Coffeeholic Claire, blissfully in love, answers an ad for her dream job – as a travelling companion to Italy the home of  food, culture, art, fashion and of course coffee. Things seem perfect when Tom announces he too has a job in the home of coffee. But her plans unravel quickly, Claire finds herself in Dimbulah, Far North Queensland, the home of nothing. Without Tom it’s like she’s lost her taste for everything, even her taste for coffee. That is until Paul arrives on his glittering Ducati. Heir to the Dimbulah farm, Paul’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. He ignites in Claire a passion for the beauty of the area, the food of the tropics and the ‘other’ drink, tea. Will Claire be seduced by this suave charmer and his tea drinking ways? Will Claire remain loyal to her first love? Will she ever get to Italy? And can a Coffeeholic really drink tea?

            In this joyous sequel to the best selling novel the Coffeeholic and the Café we follow Claire on a journey further than she ever imagined.”

I don’t know about you but I’m hooked. Elizabeth goes on to read some of the comments from her readers,

“Twice as many antioxidants as The Coffeeholic and the Café and a third of the caffeine – Dr Toogood.”

It must be good. Two more before we move onto Elizabeth’s recent successes.

“A type of gothic lemon delicious – Matt, Cairns Post food critic.

I laughed, I cried, I had to make myself another cup of tea – Rosie.”

Hook, line and sinkered. Onto recent successes. Elizabeth says, “Last September I was one of the winners of the Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette and Reef Writer’s short story and poetry competition with my poem Silent Slices. More recently my publisher Boolarong Press designed a new cover for The Coffeeholic and the Café and will re-release it under the title All you need is love, and coffee.

Elizabeth goes on to tell me that her best moment so far as a writer was when she attended the Tropics of the Imagination conference shortly after completing her first novel. “I met my publisher whilst drinking coffee in the break. She asked if I was a writer and I gave my first ever pitch to a publisher. She liked my story, gave me her card and we rejoined the lecture. I don’t think anything else sank in for the rest of the conference I was so excited.” Elizabeth pauses and goes on to say, “I remember thinking if this is all that comes of it, it was all worth it. Ever since The Coffeeholic was published I’ve had many great moments speaking about books and writing to other readers and writers. I feel very privileged to be part of the Cairns writing community; to be able to talk with people who take writing seriously. I’ve heard and read some amazing pieces from some very talented writers.”

Claude returns – he thinks we are safe enough to be allowed back onto the streets of Paris – we decline his offer of more police station coffee and head for the nearest coffee shop. The sun is shining, amidst the hustle and bustle of Paris we stumble upon Kooka Boora (yes there are Aussies involved); ordering two very sturdy espressos. Feeling a great deal more sober we move onto worst moments. “I used to keep a diary as a teenager; something every aspiring writer should do. I guess now it’s called blogging. I used to show my diary to my girlfriends (that’s now called Facebook) and I’m not sure that was a good idea. My diary was also read by my mum and even the local police.” Elizabeth explains, “I was minding my friend’s mother’s house and the cats got out and I left the backdoor open for the night so they could get back in and then I went out. A neighbour noticed the open door, hadn’t seen my friend’s mother for a few days, so called the police. The police thinking they had a possible missing woman case read my diary which was beside the bed. They smirked when they told me. After that I stopped writing everything in my diary and hid it.”

 Elizabeth looks a little pensive as she admits the other worst moments as a writer are the ongoing self doubts caused by listening to the harsh critic-within. “A great victory for me was overcoming that inner voice and just getting things down on paper. I’m thicker skinned now but not much.”

                 Elizabeth’s advice to an aspiring writer is fairly simple and straightforward, “Write a diary. Or blog. Keep notes, but don’t worry about where you keep them just write them down so you get in the habit and the thoughts don’t clog up your creative flow. Call yourself a writer if you write or have an urge to write, not just if you are published. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

                 I too am in the habit of writing thoughts down in random places. The joy is unexpectedly finding them – it’s like a gift to yourself.

 Finally, replete of all things French Elizabeth says she writes because like every writer she is compelled. “I feel better if I do.”

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Coffee with clouds and daffodils.

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Me on Roo Bin EsqueHalf Moon Bay LR

Hi all,

I’m letting you all in on a little secret. I know Helene has told everyone she has been sailing – she has – but that was her stunt double. The real Helene has been with me in Grasmere in the Lake District on the west coast of England. Her stunt double did such a brilliant job that even Zeus didn’t work it out. Not too sure about GW though – I think he just played his cards close to his chest.

As a writer of romantic fiction I thought Helene would enjoy a short romantic visit to Grasmere. William Wordsworth’s grave is in the beautiful little church yard of St. Oswald’s; it is springtime and despite a long, cold winter there is, ” a host of golden daffodils” , bending their heads in the chilly breeze. A weak spring sun filters through the new green leaves; it rained early this morning and the earth smells damp, the mosses are vibrant green. As idyllic as this is, it’s too cold to stay out especially for two far north Queenslanders. We take the short walk to The Grasmere Gingerbread shop – this is a must do – the best gingerbread in the world bar none. Laden with our purchases we aim for Greens Cafe for coffee and lemon drizzle cake or sticky toffee pudding or brownies. Anyway something naughty to go with our coffee.

As we get comfortable I ask Helene what she has been working on recently, she takes mouthful of coffee as she gathers her thoughts.

“At the moment I’m putting the final touches to the promotional campaign for Half Moon Bay so that means writing guest blog spots, organising bookmarks, library chats, and book club meetings … and still find time to write the next book.” She pauses, “It’s the business of being a writer.”

Our chocolate brownies arrive – they’re huge – we’ll have to have a walk around the village after this. Helene goes on to mention her book launch, “We had such a great night last year, for Burning Lies, at the North Queensland Aero Club we thought we’d do it all again, so put Friday 24th May in your diary and come along. RSVP’s are essential for catering purposes.”

I had such a great time last years as well so I’ve already RSVP’d I don’t want to miss out.  We move onto more details of  Helene’s recent success.

“My new Australian suspense story Half Moon Bay, will be released on 22nd May by Penguin Australia.” She pulls out the proof copy from her bag and reads the back cover blurb.

“Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon bay call for help she knows it’s finally time to return home. As an international photojournalist, she’s used to driving in to war zones, but she’s shocked when it erupts in the sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.

Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business. In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him. He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie’s sister, Nina was shot and killed. Ellie’s been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn’t remember him…

As  a storm rages and flood waters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community. But who can she trust? Nick Lawson the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who’s never let her down?”

I could go a stiff drink now – however if you want to know a little bit more ahead of the launch visit Helene’s webpage to read the first chapter on the ‘books page’.

http://www.heleneyoung.com

Helene enlarges a little on the plot for me. “In this story, set in a coastal hamlet, I dropped into northern New South Wales somewhere near Yamba and Angourie, you’ll meet a surfing, flying, photographing heroine and a wounded hero to die for.” She sighs, “I think I still have a crush on Nick. I love the idea that someone could cross the invisible line between right and wrong in pursuit of justice. It was fun writing it.”

I ask Helene to tell me about her best moment as a writer so far. She smiles broadly and says,”The best moment for me so far has been winning my second Romantic Book of the Year award in 2012 for Shattered Sky, which is the second book in my Border Watch Trilogy. It’s a story very close to my heart and was wonderful just to be short listed let alone win the award. Then in complete contrast to that my worst moment was so disheartening. Shattered Sky didn’t sell particularly well. There were some compelling reasons for this such as the Red Book Group, including Angus and Robertson and Borders, went into liquidation the week Shattered Sky was released. Brisbane had its worst flooding for decades and Cyclone Yasi pummeled the North Queensland coast at the same time. All of that led to my publisher Hachette declining my third book in the series.” Obviously the hurdle was overcome but Helene goes on to expand on the business side of being a publisher. “The book was already written and my editor loved it, but sales and marketing couldn’t make a business case for it. It was a a hard lesson I needed to learn. Publishing is a business and there’s no room for sentimentality at the sharp end. Thankfully Penguin Australia loved it and was prepared to take me on. Burning Lies released in July 2012 with a reprint released late April 2013.”

We decide to pay up and go. There is still some blue sky outside – this is the Lake District – so we have to take advantage of it.

As we wander through the village Helene says she’s happy to talk about her experience with publishers to other writers, “Because we need to remember that, just like any other job, it’s okay to change employers along the way. After I’d changed publishers I was amazed at how many other writers had been through similar experiences.”

We wend our way back to the churchyard, it’s such a tranquil spot. I ask Helene what advice she would give to an aspiring writer. She had this to say, “Write what you love to read. Remember that rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men. I always cringe when I hear another writer saying, ‘No you must do it this way.’ And my pet hate is, ‘You can’t write until you’ve plotted your story.’ I haven’t plotted any of my four books and have no plan to start.” I’m so relieved to hear Helene say this – I’m a none-plotter. She continues, “It doesn’t work for me but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Listen to your voice and remember the book will only be written when you put your bottom on a seat and your fingers on the keyboard.” Telling it like it is.

Time to begin the journey home but before we go I have one last question for Helene and it’s the most important. “Why do you write?”

“I started out writing because I wanted to tell stories that entertained, that transported, that possibly even made people think differently about a subject. Having opened that tap I don’t believe it is possible to turn it off now and I love the satisfaction of bringing people and places alive for my readers.”

I’ve enjoyed this interview immensely I love the Lake District – it has a special place in my heart and I know Helene has that same connection.

Remember the book launch for Half Moon Bay is Friday 24th May at North Queensland Aero Club. Get the details from Helene’s website http://www.heleneyoung.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scotch on the rocks – no sorry make mine coffee on the rock!

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Hi all,

Surprise, surprise! I managed to find the time to do another quick trip. When I asked Ann Harth if she’d like to join my Virtual Coffee interview group she said she’d like to go back to The Rocks in Sydney – she’d recently enjoyed a relaxing holiday there and was keen to recapture the holiday vibe. I’ll honour her request for Anzac biscuits but I’m taking her to one of those places on the planet where the hugeness and grandeur simply takes your breath away.

It’s approaching sunset and we’ve set up our picnic. I decided to utilise the magic carpet again. It was so much fun pulling up at Ann’s front door, collecting her then whizzing off to the Red Centre. Yes – we’ve parked the carpet about one kilometre west of Uluru – close enough to feel the majesty of this marvellous rock yet far enough away to appreciate the effect of the sunset. The sun will set behind us.

In my picnic basket I have a flask of coffee, home made Anzac biscuits, milk and sugar along with other delectable naughties; goats cheese, smoked salmon, crusty bread, butter, olives … you get the picture I’m sure.

We’ve probably just got time to get through the interview before the sun sets. Then it will go very quiet here for a few moments as we’re rendered speechless by the spectacle of the rock changing hues in the fading light.

Ann’s comfortable now and I ask her what she’s currently working on. “I have a few things going at the moment. The freelance writing, editing and teaching that pays the bills is always in the picture but I am also working on my first adult novel. It follows my career with some consistency as I tended to write picture books when my kids were tiny and then targeted their ages with my writing as they grew. My youngest just left home for uni this week so it’s time for an adult novel. This one is the story of a woman who believes she has lost everything. The book takes her on a journey of self-discovery in which she finds untapped sources of courage, strength and independence. Then it’ll be back to kids, I think. I’m also working on a couple of assessments for children’s books and writing a few for the education market.”

I’d say busy but focussed.

Ann is very happy to tell me about her most recent success, “My most recent success was the release of my middle grade novel, The Art of Magic. This one was inspired by a trip to Hobart and didn’t take long to write. However it took years to edit. It won a couple of awards as a manuscript and although it wasn’t picked up by a publisher at that point, the feedback I received from the editors was invaluable and, I believe, contributed to its acceptance by a US publisher in the middle of last year.” Ann agrees with me that perseverance pays. Editing can be laborious but saying goodbye to some of your favourite paragraphs can transform the manuscript. Sometimes it’s hard to let go but editors see things in a piece of writing we just don’t see ourselves. 

Excuse me while I pour more coffee – the temperature is dropping. Ann says her best moments as a writer haven’t come from acceptances or publication – which is the usual response to this question. I ask her to explain. “My best moments usually come when I first get an idea. I can feel my heart start pumping and I cannot rest until I’ve written down the idea and scribbled the basics of an outline down. This is an immediate thrill, but if I go back to this idea in a few days and it still makes my heart race, I know I’m onto something.”

In contrast Ann says her worst moments are the rejections, she laughs, “My skin did thicken and become calloused after a while. I think the most difficult rejections come when I am completely confident in my work. I am humming when I drop my manuscript into the box and wait for that phone call, completely content to wait for the celebratory glass of champagne until I receive proof that I am brilliant.  When I receive the letter that says thanks but no thanks, the confidence quivers and deflates. Interestingly though, one acceptance can get you through a dozen rejections.”

Ann is very succinct in her advice to aspiring writers, “Read, write and rest.” I ask her to expand. “Read in the genre that interests you but also in others. Read with the eyes of a writer. Try to see what works and what doesn’t and apply these observations to your own work. Write daily whether you are inspired or not. If you sit down to write and nothing comes, free write. If it comes into your mind, get it down on paper. No one ever has to see this but it’s amazing how it greases the wheels and gets you rolling. Once you’ve finished a piece and it’s the best it can be, walk away. Let it rest for as long as possible. When you read it again, you will see it with a more objective eye and find changes and tweaks that will polish that piece until it shines.”

Sound advice.

We have to pause now the sky is purpling above Uluru – the first stars appear. We sit gobsmacked as this magnificent rock transforms, becoming more red by the second. We turn to watch the sunset. I know I said I’d go quiet at this point but I must describe this sunset. The orange glow on the horizon brushes the edges of the darkening grey clouds to a deep coral pink. Oh my! – time for that Scotch on the rocks and yes I’ve brought ice.

Ann says she’s glad I ignored her request to go back to Sydney, and her response to my question, “Why do you write?” is simple. “I have no choice.”

I’ve had a fabulous time tonight – I hope you’ve enjoyed the interview and if you would like to know more about Ann check out her website at http://www.annharth.com

 

 

 



 


 

 

 

 


I’ll have a poem with my herbal tea please.

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Hi everybody,

This post will have to last you a few weeks I’m going on holiday with my guys and we’ll be meeting up in Perth with more family from the UK. Despite being busy with organising the dog, dusting off suitcases and digging out some warmer clothes I still managed to hop over the Bass Straight to Tasmania. I’m actually at the Salamanca Markets in Hobart with June Perkins. It’s a whistle-stop tour as she has to get back to feed the kids – travel by magic carpet is awesome. We’ve decided on takeaway coffee so we can browse the hundreds of stalls and capture the atmosphere. I like being on cobbled streets – a reminder Newcastle upon Tyne; my home town in England.

We have to choose something naughty to eat before we begin so we wander over to the Salamanca Bakehouse and buy an assortment of oven fresh pastries – yummy.

As we ogle some gorgeous handcrafted jewellery I ask June what her latest project is.

“I’m working on a book of stories and poems about life set in tropical Queensland, illustrated with my photographs; with drawings and design by my high school friend Paulien Bats from Holland who has also recently visited the area.  The book is aimed at families, and is for parents and grandparents to read with their children.  It will be out later in the year or early 2014.”

June has supplied one of Paulien’s illustrations as a little teaser.

But this is only one project – June goes on to say, “Also working on the first book in what I hope to be a regular fantasy series.  It will be influenced by life in the north with lots of imagination thrown in and of course I keep my blogs, Pearlz Dreaming and there’s projects coming off that blog and a photo exhibition for later in the year.”

This woman has three kids and a husband. It’s amazing how squeezing little bit of writing into a busy life can still see the project come to fruition. June agrees with me that the writing moments are the secret to sanity. However she’s not finished. Another ongoing project is short films. 

I’d love to be able to bottle the atmosphere, the colour and smells of this market.

I notice June is also highly dextrous. She’s drinking herbal tea, eating baked cheesecake, talking and taking photographs all at the same time – multi-tasking all the way.  June tells me that one of her recent successes was working on a contract with ABC open, “I was employed as lead moderator and a team editor on a special project ‘500 words’, which has given me the chance to read lots of stories as well as contribute several stories on the theme.  Working in a 500 word non-fiction format has been brilliant for learning to be succinct but also creative in a short format, online form. I’ve written lots of stories, and enjoy interpreting the themes and seeing how others approach them.”

June was also heavily involved in the ABC aftermath project – writing, making and editing digital stories and blogs on the recovery process after cyclone Yasi.

And that’s not all. In 2012 June was awarded an Australia Day culture award for her voluntary work with ABC open and for co-producing a local writing anthology Under One Sky and five years of mentoring local writers. When does she sleep?

“And finally,” June smiles, “interviewing Shane Howard, writer of the song, Solid Rock, for Bushtv has been a definite highlight – I’d love to do more studies and interviews with talented songwriters.”

We’ve found a quiet spot to sit awhile as June ponders on her worst moments as a writer. “I think probably protecting our writing groups’ anthologies in Cyclone Yasi and hoping they wouldn’t be damaged. Also my nanowrimo novel which has sat dormant for five years, but finally I think I can write the germ of the idea into a book.”

She never quits does she?

June really is one very talented lady. We’re concentrating on her writing which leads her into poetry, short story, novels and song writing, but she is a prolific photographer, multi-media guru, film maker. She also has a lovely singing voice.

When I ask her what advice she would give to an aspiring writer she had this to say, “Persevere and try many genres, practice writing every day using prompts from online, life and books, write the best that you possibly can, build connections with your readers through your writing and make use of social platforms to attract and create loyal readers, write what you feel passionate about and learn about digital and non-traditional publishing and contracts.”

When I ask the biggy – “Why do you write?” June laughs, “Because I love to share stories to inspire people to make the most of their lives, and appreciate all that is around them. I love putting photographs together with inspirational words, my own and those of others. Writing is like breathing, and I can’t imagine life without written expression, and am grateful for having access to this skill.  My Dad taught me to read and write when I was little before school and my Mum and Dad always told us stories.  I think it’s important to impart a love of stories, reading, writing and telling, at a young age.”

Every writer I have interviewed in my virtual coffee series has said in one way or another that writing is so hugely important, it’s simply a part of who they are – they need to write just as they need to breathe, eat and sleep.

Check out June’s blog Pearlz Dreaming http://pearlz.wordpress.com/
Full of wonderful writing and beautiful photographs.

So as the air chills in Hobart we hop back onto the magic carpet and head for the warmth of home.

Thank you June for your thoughts and inspiration.