Hi Rachael, welcome to Mic Loves Books. I’m a huge fan of your work and very excited to welcome you to my new blog.
I have followed your journey from the beginning, and read almost all of your books, can you tell us how you got your career start?
Ooh this is a LONG story – but I’ll try to tell it succinctly (haha). I first started writing at 17 when I broke up with my high school sweetheart. I rewrote our story but gave it an even MORE tragic ending – I gave him a horrific disease and killed it off. It was SUCH good therapy and I caught the writing bug. I decided then and there to switch from a primary school teaching degree to a writing degree. WORST MISTAKE EVER. They wanted me to write the Booker Prize (or poetry – they’d have been happy with poetry) whereas I wanted to write something like Bridget Jones Diary. I tried to write something in between and got absolutely no where. Fast forward a few years post university and I randomly decided to try my hand at romance, stupidly thinking that might be easier. The joke was on me – it was just as hard – but on this journey I discovered Romance Writers of Australia and began to learn more about the writing industry and writing craft than I’d ever learnt at university. I pursued Mills & Boon for a few years and got close to publication, but not quite. I was all ready to give up but my friend Fiona Palmer told me to try write a rural romance (as I was living in a small rural community). I decided it would be my last ditch attempt and that book was JILTED (my first print book). While that book was on submission, I actually sold another book (one of my M&B rejects) to a digital publisher, so after 15 years of trying to get published, I got my first two contracts within a few months! THAT is the short story! Oh and I sold JILTED by pitching it to publishers at the Romance Writers of Australia conference.
The latest release is Something To Talk About, can you tell us a little about the book?
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT is my first rural romance in three years and I’m so excited about that. I really love writing small towns! It’s a sweet and fun story, but there’s also a bit of heat between my two main characters who do NOT hit it off when they first meet. It’s set in the fictional towns of WALSH and ROSE HILL where my last rural romance, TALK OF THE TOWN, is also set. This one is the story of Tabitha, a dairy farmer and real go-getter who is also an amputee. The hero is a newcomer to town – a teacher only there on a short term contract and determined NOT to make relationships while there.
This is a linked title to Talk of the Town which released in 2017, how did you get back into the heads of the characters after so long?
Well, I’d like to say I read TALK OF THE TOWN and made lots of notes but that’s merely what I PLANNED to do. I started reading, but like always happens when I’m writing a book, I just want to get stuck in so I gave up and started writing before I’d read even a quarter of the book. I did have the document open frequently to search for things – like secondary characters and town population – while I was writing.
Tabitha was a fan favourite in Talk of the Town and now she has her own story, what inspired you to create her?
Tabitha is almost entirely inspired by a woman who used to be my boss when I worked at the Kojonup (WA) Library. She is an amputee with one full arm and a ‘little arm’ as she calls it and she has always amazed and inspired me. Lorreen can do almost everything anyone with two functional arms can do, including knitting, and she has such a positive outlook on life and cheery personality.
She has some pretty unique challenges, what research did you need to do to ensure she was authentic?
Well, I asked my friend Lorreen LOTS of questions and I also went and read articles and online forums of the experience of other amputees. I’m lucky enough that Lorreen also agreed to do a sensitivity read when I was finished writing SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT and gave me the heads-up that she thought the book was written with both accuracy and empathy.
Can you tell us a little about Tabitha’s livelihood and how you chose that for her?
Tabitha helps her brother run the family dairy farm, but more recently she has started a quite successful ice-cream business – she now sells and makes the ice-cream on-site at a cafe/tea rooms she runs with her sister-in-law, Meg. When I was writing TALK OF THE TOWN a few years ago, I went to Millers Ice-creamery in WA when on holiday and the idea that Tabitha could make her own ice-cream started then. My mum is also a ice-cream addict, so thought it would be a fun aspect that she would enjoy!
Fergus McWilliams is a newcomer to Walsh, what inspired his character, and set of challenges?
My friend said that I should write a rural romance about a teacher who comes to town and marries a farmer, because that SO often happens in small towns. While I couldn’t think of any rural romances that this happens in (which is surprising), I decided that a twist would be to have the heroine be the farmer and the hero bet be the teacher. I’m not much of a plotter so his challenge came as I wrote the book when I needed to work out WHY Fergus was transferring to the country for a while and what he wanted to escape by doing so.
Why do you think that male teachers are so rare in Walsh?
I think sadly male (especially primary school) teachers are rare throughout Australia in both city and rural towns. I have worked and had kids in two small rural towns and both schools only had one male teacher and not for the whole duration that we were there. Also the male teachers happened to be the principals at both. Saying that, my son’s primary schools in Perth always had a very low ratio of male teachers too. Maybe this is because teaching was traditionally looked upon as a female profession and sadly we haven’t completely moved away from that yet? I think male teachers are fantastic and I wish my boys had more of them.
Another entertaining character is Mrs Norris, why do you think she has such an aversion to Fergus?
Haha – simply because that made her more fun to write. A guy and a cat both unhappy being stuck together – both pining after the woman who brought them together. Also my cat hates me and I don’t know why… cats are like that sometimes.
The Walsh show is an important event, especially the one that takes place in the book, can you tell us about the show and why it’s so important to the town?
In both small towns that I’ve lived in the shows are big, important events. They’re an opportunity to showcase local agriculture and other industries and for the community to come together and celebrate what makes their town special. I don’t think Walsh is any different.
Can you tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished the structural edit for FLYING THE NEST, which is out this November and I’m writing THE ART OF MOVING ON (working title), which is loosely linked to THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS. Am also pondering what to write next – have a few tiny seeds of ideas that I’m hoping will start sprouting very soon. One is a rural and one is a story of three-women thrown together under interesting circumstances.
Thanks so much for your time Rachael, I really enjoyed Something To Talk About and I look forward to what comes next. Good luck with the release.
Something To Talk About is published by Harlequin Mira and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold. In these uncertain times it would be great to try and support a local bookstore, many of the ones in my area have put systems in place to fulfil orders even though their physical stores may be closed to the public.