Hello Gracie and welcome to Author’s Limelight! Congratulations on the release of ‘Hearts on Hold’!
What was the first story you ever wrote?
My first story was a piece of fan fiction (not that I knew that at the time!). I was seven years old, horse mad, and a devoted reader of Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty”. But every time I read it, I cried at the fate of Beauty’s friend, Ginger, so I found an old exercise book and rewrote the story with a much happier ending. I’ve been writing happily-ever-after endings ever since!
Of all the individuals you have created, do you have a particular favourite? What appeals to you the most about this character?
My favourite is my current heroine, Cate Boyd, from Hearts on Hold. Cate has had such a tough time, thrust into the limelight against her natural instincts, but she has immense integrity and courage and uses her fame (or notoriety!) to help the people she cares about, despite it exposing her to great danger. She’s stronger than she knows, and it takes a special man (of course!) to prove she can trust in love again. She deserves a second chance at happiness, and I was delighted to see her accept it!
Has being published changed you at all? If so, how?
It’s made me aware of how lucky I am in my friends. My writing was a guilty secret for a long time; I have many author friends who I admire and respect, and the idea of them seeing my own writing was terrifying. But they, and everybody on this journey, have been so kind, supportive and generous. I’m very grateful writing has opened up my relationships in surprising ways. Being published is also character-building! It’s one thing to scribble away, thinking nobody will see what I write, but being published suddenly puts me and all my dreams and fears on display.
What would we find on your bookshelf / e-reader?
Big piles of to-be-read books! I’m forever buying books I simply must read, knowing they’ll sit on my shelves or my iPad for months, sometimes years, before I can get to them! But there are also a few (hard copy) favourites that are literally falling apart because I’ve read them so often – mostly Dorothy Dunnett’s historical fiction. If I find an e-book I love, I tend to buy it in hard copy as well.
What’s the most unappealing thing you’ve ever eaten?
When I was seventeen, a friend and I went to the Sydney Opera House and had lunch. We were feeling very sophisticated. I ordered a salad, and got excited about what I thought were black grapes. They were black olives. I’d never tasted an olive before. I love them now, but at the time, and given the taste I’d been expecting, my first olive left my mouth in a speedy (and, I’m certain, unappealing!) manner.
If you could be any of the following characters for one day, who would you be and why? How would you re-write the ending?
a) Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.
b) Thelma or Louise from Thelma and Louise.
c) Princess Leia from Starwars.
d) Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Definitely Scarlett. I’d love to have her unassailable confidence, her chutzpah, her fashion sense (and the figure to pull it off), and, of course, her handsome final husband. I don’t have to re-write the ending: everybody knows Rhett could never stay angry at Scarlett forever!
Of all the books in history, which do you wish you wrote and why?
Wow, tough question! There are some wonderful books that have a special place in my heart, but I’m glad I didn’t write them – I’d have never written them so well. I wish I’d written Hairy McLary from Donaldson’s Dairy, because for a few years there, I’m pretty sure my son looked forward to seeing Lynley Dodd every night more than he did me!
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
My son asks me this all the time, and I never have a good answer. Sometimes I think invisibility, but I’m now a woman of that certain age who, in deli queues anyway, is already invisible (being short doesn’t help)! Perhaps Calvin’s (from Ruby Sparks) power to write words on a page and produce a living, breathing, perfect (and perfectly malleable) person? (Cue wicked laugh…)
If you could go back in time, where would you go and when? What is one thing you would want to take with you?
Another tough question. Every period has its romanticised as well as its less-salubrious aspects. Sometimes I think I’d like to go back to the Regency era (but only if I was wealthy of course) so I’d have all that lovely time on my hands to read and write and wander in the garden. Not very feminist of me, is it! But I would have to take back my Dorothy Dunnett Lymond Chronicles (there are six books but only one series!). Oh, also my son. Maybe. Is it bad that I thought of him second?
Can you tell us about your works in progress?
Thanks for asking! I’m working on a romance series, Messing with the Masons, based on a dynasty of Brisbane lawyers who have nowhere near as much control over their love lives as they like to exert over their careers. I’m also writing a contemporary account of the love triangle from Homer’s Odyssey: Penelope is always portrayed as Odysseus’ faithful, rightful wife, and poor Calypso wins scant attention from history in spite of caring for him for seven years!
Finally, can you give us a sneaky excerpt from ‘Hearts on Hold’ please?
Their climb took them to the top of the sharp cliff-face that overlooked Ramla Bay, and Cate paused a moment to watch the ant-sized bathers squealing and splashing in the breakers below, closely observed by parents huddled under a panoply of gaily coloured beach umbrellas which covered virtually every inch of course, brown sand.
She ignored the habitual kick of longing with an ease borne of long practice. Children were not for her, not now. She remembered Stephen had been irritated by a toddler who had stumbled, dripping water and sand, over his outstretched legs as they lay on that same beach, years before. She’d teased him about being a grumpy old man; cajoled him with promises of mini-Stephens he could take diving; finally resorted to pinching playfully at the hairs on his legs, trying to coax him into a better mood. He had retaliated with that lightning speed and intensity that characterised him, dragging her under his sand-crusted body and whispering into her mouth between salty, luscious kisses that if she didn’t stop tormenting him, he’d make her pregnant then and there.
She smiled sadly at the memory, and realised it didn’t hold the pain she had expected. Since those early weeks after her return to Xlendi, when devastation had crushed her lungs and torn at her gut every time she rediscovered places she’d been with Stephen, Cate had deliberately avoided going back to their favourite honeymoon spots. Now, as she looked down on Ramla Bay, it felt as if she was saying goodbye.