Take four women—once school friends, now strangers—and force them to return to the small country town they couldn’t wait to escape twenty years earlier. Throw in unrequited love and the three ‘Rs’ (redemption, reconciliation and renewal) and you have four characters in conflict with coming home to the country, each woman as different as the seasons and each staying a season each at the century-old Dandelion House:
- Sara, a breast cancer survivor afraid to fall in love;
- Poppy, a tough, ambitions journo still craving her father’s approval;
- Amber, a spoilt socialite addicted to painkillers and cosmetic procedures;
- Caitlin, a third generation doctor frustrated by a controlling family and her flat-lining life.
House for all Seasons is a story of unravelling friendships, of country roots that run deep, and of ties that will forever bind the four women to each other and to the house.
2. How long did this book take you to write and edit to the point of submitting it?
I wrote this manuscript during NanoWriMo 2009 – 50,000 words. I finished, polished and subbed 100,000 words 12 months later, picking up an agent in the process. The next 12 months after that is a long story filled with personal complications and angst (just ask my writing group!) The short version is that I lost myself in Book Two (because that’s what everyone says to do) and then with my agent back and firing on all four cylinders, ‘we’ edited House before subbing to multiple Australian publishing houses late 2011. For the long-winded version (useful if you are having trouble getting to sleep) see this blog post: Turning Points on My Path to Publication.
3. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication? Was there anything you’d do differently, knowing what you know now?
That’s an interesting question. Would I do anything different? YES. I’d be brave and ask more questions to avoid unnecessary detours (like determining my genre and what the hell is ‘voice’!). If only I’d realised earlier, that to an RWA member, no question is a dumb question.
That said, if ‘different’ meant not being where I am right now (with Simon & Schuster) then… NO. S&S were definitely worth my long, angsty, it’ll-never-happen wait. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was meant to be. I love that S&S—the Australian division—is like a small (almost a boutique) publisher, but packing global punch as part of America’s CBS Corp! It’s like being a member of a fun family!
Did I get input into the design? No! Did I want input? Absolutely not! Is that weird?
Besides being a bad decision maker, I was happy to see someone else’s interpretation of the story. I knew what I didn’t want and I figured I could say ‘yuk’ if I didn’t like the concept. In our pre-contract conversation when my publisher, Larissa Edwards, had said how much she loved the story, she’d also said she could ‘already see the cover’. So I trusted her, and the end result was perfect. (Anyone who attended my March 1 launch celebration would have seen the amazing connection my cover had with Carli & Julie’s video clip I’d discovered way before any mention of cover design. It’s as if my cover girl is on the same country road watching Carli & Julie. Spooky!
(PS My cover copy, blurb and tag lines did stay – unchanged. Very happy about that.)
5. Do you write detailed character profiles before starting a new book, or do you find the characters come to life as you write?
For the four characters I started with the four Rs: redemption, renewal, reconciliation, recovery (changing to unrequited love part way through). Then I named the four parts after four seasons and named the four characters in the same manner to keep the seasons theme. Kitchy maybe? Too contrived? Risky? *shrug* I’d decided… this was it. Do or die. I was writing the story I wanted to write my way or not at all.
6. What advice would you give to aspiring authors out there?
Don’t take risks?! (Unless desperate and nearing your deadline – as above!) That’s the short answer. The long answer… For the next 12 months I’m doing a monthly blog post series with Aus Lit on my journey to publication. I would suggest people tune into that. Here’s January’s post. From the comments so far, I think I may be on the mark and I’m looking forward to connecting with new followers.
7. How important do you think it is for authors to be actively engaged in self promotion?
Another big question with too many variables for a short answer. An article I wrote about this for Queensland Writers Centre (March 2013 issue – if you can get your hands on it) did go into detail:
(excerpt) As authors, we should want to connect with readers, because readers these days want to connect with us. Losing ourselves in the romance of writing is no longer enough. Being an author requires heart and head. New York Times Bestselling author, Eloise James says: “To be a successful writer, you must be half businessperson and half writer. And businessperson must come first.”
In the article I then discuss: Get blogging. Get branded. Get noticed. Get social. Get real (a.k.a be authentic). These things definitely helped seal my publishing deal. I have since reviewed and limited my social media activity to Blogging, Facebook and Twitter (& Goodreads – of course). I think less is more. Less also means quality connections and more writing time! (Besides, Google+ does my head in! Too clever for me.)
8. Complete this sentence: When I’m not writing, I’m…
… mopping floors and making beds in my dog-friendly B&B, and even then I’m still writing—in my head. Everything has the potential to be a story, or be in a story. Then theres Facebook and Twitter, etc. I can spend too much time on social media (but that is still writing… isn’t it?)
9. What’s next for you and what are you working on now?
I had written two books before submitting to Simon & Schuster. The Simmering Season will be released March 2014. I am currently working on Book Three of my Seasons Collection.
Thanks for taking part in the author spotlight Jenn!