Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Lisa and congratulations on the release of ‘Breaking the Drought ’! Can you tell us a little about it, please?
The original idea for Breaking the Drought came about from a newspaper article I read about a tiny rural town. The town’s population was dwindling so a matchmaking ball was organised to attract people to the area. I started to wonder how all those city girls would fare if they actually fell in love with a farmer and decided to move to the town.
In Breaking The Drought my heroine, Jenna, is a reluctant guest at the Barlow Bush Blokes’ Ball. She’s well aware that rural life is not for her. However, when she unexpectedly ends up stuck in the town for longer than she’d planned she finds herself not only falling for hunky sheep grazier, Luke, but also beginning to love the town itself. Unfortunately for her, Luke isn’t interested in any sort of relationship. A tragedy from his past is overshadowing his life and there’s simply no room in his heart for love.
I really loved writing this book. Barlow feels very real to me and while I was writing the book the characters took on lives of their own – sometimes doing things that took me by surprise! The story includes a number of secondary characters and I particularly enjoyed writing Maggie, Luke’s sister-in-law, who’s a strong and resilient woman.
You were born and bred in Melbourne yet you write rural romance. Where does this inspiration come from?
I might have been born in the city but I’m a country girl at heart!
I was a horse-mad child. I got my first pony when I was about twelve years old, but because we lived in the suburbs I couldn’t keep her at home and had to rely on my parents to drive me out to the farm where she was agisted. I grew up dreaming of owning a farm where I could keep as many horses as I liked!
As a graduate teacher I was posted to a small rural school and I got my first real taste of country living. I was a total fish-out-of water for the first few months, but I grew to love the small community and was desperately sad when I was eventually redeployed to a Melbourne school. When I’m writing a rural romance I often use my experience as a newcomer to the bush as my inspiration.
I currently live in a small town in regional Victoria so I also have my everyday experiences to draw on. (The girls who work in my local café are always telling me I can put them in one of my books. I keep telling them to be careful what they wish for!)
‘Breaking the Drought’ is your debut novel. Can you tell us about ‘The Call’? Has being published changed your life in any way?
‘The Call’ came in the form of an email from Kate Cuthbert. I was in London at the time, holidaying with my family for the Australian summer break. For the first time ever I travelled without my laptop and so I was relying on my tablet to download mail from the Internet. This turned out not to work so well. To make matters worse the wifi in our hotel was pretty dodgy so I was only checking mail intermittently. When I logged on and found the email from Kate in my inbox, I was stunned. It was the last thing I was expecting to see. At first I was reluctant to open it, not wanting to spoil my holiday with news of a rejection. Luckily curiosity got the better of me! I was thrilled to find that Escape wanted to buy my manuscript.
By coincidence my beta reader was also holidaying in London and I’d made plans to meet her that very same night. We had a lovely champagne fuelled celebration!
Being published hasn’t really changed my day-to-day life. I write full time and have been doing so for almost two years so my routine hasn’t really changed. I guess I’m a little surprised at the amount of time taken up by non-writing parts of the business – website maintenance, writing blog posts, having a presence on social media and so on. Luckily I enjoy all of those things!
How long have you been writing and did you always write with the intention of one day being published?
Like many writers I have been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was little I used to produce my own weekly magazine, Witches Brew, which I still have copies of! So I’ve always written for pleasure (and was an early self-publisher!), but for many years I believed third party publication was a pipe dream.
After my youngest child was born I found myself at home full time. I took an online creative writing course and from there progressed to a Professional Writing and Editing course. That was in 2005—the same year I joined RWAus—so my journey’s been a long one.
What would we find on your book shelf / e reader?
I’m an eclectic reader. I love all sorts of different things. I write contemporary fiction and I guess I’m drawn to reading contemporary works primarily, but having said that one of my all time favourite books is Geraldine Brooks’ The Year of Wonders, which is set in the 1600s. Other favourite books include, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide and my go to comfort read, Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery.
On my e-reader right now I have Georgina Penney’s Unforgettable You, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve pre-ordered Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns and I’m looking forward to reading that as it’s the third of her Bunyip Bay Series and I’ve loved the other two.
What was the most helpful piece of advice you’ve ever received in regards to writing?
Just write. It sounds so simple, but carving out the time to write can be difficult, especially for unpublished writers. It can be hard to prioritise writing when you’re not being paid and when other people don’t necessarily take your writing seriously.
The only way to improve as a writer is to write. Of course attending classes and reading craft books can be helpful but you can’t improve words that are not written. I make sure I write something every day, even if it’s just a sentence.
Are you a plotter or pantster or a bit of both?
Both! I tend to start with the characters’ GMC and work from there. I usually write a rough outline and divide that into three acts, making sure I know what the black moment will be. Once that’s done I pants my way through the book. Often my characters take me places that I’m not expecting to go. In my current WIP the black moment turned out to be something I hadn’t originally envisaged.
What would we find you doing in your spare time?
I’d love to able to say I knit or crochet or run marathons, but sadly none of these things are in my repertoire. I love reading and I love writing! When I’m not doing those things you can probably find me talking to someone –my husband, my kids, my friends or even my dog. I do like a chat and my husband reckons if talking ever becomes a sport I’ll be an Olympic gold medal contender. I often combine talking with my other loves – eating and drinking coffee.
Can you tell us about your works in progress?
Right now I’m working on a book tentatively titled Homecoming Queen. It’s about a woman, Jo, who comes home to a small town to be bridesmaid for her best friend. She’s running away from her complicated life in New York, which includes a movie star ex-fiancé and a successful career that has become unsatisfying. Jo’s hoping to find respite amongst her family and friends, but when she arrives she’s shocked to find her high school sweetheart and love of her life, Ryan, has moved back to the town. Ryan’s life took a turn for the worse after his relationship with Jo ended and he’s still bitter about their break up. Jo fears the town is not big enough for the two of them.
What does the future hold for Lisa Ireland?
Hopefully lots more published books!
Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Breaking the Drought’, please?
Sure! This is the moment Jenna first realises she’s attracted to Luke. It takes place during a shearing competition.
‘All right shearers, take your positions. Ladies, please join me in counting them down.’ Mal held up three fingers. ‘Three, two, one, go!’
All three men grabbed hold of the metal clippers hanging above them and got to work on removing the wool from their sheep’s belly.
Despite not being professionals they seemed to know what they were doing, expertly holding the sheep still between their feet as they manoeuvred the clippers over the animals’ bodies.
Jenna couldn’t take her eyes off Luke as he firmly but gently went about removing the wool from the sheep’s back. Before starting he had stripped off his shirt and now a close-fitting navy singlet rode up to reveal glimpses of his washboard stomach as he worked. His tanned body glistened with sweat as his quick, strong hands moved over the sheep. Jenna’s pulse quickened as an image of those hands caressing her body flashed through her mind.
Brooke was caught up in the excitement of the competition, clapping and cheering beside Jenna. ‘Go Luke,’ she yelled.
Suddenly Luke stopped and stood upright. The ewe was bare. He nudged the fleece forward with his foot and a young teenaged boy stepped forward to collect it. The boy shook the fleece out and laid it on a round metal table. Luke let go of the clippers and threw a fist in the air.
Jenna held her breath as Mal examined the fleece.
‘Ladies,’ he shouted above the noise. ‘We have our winner!’
Matt and Cameron were both now finished. The shearers released their sheep into a small pen while the young rouseabout took their fleeces. The losing competitors were quick to shake Luke’s hand and slap him on the back.
‘Luke, time to get your prize. Which of these lovely ladies will you choose to get a kiss from?’
Luke laughed and shook his head. ‘It’s too hard to choose, Mal.’
‘A deal’s a deal, son. Let’s not disappoint the ladies now.’
Luke nodded as his eyes scanned the crowd. ‘Alright then.’ He stood still for a moment, seeming to consider his options as the girls all called out to him, hoping to sway him their way.
Butterflies of nervous anticipation swirled in Jenna’s stomach, which was ridiculous. As if he would pick her. Luke Tanner had made it quite clear he thought she was a pain in the butt so she was probably last on his list. Nevertheless, he was striding towards her purposefully it seemed. His gaze was fixed on her, and with each step it seemed more and more likely that she was his chosen target. Her pulse thudded in her ears as Luke came to a halt almost directly in front of her.
‘Made your choice have you, Luke?’
Jenna held her breath as he answered.
Lisa Ireland lives in a small coastal town with her husband, their three sons, and a crazy Labrador named Millie. When she’s not writing or reading she spends her time walking Millie along the beach, drinking copious amounts of coffee at a local café, and cheering on the Mighty Cats at Simonds Stadium.
Lisa is kindly gifting one e-copy of ‘Breaking the Drought’ to one lucky reader. To be in the running, all you need to do is leave a comment below for Lisa.
This competition is open world wide and will be drawn one week after posting.