Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Louise, and congratulations on the release of ‘Red Dirt Duchess’! Can you give us the blurb, please?
When English society playboy Jonathan Hartley-Huntley is sent to outback Australia after a disastrous affair with his editor, all he wants is to take a few pictures, do a quick interview and get back to his usual life of luxury as soon as possible. Until he meets his host, the irresistible Charlie Hughes, and suddenly the back of beyond is a lot more appealing.
Running the pub is a labour of love for Charlie and she has no desire to ever leave the tiny town of Bindundilly. That is, until Jon discovers an old painting that raises questions about both their lives. Charlie impulsively decides to follow him to London, and as the feelings between them begin to deepen, she starts to wonder if there’s more to life than the pub. But at Jon’s family home, the magnificent Hartley Hall, they become acutely aware of the differences between them, and it soon seems clear they have no future together – especially if Jon’s mother has her way.
Family and tradition threaten the course of true love in this warm and witty novel from the author of Outback Bride and Her Italian Aristocrat.
You write of independent heroines who are in control of their own HEA. How do you think romance heroines have changed over the years?
It’s no surprise that heroines are stronger these days. Like modern women they hold jobs that would have been unusual 20 or 30 years ago which gives the writer more scope to create interesting characters. They’re also more likely to express their opinions and initiate relationships. Having said that, it’s important to respect those well-loved heroines of the past. Good writers hold a mirror up and reflect what they see and heroines that we might view now as down-trodden were the norm back then. I also think the type of hero they are looking for has changed with the times.
When did you start writing with the intention of being published?
Can you tell us about ‘The Call’ and your road to publication? What impact has being published made on you personally?
I received the call from Carol George at Destiny Romance in September 2012 after pitching ‘Her Italian Aristocrat’ a month earlier. I almost shot myself in the foot though, as I was thinking of pitching a newer, unfinished manuscript, something I would never have been able to complete in reasonable time. Luckily my partner gave me ‘the look’, advised me to pitch Aristocrat and they loved it.
Being published has focussed me a lot more. I now make a 12 month plan for the projects I have afoot. I’ve also had to come up to speed on social media and promotion and gained new skills along the way in website creation.
Plotter or pantser?
In your opinion, what are the elements of a compelling contemporary romance story?
A great hero and heroine with very real conflicts to resolve. I want the conflict 1to be emotional and their problems not easily overcome.
Which authors or novels have influenced you most?
Nora Roberts’ “Born In” trilogy, “Chesapeake Bay” series, and the “Three Sisters” trilogy. Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ “Ain’t She Sweet”, Kristan Higgins, Marion Lennox, Anne Gracie, Shirley Jump and Sarah Mayberry.
Tell us something surprising about yourself that no one would guess.
I spent a lot of time in my early 30’s walking long distance footpaths in England. Alone. A wonderful experience but with a few freak-out moments.
Complete this sentence… ‘When I’m not writing I can be found…
on a building site.
Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Red Dirt Duchess’, please?
Sure. Here’s a scene from early in the book when my English hero, Jon, has arrived in the outback and the heroine, Charlie, is taking him on his first drive into the bush.
‘So I guess you’re my tour guide,’ he said. ‘The magazine will pay, of course.’
‘That’s okay. Actually, you’re doing me a favour. I like to get away occasionally.’
He glanced out the window. ‘And go where?’
She was ready with a retort until she remembered how it had been when she and Cliff had first come here. After inner-city Sydney with its street life, crowded pubs, bright lights and noise, those first few weeks had been terrifying. But gradually the peace had settled around them, cancelling out their chaotic existence in the city. With Cliff as her guide, she’d learned to appreciate the space, the vistas and the stunning, saturated colours. She’d gained strength and resilience. And happiness.
‘You’d be surprised. There’s quite a good social life around here.’ She shifted gear and took a fork in the track. The surface became rougher and as she swerved to miss a hole, he shifted in his seat and his shoulder bumped into hers. It reminded her of last night, of how he’d felt up close. Strong and sexy. Almost irresistible.
‘Anyway, you can keep your cocktail parties or whatever,’ she continued. ‘When the outback throws a party, everyone comes. The airstrip? There’ll be thirty, forty light planes out there. Race meetings, B & S balls —’
‘I’m almost too scared to ask, but what’s a B & S ball?’ He gripped the handle above the door as they swerved around more holes.
She gave him a pitying look. ‘Bachelors and spinsters, the great hook-up event for country singles. People come from all around, camp out overnight and get dressed up to the nines for the dance. It’s a chance to blow off a little steam.’
She slid a look at him. ‘Yeah, well, you should try it sometime, hot shot.’
He grinned and looked out the window.
After ten minutes, he turned to her, a worried look on his face. ‘You do know where you’re going, right? There are so many tracks and they’re so random. I mean, why this one and not the one we passed just back there?’
‘Because most of them aren’t really tracks. They’re just detours made some time when there was water on the road, so they’ll take you away from the road for a while but eventually lead you back a little further on.’ She lowered her voice and made a serious face. ‘That is, if you don’t accidentally take another track that leads off the detour track. It’s easy to do.’
She shook her head. ‘One second of lost concentration and you’re heading down a track to nowhere. But it’s too late once you’ve realised, because when you turn around you can’t remember which track was the one you came off. You can drive around for days trying to find your way home. If you last that long.’
He looked mildly freaked out but she couldn’t help adding, ‘Of course they’re not even tracks, some of them. Most are just tyre marks made by vehicles gone bush. As I said before, a lot of very strange people live out here. No one really knows how many fugitives there are.’
He paled a little more and she was done. As sport went it was perfect.
Ten minutes later they turned off the track they’d been following onto a narrower one; a real track, Charlie informed him with a smirk. Here, by the river, coolabah trees grew, their low, spreading branches providing welcome shade. Charlie pulled into a clearing and shut off the engine.
Louise is kindly gifting one Kindle copy of Red Dirt Duchess to one lucky reader. To be in the running to win, all you need to do is leave a comment below for Louise.
This competition is open world wide and will be drawn one week from the date of this post. The winner will be notified by email so please ensure that we can contact you.