Tell me a bit about Red Dust Runaway. How did it come into being? What was your Eureka! moment?
It all started with the Queen’s annual variety show on the telly. One Direction, the opening act, had appeared exhausted and strung out. Poor lads looked as if someone had propped them up with sticks and told them to sing. They took a well-deserved hiatus after that. It got me thinking about the music industry and how it can suck the very marrow from your bones if you let it. I’d started life as a sound engineer. The music industry is harsh and you have to have skin like old leather to survive. Couple that with my husband planning a trip across the Nullarbor starting at his home town of Kalgoorlie… One thing led to another and Red Dust Runaway was born.
Can you give us a little tease of the relationship between Iris and Kit? How did that come about in your head and subsequently the book?
Do you remember the last time you met someone and sparks flew, light arced between you and you just KNEW they were the one for you? That’s the moment I wanted to create. Of course, life is never that easy and inevitably there are obstacles to overcome in situations like that. I wanted to take the reader on that journey, make them feel all those delicious emotions and set it against the vast, stunning backdrop that is the Australian Outback.
What came first: the plot or the characters? What was it like writing a road trip story?
I had Kit first. My poor mother had cancer which had reduced her to being able to do not much more than watch television. She’d lost interest in everything. Then one morning she called me up to tell me to check out the Trivago Man. He was so super hot he’d managed to catch her interest. The rest is history. Mum didn’t live to see this story written but I’m sure she would have approved of my choice of hero! See what you think:
What draws you to Iris’s qualities as a heroine?
I have met so many versions of Iris. I think we all have a little Iris inside us. She’s trying to figure out if she’s on the right path, testing her dreams and assumptions. She wants to live, have one big adventure under her belt, before she knuckles down to the business of life. Her tenacity and resilience build as the story progresses. She doesn’t start out as strong as she ends up, learning some valuable lessons along the way about herself and the people around her. What I like best is she’s not afraid to have a go, to put herself out there even if everyone else thinks it’s a bad idea. Sometimes the best adventures are had that way.
And Kit’s as a hero?
He’s coming from the opposite end of the spectrum to Iris. He’s had an exciting life and a big career. What he wants now is something different, he just hasn’t figured out what that is yet. He wants to reinvent himself, change his life direction, swap out high-level success for high-level satisfaction. I think we can all relate to that at some stage in our lives. What I like best about him is his vulnerability. He makes mistakes by the bucket load and grows through the process of sorting out the mess he’s made.
What began your romance writing career?
Pregnancy. Seriously. I was on maternity leave from a high-pressure job and looking for ways to keep my mind occupied. I’d worked writing freelance and as a technical writer, but never tried writing a novel. I figured if not now, when? I submitted The Reluctant Wedding Planner to RWA’s Emerald Award and I’ve never looked back.
Your other Red Dust novels explore the vast setting of outback Australia, what draws you to the setting? And rural romance as a genre?
Both sides of my family come from the country – Victoria and Queensland respectively. My cousins own a couple of cattle stations in the north. I am the exception to the rule, having been born and bred in Melbourne. The thing about the country is it strips away any pretensions you might have and helps to reveal who you are. That’s very attractive to me and my characters are often going through personal transformations where the country is an active participant in that process. And as for rural romance as a genre – who doesn’t love a country boy, right?
What are your favourite books/authors to read? Romance or otherwise? What draws you to those books?
I am a complete magpie when it comes to books. I’ll read almost any genre (except horror). Anything that’s well written will have my undivided attention. I don’t have favourite authors as such, but I do have authors whose books I’ll buy in a heartbeat. Just tell me they’ve got a new book out and I’ll be at Dymocks, waving my wallet. I picked up Laini Taylor’s new book, Strange the Dreamer, and I cannot wait until my exams are over and I can lie about in the garden reading it. Kathy Lette is in town tonight and you can’t go past her for a rollicking read. But if you talk to me next week I’ll have a different list to share.
Where do you like to write? How do you write?
I have an old pine desk jammed in the corner of the living room (where I can keep an eye on kids). I grab writing time where I can find it. When I’m “in session” I’ll write a minimum of 2,000 words 5 days a week. I would like to think I can write every day but the truth is the house is full of people at the weekend making it impossible. As if I’d give up a chance to socialise! I like to map out each chapter by hand in a notebook. I bullet point the action and then use it as a guide. Sometimes things go in an entirely different direction to the one I planned, but you get that.
Can you give any advice to aspiring authors out there?
Read, read, read, read. And not just authors representing the genre you’re interested in. Read literature to see how people use language or pop culture novels to capture the zeitgeist of the moment. Reread the classics – they remain popular and relevant because the plot and characterisation is so damn good. Stay open to good writing – that includes TV and film. Pay attention to how tension is escalated, how plots are unwound and characters revealed. There is always something to learn.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any quirky hobbies?
When I’m not writing, I’m jamming the day full of other projects. I’m studying my Graduate Diploma in Education to be a history high school teacher, so there’s assignments, lectures and exams to keep me busy. I’m loving being at university. I’ve met so many intriguing people. Plenty of fodder for new novels!
I’m also a meditation teacher and I work with my husband who teaches Persian Yoga. Together we run Blue Sky Yoga and Meditation. We’re currently putting together a workshop so that keeps the dinner table conversation lively. Drives our 6-year-old nuts. He’d rather talk about how to make his own Jedi Kitten You Tube videos starring out long suffering cat, Maui. Making tiny light sabres that a cat can “hold” is harder than you’d think.
I volunteer at the local primary school teaching creative writing. Those kids have imaginations and creative skills that just blow me away. My job is to open them up to all the creative possibilities, wind them up and then let them go. We’re working on putting together an anthology of their work at the end of the year. I can’t wait for the community to see what these kids are capable of.
I live in a lovely, friendly seaside town so if there’s any time left over I love to head out into the community and, well, chat. A lot. I adore the fact I can wander about town and inevitably run into someone I know, or catch up with a local business owner, or even make an entirely new friend. And it makes a great diversion from writing. Or should that be procrastination….?
I hear you have some adorable dogs in your life. Do they help or hinder the writing process?
I adore dogs. I live in a town that adores dogs. A dachshund moved in next door recently. Her name is Sausage. Heaven! There’s another one nearby named Snickers – she looks like a caramel chocolate bar too. I have an elderly cocker spaniel named Taj. He’s almost entirely blind and as deaf as a post but still full of joy and playfulness. We just have to make sure the house is well lit so he doesn’t walk into things. He’s lying next to my chair as a I write this, snoring his head off. In a moment, he’ll leap up and start barking at nothing at all. Sausage will join in and I’ll spend the next five minutes trying to get them to stop. If nothing else, it ensures I don’t sit at the computer for long stretches of time.
Sheltered, coddled, gifted, Iris longs for something more than practice and performing. She wants to rebel, break the rules, have a hot affair, fall in love — to really live before happily committing to her classical music bubble. But her strict parents and her stricter schedule keep her confined to her gilded cage, even as she yearns desperately to be free.
Super star, successful, and sick of all of it, Kit just wants to stop. Stop the touring and the recording and the media and the bickering with his band mates. After two years on the road, he’s coming apart at the seams. He has to slow down, calm down, clear his head — to really think before recommitting to his rock star lifestyle. But his manager and the tour schedule keep him locked to his super star lifestyle, even as he rages against the confinement.
A chance encounter in a car park leads to a snap decision and an enormous risk: suddenly Kit and Iris are on an extraordinary road trip together across Australia, making their own choices, breaking all the rules. But reality is chasing them more quickly than they can know, and soon Kit and Iris will have to decide whether they are just running away — or running away together.