My Chat with Jennifer Scoullar

This week I’m chatting with Jennifer Scoullar whose debut novel, “Brumby’s Run” was released by Penguin this month. Sounds like another great Aussie story. I also love hearing about another writer’s journey. Realizing your dream never gets old. Here’s what we talked about…

So where were you born, raised, schooled?

I was born in Melbourne, and went to school there. My family had a house in Gardenvale, but we also had a property in the mountains. That’s where I kept my horses. I was horse mad then, and still am. As a teenager, I escaped town as often as possible. When I married, we went to live on the farm permanently, and I’m still there today.

What got you into writing fiction? Has writing always been a passion?

I’m a late starter at this writing game, in my forties before I became serious about completing a novel. As a child, I was always writing stories and poems. I began my first novel at eleven – some sort of a plagiarised version of The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell.  I knew I’d grow up to write books. But life got in the way. Thirty years later, and I finally heard that annoying, nagging voice … that voice of me as a child, reminding me that I was supposed to be a writer. It had been there all along, but I hadn’t been listening. One day, out of the blue, I picked up a pen. It was like I’d come home. I loved the rhythm of the prose and the pleasure of getting a sentence just right. I loved how everything happened exactly the way I wanted it to, in my imaginary world.

So this is your first published novel, can you tell us about the day, “Brumby’s Run” was accepted for publication? Was it exciting?

I’ve actually had another novel, Wasp Season, (an environmental thriller) published by a small Melbourne press. But my dream was to crack one of the big publishers. I pitched Brumby’s Run to Penguin at the 2011 RWA Conference in Melbourne. Two months later I was offered a contract. It was truly the best feeling in the world. I printed out the Penguin letter of offer and carried it around with me, just to remind myself it was real!

Nothing wrong with that! 🙂 What was the inspiration behind this story?

Brumby’s Run, was inspired by an iconic Banjo Paterson poem of the same name, first published in The Bulletin, December 1895. I’ve always loved this poem, and the story behind it. The term Brumby was just entering the language, based perhaps on an Aboriginal word, baroomby which means wild.  At a trial in the N.S.W. Supreme Court around the time this poem was written, the Judge, hearing of Brumby horses, asked: “Who is this Brumby, and where is his Run?” Banjo Paterson was so amused by the misunderstanding, he wrote his poem. So add Banjo’s poem, to my childhood love of the Silver Brumby books by Elyne Mitchell, and Brumby’s Run was the result.

I never knew that about Banjo’s poem. That is so interesting! One of the themes of this book is the relationship between sisters. I have three sisters myself so that sort of premise particularly resonates with me…  Do you have any sisters? Are you close?

You know what, Loretta? I don’t have any sisters. One, wonderful brother, but no sisters. Growing up, I always fantasised about how great it would be to have sisters. Maybe the premise of Brumby’s Run is partly wishful thinking on my behalf.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

The hardest thing about writing this book was the tight time frame I had in which to finish it. I began it in January 2011 and the RWA conference was in August – eight months. I enjoyed writing it, but it was a tough deadline.

I hear ya! I’ve been struggling with a similar deadline all year. Do you have a favourite character in your novel and why?

I have a soft spot for most of my characters (except Bill!). I must admit though, that I do have a favourite. Charlie. She’s a little wild – untamed like the brumbies. I admire that.

Where do you write? When do write? Do you have a special office/place?

I write wherever and whenever I get the chance. When you’re busy it pays to be flexible. My favourite place to write is in my little office space, just off the lounge room. But with teenage boys, it’s very often too noisy there. Next best is my bedroom, or the stable. Horses don’t interrupt as much, and they don’t mind me reading aloud. The beer garden at the local pub is also pretty good.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

After all these years, my favourite author is still Elyne Mitchell. I know she writes for children, but I still love her work for its beautiful prose, and the way she unashamedly gives animals a voice. I also love Andrea Goldsmith’s books for their fine writing and keen observations of character – and then there’s the plethora of Aussie rural lit writers of course!

And finally when and where can I get a copy of this great new novel!

Brumby’s Run is out now, and is widely available at all the usual places, such as BigW and Booktopia. Thanks very much Loretta, for allowing me this chance to chat to your readers!

It was great having you on my blog! Looking forward to reading your book.

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The Method in My Madness

I get a lot of questions about the way I write from friends, fans, readers and writers alike. The answer to most of these questions is simply “no.” Let me give you some examples.
Do you hand write and then type it up? No
Do you always type it directly onto your computer and never hand write? No
Do you print out each chapter as you are done? No
Do you have set place where you write? No
Do you have a lot of time to write? No
Are any of your characters real people? No
Do you plot it all out first? No
Do you research before you start? No
Do you always know it’s going to be a good book? No
Do you write it all first and then edit? No
For me writing is almost like raising children. I do whatever works when it works. Sometimes the same method doesn’t work every time. To keep things fresh and thriving, I have to mix it up. So often I do things on the go. To illustrate this, I thought I’d give you a list of questions I can say, “Yes!” to instead.
Do you edit, revise and re-write as you go? Yes! Often it’s five steps forward ten steps back.
Do you ever hand write? Yes! Mostly in car parks, waiting rooms, at the dentist etc. I carry a notebook in my handbag. I sometimes even write in the commercials of a show I’m watching on television!
Do you research when you need to? Yes! Often when the story hits a point where I have to say to myself, “I don’t know enough about this subject to write about it.”
Do you ever suffer from a lack of ideas? Yes
Do write the story in chronological order? Yes
Do you sometimes write scenes out of order? Yes
Do you do any plotting at all? Yes. But I would say it’s more like brainstorming. It’s often very loose and I don’t stick to it. Most of the time when I plot it’s to make myself feel better. I like to fool myself into believing I’m in control of my writing rather than my muse.
So there you go. Is there any method in this madness? I don’t know. But it seems to be working for now. So I think I’ll stick with it.

Endings

At the moment, I’m busy writing the ending of “The Girl in the Hard Hat.” I find endings both hard and satisfying. They are so bitter sweet. You’re saying goodbye to characters who have been in your head, day and night for the last however many months or years. And it is sad to let them go. For me characters are almost a part of my nuclear family. I worry about them in the same way I worry about my kids. When I wake up in the morning, some of my first thoughts are Luke (first born) can’t forget his googles again for swimming. James (second born) can take a mandarin for kindy today because I’ve run out of oranges. I hope Beth (third born) has a long morning sleep considering she was up most of the night and Wendy (the heroine in my novel) should definitely go visit Sharon (minor character )in hospital because that’s something she would feel she needs to do.
I’m constantly thinking about my characters to the point of obsession. Worrying about them, planning for them… thinking about how terrible or how funny, it would be if this happened to them next.
Endings are so important because you’ve just tortured these poor protagonists for the last 90 000 words and you want to finally give them what they want in the most wonderful satisfying way. I love my minor characters almost as much as my main ones. So often I have goals and stories to wrap up for these as well. So with all these story threads tapering towards that last word, I guess one of the things I have to work out is the order in which I tie my bows. I want to finish with the most important plot line last. Here’s the engineer coming out in me. If you think about an ending as a 3D shape it’s conical – like an icecream cone. Ever eaten a Cornetto? They pool chocolate right in the apex of their wafer. So the last bite has you thinking you could go another.
I want an ending just like that.

My chat with Mandy Magro

This week, I’m very excited to be talking to Mandy Magro, author of recently released, “Jacaranda.”  I love connecting with other authors, especially ones that have the same passion for Australia and Australian stories the way I do.

So Mandy, where were you born, raised, schooled?

I was born in the beautiful little country township of Mareeba in 1975. In 1977 mum and I moved to Cairns, (the big smoke!) where I went to Saint Frances Primary School then continued onto Woree High School. After school I obtained a Diploma in Hairdressing and did that for about 10 years. I had my own hairdressing salon at 18. I loved it, but after 7 years at it I decided to move back to the country and I have never left.

So Jacaranda is your second novel right? What is it about?

At nineteen, Molly Jones has the world at her feet. Then one drunken night she falls into bed with Mark, a cowboy just passing through. By the time Molly realises she is pregnant, Mark is long gone. Now, at twenty-six, Molly’s life is almost perfect. She’s the devoted mother of Rose, and a renowned horse trainer. She lives amid the beauty of Jacaranda Farm, surrounded by family and friends – none closer than hunky stockman Heath. But she’s still looking for the love of her life, and a father for Rose. When Mark stumbles back into her world, as charming as ever, Molly begins to hope for a future she’d long ago relinquished. But how will Mark react when he learns he’s a father? And could the man of Molly’s dreams be closer to home than she thinks?

Great premise! Being a mother myself, this story particularly intrigues me. I love the cover of your book too, by the way. You must be so pleased with it. What was the inspiration behind this story?

A few different factors contributed to Jacaranda, the initial spark for the setting was inspired by my love of the glorious Jacaranda tree. I am passionate about country life and absolutely adore horses so the role my heroine, Molly Jones, plays as a gifted horse trainer seemed fitting as I began typing. I also wanted to draw on my own unique experiences as a mother and include an adorable little girl in the storyline. Hence, Molly’s little girl, Rose, came to life on the page. Furthermore, I desired to tell a story that mirrored the anguish and euphoria true love can trigger and the journey of a woman as she discovers who she is and what she wants from her life and from love.

 What’s the hardest thing about living and working on a farm?

The long travelling distances to get anywhere can be really tough. Just to get Chloe to swimming lessons takes an hour each way. And also not having family close by can be quite hard at times. Especially when I need a few hours to write and Chloe is home and being a typical adventurous four year old! But like anything, you get used to it. There are many pluses that far outweigh the negatives.

 Do you have a favourite character in your novel and why?

I love all my characters so it’s hard to choose. But, I do love writing about the hunky countryman that my heroine is falling madly in love with.  He is always every woman’s fantasy, broad shouldered, strong spirited and extremely sexy.

 Ooooh Nice. Where do you write? When do write? Do you have a special office/place?

Well, at the moment my office is wherever I choose to sit and write seeing I am staying with family over in England for 3 months. I don’t have set times for writing at present, instead writing whenever I feel, which is lovely! Normally I will grab the lap top and toddle off outside under a tree to do some writing which can be very inspiring considering my view of endless field of sheep and cattle! I do dream about the day I’ll have an office with plush carpet underfoot, a whole wall devoted to being a bookshelf and a big leather chair that I can sit comfortably in while I type, oh, and of course a view out of a big bay window of horses and cattle.

I’m a big fan of dream offices. I’ve got several ideas myself. But what got you into writing fiction? Has writing always been a passion?

I started writing about 3 years ago when I began the journey into motherhood and discovered I was confined to the house rather than being out on the land. Writing gave me a way to express my love for the country and the people who live in it. It’s great fun. I get to party with my characters, make them fall in love, gallop towards a setting sun or just sit around a campfire, yarning.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

It might sound like a cop out but to be honest I don’t have a particular favourite author. I am a huge fan of rural romance and there are a handful of women writers I adore, yourself being one of them. But, if I have to pick the top three, other than yourself of course!, they would be Fiona Palmer, Cathryn Hein and Margareta Osborn.

 I knew I liked you!  So where can everyone, including myself, get a copy of Jacaranda?

Jacaranda is available at bookshops Australia wide, online bookstores and also as an e-book. And if your local store doesn’t have any copies left just ask the friendly staff and I am sure they will be more than happy to order you in a copy. Or, if readers would like to order a signed copy they can go to my website. www.mandymagro.com

 

Thanks for having me over at your blog today, Loretta. It’s been great fun chatting with you. Look forward to your next book!

Thanks Mandy! I’m off now to get a copy of Jacaranda!