What is romance?

For me, romance is not a category. On the contrary, it encompasses our lives, from that sweet moment of first love to a longed for trip on the Orient Express, filling our hearts when we least expect it.

Romance and love are not exclusive to each other. One can love deeply without romance. Or feel that delicious flutter of excitement about a person, song, or experience with no expectation of love.

Defining romance is like defining the wind. We feel it. We don’t know when it will touch us or how much it will blow us about. A romantic dinner evokes images of an intimate restaurant, roses, champagne, and holding hands. Yet, romance may be found on the ocean, alone in a yacht with whales and dolphins as our company.

Adding romance to a novel is easy yet ridiculously hard, because all of us respond differently. Some go weak at the knees when the prince sweeps the young woman off her feet. Others love a complicated story with messy endings. Or thrillers that only have a hint of romance, leaving us wondering what happened once the book finishes.

There is a fine line between too much and just right and it always comes down to the characters. For example, Christie is suspicious of expensive gifts and overt displays of affection. That’s what Derek and Gran used in place of real emotion. So, where would that leave a potential suitor if he failed to understand that?

I would love to hear what defines romance from you. Is it a perfect night out? That little, unexpected gift? An adventure with or without a loved one? Or perhaps the first rush of attraction when eyes meet across a room?

Tell me, what is your perfect romance?


What happens next?

The characters and places in Cottage are part of me. I know them as if they are real (which some of the places are). For many years, I’ve had Thomas, Martha, Christie, and Martin spend quality time in my mind. The cottage and Martin’s house are printed on my brain. River’s End Beach is my favourite place to visit in my dreams.

So, when The End comes along, what happens next? Do I forget about the world I created and hope they all live happy ever after… without my involvement?

That was my expectation. However, for every story told, there is one kept hidden. Aspects of some of the characters didn’t show themselves in Cottage. Secrets were not all revealed.

It seems that there is a certain amount of unfinished business with my little creation. Later this year, its sequel will be released, bringing your favourite (and maybe not so favourite) characters back. Expect more heartwarming moments, more puzzles, higher stakes and dare I say it, heightened suspense.

Keep on eye on the website for updates, or even better, join the newsletter to hear things first, including sneak peeks, bonus mini chapters and more.

Happy reading!

The joy of creating the world of the Cottage

I grew up in small coastal towns in Australia. Wild, empty beaches with endless white sand. Sharp remnants of shell beneath my feet, the almost unbearable scorch of heat that made me race to the cooling waves. More than anything, I love the ocean in winter. Grey skies reflected in the sea. Long waves whooshing in and out as perfect accompaniment to the hopeful cawing of seagulls. Mmm… I can smell the saltiness just thinking about it.

Trouble is that I live inland these days. Closer to mountains than beaches. The cottage in my novel was inspired by a real life stationmaster’s cottage not far from my home. Inland, regional Victoria. So, it simply had to be loaded onto a large truck and taken to the coast. Well, in my mind.

Long before the novel took real form, it played as a series of small movies in my head. Little scenes that helped build the world it became. Sketch books are very handy and mine contains a lot of drawings around River’s End. A map of the town, one of the region. Snapshots of pivotal moments.

The biggest problem I had (and still have) is that I visualise the location of two important places – the graveyard on one cliff and Martin’s house on the either – differently from how it is written. To me, the stone steps will always go in the opposite direction. I had to draw the beach with these landmarks in their correct places, then tape the picture on the wall to remind myself! Logistically, it won’t work the way my imagination wants it to. How funny.

Choosing the region to create River’s End in was easy. A couple of times, the family has visited the Great Ocean Road. This part of Victoria is legendary for the Twelve Apostles, giant limestone rocks rising from the sea, The 243 km road begins at trendy Torquay not far from Melbourne, then winds through spectacular scenery to Allansford, near Warrnambool.

Along the way, it goes through towns such as Port Campbell, Apollo Bay, and Lorne, all beloved tourist destinations. Many other tiny, and sometimes almost hidden towns could be another River’s End.

So, I moved my neighbour’s cottage a couple of hundred k away, plonking it down just outside a fictional town that in my ideal world, would be my dream home. Almost every part of River’s End is somewhere I have been or wanted to go.

Of course, there is more to the book than River’s End. Docklands in Melbourne is a gorgeous waterfront hub with fantastic views and access to just about everything the city has to offer. And, just because I love Melbourne so much, I added Crown Casino and the iconic Rosetta restaurant for good measure.

I would love to hear how you, the reader, visualises River’s End and the other locations. Now… time to create the next world.

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The importance of supporting local

In our small town is a lovely, independent bookshop called Book Bonding. They were the first bookshop to ask for copies of Cottage and have regularly sold out. They have tagged the book as being local, which works well for us both. I love supporting local and am so grateful that others feel the same way.

The power of the press

Local newspapers are still alive and kicking. On 14th February 2017 – the release date of Cottage – Midland Express published an article on the book. This article was then used on social media by bookshops to promote it, as well as keeping a physical copy where the book was shelved.

Almost two months later, people still walk into one of those bookshops carrying the article that they have kept to remind them to purchase a copy.

A few weeks later, Gisborne Gazette wrote their own piece on the book and on me. That was also used in social media and has led to more awareness locally as well as regular sales.

How wonderful that we still have newspapers! There is nothing that compares to opening a paper with its inky smell and sometimes grainy pictures. They sit around in homes and at work for weeks on end and are flicked through more than once. May we always have papers to remind us to slow down a bit and love local.