What’s your favourite historical period to write about?
The regency era, without doubt — 1811-1820. I grew up reading a wide range of historical novels, but Georgette Heyer was my favorite, and I feel most at home in that era. For me, it has the perfect mix of glamour, drama, adventure and fun, but as well, the events of the period also encompass a wider world, which I sometimes incorporate into my books, so I’ve set books partly in Spain, Egypt, France and other parts of the world. Though they always end up in England.
Is there an issue or plotline you haven’t tackled in a book yet, but would like to?
I’m not sure — I don’t usually set out planning to explore an issue. My plots usually arise out of characters, and from the clash of characters and the situations in which they find themselves. I often ask myself, “What if . . . ” and the story starts spinning. The issues emerge as I write.
If you weren’t a novelist, which career would you have chosen? Teaching like your parents?
I was a teacher for many years, though growing up I swore I’d never be a teacher. Four teachers in the family was quite enough, thank you! But in my final year at school I became involved in a cross-age tutoring scheme and became fascinated by kids battling with learning difficulties, and I was hooked. I loved being a teacher and am still involved in promoting adult literacy.
I see you own a dog – do you ever feature dogs in your novels?
I have had a few dogs in my books — In His Captive Lady, and in my latest, The Spring Bride. In both cases, they were part of the plot, though. In my own life, a dog is simply necessary, and don’t have to do anything except be themselves (and not chew up slippers) but in a novel, they have to have a reason, usually a plot reason to be there. In The Spring Bride, for instance, rescuing a dog is how the hero and the heroine meet, and from then on the dog plays a central role in their meetings.
Of your books, do you have a favourite novel or character?
Not really. Often my favourite character is the one I’m working on at the moment, which is currently Daisy, a Cockney foundling with an unsightly limp. Born in the gutter and raised in a brothel (where she worked as a servant) she has no aspirations to become “a lady” and certainly not to get married. Instead she’s all fired up to become the most fashionable dressmaker in London – she has a real talent for creating flattering, sexy and elegant clothes. Daisy is earthy, gutsy, stubborn and vulnerable and I love her to bits. As for heroes, a lot of readers say their favourite of my heroes is Gideon in The Perfect Rake.
What’s the best thing about being a novelist? And the worst?
The best? When readers write and tell you how much they enjoyed your last book. The worst? Deadlines. I need them, but oh, the way they loom. Sniggering.
Where’s your favourite place in the world and what’s still on the wish list?
I don’t really have favourite places — so many places are beautiful, and going back to some place to try to recapture a magical experience is a mistake, I think. The world is magical, and I’ve seen a fair bit of it, but there are always more wonderful places to find. I’d like to visit the Caribbean one day, and also Iceland. And St Petersburg.
When you’re not writing, where might we find you?
Walking my dog, beside the creek near my house. I’m fairly inner city, but we’re very lucky to have a lovely strip of parkland that stretches for miles beside the creek. One side of it is beautifully untamed and the other is mostly sporting ovals and bike-paths but both sides have wonderful off-lead dog areas.
What piece of advice would you give yourself about writing if you could go back to your pre-publication days?
To join an organization like Romance Writers of Australia, which will encourage, advise, educate and support you in your early efforts. And to start younger.
Do you ever get writer’s block and, if so, how do you deal with it?
I do, but I call it writing anxiety. I’m never satisfied with my writing, and sometimes the anxiety stops me from writing. Luckily I have contracts and deadlines, so I have to force myself to push on. I do this by going to my local library, and writing by hand. Somehow, the act of writing by hand frees up the “stuckness.” Because I think of it as “scribble” I give myself permission to write badly — which then means I can fix it when I type it up. Invariably it’s not nearly as bad as I expected. And it gets me moving again.