A Conversation with Rachael Johns

I am so excited, and I know many of you will be as well, that Rachael Johns is in da house! (as the young people say 🙂 ) I first ‘met’ Rachael on Twitter – she was so warm and friendly and generous online, that I felt like I knew her. So I was thrilled to learn that she was attending GenreCon last year, and we finally got to meet in person. I wasn’t disappointed, she was just as warm and friendly, and great fun at Karaoke … but that’s another story.

We have been trying to get together for a outback ghost finalConversation ever since but we’ve both had busy years. I was off travelling, while Rachael kept writing books, much to the delight of her many fans. So finally we started our conversation on the publication of the third book of her wildly popular Bunyip Bay series, OUTBACK GHOST. I’m fascinated – and not a little envious – of the series phenomenon. They are particularly popular in romance, readers seem to love them. I often have people asking for sequels to my books, but I just don’t know how I would go about it. So my first question to Rachael was …

Did you know from the beginning that there was 3 books’ worth of material in Bunyip Bay? 

Thanks re the series, Di, it was a lot of fun to write and I learnt a lot about my writing process throughout the journey. The reason I decided to write a series was as you mentioned because readers had contacted me on Facebook and email asked to know what happened to the characters in my first book. Many begged me to a write a story that followed on from JILTED but for me that story was finished – I’d put the hero and heroine Jilted-US-cover-final-647x1024through hell (ten years of it in their case) and given them their Happy Ever After, I didn’t want to throw anymore drama at them. And hey, a book without drama would be a pretty boring read. In addition to requests from readers, I read a bit of American romance and many of those authors write very successful series. I realised that readers enjoy going back to a town and familiar characters time and time again, so decided to try my hand at a series. I chose three books from the get-go (because it seemed like a good number) and had a loose idea about who the hero and heroines of each book would be, although this changed a bit as I progressed and got to know them. There is one plot line that travels through the three books but you do not need to read them all in order to understand the books. However, I didn’t really do half as much pre-planning as I should and I now know that if I write a series again, I’ll work out some of the specifics that will link the books BEFORE I start writing. Despite deciding there was going to be three books, I left a couple of characters unfinished so to speak. I introduced them but didn’t share their story with the reader. So now… I’m getting requests for MORE Bunyip Bay books (yay) and having these characters I’ve decided that I can and will go back and write at least one more book. And who knows… maybe in THAT book, I’ll introduce more characters for potential stories 🙂

Wow! So you could keep going on a neverending thread like that, I suppose! I totally agree with what you say about sequels, that’s what I tell my readers when they ask for more – don’t you think they’ve been through enough! But the way you’re doing it gives you the opportunity to draw on a huge ‘cast’ of characters, and give them each a fresh story. Now, I find it so difficult when people ask me what’s my favourite book, but I’m going to ask you anyway – do you have a favourite couple in the trilogy (or is it a quadrology now!)?

Ooh favourite couple. That is a tough question. Like choosing a favourite child, it really depends on the mood I’m in – lol! But if you’re going to make me pick, I’d have to say Adam and Stella from OUTBACK GHOST. Adam has been with me from the start of the series as he was a friend of the characters in the first book, so I’ve learnt a little bit more about him in each book and I was SO ready to give him his Happy Ever After. He’s had a horrible experience that shaped his past and who he is today so it took a really special woman (or rather women, if we include the heroine’s little girl) to help him heal. Stella is a young woman who has also had a hard life so far but she’s never let anything defeat here. I think they’re a match made in heaven and it was fun to go along for the ride as they fell in love.

Yes, it’s often the latest couple who are closest to your heart. And I’m sure your readers will agree about Adam and Stella! But then, they’re not quite your latest, are they? I really have lost count of how many books you have either written or are writing this past year – you’re prolific! I shouldn’t be highlighting this for my readers, who are always asking when my next book is coming, and I’m afraid a year apart is close for me. So how do you do it? Especially with three young boys under your feet?

Haha Dianne – I ask myself this Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.42.12 amquestion a lot, cos most of the time I barely feel like I’m keeping my head above water, never mind getting any words down but it’s amazing how those words really do add up. In theory I work school hours now and that’s when I do the majority of my writing. But school carnivals come up, kids get sick, other things make me lose days, so I also write most weekends for at least a couple of hours each day and I make lots of other sacrifices. Like ironing, and housework 😦 And I’m not much of a cook anymore, but hey my kids are so fussy, they don’t want to eat anyway. I don’t watch much TV either, although this is something I regret and want to change. I’m not a superwoman, I just set myself goals and I don’t always achieve them but I find if I aim for a certain amount of words per day, I’m more likely to get there than if I don’t!

Well, maybe you are a bit of a superwoman! I hope your readers appreciate the sacrifices you’re making – ironing and housework, however do you cope? 🙂 But clearly it’s working for you. I have just received your newsletter with the announcement of your latest novella, THE NEXT SEASON, which follows on from THE KISSING SEASON. What other goodies do you have in store for your readers?

1214 The Next SeasonThanks Dianne – those novellas were a lot of fun to write. I really enjoy writing a short story between the big books and THE NEXT SEASON is a first-lovers reunited story, which happens to be my favourite type of romance of all!! Following THE NEXT SEASON is THE ROAD TO HOPE, which is linked to my first rural romance JILTED and will release in March next year. This was a fun and challenging story because I took a character who wasn’t very nice in JILTED and made her the heroine in THE ROAD TO HOPE!! Can’t wait to share Lauren’s story with all my readers!

 

Thanks so much for the chat, Dianne! I can’t wait till the next time we can do it in person!!

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Look forward to that, Rachael!

Rachael has kindly offered to give away a signed copy of OUTBACK DREAMS, the first in the Bunyip Bay series. So if you haven’t caught up with them yet, here’s a great place to start. Just leave a comment below, and Rachael will choose a winner at random. But be quick! We want to wrap this up in the next week or so, so that your prize can make its way to you before Christmas!

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A Conversation with Ilsa Evans

Authors are sometimes asked if they’re interested in reading a manuscript and Nefarious-Doings_coverproviding a quote for the cover. This can be a fraught business, you can imagine! But last year I was asked to read Nefarious Doings by Ilsa Evans – the first instalment of her new Nell Forrest Mystery series – and I was sold from the very first page. I have since been telling anyone who would listen how much I enjoyed it.

So I am very excited that Ilsa agreed to join me for a conversation today!

Ilsa, you have managed to seamlessly blend what we love about contemporary women’s fiction – warm, relatable characters, everyday life, a good dash of humour, even a touch of romance – with murder, mystery and intrigue … So I have to ask, what made you veer into this territory?

Evans_IlsaI think that I’ve written across genre a little bit in the past, which may have been to my detriment. One minute I’ll write something quite light and then I’ll lurch into the story of an abused woman, or euthanasia or something like that. And I started thinking how nice it would be to identify – and be identified with – a certain genre. Then one evening I was watching the marvellous Phryne Fisher on the ABC, and had a bit of an epiphany. Murder mystery seemed like a marvellous challenge, plus it was a genre that allowed me to retain characters. I find it terribly difficult to say goodbye to characters at the end of my books. For weeks after I finish writing, I feel like I should be able to pick up the phone and invite them around for a drink. With murder mystery, I get to catch up with them every few months!

What a great answer! This happens to me too, and my readers are always asking for sequels, but my stories don’t really allow for that. Your Nell is such a wonderful character – I know I couldn’t wait to spend more time with her after I read Nefarious Doings, so I was thrilled when Ill-Gotten Gains was released soon after. I realise this could be one of those ‘Where do you get your ideas’ questions that are impossible to answer, but – how did you come up with Nell?

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Most of my main characters are people I would like to know. I’m fine with having unpleasant or annoying or odd types in the background, but the main ones have to be someone I’d enjoy spending time with. Because that’s exactly what I have to do! In Nell’s case, I was busy with another project when I first came up with the murder mystery idea so she had to bide her time for a few months. By the time I finally put pen to paper, she was fully formed – and getting very impatient! I don’t actually recall making any definitive decisions about her personality or family or even her job; they all just seemed right. Incidentally, I recently read your The Right Time and I think Nell would get on very well with Ellen.

I think you’re absolutely right! They’re both that kind of no-nonsense woman, pulled in all directions by kids and work and all the other ephemera of life, and wondering where they fit into the mix. Nell did appear fully formed, I felt like I already knew her from the start – which is a great characteristic to have in your lead. And taking a character like that, and putting her on the scent of a mystery, was a stroke of genius. My dad is always asking me when I’ll write a crime into one of my books, but my head just doesn’t work that way, unfortunately! Did you have to plot out the entire mystery, so you knew where it was going? Or did you start with an idea, and let it unfold? 

It’s funny you should ask that because I’m getting towards the end of the third book in the series and have just realised I’ve tied myself in knots (figuratively speaking). And the knots have a lot of loose ends also, sticking out left, right and centre. It’s like a cross between macrame and writing. Not good. So no, generally I start with an idea and just let it unfold but perhaps I need to start rethinking that approach!

You may well have to! I’ve always been a little dubious about crime writers who claim they don’t know whodunnit until it comes out in the writing. However, it must be both exciting and daunting to stretch your author muscles.

You’ve kind of answered my next question: that you’re working on a third book in the series (Yay!). How many books do you think Nell has in her? Or do you have other plans after this?

The third book is called Forbidden Fruits and I’m just now finishing it off. I’d love for there to be more – and have ideas for at least another three! – but I really have to wait and see how they’re going. The reviews have been great but I’ve just heard that the print editions have been postponed so that’s not good. It’s all rather up in the air unfortunately. Although I do know that next I’ll spend some time on a project I started under contract a few years ago, but then the contract fell through so I shelved it. It’s a light, non-fiction exploration of middle-age for women, called ‘The Invisible Woman and other remarkable phenomena of middle-age.’ I’m actually looking forward to dragging it out and dusting it off!

And as an invisible middle-aged woman myself, I’ll look forward to reading it! If it’s executed with the same warmth and humour as your Nell Forrest series, then it will be a must-read. Thanks so much for the conversation, Ilsa!

And it doesn’t have to stop here! You can keep the conversation going below, I’m sure Ilsa will be happy to answer your questions. Or just say hi. Everyone who comments will go in the draw for one of THREE e-copies of Nefarious Doings. You will need an ereader, but it can be read on any format, including tablets. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough, and I’m certain my readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

 You can find out more about Ilsa here, and about the Nell Forrest series here and here, where you can even read a sample chapter.

 So leave a comment below and be in the running for a copy of Nefarious Doings!