When did you decide to become a writer and what was the catalyst for you to start writing your first novel?
I always enjoyed writing at school but never seriously considered writing until I literally woke up one day in January 2014 with the idea “I’d like to write a book”. I’d received a copy of Jilted by Rachael Johns for Christmas, read it in one sitting and fell in love with the rural romance genre. I decided to try my hand at writing medical dramas set in small Australian towns and everything snowballed from there.
I guess you could say it was a bucket list kind of thing to do. I wrote my first book, Intensive Care, which was published in January 2015 and became part of the Escape to the Country series and kept writing. I pinch myself every day that I am where I am in such a short space of time.
You’re a critical care nurse, and your main characters are often nurses. Is it fun being able to put your own experiences into a book? Are there any difficulties when doing this?
I love using my experiences as a nurse and the experiences of my colleagues in my books. Many times life is stranger than fiction though and there are some stories that are so unbelievable I could never write them.
The only difficulties I face is when my editors are a bit squeamish and think the scene is a little too “bloody” or technical – then I have to work with them to make the scene as believable as possible but ensure readers don’t skim past it because they don’t understand the jargon or can’t picture what’s happening.
I’m blessed to do a job I love – caring for others is a privilege and one I don’t take lightly. Nursing is an amazing career and I love showing the positive sides of it. I’m not sure in the future whether all my main characters will be nurses, but I don’t intend moving away from the medical dramas in my books.
Can you tell us more about your latest book – your 8th book, One More Song?
One More Song is the love story between musical theatre singing sensation Harrison (Harry) Baxter and nurse Edwina (Eddie) Campbell.
Harry grew up in a small town in Victoria’s High Country but left for the city to pursue his dream career. He loves his life – musical theatre is everything to him and his lead role as Marius in Les Miserable is a wish come true. With the Sydney season coming to an end he doesn’t need to be in Melbourne until the New Year. This means he has time to head home for Christmas where his mother, father, sister Claire and husband Simon, plus their two children live. A bitter fallout between Harry and his father has kept Harry away from home for a long time and he isn’t looking forward to his week-long stay. But he never expected to meet Eddie.
Edwina Campbell has lived on a farm outside the tiny township of Yallambah all her life. She’s a nurse, volunteers with the SES and is heavily involved in the local community. This year she’s offered to organise the Widows and Orphans Community Christmas Dinner but in the days leading up to it, things start to go wrong and Eddie’s not sure how she’s going to manage. She never expected to meet Harrison Baxter but his arrival on the scene and offer of help is a lifesaver she gladly accepts.
There is an instant attraction between Eddie and Harry but how can anything come of it? Eddie has no plans to leave town, or her grandparents, whom she cares for, and Harry has no plans to leave his city lifestyle and career.
But when tragedy and heartache loom in the form of Harry’s father’s life threatening diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease and the loss of everything Eddie holds close to her heart, it forces Harry and Eddie to question their futures. As the people of Yallambah rally together to save their community they demonstrate to Harry and Eddie what’s really important.
Where did you get the inspiration for the character of Harrison and Edwina?
Early in our marriage, my husband Tim studied voice and sang professionally for the Victoria State Opera. Despite how much I love my husband, I’m not a huge fan of opera (sh! don’t tell him). But I love musical theatre. Luckily he sang a lot of musical theatre as well as opera so I always enjoyed watching him perform.
But although I should say the inspiration came from Tim, it actually came from two other musical theatre singers.
One is Ramin Karimloo, a very good looking Canadian musical theatre star I follow (stalk) on social media. He has a phenomenal voice as well as being very good looking – just like Harry. The other inspiration for Harry came from a friend of ours, Simon Gleeson, who also has an incredible voice and is very kind on the eye too – as his gorgeous wife Nat would agree. (Nat O’Donnell is a performer herself, currently about to star in Mamma Mia). Simon recently brilliantly performed the role of Jean Valjean in Les Mis in both Australia and the UK. After a show in Melbourne Simon kindly took me on a tour backstage and at that moment the character of Harry came alive in my mind.
The funny thing was, I had to really work hard to convince my editor that a musical theatre singing hero was sexy enough for readers! I think there’s a mistaken belief that anyone who sings opera or musical theatre must look and sound like Pavarotti! My editor thought it would be hard for readers to get their heads around opera or musical theatre singers being as sexy as rock stars or even a country singers. I wanted to totally pull that stereotype apart. I promise you’ll love Harry – he’s sexy, but he’s also incredibly sweet.
And I wish you could hear Harry sing – he sounds just like my hubby!
How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
As with all my stories, the ideas come from the people I’ve met and the places I’ve lived and visited. I usually find the setting first then start imagining the characters who would live there. Bit by bit everything falls into place.
The inspiration for One More Song came after my husband and I spent a long weekend in Beechworth in Victoria’s high country and attended the acclaimed Opera in the Alps. While we were there, the ideas flowed and I spent the majority of our time away writing, dreaming, planning and plotting. Instead of opera, I imagined musical theatre being performed under the stars. The story fell quickly into place as I combined everything I love about musical theatre, singers and small town Australia.
You have said one day you and your husband will escape to the country together. Do you have any specific areas in mind?
If we ever get the chance, it would probably be somewhere in Victoria’s Western District or in the Victorian High Country where One More Song is set. But we haven’t ruled out an overseas ‘escape to the country’ adventure – there are a few places in rural Canada I could move tomorrow!
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a book for an early 2019 release and I’m so excited about it. I don’t want to divulge any details but it’s a story of a man, two woman and the love for a child which binds them together. It will be a story filled with heartache and hope that will be sure to have readers reaching for the tissue box.