10 book giveawayMany congratulations to Amanda Barrett, winner of our Writers Ask Writers ten-book giveaway and Jennifer Saunders tickets!

Many thanks to all who entered, and wishing you all a very Happy Easter!col-md-2

I’m delighted to have teamed up with my Writers Ask Writers friends, Annabel Smith, Amanda Curtin, Dawn Barker and Emma Chapman, to bring you the mother of all giveaways – an eight-book bonanza which contains each of our latest novels plus a book we would choose to give to our mum for Mother’s Day.

10 book giveaway

You can enter this contest up to five times by visiting each of our pages and following the instructions. For this page, all you have to do to be in with a shot is to sign up to my newsletter, where you’ll find all my latest news plus other book giveaways too – AND leave a comment below telling me which author you would recommend to your mum/mother-in-law/grandma.*

Beaufort St Books

Jennifer SaundersThis prize has been generously sponsored by Beaufort Street Books, one of the finest independent bookshops in Australia, based in Mount Lawley, WA. They have also added a bonus prize of two tickets to see Jennifer Saunders discussing her autobiography My Life in Laughs at the Octagon Theatre in Perth on 28 April 2014, 7.30-8.30 pm. If the books are won by someone interstate we’ll draw an additional Perth winner who’ll receive these tickets – HOWEVER, we will need to know if you live in WA, so please add a comment on one of our blogs letting us know you’re a local!

My pick for the Mother’s Day giveaway, The Light Between Oceans, is the story of Tom Sherbourne, a young lighthouse keeper who lives on a remote island off the coast of Western Australia in 1926. He and his wife Isabel lead a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world, until a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant. What they choose to do next sets off a chain of heart-rending consequences.

Sometimes life turns out hard, Isabel. Sometimes it just bites right through you. And sometimes, just when you think it’s done its worst, it comes back and takes another chunk.

9781742755717I chose The Light Between Oceans as the book I’d give to my mother on Mother’s Day, although I’m being a bit sly as I already gave it to her last year, and she loved it! She said the story was so unusual and the predicament so tragic and understandable – and I would add that I was blown away by ML Stedman’s writing. I found myself underlining paragraphs because they were just so good that I wanted to go back and savour them. I was lucky enough to meet ML Stedman at a writer’s dinner and she was incredibly gracious and down-to-earth. She had obviously spent a lot of time focused on learning the craft of writing, and the effort she put in shines through on every single page. Not only did I love this book, I learned a lot from it too.

Here are the links to the pages of Amanda Curtin, Emma Chapman, Dawn Barker and Annabel Smith for more chances to win. Good luck!

*Competition open to Australian residents only. The giveaway ends on Tuesday 15 April and the winner will be announced on the 17th.col-md-2

Jenn J McLeod

Jenn J McLeod

Jenn J McLeod’s debut novel  House for All Seasons reached No. 5 on the Nielsen Bookscan list of bestselling debuts of 2013.  Her success is all the more lovely to watch as she is a particularly gregarious and generous writer and blogger, as I found out when she interviewed me on her blog some time ago. I’m thrilled she has agreed to be my guest today and tell us all about her latest release, Simmering Season

Welcome to my blog, Jenn! Tell us what inspired you to write SIMMERING SEASON?

Two (weird) threads combined: Reality TV and school reunions!

The Susan ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ Boyle after her Britain, You’ve Got Talent audition (and the You Tube clip that went viral). Sure, I related to the song and her situation. I, too, was not getting any younger and hoping someone would discover I had talent – writing, not singing! The media frenzy that turned the woman’s life on its head almost overnight made me fearful of the consequences. Who was looking out for her? The trolls were horrible and she was never going to fit the mould or the industry’s crushing standards: how to look, act, speak. It made me wonder …  “How does someone cope? What would happen if …”

I have a love/hate relationship with reality TV shows that get people’s hopes up then discards them and this comes out in one Simmering Season character, Brian Henkler – a kind of man so desperate for his is fifteen minutes of fame he’s prepared to forget his family. The kind that reminds me of a balloon pumped full of air that floats so high you stick your fingers in your ears in anticipation of the inevitable “pop”? He’s like that; so is the situation I create with a school reunion that brings home more than memories for his wife, and local publican, Maggie Lindeman.

As mentioned, the other thread in the story is school reunions. As Maggie says in Simmering Season

The idea of a school reunion is both terrifying and fascinating.” The thought of summing up her achievements in a synopsis and spruiking them does not sit well with Maggie. To her, a school reunion was like a swollen river about to burst its banks; just going for a look could be dangerous, while staying away was impossible.”

 What did you enjoy most about writing the novel?

Creating the characters and letting them write their own stories. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? I admit to scoffing when I’d hear published authors talk about their characters taking their own direction. I’ve since learned it does happen – well it does with us pantsers! It happened that way for me with House for all Seasons, with secondary characters refusing to stay in the background – like Maggie Lindeman. While I’d love to one day write a House for all Seasons prequel (Gypsy’s story), it was Maggie who won this time.

Simmering Season Jenn J McLeod lgeNow that SIMMERING SEASON is on the shelves, what are you planning to write next?

Simon & Schuster have contracted books three and four in my Seasons Collection, so I’m very excited to say I have typed THE END on book three, SEASON OF SHADOW AND LIGHT (Out April 2015.) Also, book four has moved from swirling around my head, to actual words on paper. Even though I was sad to leave Calingarry Crossing behind after book two, a move seemed right. Besides, I didn’t move too far away. I’m slowing moving east though! (Time for a little coastal fling by book four.)

Tell us one of the things you love about being a writer?

Apart from the creative process (creating personalities and places and bringing them to life) I’d have to say the camaraderie and mutual support I’ve found among writer friends – both f2f and online. It’s almost tribal. We are only missing the secret handshake and code words.

What? What do you mean there’s a secret handshake? Nobody told me about it. L

When you hit a roadblock in your writing, how do you get going again?

I included a favourite Elizabeth Edwards quote in Simmering Season, which tends to sum up my roadblock strategy:

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”

When I face turbulent times (yes, I have been knowN to get quite hysterical!) I walk through the storm – but not alone. I have a silent partner, a ‘J’ – as in Jenn ‘J’ McLeod – who is my wise reader and ego buster. I don’t think I’d manage a book every year without a plotting partner who digs me out of big black writer holes, calms me, believes in me, and lovingly tells me to “get real” and ditch the writer ego (along with all that flowery prose of the first draft).

Then, of course, there’s Facebook. I have THE BEST author friends online who really understand the highs and lows of this biz. I get so much enjoyment out of watching their successes. Supporting aspiring authors is a great way to remember how far I’ve come and how lucky I am. Positive thoughts help shift roadblocks pretty fast.

What else are you feeling passionate about at the moment?

Two things:

1.    Book three – Season of Shadow and Light. (In the back of Simmering Season, readers will find a sneak peek and I am super-excited about this one.)

2.    De-cluttering and simplifying my life – see answer to next question!

Tell us about one of your favourite places, somewhere you like to go when you need to relax and recharge.

Home is where I relax the most, with my two little fluffy heartbeats at my feet. Where I’ve lived for the last decade is a touch of country on the Coffs Coast – a property tucked away in a rural hamlet in the Coffs hinterland, but only ten minutes to the beach. However …

Home is going to change soon. A plan is afoot to sell-up and downsize and make a fifth-wheeler motorhome (with writing desk!) a portable abode so I can see this big brown land that is chock-a-block with small towns keeping big secrets. Thirty years ago I travelled around Australian in a F100 and a tent. I cannot wait to return to some favourite spots, while also discovering new places (and I’ve earned a little luxury this time).

I love book recommendations. Tell me about one book you’ve loved in the last year?

It is a toss up between the prolific Dianne Blacklock (her latest, The Best Man, has such a great collection of characters) and a debut author, Anna Romer, who wrote Thornwood House. Both these authors deliver on various levels. I enjoyed the storylines immensely, but when the writer/writing teaches me something – either craft-wise or general knowledge …  Bonus! Dianne Blacklock always teaches me something about character development and Anna Romer’s book is a sensory journey into the Aussie bush.

And what are you looking forward to reading this year?

I seriously need to start working my way through my e-reader. While such devices are convenient (especially when you are de-cluttering and downsizing) without the physical teetering tower of print books on the bedside table, the e-reader can be a case of out of sight out of mind. But there are two authors in particular with books out right now: Helene Young has a new book (Safe Harbour), plus there’s a debut from Kylie Kaden (Losing Kate) that looks really interesting.

Finally, where can people go to find out more about you and your books?

My website has book blurbs, videos and reviews. I also have the “Odd and Occasional Newsy Newsletter” and love it when someone signs up.

Thank you so much for hosting me, Sara. Readers can find out about my books and me (including a snazzy DIY book trailer) on my website www.jennjmcleod.com

Jenn is also to be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.Books and on Twitter (@jennjmcleod). Thanks so much for your visit, Jenn!

This month I’m giving one reader the chance to win a copy of Jenn’s latest novel, SIMMERING SEASON, and all you have to do to be in with a shot is to leave a comment below telling us which song you’d choose to sing on a TV reality show!  I’ll start it off by choosing ‘Let It Go’ from the movie Frozen, since it is ‘performed’ regularly in our house at present, and I know it pretty much off by heart! Make sure you’re also subscribed to my newsletter here – and look out for more giveaways in future.

Competition closes midnight, 30 April 2014, and the winner will be announced the following day.