Welcome and thanks for treading the boards with us today!
1. Are you inspired most by places, people or experiences and how do these work their way into your writing?
Inspiration is a funny thing. I've never consciously considered what inspires me. Ideas just sort of wriggle their way into my consciousness. I'll see a picture, hear a piece of music or a place and sometimes I'll just wake up with an idea fully blown in my mind…from who knows where. Sometimes I'll see a person in the street or a park and they will inspire me a story or maybe it's a news item or something I've read in a magazine. Inspiration is everywhere.
2. Please share one of your favourite moments of inspiration with us.
An overheard conversation inspired Ashlyn's Bodyguard and it was one of those unreal situations... I was walking down a busy Auckland street behind two big burly Maori guys, tattooed to Africa, greasy dredds hanging down over gang patches on their leather jackets. I was trying to make myself inconspicuous, as you do.
As they talked, their deep voices echoed off the tall buildings around us. "Bro, ya think Joe's got a freaking death wish? He's goin' after the Judge's daughter."
I tell you my mind boggled and that overheard conversation was the catalyst for Ashlyn's Bodyguard. http://amzn.com/B008V4JPKI
How did you come up with the idea for Seven For A Secret? http://amzn.com/B009XJAKLS
The idea for this book came from an old family story. My Dad's nephew was raised by his aunt as her child. The day he turned 21 the aunt told the young man he was his father's child with one of the servant girls. (They had servants in that family). The boy left home that day and was never heard or seen again. My mother was a very judgemental woman, everything was black and white and she reckoned such information should have not made one bit of difference. My dad thought otherwise and spent years trying to trace that young man. As my parents argued it back and forth, I tried to imagine myself in that young man's shoes…and what might have occurred during his upbringing that made him react the way he did.
That was the catalyst for Seven For A Secret. Anna, a gifted artist, has never quite fitted into the family mould and has never understood why, until her father's posthumous letter reveals she's his daughter to the family au pair…she goes looking for her birthmother, and answers…and discovers a secret that was never meant to be exposed. I love this idea, and I don’t think the situation was that uncommon, especially in times when people had servants.
3. How do you come up with your characters’ names?
Sometimes it's pure serendipity, other times I may change my mind several times during a book. All my evil characters are names of people who've given me grief at some time or another. (That's so cathartic, you have no idea!) One thing I do is go on line to a couple of Baby Name sites and I'll check for the top 100 names for any given year. Some names go out of fashion, others never do. To use a name out of era is an immediate black mark against your hero or heroine, but that said names are what you choose to make them.
4. Who would you cast for a movie/TV series as your main characters if given the chance?
Return to Totara Park http://amzn.com/B0076I1HGA
I'd love to see this book made into a movie. It has everything, intrigue, passion, revenge, a heart-warming love story and the most horrific of betrayals.
Anna Paquin would be excellent as Winsome Grainger and Johnny Depp as Jared, her estranged husband. These characters would really bring this book to life. Love both of these actors and can see them large as life in these roles!
5. If you could pick a soundtrack to match your main character’s life, what would it be?
The pan flutes playing The Lonely Shepherd. Why? Married and thrust into the midst of her husband's family, Winsome was so lonely and so heartbreakingly alone. Even when she returns to Totara Park and Jared, the past clings to her like a dark shroud, and isolates her. And that piece of music has the right haunting note.
6. What is your favourite holiday?
I like Christmas, although for many years it was a time of great sadness in our family. It is the time when what is left of my family make the effort to see everyone and share the simple joy of each other's company. We are far too aware of how transient life is and easily it can be snatched away.
Perhaps I should explain the sadness. I had just finished dressing the Christmas tree when we received a phone call saying our elder twin son had collapsed and was in a coma. Christmas that year was spent in the ICU at Waikato Hospital where he later died. His twin also died 12 weeks later. I've never had a Christmas tree in the house since. No wonder you write so powerfully about children and loss, Shirley.
7. Do you read reviews of your books? What do you do when you read a not-so-nice one?
Reviews are a fact of life for a writer. I do read reviews and regard them as a necessary learning tool. I've had some real doozies and have learned to toughen up. For every negative review I've had a positive one.
My latest book One Hour To Midnight http://amzn.com/B00AOVXI7M has really polarised readers. But no negative review can dim my pleasure at receiving a letter like this from a reader ….
Dear Mrs Wine
I am glad to thank you for sharing your stories with the world. I just finished
One Hour to Midnight, and I loved it. It was a heart-warming story that gives
hope to those of us who need it. I love reading various stories and gathering
glimpses of cultures that I have never had the chance to see in person. You
have a wonderful talent, and I thank you for being willing to share it. Thank
you for allowing me to find some momentary happiness through you…. Amy
8. How many times were you turned down before you finally got published?
I've honestly lost count how many books were rejected before Catriona/Kate was accepted by KiwiGold Publishing…that firm went belly-up and it was about 7 years before Return To Totara Park was published by Trebleheart Books. Did I ever think of giving up? Countless times but the muse has other ideas and won't allow me to put away my pen.
9. What reason(s) did the publishers give for their rejection of your manuscript?
I've had them all, but the most bizarre of all was my last rejection. I was told it was unsuitable for XYZ line…hardly surprising as I never submitted it to that line in the first place. Go figure. In the end I decided I could well be ashes scattered on the wind before I broke through the glass ceiling of Trad Publishing so I thumbed my nose, and have self-published on Amazon. Will I make a fortune? I doubt it. But the satisfaction is huge.
10. Who is your literary hero?
Sir Walter Scott. I adored his books as a teenager and I can still read and enjoy them now. I love the quaint language, the glimpse of a world that has passed. My other literary hero is Georgette Heyer. This woman had the most amazing life and who else can claim to have created a whole genre of books, single-handed? When you think about it this is no mean accomplishment. She is certainly one of my literary heroes, a superb writer and a fabulous influence on our genre.
11. Who do you most admire and why? OR If you could meet anyone and spend an hour with them alive or dead who and why?
Queen Elizabeth II. She must surely be the most interesting woman on the planet. I would dearly love to spend a few hours with her discussing the things she's witnessed and hear her take on world events. She is one amazing lady.
12. What is your favorite book of all time that you can reread a hundred times, and it still feels like the first time?
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. I've read it many times and yet it still fascinates me. Her simplicity with language is unequalled. And I really enjoyed The Bone People by Keri Hume. That book resonated with me because I could identify with the characters and the culture. It was written by a Kiwi about Kiwis.
13. What do you need to set the mood for you to write?
I like a quiet space looking out into my garden. I don't need music or any other stimulus…just me and my muse. And that sounds so pretentious LOL! But I'm not, honestly.
14. If there is one genre that you have not written in yet, but would love to try writing a book in that specific genre, what would it be?
I like to try my hand at a historical novel. I've had the germ of one in the back of my mind for years and like an oyster it's gathering grit. Maybe someday it will bloom.
15. How many blurbs did you have to write before the final one?
Cry me a river, Susanne, cry me a river.
Blurbs are so hard. I'll start on one and beaver away for ages trying this and trying that. The easiest blurb I've ever written was for Lovers' Lies http://amzn.com/B009GQGUWQ
That blurb came to me in a dream and just fell off my pen, but they are the most difficult thing to write. You want enough to tease, to whet a reader's interest and yet you don't want to give too much away.
16. If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would it be? And why?
Gabriel Callahan in Shadow Dance http://amzn.com/B008NGBK0M
Why? I have a real soft spot for wounded heroes who shut down and then fight like the dickens when a feisty heroine comes along to bring them back into the land of the living. Gabe fought Jenna from the time she caught him in the crosshairs of her grandpa's old shot gun until he was finally ready to accept her love. Dare I say, this is my favourite story, and I think it’s because I love a wounded, vulnerable hero and Gabe is that, yet so strong.
17. What are you working on now?
The Farmer Takes a Wife… the third book in the series "The Mulleins of Katherine Bay" and currently I'm working on the line edits with a professional freelance editor. This is a real thought provoking and educational process. And one I am enjoying. It is surprising how often a sentence doesn't mean exactly what you intended it to mean.
18. Would you like to share an excerpt from your writing.
Here's an excerpt from the start of The Farmer Takes a Wife:
Sarah leaned against the kitchen counters struggling to breathe. Her heart jack-hammered against her ribs and she held trembling hands to hot cheeks.
For years she'd fantasized about seeing Heath Mullein naked and boy had she gotten an eyeful. He was impressive. All sleek, bronzed, work-honed muscle and although startled, he'd faced her unabashed.
She closed her eyes, but the vivid image of Heath in his unadorned, manly glory was seared into her eyeballs. Heat coursed through her from head to toe, heat that had nothing to do with embarrassment and everything to do with lust.
She fanned her face with a trembling hand. Talk about starting out on the wrong foot.
A soft sigh trembled from her. It had never been her plan to surprise him, in his own home, and find him buck-naked. Desperate to quell her nerves, she filled the coffee maker. Heath had to be hungry. The knot of tension and dread tightened as his footsteps sounded in the hallway a moment before he walked into the kitchen.
His scowl did little to ease her nervousness. What would he say to her proposition or the reason for her visit? Her courage faltered.
Am I tilting at the moon?
His cinnamon brown hair was still wet and slicked down, every wayward curl ruthlessly tamed. He'd changed into well-worn denim and a tight black tee that clung lovingly to his muscular body, but she found it far too easy to visualise him wearing nothing at all.
19. Please share your favourite cocktail recipe or celebration photo.
I'm not a cocktail person and only enjoy the occasional glass of wine so can't give you a recipe….now if you asked me to describe my favourite plant and the conditions it needs to grow…well that's a different story!
Thanks for treading the boards today, Shirley, and good luck with your latest book. I’m looking forward to The Farmer Takes a Wife, out soon I hope.