Are you inspired most by places, people or experiences and how do these work their way into your writing?
I’d have to say all three play an important role in my contemporary Australian stories.
Places: Small town settings in country Australia are as colourful as any character I might create.
People: My actual characters I shape from real people I’ve known or have observed (eg a cafe worker, a mother in the supermarket dealing with toddlers, etc).
Experiences: While my work is fiction, it’s hard to not write in personal experiences and emotions. In fact I’d say it is my highly emotional nature (verging on hysterical with a hair trigger according to my family – I blame hormones!) is what gets me into character.
I refer to myself as a ‘method writer’. I become my characters. By acting out scenes I can more confidently convert actions, expressions and emotions into words. I can also confirm (you heard it first) I talk to myself when I write – especially heated arguments or those big reveal moments – and I’ve been known to use anything remotely human (or breathing) to assist me: the partner, the dog, the budgie (or as a last resort the bathroom mirror).
[I am seeing more and more likenesses between us, Jenn. Role playing works for me too!]
Please share one of your favourite moments of inspiration with us.
Not so much a favourite moment. More a poignant one...
House for all Seasons has a four-part structure: Surviving Summer, Tall Poppy, Autumn Leaves, Wynter’s Way. The first part is Sara’s story and it has particular significance. The character is based on a determined and brave woman I had the pleasure of knowing, albeit briefly. Sara’s story gives a courageous woman the happy ever after she deserved.
How did you come up with the idea of House for all Seasons?
The changing seasons inspire me. I remember it was early spring. I was sitting outside relishing the warmth on my face after a cold, cold winter and appreciating the different seasons we get to experience here, in Australia. I love the contrast – and contrast makes for great characters and conflict. So I wanted to create four female characters as different as the seasons.
The house idea came from a childhood memory. Where I grew up (Headland Road, Dee Why) there was a run-down house on a corner, tucked behind an overgrown front yard. The kids in the area referred to it as ‘the spooky house’ and it was of course the source of many slumber party stories and schoolgirl screams. I think I was making up stories about the place back then, even though I don’t recall ever seeing the people who lived inside. If I could turn back the clock I think I’d like to know them.
How do you come up with your characters’ names?
With the four-part structure in House for all Seasons (each character with their own story) it made sense to have characteristics and names reflective of each season.
Who would you cast for a movie/TV series as your main characters if given the chance?
Too easy. Four strong females:
- Cute as a button Abbey Cornish (Sara),
- Tall, lanky, kick-arse Cate Blanchett (Poppy),
- Fiery, feminine and fabulous Nicole Kidman (Amber),
- All-'round good egg, Toni Collette (Caitlin).
What is your favourite holiday?
It’s been so long since I had a holiday! I’m lucky to live in semi-retirement and happy running a B&B for people who travel with their pets. I live vicariously through them (and have an never-ending source of characters arrive on my doorstep). I write every day and I feel very blessed.
How many times were you turned down before you finally got published?
I submitted two manuscripts, dozens of times, over a couple of years before finally finding my voice. House for all Seasons secured me an agent who submitted to multiple Australian publishers, with Simon & Schuster offering a two-book deal.
How many blurbs did you have to write before the final one?
My writing process usually begins with a blurb. It gives me direction. I am a pantster so my “let’s start a new story” plotting regime is this: title, tagline, paragraph/blurb, start writing – in that order.
If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would it be? And why?
Oooh, that would be a secondary character. Either Will ‘Wheels’ Travelli who owns the local cafe, so he makes a mean soy latte. (Plus he reminds you every day how precious life is and how quickly you can lose everything.) Or I’d bring Alex – the vet – to life, because every girl needs a guy-pal like him; the type of guy you can snuggle under the same blanket with: laugh at each other, cry with each other, strengthen each other.
What are you working on now?
I will start my edits for Simmering Season after things settle down from my March 1 release and I must pick up my 3rd book in the Seasons Collection which is currently sitting half way at around 60,000 words.
Would you like to share an excerpt from your writing or a photo or music link that inspires you?
I’m planning a pretty fabulous musical inspiration for my launch day (subscribe to my blog NOW so you don’t miss it! http://www.jennjmcleod.com/blog/ ) and with excerpts are hard to pick (too many faves) I’ll share that blurb we were talking about…
Four lives unravelled.
The truth will bind them forever.
Bequeathed a century-old house, four estranged friends return to their New South Wales hometown, Calingarry Crossing, where each must stay a season at the Dandelion House to fulfil the wishes of their benefactor, Gypsy.
But coming home to the country stirs shameful memories of the past, including the tragic end-of-school muck up day accident twenty years earlier.
Poppy, a tough, ambitions journo still craving her father’s approval;
Sara, a breast cancer survivor afraid to fall in love;
Amber, a spoilt socialite addicted to painkillers and cosmetic procedures;
Caitlin, a third generation doctor frustrated by a controlling family and her flat-lining life.
At the Dandelion House, the women will discover something about themselves and a secret that ties all four to each other and to the house - forever.
Please share your favourite cocktail recipe or celebration photo.
I know you, Susanne Bellamy, will LOVE my homemade Limoncello recipe. Cin! Cin! [You do know me Jenn J! It was my favourite drink in Italy.]
Zest of 7 lemons
750 Ml Vodka
2 Cups Sugar
2.5 cups water
Makes about 2.5 bottles.
Wash Lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. In a 1 gallon (or 2 litre jar), add half the vodka and the lemon zest. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days, and up to 40 days in a cool dark place.
After 40 days.
In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook until thickened, approx 5 to 7 minutes. Let syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mix resulting from part 1. Add the other half of the vodka. Then back to the dark place for another 10 to 40 days. (The longer time produces the best results, as does patience)
After the rest period, strain and bottle, discarding the lemon zest. Store in the fridge to serve. Remember the longer the zest and vodka mix rests, the better the taste.
This recipe can be doubled if you have the storage jars. (Go to your local cafe and ask them for their empty olive or sundried tomato jars. They are the perfect size.)
PART 4 (yes, I clearly love four parts in everything!)
On that note, Susanne… Thank you and cheers!
[CHEERS—HIC!!! Love your Limoncello, Jenn. Thanks for starring!]
www.jennjmcleod.com House for all Seasons out March 1, 2013