I’m all a-dither with excitement. It’s Re-release Day for the wonderful Australian historical romance, LILY’S LEAP, which has already hit #2 in iTunes book store. To celebrate, I have dragged the author, my colleague and good friend, Téa Cooper, away from her celebratory champagne and forced her to put together some coherent sentences to tell us about herself and her beautiful book.
- Can you talk about who you were in your previous life? Before being a writer, that is!
I always thought I was Nell Gwyn – orange seller, long time mistress of Charles II. Oh, you mean in real life. Not so exciting. Journalist, English as a Second Language teacher, classroom teacher, University lecturer, PR person, alpaca farmer, protea farmer … in various combinations at various times. (JL: Good heavens, why are you writing about fictional characters? Your life would make a great story!)
- Did you become a writer out of curiosity or because you had no choice in the matter?
I’ve always been a writer, then one wet Easter holidays I saw a Mills & Boon competition in the Women’s Weekly. I entered and won second prize – a bottle of perfume! Fiction writing went onto my bucket list. Then many years later I woke up one morning and decided I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. By sheer coincidence I stumbled upon the HQN New Voices competition and entered. Needless to say I didn’t win but I did write Tree Change, which was published by Breathless Press twelve months later. I was hooked – so I guess I had no choice in the matter!
- Tell us about the books you have previously published and what you feel about them as a writer who is evolving with each book.
I think I learn a little more every time I write a story. I hope I do. I would hate to think of myself as static. Some books will always be closer to my heart than others because of the time I wrote them or the part of my experience I’ve drawn on. I don’t believe anyone writes pure fiction. As far as my technique as a writer, I hope it is evolving. I’d love to go back and rewrite Tree Change!
Téa, I just gave you the perfect opportunity to tout your other incredible novels and you are so humble, you let it pass. So now it’s up to me to do it J … Téa has published three contemporary novels – “The Protea Boys”, “Passionfruit and Poetry”, and “Tree Change”. She has published three Historical novels, “A Winning Streak”, Matilda’s Freedom” and “Lily’s Leap”. There are about three more on the horizon so stay tuned to her website.
- You have written both contemporary and historical novels. Are you pulled more to one or the other?
It didn’t cross my mind to write a historical novel originally. I have no idea why not as I have always read historical novels and I majored in History and English at University. After I wrote Tree Change I started fiddling with historical ideas and discovered I enjoyed it. I also love the research and live in a very ‘historical’ spot, then I started working/volunteering at the local Museum and the rest as they say is history. I’m playing with an idea at the moment that would involve parallel timelines so perhaps it was meant to be – a combination of contemporary and historical.
- Some of us (Me!) find writing is sometimes akin to pulling teeth. Each sentence has to be dragged kicking and screaming from a recalcitrant brain. Do you write in wonderful creative bursts or is it a hard slog?
I write in bursts – they’re not usually wonderful creative ones though! I tend to write my first draft fairly quickly. The structural edit that follows is where the ‘hard slog’ bit comes in. Fortunately I have some wonderful critique partners who slap me around when my plot is full of gaping holes and I’ve used but nine hundred times! (JL: ‘just’ is a personal favourite of mine)
- Now to the important part! You have just re-released your wonderful Australian historical rural romance, LILY’S LEAP. (I read and loved it, by the way) Can you tell us if the characters demanded the story, or was it driven by the setting, an idea for the adventure or something else?
LILY’S LEAP is unashamedly the child of Wollombi Museum. I started poking around and discovered there were a lot of bushrangers who haunted The Great North Road, which runs from the Hunter Valley to Sydney. Our local historian listened to my mad idea and told me a few stories. The whole lot percolated for a while and out popped Lily’s Leap!
- Before I let you off the hook, one last question. I imagine you have been on a few blogs with the re-release of your book. What question about your book would you like to have been asked that you weren’t? And we probably need the answer as well. J
What an excellent question … back later! Have to think about that… sometime later…No one has asked this question…
Lily’s Leap and Matilda’s Freedom are both set in Sydney and Wollombi. Are the two books related?
Oh! You want the answer as well?!
Yes, they are, through the secondary characters. Matilda’s Freedom is set a few years later than Lily’s Leap and I suppose in a perfect world Lily’s Leap should be read before Matilda’s Freedom although both books stand alone. I became very attached to several of the secondary characters—Jem, the Aboriginal tracker and Bonnie, Lily’s companion especially. They appear in both books. I’ve sketched out two more stories involving Hannah and Beth, the two young girls in Matilda’s Freedom. I think it would be fun to bring all of the characters from Matilda’s Freedom and Lily’s Leap back into play when/if I tell their stories.
From Escape’s Queen of Australian historical romance comes a story about a privileged member of Australian’s squattocracy, a bushranger, and a very special horse.
Born into the rough, but privileged society of the Australian colonial landowners, Lilibeth Dungarven finds herself married, widowed, and, much to her distress, back under her father’s thumb, all before her twenty-first birthday. Determined not to forgo her dream of breeding the perfect racehorse, Lilibeth ignores propriety and sets out to restore the family’s flagging fortunes.
When Captain Tom and his mismatched band of bushrangers stumble across a mob of the best horses they’ve ever seen, and the daughter of the famed Dungarven horse stud, they know their fortunes have changed. Their catch is worth a king’s ransom. All they have to do is hold her for seven days. How hard can it be to control the pampered daughter of a colonial upstart?
Hunter Valley, Australia 1848
Lilibeth Dungarven’s cry of pure pleasure soared skywards as the massive black stallion rose to clear the fallen tree, sending the horrors of the last four years scuttling into the dirt of the ancient land.
Clenching her knees against Nero’s heaving flanks she bent low, ducking the overhanging branches framing the bush track, her cheek pressed to the warmth of his muscular neck. When the erratic pounding in her chest settled she drew Nero to a shuddering halt and pushed the damp curls back from her forehead.
A pair of black cockatoos, disturbed by her madcap gallop, shrieked their annoyance and resettled in the whispering casuarina trees. The crack of their beaks as they threw the mangled nuts to the ground filled the silence. Below her the ribbon of sandstone road weaved its way towards Payne’s Crossing and she shielded her eyes from the sun, searching for her mob of horses.
A glint of reflected sunlight drew her eye to a mounted figure in the middle of the road. Despite the hat pulled low shadowing his face, the stockwhip crack of his words registered deep in her belly.
‘Bail up! Guns down and off the horses.’
‘What do you think you…?’ Constricted by the tension in her throat her words petered out. No one would dare steal such a valuable mob of horses. They were branded. Everyone in the colony knew the Dungarven brand. To lose them was unthinkable. Years of breeding — the first pure Dungarven bloodlines. Months proving herself capable of managing the sale and the trip to Sydney. And now a hold up! It would not happen. Not if Lilibeth Dungarven had any say in the matter.
Thanks for the invite, Joanna. It’s been a lovely visit!
Wonderful to have you here, Téa. Please visit again! To visit Téa’s website and to buy her books see below: