Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Guest Post | Welcome to Watercolour Cove | Jenn J McLeod

I'm extremely honoured to be hosting the lovely Jenn J McLeod on the blog today as part of the Blog Tour celebrating the release of her fourth novel, The Other Side of the Season.

Having been an avid fan since the release of her debut, A House for All Seasons, I can honestly say that Jenn is an author who truly embraces setting and today she's here to talk about just that, as well as welcome us all to Watercolour Cove.

No stranger to embracing a second chance or trying something different, Jenn took her first tentative steps towards a tree change in 2004, escaping Sydney’s corporate chaos to buy a small cafe in the seaside town of Sawtell.

For her, moving to the country was like coming home.

After ten years running a B&B on her NSW property, she now gets to write her contemporary Australian fiction (life-affirming novels of small town life and the country roots that run deep) grey nomad style–a wandering writer of no fixed address. Yep! She's hit the road in a Ford and a fifth wheeler –writing in and under the Southern Cross.

Readers and reviewers alike enthusiastically received her debut, House for all Seasons, placing it at #5 on the 2013 Nielsen’s Best Selling Debut Novel list. Simmering Season is book two in her Seasons Collection (all standalone reads) with her third, Season of Shadow and Light released in 2015 and The Other Side of the Season, recently published by Simon and Schuster Australia and in your nearest bookshop now.

Jenn, thank you for providing this post.


A lot of the feedback I get is about the strong sense of place that puts readers smack bang in the middle of my small towns, which is lovely because I do try really, really hard to paint those pictures. The fictional setting in The Other Side of the Season was not so much of a challenge, perhaps because the setting is a combination of two real NSW towns I’ve got to know over the years: Nambucca Heads (with its incredible painted rock breakwall) and Coffs Harbour.

To create Watercolour Cove, I kind of dragged those two elements side by side (because as an author I can) and I populated it with characters—local and visiting, introducing one unique and mesmeric individual, named Pearl (who I adore and hope I’ve done justice).

I love working with setting and I treat the creative process in much the same way as I do my characters. That means getting to know the town—the location, the property, the house—intimately, as well as understanding it has a history and usually hurdles to overcome. 

I found history especially important for The Other Side of the Season as the story is set in Watercolour Cove in both 1979 and current day; often the importance of setting can be overlooked in dual time period novels, particularly where both story strands, spanning several years/decades, take place in the same location. Even though my setting is the same small town, the story spans three decades, so I knew the backdrop couldn’t stay static. Towns and places grow, age and change, just like people.

If a character ages, as mine do over thirty-five years, how they interpret their surroundings and what they notice, has to change too. Buildings date, some get demolished, while others are heritage listed and restored. Trees grow (or are cut down), infrastructure is improved (but not always in small towns!), modern conveniences and fast food outlets spring up in the oddest of places, while some things disappear from our landscapes completely, with public phone booths, electricity poles, and post boxes replaced by a glut of road signage and mobile phone towers. Even in the thirteen years I’ve lived on the Coffs Coast I’ve seen changes. Where once Coffs Harbour—home to the Big Banana—had hills covered in lush, green plantations, these days, those same hills, if not left bare and scarred, are swathed in white bird netting to protect the new multi-million dollar industry—blueberries.

I thought about all these details, if only in my head and in my planning notes, because with every small town story my goal is to take the reader on a journey back home to an authentic country town. (Okay, so with book #4 we’re having a little sea change, but rest assured Watercolour Cove has all those small town characteristics readers love.)

Emails are already arriving in my inbox, asking if Watercolour Cove is a real place. It’s not, but there are some hidden pockets of paradise on the Coffs Coast and despite living the gypsy life since 2014, I keep coming back. I highly recommend you put the NSW North Coast on your travel list. In the meantime, I hope you fall in love with Watercolour Cove.

When offering to drive her brother to Byron Bay to escape the bitter Blue Mountains winter, Sidney neglects to mention her planned detour to the small coastal town of Watercolour Cove.

Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove is a very different place. Two brothers are working the steep, snake-infested slopes of a Coffs Coast banana plantation. Seventeen-year-old David does his share, but he spends too much time daydreaming about becoming a famous artist and skiving off with Tilly, the pretty girl from the neighbouring property. His older brother, Matthew, has no time for such infatuations. His future is on the land and he plans to take over the Greenhill plantation from his father.

Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill plantation. One stays—trapped on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams.

That is, until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what’s wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and . . . there’s another side to every story.

Book information and BUY links

Jenn loves to connect with people on social media so go ahead and look her up:

You can also join in the discussion at her Facebook Group, Readers of Jenn J McLeod (no cat memes allowed!)

Friday, 6 May 2016

Guest Post | Exploring the Stories that Live Behind Closed Doors | Kim Lock

Today I have the honour of welcoming Kim Lock to the blog.

Her second novel, Like I Can Love, was released in March this year by Pan MacMillan Australia and there have been some rave reviews about it, including mine (find it here).

Unlike her first novel, Peace, Love and Khaki Socks (my review here), Kim severely changes tack in Like I Can Love, daring to venture into much darker territory to explore not only domestic abuse in one of its most subtle forms - along with the grief left in its wake - but also to unravel the relationships between mothers and daughters and the life-changing secrets we all keep.

Having regard to those aspects of the story, I asked Kim if she'd put together a piece about exploring the tales that develop behind closed doors - and she's done a brilliant job of this post.

Born in 1981, Kim has worked around Australia as a graphic designer and also volunteered as a breastfeeding counsellor.

Her non-fiction has appeared in The Guardian, Daily Life, and The Sydney Morning Herald online.

Her fiction explores the stories that shape people's lives, but that they hide from society.

Kim lives in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, with her partner and their children, a dog and a couple of cats.

Welcome Kim and thank you for contributing this insightful post.

Like I Can Love is available for purchase from the following links:


There’s myth about the average nuclear family, and that myth is this: that ordinary people don’t have remarkable stories to tell.

Sometimes, people do publicly remarkable things. They become presidents, politicians, actors and artists, scientists who discover causes and cures. Some people become celebrities, their faces recognised around the world.

But most of the time, people are simply regular people, with faces only their family and friends will know. And yet their stories can be equally as interesting, challenging, provocative, and amazing.
Beneath the surface of any family you will find a rich vein of endlessly fascinating narrative. Skeletons in closets. Unknown half-siblings. Hidden parentage. Estrangements, dalliances and oppressions.

Recently, a friend found out that she has an older half-sister. And when I say ‘older’, I mean only several months older. For three decades it was kept secret from her and her siblings that not long before their parents married, their father had a love affair with ‘another’ woman. The ‘other’ woman’s parents disapproved of this affair and forbade further contact. Bereft, my friend’s father turned to their mother, who also fell pregnant, and whose parents happened to be staunch Catholics and insisted on marriage. For decades this story was kept hush-hush. Eventually, their father’s guilt became unbearable and he made his admission and in doing so, opened their family up to a world of hurt. But the biggest reaction was: Why have you kept this from us? And ironically, the reason for the secrecy was to protect them from hurt.

See what humans do there?

Because we humans are intensely social, gregarious animals, it is inevitable that within our lifetimes we will have an infinite number of interactions with others - friendships, sexual trysts, monogamous couplings, promiscuity, falling-outs, fights, losses. Goals and dreams and ideals. The minutiae of our interactions with others simply cannot be boxed into a set of socially-constructed dos and do nots without variation.

Often these social constructs are for our protection and cohesion. Our social boundaries and rules can keep us safe from exploitation, and allow us to abhor things like abuse and crime. 

But sometimes these constructs can cause us pain. Because adhering to relatively narrowly-defined social constructs that have hung on for centuries for religious or political reasons, simply will not suit the full, wondrous breadth of human behaviour. And so we hide what we believe are ‘indiscretions’, but are often little more than beautifully, biologically normal human expressions. From beautifully, biologically normal people.

Sometimes, in efforts to maintain social structure people punish themselves. People grow ill or sadly hurt themselves or others. Pride is a normal part of human self-esteem, but what wounds that pride – or drives our need to maintain it – is the fear of what others will think.

Humans are fascinating, complex, complicated, social creatures with a range of weird and wonderful behaviours. Our ability to cause each other unimaginable heights of pain, pleasure and everything in between – sometimes without even physically touching each other – is what makes us human. 

For as long as humans have walked the earth, we have told our history through stories. From a snatch of gossip whispered in one ear, to tales painted on cave walls, to bestselling international biographies: humans love to hear a story. And equally, they love to tell stories.

Although just as often, they like to hide them.

Everyone has a story to tell. Even the most unassuming people and families have fascinating, tragic, hilarious, and inspiring tales. And it is through listening unreservedly to each other’s stories that we have the opportunity to grow.

About the Book:

On a hot January afternoon, Fairlie Winter receives a phone call. Her best friend has just taken her own life.

Jenna Rudolph, 26 years old, has left behind a devoted husband, an adorable young son and a stunning vineyard. But Fairlie knows she should have seen this coming.

Yet Fairlie doesn't know what Jenna's husband Ark is hiding, nor does she know what Jenna's mother Evelyn did to drive mother and daughter apart all those years ago.

Until Fairlie opens her mail and finds a letter. In Jenna's handwriting. Along with a key.

Driven to search for answers, Fairlie uncovers a horrifying past, a desperate mother, and a devastating secret kept by those she loves the most.

Heartbreaking and terrifying, Like I Can Love explores love in all its forms - from the most fragile to the most dangerous - and the unthinkable things we do in its name.

If you would like further information on Kim and her books, please visit the following links: