Behind the Story: Jenn J McLeod

Jenn
Today we welcome the gorgeous and talented Jenn J McLeod to share her story behind the story. Jenn lives the gypsy life in a fifth-wheeler caravan, her days spent writing heart-warming, small town tales: tapestries of friendship, family and contemporary country life. House for all Seasons was Nielsen’s #5 Best Selling Debut Novel in 2013. Her fourth novel, The Other Side of the Season, is out now with Simon and Schuster Publishers.

Three things inspired the writing of this book

  1. winter.
  2. a newspaper article
  3. and a rock.

Anyone who’s read my novels will know I’m inspired by the seasons.

My first book, House for all Seasons—a four-part story of four women who return to their hometown to spend a season each in an old house—allowed me to dabble and experiment with writing each season. Simmering Season was, as the name implies, a sticky, steamy, stormy season with a small town school reunion turning the heat up. While for the setting in Season of Shadow and Light I immersed myself in a summer flood event in a small country town.

This year, while I’m taking readers from the country to the coast for a sea change, you might expect a summer setting, but as you’ll discover when you read The Other Side of the Season, I prefer to do the unexpected. *nudge/wink*

Instead, to complete my Seasons Collection, I decided to give winter a voice and let it shine.

While looking for wintery inspiration, I discovered this quote from a celebrated American painter. It was perfect for a story with a strong art theme and the Andrew Wyeth Office (in Pennsylvania) granted permission, so you’ll find this at the beginning of my story:

I prefer winter when you feel the bone structure of the landscape,

the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.

Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.

Now, about that local newspaper article . . .

In 2014, two brothers were hanging up their last bunch of bananas after seventy years working the slopes of an iconic Coffs Harbour plantation. I read the article and my writer’s brain took over:

  • What if my fictional brothers, tied to each other by the land, didn’t get on?
  • What if one had different dreams?
  • What if something went terribly wrong?

As for how I turned a rock into a book . . .  

I’ve always wanted to incorporate The Nambucca V-Wall into a story. For those who don’t know it, there is an ocean breakwall on the mid NSW coast and its massive boulders are a graffiti gallery of funny, heartfelt . . . often curious messages. Hidden amongst the memorials, the mosaics and the marriage proposals was this rock.

stone(Transcribed from picture.)

Brianna

A thousand words

couldnt explain

how strong the

Love is that i have

for you. You are the

Love of my life the one

i want to be my wife.

Without you i dont know how i

would get through. You are my

soulmate my rock my everything.

Dean

I’ve never met Dean or Brianna. I don’t know them and I don’t know if this message was intended as a proposal when Dean wrote it, or if he was simply a man expressing his feelings for everyone to see.

If it was a proposal . . .

  • Did Brianna say yes?
  • Did she and Dean marry and live happily ever after?
  • Or did one of them meet with tragedy, or have an affair, or did they fall out of love?

I stood there, staring at that rock, not knowing anything—except the urge to correct his grammar and add apostrophes!

So, I had a Coffs banana plantation idea, a rock on a breakwall in Nambucca, two brothers—one a budding artist.

Those early days of a new story for an organic writer like me—when the words flow on to the page—are fabulous. Only sometimes you don’t recognise the challenges until it’s too late. There were moments I cursed myself for attempting such a huge, sprawling story that included multiple character point-of-view and complex, interconnected lives. There was no other way to approach a story spanning three decades but to use a dual time period structure, rather than over-using flashbacks that frustrate and confuse readers. So I channeled Kate Morton for some dual time period structure inspiration and started over.

A dual time period piece means I am essentially presenting two stories (1979 and 2015) to be read simultaneously, both with vague (often invisible) connective concepts in the early stages. Not until much later in the book do the connections become clear and those crumbs I’ve sprinkled get swept into a nice neat pile of plot revelations for readers to devour. But first I needed to make sure I kept readers reading.

And read it they are. I couldn’t be happier with the end result, and the reviews (like this one) calling it ‘my best yet’ are very comforting for this, my fourth small town story: a story of first love, family love and forever love.

coverAbout The Other Side of the Season:

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

Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove is a very different place for brothers David and Matthew and the teasing and tantalisingly pretty Tilly from the neighbouring property. When tragedy strikes in the winter of 1979, those who can leave, do, while 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 that 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 – www.jennjmcleod.com/book-room  

Connect with Jenn on Facebook www.facebook.com/jennjmcleod.books and Twitter @jennjmcleod or join in the discussion at Readers of Jenn J McLeod Facebook group (no cat memes allowed!)

Under the Spanish Stars – cover reveal and preorder!

Wow, it’s been a busy couple of days! I am delighted to reveal the cover for Under the Spanish Stars, out with Kensington Books 6 December for those outside Aus/NZ. (If you are an Aus/NZ resident, please click  here. for your version).

Here goes …

Amid the vivid beauty of Granada, a woman entrusted with unraveling a family secret will discover the truth about her heritage—and the alluring promise of love…

When her beloved grandmother falls ill, Charlotte Kavanagh will do whatever she asks of her—even if it means traveling to a country that broke her abuela’s heart. Can an unsigned painting of a flamenco dancer unlock the secrets of her grandmother’s youth in Spain? To find the answers she needs, Charlotte must convince the charismatic and gifted musician, Mateo Vives to introduce her to a secluded gypsy clan.

The enigmatic Mateo speaks the true language of flamenco, a culture Charlotte must learn to appreciate if she wants to understand her grandmother’s past—and the flamenco legend that has moved souls to beauty, and bodies to the heights of passion. As Mateo leads her into the captivating world of the music and the dance, Charlotte embraces her own long-denied creative gift and the possibility of a future rich with joy…

UTSS Kensington

Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m one lucky gal, indeed! I’m very much looking forward to sharing the story of Charlotte, Mateo, Katarina and Raul with you. 

You can pre-order your copy below:

AMAZON

Google

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

 

 

Midnight Serenade – cover reveal and preorder!

You may recall I signed a three-book deal with the wonderful Lyrical Press (Kensington Books) so my books will soon be available outside Australia and New Zealand. I’m happy to announce my first book MIDNIGHT SERENADE (Luna Tango in Aus/NZ) will be available on 5 July with UNDER THE SPANISH STARS is coming out on 6 December. Book three is likely to come out mid 2017. The first two books are now up for preorder!

For book reviewers, MIDNIGHT SERENADE is currently up on Netgalley.

So, without further ado, I will treat you to the cover of MIDNIGHT SERENADE today with UNDER THE SPANISH STARS to follow in the next day or two. 

For those living outside Australia and New Zealand, these books will be available worldwide, so if you have any friends or family who may be interested in my stories, please feel free to send them the link to the books. 

Ooh – and keep an eye out for Goodreads give away AND a way to unlock some special material prior to release day!

Drumroll, please …..

Midnight Serenade.jpg

Isn’t it beautiful? I absolutely love the pose of the dancers with Buenos Aires in  the background and my gorgeous heroine, Dani, with her blonde hair and luscious red lips. 

Here’s a rundown on the story with pre-order links:

On the sultry streets of Buenos Aires, the daughter of a world class tango diva searches for answers about the mother who abandoned her—and uncovers decades of lies and deception…

After twenty years of wondering why her mother chose tango over her, Dani McKenna finally travels to Argentina. What was it about this beautiful, mysterious land that enticed one woman away from her own child—and broke another’s heart? As a journalist, Dani may have the opportunity to find out. And an enigmatic tango dancer may hold the key to her quest—if she can break down his defensive walls.

Carlos Escudero had been Dani’s mother’s protégé. Tragedy ended his career and he refuses to be interviewed. But he will give Dani some insights, on one condition: she must agree to his tango lessons. As the two begin the intricate dance of passion, Dani’s quiet, logical world is exchanged for one of music, motion—and mystery. For the clues to a dance legend’s murder may lead Dani to the truth about the past and its impact on her family—and free her to move toward a future she can claim as her own at last…

You can preorder through (please check your ebook seller in your country for links outside of the USA):

THE BOOK DEPOSITORY

KENSINGTON BOOKS

AMAZON

IBOOKS

KOBO

BARNES & NOBLE

Behind the Story: Elise McCune

Elise McCune (33).jpg

Photo by Alex Fevola

It my pleasure to introduce the fabulous Elise McCune who is an Australian author born in Cronulla, NSW, Australia. In 1973, she moved to Perth, Western Australia and raised her two children, Lisa and Brett.

She worked for ten years in the Western Australian Museum and after this she lived on a 5000 acre farm, two hundred kilometres north of Perth.

The type of story she likes to read has passion and intrigue and a family secret at its heart.  Exactly the type of story she likes to write. Elise now lives by the bay in Melbourne, Australia.

Tell us all about your story behind the story, Elise!

Thank you Alli for the opportunity to share with your readers how I came to write about a castle in my novel Castle of Dreams and also how I research.

The inspiration for Castillo de Suenos in my novel Castle of Dreams came to me some years ago when I was staying in Mission Beach in far north Queensland. I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park a magical place in the rainforest near Cairns.

I’m sure lots of WW2 romances started there when the Australian and American servicemen came out to the Saturday night dances with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends.

CastleOfDreams_HighResCastle of Dreams has two narrative strands, one set in WW2 Australia and the other in contemporary times. It’s full of all the things I love in a novel: romance, mystery and betrayal, everything to keep you turning the pages to find out what happened next.

For my research I read primary sources like diaries, letters and newspaper reports (Trove is wonderful!). I read books written about and of the period I am researching. I use Google but online information can be inaccurate so be careful and check more than one source. I use my wonderful local library and inter-library loans for books I don’t necessarily want to keep on my bookshelf, and also, I always read bibliographies carefully in each book as they are a source of more information on the subject you are researching.

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Photo by Luke Evans

Luke Evans, son of owners, Mark and Judy Evans, was always willing to answer my many questions about the fascinating history of the park.

I talk to experts in the area I am writing about. I have a military friend who is also a writer of novels and as one period of Castle of Dreams was set in WW2 during the Pacific War I asked him many questions and most importantly I could rely on his answers.

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Photo by Luke Evans

I write about the things and places I love: mystery, England, Cornwell, and history all sprinkled with a touch of magic.

You can find more information about Elise and her books at www.elisemccune.com