Behind the Story: Mary Ann Marlowe

maryannmarlowe-279x300I am so delighted to introduce you to today’s author, Mary Ann Marlowe. Mary Ann works by day as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel. She now lives in central Virginia where she is hard at work on her second novel.

Mary Ann, please tell us your story behind the story …

If my relationship with music were on Facebook, the status would be “complicated.” To the outside world, music and I may seem to have it all together, but if you dig a little, you’ll discover a lot of dysfunction lurking under the surface. 

My favorite musician and I have a healthy relationship. Although I’m an ardent fan, I don’t consider myself weird about him. He plays huge venues. I show up, watch the show, then go home. I love him, but he doesn’t know I exist. This is normal, right?

On the other extreme, I’m married to a bass player who occasionally drags me to his gigs where I feign enthusiasm while hiding my desire to be home in bed reading a good book in my PJs.  (Please don’t tell him this.) I think this is also probably normal. Familiarity breeds boredom, after all.


Me and Jason Castro

Here’s where I confess my crazy. Over the years, as I’ve sought out midlist artists in smaller venues, I’ve crossed into the weird middle ground between distant fan and familiar friend. It started innocently enough: I built a fan site. (You’re probably cringing already.) I swear, even then, my motives were pure. I only wanted to share the love with other fans. Then I started meeting these online friends at shows, hanging around until the venues closed, and getting to know musicians who stayed to talk with us after. Over time, lines blurred and friendships formed—although not always reciprocated to the same degree I’m sure.

Thus began an era of me supporting musicians in a hands-on, possibly unhealthy way. On the mortifying end of the spectrum, I’ve created way more fan sites than any adult should admit. I’ve helped lead street teams. I’ve been that fan who brought baked goods to the band. I’ve been asked, “Haven’t you been to enough shows?”


Personally signed CD – Alex Trugman

But on the cooler side, these musicians recognize me and smile when they see me in the audience. They sometimes put me on the guest list if I ask. One artist emailed back and forth with me as his songs went from demos to fully produced tracks on his CD. I can’t express how awesome it was to be a part of that process.

Being a giant dork has had other perks. Because of my web experience, I ended up working directly with Atlantic Records to moderate a couple of their fan sites and discuss marketing strategies with managers. Because of my baking, I befriended the entire band—and their family members.  One time a bass player picked up a bottle of novelty wine named for a musician and brought it to me several cities later. Another time a musician’s mom fetched me from the airport before a show and took me to a barbecue in her backyard.


Me and Matt Hires

But for every cool story, I can match it with an embarrassing anecdote I’d like to bury alongside radioactive waste.

When I started writing Some Kind of Magic, I didn’t intend to tap into those experiences as much as I did, but as soon as I dropped my MC, Eden, into a small club, her world became something so familiar to me, I automatically knew everyone she’d encounter. While Eden herself is, for the most part, the cool, collected music fan I wish I could claim to be, she confronts many much more invested fans—fans who run websites, fans who bring cookies to the band, fans who hang around after the show hoping to meet the artists. I know these people because they’re all me. So, although I poke fun at that aspect of fandom, I do so knowing that I’m poking fun at myself.



Mary Ann has kindly offered to give away two e-books to two lucky readers. All you need to do is leave a comment below telling us about your biggest music star crush – present day or past. Get your comments in by Sunday 12 March, 2017 to be in the draw. Good luck!

UPDATE: And the lucky winners picked out of a hat are Diane Curran and Pamela DuMond. Congratulations!

You can buy Mary Ann’s book here:

Buy links:









Penguin Random House Audio:


And you can find out more about Mary Ann here:



Behind the Story: Shona Husk

profile.jpgToday I’m excited to introduce you to Shona Husk, who is the author of the Shadowlands, Blood and Silver, and the Face the Music series. You can find out more information about Shona at or follow her on Twitter @ShonaHusk, Facebook or join her newsletter:

Shona, please tell us about your story behind the story …

The Blood and Silver series came out of a challenge I set myself when I was made redundant during the Global Financial Crisis. I’d been writing for a  couple of years and had finished 2 novels (which still lurk in the back of a cupboard, but around that time I’d come to the realization that if it took me over a year to write a novel it was going to take me a long time to learn the craft. So I’d turned my attention to novellas and was reading heaps of them (on my computer because I didn’t have an e-reader…I’m not even sure e-readers were around or had reached Australia back then). Novellas had plot and character and dialogue and setting, all things a novel needed but without subplots. I thought if I could learn to write a novella, I’d be able to transfer those skills to a bigger project.

So while I was jobless and looking for work I set myself the goal of plotting and writing a novella every 2 weeks. I was aiming for more words a week than I’d ever written, but then I did have more spare time because of the lack of a job.

Lady of Silver wasn’t called that back then. It was the last 15k novella that I wrote before finding a job. It was also the one which I knew could be more.

The other three novellas sold. The next novel I wrote sold (so my theory about honing story structure by writing novellas paid off, YMMV). Lady of Silver got re-written and expanded. I plotted the next book in the series because I now knew what the overarching plot thread would be—I like series linked by a plot thread (although I have written a few stories that share a universe but no common thread).

Then the paranormal romance market died. As a paranormal romance writer this hurt both creatively and financially.

So I dabbled with contemporary romance, I started writing urban fantasy under a different name and I kept writing paranormal romance on the side because I knew it would come back eventually.

I re wrote Lady of Silver again, because I still believed in the idea and it combined a few of my favourite things.

I love lost civilizations. Stories about ruined cities found in a jungle/under water/buried in a desert will always get my attention. What happened to the people? What was it like when they lived there? Who were they?

Medieval witch hunts have also fascinated me, how can people be whipped up into such a hateful frenzy? And be so cruel to others (I’ve been to a medieval torture museum and it was sickening)? Unfortunately as I’ve gotten older I can see how easily it happens…

I also wanted to read a story where the hero was human and the heroine was the one with the magical powers and he had to come to grips with her world because usually in paranormal romance it’s the other way around.

So the premise for the Blood and Silver series was the survivors of an ancient and magical civilization struggling to live on, while being hunted by those who still see them as a threat. Oh and there’s vampires…evil vampires…because it’s about time vampires got back to feeding and killing and be bad.

lady-of-silver-highres-smallMore about Blood and Silver: 

A man on a mission
A brutal crime is haunting detective Dale Morgan. A young woman has been murdered on the city’s outskirts, and her blood drained. Dale suspects the leader of a depraved cult may be to blame. Yet with barely a shred of evidence at the crime scene, Dale will have to turn to the one person despises almost as much as the killers he puts behind bars.

A woman with secrets
To humans, Saba Venn is a psychic, but she’s Albah, a race long forgotten by humans but who live amongst them, her powers fueled by blood and silver. She agrees to help Detective Morgan, if it means stopping the vampire cult she believes is behind the killing. But the attraction she feels with Dale is immediate, and as their relationship intensifies she begins to doubt she can keep her secret from him.

Buy links: Amazon Kobo iBooks Barnes and Noble All Romance eBooks

Behind the Story: Alissa Callen



Photo credit: Gabrielle Battistel

Today I’m excited to introduce you to the gorgeous Alissa Callen. Alissa is a USA Today bestselling author who is happiest living far from the city fringe. Alissa writes small town and rural fiction and is published with Random House, Tule Publishing Group and Harlequin Australia. Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take. Her books are characteristically heart-warming, authentic and character driven. Alissa lives with her family on a small slice of rural Australia.

Alissa, please tell us about your story behind the story …

The Long Paddock is a story that has been woven from the scents, sights and sounds of my everyday world. While Woodlea, the town of windmills, is fictitious, the landscape surrounding the town and the experiences of the local community are grounded in reality. My real life has a way of wriggling into my words much like how our Jack Russell sneaks into our kitchen.

Coonamble Rodeo3.JPGI live on a small farm with my family in the central west of NSW where we grow winter oats and graze cattle. Our menagerie of animals, and the natural beauty around us, never fails to inspire me — even though one brown snake swimming in our pool is enough for inspiration, along with one grassfire. I hope never to see smoke in our front paddock again.

The plot for The Long Paddock owes its genesis to a past summer when rain was scarce and I’d drive through mobs of cattle grazing on the roadside verges. Concern has grown over the management and future of the travelling stock routes and this was an issue I wanted to explore. Another issue I wanted to touch upon was rural mental health. Droughts can parch more than the earth and bushfires can burn more than windmill grass.

our-carrot-eating-cowYarn bombers had decorated the trees in Dubbo’s main street and the colours and textures soon found their way into my story. After attending the Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft, not only did I find myself with a bull-rider hero, but also a misunderstood bull who was determined to take center stage. Since I wrote The Long Paddock I discovered a bull like Reggie really does exist. His story may be different, and he may snore at night, but there are real people who have given a misjudged bull a forever home just like Cressy did.

I hope readers enjoy spending time in Woodlea as much as I enjoyed bringing this small, close-knit, rural community to life.

the-long-paddockMore about The Long Paddock:

Country-girl Cressida Knight fills her days with her farm, a rogue bull called Reggie and her volunteer emergency services work. The busier she keeps, the less she thinks about the cowboy who left her behind. She’s convinced the small-town Woodlea grapevine that she’s moved on but now it’s time to move on for real. 

Champion bull rider Denham Rigby shares Cressy’s deep love for the land and all he’s ever wanted was to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Cressy through life. But three years ago a dark family secret left him no choice but to run. Now family duty gives him no choice but to return to the bush.

What Denham hasn’t come home to do is to hurt Cressy. He’s nothing but a liability and the beautiful cowgirl has to remain off-limits. But when faced with Cressy’s desperation to save her drought-stricken farm, he can’t keep his distance. He joins her out droving on the long paddock. When Woodlea is hit by more than just rodeo fever, they are further thrown together. Denham loses the battle to lock down his emotions.

But has he left it too late to stop running? And will the woman he’s always loved be prepared to risk her heart for a second time?


You can find out more about Alissa at

Behind the Story: Penelope Janu

profile penelope janu.jpgToday I am super excited to introduce you to the wonderful Penelope Janu. Penelope ives in Sydney with her husband, six great kids, and two big dogs. As a lawyer she spent many years working in legal firms and academia. She has a strong interest in social justice issues and the environment, and it was while teaching a university course about the legal regulation of climate change that the inspiration for the environmental aspect for In at the Deep End came to her.

Penelope has travelled widely, and last year hiked over 300 km from the west to the east coast of England (stopping at numerous pubs for refreshment along the way). Although she likes adventure as much as her heroines, Penelope is yet to go to Antarctica, one of the settings for In at the Deep End (she is praying for a film offer that might take her there …) In at the Deep End is her first book.

So Penelope, please tell us your story behind the story!

Why this story?

As part of my day job, lecturing in a university course, I’d been doing research on the legal regulation of climate change. It was a new area of law for me but I’d always had a fascination with the environment and was interested (and concerned about!) about global warming. This led to a determination that my heroine Harriet Scott would have some sort of connection to an environmental cause. My hero Per Amundsen is a scientist as well as a naval officer, because research is a crucial element in environmental preservation. Scientists and environmentalists often strive for the same outcomes, but use different means to achieve these outcomes. These varying perspectives are an essential element to Harriet and Per’s rocky path to romance.

Many of the historical references in the book made me laugh—but by the end of the book, I’d learnt a lot about Scott and Amundsen and their race to the South Pole. Can you explain how this aspect of the book came about?

Climate change and the environment led me to Antarctica, and Per’s surname (Amundsen) led me to Roald Amundsen, the first man to make it to the South Pole. The man Amundsen beat to the South Pole (by just a few weeks) was Robert Falcon Scott. The contrasting ways in which these early twentieth century explorers approached their journeys mirrored personality traits of Harriet and Per. Harriet, like Robert Falcon Scott, is passionate and persuasive (if a little high risk). Per, like Roald Amundsen, is capable and considered (in a control freak kind of way). Many communications between Harriet and Per are short, sharp and funny—but the research that went into them fills quite a few folders and many weeks of research!

Was the book always going to be a romance?

Definitely! Like many writers, I’d spent years not writing anything, but thinking I’d like to. A legal career and boisterous family (six children nine years apart) gave me a busy, fulfilling life, but also kept my plots in my head rather than in a notebook. My ‘stepping stone’ into creative writing was through a university masters degree (populated largely by writers of literary fiction), but I was determined to write what I loved. An early reviewer of In at the Deep End said there was sustained ‘simmering tension’ between my hero and heroine and I loved reading that! For me, that’s what romance is all about.

How did the elements of environment, exploration and romantic comedy come together?  

My heroine is an adventurer and so is the hero, and the book is first person, present tense and fast paced (elements common in the romantic comedy genre), but to be honest I wasn’t fully aware I’d written a romantic comedy until my publisher told me I had! Since then, I’ve worked out how important voice is in creating this type of book. Harriet has suffered loss and tragedy in her life. She also has a terrifying phobia—fear of the water. But most importantly she’s independent, thoughtful and smart—prepared to fall in love but unwilling to settle for anything less than that.

You’re a debut novelist. How have you found this experience so far?

Everything is new! Starting out a second career has been a wonderful challenge, but a challenge nevertheless. I get nothing but joy from the writing itself (I’ve recently finished another manuscript featuring another Norwegian hero, Per’s twin brother Tør) and having a traditional publisher in Harlequin Mira has made my journey easier in many respects, but the author platform and everything else that goes with it is all new to me. Now the book is finally available I can’t wait to connect with readers.  

Thank you Alli for having me today—this is my first visitor blog post ever!

It’s a pleasure, Penelope!

DeepEnd_HighRes_FC.jpgMore about In at the Deep End:

A quick-witted, contemporary romance about losing your cool.

What woman doesn’t love a real-life hero? Harriet Scott, for one. The fiercely independent daughter of famous adventurers, she grew up travelling the world on the environmental flagship The Watch. So when Harriet’s ship sinks in Antarctica and she has to be rescued by Commander Per Amundsen, an infuriatingly capable Norwegian naval officer and living breathing action hero, her world is turned upside down.

Like their namesakes, the original Scott and Amundsen who competed to reach the South Pole first, Per and Harriet have different ways of doing things. Per thinks Harriet is an accident waiting to happen; Harriet thinks Per is a control freak. But when Harriet realises that Per is the only one who can help her fund the new ship she desperately wants, she is forced to cooperate with him.

Per refuses to assist unless Harriet allows him to teach her to swim. But there is more to Harriet’s terrible fear of water than meets the eye. Can Harriet face her fears and come to terms with the trauma and loss of her past? And will she begin to appreciate that some risks are well worth taking—and that polar opposites can, in fact, attract?

BUY LINK: au/product/9781489214553

You can find more about Penelope at