Today 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Many of the historical references in the book made me laugh—but by the end of the book, I’d learnt a lot about Scott and Amundsen and their race to the South Pole.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!
More 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?
You can find more about Penelope at http://www.penelopejanu.com