The Story Behind The Book Cover

Crowned the UK’s Independent Publisher of the Year, 2017, Head of Zeus are a powerhouse and as my book nears that magic moment – release day – I can stop and take a breath and reflect on the joy of working directly with the team from very early on in the book creation process.

For a start, I got to work on edits with advice for the publisher, Rosie de Courcy. With the time zone differences, I would wake up in the morning, turn on the computer, and find encouraging feedback on my manuscript waiting among my emails. One of those emails arrived and I had to read it twice. In fact, I’ve saved it in my ‘Happy File’ because it started with the words: “Jenn, you’re so like Maeve. When I was working on her novels she would do the same ……….”

For the first time in four books I also got to liaise directly with in-house Art Director, Jessie Price. (Speaking of treasures…!!!) Mindful that HofZ is in the UK and my novel is set on a cattle station in Queensland, I decided to send a couple of pictures to show a typical Queenslander house. I’d found one ages ago, by artist John Newman (based in Noosa at the time). The painting, titled ‘Rockhampton House’ had inspired my ‘Ivy-May Homestead’ as I wrote.

‘Rockhampton Queenslander’ by John Newman

What a surprise to see, among the various cover choices I received, one had the very same image. I LOVED it! So HofZ acquired the rights so we could include it on on the cover.

Do check out John’s many Australian-inspired works. They are all beautiful.

I am also loving the ‘first book feeling’ and working so closely with Head of Zeus on this, my fifth novel, and can’t wait for March 19. (April 5 in the UK).

You can pre-order now. (All the links you need are on my Book Page or to Head of Zeus direct.)

 

 

Where cowboys meet the coast – WIN w/ the Christmas Blog Hop

This is my post in the fabulous Christmas blog hop, happening until Christmas Eve.
Thirty e-books to be gifted and a $150 gift card, too!
Plus, a Jenn J book to someone who leaves a comment on THIS blog. So don’t get so wrapped up in my story about cowboys that you forget to enter.
Comment and click below!!!!

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The Capricornia region in central Queensland (Australia) is, according to this tourism website, where cowboys meet the coast. Sounds like the perfect place to set a story, don’t you think? And I have the perfect title for it, too – A Place to Remember. In fact, it’s already written and I’m working hard with my UK publisher (Head of Zeus) to bring it to the world this April (in print and ebook), so keep an eye out.

While it’s a pretty special story, I feel obliged to ‘fess up about this novel – my fifth. To explain, I’ve recorded a video confession – an apology for disappointing my readers with my last four novels. As I said, the video (below) explains.

Now . . .  about this year’s Coastal Blog Hop book you can win – The Other Side of the Season.

The Other Side of the Season is my fourth novel and I’m taking readers from the country to the coast. Check out the blurb or watch this 40 second trailer.

 

 

 

And, speaking of videos . . . about that confession. Check it out on You Tube: https://youtu.be/uk9iet5ALq0

Thank you for blog hopping. Have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are in the world. (Maybe let me know where you’re from in your comment.) I’ll be back where the book began, on the Capricornia Coast looking for those cowboys!

Now you’re here, increase your chances of winning by leaving a comment below, and also enter via the rafflecopter below to win 30 ebooks and a $150.00 gift card.
If you comment here, then Tweet or Facebook this blog post I will add a second entry.
Winners announced on Christmas Eve.
What a great present! What are you waiting for?

 

ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS BLOG HOP:   For more information and a list of all the authors involved:  Annie Seaton – organiser extraordinaire. 
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

24th December: Prize Draw

More blogs to hop:
 Previous blog: I just read about E.E. Carter’s grandparents being itinerant workers who traveled around Queensland in their caravan. Great minds!
Next blog in the hop: TBC

Kim Kelly – Portrait of an Author

Yes, we are being creative with our author Q&A!

Kim, with pose and composition such important factors, what kind of ‘look’ would you want for your portrait.

A. On a chaise lounge (Kate Winslet/Titanic style)?

B. Fully clothed in a rocker (Whistler’s Mother style)?

c. A close up of your face (Girl with the Pearl Earring style/Mona Lisa)?

D. In all your formal finery befitting your ‘authorly’ status (Regal style)?

E. Other?

Jenn, a combination of A, D & E here, please. I write mostly lying down on my mad-yellow couch and I usually frock up for the day (today it’s a 60s reproduction A-line mini in blue daisy print) even though no-one but the cats and chooks see me, so if you’re going to paint me in my preferred habitat and costume, paint me like this – plus laptop on lap vying for space with one or two cats, and a cup of tea and a buttered weetbix on the side table.

If you were being painted RIGHT NOW, tell us what you are wearing. (Be honest!)

A: As above. Honestly. Don’t be fooled by the black skivvy in my author pic. To my shame, at present count I have ninety-two everyday frocks. Most of them are recycled and they all get recycled and reinvented eventually, but yes, I have a frock problem. If I really did have to choose a frock to wear for a portrait painting, I’d have a series of small breakdowns before deciding how history should remember me in print – fabric print, that is.

Given a choice, what precious item would you want included in a portrait of you?

A: Only one? I’d have to include a sideboard photo of my muse de bloke, Deano, and one of my boys as well. They are my everyday inspiration. And the cats. And the chooks. And my tea cup collection (seriously, almost as bad as the frocks). I’d want my books in there as well – the books I’ve worked on as editor, too, and all those that have opened doors in my mind.

With acquired savant syndrome featuring in my next novel, I’m curious . . . If you were to wake up from a coma one day to find yourself totally obsessed and a genius (in something other than writing, of course) what would you want it to be? (music, painting, languages, maths, touching your toes while typing, etc)

A: I’m so boring, I’m hopelessly devoted to the patch of dirt I already plough. I want to keep becoming a better writer. I’m already obsessed and I don’t believe in genius – just work, curiosity and generosity of spirit. I would like the ability to download books directly into my brain, though. I am a slow and careful reader – always worried I’m going to miss something important.

If you happened to wake up one day and be a genius with a paintbrush, whose portrait would you want to paint and why?

A: I am an accomplished painter already! Not. I paint on my mental health days – those days when I have to get up off the couch and get messy with my imagination – and my paintings are always bright splashes, cartoonish, mostly of flowers, sometimes abstract, and never much good. But if I was any good, I’d love to be able to paint my characters so that readers could see what I see when I’m with them. Responsible literary citizen that I am, though, I’d be sure to mark those pic files as potential spoilers – peek at your own risk.

Picasso once asked the question: “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” In my next novel, the artists says to 58 y.o Ava, “A mature person has depth of character and it’s their layers, built from life’s lessons that interest me the most—when wisdom replaces curiosity and experience replaces youthful exuberance.”

What two traits would you hope an artist captures in a portrait of you?

A: Love and curiosity. I can’t function without the giving and receiving of the first and I’m hard wired for the second. I don’t ever want to stop wondering and asking questions – especially of myself (most common one being, what the freak are you doing?).

Because every fireplace deserves a portrait, in whose house would you hang a Portrait of You as a surprise and what would they say?

I’d want my portrait hung over the hearth of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to remind him that immigrants and refugees have made Australia not only the colourful and beautiful place it is but they also made me. And when he is eventually ousted, I want my portrait to go to the National Library of Australia together with all other author portraits in the Jenn J McLeod collection to show this country what a wealth of storytelling heart we have, right here, right now, particularly among women writers.

Keeping in mind that lucky recipient of your portrait, how would see yourself framed?

  1. Minimalist or no frame at all – just the canvas (take me as I am)
  2. Modernist – chrome, nothing too fancy
  3. Sophisticated – warm, wood, old world
  4. Flamboyant – go all the way and gilt edged!

A: No borders – of course!

Finally, if someone was to add a plaque/title your portrait, how would it read?

A: The Authorlady

Acrylic on old fence-palings; 2000cm x 3000cm (that’s right, Mr Dutton, it’s HUGE).

On the surface all is romantic whimsy and yet the work is rich with literary allusion and classical symbolism. Most strikingly, the use yellow, predominantly on the couch, is suggestive of madness, while cats and chooks, well, we all know what they say about a woman in middle age. The masculine details apparent in the painting, in the form of portraits within the portrait, make no clever commentary whatsoever on the nature of portraiture itself but rather point to the author’s philosophy that one can smash the patriarchy and love all her blokes to bits at the same time. The underlying narrative of the image explores a powerful nexus of love and curiosity, and seeks to interrogate the national soul, at the same time drawing attention to its concretely central but ironically ethereal meta-theme, most simply described in the broad-brush statement: the lady rocks a frock.

Thank you for playing along on Author Portraits. Now, lovely readers, some serious stuff about Kim Kelly who really is one of a kind. A beautiful person who writes beautiful stories, which are half price until the end of December. Stock up on your holiday reading! Find all the fab deals at all the major retailers here worldwide: https://books.pronoun.com/kimkelly/ Buy one, buy all four!

About Kim…

Kim Kelly is the author of six novels, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory. (I LOVED Wild Chicory and The Jewel Sea so much – Jenn J) 

Her stories shine a bright light on some forgotten corners of Australia’s past and tell the tales of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. The Sydney Morning Herald has described her style as ‘colourful, evocative and energetic’. The Daily Telegraph has noted her ‘impressive research’. And, to her enduring shock, the Melbourne Age has said: ‘Why can’t more people write like this?’

A widely respected book editor and literary consultant by trade, stories fill her everyday – most nights, too – and it’s love that fuels her intellectual engine. Love between lovers, friends, strangers; love of country; love of story. In fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life.

Originally from Sydney, today Kim lives on a small rural property in central New South Wales just outside the tiny gold-rush village of Millthorpe, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.

Website https://kimkellyauthor.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KimKellyAuthor/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Before you go, I have some more author portraits to celebrate the release of my 5th novel (April – here in Australia/NZ and overseas) so you might want to subscribe to my blog (right) or check out my Book Room.

Then something magical happened.

I apologise for letting 2017 slip by without a book, but I was forced into taking a break. Not only did I need to refill the creative well, I had to remind myself why I do this writing thing. Of course it’s because I have stories to get out of my head, but I’ve realised over the last six months that I also do it for the connection writing brings me.

YOU – the emails, the social media comments, the happy hour conversations about books and publishing in camp kitchens.

To keep the books coming, I had to work out the best way forward for me and in doing so I discovered four things:

  1. I have some of the loveliest readers and a generous writer community behind me. Please, keep sharing the love and recommending my books to your friends because…
  2. Publishing is not about words, it is about numbers. The success of a book has little to do with how hard the author works, or how powerful their prose and plotlines. A book needs a team of people behind it who are equally as passionate, and that includes word of mouth by happy readers.
  3. The thought of no longer being Jenn J McLeod, Author, left me confused and depressed. (I don’t remember who I was before I decided to become a writer ten years ago or who I might end up being without it – and that’s a bit scary.)
  4. Most important of all . . . if I want more readers to be reading my stories, including those living outside Australia (and NZ) I needed to make it happen for myself, which meant being brave, believing in myself, taking back some control and making the hard decisions.

Then something magical happened and I am abuzz with this exciting new chapter in the Jenn J McLeod Author journey.

I so look forward to next year when the UK’s Independent Publisher of the Year, Head of Zeus, will publish my beautiful book with a beautiful cover and distribute it throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and worldwide. Alleluia!

In fact, the adventure has already begun. Even before the final contracts were signed, I was having editorial discussions and fine-tuning the structure of BOOK #5. That’s how excited my new editor is about this book—a story that is incredibly special to me for reasons I will explain in the coming months. The yet-to-be-titled release holds a place in my heart because it proves some friendships are meant to be.

Did I mention my new editor is excited?

Well, blow me over with a feather, so am I because my new editor is none other than Rosie de Courcy—Rosie who in 1976 read a ‘little’ unpublished manuscript titled ‘The Thorn Birds‘ (later acquiring the UK rights for Futura publishing house in 1977). And if that did not have me blinded with self-doubt and disbelief that she would be interested in my story, the next bit of editor trivia did. Rosie was long time editor for another author you ‘may’ have heard of . . . Maeve Binchy!

Why am I telling you this?

Because The Thorn Birds connection is crucial to the story about how my novel first came to Rosie’s attention. You see, I had a dream and . . . (taking into account Items 1- 4 listed above and with thanks to Tess Woods for kicking my arse into gear and telling me to just bloody go for what I want) I followed that dream.

And that makes this Chinese proverb, which first came to my notice in a card, given to me by a special lady on the release of my debut novel (House for all Seasons), still relevant today.

I can’t wait to share more. So thank you for being on the journey with me and if you have fiction loving friends in the UK, it’s not too early to let them know. Maybe pass this email on or let them know about my website. I hope to be bringing a lot more fabulous UK authors to my new blog series, too: Author Portraits.

Bittersweet Bucket List

This #RovingWriter finally got to be Miss Philadelphia. (You know the one… Nancy Cato’s All The Rivers Run. Sigrid Thornton played the character in the 1980’s mini series of the same name.) It’s been a dream of mine to visit Echuca, to traverse that ancient wharf, to board the same wood-fired steamer, and to travel the Mighty Murray to the pulse of paddles and the huffing and puffing of pistons.

Two years ago, I heard about P.S. Pevensey (that it was the steamer used in the mini series) and if that was not exciting enough, I was told EVERY, yes EVERY, passenger gets a ticket – even the fur-kids. So, I made a promise to the one-eyed Dude dog at that time. I told her we’d take a boat trip together along the Murray.

Sadly, it’s taken two years to get to Echuca (on the NSW/Vic border) and as you may know, we lost the bravest dog in the world last year. So it was with sad hearts that we decided to go ahead and take a trip on the dog-friendly P.S. Pevensey anyway.

After telling our sad story to the lovely lady in the Discovery Centre, she gave us a canine ticket for our dearly departed ‘dog in a box’.

Canine Tickets for special passengers

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the lady took the time to write the date on the ticket, we realised the significance. While not planned, May 10 is one year – to the day – that we said goodbye to the Dude dog after 14 years with us. Suddenly, the much-anticipated trip turned bittersweet.

The one-eyed Dude dog, Daiquiri

Feeling miserable, what did we see? Bella.

What a joy. Here she is aboard and with Mum, Leanne. (I was itching for a puppy cuddle. I even had a sneaky cry.)

Once we disembarked, Bella’s family stopped with us at the Star Hotel for lunch – and some water from a wine goblet!

 

I’ve always believed some people come into our lives for a season and some for a reason. A  massive thank you to Keith and Leanne and Bella for sharing the trip and the pizza afterwards. I believe we were meant to meet today. Safe travels!

ABOUT THE BOOK: If you are interested in Nancy Cato’s novel – Booktopia has All The Rivers Run.

BEFORE YOU GO: It’s time we took back some control. Don’t leave it to Facebook (and the like) to decide what information you see and when you see it. I have book news coming soon and if, like me, you distrust social media’s filtering of information, join my New Release Reminder Service and I will email you my news direct to your inbox. (Just look top right on this page!) Leave your email (which I’ll protect with my life) and I’ll send you a reminder. This is NOT a monthly newsletter full of stuff you probably don’t want to know. I only send New Release Reminders when I have a new book out (or if my books go on sale online – and who doesn’t love a bargain book?)

albinism disability Jo Jo Moyes

Dear Jo Jo…

I emailed Jo Jo Moyes recently. I wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed reading Me Before You, but more importantly, that I loved the wonderful way she portrayed her character, Will Traynor (and by that I mean bringing a leading man with a significant physical disability into mainstream fiction).

Of course, Jo Jo is not the first writer to do this. Many authors, myself included (with Will ‘Wheels’ Travelli in my 2013 debut novel House for all Season), have included character traits that are not deemed as ‘the norm’ for their male/female romantic fiction couple. By not following the traditional/safe route when it comes to creating characters readers love, authors do take a risk. Some of you might be shaking your heads in disbelief, but I received two scathing comments about my Will being in a wheelchair (anonymous Good Reads type comments). They sure were a blow to this debut author. But I picked myself up and I’ve since written three more books, each time ensuring there is a character in the story who refuses to be defined by their physicality.

As I found out, even Jo Jo was heavily criticised by disability groups who felt the portrayal of her Will portrayed a negative view of life for those living with quadriplegia.

In my 4th novel, The Other Side of the Season, I have both a leading man who suffers incomplete paraplegia, and Pearl — a person with albinism. The idea for Pearl came to me after reading a Ramp Up interview with Dr. Shari Parker. A fierce advocate, Shari (along with others) are striving to change the way people with albinism are perceived by the broader community. (This perception often influenced by movies/TV.) With the pen being mightier than the sword, there’s no better place to add weight than in our fiction novels. If thoughtfully done, novels (and movies) can tackle ‘different’ respectfully and kindly. They can be a starting point for opening dialogue on various subjects and provide a safe place in which to learn.

With the pen being mightier than the sword, there’s no better way to weigh in than in our fiction novels. If thoughtfully done, novels (and movies) can tackle ‘different’ respectfully and kindly. Sensitively and accurately portrayed, characters can be a starting point for opening dialogue on various subjects and provide a safe place in which to learn.

But . . . “Let’s get the facts straight,” as Shari Parker says in an interview. “In popular culture, people with albinism are often depicted as evil or supernatural.” [She] wants to set the record straight about the condition and remind others that widespread inaccuracies about albinism should be challenged wherever they appear.

I totally agree, but is Hollywood getting the message? According to an online source: “…from 1960 to 2006 there were 68 films released featuring an evil albino, with 24 of these appearing between 2000-2003. In comparison, there were only a handful of movies with albino characters that were sympathetic in nature, and many of these characters were used primarily for comedic value, ie: giving the characters stupid nicknames and making repeated gags about their skin condition.” And these movies were not small. They were significant in terms of box office success. (eg Including The Da Vinci Code and Cold Mountain.)

Incredibly, as recently as 2013, The Heat (starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy) included largely negative, inappropriate, and even a few disgusting one-liners that ridicule a character cast as an Albino. This sort of depiction only serves to reinforce misunderstandings, societal prejudice, and discrimination. And don’t think it’s only crime/cop shows. In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the main antagonist, named Rudy, is cast as the albino Baryonyx who is vicious and vindictive, unlike the other dinosaurs. Okay, so every good story needs conflict and a great antagonist and it’s easy to fall back on stereotypes.

Easy for the writer, perhaps. Hurtful for those being portrayed.

It’s not hard to write well-rounded, emotionally complex characters with disabilities who are not defined solely by those disabilities.

I like to challenge myself as an author—be it character, setting or structure—to make my stories stand out. This, along with and Shari’s interview, is why I decided to create Pearl in The Other Side of the Season. And I’ve received so many lovely messages from readers about her (and her relationship with Jake). She was intended to take on a secondary role, but like Alice in Season of Shadow and Light (also mean to be a secondary character when I wrote her in), readers have warmed to Pearl, even asking me to give her a story of her own. I don’t like using the word disability. I prefer the word extraordinary—and Pearl certainly is that—making her special, while still portrayed her as a regular girl.

I don’t like using the word disability and I don’t play up differences. I prefer to use the word extraordinary to describe some character traits. Pearl certainly is that—making her special, while still portrayed her as a regular girl.

And in case you’re going to ask . . . I found a list on Good Reads that has 395 books listed as being a romance with a disabled (substitute ‘extraordinary’) hero/heroine.

Have you enjoyed a story that has an extraordinary character? Let me know.

My choice is most definitely the  Jo Jo Moyes novel, Me Before You. I do intend seeing the movie soon, but for now, I am very happy to let Jo Jo’s beautiful characters and the imagery her words created linger a little longer in my mind.

Meet Will in House for all Seasons

Meet Alice in Season of Shadow and Light

Meet Pearl and David in The Other Side of the Season

 

When is a killer not a killer (a lesson for writers!)

There are faster, easier, more caravan-friendly roads to drive between Coffs Harbour and Victoria. We chose the more scenic coastal route—The Princes Highway, which is less highway and more a bitumen goat track (a drunk goat, in parts).

Our reason?

My family holidayed on the south coast when I was very young (Ulladulla, Kiama, Batemans’ Bay) but we never went as far south as Eden.

We knew the road would be challenging with 25 feet of Myrtle The Turtle in tow, but the town of Eden was a bit of a bucket list town for me. I’m not sure why, although I am certain it was not for any biblical reference: no gardens, naked men, or apples tempted me. The only temptation was the stunning Two Fold Bay and had the temperature not been single digit and the wind gale-force, I might have had a quick dunk, despite tales of killer whales.

Eden did teach this roving writer something about the power of a single word in storytelling and how reader interpretation can change the story—and that’s not a bad lesson for any author.

My lesson.

What I learned is how our words can incorrectly influence our readers and my teacher was those so-called ‘killer whales’.

You see, the Killer Whale did not get their rather unfortunate name from hunting down and snacking on humans, as I’d always assumed. They were, in a way, man’s friend, even when whale oil was a much sought after commodity in the 1800s. Twofold Bay legend of that time tells of the Killer Whale being the first known sea creature to work in ‘partnership’ with people. I recommend you read this more detailed (and short) version by Australian Geographic about the cleverness of these giants of the sea, and how they protected their species from whalers in search of whale oil, by herding the unsuspecting humpbacks (and other species) in to be killed instead. Extract: from the Australian Geographic article:

“Whaling in Eden took off in 1828, but it wasn’t until 1844 that stories of the peculiar behaviour started to emerge. Eyewitnesses talked of orcas prowling the entrance of Twofold Bay for migrating humpback, blue, southern right and minke whales. Using the unique geography of the bay, the waiting orcas would ambush whales that were vastly bigger than themselves – ripping at fins, diving over their blowholes, and forcing them into shallower waters for the whalers to finish off. Once a whale was dead, they’d feast on the lips and tongue, leaving the rest of the carcass for the whalers.”

So, when a killer is not necessarily a killer.

That’s how the killer whale got such a demonised name and reputation. Not by eating people! Over the years, legend and misunderstanding has seen the single word ‘killer’ interpreted in different ways and this is the lesson for writers.

We need to choose and use our words carefully. We need to look at words in context and understand that a single word can have different meanings or be misconstrued.

We need to be as careful with our word choices as we do our commas and apostrophes. Or else when someone says, “Let’s eat Grandma” we are not perceived to be killer grandkids when what we really mean is: “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

Discover more about at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.