Tag Archives: Head of Zeus

Thanks for everything, Colleen McCullough, 1/6/37 – 29/1/15

This week on social media I posted a little promotional tile I made. I love both a tale of thwarted love and the night sky (and where we’re staying in Stanthorpe, Qld’s Granite Belt, the stars are amazing).

But, unlike the star-crossed lovers in A Place to Remember, I feel as though the stars are aligning for me this year, both in my writing and in life generally. (And that is in no small way because Tess Woods (lovely author friend) kicked my butt into gear a couple of years back when I couldn’t see the stars for all the negative clutter in my head.)

Whether a writer plots or flies by the seat of their pants (like me) we all live for and love that moment when the many carefully constructed threads in our manuscript come together. Some gems fall into our laps totally unexpectedly. We didn’t plan them but, boy, when they happen it feels like a gift from above. In those moments, I like to think someone’s looking over my shoulder, working with me to nudge those pieces into place.

My literary guardian angel has been different for each book and while writing and perfecting A Place to Remember (especially given who my book is being edited and published by) I’ve imagined my angel is a big huggy, happy Colleen McCulloch.

It was three years ago today (January 29, 2015,) that the world lost Colleen and I want to pay tribute to her, not only because she is a literary legend, but because without her I don’t think A Place to Remember would exist.

“I am so glad I didn’t write The Thorn Birds,” said no author ever!

Of course I wish I’d written something that magnificent. Not only did The Thorn Birds showcase our country, I consider it the forerunner to the rural fiction genre we all know and love today. (The Thorn Birds mini-series also gave us Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward together! If you’ve been living under a rock, I highly recommend you find The Thorn Birds DVD and watch it.)

My publisher, and the managing editor for A Place to Remember is the same person responsible for The Thorn Birds’ success and getting it published in the UK back in 1977.

For many years, Colleen was asked for a sequel, or for ‘another Thorn Birds’ novel, but she refused. She Instead followed her passion and went on to produce 25 novels, ranging from love stories to crime fiction, and the epic, seven-volume Masters of Rome historical fiction series.

Not that I would dare compare my writing to someone of Colleen’s calibre, but I can tell you that both The Thorn Birds and A Place to Remember are based on the same theme: class, meddling parents/relatives, and bad timing leading to major conflict. I am not alone here. There are numerous stories based on the same theme, including the greatest tragedy of all: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. (Class, meddling parents, and really, really bad timing.) You can no doubt list many more stories — told any number of ways. Love a musical that deals with conflict surrounding class, meddling parents, and bad timing? How about Westside Story and Saturday Night Fever?

According to Christopher Booker, the same seven basic plots are the foundation for all storylines and all can be traced back fairy tales, myths/legends, and even The Bible. Over time, our storytelling has changed and people have started to tell stories their way and put their own distinctive voice to those well-loved plots and themes to make each one different (as evidenced by Shakespeare, Colleen McCulloch and, yes, even Jenn J McLeod!)

(If you are a writer, you’ll have heard about the seven basic plots Christopher Booker talks about in his book.)

I’ve taken the themes of class, meddling parents, and bad timing, added a sprawling cattle station and a dual timeframe narrative that spans decades to make the story my own. And I’ve added depth and complexity to the setting and characters to make A Place to Remember a multi-generational saga with not one, but two love stories.

Okay, I’ve digressed (which I do often, I know) and I’ve raved on about A Place to Remember when what I wanted to write about is making the 29th of January A Day to Remember.

Three years ago we lost Colleen McCullough to that place where all our best bookish types end up and watch over the rest of us bungling our way through what has become a very challenging biz. One day (and not too soon I hope) I will get to finally seek out Colleen so I can give her a big huggy hug and say ‘thank you for the inspiration’.

It’s funny the way things work out; how a tiny thought, a single kernel of an idea, a generous deed can grow and before you know it (and as I said at the start of this blog post) things begin to fall into place.


That’s Jill on the left.


I truly believe where I am in my life and career is where I am meant to be right now. All the signs are there. For example: Not long ago I discovered that a lady I’ve known for many years is related to Colleen. I was in Sawtell having coffee and telling her how much I love The Thorn Birds when she explained her very close connection. I sat there aghast and grinning and said, ‘Jill, why did I not know this before now?’ Then I hugged her. (It’s as close as I’m getting to hugging Colleen for a while!!)

I recall my crazy pitch to Rosie de Courcy, my publisher. I described A Place to Remember as a story of forbidden love (but without a priest!). I’d taken a proven plot/theme – meddlesome parents, class, bad timing – and set a multi-generational story on a sprawling cattle station in Central Queensland.

Once A Place to Remember is released (March 19 here in ANZ and April 5 elsewhere) I’ll have a new mission. Somehow, some day, (I suspect I’ll need Tess Woods to give my butt another boot) I WILL find a way to send this novel to Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown, because it was Rachel who was in my head the whole time I was creating the main character. By golly, I’d love to see Rachel Ward bring my Ava to the screen (and her daughter, Matilda, play Nina). Bloody brilliant combination.

If my literary guardian angel is looking over me, I hope she has some pull.

Thanks for everything, Colleen McCullough, 1 June 1937 – 29 January 2015

(Full bibliography below)

P.S. “With 30 million copies sold, Colleen McCullough’s THE THORN BIRDS is legendary. But it’s not her masterwork – that accolade must go to MASTERS OF ROME, her epic, twenty-years-in-the-making labour-of-love that captures the soul of late Republican Rome in a way no other writer has ever managed.” (From Head of Zeus website: Read more about it here. http://headofzeus.com/article/masters-rome-colleen-mccullough )


P.P.S Of course let’s not forget about Tim. (That novel was our first a glimpse of a writer who would be a trailblazer, not a follower.) But you might be surprised at the extent of Colleen McCullough’s bibliography. (This list courtesy of Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colleen_McCullough#Bibliography

Tim (1974)

The Thorn Birds (1977)

An Indecent Obsession (1981)

A Creed for the Third Millennium (1985)

The Ladies of Missalonghi (1987)

The Song of Troy (1998)

Morgan’s Run (2000)

The Touch (2003)

Angel Puss (2005)

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet (2008)[9]

Bittersweet (2013)

Masters of Rome series

The First Man in Rome (1990)

The Grass Crown (1991)

Fortune’s Favorites (1993)

Caesar’s Women (1996)

Caesar (1997)

The October Horse (2002)

Antony and Cleopatra (2007)

Carmine Delmonico series: McCullough also published five murder mysteries in the Carmine Delmonico series.

On, Off (2006)

Too Many Murders (December 2009)

Naked Cruelty (2010)

The Prodigal Son (2012)

Sins of the Flesh (2013)

Biographical work

The Courage and the Will: The Life of Roden Cutler VC (1999)

Memoir: Life Without the Boring Bits (2011)

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!!!!


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

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.