Tag Archives: Tess Woods

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)

#WriteRoundOz w/ Tess Woods (book giveaway)

Tess Woods from the beautiful Indian Ocean shores of WA tells a great yarn and has a beautiful real life love story…Love at First Flight by Tess  WoodsTess Woods- smaller photo

Tess, congratulations on your debut novel. It is a fabulous read and one lucky person will win a copy by just commenting below.

And thank you for letting my park my rig next to your veggie patch


Now… What’s that I see written on your ‘welcome mat’?

“Friends Always Welcome, Family by Invitation Only.”

If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?

Two fridges and more food than you could poke a stick at. I’m Egyptian. We eat big. There is enough food crammed in there to survive a zombie apocalypse. My hubby thinks the six large bags of mozzarella in there are overkill. I think “but what if we have 35 people show up unexpectedly and they all want toasted sandwiches?” Common Egyptian thought process…

Downsizing my life into a 24 ft caravan meant leaving lots of things behind in boxes. What (or who!!) would you have trouble leaving behind if you took off in a caravan?

The two big fridges…

Whose home would you like to visit in your van and why?

George Clooney’s chalet in Lake Como. I don’t really care about the chalet. Or Lake Como.

Do you REALLY have room at your house to park a fifth wheeler caravan and do you mind visitors? Oh, sorry, you don’t have to answer that one!! 🙂

Haha! No definitely do not have the room, but what the hell, come anyway, the neighbours have a huge drive. 

Country curiosities…

My latest novel, Season of Shadow and Light, has a strong horse theme. (I love what horses can teach us). If you were an animal what would you be?

I would be my cat. My cat has the life one can only dream about. 

You’re cooking and your food going up against the best cooks from the CWA (Country Women’s Association). What would be your winning dish?

This is on my bucket list, for real. I want to take my lemon pie to them and I want a ribbon. I want this very, very badly. 

About you…

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Research, I hate it. I know some authors love it, but my wish is to be able to just write whatever I want and have nobody question its validity! I so wish I could get away with that and not have to research AT ALL.

If someone was to write your biography, what do you think the title should be?

She’s Good with her Fingers! 🙂 (I’m a physio, I knit, I cross-stitch, I bake and I write.)

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

“How did you and your husband meet?”

I love my own love story with my hubby and I’ve always wanted an excuse to share it. So, yay, thanks for asking!!

I saw him for the first time standing over the photocopier in the library at university, and it was an instant phwoar moment for me. I thought he was the hottest guy I had seen on campus. I drooled from afar but I didn’t approach him. He was older than I was and we had no common classes and I didn’t see him again for a while. A few months later though, a friend of mine introduced him to me as her boyfriend. Doh! I saw him out and about socially for a while then and I continued to drool over him from afar. But they broke up and I didn’t see him again for two years. Then I was at a university ball and out of nowhere he appeared and said he remembered me from before and asked me to dance. After we had a dance, he told me I looked beautiful in my ball gown and invited me to have a drink. I declined, because I had a boyfriend at the time. Doh!! He disappeared again. Cut to two years later, once again, and I happened to see him by chance at a crowded bar in Geelong. We were both there for a mutual friend’s party. Quite literally across a crowded bar our eyes met. He walked over and his first words were “so did you lose the boyfriend?” We celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary this year.

Favourite four…

Favourite place in Australia: Scarborough Beach, Perth at sunset.

Favourite holiday destination: Venice.

Favourite movie: Dirty Dancing

Favourite quote: “Throw me to the wolves and I shall return leader of the pack.”

 If I said to you, “Just entertain me for five minutes, I’m not going to talk,” what would you do?

Belly Dance!

About: Love at First Flight 

A family is threatened by an irresistible attraction in this compelling debut that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Anita Shreve.

Looking back on it now, I can see it was instant. The second we locked eyes. Boom. Just like that. The me I had spent a lifetime perfecting began its disintegration from that moment. And despite the carnage it brought to all our lives, I still don’t regret it. 

What would you risk to be with the love of your life? And what if your soul mate is the one who will destroy you?

Mel is living the dream. She’s a successful GP, married to a charming anaesthetist and raising a beautiful family in their plush home in Perth. But when she boards a flight to Melbourne, she meets Matt and her picture perfect Stepford life unravels as she falls in love for the first time ever.

What begins as a flirty conversation between strangers quickly develops into a hot and obsessive affair with disastrous consequences neither Mel nor Matt could have ever seen coming. Mel’s dream life turns into her worst nightmare.

Love at First Flight will take everything you believe about what true love is and spin it on its head.

Jenn J’s review on Amazon 


Author website: http://www.tesswoods.com.au/

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About the author: Tess Woods

Tess Woods is a health professional who lives in Perth, Australia with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over all of them. Love at First Flight is her first novel for HarperCollins. When she isn’t working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea, watching Downton Abbey and tending to the veggie patch.

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