Today I wish to extend a very warm welcome to Cathryn Hein and congratulate her on the publication of Heartland, her latest novel, which was released yesterday, 24th April 2013.
Cathryn is the author of two previous novels, Promises and Heart of the Valley which were finalists in the 2011 and 2012 Australian Romance Readers Awards. Born in South Australia’s rural South-East, and with three generations of jockeys in the family, it’s no wonder she grew up horse mad. When she finally obtained her first horse at the age of ten, her many years of pony club, eventing, dressage and show-jumping began, until Uni beckoned. Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College, she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write.
Please feel free to tag along and, at the end of the Q & A, you will stand a chance to win one of three copies of Heartland, another fabulous addition to the Australian Rural Romance genre. The winners will be drawn via random.org.
First things first though, I wish to thank Penguin Australia, especially Heidi from their publicity department, without whom this interview and giveaway would not have been possible.
So, without further ado, let us indulge in getting to know Heartlandand Cathryn much better.
Welcome to Book Muster Down Under Cathryn, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you here and I am so looking forward to getting to know you a bit better. As a brief introduction, would you mind sharing a bit bit about yourself and how you came to write?
Well, I’m a country girl at heart, orginally from Mt Gambier in the south east of SA but now living in NSW. I’m completely horse mad and spent most of my childhood indulging my passion for them, but sadly had to give my horses up when I started work. I studied agriculture at university and worked for several years in the pasture seed industry, in Victoria and NSW.
I’ve always wanted to write and dreamed I would end up doing exactly what I’m doing now, albeit in a more glamorous, Barbara Cartland-y way! I started with short stories and the usual over-hormoned teenage poetry but by the time I hit my twenties I knew it was novels I wanted to write. Great fat bonkbusters like Jilly Cooper’s but with an Australian setting. It left me rather astounded when I found I wrote nothing like her.
Like many authors it took me a while to find my way. Work and life in general offered lots of distractions plus I kept getting stuck with my stories. Then we moved overseas and I decided that it was now or never. So I parked my bum and wrote, determined this time to finish a book. Three months later I did and I loved every second. After that there was no stopping me.
What can you tell us about Heartland?
Heartland is the story of Callie Reynolds, a young woman who, since the death of her sister, has been running from those who care for her. When her grandmother dies and leaves her Glenmore, a property Callie has always loved, she’s torn between what her heart aches for and the powerful need to honour her sister’s memory. All she wants is to sell up and move on, but the world keeps conspiring against her. The farm is full of memories and longing, then there are the animals she’s been saddled with and an injured elderly neighbour she feels responsible for. All solvable problems, until a sexy and determined ex-soldier comes along and really complicates things…
It’s a story of forgiveness, family and passion, with a few laughs and tears, and an insane goose for added spice. I had a ball writing it.
This is the first novel I have read by you and I was so amazed to find that the animals in your story have such personality, especially Honk, who had me in fits of laughter when Callie encountered him on her return. Are their characters based on animals you have known and loved in your life?
I love writing about animals and I adore it when readers tell me how much they enjoy them, so thank you!
As a general rule the animals are based on ones I’ve owned or known but I usually tweak them quite a bit so their personalities shine. I know it’s anthropomorphising but I can’t help myself, it just makes them such fun.
Honk is actually based on a goose that roamed a golf course where I was a member (yes, I’m one of thosestrange people). He’d been there for years and yet always squabbled madly whenever a golfer came within range. I thought he was hilarious and decided to put him in a book.
In Heartland, your hero has a disfigurement – not that I’m complaining, because he certainly is yummy and I’m a sucker for a bit of “bad boy” in my male characters. How did you come to incorporate this into his character?
Good question! It was important for Matt’s development as a man; one who lacked a proper father figure growing up but who still managed to discover himself, albeit in an emotionally and physically scarring way.
In the same way Callie’s tattoo acts as a reminder of her world, Matt’s scars act as a permanent reminder of what really matters in his. Both their ‘marks’ symbolise the deep emotional changes they’ve experienced.
Callie’s life revolves around the tragedy surrounding Hope. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write about this serious issue which affects society on a daily basis, and is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The idea for Heartland was partly triggered by a newspaper report about the tragic drug overdose death of a teenager. It made me reflect on how many times I’d read similar reports (too many, sadly), which then led to more musing about what impact such a calamity would have on a family, in particular the siblings. Would they blame themselves? Would they try to replace their missing sister or brother, and how would that affect their own developing identity? How would they cope with their parents’ grief? How would their parents cope with theirs?
The message is forgiveness – not just between loved ones, but self-forgiveness. That’s what Callie must discover. Without it, she will never find her own happiness.
What was the hardest part of writing Heartland?
Stopping Matt and Callie from having sex all the time. Well, not really, but they were rather distracting!
The hardest part was getting the family dynamics right for both Callie and Matt, but Callie’s mostly. The reader experiences Callie’s parents only from her point of view, so I had to take special care with how I showed their emotions. Children can view their parents through clouded lenses.
You have such a fluid and easy writing style. Which authors do you believe have been the most influential on this?
Thank you! That’s a really nice and much appreciated comment.
I’m a huge fan of Katherine Scholes, Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley. I love the cadence of their writing, it’s almost like music. That’s how I hear my own writing – like music – and I try very hard to eliminate every bung note!
Do you have a favourite place to write?
Yes, at the super-special workstation I bought after my first book Promises was contracted. It’s a lovely big commercial quality corner desk setup where I can prop my whiteboards and spread all my notes, research material, dictionary, thesaurus, diary and various other paraphernalia I can’t do without. I have a nice big window on my right, the sill of which comes in very handy for plastering stickynotes, and a proper office chair that looks a little freaky but is a godsend for my back.
I’ve also been known to write great wads on long car journeys. There’s something about the rhythm of the road and the way my mind drifts into imagination…
Can we expect another great novel soon? If so, would you be willing to give us a hint as to what we can expect?
Don’t worry, I’m working on hard on another! A lovers reunited story, and I’m completely besotted with it too. I tend to develop terrible crushes on my heroes, and I say it every book, but this new hero is THE ONE. Actually, I love everything about this book – the setting, the characters, the animals (the dog is based on my beloved old collie), and the whole complexity of the story.
And now, for a bit of fun:
Not fair! I have more than one. Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Indiana Jones, I love you!), Love Actually
(I cry EVERY time), Thor
(better known as Phwoar thanks to Chris Hemsworth), The Godfather Part I and II
(Brando is awesome, as is Pacino), Across The Universe
(soooo love a sing-a-long), National Velvet
Pizza or Pasta?
Both. Although only proper pizza, the authentic Italian way. I’m a snob like that.
Oh, far out. That’s as hard as choosing my favourite film or book! Right, I have conducted an iPod assessment and it appears that I own more Robbie Williams albums than any other artist. I do love a bit of Robbie, especially his French version of Supreme. Try it. It’s verra sexy!
If you had a book club, what would it be reading, and why?
The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears. I love this book. It covers three fascinating but dangerous periods in history – the fall of the Roman Empire, the Black Death and World War II – and focuses on deep ethical conflicts (among other things). It’s the sort of book a book club could talk about for hours…. well, I could. And it’s set in Provence, where I was lucky enough to live for three years.
Give us three, good to know facts about you – be creative!
My family is extraordinarily long-lived, especially on the maternal side. My grandmother is 97 and just gave her nursing home staff (and us) a hell of a fright by cheekily staging an escape. Her mother was the same age when she passed, her aunts were also well into their nineties. My great-great grandmother was close to 100 when she died. Fingers crossed I have these marvellous genes too!
I love to cook and collect cookbooks. I just can’t help it. They tease me with all their beautiful photographs and delicious sounding recipes. But I do use them. Some with more success than others. My current favourite is Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy. That book is worth buying just for Antonio Carluccio’s Peach and Ricotta Crumble recipe.
My favourite author when I was a child was Walter Farley. The Black Stallion series was pure fantasy for a horse-mad girl. I spent hours dreaming I was with Alec and the Black, galloping across the desert, winning races… The deep sighs were endless. No wonder my stories are romantic!
Cathryn, it has been an absolute blast getting to know you and Heartland a little more. Thanks again for coming along.
Thanks so much for having me on Book Muster Down Under. It’s been great fun.
And now, for that much anticipated giveaway.
Apologies, but postage costs mean that I am limited to accepting entries from Australian residents only.
, are offering 3 paperback copies of Heartland
for giveaway and my gratitude goes out to them for allowing me the opportunity to host my first ever giveaway.
What do you need to do to have your entries accepted?
+1 entry : Leave a comment below
Entries close at midnight on Sunday, 28th April 2013 (Qld time), with the winners being drawn via random.org
and announced on my Blog, Twitter and my Facebook Page on Wednesday, 1st May 2013.
Good luck everyone.