Today it is my pleasure to welcome Australian Rural Romance Author Cathryn Hein to my blog, to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Rocking Horse Hill.
Born in South Australia’s rural south-east and with three generations of jockeys in the family, it was little wonder that Cathryn grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. Armed with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture), Cathryn moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry, but when her partner’s posting to France took them to Provence, she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests and published in Woman’s Day and her first three novels, Promises, Heart of the Valley and Heartland were all finalists in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Australian Romance Readers Awards.
Please feel free to pull up a stump and get to know her a bit more.
Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Penguin Australia, especially Anna from their publicity department, without whom this interview would not have been possible.
So now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty!
Wow Cathryn, it’s been a while since you visited, but welcome back and congratulations on the release of Rocking Horse Hill.
Thanks! And thanks for having me here. It has been a while… a year to be exact, and I’m delighted to be able to chat again with you and your readers about my new book.
Would you mind telling us a bit about your latest novel?
Besides being a strong family drama, Rocking Horse Hill is also a wonderful lovers reunited romance. I so adore these stories, with all their history and baggage. And in the case of Emily and Josh, they have a LOT of both.
If that isn’t enough, there are problems with both their families that they’re trying to deal with, and aren’t helping the relationship. Josh’s mum is seriously ill, Emily’s brother has just announced he’s engaged to a girl who not everyone is warming to, Em’s best friends both have troubles, and her naughty donkeys are causing havoc. Then there’s Rocking Horse Hill…
The hill almost has a personality of its own, and I just loved writing about it. The setting was inspired by Mount Schank, a crater south of my home town of Mount Gambier in South Australia, and which I have fond memories of sliding on my bum down when I was a kid!
I sure can’t wait to meet these “naughty donkeys”, but please share a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a rural romance author?
In late 2005 I was living in the south of France, not working and generally having a rather fine time of it (yeah, I know… poor me!). For YEARS I’d been trying to write – a Jilly Cooper-esque bonkbuster was my goal – but I could never seem to get past 10,000 words. Given around ten times that word count is needed for a commercial genre fiction title, I was falling badly short. There was so much about the craft of writing that I didn’t understand, plus work, study and play had a bad habit of interfering with my dream.
This time I had no excuses. We’d been in France almost 3 years and in three or so months we’d be heading back to Australia. If I didn’t write a book then, I’d never get one done. And I was becoming increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t find the sort of Australian-set romances that I wanted to read. The solution was obvious: I needed to write my own.
So I did. And this time I wrote until the end. The book was 130,000 words in total and pretty ordinary craft-wise (oh, the mistakes!) but there is nothing that beats that “I’ve just finished a book” feeling. Except having one hit the shelves. That’s pretty cool. Story-wise though, even I could recognise it had strong bones.
After that, there was no stopping me. We returned to Australia and I kept writing, and then I joined the Romance Writers of Australia. What a difference that made! I met people, listened and learned, and gained invaluable feedback from contests and my new-found critique partners. Over time, with each manuscript, I just got better. Then I started submitting to publishers and Penguin picked up Promises. And now here I am.
Do you, as a writer, have a motto or maxim? What is it?
Umm… Bum In Chair, Hands On Keyboard?
Seriously, the main thing is to get the book done. I’m really good at polishing, so if I can finish the first draft then the rest should fall into place.
“Should” being the operative word!
So, if you don’t really have a motto, what’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
To put your manuscripts away and leave them for as long as you can before going back to reassess. The longer the better. Unfortunately, due to contract deadlines I don’t really have that luxury any more, but even a few days away can make a difference to how I view things.
I think that kind of returns me to your question above about mottos. Get the book written. By the end of 100,000 words and however many weeks that took to reach, there’s a good chance you’ll be able see plot and characterisation problems more clearly, and be able to go back and fix them.
As is so often said, I think originally by Nora Roberts, you can’t edit a blank page.
Oh, hang on. I have a motto after all!
Cathryn, thank you so much for joining me today and once again, a huge congratulations, but before you go, would you mind giving us a sneak peek of Rocking Horse Hill?
I’d love to, Marcia. And thank you for hosting me. I had fun with these questions!
This is a taste of Em’s and Josh’s first meeting…
“With a welcoming smile on her face, she rattled apart the bead curtain and stepped back into the shop. A man stood with his back to her at the front shelves, flicking through a sky-blue B5-sized hard- cover notebook. His hair was light brown and slightly too long, curling over the edge of his collar. A navy fleece jumper fitted snugly across his wide shoulders, before tapering to hug narrow hips. He wore light khaki cotton-drill trousers, the sort favoured by tradies, and though loose they couldn’t hide the muscularity of his legs. His boots were brown suede and thick-soled. Framed against the artificially bright wall of stationary, he appeared earthy, solid and very, very familiar.
She checked his left hand. Three fingers, from the little to the middle, were missing, severed at the second knuckle.
Em placed her mug down behind the counter, her nerves sizzling. She knew that agonising boyhood injury. She knew those legs, those shoulders, that hair. She knew everything about this man and more.
Joshua Sinclair turned and smiled the same smile that had pierced her cool as a teenager. The smile that had made her first give him her heart, then her body, and let him preciously tend both until the day she’d snatched them back and broken two people in the process.”
If you’d like to read more about Cathryn’s books, please click the book covers below and you will be directed to their pages on Penguin’s website:
Cathryn also loves to connect with her readers, so if you would like to keep up to date with her news and book releases, you can do so via the following web links: