As part of Penguin Random House’s new Love Between the Pages event series, WA authors Anthea Hodgson and Sasha Wasley will be embarking on a tour from 19 – 27 June.
Anthea and Sasha will be chatting about their brilliant new books, The Cowgirl and True Blue, writing romance, and why a love story may be more than it seems, at events in Woodvale, Boyanup, Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Mandurah and Victoria Park. Full details here.
To mark this occasion I have invited Andrea and Sasha to my blog to talk books, love and life.
Have you ever had a character who wouldn’t do what they were told?
Yes, this happens all the time! My characters lead me around by the nose, saying and doing whatever they want. I really love that about writing – when a character gets so real that you can almost hear their voice. Mostly my characters act according to personality but sometimes a character does something and you go “wow, plot twist!” When that happens I need to look hard at the piece of writing and ask myself if they would really do that or am I imposing my own interests on the character? It sure keeps things interesting!
Can you share anything from one of your novels that was taken from your actual life?
I take so much from real life – I’m sure I’ll get sued for it one day! While I was working on my current WIP earlier this year, one of my chickens got sick. I’d already decided there was going to be a sick or foundling animal in the book so Trixie got written into the story – the exact same illness, breed, treatment and recovery.
In True Blue, my latest release, my romantic hero is Finn Kelly, who emigrated from Ireland at aged 12. My partner is Irish and emigrated here at the same time, so I used lots of his stories and experiences to help me build the character. I even used the same embarrassing story about his first day at school. So far, my partner has not filed for breech of copyright on his life stories 😊
Which features in a novel do you think make a good romantic read?
A heroine you can sympathise with, a hero who thinks she is the most amazing thing on the planet, and something for them to fight for, side by side. I also like to make sure my main character has her own journey and struggles. I’m not a fan of the swoop-in-and-rescue hero. I like my heroine to rescue herself and the love story is simply a wonderful bonus.
Do you have a favourite character?
I have a bunch of favourites, but I must say, grumpy Deirdre Broderick is a particular favourite! She marched into Drifter, demanded a cup of (weak) tea, took the time to disapprove of the one she was given and frowned upon the rest of the locals until they sat up straight and stopped talking. Deirdre was inspired by an old lady I knew as a young girl and although she was absolutely fierce, she was also loyal, kind and hardworking. While Deirdre may have been short on charm, she was big on turning up and getting stuff done. I found that Deirdre stole so many scenes in my debut novel The Drifter that I thought I should give her the lead in Cowgirl – and she stole the show there, too.
I wanted to write an old lady as my heroine – that she was grim as hell only made her even better as far as I was concerned. I think women become invisible as we age – and I often feel that older characters in novels and films are a little clichéd. I’m from a small town in the wheat belt filled with strong women who ran our community, and it was important to me to celebrate them in all their overlooked majesty. I wanted my difficult, crotchety old friend to show her true colours, her past, her heartbreak, her resolute commitment to duty, her kindness, her humour, her sacrifice, her loyalty.
I told my publisher I wanted to take a silly old chook and make her fly – and in the Cowgirl scene in which Deirdre dances, I do hope that I have!
Do you believe the ability to write is something you are born with?
To a degree I do, although of course, like anything, writing can be taught and like anything, hard work and determination will get you further than any basic talent. I never studied writing or joined a writing group because I hate the thought of handing my work in for assessment. I still only show my manuscript to my husband and then to my publisher. I have to assume I was born with some sort of ability, although I think my upbringing in a family passionate about books fostered my interest. I grew up with my parent’s books and as a shy teenager I spent a lot of time reading at boarding school, too. Seven was the maximum number of books you could take out of the library and I did so every weekend, devoured them in my dorm, returned them on Monday for seven more.
I think the words and ideas from books seep into you and they flow out from the same stream – as a way of looking at the world with a brighter, shinier more interesting lens. I remember being teased at school for the way I spoke, I think it was too formal, and often I couldn’t open my mouth without any utterance being parroted back at me by a number of my boarding sisters. It was bracing, but it was also valuable to me, because it made me different. I developed my own style of expression, my own sense of humour – and the day Ali Watts from Penguin signed me because she loved my voice was all the sweeter.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
I grew up on the farm with ABC Regional radio every morning, like an old friend who always slept over – the kettle and the radio were the first two appliances we flicked on every day. I loved my years working in talk back and current affairs and I like to think I’d go back into radio, which was a lot of work – but also and a lot of fun! I covered most shifts during my radio career, but it was mornings I preferred. The mornings are early starts, around 4am, and they are high pressure and if you’re waiting on an interview confirmation those minutes until the 8.30 start of your programme just fly by. Depending on the day and if the stories are coming together the rising sense of (hopefully) controlled panic keeps you very interested. The start of the show covers the big stories of the day, but there’s still time after 10am for the broader issues, the touring author or celebrity, the quirky ‘a crocodile bit my head’ stories (which I booked once – but should have pre-recorded because Channel 9 called a short time later and I was gazumped).
The people I worked with were a wonderful blend of borderline (and not so borderline) alcoholics, rising stars, falling stars, grumpy old dudes, free spirits making radio magic and weary producers, grinding through story after story, show after show. I spent my days arranging interviews, negotiating ‘phoners’, trying to get some talent to come into the studio because they sounded interesting and trying to keep others out, because they didn’t.
There were shift changes, office politics, junk food and gallons of tea and coffee. There was also a lot of laughter – often crazy panicked laughter – loads of swearing (not just my own) endless jokes, fascinating chats and the odd character assassinations of regulars who had let us down one time too many. It was a brilliant time, but it was exhausting and eventually I was so pregnant I ran the risk of giving birth live on air so I knew it was time to go.
When I left producing, I missed the rushing about and the laughs, but I also felt a sense of relief every evening that I didn’t have to make notes while I watched the news in case something blew up and I didn’t have to go to bed at night wondering what I’d come up with the next day. I woke in the morning to birds carolling in the dawn, I rolled out of bed silently, went to the kitchen, flicked on the kettle for a cup of tea – and flicked on my friend the radio, too.
Thanks you both for appearing on my blog and good luck with the Love between the Pages tour.