In Converstaion With… J M Peace

In Conversation with J M Peace

JM Peace (c) Sheree Tomlinson

JM Peace (c) Sheree Tomlinson


Welcome Jay to my blog and thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this discussion about all things reading and writing.


Carol: Can you tell me a little bit about how the road to publication was for you? Did you enter any writing competitions? Do you have an agent? How did the contract come about? On the 9th February this year you wrote about getting a publishing contract – and here it is a few months down the track and I am already reading the fully formed, ready for market, completely finished, paperback novel – how amazing is that? That turn a round is unbelievable!


Jay: My manuscript initially languished in slush piles all over the country. My breakthrough moment was being accepted onto the Hachette Manuscript Development Program in 2013, run by the marvellous people at the Queensland Writer’s Centre. Although Hachette went on to reject the manuscript, it had some recognition. Then I nearly had an agent until the agent decided to quit the job. I don’t think it was because I once threatened to Taser her. I really was only joking. After that, I just couldn’t bear all the interminable waiting and approached Pan Macmillan directly. Things moved fairly quickly after that.

I think it was about November last year when the lovely people at Pan Macmillan made me an offer. They initially had some reservations about the legal side of things, so that took a little while to sort out. By the time I actually signed the contract in February, I think some of the wheels had already started turning. The manuscript had passed through many professional hands by then. By the time Pan got it, they decided it didn’t need a structural edit so it was straight onto the line edit and full speed ahead.


Carol: I see you have a blog, Cops and Novels. Do you think blogging benefits your writing process?


Jay: Blogging is simply my chance to have my say about things that catch my attention. But I believe the author platform is very important for anyone attempting to get work published. I was strongly encouraged by several industry professionals to start a blog. The industry is so competitive that I don’t think ‘just’ a strong manuscript is enough these days.


Carol: I loved your debut novel – A Time to Run and can’t wait to read your next book, police procedurals are one of my favourite genres to read and as a Serving Police Officer your voice is authentic and real.  It seems however that this relationship with the law comes at a cost, I quote your blog  – Cops and Novels, A publishing Contract (Feb 9 2015) “What I am doing is actually bound by legislation. If you are a police officer, you are always a police officer. What you do in your spare time is (to a certain extent) the Boss’s business. You have knowledge and information which is not for public dissemination, you are an agent of the Government. There are issues with secrecy, public comment, accountability, improper use of information, professional conduct and numerous other pieces of law, directives and policies.” How do you ensure that what you write about does abide by these regulations?


Jay: Thank you for your kind comments about my story!

I sought advice from my police union and spent some time trying to come to grips with the legislation. I believe I have covered myself in regards to the procedural information I have given in the book. There’s nothing in there that is not public knowledge or couldn’t by discovered through a little judicious googling. And if someone thinks I have overstepped the mark, then I’m hoping the fake name gives me some sort of protection.

I did actually try to get Boss-type approval to write the novel. The official reply was basically that writing a book was a hobby and I didn’t need approval to do it. Whether they change their minds about that one is yet to be seen. I don’t think anyone quite expected my story to get this far.


Carol: One of the things I loved about your novel was the details of policing/investigating that you shared with the reader.  Too often crime fiction novels or movies/TV series based on crime fiction skip a lot of these type of details, giving their protagonists the power to do as they please, how they please. You reveal the reality of the work, for example, having an official witness to the unoccupied house search who is vested to protect the rights of the home owner. Your protagonists get the job done whilst adhering to the rules. Was it a conscious decision to share these elements of the investigation with the reader?


Jay: Yes, definitely. This is my point of difference. This is why I write crime, I’m hanging my hat on having that voice of authority. I know what I’m talking about in regards to procedures, legislation and internal directives. My benchmark will be if other police officers can read through my novel and nod in agreement.


Carol: Another element I particular enjoyed was the inclusion of the apparitions/angels in the narrative and the optimism, hope and courage they delivered. Where did this idea for this device originate?


Jay:  I’ve been thinking about this and I can’t say when or why I decided to add angels to story. I think if you get pushed into an impossible life-threatening situation like the character in the story does, you start to look for something outside yourself. I did leave it open to interpretation on whether the angels were real or hallucinations.

It’s odd, because I’m not a particularly spiritual person but an angel popped up in the sequel too.


Carol: What sort of books do you read Jay?


Jay: At the moment? I’ve just finished the ‘Treehouse’ series by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton. I’m also reading one of the Beast Quest novels and we’ve started the Wishing Chair. Yes, all kids books. My son isn’t quite old enough to tackle these sorts of books by himself and whenever I start reading aloud, my daughter will appear and get comfortable too. Adult books? I wish I had the time. I like chick lit and popular fiction.


Carol: And my last question for you – tell me more about lateral vascular neck restraints? Why didn’t you use this method of defence when you were the subject of an attack? And did this experience inform your writing?


Jay: I didn’t expect that question! A lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) is basically a chokehold. Except you have to be careful not to hit the person’s windpipe. So when you place your arm around the person’s throat, you need to make sure the inside bend of your elbow lines up with the centre of the person’s throat. Then you squeeze, using the muscles in your bicep and forearm to apply pressure on the veins on either side of windpipe causing the person to pass out. If you apply pressure to the windpipe, you can damage it causing it to swell, preventing the person from breathing and making you consider whether you can do an emergency tracheotomy with a pocket knife and the barrel of a pen. We do them regularly in training. The restraints, not the tracheotomies. The trainer will say – this is considered lethal force, now go practice on each other…

I know the theory behind LVNRs, but I am not good at them. I have never done one in real life. It is the sort of restraint you might try if an offender was focussed on something in front of them and you could approach them from behind. But, as with many of the things I write about, even though I may not have experienced them directly, I think I have a better than average understanding of them.


Carol: Thank you for taking part in my “in Conversation With” blog posts J M Peace and good luck with the release of A Time to Run. I cannot wait to read your next book. 


In Conversation With Fiona Palmer

Welcome to Fiona Palmer


Welcome Fiona to my blog and thank you for taking time from your busy schedule of farming and writing and family responsibilities to participate in this discussion about all things reading and writing.


Carol: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started on your writing career? Were you always interested in writing? How was the road to publication for you? Can you share some of your memorable experiences about the process? I know many writers – in – waiting will be eager to hear about your journey.


Fiona: Thanks for having me Carol, it’s my pleasure. I fell into writing. Being a student who couldn’t spell very well and was lucky to get a C in English, writing never entered my mind, yet I did get immense pleasure from writing stories in class. But my teacher was very literary focused. So fast forward a few years, a toddler, a baby and a full time job running the local shop and I start to write down this story that had been growing in my mind. It encompassed everything I loved about rural living, about our way of life and some of my dreams. I think it was also my escape from such a busy life of work and nappies. Three years later I had the finished product after I’d had help with the ASA (Australian Society of Authors ) mentorship I’d won also. I sent the first three chapters off to Penguin, and it found a publishers desk. She, Ali Watts, emailed requesting the rest and then a few months later I was offered a contract. Amazing. And Ali Watts was Rachael Treasures publisher at the time also and she works with many amazing authors who I aspire to. I had a whirlwind ride into publishing and haven’t looked back.


Carol: What does a typical day in your life look like?


Fiona: Get kids off to school, housework, sit down and write (if I’m not out on the farm driving a tractor) and then I stop when kids get home from school. Sometimes if I have edits, I’ll spend weekends and after school hours getting it done. But if I have no book work to do then I’m busy doing community work, volunteer work for various sporting clubs and then work out on the farm if they need me. 

Fiona Palmer and Ruby

Fiona and “Ruby” the tractor.


Carol: What inspires you to write?


Fiona: That is easy. It’s all around me. My home, the country, the rural lifestyle, the people. Our little town has a motto on its personalised number plates and it is: Pingaring, the place, the people. It pretty well sums it up for me. And when I go off to work at the farm I come home so inspired after spending time in the wide open paddocks, watching the kangaroos, birds, sheep or smelling the fresh turned dirt. It’s all around me. So many stories. I love sharing my passion with everyone through my books.

"The Farm"

“The Farm”


Carol: I loved your book The Sunnyvale Girls, the links to local history and the Italian POW’s interred in Western Australia made your narrative unique and engaging. Can you give us a little peak into what we can expect in your new book?

The Sunnyvale Girls

Fiona: I’m editing my new book now. The Saddler Boys. It’s based on a small town called Lake Biddy who may lose their Primary School. Our town lost it’s school in 1998 and it changes everything, effects the town. So that is one of the main threads, with a few other bits thrown in.


Carol: What’s in a name? Do you categorise your writing as Rural fiction or Romance?   Or a hybrid of the two?


Fiona: I like to call it rural fiction or rural romance, either one is fine. At least the readers know what they are going to get. I’m not embarrassed to say I write romance. It’s in a lot of books, even those that don’t class themselves under a ‘romance’ heading. 


Carol: You will presenting a session at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival (May 29-31 2015) A Season of Love – what can we expect to hear about in this session?


Fiona: I’ll be sharing my journey to publication and the story behind The Sunnyvale Girls, plus answering any questions people may have. I love questions, fire them at me.


Carol: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?


Fiona: Just that I hope when you pick up one of my books you can feel the passion and love I have for the country and that I can take you on an emotional journey to escape to a new place for a while.


Carol: Thank you for taking part in my “In Conversation With” blog posts. I look forward to seeing you at the Margaret Rivers Readers and Writers Festival. I’ll bring my camera.  🙂

In Conversation With Jenn J MCleod

Welcome Jenn to my blog and thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this discussion about all things reading, writing, Riesling and travel. But first congratulations on the release of your new book Season of Shadow and Light, a powerful Australian narrative of secrets, trust and complex family relationships (no spoilers here Jenn).

Season of Shadow and Light

Jenn I have discovered that you are now travelling the country in a fifth wheeler – how exciting. Last year we (husband and dog) spent eight months on the road in our pop top caravan yet I can’t imagine packing up my life and living in a caravan permanently.

Carol: Can you tell me a little bit about how you transitioned from Sydney corporate world to running a dog friendly B & B in a small town (double points from me for it being dog friendly) to life on the road in a fifth wheeler? What was the impetus for this last huge lifestyle change?


Travelling with pets should not be so hard. Our B&B was all about the dog. Our motto: “We prefer fluffy dogs to fluffy robes.”

For me, life has been a series of stepping stones, knowing I would end up back on the road. It was thirty years ago and three years camping around Australia, living out of a converted ford F100 and tent, that I discovered my affinity with country life. And no one was more surprised than me! (I’d started my career as a hairdresser and a make-up girl in a department store. My friends at the time had to almost break my fingers so I’d let go of the hairdryer I couldn’t take on the trip!) Fast forward through twenty years spent in corporate roles with long hours and good pay (and a few overseas trips) and I knew I had to get back to the country. In a way I have come full circle, but with the luxury of a fifth wheeler – with hairdryer and coffee machine! 

The Fifth Wheeler

The Fifth Wheeler


Carol: What does a typical day in your life look like?


My days probably sound pretty boring. But right now I am in a lovely beachside van park, so the view is spectacular. (It helps that my current work is set in a beachside caravan park in a small coastal town!) I wake at about 7AM (van parks are surprisingly quiet, except during the school hols!) and after breakkie we take the little one-eyed, 15 y.o dude dog (aka my muse) for a ‘walk’. By then it’s about 9AM and time for coffee and social media hour (or answer blog questions J ). After that I start writing. I write anywhere, mostly outside if the weather is good. I did get a small desk and large monitor installed in the van for winter and for editing (the big screen helps, plus I get to sit in a proper office chair – occasionally!)

I chat to people a lot. I observe people a lot. I am finding just being out of the house has heightened my senses and the way I use them in my writing. “Get out from behind the computer and experience ‘life’” has always been the advice I give writers. I guess you could say I took my own advice — to the extreme!

Jenn J McLeod

Jenn in action


Carol: Is the town Coolabah Tree Gully based on any particular town or region you have travelled to or visited?


My Seasons Quartet novels (House for all Seasons, Simmering Season, Season of Shadow and Light, and my 2016 release) have all been inspired by the north NSW countryside – inland. (Dorrigo and north to Kyogle.) The area of Bonablo/Kyogle inspired Paige’s road trip at the start of the book.

Carol – We drove through that region (Dorrigo) last year – on our way home and said we would love to visit that spot again -so beautiful.


Carol: How many kilometres have you travelled so far on this trip and where are you heading next?


Due to an unexpected family situation (and selling the house faster than we anticipated) we’ve had to stay close to home (Coffs Harbour area). As of June we are heading north, to Queensland and onto some Rockhampton friends who have a paddock we can park in. (We love free/cheap camping!) What I hope to do while travelling through smaller regions/towns is drop into local libraries to say ‘hi’ and offer to do an author event with locals, or even writing sessions. I did an author chat at Casino last January and it was fabulous. Small towns rarely get authors dropping by for a chat. I’d like to change that. Readers on Twitter can follow my #WriteRoundOz hashtag.



Carol: Is there a particular region that you yearn to discover?


I’ve seen very little of QLD. Thirty years ago our trip was cut short due to family illness so we never did get to QLD or Tassie. We also sped (figuratively speaking) around the Victorian coast. Oh, and also Margaret River and Esperance. And . . . and . . . .and . . .


Carol: Do you have a favourite caravanning destination? Do you prefer to stay in caravan parks or free camp?


We are well set up for free camping. Unfortunately, a writer’s imagination can be a scary place. (I curse the day I watched Wolf Creek – you may have noticed a few references to the movie in Season of Shadow and Light!) The world is a different place from thirty years ago when we would park anywhere for a night or two. These days there are ‘rules’ for free camping that makes it a reasonably safe prospect and I am sure I will feel better about it as time goes by. But right now I am finding caravan parks very comforting.

Jenn at work

Great spaces to write – life on the road.


Carol: Where can we expect to see Jenn J McLeod on this book tour? Are you heading to WA?


I wish a book tour would take me to WA soon. I have so many wonderful writer friends and readers over there. In fact, I spent more time in WA than any other state on that first trip and still saw so very little of such a magnificent state. I will make it over there in the van one day and I may never leave. Stay tuned!


Carol: What sorts of books do you read for enjoyment Jenn? Can you share with us 5 books you have recently enjoyed?



Helene Young’s Northern Heat

Kylie Kaden’s Missing You

Margareta Osborn’s Rose River

Dianne Blacklock’s The Best Man

Loretta Hill’s The Maxwell Sisters


Carol: Now a very important question Jenn, what style of wine will we find in your caravan cellar? Does your fifth wheeler have a cellar? Ours does – a box under the bed J


*snap* We actually love saying . . . “I’ll go to the cellar and select a wine.” Our choices, however, are limited to what was on special at the time of purchase. We live a frugal life these days: food is simple and we rarely eat out (owning a café turned us off eating out anyway!), our designer clothes (ie shorts and sarongs) come from opp shops, as do our fave flannelette shirts (perfect for happy hour when the sea breeze cools and the mozzies come out). Our motto these days is ‘make do’ (and hope readers keep buying those books!) But the one thing we don’t go without is our happy hour. My favourite white would be a Semillion and red would be a Shiraz. (Hmm, it’s now only 10AM and I am hanging out for happy hour! But I have a few thousand words to get down first.)



Carol: Thank you for taking part in my “in Conversation With” blog posts Jenn J McLeod and good luck with the upcoming book tour. Cheers. Safe travels.

Thank you, Carol, and we must ‘talk’ about your dog friendly van park experiences. Our little one is 15 years old. We lost her mate last year, after only a couple of months in the van. We know having a dog while travelling can be difficult, but we can’t imagine life without a canine companion. Like our wine, some things we cannot go without.


Book information and BUY links – Simon & Schuster Australia.

I love connecting with readers and other writers, especially aspiring authors. Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter  @jennjmcleod or where readers can sign up for my ‘Odd and Occasional Newsy Newsletter’ for book updates, excerpts and offers.