| I was born in Brisbane, Australia, and grew up on an avocado farm with views of Moreton Bay and Stradbroke Island. As a result, my ideal setting ever since has involved lots of water – even if it’s just a large bathtub with me lolling around in it.
The other element in my ideal setting is lots and lots of books. I was the sort of kid who spent her childhood with her nose buried between the pages of a book. To me, the worlds I read about were at least as real and ten times as exciting as anything that happened to me in Redland Bay. I still think one of life’s finest pleasures is picking up a great book and just losing myself in it for however long it takes to finish it.
Being such an avid reader seemed naturally to morph into wanting to do what these wonderful writers did. My mother very proudly kept my grade two composition book in which I penned a heartfelt wish to become the new Enid Blyton (my obsession at that stage – my reading life has been marked by particular crazes. We won’t talk about the Dorothy Dunnett period). At least you can say I had a sense of vocation very early. When I was eight, that same mother was so desperate to shut me up – in between reading, I used to talk a LOT – that she gave me a Mills & Boon romance. That was back in the days when you were lucky to get a kiss at the end. Rather tame by today’s standards. But I was immediately hooked. The emotion and the fact that a woman is so central to the story made these books precious to me. And I still feel that way about a good romance. Don’t get me started on why I think romance is empowering for women, contrary to all the intellectual claptrap you hear about romance novels propping up the patriarchal conspiracy.
I started my first novel when I was in grade three – at least I took the promises I made myself in grade two seriously! An exciting saga about horsenapping that I never actually finished. I fiddled with various stories until I left high school, when I managed to finish a historical in the style of Kathleen Woodiwiss. Pretty dire and well deserving its place under the bed. Which is where everything else I wrote ended up over the coming years. Started to get crowded down there!
In between, I did an English literature degree at Queensland University. What bliss! Someone actually wanting me to read all day! I spent three years working in a bank before living in the UK for two years. That was a wonderful time when I got to see so many places in Europe and Britain that I’d read about with all that dedicated library mooching. I’ve been back a couple of times since and the magic has never waned.
I came back to Australia determined to act on my writing ambitions so that’s when my gypsy years started. So many jobs, so little money. Retail. Hospitality. Marketing. An art gallery. Technical writing for training companies. Eventually, I settled in to a twelve year stint in Sydney (thanks to a totally fluked win on a quiz show which funded the move). There I worked at a charity which subtitled TV programs for the deaf and hearing impaired.
During all this time I wrote. As many beginner romance writers do, I decided category would be an easy way into the industry. Even though my heart has always been with long juicy historicals. I finished seven short contemporary stories, all of which were rejected very nicely by Harlequin. By this stage, under the bed was more crowded than the center of Hong Kong at Chinese New Year. Then I worked on a pile of totally unmarketable historicals, some of which I finished, most of which I didn’t. More boxes for the dust bunnies to eat in the bedroom. You’ll notice housework never featured in my mixed-up career choices.
What made the biggest difference to me was joining Romance Writers of Australia. Suddenly I had like-minded people around me (up until now, I’d basically been working alone) who could offer advice and encouragement. I had a writing group, Turramurra Romance Writers, to work with at regular monthly meetings. I had competitions I could enter that gave me an indication whether I had anything to offer or whether I was just kidding myself. I had a conference to go to every year where I could talk myself silly.
And then one day, I got this idea for a dark sexy Regency historical about a duke who wanted to marry his mistress, London’s most notorious courtesan. And No Ordinary Duchess, which Avon will publish as CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, was born.