All creative people know that getting your name ‘out there’ isn’t easy. So it gives me great pleasure to acknowledge Seth Macey, the talented photographer who generously gave me permission to use this image.
Today it is my pleasure to welcome P.L. Harris and her alter-ego Polly Holmes to chat with us about her writing journey. We first met at a book launch and I asked her if at some point she would be a guest on my blog. She is a busy and versatile writer who writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense as well as cosy mysteries. She also holds down a fulltime job as a teacher so her time is pretty full.
What is your latest book about?
My latest book is the first in my Burrum Ridge romantic suspense series, In His Protection. It follows Melody Maddison as she discovers an old photo of her mother with a newborn baby that is neither her, nor her siblings. While she’ll do anything to uncover the truth, someone is willing to go to whatever lengths to keep the truth the secret, even if it means silencing Melody for good.
What inspired it? This book, in fact, the series, is inspired by my niece Kara-Lee through a brainstorming session about two years ago while visiting the Hot Springs at Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne. She asked me, what if you found a photo of Grandma (my mother) with a baby you know nothing about, what would you do?It kind of went from there and it has turned into a series of six books, one for each of the siblings and I can’t wait to write them.
Who is the main character?
My heroine is Melody Maddison. Her mother past away when she was 26 and she has been travelling for 2 years trying to deal with the loss leaving her sister Riley to pick up the pieces. Now she’s 28 and returned home to help her sister sort their mother’s possessions.
My hero is Noah St. Reeve. Noah has been working in Perth and decided to start his own security and protection business, but unsure where to base it. Seeing Melody almost run down by a car cements in his mind his course. To protect her at all costs.
Why should we care about them?
Everyone has a secret, and for Melody finding out the secret behind the photo may lead her to a long lost sibling. If she can uncover the secret she’ll be able to share with them how wonderful her mother really was. We want to find out who the baby is, for Melody’s sake. We want to know if Noah will be able to save her in time and most of all if Melody has the willpower and strength to save her own life in the face of danger.
Did you always want to write?
I loved reading and writing stories, but no I never thought I was good enough to write a story that could be published. I loved to make up stories in my younger days. My imagination would always be racing ahead of me. I loved being in a world of make-believe, maybe that’s why I went into the theatre and became a director and drama teacher. A few years ago, I took some time out for me and I started reading again and I realised I could forget the worries of the world for that moment while I was immersed in the story.
Which books did you love as a child?
Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances were my all-time favourite books to read when I was growing up and I still have most of them today. I loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that is why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair.
You write in several genes Contemporary romance and Amateur Sleuths or cosy mysteries – was that deliberate choice or do you just have so many ideas? Which came first?
It wasn’t a conscious decision, I kind of stumbled into it. I always wanted to write contemporary romance and I knew I wanted to have drama and suspense in them. So I started writing contemporary romance first. I also knew it was a way for me to deal with certain things going on in my personal life and I could express it through my characters. I suppose you could say it was a kind of therapy.
Then when I was looking for a cover for Callie’s Dilemma I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s website where I did indeed find the cover, but also stumbled across the cupcake capers cozy covers and that was it I was hooked. I ended up buying 13 covers but had no idea what a cozy was. Crazy I hear you say. Yep, totally.
In His Protection went on hold and I had to research the genre. What it was, what you can and can’t do, it was a whole new world. Then I posted on Amazon the dates I was releasing them in 2018. Why I did that I have no idea because it put me under so much pressure to get them out on time and at the same time I was staging the musical Lion King Jr at school.
In the end, it was a huge learning curve, but it also helped me realise that I love writing cozies and also romantic suspense.
Research into each writing style is the key. Know what the readers want and deliver. I had an email from a lady who loved my book but wanted a recipe in the back like everyone else does.
I do have to try and turn off one genre when I am writing another and that’s where my planning comes it. I love to plan my novel out.
What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Never give up no matter how much you feel like it.
What is the worst? I’m not sure I have had any bad advice. It’s about knowing which bit of advice to take that will work for you and which bits to leave behind.
If you were starting now would you do anything differently?
I would definitely have learnt more about the self-promotion, social media side of the industry right from the start and started that much, much earlier. Follow the experts. If they have tried something and it didn’t work, think carefully if you are going to follow in their footsteps. I would have created another pen name for my different genres, which I have now done, but a year after the first cozy publication. Look out for Polly Holmes in the cozy mystery genre.
You sound incredibly busy how do you manage to fit it all in?
Sometimes, I don’t fit it all in. Although I work full-time, I want to write and I can’t let my busy schedule stop me. It’s something that I can do for me, something that makes me happy (When it’s all going to plan) I do have to try and prioritise especially around the busy times at school like exams and reporting time. Sometimes I am guilty of putting things in the too hard basket and then I feel guilty so out they come and I persist until I achieve it.
Often I ask myself is it worth it? The answer always turns out to be yes. In the long run, I know that I will succeed if I persist. Take the good with the bad and there is always more good than bad.
How long have you been published and how are you so prolific?
I have been published 2 years now and self-published 18 months. I think the key is persistence and learning as you go. You can’t get everything right the first time, but learning from mistakes allows you to improve the next time. Knowing what you want and setting the intention to achieve it.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
That is a hard one and I’m not sure if they are fun facts. I love old musicals and sometimes I wish I was born back when Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Ann Miller and the greats were around. Even though I can’t sing it doesn’t stop me from having a go when a great tune comes on.
If I hear music with a good beat, I have to dance no matter where I am. It’s in my blood.
I’m addicted to most reality TV especially House Rules, MKR, Masterchef. I know, it’s very bad.
It has been great learning more about your writing journey- thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.
I never thought we would get here, but somehow, over the last three and a half years, this little blog has made 9,000 friends along the way! As always, thank you so much for sticking around and having so much faith in me, even during the (many) times I disappear for extended blog siestas!
That number, besides being absolutely mind-shattering, also generates a considerable amount of… apprehension? Throwing blogs out into the blogosphere without much thought has traditionally been my modus operandi. Don’t get me wrong, I do put a bit of brainwork into composing my posts, just not into how many people are actually reading.
Not unsurprisingly, my ‘throwing’ has stalled to some degree. When 9,000 people are reading your words (okay, more like 10% of that number), it makes for a tough time pressing the ‘publish’ button!
I just love libraries! My local library is hardly ever without some books on so many varied topics. A refuge for study, a place for talks and writing groups and so much community involvement.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I had heard so much about this book and wondered could any book live up to the hype? My answer is yes, it could and did. It is such a compelling book, one which asks us to consider all those people we have ignored because they are too weird. Eleanor lives a restricted life and one that she thinks keeps her safe. Nine years in the same job following the same routine.Predictable, safe. Small changes lead to bigger ones as Eleanor’ s story is gradually and sensitively revealed. By the end of the book, I was cheering her on hoping for a realistic yet happy ending. Reminiscent of The Rosie Project and The Dog in The Night time and yet uniquely Eleanor’s story Five stars from me.
Find Your Creative Mojo by Josh Langley.
An encouraging and inspiring book. One that really explores our doubts and resistance to thinking of ourselves as ‘creative.’ Sure to make you think. It made me happy just to read it.
The French Photographer by Natasha Lester.
Hard to fault this book both for its storyline and for its characters. It’s an ambitious undertaking that Natasha Lester pulls off with seeming ease. Meticulously researched as always, but Natasha Lester breathes life into the research, enabling the reader to see and hear and feel what her characters experience. The condescension and misogyny that the women experienced are hard to take, but older readers will know that it has not been exaggerated Life was like that in the not too distant past. Of course, not all the men were like that And Jessie May finds her own real-life hero in Dan.
The Lemon Tree Café by Cathy Bramley.
An author I hadn’t heard of before, but I am glad that I did. The lemon tree café serves up a menu of food, friendships, family and secrets. Rosie’s darling Italian Nonna is reluctant to admit that she needs help, and Rosie isn’t above subterfuge to give her the help she needs. A problematic relationship from the past connects them more than they know. And it’s a fight to get to happily ever after.
The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion.
I am sure that my enjoyment of this book would have been enhanced if I had known that was following on from her previous book Leaving Ocean Road. In spite of being occasionally baffled by the large cast of characters and family relationships, I enjoyed reading it.
Horrible Histories- Vicious Vikings by Terry Deary & Illustrated by Martin Brown
Easy to read, lots of fun and a palatable way to get facts. Never discount children’s books!
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
This is a book that demands commitment at 640+ pages, and it is a hefty tome to hold, while you are reading it. A good one to get on Kindle perhaps? I was never bored, sometimes confused, enraged, amused or trying to work out the plot. The book starting at Robin and Matthew’s wedding kept continuity, although I really didn’t want the wedding to happen. I didn’t warm to Matthew and I was waiting for his comeuppance. I found the emerging relationship, comradeship, whatever you’d call it, between Strike and Robin, at least as compelling as the central mystery. And yes. I am looking forward to the next instalment
Midnight At The Bright Ideas Book Shop by Matthew Sullivan
Like many book lovers, I enjoy reading about books and bookshops, so when this popped up in my library feed I requested it. At times it is a deeply disturbing read, which kept me intrigued. It is both gritty and sad I haven’t read another book like it. It kept me metaphorically on the edge of my seat. A complex layered story and the ore you read the more involved you become. Lydia’s story forms the backdrop and as we learn more about her and her past, aspects of the story in the present become clearer.
As those of you who live with cats will understand cats rarely do anything they don’t want to. So today was quite a special day for me. We currently have two cats Annabelle, a tortoiseshell also known as ‘the aloof one’ and Alexei, mainly white with grey markings, ‘the friendly one.’
We have had them both since they were eight-week-old kittens, we’ve treated them the same, but they could not be more different in temperament and personality.
Annabelle is elusive, shy, a shadow of a cat, who then demands to come into our bedroom and sleep with us.
Alexei is relaxed, friendly, laid back he will bound onto a vacant knee sure of a welcome and lie back in my arms like a baby.
Today, after almost ten years together Annabelle decide she liked me. When I journal each morning, she keeps me company, usually at arm’s length but present.
When I am allowed to, I stroke her ears and tell her how pretty she is. Her green eyes survey me with an amused detachment as she takes this praise as her due.
Today, I was bumbling about doing the early morning chores when she stopped and meowed. Did she want to go out? I opened the door, but she did not follow. Instead, she stood squarely in the doorway to the room where I sit to write in my journal and meowed again. A royal command! She wanted my company.
I settled down to write and felt her head bump my hand, Annabelle wanted a stroke, she wanted attention. I held my breath as she put two paws on my knee and started to knead. Her purr was loud as I stroked and complimented her- and then elusive as ever she was gone.
I’d love to see your pets- I do like dogs too, but at this stage its more practical to have cats
Reviews are especially important to new authors, but I know we are all busy and don’t have a lot of time.
With that in mind, I have created a blueprint of how to write a quick review. Of course, your own words and honest opinions are welcome.
Even famous authors began by writing just one book
How to Write a Quick Book Review.
Book reviews don’t have to be long and complicated, and reviews on Amazon, Good reads* or even sent to the publisher or author are really helpful.
Good reads are a Free online book lovers recommendation forum-It’s easy to join and helps you keep track of which books you have read.
How to use this form just use one or two sentences to say how you felt about the book, or of course add your own thoughts.
Example Fire & Ice by Sonia Bellhouse, told a good story.
The Book Was….enjoyable, easy to read, exciting, heartfelt, romantic, told a good story, I liked it. A real page-turner.Wasn’t my kind of book.
The Character (s) I liked best -Blaise Daniels, Kristoffer Eriksen, Saga, Trygve, someone else.
The Things in the Story I Liked. It was set somewhere different(Norway) It included Ice dancing. It had a parallel storyline. It had Vikings. Two different romances. It featured an Australian. I learned about another culture and customs. It wasn’t a long book
Things I didn’t like…..
You get the idea and now to show I practise what I preach here are my March Book reviews
Summer of Love by Kate Fforde
An easy to read second chance at love story. engaging characters and an amusing plot. Super beach read.
The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell.
Bette Davis famously said ‘old age ain’t for sissies’ but the people of Jacaranda retirement village have sunk into a torpor, thinking that doctors’ appointments and communal singing are all they have to look forward to.
When glamorous Angela Valentine joins the community, she ruffles a few feathers and unexpectedly befriends and mentors old school chum Peggy Smart. Suddenly there is more excitement in the air and a sense of optimism, the residents are not done with living yet.
The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond
Three women all at turning points in their lives are new tenants at 11 Dukes Square in Brighton. Each has a problem or secret that had brought her there. Rosa is embarking on a career change, but there is more to her story than that. Charlotte is dealing with loss and trying to remain disengaged from life. Georgia has followed her boyfriend Simon down to Brighton and now he seems to have no time for her, so she embarks on a new career path. Each story unfolds gradually and is told with warmth and humour, you will feel like you know these women and want them to succeed.
55 Underemployed and Faking Normal by Elizabeth White
The book is geared to American readers and suggests a much larger retirement and pre-retirement crisis is looming. Anyone in the USA could benefit from reading this book – not so much for me here in Australia. The take-home message society has changed, what you expected may not happen, and it’s wise to be prepared. It is not your fault that companies, downsize and that ageism is a barrier to employment as you get older.
The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker
I enjoyed this book and found Nicole’s predicament with her controlling fiance believable and relatable. I cheered her on when she left to start her new life in Rosella Cove. There was a hint of intrigue which interested me. The way the story from the past intertwined with the present was plausible and added depth.
Charlie the irascible old man from the boathouse was one of my favourite characters. Also, like the gently unfolding romance. It was a believable and moving read. One thing bothered me that there was no conclusion with her relationship with Jane, but life is often like that.
The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling.
An interesting premise, after all, what book lover doesn’t love bookshops?
Many people dream of being left a bookshop. I enjoyed Posy’s plans to transform the bookshop she had grown up in. Her subterfuge to keep Sebastian ‘the rudest man in London’ in the dark as to her actual plans was amusing. He’s not the most appealing of heroes as he’s so dismissive of her plans and opinions. I Know that she does eventually stand up to him, but it seems a very unequal relationship.
While the addition of the secondary narrative Ravished by the Rake, was both an homage to Georgette Heyer and an insight into Posy’s subconscious. Personally, I found it distracting and the font harder to read. This is the beginning of a planned series.
I had a mother, so this is not the plea of an orphan or abandoned child. But so much that is said about mothers leaves me out of the dialogue. I feel isolated, alone and saddened. I want to say you are lucky to have a loving mother but please do not assume all mothers are the same or that I am mistaken when I tell you about mine.
My mother was distant and distracted and uninvolved with me. I wasn’t physically abused or harmed. I was fed and clothed, all that was lacking was love. I can’t remember ever being hugged or told that she was proud of me.
Perhaps it was that she came to motherhood late at the age of thirty-nine or that I was an accident. I can remember her once telling me ‘ I never wanted children.’Those words ate away at me, she hadn’t qualified them with’ of course now you are here, we are happy to have you.’ They pain me still.
I knew my dad loved me and was proud of me, he was the one who said ‘goodnight’ and tucked me up in bed. Maybe mum suffered from postnatal depression? In that case, it lasted years. I can remember we had an aunt-my mother’s sister come and stay with us for a while.
I tried everything to please mum, my stories were for her, the flowers I picked were for her.
One birthday I must have been about eight I spent my entire birthday money on a brass ornament for her, as she collected them. She smiled and put it to one side.
Nothing worked, I realised you can’t force someone to love you, in the end, I gave up. When my mother died six years after my father, I mourned her of course I did. But it wasn’t with a sense of devastating loss, because she had never really ever been there.