Friday Five: Sami Lee

Author: Sami Lee
First published with Escape: 2013
Favourite romance trope: Marriage of convenience
Ideal hero (in three words): funny, empathetic, thoughtful
Ideal heroine (in three words): strong, intelligent, resourceful
Latest book: Until He Met Meg


What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I enjoy writing female-centric stories about life, love and everything in between.

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

Allow yourself to write crap. The first draft is supposed to be messy, and once you accept that not every word you type will be golden (as if!) it frees you up to just write what comes to mind. It can always be edited later.

Which writers inspire you? Favourite books and authors? What makes them your favourite?

Oh there are lots, but in the romance genre I have to say one of my favourite all time authors is LaVyrle Spencer. She was able to bring to life the emotions of believable, realistic characters, and make you truly care about them. I love her attention to detail and I try to use that in my own writing. I also love Kristan Higgins, Barbara Hannay and the incomparable Jennifer Crusie.

AMLM_CoverLgeFavourite book covers? What draws your eye to a romance cover?

I think Escape knocked it out of the park with my cover for A Man Like Mike. I do tend to take a second look at any book with a handsome man and a baby on the cover! I also think the traditional romance cover of a couple in a romantic pose never goes out of style, especially if it evokes as sense of place that conveys a bit about the book’s setting.

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

Cooking. It’s another creative outlet for me, experimenting with different combinations of spices and other ingredients. Best done with a glass of wine and some music playing. 

22836From the bestselling author of A Man Like Mike comes a new contemporary romance: he can buy anything he wants — except the perfect woman to help rebuild his family.

Meg Lacy came to Sydney to chase her dream, but the dream is somewhat elusive, so she finds herself unemployed, uninspired and on the verge of giving up. A chance encounter with wealthy single father Bryce Carlton gives her a temporary reprieve: a job as a nanny to his headstrong eight-year-old daughter.

The arrangement is supposed to be short-term, an easy way for her to save money while she pursues her dream. But her heart doesn’t understand, and before long she is growing attached to her charge and falling in love with a man determined not to risk his heart a second time.

When his first marriage ended Bryce vowed to never become seriously involved with another woman, but Meg turns his house, his life and his heart upside down.

She is his daughter’s nanny, he’s not the right man for her, and there are a million reasons why their relationship shouldn’t be. Everything was going according to plan…until he meets Meg.

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Friday Five: Catherine Evans

Evans_CatherineAuthor: Catherine Evans
First published with Escape: 2016
Favourite romance trope: Friends to Lovers
Ideal hero (in three words): Honest, fun, generous
Ideal heroine (in three words): Independent, down-to-earth, loyal
Latest book: The Healing Season, and in February, Long Game

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I wanted to write, but I had no idea what I wanted to write about, other than Australia. I read romance, but not only romances, as I read anything with writing on a page. I was writing stories, a member of the NSW Writers Centre, and entering contests in writing associations and not winning. I entered a Romance Writers of Australia contest and they gave feedback…using terminology I didn’t even understand! I became a member, learned all I could about writing, writing romance, and the romance genre. I was hooked.

How do you write? What is your process like?

My process is a mess, but it’s my mess! I get an ideaoften just a scene with two peopleand I start to write. Then I start thinking about what happened, and why, and who are these people. Things get tossed around in my head, or on paper, and I see where it goes. Then I stop at some point when I’ve messed it up. I go back to the start and try to work out what’s wrong. This continues until I get to the end of the story—sometimes I need help from writing friends or editors to un-mess myself!

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

When you finish, put it in a drawer for a while. I see so much more when I’ve got some distance from my story. I can edit it with some perspective. Flaws and holes jump out at me, making them easier to fix.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

I write mostly in my ‘office’, but I also like to go outside if I’m stuck to get some fresh air and nature inspiration, so the back yard or the beach are my go-to places. I usually write straight to my desktop, but if I’m stuck, I’ll scribble in a notebook and I’ve been known to send emails to myself from my mobile device, especially if I’m in bed and half asleep when an idea hits me!

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at? 

Swimming. I love it and always have. A swimming teacher told Mum when I was kid, “She may not be fast, but she’d swim all day.” Stick me in water and I’m happy. I began scuba diving at age 20. Diving and snorkelling are magical. It’s a completely different world below the surface and I’m so comfortable in that world. I find it the most relaxing activity…until I have to waddle back up the beach!


32510 (1)Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Friday Five: Darlene Fredette

2230Author: Darlene Fredette
First published with Escape: December 2013
Favourite romance trope: Returning Home
Ideal hero (in three words): Strong, Charismatic, Dependable
Ideal heroine (in three words): Determined, Feisty, Independent
Latest book: Winter’s Kiss

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

In my teenage years, I read Harlequin romance novels, and I was hooked. From that point, characters came to life in my head and demanded to have their own stories told.

How did your latest book come to life? What was your eureka moment?

I’m currently stranded in a small town called Redford Falls, but loving every moment. The residents in this town make the stories real. Winter’s Kiss was created for the guy who didn’t get the girl in One Sweet Christmas. The cold and snowy theme was the perfect setting for him to get his happy-ever-after.

What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

I stop and take a breath or two, or three. Doing house work always give me my ‘ah-ha’ moment. By the time the house is clean; the scene has unravelled and is as clear as the glass tabletop.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar? Do you have one already? 

I love all animals, especially dogs. So my mascot would definitely be a dog. Their strength and loyalty goes above and beyond. I have a Yellow Labrador Retriever who is my shadow. He follows me everywhere, and when I’m sitting at my desk writing, he’s close by, lying at my feet.


Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

I enjoy painting, and people have said I’m good at it. I paint for the enjoyment and the escape it allows. I can’t replicate another drawing or painting because my own style needs to be released. I take the image and turn my own spin on it.


30327Return to beautiful Redford Falls: a woman who knows what she wants and a man who knows what he needs…

Nothing thaws the chill faster than a warm winter kiss…

She’s been on a flight from hell for over eight hours, lost four hours of daylight, and arrived in temperatures twenty degrees lower than accustomed to. Disliking winter for a reason she refuses to discuss, Danielle Lerato would rather be anywhere than in Redford Falls. She needs to get the job done and return home before getting caught up in the small town’s charm…and the arms of the handsome, brown-eyed restaurant owner.

Andrew Haley’s first encounter with the buttery blonde didn’t go so well, and he well-remembers the chill of the glass of water she dumped over his head. Now, two years later, a raging storm drops Danielle back into his life. She’s determined to leave, but he’ll do whatever it takes to convince her to fall in love with Redford Falls…and him.

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Friday Five: Sandra Antonelli

antonelli-pink-sweaterAuthor: Sandra Antonelli
First published with Escape: 2013
Favourite romance trope: Honestly, I don’t have one, but I do hate secret babies.
Ideal hero (in three words): Funny, moody (like Mr Rochester), intelligent.
Ideal heroine (in three words): Smart, smartassed, experienced
Latest book: Next to You

What began your romance writing career?

I went looking for romance heroine who were older than twenty-whatever. I want to read about heroines out of their 30s, but couldn’t find them. I was tired of how the silver fox hero was paired with twenty-something heroine. I wanted heroes who were the same age as the heroines, but couldn’t find them. Since I couldn’t find them, I began to write them.

Why do you write romance?

Love is a basic human need, a biological imperative far beyond procreation, and yet stories about this need are so often ridiculed as frivolous, trite fantasy. My aim is to kill that ridicule by portraying love as is it, in all its forms, by including diverse stories with diverse characters. Romance fiction speaks to the biological imperative and shows readers that we are human.

What kind of characters do you like reading about the most? What about the ones you enjoy writing?

What I like to read and write are characters over 40, particularly women, with baggage and life experience, and all those delicious complications that come with being older, but not exactly wiser, when falling in love is “supposed to” be in your past, but isn’t.

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

Write the book you’d want to read.

If you could cast anyone for the movie/stage adaption of your book and characters, who would they be? (I would love to know why they are perfect for the role! Please include pictures!)

I’d choose Neal McDonough to play William Murphy in Next to You: Will is albino. Neal is fair skinned and has arresting eyes, almost the kind of arresting eyes Will has. Plus, Neal can wear the hell out of a suit, the kind Will has a taste for, and Neal would be able to portray Will’s tenderness and hidden quiet menace when his new friend is stalked by her ex, Alex.


For Caroline, the heroine of Next to You, I’d pick Naomi Watts. Not only is she a gorgeous forty-something woman, she does determined-to-grab-an ordinary-life-by-the-balls well and would beautifully pull off the nuance necessary to portray the effect of Caroline’s tragic past and the struggle she has with the idea of deserving more than just an ordinary future with the extraordinary man next door.


For Alex, I’d have to go with Eric Stoltz because Stoltz rocks the long red hair and a beard that Alex has. Really, I pick Stoltz based on that flowing red hair and beard—Okay , there’s also the way he can cry. He’s a good cryer.


Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

Ahem, housework. I knock housework out of the park. I wear aprons and everything.

29048A witty, quirky and unexpectedly moving story about cinema, secrets and a complicated love affair.

A love of ‘70s bubblegum pop music isn’t the only unusual thing about William Murphy — being a six-foot-three albino also makes a guy stand out. Will’s life is simple and he likes it that way. But when he meets his new next-door neighbour, complicated begins to look rather attractive.

Caroline’s trying to put her past behind her and grab life by the balls, which means finding new friends besides her dog, Batman. Will offers her neighbourly friendship, and as they bond over old movies, Caroline regains her confidence and unexpected love blooms.
But real life’s not like the movies, and their cute romantic comedy goes all Fatal Attraction when her vengeful ex shows up. Will learns that nothing about Caroline is quite the way it looks, and his simple life turns more complicated than he could ever imagine.

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Friday Five: Jami Gray

2814First published with Escape: June 2017
Favourite romance trope: Emotionally scarred H/H, with Alpha tendencies from a military background, with paranormal elements. (Yeah, picking one isn’t easy.)
Ideal hero (in three words): Protective, complex, unexpected
Ideal heroine (in three words): Courageous, Quick-witted, kick-ass
Latest book: Lying in Ruins

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

An avid reader, when I hit high school, in-between the fantasy and murder-mysteries from my school library, I started sneaking my mom’s romance novels out of the house. Then entering the big bad world as an adult, I stumbled through life and discovered my characters suddenly became harder to hurt (emotionally and physically) while their relationships became crucial to my stories. A therapist would have a field day with this, but my stories shifted to heroines who didn’t need a hero to ride to her rescue. Sometimes it was more satisfying if she rumbled up to his rescue on her Harley.

How do you write? What is your process like?

I started out a solid pantser (one who writes with little to no planning), something I soon learned would not work long term, mainly because I’m a series writer and it’s way too easy to lose a sub-plot or a subtle piece of a character before you realise it. After eleven books I have mastered the art of a basic outline. Granted it can’t be too detailed because then I get bored (not a good thing when you’re the one telling the story), but my outline has enough major points to ward off distractions and keep me (somewhat) on point. Characters tend to come to me first, bringing their worlds along for the ride, then comes the fun part—creating conflicts of all shapes and sizes.

What was your hardest scene to write? Which kind of scenes do you find difficult to write? Which scenes do you enjoy writing the most?

Some of the more emotional scenes are difficult, only because to do justice to why a character reacts the way they do, without providing an easy emotional out, is tricky business. Anger’s a great emotion, but can be overused. Fear, even in the strongest person, can be the most corrosive. Love can cut both ways on the good/evil spectrum. But emotions are the core of who we are, and why we choose to act the way we do to any given situation. Writing such scenes aren’t just painful for my characters, they’re painful to write, but when done right they’re also the most rewarding.


What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

One of the most frustrating parts about story creation is hitting those plot pits, you know the kind that will drop your story into an endless chasm, never to come back? Yeah, those. The fun part about being a writer, nothing is ever final until it’s published, which means much like the awesome Dr. Who, I get to play with timelines, or in this case, story lines. Since the scene is stuck in my head, I’ll leave it for a day or so while I mentally rewrite it ad nauseam, changing little things with each rendition until something finally wrenches those clawing talons from my ankles.


As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? Do you have one already? 

As much as I’d like to say I’m bi-symbolic because I could swing either toward wolves or leopards, going to have to admit I tend to lean more towards the canine. As a proud rescue mama of my Fur Minxes, Lola and Angel, it’s easy to guess I’m a huge dog person, and yes, I’ll admit, being highly allergic to the feline population doesn’t help. However, leopards are stealthy, cunning, majestic felines that rule their worlds with a cynical eye, but wolves have this fabulous duality of both pack animals and lone predators built on a basis of loyalty and fierce determination. An introvert by nature, something about the ability to move between social and solo appeals to me.

Fur Minxes


What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for a book?

When a two-hour span of my search history chronicles: How to set up a marijuana grow house, US Dept. of Defense’s list of current projects, most lethal FOB (Forward Operations Bases) of the US military, and how to set a Trojan virus, I’m pretty sure Homeland Security has me on a list somewhere. It was for my PSY-IV Teams series (a group of ex-military psychics) and I was impressed no men in dark suits came knocking on my door.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

I tend to write at my desk normally, but my favourite place to write is with my writing group during our retreats. As desert dwellers, we tend to head north where green things grow and the temperature tends to rest beneath broiling. We try to carve out a long weekend once or twice a year to get together. We stockpile coffee, food, and power cords and then disappear into our worlds for long, blissful uninterrupted hours. Occasionally one of us will surface, mutter a question about some fantastical element and its probable outcome, but the sounds of Mother Nature are interspersed with the click of fingers breezing over keyboards, broken by the slurp of caffeine intake. This picture was from one such jaunt, a lovely multi-room cabin where cell signals were only achieved by driving up the road, holding the phone at a 90 degree angle three feet from your body. It was lovely!



Writers Retreat View
Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

Organisation. While I ride the line between plotter and pantser (writing without a plan), in every other aspect of my life, I must plan and things must be in their place. Trips have an itinerary, I have a list of tasks to accomplish for almost everything, and I can’t sit down to write unless everything’s done. In fact, I share an office with my husband (see photos). Can you tell who owns which desk?

31476 (3)In a world gone to hell, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad…

The world didn’t end in fire and explosions, instead it collapsed slowly, like falling dominoes, an intensifying panic of disease, food shortages, wild weather and collapsing economies, until what remained of humanity battles for survival in a harsh new reality.

Charity uses lethal survival skills learned too early in her work as a ‘Hound, sniffing out pivotal secrets for one of the most powerful people on the west coast. Her work is deceptive, deadly, and best performed solo, which means when she has a run-in with a member of the notorious Fate’s Vultures, she has no intention of joining forces in some mockery of teamwork. The man might be sexy as hell, but she travels alone. She will accomplish her mission and she will settle a score – hopefully with the edge of her blade. But fate has other plans.

As one of Fate’s Vultures, a nomadic band of arbitrators known for their ruthless verdicts, Ruin witnesses the carnage of corruption and greed battering the remnants of humanity, and he bears the scars to prove it. Now he has a damn ‘Hound showing up in suspicious circumstances, leaving every cell of his body sceptical – and painfully aroused. The woman is trouble, and Ruin has every intention of steering clear. But when they realise they have a common enemy, Charity and Ruin will have to set aside their distrust if they want to achieve their mutual goal – justice and revenge.

Sometimes, when the world’s gone to hell, it’s better to stick with the devil you know…

Lying in Ruins is available now

Friday Five: Welton B Marsland

2836First Published with Escape: November 2017
Favourite Romance Trope: friends-to-lovers
Ideal Hero: smart, quick-witted, brave
Ideal Heroine: smart, quick-witted, brave
Latest Book: By the Currawong’s Call

1. What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I set out just to tell the sort of stories I’d like to read, but it happens that I’ve always been fascinated with human relationships and how different people interact with and respond to one another, so those tend to be a focus in my stories. I spent important formative time (from a writing point of view) in slash fandoms and learned a lot – about writing, but also about drilling down into what my areas of focus are and what things push my buttons.

2. What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

Generally, I’ll take a break from it and write a different one for a while. Also, I can’t underestimate how effective it can be, just sitting or lying somewhere quiet and “daydreaming” the scene to try and get into the guts of it.

3. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for a book?

On “Currawong” I lost an afternoon to the surprisingly interesting history of petroleum jelly.


But the strangest research jaunt ever was for a short, niche fandom fic I wrote called “The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle“. Just for the first ten pages alone I had to research electromagnetism, heavy hardcover books on electromagnetism, strong German liquor, ethnic histories of two different surnames, alcohol laws in Massachusetts and Illinois, the Episcopalians, the chemical makeup of Ecstasy, entactogens and neurotransmitters, the Balkan states, time travel, time dilation, Stephen Hawking, Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Heckler & Koch MP5 rifle, and the statistical occurrence of supernumerary nipples (oh and the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle itself, naturally).

4. Out of all your protagonists, who do you relate to the most?

I relate pretty strongly to my two main characters in Currawong, Matthew and Jonah, even though their personalities are quite different. Weirdly, while writing, even though the whole book is from Matthew’s point of view and it was important I stuck with that, whenever I tried “daydreaming” scenes, I’d always find myself slipping into Jonah’s point of view. My brain, apparently, just found his voice easier to slide into, even while my intellect was trying to tell it “No, no, the other guy!”.

5. Snacks while writing, yes or no? What kind of snacks?

When I’m writing at home (where most of my work is done), no. Lots of tea though. And I mean LOTS OF TEA.


I do also enjoy writing in pubs and salty snacks might well make an appearance on those occasions.


A small town, a new arrival, and a love that is as undeniable as it is unlawful…

Victoria, Australia, 1891

Anglican priest Matthew Ottenshaw receives his first posting in tiny Dinbratten, two days’ ride from his Melbourne home. Determined to honour his calling as best he can, he throws himself into the footy mad, two-pub town, navigating the dusty streets, learning the gossip, and striking up a friendship with Jonah Parks, the resident police sergeant and local bona fide hero.

A police officer and a priest often find themselves needed at the same place, and Jonah and Matthew’s friendship deepens quickly, as they set about their business of protecting the bodies and souls of Dinbratten’s residents. When a bushfire threatens the town, and Matthew’s inexperience with fire endangers the church buildings, Jonah comes to the rescue, and a reckless kiss in the midst of the chaos takes their friendship to forbidden.

Neither Matthew nor Jonah can go back to the way things were before, but continuing their relationship puts everything at risk: their jobs, their friends, even their lives. In the outback town of Dinbratten where everyone knows everything about everyone else, how can they ever expect to keep a secret this explosive?

“Such a beautifully written, powerful love story” – Cupcakes and Bookshelves

By the Currawong’s Call is available for pre-order now and releases 20 November.

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Friday Five: Annabelle McInnes

Annabelle McInnes - alternative profile pictureAuthor: Annabelle McInnes
First published with Escape: September 2017
Favourite romance trope: Tortured Hero
Ideal hero (in three words): Alpha, supportive, gentle
Ideal heroine (in three words): Compassionate, brave, curious
Latest book: True Refuge

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?
There is so much beauty when people fall in love. I take great enjoyment from writing these stories, allowing my characters to find their own path and articulating their happy ending. I plot the big elements to my books, but never the small ones. I try not to even think about my characters until I sit down and write. For me, this allows me to get excited about the journey they take me on. I have always read ferociously and across many genres, but romance speaks to me like no other books do. The birth of my son was the catalyst for me to take a risk and start a new manuscript that was focused on the relationships between my characters. That was the first draft of True Refuge. I write romance because I enjoy exploring the precious moments between lovers, where I can tell tales of tenderness and devotion and create happy endings that can be unashamedly enjoyed.

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

I attended Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass in April this year. There were so many small nuggets of information that I found profound, but the most useful was the word count algorithm. Simply put, it’s a mathematical equation to work out how many words you need to write per day to finish your novel. For example, if you are required to write an 80k manuscript and have one year to finish, but can only write three days per week due to family and work commitments, you simply put in the numbers. So, it would look like this:

52 weeks of the year x 3 days = 156

80000 words \ 156 days of the year to write = 512

There you have it, in one year, you will have written 80k and you only had to write 512 words three days per week. Easy right? Of course, this doesn’t take into account a number of factors, including holidays for example. But if you take in it principle and apply it to your requirements, and stick to it, I promise its works! It prevents burn outs, stop and start writing, and helps with writer’s block. This algorithm has been essential to the success of completing my books.

What was your hardest scene to write? Which kind of scenes do you find difficult to write? Which scenes do you enjoy writing the most?
In romance, one of the most important element is the development of the relationship between the characters. For me, the hardest parts to write are the scenes where this plays out physically. Writing these scenes requires focus on many elements. The details of the physical placement of the bodies, the emotion, the tone and the style of writing all play an important part of these scenes. The Refuge Trilogy is a ménage relationship and often has three people intertwined in the act. The scenes must ensure that each character develops emotionally, that their individual’s quirks, mannerisms and physical limitations are detailed appropriately, and finally, that the relationship between the three of them progresses. It is a mammoth task. These scenes are always integral to my story, so the pressure to ensure that they are accurate makes them even harder to write. They are also some of my longest chapters.

But they are my favourite because of many of the same reasons. I relish writing the love that develops between my characters, the importance they place on each other, and highlighting the devotion and dedication that they share for one another. These scenes are often the most beautiful, and I really enjoy letting go with extravagant words for the right moments.

Where is your favourite place to write?
My favourite place to write is at my desk in my study. When I write in the mornings before the family wakes, I am able watch the sun come up and the flowers open to greet the day. Sometimes, the rabbits will hop past as they get their breakfast. It’s quiet, I’m usually not too tired, and the words flow more freely. It’s a beautiful time of day. 


What’s the thing about writing that surprised you the most?
I have found the most surprising element to be that I can no longer read for pleasure as much as I used to. The books I read now no longer have swooning couples on the cover, but facts and figures. I spend my nights learning about marketing, branding, web design, the art of writing and advertising. I am inspired by other authors so I still read romance, but I find I can get caught up on their style, prose and plot and it is harder to lose myself in the narrative. My buying habits have changed as well. I am more inclined to take a chance on a new author, buy a book which supports diversity, or is in a sub-genre that I normally wouldn’t read. I also am more inclined to contact an author and let them know how much I enjoyed their book.

32434 (1)They thought they’d found a refuge, but the battle for survival has only just begun…

Surrounded by the destruction of the human race, Euan, Nick, and Kira find solace in one another, making their underground bunker a haven and a home. Sheltered under layers of steel and cement, they should be safe, but danger isn’t always kept outside — sometimes the enemy is within.

When their electronic warning system detects intruders, Euan and Nick must investigate. Outside, they discover the true terror that is approaching, and Euan must make a terrible decision: stay or go. To stay is to watch the only people he loves perish under the weight of pure evil. To leave is to face his certain death to protect them and potentially save humankind.

Despite all his preparation, skills, and strength, Euan knows that each decision carries the risk that he could destroy them all.

True Refuge, Book One, The Refuge Trilogy is available now:
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Fractured Refuge, Book Two, The Refuge Trilogy is available for pre-order now:
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Friday Five: Carla Caruso

Carla Caruso (2)Author: Carla Caruso
First published with Escape: May 25, 2017
Favourite romance trope: Opposites attract
Ideal hero: Tall/dark/handsome (that counts as one word, right?), brooding, kind
Ideal heroine: Imperfect, spirited, funny
Latest book: Run for the Hills! A runaway bride scarpers to the Adelaide Hills … and meets a handsome triplet, who also happens to be a wedding photographer. 

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?
I was actually more of a chick-lit writer (and reader) originally, devouring books by Sophie Kinsella, Helen Fielding and co. But when I went to write in that genre, chick-lit was deemed ‘dead’.

However, I’d sent a chick-lit style manuscript to a publisher and they asked if I could increase the romance component and they’d consider taking it on for a new digital imprint of theirs. I did and scored my first publishing contract. Now I can’t write a story without a strong romance focus. I’m hooked on the genre, and can’t go back!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for a book?
I’m currently writing a novel surrounding a heroine who’s a witch for something different! I’m so glad my local library now has self-serve and I can just duck to the reserve shelf to grab weird and wonderful titles like A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Food (among the picture books I’m borrowing for my kids!) Who knows what the librarians think I’m cooking up? I also hate to think what my online search history must look like to the staff at Google; I’m always looking up something strange!

Which book written by someone else do you wish you had written?
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta was a fave as a teen—as a fellow Italian-Australian (à la the heroine), caught between two worlds, the book really spoke to me. Oh, and I also have a special spot for The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Maybe because I’m also quite the un-Italian wife (coincidentally, I also have a foodie blog by that name, – plug, plug!)

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Or any cute quirks in general?
I don’t know if it’s cute, per se, but I am one of those writers who carries around a mini notepad and jots down story ideas and notes whenever I’m ‘on the go’. (Okay, sometimes I use OneNote on my phone for future story ideas too to be a bit with the technological times!)

When I sit down at my PC, I always have to type up these notes first or apply the story tweaks I’ve dreamt up before I can get down to the business of writing anything new. It can be a good way to waste an hour of writing time, argh! But it does save on editing later.

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?
I’ve recently got into renovating vintage furniture! I’m a runner and would habitually spot quirky roadside finds while out pounding the pavement. Now I also scroll Gumtree for such items.

Carla Caruso (3)

The poor hubby is quite handy and helps with all the painting, staining etc. (in between whinging about it, haha). I put all my nerdy home and garden stuff on my Instagram page, ‘adelaidepickers’, to separate it from my authorly gear.

Recently, I’ve also got back into making costume jewellery, which is something I used to do (and sell) many moons ago as a young fashion-junkie. 

Carla Caruso (1)The Belshaw brothers are back in Balkissoch…

Bridie Porter is wearing her Vera Wang gown and veil in the back of her wedding limo when she receives a compromising text about her hotelier groom. Panicked, she tells the driver to keep going and she flees from Melbourne to the small town of Balkissoch in the Adelaide Hills.

It’s the perfect pit-stop to hide from her ex and the press and to earn enough cash to stay out of sight. Unfortunately, the admin job she gets is for a wedding photography business and she’s had her fill of weddings lately. But it’s slim pickings on the work front in a town so teeny. And her new boss is strangely compelling…

After the rush and adrenaline of his job as an LA paparazzo, the last place Cody Belshaw wants to be is back in the small town where he grew up. But thanks to a clause in his father’s will that amounts to blackmail, Cody and his two brothers are stuck running a wedding business for at least a month. If there’s one thing that he’s learned in LA, however, it’s to keep business and pleasure very, very separate. Which makes his new admin employee the definition of temptation.

Bridie is desperate to stay anonymous. Cody seeks out secrets for a living. As they delve into the world of brides, boutonnières and dogs-as-best-men, both Cody and Bridie will have to decide if this is a fling…or forever.

One-click for wedding fun!

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Friday Five: Nicola E Sheridan

2212Author: Nicola E. Sheridan
First published with Escape: 2013
Favourite romance trope: Paranormal / Urban Fantasy
Ideal hero (in three words): Powerful, strong, and magical
Ideal heroine (in three words): Awkward, compassionate, funny
Latest book: A Warlord’s Lady
Next book: The Magician’s Keeper

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?
I won a highly recommended ‘best first novel’ in a writing competition in 2009, and that made me think that perhaps I could try and get something published. So I gave it a go and was fortunate enough to be taken on. I write romance because I love the feeling romance provokes, it is what I call hopeful literature, which focuses on the good things in life.

What is your writing power-up?
Watching a good television series always inspires me, it’s something about how the protagonists interact, the feelings they evoke, good or bad, it just makes my imagination go wild and I feel inspired to write after watching a good series. Grimm is currently one of my favourites.

What kind of characters do you like reading about the most?
I like reading about characters whose connection is intense, but vaguely awkward. I need realism in my reading, I want to feel that the romance is real.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? Do you have one already?
My little mascot would be my dog Terry, he’s a rescue and I’ve never known an animal so utterly devoted to me, he follows me everywhere and will sit at my feet for hours.

Nicola E. Sheridan (2)

Where is your favourite place to write?
Even though I have an awesome book lined study in which to write, I much prefer writing at my dinner table in the middle of my house. I feel more connected there, and I can watch the world go by from the window.

Nicola E. Sheridan (1)

32437A brand new steamy paranormal romance about learning to love all of yourself.

In a world where people judge one another by exacting standards of size and style, being a big girl like Eudora Splat was never going to be easy.

Though trouble is brewing between magic folk and human purists who would see them all destroyed, Dora, a half-giant, tries to eke out a quiet, unnoticed life for herself, but it’s hard to be subtle when you’re over seven feet tall.

Losing her job as a gardener due to human complaints, Dora is recruited as a prison guard, where she’s enlisted to protect the magician Evander “Bear” Gordon from human purist attack. Bear encourages her to embrace her power and celebrate her heritage, introducing her to a world where she can be extraordinary and not just weird.

But after years of hiding and shying away, can Dora find the strength to grab onto a new life — and hold on to the man she’s falling in love with?

Pre-order now!

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Friday Five: Marilyn Forsyth

2585Author: Marilyn Forsyth
First Published with Escape: April 2017
Favourite Romance Trope: Lovers Reunited
Ideal Hero: Tall, red-headed, Scot
Ideal Heroine: outwardly strong, inwardly vulnerable (4 words, I know. Hope that’s ok.)
Latest Book: Falling In Love Again

What began your romance writing career?
Having had over a dozen short stories published in magazines, I wanted to try my hand at writing a full-length novel and, because I love to read romance, it seemed a natural progression to try to write it. I joined RWAus and a writing group (Breathless in the Bush), and from there everything fell into place. I won The First Kiss competition in 2012 and that entry became The Farmer’s Perfect Match, published by Harlequin MIRA Australia in 2016.


Why do you write romance?
As a reader of romance, I want to experience every emotion, every high and low, every fascinating sensation that comes with falling in love. As a writer of romance, that is exactly what I want to bring to my readers. All that, and a happy ending, of course!

How did your latest book come to life? What was your eureka moment?
The starting point for Falling in Love Again came with reading an article on Eric, the opalised pliosaur, one of the exhibits at the Australian Museum in Sydney. My vivid imagination went crazy at the thought of discovering such a unique find, but I was quickly brought back to Earth upon learning that such discoveries are often not disclosed because the opal is worth more than the fossil. What a great external conflict—two characters fighting over the future of a buried treasure! From there, Gemma and Jamie emerged, with all the emotional inner conflict that reunited lovers face.


What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?
Scream, swear, tear my hair out. Just kidding! Although there are times…

Mostly, I resort to writing what I want from the scene by hand; there’s something about pen and paper that helps me to focus and get my ideas down quickly. From those notes, I choose a couple of scenarios, list the pros and cons of each, and make a decision of which idea to go with.

If I’m having real difficulty, I seek advice from my fabulous crit partners. They know me and my writing almost as well as I do and their advice is always invaluable.

If you could cast anyone as the main characters for the movie/stage adaptation of your book, who would they be (and why are they perfect for the role)?


My perfect Jamie would be Aussie actor James Stewart. He has that larrikin adventurer look about him that I envisaged for Jamie as I was writing him, plus a sadness to his eyes that Jamie has. I find that very appealing.


My perfect Gemma would be Aussie actress, Teresa Palmer. Though beautiful, she doesn’t believe it herself, and she has the right combination of strength and vulnerability to portray a woman recovering from an abusive relationship.

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

I love drawing and painting. Always have. I’m not sure that I’m really good at it, but I do get compliments (and not just from the family!). I’ve worked in both oils and watercolours, and they both have their own particular appeal. I love the immense depth of colour that oils can bring to a traditional still life, but I also love the crazy unpredictability of creating in watercolour. I guess that reflects the two sides to my personality—basically logical with a bit of the frivolous thrown in.

31095 (3)A charming adventurer. A pragmatic paleontologist. A hundred-million-year-old treasure buried in the Australian outback.

The last person Gemma Stephens expects to meet in the tiny, remote, opal-mining town of Rainbow Cliffs is Jamie Coltrane, her university boyfriend who chose his past over their potential future. Now, seven years later, he is the only obstacle between her and the goal she has been pursuing tirelessly since he left. The goal that means everything for her future and that of her six-year-old son, the son Jamie doesn’t know is his.

Jamie has long outgrown the wanderlust that caused him to leave Gemma, and he and his father have settled into Rainbow Cliffs, making a living out of opal mining and running the only accommodation in town. But now a big find — a once-in-a-lifetime find — has opened up opportunities that Jamie never thought possible. Opportunities that mean everything for his father and himself.

Fate may have thrown them back together, but this is no happy reunion. There is only one fossil, and there can be only one winner in this battle between preservation and prosperity. Gemma and Jamie may have the chance to find true love — or be torn apart, this time forever.