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.

One-click! iBooks, Booktopia, Amazon AU, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Kobo, Nook, Google

Feed Your Readers: Workplace Romance and Rural Suspense


She might be the biggest star in Australia, but she never forgot the small town she came from, or the man she left behind…


A collection of full-length novels about what happens after business hours…

December Gift Guides: Mothers and the Macabre

by Sandra Antonelli

My mother instilled me with her love of books, from a very, very young age. While she doesn’t read fiction (except for my books because I am her daughter), when we talk reading, it’s all about non-fiction. We have traded books over the years and over vast distances. We’ve read Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World, Krakatoa, The Professor and the Madman (aka The Surgeon of Crowthorne), Giles Milton’s Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, Dava Sobel’s Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, as well as an array of non-fiction ranging from the plague to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Books are a Christmas gift-giving tradition.


Two years ago, Mom gave me the book Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast. I returned the favour last year, giving her The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum.


She gave me Stiff: Curious lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.


This year I’m giving her Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart, and A is For Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup.

 Gee, it looks like we’ve got some sort of theme here, but I assure you, Mom and I do not have a toxic relationship. We simply have an interest in the unusual. And, it seems, books about somewhat macabre stuff written by women. Merry, merry, Happy, Happy, Ho-Ho-Ho kids!


If you have someone on your list who loves pop culture, music, movies, and appreciates a quick quip, then we suggest gifting a Sandra Antonelli novel or two. Next to You is her latest.

My book setting(s): from Chicago to New Mexico

by Sandra Antonelli

A few readers have pointed out that my books are full of scenes where the characters are eating. I was startled to discover this was true, but it’s not something I did on purpose. I’m not a plotter. I write in an organic way where things sprout and grow together in an unconscious way that may or may not reveal itself until the very end. While this may happen innately, there is part of my brain that knows that food is vital when it comes to character and setting.

For example, if I say steak and kidney pie, you might think England. The words Beluga caviar and martini may cause you to imagine James Bond. Like people, a country can have a food identity. Italy is all about pasta. Greece has its lamb. Like a country, a city can have a food identity. Chicago is known for its hot dogs and deep-dish pizza. New Mexico is known for its green chile.

drivingI once lived in Chicago, the bustling metropolis that often doubles for Gotham City. The Blues Brother called it home. Frank Sinatra sang about it being his ‘kind of town’. My Best Friend’s Wedding, and The Time Traveler’s Wife were filmed there. It has two baseball teams, outstanding art and science museums, a gorgeous lakefront setting and spectacular architecture, but mostly Chicago, the setting for Driving in Neutral and the forthcoming Next to You, has phenomenal food. I’m talking diners that sell pie and coffee. I’m talking deep-dish pizza, tasty hot dogs, Greek food, Polish food, German food, Italian food, Ethiopian food, Indian food… oh, kids, the Indian food in Chicago is om nom nom nommy.

Because my brain identifies with food, my om nom nom food experiences in Chicago led me to write a scene where Olivia, the heroine in Driving in Neutral, ponders her life over a Chicago diner slice of lemon meringue pie. The hero, Emerson, interrupts her musing by having the gall to break off the crust of her pie—and eat it—because he can’t resist pie or Olivia.

Similarly, my incredible Chicago-based Indian food dinners meant that William Murphy, the bubblegum-pop-loving hero in Next to You, simply had to share his palak paneer with Caroline, his new next-door neighbour. My food brain identified the setting, and matched a food that acknowledged my experience with Chicago, and matched a food that’s best when shared—and what better food to share than Indian?

A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only both set in Los Alamos, a small town in the US state of New Mexico. New Mexico is, quite simply, the most beautiful place I have ever been. It’s called the ‘Land of Enchantment’, but really, it should be called the ‘Land of Food Enchantment’ because Holy Mother of Santa Fe, the GREEN CHILE! And, as John Tilbrook in For Your Eyes Only, notes, there is nothing more unattractive or delicious than green chile, and nothing more attractive and delicious than seeing Willa Heston spill green chile on her blouse.

chileMy theory about a country and a city having an identity may fail to explain the onion rings that are so prevalent in A Basic Renovation. Onion rings aren’t exactly identified with a city. But, when you get down to brass tacks, A Basic Renovation is really about Lesley, a woman who loves onions rings, and Dominic, the man who proves his love for her with onion rings. Also, the book is set in New Mexico and there is a scene that takes place over green chile, because my brain says New Mexico is all about green chile. Q.E.D. Oh, I’m good.

I’m also very hungry. Aren’t you?


For Lesley and Dominic, this basic renovation has becomes a major life refurbishment…




December Recipes – Panettone

by Sandra Antonelli

Christmas: When It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Have Cake For Breakfast.

As an advocate for eating a good breakfast there is nothing that gives me more joy than Christmas because Christmas means cake for breakfast!

If you know me you’ll know I’m not usually a cake-eater. I’m more of a cookie inhaler, but this cake is different. This cake is Italian and who does love Italian food? This cake is light, a wee bit spongy and full of raisins and zest. I’m talking orange and lemon zest. I’m talking Panettone.


You’ve probably seen panettone before. It comes in a box. Sometimes it comes in a pretty decorative tin that you pay up to $50 for, but trust me, the basic panettone in a box is always, and I mean always better. Yes, a cake in a box—and it’s already made. No mixing! No baking! No cracking of eggs required! That is, no cracking of eggs until it comes to eating this cake for breakfast, because this festive cake is actually a kind of bread, and bread as you know IS the staff of life.


Panettone is a Christmas staple at my house. There are, at present, four boxes of beautiful Italian panettone sitting on my dining room table, and they are all destined to be…French Toast.

Honest. This cake, this bread, this Italian Christmas delight makes the most amazeballs French Toast you will ever have. The best thing is, there are only three steps.


Step 1: Slice panettone as you would bread for a sandwich

Step 2: Dip in beaten egg

Step 3: Fry until golden, in a pan with a bit of melted butter, turning once.

Plate up and serve as you would the usual day old bread French Toast, with a ton of butter (well I slather on a ton of butter because butter) and maple syrup.

Then prepare to have your tastebuds blown.

Have a Holly Jolly One, Kids!



A new, quick-witted, quip-heavy romance for grown-ups from Sandra Antonelli about facing your fears — because love is the greatest risk of all.

Books Seeking Readers – Last Chance at True Love!

Books seeking readersWe hope you’ve found your match, but we at Escape strongly advocate playing the field – at least when it comes to reading 😉 Here are the last of our lonely books, looking for love!

Exciting medical drama seeks reader who enjoys workplace romances, sexy beach interludes, and men who try to fix things. A love of sweet romance and interfering sisters is a must.

Find true love here.

Rough-around-the-edges sci-fi romance seeks reader to engage in snarky battles of will, revel in fashionable corsets or manly body armour, and get excited about exploring a brand new world. Grace under fire needed as random fire-fights with mercenaries are likely to occur. Accurate aim and knowledge of battlefield mechanics would result in everlasting devotion and vaguely proclaimed, masculine words of an emotion that is most likely love, although that will never be explicitly admitted.

Find true love here.

Smart-assed, grown-up romantic comedy, seeks reader with love of wisecracks. Appreciation of 80s music, 70s disaster movies, bad hair days, and a touch of murder a plus. Must be willing to handle peanut butter, have a good sense of humor, and know the value of friendship. An understanding that pizza is sexy is desirable. Aptitude for keeping government secrets, and juggling two jobs at once while finding unexpected love is essential.

Find true love here.

Country story of the snazzy variety seeking romance reader who loves Chardonnay, humour, shooting stars and seeing how a city-chic designer loses her cool when faced with being secluded for 12 days and nights with a strong, muscly stonemason housemate. (Interest in straw hats and wellies of use.)

Find true love here.

Enchanting, emotional book seeks reader who’s ever made a wish and wondered what would happen if it came true. If family, community, and following your passion is important to you, then we are a perfect match. I look forward to taking a stroll with you through Miracle Park, making a wish in the fountain, and watching the ocean waves tumble onto the shore. I’ll give you a date you’ll never forget.

Find true love here.

Road trip story that breaks all the speed limits seeks reader interested in undercover heroes, heroines on the run, and the need to buckle up. No fear of gravel rash for readers who like their heroes in control and their sexual tension suspended.  BYO snacks.

Find true love here.

Sweet medical romance seeks reader who isn’t afraid of a good cry. Must love nice guys, determined women, and tortured emotions.

Find true love here.

Forty-something, romantic comedy looking for reader with experience in renovating homes and love lives. Proficiency with power tools and puppies optional, but may be useful when dealing with learner-driver teens and nonagenarians buying Dr Pepper and condoms. All applicant readers must be willing to listen to Iron Butterfly, eat onion rings, and deal with rats of all sizes. Reader must be prepared for kissing for all ages.

Find true love here.

Futuristic romantic comedy seeks understanding reader with good empathy skills, who will support a 25 year old model trapped in 50 year old’s body as efficiently as a slimming spandex bodysuit. Or at least enjoy laughing at her. Especially when she gets trapped in the slimming spandex bodysuit. Perfect date: bungy jumping, followed by a better-than-sex facial, a ride on a ferris wheel (which may or may not involve getting stuck at the top), and a wild and wacky costume party.

Find true love here.

Angsty billionaire romance with sidebar fat girl social commentary seeks reader who likes her billionaires to work for it, her heroines to have their own super charged lives, and doesn’t mind reading with her heart in her throat and her backside on the edge of the seat.

Find true love here.

It’s Valentine’s Day Again…

and we know what that means – you’re all desperately seeking fabulously romantic books to read. Without further ado, may we present:

Books seeking readersCountry story seeks romance reader wanting to be whisked to remote rural town in Snowy Mountains. Must like tall vets with genuine shy smiles. Sympathetic nature regarding runaway city girls searching for a fresh start vital. (Interest in cute pigs of use but not essential.)

Express interest here.

Super fit and active book, seeks plenty of hot times with an open-minded reader. Sharing a love for the beach, mountains, delicious food and fruit salad would be beneficial but not essential.

Express interest here

Fun, wacky, chaotic book seeks fun, wacky, chaotic reader who likes fun, wacky stuff, and chaos. And strippers. Male strippers. Or one, at least. Must also like to ride on emotional rollercoasters and go from laughter to tears, and not be afraid of ghosts. Bonus points if you can dance and sing a pitch perfect rendition of All The Single Ladies.

Express interest here.

This grown-up tale is ready for romantic comedy readers who like quick-witted heroines and smart-assed heroes who grew up watching Star Trek. A flair for following quips that speed along like a Formula 1 race is an advantage. Must face the fear of claustrophobia and deal with reappearing horrid ex-husbands. Prospective readers may laugh at funky wedding cakes, quibbling bridesmaids, and a bride who sounds like Foghorn Leghorn. Knowledge that love doesn’t end after forty is crucial. Drooling while reading ice cream scene is obligatory and reader may want to be supplied with napkins.

Express interest here.

Superhero fantasy with a touch of farce seeks reader with offbeat sense of humour and appreciation of the simple pleasures in life – pizza, beer, and repeats of Buffy. Must not take oneself or others too seriously, and be open to wild rides through the crime-fighting universe. Ideal date: breaking into an “unbreachable” containment facility for kicks before taking on a frenzied band of circus performers threatening to destroy the city.

Express interest here.

This sexy romance is looking for a partner to trip the light fantastic and shake their groove thang.  This fish out of water tale feels most at home amid the sequinned backdrop of competition ballroom dancing.  Readers who like the sex appeal of Latin dance and the idea of an unlikely hero won’t put a foot out of place with this ensemble story.

Express interest here.

Exotic romance seeks reader with a taste for adventure and a sense of justice to ride the sand dunes of Africa together. Must have heart and believe in true love.

Express interest here.

Angsty, yet adorably cheesy romance, searching for a patient, dedicated reader. A love of the wine country is a must, and of course, a partiality to divine food, great music, and a charming winemaker who’s ripe for the picking. Show me your unwavering resolve and trust and I’ll give you everything you’ve been searching for.

Express interest here.

How to Act Your Age and Other Ideals of Should

reblogged from Escape Artist and Romance Scholar Sandra Antonelli. Check out her blog here, and her books (all featuring spectacular, smart 40+ heroines, which you should read) here.

Russell Crowe’s recent “Act your age” comments in the December 2014 Australian Women’s Weekly, have stirred up the whole idea of ‘appropriate roles and behaviours for — and I hate this expression – ‘women of a certain age.’ While Crowe’s comments were about how actresses should go after age-appropriate roles and stop wanting to play the ingénue (which actresses would do if there were age-appropriate roles for them to play), his remarks highlight the confusion, the mixed messages over all the ‘shoulding’ when it comes to being a middle-aged or older female. Over a month later Crowe’s remarks are still generating a buzz. There’s more buzz to add his his buzz, because women over 40 — Laura Dern, Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and, of course, Meryl Streep — have all been nominated for Academy Awards, so amazeballs  that Hollywood has noticed, right?

Sort of.

What do I mean by shoulding? I mean those acts and behaviours, and expected roles for women, such as maiden, which is THE ROLE Hollywood embraces and clings to for portraying Ideal2females, as well as wife, mother, and the cougar, the old crone, the old hag, the crazy old lady — those stereotyped, secondary or bit-part sexless roles that Hollywood sets aside for older women. When you look at the big picture, there aren’t really a lot of those cardboard cut-out roles.

And, Russell, that’s what all the fuss is about and why it’s a big deal that stories have been told with mature women as central characters.

Shoulding. If you are a female you are expected to age gracefully, only as you age, be sure you don’t let yourself go. However, if you attempt to keep fit know you may be ridiculed for trying to stay in shape, and whatever you do, don’t look old, but don’t be mutton dressed as lamb either because miniskirts look bad on old sheep. We know there is a cult of youth wrapped up in the ‘achieving a perfect, ideal beauty, ‘ but the picture of ‘ideal beauty’ changes over time, or sometimes circles ‘round again. If you haven’t noticed, big bushy eyebrows from the ‘80s are suddenly back in vogue. It’s best to remember, once you are over 40, keep your eyebrows tidy and let your beauty shine from within; have a great personality. If you don’t have a great personality, then you better cultivate one.

beauty1Does beauty, true beauty, comes from the inside? I’m inclined to say yes, as a shitty personality sure can make a person look quite ugly. If beauty does come from the inside, then perhaps that’s something that could be embraced, and taught, and reinforced, as DC Baxter suggests in January 7, 2015 The Federalist. Girls and boys could be instructed about seeing inner beauty in others, especially since there is far too much emphasis placed on outward appearance, which fosters the shallowness in our culture. Humans, on a biological level, are programed to find symmetry, clear skin, and good teeth attractive in others, as it indicates, at least on a surface level, that the individual is disease-free and no threat to anyone’s safety. The programming makes sense, yet that clear-skinned, disease-free caveman with all his teeth and straight nose, might have had an asshole personality. Maybe then inner beauty is ‘ideal beauty.’ Or maybe it’s really a combination of inner and outer beauty that makes for what’s ‘ideal.’ Yet the combination is problematic, both are double-edged swords suggest that older, as in wrinkles and sagging bits are ugly, that outer beauty is impossible once things begin to show any sign of age, which is treated as a disease, and who wants to fuck a diseased person?

In the December 7, 2014 Sunday Times, Camille Paglia says that an older woman is “measuring herself against an impossible youthful ideal.” Her case in point is Madonna and her recent topless photos spread in Interview Magazine, which downgrades feminism and pits the younger women against older women in a struggle for power. Paglia likes to talk about power and exerting power, but I find her argument a little muddy. For me, fifty-six-year-old Madonna, in her decision to have topless photos taken, is exerting her power (as Madonna always has), as a woman and as a sexual being—because middle aged women are desiring and desirous sexual Beauty3beings. I do not see Madonna as measuring herself against an ‘impossible youthful ideal.’ Madonna is simply defining what she wants to be, how she wants to be seen, and presenting that there CAN be a new middle-aged ‘fuckable’ ideal. She is not acting like a younger woman; she is recognising her power and embracing her inner beauty by being herself, something she has always garnered criticism for throughout her career.

You know, if you look closely, kids, Madonna’s Interview topless photo isn’t topless at all, unless you count that her top is a top with boobs on it.

So back to ‘ideal beauty.’ Despite there being so many differing versions of what is ‘ideal,’ why is there a misconception that ‘ideal’ is only applicable to younger, that keeping fit, and wanting to look attractive at any age over 40 is somehow impossible, and anyone who does their best to maintain what one has is therefore a delusional, inappropriate, mutton-dressed-as lamb who’s not acting her age? Why is a middle-aged woman, like Madonna, acting in these powerful ways a target for ridicule and disdain? Why must a woman, middle-aged or older, keep her focus on her inner beauty alone? What the hell does ‘acting your age’ mean anyway?

I have my own ideal for myself, and that’s how I wield my power. I’m a smartassed grown up and I’m gonna run, keep fit, wear mini skirts and short dresses until my knees look like shit. I DECIDE when my knees look like shit, not you, Russell Crowe, Camille Paglia or anyone else.

And that’s acting my age.

The Top 5 Reasons Why Halloween is Totally Bitchin’

by Sandra Antonelli, who is running a Hallowe’en promotion on her blog that you should totally check out here.

  1. Candy Corn… because candy corn.candycorny
  2. Costumes, costumes, costumes! Ever wanted to be a pirate? Thought it would be cool to get your cheese on and channel a Slice of Pizza? Thought cross-dressing would be fun, but worried what your friends would think? Now’s your chance to do one or all of these things because it’s Halloween and wearing a costume, a mask, and makeup is totally acceptable!pizzacos
  3. Jack-o-Lanterns: Carving them, seeing them, and ahem, even smashing them. OH! The Power of Pumpkin! The appeal of pumpkin is, sadly, misunderstood Down Under, and only eaten as a roasted with potatoes, garlic-n-onions savoury dish, rather than a cinnamon-nutmeg-ginger Festival of Pumpkin-Spice-Everything in the USA. punpkin
  4. Provides a much-needed buffer between the end of Summer (or beginning of Spring, depending on what hemisphere you live in) and the Christmas advertising onslaught, which, I kid you not, started here in Australia on September 12th.nosanta
  5. Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s The Monster Mash. My friend Cindy does this right. She combines all that is Halloween in lights and song!

Everybody dance now!

22033A new, quick-witted, quip-heavy romance for grown-ups from Sandra Antonelli about facing your fears — because love is the greatest risk of all.

Levelheaded Olivia Regen walks away from her car-racing career and the wreckage of a bad marriage to take on new work that’s far removed from the twists of racetrack. Her new life is about control, calm and the good friends that she adores.

But her first task on her very first day involves getting up close and too personal with her claustrophobic boss, alone in a broken elevator. Her unconventional solution for restoring his equilibrium shocks them both and leaves Olivia shaken.

Determined to stick to her plan, Olivia drives headlong into work and planning her best friend’s wedding, leaving no room for kissing, elevators, or workplace relationships. But Emerson is not one to be out-manoeuvred. Can he convince Olivia that her fear of falling in love again is just another kind of claustrophobia – one that is destined to leave them both lonely?