It is my pleasure to welcome Lily Malone, one of my favourite West Australian romance writers to Mrs B’s Book Reviews for a Q & A session. This follows a glowing review I published last week of Lily’s new novel, Water Under The Bridge on the blog.
About the author…
Lily Malone might have been a painter, except her year-old son put a golf club through her canvas, so she wrote her first book His Brand of Beautiful instead. Lily writes realistic contemporary romance about places she knows. She loves her wine and many of her romances are set in the vineyards and wine regions of Australia, particularly in the tourism towns of Margaret River in West Australia (where she now lives) and in the Adelaide Hills near Hahndorf where she spent most of the 2000s.
Lily has worked as a journalist and editor of wine industry magazines, but discovered after years of writing facts for a living, writing romance was much more fun. When she isn’t writing, Lily likes gardening, walking, wine, and walking in gardens (sometimes with wine). She is the mother of two handsome young boys who take after their father and she’s doing her best to convert both her South Australian-born heroes into the fan club of the West Coast Eagles AFL team. Not with great success…
Hello Lily. It is my pleasure to welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, Water Under The Bridge, your latest novel for Harlequin Books Australia has just been released. Can you give us an outline of what we can expect?
A. Hi Amanda (or should that be, Mrs B) – no trouble at all. I’m stoked to be here! Well, when you pick up WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE, I’d like you to expect a warm, invigorating story that feels like a big hug. (Actually, I stole that line from a review of the book – about the big hug – but I loved the line so I’m keeping it). In the story, the heroine, Ella, has to find her courage after a disaster during swimming trials for the Beijing Olympics. She’s been living ‘half a life’ since Beijing, but trying to make the best of it, as the story starts she’s just found her mojo and that has involved a move from Perth to the country town of Chalk Hill where she is about to start work as the rookie sales representative in a real estate office. So it’s a story about secrets and bad decisions, and moving on, and being resilient I think, and then embracing change and running with it as fast as you can.
Q. What came first in the creation of this novel – the plot, the characters or the setting when you first set out to write Water Under The Bridge?
A. I think the character of Ella came to me about the same time as the setting. It was just around the time of the Rio Olympics when I started thinking about writing an almost-Olympic swimmer who missed the Beijing team. Why did that happen? What went wrong to make her swear off swimming for life? About the same time, my family (hubby and my two boys) did a campervan trip to Albany. During that time we visited the Porongurup Ranges – which is the background/backdrop to the fictional town of Chalk Hill.
Q. Did you need to undertake any research to bring Water Under The Bridge to life?
A. I read Leisel Jones’ biography, Body Lengths, to get a sense of what life might be like growing up in an elite swimming training program. That was the main thing. Other than that, the visit to Albany helped me form the setting in my mind. I also paid extra special attention to the teachers at my boys’ swimming lessons. They must have thought I was such an attentive swimming mum but secretly, I was watching them teaching technique and filing it for future reference!!
Q. Water Under The Bridge is set in Chalk Hill, a small country town in the Great Southern Region of Western Australia. What made you decide to base your new novel in this part of our state?
I think that answer is probably up there ^^ with the camping trip mention. It’s too pretty down near the Porongurups for it NOT to be in a book!
Q. Are there any shades of Lily Malone in the characters featured in Water Under The Bridge?
A. 50 Shades of Lily Malone… whoa!! No – well, I guess one might be that my ‘day job’ when I’m not writing is in a real estate office, and over the years I’ve worked in a number of real estate-related positions, both in West Australia and also South Australia. I love property, including renovations, additions. If I was more handy with a hammer I’d be up for something like The Block… but alas, I am very unhandy with a hammer, and I loathe painting and decorating.
Q. What was the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing Water Under The Bridge?
A. Ella’s backstory was very hard to write. I can’t give away spoilers, but it takes quite a while for Jake (our lovely Chalk Hill hero) to get the true story out of her. A lot of this backstory came out during edits for the book and I was very lucky to work with a wonderful team at Harlequin MIRA who kept asking questions during edits about Ella, and her earlier life… so I had to go deeper and deeper into what happened to her and the decisions she made. As I said, I found this very wrenching during edits, for sure, but the book is better (in my very humble opinion) for the effort. The most rewarding thing was that I got to mention a lot of my favourite disco tunes!! (Oops, that may be another 50 Shade of Lily Malone that I just snuck in on a different answer!)
Q. I am very pleased to see Water Under The Bridge is book one of a new series. Can you give us a hint of what we might expect in upcoming books in this exciting new series?
A. Well, the three stories will be based around the three Honeychurch brothers of Chalk Hill. Jake’s story is first. The second story (which is now with my publisher) is Abe’s story, and the third brother is Braxton, ‘Brix’. Abe’s story gets hinted at in Water Under The Bridge. I loved writing Abe’s story but I found him trickier than Jake. Jake is very straight-forward, confident, a lover of country and land and family. Abe is harder around the edges, and at the time of Water Under The Bridge, he’s very stressed out by a number of things. As Abe learns to relax in Book 2, he’ll have a better time of it. Brix’s story is still in my head… I have a loose idea but haven’t really nutted it out yet.
Q. You have written a number of romance themed books. What attracts you to this particular genre?
A. I love writing stories that make people smile. I’ve been told that my books make readers feel good and that’s a lovely sense for me (like that big warm hug I mentioned up above). I read for pleasure myself – I read crime novels, and I read a lot of romance. I love escapism in my reading. Other than the Leisel Jones’ biography (and I do have a Shane Warne biography too) I read mostly fiction and I’m sure that’s because I like the escapism of those books.
Q. Can you tell us how you balance life with writing?
A. Oh that’s easy! I used to feel like I didn’t have any balance at all, but in 2017 I had the opportunity (thanks to a very supportive employer and my husband who told me to ‘go for it’) to bring my writing into more centre stage in my life. Previously my writing has always been ‘snuck’ into the rest of my life. When my boys were very small (they are 10 and 8 now) I fitted writing into their nap times, and at night… then we moved from SA to WA and I started working 5 days a week, and even though they were part-time hours, I still found myself too tired of a night for writing and I wasn’t getting far. I got a lucky break when Harlequin MIRA put one of my ebooks into print in spring 2016 – The Vineyard In The Hills and I got my first print book in bookshops. That gave me the impetus to cut down on my ‘day job’ and dedicate some days to write. So since January 2017, I’ve been job-sharing my administrative role and working 2 days a week, leaving 3 dedicated days for writing. This is brilliant because it’s time when my kids are at school and the house is quiet (I’m not one of those writers who like music playing or noise – I like total silence) – and it was in 2017 that I wrote Water Under The Bridge and Book 2 (working title, The Cafe By The Bridge) also. It was a very productive year for me!
So I am very lucky and very grateful to say that right now I feel my life is in perfect balance as I do still enjoy my 2 days a week admin role, and I’ve loved having more time to write. I’m also a less stressed Mum because that balance means more time for the family – even the little things – grocery shopping and doctors or dentists’ appointments or haircuts – more time for kids’ sports, and I’m not running running running all the time like I felt I was for years.
Q. WA based writers seem very supportive of one another. What support have you personally received?
A. WA authors are very supportive – I couldn’t agree more. The romance writing community is very tight and generally supportive across a broader Australian context too. I have beta readers who’ve been with me pretty much from the beginning – the wonderful Kylie Kaden who lives in Brisbane and who I’ve only met face to face once, for about 40 minutes before Kylie got whisked off to dinner with her publisher – but she is incredibly precious to me. In WA, Juanita Kees and Jennie Jones have been buddies, pals and beta readers. I was in a group called Naughty Ninjas for a good few years… we’ve kind of ‘taken down’ some of our active promotions as we’re concentrating on different things, but we’re all still mates behind the scenes and supportive of each other’s writing.
More recently (so for 2017) thanks to an invite from Perth author Louise Allan, I’ve been part of a writing group which meets mostly online. We call ourselves the Lollygaggers – and we are an accountability group set up to get ourselves going and to keep the words flowing. The LollyGs are an incredibly safe, supportive group and I’m their ‘romance’ writer… the other ladies are far more poignant with words than me, although some are secretly (or not so secretly) dabbing at romance, or stories with romantic elements. Most of our group are WA writers although our youngest member is in Melbourne. Some of us are published and some not, and we’re all of different ages and at different stages of our careers and families. It’s a truly awesome group!
Q. Finally, what 2018 book releases are you most excited to read?
A. Well, one of them I’ve already read: The Sisters’ Song by Louise Allan. Jenn J McLeod’s newbie, A Place To Remember is on my list. Anything new by Michael Robotham is a must-read for me; as is anything new by John Sandford. Ainslie Paton is always incredible… but she writes so darn fast I have trouble keeping up. Jennie Jones has a new book out any day now – A Place With Heart, and Juanita Kees has big news that I’m not allowed to say yet! Oh, and someone really needs to grab the story Kylie Kaden is working on, because what I ‘beta’ read of it last year, it honestly rocks, and I can confidently predict the same for Monique Mulligan… it’s great being privy to so many stories that will make the market one day and THEN I’ll get to say: “see world!! I told you this author was brilliant!!!)
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Lily and congratulations on the publication of Water Under The Bridge!
Thank you for having me Amanda. I hope that you enjoy the story when you get to it too!
(For the record I loved it Lily!) Mrs B ~
Connect with Lily here:
If this Q & A enticed you to read Water Under The Bridge, here is the blurb:
Ella Davenport hasn’t been in a swimming pool since a bad decision ruined her chance of Olympic gold. So when Ella decides on a new career selling property, she chooses Chalk Hill. The country town is a long way from the water, with no pool in sight. Perfect!
Jake Honeychurch doesn’t want to sell his Nanna’s house, but circumstances force his hand. Listing the property with the rookie real estate agent in town, and asking a hefty price means it shouldn’t find a buyer. Perfect!
But determination and persistence are traits Jake admires, and Ella has them in spades. After all, no one ever made an Olympic team by being a quitter.
When news breaks of a proposed waterski park, a local developer starts sniffing around Honeychurch House. Ella’s first sale is so close she can taste it, until a sharp-eyed local recognises her.
Between sale negotiations with Jake that keep getting sidetracked, and a swimming pool committee hellbent on making a splash, Ella has more to contend with than kisses and chlorine.
Can she throw off the failures of the past and take the chance of a new start? Or will her dreams of a new life be washed away again?
Water Under The Bridge by Lily Malone was published on 19th February 2018 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.