Love Between the Pages is an author event series that features WA writers Sasha Wasley and Anthea Hodgson meeting readers in various locations across WA between 19 – 27 June. Further details on the locations of these events can be found here. To celebrate these great events, I have a Q & A with both authors and a review to share on the blog this week.
About the author…
Anthea Hodgson is a country girl from the WA wheatbelt. She likes all the usual stuff, from chocolate to puppies, and she loves a coffee, which probably played a large part in her move from the farm to Perth – although she thinks boarding school may have had something to do with it, too.
In her previous life she was child free and working as a radio producer, where the coffee was terrible but the people were great, and now she has three brilliant kids, including her husband, a job she loves even more than radio, and a two book deal with Penguin Random House.
Because a few years ago Anthea found herself with nothing to do at three am, so she climbed out of bed and wrote her debut novel, The Drifter, in five weeks. Told you she likes coffee.
Hello Anthea. 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, The Cowgirl, your latest novel for Penguin Books Australia was released earlier this year. Can you give us an outline of what we can expect?
A. Teddy Broderick is a farm girl who dreams of leaving the farm and travelling the world. She feels trapped, unable to leave because her grandmother, the grumpy Deirdre, needs her. Her world bursts open when Deirdre announces her childhood home is buried on the property and that Will, a young archaeologist, is coming to dig it up again, to find the few things she might like to see again before she dies. In digging up Deirdre’s past, Teddy discovers there was more to the woman she has always known – and Deirdre discovers a way to find her freedom.
Q. What came first in the creation of this novel – the title, the plot, the characters or the setting when you first set out to write The Cowgirl?
A. The characters and the setting were already set for Cowgirl, because they were closely linked to Drifter. I wanted to visit Deirdre in this one because I felt she stole so many scenes in Drifter and I thought her story could make a good bookend to Cate’s story. I had brought the Drifter home and I wanted to set the Cowgirl free, so in terms of this novel, I suppose it was the theme that came first, of duty and freedom. The plot came next, both as the story of Deirdre’s life, but also the digging up of the past and the secrets that can hold us back. I loved the affection between these two characters separated by a generation. I felt that they were kindred spirits and the idea of a woman’s duty – and a woman’s dreams – really appealed to me.
Q. Did you need to undertake any research to bring The Cowgirl to life?
A. Not really – I’m way too lazy for that, but I’ve known my mum all my life, so I invited myself along to lunch with her Yealering friends, and I asked all sorts of questions about washing, cleaning, music, dances and dresses. They are slightly younger than Deirdre, but they could remember enough of the same era when they were young girls to be very useful. To my mind it was fitting, because the girls are at the heart of both The Drifter and The Cowgirl.
Q. The Cowgirl is set in a small country town in country Western Australia. What made you decide to base your new novel in rural WA?
A. I set both The Drifter and The Cowgirl in Windstorm because it’s the fictionalised version of my hometown, Yealering. When I decided to write fiction, rural romance was a natural fit for me because I’m from generations of farmers on both sides of my family and I really wanted to represent the rural community I grew up in. Yealering was run by a group of women we knew as ‘the girls’. They ran every committee, busy bee, tennis lesson, church committee, and Sunday school lesson. My mum was a shire councillor and my grandma was national president of the CWA. I’m so proud of the girls, I wanted to celebrate the farmers, the countryside and the fabulous women who preside over the lot!
Q. Are there any shades of Anthea Hodgson in the characters featured in The Cowgirl?
A. I think there are shades of me in Cowgirl and I hope that’s what makes it relatable. I’ve never suffered anxiety, although I’m a natural introvert and the thought of never leaving my house or speaking to another human being ever again worries me not one bit! Teddy, and Cate from Drifter, share my sense of humour, because I’m not sure how you even write funny for another voice. My friends say they can hear me in everything I write – I’m hoping that’s a good thing!
Q. The Cowgirl is a dual time frame narrative, how challenging is this technique?
A. Oh – it’s a bit tricky I must say, because you’re balancing the energy of two stories all the time. I wanted both the 1950’s story and the contemporary story to be really engaging, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if one is lagging a bit. At one point an editor had me bump up the 1950’s plot and then the next editor declared – too much from 1950! It’s slowing the story down! And I hit the delete button on a few thousand words. It’s brutal at times, but I’m not here to entertain myself, I’m here to entertain my reader, to tell them an interesting story, to make them laugh, to make them care. It’s enormous fun and a huge challenge.
Q. Is there a particular scene in The Cowgirl that you are proud of?
A. I think my favourite scene is where Deirdre dances by the fire. I wanted her to have her moment – to be an old lady, a silly old chook stuck in the mud – and then I wanted to make her fly like a phoenix from the ashes and to be as magical as all the stories through the book. I wanted my old dragon to blast out, to really celebrate her courage, to honour herself for surviving a tough life, for having the guts to keep turning up and for digging through the sadness of her past so that she could give her darling Teddy a wonderful future.
Q. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. It was a very private journey – I didn’t even tell my family, because I knew I’d never be published and I was too embarrassed to put it out there. I wrote in secret and sent my manuscript out everywhere for two years to total and utter ignore. When that stopped being fun, I decide to fly to the Romance Writers of Australia conference for publisher speed dating. Someone rang a little bell, I sat down with Ali Watts from Penguin, and I said, My name’s Anthea Hodgson, and I’ve written a rural romance about death… I was lucky enough to be contracted the following month
Q. Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
A. Cup of tea. I must have a nice cup of tea to get started. I usually work in my office at the front of the house, overlooking my fig tree. My writing partner Possum takes up her position under the desk to work and moves to the pink couch behind me if she needs a break. I really just write anywhere, though. Parked cars, sporting sidelines, playgrounds, lots of cafes. I’m not too worried about my surroundings, although I do find I prefer access to coffee and possibly cake and I like an early start – maybe 3am if I’m getting really interested. And quite often I like to turn on some loud music and break out the 80’s dance moves if I get stuck on a tricky bit, even if it’s just to make Possum laugh.
Q. WA based writers seem very supportive of one another. What support have you personally received?
A. I didn’t really have contact with WA writers until a little while after I was published, because I’m a bit of an introvert, and I knew I’d never be published anyway. One night a month or so after Drifter came out, that wonderful force of nature otherwise known as Tess Woods got in touch with me and we met up – she was even kind enough to read Drifter and write me a wonderful review, which was really appreciated because I had so few! Rachael Johns and Fiona Palmer also took me under their friendly rural wings, Jennie Jones and Nadia King gave brilliant advice and the lovely Louise Allen allowed me to write for her blog. These fab women have been so kind and generous, it’s always a treat to see them – and to read their work!
Q. What is next on the horizon for Anthea Hodgson? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
A. I do have something a little bit creepy I’d like to share – I was very disappointed to discover in January of this year that the wonderful (and now my sworn enemy) Loretta Hill had already written a fab novel which I had mistakenly believed I had written, tentatively titled Chick leaving a bad relationship goes to Yallingup/Dunsborough to do up an old slightly haunted house she’s inherited – spookiness and romance ensue. Hers was titled The Secret Vineyard – and is much better than mine!
SO – I got to return to my first love – dead people. With Possum’s help, I’ve managed to knock out a few thousand (pain free) words and to write a whole thing about funeral homes. Because funeral directors are hot. If I say so. I’m off to spend time in a funeral home shortly, re-arranging flowers, drinking tea, touring the facilities…Can’t wait!
Q. Finally, what 2018 book releases are you most excited to read?
A. Oh come on – too many! Firstly, I have to say Sasha Wasley’s fab latest, True Blue, even though I’ve read it already, but I also have a copy of Fiona Palmer’s Sisters and Brothers I can’t wait to sink my teeth into (well – I’ll be reading it – Possum will probably sink her teeth into it later.) Also I have gorgeous Alli Sinclair’s latest, The Burning Fields – really looking forward to reading that one, Barbara Hannay’s Summer Of Secrets – always love hers. I’m loving Jenn J. McLeod’s A Place To Remember at the moment, I have The Bonegilla Girls from fab Victoria Purman I can’t wait to get into! I have them waiting for me – oh – and Helene Young’s latest, Return to Roseglen looks beautiful…and Rachael Johns is back with another novel later this year I can’t wait to see…!
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Anthea and congratulations on the publication of The Cowgirl – I loved it!
Thanks so much Mrs B! Love your action! XX
Connect with Anthea here:
If this Q & A enticed you to read The Cowgirl, here is the blurb:
‘When you look up at that sky, tell me you don’t know the world is bigger than this farm.’
Teddy Broderick is committed to her busy life in the country – seeding, harvest, shearing, and the daily milking of her grandmother’s cow – but she dreams of another life, in the world beyond the farm gate.
But just as she thinks she knows everything about her family, her grandmother Deirdre announces there is a house buried on the property, and archaeologist Will Hastings is coming to dig it up.
What is hidden in Deirdre’s childhood home that she needs to see again before she dies? What is preventing Teddy from living the life she truly wants, and will she ever find her freedom?
As Teddy and Will work to expose past secrets to the light,the stories they tell bring them together, and unearth a whole world of buried treasures.
The Cowgirl by Anthea Hodgson was published on 26th February 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*My five star review of The Cowgirl can be found here.