Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, Merindah Park, which releases today is Renée Dahlia.
Renée Dahlia is an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour. Renée has a science degree in physics. When not distracted by the characters fighting for attention in her brain, she works in the horse racing industry doing data analysis, and writing magazine articles. When she isn’t reading or writing, Renée wrangles a partner, four children, and volunteers on the local cricket club committee as well as for Romance Writers Australia.
Hello Renée. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
Coffee! I’m more of a savoury person, so cheese and crackers would be my afternoon tea go to side dish!
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
Historical and contemporary romance. I have a three book historical series with Escape Publishing, and they are publishing my new four book contemporary series. The first book in that series, Merindah Park, comes out 20 April 2019. I also have an indie-published book, Betrayed, which is the first in a foster family series. The second one in that series is planned for June, so both series will come out interspersed with each other!
Can you describe your new book, Merindah Park, in just a sentence?
No, but I can try! One good horse will change your address – can this horse save Merindah Park? It’s rural romance with a global horse racing twist, and plenty of sparks between John and Toshiko.
How long did it take you to write Merindah Park?
A couple of months.
How different was the experience of writing Merindah Park, compared to your other novels?
Writing this series was a lot different to writing my historical series – for the simple reason that family circumstances forced me to quit my office job and do more freelancing work from home. This gave me more hours to write, and so Merindah Park came together faster than previous work.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
I’ve worked in horse racing for most of my career, and I have a deep love of the Japanese racehorse. Over many generations, they’ve invested in soundness and stamina, and I believe they breed the best stayers in the world. Horses like Deep Impact, Orfevre, Gentildonna, Kitasan Black, and of course, Almond Eye demonstrate this on the global stage.
Did you need to undertake any research to bring Merindah Park to life? How did you incorporate this research into your book?
Writing a Japanese heroine took a lot of research, and I’m thankful to my friends who let me ask them a million questions about growing up in Japan and moving to Australia. Having several different people in my life that I could listen to their experiences and having close enough friendships that they would help guide my questions is very special. I live in a suburb with a high immigrant population (I am an immigrant from NZ) and I’m so lucky to have friends from all over the world who bring a wide range of experiences to our friendship.
Can you tell us more about the Australian setting of your novel?
Merindah Park is a horse breeding farm in Victoria, loosely set somewhere near Echuca, on Taungurung land. The farm is about three hours drive from Melbourne airport, and about twenty minutes drive from the small fictional town of Tranquil Waters.
What was the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing Merindah Park?
Getting to add in my horse racing knowledge to a novel was highly rewarding, and I really enjoyed being able to use several anecdotes from my day’s as a strapper. One of the big challenges for this series was creating fake race records for the horses – I’ve mashed together several famous horses to create Tsuyoi Red and Biographical.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful rural romance narrative?
Before I wrote Merindah Park, I read over twenty rural romances. Most of them have themes of home coming and belonging to land, and I wanted to ensure my series included these themes as well.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Merindah Park?
I hope they’ll enjoy an emotional read that leaves them feeling satisfied, and as a secondary wish, I hope they see how much people who work with racehorses love them.
How do you plan to celebrate the official release day of Merindah Park?
I’m doing a facebook launch (https://www.facebook.com/events/815973658754738/) and will probably enjoy a nice cold beer. My current favourite is Little Creatures Dog Days – it’s a pilsner style with fruity notes.
I am very pleased to see Merindah Park 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?
The next two books in the series feature John’s twin sisters. Rachel (Making her Mark) is a bold jockey who gets dumped in the first chapter and swears off love. If only her new roommate’s brother wasn’t so hot! Serena is a country jockey who nearly dies in a bad racing accident. She is determined to ride again and enlists the help of Merindah Park’s neighbour, Lee. The final book in the series features Shannon, the other brother in this family, and is set almost entirely at the Royal Ascot carnival in England.
How has your writing evolved since your first published novel?
I hope I keep improving! I’m taking more chances with my stories now, playing with tropes, and having fun.
How do you balance writing with being a mother of four and your volunteer work with Romance Writers Australia, as well as your local cricket club commitments?
Sometimes it feels like the answer is ‘poorly’! My children are all at school, so that leaves plenty of time to write during the day as well as do my freelance day job (writing for horse racing magazines and doing data analysis) and volunteer work. I try to be organised with my time, but I do spend way too much time on social media. I guess everyone has a vice or two 😊
What is next on the horizon for Renée Dahlia? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I’m currently writing a historical series set in 1919 featuring the daughters of my Bluestocking series and I’m learning how to indie-publish so I can better understand the full breadth of the publishing industry. I’ve pitched a new horse racing series to Escape set in South Australia, and I have another project in the works with them that I hope to be able to share soon!
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I’m basically terrible to looking forward to books. If I see something advertised, then I’ll grab it and there are so many great Aussie novels coming up that it’s hard to keep track. Annie Seaton’s next one Undara has a fabulous cover, while internationally I’m looking forward to Talia Hibbert’s That Kind of Guy, Olivia Waite’s The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, and Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
I rather like having the ability to vote, have my own credit card, and have modern medicine available to me, but I would like to visit my Russian relatives at the height of their aristocratic glory (so before 1917!).
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
Green tea and yum cha is best served with a large group of friends. The Ashfam crew, or the wonderful writers who belong to RWA – take your pick 😊
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Renée. Congratulations on today’s publication of Merindah Park!
A brand new rural romance series about an emerging racehorse stud and the family desperately trying to make their racing dreams come true.
John Henry Bassett
‘Money lost, nothing lost. Courage lost, everything lost.’
My dad’s favourite quote. Maybe not one I should be listening to, given my gambling-addict dad sank our once-famous horse stud into a deep, deep hole. Five years I’ve been digging it out. Slowly. Carefully. And now … I am risking it all. Risking Merindah Park on a stallion. Tsuyoi Red, runner up in the Japan Derby last year.
Now is not the time to get distracted by a gorgeous, pragmatic veterinarian.
I’m at a crossroads in my life. Though my father encouraged me to follow my dreams and become an expert veterinarian, he left our family’s horse farm, Tomikusa, to my younger brother. My family expects me to honour my father’s wishes and marry a neighbour-a perfectly nice man who I don’t feel any spark with at all. But my own ability to bet-successfully-on horse races has given me options.
This decision would be easier if I didn’t feel the wicked chemistry hovering between me and the handsome, broad-shouldered Australian that my brother has decreed I will travel with to Australia to look after an injured horse. I’m usually so good at calculating the odds. But how do I choose between losing my place in my family, and losing myself?
Connect with Renée here: