Interview · Tea with Mrs B

Tea with Mrs B: Pamela Cook

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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, Cross My Heart, is Pamela Cook.

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Pamela Cook writes page-turning women’s fiction set in escape-worthy places. Her novels feature tangled family relationships, the ups and downs of friendship and explore life issues like grief, belonging and love. Her first novel, Blackwattle Lake (2012) was published as part of the Hachette Manuscript Development Program and followed by Essie’s Way (2013), Close To Home (2015) and The Crossroads (2016). Her September 2019 release is Cross My Heart. Pamela is the co-host of the exciting new podcasts Writes4Women and Writes4Festivals, and is proud to be a Writer Ambassador for Room To Read, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries. When she’s not writing, reading or podcasting she wastes as much time as possible riding Rio, her handsome quarter horse.

Hello Pamela. 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?

Hi Mrs B. Thank you so much for the invitation! Apart from champagne my preferred beverage would be English Breakfast tea and most definitely a scone topped with strawberry jam and cream.

Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?

I write Rural Fiction (with romantic elements) and Women’s Fiction. My latest release is my fifth published novel.

Cross My Heart is your latest release, can you describe it in just a sentence?

Cross My Heart is the story of Tessa De Santis, a thirty-something career woman who becomes foster-mother to her oldest friend’s daughter, and is haunted by a promise she should never have kept.

What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write Cross My Heart?

This book was written over a longer period of time than my others so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it started but I would have to say the character first and the situation second: what if you made a promise that had an adverse affect on someone’s life, and on your own? I then worked on developing the character and the plot based on that premise.

How long did it take you to write Cross My Heart?

From the seed of the idea to the final version this one took me a couple of years. The main character is more complicated than any of my previous protagonists and I wanted to make sure I really showed that complexity in the writing.

How different was the experience of writing Cross My Heart, compared to your previous novels?

It definitely took longer! I delved more deeply into Tessa’s psyche than I have with my other characters. I also made the decision to publish this book independently so the process of finding a cover designer, editor, having more beta-readers and getting to the finished product was vastly different to anything I’ve done before.

Can you tell us more about the main themes of your novel?

It’s a story about friendship – what it means to have and to lose a beloved friend. I lost my best friend to MND almost 4 years ago and I’ve definitely channelled my grief into this story, even thought the characters and situation are nothing like my life. It’s also about making new friends and valuing the people in your life. Family is also a really important theme – especially the mother-daughter relationship, both in terms of Tessa’s relationship with her own mother, her new relationship with foster daughter Grace and also her friend Skye’s love for her daughter. There’s also a #metoo theme running through the story and healing through equine assisted learning/therapy.

Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?

The main character Tess really developed out of the situation I put her in. I wanted to explore how someone’s personality can be affected by a traumatic event and how she would then deal with something totally unexpected happening in her life. All the characters developed organically as I wrote the story and weren’t based on anyone in my own life or experience.

Can you tell us more about the setting of your novel?

The story starts in Sydney where Tess and her husband, both urban professionals, live a super busy lifestyle in the inner city. Tess did grow up in the suburbs though and there are a few scenes showing her back there, but the bulk of the story takes place in a fictional town called Weerilla, about four and a half hours west of Sydney. I wanted a location that wasn’t easy to just drop into for a day or two, and also a town with a historic and artsy feel. I asked on my Facebook page if anyone knew of country towns with that kind of feel and a few people suggested Millthorpe. It turned out to be the perfect location in terms of distance and had just the right feel to it, so it became the basis for Weerilla. I loved my research trips to Millthorpe, especially the delicious cakes at The Old Mill!

What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful contemporary women’s fiction narrative?

Complicated relationships, characters hiding or running away from something, a mystery – either involving family or friends, a flawed main character and secrets. Loads of tension between the characters built into the narrative also helps.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading Cross My Heart?

While there are quite a few dark moments in the story I’ve also tried to include plenty of light. I’m hoping readers will enjoy both the sad and happy aspects of the story. In terms of the moral, or themes, I hope they close the book wanting to cherish their friendships and also believing it’s never too late to make amends for the past, or to change the path you’re on in life.

What is the best part of being a published author?

Without a doubt it’s the connections you make with both readers and fellow-writers. I have met so many wonderful people through my writing. The Australian writing and reading community is so supportive and I love being a part of it.

What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?

So many! The first book I read that made me think ‘I want to write like that’ was The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I don’t write remotely like him but he did inspire me to try. More recently Liane Moriarty’s writing has inspired me greatly in terms of how to keep a reader hooked from the first page to the last. And even more recently I’ve been inspired by Australian authors like Natasha Lester, Kim Kelly, Holly Ringland and Favel Parett, who are all telling the stories they want to tell in their own unique voices.

Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?

I have a beautiful study/office with floor to ceiling bookshelves and an enormous print from Moulin Rouge above the desk. I love it but it’s often too messy to actually write in! Lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing at an old timber desk I bought to sit at on my veranda. From there I can look out at our horses grazing in the paddocks, listen to magpies warbling in the gum trees and have one of my three dogs sitting beside me for company. I don’t really need anything particular to get me started but I am a huge procrastinator and have to make myself put my bum on that chair and just write.

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Aside from writing, do you have any interesting hobbies?

Reading or course, and horse-riding. I started riding as an adult because my daughters all became involved with horses and it was a matter of “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em”. My quarter horse Rio and I do Western riding which is a very slow jog style that suits me just fine. It also involves wearing a lot of bling at the shows, which is great fun!

If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?

The 1920’s, either in Paris or New York. It was a time period of such huge social change and I love stories set in both these cities during that time period. After the First World War women had a lot more opportunities and while there was still a long way to go, there were the beginnings of more independent lives for many women. And of course, there was a lot of fun to be had and the fashions were gorgeous!

What is next on the horizon for Pamela Cook? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?

I’ve started my next book, a novel about parental alienation. It started as a single character narrative but has morphed into a dual character story and there may even be a third. It will have some similar themes to Cross My Heart and a strong women-helping-women storyline.

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What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?

I’ve just received an advance copy of There Was Still Love by Favel Parett. I adored Past the Shallows and When the Night Comes so I’m really looking forward to her new one. I’m currently reading The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell and have the feeling I’ll be going through an entire box of tissues with that one. I’m a huge audiobook lover and have just bought Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls to listen to in the car. And I’m looking forward to Penelope Janu’s Up On Horseshoe Hill, which will be out in December.

Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?

I’d love to share a pot of tea with Holly Ringland. I chatted to her on my Writes4Women podcast earlier this year, after reading and loving The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. There was so much more we could have talked about and I’d love to continue our conversation.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Pamela.  Congratulations on the upcoming publication of Cross My Heart!

When a promise kept means a life is broken …cross my heart small

Tessa De Santis’s child-free marriage in inner-city Sydney is ordered and comfortable, and she likes it that way.

When tragedy strikes and her childhood friend Skye Whittaker dies, Tess is bound to honour a promise to become foster-mother to Skye’s ten-year-old daughter, Grace, changing her life irrevocably.

Leaving her husband and successful career behind, Tess travels to an isolated property where the realities of her friend’s life – and death – hit hard. The idyllic landscape and an unexpected form of therapy ease her fears, and her relationship with Grace begins to blossom.

But a secret from her earlier life with Skye refuses to remain hidden, and Tess is forced into a decision that will either right the wrongs of the past, or completely destroy her future.

Cross My Heart is a haunting story of guilt, redemption and friendship set in the beautiful central west of New South Wales.

Purchase Links:


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15 thoughts on “Tea with Mrs B: Pamela Cook

  1. What a lovely interview! I am very much looking forward to reading Cross My Heart, sounds so good. I have read her first two which I adored, onto her next one soonish.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not better yet, laryngitis sucks. I wish I felt more up to reading, I’m so far behind it’s not funny. This is one I’ll buy with my birthday vouchers 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hope you are feeling better now and well and truly enjoying your retreat! Laryngitis is not nice at all, I’ve had it so many times over the years teaching I’ve lost count. Not much you can do expect rest and drink fluids. I hope you get a chance to read this one soon.

        Liked by 1 person

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