Interview · Tea with Mrs B

Tea with Mrs B: Rachael Johns

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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, Just One Wish, is Rachael Johns.

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Rachael Johns, an English teacher by trade and a mum 24/7, is the bestselling ABIA-winning author of The Patterson Girls and a number of other romance and women’s fiction books including The Art of Keeping Secrets, The Greatest Gift and Lost Without You. She is currently Australia’s leading writer of contemporary relationship stories around women’s issues, a genre she has coined ‘life-lit’. Rachael lives in the Perth hills with her hyperactive husband, three mostly gorgeous heroes-in-training and a very badly behaved dog. She rarely sleeps and never irons.

Hello Rachael. 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?

Hah – I thought everyone already knew, I’m addicted to Diet Coke. And pretty much any cake (except fruit cake) is good for me.

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

I have published five women’s fiction novels, eight rural romances and three Mills & Boon Special Editions. In addition to these I’ve had a number of novellas digitally published.

Just One Wish has just been released, can you describe it in just a sentence?

Just One Wish is about three generations of women, their differences, the conflict these cause and their journey as they realise who they are and what being a woman means to them. (That was a rather long sentence, wasn’t it?)

What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write Just One Wish?

Alice – the oldest of my three main characters came first and was inspired by Lauren Groff, during a talk she gave at Perth Writers Week a few years ago. Lauren spoke about how she accepted a marriage proposal even thought she’d never wanted to get married and strongly disagreed with the institution, but she knew if she said no, she’d lose the best person that ever existed. I wondered if she’d said no, would she have ever regretted it? And that question became the basis for eighty-year-old Alice, who has just had some bad news and is looking back on her life and wondering ‘what if I’d done some things differently?’

How long did it take you to write Just One Wish?

This was probably one of my longest books to write – from start to finish it was 6 months, but I also did about a month of promo for Lost Without You in that time and didn’t write during that. So probably about five months all up.

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

The big theme of the book is each woman’s strive to discover what being a woman means to them. It’s a story about identity and being true to oneself, but also about family and how the relationships between mothers and daughters, which can be extremely complex, also shape a woman. It touches on what it means to be a feminist at different ages and explores the question, can a woman ever really have it all?

Did you need to go on a research trip to bring Just One Wish to life?

Sadly no – although I did go on a cruise with my author friend Fiona Palmer a few years ago because I knew at some stage I wanted to work a cruise into a book. When the character of Alice appeared in my mind and I knew she was on the hunt for something (telling you what would be a spoiler), I decided a cruise would be the perfect place for her to go looking. All other research was done at my computer or in books – I read whatever I could get my hands on about feminism and especially its history in Australia.

There are three main characters in Just One Wish, did you identify with one particular character over the others?

My instinct is to say Ged, because she’s closer in age to me than the other two characters, so I had to use my imagination more where they were concerned, but the truth is there are elements of me in all three women. Alice (Ged’s grandmother) and Sappho (her mother) are two different extremes of motherhood and womanhood and I like to think I’m slightly more balanced and that Ged will be able to achieve a better balance too.

How different was the experience of writing Just One Wish, compared to your previous novels?

This is the first novel I’ve ever written in first person point of view and that was both terrifying and exciting. Until the last few years, I’d never really liked books written in first person, but then I started to read and enjoy quite a few. When I began to write this book I thought I’d write it in third person from the point of views of each of the three main characters, but Ged’s voice was stronger; she demanded that I make the story hers and write it solely from her point of view. I know that sounds a bit woo-woo but I really can’t explain it any other way. Writing in first person was a new challenge for me and I really enjoyed the voice of it, but it was a lot harder to get across the stories of the other non-Pov but main characters.

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

I feel you need to focus on a woman’s (or multiple women) journey from a point of change in their life – whether it be failed relationship, new job or death of a loved one, to name but a few. I think there needs to be a lot of emotion and reflection and usually an upbeat/hopeful ending. Exploring universal contemporary issues that all women can relate to – such as love, grief, illness, addiction, infertility, work-life balance, parenting, career and relationship issues – is key. In Women’s Fiction I think the reader really needs to be able to identify with the POV characters and that these characters experience personal growth.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading  Just One Wish?

First and foremost I hope they find it a fun and entertaining read, that they laugh a lot and perhaps shed a few tears. On a deeper level, I would love for them to think more about being true to themselves and doing what makes them happy.

The Australian writing community seems very supportive. What support, connections and friendships have you made?

Oh my goodness, too many to name. Since joining the Romance Writers of Australia in 2006, I’ve been lucky to make so many fabulous writing friends who have encouraged me through the hard times (rejections and books that just don’t feel like they’re working) and celebrated with me through the good times (getting a contract, winning an award). My writing friends have become so much more than purely writing friends and I now count them as some of my closest friends. I once heard Julia Quinn say at an RWA conference that you can’t hurt your own career by helping someone else’s (i.e. Sharing a friend’s book release on your FB page or recommending their book to one of your readers) and I try and remember this everyday. I have writing friends across Australia who I connect with online and on the phone on an almost daily basis and I also have writing friends in WA, who I’m lucky enough to be able to catch up with on a regular basis. There’s NOTHING more inspiring for an author than hanging out with other authors.

What is the best part of being a published author?

The fact that I don’t have to get dressed up for work and can drop my kids off for school without changing out of my pyjamas. No seriously, I’d have to say it’s the emails and messages I’ve received from readers telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my book or that it has touched them in some way. Messages like these make ALL the hard work worth it.

Can you tell us more about your online book club?

I started this in 2018 and we’ve now got almost 2000 members. It’s a great Facebook community where once a month my co-host Anthea Hodgson and I talk about our book of the month live on FB and then post follow-up discussion questions in the group so members can share their opinions and discuss the read. In addition to these chats, it’s a very active group with members also sharing books they’ve loved or bought recently and asking questions about reading or recommendations. In 2020 we’re hoping to have a couple of face-to-face meets (definitely in Perth, but maybe even in some other states as well). Anyone is welcome to join – just search ‘Rachael Johns Online Book Club’ on Facebook.

How do you balance life with writing?

Hah – what is balance? My kids are clothed and fed but my house isn’t always tidy. I don’t spend nearly enough time with my husband or watch as much TV as I would like. I’m not sure we ever achieve the perfect balance but these days I’m lucky in that I write pretty much full-time during school hours and try to keep my evenings and weekends mostly free. Saying that, I’m answering these questions at 8.39pm! I feel as if I’m getting a bit better balance this year though and the way I’m doing that is not faffing away the hours that I do have. When my kids are at school and my house is quiet, I’m a writer and I guard that time very closely and try not to waste time on FB or Instagram. I aim for a certain amount of words each day and only if I don’t get there, will I (maybe) try to do some at night. I make sure that when my kids are home, I’m available to them, but in the holidays we negotiate writing time and family time so everyone knows what’s happening when.

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

I think it would have to be the 1960s. I love the music and the crazy fashion and the fact that the second wave of feminism gained momentum in this era.

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

I have a rural romance called SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, which is linked to TALK OF THE TOWN, out next June and I’m currently writing my next women’s fiction for hopefully Oct/Nov 2020. It’s about nest parenting, long distance relationships and a few other very topical issues. I’m 45,000 words in and enjoying the writing process much more than I’ve enjoyed writing anything the last few years. Hopefully this is a good sign!

What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?

I’m looking forward to the next Elin Hilderbrand novel (she’s my fave author atm) and I can’t wait to read Di Morrisey’s new book, THE LAST PARADISE, Jojo Moyes, THE GIVER OF STARS and THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW by Christian White.

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

Well, considering I don’t like tea this is a very tough question. Can we share a Milo or a glass of wine instead? I think it would have to be my grandmother who is no longer with us or Elin Hilderbrand (as mentioned above) – I’d love to pick her brain and hear all about her writing process.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Rachael.  Congratulations on the publication of Just One Wish!

Thanks so much for having me on your fab blog! xx

Three women, three secrets, one life-changing journey.just one wish small.jpg

Alice has always been a trailblazer as a scientist, activist and mother. She knew her choices would involve sacrifices, but now, on the eve of her eightieth birthday, she’s beginning to wonder if she’s sacrificed too much.

Alice’s daughter, Sappho, rebelled against her unconventional upbringing, choosing to marry young and embrace life as a homemaker, but her status as a domestic goddess has recently taken a surprising turn.

Ged has always been the peacemaker between her grandmother and mother. A tenacious journalist, she knows what she wants in life and love, yet when everything in her world starts falling apart, she begins to question whether she really knows anyone at all.

At a crossroads in each of their lives, Alice, Sappho and Ged embark on a celebratory trip together, but instead of bringing them closer, the holiday sparks life-changing consequences and lifts the lid on a fifty-year-old secret.

Can Ged rescue her family if their story is built on a betrayal?

From bestselling, ABIA award-winning author Rachael Johns comes an engrossing and wise novel about ambition, choices and what it means to be a woman.

Just One Wish by Rachael Johns was published on 21st October 2019 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

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