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, Winter in Mason Valley, is Eliza Bennetts.
Eliza Bennetts loves to daydream and write – usually in that order, and since she was old enough to hold a crayon in her chubby hand, she’s been creating stories.
While, she may never be able to equal the brilliance of those fables she crafted as a four-year-old, she now enjoys writing stories about characters who’ve lived a little. Eliza specialises in Woman’s Fiction and Romance stories with protagonists who are 35 or older.
When she’s not writing, you can find her hanging-out with her husband and two sons, cackling with her girlfriends or watching ‘crappy’ television.
Hello Eliza. It is my pleasure to welcome to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews and 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?
Thanks so much for having me Mrs B! I’m so happy to be here.
I love coffee and cake, and choosing a cake is torture for me because I want them all! If forced to choose, I’d have to say a long black and a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting would be perfection.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I’ve recently published my third book. I write romantic fiction starring women over 40. The romance genre is vast and there are so many choices, but I’ve always found it a little lacking with regard to diversity – particularly age. I guess we don’t really think about someone in their 40s or 50s as being old, but most protagonists in romance books are either in their 20s or 30s. In my books, the characters have lived a little, they’ve been knocked around by life and have the wisdom and the battle scars to prove it.
Can you describe your latest book, Winter in Mason Valley, in just a sentence?
Dee, the new manager of the Mason Valley paper factory, is forced to live with Travis, a younger single dad.
Winter in Mason Valley is book three in the Seasons series. Can this book be read as a standalone?
Yes, the seasons books are loosely linked but each book is its own standalone story. You can read them in any order.
What sparked the initial idea for the Seasons series?
Oh, great question. I live in Geelong, not far from the Great Ocean Road, and I love some of the little towns along that coast. Urchin’s Bluff, the fictional setting in the first book in the Seasons series ‘Summer at Urchin’s Bluff’, is my imagined amalgamation of all the best parts of each of the little towns along this beautiful coastline.
How long did it take you to write Winter in Mason Valley?
Around 6 months. After I wrote the first draft, I set it aside and began work on something else, then went back to work on the second draft … and then the third and so on.
What character did you most identify with in Winter in Mason Valley?
The leading lady Dee. She is definitely in a fish-out-of-water situation. She’s taken a risk for the sake of her career and is finding moving to a new town daunting. I relate to that feeling of trepidation mixed with excitement and fear when you’re starting over. Life is always more electrifying when there’s a chance you might fail miserably!
Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the setting of your novel?
It’s interesting because the towns in the Summer and Autumn books are bustling and very picturesque – a tourism board’s dream. Mason Valley is very different. It’s tired and shabby but it’s also grittier, almost like it has a chip on its shoulder and I think that’s why Dee struggles so hard to find her feet at first.
Can you tell us more about the main themes of your novel?
Winter in Mason Valley really explores the idea that dreams, like addresses and outfits are changeable. There’s this idea that if you have a dream or a goal, you must keep pushing until you meet that end. In reality, life throws different scenarios at you, and your dream or vision of what is right for you and your future can change based on what life and luck sets before you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful small town romance novel?
You need tension between the lead characters for sure, that’s a given in any romance. In a small town romance though, the town itself needs to read like a character. It should have a personality and a feel all of its own. It’s the geography, the physical locations and the quirky secondary characters that helps to flesh this out. In my mind I can walk down the main street of Urchin’s Bluff, Blaxland Falls and Mason Valley and I know where everything is. I could buy a coffee or fill up my car there without having to search around. These places are real to me, and I hope that comes through in my work.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Winter in Mason Valley?
Like all my books, I hope Winter provides that sense of escape small town stories can give a reader. I also hope readers are able to relate to that feeling of having a certain view or perception of a person or place, and having it change for the better.
Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I, like almost all writers, have had a long, drawn out journey. When I submitted my second YA novel, I came really close to publication with two publishers, but both deals feel through. I had a period of time when I felt like giving up, and I actually did stop writing for a while. Then, on a whim, I joined the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) and I realised that all my work contained strong romantic elements and that romance writing might be a good fit for me. I began to mix with authors who were self-publishing and really enjoying having the creative control self-publishing provides. That’s what helped guide me down the path of independent publishing.
Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
I’m a mum so I need to be flexible. I write in my study, at the kitchen table or in bed. I find moving around and mixing it up helps with my creativity … and my posture. I’m lucky that I don’t really need to do or have anything to get started. I just feel privileged to have the time to write.
What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?
So many! I’m just going to list a few because otherwise it’ll read like a memorial. Lois Lowry – I loved her Anastasia Krupnik series when I was a kid and The Giver is such a special book. Jane Austen and the Bronte’ sisters as well. I was really inspired by what Suzanne Collins did with The Hunger Games series too.
What is the best part of being a published author?
I love holding the book in my hand. I flick through the pages and think ‘I wrote this’. I also love hearing from readers. It makes my day when someone writes to tell me they enjoyed my book.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
The late 1700’s in England, but not as a peasant and I’d only want to stay a day or two. Enough time to attend a tea, a ball and wear a few dresses – then I’d have to tap out before I broke a rib or married some inferior version of Mr Darcy.
What is next on the horizon for Eliza Bennetts? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
Yes! Always! My 6 book romantic comedy series entitled Empty Nesters will be released next year. Again, all the female leads are older – between 45-65 – and all six women get their own story. I’m having so much fun with these and I’m already dreading closing out the series because I love the characters so much!
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I’m looking forward to reading Jane Cockram’s House of Brides and The Testaments by Margret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my all-time favourite books but I just can’t read hardcovers – I’m not strong or co-ordinated enough, but I’ll be all over it when the paperback is released.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
In keeping with my time travel answer I’d have to say Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. I’d be happy to just sit and listen to them, hopefully soak up some of their talent … and eat cake of course.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Eliza. Congratulations on the publication of Winter in Mason Valley!
Thanks Mrs B! This was fun.
LIVING WITH THE ENEMY MAKES YOUR BLOOD RUN HOT…
Dee Lovelace is a career woman.
The move to Mason Valley is all about the next step in her career—running a factory. Unfortunately, Dee doesn’t think much of the town or the factory, and she certainly doesn’t think much of the foreman, Travis Parker.
He’s cocky, curt, annoying and … sexy.
Due to a company error, and much to Dee’s horror, she is forced to stay with Travis and his gorgeous six-year-old daughter Annie—indefinitely.
As Dee settles into her role and forms a friendship with Annie, she realises there are many things in Mason Valley she may have misjudged.
Connect with Eliza here: