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, Up on Horseshoe Hill, is Penelope Janu.
Penelope Janu lives on the coast in northern Sydney with six wonderful children and a distracting husband. She enjoys exploring the Australian countryside and dreaming up travelling and hiking breaks. A lawyer for many years, she has a passion for social justice, and the natural environment.
Whether coastal or rural, Penelope’s novels celebrate Australian characters and communities. Her first novel, In at the Deep End, was published by Harlequin in 2017, and her second, On the Right Track, in 2018. Nothing makes Penelope happier as a writer than readers falling in love with her smart and adventurous heroines and heroes.
Hello Penelope. 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?
My favourite beverage is tea (Darjeeling, English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast). No milk or sugar, but I do enjoy scones, cake and chocolate!
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I write contemporary fiction, and romance is an important element in my novels. I’ve had four novels published, and one novella.
Up on Horseshoe Hill is your latest release. Can you describe it in just a sentence?
Up on Horseshoe Hill is a heart-warming story set in country NSW that explores loss and grief—and new beginnings.
How long did it take you to write Up on Horseshoe Hill?
This novel was essentially written twice, because I changed the setting in the second draft, so it took roughly eighteen months to write (not counting edits which took another few months on top of that).
How different was the experience of writing Up on Horseshoe Hill, compared to previous novels?
At a recent book event, someone asked me a similar question, and my response was that each novel is a little like giving birth (I’ve had six children, so know something of the experience). At the end of a difficult but fulfilling process, you hold something precious close to your heart. Up on Horseshoe Hill was a tricky birth, but worth it!
Can you tell us more about the main themes of your novel?
The heroine, Jemima, is a farrier (often known as a blacksmith – though a farrier shoes horses as well as working at a forge), who lost her parents when she was young, and fears losing anybody else. Overcoming loss and grief through family and friendship are important themes in the novel. Coming to terms with trauma is another important theme.
Where did the inspiration for the main characters of Jemima and Finn come from?
I rode horses for many years, and have long admired the farrier profession. If a horse isn’t sound, it won’t survive in a domestic or a natural environment. Farriers tend to be great diagnosticians of lameness, and often work closely with veterinarians. Finn is a vet at an open plains zoo where there are animals such as giraffes and elephants, and these animals also require hoof care. Conservation of wild animals is another area I have an interest in. Finn’s profession let me explore that as well.
In respect to the personality traits of the characters, Jemima has not only suffered loss, but has dyslexia. I wanted to explore this issue too—the doors that can close, but also open, when someone ‘sees things differently.’ Because of the difficulties Jemima has experienced in life, she needs a particularly worthy man. Enter Finn!
Can you tell us more about the setting of your novel?
The novel is set in the fictional town of Horseshoe Hill, in the central west of NSW. I know this area well and have stayed in local towns, and on large farms, many times. The people in the communities are not only resilient and hard working, they are forward thinking and adaptable, something I was anxious to portray accurately in the novel.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful contemporary romance narrative?
In the novels I write, and like to read (historical and contemporary), I have to be able to relate to, and care about the characters and what happens to them. I also like an interesting plot line, and when I close the pages of a novel, I like to think I know more about something than I did when I started. I’ve worked in law for many years and have an interest in issues with an international perspective, so my novels tend to have this type of thread running through them. Climate change, money laundering, conservation … All these issues are relevant to contemporary stories.
If Up on Horseshoe Hill made it to the big screen, who would you like to cast?
Oh goodness! The cover model for Up on Horseshoe Hill is pretty much free of make up and looks fit enough to shoe a horse. So someone who looked like this model, and can portray characteristics of strength and vulnerability, would be wonderful. The hero has to be tall, dark and handsome (in a young Harrison Ford type of way). I think I’d have to leave the casting up to the producer!
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Up on Horseshoe Hill?
I hope they’ll care deeply enough about my characters that they’ll be mightily relieved that they have finally found happiness. And that readers will be hopeful that, in fiction as in fact, with perseverance and a little luck, it is possible to endure adversity and find love.
What is the best part of being a published author?
I love receiving messages that turn up in my inbox out of the blue. Nothing makes me happier than a reader letting me know that, at that particular time in their lives, my book was exactly what they needed to read.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
The reality would be very different of course, but I read a lot of books set in the regency era and I do love the idea of traipsing through the fields with my nose in a book (Jane Austen has a lot to answer for!), and galloping side saddle over fences in Yorkshire.
What is next on the horizon for Penelope Janu? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I’m madly writing (or writing madly) what I hope will be my 2020 release with HarperCollins. The working title is currently Starting From Scratch (if the novel ends up with this title, it will be a Mrs B World Exclusive!). This novel is also set in country NSW, and explores childhood friendship, estrangement, forgiveness and trust. There’s an important environmental theme as well—wetland conservation.
What 2020 book releases are you most excited to read?
I love Rachael John’s rural stories, so can’t wait for Something To Talk About. Petronella McGovern’s Six Minutes had me frantically turning pages this year, so I’m looking forward to her next one too. And also Cassie Hamer’s March release, The End of Cuthbert Close. In the historical space, Natasha Lester’s The Dior Secret is on my list, and Anne Gracie’s next release (she’s an auto buy for me!)
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
My mother in law passed away last year, and I miss her terribly. She was a remarkable woman, well known for not actually sitting down after she made her guests a pot of tea, because she’d be rushing back and forth to the kitchen for homemade cakes and packets of chocolate biscuits and bowls of ice cream. Or … she’d be putting on the kettle to make a fresh pot of tea. I’d like to share another pot of tea with Paula.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Penelope. Congratulations on the publication of Up on Horseshoe Hill!
A kiss can change your life …
Jemima Kincaid loves her home, her horses and her job as a farrier. Life has not been kind to her, but Jemima is happy in the close-knit rural community of Horseshoe Hill, which rallied around in her hour of need. Even so, she is fiercely independent and will never rely on anyone again.
Particularly a man like Finn Blackwood.
An infuriatingly attractive geneticist and wild animal vet, Finn threatens not only the serenity of Jemima’s present, but that of the future she has so carefully mapped out. But as their paths continue to cross, she finds her attraction to Finn impossible to counter, even as the trauma of her past threatens to undo her. Finn is fascinated by Jemima’s solitary nature and unique vulnerabilities but Jemima knows all about loss and how to avoid it. Don’t let anyone get close in the first place …
As the past begins to cast long shadows, Jemima and Finn discover that a kiss can bring worlds together-or tear them apart. Will they finally face their fears and find love on Horseshoe Hill?
Up on Horsehoe Hill by Penelope Janu was published on 18th November 2019 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Penelope here: