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, The Lawson Sisters, is Janet Gover.
Janet Gover grew up in outback Australia, surrounded by wide open spaces, horses … and many, many books.
She is a self-confessed ‘bit of a geek girl’. When not writing novels she works in IT—in really dull places like Pinewood Movie Studios, Puerto Rico and Iraq.
When her cat lets her actually sit in her chair, she writes stories of strong women, rural communities and falling in love. Her novel Little Girl Lost won the Epic Romantic Novel of the Year Award presented by the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK, and she has won or been shortlisted for awards in Australia and the USA.
As Juliet Bell, in collaboration with Alison May, she rewrites misunderstood classic fiction, with an emphasis on heroes who are not so heroic.
Her favourite food is tomato. She spends too much time playing silly computer games, and is an enthusiastic, if not always successful, cook.
Hello Janet. 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?
Tea please. Good strong tea with milk and half a sugar. I say half because it makes me feel like I’m being good. Would you have any Iced VoVo biscuits? I live in England most of the year and they have yet to discover the joy that is the Iced VoVo.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
The Lawson Sisters is number 13. A lucky number in this case, as it happens. I have 11 books as Janet Gover – mostly set in rural Australia – although last year I did a sweet fantasy royal romance, just for fun.
I also have two books under the name of Juliet Bell. These are much darker and look at some of the misunderstood ‘heroes’ in classic English literature. I wrote them as a collaboration with my friend Alison May. That involved a lot of long lunches and pizza.
The Lawson Sisters is your latest release; can you describe it in just a sentence?
Umm …. It’s book about families, guilt and second chances and it will make you cry. (I hope it makes you cry.)
How long did it take you to write The Lawson Sisters?
The actual writing part of a novel usually takes me about 6 to 7 months, but there’s also a lot of thinking time and research before that, and editing time afterwards. The Lawson Sisters took a little bit longer because I was also writing a Juliet Bell book. And then I interrupted it to do a royal wedding book. If writing one book isn’t hard enough, I was working on three at the same time. I really should stop doing things like that.
How different was the experience of writing The Lawson Sisters, compared to your other novels?
Each book is different. That’s one of the things that makes being a writer so exciting and so terrifying. I usually know my opening and closing scenes before I even write “Chapter 1”. This time I didn’t. That was a bit scary. But as soon as I got into the story, I realised it was all there in my brain, I just had to go and find it.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
Growing up, I always wanted a sister. I am very close to my brother now, but as kids we weren’t because he was a boy and therefore no use at all when it came to talking about dresses, makeup and other boys. Nor did he ride horses. I decided I needed a sister because she would like all the things I liked. The Liz and Kayla came out of that – and the eventual realisation that a sister probably wouldn’t like all the things that I liked.
Can you tell us more about the setting of your novel?
The book is set on a horse stud near Scone. I love the Upper Hunter, and spend time there with a dear friend every year. I love the brood mares, with their big bellies just before foaling time. I love the smell of the trees – especially after it rains. It was the obvious place to set a book about a horse stud. The property, Willowbrook, rose out of visiting some of the studs and historic properties in the area. I wish it was real because I would buy it and live there forever.
What are the main themes of your new novel?
I start writing a book with one theme in mind, but other themes always emerge as I go along. I might get to 50,000 words and have a lightbulb moment… so that’s what this book is really all about! This book is about guilt, letting go of the past and second chances. It’s also about the importance of family and the strength of love.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading The Lawson Sisters?
I write about strong women or women who find their strength. But they don’t have to be superwoman ALL the time. We will all make mistakes or fail at something. When that happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself to make the odd mistake, because no one is perfect.
What is the best part of being a published author?
That’s easy. Readers. This authoring malarkey is a strange journey, and the readers who go with me make it all worthwhile. I am both honoured and humbled that people are willing to spend some of their precious time reading my stories. I want to hug each one individually.
Also – being able to work in my pyjamas is pretty good too.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
That’s a difficult question. I love not knowing what’s around the next corner, so would probably want to go forward in time. Can I do that? If I can’t, I’d probably go back to the 12th century because I have always been fascinated by Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was a powerful woman at a time when women were mostly seen as chattels. She worked the system to her own advantage, was the mother of three kings, but also ruled in their names. There are so many questions I’d like to ask her. I wonder if she’d like a cuppa and an Iced VoVo.
What is next on the horizon for Janet Gover? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I am just finishing another rural story. I’m very excited by this one (but I say that about every new book). I probably shouldn’t say anything about it just yet, but it features two wonderful warring family matriarchs who are more alike that either would willingly admit.
What 2020 book releases are you most excited to read?
There are so many great new books coming out. I love all the Aussie rural stories. I look forward to every one, especially in the midst of an English winter. The book I am most excited to read is the one I don’t know about yet. It seems that ever year I stumble on to a new author and discover a whole world of unexpected joy.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
When I first started writing short stories for magazines, I received my first reader letter. It was a real letter, written on paper with a stamp and everything. It was from a woman who said one of my stories had made her cry. In a good way. I cried too when I read that, because being able to touch another human being in that way is a privilege. I would love to share a cuppa with that lady and thank her, because she inspired so much me back when this journey was just beginning.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Janet. Congratulations on the upcoming publication of The Lawson Sisters!
Thank you for having me – the tea was good and the Iced VoVos were wonderful.
A heartfelt and compelling story of family, secrets and second chances, set in the heart of the beautiful Hunter Valley of NSW, from an award-winning new voice in Australian fiction.
Family, fortune and holding on to what counts…
For many years Elizabeth Lawson has battled single-handedly to run the family’s historic horse stud in memory of her beloved father. But a devastating loss puts her dreams at risk. With no options left, Liz is forced to turn to her estranged sister Kayla for help.
Kayla has built a new life in the city as a wedding planner, far removed from the stableyard sweat and dust of her rural upbringing. She never thought she’d go back. But when Liz calls out of the blue, Kayla forms a plan that could save their childhood home.
Kayla’s return forces Liz to confront her past … and her future, in the shape of Mitch, her first and only love, who still watches over her from the other side of the creek.
But Liz still hides a terrible secret. When Kayla learns the truth, will the Lawson sisters find common ground or will their conflict splinter the family once again?
The Lawson Sisters by Janet Gover was published on 20th January 2019 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Janet here: