It is a pleasure to welcome Janet Gover to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Close to Home we sat down for a chat. Thanks Janet!
Hello Janet. It is my pleasure to welcome you back to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, can I interest you in a strong tea with milk and half a sugar again, or would you prefer another beverage?
You make a great cuppa, Mrs B. I’ll have another, please and I brought some Lamingtons for us to share this time.
Can you give us a little insight into your achievements as a writer to date?
I think I’ve had just over 1 million words published in my 14 books and I am not sure how many short stories. That’s a lot of words. I like to think that some of them may have been the right words in the right places. I’ve won a few awards along the way, but my favourite achievement is my very first reader letter, which I still have, from an elderly lady who said a character in one of my stories reminded me so much of her late husband that she cried. Touching someone like that – that is the greatest thing a writer can do.
What kick started the creation of your latest novel, Close to Home?
I was in Spain, at an amusement park that was small and old and little run down, but still functioning. As I looked at the carousel, Lucienne, one to the two matriarchs in the book came up and tapped me on the shoulder and started telling me her story. I confess I did spend some of that holiday writing, but my husband is used to that by now.
What is the significance of the title to the book?
I often here people say something disturbing is ‘too close to home’. But at the same time, as a child I was often told to stay close to home when I was riding my ponies, because close to home was safer. And as a teenager in a tiny country town, close to home could sometimes be claustrophobic. Home and family can be many things – and this is what I love writing about.
What issues do you explore in Close to Home?
I write a lot about family relationships and community. And love. There a bit of all that in the book. But this is also a book about how we sometimes pre-judge people and get it very wrong. And I hope it will also make readers think about how the people we love can help us shake off the hurts of the past.
Who is your favourite character in Close to Home and why?
I have two favourite characters – and those are the two matriarchs, Lucienne Chevalier and Alice Dwyer. Both women are approaching 80 years of age and if asked they would say they were total opposites. Lucienne was a circus performer and travelled the world, while Alice stayed in her small country town and cared for her family. But, as the book goes along, they discover they are more alike that they could have imagined.
Can you tell us more about the setting of your novel?
Nyringa is a small town on New South Wales – east of Glen Innes. It’s a fictional town, but very real in my head. It’s based on all the small towns I have lived in and loved over the years. Nyringa is a long way from that amusement park in Spain where the idea started, but I just love writing books set in small Australian towns.
Did you edit anything major out of Close to Home?
Not really. For me it’s usually the other way around. I get to the end of the first draft and realise the story has changed since it started, and there are new areas and emotions to explore as I go back and re-write. One of my books was 45,000 words after the first draft and 92,000 after the second, because I just kept digging deeper.
What was the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing Close to Home?
Because Lucienne and her family are circus performers, I had to research life in a travelling circus. I went to the circus a couple of times – and was surprised how much I enjoyed it, now that there are no longer animals to worry about. I also spent time talking to circus performers. They were such interesting people; so very proud of their circus heritage and so willing to talk to me about it. That was a wonderful experience.
The hardest part – putting myself inside Meg’s head while she was recovering from a terrible experience. But I think that helped me understand the strength we women are capable of when it’s needed.
What is one thing you would like your audience to take away from the experience of reading Close to Home?
Hope – that no matter what mistakes you made ion the past, what opportunities you missed, or how you were hurt, you never know what good things are waiting for you if you just open yourself to them.
What does your writing space look like?
That’s easy – messy. Maps, books, bits of knitting and a cat. And (counts) 13 bottles of different coloured nail polish. That’s one of my relaxation methods – I paint my nails blue, pink, silver, purple – whatever colour suits my mood.
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
My other relaxation is to knit. I love finding really interesting and lovely wool and then turning it into something I can wear. I’m not all that good at it, but every now and then I get something right and that makes me happy.
What book is next on your reading pile?
I just looked over at the book piles – there are three on them. On the top are:
Any Day Now – Robyn Carr
The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes.
The Three Miss Allens – Victoria Purman
Do you have any works in progress you would like to share with your readers?
I am currently travelling around New South Wales with a mobile library – in my head, of course. This is a story of self discovery – but it’s also a tribute to the books I read and re-read and loved as a child.
I’ve already cried once while writing it. I take this as a good sign. I can’t wait to find out how it ends.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Janet and congratulations on the publication of Close to Home.
Thanks for having me, Mrs B. Do we have time to share one more lamington before I go?
A delightful small town story of community and family with shades of Romeo and Juliet and The Dressmaker.
Two households, both alike in dignity…
Aunt Alice Dwyer loves her small Australian town. She’s rarely left its comforting embrace. She knows everyone in it; in fact, she’s related to most of them. All she wants is to keep her family safe and the town running exactly the way it always has. Her way. But when an exotic French artist comes to town, her hold begins to weaken…
Lucienne Chevalier, once the toast of Europe, has come to Nyringa after a tragic loss to hang up her sequins and create a place for her circus family to rest between tours. With her is Simon, her grandson, recovering from an injury so damaging he can no longer perform. Lucienne fears he’ll never embrace a new future. That is, until she notices the chemistry between him and the new schoolteacher… All they need is a push.
Both grande dames think they know what’s best, but with equal amounts of stubbornness on both sides, peace looks unlikely. Then a relationship between Alice’s rebellious great-niece and a teenage acrobat sets the two communities on a collision course. But when the bakery starts making patisseries over lamingtons, the battle lines are truly drawn…
A story of community and family. Of the love that brings them together … and the fears that would tear them apart.
Close to Home by Janet Gover was published on 3rd February 2021 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Janet here: