It is a pleasure to welcome Suzanne Cass to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Clear Skies we sat down for a chat. Thanks Suzanne!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
I’m a tea drinker and I have a collection of lovely cups to drink from. I even have a T-shirt a friend bought for me, you know the one that says, “That’s what I do. I read books. I drink tea. And I know things.” I love that you can get so many different flavours of tea nowadays. My favourite is a Spicy Chai tea from an Australian owned company called The Rabbit Hole, but I also love the Crème Caramel black tea from Tea 2. It’s like a drinking a butterscotch lolly. Yum!
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I’m one of those typical writers who’s been making up stories ever since I could remember, but life always got in the way of my actual writing. (You know, those pesky day jobs we all need to have.) It wasn’t until I finally joined the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) in 2014 and met loads of other authors, that I learned I wasn’t alone in this strange authorish thing I wanted to do. Then I won the RWA Emerald Award for the best unpublished manuscript in 2016 and that showed me I could actually write (imposter syndrome is a big thing for me, I still question whether my writing is good enough, even now, after fourteen books.) While a couple of the traditional publishing houses were interested in my winning book, they said it crossed too many genre boundaries and couldn’t find a nice fit for it in their lists. So, I decided to self-publish, and haven’t looked back. I published that first book (Island Redemption) in May 2017. Which means I’m coming up to my four-year anniversary of being an indie author. Early in 2019 I took a redundancy from my job as a finance officer and started writing full-time, and I’ve been doing so ever since.
What kick started the creation of your latest novel, Clear Skies?
Clear Skies is the first book in a new series set in far north Queensland, called the Stormcloud Station Series. It’s a spin-off series from my latest set of books, set in Montana, USA. I wanted to do something similar, but with a deliciously Aussie flavour.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
My stories are highly character-based. The first thing I do before I even start thinking about writing a book, is a character interview, where I ask my characters up to one-hundred questions. This gives me insight into their backstory, fatal flaws, motivations and an in-depth understanding of what drives them in their day-to-day lives. I believe characters are the most compelling part of a story and are what draw a reader deeper in. Characters sometimes surprise me with their answers, which aren’t always what I’m expecting.
The characters in Clear Skies grew from the same process, with a few added distinctions. My hero, Dale, first appears as a secondary character in the other series, (called The Stargazer Ranch Series) So, he already came to the story half-formed. I love Dale, on the outside, he’s the archetypical cocky Aussie cowboy, but on the inside, he prefers a quiet place where he can sit and think and drink a good red wine. Dale was a fairly easy character to write. It’s not always this way, but Dale did a great job at telling me how he wanted to be portrayed.
Daisy, on the other hand, took longer to bring to life. I knew I wanted her to be an Indigenous woman, with a strong connection to her younger brother and her culture. I eventually found Daisy’s character in another story idea (I have lots of those, all waiting to be brought to life in a growing file on my computer) and carried her over into this story. Daisy is a strong, stubborn woman with a chip on her shoulder. She’s also a city girl, the complete opposite of Dale, whose life is in the country. This is where most of their conflict comes from; they’re polar opposites.
Can you give us an insight into the setting base for Clear Skies?
Clear Skies is set on a luxury eco-resort and cattle station. Think El Questro in the Kimberly, or the Daintree Ecolodge in North Queensland. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed researching and writing this setting (and drooling over all those lovely, opulent holiday destinations). Visiting at least one of these amazing luxury lodges is now on my bucket list.
What key ingredients are essential to crafting an Australian rural fiction novel?
To write rural romance set in Australia, an author needs to love this amazing red-dirt country. I spent most of my early teenage years and into my twenties working on a sheep farm in the Snowy Mountains during my holidays. I learnt to respect the harsh beauty of the land, while at the same time discovering exactly how sexy a cowboy can look in Akubra hat and boots, as well as the art of using Aussie vernacular (yep, even to this day, I often swear like a trooper). I believe an author needs to understand how fragile this country is, as well as how farming and agriculture affects that balance. Living in rural Australia can often be a tough existence, where only the hardy survive. Australians are a hardy and resilient breed, but I think the attraction of reading rural romance is discovering that soft, vulnerable centre inside these heroes and heroines with a core of steel.
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
It’s a little sad, but most of my spare time is taken up either, dreaming up my next characters, sorting out a tricky plotline, or actually writing. The rest of my spare time is taken up with marketing and PR. As an indie author, we need to be our own marketing and salesperson extraordinaire.
In those other precious spare minutes, I enjoy devouring books. Romance books, of course, as well as mysteries and thrillers and most other books in between. I also love walking with my border collie, Dune (this is also where I dream up most of my new stories). My two boys have both finished school and require less of my attention, but we still like to spend time out in the bush together when we can find the time, hiking, camping, and scorching marshmallows on the fire.
What book is next on your reading pile?
The next book on my TBR pile is one I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. It’s called Scrublands by Chris Hammer. I love a great crime thriller, especially one set in Australia. It’s one reason I write romantic suspense, because I need romance in my life, but I also need a bit of spicy thrills, as well.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
My next work in progress will be book 2 in the Stormcloud Station series. The working title is Starlit Skies and focuses on Dale’s sister, Skylar, and local cop, Senior Constable King, who are involved in a helicopter crash and become trapped together in the tropical top end. Just to spice things up a bit, they’re also being hunted by a man bent on revenge, after King sent him to jail a few years ago.
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Suzanne. Congratulations on the release of your new book, Clear Skies.
A land of drought and flooding rains…and murder.
Daisy’s in trouble. She’s desperate to get back to her brother, before he does something reckless and reveals their true identities, but her car is stalled in the middle of a flooded creek, with the water rising quickly.
Dale is in no mood to rescue the woman about to be swept away by a raging tropical storm, who’s clearly a city girl, unfamiliar with the country roads, and driving a completely unsuitable car. He has half a mind to leave her right where she is.
Stranded on the wrong side of the creek, Daisy has no other option than to accept Dale’s offer to spend the night at the luxury resort, Stormcloud Station.
All of Daisy’s plans to leave the station are thrown into chaos when a girl is found drowned in the creek and everyone become suspects in a murder investigation.
Daisy has discovered that far north Queensland is a wholly inhospitable country, but it also has a man with mesmerizing dimples, whose kiss has captured her soul. But she hides a secret that would tear them apart.
On a night full of chaos, Dale and Daisy uncover the truth about the killer. But how can Dale safeguard this willful, determined woman who owns his heart, when Daisy puts herself squarely in harm’s way?
Clear Skies by Suzanne Cass was published on 15th May 2021. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Suzanne here: