Ask An Author: Barbara Hannay (August 21-25)

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Today we are thrilled to bring you the first instalment of an exciting new feature that will allow us to learn a little more about the authors we love.

Our very first Ask An Author is Barbara Hannay, I reviewed The Grazier’s Wife late last year and The Country Wedding has just released this month.

About Barbara Hannay, in her own words

I was born in Sydney and moved to Brisbane when I was four and I’ve been moving north ever since. These days I live with my writer husband in the Misty Mountains of Far North Queensland, a beautiful part of the world which is also the setting for my latest novels, The Grazier’s Wife and The Country Wedding.

I can’t help being a writer. It’s the way I’m wired. I’ve been sharing stories all my life. Even before I learned to write, I drew pictures and passed them through the slats of orange boxes and these were “movies” that I made my smaller sisters watch. When I joined the Brownies, the first badge I earned was the writer’s badge, and at school, English and History were always my favourite subjects.

Although I was an avid reader and loved to write stories, my very practical parents (an engineer and a bank teller) didn’t encourage me in this direction and so I became an English teacher. But I was still writing poetry and short stories in my “spare time” and after I was married (to a journalist – of course!) and our children arrived, I wrote stories for the children which they illustrated, and I submitted short stories to women’s magazines.

I was in my forties (and still teaching) before I plucked up the courage to start writing novels and submitting to publishers. I gathered the usual collection of rejections before the exciting “call” came from London and since then I’ve published fifty novels that have been translated into more than twenty-six languages.

I’ve won awards such as Romance Writers of America’s RITA award and Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award and at times I’ve even been able to travel to research my stories. Last year my husband and I visited Shanghai to research the historical details for my most recent release The Country Wedding which, like my other recent novels for Penguin Australia, is an intergenerational story that includes a historical thread from World War 2 entwined with a contemporary romance.

So for me, becoming a writer was a dream come true. I can’t deny it’s hard work, but I look forward to every day and discovering what will happen next to my characters.

The Country Wedding Synopsis

Two country weddings, fifty years apart … and the miracle of second chances In the tiny Tablelands township of Burralea, musician Flora Drummond is preparing to play at the wedding of a very close friend. If only she could forget the embarrassing teenage crush she once had on the handsome groom.

All is as it should be on the big day. The little church is filled with flowers, the expectant guests are arriving, and Mitch is nervously waiting – but his bride has failed to appear.

Decades earlier, another wedding in the same church led to a similar story of devastation. Hattie missed out on marrying her childhood sweetheart the first time around and now she has returned to the scene of her greatest heartache.

As Flora is drawn into both romantic dramas, she must also confront a relationship crisis of her own. But the past and the present offer promise for the future and there’s a chance for friends, old and new, to help each other to heal.

From the rolling green hills of Far North Queensland to the crowded streets of Shanghai on the eve of the Second World War, this is a beautiful romantic saga that tells of two loves lost and found and asks the questions – do we ever get over our first love, and is it ever too late to make amends?

For the next week we have Barbara Hannay on call to answer your questions, so if there’s anything you want to know about her career or any of her books please write your question in the comments section below and she will get back to you. Please do remember our authors are busy people too so you won’t necessarily get an immediate answer but all questions asked before Friday the 25th August will be answered.

For more great authors check back in the coming weeks, we will have authors in to coincide with book club reads. If you haven’t heard about our sampling club you should check out the Beauty and Lace Club.

The Country Wedding is published by Penguin and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.



26 thoughts on “Ask An Author: Barbara Hannay (August 21-25)

  1. Welcome Barbara, It was great to read your story, and your new book Country Wedding sound like just my cup of tea. I love stories in the eara. Also like the cover, very inviting.

  2. Hello Barbara. Thank you for your time and the opportunity to chat.

    I’ve heard that writing children’s books can be one of the hardest tasks when venturing into the writing world. What’s your opinion on that?

    And no I don’t have a hidden yearning to become a children’s book novelist, although my kids get a thrill out of my made up stories at bedtime, that I write down for them later. It’ll be a nice talking point when they’re older I guess.

    Thx for yr time. Rachel 🙂

    1. Hi Rachel, I think writing children’s books is one of those arts that looks easy, but is really hard to pin down. I had a friend who submitted a children’s book recently, who was told the story told too much about the parents and not enough about the child, so it really is about giving a child’s eye view of the world.
      Well done on sharing stories with your kids. They’ll remember those special times forever. Barb x

  3. Hi Barbara, and welcome. How wonderful that you have written 50 novels. I must say you must have the patience of a saint.

  4. I’m so glad to hear that even at 40 ** I am over ** lol I may still have hope Of possibly writing at least one story .

    I have so many things that often pop into my head, What advice can you give regarding writing ? I can never seem to get a beginning middle or end haha but a overall inkling of interest yet.

    Congrads on 50 books !! thats just amazing ! thanks for sharing and love the cover above its gorgeous ! Love finding aussie authors will have to definitely check out your books !

    1. Katrina, you’re definitely never too young to start. There are so many ways to approach writing a story. I start by thinking of a situation. e.g in my work in progress, I have a young woman in her late thirties who discovers that her long term boyfriend doesn’t want children. Ever.
      Then I work out who she is and what she’s going to do about it and where this takes her. Because I’m writing romance, I kinda know there has to be a happy ending.
      I suggest you start with a character at a point of change in their life and thenkeep you Butt in the chair and keep writing. It helps if you know what genre you want to write…. romance, mystery etc.

  5. Hi Barbara ,
    Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you and to have some insight into your own real life story. You have certainly been active with your story writing –very inspiring ! I am “trying” to write some fairy stories but I don’t think I have a natural talent and its very hard work.
    I do have a question if you don’t mind offering some ideas — Is there really such a thing as “writer,s block”? If so do you have strategies for moving forward? . I wonder if perhaps there is a timing involved in story writing — eg like picking the fruit when its ripe? Thanks Barbara, x Carla

    1. Carla, I’m afraid I don’t really believe in the ‘waiting till the right time’ theory. I actually believe you need to develop your writing muscle and that happens, as with all muscles, by using it regularly. When you set regular times to write, your muse learns to turn up. 🙂
      Are you writing the fairy stories for children? I’ve found them SO hard. I started one for my granddaughter that I never finished.
      I’ve found the best inspiration for writing is to write the kinds of stories I love to read, which is how I’ve ended up with women’s fiction.
      Other strategies for being blocked – finding a writer’s group either in your community or online, so that you have someone to brainstorm ideas with – can be great. I have a friend who calls it throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. If you don’t have a writing partner, you could make a list of 20 possibilities for what might happen next, These can be as outrageous as you like, but chances are, one of them will do the trick.
      Another strategy I use is to move away from the computer and write by hand (pen and paper). There’s supposed to be an important link between hand and brain. Good luck with your writing. Barb x

  6. HI Barbara!

    Welcome 🙂 I must say I was surprised to hear that you wrote your first story 40, how awesome that must have been for you!

    Ive often heard and thought myself that most stories have a base in truth somewhere, Do you find that is the case?

    1. Hi Katrina,
      Since I’ve started including a historical thread in my novels, there is most definitely a basis of truth that comes from my research. And part of my novel The Secret Years was inspired by my uncle’s WW2 experiences in Tobruk and Kokoda. Now, because I live in a small country town, on the Tablelands where The Country Wedding is set, little snippets of reality creep in. My hairdresser’s shop is a fabulous hub in a small town and I often pick up a little idea when I’m there, either from her comments or seeing the people who pop in. But for the most part my stories are entirely fiction, but I like to think that any of these things really do happen. Barb x

  7. Hi Barbara!

    I can’t wait to read your latest book it looks great!

    Just a quick one, how many hours a day do you spend writing and where does your inspiration come from?

    Alison xo

  8. Thanks Alison. I’ve been thrilled with the feedback about The Country Wedding from readers. I treat writing like a job, so I put in fairly normal working hours, although of course I can be flexible. Some days I start at 5am or earlier, others at 10 or later. 🙂
    Inspiration? If I knew where it came from, I would have it bottled and ready to pour. I guess it comes from books I’ve read, real life experiences, documentaries, history and from a lot of daydreaming. My husband is also a wonderful brainstorming partner. I’m very lucky. Barb x

  9. I am just one of those people that love to read…. and read and read, so for me I am lucky that we have so many people that can write, and write and write, like yourself. Life throws a lot of hard stuff at times at us, and it is great that you have a husband who can also be there for you , and help … May you write many more for us all to read…. and the cover of the country wedding is glorious… Love the little flowers in her hair. Do you ever find time to read the books other people have written, and do you yourself have a favourite author…..

    1. Betty, I read all the time — well, every day in between writing. My very favourite go to author is Rosamunde Pilcher, but I’ve read all her books several times over. I’ve just read Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites for my book club (very powerful and such poetic writing) and for light relief I’m diving into a chick lit – Katie Fforde.
      I’m glad you like the cover of The Country Wedding. I loved writing that story, especially the older romance between a couple in their seventies. 🙂

  10. HI Barbara,

    It’s thanks to you and others that write these beautiful stories from the heart that keep me happily reading away and taking myself to lots of places. I too came from Sydney but only moved to Brisbane just over 13 years ago now.

    I recall your name but I wouldn’t be able to tell you which book as I read so many. The Country Wedding has just been added to my wishlist now. I look forward to reading it.

    What inspired you to write this story? I am sure there will be many readers that could relate to the storyline too..

    Thanks for giving us an insight of your life. I thoroughly enjoy reading about authors. 🙂

    1. Thanks Mandy. I hope you can track down The Country Wedding. The contemporary story about Flora is a continuation of a character who first made an appearance in The Grazier’s Wife. My inspiration for her character is my violinist daughter (who also lives in Brisbane). But there’s also a mystery from WW2 when bones are discovered on a property and this was inspired by a real life event in North Queensland in 1942. The exotic element in this book has a historical setting in 1930’s Shanghai and my research included a quick trip to Shanghai, a fascinating city with an amazing history. Hope you enjoy!

  11. Barbara lovely to be able to talk to an author on the site. We get to review and read so many great books and now it’s super to get to know our authors. I’m really looking forward to reading some of your work, I’ll start with ‘The Graziers Wife’, you’ve got me hooked!

  12. Hi Barbara, thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and ask questions. How do you work out which publishers to submit work to when you are just starting out? And do you submit the whole book or just a precis?

    1. Marcia, given my lack of confidence, I originally targeted Mills and Boon, as I thought these were easy little books that almost anyone could write. Ha, ha. I had a lot to learn.
      At first I sent a whole manuscript which was rejected and after that I just sent three chapters and a synopsis. After a few years I was asked to send the rest of the manuscript – a big step!
      After I’d written many novels for Mills and Boon, I was actually approached by an editor from Penguin Australia and asked if I was interested in writing for them. After I picked myself up off the floor, I said, ‘Yes!’ Of course. 🙂 The result was Zoe’s Muster and since then I’ve written another five novels for Penguin. I love the chance to go deeper with my characters and to build in historical layers, but I really believe my years at M&B taught me a lot about pleasing the reader.
      These days I only need to give my editor a one page outline of what I plan to write next, but usually editors like to see a full synopsis and a sample of the author’s writing.
      For others starting out, I would suggest targeting publishers who publish the kinds of books you want to write. You can easily research this on the web and quite a few houses take online pitches. All the best! Barb x

    1. Thank you for being our very first featured author Barb, it was lovely to have you.
      Good luck with The Country Wedding.
      And happy writing.
      Michelle. x

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