Tricia Stringer has recently been travelling with the Australian Voices in Print Tour and we were able to interview her on her return home. It has been a while since we have had Tricia on Beauty and Lace so I thought I’d find out a little more about the tour, which I wish I could have visited, as well as her latest book.
Hi Tricia, welcome to Beauty and Lace and welcome home from your big tour.
Thank you for chatting with me on Beauty and Lace.
Can you tell us how you came to be involved with the Australian Voices in Print Tour?
The tour idea started with Simon & Schuster and they approached Harlequin to supply an author to join their two authors, Karen M. Davis and Jenn J. McLeod. ‘Heart of the Country’ was released around the right time and my writing style was Australian but differed from the two S&S authors so we were a good fit together.
I must admit that I was intrigued when I heard about the tour. I had this idea of strong rivalries between publishing houses. How did you find the partnership between the houses on the road?
The partnership was fantastic. We all learned from each other and supported each other. We authors just did our thing and there was no sense of rivalry between the publishers who went out of their way to make the tour such a great success. I think it was a very positive experiment.
I have to ask, how did you cope weather-wise? I grew up in Canberra and this is a time of year I try to avoid trips over that way.
Canberra was freezing overnight, we had to clean ice off the van before we left. However, I live in South Australia and have had similar experiences here. I’m not a fan of the cold, give me an over 30 dry heat any day. We can get bitterly cold winters in SA. I’m huddled in the heated office as I write this looking out on a cold grey day. After experiencing the beautiful coast of NSW I understand why so many South Australians move there for the winter. I might have to factor in a writers retreat over that way in future.
What is the best lesson you learned on the road with the tour?
When planning travel time always factor in roadworks. With eleven events and over 17000kms we were never late but boy did we get held up by a lot of those people with the STOP signs in their hands. They had all the power.
1700kms is a long way to travel, especially in such close quarters, had you met the rest of your tour mates prior to the tour?
Jenn and I had met once before but I hadn’t met Karen. The publishers had one person from each house with us the first week then they swapped to two new people. I knew the Harlequin team of course but we’d never spent lots of time together and I didn’t know the Simon & Schuster reps. Our first meeting at the hire car office was full of nervous anticipation but by the first squeal of the tyres as we departed the garage we were all laughing and the tone was set for the rest of the tour. (To be fair to the first driver, who shall remain nameless, it was a steep slope to get out of the garage, we had a stack of luggage, everyone was giving instructions and the van was a bit different to drive – talk about pressure!)
Were there many arguments over control of the music? I know that’s always been a big deal on road trips for me.
Not really. We all agreed we liked 80’s music. The front passenger was in charge of skipping anything that brought loud groans from the back or turning up the volume for the big sing-a-longs. We had a few favourites that we belted out, “Hold Me Now” and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” were very popular. We planned to find a karaoke place while on tour but sadly (or maybe just as well) we didn’t.
Your latest title is Heart of the Country, can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve certainly enjoyed writing historical saga. This book has been a long time in the planning. It’s set in the early days of pastoral settlement in Flinders Ranges, South Australia. Thomas Baker is a young Englishman who arrives in South Australia in the mid nineteenth century. He takes a job as an overseer on a pastoral property in the north which is no easy life. Thomas is tricked by a con man and the two clash as they both battle to overcome the obstacles of the rugged country and the harsh elements. Of course Thomas has a love interest in the delightful Lizzie. I think she rounds him out nicely and she’s a worthy partner. Together they face some exciting and terrible challenges. It is a saga so while I hope readers will be satisfied with the ending, the next book will continue the story with the next generation.
I recently read and loved the book, it has certainly made me look at the surrounding countryside differently. How much research was involved and how did you tackle the research?
I’ve been travelling to the Flinders for years and the story was bubbling away in my head for a long time before I had the courage to write it. I’ve got notes scribbled everywhere. I’ve spoken to locals and got lots of anecdotal stories handed down from previous generations as well as doing lots of reading. Diaries are especially interesting when you’re trying to get a feel of living and social conditions of the era. I also love it when you find unexpected links to the current day. In Thomas’s day there was a Black Bull pub in Hindley St where he met his employer. I was excited to find that pub still operates. Its name was changed over the years and of course its appearance and but it’s now called the Black Bull once more and has lots of early Adelaide photos and facts on its walls. Finds like that are good fun.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
I have another rural romance coming out in December. ‘ Between the Vines’ is set in beautiful Coonawarra wine country in the South East of South Australia. Taylor Rourke is a young Adelaide woman who follows up a chance meeting with a good looking guy, Edward Starr, and decides to make a tree change. Life on a vineyard during the busy time of vintage is not quite what she expected and she finds she may have made the worst decision of her life when it comes to Ed. As it’s based on a real working vineyard I had to do lots of research in Coonawarra. It was tough but I managed.
Is that the first time you have toured NSW and ACT? And have you got plans to tour more widely?
I have toured a lot of SA but never ventured over the border so the Australian Voices in Print tour was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet readers, librarians and booksellers in other areas. I loved it. One of the best things about writing is to meet the people who read your books. They’re the ones who matter most. I get such great feedback from readers and even ideas for future stories. I really enjoy chatting with them. I do hope there will be more tours like this one in the future.
Heart of the Country is available now where all good books are sold and at Harlequin.
I am so glad to have done this interview because I was previously unaware of the sequel to Heart of the Country – and now I can’t wait.
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