This week I have the pleasure of bringing you this interview from the sunny and smoky, though thankfully not burning, south coast of New South Wales from my fabulous family holiday. A time I’m thankful to be able to spend with my family but also a time I’m beginning to fear may be extended as I get stranded by closed highways. So this is also a time I send heartfelt thoughts to all of those affected by the bushfires sweeping the nation.
I was pleased to ask some questions of West Australian author Jenny Schwartz in the lead up to the release of her January title with Escape Publishing, Mistaken Engagement, which I am looking forward to reading on my weekend at the coast.
Jenny Schwartz is a West Australian author. Her high school yearbook predicted she’d be a writer – something about always having her nose in a book. When not living up to others’ expectations, she enjoys lazy days in the suburbs and is working on a collection of life-saving recipes, “Simple Meals for Forgetful Cooks”.
Welcome to Beauty and Lace Jenny, thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Thanks for the chance to visit, Michelle. I’m thrilled to be chatting with everyone at Beauty and Lace. You all know how to make a girl feel welcome!
How did you get started as a writer?
You’re going to think I’m pulling your leg, but the honest to God truth is that I was writing before I could write. Mum remembers me sitting at a tiny kids table in a corner of the kitchen and scribbling line after line before I could read or write. After that, reading Enid Blyton just fed the habit, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading or writing. Once I worked up the courage to start submitting my stories to (scary) editors, I found that the publishing community is immensely supportive of new writers. So that was a huge life lesson learned: If you have a dream, follow it.
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
My big break came when Harlequin launched its first digital-only line, Carina Press. I submitted an angel and djinn story, The Price of Freedom, and they published it! I was one of Carina Press’s launch authors and the experience was incredible. Over two years later, the community of Carina authors remains strong and I’ve had four more stories published with Carina Press, including two steampunk stories set in Western Australia, my Bustlepunk Chronicles. It was such a wonderful experience that I leapt at the chance to be involved in Escape Publishing, Harlequin’s new Australian digital line. Escape has given me the opportunity to try my hand at writing contemporary romance, and you know what? It’s fun!
Your January Escape title is Mistaken Engagement, can you tell us a little about it?
I love all the stories I write, but Mistaken Engagement is special. It’s written to celebrate Australia Day, to share the joy of catching up with family and friends, of being part of a wonderful community and of simply enjoying an Aussie summer holiday. At 10,000 words it’s a quick, intense romance to get you in the holiday mood — whether you’re an Aussie or just dreaming of summer Down Under.
Saul won’t let his step-cousin Grace avoid the family any longer. Sure, his claim that they’re engaged & her hysterical denial makes things awkward, but it can all be worked out. The Australia Day long weekend down at the family’s beach house is the perfect time to show everyone that they’re friends, with not a broken heart between them. But can a fake engagement become life-changingly real?
Have you got a favourite genre? You write across several genres, do you enjoy one more than the others?
I’ve been reading contemporary romance for (counts on fingers, adds toes, runs out of digits. Eeek!) a number of years *grin* and I’m thrilled to be writing it. The joy of contemporary romance is that it celebrates the here and now and offers people hope and the promise of happy ever after. So I love contemporary romance.
But I adore Steampunk. Steampunk is history with a twist. It adds fantastic technology and modern attitude to a world that never was. For me, that world is the West Australian Goldrush of the 1890s. I have a degree in history and steampunk lets me use and abuse it. The very best thing about writing about that time and place in my Bustlepunk Chronicles is that people can walk the present day streets of Fremantle and Perth and imagine them overlaid with the world I describe. That world is very real to me and I wish that the Bombaytown I made up, modelled on San Francisco’s Chinatown, existed.
What are you reading at the moment?
Copper Beach by Jayne Ann Krentz. I’m a huge fan of her work. She’s an amazing romance author, and I just love her heroes. I’ve got three of my favourite Aussie authors lined up after that: Man Drought by Rachael Johns, How to Get Over Your Ex by Nikki Logan and Kelly Hunter’s The One that Got Away.
Is there something you’re working on that you can tell us about?
It’s meant to be a secret so I can only hint…look out for something special around Anzac Day.
With so many new Australian romance publishers (not just Escape Publishing, but Destiny Romance and Romance at Random) this is an exciting time to share stories that really resonate with Australian readers. I hope people get addicted to celebrating Aussie holidays with Aussie authors.
I was checking out your website today and have got to ask, where was you’re your cover image taken?
Fremantle! The setting for my Bustlepunk Chronicles and the setting for my first contemporary romance published with Escape, Drawing Closer. Isn’t it a fab photo? It’s of Bathers Beach, which is just across from where the Romance Writers of Australia will be holding their 2013 conference and where all readers will be welcome to attend an Australian Romance Readers Association book signing. I hope to see you all there! And if you are there, please be super-nice to me. It’ll be my first RWA conference and book signing, and I’ll be a nervous wreck.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
I take photos, like the ones used on my website. Although I’m very much an amateur photographer, I enjoy seeing the world through a lens. For some reason, it frames the beauty and makes me stop and appreciate how gorgeous my life is.
I also read, cook and occasionally garden. I say occasionally garden because I start out all enthusiastic, then decide I’d rather be inside, in the air conditioning (hasn’t this summer been hot? or is that just Perth?) reading.
Who do you think has had the strongest influence on your career?
This is such a good question and so difficult to answer. A high school teacher who wrote “worthy of publication” on one of my stories. Too many editors to name who gave freely of their time, offering support and criticism even when they had to reject my early stories. Friends and family. Perhaps most of all, the innumerable authors whose books helped me through bad times and good. I keep writing because I want to share that gift of touching people’s hearts.
What does being a woman mean to you?
It means being strong, being there for those you love, laughing, loving, sharing joy and embracing who you are. Follow your heart.