Penelope Janu, the author of Clouds on the Horizon, took some time out to have a chat with Beauty and Lace.
Get to know Penelope in this interview.
You love to explore regional towns in Australia, do you have a favourite?
I have a few favourite towns, but the NSW town of Denman, on the Hunter River, is a postcard-pretty town, and the local district is renowned for thoroughbred studs, vineyards, and grazing land—it’s a place I love to return to.
A less well-known favourite is the tiny town of Yeoval, which sits between Dubbo and Orange, and is surrounded by crop fields and sheep and cattle properties dotted with gums.
Do you have any routines/rituals that you have to do before you can start writing?
I like to rise early in the mornings, and always with a cup of tea. When I first started writing creatively, my youngest children were still at school and I was working full time as a legal academic, so I wrote from three to six in the mornings during the week.
Now that my children have not only finished school, but most of them have left home, and I write full time, I start work at the much more sensible time of six in the morning!
What book are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished Alison Stuart’s Regency novel, Lord Somerton’s Heir, which I really enjoyed. I’ve always been an avid historical romance reader, so I’d read all of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books way before the television series came out!
What was your favourite read of 2021?
That’s a very difficult question! Joanna Nell is a very good friend, and we thoroughly enjoy each other’s books, so I’ll say The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital. Joanna writes beautifully well-rounded characters, and always makes me laugh.
What are some common traps for aspiring writers?
I advise writers to be kind to themselves in their writing lives, and to take as much time as they need to learn their craft. A very effective way of doing that is by finishing a book and then redrafting (and redrafting and redrafting). As a mother of four daughters, I worry about the pressure young women place on themselves in terms of career, family and caring responsibilities.
To add to those demands a passion for writing, makes things even more challenging, particularly as it can take years to write a book, let alone survive on a writing income. On the bright side, the writing community in Australia is supportive (and a lot of fun in a social context!) so joining writing organisations and writing groups makes the writing life so much more enjoyable.
Is there anything new you’re working on that you can tell us about?
Phoebe, the main character in Clouds on the Horizon, is one of three sisters, and I’ve just put the finishing touches on her sister Patience’s story (working title: Shelter from the Storm, which will be my 2023 release).
I loved getting to know Patience and Hugo and was very relieved when I resolved all the plot lines in their story! I’m also excited about the release of On the Same Page in April next year, a sparkling new edition of a romantic comedy first published in 2018.
Who is your favourite author?
A number of authors have changed the way I think about the world, provided an escape from reality when times were difficult, and allowed me to dream of better things. They’ve provided comfort and laughter and heartache and inspiration—together with page-turning nights with wonderful stories I’ll never forget. But as I have to choose only one author, I’m going to select someone who has been important to me both professionally and personally…
I’d read and thoroughly enjoyed Victoria Purman’s ‘Boys of Summer’ series of novels, but didn’t meet her until 2016, when my first novel, In at the Deep End, was signed by HarperCollins. Victoria has been endlessly supportive of my writing and her kindness and generosity (from an author I admired so much already!) has been priceless.
And it’s no surprise that her intelligence and empathy shine brightly in all of her wonderful stories. The Nurse’s War (with a cover I predict will be the best of 2022!) will be released on March 30 and I, like Victoria’s legions of other readers, can’t wait!
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading one of the Beauty and Lace book choices last year, Karly Lane’s Once Burnt, Twice Shy. Karly looks at serious topics, in this case bushfires, and can always be relied on to write not only interesting relatable characters, but page turning stories as well.
Where can our readers follow you?
My website is: https://www.penelopejanu.com/ . And my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is next for Penelope Janu?
In Clouds on the Horizon, Sinn Tørrissen is a meteorologist and oceanographer. I did quite a lot of research on the weather while writing this book, which means I know a lot more than I did about the current La Niña weather event on the east coast of Australia than I would have otherwise.
So, when I’m confident I won’t encounter floodwaters (and be in the way of the SES rescue teams), I’ll be travelling north, via the Hunter Valley, to the central west of NSW (see above for my favourite towns!) to research my January 2024 book.
Because travel has been so difficult in the past couple of years, I’m particularly looking forward to writing on the road and creating new characters, settings, complications and happily-ever-afters.
I am a mother of four beautiful children. I can’t leave a book unfinished which equals a lot of late nights! When I’m not reading you can find me in the garden, or helping out at Beauty and Lace.