Thirty-year-old introvert, Macie Harman, has finally found a career she is passionate about, and after months of training, she’s begun her new job in the Royal Australian Air Force. Leaving behind her family, friends, and the life she knew, Macie has travelled to the other side of the country where the only person she knows is Rachael, the extroverted girl she went through basic training with. Everywhere Macie goes, Rachael is there too.
While looking for a way to widen her circle of friends in her new town, Macie discovers a local swing dancing class. The jazz music captures her heart, and Matt, the sexy swing dancer, sweeps her off her feet. Matt has claimed the tropical Northern Territory as home and has no plans to leave. He loves his teaching career with its predictable routine and has a great bunch of friends. All he wants now is the right girl to make his house a home.
Military life is tougher than Macie expected, and not everyone can deal with the inevitable separations and last minute changes. Is this exciting but unpredictable life something Macie wants to fight for, or could she give it up and put down roots with Matt?
A gorgeous fun and light story, exactly the way a good chick lit book should be. There was lots of to love about Don't Mean a Thing - the laugh out loud moments of which there dozens, the tender romance between Macie and Matt - that first kiss was perfect, the vivid description of what life in the RAAF would be like and the wonderful swing dance scenes that made me want to find my nearest club and get my hair done and make-up done. But by far what I enjoyed the most about this book was how parochially Australian it was - from the location of Darwin that was brought to life so clearly it was like an extra character in the book, to the swear words like "friggin' hell" and "built like a brick shithouse", to the hilarious (and accurate) portrayal of Aussie culture - Renee Conoulty really and truly captured the essence of Australia in her debut. Some of my favourite references were how everyone needs three pairs of thongs in Darwin - work thongs, casual thongs and good going out thongs, a Numpty Board at work to pin up photos of people being Numpties, a couple taking a selfie near a mound of termites and the famous Tim Tam Slam. Renee Conoulty's style is easy to read, down to earth and downright funny. A born writer.
An Interview with Renee Conoulty:
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
Lots of little things over the years. Ever since I took up swing dancing back in 2000, I’ve been on the lookout for books featuring swing dancing but I struggled to find them (you should have seen how excited I was to find the words “Lindy Hop” in a Stephen King novel – only on one of the 800+ pages though). When my husband joined the Royal Australian Air Force full time in 2012, I began looking for contemporary Australian stories about military life – I found plenty of literary PTSD stories and alpha male US military steamy romance, but not the kind of story I wanted – a glimpse into everyday military life. Later that year I found out our family was moving to Darwin, so I looked for contemporary stories set in Darwin to get a feel for life up north before we got there – I found a few historical set stories but Darwin has changed a lot since Cyclone Tracy. I’d never considered writing a novel in my life, but one day I read a blog post by Natasha Lester telling me that all I needed to start writing a novel was some time and one idea. It suddenly occurred to me that I had some time (hubby was going away for a few weeks on some military thingy) and I had one idea. Actually, I had three.
How did you come up with the title? Did you have alternative titles?
Don’t Mean a Thing features lots of swing dancing, so I decided I wanted to use a swing song as the title and feature the song in the book somewhere exciting. I also wanted a title that fit in with some of the themes in the novel. Matt feels threatened by Macie’s friendship with her co-worker and Macie feels uncomfortable about Matt’s friendship with his dance partner but those other relationships “don’t mean a thing”. I submitted the story to my publisher, Kindred Ink Press, as It Don’t Mean a Thing but we decided the “it” made the title too squishy on the cover. For the first six months or so, I named the file One Idea - inspired from the blog article I mentioned above and the fact that my son used to say “I have one idea” instead of “an idea”.
Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?
It is the first novel in a planned three book series called Got That Swing with some unplanned short stories popping into the mix. A prequel short story duet called Gotta Be This or That released in early October. You can find it here - http://mybook.to/GBTOT
It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing – obviously ;)
My publisher has put together a playlist of all the songs mentioned in the novel.
You can listen to it here - https://youtu.be/upAnkaxim6k
What are you working on at the moment?
After being distracted by a few short stories, I’m finally getting back to writing the sequel. Book 2 is also a Darwin set, military themed, swing dance romance but this time the heroine is in the Royal Australian Navy. The working title is Tain’t What You Do (yep, another swing song).
How many other books have you had published? Which one is your favourite?
Don’t Mean a Thing is the only full length novel I’ve published so far, and as my first book, has a special place in my heart. The prequel, Gotta Be This or That, is now available. I have a permanently free sweet romance short story called Catching Onix. A collection of women’s fiction super short stories called Wife Mother Woman. And an early reader inspired by my daughter called Best Friends For Now published by Duck Soup Press. You can find out about all these books here - https://heysaidrenee.blogspot.com.au/p/my-books_16.html
What is your favourite motivational phrase or quote?
As a teenager, I had a little laminated poster with a photo of a teddy bear on it and the quote “I’m not fat, I’m just fluffy”. My other two favourites are “Money can’t buy love but it can buy chocolate” and “Happiness is a journey not a destination”. All three mean I’m allowed to eat another piece of chocolate.
Pick one series and tell us why – Harry Potter, Twilight or The Hunger Games.
I’ve read and loved them all, but if I had to choose one (which apparently I do) I’d pick Twilight because I binge read the whole series over a long weekend (which was only supposed to be a three day weekend, but I called in sick on the Monday because I wanted to finish the last book).
What is your all time favourite movie?
Dirty Dancing. So much so that I slipped in a Dirty Dancing reference in Don’t Mean a Thing.
“We circled slowly, pausing and changing directions. It was like slow dancing at a prom if the prom was held in the staff quarters at Kellerman’s.”
Your wedding day - all the quirky details.
I had a destination wedding (which inspired the short story I wrote for the Destination Romance anthology to be published by Serenity Press next year). My hubby and I decided to have a traditional Thai Buddhist wedding in Chiang Mai (even though neither of us are Thai or Buddhist). Our wedding day began before dawn, buying food and flowers at the markets to give to the monks on their morning rounds. Hair and makeup, custom designed traditional dress, traditional outfits for our guests, flowers, fire balloons and fireworks – so many beautiful little touches to make our day special. And so many blessings – singing monks, birds, fish, flicking water, clay forehead dots, knotted string (still haven’t won lotto, even though one of the village elders wished that for us). Our reception meal was a feast eaten with our fingers while sitting on the floor. We finished the night off with a swing dance for our first dance (hubby and I met at a swing dance class and I wrote the choreography for our dance).