Jenn’s endorsement brought me instant credibility, increased my readership by a huge amount (and still does) and brought me to the attention of another beautiful soul who has also become an amazing mentor and confidante for me, Monica McInerney.
Since we met, Jenn has never left my corner and her guidance and sage advice make this scary process a whole lot less scary for me. And it’s not just me, Jenn is a mentor to many up and coming Australian authors. She’s a passionate advocate for advancing Australian women, Australian industry, Australian farmers, the environment and she’s even an animal rights advocate.
On top of that she also happens to be one the finest authors this country has known.
This latest book from Jenn is no exception to its wonderful predecessors. It’s brilliant. It’s slayed it in the charts since its release last month. I’d go so far as to say it’s her best book yet. Read on, then go and buy it and read it. You’ve been told!
When offering to drive her brother to Byron Bay to escape the bitter Blue Mountains winter, Sidney neglects to mention her planned detour to the small coastal town of Watercolour Cove.
Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove is a very different place. Two brothers are working the steep, snake-infested slopes of a Coffs Coast banana plantation. Seventeen-year-old David does his share, but he spends too much time daydreaming about becoming a famous artist and skiving off with Tilly, the pretty girl from the neighbouring property. His older brother, Matthew, has no time for such infatuations. His future is on the land and he plans to take over the Greenhill plantation from his father.
Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill plantation. One stays—trapped on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams.
That is, until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what’s wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and . . . there’s another side to every story.
I'm an author. But every time I read a novel by Jenn J McLeod I think, 'I'll never be able to write like that, I should just give it away.' There is no other author in Australia today who can match McLeod's wonderfully natural 'come here and let me tell you a yarn' story telling. I don't believe in writing reviews that explain the plot - you have a blurb for that. Instead I'll tell you what this story and these characters will do to you. They will make you cry (ugly cry not sniff-sniff cry), they will make you laugh (a lot), they will make you stay up late as you get closer and closer to the nail-biting heartbreaking climax, they will make you think about your own links to family and home and I guarantee that they will leave a permanent imprint on your heart. This is an unforgettable tale that spans generations and takes you from the stunning beauty of the mountains to the equally beautiful Australian coast, drawn so evocatively you can taste the mountain and sea air. The Other Side of the Season is a tragedy, a suspense, a romance - but most of all it's a love story between its author, the jaw-droppingly talented Jenn J McLeod, and the land, people and culture that make up this place we call Australia. Five outstanding stars.
Moving to the country was like coming home.
After ten years running a B&B on my NSW property, I now get to write my contemporary Australian fiction (life-affirming novels of small town life and the country roots that run deep) grey nomad style–a wandering writer of no fixed address. Yep! I’ve hit the road in a Ford and a fifth wheeler –writing in and under the Southern Cross. (Check out my blog post on that).
Readers and reviewers alike have enthusiastically received my debut, House for all Seasons, placing it at #5 on the 2013 Nielsen’s Best Selling Debut Novel list. Thank you everyone! Simmering Season is book two in my Seasons Collection (all standalone reads) with Season of Shadow and Light out now and my 2016 release, titled The Other Side of the Season, to be published by Simon and Schuster Australia in May 2016.
An interview with Jenn J McLeod:
What do you love the most about the main character in your book?
I love that she is going to stir mixed emotions in readers. I knew she would; I wanted her to—and in anticipation of some people disliking her immensely, this is how I phrased my book club discussion question in the back of the novel . . .
“If I had the pleasure of being at your book club meeting to talk about The Other Side of the Season, these are the questions I’d throw in to kick-start the discussion.
Firstly, let’s get the Natalie issue out of the way, shall we? I suppose I expected the majority of readers to dislike her in the beginning. But did you grow to understand her? What was her worst flaw/mistake? At what point in the story did you start to care about her? Did she redeem herself in the end to make you feel sorry for her—even a teeny weeny bit?
Finally I ask book-clubbers. . .
How did you feel about the ending? Shocked? Saddened? Angry? Satisfied? If not satisfied, how would you, as the reader, have changed things?"
I’ve already had a reviewer tweet about the ending:
How did you come up with the title? Did you have alternative titles?
I’ve been fortunate to have a publisher who loves my titles, taglines and blurbs, running with them for the first three novels. So, it was a shock (and devastating) when they rejected my draft title for book #4—Seasons in Watercolour (because there is an arty theme). I mean I’d been imagining the book cover image for months and it took me a very long time to find a new title after having written the manuscript. (It’s just not how I roll.) But, in the end, Simon & Schuster clearly know best. I totally LOVE the new title, the way it ties into the plot, and the cover. I am so excited.
What is the best marketing tip you can share for a new author to get their book noticed?
Don’t wait until your book is released to market it. In fact, don’t market your book. Market yourself. Readers respond to being engaged in conversations with authors they like and entertained by the author’s witty repartee. (They do, don’t they?)
Market yourself (not your books) by fostering an online network. Don’t be what I call a ‘pop-up author. (One that pops up in newsfeeds only when they have a book to flog or a review to share.) Continuous, consistent and genuine connections are more enjoyable for all and enduring.
What is it about the genre you write that appeals to you so much?
Contemporary small town fiction: real people, genuine conflict, which means my endings are not always as expected. I am a sea change champion, so country life is at the heart of every story I write, in the hope readers fall in love with my settings and maybe consider a regional relocation. We need to unclog our cities and grow our regional communities. The best (scariest) decision I made was walking away from a six-figure salary in Sydney to buy a café in Sawtell, NSW. That was 2003 and I have never looked back. And, as a reader pointed out the other day, all my books tend to feature food or cafes or cooks. So maybe I would not be where I am now if not for that sea change and café experience.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
- Sometimes a little over-excitedly!!!!!
What is your favourite motivational phrase or quote?
Right now it’s the quote in the front of The Other Side of the Season—one SO perfect for my story I was desperate to obtain permission from Andrew Wyeth’s office. They said yes and you’d think I’d won Lotto. My readers will know I am partial to quotes, but this year I have done something a little different by adding a reader quote, after asking for ideas on Facebook.
I prefer winter when you feel the bone structure of the landscape,
the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
(Andrew Wyeth, 1917 – 2009)
Who would play you in the movie about your life?
Ooh, I LOVE this question. Definitely Sandra Bullock. She’s versatile, she makes people laugh, she can be serious, too, and she has a big heart (not to mention an awesome body!)
What would your dream office look like?
I’m living in it. I have a tiny desk in my mobile home where I create some big stories!
The best birthday/Christmas present you ever received.
I signed with a literary agent on my 50th birthday. True! (The day before actually)
Your first kiss - who, what, when, where, how old were you, are you still in touch?
Who? No idea.
What? What do you mean what? Like was there tongue?????? ;) (Note from Tess to Jenn: Ew, Jenn, I didn’t realise I asked what! There is no what! Forget the what – ew!)
When? Ah, as I recall, too young to be kissing boys.
How old was I? See previous answer.
Am I still in touch? Tricky when I can’t remember who it was!!
What would you do with five million dollars if you won it?
I would set up a publishing house and publish everyone’s books so they, too, can experience that incredible moment of seeing a novel they’ve written on a bookshelf in a shop.
If you had one chance to enter a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
The 1970’s / early eighties. I had to go back in my imagination to write The Other Side of the Season. It is my first dual time period novel and I so enjoyed the process I’m writing another one in the same style.