Jennie is one the most talented, not to mention popular authors in Australia, (her books sell like crazy!) and I’m incredibly lucky to have her living within arm’s reach of me and to be able to call her my very dear friend. From the very start of my career, Jennie has always been a source of strength, moral support and guidance and she has also been privy to my most neurotic moments but she’s still here and stayed on as my friend so I know she’s a keeper!
Jennie’s writing is rich and funny and warm and wise – just like her (except I don’t have access to her bank account so can’t be sure about the rich bit!). I truly, truly adore this series! If you’re after a light comfort read, that also has some smoking hot men in it, then reading a Jennie Jones book is just like wrapping yourself up in a blankie and eating warm piece of pecan pie.
Just ten days after her fresh start in the isolated Snowy Mountains, Samantha Walker trips over a three hundred pound pig and lands in the arms of Dr. Ethan Granger — and the firing line for gossip. It was hardly a ‘date’ but sparks of the sensual kind are difficult to smother in a community of only 87 people. Now there’s a bet running on how long she’ll stay and what she’ll get up to while she’s in town.
Ethan has his own issues — Sammy’s presence in his childhood home brings with it painful recollections of family scandals and a bad‐boy youth. When the gossip around them heightens, his life is suddenly a deck of cards spread on the table for all to see. Then Sammy's past catches up with her... and it looks like all bets are off.
She’s a would-be country girl and longs for the day when she and her family can set up home in a cute country cottage in the middle of a huge field. Until then, Jennie is enjoying life a five-minute walk from the beach. She can hear the ocean as she types her stories.
Jennie is a bestselling author of small-town country fiction with romance and humour at heart. Her books include the Swallow’s Fall series set in the Australian Snowy Mountains and the A Dollar for a Dream series set in country New South Wales. Jennie is currently finalising her first book in the Rangelands series set in outback Western Australia and the first book in the Arizona set The Mackillop Girls of Calamity Valleyseries.
You can learn more about Jennie on her website http://www.jenniejonesromance.com/
And you can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Bookbub.
An interview with Jennie Jones:
Where did the inspiration for The House on Burra Burra Lane come from?
The House on Burra Burra Lane was my debut novel, but for a long while before it was published (three years’ worth) I had to learn how to write fiction. I wrote many stories, but focused on this one once I felt I was getting close to getting a grip on this writing job. The first scene in the book was always the first scene in the story. A woman, a cat, and a vet – and then I added a 300 pound pig. I had no idea where it was going to go after this or why the two characters were even at the vet’s. But inspiration came as not only the characterisations and story evolved, but also me, as a writer. I needed the female protagonist to have run from a city environment to the country. That meant it had to be a remote and rural place, so I created a small town in the NSW Snowy Mountains called Swallow’s Fall with less than 100 inhabitants. The House on Burra Burra Lane was originally a one-off story, but after getting it professionally evaluated it was suggested I might consider making this a series. I factored this in and it worked for the story, not only the prospect of a series. Everything fell into place after this and things happened very fast and unexpectedly for me and the book.
How did you come up with the title? Did you have alternative titles?
It was originally The House on Spring Lane which is a nice title, but it didn’t offer anything particularly insightful. So I made up (I thought I’d made it up) Burra Burra Lane which I felt had an Indigenous Australian and historical ring to it. After I researched Burra and Burra Burra, my new title seemed to fall perfectly into place for many reasons.
There’s a small country town in South Australia called Burra. Between 1845 and 1877 this area was also the site of one of the world’s major copper mines which was called Burra Burra Mine. The origin of the name is disputed, but I loved the one where a pastoralist had Indian men working for him as shepherds and Burra Burra was said to come from Hindustani for ‘Great Great’. They were referring to the creek that ran through the property but it was also a title of respect to a designated father or elder brother as chief or person in charge. Plus, in a number of Aboriginal languages, burra has a meaning of ‘people or tribe’.
So for me, calling the lane where my heroine lives Burra Burra Lane was ideal because Swallow’s Fall township is made up of a small community of people and they are a little like their own tribe. Burra Burra, meaning Great, Great worked well for Grandy Morelly, the town’s wise and insightful patriarch who appears in every Swallow’s Fall book and helps every main character in some way or another. I even created a reason for the town’s naming.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
‘How did the town get its name?’ Sammy asked as Ethan drove down Main Street. ‘From a local waterfall?’
‘Nothing so glamorous,’ he said, with a chuckle. ‘From Mr. William Swallow. He arrived from England about 1840 and worked at the Burra Burra mine in South Australia.’
Sammy turned to the music of Ethan’s voice. It was dark outside and the gentle tone mellowed the masculinity of the vehicle’s interior.
‘In 1843 William Swallow left the mine and travelled nearly a thousand kilometres east. He was headed for Sydney, but never got there. He broke his leg and holed up in a field, right here. He had a horse and cart with him, mainly full of home brewed maize beer and a little blackberry wine, so he sat down to heal, and drink.’
Sammy giggled. ‘Is this for real?’
‘People followed him, or found him. They settled, happy to share his goods. Until one day he swallowed so much beer he fell down and never got up.’
‘Swallow’s Fall,’ Sammy said, grinning in the dark.
Is it part of a series or is it a stand-alone novel?
It can be read as either a stand-alone book or as the first in the series of five stories set in Swallow’s Fall. I try to ensure that readers will not get lost if they pick up book 3 or 5 first, but I have found that most readers will go back to The House on Burra Burra Lane if they started later in the series, and that some prefer to start at the start. I leave this up to reader preference. Personally, I’ve never had a problem reading book #1 in a series after I’ve read book #2 if the series is of interest to me. I love to read a series and see the characters from previous books involved and evolved. It’s like coming home.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
“Listen to your clues.” Sadly, I can’t recall where I found this or who said it, but it resonated deeply with me. You’re reading your work and everything’s going nicely and you’re happy – then a sentence, word, phrase or perhaps a whole scene creates a mental jarring moment. It’s instinct and you have to watch for it happening. When it does - listen, even if you don’t understand why you were jarred out of your reading, because there will be a reason. Instinct is a marvellous tool, and when it’s used with what you’ve learned as a writer, and also what you’re learning as you write (because every book is a different ball game) it can help address what’s off-balance or might not make sense. We’re very close to our work as writers, and we can’t always see what’s wrong or where to further something that’s right without hearing it from within or from others.
Do you write with a plan or do you see where the story takes you?
I start with a scene snippet, or a dialogue conversation, or a scenario. It doesn’t make any sense at this point and I have no idea what I might write about or who the characters are but something will catch my interest, and that means I have to put it onto paper. From here on, I’ll continue writing scene snippets and add some notes until at last, characterisations begin to form, character history comes into play, and then I have to find the reasons for the story. I usually just keep writing these notes and snippets until a storyline forms. I will probably have most of chapter one drafted by now, with scenes from later on written too. I then join the dots, for want of a simpler explanation. It’s hard work joining dots, but I don’t plan a storyline before I begin. I find that too inhibiting. I prefer to let it flow.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you were published?
Nothing. Honestly, nothing. I needed to learn it all as I went or it wouldn’t have been such tremendously hard work, and without that disciplined input and that real need to do this, I think I might not have reaped so many rewards on both a publication and personal level.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
An actor. Because of this (or maybe the other way round) I also wanted to be Georgina in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds, any of the five Angel pilots who piloted the Angel Interceptor fighter aircrafts in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Maria in The Sound of Music – to name a few. I did eventually go to drama school in London and then got to be someone else for eight shows a week for the next decade or so. I think this is why becoming a writer was so natural a choice for me after I moved to Australia and gave up acting. When I write, I’m still playing every part…
If you had one chance to enter a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
I’d go back to between the start of World War I and the end of World War II. I think perhaps I’d like to be one of the female ambulance drivers in WW I, and maybe join the Women’s Auxiliary Fire Service in WW II. This time fascinates me and I love reading books about women throughout this period. It was such an emotional turmoil for everyone, and for women because they were holding the fort on so many levels. Women from all walks of life were placed together and had to get on with it. I think I’d like to have seen both sides: one as a woman from an upper-class and privileged background, and one as a woman who hadn’t been given any chances in life before and didn’t expect to receive any.
What would your dream office look like?
It would be at the top of the house, with wide windows and I’d be looking out over rolling countryside. Like an attic room. I’d have all my personal treasures in it, and it would be decorated like a country manor house. The walls would be pale lemon. There’d be white shutters on the windows and there would be vases of flowers from my garden sitting on Regency tables. There’d be a big comfy armchair and one wall filled with bookshelves.
Your wedding day - all the quirky details.
It was fairly quirky on many levels actually. For a start, my Kiwi world-traveller husband-to-be didn’t have any family in Britain, only mates he’d been travelling with and those he’d been in the armed services with. I was an actor, so all my friends could only make a wedding on a Sunday when there were no performances.
I wanted to get married in Wales. So we took a field trip and found this beautiful old church in the hills of Rhydycroesau (Rud-uh-croy-sigh) about a twenty minute drive from my home town.
Because my New Zealander husband-to-be was an ‘alien’, and because I’d chosen to get married outside of my home town, we had to get a Special Licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury (it’s very grand looking).
The last wedding held at this church had been years earlier, so it was exciting. It would only seat about forty people too. I wanted the bell to ring but the Reverend persuaded me not to, because he said it sounded quite lonely all on its own. (I still wish we’d had it). I walked down the aisle to Verdi’s Aida and we left the church to the usual strains of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Wedding March.
While the congregation walked the five minutes from Wales to England for the reception, we had a horse and buggy ride…
Tess, thank you so much for having me here. I love answering questions like these because it’s like a walk down memory lane.