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Monday, September 12, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Cathryn Hein

Today I have an Aussie author visiting, a lovely woman I've know for a few years now. She writes contemporary women's fiction (aka Aussie rural romances). Please say hi to Penguin Australia author, Cathryn Hein.

Welcome, Cathryn, it's great to have you here! 
Hi Kylie, and thanks for having me on your blog.

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty - tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in rural South Australia and fell in love with horses probably about the same time I took my first breath.

My parents caved in and bought me a horse when I was ten and from that point on I didn’t think about much else. At 18 I headed off to uni and did a Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture), after which I worked in the pasture and turf seeds industry for several years.

I’d always wanted to write and made a number attempts over the years to complete a novel, but it wasn’t until my partner was posted to France that I had the opportunity to knuckle down and really reach for that dream. I finished that first manuscript in late 2005 and wrote several more before finally selling PROMISES to Penguin in 2010.

What do you think it is about your genre that readers find so fascinating?
The reality is that most Australians live urban lives but that doesn’t mean they don’t harbour great affection for the Australian countryside. The “bush” is iconic, part of our national identity, and people want to read about it. I know I do. Throw in a heart-warming love story and you have all the ingredients for a feel-good book.

Now, I'm always fascinated by another author's writing style. Are you a pantster, scener, or plotter? Is it your characters or plot that influence you most? What’s your writing process from start to finish when writing a book?
I started out as a complete pantster but with each book I’ve refined the process and now plot quite a bit.

When brainstorming a new book the number one thing I look for is a character who has been deeply affected by an event, something life-changing that affects his or her view of the world.

After that I form a list of possible conflicts that could relate to that event. We can’t have our heroes and heroines having an easy time of it! They need to work hard, suffer emotionally, and triumph over what seem like impossible obstacles before they earn their happily ever afters.

I also nut out the black moment(s) very early on because it’s imperative to know what I’m building to.

Once I have those major things in place, I put one sentence outlines of events, scenes and turning points onto scraps of paper and mix them around until I have them in the order I want. They go up onto a white board along with quick character and setting descriptions, which I expand on as I write. Then it’s bum in seat and away I go.

An evolving pantster - I've discovered that I'm reaching that stage in my writing journey, too. Sounds like you're enjoying that process (as much as you can, that is!).

So, what is the premise for your latest release?
PROMISES is a love story set in rural South Australia which follows the relationship between two neighbours.

We have Aaron, a sexy but struggling racehorse trainer, and Sophie, a farmer and talented equestrienne who’s determined to overcome her troubled past. Despite deep family enmity they come together when Sophie wants to buy one of Aaron’s racehorses, but secrets overshadow their blossoming love. Secrets so dark that, if revealed, they could destroy everything Sophie and Aaron have worked for.

Check out the great opening tag line for PROMISES. I love it!

A father with something to hide, a jockey with a taste for blackmail, a man with an agonising secret ... and a young woman in love, defying them all.

Sophie Dixon is determined to leave her tragic past behind and forge a bright future on her beloved farm. While looking to buy a new horse, she is drawn into her neighbour Aaron Laidlaw’s orbit, despite the bad blood between their families.

As the racing season unfolds, Sophie and Aaron’s feelings for each other deepen. But Aaron is torn, haunted by a dark secret he fears can never be forgiven – especially by Sophie.

Sophie believes herself strong, but the truth behind her mother’s death will test her strength, and her love, to the limit. She’s been broken once. No one wants to see her broken again. Least of all the man who has grown to love her.

From an exciting new Australian voice comes this compelling story about love, loyalty and forgiveness.

If you're keen to share, what’s the worst writing mistake that taught you a valuable lesson?
The worst thing I did was push myself to finish a book when my heart wasn’t in it. The writing was good quality but I didn’t have any empathy for the characters, nor did I think much of the plot and, boy, did it show.

When I sent the draft to my girlfriend to read (who acted as my crit partner back then) she hated it. Really, really hated it. She said it was as if I was writing by numbers, trying to please everyone else instead of writing what I loved.

Five months work went down the drain because I didn’t keep faith in the stories I wanted to tell. I’ll never forget the lesson of that book. This isn’t an easy business. You need to believe in yourself, your voice, and your stories.

So, what’s next for you? What are you working on?
Right now I’m madly promo-ing PROMISES, which has proved enormous fun so far.

As for writing, while I’m waiting for the edits on my second book to arrive, I’m working on a third. The synopsis is done, the characters are firming up nicely, and I have the first five or so chapters and their scenes sorted out. A few more tweaks and a bit more tuning of the conflicts so I don’t end up with one of those hair-tearing “saggy middles” and I’ll be ready to start writing. Then it’ll be backside in chair with my fingers flying across the keyboard and my head in ga-ga land until the end of the year.

Ahh, I know that feeling, Cathryn, LOL.

Just one more questions, do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you’d like to share with unpublished authors?
Write, write, write, and not just the same book(s). While some talented authors sell their first novel, for the majority, it’s the 4th, 5th, 6th or even 10th novel that sells. Be prepared to put in the work. It takes time to learn your craft and the more you write, the better you get.

I’ll also repeat some wonderful advice from best-selling Australian author Anna Jacobs. She’s written over 50 books so if anyone is qualified to give advice, it’s Anna.  Write your book then stash it away for as long as you can, and get on with writing another. You’ll be amazed how much you discover when you come back to it. Distance is a great provider of perspective.

Also read, in your genre and outside of it. Pick apart books you love to identify why you love them. Suffer through books you hate or think are appallingly written and do the same.

Join a writers’ organisation. I wouldn’t be published if it weren’t for the Romance Writers of Australia and the Romance Writers of New Zealand.

Lastly, get yourself good critique partners. You need them and not just for writing craft. They’ll help you through tear-filled times and crack champagne with you in the good. They understand. They’re gold.

Cathryn, you've shared some great insights and experiences with my readers. Thanks so much for giving up your time to join me today and answering my questions. It's been great having you here!

You can visit:
Cathryn Hein's website
Cathryn's Facebook page
Follow her on Twitter


  1. Awesome interview, Kylie, and congrats Cathryn!

  2. So glad you're enjoying the amazing ride of a book launch. I really enjoyed Promises and loved all the horses. I think a lot of late teens onwards would enjoy this book. You should send it to Dolly and GF magazine for a review.

  3. Book sounds great, best of luck to you :)

  4. Another great interview Kylie and Cathryn!! I noted you wrote Black MomentSSSSS and find this interesting. So many authors talk about THE black moment yet the book is so much deeper and believable if there is more than one :)

  5. Thanks, Bronwyn, Fiona, Cath (great name!) and Rach for dropping by and for your lovely congrats.

    Fiona, I had the same conversation with a journalist this morning about Promises' appeal to teens. It's the sort of book I would have drooled over as a horse-mad adolescent.

    I agree, Rach. More than one black moment adds extra tension. Plus making things super-duper bad for our characters is great fun!

  6. Another lovely interview, ladies! Congrats on Promises, Cathryn, it's a wonderful story.

    Excellent advice to stash your WIP for as along as possible - the clarity that distance gives is amazing!!

  7. Lovely interview with some great points. Congrats on the book release and enjoy the ride!

  8. Great interview ladies. Cathryn I was excited to find your book in Target last week, so now it's sitting on my TBR pile :)

  9. It's wonderful to hear that people are finding your book in so many places, Cathryn! Very exciting. And already several people have devoured it!

  10. Great interview, Kylie and Cathryn! Congratulations on the release of Promises, Cathryn, it'at the top of my tbr pile and I can't wait to dive in :-)

  11. Loved the interview, and Cathryn some GREAT advice, should heed it myself *g*
    Being a horse lover too - your book sounds fantastic, I'll be getting that one me thinks!!

  12. What a lovely bunch of commenters!

    Helene, I still think Anna's advice re stashing the manuscript was the best I'd ever been given. As you say, the clarity that distance provides is extraordinary.

    Sussan, thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

    Eleni, I've yet to spot Promises in my local Target, so thanks for letting me know it's there. And thanks even more for buying it!

    Hugs, Christina! Good luck with the big launch of Historical Hearts this week.

    And a big wave to another horsey girl. Hiya, Mel, and thanks for popping by.