Interview with Renee Dahlia

Renee Dahlia is a debut historical romance author in 2017. Her book, To Charm a Bluestocking, came out in March, and is set in Amsterdam in 1887.


Welcome, Renee! Please tell us a little about yourself.

Q1. Tell us a little about yourself and where you live.

Officially, I am “an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour.” I live in the inner west of Sydney, in a little Federation cottage, with my family. I balance family, my day job in the horse racing industry, writing, and volunteering at the local cricket club. And somewhere in there, I still find time to read a couple of books a week.

Q2. How long have you been writing and when were you first published?

I started writing about a decade ago *squints at a calendar* when a magazine asked me to write some statistically based articles for the horse racing industry. It began a long series of myth-busting articles, and unwittingly put me on a new path away from data analysis and towards writing. Several years ago, I was asked to write a semi-autobiographical book for a bookmaker. Thankfully he paid me for my efforts, as it remains unpublished while he determines if he wants his story cast back into the spotlight. The process of this project allowed me to wonder if perhaps I might be able to write a novel. It took me four months to write a first draft of To Charm a Bluestocking. Over the following nine months, I joined Romance Writers Australia, did all the OWLS, and edited that first draft into a version that I hoped would appeal to a publisher. I pitched the book at the RWA conference in August 2016, and Escape Publishing said yes. They published it in March 2017. In April 2017, To Charm a Bluestocking was ranked second on the Booktopia New Releases in Romance – so this has been a whirlwind ride!

Q3. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the edits for the sequel to my debut novel. Escape has requested that I slow down the pacing in the first few chapters, so once again, I’ve been madly learning about new techniques, and applying them to my book. This one, In Pursuit of a Bluestocking, is the story of Marie’s journey towards love and learning to value herself.

I’ve also started to outline the third book in the series, and am about one third into the first (ugly) draft. Tentatively called The Bravest Bluestocking, or maybe, A Bluestocking Takes on the World, this story is about feisty, strong Claire.

Q4. How does your work differ from others in the genre?

Historical romance has grown away from the Regency period in England, and now covers a wider range of history, including some wonderful Australian historical writers. My Bluestockings series is set in the late Victorian era, with plenty of train travel, steam boats, telegrams, and the brand new technology, electricity. I chose this era because it aligned with the real history that inspired this series. The Victorian era was a time of great social and scientific upheaval, and these changes are fascinating. It allows for heroines who can realistically be closer to a contemporary heroine, but with all the fantasy of history (and beautiful gowns).

Q5. What inspired you to write your latest novel?

The Bluestocking series is about three women who graduate from medical school in Amsterdam. The series is inspired by my great-grandmother, Dr Caroline d’Ancona, who is a real life heroine that graduated as a doctor in Holland. I wrote about her here:

Q6. Which authors do you like to read?

How do you pick? I adore Courtney Milan, who writes in the mid-Victorian era as well as contemporaries. I’ve recently enjoyed books by Victoria Dahl, Eva Leigh, Tessa Dare, Lisa Kleypas, Alyssa Cole, Beverly Jenkins, and Anne Gracie.

Q7. What is the nicest thing a reviewer has ever said about one of your books?

“This book not only tells of the female struggles for an education, equality and acceptance, but Josephine’s struggle with her budding attraction for Nicholas. Filled with intrigue, and villains who would stoop at nothing to get their way. This book has been an eye opener and an interesting read.”

Q8. Are you a full-time writer? If not, how do you juggle work and writing?

I wish! Life is a crazy juggle, however, I do have two days a week where I work from home. In the winter, my horse racing work slows down, and I have more time to dedicate to writing novels. And in the summer, I spend most of my weekends watching my kids play cricket, so I enjoy the summer sun while bashing out words on my laptop.


Blurb for To Charm a Bluestocking:

Tagline: She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.

1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.

But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.

Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.

Buy links:

Escape Publishing

Other links

Amazon Aus

Amazon USA



Google Play



A Writing Weekend at Kanomi

On Friday May 22 at 7:30am I boarded the ferry to North Keppel Island (Kanomi) along with a group of other writers, our tutors, island staff and our cook for the three days. Our accommodation was to be the North Keppel Island Environmental Education Centre. Our tutors were Dr Lynda Hawryluk and Professor Donna Lee Brien.

The morning sea was relatively flat which made for a pleasant trip to the island. Warnings that our trip home on Sunday afternoon would be very different, were concerning as I’m a terrible sailor. Fortunately I’d packed the travel sickness pills.

Our cabin, which I shared with my two friends Liz and Jenny and one other lady, was comfortable in a basic fashion. Two rooms each had two sets of bunk beds and another small  room had a single bed. The bathroom with shower and washbasin was very adequate, but the separate self-composting toilet occasionally made the nostrils twitch. We discovered, as long as the louvres were kept open, the air blowing through kept odours to a minimum. The beach was only a short walk behind the cabin and Jenny braved the water for a swim, but with a cold wind blowing for most of the time I decided to pass on that pleasure. IMG_1786 IMG_1784  IMG_1787

The theme of the workshops was Resilience for writers in regional areas and we participated in a number of interactive sessions that explored this theme. One session on Saturday afternoon was facilitated by local singer/songwriter Nicole Leah. We brainstormed ideas on three different themes which Nicole took away and wrote into a song. She performed the song for us at dinner that night, and the result was amazingly good. She is certainly a very talented lady.

On the Saturday morning a few of us skipped a workshop and spent a pleasant hour or two walking on the island. The Keppel Bay lookout was well worth the visit, along with pristine beaches and unspoiled forests. We returned to discover we’d missed seeing the island museum and the accompanying brief – to write a story from the perspective of the island’s original inhabitants, before the arrival of Europeans. Fortunately we were able to view the fascinating little museum at our leisure and found plenty of inspiration there for our stories.

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Over the entire three days we enjoyed good, hearty meals cooked fresh by our resident chef. With morning and afternoon teas included, we came away feeling as if we needn’t eat again for a while. Curlews wandered around the outdoor tables at meal times in search of scraps. It is of concern that they have forsaken their usual nocturnal habits because of our presence on the island.

On our return journey, the sea was as rough as predicted. With the help of my pills, I was a bit nauseous and glad to reach land, but nothing worse. Without them, I’m sure I would have been miserably ill!

I can thoroughly recommend this very affordable workshop, in a beautiful relaxing setting, to any interested writers. The workshops are a yearly event and have been occurring for over a decade.

A Child of the Sixties

Back in the 60s when I was a child, it was a different world in the bush. Sometimes I think that era had more in common with my parents’ time, than it has with the present day.

It was an age of thirty-two-volt lighting plants, kerosene refrigerators, a diet of salt beef, home-grown vegetables, homemade butter and few luxuries. It took an hour and a half to drive forty-four miles to Capella, on a rough dirt road with a dozen gates to open. These trips to Capella or Clermont only happened about once every six weeks. We children did our schooling by correspondence, with our lessons arriving on the mail run. Sometimes in the wet the mailman didn’t get through for weeks, but unfortunately, from our point of view, we seldom ran out of lessons. Usually a pile was sent at the beginning of the year, just in case. We even had library books, which our teachers would choose for us, posted from the Allen Lending Library. They must have done a wonderful job of picking suitable titles, as I remember being fascinated by a selection of authors including Enid Blyton, whose Famous Five series was a favourite.

Some of my memories of those days include hot summer nights without a breath of air, sweltering beneath a dusty mosquito net. The first fan we owned ran on thirty-two volts, and was saved for times of dire need. Power was used in a frugal fashion, as the generator was normally only run to charge the batteries, which then powered a few dim lights – and a light was never left on when a person left the room! The exception was on washing day when I’d wake to the throb of the generator, as Mum needed it to run her old wringer washing machine. I used to love lying in bed, listening to the generator – but never for long. Sleeping in was another indulgence we weren’t allowed.

We were all as thin as rakes which isn’t surprising when I consider how plain our food was. There was no such thing as takeaway food, except for fish and chips when we were on holiday at the beach. A big treat when we went to town was an icecream, although Mum made our own at home. We always had desserts, mostly milk puddings as Dad milked two or three cows. Bread came from Clermont on the weekly mail run, and if we ran out, Mum made it herself.

Of course we loved helping with the mustering and chafed at being kept inside for lessons when Dad was doing something interesting. I remember one morning he planned to ride the bottom boundary fence, a distance of twenty-five to thirty miles. I was determined to go with him even though I was only five or six. Eventually Dad relented but Mum drove down the road to meet us that afternoon and collected me. By that time, I was very happy to see her.

We lived for the weekends, when my sister, two brothers and I would saddle our ponies and spend most of the time on horseback, playing cowboys and Indians and other adventurous games. On weekdays, before and after school, we’d play on our push bikes or with stick horses. My sister and I used to have our own pretend cattle stations marked out. When we rode our bikes, the sandy tracks made it a challenge and punctures were a frequent hazard.

Our games were inspired by our own imaginations and I do feel that is something modern children have lost, in an era when entertainment is laid on.

Heather GarsideHbranding

Feeding a poddy calf and branding calves at Booroondarra, circa 1969.

Meet my Character

I was tagged by the lovely Jennie Jones to participate in the Meet my Character blog hop. Thank you Jennie!

Born and brought up in Wales, Jennie Jones loved anything with a romantic element from an early age. At eighteen, she went to drama school in London then spent a number of years performing in British theatres, becoming someone else two hours, eight performances a week.

Jennie wrote her first romance story at the age of twenty five whilst ‘resting’ (a theatrical term for ‘out of work’). She wrote a western. But nobody wanted it. Before she got discouraged a musical theatre job came up and Jennie put writing to one side.

She now lives in Western Australia, a five minute walk to the beach that she loves to look at but hardly ever goes to – too much sand. Jennie returned to writing four years ago. She says writing keeps her artistic nature dancing and her imagination bubbling. Like acting, she can’t envisage a day when it will ever get boring.

Her latest book is 12 Days at Silver Bells House, now available for pre-order. Visit Jennie’s site here

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Now I want to introduce one of my characters from Breakaway Creek.

1.) What is the name of your character? Alex Baxter

2.) Is he a fictional or a historic person?  Entirely a figment of my imagination!

3.) When and where is the story set?  It is a dual timeline story set in both the present day and the 1890s, on a cattle property in Central Queensland. Alex is my hero from the 1890s.

4.) What should we know about him? Alex was adopted by the Baxter family and always believed himself to be their cousin who was orphaned at birth. Then, one day, he uncovers a shocking secret…

5.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his life? Alex falls in love with Emma, who is visiting his adoptive brother and sister-in-law. She feels the same way, but before they can marry, Alex knows he must tell her the truth about his ancestry.

6.) What is the personal goal of the character?  Alex must learn to trust and forgive before he can hope to find the happiness he craves with Emma.

7.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

This is the blurb for Breakaway Creek:

Two city women, a century apart, find love and adventure in the Queensland outback.

Betrayed by her boyfriend, Shelley Blake escapes the city on a quest to unravel a century-old family mystery. Her search takes her to a remote cattle station run by Luke Sherman. Shelley and Luke try to resist their mutual attraction as he fights to reclaim his children from a broken marriage, and Shelley uncovers the truth about her ancestors, Alex and Emma.

Emma’s story of racial bigotry and a love that transcends all obstacles unfolds in the pioneering days of the 1890s. Shelley and Emma are separated by time but they’re bound by a dark secret to a place called Breakaway Creek.

8.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

It was published last year and is available from Clan Destine Press, Amazon, Kobo and iTunes.

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Now I would like to tag two other authors who both write fabulous romantic suspense with rural settings.

The first is fellow Clan Destine Press author, Sandi Wallace.

Sandi is a crime writing personal trainer. Her debut novel Tell Me Why was released in September 2014 and is the first book in her new Rural Crime Files series.

Tell Me Why is set mainly in Daylesford, part of Victoria’s spa district, and combines thriller and police procedural with a touch of romance. The sequel is already in-house with her publisher.

Sandi has been shortlisted in the 2014 Scarlet Stiletto Awards with results to be announced at the gala dinner on Friday 21 November. She won the ‘Best Investigative Prize’ in the 2013 Scarlet Stiletto Awards and has been a finalist in other short story competitions. She also regularly contributes articles on health and other topics.

Sandi has devoured crime fiction in film and print since an early age. For equally as long, she’s wanted to be a crime writer – although she still wonders if she could’ve been a police detective and writer. She is currently polishing the third book in her series, and plans to start the fourth in the new year. Sandi lives in the beautiful Melbourne hills with her hubby and furry family. Her new release is Tell Me Why.

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To purchase Tell Me Why, visit Sandi’s site here.

Next is Sandy Curtis, another Clan Destine Press author whom I have known for a number of years and who has been kind enough to share a room with me at several RWA conferences.

Sandy Curtis’s first five novels were published by Pan Macmillan in Australia and Bastei Luebbe in Germany. They were nominees in the Ned Kelly Crime Awards, and two were finalists in the mainstream section of the Romantic Book of the Year Award. They are all now available as e-books from Clan Destine Press. Her sixth thriller, Fatal Flaw, and seventh, Grievous Harm, are published by Clan Destine Press in print and as e-books.

Sandy was a magazine feature article writer for two years, a newspaper columnist, and has had short stories and serials published in leading Australian women’s magazines. She was a member of the Management Committee of the Queensland Writers Centre for four years and has organised WriteFest, the Bundaberg writers festival, since its inception in 2005. In December 2012 she was presented with the Johnno Award by the Queensland Writers Centre for her “outstanding contribution to writing in Queensland”.

Her new release is Grievous Harm.

Grievous Harm front cover

To find out how to buy her books, visit Sandy’s site here.  

I must be a local!

I think I can just about claim to be a local to the Central Highlands region of Queensland. I’m proud of the fact that all four sets of my great-grandparents and some of my great-great grandparents were pioneers in this area.

My paternal great-grandfather, John Baker, was born at Wollombi, NSW, in 1864. He came to the Capella area in 1888, where he worked as head stockman at Cotherstone Station. In 1889 at Inverell he married Amelia Marsh, and returned to Cotherstone with his new bride. In about 1897 John moved his family to Capella where he operated a butcher’s shop, then worked at the hotel and had horse teams prior to purchasing a nearby cattle property, Malthoid, in 1910. He and Amelia lived at Malthoid until their deaths in 1930 and 1952.

My father’s maternal grandfather, Richard Eddy (Dick), was born in 1851 in Geelong, Victoria. He married Mercy Limpus in Rockhampton in 1880. Mercy had emigrated from England at the age of twelve with her widowed father, William Limpus, who worked on the railway line at Westwood. Dick Eddy had teams at Lilyvale and moved to Capella when the railway line arrived there. He carried wool from Capella to Rockhampton via Marlborough and would be away from home for six months on a trip. In 1913 he bought Hillview at Capella but soon afterwards he and Mercy moved to Rockhampton where they lived until their deaths in 1920 and 1942.

My mother’s paternal grandfather, Robert Purvis, emigrated from Scotland and married Emma Beaumont at Rockhampton in 1879. Emma’s father was a teamster at Westwood and Robert Purvis had bullock teams, carrying wool down the Dawson River. He originally selected “Glenmorgan” in partnership with William Scott but in 1880 purchased a property near Banana which he named Drumberle. He phased out sheep in favour of cattle and established a Clydesdale stud, crossing them with Thoroughbreds to breed cavalry mounts for the Indian market. Ill health forced him to retire to Emu Park in 1902. Stuart Barrett, who had married Robert’s daughter Beatrice, later purchased the property. Four of Robert’s five sons, Robert (Bob), John (Jack), William (Bill) and Henry (Harry) took up properties in the Clermont area. Robert Senior died in 1919 and Emma in 1932.

My mother’s maternal great-grandfather, Charles Paine, was born at Port Macquarie in NSW in 1843 and came to Queensland as a young man. He worked as a jackeroo in the Roma district where he married Mary Smart in 1866. They lived at Cornwall Station and Bungewogaria Station near Roma. Later he went into partnership with Henry Roberts at Cooroorah Station on the Mackenzie River. The Aborigines were very hostile and Mary had to hold off attacks with the help of an Aboriginal girl to load her rifle. This led Charles to accept the management of Collaroy Station in the Broadsound district. In 1892 he took over the management of Bladensburg Station at Winton.

Their son Frederick was born at Euthella, Roma in 1870 and married Lucy Ussher in 1891. Lucy’s father, Neville Ussher, was a mining engineer at Cawarral. Frederick and Lucy lived at Bladensburg where their two daughters were born but sadly Lucy died after giving birth to the second child in 1894. Their firstborn was my grandmother Lil who lived at Bladensburg until she was five, when she went to her Ussher grandparents who were now at Mount Morgan. Frederick Paine passed away at Longreach in 1929.

My grandparents have their own stories but I will save them for another day.


John Thomas and Amelia Ellen Baker, 1889

Interview with Jane Carter

New rural romance author Jane Carter was going to participate in a recent blog hop, then realised she wasn’t ready. I said I would post something of hers once her book was released. So here it is:

Q1 – What am I working on?

1. High Country Secrets is set in the Monaro. Strong, grazing country, bald smooth hills and in the distance, the craggy outlines of the Snowy Mountain Range. There must be something in the air of the Monaro.  The animals have constitution and the people are tough and resilient.

Jessie is from an old grazing family.  Michael d’Larghi  is an entrepreneur- into farming and transport and various family businesses. His grandfather came out from Italy in the fifties to work on the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

Jessie returns home to introduce her new fiancé, Alan, to the family. But the first person she meets is Michael, who she remembers from primary school days…..

There is an open feel to the high country – like you’re standing on top of the world. Jessie and Michael just have to reach out and grab what they want. But secrets from the past are crowding in. Everyone these days has baggage – but how much can you take?

Q2 – How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I live in regional New South Wales, in the south.  That is quite different from Queensland or the outback. Goulburn is as different to Roma as the west of Scotland is to Bath.

No matter where they come from, country people share an understated calm and strength, a trust in each other, a practical outlook. Whether this comes from handling animals or the effect of the peaceful landscape on you, I don’t know. I do know I enjoy the feeling of space and not the crush of people around you. I felt a need to write about the country and the people I have come to love and know. So part of the difference is the area I write about.  The other difference is experience – forty years  in trucking and farming.  This experience means my perspective is different than others writing in the same genre.

q3 –  Why do I write what I write

I don’t know why I write what I write. It just pours out and I have very little say in it really. I am continually surprised by what I write. Sometimes my characters just take off and I go along for the ride. I find that is the secret. Once your characters are up and running they dictate what happens next.

 Q4 – How does my writing process work?

A writing process is not exactly the phrase I would use to describe how I write.  Noise. I like the television blaring. I can write with telephone conversations going on around me and mayhem.  Possibly my editor would say that explains a lot.  But I’ve always been a multi-tasker.

Writing also takes you to places you’ve never been to before.  So you just have to trust in the magic carpet and go along for the ride. I’m a pantser, so my ride is more rocky than most.


How can you be in love with one man and violently attracted to another?

When Jessie Cranfield and Michael D’Larghi take the stage to sing together at a local fundraiser in their hometown, the last thing Jessie expects is the electricity between them. Not only has she not seen Michael for years but her fiance is sitting in the audience.

Michael is used to overcoming any obstacle in his path to achieve his goals. Now his goal is Jessie, the former girl-next-door from rural Cooma. 
But not even Michael can foresee that their attraction might uncover family secrets that could tear both their lives apart forever.

A Montague-Capulet war has nothing on the Cranfields and D’Larghis. Can Jessie and Michael risk falling in love, or is it too much for their families to bear?

Buy it now, for only $4.99.

Jane Carter lives in Goulburn, NSW with her husband Richard. Raising five children, farming and helping to run a livestock transport business kept her busy until a few years ago when the last of the children left home and she started writing. Daughter of journalist, author and film maker Lionel Hudson this is perhaps not quite so surprising. She worked in films and television, before she was married. Forty years in the country has made her passionate about rural Australia and the people who make it unique. She enjoys her garden, particularly after rain, adores her grandchildren and anything at all to do with boats.



Another round of mustering done!

Recently we finished a round of mustering here on our two properties, branding calves, weaning, drafting strays, treating some of the cattle for ticks sand sending a load of bullocks to the meatworks. This year I wasn’t organised enough to have the camera on the job, but here are some photos I took this time last year.

We hired my nephew with his helicopter to muster bullocks and heifers for sale. This was the first time we had used the chopper for mustering as we’ve don’t have a large acreage by Queensland standards. But we’d had a very wet season, making the creek country full of long grass and unsafe to muster by horseback or motorbike. The last photo is our truck with double-decker stock crate, ready to load.



In these photos is the yarding of weaners (calves old enough to be taken from their mothers – these were bigger than normal as circumstances had prevented us mustering at the optimal time) and my husband loading the feeder with hay.



The last photo is my husband with his quad bike and the friend who helped us, riding my mare, Whiskey. Since then we have purchased two more quad bikes and this year we did all the mustering with quad bikes. I used to love mustering on a horse but circumstances have changed!