Put down the phone, live the moment,
then take notes.” – Georgina Penney
More on that in a minute. First I’ll spruik Georgina’s new novel, Summer Harvest. I have a copy to give away.
WHAT: Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney, published by Penguin, rrp $32.99, also available as an e-book. An Englishwoman deserted by her husband while she’s undergoing treatment for breast cancer is sent to Western Australia on holiday by a well-meaning granny so she can “get away from it all”. She ends up in the Margaret River wine region, tangles with the wildlife and eventually, the men. Georgina has a breezy style and a penchant for eccentric characters. She believes this is because she’s slightly left-of-field herself. In this book there’s also more serious themes. Summer Harvest illustrates the importance of cross-generational friendships, mature relationships and their sexuality in fiction, and explores the rollercoaster of breast cancer. Georgina’s lively, engaging novels are easily devoured on travel adventures or on holiday.
WHO: Georgina Penney … where do I start … writes from her cosy home surrounded by beautiful icy wastes in Scotland, where she lives with husband Tony. She’s travelled a lot, having lived all over Australia, in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Brunei Darussalam. She’s had several creative changes in career from learning to paint, the IT boom to becoming the registrar of a massage and naturopathy college. Georgina was introduced to romance novels at an impressionable age, and somehow, has never been able to escape them. So she started writing them. Her first book Fly In Fly Out was published in 2015.
Q&A with Georgina
- What advice would you give to writers looking to draw upon travel experiences for their fiction?
Truly experience the places you’re visiting. Put down the camera. Put down the phone. Talk to people and listen to their stories. You will never, ever know what you’re going to learn by just looking at someone and making assumptions. Smell the smells (however interesting they are sometimes), really see what you’re seeing, listen in to conversations around you, watch how people move, how they talk and then take a hell of a lot of notes, preferably in a notepad so you’re not taken away from the experience you’re in, by technology. And then allow yourself some quiet time to reflect on what you’ve learned and experienced. When you’ve done all that, get whatever feels right down on the page, whatever the genre, whatever voice comes out.
- Did you draw on life experiences for this new novel? Mature relationships don’t get much traction in commercial fiction.
Summer Harvest was initially inspired by a dear friend of mine going through the aftermath of breast cancer, but since then, I’ve had all too many friends who have been diagnosed and who are now thankfully coming out the other side. Having the privilege of seeing how they tackled cancer’s effect on their sense of identity, their relationships and the people that love them has been a real eye-opener and was truly inspiring. I just hope I did my friends’ experiences justice!
On the topic of mature couples: the joy of being an expatriate woman is that I don’t quite live within the usual constraints that govern a 30-something-year-old woman in Australia. Because I’ve moved so much and travel a lot, I’m seen as a little eccentric and that’s allowed me to befriend people of all ages, including women who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. When writing Summer Harvest, it didn’t make sense to me not to have mature people and couples when they’re such a lovely part of my life.
- Was it difficult to write about them?
It was. Although, the hardest part was working up the bravery to show my finished manuscript to my friends who had gone through the things my character Beth had lived through. Thankfully they were honest and helped me shape Beth into a character I’m extremely proud of.
- Can you describe your surroundings and your writing routine?
I’m afraid I’m a little boring! I write in my study, a book lined room with the odd comfy couch, a very messy desk and an extremely belligerent cat. And my routine is well… pretty routine! I get up, have a cup of tea and get to it. I generally don’t let myself get up from my chair or do anything else until I have my daily word count. It sounds all very disciplined but if I’m honest, I’m an inveterate procrastinator and daydreamer and the strict routine is the only way I force myself to get anything done!
- I know lawyers and other professional women who write bodice rippers. I once attended a romance writers convention – to write a feature story on it – and was amazed at the diversity of the writers. I couldn’t find a Barbara Cartland among them. What’s the attraction?
Well, I do have a propensity for pink handbags and shoes with a bit of bling. I haven’t gotten a Pomeranian and dyed it pink yet, but you never know! On a serious note, life is pretty hard when you get down to it and intelligent, thoughtful people do enough reflecting on the difficulties they face, whether that be illness, family problems, work problems or just plain life, that they need something to feel good about.
Much like the way crime fiction identifies the source of a culture’s anxiety about safety in the form of the serial killer and then neutralizes it through the detective so that the reader can close their book and sleep easy at night, romance identifies those difficult bits of life we all go through at the most base level – love, sex, death, marriage and kids -and then gives the reader resolution so that whatever they’re going through in that moment feels just that little bit easier.
My first exposure to romance came when I was 10 years old. A friend of the family took me to see her 70-year-old neighbour who was dying of breast cancer. While she was there, the friend gave the lady a bag of romance novels and I asked what they were. The elderly lady explained they made the horrible things go away for a little while so she could feel a little bit better. And to this day, I still believe that’s 100% true.
I could still do with that pink Pomeranian though…
One lucky reader
All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post, or on Taste for Travel’s Facebook page, chuck me a Tweet, or throw me a heart on Instagram. I’ll pick a winner at random in two weeks. Too easy.