Character Interview with @SusanLattwein ‘s Lily from the Arafura Series

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My first ever character interview is with Lily, the boisterous and excitable sister of protagonist Kat Howard from Arafura.

Thanks for joining me Lily. Now, I’ve gotten to know your sister quite well these past few months, and she is obviously passionately in love with Adam. What’s your attitude to wuv, twue wuv? Are you going to search for it, or wait for it to fall in your lap?

True love? No such thing, babe! My sister, Kat, thinks there is, even love at first sight (I guess Adam is a catch but he’s not as hot as Ben). Knights in shining armour on their trusty steeds don’t exist, just ordinary (some less than ordinary) dudes trying to navigate their boats like the rest of us. Let’s face it, we all have issues. I do love Ben, (you have me worried now that I’m not demonstrative enough in public…). I guess he’s the one, but after watching my dad come out of the closet, well, that kind of threw me, made me careful, you know? I might have to talk to Susan, address that in the third book of the series….

Any previous boyfriends we should know about? Has anyone come close to being ‘the one’?

 I did date a Captain in the army for a couple of years before Ben. He was Hollywood handsome, flew planes, drove a sports car, but he was emotionally distant, reminded me of a tantalising chocolate with a rock hard caramel filling—not worth the effort or the calories. That’s where I learnt it’s not all about looks, and I’m not proud the way I ended it. Looking back, I was a bit of a bitch and have had the odd nightmare apologising to him.  

 ‘The one?’ Ben ticks a lot of boxes. Is there such a thing as ‘the one’, except in fiction?

 Okay, I know you and Ben are together, but your relationship reminds me of the ‘comfortable’ relationship Kat had with her (now) ex. Sorry Ben! Look, clearly you guys have a good, solid relationship but… ROMANCE, y’know?

 You guys seem a little more like really good friends with benefits.

 You can tell me to back off any time. And, I know, here I am, saying romance isn’t my thing either, but I’d rather not be in a relationship at all. Wow, okay, hope I haven’t ticked you off too bad.

 You’re a straight talker like me, Marigold. I like that.

 There’s a lot going on behind the scenes you don’t know about.

 Arafura is Kat’s story, I get that. Secretly, I think it’s ended up that way because Susan has the hots for Adam. She goes for the charming, rugged , playful, damaged types. For authors, types like Ben are boring. The worst that’s ever happened to Ben was getting tomato on his school lunches.

 As for Ben and my relationship – here’s the real deal. You remember the night Kat turned up at my bungalow on the dot of midnight with Adam? Well, Ben was  pressed up behind me at the front door, his hands discretely hidden under my sarong, exploring, doing things that happen in erotic fiction, not romantic suspense. Forget friends with benefits, that man has an imagination with benefits! I couldn’t talk, so of course the whole scene had to be rewritten.

 No there’s nothing wrong with Ben and my sex life, Kat is the prude, or should I say was? I’ve just got to get over my commitment phobia—you’ve made me realise that’s where I might be a little like Lucas? Oh, God no….

Hm, interesting! But  let’s go to another topic now. What was it like growing up in Darwin? Besides stinking hot.

Darwin is so hot and tropical, it’s cool. Temperatures mostly fluctuate between 30-32 degrees Celsius year round.

Kat and I are both only children, so when she came to live with us after her parents died, my best friend moved in and became my sister. Kat was real quiet when she first came, and it took her months to relax. My parents had an open house,  visitors all the time, a great pool, that’s part of the reason Dad wanted to start his  boutique resort. He loves socialising.

We went to school in bare feet, with Jess Mauboy’s cousin actually. There was a huge mixture of cultures in friends at school, no one cared back then where you were from. I liked that. In all honesty though, some kids had scary home lives.

 Darwin was and still can be red neck, but we weren’t in that orbit, thank goodness. You find your own level anywhere, I guess.

 Was trying to rescue your sister as fun as you made it out to be?

I was freaking terrified, Marigold. But with Ben, Dad and Robert there I felt nothing could go too wrong. Call me naive, but Mel’s chilli spray is ace, I keep some in my handbag all the time now.

Yes, rescuing Kat and Adam was dangerous that night, but remember I was waiting in Dad’s boat, not being shot at in the dinghy. I was on a high, and seeing Kat safe and in one piece was a huge relief.

Got any career aspirations? Big dreams?

I’m studying Tourism and Hospitality through Charles Darwin Uni, don’t think Susan mentioned that (it’s all about Kat and Adam, Adam and Kat…not that I mind, I know my place as a secondary character) 

Big dreams? What a scary question. Have kids, with Ben? Maintain a happy, healthy family, a fulfilling relationship with my partner?

I’ve inherited my father’s head for business so may buy him out one day.

Kat wants to help Indigenous kids with their literacy—I’d like to be involved in that although I don’t have a teaching degree (I think teachers, oh and police, are under-valued and underpaid).

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 And the most important question, are you going to get a dog? C’mon…

No way, do you know how often Biscuit is at our place? That sooky mutt has issues the way he sucks up to Ben and Adam. I give him treats and he doesn’t love me half as much as he should.

Kat and my friend, you know Sophie? Her Jack Russell is having puppies, so don’t tempt me…

Thanks for answering my questions, Lily! You’ve revealed a lot, and I’m curious to find out what happens in your future (and I appreciate you didn’t mind me crossing a line there with your personal life). Here’s to more Arafura adventures!

Mini Story: Don’t Take Anything Lying Down

The air-conditioning was too cold, and I was still sweating. My knees couldn’t be still; if it wasn’t the left then it was the right, bouncing up and down to the point where the person next to me shifted away out of fear of being hit. I forced my eyes onto the cover letter I held in my hand, reviewing and revising and committing it all to memory. I was as prepared as I could be. Now it just needed to be over.

“Thomas Lane.”

The bloke next to me rose and I was the only person left in the waiting room. Even the receptionist had gone home. Why was this taking so long? My interview was for four-thirty, and it was a quarter past five.

Again, I bowed my head and read over my letter, my recommendations, and my resume. The printed sheets were just words now, no longer making any sense to me. I was too wound-up. I’d been so sure these words were the best they could be, and now I wasn’t sure of anything.

Finally, Thomas Lane walked out of the interview room, ignored me, and pressed the button for the lift. I waited. The lift came and carried Thomas Lane away. I waited some more. When a man in a suit walked out I raised my head expectantly, but he gave a start when he saw me.

“Oh shit, we’ve got another one!” He waved his hand over his mouth as if he hadn’t meant to speak so loudly, or perhaps at all. He suddenly turned tail and reclosed the interview room door behind him. I waited.

After another minute, he re-entered the waiting room and gave an apologetic grimace.

“Look, I’m sorry about this but it seems we’ve run well over time and, well, I think we’ve already made our decision.”

Who decided that this insecure person should be conducting the interviews? I’d caught the informal ‘look’ the hesitant ‘well’ and the jarring ‘I think we’ve’.

“Excuse me,” I said clearly. “How can you think you’ve made a decision? You’ve either made it or you haven’t. If you are hesitant about it, then you have not made a decision.”

He blinked, but quickly recovered. I wondered if the insecurity was an act. “No, we have made a decision. Thank you for coming in.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No.” I walked up to him, shaking with rage, and he thankfully backed away into the interview room, where another person was placing files in their bag.

“I came here on time for an interview. I deserve a fair go.”

I handed him and the remaindering person copies of my documents, and sat down at the small conference table.

He sighed as he flicked through my resume. “Alright, let’s make this quick.”

I smiled. “You won’t be disappointed.”

Interview with the Author: Mae Wood

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For my first ever ”Interview with the Author” segment, I have chick-lit and contemporary romance author Mae Wood with me to answer questions on her debut novel, Risking Ruin (which I reviewed here), as well as her writing process, and her upcoming sequel, Surviving Bitsy.

When writing Risking Ruin, how much do you draw from your own life?

Clarification: I am NOT asking about the sex scenes. That’s your business 😉

I am an employment lawyer like Marisa, so I hear about all sorts of workplace craziness.  Many of the allegations of workplace harassment in the story are drawn from events I’ve read about in court papers.  Marisa and I have the same job, but our lives differ greatly from there.  I’m married and a mother.  I’ve never been as career-focused as Marisa is, but I know plenty of women who are.  I don’t draw from my life per se, but I do draw from stories of my career-minded friends who are in their 30s and struggling through (or have struggled through) awful dating situations.  Trust me, that woman at the head of the boardroom table closing a billion dollar deal or speaking in front of thousands at a MacWord-style conference still has self-doubt.  I know.  I’m her “ordinary” friend and I get the emotional phone calls.

When is your moment to write?

I like to write in about 2 to 3 hour long blocks, but I’m fine with interruption.  Typically, this means I write during my child’s bath time and her nightly viewing of Peppa Pig and while she’s up and down for hour or so after I put her to bed, demanding water, more blankets, less nightlight, etc.  (Every parent knows what I’m talking about.)   That said, by the time I sit down to write, I know where I’m going.  I’ve muddled through the next steps in my head while driving home and preparing dinner.

Where are you up to with the sequel?

Tentatively titled “Surviving Bitsy,” the sequel picks up where “Risking Ruin” left off.   Marisa and Trip are in the plane on the way to St. George.  Let’s just say that Trip’s unilateral decision to “solve” the problem in their relationship is not well-taken by Marisa at first.    I’ve written about the first 20%, including Marisa getting to meet Trip’s mom Bitsy and John returning to the story.  Marisa’s firm has hired him to babysit her and make sure her relationship with Trip doesn’t mean that the firm loses Branco’s lucrative business.

You’ll note that “Risking Ruin” did not end with an “I love you” or an exchange of rings.  For me the most interesting bit in any relationship is getting from “Let’s date exclusively” to “Can I live without you?”  “Surviving Bitsy” follows Marisa as she navigates being Trip’s proper girlfriend and them trying to blend their lives together.   As for the title, Bitsy is Trip’s mom.  But this isn’t a Monster-In-Law type story.  Quite the opposite.  I can’t wait to get it wrapped up and released late summer!

Do you intend to keep the chick-lit / contemporary romance balancing act for the sequel? Is it difficult?

I love Chick-Lit. Bridget Jones’ Diary spoke to me in my 20s and I’ve never looked back.  What I love about Chick-Lit is what I find missing in a lot of contemporary romances — personal growth by the heroine in the face of a real-to-her-life challenge in the form of a career change, money problems, or just her beliefs. Classically, think Pride and Prejudice.  Many Chick-Lit stories are love stories at base, but I view them as Chick-Lit because of the tone.  I love humor.  I love puns.  I love to verbally spar.  I also crave honesty.   For me, it’s not love unless your cheeks hurt after a date because you’ve been smiling and laughing so much.   I do intend to keep the same light and honest tone the for the sequel.

Do you let your family read your work? What if they asked?

My husband detests “Risking Ruin”!  He doesn’t understand the genres of Chick-Lit or romance at all.  He’s read though the first sex scene and then just couldn’t tolerate it any longer.  I don’t take offense.  I’d rather go on a 10 mile hike in the middle of summer than read the five volume biography of Lyndon Johnson he currently has his nose in. Our tastes in pleasure reading differ and that’s fine with me.  Nonetheless, he’s my biggest cheerleader in this project and extremely proud of me.

My family has no clue I’ve written a novel.  However, my two closest friends I consider family read my work as a serial.  When I get a few chapters pulled together, they gobble them up and then tell me what they like, don’t like, and want more of.  It’s partially their fault there is sex in Risking Ruin.  So blame them if you think it’s too much!

As for them asking to read my book, my sister would roll her eyes.  My mother would be super supportive and probably really like it. And no one wants their father reading sex scenes they’ve written!  (Okay, probably someone wouldn’t mind, but I’m from the U.S. South where daddies and daughters pretend sex doesn’t exist.)

Which supporting character in Risking Ruin have you enjoyed writing the most?

I love writing Erica!  She’s a blend of several of my friends and my grandmother.  I’ve been toying with a story about Erica.   I’d love to know if readers would like more Erica.

What do you do to pick yourself up in moments of doubt? 

I ask my best friends, my cheerleaders.  “Too much?”  “More?”  They’ve told me harsher things in life than “that scene is boring” or “no one else will find that funny” or “more sex.”   It’s that level of trust and honesty that permits me to keep going.

Thank you Mae Wood for letting me interview you and answering my questions!

Have more questions for Mae Wood? Check out her Goodreads page and ask away!

You can also find Mae Wood at her blog here.

Risking Ruin is 99c/ 99p for February and free with Kindle Unlimited!