Today it is my extreme pleasure to introduce you to Heather Garside.
Heather grew up on a cattle property in Central Queensland. As a child she loved horses, books and the bush and these are still passions of hers. She and her husband now have a cattle and grain farm. She has two young adult children, a son whoâ€™s doing a boilermakerâ€™s apprenticeship and a daughter who is presently living many miles away in South Australia.
Heather first began writing at the age of seven and published her first novel when she was in her early twenties. At that time many towns in Central Queensland were celebrating their centenaries, and this helped inspire her historical novels set in the pioneering days. Having babies interrupted her writing and she didnâ€™t seriously return to it until many years later.
As well as being a member of the Queensland Writers Centre and the Romance Writers of Australia, she belongs to a local writersâ€™ group which meets once a month. Theyâ€™ve published two books of short stories, in which some of her work has been included. She has also had short stories printed in other anthologies.
Heather is one of a group of volunteers who once a month put together a newsletter of the happenings around her town. She works part-time at the local library and, of course, at home on the farm.
Thanks, Heather for agreeing to this interview!
You published your first book in your early twenties. How did that change your life?
It didnâ€™t change it significantly. I spent a lot of time canvassing bookstores, and was young enough to take rejections to heart! Fortunately for me, there were a lot more openings for self-published books in those days, before the national chains dominated the marketplace.
You write both novels and short stories. How different do you find those two forms and do you favor one?
I prefer writing novels as my ideas are usually too big to be encapsulated in a short story. Most of the short stories Iâ€™ve written have been aimed at a particular project, and wouldnâ€™t have been written otherwise. My favourites of them are on the long side â€“ 5-6,000 words.
When I was growing up, all my friends who read romance wanted to visit Australia. As a resident of Australia, is there somewhere else in the world you consider exotic and romantic and you’ve always wanted to visit?
Earlier this year I was able to realize a dream by visiting Canadaâ€™s Rocky Mountains and Alaska. I would also love to visit Britain, Europe and the USA. Iâ€™m sure my desire to see Greece has been inspired by Mary Stewartâ€™s use of that country as a setting for some of her novels.
What is your writing routine like?
I donâ€™t have a set routine. My days vary with work on the farm, part-time work at the local library, and volunteer activities. I tend to write when I can fit it in!
What does your family think of your writing?
Iâ€™m sure my children (both young adults now) think itâ€™s a bit weird having a writer for a mother, although my daughter enjoys reading my books. My husband is a rather blasÃ© about the whole thing â€“ or pretends to be! My mother and siblings seem to be quite proud of me.
Where did you get the idea for The Cornstalk?
In the 1980s many towns in Central Queensland were celebrating their centenaries. Most of them published books to mark the occasion, and one of these publications, featuring a tiny town called Banana, caught my imagination in particular. Banana was actually settled earlier, in the 1860s, and began life as a teamstersâ€™ town. It seemed a fitting setting for my hero, an ex-teamster.
Is there a story idea that you’ve wanted to write for a long time, but for some mysterious reason, it just won’t let itself get written?
No, I havenâ€™t experienced that problem. I do find my story ideas morphing somewhat from the original as I write.
Are you a member of a critique group and if so, how useful has it been to your work?
Iâ€™ve been a member of a face-to-face group for seven to eight years and an online group for the last two. The online group is very pro-active and has helped me a lot. The face-to-face group was also an enormous help in the early years, but hasnâ€™t been as active recently.
What is one thing you learned since you first got published that you wish you’d known before?
The main thing that comes to mind, and this is specific to my situation, is that I would have ordered more books for local sales. Some of my orders have been extremely slow coming to Australia and Iâ€™ve been without books more often than Iâ€™ve had them!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Join writing organizations (such as RWA) and writing groups, although critique groups must be approached with caution. Some people can be negative in their critiques and this can destroy a new writerâ€™s confidence. Study the craft by attending workshops and reading how-to books. Study how your favourite authors do it! And keep persevering.
Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know about you?
Thanks, Heather, for being with us today!
Rather than join her wealthy parents in England, Louise Ashford sets off to work as a governess in the frontier settlements of the Australian Outback. She finds herself in the company of a young cattleman of convict descent, a man she knows will never be accepted by her family.
Their passionate love affair is brought to a sudden end when Louise’s brother intervenes, carrying her off to England. The pain of separation is compounded by a cruel deception, and there is more suffering and shame in store for Louise. She finally returns to Australia, but can the issues dividing the lovers be resolved?
A review of The Cornstalk:
“With beautifully written prose Garside creates characters of exceptional depth–ones that take root in your heart and grow. Louise Ashford, a gutsy and strong Englishwoman takes her future into her own hands rather than allow herself be forced into marriage.
Set against an Australian backdrop, she faces both physical and emotional danger with a fortitude that commands respect and compassion. The Cornstalk is a fast-paced and engaging story of pride, jaw-clenching determination, and romance. This is a truly captivating story from a talented storyteller.”
Marilyn Gardiner – Author of Dancing Ladies, Flight of Angels, My Pretty Lady