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Guest blogger: Barbara Hannay

5 August 2018

With a background of writing more than forty category romances, I guess it’s no surprise that my single title novels also have a strong romantic focus. In fact, these stories are multigenerational, so there’s usually more than one romance, which is fun for me.

However, these bigger books have also given me the chance to explore women’s relationships beyond the romantic, as mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. I’ve also been able to explore emotional issues in greater depth, such as grief, longing for a baby, ageing and loneliness. But perhaps the biggest ‘extra’ that I’ve found while writing books for Penguin Australia has been the addition of a historical thread set during World War 2.

This began with Moonlight Plains and a romance set in Townsville just as the city was inundated by American servicemen in 1942. Since then I’ve taken my characters through the ordeals of the London blitz and the jungles of New Guinea in The Secret Years. I’ve had a heroine nursing in Singapore before and during its fall in The Grazier’s Wife, and I included a romance between a young Englishwoman and a White Russian refugee in Shanghai just before the outbreak of war in The Country Wedding.

In my current release, The Summer of Secrets, the WW2 thread explores the little-known heroism of the female pilots who ferried massive bombers from the factories where they were made to the RAF airbases where the men took over (naturally).

Researching these historical threads required quite a lot of extra work, but modern history was one of my majors back in my uni days, so I thoroughly enjoyed this process. Working out how to weave these historical threads with a contemporary romance was a steep learning curve, but again, I loved the challenge.

I’m not a plotter, though. I’m sure I would be bored if I knew everything that was going to happen in my book before I started writing. I do this weaving of the two narratives intuitively and often I don’t know exactly how it’s all going to come together until the characters whisper in my ear. I am, however, a slow writer and I work on each chapter until I’m happy, before I move on to the next. Also, if I realise I’ve headed down a wrong path, I usually go back and fix it straight away, rather than rushing through a first draft and making changes later. That’s my process and I don’t seem to be able to change it. I fantasise about writing a quick first draft and seeing where it takes me, but I suspect it will never happen.

My new novel, The Summer of Secrets, is mostly set in the office of a small country newspaper, The Burralea Bugle, in a fictitious town on the beautiful Atherton Tablelands where I now live. Sydney journalist, Chloe Brown, escapes from heartbreak to take a job there, but soon discovers she’s not the only ‘escapee’. The paper’s editor, Finn Latimer, is a former foreign correspondent who is struggling with grief after a family tragedy in Thailand.

Throw in a marriage in jeopardy for the paper’s elegant, sixty-something owner and the mysterious disappearance of the town’s popular young baker, as well as the historical thread, and I had plenty of story and secrets to keep me happy.

Can you tell that I heart my job? I feel so lucky to be able to spend my days doing something I truly love. I’ve dedicated this book to my readers. I wanted to say that you’re the ‘wind beneath my wings’. It’s not exactly original, but I’m going to say it here anyway. It’s the truth. Thanks to all of you who support romance. xx

You can find Barbara here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Summer of Secrets

Sydney journalist Chloe Brown is painfully aware that her biological clock isn’t just ticking, it’s booming. When her long term boyfriend finally admits he never wants children, Chloe is devastated. Impulsively, she moves as far from disappointment as she can – to a job on a small country newspaper in Queensland’s far north.

The little town seems idyllic, a cosy nest, and Chloe plans to regroup and, possibly, to embark on single motherhood via IVF. But she soon realises that no place is free from trouble or heartache. The grouchy news editor, Finn Latimer, is a former foreign correspondent who has retreated after a family tragedy. Emily, the paper’s elegant, sixty-something owner, is battling with her husband’s desertion. Meanwhile, the whole town is worried when their popular young baker disappears.

As lives across generations become more deeply entwined, the lessons are clear. Secrets and silence harbour pain, while honesty and openness bring healing and hope. And love. All that’s needed now is courage…

One Comment
  1. 5 August 2018 2:57 pm

    Hi Barbara

    I loved this book and can highly recommend it.

    Doing all of that research must be very enjoyable and I am sure that things come to mind for more stories while researching all good for us readers

    Congrats on another keeper

    Have Fun


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