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Guest blogger: Susan Mackie

9 January 2022

A lifelong love of reading fostered a career in journalism, but it wasn’t until my children were grown that I finally fulfilled my desire to write and publish fiction.

Romance: age 12

Mills + Boon and Barbara Cartland stories were my introduction to romance novels. I was in hospital after an emergency appendectomy, age 12, and the tea lady kindly delivered a fabulous selection of well-thumbed paperbacks. Previous reads had been restricted to classics such as Black Beauty, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.

These books were wondrous and swoon-worthy, and I developed a lifelong love of romance novels. And not just romance. My reading, as I grew older, broadened to include James Michener, Jean M Auel, John Grisham, James Patterson, Nicholas Evans, Maeve Binchy and many, many more. In between ‘big’ books I would slip in a romance or two.

Romance: honeymoon

I read The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett) on my honeymoon and my (clueless) new husband had no idea that going to our room ahead of him to ‘slip into something more comfortable’ was in fact only a five-minute job and I had 45 minutes of reading pleasure before hearing his key in the door—at which point I would leap into the bed in my negligee, hair fanned out on the pillow and my ‘come to bed eyes’ turned to full beam! Sadly, my love of books outlasted my love of hubby. I wonder sometimes if it’s because the romance of our courting days (just like I read in those books) dissipated with the reality of sharing a home?

Romance: paperbacks + Kindle

The advent of the Kindle still allows me to read far more than Bloke (newer, better version than hubby) will ever know. I work my way through the paperback pile on my bedside table, but the in-betweenies I read on my kindle triple those, at least. (Nodding smugly.)

Romance: writing, reading for ‘research’

And I write. But I couldn’t write without reading. Reading allows me to procrastinate, at times, but I prefer to think of it as research. Sometimes I read a book twice; once for the story (and pleasure) and the second time for the craft—the characters, plot, structure and editing.

Romance: save the heroine?

I now notice that some of those early romance stories portray the main female character as a victim. Perhaps disinherited, no family, no means and through her charm and wits she is ‘rescued’ by a good man. A man worthy of her love and respect.

Romance: no victims here

More recently, and through my own stories, I’ve been moving away from this trope. Rather than stuff ‘happening’ to them—their situations arise from, generally, their own poor decisions and/or how they respond to events and people around them. We all make poor choices and bad decisions at times, without thinking through possible consequences, as do my characters. What makes the story interesting is how they respond to this situation of their own making. Can they rise above it, create a better outcome? And not just the women. Male characters need more than past emotional baggage to be interesting. And we all know they’re capable of making a poor decision at times, often through anger, pride and their (often inaccurate) preconceptions of themselves.

Romance: Barrington series

My debut novel, Charlie’s Will, was released in January 2020. It’s a small-town rural romance with a touch of suspense. I intended it as a standalone, but by the time it was released I was 10,000 words into book two. But it resonated so much with readers, they loved the characters and the town, that although book two already had new lead characters, I wove Angus and Rose and other key characters from Charlie’s Will into the story. I loved doing this, they had become living, feeling, imperfect beings through my fingertips and it was comforting to include them in A Place to Start Over (Nov 2021)—effectively creating a Barrington series, books one and two. Both are Amazon bestsellers in Australia and the United States.

Romance: collaboration

While writing book two, I collaborated with four awesome Aussie authors (Rhonda Forrest, Leanne Lovegrove, Emma Powell and Louise Forster) to create Love in a Sunburnt Land. It’s an anthology with five second-chance love stories (each a 30 000-word novella) themed to Australian regions as described by Dorothea McKellar in her famous poem. Mine is called Love in the Ragged Mountain Ranges. I instinctively set this in Barrington, but as a shorter story, it had less characters—merely giving a few from books one and two a mention and cameo appearances. The anthology was released in early June 2021 and the plan was to ‘split’ the five novellas out and publish them separately after six months. We did this, launching the novellas in December 2021. I’m happy to say Love in the Ragged Mountain Ranges (now Barrington #3, a novella) is also an Amazon bestseller in Australia and the United States and the anthology continues to sell well too. So much so that we are creating a Sunburnt Land Vol. 2—our first draft novellas are due at the end of January, and we will publish by May 2022. This one is themed around single dads.

Romance: community

The writing/reading community has amazed me since I began writing and publishing in earnest! As a former journalist and business owner, I have never worked within an industry that is as supportive and generous. Authors (really, really famous ones) have offered advice and tips and the cohort of reviewers and readers blow my mind. A reader recommended one of my books on Instagram yesterday, with the words ‘you need to get on the Mackie Bandwagon.’ So I’ve been roaming the house all day, telling Bloke I have a bandwagon, and should we get signs for my car? Bloke laughs—says he’s been on the Mackie Bandwagon for a long time. Who knew?! And ARRA—bless you good people, readers and authors and the whole darn team. I attended my first signing at the RWA Conference on the Gold Coast last month and sold books, lots of books. And now I’m writing my first ARRA guest blog. (Grinning. So happy right now.)

So how to end? Thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself. Thank you for your passion for reading, writing and all things books and romance.

If you love signed paperbacks, you can find them on my website. If you’re an ebook reader, the links are below.

You can find Susan here: Website | Facebook | Instagram

Buy ebooks here:
Charlie’s Will | A Place to Start Over | Love in the Ragged Mountain Ranges

Note: The covers of Charlie’s Will and A Place to Start Over are original watercolour paintings created especially for my full length books by local Warwick artist Fiona Hayes @fionahayesart

One Comment
  1. 11 January 2022 9:38 am

    Great blog, Susan 🙂

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