BP: Visiting Australia is definitely on my bucket-list. I'm so excited to learn more about your culture and how it influences your writing. Can you tell our readers what part of Australia are you from?
AH: I live in Hunter Valley in New South Wales, a beautiful wine-growing region with vineyards around every sweep of the road. Great spot for a Sunday drive or a weekend getaway with wine and food on your doorstep.
BP: Reminds me of Napa from the way you describe it. I need to come visit someday.
BP: It's fall here in the States, what season is it where you live right now?
AH: Right now we are into our spring but it feels like summer. The days are so warm already, I love it.
BP: Outback Steakhouse, Shrimp on the Barbie, kangaroos, and the Crocodile Hunter are all icons that Americans associate with Australia. Okay, Okay, I know you're rolling your eyes, so please tell us what Australia is really like:
AH:Ha ha, you pretty much have it there. The only thing you left out was the perfect beaches and incredible outback deserts. I moved to Australia from New Zealand over twenty years ago for the food, beaches and fantastic weather. So far I haven't been disappointed.
BP: Have you been to America before, and if so tell us about your experience:
AH:I had a whirlwind trip with a fellow writer last year. Sadly it wasn't long enough for me to visit the places I really wanted to see like the Grand Canyon or Alcatraz, New York. I did get to see the bright lights of Las Vegas and San Francisco. We took a bus tour down to Monterey and Carmel, I could easily pack up bags and move there any day. I wrote my first erotic romance RED HOT after falling in love with the coastline down at Carmel.
BP: What is the high-concept in FROM THE OUTBACK?
AH: They say opposites attract, right? Mason used to live the high life in Sydney and now all wants is to work in his country vineyard. When Sami comes along, he goes out of his way to woo her. Sadly, she thinks he is sucking up so she will sell him the farm and she fights the attraction she feels for him.
BP: What was your inspiration for FROM THE OUTBACK?
AH: When our family first looked at Hunter Valley as a possible forever place to live, we were stunned by the scenery. After living in the desert for eight years, the rolling green hills, vivid flower gardens fronting heritage listed homes and drop-dead, picture-perfect vineyards were an incredible contrast to what we were used to. My ideas for stories come from out of nowhere and it was when we were out playing tourist I got the idea for Sami and Mason's story.
BP: Please describe the setting in FROM THE OUTBACK?
AH: One of the attractive sights you come across in Hunter Valley is the sandstone mined from the hills surrounding it.In FROM THE OUTBACK, Mason uses the local stone to build his winery to match the heritage house he now calls home.
Picture perfect cellars with signature white rose bushes are a stand out as you drive through the winding roads. Row upon row of grape vines dot the sweeping landscape, drawing you into the vineyards to sample the local flavors.
BP: What features distinguish FROM THE OUTBACK from others on the subject?
AH: My heroines are sexy, sassy and hardworking. They are prepared to fight for what they want. Local knowledge lets me write a story that puts the reader bang in the middle of the town I centre my book around as I make a point of visiting these places when I do my research.
BP: In your opinion, what is the market for FROM THE OUTBACK?
AH: If you are looking for a story with down to earth characters that love the land and are prepared to fight for what they want, then you have found them in my contemporary romance books. My characters are easy to relate to. They could be the girl next door, the cowboy you passed in the stock feed store or the nurse who dressed your last injury. Characters who are real people with real issues and loves, easy to imagine in our world.
BP: Who are your favorite authors?
AH: Nora Roberts, Deborah Harkness, Abbi Glines, Karin Slaughter and LaVyrle Spencer. I adore the way all of these writers weave their stories. From the love to the macabre, they all have a great sense of 'place' and that has influenced me in my research. I want my readers to 'feel' they are part of the setting.
BP: Share a bit about your hunky Australian hero with us, and what makes him "hero" material:
AH: Mason is strong, good looking, kind, and almost too nice which gets Sami's back up. He will go out of his way to make sure Sami isn't under the assumption he has the same low ethics as his father who is badgering her to sell. Once a city man, he has found his roots in the country and is intent on running his business his own way without parental interference.
BP: Tell us what makes your heroine the "leading lady" in FROM THE OUTBACK:
AH: Sami is strong, feisty and isn't scared to take on anyone or anything. After the death of her father, she took over running the family property. But when her mother dies after a long battle with cancer, she has to move into the small town of Alice Springs to earn enough money to pay the hospital bills while trying to look after her brother. Over her job, she takes the plunge and moves to give her brother and herself a better life.
BP: What challenge, if any, did you face turning your story into fiction?
AH:I think the biggest challenge was not rushing to the end because I knew how I wanted to finish it. What I didn't know was the turmoil they would go through to get their HEA.
BP: Why do you write Contemporary Rural Romance?
AH: What girl doesn't like romance? I know the rural life because I grew up in a small country town. I remember as a child, walking to school past the farms, skating on the ice in the ditches at the side of the road in winter. That is a memory that will never leave me.
There is something about being so close to nature and I think that comes out in my rural books. I know what it's like to help bring lambs and calves into the world. What it's like to grow your own meat and survive in times of hardship on the land. But there is a special quality to the life on the land as well.
BP: Is FROM THE OUTBACK part of a series? If so tell us about what's next and/or what else you're working on:
AH: Most of my books are rural though they are all stand-alone and have outback in the title. My next book is also rural but called Coming Home.
BP: What local community/charitable organizations, or writers' groups do you belong too?
AH: I belong to the Hunter Romance Writers' Group. Fabulous bunch of ladies who push me when I need it. My beta reader is one of the group too so she isn't a faceless person I speak to on the internet. We all meet once a month a local library and go over where we are all at with our writing. The only stipulation to join was that we must be pursuing publication of our work. It's a great social event that gets me away from my computer because some days I don't leave my office unless it's to brew another pot of tea. If someone needs pushing or help plotting, there are twelve of us to offer our opinions and help and I find that works great for me.
BP: Have you won any Honors, Citations or Prizes?
AH: No, although last year I was nominated twice in the Australian Romance Readers Awards. It blew me away because I had only been published that year but my readers must have liked what I've achieved. I had to fly down to Brisbane for a photo shoot in the major newspapers with three other writers from my state and it was such a buzz.
TAMING THE OUTBACK, my first rural romance was nominated in the contemporary section. RED HOT, the erotic romance book I wrote after my USA trip, was also nominated. It was a major deal to be up against Sylvia Day in the Erotic Section. (She won by the way.)
BP: Tell us anything about you as a working writer that you think might be interesting or unusual:
AH: This one stumps me because I don't think I'm interesting at all.When I went to the States I got a tattoo at Hart and Huntington in Las Vegas. It has two antique books being lifted in the air by happy balloons my daughter drew for me. To me it means that books can take you anywhere :)
BP: Ok, Ann. Our interview is just about over but let's have a round of Five Fast Favorites.
BP: Who's your favorite book hero?
AH: Easy, Jamie Fraser from Outlander. I love a man in a kilt and he ticks all the boxes.
BP: Um, yeah. I agree completely.
BP: Coffee or Tea?
AH: Tea, herbal for preference. I've just poured myself a cup of lemongrass and ginger, yummy.
BP: I'm a tea snob, myself. ;) I have a variety of teas from Makaibari Estates. A second flush Darjeeling is my go-to. Although, I tend to drink chai lattes quite often too.
BP: Favorite hobby?
AH: Reading and gardening take equal shares of my time if I have any spare.
BP: What's the craziest thing you've ever done on a dare?
AH: I am such a wimp, seriously. I try not to put myself in those sorts of positions. Nerdy girl to the max. That would have to be getting my tattoo.
BP: Name a place on the globe you'd like to visit someday?
AH: If I say Europe that covers a lot of places. A tour with my dear hubby of where he grew up would be bliss.
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Although desperate to get out of her dead end job, Sami is cynical when she hears of an inheritance from the grandfather she never knew. But once she and her young brother arrive in the beautiful valley, she discovers they are not wanted...especially by the sexy vineyard owner next door.
Will she persevere and make a home for them, or give in and take the easy money when the going gets tough?
Available now on Amazon!