Welcome Jenn J McLeod!
I am happy to welcome Australian author, Jenn J McLeod to Book’d Out today. No stranger to embracing a second chance or trying something different, Jenn took the first tentative steps towards her tree change in 2004, escaping Sydney’s corporate chaos to buy a small cafe in the seaside town of Sawtell. Moving to the country was like coming home and she now spends her days maintaining her NSW property and writing contemporary Australian fiction—life-affirming novels of small town life and the country roots that run deep.
Jenn secured a two-book deal with Simon and Schuster, with her debut novel—House for all Seasons (March 2013) and Book 2 in the Seasons Collection—The Simmering Season— to follow in 2014. House For All Seasons is the story of four estranged friends, Sara, a breast cancer survivor afraid to fall in love; Poppy, a tough, ambitious journo still craving her father’s approval; Amber, a spoilt socialite addicted to painkillers and cosmetic procedures; and Caitlin, a doctor frustrated by her controlling family, bequeathed an old country house, who must stay for a season at The Dandelion House in Calingarry Crossing to fulfil the wishes of their benefactor, Gypsy. But coming home to the country stirs shameful memories of the past, including the tragic end-of-school muck up day accident twenty years earlier. At The Dandelion House, the women will discover something about themselves and a secret that ties all four to each other and to the house – forever.
You can read my review of House For All Seasons later HERE, please read on to learn more about Jenn and her debut…
Q & A with Jen McLeod
Q. Welcome Jenn, what five words would you choose to describe House For All Seasons?
Jenn: Small town keeping BIG secret!
Q. House For All Seasons began as a NaNoWriMo project, how much of that draft remains in the finished book?
Jenn: Quite a bit. The process of no editing, no revising (just bashing out the story without my usual editing and perfecting) seemed to sweep me along until, at 50,000 words I had a basic story outline (that I call the bones of the story). Not only that, I was concentrating on telling the story in MY words and not trying to write like someone else. I think it’s when I truly found my voice as a writer. The next part of the process involved fleshing the story and the characters out, adding death, dialogue and dialogue tags, etc.
Q. Why did you choose to structure the novel in four parts?
Jenn: I set out to write a story about four women, each as different as the seasons. Telling their stories in four parts complemented the seasons theme.
Q. What scene did you find the most difficult to write and why?
Jenn: Only one? Hmmm…
The foal scene took a lot of research, but I had such fun with it.
But probably the most difficult was the ending – mainly because I didn’t want this story to end. But alas, it had to (my publisher said so.) Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “Always leave them wanting more.” But how much more? Some readers want the never-ending story, because like me they don’t want to let go. Others are like diners who, after a lovely four-course meal, are happy to bring things to a close. So it’s a balancing act for an author to tie the loose ends together at the right time and in the right way to bring a satisfactory conclusion, while not dragging out the ending. Difficult? Yes.
Q. Are Dandelion House and Calingarry Crossing based on real locations?
Jenn: I wish! Isn’t the Dandelion House wonderful – stuck out there in the middle of nowhere? The early draft did make more of a feature of the house but I soon found the girls’ stories took over and the purpose of the house changed. Perhaps one day I’ll write a prequel that shows more of Gypsy and her life with Willow at the house, her connection with Eli and people in town.
Hmm…, that’s got me thinking now …!
The town of Calingarry Crossing is fictional, but I drew inspiration from small towns I love and live near in NSW: Ulmarra, Sawtell, Bellingen and Bowraville. Then I plonked it on the western side of the Great Divide. The Simmering Season (book two, March 2014) is also set in Calingarry Crossing, with a focus on the actual town and featuring some of the characters I couldn’t bear to leave behind.
Jenn: Q. As a debut author, what part of the process of being published has surprised you the most?
The editing. I was not at all precious about it. I thought I would be. I’d heard terrible stories of different publishers telling authors to cut entire characters from their stories, or drop to a single point of view – *gulp*. But I didn’t need to worry. Simon & Schuster were wonderfully supportive and encouraged the four-part approach, seeing it as a point of different. Having an editor who was an award-winning author herself was fantastic as she has obviously been where I am. It was great.
Q. Name three of your favourite novels by Australian women writers
Jenn: No! I refuse to only list three favourites. What I can list is what I’ve just read and enjoyed very much – P.A. O-Reilly’s The Fine Colour of Rust. I am hanging out to read Dianne Blacklock’s next novel and want to find time to read Dawn Barker’s Fractured and Helene Young’s Half Moon Bay.
Q. What is your preference?
- Coffee/Tea or other? — Coffee
- Beach/Pool or River? Beach for watching. River for fishing. Pool for cabana and cocktails!
- Slacks/Jeans or Leggings? Jeans. Jeans. Jeans. I could sing the David Dundas song right now … (who?) (“When I wake up in the morning light, I jeans and I feel alright… I pull my old blue jeans on … cha-cha!”) but that would be showing my age! (Goggle him, young-uns!) [That song is stuck in my head now Jenn - thanks! Scroll down to listen!]
- Butterfly/Tiger or Giraffe? Butterfly (as you can probably tell from reading house for all Seasons).
- Swing/Slide or Roundabout? None – I am giddy enough right now without any help.
Learn more about Jenn McLeod at
House of All Seasons is available to purchase