Crime and Punishment 3: Man-traps

Before moving on from Ripon I would like to mention one exhibit in the Prison & Police Museum that brought home to me the cruelty of the era that my historical stories are set. I found a man-trap displayed on the wall. I have mentioned them in my work, but it is only when you see the ugly things close up that you realise how being caught in such a sprung trap could maim and kill, in what was a slow and excruciatingly painful way.

They were hidden in undergrowth to catch or deter poachers or trespassers. They had a spring mechanism that meant the metal jaws (many had teeth – serrated edges to really lame the culprit). However, the sentences for poachers were also severe and included hanging or transportation. Although they were a fact of life in the early nineteenth century, and had been for some time, fortunately they were banned from England C.1830. Nonetheless some must have stumbled upon them by chance and others by necessity of crossing private land…

Extract from Phoebe’s Challenge

Phoebe's Challenge KEC Thomas closed his eyes fleetingly. “Yes, we will,” he spoke the words after a few moments of silence.

“We’ll what, Didy?”

“Find Levi; he didn’t disclose us – we should help him too.”

His hand, still holding the bottle, dropped down, but his senses awoke as the clang of an iron mantrap snapped viciously shut next to him. His face paled as he looked down horrified at the sight of meshed metal teeth that greeted him. Phoebe had screamed as the great jagged jaws of the mantrap had snapped shut as Thomas lowered his arm, triggering the edge of mechanism, but fortunately his limb had not fallen within its evil grip; instead the bottle was smashed.

Extract from Hannah of Harpham Hall

HannahShe was gamely running along a path ignoring Betsy’s pleas for her to come back to her, when an arm reached out and grabbed her by the shoulder, pulling her backwards. She landed in a pool of mud and foliage.

“How dare you…you great bully!” Hannah shouted out in indignation at the figure who stood openly laughing at her dishevelled state, whilst boldly standing in front of her. Her ribbon had come loose and her hair started to fall down onto her shoulders. Her anger rose and she was about to vent her opinion at the lad, who must have only been a few years her senior, but he spoke to her first.

“You stupid little spoilt brat! Look what you nearly ran into!” He threw a stick at the ground in front of where she had been heading and, instantly, the metal jaws of a man-trap snapped shut, tearing it in two.

Hannah’s mouth dropped open. She wanted to cry out, but was too scared and confused. Betsy ran up behind her, panting heavily. She slapped the girl hard on her shoulder. Hannah fought hard to hold back her tears. This was not the kind of adventure she had envisaged. The lad looked nervously around him as her father’s voice bellowed to them through the woods, “What is the meaning of this?”

Featured image / RN

Pheobe’s Challenge and Hannah of Harpham Hall are also available to buy on Smashwords!

Congratulations to Cindy!

I was delighted to read today that Cindy Kirk has just become the President of Romance Writers’ of America, which has a membership of over ten thousand.

The RWA represents romance writers in the same capacity as the Romantic Novelists’ Association does in England and the Romance Writers’ of Australia.

These wonderful organisations are focused on advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers. They offer a network which is helpful and informative to their members as well as holding events, conferences and high profile competitions such as The RITA, RoNA and ARRA awards. Two of my own titles: Hannah of Harpham Hall and Moving On were short-listed for the now named RONA Rose award. I have been a member of the RNA for many years and find their willingness to guide new writers inspiring.

You can read more about Cindy in my interview with her earlier this year. I hope she has a really marvellous time promoting the organisation she so obviously loves.

An Interview with Janet Gover

Janet Gover

My guest author this month is an experienced novelist, TV journalist, and short story writer, as well as an award-winning Australian author, Janet Gover. She has graciously taken time out of her busy, globe-trotting schedule to answer some of my questions and share her vast experience with us.
 
Welcome, Janet!

How did your childhood fuel your love of books, travel and adventure?

Hi Val – thanks for having me here on your blog.

I grew up in a tiny bush town in Queensland. There were only 18 buildings in Bowenville back then – I know this because I counted them. There was no-one else my age in the town, and my school was many miles away. I took a bus there each day – which meant I didn’t get to hang out with the other kids after school. Our nearest ‘big’ town was Toowoomba. It had movies and shops and things – but it was quite a drive to get there and we didn’t go often. I guess would have been lonely without my ponies and my books.

My Dad was a great reader and he taught me to love books as he did. It was such a great escape. I rode to the stars with Ray Bradbury, solved mysteries with Sherlock Holmes and fell in love with many a knight in shining armour.

Books were full of people and places that were such a long way from my tiny bush town. They fired my imagination. And the really great thing is – I have managed to visit some of those places I read about – although I have yet to go into space…

On January 10 2011 floods hit Brisbane and Toowoomba. Has Toowoomba changed greatly from the place you grew up in as a result of the devastation caused?

I was in Miami, Florida, working, when those floods hit. I woke up in the morning and turned on the TV news – and was shocked by the pictures I saw. It was so hard to understand how Toowoomba, a town on the top of a mountain could have a flood. I lived and worked in Brisbane as a young journalist, and that day in Miami I saw pictures of one of my favourite restaurants being washed away.

Floods are not uncommon in Australia – and people fight back. If you went there now, you wouldn’t know what had happened.

One of the things I am very proud of is my involvement with a book called 100 Stories For Queensland. I donated a short story to this project – as did many other writers. All the proceeds from sale of the book went to help flood victims. I was pleased to be able to help, even in such a small way.

You have written stories from an early age, but when did you make that initial breakthrough into print as a fiction writer?

I was a journalist for many years – working mostly in TV. I thought it would be easy to switch from writing fact to writing fiction – but I was very wrong. It was really hard.

I tried my hand at a novel when I was still working as a journalist – and it was really bad. Seriously bad! Some years later, I moved from being a journalist to a more managerial role – where I wasn’t writing daily news stories any more. Something inside me needs to write – and that’s when I seriously started to write fiction.  It took a while to change my style. My first efforts were rejected.

A holiday in Wales changed everything for me. I was very inspired by the places we visited – the fabulous scenery, the people and their history… the dragons.  I wrote a short story called The Last Dragon. It was my first published fiction (and I still love it).

I wrote short stories for a year or two – and each taught me something else about the art of writing. And every one that was published gave me a bit more confidence. My first novel, The Farmer Needs A Wife was published in 2009, and owes a lot to those short stories.

Janet, you travel widely with your work. Do you develop plots/characters for your novels as you journey, being inspired by new experiences?

I love people watching. Everywhere I go, I look and listen and learn. People are endlessly fascinating.

One thing I have learned in my travels is that whatever the cultural differences, deep down people all over the world want the same thing – they want to find someone to share their lives with. They want a home and a family. They want to give their children a good start in life. That’s why I write the sort of books I do.

I feel most comfortable writing about places I have been – I do like to properly capture the essence of a place. As I travel more, some of that is sneaking into my work. A boat cruise around the tip of Norway in mid-winter helped me to write Bring Me Sunshine. A trip to Iraq was the key to writing a troubled ex-serviceman as a hero. Living in New York has given me a heroine – we won’t meet her for two more books, but she is waiting there for me.

What places, of the many you have visited really stand out as memorable and why?

Wow – that’s a hard one. Very place has its own magic. Even though I write contemporary novels, I am a big history buff. I have visited the ruins of Carthage, of old Constantinople and Pompeii. I walked the Great Wall of China – I had a terrible cold at the time and pretty much collapsed at the end of the day, but loved it all the same. I love the ancient feel of places like this – and wonder a lot about the people who lived there.

The other thing I love is wild places – the central Australian desert, the Everglades. A frozen lake in Norway. The Rocky Mountains. Nature is beautiful and powerful…

And, I have to say – my favourite city in the world is London. I just love walking across Waterloo Bridge as the sun sets over the Thames. Beautiful!

What top tip would you give to new writers?

Be passionate about what you write. If you don’t love your story and your characters … no-one else is going to.

And respect your reader – never give them anything but the very best book you can write.

Flight to Coorah Creek, the first in a series based in the Australian outback is out in paperback this month. Could you tell us about this exiting new series?

Flight To Coorah Creek

I am loving writing about Coorah Creek. It’s a fictional town – in the far west of Queensland. Very close to the desert. In this series, I am trying to capture the feel of the small outback towns I have known all my life. These towns are a long way from the sort of amenities we are all used to. There are no shopping centres, or cinemas. Not much in the way of hospitals or schools either. Often, they hover on the brink of collapse. Coorah Creek is a mining town – if the mine was to close, the town would die.

People who live in these towns become very close to each other. They form very tight knit communities. The books are all romances – with new hero and heroine in each one. But the town and the people of the town appear in each book. It’s a chance to see the life the characters live when they move off the centre stage.

I hope to the readers, each new book will feel a little like coming home to a place you know well and to people you love.

By contrast Bring Me Sunshine was set in a much cooler environment. This was quite a change. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Bring Me Sunshine - small

Bring Me Sunshine is set in as wild a place as I could image – Antarctica. Well, on a cruise to Antarctica. The book was inspired by my sister-in-law – who went there with her mother… who at the time was well into her sixties. What a journey for a woman of her age!

I couldn’t afford to go there myself, but my sister-in-law helped with the research. I did take a cruise to the Arctic by way of research – which was a lot of fun.

I didn’t realise until after I had finished it – but this is the first (and so far only) book I have written that doesn’t have horses in it. There are, however, several million penguins – and who doesn’t like penguins?

It’s also the first (and so far only) book I have written with a wedding in it – which is a bit strange for a romance writer.

What is next for Janet?

I am almost finished writing the second Coorah Creek book – it has a lot of horses in it. And a fabulous hero who was inspired by a trip to Iraq.

There is a third Coorah Creek novel in the back of my head – a New York girl is just desperate to go and visit the town. But she’ll have to wait until I finish book two.

I am also planning another lighter novel – set on an archaeological dig…

And then there is this tropical island – where three sisters organise dream weddings…

And the story about the circus… (which will probably have horses in it too).

I’m not sure what order I’ll be writing these books in – one this is certain though – I am not about to run out of ideas…

More from Janet

Sophie’s Dream

Buy and read now!

US Readers: Kindle / iTunes / Nook

UK Readers: Kindle / iTunes / Nook

New South Wales, Australia C. 1830

Educated in a North Yorkshire workhouse, Sophie’s life has been disciplined and cold. Sophie’s heart is not. Her imagination fuels her spirit to be free and see the world beyond the austere workhouse walls. She is found work, but once outside the control of the institution, she uses her intelligence and daring to obtain a governess’s position in a new world. Such a position would be beyond her reach in England. The agency is a sham. Deserted on Sydney’s dockside, she thinks on her feet and attaches herself to reluctant hero, Matthias Wells. Sophie is about to make her dream come true…