Meet My Muse with Marnie St Clair
When AusRomToday invited me to feature on “Meet My Muse”, this is who came straight to mind.
Yes, it’s Ursula the Sea Witch! Why she came I have no idea, but I was thrilled at the idea of having a Muse that terrible and fabulous, so I’m going with it. Ladies, meet my Muse.
Usually, what the lovely Ursula gives me is heroines. Sometimes it’s the hero who comes first, but not often. I don’t tend to get neat story ideas or hilarious, tricky situations—though I would love that (Ursula, are you listening?). I get the girl, then the guy, then I come up with the story for them. I never feel like I’m creating characters, I feel like I’m getting to know people who already exist.
No Place Like You was a little different. What I got first was Mirabook, my heroine Lily’s country estate. The fate of Mirabook hangs in the balance the entire book, and drives much of the plot.
Where did Mirabook come from? I’m from the magical New England region in New South Wales. Part of an Armidale upbringing is many, many school excursions to Saumarez Homestead. Not that I minded. Saumarez captivated and intrigued me as an eight year old, and it still does.
I also stole borrowed aspects of Lily’s life from my mother-in-law, who as a child lived between Sydney and a big sheep station somewhere in the vicinity of Bathurst. Her family stayed in Sydney most of the year, but migrated to their property for the summer. When I heard the stories of shenanigans like playing tennis on floodlit courts drunk as skunks at three am, and then, surprise surprise, having to rush to hospital with broken bones and knocked-out teeth (I don’t even want to think about who was driving or what state they were in), Lily’s back story really came to life.
In No Place Like You, the younger Lily lives for the summer holidays. It’s the only time of the year and the only place she’s really happy. Of course, a lot of that has to do with Josh Farrell, the estate manager’s son, who lives there year-round.
(Want to meet him? He’s the Hump Day Hunk for last Wednesday – J’aimee, is it possible to stick the url for that in here when it’s available?)
When Lily’s fourteen, disaster strikes, her parents separate, and she doesn’t go back to Mirabook (or have any contact with Josh) for ten years. But when she loses everything, she has nowhere else to go. Here’s an excerpt from No Place Like You, where Lily sees Mirabook again for the first time.
The ‘driveway’ was a kilometre of dirt track, towering gum trees lining both sides, paddocks beyond. She drove it slowly, looking around with hungry eyes, devouring the colours, the textures.
And then finally, there it was. She stopped the car, wanting to savour her first impressions. A stately, two-storey white glory, wrap-around verandahs on both levels dripping in iron lacework. It was surrounded by what used to be manicured gardens, now overgrown as Sleeping Beauty’s. And it really was like something out of a fairy tale, glowing white against the encroaching dusk. As beautiful as she remembered.
Sighing deeply, she continued on, up around the circular drive. No water in its centre fountain now. She parked and walked up the front steps, paused on the deep verandah she’d spent hours playing on while her mother was either sleeping off a hangover or preparing for the next one.
Thanks so much for Meeting my Muse, and hearing about how she led me to No Place Like You.
No Place Like You
Marnie St Clair
She went from having everything to having nothing—except what she really needed.
Heiress Lily Schofield never had to think about money, until suddenly she no longer has any. Left destitute by her father’s shady dealings, Lily has only one place to go: Mirabook, her mother’s country estate and the place she spent every childhood summer running wild with the station manager’s son, Josh. Until that last time, ten years ago, when everything went horribly wrong.
Strong, reliable and definitely country, Josh Farrell may have worshipped and adored his summer friend, but that was before he found out what she and her family were really like. Mirabook has stood empty for a decade, and Josh has been waiting a long time for the chance to turn the tables and make Mirabook his own.
But now Lily is back in town, looking to make the move permanent, and all Josh can see is the truckload of unfinished business she brought with her…
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