Tell Us Your Backstory with Janette Paul
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I took our two young kids on a camping trip into Central Australia. It involved a lot of driving, pitching tents in the dark, freezing desert nights … and stunning sunsets, glorious scenery, campfires and inspiring moments. So inspiring that I decided to write a book about it.
I’d love to say I went straight home, wrote it and my life as an author began – but I’m not that kind of girl. I’m a procrastinator. Of Olympic standard. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t making up stories in my head but I didn’t start writing them down until I was in my mid-twenties and at home with a baby. I wrote in fits and starts, starting new ones and letting life get in the way. By the time I finally sat down to write a story inspired by that camping trip, I had the beginnings of more than twenty stories and not one ending.
It took me four years to get to the end of what became the original version of Amber and Alice and I discovered the joy of finishing: seeing characters through to the end of their journey, understanding the story as a whole and the incredible sense of accomplishment. I thought the book was brilliant, of course, and sent it to publishers, starting another story while I awaited the inevitable replies.
Life as an author didn’t fall in my lap then, either – because it doesn’t happen like that. Publishers weren’t interested in the story so I tucked it away and I consoled myself with learning the craft of storytelling. My procrastination turned to other things, like housework and hobbies, while I filled my time with writing, finishing two more books before my life as an author began. I became Jaye Ford, suspense author, penning five gritty suspense novels, and also Janette Paul with the romantic comedy Just Breathe.
Last year, when my publisher asked if I’d like to write another rom-com, I was happy to leave my dark self behind for a while to be light and funny again – and I started thinking about that first book, the only one that hadn’t been published and gathering dust in a drawer (yes, the pages had been printed off an old computer!).
I read the first couple of chapters and realized why publishers hadn’t been interested. It was terrible. Really. Terrible. But it had captured the outback I’d loved and I decided to rewrite it. It needed a complete overhaul but with the experience of six novels, I knew what had to be done and had a lot of fun killing off characters, inventing new storylines and writing wittier dialogue. I even went back to Alice Springs and Uluru for fresh inspiration. What’s not to like?
The result is Amber and Alice, both the first and seventh book I’ve written. It holds a special place in my writer’s heart as the one that taught me about the joy of writing and set me on the path to my life as an author. In it, Amber Jones treks through the desert as the unwilling participant on a camping tour into Central Australia and, like me, discovers a new life can be hers, if she dares to follow a different horizon.
Amber and Alice
When Amber Jones wakes up in her sister Sage’s speeding car, with no idea how she got there (though the hangover is a clue), all she wants to do is go home. But Sage is convinced a road trip to Alice Springs will finally answer the burning question: who is Amber’s father? Because nine months before Amber’s birth, her late mother Goldie made the same trip . . .
Armed with just a name and Goldie’s diaries, Amber agrees to search for a man she’s never met in one of the world’s biggest deserts.
And that means spending two weeks in a convoy of four-wheel-driving tourists and camping in freezing desert nights. To make matters worse, her fellow travellers hate her and the handsome tour leader Tom thinks she’s an alcoholic.
But slowly the desert starts to reveal its secrets – and Amber must decide which horizon to follow . . .
Sometimes the place you need to be isn’t on any map …