Interview with Janet Gover

Christina here and today I’m delighted to welcome Janet Gover to the blog! Janet is an Australian author who lives in the UK, but writes about her native country. She recently won the RWAust’s Romantic Book of the Year Award – for a mainstream novel with a strong romance running through it at this year’s RWA conference in Sydney with her book THE LIBRARY AT WAGTAIL RIDGE. Wench Anne was present and has kindly provided some photos of the occasion (thank you Anne!)

Janet and Anne

Janet and Anne

Welcome to the blog, Janet! It’s lovely to have you here. First of all, huge congratulations on winning the award! How did it feel when they announced your name and what does this award mean to you?

This was such a thrill. My journey to being an author started at a RWAust conference in Sydney in 199…  Oh dear. That does make me sound old. Nora Roberts was the guest speaker at that conference. I have always been such a fan of her work. I confess I did have a bit of a fan girl melt-down over her, which was so embarrassing. Meeting so many writers at the conference was such an inspiration. And now, to receive this award from the same organisation really is an honour.

How important do you think writers’ and readers’ conferences are to the romance community? (I know you usually always attend the ones here in the UK as well, and we’ve both been to the US a couple of times).

I love any get-together for writers. There’s always so much information to share, whether it’s about the professional/industry side of being a writer, or tips and ideas about improving your writing … to simply understanding how difficult it can be staring in terror at a blank page, with no idea of what to write next. Writing can be a lonely job, and spending time with other people who understand what we do is wonderful. And of course, every time I go to a conference, I come away with a long list of new books and authors I must read. 

I wonPlease can you tell us a little bit about the winning story?

It’s the story of a young woman, Lou, who receives a letter and an inheritance from the birth mother who gave her up for adoption. The inheritance is a mobile library and a small cottage in a rural Australian town. Although Lou goes to the town just to organise the sale of the cottage, she finds the first of a series of letters from her birth mother, which sets her on a journey to find out more about her, and to try to discover the identity of her father. She does this with the help of a neighbour Jake – who is, I confess, one of my favourite heroes ever.

Lou takes the mobile library to visit the tiny towns her mother visited, and at each one, a little more of the story emerges.   

AcceptanceI think most of us here owe a huge debt to our local libraries and very much appreciate their existence, but the library in THE LIBRARY AT WAGTAIL RIDGE is slightly different and even more important as it fulfils more than one function, am I right?

It does. In those small rural communities, the library visits are an excuse for people who live quite isolated lives to come together for a day.  This library also acts as a share point for resources for the small rural schools that don’t have much money – a share point for school books, sports equipment, even costumes for school plays. It helps keep contacts between towns, and it adds a vitality to the towns that these days often struggle to stay alive.   

You say in your acknowledgements that you have fond memories of just such a library. What did it mean to you when you were growing up?

My mobile library was quite a big truck – with a set of mobile stairs leading up to it. For a girl from the bush, who didn’t see the ocean until she was a teenager, the books in that library opened up a whole world for me. Like a lot of small town families, we didn’t have a lot of money. My parents could never have afforded to feed my voracious reading habit. The library did that for them. And the librarians were great. They introduced me to so many great stories. They never said you are too young, or this isn’t the sort of thing you should be reading. They always said try it and see what you think.

You chose to write stories set in your native country right from the start, even though you’ve lived in the UK for many years. Was it a case of “write what you know” as authors are often told to do or was it a deliberate choice?

I think living away from Australia has made me see my own upbringing in a very different way. When you live somewhere, that’s just how life is. How the world is. But when I started travelling outside Australia, I discovered that each place is so very different. Things I took for granted suddenly stood out as unique and wonderful. I’ve lived in London, New York and Hong Kong – and I think those huge cities, each wonderful in their own way, also helped me see past the everyday into the heart of the small town communities I write about.

You’re very knoCelebratingwledgeable about the Australian outback and also about horses – please can you give us a glimpse into your background?

I was actually born in Melbourne, but when I was very young the family moved out of the city, up to Queensland. I was a pony-mad little girl, who was lucky enough to live in a small rural town, where I could have a pony of my own. Followed by a competition horse … or two. And a brood mare … or two. I competed in show jumping and one day eventing, I mustered cattle on horseback, joined a drover’s team and read a lot of books. After a university education I became a TV journalist, which allowed me to meet some people who inspired me, and still do … so-called ‘ordinary’ people who are in fact quite extra-ordinary in so many ways. Meeting my first computer back when windows were something you cleaned and a mouse was what the cat brought in eventually led to a second career in technology which took me around the world. I’ve lived or worked in more than 60 different countries, and I guess that is what strengthened my great love for the place I grew up.

Your love for your country comes through loud and clear in all your books. Do you miss living there or are you happy just to visit regularly. (I know a little about this as I travel back and forth to Sweden a lot).

I married an Englishman I met in Hong Kong (as you do) and I do love living in London. But there’s a lot I miss about Australia and I go back there as often as I can. I still have family there. I don’t think I will ever leave that behind.  

Janet and Channing Tatum

Janet with hero inspiration

A lot of us here at the Word Wenches love dogs and you have an adorable puppy in your story. He’s not just a pet though, but being trained as a guide dog. Is the wonderful work people like your hero does (and our own Wench Nicola too!) something you wanted to highlight?

I was inspired by Nicola when I added puppy Ollie to the story. My hero Jake is forced by circumstances to do something he’s not comfortable with. I wanted the readers to understand that beneath that, he’s a wonderful guy, and I think raising guide dog puppies is such a giving and kind thing to do, it was a perfect way of showing what’s really in his heart. Just today I had a message from a reader who herself has a guide dog, thanking me for including Ollie and the guide dogs in my story. That means as much to me as the award.

Please can we have a short extract from THE LIBRARY AT WAGTAIL RIDGE:-

Luca’s hand looked incredibly frail as she reached for the door handle. Her fingers wrapped around the frosty metal, but she felt nothing. She gripped as tightly as she was able, twisted and pulled. The newly constructed door opened smoothly and she silently blessed her small town. She hadn’t been able to open the big front doors of her shed for some time now. Her friends had spent an entire day installing this smaller door so she could return to the place that was the whole world to her.

Inside the shed it was quite cold, but Luca was well rugged up. It was dark too, despite the beams of winter sunlight spearing through the cracks and holes in the timber walls. Luca didn’t need much light. She knew every inch of the shed and the vehicle stored in it as well as she knew her own kitchen. Until recent weeks, she had spent far more time here, sorting the contents not only of the truck, but of the boxes stored on the shelves that lined the back wall of the shed. She couldn’t read the labels in the darkness, but she didn’t need to. The lower shelves were all boxes of school textbooks, maths and English and history ready for the next intake of students who needed them. The boxes on the second shelf held musical instruments and sports equipment. Close to the door were a couple of boxes of fabric and yarn. The art materials box was empty, but it always was. Paper and paint and crayons were always in high demand.

She crossed to the truck and laid her fragile hand against its familiar and comforting shape. Her bones were as brittle as birds’ wings. Her skin was almost translucent, exposing a network of blue veins. Luca wasn’t as old as her hands looked, but that was what illness did to a body. There was nothing she could do to stop the tremor in the hands that had once driven this truck through the bush or repaired a delicate book … or held a child.

She gently caressed the letters painted on the side of the truck. They had faded a little and the layer of red dust made them dull, but Luca felt the same passion she had always felt for this wonderland that had given her so much joy. She felt a welcome sense of familiarity, almost like coming home, as she opened the door set in the side of the truck. The stairs were folded safely away and she opened the panels below the door and took hold of the metal frame. Her strength was barely up to it but finally the steps slid into place with a familiar and satisfying click. That sound had always heralded the start of a new and exciting journey, and not just for her.

Luca gripped the rail firmly as she climbed into the interior of the truck. The lights came on at the touch of a switch. She had known they would. One of her friends would have made sure everything was ready for her to make this last visit to the library. She was exhausted by the time she slid into the chair behind the small desk bolted to the wall. Walking from the house to the shed had sapped what little energy she was still able to muster. She would have to rest a few minutes before she could do what she had come to do.

Closing her eyes, Luca took a deep breath. Despite all these weeks left idle in the shed, the mobile library had retained all its magic. That magic came from the books that lined the walls. Even with her eyes closed, she could see each one of them in its proper place on the metal shelves. She loved them all, but some were special.

The rear wall was given over to the children’s collection, from books with colourful numbers and letters to learn, to Dr Seuss and Little Grey Rabbit. Luca could once have recited the words of all her favourites. The books for the older kids resided in the higher shelves. Pride of place in the middle went to the brumbies—white horses roughly sketched against a mountain backdrop. She must have read them all a dozen times over the years, and had always planned to read them again. She probably didn’t have enough time now.

Janet Gover - The Library at Wagtail RidgeOn the left wall of the library, the top three shelves held a well-worn cluster of romance novels. She always smiled when she saw a male reader surreptitiously slide one of those from the shelves when he thought no-one was watching. She always kept the book between two meaty crime novels as she checked it out. She’d often wondered what the slightly embarrassed romance fans would have said if they knew how many other hatted and booted stockmen and farmers had a soft spot for a happy ever after.

The single poetry shelf had attracted fewer visitors, but her bush poets had been eager, and the turnover had always been high.

She could still hear the voices. And see the eager faces. Have you got any more books by this author? Thank you for suggesting this; it was great. I cried as I read the last chapter … Fascinating … Interesting … Wonderful.

Yes—full of wonder. Those were the words she used when she talked about her little mobile library. A magical place of dreams and wonder for young and old alike. Even after both she and the library were no longer ‘official’ she had kept those dreams alive for herself and for readers in the small towns that had been forgotten or left behind. So many books. So many readers. So many memories. But not one of them as important as what she was about to do.

Luca picked up the tote bag she’d brought from the house. She carefully laid the writing paper, pen and envelopes on the desk. Then she pulled a photograph in a silver frame from the bag and placed it where she could see it. She looked at it for a long time. Her own face was much changed from that of the young woman in the photograph. She barely recognised herself now. The child would be a young woman today, but Luca would still know her. She was the reason Luca had made the effort to come all the way to the library today. She could have done this in the house and saved herself both the physical and emotional journey, but so much of her life had been lived within these walls that she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

The first letter was easy to write, despite the tremor in her hand. The recipient had received detailed instructions months ago. He knew what she wanted and he would do it.

But the second one …

Her hand hovered over the white sheet. She had written this letter in her mind so many times over the past couple of years, and while the words had been different each time, every one of them had said the same thing—words that were so important they might begin a journey of discovery, or lay waste to her best hope. She would never know which.

Luca took a deep breath and looked once more at the photograph. She didn’t need the doctors to tell her she had very little time left. She could only hope that when she was gone, her words would be read by that little girl.

She picked up a pen.

My Darling Daughter …

 

Thank you so much for joining us today, Janet, and many congratulations again!

Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Janet is published by HQ Fiction HarperCollins Australia and THE LIBRARY AT WAGTAIL RIDGE is her latest novel, but there are many more so please check out her website for details! She will be giving away one copy of her book to one of our readers who comments below – the winner will be chosen at random.

You can find Janet at:-

Twitter/X:  @janet_gover

Instagram:  janetgoverauthor

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/janetgoverbooks

Website:  www.janetgover.com

Do you like books set in unusual locations like the Australian outback?

22 thoughts on “Interview with Janet Gover”

  1. Wow Janet – what a life you’ve lived! The book sounds so good with just the excerpt bringing a tear to my eye. I can’t wait to read it.

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  2. Hi Jeanne. Aww – thanak you. I cried a couple of times when writing the book – and making a reader cry (in a good way) is such a great compliment. I loved writing this book – and the hero, Jake, is definately one of my favourites. Janet X

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  3. Welcome, Janet, and thank you and Christina for the interview. THE LIBRARY AT WAGTAIL RIDGE sounds wonderful; I wish you and it much success!

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  4. Thanks for this, Janet and Pia! Needless to say, I’ve bought the book and I look forward to starting it. I’ve visited Australia several times and loved it, and I really enjoy returning to it in books!

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  5. Janet, welcome to the WordWenches. It was lovely meeting you at the RWAust conference, and to be there when you won the R*BY (Romantic Book of the Year) in your category. Sorry the photos turned out a bit blurry — the excitement of the night, I think.

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  6. Hi Anne. I had the best fun at the RWAust confefrence. It ws lovely to share the excitment of the win with you. I love that photo of the two of us. Blurry photos are a pretty good representation of how I felt – very excited and totally unable to sit still for more than a couple of minutes. J XX

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  7. Thank you Teresa. I know we aren’t supposed to have favourite books or favourite characters – but I must confess this is possibly my favourite. But than, I think I say that about everey new book. 🙂 Janet X

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  8. What a fantastic interview, Janet and Christina, thank you! Janet, I’ve been a big fan of your books for ages and it’s lovely to see you here on the Wenches. I’m so happy that our guide dog pups had a part in inspiring this wonderful story!

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  9. Thank you, Janet and Christina for this wonderful interview. I was on a tour of Australia, and the outback area of Uluru was spectacular seeing the deep red rock.
    The details in the excerpt are captivating and drew me in to Luca’s remaining time in her life making amends to a daughter she never saw grow up.
    I enjoy reading about guide dogs and the work they do to help people in so many ways.
    All the best to you, Janet, with this great book!

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  10. Thank you both for the terrific interview and the introduction to a new to me author. When I was a kid, I lived in rural Indiana and the Bookmobile was a wonderful thing for a child who was addicted to reading even then. Cereal boxes don’t have great plots, but they were something I could read. Thanks again for the review.

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  11. This book sounds very interesting! I do love reading books set in Australia. Loved the way the new book is set up. Plus anything that has a library in it is a win.
    My county has a very active book mobile program even though there are 15 branches in the county. They take it to all kinds of special events to promote the library and to areas of the county where children don’t have the ability to get to a library easily.
    Congrats on your recent reward and good luck with your latest book release.

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  12. Hi Patricia. Uluru is awesome, isn’t it. It’s a part of the country I deeply love. I always think that our emotions are much closer ot the surface in these huge outback spaces, which is why I love writing abut them too. X

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  13. I too have been known to read the back of a cereal box if there’s nothing else handy. They lack a bit in characterisation too. 🙂 It’s nice to hear about other mobile libraries, helping book addicts everywhere. XX

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  14. Hi Vicki. Thanks for reading the opening to The Library At Wagtail Ridge. Libraries are such an important resource for people everywhere- but as you say especially in rural areas. Our libraries are under threat from funding cuts, and its great to hear of a place where libraries are valued as they should be. X

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  15. Huge thanks everyone for your lovely comments and thank you to Janet for being my guest – really enjoyed doing this interview!
    The winner of the giveaway will be announced on Sunday!

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