As well as writing romance, Dr Sandra Antonelli has taken her passion for creative writing to the next level and made it her mission to study the romance genre. Her masters and doctorate both explored older heroines in romance fiction, and as well as writing mature characters into her novels, Sandra continues to research sexism, ageism, and the portrayal of women over the age of 40 as protagonists in romance fiction, genre fiction, in film, and TV. Sandra loves going to the movies by herself and is determined to prove that foxy doesn’t end at forty, and grey hair shouldn’t be seen as a turn-off.
Sandra’s novel – At Your Service – centres around a female butler called Mae Valentine, who is unwittingly tangled up in a curious mystery with her enigmatic client, the James Bond-esque Major Kitt. The story is set mostly in current-day England, with witty banter and simmering tension between the two lead characters as they chase criminals and a missing trust fund. At Your Service is the first book in the ‘In Service’ series. I enjoyed the bursts of dry, tongue-in-cheek humour, the quirky twists, and had to laugh out loud when a bad guy was impaled on a toilet brush. It’s fun, sexy and adventurous reading and will hit the mark for anyone who likes their protagonists smart, experienced and emotionally intelligent.
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table:
I don’t have an actual bedside table, but I’m currently re-reading Death of a Citizen by Donald Hunt, which is so much fun—and kind of sad because most people think of Dean Martin playing Matt Helm as a precursor to Austin Powers when Matt Helm is a middle-aged spy nothing like Austin Powers, Tight Rope by Amanda ‘Jayne Ann Krentz’ Quick, and A Touch of Forever by Jo-can-do-no-wrong Goodman.
Where do you do most of your writing?
At the desk in our psychology practice, the kitchen bench, the café table at our little cottage in the country, and an actual café.
Favourite Australian holiday destination:
Hmmm. Hobart is awesome, but so is Perth and Melbourne.
What’s your preferred drop?
I don’t believe in feeling guilty about enjoying something.
Only one? An industry that persists in sustaining the notion that romance is only for young women because women over 40 are all washed up, worthless, and done with sex and love.
Favourite fictional couple and why?
Harry and Victoria in Jennifer Crusie’s Trust Me On This for being sexy sixty-somethings who are secondary characters who really, really, really deserve a book of their own
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be?
I’d skip the tropics and head to the mountains in New Mexico and I’d pack peanut butter and a ton of coffee.
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for:
Sasha Cottman and Maya Linnell!
Established authors who inspire you?
Jo Goodman—dumbfoundingly talented; Anna Campbell—encouraging, guru-like, full of grace and puns; Amy Andrews—ballsy, hilarious, and nurturing; Elmore Leonard—a jaw-droppingly great storyteller; Ainslie Paton—smart, frank, daring, supportive; Rebekah Turner—drinks all the coffee, tells a totally bitchin’ story, has dogs I want to keep.
Best thing about being a writer?
I get to make up stuff and earn enough money from making up stuff to buy the more expensive coffee. It’s a perfect fit for an introvert who loves drinking coffee.
Worst thing about being a writer?
Self-promo, marketing, the time suck of social media, the occasional bouts of sciatica that come from sitting too long.
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing?
I usually listen to music. I make playlists for each book, and the playlists have a theme, mood, or something that reflects elements of the story and characters. At the moment writing the last book in a series about a middle-aged female butler and the spy who loves her, and for the last few years there have been three songs that say a lot about what I’m writing: Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s A Heartache” (betcha thought I was gonna say Total Eclipse of the Heart), Jennifer Warnes’ “I Know a Heartache When I See One,” and Paul Nagi’s “Erase This From Our Blood.”
The snooty woman at David Jones told me I wore an outdated, old-fashioned perfume no longer available in Australia, and it is one that you will never pry from my hand—as long as I can source it. It’s Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps.
Rufus Sewell, Toby Stephens, Clive Owen, any one of the Chrises, Holly Hunter, Naomi Watts, and Dame Judi Dench.
The best non-writing related prize I won was…
I’ve won several meat trays, which, since I’m vegetarian, is not much of a prize to win, but that’s all I’ve got—unless you count having the winning bid for a basket of coffee at a silent auction, meaning I had to pay for my prize.
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
ALWAYS write to please yourself first. Read across genres. Any review is a good review.
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing?
Women over 40 are attractive, vibrant, intelligent, sensual, sexual human beings who are never “too old” to fall in love.
Proudest author moment?
When the sales of my first indie-published book were higher than the four books I had through a publishing house.
If anyone gives me flack for writing in the romance genre, I tell them…
First, I ask them if they ever read a romance and when I find out that they haven’t I mention how they could learn a lot about power dynamics, negotiating, and the importance of communication skills in relationships just by reading the genre that outsells all others, makes nearly $1.5 billion, and basically supports the backbone of the publishing industry.
My favourite thing about writing romance is…
The supportive community that doesn’t mind if you are introverted.
Three fun facts about the author:
We have a dog we share with another family. Bruno is a four-year-old Italian Greyhound who likes to cuddle and nap a lot.
I have beaten, several times, a well-known music industry/television personality in pub trivia.
If you call me ‘Sandy,’ I’m probably going to bite you.
Follow Sandra online
From country show baking to raising orphaned lambs, bestselling author Maya Linnell writes about the life she lives and loves. A keen bookworm, former rural journalist and radio show host, Maya is also an ambassador for the digital library app Libby OverDrive. She lives in rural Victoria with a menagerie of animals, sweeping gardens, three bookworms and the odd tiger snake or three. Her latest novel Kookaburra Cottage is out on May 30 with Allen & Unwin. Find her online @maya.linnell.writes or mayalinnell.com