Welcome to our 2019 RuBY winners spotlight – first up – Penelope Janu! Penelope won the RuBy in the contempory category. The story follows Golden Saunder’s, who’s life becomes distinctly messy when United Nations diplomat (read: spy) Tor Amundsen, enters her life. This delightful contemporary rural romance is warm hearted and full of emotions to pull our heart strings!
The lovely Nancy Cunningham, when she emailed and asked whether I would, as a 2019 RuBY winner, like to write a blog post, suggested I might like to write about winning the RuBY, or the craft or writing, or the writing process, or research. So I thought I’d touch on all of these things!
Firstly, the RuBY. On the Right Track won the RuBY in the contemporary romance category. It was the final award presented, and I’d drunk no alcohol in the lead up. Not because I anticipated a win and was concerned my speech might not be eloquent (it wasn’t!), but because all shortlisted authors had to walk across a parquet floor and line up on the stage.
Needless to say, I survived the walk in heels, and the dinner guests survived the speech. And afterwards, I danced in my heels before walking carefully down the stairs to the bar. En route, and in coming days and weeks, so many friends congratulated me. Some I knew through their encouragement when I’d barely finished a manuscript—before I had my head around head hopping, before I was on Facebook or Insta, before I’d ever written a blog post or had a publishing contract. Others I barely knew, but we’d connected through RWA. Or they’d read my books. They had far more faith in my writing than I had in it myself.
And I’ll be forever thankful for their support.
Now to writing craft, and my fear that I have little to communicate (or little I can articulate sensibly) in this realm. With hard work and perseverance, I’m better at writing than I was, but fundamentally I just write and edit and write and edit… And continue to learn as much as I can from the writings and craft advice of wonderful writers and teachers. Anne Gracie. Pamela Cook. Rachel Bailey. Christine Wells. Natasha Lester. At every RWA conference, I’ve had ‘lightbulb’ (actually disco ball) moments with talented and generous teachers.
Thirdly, my writing process. On the Right Track was my second book after In at the Deep End, and I was in the final stages of the copy edit for In at the Deep End (next stop—proof read), when the hero of On the Right Track appeared on the page. Per Amundsen from In at the Deep End suddenly had a Norwegian diplomat brother named Tor.
I know little of Norwegian diplomats. But I do know about horses. When the character Golden Saunders galloped up a hill in the opening chapter of On the Right Track, she commented on the ghost gum near the stables (see below for research dilemma).
This book was not only about taking chances and horses, it was also about gum trees!
So… now you know I’m not a plotter. I’m also not someone who has much idea of writing ‘to market.’
I had a two-book contract with HarperCollins, so dutifully sent the manuscript of On the Right Track to my publisher. Who let me know pretty much straight away that On the Right Track was rural with a twist.
Norwegian diplomats welcome.
Wild animal geneticist veterinarians (cue my latest novel Up on Horseshoe Hill) welcome.
Environmental engineers specialising in wetland environments (current manuscript) welcome.
I’d found my place.
Finally, a research tip. I tend to see where the story takes me, and then try to make it happen. Which means I corner (both literally and figuratively) knowledgeable experts (often with no idea of what they’ve let themselves in for…). Earlier in this post, I mentioned the ghost gum that popped up in On the Right Track. While editing, I worked out that what I’d often considered ghost gum trees in NSW and Victoria were in fact grey gums, and that ghost gums are rarely seen out of the Northern Territory and Queensland. But … I needed that ghost gum!
While visiting the Botanical Gardens in the ACT, I met a botanist who subsequently put me in touch with a researcher at the CSIRO. This eminent scientist had spent decades studying the propagation of native species, particularly gums and eucalypts. We exchanged many emails and I learnt a lot about trees. And, knowing my heart was set on a NSW ghost gum, he provided an ideal location and optimal growing conditions for the tree that I needed.
So what did the RuBY win mean to me? It was a wonderful opportunity to thank friends and colleagues and teachers and experts and editors and my publisher for being instrumental in creating a romance novel that readers have enjoyed.
And…. forget publication and royalties and my books on the shelves in bookshops. My children were so so so delighted that I actually won a trophy!
About On the Right Track
When the diminutive but fiery Golden Saunders falls from her horse and smashes her leg irreparably, and her racing family is disgraced by a corruption scandal, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.
Then the enigmatic Tor Amundsen, United Nations diplomat (read: spy), arrives on the scene and proves her wrong. His investigation into her family pulls her back into a world she had escaped, and the branch of the family she has tried to avoid at all costs. Tor is infuriated and frustrated by the impossible mixture of fragility and fierceness that is Golden, true, but he is also strangely protective of her.
Golden wants no part of it. Men have pushed her around her whole life. The last thing she needs is an arrogant, irritatingly handsome man telling her what to do. But it turns out Tor has a way with animals, children and, well, Golden…
Before too long, she finds their overwhelming attraction is overriding her good sense, and as they are both pulled deeper into the murky world of dirty money, things are about to get messy, and Golden’s small, quietly ordered life will change beyond recognition…
Can Golden overcome her fears and the shadows of the past and reach for a new kind of future? Will she ever be able to get her life back on the right track?
About Penelope Janu
Penelope writes contemporary fiction about clever and adventurous women who don’t mean to fall in love, but do.
Penelope’s latest book is ‘Up on Horseshoe Hill’.
Where you can find Penelope