I've just received word that my tenth book has sold! My lovely editor said it is her favourite so far, which is such a thrill, especially since I had such a nice feeling all the way along the writing of this one.
First came the day I wrote the opening chapter on the train going to meet a bunch of writing friends for lunch (remember how excited I was, Nic?) with no more to go on than the image of a sexy handyman with a toolbelt slung low on his hips as he slammed the door of his old Ute, not bothering to look it...
Next came a weekend trip to Sorrento, a beautiful beachside town on the very tip of the Mornington Peninsula with my husband, and Maggie's lakehouse morphed into a house on the cliff overlooking Port Phillip Bay.
Then the whole thing came to a grinding halt over the infamous fight over who my Tom would be. I had played with the idea of Jason Bateman (being as I am a total Arrested Development addict), and also Australia's own Tom Williams (winner of the second series of Dancing With the Stars and a hottie to boot) when Trish Wylie showed me a trillion pictures of one Nathan Fillion. It soon became obvious to me that this was my Tom. Trish was not amused, and a public exhange of words ensued, followed by a very tight vote as to whether or not he should be my hero inspiration. In the end, Trish, sweet girl that she is, gave in an allowed me to use several of Nathan's bits. Thanks Trish!
And this was also a book that ballooned out to nearly 65,000 words - copmputer word count. In the end, after revisions, I managed to get it down to 51,300. And now reading it, I have no idea where those extra 13,700 words could have been!
All in all this was a book that surrounded me with a real mood as I wrote it. It is gentle and lilting and deeply lit by the sounds, colours and feel of Sorrento. Think cream sandy beaches, pale blue water, swathes of golden clouds, and stately homes discreetly hidden behind brushwood fences.
Here's a taste test:
A magnificent ten-foot-high wood-carved double front door loomed amidst a shower of hanging ferns that Tom had to slink through as though in a rainforest. The right door was ajar, but guarded by a sizeable old red-brown hound with a great big smiley-face charm with the word ‘Smiley’ written upon it hanging off his thick collar.
‘Hey, buddy,’ Tom said.
The dog lifted its weary head and blinked at him, its floppy ears and sad expression not changing a lick to show that he felt any pleasure at the unexpected company. This dog suited the name Smiley as much as Robin Hood’s mate Little John suited his.
Tom reached down and gave the poor old soul a rub on the head. ‘Is the lady of the house about?’
Tom smiled to himself. Lady Bryce. That’s what the Barclay sisters, the doyennes of Portsea who ran the local haberdashery, had labelled her because she hadn’t yet felt inclined to frequent their fine establishment.
A sudden crashing noise followed by a seriously unladylike spray of words told Tom that the lady of the house certainly was about.
Not finding any evidence of a doorbell, he stepped over the melancholic guard dog, pushed open the door, and entered.
‘Hello,’ he called out, but he was met with silence as sudden as the previous verbal spray had been.
He walked further inside the entrance to find himself face to face with a square stain on the wall, evidence that once upon a time a mirror or a picture hung there. Beneath that, a garden bench, which had a mildewed look about as though it had been relegated from outside, was piled high with half opened mail, another fern – this one living its sad bedraggled life in an old ceramic pot - and a bowl filled with small change.
Another curse word, this time softer than the last, caught his hearing and he followed it like a beacon to find himself in a huge main room with sweeping furniture-free wooden floors that could do with a good polish, lit bright by a series of uncurtained ceiling to floor French doors through which he had a thicket-shrouded view of the sun glinting off glorious Port Phillip Bay.
His first thought was that such a great room ought to have been filled with couches, rugs, bookshelves all the way to the ceiling, round side tables and antique lamps. He could see it clearly in his mind’s eye.
First he’d knock out the wall leading into what must have been the kitchen, then polish up the floorboards, and peel back the flaking white paint on the ceiling to find the original colour scheme...
He gave his head one violent shake, and only then realised that the room was not completely empty. The long cream line of a telephone cord snaked across the middle of the room to a large grey drop cloth, buckets of paint, several flat square structures draped in fabric, a rickety old table which held numerous jars of coloured water and different sized paintbrushes, and an easel with one three feet by four feet of tight canvas slathered in various shades of blue.
And in front of it all, wearing no shoes, oft-washed, paint-spattered jeans, a t-shirt that he guessed had at one time been white, and a navy bandana covering most of her biscuit blonde hair was the lady herself.
Tom cleared his throat and called out, ‘Ms Bryce?’
She spun on her heel with such speed paint from her brush splattered across the all-blue canvas.
Tom winced. It was red paint.
‘Holy heck!’ she blurted in a toned down version of the language he’d heard when he’d first entered the house. Her voice was husky, her high cheekbones pink, and her pale grey eyes accusing, and spectacular as all get out. Well, what do you know, Lady Bryce was a knockout.
Tom wished his cousin Alex was there with him now so he could blow the guy a raspberry and tell him, this is why you never say no to a damsel in distress. In the hopes that one day said damsel would look like Lady Bryce.
‘Who the hell are you?’ the lady asked, moving her paintbrush free hand to her hip, obviously not nearly as impressed with him as he had been with her. ‘And what are you doing in my house?’
Sigh... I'll miss writing about these two. :( Anyhoo, this makes for a fabulous weekend! Now off I go to write some more of what will hopefully be book number eleven!