Welcome to Bronwyn Parry who hails from the tablelands region about five hours east of me. Despite the distance I guess we could be classed as local authors as we both reside in the area known as the north-west slopes and plains, although I’m in pancake flat country and Bronwyn enjoys undulating hills and distinct seasons. Although we haven’t met in person we have chatted over the telephone and being a little more isolated than Bronwyn it really is a pleasure to chat with a kindred spirit.
Thank you Nicole for inviting me to be a guest on your blog – it’s an honour! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Bark Cutters, and loved the entwining of past and present in relationship to the family and the land. I’m fascinated by history, and how things were or might have been, and as I travel through landscapes and towns I often wonder about the past and the people who shaped the place, and how it might have shaped them.
What do you write?
I write romantic suspense books, set in fictional communities that are inspired by the landscapes of north-western NSW. Not quite the outback – although the definition of ‘outback’ varies from person to person! – but certainly a long way from city life. Romantic suspense weaves together a love story and a suspense plot, as the two protagonists have to work together to resolve an external threat. So there’s drama and emotion, within a setting that creates additional challenges for my characters. While my books are, in some ways, somewhat gritty or edgy, there’s a positivity in that they explore emotional courage, community, and the strengths of love in many forms.
Where does your inspiration to write come from?
I’ve always read a great deal, and I knew I wanted to write from a young age – it just took me a while to stop day dreaming and seriously put fingers to keyboard! The ideas for my books often come from a single scene, and I love playing with ‘what if?’ My first novel, As Darkness Falls, had its genesis in a short, vivid dream I had one night: a woman confronting an angry mob, deep in the bush, desperately trying to convince them not to attack a suspect in a terrible crime, begging them to trust her to investigate properly. That short scene was the inspiration for the Prologue of the book… then I had to explore who she was, where she was, and what might happen next.
A secondary character in As Darkness Falls evolved as such a strong, interesting person that she became one of the lead characters in Dark Country; in order to make it a romantic suspense story, I needed to find a worthy partner for her – someone who would both respect and challenge her. An ex-con accused of murder certainly brought challenges for a dedicated female cop, and the story evolved from there.
If you were not an author what else would you be doing?
Realistically, I’d probably be teaching, as my career has mostly involved adult education in a number of ways. However, my other major interest that I currently don’t get enough time for is weaving. I’m fascinated by historical, everyday textiles and even did my Honours thesis on eighteenth century British worsted textiles, so I actually know what callamanco is, what it looks like and how it feels – not that this is knowledge that I get to exercise very often! I love cloth in many forms. Weaving cloth – even a simple cloth – is a wonderful, meditative experience. It’s even harder to make a living as a weaver than it is to make a living as an author, though, so weaving will remain a hobby, fitted in around other commitments.
What is your definition of home?
That’s an interesting question. My instinctive answer – and even after thinking about the question for a few days, I keep coming back to it – is that home is where quiet joys are. The classic saying is that home is where the heart is, but maybe I’d rephrase that along the lines that home is where the heart and soul are nurtured. In some ways that can be independent of place; if you’re with a person or people you love, you can create a home almost anywhere. But place can add other layers of joy and contentment; I love the bush around us, the rolling hills of the tablelands, the dramatic gorges not far away, and small things like the frogs on the kitchen window at night, the adolescent ‘roo who peers curiously in through our sunroom windows, the eastern spinebills hovering amongst the red flowers on our pineapple sage, and the soft apricot light of sunset through the trees. The natural beauty and wildlife around us adds something special to my life, every day.
You recently judged the RWAmerica RITA awards (Romance Writers). It has been said that in commercial fiction book award judging, results often reflect the personal opinion (albeit subconsciously) of the judge/s, and that often it can be difficult to disengage from the storyline and concentrate on the technical aspect of the work? Do you agree?
Having a background as an educator has given me experience in assessments in a range of forms. The RITA contest doesn’t have official criteria; judges are asked only to assign a score to each book. However, each year I’ve judged I’ve created for myself a set of elements to be rated: characterisation, plot, writing quality, and originality (a loose term I use to encompass the wow! factor) and assigned marks to each element. It helps to keep the process of judging as objective as possible, and makes it fairer. If there’s an element in a book that doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t necessarily cloud my judgment overall, as I consider each element separately. And if I get so caught up in a book that I forget I’m judging it, considering each criterion brings me back to an objective assessment. There’s no perfect system when it comes to judging fiction, but I feel more confident using the criteria that it’s as fair a process as I can make it. It’s always fascinating reading the books – giving careful consideration to books is a different process to reading for pleasure, so I’m always learning more about the writing and reading process. Plus I’ve discovered some great new-to-me authors!
Bronwyn’s eclectic background includes an Honours degree in social history and English, and a range of work experiences HR in a hospital, youth worker, dance teacher, organisational development manager, educational designer, and now occasional academic. She grew up surrounded by books, and has a love of reading and stories. Commercial fiction, literary fiction, childrens literature, history her bookshelves are forever overflowing. Academically, Bronwyn is particularly interested in story-telling and readership in popular fiction, and she’s currently undertaking a part-time PhD, romance readers’ and writers’ perspectives on the genre. Bronwyn lives on 100 acres of beautiful bushland in the New England tablelands, with her husband and two border collies – one full of energy and curiosity, and the other a blonde Princess who missed the border-collie ‘smart’ gene. Bronwyn travels frequently through rural and regional areas, and loves small towns and wild landscapes. VIsit http://www.bronwynparry.com to learn more.