• Blog

    How does my life experience influence A Fair Exchange?


    Monique McDonell Year Book PictureAs I have often said here on the blog, although my characters are often nothing like me (I guess the fact I’ve been happily married for 20 years kind of distinguishes me from these largely single and completely lovely characters I write about ) they do all have elements of me in them.

    Amelia in A Fair Exchange is probably the most and the least like me.

    I was an exchange student in Massachusetts when I was in high school and it was the most fabulous, exciting and life changing experience for me. I did loosely base some of the characters in the book and some of the experiences I had on that time.

    I certainly drew the premise of the novel from that experience. Being chosen to be an exchange student back then (and I assume now as well, especially for a year-long program) was quite a gruelling process that had several stages including essays, interviews, family interviews and selection camps. As a result most of the kids who applies and got accepted tended to be smart, funny and personable kids. They were independent and capable and reasonably outgoing.

    So what happens to those people down the track? I happened to do a course at a small university where there was a disproportionate number of kids in my course who were prefects and school captains and exchange students (unusually for Australia at the time you had to do an essay to be accepted – marks alone didn’t get you in). So I’ve spent a lot of time with these sparkling young women who expected to sparkle their way through adulthood, and luckily lots have.

    This novel had me thinking about the ones who don’t continue to shine – those who lose their way due to lack of confidence, a bad decision or a bad relationship. How do you reconcile the self everyone expected you to be with the one you became.

    Then add in the guy who broke your heart way back when, well then that’s a story. Everyone has that person (well almost everyone) and we’d rather they found us at our best than our worst.

    I didn’t have a boyfriend disappear into the ether on me at sixteen but lots of the feelings and experiences and expectations Amelia had then and as an adult I can relate to. With the internet and Facebook it’s very easy to find that person you’ve been wondering about, but should you? I know people who have and that fuelled the idea for this novel.

    I had a lot of fun writing this because I got to go down memory lane but more than any of my novels it was hard to write. Maybe because as much as I don’t really resemble the grown up Amelia, I was a lot like the sixteen your old version – if only on the inside.

    Don’t forget the book launch/blog tour Rafflecopter competition is open till Friday enter below.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    A Fair Exchange - Cover


  • Blog

    Musical Monday – Lasting Love


    Mr Right and Other MongrelsToday on this find Musical Monday I’m pondering the nature of making love last.

    Lots of fiction, especially romance, focuses on the first bloom of romance. It’s fun to watch things begin and as a writer it’s nice to help bring two characters together. I quite like living a bit vicariously through my characters as they head off on dates and other romantic escapades.

    However, anyone who has ever been in a lasting romance can tell you that lovely phase where every dinner is a date night and every new day is ripe with promise doesn’t last forever. Real life seems to intervene all too quickly. Jobs, family commitments, friendships and finances seem to conspire one way or another to take the sine off things. Then of course familiarity sets in.

    Sustaining romance through life – or through a sequel – takes quite a bit of effort.

    So today here are a couple of songs that speak to that.

    First some old school Shania Twain (who of course is no longer married to the guy she sang this to back in the day!)
    And for something more current how about some Paramore – Still Into You! Because really it is all about that in the end.

  • Blog

    Beauty in nature


    Today I’m pondering the nature of beauty. Maybe it’s that walk I took down by Manly beach this morning. Or maybe it’s that the leaves are off the trees in my yard and there is a stark gothic beauty in their current form.

    Maybe it’s some recent conversations with young women and their lack of belief in their own all-too-evident beauty. (I stand by my belief that 29 is too young for Botox ladies!)

    To reflect my mood here are a few rather lovely pictures from my recent travels.

    Roses in a shop in America

    Cactus Flowers

    View through ferns and trees - USA

    Fountain in garden

  • Blog

    Place in a story

    Sydney Opera House VividAs I was having lunch with my lovely husband on a recent Saturday we had an interesting conversation about place in books.

    We’re Sydney people, though we’ve both travelled and lived elsewhere. There’s something about this city that is just magical. It’s the beaches, the harbour and the climate combined I think.

    The disadvantage of Sydney, which is also part of it’s charm and really the whole of Australia suffers from this problem, is its distance from the rest of the world.

    It’s a very long way on a plane to just about everywhere. Still Australians like to travel, we don’t let this deter us. When you write a story it’s important to have a good sense of place and yet so often in books towns are fabricated. Partly that’s because it’s fun to create your own town or city and sometimes these places are amalgams of real towns or are in fact a real town with the name changed (to protect the innocent – I suppose).

    When you write about a real city or town and don’t change it’s name you have to get it right. People will know you can’t get from Kirribilli to say Watson’s Bay in Sydney in seven minutes, people know where the cafes are, how long a train trip takes and whether the 136 bus does in fact go from Manly to Chatswood or not (it does but it’s a very slow bus!).

    In Mr Right and Other Mongrels I set the book in Sydney and I left everything apart from a couple of street names the same. (For your reference there is in fact a Dream House Lane in Sydney but it is not in Lavender Bay where Teddy lived but in another Northern Sydney suburb…I just wanted you to know that while it is a very cheesy name it is real.)

    In Hearts Afire I used parts of Sydney but I did create the name of the suburb where Cassie lives. That suburb is an amalgam of a few suburbs in Sydney’s inner west. (Feel free to guess which ones). The island on the Reef is based on a couple of islands I’ve visited up there.

    So do you like books set in real places you know, or places you might visit or do you prefer a whole new created world?

  • Blog

    Scenes from Manly or Mr Right and Other Mongrels Picture


    Foot print in sandYesterday my family and I went down to Manly to take some pictures of places featured in Mr Right and Other Mongrels. Almost in defiance of the hideous wet winter we’ve been having here in Sydney the sun shone, people were in the water, lying on the beach, walking by the foreshore and enjoying this beachside destination for all it has to offer.




    Manly Corso



    Manly Beach Surfers










    These images all reflect the atmosphere and culture of the Manly area where Allegra runs her bookshop and where she jogs every morning down from a side-street of awning covered shops to the beach and along the foreshore.





    Manly Markets - Inspire Signs
    Manly Beach
    Manly Beach Rock Pool

    Shelley Beach Coastal Walk

    Manly Beach Sculpture By the Sea
    Next time I’ll include some specific places the characters went to in the book!


    Betina Miller
    7/8/2012 10:52:39 am

    I love seeing these pictures!

    Still enjoying the book, about 3/4 done and I find myself savoring it (you know, like the last cookie or the last pieces of chocolate – you slow down so that you really can enjoy of what is left).
    7/8/2012 10:58:44 am

    Thanks Bettina, it’s so nice to hear back from people that they are enjoying the book. Makes me so happy!

    Jen Schaefer
    7/8/2012 11:42:29 am

    Those shops are exactly what I pictured!
    7/8/2012 11:45:01 am

    That’s good Jen, it must mean I described them reasonably well then.

    7/9/2012 03:55:47 am

    Love the pics! I’m dying to see Manly in real life and swim in that pool!
    7/9/2012 07:42:08 am

    I certainly hope you get to visit one day Deanna.