I’m very proud to introduce my first guest author to the attic: Lily Malone, author of His Brand of Beautiful (Escape Publishing, 2013), The Goodbye Ride (2013), and Fairway to Heaven (2014).

Lily Malone

Lily lives in Margaret River with her husband and two young sons. She took up romance writing in November 2010, after an ill-fated dalliance with colour-field painting that ended when her youngest son put a golf club through the canvas. She juggles part-time work and family with writing, and when not writing, she likes gardening, walking, wine, and walking in gardens (sometimes with wine).

In March 2013, her debut novel, His Brand Of Beautiful, was published with Escape Publishing, and in May 2013, she self-published her novella The Goodbye Ride. Fairway To Heaven, is her third novel and is also self-published.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Fairway to Heaven’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. A proper review will follow soon, but first, here’s Lily  …

Louise: Hi Lily, and welcome to the attic. I want to begin by asking you, why romance? What is it about the romance genre that you like?

Lily: My husband asks me the same thing. Why do you want to write romance? Why not write a ‘real’ book? After I slap him a few times, I realise I don’t know the answer. After my Mills & Boon phase finished when I was about 15 or 16, I didn’t read a romance for a very long time. Like years and years. My books of choice are usually crime thrillers, and my favourite authors would be John Sandford and Michael Robotham, in terms of books I look for, backlists I read, and new releases that I always check for.

So why romance? I don’t know. It’s just what kind of ‘occurred’ to me when I started thinking about writing a book when my littlest boy (now coming up 5) was a year old. We’d just moved into a new house and I had all these sudden urges to start baking. (Very unlike me). Then painting (even more unlike me). When I failed miserably at both those creative outlets, I thought: “I know! I’ll write a book”. I didn’t think “I’ll write a romance”, I just thought: “I’ll write a book.”

The story I started way back then is actually the book I’m back working on now. It’s called (after many reincarnations: Her Brand Of Bargain and while it doesn’t have related characters, it’s got related settings (wine industry and vineyards) to my debut novel, His Brand Of Beautiful.

What do I like about romance? Well… I do love reading books that make my tummy kind of tumble and go, oooh. Or equally importantly, awwwww. This world needs more romance, that’s for sure!

I also don’t think I’ll ever be a ‘literary’ reader. I studied English and English Literature at high school and while I remember some of those books as favourites (The Collector by John Fowles is one I will never forget); I very, very rarely get the urge to invest time in something that will require ‘headspace’.

So I guess that means that these days, I read for entertainment and for me, that’s genre fiction: crime/thrillers and romance. I read more romance now than I have done for years. I will say something though: there are many romance authors who are incredibly talented writers. I am lucky enough to have met quite a few and to call them friends. These ladies write books that resonate with me: Ainslie Paton, Sandra Antonelli, Georgina Penney, Rhyll Biest, Sarah Belle, Jennie Jones, Cate Ellink, Kylie Kaden (though Kylie isn’t strictly romance), Jenn J McLeod (also not strictly romance but small-town stories), Juanita Kees and Lilliana Anderson. Australian romance authors are, in my opinion, writing some incredible work and taking on the world. I find more ‘hits’ than ‘misses’ if I stick with Australian authors in romance at the moment, but if I do have to head overseas, then Jennifer Crusie’s work never fails to inspire me.

Louise: This isn’t your traditional romance. Why did you decide to take the plot in the direction you did? Was it a risk? Did you consider not classifying it as romance but as women’s fiction?

Lily: I agree, Fairway is not a traditional romance and yes, I thought long and hard about whether it could count as Women’s Fiction, but the clincher really is that it has a Happy Ever After. A couple of times I tried to submit it to some publishers who specify in their guidelines “no romance”… and when I tried writing the synopsis, I kept coming back to thinking, “Shit, Lily … it’s a romance. They won’t even look at it.” And so romance it is, quite happily. I consider it very ‘contemporary’ and if there was a category for ‘realistic romance’ then I think this one would slot right in there.

Plus, I had to add sport to it, didn’t I? I’ve wondered whether I should have given it a different title. Or a different cover … (I wonder a lot about this type of thing!)

Yes, I also think there is risk involved in the plot. There is a risk in what I write about for the hero, Brayden – the particular demon he has to battle. There is a risk that some women who want to read for escapism, won’t want to read about the problems Jenn suffers.

Of course – there may also be women out there who will absolutely identify with her, and what she goes through. And yes, when I hit the ‘publish’ button, I prepared myself for questions about dodgy vaginas … 😉

Louise: I think she’s a character a lot of women will identify with—a single mother whose partner is a b@$%ard. The writing is really good, and the editing is professional—there’s not a word out of place. How did you revise the story and did you hire a professional editor?

Lily: Thank you so much for saying that, it means a lot. I’m a journalist/editor by trade, so I’d like to think that helped spot the errors. I take a lot of pride in thinking that my books are edited to professional standard. Personally, it really irks me when I find errors in e-books. If e-books want to ‘not’ be second-class citizens to traditional books, they need to lift their game. That’s right across the board. Even publishing houses are putting out e-books with way too many errors, in my opinion.

So in terms of revision – I read my work over and over and over again. I could probably recount you 80,000 words verbatim by the time I’m finished.

I work with two Perth ladies, Jennie Jones and Juanita Kees. We have a beta reading group of 3 and we pass our work between ourselves for plot ideas, hiccups, all that kind of stuff. I have a lovely friend and critique partner in Brisbane, Kylie Kaden, who has written her own wonder-book ‘Losing Kate’ in this last year (published by Random House and it has done brilliant things). She’s very talented and we found each other purely by luck, through the Romance Writers Of Australia critique partner program.

Finally, after Jennie, Juanita and Kylie have seen it and given me their feedback, and I’ve read it yet again, I send it to another friend who is also a beta reader/editor for me, Marion Archer of Marion Making Manuscripts. Hers is a very affordable beta reading service (like less than $100) and she is an invaluable part of my process.

But generally, when it comes to editing – it’s me.

Louise: Well, you’ve done a great job. Now, how much of a plotter are you, or are you a pantser? There’s a part in the story where I was particularly impressed with your plotting: when Jen notices a photographer taking shots of the shack, and a bit later she interrupts a bloke taking a leak. These incidents later prove not to be what they seemed … Did you plot them or go back and plant them in later?

Lily: I’m an absolute pantser; I don’t plot at all. So I had the idea about where I wanted that part of the story to lead, and thought about how I could introduce those instances. (Sorry – I can’t really explain this question very well without spoilers!)

Louise: I laughed when I read on your blog about the conversation with your Mum, where she tentatively asked you if Jen’s problem was really Lily’s problem in masquerade …

Lily: Yes. I thought I was safe you see. My mum is from the era that worries she would break the internet if she turned a computer on. Given that to date everything I’ve done has been of the e-book variety, I thought the odds of my mum reading Fairway were very low. For His Brand Of Beautiful and The Goodbye Ride, I printed those stories out for her. With Fairway, I kind of neglected the bit about printing them out for her, and bugger me, my sister buys my mother an iPad for Christmas and all my plans are foiled …

Louise: Can you tell us about your next project?

Lily: It’s a bit of a ‘back to the future’ for me by returning to the first draft of the first book I ever tried to write. One good thing about this is it shows me how much I’ve improved – because that first draft is dodgier than any vagina, ever! (Which doesn’t mean that I don’t still have a long way to go.)

After this book (if I can get it done – it’s still a bit touch and go), I do have an idea to write something heavier. It would still involve drama and relationships, though it wouldn’t be a romance. I want to take a look at what happens to people when tragedy shakes up their lives.

Louise: Just to show you that I’ve done my research, I read that you wanted to return to Victoria Falls, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. (Can I just add that I’m incredibly jealous that you’ve been there even once.) Can you tell me why?

Lily: You *did* do your research. I’m wracking my brain trying to work out which blog post I mentioned Victoria Falls! Yes, it’s a long time ago. In 1990 I did an 8-week overland truck safari from Harare (Zimbabwe) to Nairobi in Kenya. At the time I was doing that old Aussie classic of a working holiday based in London. I booked the safari from London and did it on my own. I had my 19th birthday in Tanzania. It was an incredible trip. I saw gorillas in Rwanda and went hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara.

What I loved about Victoria Falls was that you could walk out on this footbridge that linked Zambia and Zimbabwe over these falls. (Or maybe it was the actual road – it’s hard to remember now). The spray from the falls was like a curtain of warm rain – if rain could fall upward. Maybe more like being in a very steamy hot shower. And the roar of the water was incredible.

Louise: Lastly, would you rather pick up a box of wine from the post office or a box of books?

Lily: Now there’s a question—whatever made you think of it? I’m from Margaret River so ‘wine’ is a pretty big huge part of my life. When I haven’t live in Margies, I’ve been in the Adelaide Hills, which is another beautiful wine region in this country of ours. So while I love it when books arrive (I’ve been quite lucky this year—I’ve managed to win quite a few print books), I would take the box of wine every time! I like entertaining, and cooking, and wine for me is part of that experience!

Thanks so much for reading Fairway To Heaven – and for ‘getting’ my book, Louise, and for inviting me to visit your blog. I love it here in your attic.

Louise: Thanks, Lily. It’s been great to have you here. And look, it’s Friday and time for a glass of wine! Cheers!

Fairway to Heaven

Fairway to Heaven, by Lily Malone. Available as an e-book on Amazon for $3.99.

You can also visit Lily’s website by clicking here.