Category novels were my first foray into romance, and I take great joy in pressing pause on my normal life and slipping back into a world of princesses and billionaires, playboys and rogues. Annie West’s novel Revelations of a Secret Princess was like diving into a chocolate mug cake; sweet, familiar and so easy to enjoy. Heroine Caro Rivage keeps her cards close to her chest when she applies for a nanny’s position in an isolate alpine castle, and although her prospective employer, Jake Maynard is suspicious, he can’t deny the bond she forms with his newly-orphaned niece Ariane. Secrets, lies and family ties come into play, with well written characters, a fast-paced storyline and powerful enemies. I was still thinking about the hero and heroine after I’d finished reading the final page! Revelations of a Secret Princess is a March release with Mills & Boon ‘Presents’. As well as being a USA Today Bestselling and RuBy award-winning author, Annie West is my first blog guest to have a Japanese Manga comic created from one of her novels. With over fifty titles and six million books sales (!!!) under her belt, Annie also has so many great articles on writing craft that I lost an hour down an Annie West-sized rabbit hole when I was browsing her website. Annie lives in Lake Macquarie with her family, and relishes the easy access to her favourite things – good wine, bushwalking tracks and the ocean. When she’s not reading and writing, Annie helps care for her elderly relatives. Prior to becoming an author, Annie spent a diverse career in the public sector, including stints working at a university, in the Federal Police and in parliament house.
Short and sweet questions Current book on your bedside table: London Rules by Mick Herron. I’m not usually a fan of spy novels but his have brilliant satirical flare with an undercurrent of snarky humour that works wonderfully. Where do you do most of your writing? At my sit-stand desk looking out over trees and a pool. Well-lit with a calming view but far too close to the door when unwanted door knockers arrive. Favourite Australian holiday destination: For a weekend, the Blue Mountains of NSW. For longer, anywhere near the sea or a mountain. What’s your preferred drop? A nice Aussie red. I live near the Hunter Valley vineyards… Guilty pleasure? See my answer above. Pet peeve: Politicians who think climate change will go away if they pretend it doesn’t exist. Favourite fictional couple and why? I know this sounds completely inwardly-focused, but it’s always the couple whose story I’m working on. I find them fascinating, if sometimes infuriating, and I’m always eager to find ways to help them overcome their conflict. Of course there are others. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy come to mind (my mother loved Austen and I inherited the fascination) but again, if I’m reading a terrific romance it will be whoever I’m reading about at the time. Maybe I’m fickle. I like to live in the moment. If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be? Books, obviously and a gorgeous hero to keep me company. Of course, I could argue that both those are essentials! Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for: AM Stuart. I’m not sure she counts as emerging, as she’s already had a few books published, but I recently read both ‘The Postmistress’ and ‘Singapore Sapphire’ which have been getting rave reviews and am now eagerly awaiting her next. The Harriet Gordon series in particular looks marvellous. Her evocation of Singapore a century ago with her fascinating suffragette heroine hooked me from the beginning. Established authors who inspire you? So many! Authors like Susan Napier, Robyn Donald, Marion Lennox, Valerie Parv, Emma Darcy and Miranda Lee put the Antipodes on the map in short contemporary romance. Because of them I realised people around the world wanted to read our voices and stories and I hoped maybe I could be successful too. That helped me persist when the going got tough. Now my ‘inspirations’ include a huge range of authors, not just because of the stories they tell but because of their personal attributes too. I can’t hope to name them all here but they include Sarah Morgan, Helene Young, Anna Campbell, Trish Morey, Christine Wells, Cathryn Hein and Michelle Douglas. Best thing about being a writer? The joy of living in my imagination and seeing those happy endings play out. It’s great to have control so I can resolve issues and end someone’s story on a satisfying note, especially when real life throws up its share of challenges that I can’t necessarily fix. Worst thing about being a writer? The sedentary lifestyle. It can be an effort to get out and moving, and long hours at the computer aren’t good for the body. Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? Definitely silence. Music and conversation interfere with the voices in my head. But I do hear a lot of birdsong as I write and that’s great. Favourite perfume: At the moment Un Jardin Sur Le Nil by Hermes (a recent gift). But in this drought nothing could beat the lovely smell of rain! TV/film crush: This is where I admit how shallow I am. Or perhaps how deep? I can’t name one! They keep changing after I view a great new film or TV series. Give me a guy with a killer smile, a dark edge (you know the sort who might be the hero or might just be the killer), nice shoulders, and who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Obviously I need to do more research… The best non-writing related prize I won was… In a work social club raffle I won a fruit basket. Sounds a bit ‘meh’, doesn’t it? In fact the ‘basket’ was almost a metre long and stacked high, not just with apples, oranges and pears but with an a cornucopia of tropical fruit. I had to seek out a colleague who’d lived in the tropics to help me identify things other than lychees and custard apples. It was tremendous (and I still use the basket). Top three tips for aspiring authors? Read lots and keep reading. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. What works for one person may not work for another. Write the stories you’re passionate about, even if they’re not in whatever the bestselling genre is at the moment. (And don’t get disheartened if others don’t like your first, second, third, fourth etc attempts. Persistence pays off). What theme do you hope shines through in your writing? That love, loyalty and striving for your dreams really can make the world a better place. Proudest author moment? I’m tempted to say winning the RWAus Romantic Book of the Year Award but on the other hand it’s just magic when I hear from a reader who loved one of my books, who ‘gets’ the characters and for whom that story resonated. If anyone gives me flack for writing in the romance genre, I tell them… They should actually read one – they would be surprised. My favourite thing about writing romance is…Definitely the wonderful people I meet, sometimes in person, but quite often via email, FB or even old-fashioned letters. Romance readers and writers enrich my life in ways I’d never believed possible. Three fun facts about Annie West: I inherited my grandmother’s ability to divine for water. (A handy tool, if like her, you live in the outback. Less useful in an urban setting.) In high school I wanted to be an archaeologist. The closest I came was learning Ancient Greek at university, but I still haven’t been on a dig. As a nineteen year old backpacker I was offered a herd of camels as a bride price to tempt me into marriage. So far none of my occasional sheikh heroes have ever mentioned camels in their marriage negotiations. Maybe one day…
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