Royalty, writing rituals and rose oil with Pamela Hart
Pamela Hart has 1920s glamour, London’s West End theatre district and royalty all wrapped up in her latest release, The Charleston Scandal. We follow the journey of Kit Scott, an Australian actress defying her upper-class family by treading the boards, and Zeke Gardiner, a Canadian ex-pat working his hardest to create a better life for him and his mother. United by dance, the pair have little in common outside their rising star-status, especially when photos of Kit dancing with royalty make the tabloids. Despite their on-stage chemistry, class divisions and unexpected family interference drive a wedge between Kit and Zeke. I picked up many snippets of wisdom from this well-written and carefully researched story, not the least the society’s expectations for women in this era. I also enjoyed the way Pamela wove real characters, like Noel Coward and Fred Astair, into the storyline.
The director of Creative Writing at the Australian Writers Centre, Pamela puts pen to paper with poetry, fantasy and mystery as well as historical fiction. She also publishes children’s fiction as Pamela Freeman. With a background in scriptwriting at Powerhouse Museum and ABC Kids, Pamela has worked in organisational communication, with one of her work highlights including a Churchill fellowship to examine the management of corruption and misconduct in North American law enforcement services. When she’s not writing, Pamela surrounds herself with music and family. The Charleston Scandal was published by Hachette in November 2020 and is available at all good book stores and libraries in eBook and paperback.
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table: Ellie Griffiths’ The Stranger (but it’s on my phone – I read mostly ebooks!)
Where do you do most of your writing? Sitting cross-legged in an armchair in my lounge room with my laptop on my lap.
Favourite Australian holiday destination: I’m off to the Daintree again soon…hard to go past the combination of rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef! (I’m writing a kids’ non-fiction picture book about it.)
What’s your preferred drop? Weak black tea (and Diet Coke for celebrations – yes, I know it’s bad for me. I’m allergic to alcohol, so I have to have something to celebrate with!)
Guilty pleasure? I claim my pleasures without guilt! But I am probably too fond of eating potato chips while watching Midsomer Murders.
Pet peeve: Writing students who, despite having been avid readers all their lives, somehow don’t know how to punctuate dialogue EVEN AFTER I SHOW THEM HOW! (As you can see, I do feel strongly about this…)
Favourite fictional couple and why? I think I have to go with Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane – because the relationship is so respectful, intelligent and passionate.
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be? Sunscreen and a hat (I’m very pale)! Would they count as essential? Not sure. If they do, then something to write with and on – notebook and fountain pen (you can make paper, and you can make more ink for a fountain pen, but once a biro has run out, it’s dead).
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for: Has to be Kristine Charles! (Kristine is an ex-student, so I follow her career with great interest.)
Book you’re most looking forward to reading in 2021? Honestly, I can’t answer this – I have so many friends with books coming out that I’m excited about, I couldn’t possibly pick just one!
Best thing about being a writer? You don’t have to wear shoes much. I just spent six weeks in a moon boot and a trainer on the other foot and it confirmed for me how much I hate wearing shoes in the house.
Worst thing about being a writer? That moment when you look at your work and you’re absolutely convinced it’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad writing. It always happens, and you just have to power through it, but it’s a bad patch in every book.
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? What song/channel/podcast do you have on high rotation?
I can write with almost everything except music on. Silence is great, but I have been known to write significant scenes while six five-year-olds thunder up and down the house playing volcanoes. (‘It’s going to blow! Run for your lives!’) I can write with the television on. But music, for some reason, cracks my concentration completely. I have become quite addicted, during the Trump presidency, to Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC, but I don’t write while I watch it – it’s my lunchtime viewing.
Favourite perfume: Pure rose oil – I’m allergic to just about everything else.
TV/film crush: Henry Cavill in The Witcher
The best non-writing related prize I won was … When I was 10, my family won a new Kingswood car in the Golden Holden at my sisters’ school. Nothing can top that!
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
1. Don’t try to get the opening perfect before you write the next chapter. You can’t get it right until after you’ve written the end. 2. Writing is rewriting. Prepare yourself to do many drafts. 3. Workshop! (Either formally, in a group, or with some critique buddies.)
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing?
Oh, that’s hard. In some ways, I think every book I’ve ever written has been about someone breaking out of a box that someone else has put them in, so I suppose my central theme is value your own integrity and your instincts, and don’t let others tell you who you should be.
Proudest author moment?
A mother coming up to me and saying that for her son, my books had been his refuge – any time anything had gone wrong in his life as a kid, he’d curled up with one of my Betony books – and that even now, as a young adult, he still did the same thing. I may have got a bit weepy over that one (and I grabbed one of my adult books and signed it for him immediately). (I write kids’ books as Pamela Freeman.)
My favourite thing about writing romance is …. The happy ending! I’m a big fan of hope. Life is hard, and we all need that uplift which a HEA (happily ever after) or a HFN (happily for now) gives. Also, I believe in true love, and I think showing what it can look like can encourage readers not to settle for relationships which aren’t good for them.
If anyone gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them…when a man writes a romance, they call it the hero getting the girl. [And then I just wait while they work out the sexism inherent in that.]
Three fun facts about the author:
I’m a drummer (mostly jazz)
My husband (like Agatha Christie’s) is an archaeologist
I make baskets of gingerbread and other Christmas treats instead of buying presents.
The Charleston Scandal
If you devoured The Crown you will love this exuberant story of a young Australian actress caught up in the excesses, royal intrigues and class divide of Jazz Age London, losing her way but reclaiming her heart in the process
London, 1920s: Kit Scott, a privileged young Australian aiming to become a star, arrives in the city to find the Jazz Age in full swing. Cast in a West End play opposite another young hopeful, Canadian Zeke Gardiner, she dances blithely into the heady lifestyle of English high society and the London theatre set, from Noel Coward to Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele.
When Kit is photographed dancing the Charleston alongside the Prince of Wales, she finds herself at the centre of a major scandal, sending the Palace into damage control and Kit to her aristocratic English relatives - and into the arms of the hedonistic Lord Henry Carleton. Amid the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, both Zeke and Kit are faced with temptations - and make choices that will alter the course of their lives forever.
Readers of Natasha Lester's A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald will love The Charleston Scandal. Bestselling author Pamela Hart's energetic, masterful storytelling will have you glued right until the end.
Find Pamela online