Jun 24, 2015

Australia Week: An Interview with Janet Gover

This is the first time Tanya and I have done a duo interview. We interviewed Janet Gover together and it was a lot of fun. Janet Gover is the author of the fabulous Coorah Creek novels and several other great romantic books. We asked her a lot of questions and love her answers.

1) Could you tell a little bit about yourself?

Hi. I’m an expat Aussie living in London. And before you ask, the reason I left the sunshine for England is about 5ft ten inches tall, has green eyes, plays guitar and yes, reader, I married him. We also lived in New York City for a while. We now find ourselves pulled between families and friends in all locations. Airlines do well out of us. When I am not writing, I work as a technology and workflow consultant in the TV industry, which is as much fun as it sounds.

2) Suze: Horses play an important role in The Wild One, is that because you have a history with them and what do you like so much about them?

I grew up loving horses. My first pony was a shaggy brown gelding called Dino – who later made an appearance in one of my short stories. I have competed in show jumping and one day eventing in Australia, and have bred and trained Arabian horses and Australian Stock horses. I love that they are so strong and powerful and beautiful, and so willing to form a partnership with us. It really is an amazing feeling when you are in harmony with such a wonderful creature.

3) Tanya: A few of your books are set in the outback although some are set in Australian cities. Do you have experience of living in both these types of areas and which do you prefer?

I grew up in a very small bush town, not unlike the town of Coorah Creek, but much smaller. There were 18 houses in my town. Honestly. That was all. 18 houses, a post office, one shop and a pub. There was, however, a wonderful sense of community, and that’s what I have tried to capture in the Coorah Creek series.

Right now I live in London – totally the other end of the spectrum – and I love it here too. There is culture and history, music events and art shows and restaurants and…

I don’t think I prefer one or the other. Both are wonderful in their own way. Did I mention I spend a lot of money on airline tickets?

4) Suze: I love your website and you share a lot of free stories on it, what inspires you to write them?

Thanks Suze. My husband and I designed the website. I was determined to have free stories there – as a bonus for my visitors. The first short stories I ever read as a child were by the great Rudyard Kipling – the Just So stories and his animal stories. I love the form. It’s really hard to write short stories, because you have so few words in which to develop your story and your characters. I think it’s a great way to improve your writing skills. It’s also fun. I will see a person on the street, or in a shop. I will overhear a snatch of conversation and suddenly an idea will pop into my head. It’s not a book – it’s just an idea. Short stories are a wonderful outlet for them

5) Tanya: A lot of your titles of your books remind me of songs is this deliberate? Also how do you choose the title of your books?
I do listen to a lot of music, and go to a lot of concerts, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me if song lyrics prompt my titles. Some titles jump out right from the beginning – Flight To Coorah Creek was always going to be called that, from the moment I conceived the story. The Wild One didn’t come to me until I was nearly finished writing the book. But I knew it was the right title. Sometimes I can’t think of a title at all, and I toss around ideas with my editor and publisher and husband and friends until everyone is sick of me… but I always get there in the end.

6) Suze: You’ve travelled a lot and are now living in the UK, what/where do you call home and what do you miss most about Australia?

I grew up in Australia – I do miss the wide open spaces and the weather. I miss having a mango tree in my garden and horses in paddocks around me. But I love London too. I love the sense of history and the wonderful architecture.

I call both home – did I mention the number of hours I spend on planes between the two places?

7) Tanya: As an avid traveller which three countries do you recommend should be on my must visit list?

Every country I have visited (I stopped counting at 60) has its own unique appeal. I have never been to a country that didn’t leave me with some pleasant memories. As a bit of a history buff, I have to say my favourite places were The Great Wall of China, The Taj Mahal and the Pueblo Cliff dwellings in the New Mexico desert. As a lover of wild places – I also loved the glaciers in Iceland, the savanna in Africa and the mountains of Kazakhstan.

8) Suze: You worked as a journalist for many years and you’ve met a lot of different people because of it. Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met?

That’s a tough one Suze. I’ve met famous people who were not terribly interesting, and ‘ordinary’ people who were just amazing. Possibly the scariest interview I ever did was with Professor Julius Sumner Miller. He was a physicist and seemed a bit crazy to me. He hosted an old children’s science show on TV in Australia. He always asked his audience ‘Why is it so?’ I was always afraid I’d get it wrong. When I interviewed him years later, he questioned my understanding of a couple of words I used in a question. I almost fainted with fear – but I got the answer right! I was so relieved. There’s a video of him here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIfxV7uNZXQ See what I mean – scary!

9) Tanya: I read that you enjoy knitting and read on your website that you recently visited the Welsh National Woollen Mills, a place I regularly visit with my family. When you are visiting these types of places are you constantly thinking of how you can use the knowledge and experiences in a plot. If so can you give examples?

Isn’t the wool museum a fabulous place? I just loved it. I am always looking for places and experiences and people to use in stories. My very first published short story was based on a visit I made to the Gower Peninsula, which I thought was quite beautiful. I once wrote a short story because of a screaming child running wild in my local supermarket. Be careful – anything is grist to the writers mind.

10) Suze: You thoroughly research your stories, what’s the best part about learning new things to write about?

I am insatiably curious. I think it was instilled in me by my father. I love it when I am researching something and discover a word or an expression or activity that is unique to that thing. I immediately store it away in my head and use it. When I was quite small, my Dad bought us a set of Children’s encyclopaedias. I devoured them. I got to M before anyone told me that you’re not supposed to read an encyclopaedia from cover to cover like a book. I read the rest anyway, for the sheer pleasure of finding out new stuff.

11) Tanya: I did my dissertation on the writing process for children. As an author what writing process do you follow?

I think about my characters and their story for quite a while before I begin a book. I’m usually talking to the new characters as I finish the previous book. I always know what I am writing about – for example the book I’m working on now is all about what happens when the wrong person is actually the right person. I always have a broad plot outline in my head – very very broad. Then the book starts to play in my head like a movie. I write down what I see and hear.

12) Suze: What’s special about Coorah Creek, why do people come there to heal?

I love the sense of community in the town. People care about each other. I think that’s something unique to small towns, particularly town on geographically remote and tough places. There’s not a lot of money. It’s a tough life. Emotions run close to the surface. I’ve had readers tell me they would like to go and live there. That’s a huge compliment.

13) Tanya: Do you base the characters in the book on people that you know or have come across?

I am an insatiable people-watcher. I love observing how they act and interact. I use those observations to give my characters realistic personalities, strengths and weakness, hopes and dreams. None of them is an actual other person – but every one of them has traits that I have seen in real people. That gives the characters realism and depth.

14) Suze: In one of your short stories (Fairy Kiss) you write about finding something great when you least expect it, do you have an example of when this has happened to you?

OK – true confession here. I met my husband on the 40th floor of a warehouse building in the upper reaches of the New Territories in Hong Kong. He had come from England and I had come from Australia to work on the same project there. With a week, we knew that something special had happened to us. After that, how could I not believe in finding the best things when you least expect it?

15) Tanya: What do you hope to achieve in the future?

There are so many stories in my head and I want to tell them all! In the shorter term, though, there is one thing for which I have all my fingers and toes crossed. I have been shortlisted for the RUBY Award – that’s the Romantic Book of the Year awarded by the Romance Writers of Australia. I’m flying back to Melbourne in August for the awards ceremony. People always say it is an honour just to be shortlisted – and it is. But oh – how wonderful would it be to win….


  1. I loved doing this interview along side Suuz and reading the answers. Thank you Janet. I love the woolen mill and visited again last weekend x

  2. You have so many fascinating stories in your life Janet - no excuse to ever run out of inspiration!


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