Archive for September, 2008


What’s On Your Desk?

This week three of the Desirabelles share a peek into their writing dens as they answer the question, “What’s on Your Desk?”

Bronwyn: Between books I do a big clean of my office space and this is how it looks for, oh, about a week. Then all the neatly filed notes and cuttings, research books and word-finders, coffee cups and water glasses, spread to cover the desktop. My favourite things: a collage of the book in progress, magazines for more visual stimulus, award plaques to remind me I can do this, keepsakes from the places my writing has taken me and gifts from my writing friends.

Each has a special significance, each its own memory, each makes me smile. When I’m working you’ll find coffee/water at my elbow–I love my “Princes of the Outback” mug–along with at least one of my word books. My current favourite is the fat red Synonym Finder in the bookshelf.

Yvonne: Disclaimer: *Usually* I tidy my office between books and *usually* this means that my office, and my desk, are in a state of relative tidiness during the process of each book. The past few months, however, I’ve been more chaotic than ever with a trilogy and an online all being written back to back. Hence this state of total *insert word of choice*. Might I add that I’m so glad Bron asked about my writing desk and not the floor or any other surfaces because I’d really hate to have to show you all mine 😉 .

Seriously though, my workspace might be a disaster zone but my treasures–being my collection of heart shaped boxes and puffy heart semi precious gemstones on top of my computer tower (the dust doesn’t show in the photo, does it?) and the articles along the top shelf of my computer desk–somehow manage to remain uncluttered.

Paula: Even though I tidy my desk, oh, about once every two weeks, it always seems to attract everything right back – from water bottles, to books, to 6 year-old Christmas decorations, drawings and scraps of paper. A tidy desk is the sign of a sick mind, I always say ! 😀 At the moment, I have a bunch of papers to file, my diary, a packet of light bulbs, my son’s ‘rasta sun’ change purse, the spreadsheet for a contest I’m co-ordinating, The Procrastinator’s Handbook, receipts, my two writing muses Meg (from Hercules) and Mike (from Monsters Inc), pens and a writing course proposal for my local community college. I managed to remove the coffee mugs and empty Subway wrappers for this photo 🙂

Anyone else like to share, what’s on YOUR desk? Enquiring minds would like to know…

This week’s draw is for a signed copy of Bronwyn Jameson’s first two books, In Bed With the Boss’s Daughter and Addicted To Nick, reissued in a Bestsellers Collection by Harlequin Australia in November 08. (Prize drawn Oct 4.) ETA: prize will also include a French translation duo by Bronwyn Jameson and Yvonne Lindsay.


Helen Bianchin – Then and Now

Helen Bianchin’s romance novels have been taken to heart by romance readers all over the world. She is the Australian doyen of 56 Harlequin Mills and Boon books, and is a much-loved and respected writer by many romance writers everywhere. In this interview, Helen tells us how it was back then, and what has changed since.

Maxine: Helen, tell us about your introduction to romance novels

Helen: I started reading Mills and Boon as a teenager at the local library attached to the newsagency. When I was finally able to afford them, I knew when they were due in the shops and I’d be there waiting at the newsagency to pour over them and select which ones to buy. I think there were 8 or 10 M&B’s released each month in the ’70’s. Those were the days when there was only one line!

Maxine: What made you decide to write a romance?

Helen: I was an only child, a dreamer and a romantic with a very vivid imagination. I loved to read, and it was only after marriage and living in Australia that I wrote many letters home and to friends. One of those friends loved my anecdotes of my life married to an Italian tobacco sharefarmer, and suggested I should write a book.

Maxine: Tell us about the journey to selling your first book?

Helen: I had my first book accepted in September 1974, and it was published in June 1975. The title was “The Willing Heart” whose authenticity owed much to my own experience as an Italian tobacco grower’s wife. In real life, my husband was a sharefarmer and we were poor. Of course an M&B hero couldn’t be poor, so in the book he owned the farm, was rich etc!

Maxine: Who was your first editor? And how did you communicate with her? Was there a Harlequin Sydney office to support their authors like there is now?

Helen: Alan Boon guided me through my first three books, followed by Frances Whitehead.  There was a Sydney office, and a representative in Auckland, New Zealand.  But minimum staff, and nothing at all like there is today.

Maxine: How did you get it so right when there were minimal guidelines? 

Helen: I had no idea what the publisher wanted, for the guidelines in the ‘70’s were limited to one page. I loved to read, especially romance, and I simply wrote the book I’d most like to read … as a reader.  The first attempt was deemed too short, the second too long with too much extraneous detail.  I made it with the third attempt!

Maxine: Did you know any other writers back then?

Helen: I was very fortunate to be introduced to Essie Summers via letter, and we corresponded until she retired.  As Essie lived in Napier at the time, and I resided in Auckland, it was many years before we met in person, but Essie kindly introduced me via letter to Gloria Bevan, who also resided in Auckland, and we met every few months for lunch.  In the late ‘70’s Robyn Donald was in Auckland, looked me up in the telephone book and we met the same day.  We kept in touch and continue to do so, meeting up whenever we can at conferences, or during holidays.

Maxine: Did you get to keep any of your titles back then? What about now?

Helen: Authors were encouraged to provide their own titles until the late ‘80’s, when marketing decided the titles should reflect the theme of the book. Hence, there was “Mistress by Contract”, “The Greek Bridegroom” etc.  In recent times, the titles have become even more specific … a recent release is titled “The Martinez Marriage Revenge” … indicating the hero is Spanish, the plot involves marriage and the focus is revenge!

Maxine: What’s the biggest difference in writing romances back then and now?

Helen: When I began writing, there was only one line. Today there are many beneath the Harlequin Mills & Boon umbrella. Consequently it’s very important to write within each specific line.  Presents focuses on glamour, sophistication and wealth … intense sensuality and passion.  Therefore, it’s important for the author to deliver and meet readership expectation. A Presents is different to a Blaze. A Sweet Romance is not a Desire.

Maxine: And now for the fun question, Helen. What did you spend your first advance on? 🙂

Helen: Would you believe an aged secondhand Landrover for my husband!

Thank you, Helen. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you and I wish you many more years of writing such fabulous romances. Note: A list of all Helen’s books are available at


Helen has generously offered some of her books as prizes. Tell us how you first came to read romance and winners will be chosen at the end of the week. There’s a major prize of a signed hardback copy of Helen’s latest “Purchased: His Perfect Wife”  due for paperback release in Australia in November; a further prize of 3 autographed books from Helen’s Ultimate Collection (The Wedding Ultimatum/The Pregnancy Proposal); (The Marriage Arrangement/The Seduction Season); (Mistress by Contract/The Husband Test); and another prize of The Greek Tycoon’s Virgin Wife and The Martinez Marriage Revenge. Thank you, Helen! 






What’s your favourite fairy tale?

One of my favourite childhood memories is going to bed on a Saturday night with the family’s transistor radio next to my pillow (ours was red and cream and very similar to the one pictured here) and looking forward to waking early the next morning so I could turn on the radio, tuned already to a particular station, and listen to the children’s story time that would play until I had to get up and have breakfast and head off to Sunday school. Of course, it’s also closely linked to one of my least favourite memories of having my completely straight hair rolled up in ribbons the night before by my mother who wanted me to have ringlets or curls for said Sunday school 🙂 .


But over the aching scalp, I still remember the magic of listening to those stories, of being transported into another world. Little wonder that from the time I could read I always had my nose in a book, reliving that magic, or that I’d be playing in my parents garden, being the characters that I’d read or heard about, or making up fairytales of my own where I’d always be the beautiful princess rescued by her handsome prince. Of course the enactments helped when a neighbour down the long driveway where we lived was the costume maker for what was then New Zealand’s biggest Christmas Parade and she would occasionally let me borrow a ‘real’ princess dress 🙂 . Ah, those were the days…


Suffice to say, I’ve always loved fairy tales–the tragedy, the high stakes, the quest, the romance–most of all the romance, and interestingly what characters gave up for romance. Do you remember the story of the little mermaid who gave up her tail for legs and feet but how much it hurt her to walk? Different to the santised versions we have today by miles. 


It still thrills me now, whether in book or movie form, to identify certain fairy tale traits e.g. in Jane Eyre–Beauty and the Beast, in Pretty Woman–Cinderella, etc.


So, when I started to plot CLAIMING HIS RUNAWAY BRIDE (US release August 2008 and Aus/NZ release September 2008) I focussed on my favourite all time fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast. I think it’s the whole ‘Love Conquers All’ that just gets to me, you know? The unwavering belief that true love can break the wickedest of spells and redeem the hardest of hearts. I wanted to write a dark wounded hero who would do anything to keep his Beauty in his kingdom, and of course my convoluted mind couldn’t help but put a twist on Beauty and make her an amnesiac runaway bride at the same time. Creating my Beast’s kingdom was another delight, and delving into why he would choose to live in such isolated splendour had me enraptured.


I think it’s safe to say I’ll always be a romantic at heart and I’ll always be looking forward to the next fairy tale to fall in love with. I hope, for you, that fairy tale might be CLAIMING HIS RUNAWAY BRIDE.


To celebrate the Aus/NZ release of my latest fairy tale, I wondered if you’d all like to share your favourite fairy tales with us here on Desirabelles, either movie or book. All comments will go into a draw to win a signed Aus/NZ copy of CLAIMING HIS RUNAWAY BRIDE, which I’ll draw Sunday 21 September FRIDAY 19 SEPTEMBER (NZ time) and announce both here and on my blog.


Of Joy :)

It’s been an amazing week for me with Hostage to Pleasure hitting both the USA Today Bestseller list and the New York Times Bestseller list.

I thought today, I’d invite you all to share something joyful that’s happened to you recently. It doesn’t have to be huge – just something that put a smile on your face. Looking forward to hearing all your good news 🙂



Meet brand-new Desire author, Sandra Hyatt

The buzz in the Down Under Camp at Nationals in July was, of course, Sandra Hyatt, who got The Call during conference and became another of our Down Under Desire authors.  After the excitement abated (a little) I managed to pin Sandra down to ask some burning questions we all wanted answers to…

Tell us about The Call
My call came as a result of the Diamonds Down Under blog – through which I won a manuscript critique by Desire editor, Melissa Jeglinski. Four weeks after sending the manuscript off for the critique I was at the RWA National Conference in San Francisco when Tessa Radley, my roommate (who had been emailing Diana Ventimiglia about something else) burst into the room to tell me Diana wanted to phone me.  More used to waiting months to hear back on submissions, and not actually having anything officially under consideration with Desire, it took me a while to figure out that it must be to do with the manuscript critique. And far more used to ‘declines’ than acceptances it was an anxious couple of minutes till the call came through. But Diana did ring, and she really did want to buy my book.

By the end of the phone call my other two critique partners Abby Gaines and Karina Bliss, who were rooming next door, were in my room and you can imagine the noise levels. The rest of the day was spent in a weird combination of shock and euphoria. It was fantastic to be at the San Francisco conference and able to share my news with so many writing friends, all of whom completely ‘got’ it, and none of whom expected me to cook dinner at the end of the day.

When did you start writing?
As for me, I started writing when my two children were young (and my youngest has now just turned twelve) thinking not only that it would be fun but that it would be a quick and easy way to make some money working from home. At least I was right about the fun part 🙂

What’s your first book about and when can we see it in the stores?
My book is about two very independent people who get far more than they bargained for after sharing one night together. As it was my latest effort I hadn’t yet entered it in a lot of contests. However, an earlier version finalled in this year’s RWNZ Clendon award. My title for it is In The Arms of a Stranger, though I understand books generally get re-titled. It should be on the shelves in September ’09.

Have you special plans for that advance?
I haven’t planned how I’m going to spend the advance – in fact I’m waiting to lay eyes on the cheque (and to show it to my husband) before I truly believe that this is finally happening. I’m going to get paid to do something I love.

What’s next on the books (sorry, pun intended) for Sandra Hyatt?
I have a variety of books in various stages of completion, so the next step is to talk with my editor (and you can imagine how I just love saying those two words) and see which she wants me to work on.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Sandra’s still floating on Cloud Nine!  And you can celebrate too – just post a comment and you could win a special book prize direct from the RWA Nationals.


Winner Roundup

more animals

We’ve had three recent giveaways on the blog. 🙂 I thought I’d do a bit of a roundup so we can congratulate all three winners. And look what an international group we’ve got!

The winner of Bronwyn Jameson’s RWAmerica giveaway was Maered from Scotland.

Bron also did a giveaway with her RWAustralia conference post, and Dina from Barbados was the lucky winner of that one.

Both won three-book packs.

And the final giveaway this week was the one connected to my post about Series Love. The winner, Teresa W. from the States, won her choice of a book from my backlist.

Congratulations everyone!!

P.S. If you haven’t read them yet, I just put up two new excerpts on my website – from BRANDED BY FIRE and ANGELS’ BLOOD. Enjoy!