Fabulous Fiction with Stella Quinn & April 2021 guest Fiona Lowe
(first published as part of the Romance Writers of Australia blog series, April 2021)
Welcome to Fabulous Fiction, a blog by Stella Quinn which celebrates books so good, you just want to hug them when you’re done reading.
[This blog first appeared on Romance Writers Australia's blog in April 2021]
Fiona Lowe’s novels are beautifully crafted, fearless, and compelling, and A Home Like Ours is her outstanding new novel.
A quick internet search before I started reading left me eager to dive in:
“heart-wrenching, joyous ... a genuine page-turner” [Neil Béchervaise, Carpe Librum]
“expertly crafted ... the characters feel like your own friends”[Laura Brodnik, Entertainment Editor, MamaMia]
STELLA: Tell us a little about your book, Fiona
A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe
A picturesque small town, a cosy community garden, a facade of tolerance and acceptance - but when three women with wildly different loyalties come together, what secrets and lies will be revealed? A timely novel exploring prejudice and privilege, from bestselling Australian author Fiona Lowe.
Tara Hooper is at breaking point. With two young children, a business in a town struggling under an unexpected crime wave, and her husband more interested in his cricket team than their marriage, life is a juggling act. Then, when new neighbours arrive and they are exactly the sort of people the town doesn't want or need, things get worse.
Life has taught Helen Demetriou two things: being homeless is terrifying and survival means keeping your cards close to your chest. Having clawed back some stability through her involvement in the community garden, she dares to relax. But as she uncovers some shady goings-on in the council, that stability turns to quicksand.
For teenage mother Jade Innes, life can be lonely among the judgement of the town and the frequent absences of her boyfriend. A chance encounter draws her into the endangered community garden where she makes friends for the first time. Glimpsing a different way of life is enticing but its demands are terrifying. Does she even deserve to try?
Can such disparate women unite to save the garden and ultimately stop the town from tearing itself apart?
STELLA: Okay, now let’s get to know the author behind the book!
Fiona Lowe has been a midwife, a sexual health counsellor and a family support worker; an ideal career for an author who writes novels about family and relationships. She spent her early years in Papua New Guinea, where without television, reading was the entertainment and it set up a lifelong love of books. One of her first teenage rebellions was refusing to go on a hike with her parents because she was half way through GONE WITH THE WIND. As an adult, Fiona read her way around the world always trying to read a book that related to where she was at the time; the Brontes in Yorkshire, Jane Austen in Bath, The Godfather in Italy, Michener in Hawaii...and so the list goes on.
Although she often re-wrote the endings of books in her head, it was the birth of her first child that prompted her to write her first novel. A recipient of the prestigious USA RITA® award and the Australian RuBY award, Fiona's books are set in small country towns and feature real people facing tough choices and explore how family ties impact on their decisions.
When she's not writing stories, she's a distracted wife, mother of two 'ginger' sons, a volunteer in her community, guardian of 80 rose bushes, slave to a cat and is often found collapsed on the couch with wine.
Author Fiona Lowe
Fabulous Fiction Q & A
STELLA: Fabulous fiction stays with us long after we have finished reading. Fiona, why will readers find A Home Like Ours a book they’ll want to hold close (a hugworthy book, we call this on the Fabulous Fiction blog)?
FIONA: I write about contemporary issues that impact on women today. Issues that are being discussed at the school gate, the gym, the water cooler and in therapists’ offices—family, relationships, children, community and work-life-domestic balance. It’s this relatability that makes A HOME LIKE OURS a hugworthy book. But don’t take my word for it—this is what one reader said:
“I absolutely loved being within the pages of this community and would recommend this book to readers of women's fiction and small town stories. Fiona's writing ticks all the boxes for a great read.”
STELLA: I was lucky enough to have a wonderful “school gate” community myself when my kids were at primary school. We debriefed about our lives in those moments spent waiting for the bell to ring!
STELLA: Do you have a favourite genre to read? To write?
FIONA: I’m not a ‘favourites’ type of a gal. I read widely depending on my mood, but as a general rule I prefer fiction over non-fiction. However, there are exceptions to every rule. I found THE TRAUMA CLEANER fascinating. Mostly though, I love reading character-driven novels, which is why I write them.
STELLA: When YOU read, what are the “must haves” in a book for you to love it ? (For me it’s character: there has to be someone that I love)
FIONA: I want to be taken into the character’s world and walk in their shoes. I want a well-motivated character who has solid reasons for doing what they do and I need them to grow across the book and end with new insight to their situation. If they just decide out of the blue, ‘I’m doing this’ I tend to toss the book.
STELLA: Has a reader let you know the special something in any of your books that has touched them? (I have a major tissue-sniffle session whenever a book has an old, grey-whiskered dog in it)
FIONA: Readers often write to me saying they didn’t want the book to end, because they felt like some of the characters had become good friends. They experienced a sense of loss when the book was over.
STELLA: Has a comment in a review from a reader ever stayed with you? What was it? Why does it make you happy/proud/vengeful?
FIONA: I’m fortunate to have received many positive reviews and I have a little folder of lovely letters from readers. But the human mind is a funny thing and for all the 5* reviews, it’s the 1* that stand out in your head, mostly because they verge on the ridiculous. I can laugh at 1* reviews—they are actually easier to deal with than a 3* in my muddled mind. This 1* was left by a self-professed educated reader and I quote verbatim. “…maybe ok, maybe not ok way for an educated reader, went the not way. read worse.”
STELLA: Umm ... wait, what? The not way, LOL. My writing group and I are waiting for an RWA themed cocktail party where we can have our fave one-star reviews printed on t-shirts.
STELLA: What are your dealbreakers? The things that make you throw a book across a room? (For me it’s sadistic pleasure, or when my hero is done away with – think Buffy running a sword through Baby Booth. No way was I returning to that show.)
FIONA: When an author solves the characters’ problems by bringing in the cavalry rather than the character experiencing real growth and insight.
STELLA: How likely is it that you would be crushed if a meteor landed in your backyard and your TBR pile fell on you while you were sleeping? What are some of the books in there at the moment?
FIONA: There is a bit of a stack of physical books but if the Kindle was to morph into physical books, I would definitely be crushed. The three on the top of the stack are Chasing the McCubbin by Sandi Scaunich, The Switch by Beth O’Leary and Anxious People by Fredrik Backman.
STELLA: How busy does writing life make you? Are you snowed under? Do you have to put limits on your reading and writing and social media so you don’t get burnout?
FIONA: For some reason, many people think writing books is something you do maybe 2 hours a day and you spend the rest of the time swanning about. NaH! So very nah, nah, nah. I write a contracted 500 page novel each year so I work 5.5 days a week just like many people who work in non-writing jobs. I currently work longer hours than I did when I was nursing.
STELLA: Have you ever caught the bingewatching bug and lost your reading or writing mojo? What was the binge show?
FIONA: Being contracted and never wanting to have to pay back the advance is incredibly motivating so I binge watch in evenings only after the work day is done. I’ve just finished Modern Love on Amazon Prime, which every romance author MUST WATCH! (I know, a big statement, but prove me wrong ;-) )
STELLA: (*scurries away to find TV remote)
Now for the nitty-gritty:
Favourite Australian holiday destination? A houseboat on the Murray River
What’s your preferred drop? Champagne
Guilty pleasure? Salt & Vinegar Kettle chips
Pet peeve: Barking dogs
Favourite fictional couple and why? Anne and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables), because they were the first romantic couple I remember reading.
You’re about to be stuck on the space station and you can take a crime novel OR a romance novel – what would you pick? Romance every time
Chocolate should be kept in the fridge, yes or no? I live in Victoria ….
Holiday: beach or bush? Both if south of the Great Dividing Range.
Proudest writer moment? Winning an RWA Rita and RuBY for Boomerang Bride
Three fun facts about you:
- I once played Gwendoline in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest
- I once stood at a supermarket entrance and pointed out to every customer they were shopping in a fire hazard until the manager, who had refused my initial request to move the plant display from in front of the fire exit, moved it.
- I once put on lip-balm only it turned out to be vegemite…
Keep in touch with Fiona Lowe
Fiona’s newsletter subscription can be found at http://www.fionalowe.com
Fiona’s books and buy links can be found at http://www.fionalowe.com/index.php/sagas
About your blogger, Stella Quinn:
When Stella Quinn isn’t sitting in the sun scribbling in a notebook, she can be found walking her dog, roaming her neighbourhood in search of the perfect latte, or thrashing her children at scrabble. She grew up in England, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Australia, and spent five (long!) years at boarding school in country Queensland.
Stella writes contemporary romance novels that are warm-hearted and filled with characters you want to be best friends with. She loves rural small-town settings, island settings, and everyday heroes. Imagine if Sea Change and Virgin River had a series of fictitious bookbabies ... they’re the books Stella writes.
Her series include The Island Escape Series and The Clementine Springs Series, and she is an author for Sweet Promise Press’s Gold Coast Retrievers Series.
Stella Quinn’s awards in the fabulous world of romance include winning the Valerie Parv Award in 2018, winning the Sapphire Award in 2019 and 2020, winning the Emerald Award in 2017 and coming second in the Sapphire in 2018. Stella was shortlisted in the Australian Society of Authors/HQ Fiction Commercial Fiction Award in 2020, and in the 2020 Ruby Award for best contemporary romance. With her writing group (who published a Christmas anthology of novellas) she was shortlisted by ARRA for best small-town contemporary romance in 2019.
Follow Stella Quinn:
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