In 5 minutes with author, Over60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Barbara Hannay, a romance novelist based in Far North Queensland and two-time winner of the Romantic Book of the Year Award. Many of her 40-plus books are set in rural and outback Australia. Her latest book Meet Me in Venice is out now.
Over60 talked with Hannay about Seven Little Australians, the things that make a romance novel great, and the family trope she keeps coming back to.
Over60: What is your best writing tip?
Barbara Hannay: Read widely and write what you love to read. Make writing a regular habit and your muse will learn to turn up. If you’re aiming for publication, don’t give up at the first rejection. Persistence is key.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
The Second Chance Café by Amanda Prowse, Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.
What was the last book that made you cry?
Actually, if you don’t mind, I’ll twist this by remembering the very first book that made me cry. It was Seven Little Australians. I was only eight years old and totally devastated by Judy’s death.
What do you think makes a great romance novel?
Compelling characters that the reader cares about, convincing emotional complications that keep the couple from getting too close too soon and a capable, sexy hero you can fall in love with.
What are the tropes that you can’t help but love? Alternatively, which trope grinds your gears?
Well, I find myself writing every possible version of the secret baby trope. I really have no idea why, although I do believe almost every family has a few surprising secrets. I can’t do revenge and I would love to try a marriage of convenience, but I just can’t seem to make it work in this day and age.
Is there any book by other writers that you wish you had written?
I was deeply impressed by Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I especially loved the author’s voice and the way she portrayed Eleanor’s “spectrum” personality, but I also really enjoyed the way she flipped the stereotype of a romantic hero and created such a gentle, “almost” romance.
Do you have any writing routine? If so, what does it look like?
When I’m working on a first draft, I like to write a thousand words a day. On a perfect day, I wake early before sunrise, start thinking about my story and the scenes ahead, and when descriptive phrases or pieces of dialogue start flowing, I leap out of bed to get them down before they vanish into the ether. Sometimes, rarely, I’ve made my word count before breakfast. Alas, there are plenty of days when I’m still plugging away at tea time.
Which author(s) – living or deceased – would you most like to have dinner with?
I’d love to meet Jane Austen. She was so witty and such an acute observer of the society of her day, I’m sure she’d be a lively dinner guest, especially if I had the chance to show her around today’s world first. I’d love to see her reactions.