Café Cala welcomes Dawn Barker

Dawn Barker<

It’s great to have you visit Café Cala. I loved Fractured and Let Her Go. They were both to be books I couldn’t put down. On this cool morning I’ve been making a pumpkin pie. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Coffee, please! As a mum of three little girls I need all the energy I can get!

1 Where did you get the idea for Let Her Go?

I first thought about writing Let Her Go after watching a documentary about a woman with a medical illness who used a surrogate mother to have a child. In the show, her husband was very much in the background, and when the surrogate mother attended the child’s first birthday party, it was clear that she was still very much attached to the child she had carried. There was something in the body language of both women that made me wonder how they both really felt, behind their smiles.
I then heard more and more about the advances in fertility treatment, and read stories in magazines about people buying eggs and embryos overseas, then paying women to carry the children for them.
I personally felt conflicted: being a mother myself, I would never deny anyone the right to experience the joy of being a parent, but there are ethical issues to consider. I wanted to write Let Her Go to explore my own feelings about this complex issue.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

While I love the satisfaction of drawing the threads of 100000 words together into a finished novel, the most rewarding thing for me is connecting with readers. I’m still incredibly flattered when people read my books and then contact me to discuss their reactions. I love knowing that my writing has made someone react emotionally, or made them think about an issue.

3 How did you start writing?

I’ve always loved writing, and wrote my first ‘book’ when I was about nine with my pen-pal: we’d send the ‘manuscript’ back and forward to each other as we wrote consecutive pages!
As a grown-up, I started writing when I was doing my specialist training in psychiatry: initially some non-ficiton articles for psychiatric magazines and websites, and then when I stopped work to have my first baby, I began blogging about my experiences of being a parent. At the same time, I began writing my first novel, Fractured, while my baby slept and it all grew from there.

4 What would you say has helped you most?

For me, the most important thing in my writing career so far has been winning a place on the 2010 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre’s manuscript development programme. It gave me access to an agent, to publishers, booksellers and lots of industry knowledge, but most importantly, it gave me the confidence to call myself a writer.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m all ready to start writing my third novel: I have my themes, I know who my main characters will be, and I have a rough idea of what the story will be. In the next few weeks, I hope to lock myself away and start writing it!

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

I think you have to treat writing like a job if you want to do it seriously – you have to write even if you don’t feel inspired. It’s about practice, and persistence. And also, it’s important to finish your project, be it a short story, non-fiction article or novel. For many years, I said I wanted to write a novel, but I had to remind myself that half-writing a novel wasn’t enough – I had to finish it before I could begin sending it out into the world.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy so many different writers for different reasons! Some writers whose work I really like and admire are Lionel Shriver, Kate Grenville, Donna Tartt, Isabel Allende, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood… And locally, I’ve recently loved reading Hannah Richell and Liane Moriarty.

Let Her Go

How far would you go to have a family?
What would you hide for someone you love?
Confused and desperate, Zoe McAllister boards a ferry to Rottnest Island in the middle of winter holding a tiny baby close to her chest, terrified that her husband will find her or that her sister will call the police.
Years later, a teenage girl, Louise, is found on the island, unconscious and alone.?Flown out for urgent medical treatment, when she recovers she returns home and overhears her parents discussing her past and the choices that they’ve made. Their secrets, slowly revealed, will shatter more than one family and, for Louise, nothing will ever be the same again.
LET HER GO is a gripping, emotionally charged story of family, secrets and the complications of love. Part thriller, part mystery, it will stay with you long after you close the pages wondering… What would you have done?

You can connect with Dawn via her website, facebook at, or twitter @drdawnbarker.

You can buy Let Her Go here (

October Long Weekend

Today as I enjoy a relaxing October long weekend Monday on the Sunshine Coast, I remember my fist October long weekend in Australia. It was 1970 and I’d only been in the country for a few weeks. I was living in Kirribilli with a girl I’d met in a migrant hostel. We were both teachers who had come to Australia enticed by ads showing a bare chested tanned male wearing swimmers, an academic gown and cap, which urged us to come Teach in the Sun.
With visions of teaching on or close to the beach and meeting one of these gorgeous hunks, we had left the dismal Scottish weather to brave the long trip to Australia. A group of us attended an orientation held in Sydney Museum, while living in the hostel for single migrants in Dulwich Hill and eating in the local Chinese by virtue of free food vouchers. After two weeks of living in a cramped little room with three others we were all glad to be assigned schools and to find our own accommodation.
My Teach in the Sun experience was certainly that but, instead of the beach, I was located in the western suburbs of Sydney entailing a long train journey from my chosen place of residence.
On that October day, we decided to brave the beach. After all, that was the attraction of Australia in general and Sydney in particular. Clutching our beach towels and swimmers, we caught the ferry to Manly where, on disembarking, we immediately turned left to the beach. The small patch of sand and the calm water wasn’t quite what we’d been led to believe, but this was Australia, it was the beach and the sun was shining. We spent the whole day there, leaving the sand only to find some lunch.
It wasn’t till it was time for the return ferry trip that, walking around, we found the real beach, a long stretch of white sand with surf. This was what we’d come to see, but it was too late to do anything about it that day. Chiding ourselves for our foolishness we returned home, vowing to return to the proper beach another time.

Manly beach

Travelling around Scotland

I’m reading Ian Rankin’s A Stranger in Another Man’s Grave, and Rebus’ journey up the A9 and across the north of Scotland took me back through the years. During the sixties, every school holidays, I and one or more of my friends would strap on our rucksacks (backpacks) and set off to hitchhike ‘up north’. We’d start off by taking a train to Luss, then hiking to Loch Lomond youth hostel.

Loch Lomond youth hostel

Then on to Crainlarich,


up to Fort William youth hostel at the foot of Ben Nevis,

Fort William youth hostel
Ben Nevis

across the Caledonian Canal with all of its lochs – including the mysterious Loch Ness, and as far north as we could make it in the time we had available.

Caledonian Canal
Loch Ness

Back then it was safe for young girls to hike and even to hitch hike around the country. We never gave a thought to any potential dangers, though we never told our parents about the hitching. As far as they were concerned we were on walking holidays. We loved the freedom of the road where we would sing along with each other our favourite Scottish folk songs, stopping to spend the night at a youth hostel where we made new friends then, after our morning chores, set off on the road again.

Some memories from these times:
Tearing apart fresh hot bread from a bakery and slathering it with strawberry jam.
Trying to work out which of the hills was Black Mountain only to see it written on a sign (bringing truth to a favourite joke).
Visiting the youth hostel in Glen Affric after walking for what seemed miles over hills, to discover a gate, but no fence and that the hostel wardens were two university students spending their summer there. They seemed to us like gods with their bronzed torsos and kilts.

Glen Affric youth hostel 2

Glen Affric youth hostel 1

Boomer Lit

I enjoy writing about mature women, so imagine my delight to find a reference to an emerging genre called Baby Boomer Lit on the blog of Mary Keeley from Books and Such Literary agency. I followed her link to Claude Nougat’s blog at and was delighted to find reference to over 70 million baby boomers – my target readers. Claude has also set up a Good Reads group dedicated to this genre –

It is interesting to look at the number of movies which have been produced lately featuring older characters. Nougat notes About Schmidt (maybe not so recent), The Marigold Hotel,and The Descendants. There has also been The Quartet, The Performance, the beautiful French movie And If We All Lived Together and, more recently Amor.

Authors I love who have taken up the challenge to write about more mature protagonists are Liz Byrski (who has also written an excellent non-fiction book called Women and Aging), Joanne Trollope, Hilary Boyd, Marcia Willis and Sandra Antonelli who has completed her PhD on exactly this topic (would love to read it, Sandra) to name but a few.

Life for older women presents similar and different challenges to their younger counterparts. They still look for a HEA, but theirs may include stepchildren – even teenage stepchildren – and ex partners with their attendant issues. The author can also explore those issues which only emerge with years. Issues such as aging and death of parents, retrenchment, retirement, downsizing, grown children, grandchildren, widowhood and the empty nest syndrome.

Café Cala welcomes Jenny Schwartz

Hi Jenny, Welcome to Café Cala.

Jenny Schwartz

It’s great to have you visit Café Cala. I’m looking forward to reading Hero Duty. On this cool morning I’ve been making a moist mandarin and banana cake with walnuts. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

*snatches hand back from cake plate*

A cup of tea would be lovely. I’m so pleased to be here, Maggie. Thanks for inviting me.
Your yummy cake reminds me of my childhood. We had quite a few fruit trees and I’ve never again seen mandarins as large. They were definitely mandarin-sweet and tangy, but were the size of grapefruit! All right. Small grapefruit.
I don’t have a photo of the famous mandarin tree, but I do have a terrible quality photo of the secret of its success. Lots of water. This is the bore being drilled – although I was only about 3 or 4 I remember the day. I must have been super annoying, because Mum threatened to throw me down the well!

1 Where did you get the idea for Hero Duty?

I started thinking how hard it would be for a woman to be the wealthy partner in a relationship. What sort of man would cope with that? What strengths would he have? Then I slapped my head. It’s not money that matters. It’s family and friends and having someone who supports you. Cue my hero Brodie and his quietly powerful sense of honour.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

So many things. Being a storyteller is a wonderful calling. You get to help people make sense of the craziness in the world. You tell stories of hope and stories of challenge.
And then there are the lovely people you meet – like you Maggie ? And all the romance writers, readers and reviewers who steal way too much of my time in interesting conversation online.

3 How did you start writing?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t tell stories. Mum remembers me drawing line after line on paper pretending to write when I was a tiny tot, and as a kid I used to tell myself stories before going to sleep – this could be a reason for adult insomnia!

4 What would you say has helped you most?

Selecting one factor is really difficult. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the entire romance community is incredibly supportive. But to pick one thing I’d wish for all authors, it’s a good editor. I’ve been blessed with some of the best – paid, unpaid, new, established – they’ve all taught me so much. And their encouragement is gold.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

A fantastic adventure on the Kimberley coast in north-west Australia with a Hollywood actress, a modern day adventurer, a shipwreck (the SS Xanadu from the title, “Chasing Xanadu”) and a commune. It’s so much fun!

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. If this is your passion, pursue it. Join a community of other writers. The Romance Writers of Australia is wonderful. It’s important that there are people in your life who understand and support your dream.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Soooo many. My bookshelves are double-stacked – and then there’s my kindle!
Terry Pratchett for compassionate satire and fantasy. Margery Allingham, Dick Francis, Emma Lathen and a whole list of others for clever mysteries. Barbara Hambly, Mercedes Lackey, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, (the list goes on) for fantasy. And as for romance authors. Oh my goodness! Maybe I’ll just refer everyone to my Goodreads page ?

hero duty1

Hero Duty

She can buy anything she wants, except the courage to stand up to her family. That’s where he comes in.

Jessica Trove is a billionaire Cinderella, bullied by her family, and terrified of the responsibilities crashing down on her shoulders. She knows what she needs to do – she just needs to find the courage to do it.

That’s where Brodie Carlton comes in. Jessica is used to buying anything she wants, and what she wants right now is a hero. She’s going to make Brodie Carlton an offer he can’t refuse: be her emotional bodyguard, and she’ll make him rich. The only question is who will guard their hearts?

Barnes & Noble

The radio played an 80s rock ballad.
Hesitating in the doorway, Jessica heard the man singing along to it. His voice was low and muffled by the car, but it struck her how relaxed he was — and how awful she felt. Rather than raise her voice, knock on the car or tap his boot, she crossed to the radio and switched it off.
There was a thunk, followed by the rattle of a trolley and the man rolled out from under the car.
Shivers slid under Jessica’s skin.
Brodie Carlton. Instantly recognisable from his photograph, even out of uniform. Six-foot two, muscled shoulders covered by blue overalls, brown hair cut short and hazel eyes, frowning up at her.
The dogs had stopped barking, but she still wanted to cut and run. This man was too much challenge.
But if she ran now, she’d never stop. ‘Sergeant Carlton?’
‘I’ve left the army.’ He pushed a boot to the floor and the trolley rattled back under the car. Like sliding a door closed or an escalator descending, he simply shut her out.
‘I know.’ Her simple words hung on the air.
The trolley reversed. He rolled out completely, put aside the wrench he held and stood. At his full height all that power, under perfect control, intimidated her.
Instinctively she stepped back as he stepped forward, but the bench on which the radio sat blocked her retreat. The edge cut into her spine.
He stopped.
Jessica watched, wide-eyed. She was used to men who used their power to intimidate, but Brodie Carlton had seen her distress and respected it, not exploited it. Hope tangled with nervousness, almost choking her. Her voice was thin when she said, ‘I’m Jessica Trove. I’m a friend of Sonia Dwyer.’ She held out her hand.
The frown returned to his face. No, not a frown. His battle face. There was no expression, just steel determination; blocking her out. He glanced at his hand and wiped it down his overalls. ‘I’m dirty, Ms Trove.’
‘I don’t mind dirt.’ It took courage, but she kept her hand out. She looked at his face, not at her hand, which trembled.
Slowly, his fingers closed around hers.
His handshake was firm but gentle. His skin was calloused. He was warm where she was freezing.
She wanted to hold onto his strength, but she hadn’t the right. She released his hand and tucked hers into the back pocket of her jeans. ‘I know what it cost you to help Sonia.’
‘I’m thinking you don’t.’
‘You lost your life in the army.’
‘I quit. They didn’t fire me.’ The gentleness he’d shown her vanished, beaten out by impatience. ‘If you’re here to say “thank you” — ’
‘No, I…I’m here to offer you a job.’
The seam of the back pocket of her jeans ripped, giving way under the pressure of her nervous pulling at the pocket. She forced her hand to still. ‘I need a hero.’

Jenny Schwartz is an Australian author of Coastal Romance. Her books celebrate the joy of falling in love and the freedom of choosing to follow your heart.
She has a degree in Sociology and History — people watching and digging into the past — and a passion for reading, especially books with a guaranteed happy ever after.
Her Jardin Bay series captures her love for Australia, and for sexy heroes and the determined women who drive them wild.

Welcome to her world of coastal dreaming,

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