I have great pleasure in welcoming Susanne Bellamy today to talk about her new release, Engaging The Enemy.
Hi Alexa and thanks for hosting me. Lovely to be here! Great to have you visit, Susanne
What was it about this story that compelled you to write it?
Engaging the Enemy germinated on our first trip to visit our daughter in Melbourne. When we passed an unloved and dilapidated red brick building during my first tram ride, I felt a need to give that place a second chance. The idea someone needed the building and was prepared to work hard to put it to rights was good. Even better was having two people fight to gain outright ownership of it with the aim of restoring its former glory. Red brick transformed into pink granite and I relocated it into one of Melbourne’s many inner-city laneways and gave it a small, piazza-style square.
I pitched this idea: One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations. Kate Cuthbert at Escape Publishing loved it enough to offer me a contract for it.
Can you tell us about your writing journey from idea to published manuscript?
My first novel, White Ginger, began as a personal challenge. A younger work colleague had confessed to a ‘secret, guilty pleasure’, ie. reading romances, and remarked how easy it would be to write one. Home alone a few nights later, my husband absent in Nepal on his fourth trekking trip, I decided to see if I could actually write a full-length romance – a whole book!
While my husband trekked in snow, I created a small town on the island of Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands, and my first fictional environmental battle began to take shape. I wrote and edited as I went and when a development in the story required something to have happened earlier, I went back and seeded the idea then continued. From the broadest initial brush-stroke of an idea, I finally reached The End. And wondered “what now?”
Fortunately Anna Campbell and Christina Brooke crossed my path when I enrolled in a romance writing workshop at the Brisbane Writers Festival. I learned about the RWA and entering competitions. I joined, entered and came third in the 2011 Emerald Award, then pitched the book to a small publisher who picked it up. I’ve now got contracts with two other publishers and my next release is Engaging the Enemy through Harlequin Escape Publishing.
What do you love/hate the most about being a writer?
Most of all I love being able to do what I want and to do it in my own home. I’ve worked full-time all of my adult life but the pleasure of ‘working’ at home in recent months while I enjoy some long-service leave has been unbelievably good. As a currently self-employed writer, I have to say my present boss is excellent, flexible and encourages lateral thinking and lets me write what I want, when I want! Who wouldn’t appreciate that!
Do I hate anything about this chapter in my life? No, although I frequently swear at my laptop. My friends will attest to my techno-gumbiness but I have discovered we have atrocious download ‘speed’ (a misnomer if ever there was one!) which may have given me a poorer perception of my capabilities in dealing with technology. I intensely dislike dealing with online forms; does that count?
Who are your writing heroes/favourite authors?
Among romance writers there are many whose work I respect and buy as soon as they release a new story, but one of my old favourites is Georgette Heyer. Marvellous stories told by a very intelligent and skilful writer. I love the interplay of characters and sparring dialogue between Mary Challenor and the Marquis Vidal in Devil’s Cub. The character of Mary showed my young teen self that a woman could make difficult choices and stand up for herself under difficult circumstances.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale polarizes friends’ responses but I love it. She takes the ‘what if’ road brilliantly and crafts a fascinating social perspective of a regressive future. I would also include Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic The Road for brilliant exploration of character and creating a tiny flame of hope in a superbly drawn negative landscape.
How do you define romance? Can you tell us about an especially romantic moment/event in your life?
The champagne of life. Not the froth but definitely the bubbles that tickle my nose and make me smile. Romance makes us feel good because it is optimistic and happy-ever-after. Reading romance makes us feel there is someone who will accept our faults and love us anyway which is a key element of romance stories.
As for a romantic moment, one I will share is our seventh wedding anniversary. We hadn’t long arrived in Amsterdam. My husband shepherded me and our toddler son into a jewellery ‘house’. It wasn’t your regular shop front but rather imposing in a quietly elegant way. To my surprise, we were shown into a room and the door locked behind us, then we were shown a couple of trays of rings. My husband told me to choose one for our anniversary. With shaking hands, I tried on several and eventually settled on one set with four diamonds. It’s a beautiful piece and quite different from what we see here in Australia but I was so worried walking out with it on my finger, you would have thought I was wearing the Crown Jewels!
Who is your favourite romantic lead in a book or movie and why?
Keanu Reeves in The Lake House. I could see him as Arne in my debut novel, White Ginger And Love, Actually is a film I re-watch regularly; I love Colin Firth’s character and the decisions he makes and chances he takes. He is a gorgeous man and creates wonderful heroes who hide vulnerabilities and insecurities but pushes through to win his love. The willingness to reveal vulnerability and open up to the most important person in your life is incredibly empowering to both characters partly because it’s both a sharing of power and the giving of trust to the other. Colin Firth’s character also has a self-deprecating but intelligent sense of humour and sees the droll side of life. I can’t resist that combination!
Can you share a motto or inspirational quote that has helped you achieve success?
Be Happy – by Bobby McFerrin. We saw him perform in Paris many years ago which was my introduction to his unique style of performance. I believe we can choose how we view life and make conscious choices in the way we deal with what comes our way. It won’t always be roses and romance but the decisions we make about how to deal with life and what we choose to make of it is the difference.
Thanks so much for hosting me, Alexa. I’ve really enjoyed my visit and have a new workshop idea that I’m going to develop!
One building, two would-be owners and a family feud that spans several generations: all relationships have their problems.
Andrea de Villiers can’t lie to save herself. But when developer, Matt Mahoney, buys the building she and a friend have established as a safe house in the Melbourne CBD, she decides that protecting The Shelter is more important than her aching heart. She will confront Mr Mahoney, and she will emerge victorious. There are no other options.
But Matt has other plans for Andie, and she soon finds herself ensnared in a web of well-meaning lies and benevolent deceit. To protect the building and the families that depend on her, Andie agrees to play the part of Matt’s fiancée, and play it convincingly.
But lies soon bleed into truth, and what was once a deception starts to feel all too real. Can Andie accomplish her goals and protect The Shelter, without losing her heart to the charming Irish developer?
She eased backward out of the cupboard and sat back on her heels, eyes scrunched as she rubbed the top of her head. “Damn and blast it. What do you mean by—”
“By offering you what you asked for?”
Her hand stilled when he spoke, eyelids flying open and her plump pink lips shaped a soundless Oh. On her knees in front of him, head level with his zipper, his groin gave an inconvenient jump, right in front of her wide-eyed stare. Wicked images coalesced, of Trouble in the same position wearing a tool belt and not much else. Of what she could do with that beautiful mouth. Of… And wasn’t Dave in love with her?
Back off, eejit
He grimaced as she tilted her head to meet his gaze.
“So, Trouble. Now you’re a plumber, last night you were a waitress. And what will you be tomorrow, I wonder?”
Glints of amber deepened the green of her eyes and surprise gave way to recognition. Her eyes narrowed on him. She scrambled to her feet, one hand fisted around a small wrench, the other clenching and unclenching by her side. He eyed the tool warily as she jigged from foot to foot in front of him.
“You! How did you get in?” A lone red curl slipped loose from her untidy ponytail and fell over her eyes. She blew upward but it flopped back. Impatiently, she swiped at it with her free hand and left a smudge of oil across her forehead. The image of her in a tool belt roared back.
Down and dirty and all oiled up, yeah.
“Well, Mr. Mahoney? Cat got your tongue? I asked you—”
Eejit! Where’s your control gone? South?
He hauled his brains into gear. No deal was ever won by allowing the opposition an opening. He straightened and returned her gaze with a frown.
“Through an unlocked door. Highly irresponsible when there’s bairns in the place.”
She frowned, tasting the word. “Bairns? What do you–”
Why was it so hard for him to say ‘kids’?
Because you think of baby goats every time someone uses it that way.
Comprehension hit and Trouble scanned the kitchen. “Jordan? Where is he?”
“If Jordan’s the little one with big brown eyes, he’s in the front room.”
“Jordan?” She pushed past him, angling for the door and he reached for her arm. The boy was safe and she wasn’t going anywhere until he had his answers.
“I locked the front door. Now I want to know—”
“Let me go. I’ve got to make sure he’s okay.” A childish giggle interrupted their exchange and Matt turned at the same time as Trouble. Jordan’s face peeked round the door, eyes fixed on a matchbox-sized truck he ran up the peeling paint of the door jamb then let fall. Jordan dropped to his knees and grabbed the toy. Adding his own chaos and destruction sound effects, he scuttled down the hallway.
Matt loosened his hold on Trouble’s elbow. “Satisfied? Now—”
She shook off his arm and swung around to face him, a battle light in her green eyes. Green, like the grass of home. Green, like—
“And how dare you trespass?” She fisted her hands on her hips. “Who the hell do you think you are, Mr Matt Mahoney, barging in here with your judgmental nose in the air and telling me I’m irresponsible. You’re the one who—”
“Trespassing you call it? Funny, I seem to recall being invited to talk with you. And what would you call that ridiculous sign out the front if not an invitation?”
Maybe Dave’s description was right. That lip-biting vulnerability she’d revealed last night was gone and in its place blazed a petite firebrand. Yes, that was a more apt description; it matched the red of her hair and the fire in her eyes.
“I meant at your office.”
“You invited me here. ‘Come to the shelter’ you said, so here I am. Or are you in the habit of making offers you’ve no intention of keeping?” His gaze lowered to the wrench she was tapping against her denim-clad thigh.
Offers she’s not even realised she’s making.
Offers he’d like to explore if he could sort out her squatting in his building. He suppressed the thought—later, Mahoney—leaned back against the sink and folded his arms. “Well?”
Escape – Amazon – iBooks – Google Play – Kobo
I love travel—new places, new faces, different cultures and endless possibilities. I’ve cruised from Australia to Britain and back through the Suez Canal when I was a child, trekked in Nepal and Vietnam, lived briefly in Noumea, visited western Europe and west coast America among other places. Let me repeat—I love travel! And history.
People’s stories fascinate me. Past and present lives and relationships and the mysterious ways Fate works. Even how I met my husband—Fate. Wonderful and mysterious.
And so my stories explore people engaging with the mate that Fate created for them. And the wonderful and mysterious ways in which they meet. I should probably thank the flat-mate who locked me out of my new house years ago which led directly to meeting my husband. But that’s another story!
Check out my story boards on Pinterest for White Ginger, One Night in Sorrento and Engaging the Enemy as well as works in progress, including the Emerald Quest for Entangled Publishing. See what else you can find!