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At Home With Jenn J McLeod [Interview & Aussie Giveaway!]

To celebrate my new releases THE JANUARY WISH and FEBRUARY OR FOREVER, the first two books in my small town series set in Tarrin’s Bay; The Town of New Beginnings, I’m running a special interview segment called ‘At Home With…’

Today, we’re paying a visit to fellow small town storyteller, Jenn J McLeod… And just as her stories have lots of secrets, today she has a secret of her own to share! Read on…


Jenn1. Hi Jenn, where are you from and how long have you lived there?

I’m from a real life Calingarry Crossing. Locals in my hometown of Bonville/Sawtell certainly recognise a few landmarks in both House for all Seasons and my 2014 release, Simmering Season. A city girl by birth, I did the big sea/tree change in 2004. Lot’s of firsts followed: running a café, setting up a B&B for people who travel with their fur kids, and writing a book a year for Simon & Schuster. It’s said a rolling stone gathers no moss, so soon I will be on the move – literally – and my “new home” (“Hint”) has me feeling a little on edge, like a small pebble perched precariously on a precipice. (Like that?)

[Juliet ~ Isn’t it great to write stories set in a town based on our own? 🙂 ]


2. What do you love about the place you call home?

Right now home is a small acreage, nestled in a rural hamlet south of Coffs Harbour, at the base of the Great Dividing Range, but only a ten minute drive to the beach. Apart from the stars at night, the birds all day, the peace and privacy (should I go on?) my place is like fruit salad – crammed with a dozen different fruit varieties of citrus, custard apple, lychee, mango and persimmon.  Then there’s the vegie surprise patch! I love it when a surprise sprouts out of the compost our vegie scraps produce. It all makes for a very ‘informal’ vegie garden with the most recent sprouting of pumpkin, plus the usual cherry tomato surprise plants and sweet potato!

I love harvest time. Kind of a shame I’ll be in a “new home” and not here to enjoy the winter feast. (“Another hint!” Yes, I have a secret and those who have read my books know I love secrets.)


3. Do you have a favourite local cafe, restaurant, bar, club, business, or store? Give them a plug here!

Our old café, Shimmers in Sawtell, is now called Tree-O, and it is still lovely. Recently, a bunch of local-ish authors and I met at The Old Butter Factory in Bellingen. We may have to do that again.


IMG_16074. Do you have any pets? If so, what are their names?

Strawberry & Daiquiri are little white fluffy rescue dogs of unknown age and origin. They are old, very naughty and spoilt rotten. But you can teach an old dog new tricks. I discovered this when my little muse, Daiquiri, lost an eye to cancer recently. So adaptable – and even more beautiful, don’t you think? [Juliet ~ Definitely. And yellow is the new black.]

I also had two budgies called Sunshine & Blue Skies. I don’t like caged birds really, but Sunshine was a tiny baby, found in the paddock next door. Too young to fly, I brought her home. Not expecting her to live, she gobbled down seed while sitting on my palm and was quite lively the next morning. When I couldn’t track down where she escaped from I had to get a mate because there’s one thing worse than a caged bird … That’s a lonely caged bird. With a loving relocation to a brand new aviary in the nursing home where my mum lived for a while, Sunshine and Blue Skies can now spread their wings – so I can spread mine soon. (“Hint”)

[Juliet ~ Any ideas yet, readers, about Jenn’s secret?]


5. What is your favourite room in the house and why?

My sunroom. I could eat, work and sleep in here. I’ve always said I don’t need a big house. One room to eat, write and sleep would be fine. Guess I’m going to get it after all. (“Hint”)


6. If you had to evacuate your house, what three items (apart from people and pets!) would you take?

My computer (and associated bits),

My mother’s memory box,

Oh wait! Soon I won’t have to limit myself to three. I’ll just take the whole house and get out of town. (“Hint”)

[Juliet ~ These hints are very cleverly inserted into your answers!]


7. If you had a magic wand, what’s one thing you would change about your home or your town?

Maybe I’ll come back in six months from now and answer that question again, Juliet.



8. Imagine you have the luxury of a chef for a night and you’ve invited people over for a dinner party, what would you have the chef cook?

I would NEVER have a chef in my kitchen. I’ve seen what they do to appliances and equipment and how they treat food. Sorry, folks, but owning a food business (because I LOVED eating out) has stopped me eating out! Next time you are deciding where to eat, don’t look at the menu, look at the floor!

[Juliet ~ I’ll keep believing that ignorance is bliss 😉 ]


9. Name three books on your To Be Read bookshelf or e-reader:

1. Safe Harbour by Helene Young

2. Losing Kate by Kylie Kaden

3. Season of Shadow and Light – yep! That’s mine. I just received the edits for book three so reading for pleasure must give way to reading to deadline.

And I want to see a book on my TBR pile by a new yet-to-be-pubbed author Louise Allan. You can check her blog out here. Sounds like my kind of story telling.


10. Name something unique or uncommon that you have in your pantry or fridge:

Too many to mention as I clear out and downsize my pantry (among other things) discovering blasts from the past like a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers! All the rage about a decade ago with the champagne set. Who remembers them?

[Juliet ~ Though I have never used them, I do recall seeing the odd recipe with Hibiscus Flowers!]


11. If you could live anywhere for one year, where would you go?

We are about to find out! So I’d better clear up those “hints”. While my small towns can keep big secrets, I cannot. Time to reveal.

[Juliet ~ DRUMROLL…]

Check out the new home below:


[Juliet ~ Congrats! Looks like you are going to have one hell of an adventure! It might inspire a new story… The Travelling Season? 😉 ]


12. You’ve just received a phone call from a friend or relative, and they’ll be arriving in five minutes for a visit. What do you do?

a) Relax on the couch until they arrive.

b) Put the kettle on; place some (probably homemade) snacks onto a tray; set the table; put flowers into a vase; and light a candle (and maybe even make some place cards with your super calligraphy skills).

c) Put the kettle on; tip out a few cookies onto a plate; check your reflection in the mirror, and wait.

d) Freak out; shove excess household clutter under beds, in cupboards, drawers, and the garage; trip over something in the process; hold an ice pack to your bruised forehead while swearing profusely; check the mirror to see if you’re still in pyjamas; frantically change into suitable clothing whilst simultaneously holding ice pack to your head; fall over again; alternate ice pack between head and location of new injury; then shove ice pack under bed and greet visitors with the fakest smile of pure calm you can muster.

My answer: Depending on the friend or relative I might choose: e) hitch up the home and hit the road!


Thanks for sharing all about your home life with us, Jenn! And looking forward to hearing how your new home turns out. 🙂


> Even though Jenn J McLeod would probably love you to pay a visit, why not visit her online right now?

Website/blog : Facebook : Twitter

Or better still, everyone, tell Jenn where in this big brown land you live, especially if you have a flat block that will accommodate a caravan – at the right price! 😉 She could be coming to a town near you in the near future.


> And help her pay for that in-house chef (or housekeeper) by buying a copy of her new book, Simmering Season, here:

Forget the chef, Jenn says. Petrol money appreciated, though, so she can discover new small towns to inspire more small town stories.

[Juliet ~ You’ll have to pay a visit to my small town down south! I am four minutes walk from a caravan park and beach. Not five minutes, four. Though it’s downhill so it could become three. 😉 ]

*BUY NOW from all good Australian bookstores, or there are lots of options here for purchasing:


Simmering Season Jenn J McLeod lgeSIMMERING SEASON

It’s summer storm season and Calingarry Crossing is sweltering.

Devoted mother, sole breadwinner, and now local publican, Maggie Lindeman is back in Calingarry Crossing with her teenage son to sell the family pub, hoping to turn their lives and finances around. The trouble is, the girl people once called Magpie is so busy protecting everyone else she has no idea the perfect storm is heading her way, until her past and present collide with the unexpected to blow the lid off a lifetime of secrets.



House for all Seasons Jenn J McLeod>> GIVEAWAY! Australian postal addresses only (or perhaps Jenn might deliver the prize in person!)

Prize: A copy of Jenn’s first Calingarry Crossing novel, House for all Seasons, or if you already have it, a copy of Simmering Season.

How to enter: Leave a comment and tell Jenn where you would spend a week in a caravan and why. (Can’t be 4WD-only access and no National Parks as they don’t allow dogs).

*Competition drawn on Wed 16th April and winner notified by email. You’ll have one week to confirm your prize and provide an Australian delivery address or an alternate winner will be chosen. Good luck!


Past, Present, & Future with Jenn J McLeod

In celebration of the release of my debut novel, Fast Forward, I’m doing a series of interviews with authors about their past, present & future. Today, please welcome another debut author, the fabulous Jenn J McLeod!


Jenn%20-%20the%20young%20author[3]1. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was supposed to be a multi-disciplined musician (like my Dad), study at The Conservatorium (like my Aunt), be a famous opera singer like my cousin (whose sons – Ben and Alexander Lewis – (think Phantom!) are now making their own musical mark internationally). Instead I wrote, my keyboard of choice a computer, leaving the old upright piano to languish in the living room as I followed my labyrinthine road and wrote my own story. (Excuse me while I sing my theme song…“I did it myyyyyyy way!”)

So as the daddy longlegs weave their webs around the piano’s soundboard and strings, I weave stories that give my characters a life and a voice. My stage is country NSW, my tree change many years ago like coming home. I guess it must have been all those hours I spent in my room as a child, riding my bed-end rather than practicing piano! Yep, that’s right: a pillow for a saddle, a dressing gown tie as a bridle and voila! I was National Velvet.


2. What did you do before you became a writer?

You mean besides being National Velvet? That answer is a novel in itself. Let’s see (in order): Hairdressing, cosmetic sales, retail security (nabbing shoplifters), hotel security at Sydney’s Intercontinental Hotel (where I met celebrities and heard stories I can never tell), Event Management, Road Safety Education, Corporate PR & Communications, Intranet Producer, Cafe owner, B&B Operator and finally… Author.

[Juliet – what a wealth of experience to add to your stories!]


pam%20and%20me%20001[2]3. What is one of your most treasured memories from the past?

Besides pretending to be National Velvet, you mean? 🙂 Hmm, that would be winning a national road safety award for a young driver education initiative. Here I am accepting the award with my colleague, Pam Leicester. As friends and colleagues we were a formidable team; Pam inspiring me then and more recently. (My House For All Seasons character, Sara, was inspired by Pam who is sadly no longer with us. Creating Sara allowed me to give Pam her happy ever after.)

[ Juliet – Congrats on the award! And what a nice gesture for Pam]



4. What’s your latest release about and/or what are you currently working on?

HFAS front cover workingHouse For All Seasons is now available. It is the story of four estranged school friends forced to return the NSW country town of their youth to claim an unexpected inheritance – the century-old Dandelion House.

As restless teenagers, desperate to forget a tragic end-of-school muck-up day accident, they escape the confines of small town life and never speak to each other again.

Twenty years on, coming home to the country triggers mixed emotions and the women must face their shame and self-doubt if they are to reconcile their past with their present.

Only after spending a season each in the old place – a condition of the will – do they discover the reason for the inheritance and how they are forever tied to the house and to each other.

[Juliet – what are you waiting for readers? Dash to the bookstore now! Well, after you read this interview of course ;)]


5. What’s a typical day like for you? (If there is such a thing!)

A mess! I have no fixed agenda and I need to change that. I need to fit in the networking side of this business without losing entire days! I must write – not Facebook. I must write – not tweet. I must write – not blog. Oops!

[Juliet – sorry about that!]


Jenn%20J%20McLeod_fence_web[3]6. Name three things you are grateful for in your life right now:

Right now? As in today?  As in 8 March 2013? Forgive my preoccupation, but as my debut novel has just released (with a couple five-star ratings already) I am a little dizzy (and I feel a Gwyneth Paltrow Oscars acceptance speech coming on, so we’d best move on.)



7. If you could fast forward in time to any age or year for just one day, what would you choose & why?

Fast forward! Crikey, I so wish I could go back. I would love to be doing what I am doing now as a 40 year old!

But, okay, to fast forward it would have to be to the day a book is an interactive hologram. Remember those pop-up storybooks? I loved them. I used to walk my fingers through the pages. Imagine the future: holograms that let you wander through scenes—touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing, feeling… ooh la la!

[Juliet – You’re in luck, there just might be a hologram or two in Fast Forward! Great minds huh?]


8. If you could have any new technology or invention in the future that would make your life a whole lot easier (or more fun), what would it be?

A George Jetson Winnebago (ie it folds into a briefcase for easy parking).

[Juliet – Patent it NOW!]


9. What are your hopes & dreams for the future?

That people love my books and want more (so I can keep writing while travelling in that Winnebago.)


Thanks for visiting, Jenn, and all the best for HOUSE FOR ALL SEASONS!

>>You can visit Jenn at her website/blog, facebook, and twitter. You can buy her book from all good bookstores in Australia or you can order online here at Dymocks, or as an ebook at Amazon.


Sunday Lunch with Jenn J McLeod…

 Please give a warm welcome to author Jenn J McLeod as she joins me for Sunday Lunch…

1. Can you tell us about a happy memory from your life that revolved around food?

At 22, travelling around Australia in a Ford F100, my girlfriend and I were ‘rescued’ by four Sth Aust. farmers (on their annual pilgrimage). We dropped our exhaust on the (then corrugated dirt) Stuart highway, miles from anywhere. We met up with them again at Coober Pedy pub and they suggested we camp out of town. We did! (Had not heard of Wolf Creek then obviously.) What an experience. In the middle of nowhere – 100 clicks from Coober Pedy – they cooked us kangaroo tail soup, kangaroo steak, damper and baked vegies – all from a campfire (see picture below!). My love of a life in the country was born.

2. Do you have any food-related rituals or routines in your household, such as a specific meal for certain days of the week?

Very regimented at breakkie time  – need it to wake up. After that, who knows! As long as I get my two soy lattes every day I’m a happy girl.

3. What is your favourite

Drink: alcohol – full stop. Only don’t stop. Pls don’t stop. Barman! Another one pls…and one for my friends. (I shout cyber drinks these days since deciding too much of the real thing is bad for my health and my waistline. Although I will be lashing out come Conference. Try and stop me!)

Indulgence: brie cheese & crackers with homemade persimmon paste, pretzels and red wine under a setting summer sun.

Meal: Home made pasta or pizza with home grown spices and herbs.

4. What’s the most revolting thing you’ve ever eaten?

Oysters or smoked cod in white sauce. Brrrrrrrrr!!!!!

5. If you have children, have you discovered any ingenious ways to hide vegetables in meals?

I hide the dogs’ tick prevention pills in yoghurt (a dollop in each bowl of biccies). Does that count?

6. Is eating out at cafes and restaurants a regular part of your life? Do you have any favourite places you’d like to mention?

Eating out was my all-time fav thing to do…until I bought a café. If you want to stop eating out (save money and lose weight) buy a food business and see what some chefs do in the kitchen, learn what the 10 second rule is, or discover how cheap and easy that $30 masterpiece is to make! I promise you will never eat out again.

7. Do you eat while you write? Are there any particular foods or drinks you always have on hand while writing?

Who can eat and write at the same time? I need every finger to hunt and peck my way around the keyboard. Besides, I can’t afford slippery food fingers if I want to keep the letters from fading away.

8. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose?

Kylie Minogue or Tina Arena. Two different and very successful women who found success their own way. I admire their tenacity and the ability to reinvent themselves to broaden their audience and grow with the changing music scene. I’m not sure writers can ever do this. Both these ladies have endured set backs (in different ways) and stayed focused and positive.

9. Which one of the following types of cooks are you?

  • Cooking? What’s that?
  • I cook only when I absolutely have to
  • I’m an average cook, and stick to my regular meals
  • I like to experiment with new recipes regularly, or create my own
  • Next season of MasterChef – lookout!

None of the above. I now use my new status of soon-to-be-published-author, milking it wherever possible (usually at dinner and dishes time), except when I can’t because my B&B – purpose built for pups and people  – visit us on facebook here. (shameless plug) — offers evening meals. Typically:
Char-grilled Atlantic salmon fillet on Moroccan cous cous, with homemade mango chutney, cucumber yoghurt and salad with preserved lemon dressing

Our Mediterranean Table – Spaghetti Bolognaise with hand-made fettuccini, Mediterranean salad, olives, shaved parmesan & crusty sourdough bruschetta

Hungry yet?

10. Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share?

The Calingarry Crossing CWA ladies (from my first novel) have THE best / easiest no peeling required pumpkin soup. They posted it on my blog a while back! Here it is.

Thank you, Juliet, for my very first invitation to blog as a ridgy-didge author, having signed up with Simon & Schuster for my two contemporary Australian novels earlier this year.

House For All Seasons (due May next year)
The Simmering Season (due May 2014)

In the meantime, come on over…

Come home to the country…

Jenn J McLeod

Small town stories. Discover them. Love them.

Thanks for visiting, Jenn, and I can’t wait for your books. Consider them pre-ordered!

Leave a comment for Jenn below, and you will go in the draw for prizes at the end of the month (Just make sure you also subscribe to the blog posts ;))