Today on Books Spark Joy my guest is Australian fiction author Jenn J Mcleod. Jenn and I have been on this crazy writing journey for around the same length of time and our career paths have been eerily similar. Published with Simon & Schuster and the UK’s Head of Zeus, Jenn’s first book, House for all Seasons, was the #5 best-selling debut fiction novel in 2013. Two years later she downsized her life, packed everything she owned into a purple and white caravan she calls Myrtle the Turtle, and is now Australia’s nomadic novelist and her 6th novel—House of Wishes—will be released November 1, 2019. She says she’s planning to do “several big laps of Oz very slowly”, ticking things off her bucket list along the way, and finding inspiration for more heart-warming tales of friendship and family — contemporary stories with a backdrop of country life.
House of Wishes
It’s time to come back to Calingarry Crossing, and to Dandelion House in 1974 where two teenage girls, strangers, make a pact to never tell their secret.
Forty years later, a mother’s wish to have her ashes scattered in a small-town cemetery triggers a grieving daughter’s journey to remind us all that life is about the choices we make and the connections that matter.
Dandelion House is ready
Over to Jenn …
It breaks my heart to say… “I don’t own a bookshelf.” I even can’t manage a casual coffee table spread that says how utterly fabulous, fashionable and high-brow my reading preferences are.
‘Why not?’ You ask?
Because two average-sized paperback novels is the equivalent weight of a litre of clean drinking water—or one bottle of wine in the under-bed cellar. Difficult choice! But life is full of difficult choices.
Choices is, in fact, the theme of my new release, House of Wishes: a story about the choices we make, the connections that matter, the secrets we keep, and the power wishes.
I wish I could carry more books on board Myrtle the Turtle (my mobile home for 5 years) but such is the reality of nomadic life. Since selling the house in 2014, and everything we’d accumulated over 36 years of life together—including rehoming our books—I’ve found new ways to experience the joy of a bookcase.
I regularly get to poke many different book collections, including those belonging to complete strangers. No! I do not break into houses, but I do house sit (or pet sit) and some homes are like winning the literature lottery. Eg: In Rutherglen, the homeowner had every Maeve Binchy novel (which I promptly rearranged in order of publication). Sometimes I even find my own novels among the shelves. (Now that sparks joy, let me tell you!)
Then I find treasures like this lot: C. J. Dennis, Bryce Courtney, A. B. Paterson, Colleen McCullough, and loads of non-fiction shelves. (Pay particular attention to the ‘women writer’ addition to the Outward Bound Library book blurb. Oh dear!)
But the books that spark the most joy are not physical books. Audio and ebooks now make up my TBR pile. (I can carry my own stock in the caravan to hand-sell at libraries, etc. I do sell a few and meet lovely regional readers. In the last six months we’ve travelled from east to west, then back from Perth to Far North Queensland. That’s a lot of kilometres. The added weight of a printed books for my reading pleasure means greater fuel consumption. Greater fuel consumption then means less money for ebook buys. Getting the picture?
My life on the road still revolves around books and writing and promoting Aussie storytelling; that will never change. What is changing is my focus. I’m now teaching readers how to set up and download digital books to their devices. There is still resistance, especially from more mature-age readers and die-hard paperback fans. I know there are many who will never give up their printed words, but with so many authors (like Pamela and myself) choosing to self-publish, and with the increasing costs of printing and posting paper books, the number of trees it takes to print books, etc ebooks make sense. So please, spark some joy in a self-published author today and commit to going digital—even if it’s only every third book. At least give ebooks or audio a go. You never know, you might grow to like it, as I did.
My up-coming release House of Wishes will be out on Nov 19 in print and ebook and is now available for pre-order:
or via my website www.jennjmcleod.com.
Where do you keep your books?
In a teeny cupboard in the caravan.
Do you hoard or pass your books along?
A caravan park is a great place to swap books. They can be, as I wrote in a recent Better Reading blog post: The Unlikeliest Locations of Literary Bliss.
How do you feel about lending books?
My reply when someone asks to borrow a book is this: “Better to borrow from a library than borrow from a friend”. (That way both the library and the author benefits.)
How does your bookshelf tell the story of your life?
I don’t have a bookshelf. What does that say about my life? L
Do you write surrounded by books?
I write while surrounded by nature.
Share a book that immediately sparks joy in you when you hold it?
Mine! I know I’m probably supposed to be all very high-brow and select another author’s work. But why? I’ve enjoyed many novels, but the one that sparks the greatest joy is the first one of mine I saw in a book shop: House for all Seasons.
Connect with Jenn: