Romance and culture through a lens

Last week, I finished reading Love Through a Lens by Lucy Felthouse. Despite not often getting the feels from books like this, I rather enjoyed it. The characters, the setting and the sheer Britishness of it charmed me. It was the sort of story I pictured as a Bridget Jonesy rom com with Colin Firth. And who doesn’t love a bit of ol’ Colin?

I’m sure I’ve read British romances before, but being mindful of cultural diversity at the moment, it’s got me thinking about how to write a story with Australian characters without making it tragically Australian. You know, the “I’m going to beat you over the head with how Aussie I am” thing versus the off-the-cuff, by-the-way, aw yeah nah, it is what it is kind of thing.

I liked that about Evie Bliss’s The S’expert. Aside from the writing style and humour drawing me in, maybe it’s because I hear Aussie turns of phrases every day that I could gel with this. No hurdles, no extra translator switch to flick. Not that it’s a problem normally, as I’m surrounded by American and British English on a daily basis. But removing that extra language layer must certainly make a difference at the cognitive level.

Though I never detail it in the book, You and I is set in Australia. Sydney, to be precise. Leah and Craig live in Redfern. The Airbnb in Part 4 is in Bondi, though I pictured the surrounding area looking more like Manly. In my head, the characters have Aussie accents (Perth middle-class accents, oddly) and use Aussie vernacular — I wonder if that’s why the words just flowed while I was writing.

Some readers and reviewers asked for a more fleshed-out story after reading You and I. At the time, I had just recovered from writing Chasing Sisyphus and facing my fear of too many words. I wanted to play with a minimalist style, so I left out anything that didn’t have to do with sex or Leah’s emotional journey. That included auxiliary Aussie things.

But now I look back and wonder if I should have gone into detail, especially after reading Delane’s review of it on Coffee Time Romance. I wonder, what changes about the way we relate to characters when we understand their cultural context? What assumptions do we make about people from just hearing their accents? And what factors about someone or a situation are simply impossible to pick up yourself without having to be told?

I don’t know if I would have liked Love Through a Lens as much if it had been set in Australia or America or Canada. I wonder, if Lucy Felthouse had omitted the details about the British countryside and culture, would I have been able to fill in the blanks on my own? Should stories in the romance and erotica genres even ask that much of a reader?

These thoughts, on a Thursday afternoon.


Img via StockSnap (CC0)

Sometimes you need to say no

I’m really struggling with email at the moment. I have a handful of personal email pals I’ve been keeping in touch with reasonably well over the last couple of months, but also a metric fuckton of Bloglovin’ notifications, social media updates and newsletters.

I know I’m not alone here. I’m sure everyone with an inbox has this problem to some extent. And I think about this a lot when writing Dot Dot Dot every month.

Am I worthy of being in a subscriber’s inbox? I don’t want to just do the freebie monkey dance, and personally, I’d feel a bit insulted if an author thought that’s all I wanted when I subscribe to their newsletter. I mean, free stuff is nice, but before that, I look for stuff I value. Interesting things. Things I can learn from and improve my life with. Things I can take on board and try to be a better person with. I hope my readers enjoy that sort of stuff too.

And then there’s the frequency. Is one email a month still too much to be sending people? I subscribe to a very talented calligrapher’s monthly newsletter and I look forward to her updates. But I’ve also subscribed to software-as-a-service platforms and use their once-in-a-blue-moon updates as a cue to unsubscribe, even though I find their service interesting.

Comic: 10 years ago, letters were meh and emails were exciting. Now, emails are meh and letters are exciting.

As much as I can, I try to keep my newsletters personal — without getting TMI, of course. If that’s even possible in a newsletter about smut, sex and love? But I’m motivated to try because the majority of my inbox (and twitter feed) seems to be stuffed with overexcited marketing and obviously automated updates 😒

The shining stars in my dark, dark gmail are the personal messages from people. It’s nice to have a conversation, you know? As a writer, I spend a lot of time in my own head, so it’s nice to get perspective from other people.

If you like what you see in my newsletter, hit reply and write to me. We can chat a bit 💌

But if you ever find them too much for you, I won’t take it personally if you unsubscribe.

Sometimes you just gotta say no. Boundaries are healthy. They’re good for everyone. For instance, Circlet Press said no to my story submission. The editor said it wasn’t “what [she] was looking for”, but gave me some lovely feedback that gets me thinking this piece is in a share-worthy state.

Keep an eye out — I’ll publish it as a free read on this blog closer to Halloween.


Img via condesign (CC0)



Styling for Satine

With my short story, The Induction of Satine, releasing next month, I thought I’d share some character work for the eponymous heroine, Satine Luna.

One of my favourite thinking games is the casting game, where you imagine a beloved book as a movie or tv show, or a beloved movie remade or rebooted, and set up your own cast of actors. I play this game a lot when imagining characters for my stories. Even a very short story like Birdwatchers gets the brain treatment, though to a lesser extent than a novella like Chasing Sisyphus.

I’m currently loving Emma Stone as my model for Satine. She has those sly facial features that would easily typecast her as a thief. I quite like the look of Rhianna, Vivian Hsu and Olivia Wilde as well, for different variations of this character.

Since putting pen to paper, I’ve had a very strong image of her in my head. Red hair, green eyes, smooth skin, lips that taper off in sharp corners on the edges of her mouth. But note, you won’t find a description in this book. I left it out on purpose, because it’s inconsequential to the story. If there are more stories in future, maybe it’ll come up then, but for now, dear reader, Satine is yours to style (assuming I haven’t ruined it for you already).

Entirely through fault of her own, our brainy yet misguided vixen finds herself running with the infamous thieves’ guild, the Night Foxes, stealing trinkets and secrets from rich people. Until one day — no spoilers — she gets caught. That’s where our fun begins.

The Induction of Satine comes out 7th Nov.



A little grizzling goes a long way

My cat is wandering around the study, grizzling under her breath as she looks for a place to settle. It mirrors exactly how I feel when I look at the draft I’m working on.

So, one of my goals is to write a serial novel. I used to write them when I was a teenager on the internet — cos that’s just what you do when you’re not up late chatting with friends in other timezones. My big burnout-induced hiatus from writing was a long time ago, but sometimes, I still feel like I’m fighting to get back to where I was before it happened. I imagine publishing and finishing a serial novel would get me my confidence back.

It’s all planned out — plot, character journeys, incompatible personality quirks that make for frustrating relationship conflicts. The trouble is I hate it. I’m dragging my feet (fingers) on every line. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m trying to write characters dealing with problems I can’t relate to. Maybe it’s the story setting. Maybe the contemporary world doesn’t allow for enough outlandish bullshit. Maybe there’s not enough black-and-white good-versus-evil. I don’t know. I’m grizzling.

After my little getaway, I have two more getaways to look forward to this month. One is a beach holiday to enjoy the impending Western Australian sunshine. The other is a fitness weekend where I hope to work hard, then break my no-drinking run. I hope it’s hot, hot, hot for both trips 🌞 and I come home with some fully sick and sexy summer stories for you all.

I’ve decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year. Sure, it’s 2 for 2 on finishing the challenge, but I’m 0 for 0 on walking away with a workable draft. I do want to write something in November, though. Maybe it’ll be this serial, maybe a story for Christmas, maybe something else entirely.

For now, though, I’m throwing together a small pile of clothes for my cat to sleep on, then topping up my coffee cup.

What’s new?

  • Birdwatchers is out! Thank you to my lovely newsletter subscribers for reading the ARC and getting in touch with such encouraging feedback 💕
  • I’ve submitted a steamy little story to the microfiction call by Circlet Press. I don’t know if or when I’ll hear back, but I hope I get to share it with you somehow before Halloween! 🎃
  • The Induction of Satine comes out in a month, but the free advance copy is still available for subscribers until the end of next month because who the hell schedules stuff properly anyway? 💌


Img via Manu Adán (CC0)