Tuesday Book Club – Susanne Bellamy’s Wild About Harry
One makes some wonderful author friends and I’m thrilled to say that Susanne Bellamy is one of mine. She is a fabulous writer, a generous lady and one of my go-tos when I need a fresh eye to go over my stories. Today it’s release day for Wild About Harry, book five in Susanne’s touching and intriguing Hearts of the Outback series.
To bring us up to speed, here is the blurb:
Trying to be both father and mother to his young daughter, Harry Douglas has no interest in a new relationship. If he had known that helping Briony Middleton on a lonely Outback road would put his closely guarded secret at risk, he wouldn’t have played the white knight.
Briony has no time for relationships; her focus is on avenging her grandfather’s ill-treatment at the hands of a big mining company by gathering photographic evidence of wrongdoing and stopping a proposed super mine.
But as fate and Harry’s daughter keep throwing them together, what will Briony do when she discovers Harry’s secrets?
In most romances the focus is on the hero and heroine, but when there is a child involved, it is almost a love triangle. Were there any special challenges in writing this particular dynamic?
With two children of my own, I feel very comfortable writing children in my stories. Vicky, Harry’s daughter in ‘Wild About Harry’ is partly based on my daughter, and I thought carefully about how she reacted to the deaths of her grandparents and extrapolated from that.
The presence of a child who belongs to one protagonist absolutely changes the dynamic. Harry cannot pursue Bri just because he wants to; if she becomes part of his life, his choice impacts on his daughter. It was fortunate that Vicky and Bri clicked, but if they hadn’t, this would be a very different story. And Bri quickly learns lessons in parenting, such as that she needs to think before letting flirty quips fly free when Vicky is around!
Mourning is a deep and personal process and men deal with it differently to women. How did you explore that in Wild About Harry?
We have lost several members on both sides of our family in recent years. I lost my oldest sister, then my father and mother. My husband’s two brothers passed away through random and preventable accidents, while his mother died early this year. It was his reaction to those losses, especially the random nature of his brothers’ deaths, that I drew on to understand Harry’s state of mind. I also researched how death in the family affects those left behind; one important factor for a man with a personality like Harry is guilt that he somehow should have been able to protect his wife, but failed. That guilt and trying to be both father and mother to Vicky have delayed Harry’s healing.
However, as depressed and guilt-ridden as he is, Harry has to be strong and go on living for his daughter. Vicky is his reason for getting up in the morning; Bri gives him a new perspective on the event in which he lost his wife, and with it comes a reason to live life and love again.
How did you approach the serious topic of mining and miners’ health issues. What interesting research did you find?
Originally I planned for Bri’s grandfather to be suffering from mesothelioma and began researching this health issue. It’s topical and it’s disgraceful how big mining interests tried to ignore or sweep it under the carpet, putting profits ahead of people and compensation. During my research one article led me to black lung disease, which actually fitted my story better while preserving the David and Goliath element of the miners’ battle, and so Gramps’ health problem changed. For most of his working life, he worked above ground, which sounds like it should be much safer, but while it was better than being underground, air-borne dust particles were still dangerous with prolonged exposure.
One interesting fact that really depressed me was when I discovered that coal miners’ unions decided not to raise the black lung issue over a period of years because it might impede the mechanization that was producing higher productivity and therefore higher wages. Union priorities were to maintain the viability of the long-fought-for welfare and retirement fund, which would be sustained by higher outputs of coal. After the death of Lewis (a union leader), the union dropped its opposition to calling black lung a disease and realized the financial advantages of a fund for its disabled members.
What were you like at school?
Nerdy. In primary school I was given the nickname of ‘Tania’, short for (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
What inspired you to write this story?
Harry is the pilot briefly mentioned in book 4 (Winds of Change) and the opening scene of book 5 simply popped into my head while I was trying to plot a story around an entirely different protagonist! After we lost my mother-in-law, Harry’s story really drew me to write about him. This story flowed so easily as I wrote, and I think it had much to do with coming to terms with one more loss. Writing can be cathartic, and channelling emotions onto the written page can be a step towards healing.
How much research do you do?
It varies according to the needs of the story. Sometimes simple things like what type of raptors are common in the north west of the state needed to be checked for a single word reference; at other times, it was a lengthy session tracking down articles on black lung disease, and how grief affects different personality types.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does Harry do that is so special?
It takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable like Harry, to know that you’re vulnerable and still choose to go forward. Courage isn’t knowing you will win, but knowing you could lose and going into the fight anyway. As a father, Harry has to keep fighting his grief and guilt to give his daughter the best life he can. Parents will do almost anything for their children and Harry is Vicky’s hero. As he should be!
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Matt Damon would be a wonderful Harry. I have him on speed dial … (LOL) I love MD; I’d have him play just about any of my heroes, aside from the Italian ones, and the French pineapple plantation owner in Winning the Heiress’ Heart.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Moon Shot, a memoir by Alan Shepherd about the American space programme.
What writing project are you working on next?
Next up I’ll be using beta readers’ feedback on my romantic suspense novel, tentatively titled High Stakes. It is set mostly in Nepal on the Everest track. I have the most wonderful pieces of research to share from High Stakes when it is finally finished!
Tell us something unique about you that they wouldn’t guess from just looking at your photograph?
I have become something of an adrenaline junkie when it comes to high places: hot air ballooning, ziplining on Kauai, small planes … I would love to do a parachute jump.
What is your favourite positive saying?
Tomorrow is another day – we can go on, in spite of trials and tribulations, if we see tomorrow as another chance.
I also like: Live each day to its fullest.
What is your favourite book and why?
This is like asking a parent to choose their favourite child! I can’t!
What is your favourite quote?
“We’ll always have Paris”
What is your favourite movie and why?
Casablanca – for many reasons, not least of which are the many memorable lines, Bogie, Ingrid and a stellar cast, the conflict and romance of the setting, and the most wonderful rendition of “La Marseillaise” I’ve ever heard. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTsg9i6lvqU
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
You can find me at the following:
- Facebook https://www.facebook.com/susanne.bellamy.7
- Twitter https://twitter.com/SusanneBellamy
- Website http://www.susannebellamy.com/
- Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/susannebellamy/
- Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/6869630.Susanne_Bellamy
- Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Susanne-Bellamy/e/B00AYRGVRA
Buy Links: http://amzn.to/2rt5Ekt
Would you like to share an excerpt from your book?
As she drew near his daughter’s bedroom, the rising tones of the climax of a fairy story stopped her in her tracks. Harry, the storyteller was very different to the taciturn man on the highway.
Peeking around the door jamb, she saw him, seated on the edge of the bed, arms extended.
“ . . . and then Edgar the Echidna told his children to never play with matches or they’d set the bush on fire.”
“And his children listened to him and never played with matches, didn’t they, Daddy?”
“That’s right, Pumpkin.”
The little girl flung herself into his arms and put her head on his shoulder. “I wuv you so much, Daddy.”
Bright eyes met Bri’s gaze. “Daddy, who’s that lady?”
Harry glanced over his shoulder.
Bri took a step back, her hands wide. “I didn’t mean to intrude. I was just heading downstairs.”
He beckoned her back to the doorway and turned to his daughter. “Vicky, this is Briony. Her car broke down on the road and she was stuck in the rain.”
Bri smiled at the wide-eyed little girl. “Hello, Vicky. Pleased to meet you.”
A solemn expression, more grown up than a child her age should wear, crossed her face. “Hi, Briony. Did Daddy save you from the rain?”
Hero-worship shone in Vicky’s big blue eyes.
“I gave her a ride back to town, but there were no rooms left at the hotel so Briony is going to stay in our guest room for the night.”
“Can I get up and talk to her?”
“No, Pumpkin, it’s really late, but if you’re not a sleepyhead, you can talk to her at breakfast. Now slide under the covers and give Daddy a kiss.”
Harrison settled his daughter and walked to the door. He turned back and Bri caught the edge of a smile softening the hard plane of his cheek. “Go to sleep now. I’ll come in to see you before I go to bed.”
Vicky blew him a kiss and tucked her hand beneath her cheek before her eyelids fluttered closed.
Bri waited until they were in the white and green kitchen before she spoke. “She’s adorable. How old is she?”
“Five. She started kindy this year and loves it. I’m making toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches. Does that suit you?” Harry switched on the sandwich press and pulled out the fillings for toasties. He seemed more relaxed now he was home. After meeting Vicky—and the very young nanny—Bri could understand his preoccupation on the drive. Maybe under all that tense and taciturn Harrison, there was a Harry after all.
She joined him at the bench and the whiff of fresh basil hit her. “My favourite meal. What can I do? Cut stuff, butter bread?”
“It’s fine. Do you want basil in your toastie?”
“Sure. I’m game.”
“Take a seat and tell me more about your photography.”
“Are you sure you want to hear? Fair warning, once I start you’ll have trouble stopping me.” Perching on a low-backed bar stool, she leaned her elbows on the bench.
“Not once you’re eating. I have it on good authority—my daughter’s—that I make the best toasties this side of Julia Creek.”
He cut thick slices of ham, added cheese, and tomato, and plucked several fresh basil leaves and added them, then set the sandwiches in the sandwich press. He set the timer on the microwave and leaned on the counter. “So, what do you photograph?”
“Landscapes primarily. I want to get some aerial shots while I’m up this way for an idea I have. Something along the lines of ‘How we see Australia’ or ‘One Country: Many Angles’ maybe. I’m not great with titles.”
“Flying gives a different perspective all right. It makes you realise how insignificant we are.”
“Do you fly?”
“Small planes. It’s helpful when I’m doing fieldwork if I don’t have to depend on a commercial pick up every time. Of course, it depends where I’m working. Some places are only accessible from the ground.” Fieldwork again, but her ears pricked up at mention of flying.
“Do you ever take passengers on—”
“No.” He turned to the fridge and took out a jug of water. “There are glasses in the cupboard beside your head.”
If she’d been less thick-skinned, Bri might have felt annoyed at his quick dismissal. She shrugged. Harrison didn’t know her, and rescuing her didn’t mean he owed her.
If anything, she owed him.
“I’ve also begun a collection of portraits. I plan to pitch it as something like ‘The Changing Face of Oz’. I love capturing the personality of my subject through the lens.” If she hadn’t been a guest in his house, she’d have loved to capture an image of father and daughter in the act of storytelling, unaware of their observer. Stolen moments like that revealed so much about the inner person and relationships.
“I like black and white portraits for that too.” Harry pointed to a photo hanging on the wall behind her. “Vicky was two in that photo, full of mischief.”
“So I see. Great shot.”
The timer buzzed and he turned his attention to their late supper, slicing each sandwich neatly into triangles and setting them in the centre of each plate. He passed one to Bri.
“Thanks—for the sandwich and the rescue. If ever I can reciprocate, let me know.” She bit into her sandwich, and touched her tongue to the corner of her mouth to catch an errant crumb.
For mere seconds—so swift she wasn’t entirely sure she hadn’t imagined it—Harrison’s focus dipped to her mouth.
Just a flicker of lowering lashes and a parting of his lips before the full intensity of his gaze captured hers. Seconds more in which she realised she’d been wrong about one thing. His eyes weren’t the dull brown she’d thought when he rescued her.
There was nothing dull about Harry’s eyes. They were rich, like melted dark chocolate flecked with toasted almonds.
And the raw hunger in them stole her breath until he blinked once—twice, and raised his sandwich.
“Kind of you, but I doubt our paths will cross again.” He gave his full attention to his sandwich and bit into it.
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