I’m delighted to have great friend and fellow Queensland writer Noelle Clark as my special guest on the famous purple couch. Noelle is a warm, talented lady who is so incredibly supportive, so I’m especially thrilled to be able to ask her a few questions about her latest novel, Honor’s Promise, the second of three stories set on Robinhill Farm in Ireland. The first, Honor’s Debt, I devoured in an afternoon. It is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.
This is your first series. Was that always intended to be the case? Or was there some point in the process of either writing Honor’s Debt or in the planning for the book when you knew that this would be more than just one title?
About half way through writing Honor’s Debt I could see that with such a large cast of characters, it would be good to get to know some of them in greater detail. Two families living side by side for generations, working hard to eke out a living on their farms, and then came the double-bed factor – Dermot and Cherry got married – further cementing the ties between the O’Dohertys and the Cullens.
As with any family, their lives can seem dreary and monotonous on the surface but in reality they undergo issues that place stresses on all of their relationships. But the glue that holds them all together is their loyalty, love, and friendship, and of course, the fact they have their feet planted deeply in the soil of the farms they love.
So a series has evolved where we follow their lives, loves, disappointments, and achievements. Book 2 is set three years after Book 1, and the final book – Honor’s Legacy, is a further five years on. So, for eight years, we witness changes that many readers will identify with.
No way could the stories of the O’Dohertys and the Cullens not be a series.
How do you get to know your characters? What do you do to keep an ensemble cast such as the family at Robinhill Farm straight in your mind?
I know each character of the series well. In my head, I can hear them talk, the cadence of their voice and Irish accent. I know how tall they are, their build, their weaknesses and their strengths. Truth is, I’ve come to know them all so well I’ll be very sad indeed when I type ‘the end’ on Book 3, marking the end of the series.
I do a very detailed biography – complete with inspiration photo – of the two main characters of each book. This includes giving them a birthdate so I can look up their personality type, identify their traits, nature, and quirks. Each subsidiary character has a profile too, so that they can shine in their own way without overtaking the story. I create a document for each character, and spend considerable time making sure that their name suits them. For instance, the name Liam means ‘loyal, strong willed warrior and protector’. Once you read Honor’s Promise, you’ll see how apt this is.
Honor’s Debt gave us a view into to the challenging world of animal husbandry and the realities of farming life in the 21st century. I understand Liam is looking at alpacas to diversify – tell us what brought him (and you) to that point.
In Book 1, my hero Bryan began breeding Zwartble sheep – a fairly rare and at one time endangered species. In Book 2, it’s my heroine – Aislin – who is the alpaca breeder. Liam is very interested in them, but his first love is the large and productive dairy herd.
I love writing animals into my books as characters in their own right. If you’ve read Rosamanti, you’ll know all about the gorgeous goat Geraldina, who had a love affair with my hero Pietro.
Animals are such a normal part of our lives that I can’t possibly leave them out of stories about ordinary families like the O’Dohertys and the Cullens. Animals give stories a touch of normality, a real slice-of-life experience for the reader.
Honor’s Promise is a journey of discovery for Liam isn’t it. You get the sense that he feels like he’s missing out a lot and is wondering whether the grass is greener away from the farm. It must be hard for him because he also has clear cut responsibilities.
Liam is going through inner agony. No one could love his family and his farm more than he, but when he becomes uncle to Honor and Cherry’s children, he yearns for his own family. A certainty that he will never meet the right girl makes him feel suffocated, trapped, and lonely. He’s lived on the family farm all his life and,until recently, he’s been content with his lot. Now he’s become aware of a desperate urge to spread his wings, to see the world—but he knows he can’t. The chances of him finding a wife in the tiny village of Timpelaire are a million to one. But, well, we’ve all heard about the ‘luck of the Irish’.
Tell us about the girl who capture’s Liam’s heart.
Aislin O’Neill – Ash – is the opposite of Liam. She has no family ties, no sense of home, and no sense of obligation to anyone.
Strong, determined, and fiercely independent, Ash forges ahead with her own life and career despite some tragic setbacks that nearly sap her of any future. A past love affair that turned toxic has scarred her deeply, and she is in the process of hiding from the real world when she meets Liam.
Her epiphany comes when she realises that, just like the words of Shakespeare, she must be true to herself and follow her own moral path, even if it means giving up her job — and perhaps relinquishing her determination to never fall in love again.
About Honor’s Promise
Loyalty is high on Liam Cullen’s agenda, but lately he’s been feeling restless. He wants to run away from the endless routines of life on the family farm. He contemplates busting free of the sometimes suffocating confines of the close-knit family. He’d like to see the world. Maybe meet a few girls.
Riddled with guilt that he could even consider such a thing, the final blow comes when Liam’s abilities as a first rate farmer are questioned. He sees red and his quick temper is sorely stretched. He struggles inner demons and attempts to fight the inevitable – until he meets the girl with the blue-green eyes and the copper-colored hair.
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Without knowing it, Aislin O’Neill sweeps Liam off his feet, and transports him to a place he’s only ever dreamed of. It’s soon apparent that Aislin has her own inner battles. Will she break her self-imposed vow to never get involved with anyone again?
About Noelle Clark
Noelle Clark is an Australian author of contemporary romance novels and historical fiction. Her books weave romance, intrigue and adventure into colourful, exotic, and interesting locations around the world. Noelle infuses real life experience of places, culture, and people into her stories, giving the reader an authentic taste of the location. Her novels feature strong, mature heroines and heroes, who—often without knowing it—are ready for new beginnings.
Noelle lives close to the sea in sunny Queensland, Australia, and shares her home with one cat and two dogs. She has two grown up children and four very small grandchildren. When Noelle’s not writing and travelling, she procrastinates a lot by thinking about travel and perfecting ways to get out of doing housework. Oh, and she babysits her grandchildren a lot.