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Friday, December 20, 2013

Taking tea with Joanna Lloyd (and a Giveaway!)

My last tea guest for the year is the lovely Joanna Lloyd, fellow Australian and writer of fabulous historical romances.  Joanna's extraordinary childhood, growing up in a remote part of Papua New Guinea, is fodder for a whole book of its own and makes my own childhood in Kenya look positively tame!

I have been looking forward to sharing a cup of tea with my fellow historical writer... Joanna…one lump or two?

Honey please, I’m an old hippy. Oh, and a squeeze of lemon, no milk. (AS: Honey? Umm... George do we have any honey?)

Christmas is just around the corner, how will you be celebrating this year?

I don’t want to spoil our lovely tea party so lean over a bit. Very quietly… I am not a big Christmas person – if you bend my arm I might sling a bit of tinsel across the door jamb and plonk a small Christmas tree on the table but I am turned off by the commercialization of it. All my family are the same but I will be having Christmas lunch with my son and daughter-in-law and a few friends who are Christmas orphans. My favourite day is Boxing Day because then I know the whole hurdy-gurdy is over for another year…Bah! Humbug! (AS: You don't get any argument from me about the commercialisation but I love Christmas for the family connections past and present. As I make my Aunty 'Etty's mince pies I think about the generations of women in my family who preceded me...and sharing a meal with my precious family at any time is always a treat)

You and I were both born in exotic places… how did your parents come to be in Papua New Guinea and how old were you when you moved to Australia?

My father was an engineer and at aged 22, decided it might be exciting to travel and work in the wilds of PNG. He was sent to Madang in 1946 to a small island off the coast to help build a desiccated coconut factory 6 months after my parents married. They lived in a kunai (grass) hut, grew all their own food and my mother baked her own bread. As babies my brother and I were “stored” in meat safes which were timber framed cupboards with the top and sides screened with fly wire to keep out the malaria-carrying mosquitoes. My older brother was the first white baby born in the little Madang hospital. When my mum was in labour, her dog was under the bed barking at the furore and a group of drunks, dragged in to the small hospital to dry out, were on the veranda outside her door, cheering Mum on as she screamed. My father was somewhere playing tennis! I was born in a Lutheran Mission bush hospital, only accessible by jeep if the rivers were down so Mum had to be very sure of her dates! I went to Australia to boarding school at twelve, returning for holidays and when I turned seventeen, my parents left Papua New Guinea to move back to Australia. (AS: What extraordinary parents you had! It sounds very similar to my grandparents' experience in colonial Kenya in the 1920s but that's a conversation for another day...)

What is your most enduring childhood memory of your time in PNG?

It was an idyllic childhood. A time of total freedom and safety. There were no restrictions on my movements and I don’t think I wore a pair of shoes until I was 12 years old and was sent to Australia to boarding school. There are many memories but I will relate one. Our haus-boi (domestic servant) would go on regular “walkabout” back to his small village in the jungle. There would be no warning, we would get up in the morning and he would have disappeared and when he was ready he would reappear. (AS:  We had a similar experience with household staff in Kenya) 

When he reappeared on one occasion he had in tow a young girl of about 12-13 years of age.  He told us he had bought her for two pigs and she was now his wife. I recall my mother being horrified and insisting she slept in a different area from him because she was just a child. She and I would play with my toys together and the poor man was too frightened of my mother to touch her. He was not happy over wasting two pigs on the bride price for no return though. When I finally went away to boarding school she had not become pregnant so I can only assume fear won out over lust. I have provided a photograph of me aged about 9 years at a Sing-Sing (gathering of different tribes to show off their dances and costumes) in the highlands of PNG.

The young Joanna at a "Sing-Sing"

When did you first start writing seriously?

Since 1987 all my work positions have required writing: reports, assessments, submissions, speeches and media releases. When I could no longer go to work, about 7 years ago, I decided I wanted to write fiction and so wrote my first book set during the French Revolution. At this time I had no training in creative writing, including character development, plot points, arcs etc. It was just a rollicking good tale. But into the bottom drawer it went – and rightly so!  But ever onward and upward I went and have now had two books published. (AS:  Maybe that rollicking tale will reappear in another form in the future? I don't think any rollicking tale is ever wasted!)

In your non-writing world you have been involved in Family Law mediation where you must see the sad end to relationships that began with such hope.  How has that led you to writing romance?

I’m not sure if you are asking that question tongue in cheek, Alison – and well you might! For over 20 years, I assisted people to separate.  I listened to their vitriol and blame and thwarted their attempts to use their children as pawns to score points against each other. (AS: I'm an ex-lawyer who LOATHED "Family" Law with a passion for all those reasons) By the end I was able to detach from the emotion and the outcome and the only issues I was adamant about were how the children were managed by both. I would ask them to provide me with a photo of the child/children before mediation and I would put it in a prominent place and each time one (usually the male) would ask for ridiculous arrangements with regards to the child, I would point at the photo and remind them it was a vulnerable person they were playing tag with. By the end of this I think I jumped to the other end of the continuum where a Happy Ever After was a welcome change needed to bring back my faith in love and relationships. I must admit, even now, I sometimes read or write and think…Hah! That won’t last! (AS: As an antidote to Family Law, I took to doing pre-marital counselling which I loved but yes, I often wonder how many of the marriages lasted...)

Your first book, BEYOND INNOCENCE, was set in the early 1800s in colonial Australia but with your new series you are moving to one of the most interesting periods of our modern age, the First World War.  SHADOW BENEATH THE SEA is set around the sinking of the Lusitania. What was the inspiration behind this story (and when is it being released?) and is there a sequel planned?

There is a bit of a story around this one. I began writing the book as a love affair set on the Titanic, intending it to be ready for end 2011/early 2012, in time for the 100 year anniversary. However, life had other ideas and I missed the boat (pun intended)! I wanted this still to be set on a ship as I was drawn by the idea of a floating microcosm where events in the normal space of time are reduced to a matter of days and where all manner of characters are thrown together, then faced with a disaster. I was also fascinated by this virtually unknown (except by us history lovers) event in history which had a massive effect politically, personally and globally and influenced the previously neutral America to eventually enter the war. (AS: I remember my grandmother telling me about the sinking of Lusitania...Newspapers were forbidden to children but her parents were so shocked it was talked about openly at the table).

SHADOW BENEATH THE SEA wasn’t written as part of a series but there is a possibility of sequels to both this book and BEYOND INNOCENCE. The hero of SHADOW BENEATH THE SEA, Edward, would be personally involved in the fighting and Lillian, …well, there is a world of possibilities for this courageous, independent woman. 
Lillian Marshall’s father is determined she will accompany him to England on board the great luxury liner, Lusitania. Walter Marshall needs an accomplice in crime to execute a shrewd con to make their fortune. Lillian is faced with an impossible decision - stay in America and marry a man she doesn’t love for stability and security, or face her fear of sea travel, her father’s crooked schemes, and an unknown future to reunite with a family she’s never known.

When Edward James books passage to England on the Lusitania, he believes his future is at last out of his father’s hands and his career as a musician is within reach. Before the ship sails, Edward becomes an unwitting ally in Walter’s plan to force his reluctant daughter onto the ship. Edward finds himself drawn to the intriguing Lillian and seeks her company at every opportunity; finally facing the possibility that it may be Lillian who holds his heart.
Unfortunately, his uncle has more insidious plans to wed Edward to the cold-hearted Lavinia Armitage, daughter of a family business partner.

So begins a love story hindered by class, time, and promises - Edward’s to marry Lavinia and Lillian’s to steal from the man she loves. Against a backdrop of vivid characters, obscene wealth, secrets, lies, and deceit, the countdown begins toward one of the greatest war-time shipping tragedies in history.
Buy links:


And about Joanna Lloyd...
Born in Papua New Guinea, I, like many other ex-pats, were sent to boarding school in Australia. After thirteen years in Sydney, I gravitated to the lush warmth of Far North Queensland. Now that my two boys are safely married and raising their own families, I have the time to indulge my love of books and writing. I have always had a voyeuristic fascination with people, how they think and why they act in certain ways. This led to studies in Psychology and years of workplace and family law mediation. All of which convinced me it is impossible to know what another is thinking and the most bizarre fiction could never emulate real life.

What wonderful fodder for a writer! When the iconic John Lennon wrote "All you need is love", he knew that every living being seeks out love in some 
form. My novels are about love - romantic, passionate, parental, selfless and self-serving. I will spend the rest of my writing life exploring and writing about the many levels of love. Maybe the day will come when I truly understand it. To find out more about Joanna, visit her WEBSITE.

It has been a while since we have had a Giveaway and Joanna is offering a digital giveaway of either SHADOW BENEATH THE SEA or BEYOND INNOCENCE if you can tell us in which century each of these books are set.