Tag Archives: Deborah Challinor

THIS WRITING LIFE: The 2013 Newcastle Writers Festival


Miriam Margolyes in fine form

On the first weekend of April I took to the road and headed up to Newcastle – one of my favourite places – for its inaugural writers festival. What a great weekend! Massive kudos, congratulations and thanks to Newcastle Writers Festival manager Rosemarie Milsom and her team of helpers for hosting a truly wonderful event. I’ll be back next year for sure.

Opening night was a blast with acclaimed actor and Dickens devotee Miriam Margolyes expounding on Why Words Matter. Her speech was rambling, funny, poignant and everything in between, and it’s a great sign of her talent that she managed to convince the entire University of Newcastle Conservatorium to sing along with her to Daisy, Daisy. We all decamped across the road to the library for drinks, nibbles and mingling afterwards with huge smiles on our faces.

If you’d like to hear Miriam’s opening night address, The Herald has kindly made the audio available on their website.



Except for a few dark clouds out to sea, Saturday was a typical gorgeous Newcastle day. We spent the morning taking in some of the (very familiar) sights before wandering up Hunter Street to Newcastle beach for a gaze around. Then it was time to join my fellow Heart of the Matter panellists Kaz Delaney, Michelle Douglas, Deborah Challinor and moderator  Annie West for a spot of lunch at Raw Cafe, a rather inspirational place for a bunch of romance writers given the wait staff!

Inspirational also was the venue for our Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance panel. The session was held at the Newcastle City Business Centre, in an historic sandstone former bank, and the interior was sumptuous, with polished timber panelling, marble mountings and a beautiful chandelier. Although Kaz Delaney, bless her, managed to out-glitter even that with all her bling.

Heart of the Matter Paenl: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney, Deborah Challinor and Annie West

Heart of the Matter Panel: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney (note that glittery gold bag), Deborah Challinor and Annie West

We had a lovely, clever audience who had our brains working overtime with some astute questions. I think this was the first occasion I’d ever described the themes of my work in public. For me it’s forgiveness, especially self forgiveness, and it was fascinating to hear my fellow panellists’ thoughts on the subject. Kaz wrote similar themes to me, but Michelle’s and Deborah’s stories offered different messages. We were also asked what was the worst

Michelle's gorgeous tights!

Michelle’s gorgeous tights!

thing about being a romance author. I said structural edits, which had everyone nodding. Everyone except Deborah Challinor, who, for some odd reason, actually likes them. A sentiment also repeated on Sunday by Courtney Collins, author of the Stella Prize nominated and highly acclaimed novel The Burial, during our A Fine Debut session. This, dear readers, is not normal! I know structural edits are very, very good for us, vital in fact but, believe me, those babies hurt.

Speaking of A Fine Debut, Courtney and I were delighted to host a near-capacity crowd in the City Hall Banquet Room on Sunday afternoon. Rosemarie Milsom was our moderator and she took us through the massive learning curve and somewhat startling experience that was our first books’ birth. I was fascinated to hear Courtney speak about her experience with The Burial, in particular how long she worked on it and the way it seemed to explode into existence for her in the most thrilling way. We’re talking a feature film option, around the world sales, critical acclaim and major

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

literary prizes. And there I was yabbering about being thrown out to do radio interviews with no experience at all, which turned out to be great fun in the end, but nothing like the hoopla Courtney’s had and is still enjoying. Good on her, too. She was lovely and interesting and I’m very much looking forward to reading her book.

So all in all a joyous time, and another heartfelt round of applause must go to the organisers and to Newcastle itself for getting behind this excellent event. There were lines snaking into the street for some sessions and I just loved how there was a session to cater for every taste. No literary snobbery in Newie! I must also say a huge thanks to MacLean’s Booksellers who did a fine job of stocking and displaying everyone’s books. Special thanks to Kylie who had me signing store copies and is going to help me arrange some more talks in Newcastle later in the year. Stay tuned for details on that.

If you’d like to see more photos of the weekend check out the Newcastle Writers Festival Facebook page. And while you’re at it, mark your calendars for next year’s festival. I’ll be there with bells on!




NEWS: The 2013 Newcastle Writers Festival

Only eight sleeps until the opening night of the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival. I can’t wait! I so adore Newie. The harbour and beaches are beautiful, the city itself has a unique culture that makes it very special, and it abounds in history.

Plus it’s home, or has been home, to some of this country’s best writers.

So why not book a weekend in this fabulous city, say the weekend after Easter? Not only are there excellent Writers Festival panels and chats to attend, you can enjoy many cultural, gourmet and outdoor activities, plus a fascinating working harbour to watch. I mean, who wouldn’t want to camp at this bar and watch a sunset like this?

Honeysuckle Hotel Sunset

I’m on two panels during the festival:

Saturday 6th April

Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance with Michelle Douglas, Deborah Challinor, Cathryn Hein and Kaz Delaney. Hosted by Anne See.

2-3pm, Newcastle City Business Centre, cnr Bolton and Hunter Streets, Newcastle, NSW.

Sunday 7th April

A Fine Debut: The pleasure and pain of your first book. Courtney Collins and Cathryn Hein. Hosted by Rosemarie Milsom.

1.30pm-2.30pm, Newcastle City Hall – Banquet Room – Free Session.

For more information and to book your tickets, please visit the Newcastle Writers Festival website.


Hope to see you there!



FRIDAY FEAST with Deborah Challinor

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So, my lovely Feasters, how are your Christmas preparations going? Completely disorganised like me? Not to worry, help is at hand. Not only does Friday Feast showcase the best books for presents, we have recipes for foodie gifts too! See, you knew there was a good reason for visiting this blog.

This week I’m absolutely delighted to welcome best-selling historical fiction author Deborah Challinor. A New Zealander, Deborah now lives in Australia where she’s writing a series of novels based around four girls transported to Australia in the 1830’s, and with a PhD in history she knows her stuff!

The first in the series, Behind the Sun, is in bookshops now. Take a look…




BehindSunCoverFinalFour unlikely women … one enduring friendship.

1828: Irreverent and streetwise prostitute Friday Woolfe is in London’s notorious Newgate Gaol, awaiting transportation. There, she meets three other girls: intelligent and opportunistic thief Sarah Morgan, naive young Rachel Winter, and reliable and capable seamstress Harriet Clarke.

On the voyage to New South Wales their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond — but there are others on board who will change their lives forever. Friday makes an implacable enemy of Bella Jackson, a vicious woman whose power seems undiminished by her arrest and transportation, while Harriet is taken under the wing of an idealistic doctor, James Downey. Rachel catches the eye of a sinister passenger with more than honour on his mind.

When they finally arrive on the other side of the world, they are confined to the grim and overcrowded Parramatta Female Factory. But worse is to come as the threat of separation looms. In the land behind the sun, the only thing they have is each other …


How compelling does that sound! And Behind the Sun is available to buy now in Australia from Dymocks, Collins, QBD, Big W, K-Mart and your favourite independent bookseller. Online you can try Booktopia, Bookworld or Fishpond. If you like ebooks, visit Amazon Kindle, Kobo or Google Play.

Now please welcome Deborah.


Fudging it!


There was a time, it seems, when almost all women could cook. Of the four girls in Behind the Sun, Harrie Clarke, Sarah Morgan and Rachel Winter can – Harrie and Rachel because they expect one day to feed husbands, and Sarah because she has to feed herself. Friday Woolfe can’t, though. Before her arrest, she eats out every day at her local London ordinary, which serves bread, cheese, sausage, pickles, eggs and small beer.

It’s ironic, therefore, that I’ve so generously been invited to guest blog on Friday Feast – thank you, Cathryn – because I can’t cook either. I only ever do it when I absolutely have to. When the kids (my step-children, actually) were small and their father was going to be late home from work, I’d try to rustle something up, but never very successfully. In fact, sometimes they’d cry, especially when I made my mystery chicken.

I just can’t see the point. Hours and hours of slaving over a hot stove, ten minutes to eat it, and two days looking at the dirty dishes. Now that the kids have grown up and scattered in all directions, my man and I have an arrangement – he does the cooking, which he enjoys, and I clean up the (stonking great) mess afterwards. If he’s away, I eat yoghurt, tomato on crackers, and chocolate (and maybe an anchovy-stuffed olive, to cover all the food groups). Or if I’m absolutely starving I’ll go so far as turning on the oven and heating up a pie. On the other hand, if I have a deadline looming, I might forget to eat altogether. Except for the chocolate.

Somehow, I missed out on learning to cook. In Girl Guides, I know I got a badge for making a soufflé (and it must have been a good one – those badges aren’t handed out willy-nilly, you know). And I attended Home Economics in Form 1 and 2 and did stuffed tomatoes and the like, but that was about it.

I can, however, make excellent fudge. Here’s my best recipe. It’s a bit of a tedious process, but the end product is rich, velvety and very more-ish. And possibly not for those on a diet.



Swiss Milk Camarel 017

4 oz real butter (not soft versions or blends)

2 measuring cups white sugar (don’t overfill cup)

¼ tin of Highlander sweetened condensed milk (not lite)

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ cup milk

1 dstsp golden syrup

Dump the lot in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Turn down to a simmer, continuing to stir gently (if it catches you’ll get black bits all through it). When it’s gone a deep, golden tan colour, which will take around 15 minutes, remove from heat and beat with a wooden spoon. When the mixture has thickened noticeably, and is adhering to the side of the pot rather than running down it (NB: if your arm isn’t sore you haven’t beaten long enough), turn out into a dish lined on the bottom with baking paper. Put in fridge, cut before completely set.

Fudge is nice, but my all-time favourite is merengues. Does anyone have an idiot-proof recipe for ones that are crunchy on the outside but soft in the middle? If so, can you please leave in comments? Thank you. Have a fantastic Christmas, everyone!


And a fantastic Christmas to you, Deborah. Thanks so much for coming on Friday Feast and sharing your new release and that delicious-sounding caramel recipe. Anything with condensed milk in it has to be a winner!

So, lovely Feasters, anyone have a great meringue recipe? I have a fantastic pavlova one but I’m not sure if it would create the texture Deborah is after.

If you’d like to learn more about Deborah and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog and Facebook