Today is a special day for the LoveCats DownUnder. First we need to bid a very fond adieu to dear Melanie Milburne, who has been such an active LoveCat. Melanie, thank you for being such a big part of the group. We'll miss you, but we're so glad you'll be popping back from time to time even though now you're technically 'In the Wild'! We wish you everything good.
Today also marks the arrival of our newest LoveCat, Clare Connelly. Welcome Clare! That means it's party time, so relax, pour yourself a glass of bubbly or a cup of tea or whatever takes your fancy and help us celebrate.
Clare grew up in an Australian country town where she says stories and story telling were a huge part of her childhood. She styles herself a romance devotee, reading everything from Jane Austen to Georgette Heyer, and from Mills and Boon to the Fifty Shades trilogy. She wrote her first romance at the age of fifteen! More recently she's become a highly successful category romance author with 43 self published titles and seven anthologies published since 2014. Clare has recently signed a contract with Harlequin Mills and Boon (you can buy her first book now!) and will be busy writing for Harlequin while continuing her indie career. And we're all exhausted just thinking of so many books published in such a short space of time!
Clare kindly participated in an interview so you can get to know her better:
I read Harlequin Series voraciously growing up, and a lot of them were older ones. My mum is an antique dealer and, as children, my sisters and I were trotted around to all the antique markets and garage sales and charity shops, and we would spend the time it took her to browse out treasures selecting books. I was always drawn to Mills & Boons, and particularly loved the powerful stories of the eighties and nineties. I was, and remain, a devoted reader of Emma Darcy, Penny Jordan, Sarah Morgan, Valerie Parv, amongst about a billion others! In terms of wanting to write, it wasn't a conscious decision, so much as an ever-present desire to meddle in the worlds of the characters' that I was reading about. I suppose I have that control-freak gene that likes to take hold of the narrative and move it in the direction I want! I began writing romance novels at thirteen, and finished my first full manuscript at fifteen. I found then, and still find now, that I am never happier than when diving into the world of my people, layering a story onto their lives, and steering them towards their happily ever after.
Do you have a favourite romance trope?
I love sexy contemporary romance novels, and read almost all tropes. I need well-drawn characters and convincing motivation, and am a sucker for a really, really 'how the hell are they going to work this out?' angsty conflict. I think second-chance-at-love books are very compelling because there can be such a strong history of hurt and pain which brings the tension into it right from the first page. I love marriage of convenience books too, and who doesn't love a secret baby!?
What do you most enjoy about writing category books? What’s the hardest part?
Writing category is an art form. There's a huge emotional journey to pack into a relatively modest word count, and romance readers are discerning! They want to know their characters, to get their motivations, to be moved by their story. I love the pace of a category – there's no room for fluff. You need to tell a great story without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. I also love the guaranteed happily ever after. Life, real life, can be such a dark and gloomy place at times. There is always happiness to be found in the pages of a category romance – it's my favourite part about writing these stories.
What category romance are you hoping to read next?
I buy most of the Mills & Boon Sexy titles each month and am really looking forward to the current selection, in particularly Michelle Conder's THE ITALIAN'S VIRGIN ACQUISITION. The cover is so pretty!
Do you share your life with anyone furred, feathered or scaled? If so we’d love to hear about them.
My husband wouldn't really appreciate the description but, speaking of furry, he is sporting a phenomenal beard at the moment! He's growing it to raise funds for SHAVE-FREE FOR CALVING, a charitable initiative started by our Kiwi farming family, who raise funds each year for the NZ Rural Farming Trust – which helps farmers dealing with the hardships of life on the land during the really tough times (including with much-needed psychological support). I know that's not what you meant but I'm so proud of the good work my Kiwi family is doing... and they have about two hundred cows. I'd love to get a Labrador one day, but my little human puppies take up most of my spare time at present. Full-time school for both next year and then we'll see!
Finally, can you share one fact about yourself we might not already know?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was twenty six years old. My husband and I had been travelling through Europe and both picked up a really nasty virus. The theory is that my immune system fought the virus off and then attacked the beta cells in my pancreas, meaning I don’t make insulin of my own. I now wear an insulin pump 24/7 which does a fairly decent job of simulating the real deal. It’s far more common to develop the disease when you’re under ten years old, so I think I was pretty lucky to make it so far into my twenties ‘unscathed’. Although I’m on insulin, I still try to make the disease easier to manage by sticking to a relatively healthy diet – though wine and chocolate are two of my vices I always have to guard against!
Also, I’m completely Christmas mad. I love it. I start listening to carols around September, and we put our tree up on the 1st of November each year, so that we get about six weeks of it in the lounge. BUT I have to pull it straight down on Boxing day or it depresses me too much. The kids and I make gingerbread houses together each year – as they’ve got older they’ve had more interest in the creative process which has resulted in some, interesting, constructions, but it’s always good fun!
Thanks so much, Clare! How terrific to end with a photo of Santa's helpers with the gingerbread!
Now for our traditional mega-giveaway to celebrate the arrival of a new LoveCat.
Just leave a comment on this post and you will be entered in the prize draws. Winners will be announced in our Sunday Smooch post on Sunday 1 October.
ONE WINNER will receive a fabulous bundle of Mills and Boon paperbacks direct from Mills and Boon Australia! Note, this prize is for delivery in Australia. Please mention in your comment if you're in Australia so you can go in this draw.
TWO WINNERS (from anywhere in the world!) will EACH receive from:
- Michelle Douglas, a signed copy of ‘Sarah and the Secret Sheikh’
- Shannon Curtis, a signed copy of ‘Warrior Untamed’
- Bronwyn Jameson, a London Love Cats Treat
- Stefanie London, a signed copiy of ‘Mr Dangerously Sexy’
- Rachel Bailey. an ecopy of ‘The Finn Factor’
- Amy Andrews, a signed copy of ‘A Christmas Miracle’
|Clare's newest title!|
- Annie West, a signed copy of ‘His Majesty’s Temporary Bride’
- Kandy Shepherd, a signed copy of ‘Conveniently Wed to the Greek’
- Helen Lacey, a signed copy of ‘The Rancher’s Unexpected Family’
- Ally Blake, an ecopy of ‘Kiss Me Quick’
- Sue Mackay, a signed copy of ‘Falling For Her Fake Fiancee’
- Jennifer St George, an ecopy of 'Wild for You'.
Woohoo welcome Clare what a lovely post it is always wonderful to get to know awesome romance writers I couldn't live without my fix of romance stories they always take me on wonderful trips to places far and wide :) and leave me smiling. I love visiting The LoveCats and look forward to lots of postsReplyDelete
And Melanie I know that we well still "see" you often
Hi Helen, thanks for stopping by! I've loved getting to know you over the internet -- and I love how voraciously you read romance!Delete
Welcome, Clare! It's wonderful to have you here. I loved discovering more about your reading and writing world!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Annie! I'm thrilled to be on the blog! :)Delete
Welcome Clare!! We're so glad you have join our group and to learn more about you. I LOVE marriage of convenience stories too, so much tension :DReplyDelete
Hello! So lovely to be here. Oh, yes, MOC stories are so steamy, aren't they?Delete
Of course I’m an Aussie! I’m also a romance reading nut and a proud ambassador of all things romance novel. So pleased to see you here with the Love Cats, Clare. Loved getting to know you through this article, particularly having just recently met you. I also love second chance at love stories, though truthfully it’s pretty easy to sway me to just about any trope if it’s a good story.ReplyDelete
Hi Shelagh, thanks for stopping by! It was lovely to see you in Brisbane. MOC are always my go-to but yes, I love to read just about anything I can get my hands on so long as there's a good conflict and a HEA!Delete
Welcome Clare! Lovely meeting you in Adelaide and happy to be friends albeit over social media. Well done on all the writing :)ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Joanne! :) I'm so excited to be here. xxDelete
Yay, Clare! So happy to have you in the Cat box with us! I still gasp in awe at your indie success -- go you! And I'm a huge sucker for second-chance romances too...and friends to lovers...and surprise pregnancies. So many good stories out there! And I expect, as a lover of Christmas, you're rather partial to Christmas romances too. :-)ReplyDelete
Right, passing out glasses of bubbly and swanning through the room with a glorious plate of glazed donuts -- who wants one? It must be time to put ABBA on the sound system. What a great party!
Yay, we're onto ABBA already! *rachel cues up the Elvis album, ready*Delete
Dancing queeeeennnnn 🙌💃🕺Delete
It's sooo great to be here. Thanks for having me!
Welcome to LoveCats - thrilled you are here.ReplyDelete
So nice to learn more about you, Clare. Hilarious and so sweet that you are such a Christmas nut. You would be horrified to learn that some years we don't even get to putting up the Xmas tree as we are often away. Must try harder!!
Am completely awe inspired by all that you have achieved in such a short time. So fantastic!!!!
Please send me your address and *I* will come and put your tree up for you. 😂Thank you so much. I am in awe of how beautifully welcoming the romance writing community has been. ❤️🐯Delete
What a wonderful introduction to Clare, our prolific new LoveCat. It was sensational to meet you in Brisbane. Although I feel I know you so well through our on line friendship, meeting you in the flesh was one of the best things to happen to me at the conference this year. Your enthusiasm for everything . . . life, love, family, friends, delicious food, champagne, laughter, not to mention dancing , is so infectious. You make me smile every time I see your happy smiling face on the screen. OR when we send each other food porn shots. I hope you enjoy your time on the LoveCats. Looking forward to reading your posts.ReplyDelete
Hey lovely foodie friend! I agree completely - I feel like we've been friends forever. Thanks so much for popping over, meow!Delete
I knew it was only a matter of time before you ended up here. I love Christmas too and hope to get to experience it at least once in America because they celebrate it so well. I would be a terrible diabetic. Food is one of the best pleasures in life and I wouldn't be giving any of it up for anything. Looking forward to reading your stories.ReplyDelete
Hi Therese, so nice to see you over here! *waves*Delete
I completely agree. I'm aiming to get over to the States for a six month stint at some point, hoping to catch the last of summer, and their fabulous 'fall' and then Christmas/NYE in New York. Beautiful. I love Christmas in Europe as well, and London - though everything grinds to a halt! Thanks again for stopping by xx
Welcome Clare! This was a great article & fun getting to know about you. I look forward to reading your books. Love your enthusiasm for Christmas (my Dad's birthday is Christmas day). :) And the kids I nanny, for 6 1/2 yrs, listened to Christmas music in my car year round (per their request. We went between carols & The Nutcracker).ReplyDelete
Hi Sarah! Oh, I love that! My kids actually LAUGHED at me when I picked them up from school yesterday with carols blaring. Thanks for stopping by!Delete
Hi, Clare! I'm so happy that you came for this blog, that is awesome! I love Harlequin Books' titles, especially Harlequin Presents. I'm so anxious that your books are released in Brazil, oh my God. When this happen, I will buy them thimmediately. I hope you release a lot of books with this amazing publisher. Looking forward to reading your posts!ReplyDelete
Hi Vitória! Oh, I hope they make it to Brazil. I am so looking forward to being a regular lovecat! What a thrill! Thanks for stopping by. xxDelete
Welcome Clare!! Loved getting to learn more about you. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks Lynn! xDelete
Clare! Can't tell you how thrilled I am that you're joining us! (Not even just because it's fabulous to have another Jane Austen obsessive here. :D)ReplyDelete
Woo hoo! I'm super thrilled to be here, as you know. :DDelete
Welcome,Clare! It was so lovely meeting you at RWA in Brisbane. Loved your interview- you sound like you have a very busy life. 😊ReplyDelete
So glad you are in the Harlequin stable!
Melanie, we will really miss you and your thoughtful contributions to the blog but look forward to you visiting as a cat in the wild! xxDelete
It was lovely to meet you in Brisbane! I am still pinching myself to be writing for Harlequin - what a dream. :) Looking forward to seeing you back here when next you post. xxDelete
Melanie, I'm still soooo sad that you're leaving us. Come back and visit us often!Delete
Melanie, I'm so sorry that you're no longer an official LoveCat. Looking forward to your next guest appearance though.Delete
Best of luck as the newest love cat. These writers are wonderful and your work looks great, too.
Hi Laura, thanks so much! I have been a fan of these lovely Lovecats so long (I literally fangirled all over them at the recent RWA conference in Brisbane). It's an honour to be a part of their tribe. xDelete
Welcome Clare! So great to have you as a LoveCat. I really enjoyed your interview and am seriously impressed that you wrote a full-length novel at age 15. Seems you were destined to be a romance writer!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Kandy! I can't vouch for the quality of the words - that rejection was very wise! It's so great to be here - thanks for welcoming me onboard. ❤️Delete
Welcome Clare!!! So lovely to see your gorgeous face hereabouts. As a serious Christmas elf, I'm all for singing carols in September :). The kids helped sort out our grown up family Kris Kringle allocations just yesterday. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us.ReplyDelete
Love Ally xxx
Hello! It is SO great to be here. Oooh, a fellow Christmas-enthusiast. It's always a pleasure to meet either like-minded elves... who help make me feel less ... well... unusual. Ha! 🤶Delete
Welcome Clare. It's great to have you with us. I went to a rural support fundraising evening last week here in Marlborough and had a blast. So many amazing people out there who have their black moments on the farm.ReplyDelete
Hi Sue, that's so true (rhyme unintentional). Farming is one tough business. I take my hat off to the men and women who work so hard to keep food on our table! Sue, you live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. We love getting over to Marlborough -- some of our favourite wineries are in that little patch. ❤️Delete
Yep, lots of wonderful white wine here, but I do prefer the Australian reds. And yes, it is a beautiful spot.Delete
Welcome to Clare! I am in the USA, so not eligible for the Australian drawing.ReplyDelete
I love to read, Mills and Boon and Harlequins are my favorite "cousins" to read, and I especially like stories set in Australia , New Zealand and the UK ( and sexy is good!)
It's nice to find another author to read. I am a fan of Christmas, but my tree doesn't go up until the weekend after our Thanksgiving in November, and it usually comes down after Jan. 15th. I always have an after-Christmas Christams party right before the tree comes down. Everyone is so busy in December, it was easier to get everyone together after the new Year!
Hey Laurie! 🖐Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your Christmas traditions. I can see how Thanksgiving would put the brakes on the whole tree scenario... but then, you have another beautiful, festive event to prepare for! I always wish we did thanksgiving here. I'm really hoping to get over to the States for a six month stint in the next couple of years (book research) and to be there from July 4th all the way through to New Year. I love the idea of a delayed Christmas party! Any excuse ;)Delete
Hi Clare, Welcome. I liked to meet you through this interview.ReplyDelete
A greeting and a good luck for Melanie Milburne.
I write from Italy
Ciao, Franca! Thank you for coming to the welcome party, woo hoo! 🎉Delete
Great article. It's always nice to read about an author. It makes them seem more real some how. Look forward to your book and many more in the future.ReplyDelete
I am going to miss Melanie Milburne
Yes, Melanie is leaving big shoes to fill! It's lovely to be here and I look forward to posting. Thanks for stopping by!
Hello from an awfully hot and sunny QLD. Australian summers are not much fun.ReplyDelete
I love Christmas too. Is it scary that I am already shopping for gifts?
Lovely to welcome Clare, but Melanie will be missed
The fabulous Ms Milburne will be back from time to time but yes, she's left some big (sparkly, stiletto) shoes to fill. Oh, those QLD summers! I grew up that way and the humidity is tough! I've bought two gifts already - I think it's smart to do it in bits!Delete
Welcome Clare. What a fantastic cause that your husband is growing his beard for, as a kiwi, I realise that there is nowhere near enough support available for our farmers when they go through hardships.ReplyDelete
Melanie - all the best for the future, you'll be missed.
Hey Rachel - Just as well I hadn't gotten round to putting together my 2018 reading challenge yet.
In case it wasn't clear from my Kiwi reference, I am not in Australia (I am in New Zealand though)
It really is such a great cause. The rural trust in NZ does such a great job, as you would know. Every year seems to bring new and different challenges, making it hard to rest and recover when you're always 'putting out fires', so to speak. Thanks for stopping in to say 'hi'!
OMG... squeal, welcome aboard! I will miss Melanie such a great writer and person, but she is always with us. :) I am so happy you are here, and can't wait to see what is new and your adventures here, and not all sheikhs :) welcome xx Jan <3ReplyDelete
I should add an Aussie as you know but for the record ;) I see you have a new book coming out... looks so good! :DDelete
Hi Jan! Yay! Thanks so much for coming to the party and saying hi! :) I can't wait to start posting over here as an official LoveCat!Delete
Welcome, Clare! Looking forward to reading your stories. Enjoyed the interview - good romance writing is serious business and we readers appreciate it.ReplyDelete
Hi Grandma Cootie :) It sure is. Romance is what makes the world go round. Thanks for popping over!Delete
Welcome Clare. I love reading your Hendersons series. I love Christmastime too, we put up our tree on Dec 6 every year, I just love the colors of Christmas. I start listening to carols in July.ReplyDelete
Hi Kristine! Thanks so much - the Hendersons are some of my favourites. Though I'm completely swept up in this year's Christmas story. Stavros is my kinda hero (and better yet, he has four brothers and one sister so watch this space for a series next year!). Thanks so much for coming over to say 'hi'!Delete
Ack! So sorry to be late to your welcome party, Clare. As you know I've been travelling but that is no excuse.ReplyDelete
Thank you for an amazing year of friendship. I think our meeting in Adelaide last year was pre-destined and I feel like I have found a true kindred spirit and to have you here with the LoveCats is particularly awesome! Love your books and am looking forward to many more!