Fiona Lowe has been a midwife, a sexual health counsellor and a family support worker; an ideal career for an author who writes novels about family and relationships. She spent her early years in Papua New Guinea, where without television, reading was the entertainment and it set up a lifelong love of books. One of her first teenage rebellions was refusing to go on a hike with her parents because she was half way through GONE WITH THE WIND. As an adult, Fiona read her way around the world always trying to read a book that related to where she was at the time; the Brontes in Yorkshire, Jane Austen in Bath, The Godfather in Italy, Michener in Hawaii...and so the list goes on. Although she often re-wrote the endings of books in her head, it was the birth of her first child that prompted her to write her first novel. A recipient of the prestigious USA RITA® award and the Australian RuBY award, Fiona's books are set in small country towns and feature real people facing tough choices and explore how family ties impact on their decisions.
When she's not writing stories, she's a distracted wife, mother of two 'ginger' sons, a volunteer in her community, guardian of 80 rose bushes, slave to a cat and is often found collapsed on the couch with wine. You can find her at fionalowe.com, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads or you can email her at email@example.com
When the pandemic hit, I was facing a deadline with a lot of book left to write and too little time; my usual March and April. I usually live in my office during these two months so that remained the same. The household changed though. My husband, ususally out every day was home. Boy Wonder’s university classes went on line and he wasn’t allowed to do ward rounds so he returned home. My eldest son found himself living and working in a COVID-19 hotspot and remains in strict isolation. By the time he is allowed out, he will have done 44 days. A very interesting time for him and his partner in their first year of living together. My elderly parents live 110 kilometres from me. Fortunately, they are used to video calls from the grandchildren so moving to Zoom was easy for them. I find myself giving thanks that the boys are grown and I am not juggling work with remote learning. My heart goes out to all the working parents juggling their jobs and their childrens’ schooling. Here are some photos of the things that are giving me joy in iso. What is giving you joy? Stay safe. Fiona xxxx
1 Audio Books! I love them. Three of my Australian-set novels are availabe as audio around the world. Grab them from Audible
When I was writing Just An Ordinary Family, I decided that Alice was going to be an artist. I can’t even tell you why I thought that as I can’t even draw stick figures, but perhaps I thought by writing Alice I’d be able to pretend I had those skills. Anway, early in the book I wrote a line about a sculpture of a pelican. Why? Well I need a piece of artwork and a friend of mine has a glorious bronze pelican that I confess to covetting just a little bit. As so often happens in writing, an off-the-cuff comment went on to become significant. The pelican became a motif in the novel. Here she is.
To write about the sculpture, I had to learn about bronze casting and I was fortunate to meet the artist of this wonderful sculpture. It turns out that Lucy McEachern doesn’t just limit herself to pelicans! A country woman, she grew up on a farm and her father was a keen bird watcher and Lucy has an amazing eye not just for the bird but for the personality. So here are some of her amazing pieces of work.
I’m writing this on International Women’s Day on the back of being asked to pen an article for the Australian press on why it’s important for strong women to be writing about strong women in fiction. So I thought I’d share the article here, but without all the ads. I’ll pop the link in too just so you know it’s legit 🙂 https://bit.ly/2TPVLJp
Fiona Lowe’s new book looks at the reasons why Australia needs strong women
FIONA LOWE, News Corp Australia Network
She has been a midwife, a sexual health counsellor and a family support worker — now FIONA LOWE writes novels about family and relationships. Marking International Women’s Day, today she writes why Australia in 2020 needs strong women in fact and fiction.
“When I finished high school, the contraceptive pill had been around for twenty years and Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch had been out for a decade.
But the messages about careers from my private girls’ school were mixed. I’d been placed in the science stream. I was expected to go to university. But when I announced I wanted to be a park ranger, I was given a “dose of common sense.”
At an interview in the late 80s, I was asked how I could possibly manage working and studying full-time as a student midwife when I had a husband. Apparently, he’d starve without me.
The generation of women following me received a very different message: you can have it all — a high-flying career and a family. That message is as flawed as all the others preceding it.
“To be a captain of Australian business you are 40 per cent more likely to be named Peter or John than to be female,” leading workplace expert Conrad Liveris said in a report that went viral in 2017.
Women continue to do a larger percentage of domestic chores irrespective of whether they work in paid employment, as Annabel Crabb demonstrated in her book The Wife Drought. These two issues, along with many more, are why I write about strong women living ordinary lives and facing extraordinary challenges.
I receive letters from readers sharing their own life adventures, many similar to my characters. This sort of connection with fiction normalises experiences and helps women know they’re not alone. Women do most of the emotional heavy lifting and, no matter the generation, they face unrealistic societal expectations. As a result, they are inherently hard on themselves for perceived failures.
By and large, women are the emotional cornerstones of their family and community. We work outside the home, but a certain portion of our brain is always connected to the domestic sphere — the mental load. Who is picking up the kids? Delivering food to sick parents? Buying the gift for the fifth birthday party? Or as GP Libby Hunter in Just An Ordinary Familydiscovers at breakfast as she’s racing out the door to work, it’s yellow day at school and her daughter doesn’t own a single piece of yellow clothing.
Life’s a constant juggle and balls get dropped. Instead of blaming themselves, I want women to fight back against learned behaviours and look at the division of labour in their family. I sew these seeds in fiction. We don’t need to do everything even if we feel we should. I’d love it if someone reading Just An Ordinary Family took away something from Libby and Nick’s teamwork in parenting and division of household tasks.
With Australia’s current childcare arrangements, more women than men are questioning the impact of their career choices on their children, although I also sense a shift in younger fathers. Is this why many women are stepping back from the less-than-family friendly corporate world? Jess, the career single mother in Just An Ordinary Family faces this dilemma. She has chosen to relocate and start her own business so she can to work around her young son, however this decision too comes with its own set of challenges.
And what of women who are childless by choice or circumstance?
Alice Hunter was working for her partner’s company when the relationship broke down. She found herself out of a job and a home. At thirty-four, a time when women are expected to have their life under control, society views this as failure — no children, no career, no money. This impacts on self-esteem and mental health. A single, childless man is not scrutinised with quite as much judgment.
Older women are also challenged by societal expectations. Post-menopausal women become invisible. Try getting served in a technology store!
When a woman has defined herself by her career and her mothering, the loss of both can leave her floundering. Karen Hunter doesn’t particularly want to retire, but at sixty-five she is feeling that pressure. She enjoys being a grandmother but she’s raised her daughters so surely there’s more to life?
In Just an Ordinary Family, I’ve explored four women trying to live their best life against a backdrop of expectations, loss, betrayal, heartache and regret. Sure, they make mistakes — we all do that. It’s what we do with those mistakes that counts. This is why portraying strong women in fiction battling real moral and ethical dilemmas matters.”
So what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
Meanwhile, for a bit more information about Just An Ordinary Family, my meaty saga about family, friendship and the complexities of modern relationships, head on over to my website and read the blurb, an excerpt and some reviews. For photos of the setting, check out Pinterest.
Liane Moriarty meets Jodi Picoult in this tensely negotiated story of family ties, betrayal and sacrifice.
Every family has its secrets…
Alice Hunter is smarting from the raw deal life has thrown her way: suddenly single, jobless and forced to move home to her parents’ tiny seaside town. And now she faces an uncomfortable truth. She wants her twin sister Libby’s enviable life.
Libby’s closest friend Jess Dekic has been around the Hunter family for so long she might as well be blood. She’s always considered herself a sister closer to Libby than Alice ever could be…
Libby Hunter has all of life’s boxes ticked: prominent small-town doctor, gorgeous husband and two young daughters. But when she is betrayed by those she loves most, it reveals how tenuous her world is…
For Karen Hunter, her children are a double-edged sword of pain and pride. She’s always tried to guide her girls through life’s pitfalls, but how do you protect your children when they’re adults?
As the family implodes, the fallout for these four women will be inescapable…
Bestselling Australian author Fiona Lowe wields a deft hand, creating utterly addictive storytelling that will have you questioning your own perceptions of what family is.
Down here in Australia, I live in the south and that means colder winters and wetter springs than the northern states.This week, as we’ve been enduring a cold snap as chilly as winter, our friends in the north are battling bushfires. I can’t post photos as they are copyright but to fully understand, click here.
Although bush fires are common in Australia, they are not common in spring. They tend to happen during, and at the end of, long hot summers. They also don’t happen much in Queensland due to the flora. But, years of drought and its devastating effects are changing our environment and the world’s climate is changing, making for a seimsmic shift in how we experience natural disasters. My heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones and lost houses — their lives will never be the same. Sadly I know this from being a couple of handshakes away from bushfire victims, from being a nurse who cared for burn victims and from the extensive research I did for my novel, Home Fires.
So what can I do from my damp home in the south ? I can donate to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army I can reach out to friends who live in the areas and check they are doing okay and I can post pretty pictures of my spring garden to try and give people a lift when the mental load of helplessness gets too heavy.
I’m just back from Alaska and I have walked into a storm of work..edits on the next big family saga book.. and family stress…neither bad… but more things to do than I have hours in the day. None of it is helped by the failed USB stick half way through the massive 21st photo book for Boy Wonder and I lost 80 hours of work . SO, having the opportunity to blog and remember that I was relaxed on this recent holiday is a good thing. So here we go!
From the 7 days cruising up the inside passage to the 18 days we drove, flew and walked in mainland Alsaks, we gave the 49th state of the USA a really good crack. If you want to see glaciers, jagged snow capped peaks, sea life…humpback whales, orca, sea otters, puffins, bald eagles, a myriad of different gulls, sea lions and harbour seals…. and interior wild life…grizzly bears, moose, caribou, voles, artic foxes… then head on over. But do it fast. The glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate.
It’s Mother’s Day down here in Australia and I’m pretty sure it’s the same in the USA. I’ve always had a healthy skepticism about Mother’s Day, which is a day that can be fraught with disappointment and wrought with unrealistic expectations. I learned early on it was important to ‘stage-manage’ the day so that I got the day I wanted. If the weather was good, that meant a picnic or a bike ride 🙂
This year, for the first time in 24 years, I do not have a child around to spend the day with and not even a husband, he’s at work, but that’s okay! I have a day planned and after yesterday’s huge day of two book talks 50 kilometres apart and dashing 100 kilometres to see Boy Wonder in a production of RENT, I’m thinking a nap might be on the agenda 🙂
Before I had my own children, I was a foster carer, an involved auntie and working with children in the community. I don’t believe this day belongs only to mothers but to women who care for others. Let’s face it, that’s ALL women. We’re the emotional touchstones of our community.
These days I’m writing longer novels about women and the issues in their lives using the skills I learned writing romance. There is always at least one mother in my books. In fact, BIRTHRIGHT starts on Mother’s Day. I had a bit of fun there and one son’s infamous statement one mother’s day when he was 16 is now in print 😉
Currently, Daughter of Mine, Birthright and Home Fires are only available in Australia and New Zealand but I am working towards publishing them myself in the USA and the UK. If you would like to be put on the mailing list for when that happens, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
How are you spending your day?
Wishing you a very happy day! Take control and make it your own.
It’s been ages since I’ve blogged here as when it was last my turn, I was on holidays in the UK. We enjoyed a few days in London, but the highlights were spending an entire day with fellow medical romance author, Annie Claydon, as she toured us around Hampton Court.
I was also able to attend the Association of Mills & Boon Authors luncheon and cocktail party where I got to meet LOTS of authors who, up until then, I had only met online. There’s medical romance author, Kate Hardy, front and centre in the red and holding the tickled pink banner.
After all the excitement of party, party, party, it was time to work off the chocolate and champagne by cycling through the English countryside in the Cotswolds. In case you didn’t know, the word, “wold” means hill and I can certainly testify to that! We rode up a LOT of very long and steep hills. It was a fabulous trip even if it did come with ALL the weather: blinding rain, headwinds so strong there was a point when I had to peddle DOWN a hill, sunshine and sunburn, oh and midgies….give me an Aussie fly any day than swarms of teeny-tiny midges that get in your eyes, ears, nose, down your bra; everywhere!
We saw some fabulous scenary and I sometimes thought I was back home in the western district of Victoria when I passed all the dry stone walls 🙂
We cycled along minor roads with hedgerows dripping with blackberries, along bridal paths and canal tow paths and through so many picturesque villages, we started to get a bit blasé.
Time and time again, I felt like I was on the set of The Vicar of Dibley, The Holiday, Pride and Prejudice or Downton Abbey, and when we were in Lacock, we were where many of the Harry Potter movies were filmed. And, all those jokes about the Brits wearing green wellington boots and walking their dogs along country lanes? Well, it’s no joke, it happens! And they don’t ever have just one dog…minimum of three in the Cotswolds!
With the rise of the mobile/cell phone, the old red phone boxes are being put to good use as a central place for the village defibrillator! How cool is that? I also saw one as a community book exchange and in one village, a barista was working a coffee machine 🙂
Have you ever been somewhere real when you felt like you were on a film set?
In Book News, I am getting excited about my next big saga, HOME FIRES, which is out in Australia and New Zealand in February 2019. Instead of a family, this time I’ve tackled a community in crisis eighteen months after a bushfire. Sadly, due to climate change, more and more communities are dealing with wildfire (California as I speak and Canada has a long history too).
The silly season is about to gear up, so I want to take this time to wish you all a happy festive season and may 2019 bring you plenty of time for reading! Fiona xx
In my last blog post here I told you about the amazing trip I was taking with my husband, which took in 10 countries in 9 weeks. We had a fabulous time; we ate, drank, walked…boy, did we walk! And we switched off.
Lots of people have asked us what the highlight of the adventure was for us and I unequivocally say it was the walk. Also known as The Way or The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, it spans the top of north western Spain. We covered 220kms in 10 consecutive days. Our feet hurt and our legs ached, but we pretty much smiled all the way (although that had a lot to do with how lucky we were with the weather!)
We met some amazing people, some of whom were walking the full 800kms on their own (although you can’t possibly be alone the whole time; there are far too many people to chat to along the way). On the day we completed our 220kms we were two of about 35 people who finished the walk that day. The numbers rise steadily through the summer to somewhere in the hundreds each day.
At the beginning we decided to document our walk on Facebook so our friends/relatives etc knew we were safe/uninjured etc. and because that’s what we do, right? But as the walk progressed we became less and less inclined to spend our down time in a new village/town searching for a decent WIFI connection (in the middle of rural northern Spain, this was a challenge) and then uploading photos etc…when we could be connecting with people and places we’d never seen before. In person. For real. And so eventually we decided to switch off. Completely.
It was so lovely to spend time together just walking, chatting and exploring, not checking Facebook, not snapping photos because we thought they’d make an impression on Instagram. Not wondering who had ‘liked’ our posts etc… It was liberating and refreshing to talk to people and look around us in our little bubble; to notice things like how the snow crunched under our feet, how the wind felt on our faces, how free we were, and very lucky, to be able to do this. And it was so good not to know what was happening on the other side of the world/all the crappy things going on. It’s amazing how social media permeates everything we do these days.
Add to this the fact that a couple of weeks later I dropped my phone down a Russian toilet and couldn’t communicate with anyone digitally at all, my tuning out was now not deliberate but forced!! Having no phone was weird, (I use it mainly to take photos anyway)…but it was genuinely interesting to sit at a café or on a train and people watch. Mainly, to see people glued to their devices!! Also, to see people trip up, fall over or bump into others because they were staring down at their screens as they walked!!!
So now I’m home I’m trying to take weekends off social media. Switching off and breathing, chatting, exploring…is that something you do? Ever had a digital detox? What do you think?
Louisa George is an award winning author of books with humour and heart.
RITA finalist. Allergic to housework. Zumba addict. Visit her website for a complete list of her novels, which includes women’s fiction, contemporary romance and medical romances.
Happy New Year! Going by the world’s weather reports, you are either sweltering in a heat wave of epic proportions or freezing with an artic blast that is dumping you in metres of snow and withering conditions. Welcome to 2018!
In Australia, it’s summer and after all the Christmas food frenzy, I am back exercising and alternating between swimming and running. I’m working summer hours, 9-3pm while the rest of the household is on holidays. Put it this way, I will shoot anyone who tries to take my noise cancelling headphones off me. After work, I’m catching up on movies, reading, entertaining and playing board games. The two new games are Settlers of Catan and Sequence. Next week, we’re off on our annual camping beach holiday where I plan to eat, sleep, walk, swim, sail, surf and cycle. Oh, and read. Lots and LOTS of reading.
BOOKS! My next medical romance isn’t out until May but never fear, I have other books available. I’m very excited to say that Daughter of Mine, my Australian-set family saga is now out in a second printing and this time in mass market paperback. The Book Depository, with it’s free postage is stocking it. Squee! So no matter where you live in the world, you can buy it and it will be shipped to you 🙂
Daughter of Mine is a novel about family, secrets and lies and how you can live in a family and never really know your relatives. It’s about mother-daughter relationships and sisters. Australian Country Magazine says, ‘A sweeping Australian novel of lost love and tangled family secrets…’ and the Weekly Times says, ‘This is a readable and thoughtful book. It has winner written all over it.’ Read the first three chapters here.
Birthright, my next big novel is about family and this time it’s also about money. ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a relative’, is a popular saying and scratch the Jamieson family just a little and you’ll uncover secrets, betrayal and revenge. It’s out on Feb 19th but it’s up for pre-order. 🙂
If you live outside of Australia or New Zealand, then The Book Depository is your only option. For the ANZACS, preorder it from your fave book store, either physical or online. You can read the first two chapters here.
So my January is some work and some relaxation. What do you have planned?
It is with great sadness that we’re writing here today to tell you that the wonderful medical romance author, Jennifer Taylor, has died after a long battle with multiple myeloma. She was courageous and generous to the end and she is greatly missed, not just in the medical romance family but also the Harlequin family and by her beloved readers.
Jennifer wrote 85 medical romance novels over almost thirty years, entertaining millions of readers and capturing their hearts with her heartwarming stories set mainly in GP surgeries, country hospitals, or in the Mediterranean, a place she loved.
A few of the medical romance authors have written tributes below and we invite you to leave your own in the comments section.
Fiona Lowe writes: I like to think of Jennifer at home with her beloved dog. Way way back in the day, before I was published, Jennifer was a driving push to highlight medical romances and as a ‘wanna-be author’, I commented on the new blog. I won a green leather keyring with gold lettering that said, ‘Medical Romance’ and it had a gold heart. As an aspiring author, I used that keyring every day as a talisman.
By the time I got published, I’d rubbed all the gold off the leather! When I sold to Harlequin Mills & Boon, I was so excited to be welcomed to the author group and ‘e-meet’ the woman who had organized the keyring. She was warm and welcoming and generous with her sage advice. I remember her sorrow when her beloved husband Bill died and I remember the quilt many of the authors contributed a square to when Jennifer’s first grandchild was born. Only two days before she died, Jennifer was contributing to our ‘staff room’ conversation. Recently, during a stay in hospital, she’d been cared for by a handsome, Rugby-playing doctor who she declared was perfect hero material and great research for a book. Vale, Jennifer. You are dearly missed.
Amy Andrews writes: I read Jennifer’s books long before I was ever privileged enough to know her as a person. Her’s (and Caroline Anderson’s) were the books I glommed when I was learning the craft of medical romance. When I finally made it into the medical romance author fold, Jennifer was so generous and supportive of me, especially in the beginning when everything was a little overwhelming. I couldn’t believe that this woman, whose books I had read and loved, was being my cheer squad. It was my great privilege to meet her on three separate occasions and I was very excited that she came to London last April when I was there for our medical authors high tea. I know it was a hike for her and was touched that she went to the effort.
Kate Hardy writes: I’m so sad that our dear friend Jennifer Taylor has died. I ‘knew’ her before I started writing for M&B, because I loved her books, and I was so thrilled to meet her in real life and discover that she was one of the nicest women you could ever know. In fact, I’ve been friends with her right since my very first M&B authors’ lunch, so we’re going back more than 15 years. I have an early pic here of some of the medical authors from 2003, which puts a lump in my throat, because out of the five of us Sheila Danton, Jennifer and Roger Sanderson are no longer with us, and Margaret Barker is frail. (This pic made our editor, Sheila Hodgson cry, too.)
Jennifer and I set up the email loop for the M&B medical authors, so we could get together and talk books, gorgeous men, medicine and inspiration – not to mention giving people a hug when it was needed and cheering on all the good times. And how amazing it was, in the days before broadband, to think that we could actually talk to people on the other side of the world!
My enduring memory of her is her laugh. That lovely Liverpudlian giggle. She was always so positive and upbeat (and down to earth – never any airs and graces with our Jennifer). Even when she was facing some really difficult personal challenges and ill health, she always found something good in life – she was absolutely inspirational. And she was always one of the first to put her hand up and say she’d come to a meet-up (such as here in London when Amy Andrews came all the way over from Australia and we had afternoon tea).
I was proud to be there when she got her award for her 75th book. Here we are beforehand – Caroline Anderson, Scarlet Wilson, Jennifer and Annie Claydon.
My daughter plays guitar and recently Jennifer told me how she met Paul McCartney as a teen. Her friend lived just down the road from him, and they went to the Cavern and everything. Even when you’ve known someone for years, they still have the capacity to surprise you! 🙂 The day she told me this was the last time I saw her. At the M&B lunch – here we are with Susan Carlisle.
Jennifer was one of the best. I’m grateful for all the years of friendship and laughter and hugs. And those memories are always going to be there.
Fiona McArthur writes: Jennifer was one of life’s kindest ladies and I feel blessed to have known her. We last emailed each other just two weeks before she died. The photo on the left below was taken in London 2011 just after we’d spent the weekend together in Paris. We took photos of each other next to the Louvre to say, ‘Yay! We were here’. 🙂
Caroline Anderson writes:
I was so sad to hear of Jennifer Taylor’s death, because our lives have touched intermittently for the last twenty-seven years. In that time, she’s been not only a fellow author but also, because she was warm, friendly and open and always, always kind, she’s also been a friend. I can’t believe she’s gone.
We only met up once a year, twice at the most, and always at author functions – most of which are a good excuse for a party and a lot of talking. Authors all over spend so much time locked up with their own thoughts, generating words, that having an opportunity to have a real conversation with real people is always a joy! And seeing Jennifer was ALWAYS a joy.
I remember one occasion when she’d travelled down to London with her husband for the author lunch and I was privileged to meet him. What struck me instantly was how like her he was – funny, gentle, kind, with a mischievous sense of humour so like hers. I was so sad for her when she lost him just a few years later. She dealt with his loss with quiet courage and great dignity, just as she dealt with everything life threw at her, and there have been some great sadnesses in her life, moments from which you don’t recover but simply soldier on.
That was Jennifer all over. She was always so positive, so genuinely pleased to see everyone, and although I knew she was fighting a running battle with her health, she never let it show, never moaned about it or let it interfere with getting on with her full and busy life.
I’m useless at taking photos of memorable events, but luckily I also share these special author moments with Kate Hardy, and she’s taken some great photos of us together, which I’ve been looking at again. They bring a lump to my throat, because I can’t believe she won’t be there next time, that there’ll never be a next time.
It was a privilege to know her, to share however slightly in her life, to feel the warmth of her smile, to hear her lovely laugh, and there will always be a place for her in my heart. Rest in peace, dear friend…
(Caroline with Kate Hardy, scattering rose petals in memory of Jennifer Taylor)
If you would like to share a Jennifer Taylor story– perhaps a book of hers touched you or maybe you met her– please leave a message in the comments.
Thank you for touching our lives in so many wonderful ways.