Jane Carter’s third book Prodigal Daughter was launched at the Narrandera Library last Wednesday.
A considerable crowd gathered at the library to listen to Ms Carter as she talked to the crowd about coming to Narrandera, the writing journey and her experiences in publishing.
“This is an exciting day for me,” Ms Carter said.
“This has been three years from inception to reading. Thank you all for coming today.
“Why does one write a book? It’s a bit like having a child, although it takes longer than a child to produce. My advice to would-be writers is to keep writing; it is very addictive. Give the characters free rein. It is very important to turn our lives and history into folklore.”
Ms Carter started writing after her children left home, and she joined the Romance Writers Association.
“I read lots of romance as a child, except for Mills and Boon. My mother wouldn’t let me read it. For my 40th birthday my daughter gave me my first Mills and Boon.
“I came away from the Romance Writers Association understanding that romance is a huge genre. I thought, I can write a Mills and Boon, so I tried to.
“It is very hard to write a Mills and Boon. Sticking to the 56,000 word limit was very difficult.”
After completing her first novel, Ms Carter turned to her children for help and advice – particularly her daughter, who worked for Doubleday publishing at the time.
“That’s my advice to any writer. Have a child who works in the publishing industry. It doesn’t even matter what job they’re doing,” Ms Carter said dryly.
“My first book was published just as the rural romance genre was taking off. What a wave to ride! Romance is the biggest single genre of paperback books. It is a huge industry, and the first thing I learned was to be professional. They talk about self publishing, but you still need to market yourself.”
Ms Carter’s first novel sold well, and her second novel, High Country Secrets was published as an ebook through Pan Macmillan.
“That was in 2014. Everyone was saying that the book would be dead by 2020 and we’d all be reading ebooks. It was successful enough to be print on demand.”
Prodigal Daughter is published, both in print and as an ebook, through Harlequin line HQ. A deviation from the traditional Harlequin model, it focuses on women’s literature and family sagas.
Rural life is always the main focus of Ms Carter’s books, but she also talked about writing characters of her parent’s generation – “they were an incredible generation of women. Born in the First World War, they lived through the Depression and fought in the Second World War.”
While her book is in the romance genre, it also touches on firmly unsexy topics like succession planning, a hallmark of Ms Carter’s life spent married to a farmer.
Ms Carter talked at length about her family’s experience when coming to Narrandera – Ms Carter and her husband bought a property previously owned by Ann and John Mills, who she talked about in glowing terms.
Ms Carter also talked about her very interesting childhood, and her lifelong love of books.
“I was always a bookworm. I was the sort of child to who my mother used to say ‘go outside and play’. Everyone else she’d tell to go to their rooms and not come out, but she knew that was what I wanted.
“Reading did occasionally get me into trouble. Once a friend lent me a book to read and I shut myself away until I finished it. Four hours later I came down the stairs to find, sitting around the table, my mother, my father, my three brothers and two policemen. My mother screamed. I think there’d been a murderer on the loose,” Ms Carter said.