For as long as she could remember Pamela Cook wanted to be a writer in one way or another, poems, stories, anything and everything, now she's a successful Australian author of five women's fiction novels.
Hachette Australia published Pamela's first four novels, but after writing her fifth novel, 'Cross My Heart', based in rural NSW Central West, she found herself having to self publish this time around.
Pamela spoke to Australian Community Media about why she chose NSW Central West as the primary location of her story, why she was required to self publish, her reaction to finding out Hachette Australia was going to publish her first-ever novel and what inspires her to write the kinds of stories she does.
These are our questions and here are Pamela's answers:
Q: Can you give us a bit of an idea of the story portrayed in 'Cross My Heart?
A: Cross My Heart follows the story of Tessa De Santis's child-free marriage in inner-city Sydney. Her life is ordered and comfortable, and she likes it that way. Then tragedy strikes when Tessa's childhood friend Skye Whittaker dies and Tess is bound to honour a promise to become foster-mother to Skye's ten-year-old daughter, Grace, changing her life irrevocably.
Leaving her husband and successful career behind, Tess travels to an isolated property where the realities of her friend's life - and death - hit hard. The idyllic landscape and an unexpected form of therapy ease her fears, and her relationship with Grace begins to blossom.
But a secret from her earlier life with Skye refuses to remain hidden, and Tess is forced into a decision that will either right the wrongs of the past, or completely destroy her future.
Cross My Heart is a haunting story of guilt, redemption and friendship set in the beautiful central west of New South Wales.
Q: Why did you choose to set the story in NSW Central West?
A: I was looking for somewhere around four and a half hours from Sydney, far enough away that it was a completely different setting. I wanted to really paint the two very different lives of Tessa, a city girl, and Skye, who lived in a rural area. I ended up posting to my Facebook page where would be the best location and a lot of the comments said Central West. A lot of my family actually came from out that way and as a child, I had quite a lot of holidays out there, so I thought of course.
Q: A lot of women's fiction revolves around a strong focus on romance, but this doesn't seem to be the case for you? What elements do you focus on in your stories?
A: All of my stories do have romantic elements, but the book always has a main focus on the main characters life story, usually overcoming something that has happened. Cross My Heart focuses on friendship. A lifelong friend of mine had passed away, so I was inspired by all of those emotions I was feeling and really wanted to write a story about friendships.
Q:What do you hope your readers can take away from your stories?
A: A big one would be, be true to yourself. Most of the characters have pasts that have prevented them from living their life to the fullest and the story usually focuses on how they prevailed through that and remained true to themselves. Also, to follow your instincts and intuition, and not doing what people expect you to.
Q: Is there one character from any of your novels, in particular, you think most relates to you?
A: There are bits of me in each of the characters, the one I probably resonate most within Charlie from Close To Home. Charlie's parents in the story had both died. My father died when I was three. All of the characters in some way or another have a connection with grief.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to be an author?
A: I'd written all of my life in one way or another and I was always surrounded by books. Initially, I had wanted to be a journalist, and then I had ended up being an English teacher. I hadn't written for a while. After I had done my masters in Creative Writing I started writing my first novel. I wrote it for over six years.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who may be looking to write or publish a book in the future?
A: Write because you love it. It's getting harder and harder to get published, but writing is a great creative outlet. You need to be passionate. I suggest joining a writing group, you can never learn too much, but the main thing is to just keep writing. The more you persevere the closer to the success you become. Write because your happy to be writing and not because you're yearning to be published, and finally just be prepared for rejection. Cop it on the chin and push through it.
Q: How did you feel when you first found out your book was going to be published?
A: Amazing. I was sitting in my Kombi Van with my three children in the back. When I first decided I wanted to get published I did get a lot of rejections, so to hear that someone wanted to publish is was validation that it is good enough. It's encouraging and it pushes you to want to keep moving forward. It was also a surreal moment for me, I kept thinking; is this really happening?
Q: What was it like self-publishing for the first time after having four traditional offers?
A: Self-publishing means that you get to have all of the creative control. It was great to be able to make decisions like what the front cover was going to be, and some of my best reviews have come from 'Cross My Heart'. It also means that it's not going to be as readily available though.
Q: Where can people purchase Cross My Heart?
A: Cross My Heart is available through Ebook and print on Amazon, Kobo, Booktopia and Apple Books. You can also get it online through my website at https://www.pamelacook.com.au/product/cross-my-heart/.
Cross My Heart will launch in Millthorpe central west on December 7 at 5.30pm at the Commercial Hotel.