Friday, January 6, 2017

Sandra Mackness - Wedding bells down under!

We welcome Sandra Mackness to the RNA blog for our first author written piece of 2017. Sandra writes as Jill Barry and had a very enviable 2016.

This time last year, while awaiting the date of my son’s marriage to his Australian fiancée, I knew I’d need to blank out a whole month in my 2016 diary. Once the daffodils began brightening parks and

gardens, I focussed on buying that mother of the groom outfit, knowing UK Spring was the perfect time to find suitable clothes for November in South East Australia.

I was spending less time on writing though I gave a couple of library talks and enjoyed publication of my first psychological suspense novel, plus a pocket novel and two Christmas-theme Linford Library Romances. I also submitted my seventh pocket novel to The People’s Friend and received a swift acceptance. My editor then approved my next idea but advised me to forget writing for a while, saying, ‘go and see your boy married.’ How wise she was.

I left home on Halloween, though not astride my broomstick as one or two of my family suggested might be fun! My travel companion and I met at Heathrow and the adventure really had begun. My writing plans at that stage consisted of a large notebook, several pens, plus my Kindle, to which I’d emailed my current wip, a contemporary romance called Love Thirty, with revisions planned.

The happy couple were blessed by sunshine on their wedding day at Dunkeld and many guests travelled from the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand, so making the occasion even more memorable and joyous. My daughter-in-law comes from a big family and one of her sisters is an airline pilot with Cathay Pacific. She and I discussed flying and possible story lines over a glass of
wine while we stayed at her Hong Kong home, a welcome respite before flying on to Melbourne.

I kept a journal, to remind me what sights were visited and when, as well as taking photographs. But it wasn’t until I was alone for a week, house sitting for the newly-weds and exploring Melbourne while they honeymooned on the Gold Coast, that I realised I had to begin a wedding-inspired story.

Sure enough, the old magic began to work and, using my son’s whizzy computer, I let the characters drifting in and out of my mind, materialise. The word count increased without my even thinking about it and when I made my daily visits to the café down the road, I took my notebook and Kindle along so revisions of my completed novel would be ready to action on my return. You can imagine, serious research was necessary in the form of cake sampling, drinking coffee and chatting up the friendly staff!

They say Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, can experience four seasons in one day. I can vouch for this. So, weather and sense of place are important features of this latest work. Each time I sit down to write another instalment, I’m ‘back again,’ and that feeling is kept alive by frequent viewing of the beautiful wedding video. My British heroine, who takes a temporary job at a country resort specialising in wedding parties, isn’t modelled on anyone in particular. But some of her experiences will mirror my own, including an exciting day at the local races, where the fantastic fashions of the race goers and the colourful jockeys rivalled the size and sophistication of the delicious canapés.

Watching a kangaroo bouncing in the wild? Stopping for lunch at a quirky restaurant? Yes, both these provide more material for my wip. Although a blissful day at Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens, steeped in bird song and blossoms, plus visits to the State Library and other city landmarks aren’t relevant to my heroine’s journey towards her happy ever after, I can confirm the well is not only topped up but
also filled to overflowing.

New Year resolutions aren’t usually for me, but even though I’m not yet planning another trip abroad – give me time – I’m determined to hang on to that joyful, vibrant buzz from my fabulous adventure. Whether visiting a museum, art gallery or historic house, locally or further afield, I know I shall delight in letting my imagination loose, just as I did in awesome Australia. Meanwhile, back to the wip and my final few thousand words.

I wish you all much happiness and success with your writing and travelling this year.

Sandra xx

Twitter @barry_jill


Puppy Love by Jill Barry - Linford Romance Library, publication 1st January 2017

Majorcan Magic by Jill Barry - The People’s Friend - pocket novel - publication 14th January 2017

Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of 2016 with us Sandra and good luck with your writing in the coming year.

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact the team on


Elaine Everest said...

Thank you, Sandra and good luck for 2017 xx

Jan Baynham said...

It was so good to hear about your Australian trip. Sandra - a lovely post. Good luck to you and everyone at the RNA blog for 2017.

Sandra Mackness said...

Thanks again, Elaine for all the hard work put in by you and everyone else involved. I had fun writing this piece.

Sandra Mackness said...

Thank you for dropping by, Jan. I think you know how thrilled I was (and still am!) to have had such an amazing experience :)

Noelene said...

Jill, lovely to hear of your experiences while here in my Australia. And the wedding was only an hour from where I live! I thought the backdrop in the photo looked familiar. So sorry we didn't connect and catch up while you were here.

wannabe a writer said...

A beautiful post. The wedding sounded just perfect and the perfect environment to be inspired.

Sandra Mackness said...

Thank you so much, Noelene and wannabe!Yes, Noelene, that's Mount Sturgeon looming over us. We were so lucky to have a beautiful day for the wedding as the next day, when most of us went to the races, was squally to say the least - but good fodder for my story line!

Liz Harris said...

it sounds a wonderful trip, Sandra, and one which will Iive on through the pages of the location-inspired novel. I, too, really enjoyed my visit to Australia when my younger son married an Australian girl in Sydney a couple of years ago. I'd go back there like a shot.

Natalie Kleinman said...

I too have family in Melbourne and I'm not surprised the setting and your son's wedding inspired you to start a new book. Thank you for a very enjoyable post.

Sandra Mackness said...

Thank you, Liz Harris and Natalie Kleinman. Liz, your advice about beating the jet lag worked well. We hit the ground running! Natalie, Melbourne is so different from any city I've visited in the UK. My son's Fitzroy district has a public library where the Melbourne Romance Writers meet but sadly I didn't know that until my last few days. Next time!

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