My earliest years were spent on a farm in North Otago, just over the ranges from Central Otago, where “A Heart Divided” is set. Central as it’s known, is a unique region in NZ. Most of the rest of the country was settled in a very planned fashion, but that was all thrown out the window in Central when gold was found. So its always been an area that did things it’s own way, something that rather appeals to me. Plus it’s drop dead gorgeous – wide open skies and stunning hills covered with tussock grasses, plus thyme and briar rose, these days. Historically, it is also a region rich in stories – an author’s dream
As an adult, I love second hand bookshops and have found some great local histories there, with stories of how everyday settlers lived their lives. These are still my best sources for stories. The tragedy of the loss of the miners in a snow storm near Gorge Creek was one such that struck a chord. Then I visited the area and found Mitchell’s Cottage – a beautifully preserved stone cottage built in the late eighteen hundreds.
Combine this picturesque cottage and the Gorge Creek tragedy, and you have the beginnings of “A Heart Divided”. For the rest of the story, you will have to blame John Reid and Nessa Ward – they took over and decided what would happen next.
Do you read historical romances as well as write them?
Yes, definitely. You have to love a genre to be able to write in it successfully. I became hooked on historicals – romance and otherwise – very early in life. A favourite author was Georgette Heyer of course, still one of the cleverest and most witty writers of historical romance, but I also loved the works of Mary Renault and later fell completely under the spell of Dorothy Dunnett, especially her Francis Crawford of Lymond series. And then there was one of the earliest series of historical romances, the Angelique books by Sergeanne Golon. I don’t know if you can even buy them now, but in my late teens, I couldn’t get enough of them.
I did say you had to love the genre you write in! Not that historicals are all I read. If you look at my website, you can see I also write science fiction, so of course I read that, as well as fantasy and paranormals. The rise of the paranormal romances have been great for someone like me – they take a bit of everything, mix it up, and come up with so many new and exciting worlds, ideas and characters, the possibilities are endless. So who knows what stories I will come up with next.
Otago, New Zealand. January 1863
It was the girl he noticed first. At any other time of day, travellers would have passed by unnoticed, another group of hopefuls straggling to the goldfield, but evening was coming on, and John Reid stood on his front porch, as he did every day at this hour, pausing from the work of the day to take in his new world before darkness drove him inside his small home.
A sudden spark of light from the dying sun caught his attention, and he looked up at the ridge line to the east. The track from the coast crested a rise there, and she stood motionless, her body a perfect silhouette against the darkening sky. Women were scarce in this place, and a woman with a body like that even scarcer.
But it was not that alone that caught John’s interest. It was the way she stood, tugging at his memory in a way he couldn’t ignore. He had stood exactly like that three years ago when he had first crested that same rise and seen this valley. Bought and paid for down country, sight unseen, this was his land to make of what he could. In that moment he had known it was much more. In that moment, he knew he had come home.
And the woman? What did she see?
She was not alone. A man came over the rise and stood beside her, trailing a horse behind him. He said something to her then hurried impatiently down the track, barely stopping to look.
It was a rough track, climbing eastwards from the coast, riven by spurs of rough land where the mountains reached their rocky talons down to the river. Walking consisted of a wearisome struggle up and around the jumble of rocky outcrops and through the creeks that gouged out each hollow. To come over that last steep part and stand looking out over this valley of golden tussocks and open flats was like being granted deliverance. What kind of man was this stranger to ignore such a view?
Mary Brock Jones lives in Auckland, New Zealand, but her childhood years in the stunning Otago region of New Zealand's South Island live on in the romantic adventures of the heroes and heroines in her historical romances.
Yet life is not always roses, and nor is fiction. She also writes science fiction, stemming from her background in the animal sciences, and these stories do not always end so happily, but they do end where they must.
Mary blogs at http://marybrockjones.com
Escape Publishing and Amazon
Thanks for stopping by Mary. I hope you have lots of success with A Heart Divided - I adore the cover by the way!