What’s in Name?

Leisl Leightonby Leisl Leighton

What’s in a name? Apparently heaps.

A swimming teacher I work with told me the other day because of multiple negative experiences with boys called Jackson, and girls called Brittany, she couldn’t help but roll her eyes whenever she had a new kid to teach who had one of those names and think, ‘what hell are these ones going to put me through’. Now, I don’t think the kids’ behaviour had anything to do with their names, but it did make me think about what we see in a name, how it affects us and the lasting impressions it leaves. This question became even more important recently when I had to come up with a new name for the novel that Destiny Romance has just published.

When I started to write this novel, as usual, I had no idea what it was about. I am a true pantser (writer who doesn’t plot). But I had a re-occurring dream about a music producer with a dark past she wanted to hide and a rock star she wanted to work with whose fame threatened to bring her secrets to light. There was also a phrase that kept recurring in my dream, ‘sounding the heart’. The hero said it to the heroine when he was talking about what he saw in her. So, of course, that’s what I named it when I had to name my document. What I didn’t know then, was that it would turn into a romantic suspense novel with a stalker and murderer in the mix. I knew when I was subbing it that the name wasn’t right, but I couldn’t really think of anything else, because ‘Sounding the heart’ was what it was to me.

Destiny LogoOf course, that title would be good if it was a straight romance novel, however, it in no way suggests the suspense/murder part of the plot – which is a quite significant part of the story. My editor very carefully asked me how attached I was to the title (my answer when I was writing it might have been, ‘quite a bit’, but now, it was ‘not at all’.)  Knowing this question was going to be coming I had been thinking about the importance of titles and what certain titles said to me. I know there have been times when I’ve picked up a book just because of what it’s called. Of course, if the blurb didn’t appeal to me, I put it right back, but the title was the thing that caught my eye. So, it seemed, there was a lot in a name if I wanted people to pick up my novel and have an idea from the title what it might be about.

I quickly came up with a bunch of titles that encompassed different aspects of the novel – the twin connection, the music, the dark creepiness of the stalker and combinations that encompassed elements of two or three of these. I really wanted something that would speak of the way the hero and heroine’s music spoke to each other (so touching on the feel of the original title), but also suggested the darker side of the novel.

Killing Me SoftlyIn amongst all these suggestions was my favourite, Killing Me Softly. I liked it because it hit the darker elements nicely, but also references Roberta Flack’s 1973 song about a woman listening to a musician whose song speaks to her soul (something that is mentioned by the heroine in the novel), so it shows the importance of music in the hero and heroine’s journeys. Luckily, my editors loved it too and picked it among the dozen others I’d thrown out there.

So, after years of calling the novel by another name, it is now called ‘Killing Me Softly’ – and do you know what? I love it. It feels good, much better than ‘Sounding the Heart’ ever did. It tells me so much more about the story. And I hope it speaks to readers too.

Killing Me Softly is out now. Find it at, Amazon, Kobo or iBooks.

Talking with Leisl Leighton

Leisl LeightonToday I’m talking with Leisl Leighton who has TODAY released her debut novel Killing Me Softly. Welcome Leisl

Thanks Bernadette. It’s so lovely to be here.

Please tell us a little about your story and what genre it is.

Killing Me Softly is a romantic suspense and is about reclusive music producer, Alexia Deningham and rock star, Daemon Flagherty. Alexia guards her privacy fiercely. When she agrees to work with superstar Daemon and his band, it is on the condition that they stay with her at her isolated country estate.

Fresh from a messy divorce, Daemon is determined to focus on his music. He wants to work with the best and that means Lexi. He certainly isn’t looking for romance, but he finds himself intrigued by Lexi’s secretive behaviour.
Despite Lexi’s reservations, their attraction grows.  But someone is watching Lexi. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the woman who has ruined his life. When his campaign of terror ratchets out of control, Lexi must fight for survival but who can she really trust?

Can you tell us about how Killing Me Softly came about?

I was thinking one day about how songs can mean different things to different people and then I had a dream about a music producer who was having difficulty with a rock star she was working with until he heard her music. The dream wouldn’t leave me alone, so I began to write. Funnily enough, when I sat down to write Lexi’s story, it didn’t even start with the rock star at the time, but a scene in an asylum where she was visiting her identical twin sister. The story blossomed from there.

Killing Me SoftlyWhat do you love most about this story?

I love the way music is so central and personal to them and yet it’s how they relate to themselves and others. It feels very true to me. I walk around singing all the time, I even sing ‘going to bed’ songs to my sons, or ‘it’s time to get dressed now’ songs etc. Music is a massive part of my life and I love that in this story that passion of mine came out in my characters. I also love the romance between Lexi and Daemon and how they get past so much to trust themselves and each other.

Tell us more about how you come up with your ideas?

As I mentioned above, I dream my stories. Sometimes the dreams are just about a character or characters who keep coming to me and won’t let go. Other times I dream a scene over and over. And sometimes, I dream a scene that then continues the next night and the next and so on, until I have the beginning of a story. Then, as I’m writing, the rest just comes to me. I’m pretty much a pantser, which means lots of re-writing, but I’ve tried plotting and it just doesn’t work for me.

What qualities do you see as most important in a romance hero?

I think he needs to be wounded or not whole in some way that only the heroine can help him with. And he needs to have something in him that is especially for her.  He doesn’t have to be an Alpha, but needs to be strong within himself, but not so strong that he can’t be emotional and caring and listen. Listening is really important. Even if he doesn’t act on what the listening tells him or denies it at first, he is smart enough to let it sink in and eventually do something about it. And most of all, he doesn’t have to ‘rescue’ the heroine. I like a heroine who can rescue herself.

What genre/s do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?

My bookshelves are filled with fantasy, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, historical romance, YA and contemporary romance – so I’m a bit of a genre slut, sharing my likes around! I don’t have an all over favourite, but I do have favourites in each genre. My favourite fantasy author is Raymond E. Feist. Paranormal – Nalini Singh. Historical – Anne Gracie. YA – Richelle Meade. Contemporary and romantic suspense – Nora Roberts.

When and how did you get ‘the call’? How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing forever, although up until about ten years ago it was mostly scripts for theatre and cabaret with a little dabbling in writing an epic fantasy novel I intend to go back to when I figure out how to weave all the elements together properly.

Destiny LogoIn regards to how I got ‘the call’, I pitched an epic paranormal to Carol George at the RWA conference last year. I met up with Carol at a Penguin workshop in January where she passed on the novel I pitched, but kept assuring me that they really liked my writing, and the ‘no’ was because the story I’d pitched just didn’t have a strong enough romantic thread in it. She asked me if I wrote anything other than paranormal and I mentioned I used to write romantic suspense. I pitched her one I thought was most ready and she said they’d love to see it. I rushed home, spent a few weeks polishing it up and sent it to her in mid Feb. I got ‘the call’ from Sarah Fairhall a few weeks later. I was so used to getting ‘we love your writing, but don’t have a place for that story at the moment’ or something similar, that it took a few minutes for it to sink in that she was saying they wanted to publish my novel. I kept saying, ‘Really?’ and probably sounded like I was away with the fairies, although I think Sarah is used to that. It took ages to sink in, but my family and writing friends helped there, as they each threw a party for me and my husband kept buying champagne, because there seemed to be something to celebrate every second day.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Firstly, write. Secondly, keep working on your writing – join a writing group, get a critique partner, enter competitions, read books (both in the genres you’re writing and books on writing techniques) and keep writing. Thirdly, write some more. You can’t improve if you don’t write. And fourth, don’t give up – aside from writing, perseverance is key.

What’s next for you?

More writing. Hopefully more published novels. I’m working on another romantic suspense at the moment and a paranormal series I’m excited about and there’s always that epic fantasy I first wrote that I want to get back to one day and do justice to, not to mention all the ideas floating around in my head for more stories.  I’m a writer at heart and I would love to build a career out of that sharing what I love with other people.

Thanks, Leisl, for sharing so much of yourself with us today. Look out for part 2 of Leisl’s feature where she talks about the process of naming her book ‘Killing Me Softly’.


You can find Leisl at  and links to her book at



MilestonesToday my blog reached the milestone of 4000 hits. It took just over 12 months to climb to this and while I’m sure it sets no record, it’s still an amazing achievement. I’ve had a great time creating content for this blog and tried to stick with the romance theme.

Finishing line

I thought you might be interested to discover the most clicked of my 40 previous posts was The Most Romantic Dr Who which continues to get clicks on a regular basis. Next most popular was the Alpha versus Beta Heroes post.

Looking for Inspiration


I want to thank my readers for their continued interest and encourage you all to comment when you feel moved to do so. Here’s to reaching 10 000 hits within the next 12 months. I do love a challenge!Destiny Logo



In the coming weeks, I’ll have a series of interviews with Destiny Romance authors. I can’t wait to discover their new releases, writing lives and writing secrets. Until then…

Untamed by Anna Cowan

The latest Destiny Romance offering is Untamed by Anna Cowan. A big congratulations must go to Anna whose book has already delighted readers as the reviews demonstrate.

Untamed CoverOutspoken and opinionated, Katherine Sutherland is ill at ease amongst the fine ladies of Regency London. She is more familiar with farmers and her blunt opinions and rough manners offend polite society. Yet when she hears the scandalous rumours involving her sister and the seductive Duke of Darlington, the fiercely loyal Katherine vows to save her sister’s marriage – whatever the cost.

Intrigued by Katherine’s interference in his affairs, the manipulative Duke is soon fascinated. He engages in a daring deception and follows her back to her country home. Here, their intense connection shocks them both. But the Duke’s games have dangerous consequences, and the potential to throw both their lives into chaos…

Wildly romantic, Untamed is a passionate and beautifully written debut novel. This decadent historical romance defies convention and will shock and delight in equal measure.

‘A  strong and original voice, a unique story and characters you won’t  easily forget — this is an exciting and memorable debut. Anna Cowan is  an author to watch.  Anne Gracie 

‘One of the most mesmerizing books I’ve read this year.’ Dear Author

Utterly absorbing, beautifully written, and full of insight and humor.’ Ruthie Knox

Good luck with your debut novel, Anna.

Interview with Sophia James

Image Lady with the Devil's Scar (Harlequin Historical Series #1102)

Today I’m talking to Harlequin Historical author Sophia James.

Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions, Sophia.

That’s OK, Bernadette. It was lovely to be asked and I am so thrilled you have been picked up by Destiny Romance (Penguin) for your 5DI Princess Avenger.

Your historical romances are much loved. What can a reader expect from a Sophia James historical?

Characters that a reader hopefully grows to feel like they know well.  My stories are quite sensual and I hope, intelligent reads.

What inspires you to write historical romances?

I have always read historical romances as I really like them.  I have written a contemporary and would like to try another but I guess my heart just belongs in Historicals.  I like the sense of history. I like that conventions then were different than they are now.

You have a wonderful knack of selecting intriguing names for your heroes. Can you tell us the secret of this talent?

Asher, Taris and Cristo Wellingham were always characters I knew I would write about ever since I can remember. They were in my very first practice book. The name Asher came after meeting a friend of my nephews, Taris was a guy we bought a car from and Cristo was kind of snatched from the Count of…Other names I have found from a map of the South Island of New Zealand. They have cool old English names all around Christchurch. Cath Evans sent me a whole list of great names too. I love to play around with names. My latest hero is Taylen shortened to Tay.

Describe your writing journey up until ‘the call’?

I won the Clendon with my first book and did a lot of revisions on that story. I was picked up by Harlequin on the book in 2003.

I got an email while I was at work and my husband rang me.  When I came home he had brought a whole bunch of flowers and printed off the email and all the family were gathered around. I guess they knew how much I had wanted this and were really supportive. I always wished I could have got a midnight phone call though.

How many books have you published and do you have a favourite?

I have had 10 books published and another is out in April 2013.

Favourites…??? I guess I just love the Wellinghams although my medieval stories hold a special place in my heart. It’s always hard to choose a favourite and in fact the more I think of this question the harder it becomes. I like them all but in different ways.

High Seas to High Society One Unashamed NightOne Illicit Night
Do you have another job to supplement your writing income?

I don’t now. I gave up my teaching job a couple of years ago and have never regretted it. The full time teaching just became impossible when balanced against 4 book contracts and everything I did was falling to pieces ‘cos I was so stressed trying to do both well.

What does a typical writing day in the life of Sophia James look like?

I get up and always get dressed. I love the idea of writing in my pyjamas in bed but I can never do that…it feels like I am not working and I need to put on my good clothes and sit at my desk.

I try to write 1000 words a day but some days that is impossible.  I nearly always write for four to five hours. After that I seem to barely get a word out so then it is mainly my thinking time. Because writing is so sedentary I usually go for a walk or do a gym workout

You put a lot back into the writing community, mentoring and running workshops. Why?

I love teaching. It is so much a part of who I am. I was so pleased and also a bit scared to be asked to be a mentor for 5DI in 2010 but I loved it and amazingly was asked back for 2011. This year I have done a 2DI in Blenheim with a small group and also I spoke at the RWNZ conference about layering in a book.

I think it is really important to give back to the writing community and if I can help another writer to realise their dreams of being published then that is wonderful.

Who do you rely on for support in your writing career?

My husband, really, as I doubt I could pay the bills if he wasn’t there J

My writing friends are at the end of the phone and my mum and sister always read the first draft of my stories.

You’ve just released Lady with the Devil’s Scar. What do you love about this book?

Isobel the heroine. She turned into such a gutsy in your face sort of woman, a really easy character to write as I could just see her striding across her land in boys clothes and incredibly competent in protecting herself and her people.













You’re currently in revisions for the fourth and final book in the Wellingham family series. What can we expect from this story?

Lucinda is the little sister in the series and has often kind of been in trouble with her forthright ways. In this story she is married off to the Dissolute Duke, Taylen Ellesmere, after a scandal and he causes all sorts of problems for the Wellingham family. I loved seeing the brothers reaction to a man who gave them no leeway, and an honourable hero in spite of all that had been said of him.

What technique/truth have you learned in your writing journey that you wish you had known at the start?

I’m not much of a technical writer. I never read ‘how to’ books and I seldom understand the complex methods you often hear touted at conference.

I just have always written what I would like to read. So I don’t honestly think that I write differently now than I did at the beginning.

How do you feel about the burgeoning e-book industry?

I love it. I love the fact that there are other ways to publish your book now and that it leaves such a great chance for everyone to explore differing alternatives.

Where to from here? Where would you like to be in ten years?

I got asked this question at conference and I found it hard to answer. I love my editor, Linda Fildew, and I would find it really difficult to not have her input in my book if I changed lines.

Sometimes, though, I think I would like to write a series of books based on a community in New Zealand. I have actually started that but need time to develop the concept.

Thanks Sophia, for showing us around your writing life and good luck with ‘Lady with the Devil’s Scar’.

You can find Sophia and her books at

Interview with Barbara Hannay

Barb HannayToday I’m talking to Barbara Hannay, author of sparkling, feel-good, emotional romance. Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions, Barb.

Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Bernadette.

You’ve realised a dream many of us have- to write for a living. How many books have you published? How many do you need to publish each year to pay the bills?

At the moment I have forty-one books either published or about to be published.  I write three books a year.  Until now that’s been 3 category romances, but I’m now writing single title books for Penguin as well, so I’m feeling my way, learning how much I can manage.

The publishing industry is changing so quickly at the moment it’s hard to make any predictions about earnings, and I haven’t been our sole breadwinner, but so far, we could have lived (modestly) off my earnings.

In the 4.5 years between your first manuscript rejection and ‘the call’ what steps did you take to achieve your dream of publication?

First, I read hundreds of romances. The genre was new for me and I had made the initial mistake of believing I could write a romance after reading just two. After that, I immersed myself in the genre, and developed a deepening love and respect for it. It’s important to “get” why readers love romance.

I kept submitting and being rejected and submitting again. Usually, you can’t be published without risking rejection, dealing with it and moving on. I simply aimed to make each submission better.

I joined Romance Writers of Australia, entered competitions and got helpful feedback.

What technique/truth  have you learned in your writing journey that you wish you had known at the start?

I’ve realised that writing’s like life. You keep finding out that there’s more to learn, and it doesn’t get any easier – just different. J It’s also a bit like falling in love – incredibly exciting and fulfilling at first and then day to day challenges creep in, but you make a commitment because you know you can’t live without it.

What is the best part of writing romance? Is there a down side to your job?

I’ve made the most wonderful friends through my writing. I’ve also loved travelling overseas to conferences and having experiences like the fabulous Harlequin black and white ball in the Starlight Room at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

The downside for me would be the loneliness of writing. Thank heavens for email. J

Your ‘sweet romances’ are much loved.  For those of us who don’t understand HMB categories, what can a reader expect from a Barb Hannay ‘Sweet’ romance?

Thanks Bernadette. My stories usually have a strong emotional element, something personal and important to the characters. My heroines are every day women you might know and my heroes are nice guys, not necessarily mega rich, but able to provide. I walk a thin line between fantasy and reality. I guess my characters’ situations are realistic but the romance is mostly fantasy.

Zoe's MusterYou have your new book ‘Zoe’s Muster’ due for release on July 25th with Penguin. What do you love most about ‘Zoe’s Muster’?

I really enjoyed being able to include extra characters and to explore the world beyond the central couple.  I also loved structuring a longer book and interweaving three women’s different reactions to the same situation.

Where did your love affair with ‘the bush’ begin?

I grew up in Brisbane in the foothills of Mt Coot-tha, so exploring creeks and the bushland was an important part of my childhood. But I think my real love of the bush came when our children were small and we spent so many holidays camping and canoeing.  A friend owned a beautiful cattle property on the Burdekin River near Charters Towers and that has been a huge inspiration.

Can you tell us anything about your current WIP?

I’m working on a sequel to Zoe’s Muster, telling the story of Bella and her aunt, Liz, who’ve been living overseas. It’s a ‘coming home’ story, once again set again on Mullinjim station.

Who in your life do you rely on for support?

My husband Elliot gives me massive support, as a brainstorming partner, sounding board, morale booster. He’s wonderful and I’m very, very lucky.

Having achieved the goals of publication and then writing for a living, what do you dream of now?

A movie deal. No, just kidding. I simply hope to keep building my readership and to write stories they’ll love.

Thanks for joining me on my blog today, Barb and best of luck with ‘Zoe’s Muster’ – out today! For more of Barbara’s fabulous books and her writing life head to


Interview with HeleneYoung- Part 2

Welcome back to my blog for Part 2 of my interview with Helene Young. HELENE Young, Shattered Sky

Helene, you have a very interesting day job. Please tell us a little about it and how it influences your stories.

My day job involves flying twenty-nine tonnes of aircraft with four crew and seventy-four passengers up and down the east coast of Australia. Our network extends from places such as Horn Island, Mt Isa, or Mackay all the way through to Melbourne. I’m also involved in training our new pilots and conducting checks on our crews. I love having a tiny office with a spectacular view and I hope I share that with my readers.

My Border Watch series is based in an aircraft very similar to ones I’ve flown so I do draw on that technical knowledge for accuracy. The series is also set in North Queensland in the areas I’ve come to love so much.

You’re a very busy woman. Who in your life do you rely on for support?

Graham and Zeus keep me sane, fed, in clean and ironed clothes, and ensure I continue to laugh at myself. I’d be lost without them.

What does a typical day in the writing life of Helene Young look like?

Yikes! There is no such thing as a typical day. I write around my roster which changes every month and sometimes daily. I can’t be precious about where I write and my muse is not allowed to be temperamental! If I’m on a day off then I start ‘work’ at 7 am after Graham’s left for his job and Zeus has had a walk. I sort through emails, blogs, twitter and FB until about 9 am and then settle down to write. On a good day without interruptions I’ll manage five thousand words. On a day when life gets in the way it may be as little as a thousand, but every word counts!

You have your third book, Burning Lies, due for release in July. What do you love about this story?

I love Ryan. He is my favourite hero to date. I loved him in Shattered Sky and he grew so much he had to have his own story. Kaitlyn is perfect for him and she’s a wonderful single mum struggling to balance a career and a child. Burning Lies is also my tribute to the amazing volunteers who fight fires in Australia. Without them so many more people would lose everything.

Can you tell us any snippets about your current writing project?

My current WIP looks at international crime syndicates and how far they reach into every day Australia. The research has been fascinating! Ellie and Nick are two wonderful characters with a great deal of depth so it’s been interesting writing their story. It’s set in mid-northern NSW, an area where I spent time as a child during school holidays so it was lots of lovely memories!

 Where to from here? Where would you like to be in ten years?

You know that’s a great question! I’ve written a blog post for a guest spot in a couple of weeks about setting goals because so few writers seem to do it.

In ten years I’d like to have another ten books on the shelf.  I’ve put that out there in the universe now so I’m bound to honour it!!

I also plan to be on the deck of a yacht by the end of the year, living aboard in Cairns and flying part-time so I can write some more.

Thanks for joining us, Helene, and best of luck with Burning Lies!

You can check out Burning Lies and Helene’s other books here:


Interview with Helene Young- Part 1

Today I’m talking to romantic suspense author Helene Young.

HELENE Young, Shattered Sky 

Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions, Helene.

Bernadette, thanks so much for inviting me to chat with you. It’s great having such a vibrant community of writers in NQ RWA, albeit a widely spread group! Congratulations on your upcoming debut release! Exciting times for you.

Thanks, I can’t wait for the edits to arrive. Your first two books, Wings of Fear and Shattered Sky have seen you win reader awards for Romantic Suspense. Can you reveal what this means to you?

Thanks, Bernadette, it is lovely to win awards that are judged by readers not critics as is the case with the Romance Writers of Australia’s RBY and the awards from the Australian Romance Readers. At the heart of my writing is the aim to entertain, to take people on a journey with my characters, so awards like this mean the world to me.  When I’ve spent twelve months tapping away at the computer keys being able to connect with readers is the ultimate thank you!

Wings of Fear             

You began your writing journey in 1998. What made you start writing? Can you describe your writing journey up until ‘the call’? 

I’ve always been a bit of a writing dabbler. I wrote the obligatory angst ridden poems during my teens and early twenties and assumed one day I’d write a book. Life had other ideas and aviation captured my imagination so writing went onto the back burner. It was only in my mid-thirties when we moved to Cairns for a new job with an airline that I suddenly had time on my hands again. I started writing in my spare time and didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. When I finished my first manuscript I hid it in a filing cabinet drawer while I contemplated what I was going to do with it.

My husband found it while I was away in Brisbane with work and he was responsible for really pushing me to take the next step and submit. I did that and was politely rejected, but part of the rejection, and subsequent submission to an assessment agency, was the best piece of advice I’ve received in my writing career. Join RWA. I did that and my manuscript came second in the Emma Darcy Award in 2004.  It was beginners luck, but it was so motivational for me. I used the RWA contest circuit to hone my writing ability. The feedback was at times hard to take but I learnt so much, I toughened up and realised I had a long way to go. The RWA conferences were a source of inspiration and learning – and the camaraderie of Romance Writers is second to none!!

My fifth completed manuscript, Wings of Fear (Border Watch), was a finalist in the Golden Heart Contest with RWAmerica. Having that on my resume was enough to get a request from Hachette for the full manuscript. After taking Bernadette Foley’s advice and rewriting the manuscript I was offered a two book contract.

What technique/truth  have you learned in your writing journey that you wish you had known at the start?

Editing is the time when your work really starts to shine. I was so fortunate to have Bernadette as my editor. I learnt so much from her about my own writing and the process of editing.  I’m a committed pantser and I doubt I will ever be a plotter. I write my story and then I plot it out so I can tweak in the editing stage to ensure both conflict and tension are there.

For new writers I like to reassure them that the rules are there to guide them. Sure grammar and punctuation is a given, but POV, conflict, chapter length, narrative vs dialogue are all areas where opinions differ. I cringe when I hear presenters saying, ‘You must not’ or ‘You have to do it this way.’ Everyone has a different creative process and the rules will help you work out which ones are appropriate for you.

Hearing about a writer’s journey is always so fascinating. Be sure to watch out for part 2 of my interview with Helene when I ask her about her day job, her stories and her hopes for the future.

You can check out Burning Lies and Helene’s other books here: