AUTHOR INSIGHT: MEET JENNIFER ST GEORGE

Jennifer St George is a romance author whose sexy stories feature courageous, career-minded heroines, strong heroes in glamourous international settings. Her sister’s love of writing led her to try her hand at romance writing and she hasn’t looked back. Jennifer is currently a member of the Romance Writers of Australia Executive Team and is a member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of New Zealand. Her latest book, Seducing the Secret Heiress, is available as an eBook.

Tell me a bit about how you became a romance writer. Were you a lover of this genre already? Where in the genre do your books fit? 
My sister loved the genre and always passed me her favourite romance books. So, I had my very own reviewer. I read mostly category romance so that’s what I wanted to write.  My books fit in at the sexy end of the scale.

Do you get frustrated when people dismiss romance novels, esp. category romance? What do you say to critics of the genre? What is it about the genre that readers love?
I believe most critics of category romance haven’t actually read one or read one twenty years ago then dismissed the genre.  Quite honesty, since I’ve been published, I haven’t encountered any criticism. I think we are finally seeing people outside the genre sit up and take notice. I generally find people are fascinated that I write romance and are keen to learn more about romance writing.

What do readers seem to like most about your stories?
Readers seem to love my strong, gutsy heroines and sexy Alpha heroes. I’m thrilled that readers comment on the depth of emotion and the strong characterisation of my protagonists.

I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled extensively (mostly through past employment), so I wanted to share through my stories some of the amazing places I’ve been. Readers comment on how much they enjoy the luxury and authenticity of the international settings. I really enjoy recreating the atmosphere and describing the magnificence of cities like London or Venice.

Your stories feature “courageous, career-minded heroines, strong heroes in glamorous international settings”. Why do you choose international settings? Do you see yourself setting future novels in Australia?
I love to travel and have visited some many amazing places in my life. I remember the sheer joy of visiting cities like Vienna, Paris or New York for the first time and love instilling that feeling in my heroines.

My next book, The Love Deception, begins in Melbourne before the exciting international adventure begins.

You had a successful, high-end marketing career before your “sea change”. Do you miss anything about that?
I do miss working for large corporations. Having access to millions of dollars in marketing budgets and a large team, allowed me to create some pretty incredible marketing campaigns.  For example, we once gave away a pub in Ireland as part of an international promotion for Guinness. It was such a blast!

I always enjoyed launching new products into new markets.  For example, one of my career highlights was launching Guinness in Russia.  Standing in Red Square at midnight with the snow floating down remains an unforgettable experience.  Bringing the Ford Ka to the Australian market was also good fun.

What was your publishing journey like? Any highlights/lowlights?
When my husband decided that a move to Byron Bay was essential to his happiness (“Honey, the surf is so much better in Byron”), I found myself at a loose end. With small children at home and no large companies locally begging me for my expertise, I urgently needed an intellectual pursuit. I knew I could write a marketing report, but could I write a romance novel? The challenge was on!

I’m quite determined, so once I decided to write, I attended every conference, writing course, writing festival and author chat that I could find.  Joining Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) was probably the best decision I ever made.

I had written five full-length category romances before being contracted to Destiny Romance. Being rejected is obviously not fun, but from the beginning, I accepted it would be a long, hard road to publication.

Coming 2nd and 3rd in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award and winning the Romance Writers of NZ Clendon Award in 2012 was really incredible. As an unpublished author, it is to so hard to assess if what you are writing is any good.  Doing well in competitions gives you confidence that readers are relating to your stories. This is such a thrill.

Of course the highlight was receiving the call from Sarah Fairhall from Penguin’s Destiny Romance.  When she said she loved the story, I had to suppress scream!!

If someone wanted to start creative writing, what advice would you give them? 
If they wanted to write romance, they should definitely join Romance Writers of Australia.  The organisation offers so much support, advice, education and networking … it’s incredible. All this from a volunteer organisation!

Also, learn the craft.  Attend as many courses and workshops as possible; read every craft book you can lay your hands on and really listen to the advice of published authors. Write and submit, write and submit, write and submit!

When you write, what is your biggest weakness?
Hmm, good question.  Probably I become so excited about the story that I race along in the first draft.  I have to spend a lot of time editing to ensure I’ve communicated clearly everything that’s in my mind. I think I’ve put it on the page, but find I’ve omitted something vital.

I imagine writing love scenes would be hard – or do you find it easy? Do you ever make yourself blush? Do you have a limit on how graphic you’ll go? What advice do you have for people who want to include sex scenes in their novels?
I do find writing sex scenes hard. And yes, I do blush!  Usually I write in cafes around Byron Bay, but when I’m writing a sex scene I have to write at home as I’m sure everyone can tell what I’m up to! My stories are sexy, but not graphic!

My advice would be to read lots of sexy books and then just get in there and give it a go (and enter competitions to obtain feedback).

What’s your take on the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon? Have you read the books (I haven’t)? Why do you think they were so popular? Was it a product of very good marketing or does it meet a need in readers?
I’ve read the first in the trilogy. I read it for research purposes. I felt it was important to read a story that had struck such a chord with readers.  It certainly wasn’t my kind of book, but congratulations to EL James for such an incredible publishing achievement.  I think its success can be attributed to a number of reasons but certainly word-of-mouth had a huge amount to do with its success.

What do you look for when you read fiction? What other genres attract you?
I love good writing and read across several genres.  Everything from Booker Prize winners such as Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes to crime writers such as Michael Connelly and Patricia Cornwell and to historical novelists like Bernard Cornwell and to all forms of romance.

Lately there has been a growing move to put Australian women writers on the map, courtesy of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Was this long overdue? Which Australian women writers do you admire the most?
Wow, that is such a hard question!  I love so many Australian women writers I could fill the page.  What is lovely now too is that I’ve met so many wonderful writers through Romance Writers of Australia.  There’s something special about reading a book when you know the author and count her as a friend. I think initiative such as the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge are important in helping promote the fabulous women authors we have in this country.

Five things that mean the most to you in life?
My family, my friends, my career, staying fit and trying find time to have a little fun.

Which book are you reading now?
A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin.

Which book do you think all young women should read?
I really loved Little Women when I was young … loved the way the story focused on a woman who chooses to have a career and not rely on a man to provide for her!