When Jenn J. McLeod quit Sydney’s corporate communications chaos, she bought a little café in a small town and ran a unique, dog-friendly B&B in country NSW. Home now is a fifth wheeler caravan, her days spent writing heart-warming tales of Australian country life. Readers and reviewers alike enthusiastically received Jenn’s debut, House for all Seasons, placing it at #5 on the 2013 Nielsen’s Best Selling Debut Novel list. Season of Shadow and Light is her third book, with a fourth due in 2016. Jenn loves connecting with readers and other writers, especially aspiring authors. Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter or at her website. You can sign up for her ‘Odd and Occasional Newsy Newsletter’ for book updates, excerpts and offers.

A bit of background …

Monique: Your third novel, Season of Shadow and Light, has recently been released. Can you tell readers a bit about it?

Jenn: This story started out with a question …  “Are we obligated to protect the deceptions of the dead when the truth might somehow help the living?”

Anyone who’s told a lie (big or small) or kept something from someone will understand that the longer we keep the secret, the harder and more fraught with consequences telling the truth becomes. The possibility of losing everything she loves is the dilemma facing Alice in Season of Shadow and Light.

What started out a modern day story about a mother on the run (Paige) colliding with a distrusting, damaged man (Aiden) slowly developed into a much deeper storyline about a random meeting, an impossible love story, and choices.

Season of Shadow and Light is a move away from Calingarry Crossing in a number of ways and I enjoyed creating the smaller town of Coolabah Tree Gully, dropping in a few very familiar attributes readers should relate to and enjoy. This is a story of betrayal, tragedy, family loyalty, and of trust—the kind of trust that takes years to build but only seconds to wash away.

Monique: What was your favourite chapter or part to write in Season of Shadow and Light?

Jenn: Surprise, surprise! I have lots of favourite scenes, but for different reasons. I like the ones that make me cry, the ones that make me laugh out loud, and those where I sit back and say, “Gosh! Did I really write that?”

For the reader, one of the best scenes for a laugh would be the cow, the car and the creek scene. Of course, the cow is the star, but it’s the connection between Paige and Aiden that is so obvious, yet the hopelessness of their situation is yet to be revealed.

Then there’s the chandelier scene when a young Alice is having dinner with her parents. Not sure whether I want to laugh or cheer in that scene.

While longer scenes can paint great pictures and immerse the reader in the story, the writer in me enjoys the challenge of packing as much punch as possible into fewer words. (The writers’ craft mantra of “Make every word count” comes to mind!) You might see what I mean in the hospital toilet cubicle scene with a young Paige and her mother as they hold hands. Later in the story readers discover the significance of this small act.

My other favourite laughs include: the ‘fishing by the river’ scene, the ‘cow crap on the boot in the kitchen’ scene, and the ‘throw up in the esky’ scene. (We’ve all done that, right? I’m not alone, am I?)

Monique: Which five songs would you put on a soundtrack to complement your Seasons Quartet?


  • Small Town Stories, by the beautiful twin sisters – Carli and Julie Kennedy. This one always gets me in the mood.
  • Amber Leaves, which is the song I wrote and had recorded for my second book, Simmering Season.
  • Laughter in the Rain, by Neil Sedaka (that’s showing my age).  It reminds me of the beautiful Vivienne Green quote: ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.’
  • Walking on Sunshine, Katrina and The Waves
  • [When you Walk Through a Storm, hold your head up high and …] You’ll Never Walk Alone (Rogers and Hammerstein)

Are you seeing a theme?

Some general writing stuff …

Monique: What’s the toughest criticism you’ve received as an author?

Jenn: The toughest was the best. “Stop trying to be someone you’re not. Be original. Write from the heart.”

Monique: When did you realise that being an author was no longer just a dream, but something you were going to make a reality?

Jenn: I’m not sure that realisation was one moment in time. Right up until that first book hit the shelves I was thinking to myself, This isn’t going to happen. They (the publishers) have changed their minds. “Sorry, Jenn, we made a mistake. It was another Jenn we meant to contract.” Yes, I tend to be a bit of a half glass empty gal.

Aspiring authors generally go through this revolving door of “I can make this happen” and “No one will ever pick me from the thousands of wannabes.”  But dreams do come true. First you have to dedicate yourself to the dream and that means: finding the discipline, making the time, learning the business, and securing the right support (trying various options). I found an online support group that suited my needs and I listened, practiced, wrote and ripened.

Monique: When you write, what is your biggest weakness?

Jenn: Are we talking food weakness? —I avoid eating while working because I hate sticky fingers on keyboards. I will drink though—coffee in the morning and a little self-congratulatory ‘cheers!’ drink at happy hour for a day well spent.

If we’re talking psychological weakness it would be not believing I’m as good as the author I’ve just read.

Or are we talking physical weakness? – My back. I sit for far too long without a break. I know I should get up and move more, but when the words are flowing I find it impossible to walk away.

Monique: What’s the most amusing thing that has happened to you while writing?

Jenn: Nothing happens when I’m writing. I’m mean it. When I’m in the zone, nothing else exists. A stampede of horses could pass by me and I wouldn’t know. (Drives my partner crazy.) What is amusing to watch when I’m writing, so I’m told, is ME! I think because I’m a ‘method writer’. (I made the term up to describe my habit/approach of acting out as I write so I can examine actions, expressions and emotions.) Apparently my partner knows what sort of scene I’m into by my body and face and the heaviness on the keyboard. For example: a sad, emotional scene means shoulders slumped, face hangdog, fingers slow, occasionally pausing over the keyboard; whereas muscles tensed, hunched shoulders and scrunched face—picture Snoopy’s (Peanuts) piano-playing friend, Linus—is an angry scene.  I’m waiting for the day a video appears of me fully immersed in ‘method writer mode’.

Monique: Are you a plotter or a pantser (fly by the seat of your pants)?

Jenn: Years ago, as an aspiring writer eager to learn, I would read/hear established authors having lively discussions about how a character completely changed the direction of their story. I remember laughing at the time, quietly scoffing, “What a load of rubbish! A character is not real. How can they take over a plot? The writer is in control of the plot.”

Fast forward several years and I sheepishly must admit this character hijacking caper is all true—certainly from the pantster’s point of view. A pantster is an author who writes ‘by the seat of their pants’, rather than plotting the novel and controlling each characters’ journey. And I am a very proud pantster and there’s no better example than Season of Shadow and Light. As I mentioned above, Alice kind of hijacked this plotline. But I am so glad she did as I got the chance to tell a very special love story, and in my own small way maybe start a conversation, and   evchange an opinion or two, or three, or four or more.

And now for the fun stuff …

Monique: Is vanilla a good or a bad thing?

Jenn: That depends. Are you talking vanilla milkshakes—the old fashioned kind like they make in the Coolabah Tree Gully milk bar? Or vanilla as in the slice? Yum. All good, I guess.

Monique: Light side or dark side?

Jenn: Oh, perfect opportunity to include a quote. Readers will know I do love the occasional quote in my books. Season of Shadow and Light has some of my absolute favourites, like this one by American author Og Mandino (1923-1996):

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.”


i love the lightMonique: Perm or blue rinse?

Jenn: Fact: I am an ‘old’ hairdresser. Gave the job away after five years.

Fact: Hair colours are chemicals that go on your hair . . . on you head—the thing that houses your brain. There the chemicals sitting on your skin while the hairdresser is out the back having a puff on her ciggie!!!! (Maybe not so much these days, but you get my point?)

Fact: I have avoided painting poison on my head for years (limiting my body poisoning to that in wine bottles). I’ve been doing the au naturel thing with my hair for so long now, that at 55 years of age I’m now fifty shades of grey. (Shame my 50 Shades of Grey don’t come with the million dollar bank balance!)

Monique: What is your favourite season? Your least favourite?

Jenn: How can you ask me to pick? I love them all.

As one lovely person (Shelleyrae of Book’d Out) wrote: “Jenn J McLeod is an author for all seasons and all readers.”

House for all Seasons is written in four parts, over four seasons. Simmering Season is set in storm season. Season of Shadow and Light is also written in the rainy season (mostly because I experienced flood the year I started writing it.) But with my fourth book (next year’s release) I have gone all wintery. I really enjoyed that one.

Did I mention I love all the seasons?

Monique: If you could live in any book world, which would it be?

Jenn: The world I’d want to live in is one without conflict and, as we all know, a story book without conflict is … well … not a good one. So I think I will have to go with a non-fiction book world. Maybe a Donna Hay cookbook, A Bartender’s Guide to Cocktails, or the Lonely Planet Guide to Italy.

Monique: Glass half full or empty?

Jenn: No halves in my house. It’s a full glass every time. J

Monique: Have you ever gone out in public with your shirt on backwards or inside out, or with your slippers on? How did you respond?

Jenn: Interesting you should ask. A dress malfunction in my corporate days would have left me mortified but, living as I do now—in a caravan, in a caravan park—has been surprisingly liberating. It no longer bothers me if I’m inside out or not, if my colours clash, or if I wear checks with stripes, or socks with Crocs. Nobody cares what you wear. In the suburbs I would have never walked out my front door (or even my back door) in my pyjamas and without my hair brushed. But none of those things matter in caravan park amenity blocks, or as I walk around the park each night in my floral jim jams, pink socks and Crocs. I am delighted to say I am now the daggiest of dags and loving it. (By the way, the setting for my new story is a small seaside town and caravan park. Such fun. Expect fabulous fashions!)


Thanks for answering my questions, Jenn.

To buy Season of Shadow and Light, click here.




Picture of Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

0 Responses

  1. Ahhh, yes, I remember answering these questions a while ago now. Fancy me sending that photo of my socks in Crocs! I may have been drinking at the time (of doing the Q&A, not donning the socks with Crocs. That is pretty normal). Thank you for being part of my book tour. It has been a lot of fun.

  2. A great interview Jenn and makes me look forward even more to meeting up with you. When I get in the zone either reading or writing the roof can collapse on me and I wouldn’t even notice.

  3. Great interview! I love getting some insight into writers’ processes and their minds. I also really liked the darkness / light quote in the book!

  4. What a fun interview, Jenn and Monique. I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved the socks in crocs pic. The beautiful Og Mandingo quote will stay with me.

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