After a troubled childhood and the loss of her beloved grandmother, Sapphie Brown finally finds somewhere to call home - the close-knit rural community of Horseshoe Hill.
The locals love Sapphie because she never gives up - as chair of the environment committee, with the children in her classes, the troubled teens at the youth centre, the ex-racehorses she cares for and even the neglected farmhouse and gardens she wants make her own. Sapphie gives second chances to everything and everyone. Except Matts Laaksonen.
An impossibly attractive environmental engineer who travels the world, Matts was Sapphie's closest childhood friend. He came to deliver a warning - now he doesn't want to leave.
All Sapphie wants to do is forget their painful past, but thrown together they discover an attraction that challenges what they thought they knew about each other. Do they have a chance to recapture what they lost so long ago? Or will long-buried secrets tear them apart?
In the flowers she creates from paper and the beauty that grows on the land, Sapphie has found perfect imperfection. Could that be what love is like too?
About the author:
Penelope Janu lives on the coast in northern Sydney with six wonderful children and a distracting husband. She enjoys exploring the Australian countryside and dreaming up travelling and hiking breaks. A lawyer for many years, she has a passion for social justice, and the natural environment. Whether coastal or rural, Penelope's novels celebrate Australian characters and communities. Her first novel, In at the Deep End, was published by Harlequin in 2017, and her second, On the Right Track, in 2018. Nothing makes Penelope happier as a writer than readers falling in love with her smart and adventurous heroines and heroes. She loves to hear from readers, and can be contacted at www.penelopejanu.com
Starting from Scratch
Harper Collins Australia
Author: Penelope Janu
Question: What originally inspired the idea of Starting from Scratch?
Penelope Janu: The setting was always going to be Horseshoe Hill, a small country town in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, which was the perfect place for Sapphie, who'd had a difficult adolescence, to find a sense of belonging and community. Matts, as a (very attractive!) Finnish environmental engineer, had to have a reason to find Sapphie in Horseshoe Hill, and that is where the second thread of this story came in"the rivers and waterways of regional Australia, and the environmental challenges they face.
Question: What did you learn, about yourself, whilst writing Starting from Scratch?
Penelope Janu: I worked as a legal academic for many years and always enjoyed teaching. My students were primarily young women and men in their twenties and early thirties, the age group many of my main characters share. I love the fact that this group is passionate about issues, flexible about change, and open to different ways to find happiness. Every time I write a book, my character's tenacity, resilience through hardship and preparedness to make change happen, reminds me to bring more of these elements into my own life.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know, in real life?
Penelope Janu: The characters are all fictional, but they are, in many ways, reflected in many people I've known in my life. I do like writing older people as secondary characters, and also children. Having had six children of my own, I spent many years surrounded by them and their friends! One of the characters in this book, the ornithologist Ray, is based on a very dear friend of mine (we were at Law School together). My friend and Ray have different passions, but a similar way of expressing them.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Penelope Janu: As I'm a romance writer, I am forever looking for 'happily ever after' stories because they really do exist. Relationships based on mutual respect, friendship, trust and ultimately love are always inspirational. The environment is a really important element in Starting From Scratch, and that inspires me every day. We are so fortunate to have wonderful fauna and flora and a unique natural environment in this country. It's a privilege to be able to write about them.
Question: What's the main message you hope readers take from Starting from Scratch?
Penelope Janu: In terms of the relationship between Sapphie and Matts, that it's never too late to find the person that is perfect for you. In terms of the environment, that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to not only preserve and protect our natural environment, but to take responsibility for the damage we have done and restore and rehabilitate it where we can.
Question: What is the best thing about creating a character like Sapphie?
Penelope Janu: As a writer who spends the best part of 18 months writing and editing a book, you get to know your characters very well, and to care for them a lot. Sapphie has a very warm heart and, notwithstanding the difficult challenges she's had, she tends to give second chances to everyone. It takes her quite a while to give a second chance to Matts, so I was very glad (and relieved!) when she did.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Penelope Janu: To write about what they love, value and care about, because they will be spending a lot of time creating the world their characters inhabit, and the characters themselves. I enjoy writing rural fiction because the settings inspire me, and so do many of the characters who live in country areas.
Question: What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?
Penelope Janu: I always had access to books as a child, and my parents were readers. We didn't have a great deal of money and rarely went on holiday, but my parents gave me wonderful opportunities to find alternative worlds and experiences through reading. Reading other people's stories fired my imagination and sparked dreams of creating my own.
Question: What's next, for you?
Penelope Janu: I've recently submitted my 2022 book to my publisher, so I hope to be doing edits on that in the next few months, while writing the next book. I'll also enjoy sending Sapphie and Matts from Starting From Scratch out into the world and into reader's hands. This is an exciting time for any author and I really enjoy it! On the personal front, my extended family has been told to expect a lot of very tight hugs!
Interview by Gwen van Montfort