Sasha Wasley is a great Aussie author whose book, Dear Banjo was released yesterday. (It’s also next on my reading list because it involves letters, the Kimberley region, a cattle station and a romance). I was lucky enough to meet Sasha in person recently but I waited until email to ask her the question, how did you did the idea for the book? (I love knowing things like that). Thanks for your comprehensive answer Sasha and thanks for visiting!
Thank you, Sam Still Reading, for inviting me to post on your blog and for asking such an interesting question! It was great to meet you at Rachael Johns’ Talk of the Town book launch a few weeks ago.
Where did you get the idea for Dear Banjo?
It was early 2016. I was immersed in writing my paranormal romance books (all my books are romances, even if they are also young adult or paranormal) and I went to a Brisbane writers’ convention where I joined in some professional development workshops. I listened to Brisbane agent Alex Adsett speak about what agents do. I decided I really wanted her to be my agent (she is now!) because I loved her honesty. Someone asked her what the next hot genre would be and she said she simply couldn’t predict it, but made a joke about how the only genre she knew for sure would sell in Australia was rural romance. I sighed because I knew I would never write a rural romance and therefore would probably never get a big publishing deal. I didn’t read the genre and certainly didn’t write it. The closest I had come was a ‘bogan romance’ comedy series on Wattpad!
However, that evening, I entertained myself by imagining a rural romance plot. I didn’t do it because I wanted to write one. In fact, I never start writing anything with the thought that I’m going to hit a ‘hot genre’ – and anyway, I knew I wouldn’t be able to write a “ru-ro” because I would find it too boring. I threw in some crazy angles to amuse myself. My heroine would live on a cattle station … but she would be vegan. Her mum would be a fantasy-sci-fi geek turned cattle station wife. Willow would be away from home – from the place she loves. But why? Hmm, maybe she was off teaching sustainable agriculture at university before suddenly needing to go home to help run the station. There would be some trouble at home that she’d been hiding from …
And suddenly my hero, Tom, was born! Once I had Tom, the story started pouring out of me. Letters. There would be letters! I’m a sucker for a friends-to-lovers tale, and I’m an even bigger sucker for a childhood friendship turned romance. I learned to love those things from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne and Gilbert and Louisa May Alcott’s Jo and Laurie. But I also learned about the beauty of patient, enduring love from Austen’s Anne and Wentworth (Persuasion). I really must credit those historical romances with the creation of Tom and Willow.
I started writing in March, on the plane ride home from the convention, and the story consumed me for the next couple of months. At first, I put it up on Wattpad, chapter by chapter, and I got some favourites and comments. It was very encouraging! But before long, I didn’t even have time to update my Wattpad story parts because writing Dear Banjo consumed all my hours. I was completely immersed in the story and couldn’t write it quickly enough. I wrote the whole thing over the period of about 2 months and it’s over 100,000 words so that was pretty fast, considering I’m also a mum, a volunteer and a part time worker (plus I was editing and publishing other books I’d written).
I then sat on it for a month before I re-read it. I was astonished by how well it hung together. Normally when I go back to a first draft, I see huge gaps and have to work quite hard to bring it up to scratch. Dear Banjo needed a little tidying up, but the story just flowed. It worked. I tweaked and played with it a little, and then asked Alex if she wanted to see it. She snapped it up within a week, and had publication offers for me within another fortnight.
It was an extraordinary experience. From conception, to writing, to agenting and a 3-book deal, was just a matter of months. I’m not sure why, but this story was simply a pleasure to write and edit, and the editing and production team at Penguin have been a dream come true. They were so positive, encouraging, helping me and enthusing about being in love with Tom – all of which was wonderful for both my nerves and my ego! Now it’s finally release time (eeeek!), and I’m crossing my fingers that the readers will enjoy it, too.
But before I gloat too much about how smoothly Dear Banjo went, I should mention that writing book 2 has been a much thornier process. It took a lot of words down before I really understood where the story was going and what precisely was at stake. But that’s next time’s tale!
Thank you, Sam, for allowing me to frolic about on your lovely blog and I look forward to seeing you again soon!
Look out for Dear Banjo at your favourite bookstore, or you can buy now from your preferred retailer: