Q & A with Lizzy Chandler, author of By Her Side

Today I’m delighted to welcome Lizzy Chandler, author of By Her Side and Snowy River Man to Sam Still Reading for a chat about writing, inspiration and reading. You might also know her as Elizabeth Lhuede, founder of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Lizzy writes a variety of genres, including romance, suspense and fantasy. I can verify that By Her Side is a wonderful combination of suspense and romance! But enough of me, let’s talk to Lizzy:

First, I’d love to know how you got the idea for the plot and characters for By Her Side. (and um, is there a real life Vince out there?)

Thanks so much for this opportunity to tell your readers a little about my writing and reading.

The idea for both the plot and characters in By Her Side started with the setting.

Years ago I was lucky enough to accompany a photographer commissioned to take photos of precious objects in the Prime Minister’s residence in Kirribilli as well as the Governor-General’s place next door. As I looked through the surprisingly cosy prime-ministerial rooms and out to the spectacular view of Sydney Harbour, I wondered who the PM’s neighbours were and what might be their values, their history, and the peculiar problems they might face having such wealth. This became the background for my heroine Rory and her wealthy, troubled family.

For my hero Vince’s background, I drew on what I remembered of a boy I dated when I was a teenager. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up in the then comparatively impoverished suburb of Marrickville in Sydney’s inner-west. As a kid from the affluent and mostly Anglo northern beaches, I found the cultural differences between our two families fascinating.

Putting these two settings together, I created a “princess” and “boy from the wrong side of the tracks” story, and twisted it by making Vince a cop with a tragic past, rather than an actual “bad boy” who needs reforming. It seemed more likely to me Rory and Vince would be more likely to have a genuine chance at a “happy ever after” if they weren’t really so different, despite their backgrounds; it was important to me that they share fundamental values, such as love of family and loyalty.

Is there a real Vince out there? No, but I can’t help thinking of him as a real person. I was thrilled when Escape put him on the cover. In some ways, I think, it’s more his story than Rory’s. I’m so glad he gets to be happy!

I found the plot of By Her Side brilliant – it was really taut. How do you plot your novels, if at all?

With a novel that has a well-developed mystery, like By Her Side, I plot carefully, using copious handwritten notes and flow charts to begin, and then post-it stickers and index cards representing plot-points in the editing and rewriting stages. To represent the flow of different subplots and character interactions, I lay out the plot-point cards on a big square coffee table, and link them with different coloured ribbons, say pink for romance, green for the villain, blue for the conflict between the hero and heroine, and other colours to represent the role of different minor characters. The cards and ribbons provide me with an overview of the novel as a series of scenes and sequences – like a storyboard, I guess. This visual and concrete layout helps me to get an intuitive sense whether a particular character or plot idea falls down or disappears for too long. It’s also a lot of fun to do this as it engages a different part of my brain from the one I use when writing actual scenes. I’ve had a lot of reviewers remark on the page-turning quality of my first novel, Snowy River Man, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to achieve, so I’m glad to hear you think By Her Side is a page-turner, too.

By Her Side is quite different to Snowy River Man which was more rural, but they both share a suspense element. What kinds (if any) romance do you enjoy writing?

I’ve written a lot of romance novels that will never see the light of day. They range from strict “category” to mostly suspense with a dash of romance, to a young adult fantasy novel that I’d love to get published one day. (It needs a better ending.) Most of my unpublished novels I consider now as apprentice pieces, exercises that helped me learn my craft. For preference, I lean toward writing romantic suspense, rather than straight romance, but I really enjoyed writing Snowy River Man which had very little suspense outside the relationship between Katrina and Jack. Each book is different and the characters and their circumstance tend to dictate the form the novel ultimately takes. In By Her Side, Rory and Vince are on a mission to track down Rory’s missing half-brother and sort out various puzzles from the past and this involves taking risks. It’s a scenario that cries out for suspense.

I love to hear about what authors have been reading. What have been some of your favourite reads (romance or otherwise) for the year?

As you know, I founded the Australian Woman Writers challenge, and much of my reading is shaped by what books publishers send me for review. In 2015, I read 25 books by Australian women and half a dozen or so other books. Of these many were psychological suspense or crime, several were historical fiction, a number were “literary”, a few were nonfiction, and some were romance or had romantic elements. One romance was Kandy Shepherd’s, Gift-wrapped in Her Wedding Dress, which was a delight. Kandy’s a friend and writing colleague, and normally I see her work in progress, but this is one I hadn’t seen much of. It was a real pleasure to sit down and read it from cover to cover. Another I devoured was D B Tait’s debut romantic suspense, Cold Deception, and its sequel, Desperate Deception. Deb’s a fellow Blue Mountains writer and has a real talent for complex, gritty stories with a good dash of romance.

Other memorable books were more literary: Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things and Robyn Cadwallader’s The Anchoress, among them. I’d be surprised if one or other of these didn’t take out a literary prize or two. I also found The Intervention, an anthology edited by Rosie Scott and Anita Heiss to be outstanding. It’s a collection of pieces by both indigenous and non-indigenous Australian writers, and tells some difficult home truths about the effects of government policies on Aboriginal communities. More than one of the pieces had me shedding a few tears.

Thanks again for the Q&A – and happy reading!

Thank you Lizzy! If you’d like to check out By Her Side or Snowy River Man, you can do so here:

By Her Side:
Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

Snowy River Man: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Booktopia | Kobo

Do drop by tomorrow to read my review of By Her Side!

Guest Post: Rachael Johns, author of Outback Dreams

I’m so excited to share with you today my first guest post ever with the talented Rachael Johns. Rachael is the author of Outback Dreams, released today by Harlequin (read my review tomorrow) and Man Drought, Jilted, Stand-in Star and One Perfect Night. Welcome Rachael!

Hi Sam and Sam’s friends – thanks so much for having me on your gorgeous blog.

Although I write romance, I also read a lot of women’s fiction and one of the aspects of women’s fiction I particularly enjoy is the female friendships that are portrayed. I myself have some very close female friends, who I have grown up with and still see regularly. They are my sounding boards when I’m not sure what to do, my ears when I’m upset and my co-pilots when I’m out to have some fun. I wouldn’t be without them and therefore I like my heroines also to have good friends they can rely on.

In MAN DROUGHT, Imogen had Amy and Jenna, who were a huge part of her life and the book.

In my new release OUTBACK DREAMS the heroine, Faith, has always been one of the guys. Her best friend is Monty (the hero) and her next closest friend is Adam (the hero of OUTBACK GHOST, which I’m currently writing). Her fave movies are Star Wars, she prefers beer to wine and isn’t great at shopping, but she doesn’t realise what she’s missing in terms of female friendship until Ruby Jones comes on the scene.

Ruby is Monty’s love interest and at first this makes Faith HUGELY wary of her. She thinks she’s just being protective because Ruby hasn’t shown much interest in Monty, but the truth is she’s jealous and until she looks past this, she doesn’t see Ruby as a potential friend. A forced trip to the next nearest town and a spontaneous shopping trip throws these two together and Faith finds herself having one of the best days she’s had in a long time.


‘I’m sorry, Ruby.’

Setting her handbag on the floor by her chair, Ruby looked up. Her brow furrowed. ‘What about? You were great back there. I made you try on a zillion dresses and you didn’t roll your eyes once. Well, maybe once.’

Ruby’s light-hearted response gave Faith an out and she guessed that to be her intention, but her behaviour really had been unwarranted. She thought of her warm-hearted mum. Cassie would never have been so quick to judge a newcomer to town, and that made her more determined to offer a proper apology.

‘I’m so sorry I was such a bitch to you.’

A light red tinge crept into Ruby’s cheeks and she shook her head. ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m sure you had your reasons.’

‘I can’t for the life of me imagine what they were,’ admitted Faith. ‘You’ve been a godsend these last few weeks, helping me with the ball. And who knows what I’d have worn if you hadn’t taken the reins today.’

Ruby smiled. ‘I’m sure you’d have chosen something fabulous. And as for why you didn’t like me, may I make a suggestion?’

Faith blinked and nervously said, ‘Go ahead.’

‘I think he starts with M and ends with Y.’

The waitress chose that moment to deliver their hot chocolates. Faith all but snatched hers from the woman’s tray, wrapping her fingers around the mug, drawing warmth and searching for courage. She couldn’t bring herself to meet Ruby’s gaze.

‘I’m right, aren’t I?’ Ruby persisted.

Faith shrugged. ‘Maybe. I was worried you would break his heart. I really can’t explain it, but I feel so protective of him. He’s my best friend in the world.’

‘I think he’s a lot more than that,’ Ruby said. When Faith didn’t say anything, she continued. ‘My guess is you’re in love with him.’

Oh geez. ‘Is it that obvious?’

Ruby nodded. ‘To me, yes. But Monty’s male. He probably doesn’t have a clue. You should tell him how you feel.’

Nausea reared in Faith’s belly at the thought. ‘I don’t know if I can,’ she blurted. ‘He’s never given any indication that he feels the same way.’

‘I think sleeping with you is pretty good indication.’

Faith winced. ‘You know about that?’

Ruby nodded but there was no malice in her expression or her words. ‘Why do you think he and I were over before we even begun?’

‘I’m so sorry.’ She bit her lip, shame washing over her.

‘Would you quit saying you’re sorry?’ Ruby laughed and picked up her mug. She took a long sip of her drink.

‘I don’t know what else to say,’ Faith replied. She poured sugar into her already sweet hot chocolate and stirred it vigorously. ‘I’m so embarrassed. I promise I never ever meant it to happen and I certainly didn’t mean to hurt you. I feel so ashamed. It’s all a big fat mess.’

‘Where men are involved it’s always a mess.’ Ruby waved her hand as if telling Faith to forget it. ‘And Monty and I were never really together, so technically, you did nothing wrong.’

‘That’s a very generous way of looking at it.’

‘Anyway,’ Ruby mused, ‘what’s happened has happened. The difference between you and me is that I’m not in love with Monty, and right now, I could use a friend a lot more than I could use a man. I’d really like it if we could be friends, Faith.’

I really enjoyed writing the journey from enemies to good friends for Faith and Ruby. Ruby who was initially just a secondary character became more to me as she did to Faith, so much so that I decided to write her story in OUTBACK BLAZE.

I love writing about secondary characters as much as I like writing about the hero and heroine, which is probably why I failed miserably at writing short romances for Mills & Boon, where the focus is solely on the hero and heroine.

What about you? Do you prefer your romances to also explore other types of relationships as well?

Thanks for having me Sam!







Harlequin Australia, 1st October 2013

Faith and Monty are both looking for love…but they’re looking in the wrong direction.

Faith Forrester is at a crossroads. Single, thirty and living on a farm in a small Western Australian town, she’s sick of being treated like a kitchen slave by her brother and father. Ten years ago, her mother died of breast cancer, and Faith has been treading water ever since. She wants to get her hands dirty on the family farm. She wants to prove to herself that she’s done something worthwhile with her life. And she wants to find a man…??

For as long as he can remember, Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery has been Faith’s best friend. When he was ten, his parents sold the family property and moved to Perth, and ever since, Monty’s dreamed of having his own farm. So for the last ten years, he’s been back on the land, working odd jobs and saving every dollar to put toward his dream. Now he finally has the deposit. But there’s still something missing…??

So when Faith embarks on a mission to raise money for a charity close to her heart, and Monty’s dream property comes on the market, things seem like they are falling into place for them both. Until a drunken night out ends with them sleeping together. Suddenly, the best friends are faced with a new load of challenges…

Monty and Faith are both ready to find a life partner and settle down, but have they both been looking in all the wrong places?

To-buy links:




Google Playhttps://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rachael_Johns_Outback_Dreams?id=5U4nAAAAQBAJ&hl=en


Thank you Rachael for the post! I loved Ruby as a character and I’m glad to see that she returns in OUTBACK BLAZE. I like a little bit more in my romance/women’s fiction type books – sometimes the secondary characters are just as interesting as the main pair!