Jennifer St George

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Corporate Career Pierced by Cupid’s Arrow

Byron Bay based romance writer Jennifer St George didn’t always have a passion for romance writing. As the recipient of a Rupert Murdoch Fellowship she had a high-flying business career. But a seachange to Byron Bay saw her swap her designer suits for a keyboard. Jennifer talks to Verandah about how she moved from the boardroom to bedroom.

After a twenty-year business career, what triggered such a dramatic change in occupation?

My husband’s life-long dream was to live in Byron Bay and surf every morning before work. Achieving dreams can be hard. So we just sat down one day and worked out how to do, then did it. But it didn’t quite go to plan. I’d envisaged continuing to work in Brisbane and commuting. That didn’t work out. Having small children, enduring countless delays from the many car accidents on the Pacific Highway and the sheer ghastliness of commuting soon put an end to that plan. I quickly realized I needed to be Byron Bay based for the foreseeable future. I’d been dabbling in writing and when I got to the finals in a writing competition, I thought I’d take a chance and give writing a red-hot go. After a lot of hard work, many courses and workshops and the rejection of four fifty thousand-word manuscripts, I got the call.

Does your old life feature in your stories?

None of my characters are based on real people, but the many locations I’ve worked in, or travelled to, do feature in my novels. For example, I worked in London for seven years and two of my stories are based partially there. The Convenient Bride was inspired by a trip to Venice. The story I’m writing now centres around a five-star health retreat. This setting is influenced by a stay I had a few months ago at a gorgeous resort just north of the border. Also, some of my characters display workaholic, career-driven tendencies, tendencies of which I was once accused.

You’ve had four novels published by Penguin Books’ romance line, Destiny Romance. Which is your favourite?

I have a big soft spot for my first book, The Convenient Bride for a number of reasons. First, it did well in writing competitions, which culminated in my winning the Clendon Award, the prestigious NZ unpublished manuscript award. Second, it was the book that captured the attention of my publisher and third, it was this book where my writing process became very tight. I now plot all my books before I write a single word, which for me, makes for a better written story.

• Tell us about your latest release

• The idea for The Billionaire’s Pursuit of Love came when I attended a seminar in Byron held by a charity dedicated to saving the world’s orangutans. The wildlife workers lived in very basic conditions, working in the mud, rain and heat to ‘mother’ the baby orangutans until they could look after themselves – a little like human babies. I then read a newspaper article about a man who’d designed one of the world’s most successful computer games and was worth millions. He lived a classic urban, jet set lifestyle. I wondered what it would be like if two people, from such incredibly different worlds, were brought together through a twist of fate that just wouldn’t let them go. This is what happens to wildlife warrior, Sarah Walker and global technology guru, Blake Huntington-Fiennes.

What advice do you have for aspiring romance writers?

Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. Also, join Romance Writers of Australia and enter as many competitions as possible. The feedback is invaluable and the deadlines are good practice for the day that editor calls and your publishing dreams become reality.

Jennifer St George has four e-books published by Destiny Romance, which are available through all good etailers. Her print book, Sweet Seduction, which combines her first two stories, is available locally through Mary Ryan’s Byron Bay.