Back in 1987, Guns N’ Roses wrote “Take me down to the Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” Nearly 30 years later, author CJ Duggan writes of another Paradise City – in coastal Australia – where the grass may not be quite so green, but the girls are just as pretty (minus the perms).
It’s her new romance series, with Paradise City (released in early 2015) recently followed by book two, Paradise Road. This is the author who has been bringing us the popular Summer Series since 2012. And by the way, she’s not being vague when she responds “NA” to the kind of fiction she writes. It stands for “New Adult” – which basically picks up where “Young Adult” leaves off; covering around ages 19-25 (as a guide).
So, time for a chat. Let’s just switch off this Guns N’ Roses song first… Okay. So, CJ, for those readers who haven’t read Paradise Road – can you share with the group what it’s about?
“Paradise Road is the continuation from Paradise City, and is centred on Lexie Atkinson, a 17-year-old girl who has been living in a remote part of Australia. After an entire existence being home schooled, Lexie is sent to the bustling metropolis of Paradise City to live with her posh family and thrust into a public city high school where looks can kill and vicious rumours can make or break you. Paradise Road is about her return to Paradise, this time a little bit more street smart, but nevertheless with some huge challenges ahead. No job, no home and torn emotions between an old flame in a delinquent surfer and a broody, sexy bar owner.”
Delinquent surfer versus broody bar owner. Wow, poor Lexie. So, how did the idea for this book form? This is book two after all – so did you have a sequel planned when you wrote the first one?
“Initially Paradise City was (in my head) going to be a stand alone novel, but I felt the more I got into the concept of the story and the characters I just knew there had to be a second book. I really wanted to explore a ‘fish out of water’ story and it was through my own adventures on holidays in seaside cities that had me thinking about what it would be like for a girl to be finding her way in the big smoke and having all her expectations be completely turned upside down.”
So, this NA genre is most certainly applicable to you. “New Adult” romance – why do you write this instead of bog standard “adult romance”?
“I am hugely nostalgic by nature and I am naturally really drawn to the innocence of that time in life where you really are just finding your way. New Adult provides the platform to be able to delve into a characters insecurities, the exploration into the unknown and a lot of the time the mistakes that were made as you are trying to figure out where you are headed in life. It undoubtedly provides a really juicy cauldron of experiences you can put your characters through, while having that growth in their story.”
A juicy cauldron huh? So, it’s like Harry Potter with sex scenes.
“I fight vigorously against the notion that New Adult is simply ‘sexed up’ YA. It really is so much more than that.”
Fair enough. So when you are writing, what’s your typical day like – do you have a writing routine?
“I work [another job] full-time so I’m predominantly a night writer and usually survive on around five hours sleep. I don’t tend to come to life creatively until the sun goes down – there seems to be this light switch that goes off in my brain and that’s when I get most of my work done.”
What about weekends?
“Weekends are quite sacred. When I’m on a deadline, it’s hard to maintain a balance when you get the luxury of a weekend to get some really big word counts in, but then when the book is done, I reclaim those weekends for a little while, until the next book begins.”
Okay, so back to the stories themselves. What would you say makes for a compelling male hero or female heroine in a contemporary romance?
“I like characters that challenge each other, that bring out something in one another. I want there to be humour and tenderness but I also like it based in some form of reality – that readers can actually relate to. The human tendencies of the characters’ relationships; the more they can relate the more emotionally invested they become.”
That sounds like a smart plan. So what’s next for you? What are you working on?
“I’m working on a new two-book NA series. Kiss the Girls and Kiss the Boys. Exploring again the themes of a character being severely out of her comfort zone, a real rag to riches story with a forbidden romance and a lot of deep, dark secrets in the mix. Release is TBA 2016 but both books are currently available on iBooks pre order.”
You certainly are busy! So finally, what’s your advice for aspiring romance writers who hope to be in a position like you are in one day?
“The one piece of advice that changed everything for me, was one person, one author saying to me, ‘CJ you need to own what you do’. It was exactly what I needed to hear – after making that decision to ‘own what I do’, I have never looked back. So my advice is to be well-read, particularly in the genre you are writing in, and to write from the heart not necessarily what the ‘IT’ genre is at the time, because that always changes. Just write the story that you passionate about and make it the best story it can possibly be.”
Wise words. But now, oh, won’t you please take me home.
Visit CJ Duggan’s official website for more information on her books.