I’ve been living in Sydney, Australia for a more years than I care to admit! I love the cosmopolitan mix of cultures and races in my city. I also love the beautiful beaches and national parks and of course the stunning harbour. After living here for so long I tend to take it for granted, but every now and then I’ll catch a glimpse of the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House, and I’ll think ‘Wow, that’s beautiful.’
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your career?
To be honest when I was a child I never really thought about the future. I was always too busy reading books. I never even thought I’d be an author one day, but I guess that love of reading was the catalyst that made me decide to try my hand at writing in the first place.
Tell us about your latest book. Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
My latest book is called Asher’s Invention. It’s a steampunk romance set in Victorian England. I had a lot of fun writing this book. There are many definitions of steampunk but put simply it is Victorian sci-fi. The hero of my story, Asher Quigley, is an inventor whose greatest invention has the potential for enormous change, and naturally this means others want to get their hands on it. Mostly, my story is a romance between Asher and his ex-fiancée, Minerva, whom he despises for betraying him.
I so enjoyed writing Asher’s Invention that I wrote a sequel to it, which is scheduled for release in January 2013.
I also enjoy writing contemporary romance and have a novel coming out in October.
Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work?
I’m constantly saving unusual stories I come across in newspapers thinking ‘that’ll make a great story!’, but so far I haven’t used any of them yet. I’m still saving them, though!
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
I love writing and editing the actual manuscript. I’m not so keen on writing synopses. The biggest challenge, though, is sending your work out and waiting for a response. That can be very wearing on the nerves, so I try to distract myself by working on other projects while I count down the weeks or months.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Write as much as you can. Finish one project before starting another. Join a writers’ organisation. Find a critique partner or group. But mostly just write, write and write some more. There’s a theory (taken from the book Outliers: The Story of Success) that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. So if you wrote 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, that would take you 5 years to master writing. That’s a lot of hours!
Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?
Too many authors to mention! As far as books which have influenced me, I immediately think of all the books I devoured as a child and teenager — Enid Blyton, Hergé (author of Tintin), Victoria Holt, Barbara Pym, Winston Graham, Dorothy Dunnett. (I’ll have to stop there.)
How did you deal with rejection letters?
Can I just say I still get rejection letters and they still hurt. I find the best thing is to have a day of moping and indulging in some chocolate. By the next day I usually feel better. Rejection letters are part of the business and shouldn’t be taken too personally.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A comfortable space to write and time to write and daydream! Everything else is optional.
Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
That’s an interesting question as I don’t write gore or erotica! Speaking as a reader, anything gratuitous instantly puts me off.
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Five years ago, Asher Quigley broke his engagement to Minerva Lambkin, believing she was an accomplice in a scheme to steal his prototype for a wondrous device. Minerva swore she was innocent, though the thief—and Asher’s mentor—was her own father.
Now, sheer desperation has driven Minerva to Asher’s door. Her father has been kidnapped by investors furious that he’s never been able to make the machine work. Only Asher, now a rich and famous inventor in his own right, can replicate the device. He’s also become a hard, distant stranger far different from the young idealist she once loved.
Despite their troubled past, Asher agrees to help Minerva. He still harbors his suspicions about her, but their reunion stirs emotions and desires they both thought were buried forever. Can they rebuild their fragile relationship in time to save her father and their future together?
She lifted her chin. “Parlor trick or not, my father’s life is in danger. I’ve searched my father’s workshop high and low, and I don’t have anything resembling a millennium machine. Only you can help me, Asher.”
Suspicion riffled across his face. “Why? Do you think I’ve still been working on the millennium machine?”
“You have invention in your blood. I cannot imagine you not thinking about the machine during the past five years. Or working on it.”
“And what if I were? What if I did happen to solve the insolvable?” His eyes had become mere slits of jade as he scrutinized her with all the intensity of a jungle cat. “Do you propose I should simply hand over my endeavours in order to save the man who stole it from me in the first place?”
Put in those terms, it sounded ludicrous, even Minerva had to admit. Her shoulders slumped. Exhaustion washed over her. She’d barely slept or eaten for the past three days, and the stony cliff of Asher’s hostility felt more insurmountable than the Swiss Alps. Unable to stand any longer, she sank back down on the settee and laced her fingers together to steady them.
“You’re my last hope, Asher.”
A distant grandfather clock chimed the hour. A log in the fire crackled. Asher clapped his hands softly. “Bravo, Minerva. I’ve not seen a better performance at Drury Lane. So prettily done. I half expected a piteous tear to roll down your cheek.”
She gritted her teeth and crushed her fingers into the soft damask of the settee. “You think this is all pretense?”
“Oh, not all of it. I’ve no doubt your father is in sticky financial trouble. He attracted so many investors with the promise of the millennium machine, and he’s managed to keep one step ahead of them all these years. But finally he’s run out of time. He needs to produce a working machine, something that’s useful, or the moneymen will come after him. But he has nothing. So what does he do but enlist the help of his ever-faithful daughter once again.”
He bared his teeth in a smiling snarl. “Do you really think I’d fall for your lies yet again? What kind of fool must you think me!”
Coleen Kwan has been a bookworm all her life. At school English was her favorite subject, but for some reason she decided on a career in IT. After many years of programming, she wondered what else there was in life — and discovered writing. She loves writing contemporary romance whether it’s sweet or sensual, and has recently discovered a whole new genre in steampunk romance.
Coleen lives in Sydney with her partner and two children. When she isn’t writing she enjoys avoiding housework, eating chocolate, and watching The Office.
Contact Coleen at her website www.coleenkwan.com.