Wednesday, July 16, 2008


My guest this week is the stellar, Rita winning, Harlequin Romance author Barbara Hannay.

I first met Barbara and her husband at the RWA National Conference in New York at the annual Harlequin Mills & Boon "pizza" party which has become a highlight for authors attending from all over the globe. We went to a real New York pizza parlour -- Barbara, Sandra Marton, Trish Morey, Emma Darcy, Barbara McMahon, Jane Porter, Susan Stephens, Lillian Darcy are the names that instantly spring to mind. There were more...

Then, a couple of years ago, I was thrilled to collaborate with Barbara (and Jackie Braun) on the trilogy, Secrets We Keep -- this is Barbara's book. Working together was tremendous fun and I hope that one day, in the not too distant future, we'll have the chance to do something like it again.

Barb, tell us about your latest book!

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you here, Liz. It’s fabulous to be celebrating your fiftieth book!!!! I want to start with a huge thank you for the many hours of happy reading you’ve given me. I always know that a Liz Fielding book will deliver a fascinating, gutsy heroine, a yummy hero, wonderful weepy moments and scrumptious words – put together magically, as only you can.

Although I’m about to start my thirtieth book, fifty still feels such a lo-o-o-ong way off. This is a true milestone, so – hip, hooray – I brought champagne!!

OK, so I’m also supposed to talk about my new book, Adopted: Outback Baby which I fondly refer to as my grandparent book. Yes, that’s right. The hero and heroine are grandparents. But before blog readers reel back in horror, I should make it clear that my hero and heroine are not geriatric. In fact, at thirty-nine, they’re still reassuringly sprightly.

This is an Old Flame story. When Nell and Jacob were nineteen, they were unjustly tricked/forced into giving their baby up for adoption, and now, twenty years later, they find themselves brought together by a twist of fate to care for their tiny grandson.

Of course they’ve changed a great deal in twenty years. Nell has been married and divorced. Jacob is no longer the poor son of Nell’s parents’ cook, and he’s become a successful, self-made man. But it can be nerve-wracking for a woman on the brink of forty to suddenly meet up with a boyfriend she knew when she was nineteen – shades of a bad dream of a high school reunion.

With every book I write, there seems to be a different “something” (my muse perchance?) that influences the tone of the book. Sometimes it’s a collage I’ve made; sometimes it’s a sound track. In this book, I had fun with a collage.

But details like Jacob’s humble past and the beautiful patchwork hangings that Nell now creates kept niggling in the back of my mind until suddenly I remembered why. These two elements come together in one of my favourite poems by William Butler Yeats. The poem became a kind of background theme for my story. Here it is:-

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread my cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams,
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

So this book is all about finally realizing those dreams, but first Nell and Jacob must face many hurdles – not the least of which, is working out how to care for a small baby. In this extract, they are driving and Sam is in his baby capsule on the back seat…

But they had hardly left Thornbury before Sam squirmed and pulled a face that made him look ridiculously like a very wrinkled, old man.

‘Sam’s looking unhappy,’ Nell announced nervously. ‘He’s squirming and moving.’

‘I should think he would want to move.’ Jacob smiled as he took off at a green light.

‘But he’s turning red.’ Nell didn’t want to be nervous, but she’d had next to no practical experience with babies. ‘I think he’s waking up.’

‘He has to wake some time.’

‘But he shouldn’t be waking now, should he? I thought babies were supposed to sleep in cars. Isn’t something about the motion supposed to make them sleepy?’

As she said this, a tiny squawk emitted from the back seat. Scant seconds later, it was followed by a much louder wail. Then a full-bodied squawk. And another.

Oh, help! Was Sam missing Jean already? What should she do? He looked so distressed and sounded so miserable.

Nell wondered if she should she ask Jacob to stop the car. They shouldn’t just drive on, callously letting the baby cry, should they? Twisting in her seat, she watched Sam’s small hand waving above him like a distress signal. She reached back and tried to catch it with her little finger.

‘There, there,’ she crooned as his fingers brushed the tips of hers. She dropped her hand lower and he clasped her little finger in a tight, tiny fist.

It was lovely to feel him clutching her, needing her. ‘You’re all right, little man, don’t cry.’ How relieved she would be if she could pacify him.

Sam’s wails grew stronger and louder, his face redder. He let go of her finger and his hand stiffened, fingers outstretched, imploring.

‘He can’t be hungry,’ she said. ‘Jean was quite certain that he doesn’t need a feed for another hour or more.’

‘Maybe it’s wind,’ Jacob suggested matter-of-factly.

How did he know about such things?

‘Perhaps we’d better stop and see what the problem is.’ Nell cast a doubtful eye over the busy lanes of traffic.

Jacob lifted his voice over Sam’s cries. ‘The Botanic Gardens aren’t far away. How about I head over there? At least it will get us out of this traffic.’

‘Yes!’ Nell nodded gratefully. ‘That’s a good idea.’

Sam cries were ear-splitting by the time they pulled into the car park at the Royal Botanic Gardens. People getting into a car nearby turned to stare at them.

Nell flew out of her seat and fumbled with the straps binding Sam into his carrier. ‘What’s the matter, little man?’

Lifting him up, she felt his little body go rigid in her arms. It was like trying to cuddle a brick. A screaming brick. Nell tucked a muslin wrap around him and joggled him gently against her shoulder. She patted his back, and when he didn’t calm down, she felt a shaft of real panic. She knew babies cried, but she’d never heard one as upset as this.

What was wrong with him? He’d been fed, his nappy was dry. He couldn’t have developed a dreadful disease in the short time since they’d left the Browne’s.
What if she couldn’t calm him?

Jacob joined her and she shot him a frantic glance. He smiled, but she knew he must be thinking that her mothering skills were sub-zero.

‘Why don’t we take him for a walk,’ he suggested.

‘A walk? When he’s screaming? Do you think it would help?’

‘It’s worth a try. You never know, it might soothe him.’

Nell directed a doubtful glare at the sweeping lawns, the majestic elms and oaks and the path circling the ornamental lake. The rain had finished soon after breakfast and it was a lovely summer’s day. Melbournians were out in force, enjoying their favourite parkland – joggers and parents pushing prams, toddlers entranced by the teeming birdlife – lots of babies, lots of small children. Only Sam was screaming.
Jacob didn’t seem perturbed by the baby’s uproar. He threw a protective arm around Nell’s shoulders and she felt absurdly grateful for his reassuring presence. He clicked the remote control to lock the car doors and they began to walk, their footsteps in time as they crossed the gravelled car park to the walking path.
Sam kept yelling, but Jacob talked anyway.

‘These gardens are my favourite part of Melbourne,’ he said as the path led them down the slope towards the water.

‘Let me guess – because it’s full of trees and wide open spaces?’

‘Absolutely. Being here is the next best thing to being in the bush.’

It was a not-so-subtle reminder. ‘But parks are supposed to be tranquil places. Sam’s disturbing the peace.’

‘He’s a tiny baby, Nell.’

She sighed. ‘I know.’ She gave Sam’s back a firmer pat and hitched him higher on her shoulder. Almost immediately, he let out a huge burp.

And stopped crying.

‘Goodness.’ Nell lifted him away from her, so that she could look at him. ‘Was that the problem?’

In the sunlight, Sam’s fine hair was lit with gold. His blue eyes were still shiny with tears trembling on the end of sinfully dark lashes. He was staring at her with a look that suggested he was almost as surprised as she was that he’d stopped crying. He was absolutely gorgeous!

Nell smiled at Jacob. ‘You were right. But how did you know he had wind?’

‘I must have an acute understanding of infants.’

She wasn’t buying that. ‘Or you made a lucky guess.’

Grinning widely, he snapped his fingers. ‘Sprung.’

Nell laughed. And then she was instantly sobered by the realisation that this was the first time she’d laughed in ages.


So… do you have stories about looking after a baby – the nerves, the fears, the funny moments?? Was it all plain sailing? Tell me your baby stories for a chance to win a copy of Adopted: Outback Baby.

If you can't wait, the book is available to buy here at Amazon or at Mills and Boon or Mills and Boon, Australia


Ellen said...

The snippet you gave us sounded eerily familiar. It was an experience I had with the first baby I ever babysat. Alone with a screaming baby and only a teenager. I was sure something was really wrong but at least I could call my mother and ask her for help.

robynl said...

I babysat for 1 infant and a baby. The baby had Eczema and cried and cried when she woke up. I walked the floor and paced and paced to no avail. I was afraid the neighbours might think I was harming the child but the mother had told me about this happening.

I remember as a teenager babysitting for a family who lived app. 2 miles from us on a farm. I'd get the baby to sleep by holding and rocking and then upon putting the baby in the crib her eyes would open and she'd start crying. I did it all over again and the same thing happened. I tried again and this time when I bent over to put her down I just held her above the mattress a few inches and didn't dare put her down and she kept sleeping. But I couldn't stay like this forever so I put her down and guess what...right on. I don't recall all these years later how it ended by I believe she might have been awake when the parents came home.

Barb said...

Oh, you have my sympathy Ellen and Robyn. I didn't mind babies when I was a teenager, so my first exoerience of endless crying came with my own.
It's always the most frightening the first time, isn't it?

Snookie said...

LOL, anyone that has plain sailing looking after a baby hasn't looked after the baby long enough! One day when my son was about 6 months old, I got out of the car and somehow the door locked (might have hit it with my elbow) with my keys inside. Here's my smiling baby in teh back seat strapped into his carseat while my the doors are locked with my keys in the ignition and my wallet on the seat. My husband had the spare key and was out of town. Luckily, it all happened in my garage!. I oouldn't get into the house, but I did find a wire hanger and managed to get the lock opened and teh baby out before he knew he was stuck in teh car!

Michelle Douglas said...

Ooh, loved the excerpt, Barbara. Can't wait to read the rest of the book.

Hmm, babies... 'fraid I don't have too many maternal bones in my body. I do remember being roped into babysitting my three week old niece for 3 hours while her parents attended a Xmas work lunch. My three week old CONSTIPATED niece.

Guess when she decided to become unconstipated?

I had no idea how to change a nappy. Luckily it was summer. I held her under a tap to rinse her off, laid her on a pile of towels and played Blondie's In The Flesh (on vinyl) over and over till she fell asleep. For the next week her parents could only get her to sleep if they played Blondie.

Donna Alward said...

I've got 2 of my own, but before that I had scads of nieces and nephews to spoil. When my older sister had her first, he was a preemie, and I spent a lot of time at her house that summer.

The dh and I had been dating about a year...I think I was almost 20...and one day Zack had been kind of fussy I think. Dh came in the back door and here we were, on the love seat, both of us sleeping, Zack snoring away right on my chest. He was such a sweet baby. I remember a lot of things from his babyhood, and now he's over six feet tall!

Anonymous said...

I grew up on a ranch and had few opportunities to babysit but this is a funny story of when I was young. I have a twin sister and one time my mom and her neighbor were going to town so she put training panties on one of us as we ran through the house and the neighbor put the panties on the other one. When they got to town they realized that one of us had on 2 panties and the other none. They had a big laugh over that episode.

Liz Fielding said...

My mother once sat for a friend's new baby. It screamed the entire time it was in the house, but my Mum, being tactful, said she'd slept the whole time. Then the lady turned to me and asked me if I'd like a little sister and I said "No way!", which rather let the cat out of the bag!

Dena said...

Hi Barbara, Your new book Adopted:Outback Baby sounds really good. I love books set in Australia too.

When I was a teenager and babysitting for one of my Moms co-worker and friend I was really nervous because it was the first time I was babysitting someone other than my little brothers or sister. Well she was just about to turn one year and I thought she could sit up fine on her own. I had her sitting on the couch and I turned for one second and she was screaming! In that secound she fell off the couch and hit her head! I was frantic and so worried, she stopped crying when I picked her up but I was worried if she had a concussion, so I wouldn't let her take a nap. I just sat there watching her seeing if she was going to get a bump, keeping her awake as she got grumpier and grumpier, I thought for sure she was acting like that because of the fall. When her Mom came home I was so embarressed when I told her what happened. Her Mom that was a nurse said she was fine and she was grumpy because she was tired. She never got a bump and I never babysat for her again.

Annie West said...

Hi Barbara,

I love the sound of this story. The lovers reunited works so well with the unexpected grandparent angle, especially since they're novices with babies! What fun you must have had. I'll be looking out for this one!

Michelle, love the idea of you holding your niece under the tap to rinse her clean. I've heard stories of my dad at the clothesline rinsing nappies with a hose...

My only difficult babysitting experience (don't worry, I had plenty of difficult times with my own!) was looking after a friend's 3 boys. The youngest was breastfed but went 5 hours between feeds like clockwork. My friend and her husband went out alone for the first time since he was born and of course his clockwork routine changed. He was hungry way before the 5 hours was up and there was nothing to feed him - argh!


2paw said...

Oh Barbara, I am frightened of babies and they recognise fear!! But I have discovered if I talk to them with the same voice I use for The Labradors, we have detente!!!! They smile and look happy!! I loved the trilogy you wrote with Liz and Jackie and thank you so much for this lovely insight into your writing and the excerpt!!!

Barb said...

Thanks for the fabulous stories --both funny and scary. Loved the twins. So glad Snookie knew how ro break into her car with a coathanger.
I'm playing tourist guide to house guests this weekend, but will check in again tomorrow (Sunday). Happy weekend everyone.

Dina said...

When I was younger I started to babysit too. There was a family of 5 small children and I wanted to earn $$, so I wtched them a few times. was scared at first, when they cried or when I changed them, but nothing really unsual happened, I was lucky. :)

robynl said...

One time while being a babysitter/housekeeper for 6 kids I had a hair-raising experience. The littlest one had put a round piece from a globe into his mouth. The size of a golf ball. He started throwing up and I had a terrific awful time getting that half of a globe out; it was stuck in his mouth and the throwing up stuff had no where to go and he was swallowing it. I was just shaking but thank goodness I got it out.

jenny haddon said...

Love the excerpt, Barbara. Can't wait to read the book.

I never had much to do with kids until I babysat a dear friend's first born. She was a cordon bleu cook and they were going out for their first smart party since Piers was born. She left me baked sole and salad with her special piquant dressing, and the baby in his cot. 'If he wakes,' she said, 'just play his Postman Pat tape. He loves music.'

He woke. About five minutes after they'd gone.

His tape machine wasn't working.

But she was right, he did love music. I could sing, couldn't I?
In fact, I had rather a sweet vision of sitting by his cot, singing a German lullaby and then tiptoeing away when the dear little soul was asleep.


Part One went well. Brahms, voice getting slower and quieter, dear little eyelids fall. I whisper off into silence, stand up gently ....

Evil little eyes pop wide open. Piers is not yet speaking but he doesn't need to. 'More or I scream,' is written all over him.

They were out four hours. In that time I sang, the Brahms lullaby and 'Scarlet Ribbons'twenty times each, every Christmas carol I could remember, likewise all the Beatles, Tom Lehrer and Meatloaf; quite a lot of advertising jingles; Mozart, Handel, Springsteen, Brian Adams, 'Walking In Memphis' . . .

I never got to eat the sole. He fell asleep five minutes before they got back.

It took me three days to get my voice back - that's any voice, including speaking.

Next time I met Piers with his mother in the park he grinned - and hummed! He'd won. He wasn't going to let me forget it.

Liz Fielding said...

Robyn -- that's absolutely terrifying.

And Jenny! You poor thing. What a little monster.

Barb said...

LOL Michelle on the Blondie story. And Jenny's lullabies. I can hear you, Jenny!
But Robyn, your story made me gasp. How absolutely terrifying for you.