My grandmothers listened, guided and helped me where they could. They didn’t have the important responsibility to raise me or pay for my shoes or doctors’ appointments. They’d done all that with one of my parents. Now was their time to enjoy children and to offer unconditional love and a wise word here and there. When creating my heroines, I always seem to think about not just her mother and what she was like but also who was her grandmother and what influence did she have. In my latest book, Katrina’s mother was a successful artist and worked a lot, so it was her grandmother who provided the stability and attention that little Katrina craved. Having had a close and loving relationship with both of my grandmothers, who were there for me when my mother couldn’t be, enriched my life beyond measure. I like to share a little about them with you.
My Nana (Dad’s mum) lived a few houses away in the same street. She was the social outgoing type who always came to see me dance at my annual ballet concert. I would call in and see her whenever I liked and was welcomed with a warm smile and offered a packet of chips, a treat that I promptly ate. She had fun loving friends who came to play cards. Sometimes I would call in after school and find them laughing and sitting around a card table in the lounge playing ‘Stop The Bus’. A chair for me would be pulled up and a pile of copper coins placed at my disposal. Under the window sat a coffee table. On here she had photos of her seventeen grandchildren displayed under glass. She called all of us ‘Dear’ because she used to get our names mixed up. Parties at Nana’s were a highlight at Christmas with all her children and grandchildren arriving for a sing-along and sometimes there was dancing. I used to love playing in her crystal cabinet. I was actually dusting it, but it was like playing to me. She left me that cabinet (see the photo above) and I will cherish it always.
My Granny (Mum’s mum) lived in the next suburb but it was there I had many sleepovers when Mum and Dad went out. She was an older grandmother and had been the head Sister in a country hospital before she married. She was a quiet woman who liked a simple life and kept her country ways even though she now lived in a big city. She taught me how to knit and crochet and to make paper pieced patchwork. A wood fired stove turned out scones and sausage rolls and an open fire in the lounge room was a special delight. There was a pot of tea with cups and saucers brought into the lounge on a tray, and Cadbury milk chocolate for supper.
I remember asking her some of the big questions. Like ‘Aren’t you scared of dying now that you’re old?’ I cringe now when I think about my young self being so tactless, but she gave me an answer that has stayed with me all my life. She explained that she wasn’t scared because she’d lived a long life and was tired now. She also told me that I didn’t have to worry because I’d be ready too when I was old and my time came. I stopped worrying about what lay ahead in all areas of my life. I assumed I’d be ready when the time came. She let me play with her makeup and I’d put on her red lipstick and bright rouge although I never saw her wear it and I assume it was kept solely to entertain her granddaughters. I was allowed to look through the jewelry that she kept in a crystal bowl. She left that bowl to me and I keep it in my study where I write.
I’ve dedicated “The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ to my grandmothers because of the love they gave me, and all their grandchildren, for the stability and quiet confidence that came from being family women who’d lived through all the stages of womanhood. They knew what lay ahead for me and did their best to help me see a light inside myself. They were giving in their time and showed how happy they were to see me whenever I visited.
Katrina, pretty ballerina, as I like to call her, had a close relationship with her grandmother. Because of this she wants her son to get to know his grandmother in Italy. I believe I could write this lovely lady from the heart because I had some wonderful women to inspire me.
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I was sitting in the library during a class at primary school, when I chose a book to read simply because there was a fairy-like ballerina on the cover. Her light as air fluffy tutu and her elegant hair pulled back into a bun made me want to be her.
I don’t remember the name of the book but I have vague memories of a girl coming from a poor home. Her life was spartan and she fed the mice in the attic to make pets of them. I don’t think I’m mixing this up with Cinderella but you never know. I’ve had a look on Amazon and it may have been ‘Dance of the Swan’ A biography of Anna Pavlova. Her mother was poor after her father died. Born in Russia, she could learn to be a ballerina at the government-run school once she turned ten years old. It changed her life. She worked hard and endured painful feet to become a famous prima ballerina. I really wanted to be her. I wanted to be a beautiful woman who rose from obscurity and danced on a stage to the applause of hundreds.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait until I was grown up to have that experience.
I told my mother I wanted to learn ballet. Luckily there was a school in our neighborhood and although we weren’t well off, Mum somehow found the money for the fees, leotard, pink tights and of course the coveted shoes. To my extreme surprise and severe disappointment, they weren’t toe shoes. At only 10 years old I had a while to wait.
I was amazed at how strict but kind the teacher was. I knew I couldn’t dance very well, but she praised my determination to give it all I had when it came to the complicated steps and jumps. She was so elegant and graceful and was precisely what a ballet dancer should be.
At the end of the year, I had my first exam. I was so nervous and I remember her kissing me on the top of my head and saying I’d be okay. I could hardly breathe when I went into the room and began going through the steps I’d learned before a panel of three judges.
When I got to my next class, I raced with all the other girls to the notice board to find out my results. We crowded around and I heard them say they had got honors with pride or that they’d got a credit with not quite as much enthusiasm. Me, I was just praying for a pass. When I finally found my name and a pass next to it, I think I felt happier than any other girl in my class.
Near the end of the year, we began rehearsing our concert dances so extra classes were scheduled. I loved Saturday afternoons when the older girls came in to dance with us. I was transfixed watching them dancing on their toes. Like magic fairies, four girls danced with interlocked hands and bounced on toes doing a famous dance from Swan Lake. I was one of the many flowers that grew around the lake, in the background watching on.
Our concert was held at the town hall in front of a large audience. The buzzing excitement of being dropped off at the stage entrance by Mum was just the beginning. I was helped to dress in a gorgeous tulle costume and had my makeup done. It was a highlight experience of my childhood. We filed up a wooden staircase to one side of the wings and waited there with the fellow flowers, listening to orchestra music and the applause at the end of each scene. We gradually descended the stairs as each set of dancers went on stage and did their performance. Finally, it was my group's turn and I ran onto the stage. It was so dark out there but I sensed the audience and knew my mother, sister and grandmother were all watching me.
I danced my piece with the flower chorus and then stayed on stage but standing at the back I watched the beautiful older girls dance their piece. Then the audience clapped so loud. It was thrilling and exciting and happy but too soon it was time to leave. I ran as I’d been taught on tippy toes across the stage and out into the wings. I was hooked. I loved every minute.
I kept dancing for another few years until illness made me retire. I never did get a pair of the much-coveted toe shoes. I probably never would have become a real ballerina anyway. I was too uncoordinated, too tall and gangly but that doesn’t dim my enjoyment in the memories I have. I did get to dance on stage and hear thunderous applause that lifted me out of my ordinary life, and for one evening a year, I was a ballerina who danced on a stage.
As a romance writer, I get to live out the dreams of my childhood through my characters. Katrina Baxter is a prima ballerina. Dancing helped shape her identity and has been the one constant love in her life until she met Alessandro Rinaldo, a very determined Grand Prix champion. Each of them is 100 percent committed to their career until a little boy captivates their hearts and makes them see that there is more to life and to love than their careers.
I suppose we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up and for a lot of us it doesn’t work out that way. I don’t think it matters that much. In researching the book I discovered how much pain ballerinas endure for their craft and I know I wouldn’t want to have the arthritis a lot of them end up with. Perhaps having the dream, the imagining of how it would be, is the best part. In my case, I was lucky to have some part of the dream come true. The experience I had was enough, so that when it was time to let it go I was okay with it.
You can find my e-book about Katrina, Alessandro and their baby ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Secret Baby’ on Amazon Available at the special pre-order price of 99cents until the released date on Nov 14th when it will be $2.99.
I'm giving a free advance copy away. For a chance to win it, leave a comment telling me what wanted to be when you grew up.
It's happened! My first novel, 'A Dance With The Laird' has been released.
I'm so happy to be able to bring you a story that I'm very proud of because it won the best unpublished manuscript in the Romance Writers of Australia's Emerald Award back in 2013.
A lot happened to me since then, a serious illness that took almost two years to recover from and a new relationship. Writing romance and my involvement at the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild has been the constant in my life when everything else was changing.
I related so strongly to Natalie and Angus, who each in their own way have to rebuild their lives. It's kind of spooky that this is a story I'd written before needing to rebuild mine. It provided inspiration for piecing my life back together and taking a chance on love even when I still felt broken. Although I have other completed novels in the Baxter Sister series, this is the one that demanded to be published first.
Natalie and Angus's story.
Forbidden passion begins in a dance with the Laird. Australian, event organizer, Natalie Baxter, is on assignment in the UK. She’s striving to build a new life after losing her husband and unborn child in a horrific car accident. Unable to conceive again she’s organizing fundraising events to help the world’s most vulnerable children. This is to be her future life’s work but her philanthropist client, Lord Angus McLaren, stirs her heart once more in a dance which undermines her new life plan.
Angus needs to keep his heart on ice. His last attempt at making a life with his brother's widow ended in divorce. This time around he'll marry for practical reasons and produce a blue blood heir for his family estate. The work of his Foundation for orphans in the third world must be secured for the future, but Natalie, the only woman he can think about spending his life with can’t give him a child of his own. Can he put aside a succession that goes back five hundred years, find a way to secure the future of his foundation, and have his heart’s desire?
Available now on Amazon.
I love writing romance novels, creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style, living a loving, romantic life filled with family, friends, and exploring lovely places with Sam.