Monday, June 24, 2013

Featured Author: Isabelle Rowan


I teach by day and write by night – or whenever I can escape to fit in a few words. I’m a woman of ‘a certain age’ who lives in a seaside suburb south of Melbourne, so my stories are usually based in the country I know and love, Australia. Most of my writing is m/m romance with a slightly gritty edge, but I do venture into horror now and then.

Although the book I’ve chosen to highlight is not my most recent, it might give readers a taste of the people and places I like to write about. A Note in the Margin is set in Melbourne, but I believe the situation the characters find themselves in could apply anywhere in the world. My hope is that people not only enjoy it, but it might encourage them to look at the homeless in a different light. It is a heart-warming story that might just make you shed a tear or two.


Author Questions:

Are you plot or character driven?

Almost everything I’ve written is character driven. I have a basic plot idea, but that often changes once the characters take on life in my head. I’m not a writer who can plan and plot out every aspect of their stories – I’ve tried and failed miserably – so I have to trust my characters.

I love a good story with twists and turns, but I find the journey a character so much more satisfying. You become invested in their emotions, feel their loves and fears, and hopefully can relate to happy or happy for now ending.

Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what kind?

Every piece of writing has a soundtrack and individual characters often do too. Putting on my headphones is the easiest way to get into the mood for a particular piece of writing. I’m currently writing the third installment in the A Note in the Margin series and needed to get back into that mindset. I put on the VAST track ‘Flames’ – John and David were instantly there with all their love and need for each other. Daniel in The Red Heart came to life with the Goth sounds of Sisters of Mercy. Often I just have the hum of café traffic, but the music is still there in the back of my mind.

Tell us about the different types of characters you like to write about? Why are these types so appealing to you?

Perfect people aren’t very interesting are they? Or very realistic! The most interesting characters to write about have flaws, issues, and journeys to take. David is probably my most broken character at the start of A Note in the Margin; we find him homeless and unable to deal with the realities of a ‘normal’ life. He is still my favourite because he had so far to go and allowed other characters to grow around him.
Even a villain like my vampire Galen in Ink wouldn’t have interested me if he’d simply been evil. Galen had weaknesses and was also quite broken – he actually made me cry near the end of the book, a bit embarrassing when I write in cafes.

Reader Questions:

What are your favourite genres to read from? Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

My favourite genre to read is supernatural/horror – not the hardcore gory stuff, but something that is more atmospheric. Obviously I love vampire books and one of my early passions was Anne Rice - Ignore the movie and forget that portrayal of Lestat. Her books were always so rich in detail and ‘The Vampire Lestat’ totally suckered me in. However, my absolute favorite vampire novel would have to be ‘Lost Souls’ by Poppy Z Brite. Sure many of the music references are dated now, but Zillah and his gang sang to me as they drove around in their van.

Do you have a favourite character from another author?

In her novel ‘Lost Souls’, Poppy Z Brite wrote a character called Ghost. I read this book many years ago, but Ghost stays with me. He is an ethereal character who, although human, seems to exist between worlds. He is a true innocent and for some reason that really struck a chord in me.

What are your comfort reads when you are sick or feeling low?

Don’t laugh, but I love to revisit The Wind in the Willows. It is the most special book from my childhood and the adventures of Ratty, Mole and Mr. Toad still make me smile. I included my love of this story Twelve Days, the second book in the A Note in the Margin series and plan to have it play a role in the third.


Night or Day?

It’s winter right now in Melbourne so day – cold with winter sunshine.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee - although I drink more peppermint tea.

Leather or Lace?

I’m a black lace girl, especially when teamed with velvet.

Chocolate or Sex?

Can I have both? If I have to choose… nah, still want both.

Pajama movie night or Cocktails at the bar?

Love a night in with a movie!

Formal or Casual?

Casual – high heels would make me about 6ft tall!


John McCann, a man who judges life by the tally of an accounts ledger, has a supreme goal in life: To achieve, live, and enjoy the rarified executive lifestyle. But he's encountered one problem: The migraines are going to continue to get worse unless you make some major changes in your lifestyle. What you need is a 'sea change'… Perhaps buy a nice little business in the country, settle down, something easier to occupy your time…
 While John knows the doctor is right, he just can't resign from the job he's fought so hard for. He decides the sacrifice of taking a year's leave of absence won't interfere too much with his plans, and so he finds himself running Margins, a cozy little bookstore, with the help of the former owner's son, Jamie. John expects to put in his year, get his stress under control, and then get back to business.
 What John doesn't expect is how Margins and its denizens draw him in, particularly the quiet, disheveled man who takes refuge in the old leather chair in the second-hand book section. John's plans for an unattached year of simple business crumble when he meets David and is forced to re-evaluate life, love and what he really wants from both. John and David are forced to come to terms with their pasts as they struggle to determine what possible future they might build together.


“It’s a cold night, John, and it’s late.” When it was obvious John didn’t get the intent of his words Jamie continued. “It’s late, John. The shelter will be closed. David knows that and he has nowhere to go.”
Then why didn’t he fucking say so?” John rolled his eyes and growled. “Why didn’t he ask…?”
Jamie shot John a withering look and said, “Would you?”
John felt the air leave his lungs. Of course he wouldn’t. His fucking pride wouldn’t let him, but he still tried to reason. “Look, he’ll find somewhere.”
“Yeah, John… and he can always call the hypothermia emergency line if he can find a phone that hasn’t been vandalized!” Jamie spat out.
“Come on, Jamie. I’ll drive you home,” John said quietly, wondering if there was such a thing as a hypothermia emergency line.

It was bitterly cold and had started to rain by the time they reached the car, but neither man acknowledged it. They sat in silence while John peered through the fogged window waiting for the demister to clear the glass. They were several blocks down the main road when John pulled sharply into the curb. He hit the button that lowered the electric windows, leaned across Jamie’s lap, and shouted, “Get in!”
The icy wind rushed in through the open window, making Jamie’s eyes water, but he was still able to make out the somewhat surprised and confused expression on David’s face. He just stood there staring at John unsure what to do. Jamie had no clue what John had in mind, but he mentally willed David to walk to the car. He could feel John growing impatient when David didn’t move so he called, “Come on, Davey. Please get in.”
Jamie held his breath for what seemed an age until he saw David start to walk toward them; he quickly twisted around in his seat to open the back door. David lowered himself into the car and didn’t say a word. He just sat and waited for John to explain the invitation. John hadn’t really thought that far ahead, but managed to come up with, “Look, it’s fucking freezing and um… you may as well crash on the couch tonight. After all, you did help move it.”
Jamie knew it sounded pretty lame, but he gave John an appreciative smile when David closed the door and mumbled his thanks. He chattered happily the rest of the way to his apartment making sure to cover up the silence in the rest of the car. When John pulled up out front Jamie mouthed thank you to John before making a dash through the rain to his front door.
John could feel David sitting quietly behind him and wondered what the hell he was doing taking this man home. After a moment or two he turned around and asked, “Want to sit in the front? That way I’ll feel less like your chauffer.”
David looked at him before giving a small nod and stepping out of the car to swap seats. He wasn’t totally sure what was going on here but John seemed okay, and Jamie liked him.
Once the car was in motion John commented on how quiet it was now that Jamie was gone and went on to tell David about Jamie’s ability to talk nonstop without taking a breath. David visibly relaxed and smiled at John’s observations.
They were nearly back at John’s when he stopped outside a pharmacy and said, “Need some supplies if you’re staying over. Not be a minute.”
David felt his stomach plunge as he watched John jog into the store. There’s always a cost…. Even for a night on the couch. He squeezed his eyes shut and contemplated just getting out of the car, but was too tired and simply didn’t have enough energy to move. He didn’t look at John when he got back into the car but eyed the small paper bag warily before it was tossed onto the backseat. He spent the rest of the trip in sullen silence despite John’s attempts to make conversation.
When they got to the apartment he walked quietly behind John and stood still as the door was closed behind him. David felt the familiar wave of helplessness as he waited for the inevitable rough touch.
John was confused by the change in David. He’d not moved since John closed the door and his entire body language radiated fear. John knew he was out of his depth with this man; he hadn’t meant to make him feel so uncomfortable. He passed the bag over and said in a hesitant voice, “I didn’t know what you had so I just got some of the basics.
Look, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, but… oh fuck, I don’t know….”
John’s sentence trailed off as he closed his eyes and wearily rubbed his hand across his forehead.
Slightly stunned by John’s words, David looked down at the paper bag in his hands. He cautiously unfolded the neat crease to find a toothbrush, bar of soap, and a razor. He felt a rush of both relief and shame; relief that he was wrong and shame for not trusting John’s intentions.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely interview, Isabelle. Thanks for sharing with us about your writing and reading. I had wondered about the references to THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS when I read TWELVE DAYS this past week, so it's nice to have that little bit of background. Also, so great to hear that writing is going on for a third in the series!

    For anyone who has not read A NOTE IN THE MARGIN, I hope that will be resolved soon. It's such a beautifully written story (that's what a talented writer will do, after all), and the characters stay in your heart long after the final page.