Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Friends with Margaret Tanner

Our Friday Friend today is Margaret Tanner who is an award winning multi-published Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically correct. No book is too old or tattered for her to trawl through, no museum too dusty. Many of her novels have been inspired by true events, with one being written around the hardships and triumphs of her pioneering ancestors in frontier Australia. She once spent a couple of hours in an old gaol cell so she could feel the chilling cold and fear

Her favorite historical period is the 1st World War, and she has visited the battlefields of Gallipoli, France and Belgium, a truly poignant experience.

Margaret is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, the Melbourne Romance Writers Group (MRWG) and EPIC. She won the 2007 Author of the Year at

Margaret is married and has three grown up sons, and a gorgeous little granddaughter.
Outside of her family and friends, writing is her passion.

HWH: Welcome, Margaret and thanks for being with us.
Let’s start at the beginning – we all have different reasons for wanting to write. What was your reason and when did you start?

MARGARET: I have always wanted to write and in fact have been writing in one form or another since I can remember. I wrote poetry first, sad little ditties that used to make me cry. Then I graduated to short stories. Once I was married my husband worked night shift, so I started writing romance novels.

HWH: How easy/difficult was it to get your first book published?

MARGARET: Very difficult to get published. I have had so many near misses over the years, I couldn’t begin to count them. As for rejections, I could paper one of the walls in my house with them. But I never gave up on my dream to be a published author and after about twenty years I finally had my first novel accepted. Several more followed in quick succession.

HWH: All your books have a historical setting. What attracts you to writing historical romances?

MARGARET: I adore history, always have. The research really is a joy. I love dusty old books, museums and cemeteries. They are such a source of information. And I guess I am a sticky-beak. I like to know how people lived in bygone days, like to wonder whether I could have coped with all their trials and tribulations, and I am fairly convinced that I couldn’t.

HWH: You’ve said your favourite period is the First World War. Can you explain why and also what kind of research you do?

MARGARET: Now, you have really got me going. I think it is a fascinating period of time. A dark and tragic time that practically wiped out a generation of young men. Here in Australia, in some country districts, nearly all the young men were killed or maimed. All the male members in some families wiped out, once thriving towns turned into ghost towns. I want their stories to be told. Want people to hear about their bravery and remember their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of the girl friends, mothers and wives who waited, sometimes in vain for their men folk to return.

As for research. I have read history books, diaries, and a few years ago I interviewed a couple of elderly uncles who served in the 1st World War. These old men were in their nineties, yet their recollections were vivid.

On two occasions, I visited the WW1 battlefields and cemeteries in France and Belgium, a truly moving experience.

HWH: Like you, I’ve visited many World War 1 battlefields and cemeteries and always think what a tragic waste of young lives they represent. And, of course, each one had their own story, as did the family who lost a husband, son or brother.

How do you plot your novels? Some writers work from a long synopsis, others let the characters take them. What do you do?

MARGARET: An idea just pops into my head and I start writing it out in long hand. No plotting or synopsis, just a vague idea where the story is going.

HWH: Which reminds me of the wonderful phrase Ana found last week – ‘a liquid plan’! I think more of us work like this than the ones who plot in detail!
What do you think makes a good romance novel?

MARGARET: A strong hero and heroine, and an interesting background.

HWH: Yes, at least now the heroines can be as strong as the heroes, and not the helpless wimpy heroines of romance novels fifty years ago!
What’s the best writing advice you’ve received/read?

MARGARET: Never give up on your goal of being published.

HWH: Excellent advice! Perseverance seems to be the name of the game.
What’s your cure for ‘writer’s block’ or when you get stuck somewhere in a story?

MARGARET: I don’t ever seem to get writer's block, my main problem is making enough time to release all the characters and plots swirling around in my head.

HWH: That’s a very happy situation to be in! So, of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?

MARGARET: My favourite character is Harriet (Harry) Martin, my heroine in ‘Devil’s Ridge’. She masquerades as a boy to take a job with her shell-shocked brother on an isolated farm and falls in love with her boss, but of course, can’t tell him, because he thinks she is a boy. Leads to lots of misunderstandings. This is set during World War 1.

HWH: Please tell us about your latest release.

MARGARET: ‘Wild Oats’ is published by The Wild Rose Press
The effects of World War I on the life of beautiful, beguiling Allison Waverley are catastrophic. Seduced by an English aristocrat, Phillip Ashfield, and left pregnant, she is on the verge of suicide when her childhood sweetheart, Tommy Calvert, intervenes and marries her. But Tommy is destined to die on the Western Front.
When Phillip returns and kidnaps his son because his wife cannot give him an heir, Allison finds support and a lasting love from an unexpected source.

Phillip Ashfield uncrossed his cramped legs and stood up to reach into the overhead luggage compartment. What an imposition, having to manhandle his own luggage.
“Good God, man, when you’re in the colonies you have to look after yourself.” He remembered the advice he’d received from Tony, one of his friends from Eton. How true. Godforsaken bloody backwater.
If his father hadn’t been so ill, he would have refused point blank to come out to Australia. Had his mother not been so distraught about the old man, he would have ignored her entreaties to visit relatives at the back of beyond.
God, it was hot. The temptation to loosen his collar became almost unendurable. He wore the latest summer fashion for 1914, a three-piece suit with a shaped coat that had a vent down the back. His linen, as always, was the finest money could buy. Neither one helped keep him cool in these temperatures.
The door leading from the carriage slid open and, even with the swaying of the train, he started moving down the narrow passageway, glancing out the window as he did so. They would reach Dixon’s Siding in ten minutes. The conductor had assured him of this a few moments ago, but he was taking no chances of being carried on. If he missed his stop, God alone knew where he might end up.
“Damnation.” The train shuddered and slammed him against a window. As he straightened up, he watched without much interest as two horsemen broke out of the forest. No, it was called bush in Australia, he reminded himself. One must get the colloquialisms right. More advice from Tony. Young fools were racing the train.
“What the hell!” He almost went sprawling over a small battered suitcase dumped in the middle of the corridor.
Steadying himself with one hand against the wall, he gazed into a pair of the clearest blue eyes he had ever seen.
“I’m sorry, but you should have watched where you were going,” the girl said with a humorous lilt to her voice.
She looked about seventeen or so. Her hair, the colour of ripe corn, rippled about her shoulders in a tangled mass of wayward curls.
“Now look here, Miss...”
But she wasn’t listening. “Come on, Tommy! Come on,” she urged, her head and shoulders poked through the open window. She waved and jigged about so much Phillip feared she might fall out of the train altogether.

Margaret’s website is:
‘Wild Oats’ can be obtained from The Wild Rose Press:

Margaret will be visiting us again in July when her next novel ‘Frontier Wife’ will be published by The Wild Rose Press

Thanks very much for being with us, Margaret, and very best wishes for your new releases.


  1. Margaret so much enjoyed your interview, and hearing how you plot and write your wonderful stories. YOu really have a gift of taking the reader into the place you are writing about.
    I notice you stayed in a prison cell to feel the atmosphere. I visited Tasmania (Port Arthur) and found the prison there very atmospheric.

    It's wonderful how you are able to transport us to your wonderful country should that be transported, ha ha.

    Good luck with your future career - it can only get better for you.

    Best wishes, Margaret.

  2. Thank you for being here today, Margaret. I am awed by your persistance and your (obvious) talent. Did you figure out to do something better during your 'rejection years'? Or did you have to wait for the world to catch up with you?

  3. Hey, Margaret,

    Just curious...You said you could cover a wall with your rejection letters. I have a bunch myself and not sure why I am holding on to them. Do you still have yours? If so, why?

  4. Hi Margaret,
    Thank you for dropping by. So you have been to Port Arthur? I visited there many years ago, spooky place, even worse now after that gunman went beserk a few years ago and shot all those tourists. I think it turnedout to be Australia's largest mass murder.



  5. Thanks for dropping by Ana, well a bit of both really. I kept revising until I couldn't revise any more, then kept writing and sending them out, until I was accepted by my first publisher Whiskey Creek Press. A second publisher who I had signed a couple of contracts with went out of business, then I found The Wild Rose Press. So, I have stuck with them and WCP.


  6. Hi Toni,

    I don't know whether I am a masochist or not, but I have kept them. Admittedly most of them are in a box slung under the stairs, but there are a few I drag out occasionally to read. These are either really good rejection letters (if you could call a rejection letter that), or a couple of real shockers that I received.



  7. Harry was my favorite too.. read Devils Ridge for a blog and Harry was a good character

  8. Excellent interview, Margaret. I enjoyed reading about your road to publication. Perseverance--that's the key. But, darn, why did it have to take so long for some of us?

  9. Hi, Margaret. Great post. I love your writing and your characters.

    And you write in such an interesting era.

    One of the best WWI books I ever read was a written by a young Canadian who walked all the battlefields and told what happened there. By the end of the book, I was amazed that the survivors and their families hadn't hung the military leadership by their own intestines. The stupidity and unwillingness to change strategies gobsmacked me.

  10. Hi Annette,
    Thanks for dropping by, I always felt Harry was a gutsy litle fighter, that is why I liked her so much.



  11. Hi John,
    Thank you for dropping by. Yes Perseverence is the key word, and like you I wish it hadn't taken so long, but there again, better late than never eh?


  12. Hi Keena,
    Thanks for dropping by. The Canadians had jsut about as bloody a history as the Aussies in WW1. Yes, you would have to wonder about the military hiearchy, sending thousands of men to their deaths on useless assaults to gain a few yards of French mud, while they themselves sat swigging champagne in some chateau.



  13. Thanks for this interview Margaret. I appreciate authors taking the time to share the history of their writing career with others. I was very interested in reading about your love of history particularly the 1st world war period. I too had uncles in the first world war, however they didn't come home and I have no knowledge of any letters surviving. Good luck with Wild Oats.

  14. Hi Dora,
    Thank you so much for dropping by,I really appreciate it. I am sorry to hear that you had uncles who paid the supreme sacrifice,such a waste of young lives when you think about it now.



  15. Hi Margaret, The excerpt of your story Wild Oats is fantastic. Like all your books, gutsy and real. Good luck.
    Margaret Midwood.

  16. Hi Margaret,
    Thank you for dropping by and for your kind words, I appreciate it.