Interview and Review: JUMPING FENCES by Karen Wood


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‘I don’t want you mustering any more,’ Dad said. ‘You’re to knuckle down and do your schoolwork. If you stay here with me, you can keep things going in and around the house, while Mike and I run the farm. Those are my rules. Otherwise you can go and live at your mum’s.’

                Zoe reeled. There was clearly something she was missing. ‘What do you mean?’ she said.

 Zoe wakes up in hospital after a mustering accident and can’t remember a thing. When she gets home, everything has changed. Why are her boyfriend Scotty and bestie Caitlin not answering her messages? Who stole her dad’s cattle? What is her brother’s mysterious friend Josh hiding, and can he help save her dad from having to sell the farm?

Jumping Fences is a rural teen romance, set in outback Australia. It was released January this year by Allen and Unwin (and it’s awesome, trust me).

Here’s my review:

I started reading Jumping Fences with relatively low expectations, to be perfectly honest. I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong by Karen Wood’s fantastic use of world-building, character and plot. When people think of “world-building,” they tend to think of fantasy novels: Harry Potter and Eragon and The Hunger Games. But it’s just as important in contemporary books like this one, and the rural setting was conveyed perfectly.

Zoe was also a great protagonist. Extremely strong-willed, she doesn’t take crap from anyone, and is soon active again following her mustering accident. She’s stubborn and headstrong, but has a lot of heart. The thing I liked about Zoe was that she’s not a “strong female,” someone who has stereotypical male traits. She has strength while still maintaining a sense of femininity.

The plot was another pleasant surprise. With JUMPING FENCES described as a “rural romance,” I expected the romance to be at the forefront of the novel. But the mystery of the cattle, and what happened the day of the mustering accident, are questions that shape the novel’s path. The romance wasn’t forced at all, and I was relieved to find that there was no love triangle, which I’d been dreading. Instead, it’s a sweet, friendly romance that took both Zoe and me by surprise.

It’s a book of many things: saving the farm, betrayal, mystery, divorce, family, missing cattle and – my favourite – dog high jump, which I think there should be a cat version of (though my cats would probably be too lazy to do anything much).

Four stars out of five, and I’d recommend it for teen readers of romance and contemporary, or just after an escape from city settings. It’s definitely different from books I usually read, and I’d welcome the opportunity to read more from Karen Wood.

And now, my interview with the wonderful Karen! 🙂

1)    Can you tell us what made you choose a rural setting for Jumping Fences?

Jumping Fences followed my Diamond Spirit series, which was set in rural and outback Australia. When I finished writing that series I met with my publisher and we talked about what to do next. They were wanting to publish something in the rural romance genre for teenagers and they thought it might suit my writing style. I’ve always loved writers like Rachael Treasure and Jennifer Scoullar. I live, work and play in country Australia, so I couldn’t imagine setting my books anywhere else. It’s where my heart is, I suppose. It’s where my thoughts and my dreams all take place. It’s where I love to be.

 2) Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?

My favourite part of the writing process is when I am completely absorbed in the story I am creating, I know where I am heading with it and the characters are just leaping off the page and doing hilarious things. I often laugh out loud while I’m writing, sometimes I even fall off my chair, or I might burst into tears when they do something particularly touching. In these moments I often leap around declaring, “I’m a genius!” or “I’m on fire!” or “ahhh… I am so funny, I crack myself up!” Sometimes my husband works from home and I forget he is in the house. My office door opens and he peers through. ‘Everything okay in here?’ Which can be kind of embarrassing…

So, anyway, that’s my favourite part, but there is a lot of hard work too, like editing and trying to tie up all the loose ends and find clever and unpredictable resolutions for things. Sometimes it’s a real brain squeeze.

3) Do you have any tips for Australian writers who would like to have their work published?

 I got my first publishing contract via an appraisal agency and I can’t recommend these types of services highly enough, especially if you are not familiar with the book industry and how it all works and who does what. There are many people involved in producing a book and getting it onto the shelves and then into the hands of avid readers. Writing the book is only the beginning. I sent The Author’s Agent my first draft of Diamond Spirit and they read it and sent me back a detailed report outlining what I needed to do to it to make it a publishable book. It taught me an awful lot about writing and publishing books. Much more than a university could I think. This led to a three book deal with Allen and Unwin and I have been working with both AU and The Author’s Agent ever since. My agent comes with me to any meetings with publishers, he handles my contracts and checks them over and sometimes he renegotiates a better deal – which is always nice.

There are all sorts of opportunities with self publishing these days and I did give that avenue some consideration, but I would need to do all my own editing, proof reading, cover designs, marketing, promoting, printing and distributing. I would rather spend my time writing and let the experts do that.

 4) What’s next for you in terms of writing?

I have another rural romance novel due for release in September, also with Allen and Unwin (no title yet). Then I have a contract to write a series of six chapter books for younger children, about 12,000. I can’t wait to get my teeth into this series. I have penned the first drafts for the first two books and they are really fun. I also have a few other projects up my sleeve, which I hope to publish one day as well – so many ideas – so little time! So, yes, I’m very busy and my kids haven’t seen much of me lately.

 5) And finally, who’s your favourite character in Jumping Fences, and why?

Gosh, that’s a hard one. I guess Zoe because she is a lot like me, a bit impulsive and reckless at times, but means well.

Jumping Fences is published by Allen & Unwin and is now available at all good bookshops and online.

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Karen Wood, author of Jumping Fences

This review brought to you by Emily Mead, who has to go back to school in a week and is slightly terrified.

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