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Reviving the romance

Writer Peta Johansen.
Writer Peta Johansen.

ROMANCE isn’t dead, Ipswich reporter-turned-author Peta Johansen argues, but it certainly could use the kiss of life.

The newspaper sub-editor, who goes by the pen-name Peta-Jo, turned her hand to romance when she fell in love with creative writing.

Her debut novel, Wedding Etiquette For Ferals, will be launched at the Queensland Brides Wedding and Honeymoon Expo in April and will be available through website Amazon.com.

“I wanted to take my experiences from all the weddings I’d been in and show the hilarity of it all, but I found that when you tell people you’re writing a romance novel, you almost apologise it’s not something more intellectual,” Peta-Jo said.

One agent even told her the audience for Australian contemporary romance was “nebulous and unlikely to generate sales”.

“That’s about when I decided to self-publish – another phrase that can make people cringe,” she joked.

Peta-Jo said Wedding Etiquette For Ferals drew on her experiences from the nine weddings she had been to over the years. “I’ve been a bridesmaid five times, a poetry reader at two, a flower girl once and, of course, a bride once,” she said.

“This story was born at my friend’s wedding in 2002 while we drank cans of rum and bourbon from an esky. She said it was a lesson in ‘wedding etiquette for ferals’. We all laughed but I thought: ‘There’s a story in that’.

“It was also that day that I met my now-husband, so a lot of things were kismet that day.”

She said the process of writing Wedding Etiquette For Ferals had involved some significant hurdles, including reviews by her mentors at the Varuna Writers Centre in the Blue Mountains.

“The centre director, Peter Bishop, wanted to read it and I was happy to drop it off and run away but he asked me to sit down, then started reading it,” she said.

“It was like having teeth pulled. It was worse than any of my journalism experiences.

“But he was very positive; he even liked my sex scene, which was awkward because he was like a father figure while I was there.”

 Proceeds from Wedding Etiquette For Ferals will go to SANDS Australia, which helps families after miscarriage and stillbirths.


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