When Caitlyn ventures into the rough, tough world of the South Australian opal fields on a mission to find her estranged father she instead discovers a half-sister she knew nothing about and learns that her father is missing and suspected of a crime.
Dale is a former city lawyer-turned-lapidary hiding out in Minagoona after death threats endanger him and his daughter. When Caitlyn approaches him for help finding her father, he’s reluctant, but attracted by her determination to right the wrongs dealt to her family. His sense of justice is very much like hers, but when his daughter’s life was threatened by men who wanted him to break the law for them, he fled to protect the child he loves.
Still the more Dale gets to know Caitlyn, the more he realizes he can’t let her go up against organized crime on her own—which is exactly what she proposes when she sets out to clear her father’s name. No matter what, he’ll do his damnedest to keep her safe—even if it means exposing himself and his daughter to the men who want to kill them…
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How did you come up with the title of your book?
I struggled for a long time to come up with the right title for the story. It was going to be Real Gems because the plot revolves around gem smuggling and the people Caitlyn finds in the town are very real, with none of the pretense of her city friends. Then, I was thinking about some of the old songs that I sang as a child and recalled one titled Down Among the Dead Men. It struck me that this was the perfect title for my book because at a key point in the story Caitlyn has to climb down a mine shaft and there are dead men in that mine.
What is your writing environment like?
This is a well-timed question because I’ve just given my office a makeover. I call it “my office”, but the room is shared with a snooker table, my sewing machine and all my craft storage. I have a desk in one corner where I do the business side of writing, and a comfortable chair with a footstool in another corner. This is where I write on my laptop. I have all my notes and a cup of tea or coffee (depending on the time of day) beside me, and a view of the garden straight ahead. I like to stare at the trees when I’m contemplating the way a scene should go.
What is your favorite quote? Why?
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ― Lao Tzu
I love this quote because it is applicable to so many things that we find difficult, large or small – writing a book, losing weight, breaking a habit, gaining a qualification – all of them can seem daunting, but the only way to accomplish any of them is to focus on that first step and not worry about the rest of the journey.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I grew up in England and moved to Australia with my husband when our sons were very young. I don’t know whether my upbringing has influenced my writing, but I’ve always gravitated towards people who make me laugh and a little humour usually manages to creep into my writing, so maybe their influence has rubbed off.
What inspires you to write?
The characters in my head pester me to sit down and write their stories!
What do you consider the most challenging part about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
I always struggle with the middle of a book. I’ve accepted now that it is part of my process to slow down and take it a paragraph at a time until I’ve passed the middle section. It has nothing to do with the amount of plotting I do – I’ve tried more and less, but always it is the same.
Did you learn anything while writing this book? If so, what was it?
I learned a lot about opal mining in South Australia. I’d always been interested in the region and knew that, because of the extreme summer temperatures, many people made their homes underground, dug out of the rock, but it was fascinating to learn that some of the houses in Coober Pedy are so large that they have underground swimming pools! Mining for opals is different from other types of gem mining because it is undertaken by individuals rather than businesses. There are no big mining companies in the industry.
What have you done to promote this book?
This blog tour, and I’ve taken part in Avery Flynn’s Facebook party with some other authors whose books are out this week, but not much more. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
What are some of the best tools available today for writers?
I love OneNote. It comes with Microsoft Office and I use it to keep all my research together in one place, whatever format it happens to be in. I also keep my character notes and images in the same OneNote file. I believe it’s similar to Scrivener, but I use Word and don’t want to change my word processing program, so OneNote allows me to have the best of both worlds.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Well, if I sound a little vague it’s because it’s the last month before my son’s wedding to his lovely fiancée, and there’s still so much to do! I had no idea that organizing a wedding would involve so much work. I’m sure the day will be wonderful even if it doesn’t all get done, but I have a new-found respect for all those brides who manage the whole thing on their own.
Claire Baxter writes contemporary romantic fiction of all lengths. Her short stories have been published in commercial women’s magazines around the world, while her novels have been translated into 20 languages and have finalled in the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year Award, the Booksellers’ Best Awards, the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards and the Cataromance Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
Before following her passion to write full-time, Claire was an award-winning corporate communications manager. Earlier, she worked as a translator and a PA.
Claire grew up in Warwickshire, England, but for more than 20 years has called Australia home. She considers herself lucky to live near one of Adelaide’s beautiful metropolitan beaches where she loves to walk and think up stories.
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