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In Mara's Case (Post 39)
In Mara's Case (1989) was my first romance novel. During the 1970s and '80s, publishing in Australia was undergoing an opening-up experimental stage. Genres previously not published much, if at all, were suddenly available to local writers, but with an Australian spin. The brief in this case was for popular fiction/genre; that is, not quite category romance or murder mystery etc, but a kind of combination that would appeal to the pure genre reader but also to those with a taste for more mainstream realism.
I pitched at least two storylines for this series, one a historical romance set during WW1 and the other a contemporary romance with mainstream leanings. Both were commissioned. I think I wrote the contemporary one first. I pitched it as The Leopard and her Spots, but it was eventually published as In Mara's Case.
Mara Payne is a romantic novelist in her late twenties. Her own life is anything but romantic, because she's the quiet withdrawn one in a family of flamboyant cousins. She doesn't get on well with her critical mother, and stays as much as possible on the outskirts of the family dramas. Mara's life gets complicated when her alter ego, Tarryn Ashe, is invited as a last-minute replacement for a speaker at a writers' convention. She packs her suitcase, an old family one, and is about to leave when her cousin, the fashionista Trina, turns up with a case of old clothes which she is kindly donating to her cousin. Naturally, Mara ends up at the convention with the wrong case, and having spilled something on her ordinary clothes, is forced to appear in the peculiar garments that belong to Trina. To her astonishment, changing her plumage makes people treat her differently, and she finds Tarryn Ashe, her flirtatious alter ego, coming to life on the other side of the microphone.
After a brief romance with a fellow writer, who is much taken with Tarryn, Mara bolts for home.
Researching her next novel finds her telephoning a dating service. One of her cousins inevitably overhears, and the next thing she knows the family is producing men. Her man from the convention tracks her down and Mara's life as she knows it is pulled down around her ears.
Although this story is very much fiction (I'd been married for years, and had children when I wrote it, and I was never as withdrawn as Mara) there are flecks of reality in it. I too have an alter ego who emerges when someone gives me a microphone. I too used to dress in unlike-me clothing when I went to writers' conventions. I too have unruly hair, although mine has the opposite problem to Mara's. The Undercovers series I invented for the book is the result of a theory I had about paperback romances and their cover art, and I have more than once had to explain myself when asking questions about atropine and such... yes, I want to know this for a BOOK. Mara's opinion of motel decor (porridge-coloured carpets and pastel prints) is very much mine, and yes, I too have been invited as a last-minute replacement speaker... on more than one occasion.
In Mara's Case came out in the 1980s, and, although there is no direct sequel, there are two related books, one of them starring the doll-like Cousin Trina.
About the Blog
Sally is Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)
The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.
The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist.