Nicki Edwards talks about her inspiration for The Peppercorn Project and what’s next.

1. Can you tell us about The Peppercorn Project?

The Peppercorn Project is a story of grief and loss and of finding hope, love and new beginnings. It’s an Australian rural romance set in the fictional town of Stony Creek, at the base of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

Nicki-Edwards_360When nurse Isabelle Cassidy heard she could compete to rent a “peppercorn project” house for just one dollar a week, she thought “why not?” Her husband had recently died and Issie and her children Fletcher and Mietta were out of options. Winning a coveted lease seemed like her best chance to heal and start again. Issie never expected finding love again would be part of the deal.

Policeman Matt Robertson is happily taking care of the minor issues of law and order in Stony Creek when the townspeople come up with their crazy “peppercorn lease” scheme to attract struggling families to their vibrant community. He has recently lost everything in a divorce settlement and vowed to stay single, not wanting — or needing — the complication of another woman in his life. But he never expected a grieving widow to get under his skin the way Isabelle has. And he never predicted the way her family’s fragility would put him in full protection mode.

When Matt shows his interest in her, Issie must decide whether she is ready to let go of her past and embrace her new future. But just when she finally decides to give Matt a piece of her broken heart, Fletcher gets badly hurt in his care. How will she ever trust him? Matt is devastated, but he vows to do whatever it takes to win Isabelle’s trust again and prove his love. What he doesn’t anticipate is that a community tragedy will cause him to lose trust in her. As Issie and her children move through their grief, they come to realize how much they needed rescuing. With Matt’s love, the support from their new friends and the care shown by the Stony Creek community, the Cassidy family get their chance at a new beginning.

2. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?

The idea for the story came about after reading stories on the internet about $1 leases provided for families to help rescue dying country towns across Australia. I decided to turn that idea around and asked myself what it would be like if, instead of families coming to rescue the dying town, the town rescued the families? So I offered ‘peppercorn leases’ to families doing it tough who needed the love and support of a vibrant, flourishing community like Stony Creek.

The inspiration for the character of Issie came after my friend Kate tragically lost her husband Rob in a hang-gliding accident three years ago. Kate’s journey through her early days of grief was courageous and transparent and I wanted to in some way honour her faith and strength in the midst of those dark days. She is an inspirational woman.

3. What was the hardest part of the book to write?

Every time I put myself in Issie’s shoes and imagined how I would feel if I’d lost my husband, I cried. It took me a long time to finish writing the scene when Issie finally removes her wedding ring.

4. Do you have a favourite character from The Peppercorn Project?

I love Hilary, the old lady (when I’m old I want to be like her), but I also have a soft spot for little Mietta. She’s a gorgeous kid.

5. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?

I started writing in January 2014 to tick off another item on my ‘bucket list’ (see below). At school I enjoyed writing and for a few years I’d kept a blog and enjoyed the challenge of that, but one day I woke up and thought ‘I’d like to write a novel’. It snowballed from there and almost 12 months to the day from those first (very bad) early sentences, my first book Intensive Care, was published.

6. What is one thing about you your readers would be surprised to know?

I once ran a half marathon (21kms). Also for my bucket list (see above). I have no intention of repeating this feat!

7. Do you have a set daily writing routine?

I wish! Unfortunately, because I work shift work as a nurse and have two kids still at home who need taxiing to and from things, I have to fit writing in whenever I can. Sometimes that’s first thing in the morning, other times I write for a full day while everyone’s at school. Mostly I write in the evenings while everyone is watching television. I have been known to write for eight hours at a time with barely a break. I don’t recommend that.

8. What message do you want readers to take away from your novels?

I want readers to be emotionally impacted by my writing. If they tell me they read my book with a box of tissues beside them, I’m happy! I also want readers to have a greater insight in the role of nurses – it’s a brilliant profession and one I absolutely adore because of its variety.

9. What’s next for you?

I have another book coming out in September (the fourth and final book in the ‘Escape to the Country’ series called Critical Condition) and I have just written another Christmas novella called Operation Magic Mistletoe. I’m currently working on another women’s fiction/rural romance called A Song in Her Heart set in the Victorian High Country. Hopefully this will come out early in 2017.

PepProject_FinalOne heartbroken woman. One bitter cop. One community to save them.

After the tragic death of her husband, single mum Isabelle Cassidy is bereft and broke. When she hears about The Peppercorn Project – a scheme that offers affordable rent in the tiny but vibrant town of Stony Creek – Issie sees it as her family’s best chance at a fresh start.

Newly single police officer Matt Robertson moved to Stony Creek to lick his wounds after a bitter divorce. Wanting only peace and quiet, Matt is against the Project, seeing it as a threat to the peace he’s found in the country town – until he meets Issie. Despite himself,

Matt is drawn to the widow and feels inexplicably protective of her fragile family. Just when Issie begins to imagine a future with Matt, an accident proves how far she has to go before she can move beyond her grief. But the citizens of Stony Creek won’t rest until they see these two broken souls find a new beginning, together. Can Issie move beyond the pain of her past and entrust Matt with her family, and her heart?

Nicki Edwards is a city girl with a country heart and she lives through the lives of the characters in the rural romance novels she loves to read. Nicki, her husband Tim and three of their teenage/young adult children currently reside in Geelong.

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