Nicki Edwards talks about the inspiration behind her characters, her writing process, and her favourite books.

1. Can you tell us more about your latest book, One More Song?

One More Song is the love story between musical theatre singing sensation Harrison (Harry) Baxter and nurse Edwina (Eddie) Campbell. Harry grew up in a small town in Victoria’s High Country but left for the city to pursue his dream career. He loves his life – musical theatre is everything to him and his lead role as Marius in Les Miserable is a wish come true. With the Sydney season coming to an end he doesn’t need to be in Melbourne until the New Year. This means he has time to head home for Christmas where his mother, father, sister Claire and husband Simon, plus their two children live. A bitter fallout between Harry and his father has kept Harry away from home for a long time and he isn’t looking forward to his week-long stay. But he never expected to meet Eddie.

Edwina Campbell has lived on a farm outside the tiny township of Yallambah all her life. She’s a nurse, volunteers with the SES and is heavily involved in the local community. This year she’s offered to organise the Widows and Orphans Community Christmas Dinner but in the days leading up to it, things start to go wrong and Eddie’s not sure how she’s going to manage. She never expected to meet Harrison Baxter but his arrival on the scene and offer of help is a lifesaver she gladly accepts.

There is an instant attraction between Eddie and Harry but how can anything come of it? Eddie has no plans to leave town, or her grandparents, whom she cares for, and Harry has no plans to leave his city lifestyle and career. But when tragedy and heartache loom in the form of Harry’s father’s life-threatening diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease and the loss of everything Eddie holds close to her heart, it forces Harry and Eddie to question their futures. As the people of Yallambah rally together to save their community they demonstrate to Harry and Eddie what’s really important.

2. Where did you get the inspiration for the characters of Harrison and Edwina?

Early in our marriage, my husband Tim studied voice and sang professionally for the Victoria State Opera. Despite how much I love my husband, I’m not a huge fan of opera (sh! don’t tell him). But I love musical theatre. Luckily he sang a lot of musical theatre as well as opera so I always enjoyed watching him perform.

But although I should say the inspiration came from Tim, it actually came from two other musical theatre singers. One is Ramin Karimloo, a very good looking Canadian musical theatre star I follow (stalk) on social media. He has a phenomenal voice as well as being very good looking – just like Harry. The other inspiration for Harry came from a friend of ours, Simon Gleeson, who also has an incredible voice and is very kind on the eye too – as his gorgeous wife Nat would agree. (Nat O’Donnell is a performer herself, currently about to star in Mamma Mia). Simon recently brilliantly performed the role of Jean Valjean in Les Mis in both Australia and the UK. After a show in Melbourne Simon kindly took me on a tour backstage and at that moment the character of Harry came alive in my mind.

The funny thing was, I had to really work hard to convince my editor that a musical theatre singing hero was sexy enough for readers! I think there’s a mistaken belief that anyone who sings opera or musical theatre must look and sound like Pavarotti! My editor thought it would be hard for readers to get their heads around opera or musical theatre singers being as sexy as rock stars or even a country singers. I wanted to totally pull that stereotype apart. I promise you’ll love Harry – he’s sexy, but he’s also incredibly sweet. And I wish you could hear Harry sing – he sounds just like my hubby!

3. How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

As with all my stories, the ideas come from the people I’ve met and the places I’ve lived and visited. I usually find the setting first then start imagining the characters who would live there. Bit by bit everything falls into place.

The inspiration for One More Song came after my husband and I spent a long weekend in Beechworth in Victoria’s high country and attended the acclaimed Opera in the Alps. While we were there, the ideas flowed and I spent the majority of our time away writing, dreaming, planning and plotting. Instead of opera, I imagined musical theatre being performed under the stars. The story fell quickly into place as I combined everything I love about musical theatre, singers and small-town Australia.

4. What are you most proud of about the book?

That I’ve managed to combine so many things I love – musical theatre, nursing, small town Australia, strong communities, sweet romantic characters, and medical dramas – into one story.

5. If you have to pick one favourite character from all your books, who would it be and why?

I really like Harry, in One More Song because he’s so kind, but Joel from my first book Intensive Care is a favourite too. How do I decide? It’s like saying you have a favourite child – totally impossible to answer.

6. Do you have a set daily writing routine?

Unfortunately, no. I have to write whenever I get a chance and sometimes it can be weeks before I get a chance to sit at the computer. I have to work four, sometimes five days a week, and therefore I need to fit everything in around that which can making writing time hard to come by. Last year we bought an old house and renovated and that was very time consuming too.

I’m hoping 2018 will provide me with lots more writing opportunities and an abundance of time. That’s what’s on my Santa wish list anyway!

7. What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?

How can I recommend just one? Sadly I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like, but I recently read two great books: Sally Hepworth’s The Mother’s Promise and Lisa Ireland’s The Shape of Us. Both authors have new books out next year and I can’t wait to read them. I have just finished (and loved) Rachael Johns’ latest book The Greatest Gift and after reading Fiona Palmer’s Secrets Between Friends next, I’ll read Karly Lane’s Six Ways to Sunday. I’ve already downloaded Alissa Callen’s next release The Red Dirt Road which comes out next year. My kindle ‘to be read’ list is hundreds of books long. As you can see, I tend to mostly read rural romance or women’s fiction written by Aussie authors.

8. If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were starting out, what advice would you offer?

It sounds funny, but I wish I hadn’t used all my favourite names in my first book and I also wish I’d kept a record of which names I’d used – I can guarantee there will end up being some double-ups of names down the track.

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

I hope readers learn something about nursing and nurses. I like to break down the old stereotypes that helpless female nurses always fall in love with the strong male hero doctor. I love showing how the medical staff work together as a team – because that’s what I’ve experienced. I also love showing real life stories – stories that readers can relate to. And if readers come away feeling hopeful for the couple and their happy ever after, then I’ve done my job.

10. What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a book for an early 2019 release and I’m so excited about it. I don’t want to divulge any details but it’s a story of a man, two woman and the love for a child which binds them together. It will be a story filled with heartache and hope that will be sure to have readers reaching for the tissue box.

Harrison Baxter and Edwina Campbell lead completely different lives. Much has changed for Harry since he escaped his home town of Yallambah ten years ago, headed for the bright lights of the big city. Now he’s the star of
Melbourne’s hottest musical, chasing only the next standing ovation. Why bother going back to Yallambah to visit his parents when his father couldn’t care less about his success?

Meanwhile, nothing much has changed for Edwina in the last decade, which is exactly how she likes it. Eddie adores her career as a nurse and loves the Yallambah community – she can’t imagine living anywhere else. And even if she wanted to, she could never leave her beloved grandparents. She’s not going to abandon them in their old age. Not for anything.

So when Harry and Eddie bump into each other on one of Harry’s flying visits home, their instant mutual attraction seems as pointless as it is intense. There’s no way they could ever make it work…or is there?

Nicki Edwards is a nurse, mother of four and the author of the popular Escape To The Country series and The Peppercorn Project. A city girl with a country heart, Nicki grew up on a small acreage and spent her formative years riding horses and pretending the neighbour’s farm was her own. In addition to writing, Nicki works as a Critical Care Nurse in the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit, where many of her stories and characters are imagined. Readers around the country, as well as internationally, have fallen in love with her sweet romances and medical dramas which capture close-knit country life.

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