Narelle: What was your inspiration for African Hearts, your debut novel set in Africa and Australia?
Laura: When I was in year three at school I saw a picture of an African boy standing next to a thatched roof hut. It piqued my interest and this image has stayed with me all my life. Three years ago God put on my heart to write a story about Africa. A couple of months after this the Watoto Choir performed at our church. We billeted two of the choir members, and their guardian with whom I had a long and honest conversation. When I asked him what the biggest challenge for the orphans were when they grew up, he said it was their sense of belonging. I lost my father when I was three and my mother when I was eight so I understood the challenges these young people have. The sense of belonging is a major issue for orphans.
In my novel, African Hearts, Kam lost his parents at three years of age and grew up in an orphanage, and Gina lost both her parents by the age of twenty-seven. Belonging is a major issue in their story as well. It’s difficult for some people to understand why people who lose their parents at a young age are so independent and driven and others lose hope. This is one of the themes I hope I’ve addressed in African Hearts.
Narelle: Please share with us a few of your research tips. Do you have plans to set future books in Africa?
Laura: Apart from talking with the Watoto boys’ guardian, I interviewed a missionary who had worked in Africa for much of her young life; I watched U-tube videos and read the Ugandan newspaper on the internet and also did other research on the internet. At this stage I have no plans to set future books in Africa, however, I’m considering a sequel to African Hearts telling Justin and Kizza’s story which will be a young adult novel set mainly in Australia.
Narelle: At present, you’re travelling around Australia in a caravan with your husband. Where have you visited and where are you heading next? Has travelling changed your daily writing routine?
Laura: I’m enjoying travelling around our great and diverse country. We had to come to Melbourne the week before Christmas because of a niece’s wedding and Christmas with family. We then headed to the Mornington Peninsula and have been here ever since because we had a small accident in the caravan and it can’t be fixed until mid-April. We’ve been to Melbourne often in these months to visit family and friends.
Toward the end of April we head north for the winter along the east coast. We have to be in Mackay in North Queensland in July for another niece’s wedding then we’ll go further north to Townsville, Cairns, Port Douglas, and Cooktown if the roads are open after the torrential rains this summer, then we’ll head west to Mount Isa and return to Brisbane through the centre of Queensland then down to Tasmania for next summer. After that it’ll be back north for winter 2012, but we are open to change as God leads us, and that’s the exciting thing about this travelling all over Australia.
I’m trying to keep to the same writing routine I had at home, but God has different ideas. I’m working off a laptop and I’m learning to be flexible in my writing routine. I find I’m writing whenever I get a few minutes in between site seeing and travelling and even when we’re on the road in the car. It’s been great to be camped in one spot for a while so that I can catch up.
Narelle: How has your faith influenced your writing, and the type of stories you write?
Laura: My faith has a strong influence on my writing. I write about faith, hope, love and forgiveness and I like to challenge my readers to think about whether they’re fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives. Also, I hope my readers will be able to relate to my characters challenges which will trigger any healing they may need.
Narelle: What do you hope your readers will take away after reading African Hearts?
Laura: After reading African Hearts, I’m hoping my readers will think about events that happen in their lives may be beyond their understanding, but it’s important not to be afraid of change that might be happening. Grab hold of that change because God has the big picture and with time they will find where they belong in the world and the purpose for their lives. I want my readers also not to fear when they have God in their hearts because he is in control and only wants the best for them.
Narelle: African Hearts is published by Even Before Publishing. Please share with us what it’s like working with a small Australian press. How can we purchase a copy of African Hearts?
Laura: Working with Even Before Publishing has been a positive and encouraging experience. When Rochelle said she liked my manuscript she suggested I go on a week-long mentorship to learn about editing and marketing. It was the most encouraging week I’ve ever spent. It was intensive and I learnt how to look at my work in a different way. I’ve also learned about how the publishing industry works. I’ve also gotten to know her personally which I’m not sure I would get so quickly if I was with a bigger publisher. Rochelle has a God-given dream for Christian publishing in this country and I’m sure she will be successful. I’m glad I’m part of that journey.
African Hearts is available from Koorong and Word bookstores, Angus & Robertson as well as your independent book stores. It can also be purchased from my website.
Narelle: Please tell us about the projects you are currently working on?
Laura: My next work is set in Sydney and Mount Tamborine in Queensland and is an adoption story. The main characters have been manipulated by lies by people whose intentions are well-meaning but ends up hurting a whole family. Working title is Behind The Mask. This work is nearly complete and my next project which is half written is an Australian military story set in Townsville and Afghanistan.
Laura, thanks for joining us today. It's been a pleasure to interview you and I enjoyed reading African Hearts. By commenting on today’s post, Australian and New Zealand residents can enter the drawing to win a copy of African Hearts. The drawing will take place on Friday, April 22 and the winner announced on Sunday, April 24. Please leave an email address [ ] at [ ] dot [ ] where you can be reached.
"Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws."
Laura O’Connell has a passion for a good story that will inspire and challenge. She travels with her husband around Australia writing and speaking.
To learn more about Laura O'Connell, please visit her website http://laura-oconnell.com
Narelle Atkins writes contemporary inspirational romance. She resides in Canberra, Australia with her husband and children. To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.