Saturday, December 19, 2009

Interview and book giveaway: Mary Hawkins, Return to Baragula

I'm delighted to have the opportunity to interview my dear friend and ICFW blog member Mary Hawkins. Mary has published eighteen books and lives in Tasmania, Australia. Today we're giving away a copy of Mary's book, Return to Baragula.

RETURN TO BARAGULA (Ark House Press, 2008)

Emily Parker's actions as a teenager not only impacted her own life but the lives of others.

Now, six years later, she returns reluctantly to her home town of Baragula only to discover the man at the heart of those actions, Matthew Davidson, is the community's respected doctor.

While Emily's faith is now severely weakened by all that has happened, Matthew's life has completely turned around since he committed his life to Christ. His personal relationship with God is tested when he discovers how his behaviour when a non-believer hurt so many, especially Emily, and feels responsible for her hardness of heart towards the Lord.

Disease attacks the community while danger from another source threatens Emily and her family. Through it all, will Matthew and Emily's faith be strong enough to forgive each other and put the past behind them?

Return to Baragula is set in the beautiful Hunter Valley, an area known for its vineyards. What led you to choose this part of Australia as the setting for Return to Baragula?

Yes, this beautiful part of New South Wales, about two hours drive north of Sydney, is noted for vineyards but that is only one small part of the whole area. The western section of the valley alone covers more than 18,000 square kilometres of National Parks, cattle country, vineyards, mountains and rich green river flats, capable of growing almost any crop, as well as supporting thousands of merino and cross bred sheep. You might like to check this in more detail at Hunter Tourism

However, as much as we love this region the main reason I chose to create a small village west of Scone towards the beautiful Barrington Tops mountain range is because it is in an area I “know” and love as we lived in the Hunter Valley for over twenty years. Also, our son was a forester in the Barrington Tops mountain area and helped me with research.

The prologue in Return to Baragula could be considered edgy. How important do you feel it is to show your characters struggling with real life issues?

Essential. Although this is fiction it has to show real people in real situations and the particular one highlighted here far too many young people can find themselves in. I considered it very important to try and show how a young, committed Christian can feel and be affected after yielding to temptation. I also thought it necessary to show how a non-Christian in this day and age may not comprehend the pain that a Christian may go through when this happens.

I would hope that most readers would not actually think this “edgy.” What happened is certainly not told in what I consider to be explicit language but I did need to show the depths of emotion of both characters. When writing this book I struggled just where to start Emily and Matthew’s story. I considered the contents of the prologue told in the way I have very important to show the changes in both of them years later when Chapter One commences. The choice they made when young was a major catalyst for what happened not only to them in the years that followed but also to those they loved.

What do you hope your readers will take away after reading Return to Baragula?

I believe that a novel’s primary task is to give the reader an entertaining and enjoyable read with a story that makes them not only think but keep wanting to turn the page to see “what happens next.” Certainly I try very hard not to “preach” just show through the characters how faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ should affect the choices we make in life.

Having said that though, especially as the targeted readership is women, I was delighted to hear of a man telling other men at a meeting they should encourage young men to read it so they could catch a glimpse of how they should behave in certain situations. I would so very much like to think not only young Christians might realise clearly how their behaviour can have very far-reaching results over many years but also how attitudes of others in church life towards them may hinder or help their relationships with God.

Return to Baragula is published by Ark House Press. Please share with us what it's like working with a small Australian publisher.

It is certainly “different” in several ways and I have enjoyed working with them. To start with, being in the same time zone is an advantage for contact via mail, email and phone calls – although I do try hard to keep all that to a minimum as much as possible because I know how busy they are. For this first book with them I did not have quite as much input but have had more with Book Two in the series. It was good to use the Australian English spell check again and not worry over much about terminology that may be considered too “foreign” by an overseas editor. I've also been able to have more input into the covers than with my other two overseas publishers!

One of the biggest differences has been the increased personal promotion I have been trying to do. Ark House have local distributors for both Christian bookshops as well as the general market. STL distributes their books in North America and I believe Ark House does all they can to get their books into both Christian and secular shops. But the fact remains they are still “small” in the over-all Christian fiction market especially and trying to compete with larger, well-established publishers is not at all easy. Like all publishers these days they do encourage their authors to do as much promotion as they can. In other words, they are really no different in that than every other publisher whether big or small!

Outback from Baragula, the sequel to Return to Baragula, was released in Australia in March 2009. Do you have a US release date for Outback from Baragula? Where can we purchase Return to Baragula and Outback from Baragula?

Ark House is still sorting out the US release date in 2010 with their distributor for Book Two so until then it is only available through Australasian shops, direct from Ark House or autographed copies from myself. I do have Pay Pal on my website but do need of course to add postage for different parts of the world and ask that I be contacted first for the total cost.

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

We usually spend Christmas with our children and grandchildren. Blending my family and my husband’s was not easy in the early years of our marriage. Remember our Christmas is during the hottest time of the year in Australia. In Sydney Ray was always used to the traditional hot roast with several choices of meat, but I was used to a Christmas closer to the heat of the tropics and usually when the grain harvest was hopefully finished on our farm or with still several days to go around the Christmas period. My mother in those early days only had a wood fuel stove that of course heated the house so made a hot meal in the middle of Christmas day unwelcome. So Ray and I had to decide what traditions we would set for us and our family. Being in ministry meant preparing for Christmas Day services and so was easier to decide to follow my mother’s pattern of cooking everything possible the day before and having a massive cold salad with every trimming imaginable!

A Christmas tree and decorations with significant meaning to us and our family are always important. I even bought a new one in Texas several weeks back to remind us of our time in the US this year.

Please share your Christmas traditions with us. By commenting on today’s post you can enter the drawing to win an autographed copy of Return to Baragula. The winner will be announced on Sunday, December 27. 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."

To learn more about Mary Hawkins and her books, please visit her website.

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.


  1. Thanks for this interview. Mary, Return to Baragula sounds great.

    Like Mary, Christmas comes mid-summer for us.

    Although we love our "Christmas Dinner" of Roast Turkey, Gammon, veggies and Christmas Pudding, we tend to have this on Christmas Eve as it's just too hot to cook or eat a hot dinner midday.

    When we're together as a family we sit around the table with silly paper hats on our heads and pull crackers before starting the meal.

    Christmas carols play in the background and the sitting room is festive with decorations and a Christmas tree with lights. S.Africans don't normally decorate the outside of their homes, although in some ways I wish we did.

  2. Chiming in from the North here! Where we hope for a white Christmas and usually get one. Christmas dinner for us is usually the full turkey spread, but my favorite is Christmas Eve, or an evening near it, depending on everyone's schedule, with my side of the family.

    Years ago my sister and I decided to scrap the turkey for this get-together as we didn't want to double up. We put out an amazing hors d'oeuvres spread. My sis is a great cook and I'm not so shabby. Our 20-something girls also love to cook. What a spread!

    Then each person from youngest to oldest chooses a favorite Christmas carol to sing (and which verses) before someone (used to be my dad, but he's gone now) reads the Christmas story. Then we have family prayer time and THEN presents. In recent years we've exchanged names for everyone over the age of 2 to lessen the cost and the focus on gifts.

    This year's 'Christmas Eve' is on the 26th and I'm really looking forward to it!

    I'd love to win Mary's book. valerierco AT yahoo DOT ca.

  3. Lovely interview! This books sounds quite intriguing!

  4. Shirl, we usually have our Christmas roast dinner in the evening too due to our hot Aussie summer weather. Christmas lights are big here, with the outside of many houses in our neighbourhood decorated with elaborate light displays and garden props ie. Santa, reindeers, candy canes lining garden paths. My kids love it :-)

    Valerie, your white Christmas and 'Christmas Eve' sounds wonderful :-)

    V.S. thanks for stopping by :-)

  5. Great interview, Narelle.

    Our Christmas tradition is that we didn't have any traditions for many years because my husband was in the Army and our postings coincided with Christmas, so we moved to our new posting every second year. We became adaptable to take on the local flavour of wherever we were.

    Now that we're living on the Gold Coast, Australia permanently we decided a couple of years ago we would have cold sea food and salads down by the beach, followed by a bit of surfing.

    This has been a great way to enjoy Christmas after celebrating Jesus' birth at our local church.

  6. I have enjoyed your comments and thank you for sharing your Christmas traditions. For Ray's birthday, our 45th wedding annisversary and pre-Christmas get together last night, we enjoyed a roast dinner with the part of our Tassie family living here. In fact Ray enjoys his roast dinners so much I might have to really re-think our Christmas dinners now he is retired and we don't have the same committments on Christmas Day. A church service has nearly always been part of our tradition Christmas morning too and I didn't mention the making each year of those lamington cakes - those squares covered all over with chocolate icing and rolled in finely shredded coconut. always great with cream cakes as well as the Christmas fruit cake each year. Have a great Christmas everyone. I'll pop back here again as long as our daughter's computer and internet permits!

  7. Noela, thanks for stopping by :-) When I lived in Sydney we often went to the beach on Christmas Day for an afternoon swim - very relaxing and lots of fun!

    Mary, I love lamingtons and roast dinners :-) Happy Anniversary and Merry Christmas!

  8. It's nice to read about everybody's Christmas. My husband and I have spent some Christmas seasons in hot climes but we always had a 'trad' Christmas dinner, though I would have to qualify that as a trad vegetarian Christmas dinner.

    I remember bringing in the New Year not many years ago floating in the sea fully clothed with a whole lot of other people doing the same thing. Needless to say, this was in the tropics!

    Merry Christmas.

    Ann Isik

  9. Ann, thanks for stopping by :-) The beach is a popular place to celebrate New Years Eve in many parts of Australia. Merry Christmas!

  10. Oh dear, this has been my first chance to post and now the days have gone much too fast. All the best for the draw! Thank you for checkingout the blogs!

  11. Congratulations to Noela Cowell, who has won an autographed copy of Mary Hawkins' book, Return to Baragula! Noela, please contact me to confirm details for mailing the book to you. Thanks!