Today I’m hosting Carla Caruso and her novel Starcrossed, a contemporary romance from HarperCollins Impulse. Carla is giving away three digital copies of her book, so make sure to comment, follow the tour, and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!
Carla is also here today to talk about why she chose Australia–where I’d love to visit–as the setting for her book. Take it away, Carla!
Why I Chose Australia For My Book’s Setting
The short answer to this question is because I was born – and live – in Australia!
I’m from a small city called Adelaide in the south of Oz, which a lot of people say has the feel of a ‘big country town’ (although it’s home to about 1.6 million people).
I’ve also lived in glitzy Sydney, which is more well-known overseas, and the small SA beach town of Kingston SE when I first started out as a newspaper reporter. But Adelaide will always be the place I truly call home as it’s where my family and friends are.
Starcrossed is set in South Australia’s rugged Kangaroo Island, which is just off the state’s mainland and which visitors need to board a ferry to get to. I was inspired to set Starcrossed there after accompanying my photographer husband to the island on a work trip.
KI has just the right spooky, windswept, isolated sort of vibe for the novel, which mashes together contemporary romance, suspense, and magical realism. (For the horoscope junkies, there’s also a bit of an astrology theme – and a hunky hero with a scorpion neck-tattoo in the mix, too!) My mother-in-law grew up on the island, as well, and still has relatives there, so there’s also that connection.
The island has population of about 4200 and is known for its diverse wildlife and nature reserves including Flinders Chase National Park. At Cape du Couedic sit the striking granite formations, the Remarkable Rocks, and nearby is the rock bridge, Admirals Arch, with its adjacent fur-seal colony.
Some other fun facts about the island:
- KI has the world’s only pure-bred and disease-free population of Ligurian bees, thus the exporting of pure-bred queen bees is a notable industry for the island.
- Numerous ships have been wrecked on its craggy coastline, the largest being Portland Maru of 5865 tons, which sank in 1935. The first lighthouse built was erected at Cape Willoughby in 1852 – also the first lighthouse to be erected in South Australia as a whole.
- Australia’s third-largest island – KI – boasts 30 wine growers and 12 wineries.
- The island is also one of South Australia’s most popular tourist attractions, attracting more than 140,000 visitors per year, with international visitors, primarily from Europe, accounting for more than a quarter.
- KI’s biggest town is Kingscote.
- Keen for a bit of luxury? Kangaroo Island is home to the five-star Southern Ocean Lodge, which floats atop a secluded cliff on a rugged stretch of coast, offering unrivalled views of the Southern Ocean and the pristine wilderness.
Fledgling romance author Simona Gemella is hoping the rugged wilderness of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will help reignite her creative spark after her husband walked out on her (calling her a workaholic and filing for divorce).
She’s joined her best friend, Nessie, on a health and wellness retreat at a mysterious old manor on the island, run by an astrology guru.
Though Simona’s sworn off men, she can’t help being distracted by a darkly dangerous man with a scorpion tattoo – Denham Cobalt – who’s also staying at the manor. Then strange things start to happen, including uncanny accidents and even a possible murder.
It all culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse. Will Simona survive – with her heart intact?
Simona woke with a start, her heart pounding. A dream featuring dark-eyed strangers and clawing scorpions had been interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Real ones. Growing closer. Not far from her bed. She could have sworn it. Although, the pitch black revealed nothing.
The noise had seemed to come more from the right side of the room, behind the wardrobe. Almost inside the wall. Which was ridiculous. She turned her head, peering into the darkness. 3:08 glowed in fluorescent green digits on the alarm clock radio.
Grasping the covers under her chin, Simona lay still, waiting for more, her ears pricked. Three glow-in-the-dark star stickers shone down from the ceiling. She imagined a travelling mum sticking them there to soothe their child, remind them of home. Unfortunately Simona needed more than that to placate her.
Aside from the occasional breathy snort from Nessie, though, silence reigned. Her friend had finally hit the pillow after kicking on to play pool with some backpacker. She had called Simona a stick-in-the-mud earth sign for leaving the pub early. Nessie always had a knack for making her feel dull.
Simona strained her ears. Still nothing. Her writer’s imagination had obviously conjured up the footsteps. Pity, as she had found it hard to get to sleep in the first place. Phone in her possession again, she had been kept up, mulling over a three-star Goodreads review from a writers’ group pal. Yup, three measly stars. Friends were meant to give you five stars, or four at least to look realistic. It was an unofficial rule.
But her supposed mate, who had hidden behind a code name (undone by the profile pic of her pet dog), hadn’t been so generous. She had written: I fell in love with the rugged hero and the unique story. The only shame was that some of the more intriguing plotlines weren’t further explored, sacrificed for the romance aspect of the book …
Um, it was a romance novel, hence, the emphasis on that particular component. Really. Of course, any criticism only hurt because she feared it was true: she was her own worst critic.
Then, just as Simona was drifting off, Nessie had crashed home, flicking on the lamp so that she could put on her so-called ‘lucid dreaming’ sleep mask. Another bizarre Nessie-style item. This one, she reckoned, helped encourage creative thinking. Though what Nessie needed it for, Simona didn’t know. Dreaming up more crazy holiday ideas? If anyone required it, it was Simona with her severe case of writer’s block.
And now? Now she was imagining things that went bump in the night.
Why oh why had she been fooled into believing going on holiday with a friend would be fun? It never was. She would have had more luck with inspiration striking at home. Where the internet was never far from her fingertips, and her thoughts weren’t clouded by no-good men.
Willing sleep to come soon, Simona unearthed an arm from beneath the doona and stretched to tap the bedside table three times. For luck — in case she wasn’t crazy and someone really was lurking about. Touching wood was a vice of hers. Nessie would probably say it had something to do with her being an earth sign and needing to be close to Nature. Really it just meant she was a tad OCD. Besides, the footsteps she’d heard before probably were just in her head — a symbol of her fear of being walked out on again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop.
These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. Visit www.carlacaruso.com.au.
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Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.