I first met @MerrianOW over on Twitter as part of the always amazing Romancelandia book tweep discussion circle many years ago. I have been fortunate enough to meet her in person in Canberra, Sydney and in Melbourne and her thoughtful online conversations are matched equally in person. We share a love for E J Oxenham and her Abbey Girl series and she is expert in finding those hard-to-find retro romances for me. This is her second guest post in my shallows having written about romance genre captivity narratives and Australia many years ago.
Occupation: Dreams and hobbies
Can You Describe Yourself?
I’ve read all my life finding solace and comfort and affirmation and new ways of thinking through my books. The online world of readers is a gift of connection and laughter that is a continuing gift from books. I was an Army Officer for nearly a decade and then a Social Worker, all the time dealing with increasing ill health and disability, including surviving two brushes with cancer. I have spent many years volunteering as a health consumer advocate and working to improve the care of people with chronic illness. I love living in the inner west with all the people out and about to chat to on the bus. I spend my time in op shops looking for things to craft and books to read and vintage clothes to wear. Every day deserves an outfit and a new book and a cuppa with a friend.
What is main reading & time spent reading?
Books, especially indy ebook published romance stories, science fiction and fantasy. I read lots of long form non-fiction online at blogs and I am adventuring into podcast listening. I often find things to read via links on Twitter. There are at least two newspapers a day in the mix too. My reading these days is pretty much all online and I use laptop, tablet, and phone interchangeably. Books from the library tend to be non-fiction. When I’m well I probably read around 6-8 hours a day, unwell it will be a couple of hours only but I read everyday, rain, hail or shine.
What or who is your joyful reading (guilty or otherwise) pleasure?
I love reading The Abbey Girls books by Elsie Jeanette Oxenham. These school girl stories written from about 1913 to 1959 somehow all seem to live in a halcyon 1930s world. They are all about girls and women’s relationships and friendships and so lovely to see these front and centred in the stories as of utmost importance. There are unpleasant heroines and classism and colonialism present but also a love of art and dance and music and the sense that women and girls expression through the arts is valid and essential in some way. I love the Abbey and the gardens described in the later books. The sense of place really speaks to me. They are my romance reading precursor I think.
I read anything by KJ Charles. I love her alternate world fantasy and historical novels with believable for the times, gay love stories. I love and re-read Katherine Addison’s ‘Goblin Emperor’, watching Maia carve agency for himself (and his sister) out from the overwhelming roles and functions of the court, speaks to me about living with chronic illness and the oppression of our model of health and care. Did you know that Steampunk as a literary form probably started with Michael Moorcock’s ‘The Warlord of the Air’ (pub. 1971)? Where Oswald Bastable finds himself in a parallel world/future where airships are supreme. I like Cecilia Grant’s books and Susanna Kearsley’s too.
Do you have a favourite storyline or plot? And do you have one you will not read?
I like heroines and the heroes to find their home in each other and to use their words to reach out to each other. It is important to me that both leads have agency and reach some capacity to action in their worlds by the climax of the story. I want to read about people who have connections and are part of their community.
I hate virgin widows and misunderstandings that could’ve been resolved by people speaking to each other. I am less and less willing to read serial killer stories that throw away women and children as extraneous murder victims there to prompt the lead protagonists into action. Wallpaper Regencies are not for me, I like semblance in stories to the times they’re set in. Joanna Bourne’s Regency spy stories are favourites.
Why do you/don’t you use a public library?
These days I use the library for non-fiction reading mainly and borrow the occasional CD and DVD. I started using libraries less for fiction because they just didn’t have the romance and SFF books I wanted to read.
Do you RUI*. If so, what?
Drinking a white wine or G&T along with a comfort read of old favourite books is an afternoon well spent
Do you have a favourite reading spot?
My chair with my feet up and in any of the many waiting rooms I spend my time in …waiting.
I find myself carrying my phone/tablet to the door and putting it down where I can see it. Can’t let those stories out of my sight
Romance fiction of the Happily Ever After (not the love tragedy) kind – are you a Lover or a Hater and why?
Adore romance fiction with its optimism and valuing of relationship and community.
What would you give up reading for**?
Sometimes it’s a choice between reading time or crafting time somehow reading always wins so nope, not giving it up for anything.
Can a romance/crime/super/etc hero be the driver of a hatchback?
Yes if it is a Holden LX 1976-78 Torana SS hatchback.