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Hello!
 
If you are receiving this it means you have signed up to our new newsletter The Secret Life of Authors …  and so let us take this chance to welcome you. WELCOME! We are so very excited about our little newsletter and today is a special edition for us because it is also release day (in Australia) for Sally’s new book THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR. Woohoo. We are such fans of this book and we highly recommend you get to the bookstore today and get your hands on a copy before they fly off the shelves (which they will, trust us).
 
In honor of Sally’s release, we have all decided to tell a story about Neighbours. Grab a cuppa (or a Diet Coke if you’re Sally or Rachael) and sit down and enjoy!

Sally, Rachael, and Lisa x
Click here for all stockists of Sally's new release,
THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR out now!

 

Giveaway winner!

Every newsletter we’ll be giving away a prize to one lucky subscriber. This edition’s lucky winner is Julie Winston!  Julie wins an advanced reading copy of Lisa’s new book The Art of Friendship. Congratulations Julie. We’ll be in touch via email to get your details.

Sally Hepworth

Rachel Johns

What I've been up to

Getting ready for the release of The Family Next Door (27 February in Australia). If you are local to Melbourne, I’ll be signing books at 11am at QBD bookstore on the 27th so please come and say hello. Also check out my other events here.

My house

There’s a house around the corner from mine that I call ‘my house’. You know the type—the place you dream about owning, the one you fantasize that would buy if your Powerball numbers came in. It’s white weatherboard with a cream trim, a neatly edged garden and a picket fence. It’s the Fixer Upper after Chip and Joanna have done the makeover. It’s the house that got the highest reserve on The Block. You get the idea. It’s a good house.
 
But what really makes it good is the lifestyle it projects. The people who live in ‘my’ house drive flash cars, they have matching bikes with one of those trailers that pull behind it for the kids to ride in (I’ve seen it in the garage while I’m stalking, I mean walking past. They have a perfectly manicured garden—I’m telling you, leaves wouldn’t dare to fall from the trees at this place. They also have Southern style wicker furniture on the porch and gumboots on a boot rack, displayed in order from largest to smallest—Daddy bear down to baby bear..
 
I’ve been obsessed with this house for so long that it’s become a family joke. Some days, when Christian and I walk past it I’ll turn and walk a few paces up the footpath, pretending we are going home (Christian dies when I do that).  Once I gave some friend’s their address and told them that’s where we lived (I waited out the front to catch them before they went inside, I’m not an idiot). Another time, when coming home from the local wine bar (after one or two too many) I convinced Christian to sneak into their front yard with me and get a photo of me on their patio furniture wearing a pair of the gumboots. I know. I always take everything too far.
 
Then, last year, at a kindergarten function I was regaling the mums with my stories about ‘my’ house. What can I say, I can’t resist delivering a shocking story to a captive audience! And my story appeared to be going down well (if I do say so myself). The mums were giggling about the gumboots, the patio furniture, the friends I’d given the address to. I got a quiet, impressed gasp when I told them about the photograph on the patio.
 
Before long everyone was howling with laughter. Until one of the mums asked “Which house is it?” and I told her.
 
The laughter dried up in an instant.
 
Confused, I looked from face to face, taking in the red cheeks, the averted, awkward gazes. Finally I stopped at the most gorgeous and glamourous of all the mums. And immediately, I knew.
 
“Please don’t call the police,” I whispered.
 
I haven’t been able to show my face at kindergarten since.

Lisa Ireland

What I’ve been up to:

I’ve been busy writing a new book and planning for the release of The Art of Friendship in May. My writing routine has been interrupted over the past couple of months because of school holidays and my husband taking a ‘staycation’ (what the heck?) but this week everyone is finally back at work/school/uni and I can (hopefully!) get down to business.

The Drawback

Over the years I’ve had a lot of neighbours. Most have been lovely, some eccentric, and one downright awful. (Terry the Terrible had the local council’s complaints department on speed dial and spent his life spying on all his neighbours.) My favourite neighbour by far was Auntie Glenda*, who, along with her husband, Uncle John*, lived directly across the road from my family when I was a child.
 
Auntie Glenda was a tall woman and carried herself with grace and confidence. Her silver-white hair was always elegantly coiffed, her fingers adorned with fancy rings and she spoke with softly rounded vowels, which made her somewhat of an enigma in our outer suburban neighbourhood.
 
Auntie G was like a grandmother to me. She baked ‘rock cakes’ (better than they sound) and cornflake cookies for my lunchbox and always kept a tin of wrapped lollies in her pantry for the nights when my brother and I would stay over at her house.
 
As I got older my relationship with Auntie G deepened. She was the one I would turn to when I’d fought with my mum or when a boy had broken my heart. She was fiercely loyal and loved me unconditionally, so I knew no matter what I’d done she’d always be on my side. She also taught me some ‘necessary life skills’, ones that she perhaps realised my mother had neglected to cover. Auntie G made sure I knew how to properly iron handkerchiefs and linen serviettes, she taught me to always reply to any compliment with the words, ‘thank you’ – nothing less and nothing more – and she taught me how to do the drawback.
 
Yes, Auntie G was a closet smoker. I’d often pop in to her place after school, when Uncle John was still out fishing. Auntie G would inevitably suggest we get some ‘fresh air’, which was code for sit on her back step enjoying a menthol cigarette. We’d chat about our days and then go inside for a cup of tea. I’d be given a handful of peppermints to stuff in my mouth before I headed home. It was our secret, and one we kept until the day she died. By then I was in my thirties and had a child. I’d long ago given up smoking but I still regularly dropped by to chat and sit on the back step while Auntie G had a ‘little puff.’
 
Not long before she died, she gifted me a beautiful onyx and marcasite ring. It was her favourite piece of jewellery and I was thrilled to receive it. It was the last secret we shared. ‘You might not be blood,’ she said, ‘but you’re my favourite granddaughter. If I give this to you now no one can dispute your claim to it after I die.’
 
When all the mourners had finally left Auntie G’s wake, I went and sat on her back step. When I was sure I wouldn’t be disturbed, I pulled out the loose house brick that concealed our hidey-hole. I reached in and pulled out our little tin of contraband and slid it into my nappy bag. Our secret was safe. **
 
*Names changed to protect the innocent!
** Until now. All the people who Auntie G wanted to keep her secret from have now passed away. I’m pretty sure she’d be chuffed to see her story in print.

Rachael Johns

Lisa Ireland

What I’ve been up to 

I’ve been madly penning the last few chapters of my next book. The working title of this novel was HER MOTHER’S DRESS but I think it might be getting a new one, so I’ll keep you posted. Also, I got glasses!! After so many years working in front of the screen, my eyes have finally started to object. I’ve also just done a couple of events at Perth Writers Festival – this was my first major festival appearance so it was pretty exciting!

A Game of Neighbours

I must admit these days I’m a little antisocial. My kind of neighbours are those I know on a first-name basis, I could call on them (and vice versa) in an emergency but mostly our interactions are waving at each other over the fence as we go about our lives. But, years ago, when I was a kid, my neighbours and I lived in each others pockets.
 
I remember I was a massive fan of the TV show Neighbours and liked to pretend our street (also a cul-de-sac) was a little like Ramsey Street. In fact, the kids from the other houses and I played a game called Emberson Street, in which we acted out our own soap opera, pretending our parents didn’t exist and that the houses were ours. We even had our own theme song! My name was Lisa and I was married to the boy down the road (yes, I engineered that cos I had a crush on him and his real name was Luke but I can’t remember his ‘show’ name now). We had a kid, the little girl next door. She was only about two or three when we played the show, but times were different then. We all ran amok on the street, no one worried about strangers or cars or any others terrible things happening to us and I think the little girl’s mum was happy for a free sitter. We’d push her in the pram and pretend she was ours for HOURS.
 
Mostly people were born and grew up in our street and most of their parents still live there now, but occasionally someone would leave and a new neighbor would arrive. Ellie, one of our beloved friends moved to Sydney and her family rented her house to some AWFUL people. Kelly, the new girl, wanted to be in our game, but she didn’t like that Luke and I were married. So exactly like a real life soap-opera she set to break us up and we had our first divorce on the show. Of course, Luke and Kelly didn’t last, and she ended up not speaking to all of us. She had this really mean looking dog and whenever we’d all walk past she’d stand on her front lawn and shout ‘Skitch em’, Beth’ – thank God the hound never did any such thing.
 
Eventually Kelly and her family moved on, but the heartbreaking thing was they left her poor dog and cat at the rental property. The RSPCA were called in and took the animals away and then the police arrived and turned the place upside down. It was the most scandal our street had ever had – and suddenly our sickly-sweet soap-opera game was supercharged. Luke became a cop in the ‘show’, another one of the kids became the ‘local burglar’ and sometimes we’d spend hours at a time hypothesizing about who Kelly’s family actually were and what they’d done to bring out the police. Sadly, to this day, it’s still a mystery.
Copyright © 2018 Sally Hepworth, All rights reserved.