A trained journalist, when Lisa had three children under five, she turned to writing women’s fiction. Her characters navigate friendships, careers, romance, and ultimately triumph over adversity. Now an accomplished author, she also teaches creative writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre in Sydney. She has just published her seventh novel, Lily’s Little Flower Shop, a fish-out-of-water coastal romance.
After writing so many books, how do you keep coming up with new ideas?
New ideas come through people-watching, reading the papers, seeing what’s happening online, hot topics on social media and what’s going on in the wider world. For example, there are issues about teenagers and sexting, climate change, politics. It’s been said that there are no new ideas, everything’s been written about before, but it’s the way you write it, the author’s new take on a serial killer, a fantasy location, an office romance. It’s all about voice.
How did the idea bloom for Lily’s Little Flower Shop?
One of my very good friends, Louise, owned a tiny flower shop in a small town in the Blue Mountains in NSW. She heard amazing stories from locals who walked into her shop and shared their lives with her. She suggested I write about the memories and emotions flowers evoke, be that joy or sadness, and that I explore the four seasons and incorporate funerals, weddings, anniversaries, Mother’s Day etc. From there, the idea blossomed.
A few times, I sat in a corner of her shop pretending to read when customers came in, but really, I was eavesdropping. I’m not a florist, so she gave me hints and tips. For example, suppliers sell bunches of roses in tens. People often order a dozen roses, but if you buy twelve, it’s more expensive, because the florist must break into a new bunch.
Lily’s Little Flower Shop is a romantic comedy, but it’s also about relationships and how Lily reconciles her past and forges a bright future that doesn’t revolve around money, corporate suits and rushing from A to B without a moment’s pleasure.
Why did you choose the coastal town, Clearwater?
I live on the coast two hours south of Sydney, so for me, that was a better fit than the countryside. I know the towns and the beaches. Although Clearwater is fictional, it is similar to many coastal towns in Australia and abroad – a small, often cliquey community living by the beach.
Can you please share the blurb for Lily’s Little Flower Shop?
When Lily misses out on a well-deserved promotion the day her boyfriend is offered a job overseas, she faces a choice: should she embrace an expat life, or follow her childhood dream and become a florist?
Following her heart, she moves to the coast and starts again. But fitting into the tight-knit community proves harder than she expected.
As she navigates new friendships, financial worries and the pull of returning to her city life, she learns how flowers can bring her the happiness she’s been looking for.
And when romance appears on the horizon, Lily realizes she can’t commit until she reconciles her mistakes.
Can she overcome her past and learn the true meaning of love?
How did you find a new publisher for Lily’s Little Flower Shop?
After my string of novels with Allen & Unwin, my publisher left, and they didn’t want to publish my next book. I also needed a break. One of my children had started university, and I had two teenagers in their final years at school. For a time, I focussed on my children and on teaching writing, mentoring authors, and client editing.
A couple of years later, when Lily was in good shape, I was talking to a girlfriend who was with New Authors Collective (NAC). She suggested I chat with Michael Cybulski. I got signed, and then worked with you on Lily. I was excited because
(a) I’d never had an agent, and I’d thought after 6 books I’d never get one, and
(b) NAC was pitching to international publishers.
Your previous books were published as Lisa Heidke, but now you’re writing under the penname Lisa Darcy. How did that come about?
When Bloodhounds, a UK publisher, came through, I was thrilled to be able to reach an international audience. For this new reach, they wanted me to rebrand and use a different name. The first thing that came to mind for romance, in honour of Jane Austin, was Darcy. It sounded like a name a romcom writer would have. I googled Lisa Darcy, and there are no authors with that name, so I suggested that to Bloodhounds and they loved it.
I’m also delighted that Bloodhounds are interested in republishing my backlist, so we can broaden the reach of my existing books.
Do you have any tips for authors?
Getting started is the hardest part. Once you start, it’s all about rewriting. It sounds clichéd, but you can’t edit a blank page. Even if I write 400 words and 300 of those are crap, I can use the remaining 100 and take it from there. It was Robert Cormier who said, ‘The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.’
For ideas, write where your strengths are, explore your interests, whether that’s travel, gardening, flowers, or your favourite place. Allow your mind to wander and ask ‘what if?’ What if a woman climbing the corporate ladder gets passed over one too many times?
When you’re having a good writing day, always try to leave in the middle of a scene, so when you come back to it, you know what to write next. You can finish that scene and by then, your mind is already traveling ahead.
I have another book coming out with Bloodhounds in August, My Big Greek Holiday. In the meantime, I’m working on another story set in Clearwater. Whilst Lily’s Little Flower Shop is a standalone story, I think there’s a lot more to be said about her coastal town. This new book will also standalone but will feature some of the same characters.
I have the joy of working with Lisa as her editorial coach at New Authors Collective.