I confess, my January release Stand-In Star is almost entirely set in Hollywood and I have never been there in my life. I’ve never even been to America, although I hope to rectify that in the near future. Many a times while writing this story, I cursed myself for coming up with an idea that had to be set in a foreign land. But in today’s day and age, with the Internet and things like Google Maps and Google Earth, it is possible to visit a place from the comfort of your own swivel chair. And my US friends on Twitter also helped whenever I put out a cry for help!
But I digress – the most exciting thing about writing Stand-In Star, was researching my hero’s past life (he’s an ex paparazzi photographer) and experiencing Hollywood right along side my heroine Holly McCartney, a cultural anthropologist from Australia who feels obliged to travel to America to accept her dead (estranged) sister’s Academy Award. It was so fun to walk down Rodeo Drive (on my computer through Google Earth) and see where Holly would walk and what she’d see during her time in Hollywood.
Then there was writing about the actual Academy Awards of which I have never been and likely never will. I googled photos of stars on the red carpet, the crowds outside the Kodak Theatre (now Dolby Theatre) and even managed to find a few good photos of inside. And I had a legitimate reason to spend hours in front of the television watching the Oscars.
Stand-In Star is the first novel I have set almost entirely in a place I have never been and I hope that I managed to make it realistic enough for those people who live there or have visited. While I don’t have the money currently to jet off around the world, through writing AND reading, I’m able to experience new things and places everyday.
Today, I’d like to share with you an extract from Stand-In Star where my heroine experiences a little bit of Hollywood:
She relaxed into her seat enough to look out the window and take in the sights. As they passed the famous Beverly Hills sign, Holly snapped a quick pic on her phone and sent it to Stella. This time she noticed so much more than she had when driving in the car with Nate. Then she’d been consumed by his overwhelming presence and also the presence of the paparazzi. Now she had time to really take things in.
As the bus crawled along the busy street Holly saw shops and restaurants but no industry or advertising billboards, parks and the odd church but no sign of a hospital or cemetery. Perhaps people around here preferred to pretend death didn’t exist. Her stomach twisted as she thought of Daisy. A cold feeling washed over her but she couldn’t tell if it was due to thinking about her sister or the fact the bus had stopped.
Lost in her thoughts she almost missed her stop. She jumped up and nearly tripped as she hastened down the aisle. Stepping onto the sidewalk, Holly glanced ahead of her and gulped. She could already make out the names of elite boutiques. Familiar not because she’d ever shopped in any of them—her most expensive outfit ever had been her wedding dress and she’d been conservative compared to most—but because they were simply international icons. Versace. Ralph Lauren. Prada. Dolce & Gabbana. These were only the start.
I had a LOT of fun writing this story. Although it’s set in Hollywood, I don’t think it’s your traditional Hollywood story. There’s a lot of emotion and not one character has their sights set on being the next Academy Award winner.
I originally wrote this story for the 2010 Mills & Boon New Voices contest and was lucky enough to garner the attention of Heidi Rice (one of my favourite romance authors) who noted my story as one of her favorites. When I finally got an offer from Carina for this book, I asked Heidi if she would mind providing a cover quote. Here’s what she had to say:
“A glamorous and intense Hollywood love story with a sexy brooding hero and a bold and beautiful heroine. Nice one, Ms Johns! A new romance star is born.”
I hope that I’ve piqued your interest enough for you to download yourself a copy of Stand-In Star, but in the meantime I’d love to hear about a place you’ve visited while reading or writing and would love to experience one day in real life.
Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a supermarket owner by day, a chronic arachnophobic, and a writer by night. She rarely sleeps. She writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Australia and Carina Press. She lives in rural Western Australia with her hyperactive husband and three mostly-gorgeous heroes-in-training. As an active member of Romance Writers of Australia, Rachael has finaled and placed in a number of romance writing contests. Each success was uplifting and publication was the dream but even if none of this happened, she’d still write. It’s a much better option than ironing, which she refuses to partake in. Ever.