No one was more delighted or surprised when Jodi Perry won the Ruby Award for best romance book of the year than the Brandy Hill author herself.
The surprise was not due to any doubt in her book, Nineteen Letters, that her publisher had entered into Romance Writers Australia’s annual awards but because she genuinely thought she had only reached the finalist stages.
“I was one of four finalists in the long story section. When I was told I was a finalist I thought that was it. I didn’t win. I didn’t realise there was an actual overall award that’s judged by publishers, literary agents – the top people in the field,” Mrs Perry said.
Because of this, Mrs Perry and her mother attended the gala awards night in Sydney in August with no expectations.
So she was thoroughly “shocked” when she won the Romantic Book of the Year Award – affectionately known as the Ruby Award.
“They have minor awards, like the Emerald Award, but the Ruby is the big one. I knew I was a finalist for that. That in itself was huge for me,” Mrs Perry said.
“After the minor awards were announced they said something like ‘now for the big one’ and talked about the overall award and how it's judged. I thought whoever won one of the smaller categories would have to win the overall. But then they said my name. My mum started crying.”
The win is special to Mrs Perry who, along with her family, made a tree change from Sydney to Brandy Hill in March.
It is a milestone marker in her short literary journey – from writing her first book, My Destiny, in 2013 and self publishing in 2014, turning it into four-book series, picking up two publishers, gaining a following and finishing Nineteen Letters, book number 10, three years after first having the idea for it.
“You see life differently once you become a writer. You see stories everywhere,” Mrs Perry said. “The idea for Nineteen Letters was in my head for a long time but I had other stories I needed to write first.
“The story with Nineteen Letters is that I came out one morning and my son was watching the Today Show. They had this story on about a woman who had been in a car accident a couple of days after her wedding. Her head hit the steering wheel. She could remember her life but she just couldn't remember her wedding.
“So her husband recreated the day completely – exactly how it was. That gave me the inspiration. What if she didn't remember anything? That's how Nineteen Letters starts. The characters been together since they were little kids but after she’s in an accident she won't go near him because he's a stranger. So he writes to her. It's a love story in a love story.”
Mrs Perry wrote and published her first book at 42.
She had always loved to read but never thought she was capable of writing a book. Until she did.
Mrs Perry left school at 15 and worked as a secretary until she became a stay at home mum when she had her son.
“When he started school I was lost,” she said. “That's when I started to write. Its taken off from there.”
She let her sister read her first book, My Destiny, who then gave it to their mother and it was shared among friends and family.
“Between them they encouraged me to publish it,” Mrs Perry said. “I didn't have a lot of self confidence and I didn't want to submit it to a publisher. I self published that book which ended up becoming a series of four.”
Then came a call that changed the game for her. Mrs Perry was contacted by Hachette, the second biggest publisher in the world. She signed a five book deal with Hachette in 2015.
Mrs Perry also has a publishing deal in the UK with Little Brown.
“It opened a lot of doors for me,” Mrs Perry said. “Some of my books have been translated in different languages.
“I love what I do. It doesn't feel like work. I worked all my life and now I have a job that's more full on than anything I've ever done but I actually love it. I think that's when you know you're doing what you're meant to.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes.
“It's like I live these two different lives. I go overseas [UK and US] to attend signings, people come to see you and want your autograph, you go to red carpet events. Then I come home and have to scrub toilets.
“It's like two different worlds but I love them both.
“Never in my wildest dreams, even when I published that first book, did I think this would happen. If I sold 10 copies of my first book I would have been happy. I think I sold 500 in the first week. To me, that's amazing. I can sell that in a day now.
“I think that shows if you want something bad enough you go out and get it.”
Mrs Perry is now working on her next novel, which will be a modern day fairy tale. It will have Cinderella elements but “no pumpkins turning into carriages or anything like that”.
“My stories are about real every day people. They're not millionaires. My stories are very relocatable. I write about just every day things. I use my life experiences in my stories. I write the kind of things I like to read and I write what I know,” Mrs Perry said.
Mrs Perry’s published books in order
- My Destiny
- My Forever
- Against All Odds
- Luckiest Bastard (novella)
- The Boss
Under the name Jodi Perry
- Nineteen Letters