Author Interview: Penelope Janu on her debut novel In at the Deep End


Penelope, thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog to talk about your debut novel with Harlequin Mira, In at the Deep End. 

Thanks for having me, Lauren. Now the book is out in the world, it’s great to have an opportunity to answer questions about it.

How would you describe the story in just 1-2 sentences? 

Per Amundsen and Harriet Scott have a lot in common—they’re smart, adventurous and they care about the environment. As for falling in love … they both have a lot to learn.

Where did your inspiration come from? 

I’ve been interested in environmental issues for many years, and I’ve taught university students about the legal regulation of climate change. I’ve also read a lot about Antarctica (I’d love to go there one day). The Scott and Amundsen historical aspect (Harriet and Per’s namesakes were the first and second men to reach the South Pole) became increasingly important as I wrote the story. Historical facts, environmental issues, and a quick witted romance—that was my challenge!

With a background in law and a strong interest in social justice issues, how did this influence your writing process? 

That’s a good question. Disagreements about things like immigration, religion, environmental issues, equality and discrimination often occur because people don’t have sufficient facts to make informed judgments. I’m an optimist at heart, and I think the vast majority of people want to do the right thing. I’d like to think my characters grow and learn in ways that make a positive difference to the lives of others in their families and wider communities.

In at the Deep End features a feisty heroine named Harry who has a paralyzing fear. How did you ensure you made this aspect of Harry’s character realistic and believable? What kind of research did you do? 

I have a friend in the medical profession who treats patients with anxiety, and I had experienced its effects first hand within my own family, so I knew quite a lot about it before I started writing. I researched societal perceptions of anxiety, and the efforts people go to in order to live a (seemingly) regular life. Harriet is a positive, passionate, upbeat person—yet her fears were debilitating. It was also important to get the message across that although anxiety is treatable, there are many different kinds of treatments, and combinations of treatments. Something that works for one person might not work for another.

Can you tell us how you came to be published? 

I pitched In at the Deep End to Sue Brockhoff of Harlequin Mira at the August 2015 Romance Writers of Australia conference. I spent another few months polishing the manuscript before submitting it in November of that year. Harlequin’s Jo Mackay really liked it and, just a couple of weeks later, she called and told me Harlequin wanted to publish it. Yay!

What can readers expect from you next? Are you working on another novel? 

I’m working on two. In the follow up novel to In at the Deep End the hero is Per’s twin brother Tør, a diplomat from Norway, and the heroine is an Australian woman with a backstory just as interesting as Harry’s. The heroine is a speech pathologist—I’ve really enjoyed all the research I’ve done in this area, and liaising with my long suffering but very helpful speech pathologist (and writer) friend. My third novel is also set in Australia. I adore her wit and charm (not to mention the hero I’ve lined her up with).

Oh, I’m looking forward to reading the story of Per’s twin brother! And just for fun, here’s a few questions to give us insight into your writing process.

When writing, do you prefer…

Coffee, tea or hot chocolate? Tea please!

Plotting, pantsing or both?  Absolute panster. I find plotting (a rational and entirely sensible thing to do) difficult. It simply stops me writing.

Quiet solitude or background noise? Background noise. I have a lovely study but generally sit at the kitchen bench (much to the annoyance of my family—when they talk to me I respond, if at all, with ‘Mmmm hmmm.’

A warm, sunny day or a cold, rainy day?  Warm and sunny. So I can have breaks by hanging out the washing, or taking my laptop for a walk to a local coffee shop.

Typing or a pen and notebook? A couple of years ago I used a pen, and would then type out my notes. Now I use a laptop all the time (which is why I take it to coffee shops—where I drink endless cups of tea).

Thank you so much for stopping by Penelope. For more information on Penelope, you can find her at and on Facebook. Her debut novel, In at the Deep End is now available in all good bookstores and online. You can read my review here.



  • Love the cover- & the premise. It’s great to hear that pitches at conference come off. Added to my to be read list.

  • That cover is AWESOME!

    Congratulations on your book, fellow tea drinker! After reading Lauren’s review I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    How have you found life as a published author the last two months?

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