Word of Mouth TV appearance, and WIN a huge book pack!

I am delighted to be a featured author on Australia’s first online television series about food and books, Word of Mouth TV, hosted by Kate Forsyth and SL Mills!

Click HERE to watch!

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 7.38.46 pmKate, Sarah and I talk about the inspiration behind Three Gold Coins, the biggest challenges in writing the darker, difficult themes inside the story, and the absolute joys of Italian food and romantic heroes!

Kate serves up my scrumptious Tuscan white bean soup, we drink vino and I share the rather amazing moment that led to my big breakthrough into a writing career.

The whole episode is shot in Kate’s fabulous home in Sydney and we had a very long Italian feast indeed. (It is quite dark when we finish!)

You can also win a huge pack of my books, plus a copy of Matt Moran’s cookbook too.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 7.43.33 pm Click HERE to find out how to win this bunch of delicious books.

Best of luck!

Gilberta’s Pasta Recipe

If you have read Three Gold Coins you may remember the pasta making scene with Gilberta. The character of Gilberta is a fictional one but she is lovingly named after the real Gilberta (Sangiorgi Nuccitelli Gilberta), who taught us how to make pasta when we were on retreat in Tuscany. Here are some photos and Gilberta’s recipe, as she gave it to us. I have written the method as best I can remember of the great pasta making day.

Gilberta’s Maltagliati Pasta


1 kilogram of Grano Duro Wheat, Type 00 (double zero), plus more if necessary when kneading

10 eggs

Extra water if needed.

Method, part one

  • Either use a plastic bowl or a wooden cutting board. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the eggs and fold in with your hands.
  • If the mixture is too dry, add sprinkles of water if necessary.
  • Knead until the mixture has the consistency of your ear lobe. It should be stretchy but spring back. Sprinkle more flour if it’s too sticky.
  • Let it rest for ten (Italian) minutes. This is a good chance to drink some wine. 🙂


Method, part two

  • You need to have plenty of space to roll out the pasta and leave it to dry. The pasta sheets can’t be on top of each other or they will stick. Use a cotton cloth to lay the pasta out on because it will absorb whatever scent you put it on.
  • Cut off a slice of pasta and squeeze it to the thickness you need to put it through the pasta press.
  • You ideally need two people—one to feed the press and the other to catch sheets at the other end.
  • Flour between the sheets so they don’t stick to each other.
  • If the pasta breaks, roll it up again and put back through the pasta press.
  • Dry the pasta sheets for ten (Italian) minutes.
  • When it’s dry, cut or tear it into smaller pieces then boil as you would normally boil pasta.
  • Serve with your favourite sauce and homemade table wine.


So You Want to Be a Writer, podcast

Want to know my top three tips for writing? Or how I manage characters and setting? Or maybe how to manage the light and shade in a story? I share all of this and much more on episode 231 of So you Want to Be a Writer.

Have you listened to the Australian Writers Centre‘s podcast series? It’s full of great information, tips and advice, as well as a regular guest speaker.

And this time around, I’m delighted to announce that it’s me! Click this link to hear the podcast.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 11.29.16 am

The first part of the podcast is a conversation with Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo and covers how to avoid the query stage with agents and publishers, then my interview comes after that at around 27 minutes. Happy listening!

Win Three Gold Coins in Audio

Share the love to Win! Three Gold Coins is available now as an audio book through Audible. Can you help me get it into the hands of someone who struggles to read text but would love to listen to a story? (Or indeed, if that is you, please nominate yourself!) Just tell me their name in the comments below. I have FIVE copies to give away! Winner drawn next Monday 30 April.

Win a Book Club in Box set of Three Gold Coins + Wine + Snacks!

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.22.23 amDo you have a book club? Want to start one right now?

Here is a wonderful opportunity to have your next meeting’s event delivered to your door, with 10 copies of Three Gold Coins, two bottles of wine and quality snacks, as well as reading and discussion notes and advice on how to start a book club if you need it.

Good Reading Magazine says: “Three Gold Coins packs a mountain of heart, an abundance of tortured soul and a banquet of mouthwatering food.”

To enter, simply follow this link.

Good luck!

Fancy a Writing Retreat in Tuscany? This might be your year!

As some of you may know, I discovered the story for Three Gold Coins while I was on writing retreat in Tuscany in 2016, with fellow writer and friend Vanessa Carnevale. Vanessa is once again running writing retreats in Tuscany this year and you have the chance to go! I asked Vanessa to tell us a bit about her, her work and the value of writing retreats.

Can you tell us a bit about your connections to Italy and what you love most about Italy?
I met my husband in Florence while holidaying over there in the late 90s and ended up living there for several years in my early twenties. I had a job in the city centre and started doing some freelance writing in addition to that. I’m enamoured by the history, the art, the culture, the food, the people! There’s always so much to learn and see over there and one of the things I love most, is the relaxed and much slower paced lifestyle. I’m very lucky that having family over there allows us to travel back as often as we can.
Your first book was set in Italy and your second in Australia. Would you like to share a little about the books and the research for both?
My debut novel, The Florentine Bridge, is set in Florence, and is about an artist by the name of Mia, who travels to Tuscany to find her passion for life again after experiencing a life-changing illness. The setting and its characters were informed by my time living in Italy. So I knew the Tuscan setting very intimately and while the characters, love story and storyline are completely fictional, writing the book was like taking a trip back down memory lane as I wrote about the places I had visited. I spent quite a bit of time researching renaissance art and painting which I love.
The Memories That Make Us, my latest novel, is set on a fictional flower farm in Victoria and is about Gracie, who after an accident, is left unable to recall most of the elements of her life, including her late mother and her fiance, Blake. It’s a story of self-discovery which follows Gracie’s journey as she rediscovers who she is after this big moment which turns her life upside down. For this book I did lots of lovely research into flower cultivation and the way flowers have a positive impact on emotion. Bonus for me is that I now have a beautiful flower garden and can enjoy freshly cut blooms any time I want!
What do you love most about writing retreats and how do you think they help writers?
Writing retreats are a wonderful way to nurture creativity. Getting away from the daily grind, and into an environment where you’re spending time alongside other writers who understand you is so refreshing and re-energising. For me personally, I find that supporting other writers gives me a deeper sense of purpose and in helping others I find my passion for writing amplifies. It’s a total joy and I am so proud of the writers who come along. I love being part of their cheer squad as they go on to make progress with their writing. For some writers, coming to a retreat might be a way of prioritising and taking action on a lifelong dream to write, and for others it might be a way of stepping away to fully immerse oneself in writing without interruption in order to make significant progress on a project.
Can you share a bit about your upcoming retreat(s) and how people can find out more?
I’m leading another two writing retreats in Tuscany this September and have availability for the second week which is from the 24th Sep – 1st Oct. They’re week-long retreats and we stay in a gorgeous 17th century villa not too far from the centre of Florence. Anyone who reads Three Gold Coins will be able to experience some armchair travel there! 😉
[Jo: This is true! The pictures here in this blog post come from the very villa I stayed in and used as inspiration for the setting of Three Gold Coins!]
Writers can come along and attend the workshops on offer and largely spend uninterrupted writing time against a gorgeous backdrop of olive trees and undulating hills. There’s also the opportunity for sightseeing and Chianti tours for those who would like to do that. We also have a swimming pool. It’s gorgeous! It’s a beautiful week away that does wonders for our creativity!Anyone interested can find out more on my website: www.yourbeautifulwritinglife.com
Quick five: Favourite Italian word? Where do you want to travel next? One thing from your bucket list? Last meal? Favourite childhood book?
1. L’amore – love
2. New York. I’ve always said I want to travel to NY in 2019 for my 40th!
3. I would love to renovate a cottage in the country and use it for writing weekends away. THE DREAM.
4. Yoghurt and muesli for breakfast
5. The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
Vanessa Carnevale is a freelance writer and novelist who has contributed to The Green Parent, The Huffington Post, Muse, and Italy magazine, among others. Her debut novel, The Florentine Bridge, was published by MIRA in Australia in 2017. She was a finalist in the Best New Author category for the AusRom Today Readers Choice Awards 2017. She lives in Australia with her husband and two children.

When not writing, Vanessa loves to travel and often finds inspiration for her stories in locations outside her hometown of Melbourne. She is also the creator and host of Your Beautiful Writing Life retreats held in Australia and Tuscany, Italy. She loves tea, and flowers, and often dreams of escaping to the country.

Tuscan White Bean Soup — Recipe from Three Gold Coins

This is one of my favourite recipes that I developed while researching and writing Three Gold Coins. Perfect for these cooling nights!

Tuscan White Bean Soup


1 large leek (or 2 small ones)

2 garlic cloves

1 potato (I use Dutch Cream potatoes all the time, just because I love them the best)

1 parsnip

Half a head of cauliflower

1 carrot (optional… it will change the colour of your soup, but it’s a good way to use up vegetables in your crisper!)

2 cans of cannellini beans

4 cups stock (I use lamb bone broth)

Salt and pepper to taste

The leaves of a few sprigs of fresh thyme (just pick them, wash them and use your fingers to strip the sprigs)

2 Tbs lemon juice


Chop all your vegetables.

  1. Fry your leek and garlic in olive oil under fragrant.
  2. Add the rest of the your chopped vegetables and mix thoroughly, allowing to cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add water just to the top of the vegetables and simmer for ten minutes.
  4. Add your stock and cook for ??
  5. Allow liquid to reduce a little if it seems to watery, otherwise proceed to blending.
  6. Blend half your soup until creamy then return to the pot. (Or blend three quarters, or even the whole lot. It depends how you like your soup.)
  7. Add your salt, pepper, thyme and lemon juice and heat through.
  8. Serve with sprigs of thyme for garnish and a side of crusty bread