The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Pene Henson author of Storm Season.
Hi Pene, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
I’m Australian, extroverted and hard to ruffle. Also I’m pretty tall, mostly lacking in sporting prowess, and way less funny than I’d like to be. I live with my wife and our two divinely awesome kids in Sydney, along with a ferociously loving cat.
I grew up dreaming of being an astronaut or an experimental physicist. I love sciences and mechanics but I’d do a dreadful job of either of those things so fortunately surprised myself by developing a career in law and writing.
I’ve always written poetry and short fiction. I never really dreamed of a novel until I was writing one. It was delightful to build a whole world, the first in Hawaii and on the ocean, and fall in love with my own characters.
Storm Season is my second novel. It’s set on the Australian East Coast, in land and in cities that I know well. Like my previous novel, it’s essentially a happy queer story. It’s a romance between a bubbly and adorable fashion blogger and a capable park ranger living alone in a remote cabin. As you’d imagine, these women have vastly different experiences. They think they have vastly different priorities. Trapped together by a storm, however, they uncover not just a deep attraction to one another but also all the ways they fit together. And then, of course, the storm breaks and they have to work out what will happen when they return to their ordinary lives.
The busy schedule of work-family-writing makes me value the ideal weekend—It’s wonderful to imagine this, and even better if I can make it true.
I start with Friday night at home with the family. An ordinary night where I cook bean fajitas while enjoying a glass of sparkling wine. In the background our soccer team plays on the tv. We chat, we eat, we pet the cat, we pace, our hearts twist. Of course they win.
Saturday morning I wake up stupidly early and get a bunch of writing done, before collecting everyone together and leaving to watch my kids play soccer. One of the boys is brand new to organized games and his team is adorable, the other is exceptionally good. Every time I watch him play he amazes me. We chat to friends afterwards. Have some lunch. Leave. They both feel they played wonderfully.
Saturday afternoon probably involves swimming. Though I don’t know about this weekend where it’s soccer season and swimming season at the same time. Maybe the family heads to some place near the water and takes a long hike around. We look at views and chat and I take some gorgeous photos.
Then Sunday morning, early, I write some more (always!). My wife sleeps in, the kids get up slowly and play video games. In the afternoon we have a bunch of people over and all the kids play on the trampoline or in the goals or play ping pong while the adults enjoy some wine and cheese and join in with the ping pong. They stay for early dinner.
Of course I’d also like to fit in: a night out with my brilliant friends, preferably heading to dinner and a bar where we’re surrounded by a huge diversity of people and a juke box and pool table. And a night home by myself, the kids in bed and the whole space mine to write or play guitar or listen to music. And a date night with my wife, a Japanese restaurant and margaritas. And a night where we can watch an episode of whatever show Netflix is offering us. And some time getting a whole lot of laundry done and lunches packed so the week is good.
That’s all. Just a few things 🙂
“Come out here,” calls Claudie from the deck.
Claudie’s leaning on the railing looking over the vast expanse of nothing. “Come and stand at the edge here,” she says. “It’s like the edge of the universe.”
It’s dark; there’s nothing out there. The world smells rich and wet. Lien holds herself still and looks out with the cabin lights behind her.
“Wait a sec,” says Claudie.
She steps back toward the house and reaches inside the cabin door. Everything goes dark.
“Hey—” Lien can’t see a thing. They haven’t had lights in days, and now Claudie’s turning them off. The blackness seems complete.
“You’re okay,” says Claudie. “It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust. I figured—It’s been raining so much. You haven’t had a clear night up here. I wanted to show you.” She moves beside Lien against the railing.
And as Lien’s eyes accustom themselves to the dark, the sky opens up above them. The Milky Way sweeps a path of light across the great black bowl. Around that the night extends from one clear horizon to the other, lit by a thousand layers of stars on stars, dazzling bright in the dark.
The universe goes on forever. It’s huge, and Lien’s tiny and breathless in front of it.
In that moment nothing is worth thinking about beyond that sky, nothing but the huge universe and Claudie’s hand, steady and close beside Lien’s on the railing, Claudie’s warm body so near. Lien twines her pinkie around Claudie’s. They stand under the stars, still and silent.
When Lien turns, Claudie’s cheekbones are traced in blue-white and her eyes reflect a thousand pinprick lights. She’s beautiful. She’s from a whole other world.
About the Author:
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Into the Blue, her first novel, was published by Interlude Press in 2016 and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.