Exactly one year since the arrival of her first novel Rough Diamond, Australian author Kathryn Ledson has again delivered another gem with Monkey Business: a sequel with her hallmark traits of adventure, romance and sparkling, witty dialogue.
Like many authors, Ledson found writing her second novel much harder.
"I definitely suffered Second Novel Syndrome (although I'm not sure if that's official terminology) but at the time didn't realise it," she says. "When I wrote Rough Diamond, I really had no idea what I was doing. I was so naive. With number two there's a contract, a deadline, an expectant audience, and you feel like a rabbit before a speeding set of headlights."
The creator of Erica Jewell and the charismatic Jack Jones admits she cannot resist constantly keeping an eye on them.
"I do tend to follow them around, intrigued by what they do. Actually, not Jack so much - he's very predictable. I always know what he'll do and say in any situation. It's Erica who surprises me. Really, all I have to do is put her in a taxi, walk her across the room, have her pick up the phone, and she takes over, often with surprising results. It is truly fascinating! "
Ledson's sense of humour infuses her characters, their dialogue and the plot itself, which reflects her endearing sense of fun.
"The plot exposes my very silly sense of humour. I adore irony. I love the unexpected. I guess the people who'll enjoy the nonsense of this plot would have enjoyed the likes of Monty Python and Get Smart - early influences on my own humour."
Like Crocodile Dundee and Dame Edna, universally loved but uniquely Australian, Ledson's characters are unashamedly Australian in every way.
"Until I started reading reviews of Rough Diamond, I hadn't really known my own Aussie voice was so strong," she says. "I think Erica's friend, Steve (who is based on my husband) is your typical Aussie bloke, ready to lend a hand in any situation with a flippant 'no worries'. Erica's voice - even though it wasn't deliberate - is probably what gives my novels such an Australian flavour."
Ledson is devoted to her husband Paul and would go to any lengths for him. When asked if she identifies with her heroine, she cannot resist replying: "Well, I don't think Erica is me but the people who know me say she is. Erica's way braver than me and more patient. She's so tolerant of her mother and I'd survive a week in a job with a boss like Rosalind.
"And I'm afraid I wouldn't go to a dangerous place like Saint Sebastian for the man I loved (sorry Paul) - no matter how much his life was on the line! I'd be wimpy, crying on the phone to everyone, and the CIA would be sent to shut me up."
Amusing and witty, this author instinctively knows what her readers want, intuitively creating a modern-day James Bond-like Mr Darcy with machine guns and a charmingly resourceful Elizabeth Bennett, complete with impossible mother and aggressively assertive cat.
"I think I always have been an irrepressible romantic," she laughs. "Cinderella was my favourite story as a child."
Ledson's genius is that she draws readers into her story with the familiar and the ordinary and combines their compliant and very willing suspension of disbelief to create satisfying adventures - daring forays into danger, expertly seasoned with endearing friendships and just the right blend of romance and humour.
"All I can do is write what comes out of me and hope it's well received."