Sandra Antonelli Is a Driving Force!

sandra 2I’m always so happy to bring you guys a great Aussie author to add to your TBR piles. I’ve known Sandra Antonelli for many years now – she’s incredibly fun company, she’s brilliantly clever, and she has a razor-sharp wit, qualities that translate into her wonderful contemporary romances.

Today, Sandra is visiting to tell us about her latest release DRIVING IN NEUTRAL. Here’s the blurb:

Levelheaded Olivia Regen walks away from her career in car racing and wreckage of a bad marriage to take on a job that’s far removed from the twists of racetrack. The very first day at work steers her headlong into an elevator with a handsome claustrophobe who turns out to be her new boss. The anxious little incident leads Emerson Maxwell to develop a curiosity in the methods cool-under-pressure Olivia uses to restore his equilibrium—and an even greater interest in her. Despite the intense mutual attraction, Olivia tries to out-maneuver Emerson and keep her distance. While she cures his fear of small, enclosed spaces, can Emerson convince Olivia that fear of falling in love again is just another kind of claustrophobia?

sandra 1You can find out more about Sandra and her books at her website:

Sandra, I’m delighted to welcome you to the Romance Bandits and congratulations on the release of DRIVING IN NEUTRAL. Can you tell us something about this story?

Thank you, Anna and all the Banditas, so very much for having me here in the Lair! Well, gee, I guess I like to think of DRIVING IN NEUTRAL as a love story about claustrophobia. The fear of being closed in, of not having space or room to move can manifest itself in a number of ways, not simply when it comes to being stuck in a small space. In DRIVING IN NEUTRAL, the hero, Emerson Maxwell has a deep anxiety about elevators and other tiny spaces, while Olivia, the seemingly fearless heroine has a similar, closed-in anxiety she’s not aware she’s hidden from herself.

Love the name Emerson Maxwell. Makes me think of Daphne Du Maurier! What were the inspirations behind this story?

sandra 4The only inspiration was the fact I met my husband in an elevator. There was no fear involved and we did not get trapped in the elevator the way the leads do in DRIVING IN NEUTRAL. That being said, I like to write about fear, particularly when it comes to love because what is scary than love? Nothing makes a person feel more vulnerable, nothing is more painful, and nothing leaves a more lasting mark than love.

What’s coming up next?

I have three stories going at the same time. First is CLEANING HOUSE, a James Bond homage of sorts that is a blend of romantic comedy and romantic suspense. The next, is a contemporary romcom I’ve titled TAKE ME I’M YOURS. It’s the third book in my Los Alamos series (the first two are A BASIC RENOVATION and FOR YOUR EYES ONLY) and it questions the notions of family, responsibility, and love. The third book, NEXT TO YOU, is actually completed and I am in the process of polishing it before I send it to my editor. It’s a little darker than most of what I write. Essentially, it’s about making assumptions and how appearances are deceiving.

sandra 3Lots for us to look foward to! As this is your first visit, can you tell us about your writing journey?

I won a grade 7 writing contest for a short story I wrote. Then I wrote in high school because my best friend was an awesome storyteller and I wanted to keep up. So I wrote shockingly bad stories where there was always danger and some kissing. My friend is still an awesome storyteller and I still write about kissing.

Since high school, I wrote on and off until about 10 years ago, I finally churned out a massive doorstop of a novel that will never see the light of day. A local author/university lecturer had a look at the work for me, told me I had some talent, and encouraged me to keep writing. So I did. I wrote 2 more books, wound up joining the Romance Writers of Australia, met a university lecturer who had an interest in romance fiction, and was invited to do a Masters Degree in romance fiction. I had to write a novel as a portion of that degree. The result was A BASIC RENOVATION. I don’t know what possessed me, but I got it in my head—I suppose because I had a bee in my bonnet about female stereotypes and ageism in fiction—that I needed to do a PhD, which culminated in FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and wearing an oversized robe and silly velvet bonnet on a stage.

sandra 7Congratulations on your doctorate! Could you share some of the surprising things you discovered as you researched the genre?

Thank you. I assure you that I am blushing madly.

What did I discover? I followed on research from my MA, which indicated that there was a gap in romance fiction that left out mature-aged women as romance heroines, or redirected the 40+ female lead to Women’s Fiction tales, where romance ceases to be vital to the story. My PhD examined the reasons for the redirection to Women’s Fiction, and highlighted that there are readers who want romance novels that feature mature-aged women as romantic leads, complete with wrinkles and life baggage.

The exquisite messiness of love isn’t just something young people experience.

Love “the exquisite messiness.” How true! The tagline on your website is “Quirky romance novels for grown ups…and smart asses.” Would you care to elaborate?

sandra 8The grown up bit is simple. I’ve always enjoyed reading about people who were older than me. I like that they’ve “been there, done that.” The characters in my romance novels are older than the norm. Most of them are middle-aged and are still trying to get “this thing called love” (Cue Cole Porter) right. The smartass part is because, well, I lean a little in that direction; I like snappy, quippy, rapid-fire dialogue. I like Rosalind Russell in HIS GIRL FRIDAY and Barbara Stanwyck in THE LADY EVE. Those two women epitomise smartass to me. Quirky, well, that’s probably because love can make people do bizarre things.

Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation going?

The women like Rosalind Russell and Barbara Stanwyck had an impact on me and influence the female characters I write, but mostly I have to credit my mother and her moxie as the biggest influence. No woman I know has ever had more gumption and sass than my tiny little 4’10” mother. What powerful, motivated, intelligent women had an impact on you? Were they someone famous or did you have a mama as ballsy and smartass as mine? Do you have a favourite smartass character from a book or movie?

BanditBootyGet commenting, people! Sandra has very generously offered up a copy of DRIVING IN NEUTRAL (international) for one visitor and a copy of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (international) for another visitor to the blog today. Good luck!

Posted in , , , , , , , , , , ,



  • Helen says:

    Is he coming to visit me

    Have fun

  • Helen says:

    Hi Sandra and Anna

    A great post I loved For Your Eyes only it is Great story I need to catch up with the other two 🙂

    I have to say my Mum too was a big influence on me she stood up for everything she believed and took no c%#p from anyone she was strong smart and had a great sense if humour u loved her so much and she passed on her love of reading especially romance to me you gotta love her for that.

    Congrats on the release Sandra 🙂

    Have Fun

  • Jane says:

    Congrats on the new release, Sandra. Definitely my mom and grandma are on the list. My mom is always adapting. When the recession hit, she took classes and found a job in a new field. I’ve always found the characters Bette Davis portrayed as most interesting.

  • Shannon says:

    I’ve been lucky to have had wonderful women in my life, especially my Mom who left teaching to become my surveyor father’s assistant. She climbed mountains with a 40 pound pack and drew precise plats.

    When I was in graduate school, Kate, a full professor swept me into her circle of graduate school and Austin society. This weekend there is a Greek Festive in my town, and I am remember our group gathering for food, wine, and music on lovely evening in Austin. Later, she hired me as her research assistant, laughing that the way I got through grading 75 blue book final exams, buy renting old musicals as background music. She was in the audience when I presented my first paper to a professional association. I miss that there’s no money for conferences. Kate always encourage me in my decision to go to work rather than pursue a PhD.

    Gwendolyn Meadows in the Passion of the Purple Plumeria is a feisty heroine who wields a mean parasol. I forget if she’s in her 50s or is older, but she ends up with a man who also is in his late 50s or 60s.

    One of my favorite fantasy authors said that she had considered writing spin off character stories, but editors got very nervous at the thought of say a 1000 year old mage having a romance. The ages of some of her heroes are a little squishy over the series. One of heroes according to fan math should be late 30s or early forties is described as having more than a score of years. Fudge.

  • Sandra says:

    Hi Jane!

    Thank you so much for the congratulations!

    I love, love LOVE Bette Davis. Is it wrong of me to say I liked her best when she was being a little bit bad?

    Let’s hear it for our smart and sassy grandmothers and mothers!

    xo Sandra

  • Sandra says:

    Hi Shannon!

    Blue book final exams—UGH. I hated those!

    Did your mother camp when she was carrying that 40 lb pack on her back? Mothers are so amazing.

    Thanks for mentioning Greek food. Now all I can think of is grilled Halloumi and feta and Saganaki…


  • flchen1 says:

    How fabulous, Sandra! Great to meet you and it sounds like your heroines are women I want to get to know! I’ve been blessed to know quite a few strong, smart women, including my mom and grandmothers, and a whole host of wonderful teachers and bosses 🙂 So important to have good role models 😉

  • ANNA says:

    Hi Sandra,
    I used to love writing about kissing , but never kissed befre marriage . would love to read all your books , as i have to polish my book writing on romance… the GREAT ROMANCE WRITER.ANNA CAMPBELL, OUR TUTOR , IS GREAT, AS SHE WRITE BEUTIFUL ROMANCE BOOKS …..I READ ALL YOUR TOO NOWLOTS OF LOVE , AND MY MUM WAS INSPIRATIONAL TOO…LOVE TO ALL MUMS TOO!!!

  • Susanne Bellamy says:

    Katherine Hepburn played wonderful women who took on men at their own game. I loved everything about her – her style, her wit and the characters who didn’t give a damn.
    Looking forward to reading your latest book, Sandra. Loved the earlier ones and the fact you write fabulous older heroes and heroines. Keep ’em coming!

  • Cathy P says:

    Hi Sandra and Anna! Sandra, congrats on yo9ur new release of DRIVING IN NEUTRAL! My mom and grandmother were the biggest influences in my life. They taught me so many wonderful things and how to be a good person.

    • Sandra says:

      Hi Cathy,

      Thank you for the kind words!

      I still learn so much from my mother. I think she’d be happy to know I’m trying to be the kind of woman that would make her proud.

      Happy weekend!

    • Cathy, I think when it comes to influences, a lot of us start at home. Aren’t we lucky to have such wonderful women to look up to?

  • Mary Preston says:

    I have to say my mother. 90 next birthday & going strong.

    She taught us to be strong & good & true.

    Loving your books here.

  • Imelda Evans says:

    My Mum, my grandma and my sisters are all very impressive people – and interestingly, pretty much all pocket rockets, although not quite as small as yours, Sandra!

    • Cassondra says:

      Imelda, Iove that–“Pocket rockets”–great description of a tiny mom.

    • Imelda, sometimes I think pocket rockets are just physics in action – you know all that energy packed into a small space makes for maximum power!

      • Sandra says:

        Oh, Thank you AC!
        I’ll remember that I am PHYSICS IN ACTION the next time Dr Shrinkee makes fun of how fast I move!

    • Sandra says:

      You know, Queen Imelda,

      Pocket Rockets like the women we know and love draw power from their size. the cool thing is, I bet if you ask all of them none of them would tell you that they feel small–even when they have to climb up on the kitchen bench top to get dishes out of the top shelf of a cupboard!


  • Debbie Oxier says:

    For me it was my grandmother. A little thing, not even five foot and a hundred pounds soaking wet, she was part Irish and didn’t take anything off anybody. Even so, she was one of the most good-hearted people you’d ever want to meet. She encouraged me through the bad times, laughed with me during the good. She taught me to sew, gave me a love for the piano, and was a wonderful cook! Loved her fried chicken and chicken and dumplings!

    • Debbie, what a wonderful description of your grandmother. I felt like I already knew her, the minute I read it. Knew her and wanted to know her!

    • Sandra says:


      When I wrote my first book, A Basic Renovation, I created an Irish, eighty-something love interest for a ninety-something Italian man. Her name was Eliish Flangan. Your Grandmother sounds so much like the woman I had visualized as Eilish. She takes no guff from anyone! I’d love to meet your grandmother.


  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hey Sandra!! Congrats on the new release and welcome to the Romance Bandits Lair! Grins.

    Love the sound of the story, and your play out of their fears. Cool.

    As to inspiration, like most of the others who posted, my mom was a big inspiration. First one in her family to go to college, much against my grandfather’s wishes. She raised chickens for five years to get enough money to go, then cooked for the dean of the college to help pay for books and fees. :>

    Other inspirations are Kathryn Hepburn herself, as well as her characters; Eleanor Roosevelt; Michelle Obama; and so many other strong women….

    • Jeanne, what a brilliant story! I can definitely see her strength and drive in you.

    • Sandra says:

      Hi, Jeanne,

      Thank you for the congratulations and welcome! I am loving the Lair!

      Your mother is most impressive and you are right to put her together with other impressive women like Eleanor Roosevelt, Katherine Hepburn, and Michelle Obama (Oh, wish I had her arms!). With her drive to go to college, did your mother instill a love of education within you?


  • Hi Saundra – Congrats on the new release. Love the concept of marriage being (potentially) claustrophobic. Never thought of that before.

    I think my Mom was my big inspiration. She was very capable and after her stint as a secretary, took on roles more “male-centric.” I remember she took on the bookkeeping for a small pharmacy as a side job. While she never had any training in accounting, she did very well. LOL. Seeing as I’m a CPA, I guess she truly was my big inspiration 🙂

    • Donna, I’m loving these stories of the strong women in the Bandita/Bandita Buddies’ lives. So inspirational. Sandra, great question.

    • Sandra says:

      Hi Donna,

      I love that you and so many others have commented that good ol’ Mom (Mum for all you lovelies in Oz) has made such a huge impression on your life, not just as a mother, but as a role model for how to be independent and capable of anything, as well as a model for how to live and be a good person. That’s so wonderful!

      Thank you for the hearty congratulations!

  • Cassondra says:

    Hello Sandra and welcome!

    I don’t know that any one real woman has had a profound effect on me other than my mother, and that because she encouraged my art and writing and music when I was younger. I was never made to feel–by either parent–that all of that was a waste of time. I’m grateful for that encouragement.

    I think it was the fictional characters I saw on tv or read about in books who influenced me most. Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter was in that role when I was young)–I thought she was beautiful and tough in a good way, and I used to practice spinning like that and warding off bullets with my magic bracelets, Isis (can’t remember who played her, but I loved her outfit and that she was also everyday girl turned superheroine/goddess. I spent most of my young life in male-dominated fields, only coming to an occupation largely dominated by women when I came to romance fiction, so I can’t think of a particular woman who influenced me, but I had the very clear internal understanding that I could do whatever the boys could do. If I wanted to go after something, I had as much right to do that as anyone else. Perhaps I have my parents to thank for NOT teaching me differently, because I remember the shock the first time I signed up for a boys-only class in high school (Vocational agriculture shop) and everybody was trying to figure out how to tell me I couldn’t do that. I’d never even thought of being restricted. I thank both parents and the women in my family for generations for choosing to not teach me about restrictive gender roles, but that I could do whatever I wanted to do.

    • Cassondra, what a wonderful take on this. I guess, like you, I should thank all the wonderful romance writers for giving me such positive female models in fiction.

    • Sandra says:

      Hi Cassandra

      Yes! Your mother, well, both your parents actually, are incredible for teaching you that gender is never a barrier to anything. I’m so happy to know you maintain that outlook too.

      Please allow me to say, ‘O mighty winds that blow on high, lift me now so I may fly…O Mighty Isis!’ or something like that.

  • bn100 says:

    my mom

    almost any Angelina Jolie role

  • Sandra, welcome, and congrats on your new release! it sounds fabulous.

    I always admired Joan of Arc, whom I discovered via Classics Illustrated comic books. Growing up, I read as many biographies of pioneering women as I could find. I also read comic books. Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Elasti-Girl from the Doom Patrol, all inspired me despite having to undergo fits of feminine helplessness to cater to the mores of the period.

    My mom was unconventional, too. She went into the navy after World War II and became a disbursing officer. Back then, most women in the service did not carry sidearms, but on payday, she always did.

    • Nancy, when I was young, I found Joan of Arc really inspirational too. Imagine having the courage to do what she did!

    • Sandra says:

      Hi, Nancy,

      Thank you for the kind words and welcome!

      I really like that you chose to describe your mother as ‘unconventional.’ I like that word. Joan was unconventional too. I’d go as far to say that I think tour mom was as badass as Joan of Arc.