A Tribute to Australian Rural Authors

With only a week or so to go before the release of Brumby’s Run, I’m dedicating this post to the other authors in the Australian rural lit genre. I’m new on the rural block, and with the exception of my friend Margareta Osborn (we’re in the same writing group known as the Little Lonsdale Group) I only knew the other authors by reading their books. My first, tentative tweets about Brumby’s Run were met by an avalanche of supportive responses from members of this rather unique literary club. I almost used the word exclusive instead of unique, but that would have been quite wrong. This warm-hearted bunch of talented writers made every possible effort to include me, right from the start.Thank you. It meant a lot guys!

There were immediate invitations to do guest blog spots, even though I couldn’t usefully return the favour, with my book’s release still months off. Rachael Johns offered me a Theory on Thursday spot and will do a post for me 29th July. Fellow Penguin author Mandy Magro immediately asked me to take part in her Awesome Aussie Authors series. Fleur Mcdonald wrote a beautifully timed post on editing when I needed it most. Cathryn Hein (another Penguin) wrote, and continues to write me, encouraging messages and offers phone chats, particularly when  the whole publishing process has seemed a bit overwhelming. I am visiting her Friday Feast this coming Friday. Cathryn will graciously guest post for me on 22nd July, in a series called What’s Important to Me.

I met Fiona Palmer (another Penguin) at the RWA Conference last year just before I pitched my manuscript, and she has had her fingers firmly crossed for me ever since. The great Nicole Alexander has asked me to write about my passion for the environment on her blog. Romantic suspense author Helene Young (yet another Penguin!) will visit here on the 12th August and has asked me to guest post about my trip to Ireland. The support and friendship offered to me has been amazing. I feel like I’m part of a family, a real rural community bursting with country hospitality. A big thank you to everybody for showing me how it’s done!

Back in Oz!

I’m back in Australia after a fantastic six week overseas trip spanning Ireland, Scotland and England – a month writing at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a trip to the Isle of Skye, Edinburgh, Stonehenge, Bath and London. But I must admit that I’m so happy to be back. It  is true what they say … home is where the heart is.  I missed the family a lot. My son T turned seventeen while I was away, and I had a serious attack of the guilts over that. Everybody rallied around however, and gave him a terrific birthday, with a home made Nigella Lawson, double-chocolate birthday cake.

But if anything, I’m ashamed to admit that I was more homesick for my animals than my family. I almost kidnapped a dog from outside a shop! It is wonderful to go around Pilyara, reintroducing myself to the dogs, the cats, the cows, the sheep, the horses and the ponies. Even the chooks seemed pleased to see me! My special dog, Teddy (yes, I do have a favourite) can’t stop smiling and is back on his blanket beside my bed as I write this. Of all the beautiful places I’ve seen overseas, nothing surpassed the beauty found in my own backyard.

The advance copies of Brumby’s Run arrived while I was overseas, so I was the last in the family to hold one. It was funny and frustrating having people send me photos of my own book! The official release date of July 2nd is fast approaching, and Penguin have sent me a daunting list of pre-publicity events, starting tomorrow with an interview for Stock and Land. I’m pretty nervous, but all my writer friends assure me this sort of thing is fun. I hope they’re right!

A Temple to Nature

I’m in London now. On Monday I fly back to Australia. A wonderful trip, but it’s time to go home. After six weeks away, I’m missing my family and animals more than I expected to. Now I can’t wait to return and enjoy the release of Brumby’s Run in a few weeks time. Advance copies are waiting at home, and I haven’t even seen them yet!

I’ve been to all sorts of amazing places since leaving the Tyrone Guthrie Centre: Dublin, Edinburgh, Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye, Stonehenge, Bath and the historic village of Lacock, entirely owned by the National Trust. Lacock is the place where Harry Potter was largely filmed. I even had the dubious experience of being robbed on the Tube.  But my blog tour of Ireland and the United Kingdom wouldn’t be complete without a visit to London’s 125 year old Natural History Museum.

The museum was purpose-built (I love that!) and is one of the finest Victorian buildings in England. Behind its magnificent Romanesque facade lies perhaps the world’s most important natural history collection. In the grand space of the Central Hall stands a full size replica of a 150-million-year-old Diplodocus skeleton. It has stood there since 1905 and is a full 26 metres long. Each exhibition is more amazing than the last: plants, birds, mammals, fossils, the earth hall, the wildlife garden, the Darwin centre … they’re all fascinating.

My favourite display was the exhibit of marine fossils. It features the first ichthyosaur ever found, discovered by blaze-trailing fossil finder, Mary Anning. There are also two skeletons of pregnant ichthyosaurs: in one case, three little foetus skeletons are visible between the mother’s ribs and in the second, the baby is forever frozen in the birthing process, with its tiny tail protruding from its mother’s body. Only a small fraction of the museum’s collection is on display. Behind the scenes, lie kilometre after kilometre of stored specimens. It makes me smile just to think such places exist in our world.

Cairngorms National Park

On my way to the Isle of Skye yesterday, I passed through Cairngorms National park. It contains Britain’s highest and most massive mountain range, and its biggest native forests. Everywhere you look, there are spectacular rivers and lochs, heather-covered moorlands and dramatic peaks. The park is a stronghold for wildlife.

The Cairngorms National Park is in north-east Scotland and was established in 2003. It covers an area of 4,528 km². The Highland Wildlife Park, within Cairngorms’ boundaries, looked like the only chance I might get to see some of Scotland’s most interesting animals. Like Ireland, Scotland has a formidable history of extinctions. Only a tiny fraction of original native forest cover remains. Eurasian Lynx lived here until 1,500 years ago. Brown bears became extinct in the 9th or 10th century and elk survived until about 1300. Wild boar and wild ox (Urus) died out by the  the 15th century. Auroch, huge cattle with sweeping horns which once roamed the forests of Europe and Scotland, have not been seen for nearly 400 year. The last known wolf was shot in Invernessshire in 1743.

Attempts at rewilding are being made. Scottish Natural Heritage have re-introduced the European Beaver using Norwegian stock. The species was found in the Highlands until the 15th century.  Wild Boar have come back to a large fenced area of the Dundreggan Estate in Glenmoriston. Apparently the owner of the Alladale estate north of Inverness wants to add wolves to a wilderness reserve, the first of its kind in Britain. For now I’ll have to settle for the wonderful animals on show at the Highland Wildlife Park. Rare species like Wildcats, Pine Martens and Capercaillies. Will wild individuals even exist in a few decade’s time? Scottish conservationists are doing their best. I take my hat off to them.