Meet Susanne Bellamy

Today we welcome Susanne Bellamy to the blog. Born and raised in Toowoomba, Susanne is an Aussie author of rural romance set in Australia. She also writes contemporary and suspense romances set in exciting and often exotic locations. She adores travel with her husband, both at home and overseas, and weaves stories around the settings and people she encounters. Mentoring aspiring writers, and working as a freelance editor keeps Susanne off the street!


Our country has stunning landscapes, which often become characters in their own right. Sometimes, so too do animals, especially in rural-set fiction.

Back in the dark ages when I was a child, we had budgies and a small bitsa dog my mother named Tiger. My husband is a dog lover with a particular fondness for German Shepherds. Cats send my husband into a sneezing frenzy and are to be avoided at all costs so we have always been a ‘dog family’.

We’ve had several Shepherds, starting with Ricky (Houdini hound extraordinaire) through to our current queen of the house, Freya. Then there was Clyde, the Welsh Springer spaniel with a talent for escaping so he could go scrub-bashing through the bush at the bottom of our property. He had such flexible paws that he actually climbed the fence!

Our string of dogs is a large part of why I often grant my characters the joy of a canine companion.

After the passing of our lovely Anna (Freya’s great-aunt), I wrote a short story in which she was the star who brought the protagonists together. Anna had such a beautiful nature and giving her a story of her own was a way of dealing with the grief of losing her. Second Chance Café.

Anna also inspired scenes between Paul, the hero of Starting Over, and his elderly collie, Jack. I still cry when I read those scenes, drawn from my grief in losing Anna.

In my newly released In the Heat of the Night (Bindarra Creek A Town Reborn), my heroine’s brother, Nico, is the dog lover. Thalia’s Greek migrant family owns the Cyprus Café in the heart of town, and Zeus is lost and lonely when his master ends up in hospital.

Zeus, Nico’s German Shepherd, trotted behind her, dropped and rested his head on Thalia’s feet. He whimpered, the sound echoing Thalia’s sense of Nico’s absence.

She bent down and stroked his head. “You’re missing him too, aren’t you, boy? I’ll take you for a walk later.”

Most of my stories are set in small town Australia, rural settings where animals are part of the life of the community. From the poddy calf in Hard Road Home, and the horses of Sarah, the endurance rider in Long Way Home to pets like Zeus and Anna, animals are special characters that enrich the lives of their owners and entertain readers.

Here’s a snippet of Hughie, the poddy calf:

Geilis shooed the poddy calf back through the broken fence and looked for a simple means to keep the fallen picket upright while she walked all the way to the work shed, retrieved tools and came back—on the quad bike next time. “I really don’t have time for this, little fella, so please, just stay there while I—” She grabbed a branch and rammed it into the hard dirt before angling it towards the picket. It held . . . for all of three seconds before the inquisitive calf nosed at her work. She jumped backwards as both branch and picket fell with dull thuds. “Drat and double drat.”

“Is that worse than a single damn?” Rick’s amused voice sounded nearby.
          Slapping her hands on her hips she faced him, embarrassment warring with mild relief. If she left the calf while she walked back to the shed, he’d be goodness knew where by the time she got back to the fence. In amongst the vines most likely. “See if you can do better—or, better still, why don’t you go back and get tools to fix this while I spend some time explaining to Hughie here why he isn’t allowed this side of the fence.”
          The calf nudged her in the backside and she turned and shooed him back into his paddock. Picking up the fallen picket she tried to hold it in place as the calf mooed in complaint.
          “Hughie?” Rick tipped his head and eyed off the calf determinedly pushing against her hand.
          “Yeah, like Hugh Hefner. The grass is always greener and all that.”
          Rick turned his attention to the fallen fence, picked up the branch and threaded it through the wires. He thrust the end of the branch into the picket hole with a thud. Eyeing off the calf, he fixed it with a stern look. “No touching that, Hughie-boy, unless you want to find out what prairie oysters mean. Got it?”
          The calf mooed as though it understood and trotted away.
Hard Road Home

If you like what you’ve read, please check out my books HERE.


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

 

Meet Wendy Lee Davies

Today I’d like you to meet Wendy Lee Davies, a relative newcomer to our Aussie rural fiction family. She began writing romances as a lark after leaving her communications and editing job of many years. 

Wendy won the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award in 2017 with her small-town contemporary romance, The Drover’s Rest. The same story (renamed Good Enough For Love prior to publication), was also a finalist in the 2017 Mid-American Romance Writer’s Fiction from the Heartland competition. So, over to you Wendy …


Landscapes are strange things I reckon. They evoke such a wide range of emotions, from deep longing all the way to abject fear. I think that’s why painters and photographers endeavour to capture them in their art. And writers do too.

My Cousin’s Farm

I’ve been roaming around Australian landscapes my entire life. One of my first memories is of piling into the family car and going for long drives into the countryside. We also visited my cousins often. They lived on a wheat and sheep farm in the northern part of Victoria, so shearing sheep, harvesting wheat and cooking over a wood stove all formed a part my growing up. It’s why my story – Good Enough For Love – is set in a fictional town right in the middle of the sheep and wheat growing area of Victoria. A landscape I know well.

From the time I was a teenager, I’ve loved bushwalking. I “discovered” this activity basically because a girlfriend demanded I join her on a walk. But I soon fell in love with it, not the least because we were always outnumbered by the guys on these great adventures – like two females (my girlfriend and me) to at least six guys. I walked the mountains and along some incredible rivers and vast, deserted beaches carrying everything we needed on our backs. And bushwalking led to cross country skiing. And then I got into cycling, especially cycle touring. (I’m about to boast, so forgive me.) I’ve ridden my bicycle from Brisbane to Sydney, from Sydney to Melbourne and from Launceston to Hobart. It is a wonderful way of immersing yourself in the landscape you are riding through. The hills, the scents, and the environment are up close and personal, I can tell you.

I love our landscapes. I adore vast mountain ranges disappearing off into the clouds. The vast forests of gum trees, where the light and shade play peek-a-boo while the scent of eucalypt permeates the air. And the rolling hills around Gippsland. Then there’s the red sand and huge vast vistas of the outback. I’ve done my best to capture it all in photographs, but it’s never as good as being there.

Being out in the ’great outdoors’ feeds my soul. Always has. Probably always will.

Iceland

Just a few weeks ago I was sitting by a bubbling river, in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the world (Iceland). I was sitting in the sun, completely alone, with snow-capped mountains in the background and no trees in sight, just enjoying the peace and solitude. (see picture left)

Then I got to thinking about all the emotions I’d experienced while travelling around this far-off land. Exhausted. Worried. Laughter. Annoyed and disgusted at my inability to do what I used to find so easy – walk up steep hills without huffing and puffing – in my younger years. Awestruck and gobsmacked by the sheer beauty before me. The sheer joy of being there capturing all this fascinating and wonderful scenery. And here I was, sitting there feeling so at ease, so at peace, that I never wanted to leave.

All that emotion… It’s not the first time I’ve felt those things. But this time I finally understood.

Landscapes are why I write small-town, country romances. The environment, the scenery, the whole landscape becomes a character, a presence that goes mostly unnoticed, but significant. It isn’t the landscape itself that makes my heroes and heroines react, but it reflects their deepest fears and their greatest joys. If done well, our Australian landscape can make any character feel insignificant, immaterial … or able to step up and overcome their own issues.

You see what I mean? Landscapes are strange. But where would we be without them?


Good Enough For Love
Moving to the country challenges everything she
knows…

When Amber Hutchinson inherits a country hotel, she plans to do it up, sell it, and move on. After all, living in the country never featured in her plans. That is until she comes across a handsome local sheep farmer.

He always tries to do the right thing…
When Zach Wentworth comes cross a gorgeous, blond-haired woman stuck in his hometown’s hotel window, trying to break in, naturally he tries to find out what’s going on.

Without the hotel, Willow’s Bend is likely to die a slow death. So, Zach does whatever he can to secure his town’s future. But doing the right thing means risking his heart. Again. Amber’s determined to make the hotel into a thriving business once more. On her own. She has little time for her growing attraction to Zach. Something she’s desperately trying to ignore because she knows it won’t last.

While the town gossips eagerly discuss every interaction between them, Amber and Zach must choose between protecting their hearts and taking a chance on love.

Get in touch with Wendy via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram and Bookbub.


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Fiona McArthur

This week, international best-selling Aussie author Fiona McArthur joins me on the blog. In her non-writing life she has worked as a midwife – hence the medical themes that recur in her books. The power and strength in women of all ages is a constant theme in Fiona’s books. To find out more, read on!


Hello Jennifer and readers.

Thanks for this fab series of blogs. There’s so much joy to be had with all the different books from Australian authors. One of the standouts for me is imagining the vast variety of vibrant landscapes described in our rural and outback books and the way each author portrays their connection to the land they write about. I think the scenery is so important that I like to think of that landscape as another character in my books.

The other really exciting part is sharing the strengths, the challenges and the joys of the characters who live in the more remote areas of Australia. I love writing about small rural townspeople, adventures in great outback landscapes, inhabitants of remote islands, and the station owners on far reaches of our great country.

I’ve had the most wonderful time with my outback books and of course there is always a birth, a baby or a medical emergency to be had. Think Call The Midwife meets Country Practice. As a retired midwife I can’t help myself.

So babies or medical emergencies in outback Queensland, Western Queensland, remote New South Wales like Broken Hill, and all that land that stretches away down to Victoria across to Northern Territory and up towards Queensland.

At the moment, I’m writing about the far north, and loving it, but my first book for Penguin was set in a town very similar to Windora in Western Queensland. I called the town and the book Red Sand Sunrise and I can still see in my mind’s eye that huge red sand hill outside the town. I just love that feeling of solitude sitting on top of that rolling sea of beautiful big crystals of bright orange sand at sunrise. I really wanted to share that and other beautiful aspects of Australia in each new setting with my readers.

When I wrote The Homestead Girls and Heart Of The Sky they were set around Broken Hill, in New South Wales. We stayed at a station twenty miles out of town called Mount Gipps Station, which used to be a million acres, and was the original station where the ‘line of load’ that body or ore that was discovered at Broken Hill. Mount Gipps Station holds the most incredible variety of rocks, crystals and stones in rows like skeletal ridges and the paddocks roll away with small scrubby bushes and hidden hollows. There are sandy curves of the creek beds with huge white-trunked gums in the middle and gully’s that close in as you drive down them. It’s an arid but magical place.

The station couple I met there were the epitome of down-to-earth, brave, hard-working, laid-back heroes and were just all-out inspirational with their ability to take the tough times with the good times and turn their hands to anything that needed to be done.

I have this memory of Kym driving off with her dogs on this quad bike up to the sheep yards. She makes me smile just thinking about her. You might have seen her mailbox that I posted to my Homestead Girls Facebook page. I love it so much I actually added it to two books.

Which brings me to my new release, The Desert Midwife. The Mount Gipps mailbox is in there too. Such fun.

The Desert Midwife is set in central Australia. Uluru has a starring role and there’s a hospital in Alice Springs and a medical centre near Uluru to have emergencies in. My heroine, Ava, is part of a long-standing station family whittled down to three generations of women. Ava’s younger brother, Jock, is being destroyed by the drought and his feelings of failure to secure the futures of all the women he loves.

Our hero, fly in fly out Dr Zach, is a widower, who has come to Alice Springs to briefly escape the memories of the prolonged and tragic death of his wife in Sydney and his own guilt as the driver of the car she was so badly injured in.

Zac meets Ava, with instant attraction on both sides. But how can there be any future when he’s definitely a city guy and she is the Desert Midwife? Pop in another nasty car accident, and Zac’s amnesia really puts a hold on their relationship.

The Desert Midwife is about families pulling together in tough times, about the beauty and magic of Uluru which I hope inspires readers who haven’t seen its majesty to venture the distance out there, and about having faith and trust that things will work out if we have the belief. I hope you will pick up the book, lose yourself in the desert, and smile at the end when you put it down. With warmest wishes for happy reading
Xx Fi


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Juanita Kees

Today I’d like you to meet well-known Aussie author Juanita Kees. She creates emotionally engaging worlds steeped in romance, suspense, mystery and intrigue, set in dusty, rural outback Australia and also on the NASCAR racetracks of America.

Her small town and Australian rural romances have made the Amazon bestseller and top 100 lists. Juanita writes mostly contemporary and Australian rural romantic suspense but also likes to dabble in the ponds of fantasy and paranormal with Greek gods brought to life in the 21st century. When she’s not writing, Juanita is mother to three grown boys and has a passion for fast cars and country living. Now it’s over to Juanita!


Finding love and hope in small towns with dark secrets …

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Jennifer.

Born and raised in Africa, I always thought the Serengeti was the coolest place in the world, and that wildlife didn’t exist outside of elephants, rhino, lions and giraffe. But from the early age of six, I developed a love affair with Australia, kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas, most likely thanks to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. In the late nineties, my dreams were realised when we emigrated to Western Australia and here, I discovered a whole new world. I remember leaving Perth airport and there were kangaroos in the fields on the way out. Sadly, they’re all gone now as the airport has grown and expanded.

Valley of the Giants

Western Australia has some of the wildest, prettiest coastline. Inland is filled with treasures too, like Karajini National Park to the north-west with its breathtaking gorges, land of the Banyjima, Kurrama and Innawonga people. Down to the south-east, Albany boasts blow-holes that shoot fountains of water up through the rocks, driven by the sheer force of nature and the sea. And in Walpole, you can walk through the treetops in the Valley of the Giants amid the amazing Karri trees. What I love most about the walk is the smell of the earth, the trees and the incredible peaceful silence when you’re deep in the forest.

Closer to home is my favourite place, hidden deep in the Perth hills, Araluen Botanical Park. This is where I set my very first series, Under the Law. Given the park’s history, it seemed like the perfect location for a group of troubled youths, and the woman set on helping them, to turn their lives around.

Kookaburra

In 1929, Australian businessman, politician and founder of the Young Australia League, J.J. Simons, built a holiday camp for his youth organisation on 59 hectares in a misty valley in Roleystone. The name he gave it was Araluen, an Eastern States Aboriginal word meaning “singing waters,” “running waters” or “place of lilies.” The buildings and structures throughout Araluen were built using local stone and timber, all constructed by league members and volunteers. An attractive centrepiece in the park is The Grove of the Unforgotten built in memory of eighty-eight Young Australia League members killed in World War I. Constructed in a series of terraces, water cascades into the pool of reflection. Every year, on Remembrance Day, the park is full of red poppies.

In the early 2000’s, a change in employment found me travelling inland to the (then) small gold mining town of Boddington, snuggled in the wheatbelt. My weekly drive was filled with rolling landscapes, canola fields, vineyards, cattle and sheep farms, and a long road into a world you’d never guess existed buried deep behind nature. In contrast, the mine was a huge, arid red scar on the landscape. I was very happy to learn that the land is steadily being rehabilitated in keeping with land-owner agreements. That got me thinking about the dwindling farms that gave way to those seeking more secure employment with the mine and wondering how farmers and miners got along. And so, the Wongan Creek series was born.

Alaska & my handsome son

In all my Australian Rural stories, I try to write in a special animal or two. Home to Bindarra Creek stars Muttley, the orphaned kangaroo, and a cheeky cockatoo named Curly. In Whispers at Wongan Creek, Travis owns a very sexy horse named Fantasia, old man Harry’s sheep love to wander and his trusty dog, Robbie, never leaves his side. Robbie becomes a life-saving hero in both Whispers and Shadows over Wongan Creek. In Secrets at Wongan Creek, hero Harley has a Catahoula Leopard Dog named Loki whose character was inspired by my crazy grandfurbaby, Alaska. And last but not least, is Lucky, Fen’s three-legged bearded dragon who also becomes a hero in Shadows Over Wongan Creek.

I love this wonderful, inspiring, vibrant land. There are stories to tell everywhere.

Secrets abound in the small Western Australian farming community of Wongan Creek. Old secrets resurface and new ones come to town, drawing the community together as gold fever threatens to tear their town apart.

Rural romance at its dusty best ~ Bree (Goodreads)

Shadows over Wongan Creek (Book 3 – Wongan Creek Stories)

When the shadows ride in Wongan Creek…Fenella Rose-Waterman is happy running The Cranky Lizard winery until a broken relationship lifts the lid on the Pandora’s Box of her past. After years of repressed memories haunting her dreams, she is forced to face the truth to find justice. But with truth comes a danger that puts everyone she loves at risk.

Kieran Murphy left Wongan Creek a newly-wed and returned a widower. He believes he and his young son will find healing in the town that healed him once before. Instead, he finds the woman he loved running scared, her life in turmoil and her business under threat.

As the shadows of the past gather on the horizon, will they lose their chance of happiness or will they find healing together?

Kobo ~ Amazon AU ~ Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ iTunes ~ Google Books ~ Harper Collins ~ Romance.com.au
Juanita loves to hear from fans and enjoys sharing her writing journey: Join her at her website, on Twitter, on Facebook or follow her on BookBub


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Leisl Leighton

Today I’d like to introduce you to Aussie author Leisl Leighton, a fellow horse lover! Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination.

A voracious reader and born performer, she has had a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants. She writes rural romatic suspense and paranormal romance. President of Romance Writers of Australia from 2014-2017.


ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, VICTORIAN ALPS & HORSE RIDING

All my published novels so far have rural settings, mostly in mountainous or farmland regions, and the only explanation I can give is that I feel so at home where there are hills and mountains and, if I’m very lucky, snow.

When I was younger, my family holidays were mostly to the snow or going down to Merricks, near Red Hill, or up to Marysville, but some of my most memorable holidays have been ones where there have been trips into mountainous regions, and even better, if there is horse riding involved.

When I was nine, I started having horse riding lessons. I was by no means a natural, but I loved horses and I desperately wanted to be able to ride proficiently, with the hope I might have a horse one day. That particular dream never eventuated, but the horse-riding lessons led into some of my most memorable holidays.

It started when a family friend who also loved horses, the bush and horse riding, took me on a 5-day horse riding trek from Omeo through the Victorian Alpine region when I was thirteen. We rode along the high plains and down into the valleys, across rivers and back up again, staying in stockman’s huts and old woolsheds. I skinned rabbits, avoided snakes, survived sleeping in a shed with spiders as big as my face, and it was amazing and exhilarating and tiring and so much fun I still remember it vividly to this day. My sister was always a little jealous she didn’t get to come with me and our family friend, so mum and dad decided to enrol us in a horse riding camp down near Anglesea where we got to ride through the state forest and learn to look after the horses. We rode through heat and torrential rain, cold so profound that it snowed and we loved every moment. We did this every year through high school, and it had such a profound effect on me, that my husband thought it the perfect place to propose to me. He sneakily organised a special ride with just us and a stop in a lovely scenic place so he could pop the question. So romantic!

But I digress. Years after we finished high school and stopped going to the camps, my sister and I wanted to experience horse riding through the bush again. She particularly wanted to do a ride through the Victorian Alps and the family friend who had taken me all those years ago was keen to come with us too.

We found a place near Merrijig up near Mt Buller that took people on different length horse treks. Riding up Mt Stirling to Craig’s Hut and then down into the Howqua Valley and around Mt Buller. Staying in some of the famous old sheep yard flats and camping every night. It was a four day trek and we had the time of our lives. Out of touch with civilization – no phone signal for most of the time, which was really very relaxing. Riding hard all day through gorgeous mountain country. Setting up a tent every night with every muscle aching. Falling asleep in the cold autumn nights to wake to the kind of fresh you don’t get anywhere else. We are keen to go again.

Walhalla

It was on this trek that I started having an idea about a suspense novel set in an alpine region on a horse-riding stud. The idea bloomed and grew and before I knew it, I was writing a coming home novel with growing suspense and a hot and feisty romance. That book turned into Climbing Fear. It’s set near the small ex-goldmining town of Walhalla at the southern end of the Victorian Alps – a charming place I visited years ago when tour managing a theatre restaurant show around the La Trobe Valley.  I poured all my love of the alpine region and the knowledge gained from my horse riding treks into the story. I hope the reader gets an amazing sense of the beauty of the Victorian Alps and the joy I feel when I leave civilisation behind on the back of a horse, seeing our gorgeous bush in a way that our early settlers did (although obviously not as hard as they had it!) I also hope they find Nat and Reid’s journeys home to discover themselves and each other, as fascinating and visceral as the setting.

Climbing Fear

A Coalcliff Stud novel—His beloved home is under threat, and with it the beautiful, haunted woman he’s never been able to forget …

X-Treme TV sports star Reid Stratton has everything—until his best friend falls to his death on a climb while shooting their show. In the fierce media fallout, Reid begins to question everything about himself. Crippled by a new fear of climbing, Reid returns to CoalCliff Stud, his family’s horse farm, to recover.

Single mother Natalia Robinson is determined to start afresh, away from the shadow of her past. A job at CoalCliff Stud where she lived as a child is the perfect opportunity to live the quiet life she always wanted. But she is unprepared to see Reid, and is even more unprepared for the passion that still burns between them.

But after a series of menacing events threaten the new home she is trying to build, Nat realises that Reid is the only person she can rely on to keep her and her daughter safe. Together, Reid and Nat must face the pasts that haunt them if they are to survive the present and forge a future of hope.

Climbing Fear is available at iTunes, AmazonKobo and Google Play

Dangerous Echoes: Book 1 of the Echo Springs Series
iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, Amazon

Or you can buy the four book series, Echo Springs in paperback at Big W, Kmart and online at Angus&Robertson, Booktopia, The Nile, Boomerang Books, Dymocks

If you’d like to know more about Leisl, her books, or connect with her online, you can visit her webpage, follow her on twitter @LeislLeighton or like her Facebook page.


 

Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Kim Kelly

Today I’m introducing Aussie author Kim Kelly, who is also a widely respected book editor. Stories fill her everyday – most nights, too – and it’s love that fuels her intellectual engine. In fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life! Over to Kim …


Home

Australia is a bold, romantic character herself and she makes her presence felt in all my novels, whether they’re set in coastal Sydney, where I was born and raised, or west of the Great Divide, where love has taken me. We’re never stuck for dramatic backdrops in this country, are we? From glittering harbourside cities to red desert vistas that stretch on forever under bright blue skies, we have it all.

My heart country lies in the centre of New South Wales, beyond the rugged sandstone escarpments of the Blue Mountains. This slice of Australia I call home today is a land of wide rolling hills, tall sprawling eucalypts and golden sunsets, circling the tiny village of Millthorpe, where summer is sun-crisped and winter snow-dusted.

Beneath rich layers of basalt soil, these hills are full of gold, too, and the whisperings of history. Almost the minute I moved here, I knew I was going to have to write a goldrush tale, and so l did: Lady Bird & The Fox, published just last year, a very Australian wild west story of bushrangers, reckless riding, and a quest for a place to call home.

This is a place where, in the dawn mists, I can almost see the Wiradjuri warriors who fought their fierce guerrilla war against the British army for their country – a country as big as England. Land that was never ceded by treaty of any kind.

The privilege I feel at being lucky enough to live here sings through everything I write. How did this scrappy descendant of Irish and German immigrants get here at all? It’s this sense of wonder and curiosity that almost fifteen years ago drove me to write my first novel, Black Diamonds, set in the coalfields of Lithgow at the foot of the mountains, during the First World War. It’s a story that looks up at the sandstone cliff-faces of the mountains, flashing fire under the setting sun, and says: Wow.

Following the footsteps of my real-life falling in love, my next novel, This Red Earth, traces paths further west, out to the broad plains of Nyngan and the drought that gripped the country there during the Second World War. My muse de bloke, Deano, who works in exploration, was out that way at a time when I was wondering where on earth I was. He has a way of drawing me home wherever he is, sending me photographs from all over, especially of birds and flowers, many of them finding their way into my stories too: a willy wagtail on a fence post; a tiny purple daisy sprung from copper dirt; overgrown railway tracks to nowhere.

When Deano was surveying underground at Hill End, in the lonely, ghost-town high country north of Bathurst, he took me out along the original, crumbling bridle track in a four-wheel-drive that seemed almost as ancient as the towering range through which the old road snakes. Breathtaking. Terrifying. And it inspired another novel, Paper Daisies, set in that same country at the turn of the twentieth century, exploring some worse terrors that women in those days too often faced alone. But when the heroine of that story breaks into a sweat along that treacherous track, you’ll know there’s a bit of autobiographical detail going on there.

There really is no place like the home that pulls you back and back, though. My latest tale, Sunshine, is set on the banks of the Darling River, near Bourke, on the desert’s edge in the north west, where Deano was born. I’d wanted to write a story for him, of him, for a long time, but stories often take their own good time. Sunshine takes us to 1921, when the river was high and healthy, and ripe for that country’s first citrus crop. A time of soldiers returning to rebuild shattered lives, finding their own paths through healing, and remaking home by their own hands and hearts.

But it’s the home I wake up to every morning that gives me an endless, everyday joy. When Deano and I were looking for our forever patch, driving around the dusty country lanes of Millthorpe, we found lovely drifts of sky-coloured blooms along the verges. I had no idea what they were, so of course I had to fossick for the facts straightaway. It was chicory, a crop grown here a century ago, now gone wild. On wondering how this hardy, cheerful little plant got here from Europe, I wondered again how I’d got here, too, and Wild Chicory was born. It’s a love song to my grandmother, and to every immigrant who’s ended up here, searching for home. We’re all just beautiful weeds.

Latest book: Sunshine by Kim Kelly

A tale of longing, loss and growing love under the bright Australian sun.

It’s 1921 and the Great War has left in its wake untold tragedy, not only in lives lost, but in the guilt of survivors, the deep-set scars of old wounds and the sting of redoubled bigotries.

In the tiny hamlet of Sunshine, on the far-flung desert’s edge, three very different ex-servicemen – Jack Bell, an Aboriginal horseman; Snow McGlynn, a laconic, curmudgeonly farmer; and Art Lovelee, an eccentric engineer – find themselves sharing a finger of farmland along the Darling River, and not much else. That is, until Art’s wife Grace, a battle-hardened nurse, gets to work on them all with her no-nonsense wisdom.

Told with Kelly’s inimitable wit and warmth, Sunshine is a very Australian tale of home, hope and healing, of the power of growing life and love, and discovering that we are each other’s greatest gifts.

Author bio

Kim Kelly is the author of eight novels exploring Australia and its history, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory and The Blue Mile, and UK Pigeonhole favourite, Paper Daisies. Her stories shine a bright light on some forgotten corners of the past and tell the tales of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

Originally from Sydney, today Kim lives on a small rural property in central New South Wales just outside the tiny gold-rush village of Millthorpe, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.

Praise for Kim Kelly
‘ … colourful, evocative and energetic’ – Sydney Morning Herald
‘Kelly is a masterful creator of character and voice’ – Julian Leatherdale
‘Why can’t more people write like this?’ – The Age

Buy Sunshine paperback at Booktopia, Book Depository and all other major online retailers. Buy the ebook at: Amazon, IBooks, Kobo and Google Play.

You’ll find Kim at her website, kimkellyauthor.com, and on Facebook (@KimKellyAuthor), Twitter (@KimKellyAuthor) and Instagram (@kimkellyauthor)


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Sandie Docker

Today I’m introducing Aussie author Sandie Docker. Sandie writes about love, loss, family and small country towns. Her debut novel, The Kookaburra Creek Café, was released in April 2018. The Cottage At Rosella Cove was released in January, 2019 and her third novel The Banksia Bay Beach Shack is scheduled for release in March 2020.

Now it’s over to Sandie!


 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Jennifer.

When I first started writing, I was living and working in London. Having grown up in Coffs Harbour, back when it was a town of only 20,000 people, London was a far cry from the small coastal upbringing of my youth. So far from home in a huge anonymous city and missing the familiarity and community that comes with small Aussie towns, it isn’t surprising, I guess, that my first manuscript – you know that one that all authors have that will never see the light day – was set in my home town of Coffs.

Setting that first manuscript in my home town though, I found it really difficult to separate myself from the story. And the manuscript was a disaster. But I’d fallen in love with writing and when I started my next manuscript, I decided to set it in a fictional small town, drawing on my experiences growing up in and around the country to colour my made-up place. The freedom I found in that approach worked for me and I now set all of my novels in small, fictional Aussie towns.

The beauty for me of writing about small Australian towns is the variety of landscapes you can draw on – the dry dusty forlorn streets of Lawson’s Ridge in The Kookaburra Creek Café, to the lush patchwork peninsular jutting into the sea in The Cottage At Rosella Cove, to the banksia covered hills rolling into the surf in The Banksia Bay Beach Shack. The landscape we have in Australia is vast and beautiful and lends itself so well to storytelling – so often in Australian novels the towns themselves becoming characters, integral elements without which the story will fall apart. When I signed my contract with Penguin, they changed the working titles of my novels to champion the names of the towns they are set in, as they saw how important the setting is in my writing.

Another reason why I love writing about small Aussie towns is the unique cast of characters you can create to populate these wonderful places. Growing up in a small town, it was annoying that everyone knew everybody’s business, especially as a teenager. But as a writer, it is a gift. Often on the surface people as a whole seem homogenous, but when you intimately get to know someone, the way you do by default in small towns, you can know the quirks that make them special, know the secrets that motivate their every action, know the history that informs who they are. The depth you can go to as a writer when creating characters in small towns, excites me every time I open my laptop. I have found on this writing journey, that these are the characters I most enjoy crafting – Hattie in Kookaburra Creek, with her ever-changing coloured hair stripe and penchant for the dramatic; Ivy in Rosella Cove, and her letters to Tom with acerbic observations of her tight-knit community; and still ‘under construction’ Yvonne in Banksia Bay, a woman in her seventies who wears board shorts and ferries people from place to place in her beat up kombi.

Inspiration for The Banksia Bay Beach Shack

There is a richness and depths to Australian small towns – the harsh and picturesque landscapes, the soulful and eccentric characters – that I love spending my time exploring, that I love sharing with my readers.

I live in the city now, by virtue of my husband’s job, but I ache to return to the physical beauty and sense of community of a quiet little town, full of quirky neighbours, somewhere on the coast that I can call home.

 

Bio

Sandie Docker grew up in Coffs Harbour, and first fell in love with reading when her father introduced her to fantasy books as a teenager. Her love of Women’s Fiction began when she first read Jane Austen for the HSC. Writing about love, loss, family and small country towns, her debut novel, The Kookaburra Creek Café, was released in April 2018, The Cottage At Rosella Cove was released January, 2019 and her third novel The Banksia Bay Beach Shack is scheduled for release in March 2020.

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Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Jenn J McLeod

Today I’d like you to meet Jenn J McLeod, a dear friend of mine and a marvellous rural Aussie author. She is a real-life nomad, living on the road, and spinning fabulous stories about our vast and unique country. Now, over to Jenn! 🙂


Thanks Jen. We have so much in common (besides a great moniker and a hotel named after us in Mt Gambier!): We are both wildlife warriors (and animal advocates in general) and we both love the land.

As Australia’s nomadic novelist (on the road fulltime since 2014 in a purple and white caravan named Myrtle the Turtle) I am constantly discovering new things and being inspired by the remarkable contrast and the vastness of this country.

Landscape has always been a big part of my small-town fiction and I like to put as much love into my settings as I do my characters. But it was my 5th novel – A Place to Remember — that became a turning point for me. In fact, if an author of women’s fiction is allowed an opus, A Place to Remember would be mine. (A sprawling multi-generational romantic saga about two women—a mother and a daughter—who discover love on the same central Queensland cattle station three decades apart.)

So many things guided me to write this story, starting with a lovely couple we met on the road in 2014 who said, “Come and stay on our property in Qld. We have lots of room”. So we did, and I now truly believe two things: we all have travel ‘guides’ (and I don’t mean Lonely Planet); and that people come into our lives for a reason.
The Barrett family from Henderson Park Farm Retreat (near Yeppoon) had expected we’d stay a month. We stayed three! Camped – literally – in a paddock, I got to listen to the family’s many stories by night. Then each day, amidst the sights, sounds and smells of the country, I wrote like a crazy person. When we finally drove away (with the clanking of a big chain and padlock behind us—only joking, I think!) I had a completed draft of A Place to Remember—an epic tale of love lost and found—and for the next 18 months I reworked the storyline with those Henderson Park ‘guides’ sitting on my shoulder, prompting me, and helping me imagine I was still on the land that inspired the story. I will always be grateful to the Barrett family who welcome my visits every year.
We have a huge country crying out for sprawling stories set on equally sprawling cattle stations. Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds, three decades ago) was my introduction to Aussie authors writing in this romantic saga genre, and beautifully woven throughout her storytelling is the harshness of the setting that is Drogheda. I wanted to do the same, so I created Iron Pot Hill Farm Retreat, using Henderson Park’s ancestors as my muse.
This land of ours is so big and beautiful and different every day if we choose to look at the detail—the big, the small, the beautiful, the special, the crazy! I love it all. And so the journey continues. I’m happy to stay nomadic for a while yet, to keep writing stories, and ticking places off the bucket list.

And if you’d like to see the inspirational landscape and characters (including Ava’s cottage, John’s horse, Paddy, and Coco the dog) follow the link to my Author Inspiration Photo Album: https://www.jennjmcleod.com/hpk/

In 2017, the rights for A Place to Remember were bought by a UK Publisher, Head of Zeus, and by the same person who acquired The Thorn Birds thirty years earlier. She saw something special in the landscape and the story, too, and for that reason Henderson Park Farm Retreat (www.hendersonpark.com.au) will always be a place to remember for me.


Jenn J McLeod moved to the Coffs Coast in 2004 and operated a Sawtell cafe and a B&B before selling everything in 2014 to live a nomadic life in a caravan she calls Myrtle the Turtle. Jenn is best known for her Seasons Collection of stories – four life-affirming tales of friendship, family, and contemporary country life, including the bestselling House for all Seasons. Her fifth novel, A Place to Remember, can be ordered in print through bookshops, as an e-book, and in audio. (Just ask your library to add it to their catalogue.)

You can connect with Jenn online where she wastes good writing time posting travel pics and having fun on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @jennjmcleod_nomadicnovelist
www.jennjmcleod.com 


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

 

Meet Mary-Anne O’Connor

Today I’d like to introduce Aussie author Mary-Anne O’Connor. I was thrilled to discover that Mary-Anne is the daughter of my favourite Australian landscape painter, Kevin Best. I have his glorious prints all over my house! 🙂 So it’s an honour to welcome Mary-Anne, who displays the same passion for nature and the Australian bush as does her father.


Hi Jennifer, and thanks for having me on your blog.

As an artist’s daughter you do tend to see things a little differently, as evident last Saturday morning as I stared out the window of a bus heading to the Hunter Valley on a girls’ day out. Most of the women were chatting about their children and their jobs, but characteristically I was mesmerised by nature, in particular the eucalypt forest in the foggy morning light.

‘Look at the bracken. Isn’t it lovely?’ I muttered to the great amusement of my friend alongside.

‘And that, ladies, is Mary-Anne in a nutshell,’ she proclaimed, adding, ‘what the hell is bracken?’

‘It’s the pretty undergrowth, see? I love it in the morning in all those shades of green with the dew still clinging on…’

‘You mean all the weeds.’

I could only shrug and giggle and make my old claim. ‘It’s not my fault. I’m the daughter of an artist.’

Mary-Anne and her father, acclaimed artist Kevin Best

Kevin Best OAM was a well-loved Australian artist who was also my adored Dad, and he taught me to be an observer of life. I was raised to notice the bracken. I was also raised to notice the light that edges a blue gum tree, the overlapping of giant clouds as they drift on a cerulean blue sky, the lacey froth of fanning waves sinking on the sand. The glory of sunsets and sunrises that paint their own unique masterpieces every single day. What a wonderful privilege it was to be his child, and what insight he gave me, an aspiring writer, as I sought to capture what he saw and painted with words.

The trick, of course, is to get scenery scenes just right. You don’t want to wax lyrical about the bracken for too long in case your bored reader skims, flicks or gives up altogether and goes in search of greener literary pastures. Nor do you want to just lightly touch on the setting and leave them a bit ho-hum about the gorgeous natural surroundings affecting the mood of the character. E.g. a softly stirring breeze though the wild, nodding undergrowth surely won’t hurt in getting your leads in the natural state.  (Just don’t call them weeds. Bit of a romance-killer word right there.)

by Kevin Best

Artists do see things differently, beyond mere observation or even appreciation. They take time, for a start. And they take in detail in ways I doubt many would consider, but of course that’s all part of the artistic process. Dad and I were on the same creative wavelength like that. For example, we always rang each other if there was an especially good sunset on show, phone calls that consisted of few words. ‘Sunset.’ ‘Rightio.’ There was plenty of time to converse after it was over, and his summations would be about colour and composition and light, whereas mine would be about metaphors or mood or serenity. It’s something that never switches off, that detailed and idyllic perspective. I suppose to others it does seem a bit odd, this driving need to capture and hold on to such fleeting moments. But perhaps that’s why. Without it I suppose life would seem faster, less comforting. Emptier. And really, it’s just natural, all this nature loving. We are fundamentally part of the scenery, after all.

I have many things to thank my father for: his guidance, his enthusiasm, his generosity and wisdom, but most of all I am grateful that he also taught me to be still and to observe. Eventually some of that reflection finds it’s way into my stories, just as it did in his paintings. Then others may end up seeing it too and have their own little moments of serenity as they read about that glorious sunlight on a crowded city train, or envisage the waves sinking as they munch on their sandwich at their computer. It’s worth capturing, even the humble bracken, because it reminds us that living is really, quite simply, all about the moments. And the more precious the moments, the more precious the life.


A painting of Mary-Anne by her father

Mary-Anne O’Connor nee Best grew up in Wahroonga in the Bushland Shire of Hornsby-Kuringai, northern Sydney. The youngest of six children, her childhood was spent exploring the local bush and playing music with her siblings and close neighbours.

An avid reader, she devoured her mother Dorn’s extensive library and was often found trying to finish a chapter by torchlight late at night. She also began to fill every blank piece of paper in the house with stories and drawings of her own and dreamt of becoming a writer one day.

When she was twelve her father, Kevin Best, left his established career in the stock-market to become one of Australia’s best-loved artists. The perseverance and ultimate triumph she witnessed during those years left her inspired to follow in his footsteps and pursue her own creative aspirations. A colourful marketing career followed, along with the completion of an education/arts degree with specialities in literature, music and environment. During this time she also co-wrote two books with her father, A Brush with Light and Secrets of the Brush. Work then began on her first major novel, Gallipoli Street. This work gained critical acclaim and finished at #3 for debut novels in Australia in 2015. Her second novel Worth Fighting For was published in October 2016 and also became a bestseller as did her third, War Flower in 2017. Her new novel, In A Great Southern Land, was released in March 2019 and is receiving much acclaim.

Mary-Anne has drawn on her love of the Australian bush, her fascination with her own family history and her deep, abiding respect for the men and women who carried our nation through turbulent, formative times to produce these novels. They were written in her office at home, surrounded by her grandfather’s war memorabilia and beneath a long window that overlooks her beloved gum trees. Mary-Anne still lives in the Bushland Shire with her husband Anthony, their two sons, Jimmy and Jack, and their very spoilt dog, Saxon.


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!

Meet Leanne Lovegrove

 

Firstly I’d like to wish a belated Happy Mother’s day to all the mums out there, including today’s featured writer Leanne (and to me 🙂 !)

Today on my rural author showcase I’m introducing Leanne Lovegrove – author, lawyer, wife, mother and lover of all things romance. Her job as a lawyer has caused her addiction to coffee and pinot noir, but it also provides her with endless story ideas. Leanne’s latest novel, Illegal Love was released on 10 May 2019. Her books are available in print through Amazon and as ebooks.


 

Thanks very much Jennifer for having me on your Blog.

There are so many elements that go into a fantastic story – one that readers will love and remember long after they’ve turned the last page. For me, these elements include romance, secrets, unforgettable and authentic characters that triumph over adversity and a compelling story. But there’s something else that is essential – setting.

Maleny

In my debut novel, Unexpected Delivery, it was the setting of my fictional country town loosely based on the Queensland hinterland town of Maleny that centred my story. I was drawn to that area for many reasons.

Being born and bred a city girl, I have spent a great deal of my time trying to get away from the urban environment and yearning for the vast, rolling green hills of the country. Living in Brisbane, I am drawn to the entire east coast of Queensland with the majestic Barrier Reef and coastal towns of the North, but closer to home, one of my favourite spots is the Sunshine Coast and its hinterland. It’s a diverse area where one moment you can be walking along the long stretches of sandy beach and the next, inhaling the fresh, clear air of the mountains.

Maleny was a perfect spot to set my story in Unexpected Delivery as a dairy farm was central to the plot. Plus it was a girl leaves the city type of story and Maleny, only 1.5 hours from Brisbane was perfect. But it’s always been a favourite spot of mine and if you ever get the chance, you must visit.

One of the pathways my character wanders around in New Farm

My newest release, Illegal Love out on 10 May 2019, is based in Brisbane but in the surrounds of a prestigious old girl’s school and the quaint alleyways and paths surrounding the iconic New Farm park area. I also send my couple to exotic and beautiful Hoi An in Vietnam. My current work in progress commences on isolated and remote but deeply atmospheric Bruny Island in the 1950’s and later, Hobart, Tasmania. Our Australian landscape can enrich and add so many layers to the story.

 

This is the view from the yard at the cattle farm

Unlike many writers, setting may not always come to me first. That’s usually the spark of an idea about the characters and how they will drive the story, but setting is almost certainly next. Another of my favourite spots is the Scenic Rim. My family often spends time on an operational cattle farm located at the base of the Lamington National Park ranges. There is no internet and only isolation and each other for company. It’s the perfect getaway.

 

The Noosa Headlands

Whilst I’m preparing to edit my next novel, a new story idea is brewing. I am picturing Noosa Heads and more particularly the Noosa National Park. There is a walk around the headland that takes your breath away with its secret coves, beaches and rocky cliffs. I might be biased, but it is among the most gorgeous Australian landscapes we have.

In order to clear my mind or work out messy plot holes, a walk on one of our beaches always does the trick. It’s one of my favourite places to walk and think. We are very lucky to have such diverse and amazing landscapes right here in Australia and for me, in Queensland.


Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!