Research Trips

Research trips 1I’m off tomorrow on a research trip for my new novel, working title Turtle Reef. I know we live in a time where a vast amount of information is at our fingertips through the internet, without even leaving our desk. Books, histories, documentaries and academic journals are available online, and they are invaluable for authors constructing stories set outside their regular world.

research trips 2However it’s still important if possible to physically spend time with a setting to capture it authentically. No amount of reading could convey the true grandeur of the high country, or the enchanted forests of the Bunya Mountains, or the evening beauty of reflected stars in the Murray’s dark waters. It’s enormously helpful for writers to experience these things first hand. Smells are especially hard to grasp without being there. A vivid imagination can create a world, but the eye of a keen observer can truly bring it to life.

Research trips 3That’s why I’m off to Queensland tomorrow to spend time in cane country, and also on Lady Elliot Island at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. The blurb for my current work-in-progress goes something like this.

‘Unlucky-in-love zoologist Zoe King has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to the small sugar town of Kiawa means a fresh start and she is charmed by the region’s beauty – by its rivers and rainforests. By its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast.  And by its people – its farmers and fishermen, unhurried and down to earth, proud of their traditions.

Her work at the Reef Centre provides all the passion she needs and Zoe finds a friend in Bridget, the centre’s director. So the last thing she expects is to fall for her boss’s boyfriend, cane king Quinn Cooper. When animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. To protect the reef must she betray the man she loves?’

How fantastic, to be able to spend some more time in this beautiful part of Australia. The manuscript and I are going to have a ball!

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Nearly There …

Gwydir Wetlands

Credit: Daryl Albertson – Gwydir Wetlands

My new book (working title Billabong) is due for submission to Penguin on Monday. I’m putting the final touches on the first draft … and it’s good, if I do say so myself! The story is set on an imaginary river in the Murray-Darling basin, somewhere in north-western NSW near the junction of the Namoi and the Barwon – land of the Kamilaroi nation.

Brolga 2It’s a star-crossed love story between a cotton grower and a floodplains grazier. For riverine farmer Nina Moore, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River is the most precious place on earth. Her dream is to buy Billabong Bend and protect it forever, but she’s not the only one wanting the land. When Rocco, her childhood sweetheart, returns to the river, old feelings rekindle and she thinks she has an ally. But a tragic death divides loyalties, tears apart their fledgling romance and turns her dream into a nightmare. Will Nina win the battle for Billabong? Or will the man she once loved destroy the wild wetlands she holds so close to her heart?

Egret 3It’s a story about first love – that original blinding passion that is never forgotten. When you believe that anything is possible. When you first believe in something more than yourself. But it’s also the story of a river, of water use in a thirsty land, and the division and conflict it inevitably causes. And if you love birds like I do, particularly our magnificent wetland birds, you’re in for a real treat!

Rural Romance AuthorsAnyway, I’d better stop talking and go back to polishing that first draft. I’ll finish with a bit of  Aussie rural author-watching, instead of bird-watching. This photo was taken at a recent conference, and is courtesy of Cathryn Hein. How many can you identify?

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