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 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 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 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 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!

 

Meet Renee Dahlia

Today I’d like to introduce a newcomer to our Aussie rural fiction family, author Renee Dahlia. Her Merindah Park series is set in country Victoria, in a fictional town near Waranga Lake Basin. ‘Waranga’ is thought to mean sing after the abundant birdlife found in the area. There are several Indigenous & European archaeological sites nearby, including scar trees and the remains of pioneer homesteads.This is a fertile part of Australia, with many horse studs, orchards, and farms. Merindah Park is the beginning of a brand new rural romance series about an emerging racehorse stud and the family desperately trying to make their racing dreams come true. Over to you Renée!


Hi Jennifer, and thanks for having me on your blog. Merindah Park is the story of a family farm, torn apart by a gambling addicted father. After his death, the four siblings—John, Shannon, and twins Rachel and Serena—spend five difficult years consolidating debts and working to get the farm out of trouble.

 

The first book in the series, Merindah Park, begins with John making a courageous decision to buy a racehorse from Japan. He meets Toshiko, a veterinarian, and romance ensues!

One of the beauties of horse racing, aside from the horses, is the global nature of it. By creating a story around a horse racing property, I had the pleasure of writing about a farm in Japan, and a farm in Australia. The differences in climate are fascinating, with Japan’s horse breeding region having high rain fall (more like New Zealand) and the Australian farm having issues with drought. Toshiko notices the difference, not just in the grass and land, but even in the way her hair and skin react to the lack of moisture in the Australian air. There are also differences in the way horses are grown in both nations with Australian horses living outside all year around, but Japanese horses requiring stabling during winter snow.

As for my own connection with the rural life, I grew up in a very small town in New Zealand as a ‘townie’. I begged and borrowed horses from farmers, so I could attend the local pony club, and eventually, my paper route earned me enough cash that I could afford to rent a paddock from a neighbour and have my own (leased) horse. Land of Oz was a retired racehorse, and we had a couple of years of fun together before I went to university and he went back to his owner. The pull of horses didn’t go away, and I worked as a strapper in racing stables all through my years at university, getting up early to do the morning shift (and even riding a couple of slow quiet ones in trackwork). It wasn’t until much later that I could bring together my love of racehorses and my career, and I started writing data analysis based articles for horse racing magazines. Eventually in 2016, I tried my hand at fiction, and Merindah Park is my fifth published novel.

The second book in the series, Making her Mark, features Rachel, who is a jockey, and will be out in August.

Renée Dahlia is an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour. Renée has a science degree in physics. When not distracted by the characters fighting for attention in her brain, she works in the horse racing industry doing data analysis, and writing magazine articles. When she isn’t reading or writing, Renée wrangles a partner, four children, and volunteers on the local cricket club committee as well as for Romance Writers Australia.


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

Meet Darry Fraser

Today I’m chatting to Darry Fraser, author of Australian fast-paced adventure fiction, both historical and contemporary. The Australian landscape is her home and hearth – the rural, the coastal, the arid lands and the desert. Darry lives and works on beautiful Kangaroo Island, which lies off the mainland of South Australia. Over a third of the island is protected in nature reserves, home to native wildlife like sea lions, koalas and diverse bird species. In the west, Flinders Chase National Park is known for penguin colonies and striking coastal rock formations. What an inspiring place to write! Now, over to you Darry …


 

When quizzed by an old boyfriend who’d returned momentarily to the fold, my dad said that of his three kids, I was the only one who would live in the country; the only one who could live in the country.

Born and bred in Melbourne and managing to spend some early childhood years in regional Victoria, I’d managed to develop a love of wide open spaces, clean air, no traffic or crowds, and dogs. Living on the River Murray at one point had an enormous impact.

When I branched out into the wider world in what was effectively a gap year (long before its time), I found myself in Alice Springs in the early 80s. And then, for me and ‘country’ there was no going back.

The story-telling gene in me has always made itself known. My earliest memories are of telling stories. I can’t tell you what excites me about Story – I think perhaps my earliest memory is seeing that my audience was engaged in my rambling verbals. Well, I assume it was engagement

My stories are not voices so much as pictures in my head, moving pictures. Characters are formed on a twist of a brow or a turn of a hand. Sometimes the first thing to come along will be a character’s name. Always the two words that follow are ‘What if?’

I have more recently written stories exclusively in the late 19th century. The attraction for me I think is the fact that at that time in Australia the population was on the cusp of a new century. People still wrote letters, the ordinary man and woman’s suffrage was being fought for, and that technology had not begun its enormous leaps and bounds. That the things some of us take for granted these days were not readily available at the time. Vaccinations, potable water, hygiene, medicine—the simplest thing could be deadly. A splinter, for instance.

I find now that my stories are bringing history to light for readers who are not interested in reading history. Weaving tales in and around iconic events, places and figures allows me to ask my ‘what if’ question and have the answer take me on some quite magical journeys, bringing the reader with me.

I also find that people are not so different across the years, and that human nature has barely changed.

Daughter of the Murray – Harlequin Mira 2016 – explores a young woman’s fight for, and understanding the difference between, independence and survival in the 1890s.

Where The Murray River Runs – Harlequin Mira, HarperCollins 2017 – looks at the plight of single mothers, abandoned families, their places of refuge in a hostile society.

The Widow of BallaratHarlequin Mira, HarperCollins 2018 – explores the lives of women on the Ballarat goldfields in the 1850s at the time of the Eureka Stockade, and how close they came to securing suffrage at that time, only to have the chance snuffed by the stroke of a pen.

The Good Woman of Renmark – Harlequin Mira, HarperCollins (Nov) 2019 – looks at life on the river at the end of the great paddle-steamer era, and at how two long hard droughts and economic depressions affected the lives of those who lived on the mighty river. How women thought independently but were rarely allowed to live independently.

Story 2020 for Harlequin Mira, HarperCollins is finished and is set in Robe, South Australia, and in Casterton in Victoria, in 1896. A tale set at the time of the first election in which women could vote in South Australia, second in the world only to New Zealand women.

Story 2021 is well underway, set in 1898. With Federation for Australia only around the corner, and the wording of the Constitution hard fought and taken from lessons learned elsewhere, society teeters on the edge. But thirty–three years before, a sleek dark ship sailed into dock in Williamstown near Melbourne, and her sinister presence had long reaching consequences.

I love the novella, as well, and lots of my earlier stories were a shorter length.

All in all, I just plain love the journey, and I have been lucky – very fortunate – that I can do the thing I love most in the world and have so many others enjoy it. Thank goodness I still have lots more stories to write.


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

Meet Cheryl Adnams

Today I’d like to introduce Aussie author Cheryl Adnams, and her series set in the McLaren Vale district of South Australia. Apart from producing some of Australia’s finest wines, it’s also an area rich in wildlife and natural beauty. With national parks, scenic vineyards and miles of pristine beaches, this part of Australia provides wonderful settings for readers to enjoy. Over to you Cheryl!


Hi Jennifer, and thanks for having me visit.
I’ve always had a love affair with McLaren Vale. The wineries are many and varied, conveniently located close together and only a forty minute drive from my house in the south of Adelaide. So it was a no-brainer that I would base my first novels in the wine region on the Fleurieu Peninsula that I love so much.

My three books in what I call the Mullers of McLaren Vale series follow each of the three sons, who are taking over the century old winery from their retiring father Harry, and the strong women who come into their lives and change them forever. Writing these stories was a good excuse to visit the region more often to do research. Like I needed an excuse! I had the opportunity to do some Grenache grape picking at Yangarra winery, getting up very early in the morning to enjoy a crisp start during the 2015 vintage. The picking was hard work as the Grenache bushes are low to the ground. But a good grape stomping followed by a delicious breakfast (including some of the lovely wine) made it all worthwhile.

The McLaren Vale wine region is unique in that its rolling hills and vineyards butt up against the coast and some of the most stunning, white sandy, turquoise blue water beaches in South Australia. In the last few years I have on occasion rented a lovely little blue house down at Port Willunga as a writing retreat alone and sometimes with friends.

The old Port Willunga Jetty has so much history and the famous Star of Greece restaurant perches on the cliff above, named for the ship that was wrecked only one hundred metres offshore in 1888, now a popular dive site. The rapidly crumbling jetty and the storage caves dug into the cliffs make it one of the most photographed places in South Australia. The area and the jetty get a mention in the McLaren Vale novels too.

Much of the coastline is a sanctuary, particularly the Aldinga Reef area. The birdlife is abundant and kites can often be seen soaring along the golden limestone cliffs looking for prey. Dolphin pods are a regular sight and the area is also a haven for shingleback lizards (otherwise known as Sleepy Lizards) as well as several species of protected flora.

Spot the deadly Blue Ringed Octopus, master of camouflage!

When the tide goes out on the Aldinga reef, there is some great marine life spotting to be had. Baby Port Jackson sharks and crabs of all sizes skim the reef pools, and I’ve even spotted a blue ringed octopus, thankfully before I made the mistake of stepping on it. 

I am very proud of this beautiful region and all it has to offer. It’s so close to the city of Adelaide, but it feels like a thousand miles away once you’re there. You can feel the stresses of the city just falling away when you turn the corner and see the turquoise waters of the Spencer Gulf stretching out before you. I would encourage everyone to come and see this stunning part of the world, but really I just want to keep it all to myself!

Author Bio

Cheryl Adnams lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She has published four Australian rural romance novels and a Christmas novella. Cheryl has a Diploma in Freelance Travel Writing and Photography and has lived and worked in the United States, Canada and spent two years with a tour company in Switzerland and Austria. Her passion for Italy, volcanology and cycling have made their way into her stories and her favourite writing retreats include Positano on the Amalfi Coast and Port Willunga Beach just south of Adelaide. When she’s not writing, Cheryl is still creating in her busy full time job as a trainer and learning designer.

Find Cheryl’s books on Amazon,  Kobo and Itunes.
Don’t forget to check out Cheryl’s stunning new novel The Girl From Eureka


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

The Aussie & NZ Rural Fiction Showcase is Coming!

Lofty Enjoying The Sunshine!

I am proud to be part of Australasia’s small but close-knit community of rural fiction writers. We are in turn supported by many loyal, generous and enthusiastic readers –readers who can’t seem to get enough stories set in regional Australia & NZ. Lucky for us!

In an uncertain and rapidly changing publishing landscape, Aussie & NZ rural authors are shining stars. We’ve been regularly outselling other genres for years, and this popularity shows no sign of waning. You might think this would lead to robust competition between us – it does in some other genres. However far from being rivals, we are friends who help each other extend the popularity of our writing.

A win for one is a win for all! The website Australian & NZ Rural Fiction demonstrates this principle, as it is built and run cooperatively by the authors themselves.

 

Another wonderful thing about Aussie & NZ rural fiction is that so many of our authors are women (apologies to Greg Barron and Peter Watt!) Gender parity has been slow in coming to the literary world. The UK’s prestigious Women’s Prize For Fiction and Australia’s own Stella Prize are attempts to redress this inbalance. But our own genre transcended this boundary long ago. Aussie rural literature written by women is not new. Quite the contrary, it’s steeped in history. From Henry Handel Richardson’s (yes she’s a woman) Fortunes Of Richard Mahoney, Nancy Cato’s All The Rivers Run through to Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds, the drama, difficulties and romance of the bush has long been the stuff of great narrative tales. And the tradition continues!

In celebration of this proud tradition I will be showcasing Australian & New Zealand rural writers on my blog each week. I hope this helps new readers discover the richness and variety of our hugely entertaining and home-grown genre 🙂 


Congratulations to the winners of last month’s prize draw! I shall be emailing you shortly.