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.

SOCIAL MEDIA
www.sandiedocker.com
Facebook – @sandiedockerwriter
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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.

Huge Australian Rural Fiction Book Giveaway – and winners of this month’s draw

 

Hello and welcome to the huge Australian Rural Fiction Christmas Book Giveaway! We at Australian Rural Fiction  are proudly seventy wonderful Aussie authors bringing our big Australian country stories to you across many genres.

Why has this come about?

We wanted to see more of ‘us’ out there. We wanted to have more of us easily accessed in the one place, to discover our country’s big stories – and we have many bestselling and award winning authors bringing those stories to you via our website.​
We’ve given readers one place to find out the news every day, and you can also join our Facebook group.

ENTER OUR HUGE CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY!

We have the most fantabulous, awesome and generous Christmas contest that will sort out the summer…and probably winter…reading for six lucky winners.
Four Australian winners and two international winners.

There are FOUR prizes of fourteen signed print books for the Australian readers, and TWO prizes of eight e-books each to two international readers.

Complete the first entry options and the others will magically appear! The more options you take up, the more entries you get! And the best part… invite a new friend to the Facebook group every day for an additional FIVE entries per day! Enter HERE!

And now for the winners of my monthly prize draw.
Congratulations to glynismc@icloud.com and toni.long@outlook.co.nz. I’ll be emailing you shortly to ask what books you’d like. Happy Reading!

 

‘Turtle Reef’ Release and Giveaway!

TurtleReef_coverWell, it’s that time of year again, when I give my blog over to shameless self-promotion! My latest novel, Turtle Reef, will be released by Penguin on the 25th March. The official Melbourne launch will be at Readings Bookstore, 701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn on Wednesday 8th April at 6.00pm. Free event. All welcome!

To celebrate, I’m giving away two copies of Turtle Reef. (Aust & NZ residents only) To go in the draw, just leave a comment on this post. Winners announced on Sunday 5th April.

This week I’m posting a Q&A I did for Penguin Australia.

  1. Turtle Reef Austhor copies 001

    Box of Turtle Reef author copies. Exciting!

    What is your new book about?

Turtle Reef is the story of Zoe King, an unlucky-in-love zoologist who has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to take up an exciting new role in marine science in the small sugar town of Kiawa is a welcome fresh start.

Zoe  is immediately charmed by the region’s beauty – by its rivers and rainforests, and by its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast.  And also 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. The last thing she wants is to fall for her boss’s boyfriend, cane king Quinn Cooper, and so she refuses to acknowledge the attraction between them – even to herself.

But things aren’t quite adding up at the Reef Centre and when animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. Will protecting the reef mean betraying the man she loves?

  1. Great Barrier ReefWhat or who inspired it?
    – Turtle Reef was inspired by my passion for the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral ecosystem on our blue planet, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It holds a special place in the hearts of Australians. I wanted my story to show the important part the reef plays in the human and animal life of coastal communities. It was also an excuse to write about dugongs and dolphins!
  2. What was the biggest challenge, writing it?
    – The biggest challenge was not letting the animals hijack the story. They wanted to hog the plot!
  3. What did you want to achieve with your book?
    – I wanted to share my love of the Great Barrier Reef, and pay tribute to its unique wildlife. I also wanted to entertain readers with a passionate and unusual love story. If Turtle Reef sparks debate about reef protection, that’s a bonus.
  4. Are there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you?
    – The story of the black Arabian mare, Aisha, is loosely based on the life of my own mare, Starfire. And like Zoe King, I’ve always been fascinated by marine mammals.
  5. What do you see as the major themes in your book?
    – The main themes in Turtle Reef are: change versus tradition, the risks and rewards of freedom and learning to challenge your fears. The book also explores our relationship with animals and nature.
  6. Aust Marine Conservation SocietyTo whom have you dedicated the book and why?
    – Turtle Reef is dedicated to the Australian Marine Conservation Society. They provide Australia’s ocean wildlife with a vital voice.
  7. Who do you think will enjoy your book?
    – Anybody who likes horses, dolphins, or ripping yarns in magnificent settings.
  8. Describe yourself in three words?
    – Passionate, compassionate and nerdy
  9. What three things do you dislike?
     – Cruelty, indifference and greed
  10. What three things do you like?
    – Horses, the wilderness and champagne.
  11. What would you like to think people can get from reading your book?
    – I hope Turtle Reef can transport readers to the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, and immerse them in the lives of its unique people and wildlife.
  12. What do you think your life will be like 20 years from now?
    – Not very different from today I hope – riding horses and writing books.
  13. Crystal Dolphin 1What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
    – I always have a special good-luck symbol for each book I write. For Billabong Bend it was an unused bird-shot cartridge. For Turtle Reef it was a crystal dolphin on a piece of amethyst that my brother gave me.
  14. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books
    – Mainly from my own imagination, although I always undertake research trips to ensure settings are authentic. Google and the State Library also get a good workout.
  15. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
    – Write books and ride horses.
  16. turtlereef_inviteIf you were for sale the ad would say…
    – ‘Well-bred aged mare. Nice nature. No vices (well, hardly any!)  Quick on feet and loves bush riding. Can be stubborn. Needs experienced rider.’
  17. What is your life motto?
    – ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.’
  18. What is your most memorable moment?
    – Apart from when my children were born, you mean? Getting published for the first time of course.

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A Discussion Of ‘Place’ In Australian Rural Fiction

Willy Fest

Authors Margareta Osborn (top L), (bottom row L-R) Kathryn Ledson, me and Kate Belle (and star reader Ann Lee middle top!)

I was on a panel at the Williamstown Literary Festival yesterday. The theme was a sense of place. Here are a few thoughts on how place relates to rural fiction.

– In many novels, and particularly in rural novels, place (literal, geographical place) is one of the most powerful tools that a writer has. For me, setting stories in wild places allows me to strip away the civilised façade from my characters. In Currawong Creek for example, my main character is a young professional woman caught up in the career rat race. She has time to examine what she fundamentally wants from life when she goes bush.  In my new release Billabong Bend, a young man who’s been a drifter, comes home to the riverlands to confront his past and discover his roots. And by doing so he finds his future.
– Australian rural romantic literature written by women is not new. Quite the contrary, it’s steeped in tradition. From Henry Handel Richardson’s 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 Australian bush has long been the stuff of great narrative tales. From the earliest days of white settlement, the bush was central to how we became Australian, how we identified ourselves as Australian.
BB High Res cover– During the second half of the twentieth century, the bush fell out of literary favour. We didn’t see ourselves as a bush people any more. We lived around the urban coastal fringe, and were urbane, cosmopolitan and civilised. Many popular books for women (chick lit) featured self-absorbed shopaholic characters in the Sex And The City mould. They lived in cities that were indistinguishable from each other.

But in the past decade the bush has once more loomed large in the literary landscape, and rural lit taps into this vein. Readers are craving a relationship to country, a connection to the land. They’re asking the age-old question – what is that makes us Australian? And the simple answer is, that we come from this place. That’s our identity – the continent itself. And especially that aspect of Australia that is different to other places. That doesn’t mean our cities. That means regional Australia. That means the bush.

And here are a few thoughts about my new book Billabong Bend. At one level it’s a novel 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 that inevitably brings. And if you love birds like I do, particularly our magnificent wetland birds, then you’re in for a real treat! Billabong Bend is chock full of them!

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Currawong Creek – First Sighting

18th birthdayIt was my youngest son’s eighteenth birthday yesterday – a cause for much celebration! I also received an advance copy of Currawong Creek. It’s always a thrill to see your imaginary story in the form of a physical book for the first time. So all in all, a great week.

Today I’m posting a Penguin Q&A about Currawong Creek.

What is your new book about? Currawong Creek is the story of Clare Mitchell, a young Brisbane lawyer who is very caught up in her career. CC 1 003When she takes on the care of problem foster child Jack, her ordered life is turned upside down. Her partner’s betrayal is the final straw. She takes leave of her job and takes Jack to Currawong Creek, her grandfather’s Clydesdale stud at Merriang in the foothills of the beautiful Bunya Mountains. She arrives to find part of the property leased by local vet, Tom Lord, an advocate of equine therapy for traumatised children. Jack falls in love with Currawong’s animals, and Clare falls in love with Tom and the life of a country vet. But trouble is coming, in the form of the Pyramid Mining Company. Trouble that threatens to not only destroy Clare’s new-found happiness, but the tiny town of Merriang itself.

What or who inspired it? – I love Clydesdale horses! Also, I fostered kids for fifteen years, and saw many young mothers who needed help almost as much as their children did. There’s such a desperate shortage of foster carers in our community. Often, no suitable place can be found for a child after being Clydesdalestaken into care. So I thought I’d explore that problem in my story. There is so much evidence to show that animals can help to heal traumatised children. I had to give little Jack that chance!  The setting was inspired by Queensland’s Darling Downs, and its beautiful Bunya Mountains. A growing national concern about our land and water has led to a realisation that agricultural land and underground water are finite resources that should be protected. This is another issue explored in Currawong Creek. The characters though, are entirely fictional. I loved the idea of throwing a young, single, professional woman in the deep end with a difficult child – and a German Shepherd puppy! How would it change her? What problems would it cause? How would she cope?

What was the biggest challenge, writing it? – My biggest challenge was writing the relationship between Clare and Jack’s birth mother, Taylor. These are two women from very different worlds, yet they share a strong common bond. They both love Jack. Emotions naturally run high in that sort of a situation, and I wanted to show each of their positions with sympathy. It needed a delicate balance, and a lot of rewriting.

What did you want to achieve with your book? – I mainly wrote Currawong Creek to be an entertaining story. Along the way, it may raise awareness about the challenges and importance of fostering. It may encourage somebody to explore equine therapy as a healing tool for a child. That would be good. I also hope it may help spark debate about land and water conservation in Australia.

What do you hope for your book? – I hope my book will be widely read and enjoyed.

CurrawongAre there any parts of it that have special personal significance to you? – Samson, the German Shepherd puppy, has particular personal resonance for me. I raised and trained German Shepherds for many years, and he is a composite of my most intelligent and charming dogs. My father also passed on to me a particular love of Clydesdale horses, and I’ve always had a soft spot for currawongs!

Do you have a favourite character or one you really enjoyed writing? – Harry, Clare’s grandfather, was without doubt my favourite character. Such a sweet, old man with a great deal of courage and very fine principles. I’d love to know him in real life

What do you see as the major themes in your book? – I suppose one of the main themes is finding the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Also forgiveness and an exploration of the different kinds of love – love for a child, a lover and a grandfather.

What made you set it in …..? – The Bunya Mountains? They’re a magical place, Bunya Mountains 1like an island, surrounded by the plains and cleared farming land of the Darling Downs. A refuge of biodiversity, harbouring ancient plants and more than thirty rare and threatened species. Iconic Bunya pines (Araucaria bidwillii) tower over tall, moist rainforests along the crest of the range. Their distinctive dome-shaped crowns rise above the canopy, as they’ve done for millions of years. It’s a truly mysterious and romantic setting.

To whom have you dedicated the book and why? – Currawong Creek is dedicated to the Wilderness Society, as a tribute to the wonderful work they do, protecting and restoring wild places across Australia.

Who do you think will enjoy your book? – Anybody who loves kids, animals, the bush and a ripping love story.BB2013_Nominee