Thanks for being here, Barb!
Donna, thanks so much for this opportunity.
It’s often said that we don’t choose the stories we write – they choose us, and I suspect this is probably true, certainly where settings are concerned.
My very first novel was set in the Australian outback and it was actually called Outback Wife and Mother. At the time, the setting was an instinctive choice. I loved the outback and the cattle properties and people of North Queensland and it seemed natural to write about them, but I was also dreaming of other stories set in Hong Kong or on tropical islands…
To my surprise the editors said: ‘Give us more outback. Write as many books as you like with an Aussie outback setting.’
Luckily, this wasn’t a chore.
To me, the outback life, despite its many hardships and challenges, is truly romantic.
I think this fantasy started when I was young. Even though I grew up in the city (Brisbane to be exact) I’d always loved what we Aussies call ‘the bush’. Our suburb was nestled in the leafy foothills of Mt Cootha, so gum-tree studded mountains dominated my view. Added to this, my parents took regular weekend drives into the countryside, which is possibly why I still have a fondness for picnics on creek-banks.
Later, I married a man who loved the great outdoors with a passion that surpassed even mine and, as our four children arrived and our purse-strings tightened, we spent most of our holidays camping and canoeing.
Yes, it was economical, but our kids loved these outdoor adventures. Later, when my son returned from three years of working in London, his first impulse was to get back to the bush and a campfire with the smell of burning gum leaves.
We were also lucky enough to have a friend who owned a beautiful cattle property on the Burdekin River and this homestead and its surroundings has remained the inspiration for most of my stories.
No surprise – I live in the country now, on a misty hillside with views of hills dotted with cattle. Even so, there are times, every so often, when my muse gets bossy and demands that I head west to the real outback to soak up new sights and sounds and smells.
Recently, my husband and I visited Robin Hood Station in Far North Queensland’s Gulf Country.
This property is huge – covering 330,000 acres and its red dirt and blue skies and rugged terrain were enough to set me grinning – not to mention the impressive cattlemen with their loose-hipped strides and low-slung jeans and easy-going, understated manners.
An added bonus on this property is Cobbold Gorge, not unlike the gorge I described in Rancher’s Twins: Mom Needed. The amazing thing about Cobbold is that the property is so big, the gorge was only discovered by its owners in the early 1990s.
I must say I’m truly honoured that a story set Downunder is a finalist in the RITA contest run by Romance Writers of America. I often wonder what it is that overseas readers most enjoy about the outback books. The settings? The quiet, still-waters-run-deep heroes? The fish-out-of-water heroines?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’ll be sending a signed copy of Rancher’s Twins: Mom Needed to one of you.