Introducing the lovely Annabelle Brayley of OUTBACK NURSES fame! SHe’s chatting about her love of rural fiction and her new offering, Outback Nurses.
Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.
Although I generally write non-fiction myself, Australian fiction captivates me and the evolution of the authors who write that fiction fascinates me. Having grown up with May Gibbs, Mary Grant Bruce, Ethel Turner, Elyne Mitchell and their ilk, the bar was pretty high and, not so very long ago, not too many Australian writers were achieving their standards. However, all that has changed in recent years with emergence of a new cohort of wonderful writers, you included, who tell it like it is in the Australian bush. It’s such a pleasure to read novels that are realistic and viable as well as entertaining. I loved Red Dust, Purple Roads and Crimson Dawn. Although I don’t know her personally, I thought you captured Catherine Marriot’s bubbly, positive vibe beautifully when you based Catherine on her! My favourite, though, is Silver Clouds…I didn’t want it to finish and I hope Tessa returns!
I grew up with four brothers on a small farm on the western Darling Downs in Queensland and all I ever wanted to do was head further west. I also wanted to train as a hairdresser but my father thought that nursing or teaching were better options so off I went and started my nursing training in Brisbane. I bailed out and, after a break of two years, transferred to Charleville Base Hospital in south west Queensland where I finished my general nursing certificate.
Although I loved living out here, I really didn’t get the nursing bug (pun intended!) whereas ‘real’ nurses clearly love what they do. They are passionate about caring for people, about looking after them and guiding them to better health, about advocating for them and rescuing them when required. Me? I just wanted to sit on their beds and chat! I definitely should have been a hairdresser! After-all, doesn’t everybody tell their hairdresser everything? They are the world’s natural counsellors and I’ve always been curious about other people; why they choose whatever it is they do, or don’t do, in their lives.
Happily for me, I fell in love, married my lovely husband Ian and, in 1980, went to live with him on his family’s sheep station 130 ks from Charleville. Although I ‘nursed’ our children when they needed it, I never assumed a clinical nursing role after that. I spent my days multitasking through the broad job description that is the pathway of most women on the land. We sold out in 2001 and moved north a couple of hours to the Morven district, where we’ve lived ever since. I’ve worked in various jobs in my life, but I guess the one consistent thread over the years has been creating wedding dresses for a group of very special brides, but that’s a whole different story!
I pretty much fell into storytelling after pitching a story to RM William’s OUTBACK Magazine, about the centenary of the Victoria Downs Merino Stud, in 2006. Located here in the Morven district, since the Stud was established, the Lord/Roberts families have played an important part in the wool industry in Australia and I thought it should be recognized. One thing led to another and I discovered an aptitude for telling other people’s stories. I think it is vital that we record stories for future generations, especially in this modern, fast changing world. To that end, I recently started the Australian Outback Storyteller page on Facebook to pass the word around about the wonderful storytellers (in all mediums) who live and work in the inland.
I don’t believe in luck as such, unless it’s winning the lottery. Even then you have to make it happen by buying a ticket. I believe that hard work teamed with making the most of opportunities lays the foundations for good things to happen. That said, in early 2012, I was stunned when I found a message on our phone from an editor at Penguin asking if I’d be interested in speaking to them about a project. I didn’t know then that this wasn’t an entirely unusual occurrence. One of the publishers had read a story I wrote about rural and remote health and asked me if I would like to collect, edit and collate a selection of stories about nurses working in rural and remote Australia. No way was I ever going to say “No”! So Bush Nurses evolved, published in March 2013. It’s a social history of nursing in inland Australia, based on anecdotes collected from various people and sources across the last hundred years.
My new book, NURSES OF THE OUTBACK, recently released by Penguin, is the biographical stories of fifteen amazing nurses who work in the ‘modern’ outback. They’re gutsy, committed, resilient people and their stories were fascinating to hear and a privilege to write. They are, in fact, ordinary everyday people, albeit well trained and highly experienced, who step up and do extraordinary things when needed. In my view, nurses are the backbone of the country and, along with other emergency service workers, they are the real heroes of the world. It was an absolute joy to tell their stories and celebrate the enormous contribution nurses make to the sustainability of the inland.
Storytelling has been a wonderful experience for me all round and I’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing and the processes of publishing. And despite having trained as a nurse, with this recent experience I’ve learned a lot about nursing and nurses…I know for sure now that I really should have been a hairdresser! However, my journey has led me to telling other people’s stories and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.
I’m delighted to add that I am working on a new collection of stories about a different group of people who work in inland Australia for publication in 2015.
Thanks and regards,