I’m glad to have Barbara here today, to tell us all about her book, Zoe’s Muster. Once it hit the shelves, it flew off again, very quickly and has been received really well by readers. Here’s Barbara:
I’m a little overawed blogging here about Zoe’s Muster with REAL farmers. I have to confess that while I write stories set on cattle properties, I’m a city girl who’s only recently moved onto rural acreage. And until now, I’ve been primarily a romance writer.
So, with the confessions over… thank you, Fleur, for your kind invitation to blog…
First, I should explain that while I was born in Sydney and educated in Brisbane, I’ve always loved the bush. When I was sixteen I visited my cousin who’d married a sheep and wheat farmer. They lived near Tooraweenah in NSW and this was my first proper taste of life on a farm. My sister and I rode horses up into the hills and we fed orphaned lambs and I fell in love with a new way of life. As soon as I graduated as a teacher, I applied to work anywhere in Queensland except Brisbane. Yes, I was possibly dreaming about meeting a nice hunky farmer of my own, but I was sent to Bundaberg, rather than Longreach or Thargomindah, and I married a journalist. However, he happened to be an outdoor type and he had lots of bush contacts, so that was good.
Later, when our four children were small, we spent many happy holidays camping, canoeing and fishing on a cattle property owned by one of my husband’s mates, a lonely bachelor who welcomed our company. I can say, unequivocally, that this beautiful property on the banks of the Burdekin River near Charter Towers, west of Townsville, has been the inspiration for the many outback romances I’ve written.
I’ve also spent time on Robin Hood station in North Queensland’s gulf country and on another cousin’s cattle property near Roma. I went to the cattle sales in Roma (these yards are massive and endlessly fascinating), and the next day I “helped” in the yards, working the gates while the newly acquired cattle were branded, ear tagged and vaccinated. I’ve never stopped loving the action and adventure of station life, although I admit I’m always looking in from the outside, and unashamedly romanticising my view of a stockman’s world.
In writing Zoe’s Muster, I was able to indulge my love of both the city and country and I was able to play on a much bigger canvas than I’m used to. Zoe is a chef who runs her own high tea catering business in Brisbane when she learns that her biological father is a North Queensland cattleman and not the man who raised her. So I was able to explore Zoe’s emotional journey of self discovery which takes her on a cattle muster, and I also revelled in the opportunity to delve into the impact of the revelation on Zoe’s mother Claire, including how this situation had arisen in the first place. I also looked at how Virginia, the country bred wife of Zoe’s biological father, handled this tricky, highly charged situation. I’ve always loved writing stories with emotional punch.
Of course, there had to be romance, and Zoe finds her own love story with taciturn cattleman, Mac McKinnon, but I also enjoyed the freedom of writing beyond romance, creating a longer story with more characters and I loved the chance to go deeper into relationships that weren’t necessarily romantic. But perhaps the Aussie outback, with its isolation and rugged beauty and challenging weather is the most important character of all.
Since the release of Zoe’s Muster, journalists have asked me about the rise in popularity of rural romance. I’m sure it’s because of the great stories already being told by authors like Fleur and Rachael Treasure and Fiona Palmer etcetera. I know people in regional Australia have loved the chance to read stories set in places they know, but I can’t help thinking that it’s also because city readers have welcomed the chance to read about life in the bush. Australia is the most urbanised country in the world with almost 90% of its citizens living in major cities, but I think city dwellers still like to fantasise about life in the country – the sense of community, the idea of self-reliance and being closer to the land and the weather, even to life and death.
I’ve always felt that country folk are living the Aussie legend for the rest of us. What do you think?