So almost a year ago, I wrote this post about my books. I have, for quite some time, been tinkering with ‘rural romance’.
Having grown up in a small, idyllic community, these plots and people come to me quite fully formed. There is a different textural carpet to a romance set amongst a small community, and never more so than rural and outback towns, where each person counts on the next for, at times, their very survival. The publican, the grocer, the mailman, the doctor and nurse, the headmaster, these people all take on enormous importance. And lives, and the details that make them interesting, are almost impossible to keep private.
My first foray into Rural Romance is a still-being-edited 60,000 word story called Fighting the Tide. My heroine Sarah harks from a small community in the Pilbara, but has long since left it for dust, taking up residence in Perth where she’s an almost-graduated med. student. The love of her life, Conrad Stone, is King of the Bush, running the family station (one of the largest in the country). Enmity has long-since existed between their families, after Sarah’s grandfather won the small piece of land, with the only naturally fed dam in the region, from the Stones in a poker match.
But it is not a blood grudge over land that separated Sarah and Conrad, so much as a deep and dark family secret that, if discovered, may forever tear them apart.When her father decides to sell the land, seemingly on a whim, back to the Stones, Sarah has other ideas. She travels into the heart of her past to derail the plan, with no idea that the feelings she has for Conrad are waiting for her.
I love the story and I love, love, love the town of Stone’s Gorge and the inhabitants that give it colour. It has been over a year in the making, and I want to get it just right, so I keep picking it up, working it over, then putting it aside for a time to let it ‘breathe’.
Meanwhile, I’m plotting something new. A story of a woman on the run from from a dark and dangerous past. Lucy Lockyer needs to go somewhere no one from her previous life would think to look for her, and so she applies for a job teaching second graders in a small town on the South Australian coast called Farravale.
It’s a tiny community used to professionals coming for a six month stint and then fleeing back to civilisation. The name looks great on the CV but once people realise that a loaf of bread costs a fortune and there’s no espresso bar, they hightail it back to the nearest city faster than you can say ‘avocado sushi role.’ Though the town welcomes the beautiful young school teacher with open arms, there is one man who is fed up with the transient nature of those who come to teach the children. Powerful local winemaker and owner of the community pub, Grayson Jones has no time for city-slickers looking to dip their toes in the pool of rural life. These bush kids fall in love with their teachers only to have them up and go when the isolation of small-town-life becomes too much. Grayson doesn’t give our heroine much of a chance, until he realises that she’s not running from their community, so much as running to it.
The best thing about this is that I need to go a research trip or two to one of my favourite beachside towns … I cannot wait to drift from the plotting stage to the writing … I can feel these people coming to life inside my mind, and my fingertips, and I know that once I start getting their stories down I’m going to love it. But for now … plot, plot, plot, plan, plan, plan (trip, trip, trip).