It’s hard to say where or when a novel actually begins. The idea can come as a single spark of inspiration, or gradually form over time.
The Farmer Needs A Wife started as a short story called A Bush Christmas – which grew from a comment by Webmaster John. We were living in Sydney at the time – about to celebrate New Year under the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a picnic and fireworks. John is English, and was finding it strange celebrating New Year in a t-shirt with temperatures of nearly forty degrees.
Where, he wanted to know, were the snowballs?
A year later, in the middle of a chilly English winter, I wrote a story about an English girl facing her first Christmas in the Australian outback, as nanny to the two small children of a widowed father. There was a snowball involved.
When the story was published the following Christmas, I starting thinking about that girl’s journey to the outback. Why would a girl from England fall for a rugged outback stockman? How had she even come to such a remote place? I realised there was much more story to tell.
The idea for the ‘Australian Life’ campaign came from a similar style of campaign I saw in an actual magazine. I found out much later (when the book was finished) that there was also a similar TV show in Australia, which I have never seen. A magazine campaign seemed a good way of bringing together people from different backgrounds who might otherwise never have met. I liked the idea of following several different stories that would arise from such a campaign.
I believe we are very much affected by the places we live – particularly the places where we grow up.
I have been to Central Australia and the Northern Territory many times. It is a harsh and rugged place, but also dramatic and beautiful. You are very close to the earth there. Very close to nature. I thought about a boy growing up on the edge of the desert – what sort of man would he become? And what would happen when he meet this girl from a greener, gentler place?
A similar idea was behind the meeting of Helen and Matt. I spent some years in Sydney. It’s a lovely city and a busy, exciting place to live. How then would a career woman from such a vibrant city feel if transported to the slower paced life of a stud farm? Would the love of a man be enough to keep her there?
North Queensland has for many years hosted artists’ colonies and hippie gatherings. It seemed the logical place then to find someone with artistic leanings. But the sugarcane industry has long symbolised sweat, hard work and tough times. It struck me that such a mix could create a troubled young man. If so, what sort of a girl could help him find himself?
And alongside these long journeys to find love, it seemed right that someone should find what they need right under their nose. The wine growing area of the Hunter Valley is on Sydney’s doorstep, yet many Sydney-siders have never ventured there. I did, and discovered that rare finds are sometimes a lot closer than you think.
I guess the book is about the unexpected places where love can be found. You may have to travel to the other side of the world – or you may simply have to look out your window.