Australia Day 2013 should have been full of barbecues, picnics, thong-throwing competitions, and happy families celebrating their pride in their country while newer residents proudly took their citizenship oath. But Cyclone Oswald lashed Queensland’s coast, creating six tornadoes and the biggest flood in Bundaberg’s recorded history. Thousands of homes were inundated, thirteen washed away, never to be found, others teetering on holes created by the torrent. Businesses suffered devastating losses, caught by Nature’s intensity and the Burnett River breaking its banks. Boats were washed away, some completely disappearing, some found days later as broken hulks on the rocky shore, debris scattered like broken dreams.
The town was in shock. But as the water receded and help flowed in, Bundabergians created their own Mud Army and went to work helping those whose lives had been traumatised.
One year later, the town has mostly recovered. Some businesses never re-opened, some houses never re-built, some folks still fighting insurance companies and unable to return to their homes, but the ghost-town atmosphere that pervaded North Bundaberg in the months following the flood has been replaced by a thriving community spirit.
So this Australia Day I reflected on that wonderful Aussie spirit, that pride in a country of extremes, from tropical rainforests, snow-covered mountain ranges, vast Outback plains that seem to be either in drought or flood. We started as a penal colony of convicts and guards and evolved into explorers and farmers and graziers and nation-builders. But it wasn’t easy. This is a harsh and often unforgiving land, and it took guts to try to conquer it.
It’s those aspects of the Australian landscape and psyche that I’ve tried to capture in my books. I love this unique land of ours and want to share it with my readers. In Dance with the Devil the rugged Great Dividing Range became as huge an obstacle for Emma and Drew to conquer as the killer who held an innocent life in his hands. In Black Ice a hit-and-run on the Sunshine Coast and a mud slide in the Blue Mountains nearly meant the end for Kirri and Daniel. Deadly Tide was a favourite to write, set as it was on a trawler off Bundaberg’s coast. Putting Sam and Chayse in such a confined space gave lots of opportunities for sparks to fly, and some unusual dangerous situations, and researching beautiful Lady Musgrave Island was no hardship for this dedicated writer J
Until Death was more citified, encompassing Brisbane, Sydney and the Hunter Valley region where Libby and Connor had to cope with a natural disaster as deadly as the killers hunting them.
Dangerous Deception allowed me to indulge in more exotic locations such as Central Queensland’s Carnarvon Gorge before bringing Breeanna and Rogan back to Melbourne. But I couldn’t resist having them go via the Gold Coast hinterland in a daring escape that has them jumping off a mountain.
The plot of Fatal Flaw only allowed me to take a slight deviation from Brisbane’s suburbs, Chinatown, and nearby Mount Glorious, but it’s Mark’s trip to the sapphire diggings outside Emerald that gives him a clue to who wants to kill Julie’s father.
Grievous Harm (to be released later this year), traverses a lot of New South Wales and Queensland, and depicts the harshness and grandeur of the Outback. This is the darkest of all my novels, and I hope readers can forgive me for what I put Kate and John through. They really deserve their HEA.
What I also strived to do was give my heroes and heroines the kind of courage our early settlers had to have in order to survive. They have to battle not only the highs and lows of falling in love, but danger in various guises and a land that can be as deadly as any determined killer.
We didn’t have prawns (shrimp) on the barbie this Australia Day, but lamb chops (after all, Australia was supposed to ride on the sheep’s back at one stage in our history), and I counted my blessings that I live in this wonderful country that gives me such fabulous settings in which to tell my stories, and planned my next research trips to those states and territories I haven’t yet written about.