Australian author Helene Young talks about how the landscape becomes the soul of a storyline.
Being an airline pilot gives me a different perspective on the vast sprawling land of Australia. The rich browns and eucalyptus green are different from twenty-five thousand feet up and the distances between towns even more obvious than when you’re juddering over a corrugated red-dust road for hours on end. The twenty million residents of Australia live mostly on the coastal fringe, but even there we have large distances between towns. (A piece of trivia for your next dinner party – Australia has 2.66 people per km2 versus 238 for the UK and 31 for the USA. We have plenty of room to grow!)
For those who live in the interior life is very different, with tyranny of distance ruling everything from emergency medical services to education to getting the mail delivered. It’s that rugged landscape and the people who live there that have inspired so many of my stories.
I’ve lived in Cairns in far north Queensland – that’s the pointy bit on the top right of a map of Australia – for the last sixteen years. When the wet season arrives in December it’s common for communities to be isolated for weeks with air transport providing the only way in or out. By October, at the end of a dry winter, terrible fires can lay waste to thousands of kilometres of country, devastating communities, killing stock and destroying livelihoods.
Those extremes add a powerful tension to a suspense story and can put my characters under real pressure forcing them to face their emotions, fall in or out of love, and fight for their very survival. It’s a writer’s dream gig really!
During the last couple of years there’s been a huge increase in the popularity of the Rural Chick Lit/Aussie Romantic Suspense genres with writers like Bronwyn Parry, Fleur McDonald, Rachael Johns, Margareta Osborn and Cathryn Hein winning awards and new fans with each fresh story. Part of the appeal of these stories is the landscape, which becomes another character alongside the hero and heroine.
The land has tantrums and quiet times, burning anger and soft healing rain, harsh beauty and rich diversity. That provides an emotive backdrop for a blossoming romance with a feisty young woman and an outback hero to die for – not literally of course!
If you haven’t read one then give them a go. You might just sign up for a holiday to Australia as well!
When Darcy Fletcher drags a handsome sailor from a stricken yacht, she finds herself drawn into his mysterious world. Having saved his life can she now rescue him from his dark past? Or will that endanger all she holds most dear?
Noah, keeper of the peace and guardian of the Banskia Cove secrets, can’t tell Darcy the real reason this man has washed up on their shores. If she knew the links between the stranger and her own dysfunctional family, she’d flee the Cove and he’d lose her love for good.
As they take refuge in an old whaling station, only one thing is certain – by morning, no one will be the same again. Lies will surface, hearts will break, and not all will find safe harbour.
Helene Young lives aboard a catamaran on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland with her husband and their dog, Zeus. Her work as a senior captain with Australia’s largest regional airline, Qantaslink, takes her all over the east coast of Australia. She was voted most popular romantic suspense author by the Romance Readers of Australia (ARRA) in 2010, 2011 and 2013. She has twice won the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2011 and 2012.