Bella Vermaelon and her best friend Patty are two fun-loving country girls bonded in a sisterhood no blood tie could ever beat.
Now they are coming to the end of a road trip which has taken them from their family farms in the rugged Victorian high country to the red dust of the Queensland outback. For almost a year they have mustered on cattle stations, cooked for weary stockmen, played hard at rodeos and danced through life like a pair of wild tumbleweeds.
And with the arrival of Patty’s brother Will and Bella’s cousin Macca, it seems love is on the horizon too …
Then a devastating tragedy strikes, and Bella’s world is changed forever.
So she runs – from the only life she has ever known. But can she really turn her back on the man she loves? Or on the land that runs deep in her blood.
Bella’s Run is an intoxicating, romantic outback saga about the bonds of friendship, finding love and the place you can call home.
2. Tell us how you came to be published.
I have always wanted to write a novel but it wasn’t until my youngest daughter went to kindergarten that I finally had the time and space to sit down and give it a go. I had spent many years writing for various rural newspapers, journals and so forth, but all in the line of my agricultural extension work.
A published author friend of mine suggested I learn the ‘craft of writing’ concurrently with drafting Bella’s Run. So I headed to Melbourne and studied with the Victorian Writers Centre (six hour round trip once every two months for two years) to do just that.
It must have worked because on the last day of my Advanced Year of the Novel course, I was able to announce the book contract with Random House. It sounds plain sailing when I put it like that, but it wasn’t. There were rejections, tears – many, many tears – but we got there in the end. (I was also picked up by a wonderful agent, which helped enormously as well.)
3. Have you always been a writer? Did you know from a young age that you wanted to write novels?
I was a voracious reader as a child. Through the Billabong series of books by Mary Grant Bruce I fell in love with reading about life on the land. Thereafter I was hooked on books that used rural settings as their context and I always dreamed of someday writing my own rural romantic saga novel. Bella’s Run is a far cry from the Billabong books, but it is the story I wanted to write.
And I guess I should also mention my other childish journalistic exploits. I have a cassette tape where, at the grand age of ten, I was pretending to be an ABC journalist, reporting about life on the Osborn farm. It’s hilarious. Goes something like, ‘With some assistance, cow number 641 delivered a fine heifer calf today. Mother and daughter are doing well. Farmer Osborn is recovering in hospital from a squished arm.’ As they say, only in the country …
4. Rural fiction is a very popular genre, do you have any advice for aspiring rural fiction authors out there?
Write from the heart about what you know and passionately love. What sets you apart from others is your voice and it needs to be unique and authentic.
5. How do you go about creating characters, do they just come to you as you write, or do you write out detailed character profiles?
They just come to me while I’m dreaming up the story and as I write. At times I have a film running somewhere above my forehead where I can ‘see’ the scenes and my fingers race across the keyboard trying to keep up. At other times, my characters are as slow and recalcitrant as a sulky calf; it’s like pulling teeth. But no, to my shame, I have never sat down and written a detailed character profile.
I do make notes on character cards as I write the first draft. This is so I know who’s got what features and who’s related to whom and how they came to be where they are etc, just to remind myself. But all this is worked out as I go. I’m an organic writer, I guess. By the end of the first draft I have told myself the story. I then start all over again and tell my reader the story. That’s when things get serious.
6. Complete this sentence: When I’m not writing, I’m…
Running our small beef property, pelting around after three children, sporadically helping on my family farm, involved in local community organisations like the rural fire brigade, local hall and the children’s school. For spare time, throw in water-skiing, riding motorbikes and trying to find a weekend when we can head up into the mountains and get away from it all.
7. How often do you write? Do you try to follow a daily or weekly word count goal to keep on track with your writing?
I don’t have luxury of deciding when I write. With three children, a husband and a small farm to run, writing is squeezed in. From time to time, I also help my father on his property, so things are always hectic.
If I’m writing to a deadline, I aim for 2000 words each time I sit down at the laptop. I find if I have a goal, it helps me from getting distracted by the washing, the vacuuming, a beautiful day, my dog being an idiot, the cows bellowing for hay, the irrigation water going where it shouldn’t …
8. What are you working on next?
I have just submitted my second rural romantic saga novel to Random House, Australia, and to my delight they love it. Currently called ‘The Cry of the Currawong’, this book will be published in March 2013.