It is my pleasure to welcome Pamela Cook to the blog today.
Pamela Cook writes Rural and Contemporary fiction. Her novels feature complex women, tangled family relationships and sometimes a sprinkling of romance. She is the co-host of the exciting new podcasts Writes4Women and Writes4Festivals, and Program Director for the inaugural Storyfest Literary Festival happening in Milton, on the south coast of NSW, Australia in June 2019. An eclectic reader, Pamela also enjoys writing poetry and memoir pieces and is proud to be a Writer Ambassador for Room To Read, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries. When she’s not writing, podcasting or festival planning she wastes as much time as possible riding her handsome quarter horses, Morocco and Rio. Her books are available on all online platforms and through Booktopia. Over to you, Pamela!
Being part of the huge phenomenon that is Australian Rural Fiction has been a highlight of my writing career. Connecting with both readers and fellow writers in this community is a daily joy and one I hadn’t expected as I never really set out to write in this genre. But when I think back it’s really not surprising that it’s where my story ideas led me.
Although I grew up in the southern suburbs of Sydney I spent a good part of every Christmas holiday at Burrill Lake on the south coast of New south Wales. My family rented a house opposite the lake and I’d spend hours sitting by the water watching fish jump, pelicans cruise by and hermit crabs scurrying along the shore. We bought Jaffas and Fantales to devour at the small open-air theatre, sitting in canvas seats under the stars, covered in blankets. Days blended into weeks and even though there were moments of boredom the return to city life always came with a sense of regret.
Other school holidays were spent out west. My mother was born in Parkes, and still had aunts and cousins scattered around the area. Aunty Flo lived in my great grandmother’s house, an iconic country shack with a rickety veranda, chooks nesting in rusty backyard cars and a couple of kelpies chained up out the back. Uncle Harry was a sheep farmer and I have vivid memories of hopping in the ute beside him and watching his favourite dog Beau respond to the ear-piercing whistle as he rounded up the mob and we moved them into new paddocks.
As an adult I had weekend getaways to the coast in the kombi my husband and I bought (and still own 30 years later!) venturing north from time to time but always feeling a pull to the south. Eventually we swapped the camping weekends for a holiday house a couple of hours south of Sydney near beautiful Milton and it just so happened there was a horse riding ranch just up the road. My daughters became hooked, closely followed by me and pretty soon we were all riding our own horses. We kept them closer to Sydney and spent every weekend hanging out with them on an idyllic ranch-style property. School holidays were spent in the holiday house, surrounded by bush, not far from the beach and getting a taste of small-town life.
By this stage I’d already finished a literary style novel and was yearning to write something different. When I sat down to write my next book an image of a woman standing by the locked gate of horse property popped into my head. I started with that and the plot developed as I wrote. Within a month the first draft of Blackwattle Lake was complete. I went on to write Essie’s Way (set in a fictional township further down the south coast), Close To Home (set in a town very like Milton and centred around an outbreak of the Hendra virus) and then The Crossroads (set in outback Queensland where I was lucky enough to visit for an author talk). My new novel Cross My Heart is largely set in the central west of NSW. Returning there last year on a road-trip with my 94 year old mum is an experience I will always treasure.
Most of my books have a few scenes set in Sydney but inevitably the story draws me away to the country. While I do have a hankering to write a book set in Paris, for me writing Australian stories set in rural locations comes naturally and it’s the perfect escape. Hopefully my readers enjoy coming along for the ride.
Thank you, Pamela. What a lovely insight into your inspiration for writing Australian Rural Fiction. I have no doubt your readers are loving the ride! If you’d like to know more, Pamela loves to connect with readers both in person and online. You will often find her lurking in one of these places:
Instagram @pamelacookwrites and @w4wpodcast