Tell us about yourself. When did you start writing? Why did you choose this genre?
For as long as I can remember I’ve had my nose in in a book and stories in my head. I have an Aunt who writes, two daughters who write, one about unicorns and the other about hobbits (pick the teenager), but it wasn’t until I was home raising my kids that I had the opportunity to put fingers to the keyboard.
Rural fiction is a genre close to my heart. I’m a country girl who married a good ol’ country boy (cue John Denver) and our children are lucky enough to be growing up with paddocks to roam and animals to care for – or chase in the case of my boys.
We live in a beautiful country and you live in a place that is not very well known overseas. Would you share a little bit about your area for those who won’t ever have the chance to travel here? What do you love about the land? What are some sights that are must-see’s for those who do manage to get here?
Australia is a special country. I’ve lived overseas and there is something about our vivid blue skies and the warmth of our sunshine that you can’t experience anywhere else. I live in central western NSW and this particular area of Australia has so much to offer. If cooler temperatures, vineyards and autumn color are your thing then the town of Orange would be a must-visit destination. But if you like hotter weather, river-activities and visiting a world-renowned zoo, then Dubbo is a must-see. Both towns are surrounded by rolling rural countryside and offer many photo opportunities from rustic windmills, to unique bush mailboxes to majestic mottled gums.
Do you use your surroundings as an inspiration for your story and did anything in particular prompt you to write this story?
Inspiration for my stories surrounds me, whether it is the brown snake stealing water from the dog bowl, the sun setting over the cattle yards or the thrum of a V8 ute engine that turns heads down the main street. Beneath Outback Skies grew out of my experiences living two hours further west at a time when the district was drought declared. I’d often drive past a burned out historic homestead and this stark picture stayed with me long after the drought had broken. Such an image became the nucleus for Killora Downs and the silhouette of crumbling chimneys symbolic of the destruction of the fictional family whose laughter had once made the red brick walls a home.
Do you read a lot of books within the genre you write in? Do you have a favorite author(s) you follow?
We are so lucky to have a raft of talented authors writing Aussie rural fiction and have read them all. Must confess don’t have a favorite as each author’s voice brings something unique to the genre.
What is one thing you want to accomplish this year in terms of writing?
This year I need to learn how to touch type! My fingers and spelling often don’t keep up with my brain so for efficacy and productivity I need to stop hunting and pecking.
What made you choose to submit to Random House your novel/novella for their new imprint?
At the annual Romance Writers of Australia conference was fortunate enough to listen to the lovely Beverley Cousins speak. The publishing landscape is changing at a rapid pace and when Beverley mentioned a digital-first imprint, Random House Australia were very much on my radar.
Can you share a little bit about your characters and what their inspirations are? What comes first in the genesis of your work? Story or characters? Do you have a favorite?
In Beneath Outback Skies there are three main characters that arrived, almost fully formed, before the plot road on which they were to travel unraveled in my head.
Only-child Paige Quinn won’t let anyone distract her from caring for her crippled father, Connor, and fighting for her drought-stricken home, Banora Downs.
Corporate-cynic, Tait Cavanaugh believes selflessness and honesty only exist in fiction. Contracted by Connor to devise a farm business plan, he must pose as a guest to make sure Paige never discovers the truth. But concealing his reason for staying isn’t the only secret he needs to hide.
English child-migrant and widower, Connor Quinn, must guarantee Paige’s survival, both personally and financially, so he devises a plan to secure his daughter’s future and also to right past wrongs. But in implementing his plan has he instead only reawakened old hurts?
What can we expect next for you?
In 2013 I’d love to complete another full length rural novel as well as some shorter books in a small town series based in the bush. I recently visited a nearby town to check out their Elvis festival so am sure somewhere in my writing this year there will be gold-suited country boys crooning, ‘Are you lonesome tonight?’ on a 44C summer day.
Thanks so much for having me Tash on Confessions from Romanholics
Book Blurb :
A captivating rural romance featuring an indomitable young woman determined to save her family farm, and the city-boy who is not all he seems…
Paige Quinn will let nothing and no one distract her from caring for her crippled father, Connor, and fighting for her remote, drought-stricken property, Banora Downs. Least of all a surprise farm-stay guest named Tait Cavanaugh, whose smooth words are as lethal as his movie-star smile.
Except Paige can’t help noticing that, for a city-boy, Tait seems unexpectedly at home on the land. And he does ask a lot of questions…
It doesn’t matter how much he helps out or how much laughter he brings into her life, she soon suspects he is harbouring a big secret – the real reason he has come to Banora Downs…
Warning – There is a teensy little spoiler about who Tait really is …
Paige Quinn has only one thing on her mind … keeping the farm running, making sure that Banora Downs earns enough to keep them in the black and not to let her father know as she promised her mother before she died. Her father Connor is disabled and she is the only surviving child and is determined to keep the place in her family as it has been for generations on her mother’s side and she’s determined the family farm is not going to become one of the stats of the worst drought in years.
Needless to say, her father does know what is going on but he has his own plan as he is worried that his daughter is spreading herself thin and will lose the place to the bank. Connor goes behind her back and hires Tait. Tait is on a mission. He will pose as a guest, as the place used to take guests as a way to make money but gave up after one particular disaster. In reality, he owns a successful agriculture consulting firm and has been employed by Connor to form a plan to save the family home. However he has reservations as Paige is running the place and he questions her motives. She is livid when she finds out and soon ups the prices of his stay. As we continue to read, we discover Tait is getting away from something else that is alluded to from the start.
I’m Aussie, but I don’t know about the damage the drought has caused and Callen paints a vivid story that highlights the struggles that rural areas went through.
Tait wants to help and soon discovers that Paige is not the typical girly-girl and she really cares about the property. He is soon trying to force his way into her life by buying things he sees her secretly looking at in the supermarket, food in order to make her life easier. However, will Paige let him into her life permanently or will he just be an annoying guest? She is happy to see him go at the end of his stay.
This book blurb plays down the story, there is alot more to it than the blurb and you need to read this book to unravel the whole story that has been waiting to be told in this character driven book. It is something that has been hidden for years and it’s a mystery until the arrival of Tait and the determination of Paige not to let Banora Downs become another drought ravaged statistic.
Publisher : Random House
Source : Publicist Provided for review via Netgalley
Released : February 1st 2013
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When Alissa Callen isn’t writing she plays traffic controller to four children, three dogs, two horses and one renegade cow who really does believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. After a childhood spent chasing sheep on the family farm, Alissa has always been drawn to remote areas and small towns, even when residing overseas.
Once a teacher and a counsellor, she remains interested in the life journeys that people take. She is also partial to historic homesteads and gardens and has been known to drive hours to visit an open-garden.
She draws inspiration from the countryside around her, whether it be the brown snake at her back door or the resilience of bush communities in times of drought or flood. She currently lives on a small slice of rural Australia in central western New South Wales. Beneath Outback Skies is her first novel.
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