I’m very excited to be opening my blog up again, to other authors who have new books out. It’s great to be able to let readers know what is out and about and what authors have new books.
Joy Rhoades is first cab off the rank with her beautiful new novel, THE BURNT COUNTRY. Take it away, Joy…
Thanks so much Fleur, for the chance to be on your blog! It’s my great pleasure to share with you and your followers how I came to write my second novel, The Burnt Country, and also describe some quirks in the research for the novel.
The Burnt Country is set in 1948 ontheNewEngland tableland of northern New South Wales.This was Merino Country then, as it is today. Kate Dowd is the young owner of Amiens, a sprawling sheep station that she inherited from her late father, just three years before. She’s struggling to make Amiens pay, not helped by her older —old-fashioned— neighbour John Fleming. Fleming disapproves on principle of a woman running a sheep station. Then a catastrophic bushfire devastates Amiens and John Fleming’s property, and a man dies. Fleming accuses Kate of causing the fire. She must fight to clear her name to avoid prison.
I had the idea for a novel about a bush fire from the run of good seasons in this era: there were solid rains on the New England tableland year after year from 1945 through to 1948. When those rains ended, the long grasses they’ve produced begin to dry out and bushfire risk grows. Bushfire is of course also an increasing risk everywhere: as a result of climate change, fires burn longer and more intensely than at any time in recorded history. I wanted to look at bushfire and it’s impact on the land, and on the people left in its trail. And I wanted to look at how a young woman might deal with the enormous pressure of a community turning against her. Luckily, though, my main character, Kate Dowd, has a strong personality and a few good friends who support her. Above all, I hope The Burnt Country is a gripping read!
I love to do research and to learn about bushfire was awesome and frightening. It was a senior firefighter from QLD who taught me that a hollow tree trunk will actually burn faster than a still-solid dead tree. The ‘chimney effect’ means oxygen reaches and feeds the flames faster. Readers of The Burnt Country might spot that in the novel.
The most fun part of writing the novel was always to write about Kate Dowd, the main character. This is my second novel with Kate at its centre. The first, The Woolgrower’s Companion, was(wonderfully!) a debut best-seller and that covers Kate’s life in 1945 as she struggles to keep the bank at bay. The second book, The Burnt Country stands alone, meaning you don’t need to read the other book or even know about it. But Kate shines through each and I hope her resilience and sense of humour readers will enjoy again.