Readers often ask where an author’s ideas and inspiration come from. For my third novel, No Job for a Girl (Penguin Random House 2017) it’s an easy question to answer.
I love the Outback, and have done ever since my first visit at the ripe old age of 20. To this day I remember riding the Greyhound bus, en route to Coober Pedy and my first job as a registered nurse, and opening my eyes to an Outback sunrise. I was awestruck by the huge nothingness, and the very beauty of it all.
When it came time to write book number three, the setting had been indelibly etched onto my retina all those years ago. That left the creation of a construction fly camp.
And the characters … Leah Jackson, nurse and safety officer … Alex McKinley, project supervisor … Well, I didn’t have to go far to research them either!
My husband spent many years as a safety advisor for heavy industry, most of it in the Outback on projects like the one described in No Job for a Girl. He had stacks of photos and endless anecdotes. And as you know, I was a registered nurse in my previous life, and we met while I was working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in outback South Australia.
One of the book’s main themes is the challenges faced by women working in male dominated environments. Add the demands of a harsh landscape, extreme weather conditions, and workers isolated from home and family for extended periods, and the scene is set to push everyone to their limits. It isn’t for the faint-hearted!
I’m privileged to have met many tough and resilient characters when I’ve worked in similar settings. Hardship and challenge bring out the best, and sometimes the worst, in people. In the context of the isolation and harsh conditions, greater flexibility and innovation are necessary. Common sense is a prerequisite.
Hats off to the people who build and maintain the powerlines, pipelines, roads and other infrastructure spanning Australia’s vast interior, connecting us all.