Guest blogger: Allisa Callen
When fact meets fiction
Real life has a way of wriggling into my words much like how our Jack Russell squeezes through the half-open kitchen door. My new release, The Long Paddock, is very much woven from the scents, sights and sounds of my everyday rural life in central western NSW.
Last summer rain was scarce and I’d often drive through mobs of cattle grazing on the roadside verges. Concern has grown over the management and future of the travelling stock routes and this became an issue I wanted to explore. Yarn bombers had decorated the trees in Dubbo’s main street and the colours and textures soon found their way into my new story. After attending the Coonamble Rodeo and Campdraft, not only did I find myself with a bull-rider hero, but also a misunderstood bull who was determined to take centre stage.
The karst caves at Borenore provided me with a real-life cave for my plot, while the mini-tornado that ripped through the outskirts of Dubbo gave me a natural disaster. I happened to be in a small aeroplane the afternoon of the storm, coming back from a writers’ conference, and will never forget the air turbulence or the brooding black horizon.
My daughter’s sweet-tempered horse hasn’t always had a loving home and some of the work we have done to rebuild her trust has slipped into The Long Paddock’s pages. Some of our farm chores have also made an appearance, like fixing a split water-trough pipe. There really is a Dinner Under the Stars, held in the small town of Gulargambone as a local fundraiser. The evening is a beautiful one, complete with fairy lights and a warm sense of community.
So while Woodlea, the town of windmills, is fictitious, the landscape surrounding the town and the experiences of the local community are grounded in reality. I hope you enjoy spending time in Woodlea as much as I have enjoyed creating this close-knit rural town.
The Long Paddock
Country-girl Cressida Knight fills her days with her farm, a mischievous bull called Reggie and her volunteer emergency services work. The busier she keeps, the less she thinks about the cowboy who left her behind. She’s convinced the small-town Woodlea grapevine that she’s moved on but now it’s time to move on for real.
Champion bull rider Denham Rigby shares Cressy’s deep love for the land and all he’s ever wanted was to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Cressy through life. But three years ago a dark family secret left him no choice but to run. Now family duty gives him no choice but to return to the bush.
What Denham hasn’t come home to do is to hurt Cressy. He’s nothing but a liability and the beautiful cowgirl has to remain off-limits. But when faced with Cressy’s desperation to save her drought-stricken farm, he can’t keep his distance. He joins her out droving on the long paddock. When Woodlea is hit by more than just rodeo fever, they are further thrown together. Denham loses the battle to lock down his emotions.
But has he left it too late to stop running? And will the woman he’s always loved be prepared to risk her heart for a second time?
The Long Paddock is available from Harlequin