People, towns, news stories or even a vista can all spark my imagination though if I had to pick one thing that never fails to inspire me I’d say ‘place’. The setting is very important for me and landscape is an integral part of that. Most days when I go to work I look down on Australia. We often joke that we have the world’s smallest office with the world’s best view! Call me biased, but working as a pilot for a regional airline, and flying over the Great Barrier Reef, is a pretty special way to spend the day. (And don’t tell my boss, but I think they actually pay me to sit there and admire the scenery…)
On a typical day I might do the early morning return flight to Hamilton Island in the magical Whitsundays. Our track takes us out over the Coral Sea and we make landfall again as we thread our way down the centre of the Whitsunday Islands. Easy for me to imagine my hero and heroine rendezvousing at sunrise on a tiny atoll ringed by coral reefs, as they hunt down smugglers.
If our flight heads north out of Cairns then we’re on our way to Weipa or Horn Island. I’ve used Weipa and its surrounds extensively in Border Watch because it’s such a unique place. The red bauxite-rich earth punches through the dark green of the trees in bold, vibrant slashes of colour. Everything feels big in Weipa. The mining trucks are enormous, the four-wheel drive vehicles have been fed steroids and the crocodiles are definitely in the monster category. Arcing over the whole landscape is a vibrant blue sky that has no end.
Further north is Horn Island, gateway to the beautiful Torres Strait. With its opalescent water, white beaches and scattered islands it’s Australia’s best-kept secret. On a clear day, when the visibility stretches on for miles, you can see the smudge of the Papua New Guinea coastline. Most people don’t realize how close Australia is to its northern neighbours - perfect to delve into the possibilities of illegal entry to our country.
Bernadette Foley, my wonderful publisher from Hachette, had some great advice on my first draft of Border Watch -‘Treat the Australian landscape as another character.’ I hope I’ve achieved that.
When I get off an aircraft in Cairns and the humidity slaps me in the face I know I’m in North Queensland. Drive through the forests south towards Charters Towers and the smell of lemon myrtle takes my breath away. Be greeted by the laconic humour of a publican in Chillagoe and I can’t help but smile. The history and diversity of the people that live in rural Australia add another layer, another dimension to that landscape that makes their towns unique and for me inspirational.
I live by a beach just north of Cairns – my own tiny slice of paradise in North Queensland. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me flying Dash 8 aircraft for QantasLink around regional Australia. I write romantic suspense with feisty, confident heroines who (not surprisingly) work in the aviation industry. My stories are set in the top end of Australia – a wild and wonderful, larger-than-life environment just begging to be showcased in novels filled with intrigue.’
'Border Watch' March 2010, Hachette Australia
'Beyond the Borders' March 2011