Today it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog our very own “Voice of the Bush”, the lovely Margareta Osborn, as part of the Blog Tour celebrating the release of her latest novel, Rose River. Published on the 2nd March by Random House Australia, the novel has been adapted from her bestselling eBook novella, A Bush Christmas, and is a delightful romantic comedy set in the Australian Outback.
A fifth-generation farmer, Margareta grew up on her family's historic dairy farm in Gippsland, Victoria, the middle child of three. She completed her HSC and left Gippsland for the bright lights of Melbourne only to jump on a home-bound country train three months later muttering, 'You can take the girl from the country, but not the country from this girl.' She didn't return to the city, preferring paddocks, mountains and billy-tea to pavements, tall buildings and lattes.
Her first writing success was with a 'Story in 50 Words' where, in her teens, she won a dictionary and thesaurus. These tools of the trade, preciously stored, were to prove invaluable when she finally sat down twenty or so years later, to pursue a life-long dream of writing a novel. Bella’s Run was the outcome.
Holding a Diploma in Conservation and Land Management, with years of experience in Landcare and agricultural extension, Margareta dismally failed governmental report writing as every screed she wrote read like a chapter book.
Now a full-time farmer and author, over the years she has also worked as, among other things, a farmhand, station cook, governess, farm manager, fire & rescue admin officer, petrol pump attendant, waitress, radiography typist, station gardener, checkout chick, bank officer, vegetable grower and milked the odd cow or two - none of which taught her how to write but gave her plenty of ideas on what to write about.
She lives with her husband and three children on a property in rural Victoria.
Please feel free to grab a pew and get to know her and her world of writing a bit more.
Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank Random House Australia, especially Lucy from their publicity department, without whom this interview would not have been possible.
Margareta, wow, this has been a long-time coming and it’s fabulous to finally have you here.
Thanks for having me, Marcia. It’s so lovely to be here at Book Muster Down Under!
Please give us some insight into your childhood.
While I was growing up, I spent every bit of time I could on my horse, riding around the farm, through the bush and hills surrounding our family property. When I wasn’t on a horse, I was helping my dad on the farm, or curled up at the very top of the hayshed surrounded by small bales of hay, reading a book.
Sounds absolutely idyllic – especially the part about reading amongst the hay bales! You have a vast amount of working experience behind you, in other words you could have been whatever you wanted, so what made you choose writing? Or did it choose you?
The seed to be an author was sown when I was 12, after reading The Billabong books by Mary Grant Bruce. The idea was always there, playing at the back of my mind. Now, in hindsight, I think everything I‘ve done was leading to this point. Farmer, author, wife and mother.
What is Rose River about?
When city based PR exec Jaime Hanrahan accepts a house-sitting job in Burdekins Gap, high up in the East Gippsland Mountains, all she wants is to escape the pressures of Christmas after her father’s death and her recent retrenchment. But rather than getting the peaceful getaway she expected, Jaime is faced with a whole raft of calamities – stampeding cattle, town ladies wielding clip boards, sheep that think they’re goats, a neurotic cat, nude sportsmen and one very handsome yet infuriating station manager, Stirling McEvoy.
What kind of hero and heroine can we expect in Jaime and Stirling?
City exec, Jaime is a classic ‘fish out of water’. She is completely clueless in this unknown bush environment, but with stubbornness, determination and sheer guts she slowly learns and begins to realise how beautiful life in the country is.
Stirling, due to the fact he’s expecting a house sitter who can help him around the station rather than a designer-clothes wearing city chick, comes across as silent and brooding type, but soon proves himself to be warm, generous and an inherently good man. He’s also hunky swoon material.
I read Hope’s Road back in 2013 (apologies but for some or other reason I never got to read Mountain Ash) and one of the things that stuck out for me was how you managed to capably transport me into Tammy’s world of farming. In terms of research, do you merely draw on what you know from your own experience or is there another process that you follow?
It depends what story I’m writing. In terms of Hope's Road, my family are dairy farmers, so I’ve spent a lot of time milking cows and working on the farm. As a lot of rural stories are based on beef or sheep properties, I thought it was about time a dairy farmer, particularly a female one, was put into a book. I’ve lived and worked on the land all my life - vegetables, cropping, broad acre cattle stations – so I’ve seen and done a bit. In saying this, I do go to great lengths to research a novel. Whether I’m following a wild dog trapper through the mountains to see how he goes about his job, or running the dog fence out in NW NSW and interviewing the boundary riders there, it’s all research for my books. In the name of authorship I’ve also learnt how to track wild brumbies in the mountains, drive a 550 HP Prime Mover, make a bargello quilt and a sixteen egg pavlova. Don’t try the latter- it makes a huge mess.
Do you, as a writer, have a motto or maxim? What is it?
Just write the damn book. You can’t edit a blank page.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Stop writing for the day in the middle of a sentence, paragraph or scene. It doesn’t matter where, stop mid-flow. Scribble down a couple of ideas/words where you think it might be heading as a reference for tomorrow. That way when you return the next day, you aren’t faced with a blank page and the inevitable question, ‘Now, where was I going with that?’
That is a brilliant idea! What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Join the writer’s organisation in your State eg. in Victoria it’s Writers Victoria. If there is an element of romance in your story, join Romance Writers of Australia. These organisations are there to support you and your writing. Research the publishing industry itself as well as you research your novel. With persistence, determination and a teaspoon of good luck, you will get there.
As well as being a writer, you’re a beef farmer in rural Victoria. What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I get up at 5am, grab a cup of tea, hide in my office (which looks out across the mountains) and write until 7am. I break and get my children ready for school; put them on the bus. At 8.30 I sit down and write again until 10.30am then the rest of the farm day takes over. But that’s okay because I’ve already got my 2000 words on the page for the day. By writing first thing in the morning, my mind is clear and not cluttered with farm and kid stuff.
And now for some fun:
Pizza or Pasta?
Pizza! Hawaiian preferably with garlic bread
What is your favourite motivational phrase?
Just do it.
It’s a toss-up as I read very widely. Geraldine Brooks? Monica McInerney? Susan Duncan? Fiona Palmer? See, I could just go on and on …
If you had a book club what would it be reading and why?
I have a book club and they are reading Rose River at the moment! This is because they are absolutely wonderful friends who support my books. Our next one is Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan because of its superb reviews.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Question: How does your husband feel about you writing all these sexy men?
Answer: There’s lots of him in every one of them.
Margareta, it’s been really fabulous having you here. Thank you so much for joining me today and once again, a huge congratulations but, before you go, would you mind sharing with us a few passages from Rose River?
Thanks for having me, Marcia. I’ll catch you next time.
[Excerpt]There were three things in life Jaime Josephina Hanrahan couldn’t stand. Her name, public transport and musclebound men riding Harley-Davidsons. She couldn’t do much about the first, unfortunately. And the last two were currently within her field of vision.The bus that had brought her to Lake Grace was now wheeling around the corner out of town, after its driver had broken every rule in the book on the four-hour drive up here. The Harley was parked in front of the Lake Grace Hotel.Not for the first time in the last little while Jaime cursed her former employers … Gone was her six-figure salary, and with it her to-die-for South Bank rented flat, her car-that-came-with-the-job, her iPhone and iPad. And if that wasn’t enough, it was her first Christmas without her father, Jack, who’d succumbed to a heart attack last Boxing Day. Her mother, Blanche not one to let the grass grow under her feet, had already remarried. Jaime’s new stepdad was called Dave and he was a redneck bushman, not unlike Marble Man standing beside her.‘Have you any idea how I’m to get to Burdekins Gap?’ she said to Marble Man. ‘And I don’t do horses or bicycles.’
Housesitting in rural Burdekin's Gap, high up in the East Gippsland mountains, is not an obvious career move for a PR executive like Jaime Hanrahan. But, hey, retrenchment is a kicker.
Plus she's determined not to spend Christmas in Melbourne with her friends, who still have company cars and six-figure salaries, or with her mother, Blanche, who has remarried too soon after her father's death.
However, it turns out that Burdekin's Gap is a little more remote than Jaime had anticipated, the house is in the middle of a cattle station, and the handsome manager, Stirling McEvoy, doesn't appreciate a new farmhand in Jimmy Choos and Sass & Bide cut-offs.
Soon Jaime is fending off stampeding cows, town ladies wielding clipboards, sheep who think they are goats, nude sportsmen and one very neurotic cat. So why does she feel like she's falling in love ... with the life, with the breathtaking landscape, and with one infuriating cowboy …?
Rose River can be purchased from the following links: