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Friday, October 25, 2013

Taking Tea with...Heather Garside

After a month of in the genteel company of Regency writers, it is my great pleasure to slip into something more R.M. Williams boots and Akubra hat...and welcome HEATHER GARSIDE to my tea table. Few people would be better equipped to write about life in outback Australia, than Heather...

Heather grew up on a cattle property in Central Queensland and now lives with her husband on a beef and grain farm in the same area. She has two adult children and her daughter was married last year, but she is still waiting for the grandchildren!

She has previously published three historical romances and has helped to write and produce several compilations of short stories and local histories. She works part time at the local library and enjoys helping out at home.

Welcome Heather, hang your "Driza-bone" on that hook near the door and I will just swing the billy in the time honoured fashion. I love a good bush tea, drunk in the Australian bush, straight off an open fire, preferably with a slice of buttered damper. What is your tea preference?

Thanks so much for having me, Alison. There’s nothing like the taste of billy tea and years ago, when I went on long days mustering with my sandwiches in my saddlebag, there was nothing like it to wash down the said corned-beef sandwiches. They were usually pretty dry by the time we got to eat them! Although we boiled quart pots instead of a billy and we had little cloth bags of tea and sugar, tied together with string, in our saddlebags. Our present farm has much smaller paddocks and we usually have the cattle in the yards by morning tea time.

If I’m not out in the bush I drink coffee and green tea – I love a flat white! How times have changed.

You grew up on a cattle property in central Queensland. While that may sound romantic, I know from my travels in the outback (city girl that I am!) that it can be a hard life for an isolated family. 
What were some of the downsides for you and conversely the upsides of life as a child in the bush?

The biggest downside of that isolation was rarely seeing other children. Occasionally we met up with some cousins, usually at Christmas time, and we started attending pony club when I was in upper primary school. We did our lessons by correspondence. As a result I was excruciatingly shy and have battled that shyness all my life. Luckily I had three siblings to play with and we devised many exciting and wonderful games. I’m sure we had much more fun than today’s children with their computer games etc. 

What do you think growing up in the bush teaches a child?

I think it teaches you resourcefulness and self-sufficiency. You have to acquire a degree of physical and emotional toughness to survive long days working in the heat and you have to learn to cope with nature’s brutality.

You and I published our first books with an epublisher way back in 2007, before epublishing became popular. What changes have you noticed over the last few years? 

Certainly the rise in popularity of eBooks! I hardly sold any eBook copies of my earlier books. In comparison Breakaway Creek is steadily selling copies every day from Amazon. Now my other books are selling as eBooks, too.

Another big difference is the acceptance of epublishing by the industry in general, which is wonderful to see.

It’s been a long time between those first two books and your latest release, BREAKAWAY CREEK, why is this? And when can we expect your next book?

I’m a slow writer, but the big factor was the amount of time Breakaway Creek spent with publishers before I found one to take it on. It was a finalist in the QWC/Hachette programme which tied it up for almost twelve months. Another publisher had the full for six months before passing on it. I must have been behind the times as I didn’t do multiple submissions.

As to my next book – I have started another one but because of contract issues I’m not sure whether to keep going with it. I’ve never been someone who’s had lots of ideas popping out of my head, nor can I churn a book out every year. Consequently I’ve never aspired to be a full-time author. We writers are all different and not everyone is highly ambitious. I also like my other jobs of helping out on the farm and working at the library. 

“Rural Romance” (or “RuRo”/ “Chooklit”) seems to have really captured reader attention in the last few years, in your opinion what do you think has brought about this phenomenon?

I’m not sure. I think Rachael Treasure started it all, by writing a rural book with contemporary themes that resonated with modern readers. I’m sure it was encouraged by the TV show, The Farmer Wants a Wife.


Two city women, a century apart, find love and adventure in the Queensland outback.
Betrayed by her boyfriend, Shelley Blake escapes the city on a quest to unravel a century-old family mystery.  Her search takes her to a remote cattle station run by Luke Sherman.
Shelley and Luke try to resist their mutual attraction as he fights to reclaim his children from a broken marriage, and Shelley uncovers the truth about her ancestors, Alex and Emma.
Emma’s story of racial bigotry and a love that transcends all obstacles unfolds in the pioneering days of the 1890s.

Shelley and Emma are separated by time but they’re bound by a dark secret to a place called Breakaway Creek.

To find out more about Heather and her wonderful books of life in outback Australia visit her WEBSITE