Over the next few week’s I’ll be featuring a number of Australia’s Rural Fiction Writers on my blog in the Writers on Reading Series. So today I thought I’d give you a quick rundown on the current state of play on Rural Fiction.

photo-81

So, what is Rural Fiction anyway?

Well, as the label implies it’s a genre firmly located in a rural setting. Australia has had a long history of bush narratives with writers like Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson and much later books like A Town Like Alice, All The Rivers Run,  and The Thornbirds continuing the trend. 

Contemporary Rural Fiction became popular after the enormous success of the Queen of the genre Rachael Treasure published her first novel, Jillaroo, in 2002. Since then the genre has become more and more popular and despite rumours that the bubble is about to burst it still appears to be popular with readers. The landscape is an important facet in many of these novels, whether it be the red dirt of the far outback or the green, rolling hills of more coastal locations. Many of the current crop of Rural Fiction authors – like Fiona Palmer and Rachael Johns – live and work in rural communities, while others authors as Fleur McDonald, Nicole Alexander and Margareta Osborn don’t just write about the land, they make their living from it.

 

photo-30

Rural fiction novels generally have at least some of the following elements:
  • Farm or Small Town Setting
  • Sense of Community/Conflict
  • Strong Female Protagonist
  • Love Interest/Romance
  • Animals
  • Outsider
  • Homecoming

And there are quite a few “sub-genres”:

  • Romance – Rachael Treasure (also environmental and community issues), Rachael Johns, Jennie Jones, Karly Lane, Cathryn Hein, Mandy Magro, Loretta Hill (Pilbara setting), Charlotte Nash (medical), Margareta Osborn , Barbara Hannay, Alissa Callen, Tricia Stringer
  • Romantic Suspense/Crime/Mystery – Helene Young, Bronwyn Parry
  • Women’s Journey/Romantic Elements – Jenn J McLeod, Fleur McDonald, Yours Truly (Pamela Cook), Fiona McCallum, Kerry McGinnis
  • Historical – Nicole Alexander
  • Environmental – Jennifer Scoullar
Rural Fiction Writers At the RWA Conference 2013. L to R. back row:  Fiona Palmer, Jennie jones, Jennifer Scoullar, Margareta Osborn, Loretta Hill, Alissa Callen Front: Rachael Johns, Charlotte Nash, Cathryn Hein, myself, Helene Young

Rural Fiction Writers At the RWA Conference 2013. L to R. back row: Fiona Palmer, Jennie jones, Jennifer Scoullar, Margareta Osborn, Loretta Hill, Alissa Callen
Front: Rachael Johns, Charlotte Nash, Cathryn Hein, myself, Helene Young

I’m sure I’ve missed a few sub-genres and authors and would love to know of any others you have come across.

As for me, I became a rural fiction author pretty much by accident. When I decided to take up the nanowrimo challenge in 2009 I hadn’t heard of the genre but decided to “write what I know” which was a story set in a place similar to my south coast property and including horses. Fortunately, Hachette were looking for something rural by the time I submitted Blackwattle Lake in 2011 as part of the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program, and it was published in December 2012. My second novel, Essie’s Way (also rural with both romantic and historical elements) was published in December 2013.

What I love about this genre is not just the gorgeous settings but the strong women who feature as the protagonists and the family/community relationships that are explored along with the romance.

I’ve featured a number of the writers mentioned here before but am looking forward to finding out about their reading habits, literary loves and favourite characters in the coming weeks.

I hope you’ll join me.