‘Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.’
And so Rhett Butler fed up with the chase, said good-bye to Scarlett in Gone With The Wind. Millions of readers of this classic tale of the south were shocked at Scarlett’s foolishness at losing the dashing Rhett, after all this was a love story to end all love stories. Or was it? Gone With The Wind is actually about Scarlett’s love for the land and her beloved property Tara; everything else in her life was secondary.
The use of romantic elements to drive plot by creating interest and conflict is one of the great joys of writing and reading. Human nature is such that all of us are either in or out of love, falling in love, aspiring to it, losing it or sagely waving good-bye to it. And love, as an intangible quality has the ability to conjure from characters all the flaws, preconceptions, assumptions and joy that a writer can wish to manifest.
With my first novel released in 2010 (The Bark Cutters) and an eight year creative process behind me, discussing the storyline in detail with my publisher and editor was a cathartic experience. I live in the country. This in itself is isolating however add the solitary pursuit of writer and you sometimes find yourself questioning if you are doubly blessed. So discussing my characters with a tribe of like minded people was both wonderful and enlightening.
‘Each of your main characters has their own love story’, I was told, ‘but it is the love of the land that shines through’. I’d never thought of it that way. When planning The Bark Cutters I was more concerned with ensuring I had rounded, interesting characters. I wanted them to have wants and needs. They had to be engaging to and for themselves. Yet love; the loss, the chance, the illusion of it, added to who and what the characters eventually became on the page. Ultimately, the many faces of love drives the interweaving narrative of The Bark Cutters yet the heart of the novel is about the emotional attachment that generational graziers feel towards the land. That’s the real love story.
I write about the Australian landscape. It’s the central love story that I return to in all of my works. The land as a living breathing character. The power and beauty of the outback. Seven novels on and I am still writing our pastoral history and the land is still my main protagonist. Where would we be without the power of love?