To continue in the current Rural Romance vein, I have recently been speaking with Melbourne based author Cathryn Hein. Her new release Heart of the Valley is due for release with Penguin on April 26th, I can’t wait to read it if Cathryn’s bubbly personality shines through in her books.
What made you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I have no idea! It’s been with me so long that I can’t recall any decision point, but I’ve always loved stories and that’s a must for a writer because stories are our lifeblood.
Like so many other authors I was an avid reader and adored English at school. The wonder and delight of picking up a book, reading that first line and suddenly being dragged into another world has never left me. So I think the spark must have been lit very early on. Given the piles of short stories, embarrassing angsty teenage poetry and novel attempts I have floating around the place I’ve certainly been at it a long time!
Your new book, Heart of the Valley, is released in April. Can you tell us a little about the book?
Heart of the Valley is a rural romance set in the stunning Hunter Valley. The plot revolves around Brooke Kingston, a young woman whose life is turned upside-down by a terrible accident. Unable to fulfil all her duties on the family’s Hunter Valley property, her worried parents hire Lachie Cambridge to take over, hoping his employment will force Brooke to Sydney. But Kingston Downs is Brooke’s home. Everything she loves is there, and she’s not about to let that go. Despite a rough start, she and Lachie become friends, and then more. But when tragedy strikes they must decide where their hearts really belong.
At its core, Heart of the Valley is about the meaning of home. Is it a place, or is it where your heart lies?
It’s also a bit of a love letter to the Hunter Valley, a region I fell in love with when we moved there in the early nineties. Like Lachie with Brooke, first impressions weren’t positive. I’d left my family and home territory to follow the man I loved to this unfamiliar location. Unfortunately in the days before our arrival, terrible bushfires broke out around Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Hunter. So my first view was not the bucolic bliss I anticipated, but a land shadowed by a churning dark sky with a menacing orange glow on the horizon.
Things improved though!
Where do you get your inspiration?
This is going to sound like a frustrating answer but inspiration can come from anywhere. I’m constantly amazed by what triggers my imagination. Sometimes it’s a dream. Sometimes a piece of music will lead to an idea, but it could be an overheard snippet of conversation, a movie, or TV show. Newspapers and magazines are great source, and I have folders bulging with articles I’ve cut out and saved because they’ve struck some chord. Triggers are all over the place. And then my mind starts to whirr and I begin to think, what if…
How hard was it to adjust to city living after a rural childhood?
My first job took me from my home town of Mount Gambier to the bright lights of Melbourne and while I’d visited many times, living there was something else. The traffic in particular nearly sent me bonkers. It used to take me an hour’s drive to get to the office. Imagine!
One thing I adored was the multiculturalism. Being a mad-keen cook I was fascinated by all the different cuisines and culture, and Victoria Market was a dream come true.
I had the odd eye-popping experience, but in the end I didn’t find city living too bad because my job with a pasture seed company involved so much country travel. Plus Mount Gambier was only 4 ½ hours away and easily accessible for a weekend trip. I also took my horses with me to Melbourne and agisted them, although that didn’t last long, sadly. Horses take a lot of care and I was away too much to look after them properly, and I had to send them home. Even after all this time that still hurts a little bit.
What do you miss the most about living rurally?
Right now, with all the traffic zooming past and horn honks and general racket, I seriously miss the quiet. There are the big things you’d expect a country person to miss, like space, but I also hanker for a lot of the small joys, like walking in long grass with my hand held out so the seed heads tickle my palm. I miss being able to sing out loud, safe in the knowledge that no one will be able to hear me. I miss the earthy smell of animals and the myriad sounds they make. I miss my horse blowing hot breath on my cheek and the hairs of its silky muzzle caressing my skin.
It’s amazing how many pleasures in life we gain from the inconsequential sweet things.
If you weren’t writing full time what do you think you would be doing?
Quite honestly, I haven’t a clue. I have a degree in agriculture and a post grad in business management, so perhaps something along either of those lines. But right now I’m living the dream and despite the occasional outbreak of whinging and head-desking, I can’t think of a more fulfilling career.
I was reading that your short fiction has been published in Woman’s Day and recognised in contests. Can you remember the feeling that accompanied your very first acceptance?
I can, and it was a weird feeling. Not the pure ecstasy I’d expected but more a combination of delight, relief and satisfaction. I’d worked bloody hard to earn that first sale, and to finally achieve it made all that sweat, doubt and agonising worthwhile.
You lived in Provence for 3 years, which is an awfully long way from home, what was the most memorable thing about living in Provence?
The entire experience was memorable! I loved it all, even the not so enjoyable incidents, like when the local bar-tabac owner silenced his rowdy bar with the announcement that he would no longer serve me until I learned to speak French properly. Or the squirmingly embarrassing occasion in the butcher’s when I held up a huge line of market-day shoppers because I couldn’t remember the correct term to describe casserole beef.
I guess many people think of Provence and imagine sunshine, glorious food, olive trees and lavender fields, perhaps a crumbling village with quaint locals, and an incredible bakery. It has all those things, and they are truly wonderful, but I was completely entranced by the history of the place.
We lived in Aix-en-Provence, which was a spa town founded by the Romans. Imagine, over two thousand years of human history I could see and touch and smell. I used to walk each day past a medieval church, supposedly built on an ancient temple to Apollo, to shop in a marketplace that had been in continuous operation for over three hundred years. I sat in churches where knights once prayed. I could touch a wall pock-marked with bullet holes and remember the French Resistance fighters executed there. Everywhere I looked I found another amazing story.
It was, to put it mildly, incredible.
What’s next for Cathryn Hein?
I’m currently hard at work on my next rural romance, set this time in far western Victoria. The characters are a hoot. Not only do we have a sexy, scarred hero and a feisty but damaged heroine, we have a warty horse and a mad goose with a Napoleon complex.
As with all my stories there are serious conflicts involved but the characters are proving a delight. I’m enjoying it hugely and I hope readers will too when it’s released.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Oh, this is a tricky, tricky question! Each time I attempt to answer all I hear is Helen Reddy belting out I am woman, hear me roar. But that’s not really how I feel. I’m just me, a person who happens to be female. I don’t feel special or unique because of my gender, although it has to be said that people of my gender can do some special and unique things!
I doubt I’ll lay on my deathbed thinking that I should have been a better woman, but a better person? Now, that’s what really counts.
Thank you so much for your time Cathryn, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
If you would like to get to know Cathryn a little better there’s a whole host of social media she frequents that you can find her on, I decided to leave you with her website link and you can connect through other outlets from there also, head on over to www.cathrynhein.com and feel free to let her know we sent you.
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!