Nicole Alexander is a fourth generation grazier with a passion for the land and it’s history. She has focused this passion into her writing and we were able to find out a little more about her in the lead up to her next release in September.
Hi Nicole, welcome to Beauty and Lace and thanks for talking to us.
What made you want to be a writer?
I’ve always loved reading and writing and my parents instilled a love of storytelling in their children from an early age. Growing up, our homestead had many rural-based paintings in it and as a child I would sit in front of these works and concoct stories based on their subject matter; quiet waterholes, sun-tinged gum-trees and drovers riding off into the bush. By the time I’d reached my teens and read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, I knew I wanted to be writer and that someday I would write about the land. What I didn’t understand as a teenager was that I’d become fascinated by one of the great themes in literature, man versus nature, a topic that I regularly examine in my writings today.
Can you tell us a little about where you get your inspiration?
My family have been on the same property since 1893 and my great-grandfather is buried there. Having been raised in the country, I love the land and Australia’s wonderful pastoral history. Our past is so much more than convicts, bushrangers and the military and I love delving into the stories of our ancient land. I’m fortunate in that I’m able to draw on my own family’s archives when researching my novels. I always use a story or anecdote that has been passed down through the generations as a starting point and then weave my narratives around that.
Your latest release is River Run, can you tell us a little about it?
In the 1940s, there was concern in some parts of the Australian countryside that, due to communist influence, there may be an invasion. On hearing this, my then ten-year-old father decided to ready himself for the imminent attack. Stealing tinned food from the pantry, he rode his trusty horse Garnet to the creek, to store the food in a tree that would provide the perfect vantage point to defend his family, and their property, from this threat. After a few days, he realised nobody was actually going to invade and his self-imposed sentry duty was over. It was this story from my father’s childhood that sparked the premise for River Run. What if his adventure hadn’t ended so uneventfully? What if something had happened? What sort of impact would it have had on the family?
I then set the novel on a sprawling sheep station in 1951 during the heady years of the wool boom. A golden era in Australia’s history. River Run paints a picture of Australia in the 1950s, still recovering from World War II. It also reflects a changing attitude in the roles of women and life on the land – the perils caused by Mother Nature, politics of the shearing shed, and the race, gender and age divide.
How do you juggle your writing with managing the family property at such a hefty commute?
We recently downsized the enterprise and now concentrate on our core business, beef cattle. I’m on-farm a couple of days a week and yes, the commute at 220 kms return trip, is hefty. But the upside of that is that I’m now in the office a good four days a week and I can juggle the admin side of the family business (liaising with the farm team and/or farm contractors, ordering rural supplies or handling the station accounts) with my writing commitments.
What’s been your career highlight to date?
For any aspiring novelist it’s the pure joy of being published. My debut novel, The Bark Cutters was also short-listed for a Australian Book Industry Award which was terribly exciting.
Can you tell us what you love to read?
For me, a great novel has to have a strong storyline and engaging characters, a mix of love and adventure, a strong sense of place and a little eye-candy never goes astray. If it’s a good book by an engaging author, I’ll read it. I read both historical and contemporary works and you can find me equally engrossed in a Philippa Gregory historical, a Wilbur Smith action adventure or Kate Kerrigan’s The Dress. Recent favourites include All The Light You Cannot See and The Light Between Oceans.
What has been your most anticipated release of 2016?
Maestra by L. S. Hilton – an enthralling, sometimes seedy, quite often unbelievable tale of a woman’s lust for money. On the softer side, Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison is a beautiful story of the power of music and love.
As a fourth generation grazier can you tell us your favourite thing about growing up on a rural property?
The sheer freedom. As children we were never bored. It was an impossibility. All that space and light, with a horizon that stretched on forever. It was a magnificent backyard.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
I’m researching next year’s novel, which is set in 1929 in northern New South Wales just prior to the stock market crash and subsequent Depression. It’s a story of a young woman trying to find her place in rural Australia and her father who will risk everything to ensure that his daughter marries well.
With such a lot going on in your life, what do you like to do in your downtime?
I love walking and swimming and I’m a fan of yoga. Dinner with family and friends is always special.
Thanks for your time Nicole and good luck with the release of River Run.
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!