Tricia Stringer is a South Australian author writing engaging rural fiction set in our lovely home state of South Australia. After reading her latest release, Right As Rain, I was able to ask her some questions about the book and her career.
Hi Tricia and welcome to Beauty and Lace. Congratulations on the release of Right as Rain, I really enjoyed it.
Thank you Michelle. I really enjoyed writing it.
What inspired you to pursue writing as a career?
Writing started out as a hobby that became an itch I could no longer ignore. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some other wonderful writers and their enthusiasm and support has inspired me. Writing is like reading for me; that same exploration of places and characters, wondering what will happen next and losing myself in the story. To quote my first mentor, Marg McAllister, “Do what makes your heart sing.” Writing certainly makes my heart sing.
I believe you began your writing career writing for children, can you tell us a little about those works?
I am a teacher and a librarian. When I first moved to the Copper Coast region of South Australia I was introduced to our wonderful Kernewek Lowender (Cornish Festival). Copper was discovered here in the mid 1800s and the Cornish miners came with their families. There are lots of grown up books about the life and times but there was nothing for the children I taught. I began writing a story that I could read to my class. Other teachers from the area used to borrow my battered A4 paper manuscript. I ended up writing a couple more. Three ended up in print for a short time and are still used to bring local history to life. I’m very happy about that.
Right As Rain is your latest release, what can you tell us about it?
Right as Rain began to evolve after a holiday in the South East of SA. I’d driven through the SE many times on my way to Melbourne but had spent little time exploring the region. Several years ago I made a couple of trips there and stayed for weekends. I began to picture a farming scenario there and the versatile Mackenna developed as the main character. I really enjoyed getting to know Mackenna. She’s strong and feisty and yet has a slightly vulnerable side. She works alongside her father at Woolly Swamp farm. Like many young farmers she can see improvements to be made and Mackenna’s dreams are big but there are others who think she shouldn’t be farming at all.
Of course she juggles love along the way in the form of old friend, Hugh, from a neighbouring property and Adam, her holiday romance who turns up on her doorstep.
Recently you’ve been travelling across SA for book launches, how many did you have and where was the furthest from home?
I always like to have a party to celebrate the launch of my latest book in my local area. Right as Rain had a wonderful send off at Moonta Community Library. The staff had some fantastic decorations to set the scene from an old farm gate to assorted metal farm animals. After that Margie Arnold from Meg’s Bookshop Port Pirie took me on the road. I spoke at Port Pirie Library and we went further north to Quorn Community Library then south to Maitland Community Library. I also had an Adelaide launch at Dymocks in Rundle Mall. Mandy and Bruce Macky have always supported local authors and they put on a fantastic event. Duncan Welgemoed, 2013 Adelaide Chef of the Year, launched the book that night. It was in his restaurant, Bistro Dom that I first saw the idea of showcasing lamb from a particular property on a menu. I was delighted that Duncan could do the honours for me.
Right As Rain talks a lot about involved genetics in sheep breeding, how much research did this require?
I grew up on a farm and have always been interested in genetics. I listened to ag scientists discuss it and did a lot of reading. I enjoyed finding out more for the story but I certainly didn’t delve too deeply as it wasn’t necessary to the story. I might go that way for a future book, you never know.
A big part of this book was the legacy of the farm and how it should be handled, do you think the issue raised with handing down through the male line is still common today – even where it is clear that the female child/ren are more interested?
Succession planning has rightly been brought to the fore in this generation. It’s a complicated and often emotional issue. People often have strong spiritual ties to the land their families have worked, for generations. I think lots of planning needs to be done regardless of gender. I’ve heard of youngest sons staying and working properties only to have them handed to older brothers who’ve previously shown no interest. Each situation is different. Discussing it out in the open is a good starting point.
Throughout your research did you find combining Tasting Rooms with sheep farming is something that could become much more common, and a benefit to the businesses?
There are certainly people doing it, perhaps more in the beef industry. Lots of things would have to line up for someone to diversify in this way. I’m all for people following their dreams.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
I’ve recently finished a historical fiction set in mid 1800s South Australia. I enjoyed the change of time and the research. It was fun to write what I would call a more swashbuckling style of story. I have a new rural romance on the go. Quite a different South Australian setting this time. It’s still early stages so I can’t say too much. It could all change.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you plot or allow the characters to drive the narrative? Do you have a favourite time or place to write?
I work fulltime so I need to disciplined about my writing. I write early every morning and on weekends. Even if it’s only a few hundred words the story grows a little each day. Recording the word count helps me to see I am working towards my goal of a finished book. My favourite place to write is at my computer in my office but I do a lot of mulling while walking on the beach. That’s because I’m not a plotter. I like to have a strong sense of place, some interesting characters, a rough idea of a story and I go from there.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Tricky question. Not one I think about much. It’s who I am but it doesn’t define me. Male or female, live life, charge after those dreams and ‘do what makes your heart sing’.
Thanks for your time Tricia