The Story Behind…
Due to my partner’s job, we shift around a lot but while moving house can be a right royal pain in the bum, these new locations, with their fresh sights, sounds and climate, unique histories and experiences, can provide wonderful inspiration.
In January 2013 we relocated to the fringes of Sydney at the foot of the Blue Mountains. Although it’s changing a lot, with the fade of farming and the expansion of suburbia, the rural countryside that remains is still gorgeous. There are lush valleys and rolling hills, a steady river and plenty of horse properties and hobby farms. At the time of our move, I’d already come up with the idea for Rocking Horse Hill, which features Emily Wallace-Jones as the heroine. Emily has two best friends – Teagan Bliss and Jasmine Blake – and my plan was to tell their stories in two further loosely related books titled The Falls and Admella Beach.
When it came time to plot Teagan’s story, I considered a return to the Hunter Valley (Heart of the Valley was set in this stunning location) but it seemed far easier to take inspiration from where I was now living. So while The Falls village and valley are fictional, the landscape and seasons are much akin to the area between Penrith and Picton in New South Wales. I must stress that the characters are purely fictional and, except perhaps in looks, are not based on anyone living or dead. Ditto for the Wellness Centre, the village and The Falls Union Progress Association.
Merlin the Magic Ram, however, certainly did exist. And he plays a significant part in the drama of The Falls.
When I was a teenager we had a hand-reared ram named, unimaginatively, Ram Lamb. Unfortunately Ram Lamb wasn’t marked (neutered) as he should have been, and while cute and fun as a lamb, he proved completely bonkers once older.
He was also rather clever and cunning for a sheep, managing to escape his paddock on a regular basis to terrorise pretty much anyone he could find. He’d prowl around the house headbutting windows, chase cars like a dog and then bail up the driver, and generally make a pest of himself. It was nothing unusual to come home to find him curled up on the doormat or bleating welcome on the back lawn.
Ram Lamb just loved to ram which meant taking your life into your own hands when crossing his paddock. The rotten thing nearly broke my leg once, leaving me flattened on the ground in agony while he backed up for another go. Only Mum distracting him saved me from a follow up attack. I was always worried he’d hurt one of the horses but my old bay gelding Dinks had his measure. That horse was the only creature Ram Lamb was scared off. He certainly had zero fear when it came to the dogs or us.
My mates from Roseworthy Agricultural College thought he was a blast. We held ‘Running The Paddock With Ram Lamb’ competitions, where one person would hold the ram steady while the ‘runner’ would sprint down the paddock. When they reached half way, Ram Lamb was let loose and the runner had better not baulk because that ram could seriously motor. There were some very close shaves and plenty of laughter, although I’m sure it did absolutely nothing for the sheep’s mental state.
Sadly, Ram Lamb left us the day he went one ram too far and decided to ambush Dad. But he was never forgotten and it’s been enormous fun to immortalise him in The Falls.
As for the main story of The Falls, while it’s a stand-alone book there are things in the plot that follow on from Rocking Horse Hill, and I’m reluctant to give too much away in case I spoil Rocking Horse Hill for those who haven’t read it. Let’s just say that my goal was to give Teagan a path to find her own peace and happiness through love and forgiveness. Not an easy task after the betrayal she’s suffered and thus The Falls reflects the difficult journey she must take.
The Falls covers some quite serious topics and while it’s important to pay these the respect they deserve I also felt I should also give the reader something to laugh about. The Falls village, with its cricket and bowls club, quirky shop owners, gossip and intrigue, provided the perfect opportunity. As does Teagan’s Aunt Vanessa, a generous, larger than life woman also on her own journey to happiness. Writing her story alongside Teagan’s was huge fun and I hope readers enjoy it as much as I did.