Country Shows and Title Woes
The moment I finished Summer and the Groomsman I knew I had to write a sequel featuring Harry’s brother Eddie. We only spy Eddie at the end of that story, when he comes to help Harry out of a bind. Even then he was easy to imagine. I could picture him laughing at his older brother, thinking smug thoughts about how he’d never get in a twist like that.
Eddie would be all the things that Harry wasn’t – confident, clever, charming and good with the ladies – while still retaining all the Argyle family traits of decency and big-heartedness. A man with swagger, but a lovable one.
The title even came to me straight away – Eddie and the Showgirl.
Why? Because at the time my home town was holding its annual show. This is a big deal in Mt Gambier. The show is the largest of its kind outside of the Royal Adelaide Show, runs for two days and has everything that makes a country show special. There are livestock competitions, wood-chopping, working dog trials, horses-in-action, preserves, baking and cake decorating, photography, arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor trade displays, horticulture competitions, big fireworks, lots of food and showbags, and the usual sideshow alley and rides. In other words, it’s huge.
Back in my younger days, country shows always had a showgirl competition. The young women chosen to represent the show would be feted like celebrities and go on to compete for major awards at the state and national level. As a little girl I thought the Mt Gambier Showgirls were like princesses, albeit without the tiara, and dreamed of one day being a show girl too.
[A bit of trivia, I was once runner-up Miss Showgirl at the Tantanoola Show. Truly. I have the sash to prove it!]
Those of you who’ve read Rocking Horse Hill will know that the book’s heroine Emily Wallace-Jones once had the honour of being Levenham’s Miss Showgirl. I loved the idea of that continuing for the Levenham Love Story series and Alice, Eddie’s ex-girlfriend who we meet in Chrissy and the Burroughs Boy, would make the perfect competitor.
Alas, showgirl competitions appear to have fallen by the wayside in South Australia, although they are still going in New South Wales and Queensland. That wasn’t the major issue though. As a fiction author I can use artistic license to resurrect all sorts of events. No, the problem arose with the use of ‘Showgirl’ in the title. When you’re writing a fairly sweet rural romance that will be sold around the world you don’t want readers thinking one thing and getting another. Showgirl has a very different meaning in the US, for example.
What to do? Well, I simply created another competition – the Levenham Wine Show Crown, where participants would compete to raise the highest amount they could for local charities, with the winner taking out the kudos and crown. This would also give me a way to include many of the Levenham characters you’ve come to know and love, while also introducing new ones.
Then I thought: wouldn’t it be even more fun if the competition was open and Eddie and Alice had to compete against one another?
And, thus, Eddie and the Show Queen was born.