The Story Behind Summer and the Groomsman

It all started in a Gold Coast spa . . .

Cover of Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn HeinIn 2012 I registered to attend the Romance Writers of Australia conference at the newly refurbished QT Hotel on the Gold Coast, and was delighted to learn that it had a lovely sounding spa attached. Deciding that we deserved a pampering, good friend and writing buddy Rachael Johns and I booked ourselves a nice long spa session on the Friday morning before the conference cocktail party.

Oh, what a perfect way to relax! First off was a steamy sauna to cleanse our pores, then it was into our private rooms for a couple of hours of bliss. My session started with a foot treatment and ended with the most divine massage. A massage that just happened to trigger some wonderful daydreams.

At the time I’d been on a short story writing binge and was hunting around for a new slice-of-life plot. As I lay getting my back rubbed, half-catatonic with pleasure, I began to drift into a story about a country man forced into a spa session by the bride of the wedding he’s groomsman for. And so developed the idea of Summer and the Groomsman. Not quite the 1500 word short story I was after, but I wasn’t complaining. A much longer novella would do the trick just fine.

Although it was the need for all those extra words that resulted in me not actually writing the story until 2015.

I’d spent the intervening years busy with other, full-length novels, and though I hankered to get this tale down I couldn’t seem to squeeze it in. Plus I needed the right wedding to relate the story to. Then along came Rocking Horse Hill, with its fabulous array of characters and capacity for related books, and I had the ideal setting and scene.

Me and Rachael Johns at the 2012 RWA conference

Me and Rachael Johns at the 2012 RWA conference

Poor Harry had several name changes during the creation and edit phases. He was originally Cameron, then Henry – which I adored but couldn’t use because it clashed with Emily Wallace-Jones’s father – until I finally settled on Harry. Summer was always Summer. No idea why. Might have to blame that one on the sunshiny Gold Coast.

The setting for Summer and the Groomsman is the fictitious town of Levenham in south-east South Australia – also the setting of Rocking Horse Hill – but there are a few inspirations from my home town of Mount Gambier. The exterior of the church where Em’s and Josh’s wedding takes place is based on Mount Gambier’s beautiful and historic Christ Church, where I was baptised and my parents were married. The interior is a product of my imagination.

Mum's and Dad's wedding

Mum and Dad leaving Christ Church in Mount Gambier after their wedding.

Gav’s property, where Summer agists her horse Binky, was loosely inspired by one where I once kept my darling first horse Mysty. It was also the location where my dad, an ex-jockey, infamously fell off Mysty and broke his wrist one Christmas, resulting in endless teasing about his prowess.

Besides Summer and Harry – who were a joy to write – it was an absolute delight to return to Levenham and play with beloved characters like Granny B, Josh and Em, along with cameos from Lucas and Teagan (hero and heroine of The Falls) and Digby and Jas (whose gorgeous love story is explored in Wayward Heart).

Oh, and for those who have read the story, remember how Harry has a brother? I have plans . . . Stay tuned for his story. Just give me another indulgent pamper session and I’ll have it sorted.