The Story Behind The Country Girl

The Magic Bullet

The Country Girl by Cathryn HeinIt’s funny how some books take a while to gestate. The Country Girl is one of those.

The idea for its hero Patrick’s situation had been tumbling around my brain for 4 years or so, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to do with him.

I knew his heartbreak. I knew his despair at the future. I knew how he felt about standing by the promise he’d made to the woman he loved, but I could not find that special girl who could give him hope.

If I could figure it out, I knew I’d have a powerful story on my hands, so rather than filing Patrick away in my enormous ideas pile, I kept him pinned to a whiteboard as a reminder. Well, not him exactly, more his trigger word. The name of the road he lived on – Castlereagh Road.

Every time I looked at that name I tried to picture the right heroine for him, but she refused to come.

Then, suddenly, in one of those weirdly serendipitous moments, along came Tash in all her bouncy, joyous glory and I knew I had my story.

How did that happen? Let me explain…

I was at the beauty salon for my regular appointment. Now, I’m quite friendly with my beautician and we chat about all sorts of weird and wonderful things, but on this particular day, a few minutes after we’d settled down to business, my beautician very excitedly related that she’d bought herself a ‘bullet’.

Assuming she was referring to a well-known brand of female pleasuring device and a tad nonplussed, I blinked a few times, cleared my throat and replied with something along the lines of, ‘Good on you, and how nice you feel comfortable telling me.’

Which left her equally nonplussed because it turned out she was referring to one of those mini blenders for making healthy smoothies etc and not a brand of vibrator.

Eh hem.

Anyway, we had a huge laugh and the conversation then meandered around before settling on health and food blogs, and how perky and happy the bloggers are.

That got me thinking about my hero and his situation. What if Patrick was faced with the happiest girl in the world? What if he saw in her all he was missing out on – the love, the life? How would he cope?

More importantly, how could he resist?

And thus Tash was born.

The setting for The Country Girl, though nowhere near as problematic as its heroine, took a bit of consideration too.

It had to be somewhere lush and fertile, abundant with quality agricultural and horticultural produce, and innovative producers. The sort of place where a food blogger could thrive.

The area around Levenham, my fictional town in the lower south-east of South Australia, would have been perfect. I’d already set several books there (Rocking Horse Hill, Wayward Heart and more) and knew the place intimately. The other option was Dargate, the fictional setting for Heartland, but being close to the beach and with different soils and so on, it wasn’t quite right agriculturally.

Besides, I couldn’t help feeling that The Country Girl was special and deserved its own place.

So I created Emu Springs, a fictional small town in the far western districts of Victoria, very close to the South Australian border, with a thriving football club and great community spirit, and a long gravel road – Castlereagh Road – that is home to Tash’s, Patrick’s and Maddie’s family properties.

The landscape is loosely based on that around Strathdownie, on the Glenelg Highway, where drains have turned swampland into some of the most fertile grazing land in the country. It’s visually stunning, with ancient manna gums, fat stock, and old homesteads, and the tiny timber Wilderness Presbyterian Church, whose rich history you can read more about here.

A farmland view near Strathdownie, inspiration for the setting of The Country Girl by Cathryn Hein

A farmland view near Strathdownie, inspiration for the setting of The Country Girl.