I’m delighted to welcome Fiona McArthur to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of The Homestead Girls.
Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia. Fiona’s love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She’s been a midwifery expert for Mother&Baby magazine and is the author of the nonfiction works The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents. She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She’s constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places. Her first rural fiction novel with Penguin Australia, Red Sand Sunrise, was published in 2014.
Fiona McArthur’s second novel, The Homestead Girls is a heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion in the outback.
“Moving to the outback to join the Flying Doctors will change Billie’s life forever.
After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.
Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and has opened her homestead to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.
The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test…”
My review will appear later today, in the meantime please read on to learn more about Fiona McArthur’s inspiration for the setting of The Homestead Girls.
by Fiona McArthur
Hello and thanks so much for asking me back as I launch my new novel, The Homestead Girls. And speaking of being back, I’d like to chat about background setting and how it’s such an integral part of a book. People have asked why I set a book ‘inspired by’ Broken Hill so I thought I’d mull over some of the ways I used our visits to Broken Hill and why I loved it?
I read an article once where Broken Hill was called ‘The boldest of the outback towns… pressure-cooked through the mining years.’ I wish I’d written that – but I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. It’s a unique and layered township and surrounds and my husband loved it so much he wondered if we could retire there after just two visits.
Here’s 10 things I used from Broken Hill and Outback NSW for the Homestead Girls.
1/The Sky – Bluer than any you see in the city – in fact all of the colours are so vibrant it’s one of the main reasons so many artists live there. Think Pro Hart. Jack Absolom.
2/The Landscape from the air – imagine the vista the flight nurses and pilots see every day when they go to work. That great expanse of browns and golds and orange, with ribbons of empty creek beds, and then a station or tiny township coming up on the horizon. I took a fabulous one and a half hour flight with Silver City Scenic Flights and lots of notes – though notes were when I wasn’t hanging on – it was little bit bumpy!
The Landscape from the ground – the lookout at Mundi Mundi – what a view! The view from the ridge on Mt Gipps. What a place for a sunset drink! And a seduction scene.
3/The Racecourse. The Silver City Cup was first held in 1899, and is the oldest horse race in the region, and held towards the end of October every year. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year for us but we walked outside the racecourse, peered at the stands and took photos for a scene I knew I would write there. I looked up all the photos of the racegoers after the event and they all had smiles on their faces. So did my characters when they went.
4/The Palace Hotel main street Broken Hill – had to go and visit and sit on the stairs and just look. Wow! Inside is decorated with fabulous oil-painted murals up and down the stair walls and ceiling, including a magnificently flamboyant depiction of Botticelli’s Venus above the staircase. These are the paintings famously featured in the movie Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.
5/Walking down the main street beautifully restored buildings were exactly like the apartment one of my characters would live in Mica Ridge and then there are the roses. Love the roses outside all the town buildings. ‘Billy had forgotten about the roses until she saw them again on the day she arrived back to her home town.’
6/The huge airport and the RFDS Base – all those trees surrounding the tarmac, the heat that belts off it on hot days. Rental cars parked under the trees. Though, just stating, the flying doctor base scenes are set in Mica Ridge Base, which is smaller than Broken Hill.
7/Silverton – two of my characters visited the pub, as did my husband and I, funny that, which is stocked with memorabilia from movies made in the area such as Mad Max, A Town Like Alice, it’s a must visit place with history around every corner. A really fun atmosphere, but so spread out it reminds you how much is gone, and gives the impression of being deserted.
8/The Desert Sculptures – loved this hilltop, in the middle of the outback, art gallery – arranged with huge, truly inspiring sculptures. The paths, bushes, trees, and native flowers all complimented the different-themed stone carvings (stone sourced from Wilcannia) on the skyline. Loved that the artist’s interpretation was explained on discreet signage beside each artist’s work.
9/Mt Gipps Station and the Sturt’s Desert Pea – inspiration for Blue Hills Station in the book – and the best farm stay ever.
10/And of course the people. The wonderful, laconic, incredibly tough people in town and on the land. Then there are the flight nurses, doctors, pilots and everyone else who makes saving lives in the outback, happen with a minimum of fuss.
I really hope everyone enjoys The Homestead Girls and… so my answer is why wouldn’t I draw inspiration from Broken Hill?
The Homestead Girls is available to purchase from
and all good bookstores.