Novel depicts country love

16 Nov, 2015 04:00 AM
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Wendy Altschwager with Hughie and a copy of her latest book Talk of the Town.
Wendy Altschwager with Hughie and a copy of her latest book Talk of the Town.

A LOVE of the country and farming has inspired One Tree Hill author Wendy Altshwager to recreate life, as she sees it, in a book.

She has just released her fifth novel, a story of a city school principal transplanted to a small school at the Goyder line.

Wendy, the daughter of a stock agent, grew up on the Eyre Peninsula and lived in the South East with husband John on a Hereford and Border Leicester stud and mixed farm before they sold up and moved to a small block in the Lower North.

Wendy wrote her first book while she and John were travelling in WA as "grey nomads" in 2007.

The couple spent four seeding seasons working on an 8000-hectare property near Geraldton, travelled to Broome and the Kimberley, and worked in silos in the south of the state.

"I was sending emails to friends about the things we were doing and they were saying 'this is funny'," Wendy said.

At this time the Altshwagers were working with teenagers so Wendy created a character, a 16-year-old boy, who was doing many of the things she was, and learning alongside her.

"I wrote a story about a kid between driving and cooking, then I shelved it for a few years," Wendy said.

"Eventually I showed people and they were positive."

This prompted Wendy to go through Peacock Publications to self-publish her first book - Runaway.

"I never intended to get anything published but it was something we could give our grandsons," she said.

"We could show them and say 'that story in chapter six, that really happened to Pa'.

"It was a chapter in our history."

In her first run she printed 150 copies to give to friends and family, but popularity meant her reprinted six times.

"I was bitten by the bug," she said.

From there she wrote a sequel, Edwina Downs, with the same characters.

Wendy's love of horses inspired her next book.

Prior Knowledge draws on her own experience in dealing with racehorses.

Her fourth book, The Pledge, incorporates some of John's stories from his childhood, presented in a modern setting, with flashbacks through the life of the fictionalised hero's grandfather.

"All my books are written from the realities of life," she said.

This true-life aspect is also evident in her latest novel, Talk of the Town, which launched in Jamestown in September.

"It's really about the small town where I grew up, which had lots of shops and services," Wendy said.

"Over time the railway line shut down, shops shut and the pub shut.

"The school had about 120 students when we went there and today has about 10 students."

Wendy said this decline in small towns was part of the inspiration behind Talk of the Town.

"You can travel anywhere in Australia and see a similar story," she said.

Wendy said a typical book took about 12 months to write, before the business of getting printed started.

"I can spend six to eight hours in the office every day to write it," she said.

The process has changed somewhat in the years since her first novel.

"I'm a lot more self-critical these days," Wendy said.

She has continued on the self-publishing path with all her novels.

"I like self-publishing; I get to keep control," Wendy said.

"I wanted the story told my way.

"All the covers on the books are my own photography."

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