I was kindly invited to review West Australian author Sasha Wasley’s first rural romance novel for Penguin Random House. When I discovered that another Perth writer Tess Woods had endorsed the cover of Sasha’s novel, Dear Banjo, I was immediately drawn to this novel. With such a strong endorsement from an author I greatly admire, I knew I was going to be in for an absolute treat. Tess wasn’t wrong, Dear Banjo is ‘wildly romantic and utterly captivating’. I now have the privilege of welcoming Sasha Wasley to the blog this week to coincide with the release of Dear Banjo, which hit bookstores on Monday. Sasha’s special guest post today follows a full review on Mrs B’s Books Reviews.
As I am a big fan of rural romance, I love the knack writers of this genre have in being able to deftly express a strong sense of place to their readers. I just had to ask Sasha about her wonderful West Australian setting for Dear Banjo, which was one of the many highlights of her book. Read on for Sasha Wasley’s informative guest post on the inspiration for her Kimberley based setting.
Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the setting for Dear Banjo?
When I decided I wanted to write an outback romance, somewhere inside me I had already settled that it would take place in the Kimberley region. Willow’s world is Paterson Downs, a cattle station in the East Kimberley. The station is 3700 square kilometres (an average-to-modest size station for that area), bounded on one side by the Herne River (a fictional river loosely based on the Ord), and sharing a fenceline with another station, Quintilla, where Willow’s love interest lives. The station is located 120km from the town of Mount Clair. Paterson Downs features a somewhat daggy brick homestead, seventies in style, since the older house was demolished to make way for something more modern. Water comes from bores sunk at various locations across the station – bores that need to be checked and regularly maintained as they are the cattle’s source of water during the long dry season from around March to October.
Why the Kimberley?
I did two brief work-related trips to Kununurra (the town Mount Clair is based on) about 10 years ago and fell in love with the place. My role was to write marketing materials for a semi-rural land estate. The land was part of an old cattle station and the real estate agent told me its story as we drove out there to take a look. Through conversations with locals, I learned about what it was like to live in the region – water issues, bores, agriculture, crocodiles, fishing, the Ord River catchment, that sort of thing. The Kimberley is big, red and dusty in the dry; damp in the wet!
I loved Kununurra. It’s a busy, large town but a lot of people know each other so it has a sense of community. I vividly recall wandering around town in the beautiful dry season heat, examining boab nuts and visiting an indigenous art gallery, hunting out souvenirs and people-watching. I did a couple of tours while I was up there – the Ord River cruise springs to mind, spotting freshwater crocodiles and watching the sunset, listening to (and smelling) the huge bats screeching in the trees. The stories when we sat at the pub during the evening were fantastic. I used some of those stories in Dear Banjo and will be using more in books 2 and 3. For example, Willow’s older sister Beth owns “The Beast,” the best 4-wheeler in the region, that can get anything unstuck from anywhere. And Dear Banjo features another tale about a water monitor and a waterfall that I heard in the pub that night.
I also did a heap of background research when I was writing the website content for the land estate. I read government planning documents on agriculture and the environment in the area. Essentially, I saturated my brain with knowledge of the East Kimberley in a short period of time. One of my more enjoyable tasks was to come up with a list of old cattle station names from the area that could be used to name streets in the land estate. It was intriguing to discover the concept of the squattocracy and learn the history of some of these amazing, vast stations. A couple of years ago I met a lovely local guy who is ex-army and now records geographical histories. He often works with people in the top end to record the stories of cattle stations and pastoral leases. It’s great to see some of these stories and amazing photographic collections starting to find their way into bookstores to bring the cattle station life to light for city-dwellers.
Quite simply, it fired my imagination to write about that part of Australia.
Mostly, when I did topic research for my copywriting job, the knowledge exited my brain as soon as the job was done. But the East Kimberley stuck with me. I have hung onto that knowledge and sought out more. I am planning a trip back there to find out more about remote communities and station life, and it’s my goal to drive the Gibb River Road.
Book 2 will feature more of small town life, since Free moves from Paterson Downs to the township of Mount Clair to take up a teaching position at the high school. But town life in the Kimberley still brings its own set of natural challenges – the weather and the wildlife are still extreme, and of course, there’s also a fascinating social world to navigate.
People should definitely visit the Kimberley if possible! I hope Dear Banjo paints a picture of the people, lifestyle and spectacular natural beauty of the region.
Thanks for hosting me on your gorgeous blog, Mrs B!
What an intriguing guest post, it convinced me to delve straight into the pages of this book! Thanks to Sasha Wasley for stopping past Mrs B’s Book Reviews to chat about one of the most crucial ingredients in any book, especially a rural fiction novel – setting.
Here is some more information on the very talented author of Dear Banjo, Sasha Wasley.
Sasha Wasley was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia.
She has completed a PhD in cultural theory and loves nature, Jane Austen and puns.
Sasha is a farming wannabe, with a passion for animals and the land. Although she’s in her forties now, she still wants a pony.
Her debut novel, a young adult paranormal, was published in 2014. Today, she lives and writes in the Swan Valley wine region with her partner and two daughters, surrounded by dogs, cats and chickens.
Sasha writes mystery, paranormal and young adult novels as S.D. Wasley.
Follow Sasha here:
- Website: https://sashawasley.com/books/
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sasha-Wasley/e/B071162NMV
- FB Author Page URL: http://www.facebook.com/sdwasley
- Twitter URL: http://www.twitter.com/sdwasleyauthor
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/sdwasley_author/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12805293.Sasha_Wasley
- Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/j7b4y9