Dream big and go for it, wher­ever you live

CQ coun­try girl brings home­town lar­rikins to fruition in her de­but ro­man­tic com­edy novel

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News - ERLE LEVEY erle.levey@sc­news.com.au

THE city or the bush? It’s an age old ques­tion in which coun­try kids look to the bright lights while their coun­ter­parts from the big smoke won­der about the ru­ral life, away from the hus­tle and bus­tle.

Yet first-time au­thor Anna Daniels is find­ing you don’t have to be in Syd­ney to com­pete on a national stage.

With Girl In Be­tween hav­ing been pub­lished by Allen & Un­win, a fea­ture sched­uled for ABC TV’s Lan­d­line pro­gram in Oc­to­ber and early talk with a pro­duc­tion com­pany, the ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter/pro­ducer from Rock­hamp­ton in cen­tral Queens­land has ev­ery rea­son to feel op­ti­mistic.

The ques­tion of city or coun­try is also the ba­sis of the book. Syd­ney, Mel­bourne, Lon­don or a town in regional Aus­tralia – just where does your heart and ca­reer lead you?

I first met Anna Daniels on the Roma Street Rail­way Sta­tion, as part of a jour­ney on the Spirit of the Out­back to Lon­greach.

There she was, some­one right at home pre­sent­ing on ABC Ra­dio or with Ten’s tele­vi­sion pro­gram The Pro­ject. Yet she had a nat­u­ral con­nec­tion with coun­try peo­ple.

That’s when she told me about her Rocky up­bring­ing and in­ten­tions to write a book.

Anna was at the re­write stage of the her short ro­man­tic com­edy, Rocky Road. About her own life? “Well, bits of it are in there,” she ad­mits

“Girl In Be­tween fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of Lucy Crichton ... some­one who wears Rocky like a best-loved T-shirt. Yet she won­ders if that’s all there is to life.”

ABC TV’s Lan­d­line pro­gram in Oc­to­ber is about her pathway from regional ra­dio to au­thor.

Girl In Be­tween is the re­sult of a fran­tic year of rewrit­ing for Anna.

Rocky Road, which was short­listed for the pres­ti­gious 2016 Vo­gel Lit­er­ary Award, needed to go from 38,000 words to 80,000.

Louise Thurtell from Allen & Un­win recog­nised that it had the mak­ings of a novel.

Anna ad­mits that while it ini­tially sounded like a daunt­ing task, it was one she quickly warmed to.

For most of the year it was sim­ply writ­ing, writ­ing, writ­ing.

“It was a real chal­lenge, but one that I sup­pose I’ve al­ways wanted to have.

“It’s filled with col­lo­quial lan­guage – set­tings, land­scapes, way of life.

“Very re­lat­able for any­one in regional Aus­tralia, yet it is res­onat­ing with those in cities. There are some pretty funny re­tired par­ent char­ac­ters.

“And I found my­self read­ing out loud. It’s all about the tim­ing, the ca­dence, what you are say­ing and not say­ing.”

Hav­ing grown up in the coun­try Anna has a won­der­ful rap­port with peo­ple – an un­der­stand­ing of val­ues, of what’s im­por­tant.

Lit­tle won­der she can lis­ten to their sto­ries.

It’s a skill that en­com­passes all ages. She is as com­fort­able play­ing with a niece or nephew as she is with sit­ting and chat­ting to an elder in the com­mu­nity.

As a jour­nal­ist, Anna has writ­ten, pre­sented and pro­duced con­tent for some of Aus­tralia and the UK’s high­est rat­ing pro­grams.

From pre­sent­ing on The Pro­ject and Queens­land

Week­ender, to pro­duc­ing Red Sy­mons’ Break­fast pro­gram on ABC Ra­dio Mel­bourne, Anna’s skills cross ra­dio, TV and on­line.

“Follow the fun,” Sy­mons told her

And those words of ad­vice from the for­mer Sky­hooks gui­tarist turned ra­dio pre­sen­ter have stuck with her. In life, as well as writ­ing her book. “Writ­ing a book is a dream come true ... some­thing I’ve wanted since I was five years old,” she said.

“I wanted to make my book fun, some­thing I would like to read.”

Anna is right at home in Rocky, whether to ad­dress her for­mer high school at its aca­demic awards evening or ar­gue in a de­bate that “life on the land is full of ro­mance and de­sire”.

That was along­side ABC TV’s Lawrence Mooney, at Rock­hamp­ton’s Beef Week Great De­bate.

But a ro­man­tic com­edy that has Aus­tralia’s beef cap­i­tal as its set­ting?

“As a first-time au­thor, you write what you know, but one of my mes­sages is that you don’t have to live in a big city to live a big life,” she said.

“It’s al­ways a worry – should I be down in the big city lights?

“I wanted to rep­re­sent regional Aus­tralia in an

As a first-time au­thor, you write what you know, but one of my mes­sages is that you don’t have to live in a big city to live a big life. — Anna Daniels

af­fec­tion­ate light.

“I hope the story gels with peo­ple in any small town in Aus­tralia. I wanted to cap­ture that lar­rikin­ism, but make the themes univer­sal.

“I think coun­try read­ers and baby boomers can re­late to the ad­ven­tures, as well as those find­ing their way in the big city.”

Anna said ru-ro books (ru­ral ro­mance) were prov­ing in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar.

“Not your lust in the dust type books,” she said.

“They are easy to read, and right from the cover you know what’s in store.

“Louise from Allen & Un­win has the Fri­day Pitch, where they in­vite au­thors any­where in Aus­tralia to sub­mit to pub­lish­ers.

“It’s rid­ing on the suc­cess of au­thors such as Fleur McDon­ald and Karly Lane ... they have huge fol­low­ings.

“Rachael Treasure started the move­ment, from then its gone from strength to strength.

“City peo­ple have a fas­ci­na­tion with life un­like theirs ... such as McLeod’s Daugh­ters. I sup­pose it’s a fas­ci­na­tion with the un­fa­mil­iar.

“The great point of dif­fer­ence is I’ve tried to put small-town Aus­tralia on the map.”

Anna was one of five chil­dren and there was al­ways a lot of laugh­ter, chaos.

“You needed a good sense of hu­mour to grow up in a fam­ily like that,” she said.

“I love spread­ing the mes­sage. It just de­vel­oped from there.

“My par­ents and grandma had great senses of hu­mour.

“Eileen Shotker and her hus­band Fred started a phar­macy in Rocky more than 70 years ago.

“Eileen was al­ways at the counter talk­ing with cus­tomers, and with such a mis­chievous sense of hu­mour.

“She worked into her 90s and had a real twin­kle in her eye ... she al­ways saw the pos­i­tive, al­ways.”

Anna says it is won­der­ful to go back home to Rocky, to show young writ­ers you can achieve big dreams de­spite be­ing in a regional area.

PHOTO: GLENN HUNT

MAIN IMAGE: Anna Daniels at Bris­bane’s South­bank.

TOP: Anna in Out­back Queens­land; (above left) on one of Rock­hamp­ton’s beaches; and at the ABC stu­dios in Bris­bane.

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