ALONG FOR THE RIDE
BEING AN AUTHOR ISN’T ABOUT BEING COOPED UP INSIDE — THE BEST INSPIRATION COMES FROM THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Annie Seaton HARPERCOLLINS , $29.99
Writing Undara brought up some spooky coincidences for author Annie Seaton. But when your book is set around ancient lava tubes formed 190,000 years ago, there’s bound to be some moments that make your spine tingle.
“The strangest coincidence was I bought a book called Cattle in The Blood. It was about the settlement of the Undara area and the Collins family that settled there in the 1800s, the same family that runs the (tour) experience today,” Annie says.
“The book was written by a woman called Anne Smith — that’s my real name. Annie Seaton is a pseudonym. To make it even more strange, I discovered people by the name of Edmonds who were related to the Collins and that was my maiden name. I felt this real connection to the family.”
Undara follows the story of entomologist Emlyn Rees as she attempts to bury herself in a research project at the Undara lava tubes in Far North Queensland following her marriage breakdown.
The caves are on Travis Carlyle’s farm, and he is initially reluctant to let the team of scientists “poke around” his cattle station.
The pair strike up an unlikely friendship, however, when things start to go wrong around the dig site, Emlyn and Travis begin to think there’s a more sinister force at play that’s putting the future of the station and their lives at risk. If you’ve read an Annie Seaton novel before, you might be expecting relations to develop between the two
protagonists. While Annie is a well-known romance writer, she wanted to steer away from the cliches in Undara.
“A couple of the reviews, they must have read my work before, say ‘It’s not what you expect’,” Annie says.
“I suppose it’s real life. There are romantic elements in it but there’s not a romance in this story as such. It’s a much deeper story that explores the human condition about grief, loss, pain and family.”
Annie remembers the moment that sparked the idea for Undara. Each year she and her husband visit rural Australia for creative inspiration. Travelling from west to east, they came across the Undara lava tubes.
“About three years ago we were travelling from Western Australia to the eastern coast of Australia to research my book Daintree.
“We came along the highway that went through Mount Surprise. We stopped there and they were doing tours to the lava tubes, which I had never heard of.
“We had this fabulous tour through the caves. You can see them heading off to the west for more than 100km. So many of them have been unexplored and no one’s ever been in them. It was a bit eerie because they were a really different place.
“Originally I was going to make my heroine a palaeontologist and find dinosaur bones, but a scientist friend said to me, ‘Why don’t you have her as an entomologist?’ Fast forward to a lot of research about the tubes, the bad air that’s in them, the species that have been found. I tried to get that through in the book, that feeling of being underground, very dark, that sense of place.”
The surroundings are a character in Annie’s books as much as the leading roles. Many of her works are set in the Australian outback and coastline where story arcs grow as naturally as the ecosystems.
“I tend to follow three different themes in my writing,” Annie says.
“One is to take my readers on an armchair tour of places they may never go to.
“I also like to explore environmental issues against governments and large corporations, and a gentle exploration of the human condition and issues.”
While Annie says the final product hitting the shelves last month is an occasion worth celebrating, she’s excited to get back out into the wilderness and find inspiration all over again.
“The research is absolutely the best part of being an author,” she says. “I’m trying to finish the 2020 book which is set in Mackay in the 1930s. It’s set on a boat with a female skipper. I had to learn to be a female skipper.
“My 2021 book, called East of Alice , is about the ruby rush in the 1800s. We’ve just had seven weeks away while I did a library tour up the centre. We did some fossicking and exploring and four-wheel-driving.
“I’m doing a bit of self discovery. I love writing the historical so much, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wrote a straight historical
“I TEND TO FOLLOW THREE DIFFERENT THEMES IN MY WRITING. ONE IS TO TAKE MY READERS ON AN ARMCHAIR TOUR OF PLACES THEY MAY NEVER GO TO.”