ALONG FOR THE RIDE

BE­ING AN AU­THOR ISN’T ABOUT BE­ING COOPED UP IN­SIDE — THE BEST IN­SPI­RA­TION COMES FROM THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

Life & Style Weekend - - BOOK CLUB - WORDS: AM­BER MACPHER­SON EYE READ

UNDARA

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

(book) next.”

“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.”

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