A love of nursing and country life inspires author Nicki Edwards
Nicki Edwards describes herself as a “ridiculously high achiever”. The mother-of-four, intensive-care nurse is not exaggerating. Two-and-half years ago the 45-year-old set her mind to writing one novel, but didn’t stop.
Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint Momentum has published four of her medical/rural romances as ebooks and is now celebrating her success with a print edition of her fifth novel,
The Peppercorn Project. “If I’m going to do something, I set my mind to it and I say, ‘It’s going to happen’, to the detriment, often, of a lot of other things,” she says. “I am now working on my eighth book since January 2014 – I’ve smashed them out.”
The Peppercorn Project is her most ambitious, pitched at the broader “commercial women’s fiction” market. “The inspiration for my story came because a friend of mine lost her husband in a hang-gliding accident three years ago and was left with four children of a similar age to my kids,” Edwards says. “I can remember being completely overwhelmed with her grief, just putting myself in her shoes.”
Main character Isabelle Cassidy is a recently qualified nurse with two children whose husband Dan has died after a heart attack at a beach in Torquay, Victoria. With too many reminders of her loss, Isabelle seeks a fresh start in a small town in South Australia that is offering “peppercorn” rents to entice families there to keep the town alive.
“I remember thinking this is a great idea,” she says. “But what if I turn it on its head? What if, instead, I have a vibrant, thriving community and they offer their vacant properties to families who are doing it tough to help them get back on their feet?”
Edwards has bucked many a trend since leaving school. She toyed with becoming a journalist but preferred creative writing and ended up as a legal secretary until she married her high-school sweetheart, Tim, and they had their first child when she was 23.
“I was a stay-at-home mum. I took the kids to kinder and school and all the rest of it. As they got a bit older and it was heading to that point when my youngest was about to start school, I remember saying to my husband one day: ‘I don’t want to be swiping groceries at Safeway when I’m 40. What am I going to do? I’ve got more in me’.”
Aged 36 she enrolled in a Diploma of Nursing, went on to a three-year Bachelor of Nursing at Deakin University and ultimately did a graduate certificate in critical care nursing.
“I was considering doing my Master’s of Nursing, and my husband, in his wisdom, said: ‘Why don’t we, as a family, have a bit of a break from that?’ ’’ That lasted three weeks.
“It was just after Christmas and I had picked up a rural romance book. I’d never read one, never even heard of rural romance as a genre,” Edwards says. “I said to my husband, ‘I think I’ll write a book’. You can imagine the expression on his face … he’s like, ‘this is going to happen, because if you say it’s going to happen it’s going to happen’.”
Twelve months to the day (almost) her book was published by Pan Macmillan’s Momentum. “Along the way I discovered I loved writing. I found I had stories I wanted to tell. I wanted to be able to use my role as a nurse, and how passionate I was about nursing, to tell stories that showed people what it was like from a nurse’s perspective.” The Peppercorn Project Momentum, $30
Critical care nurse, mother of four and author of seven books, the indefatigable Nicki Edwards. Picture: Tony Gough