RO­MANCE RE­SUS­CI­TATED

A love of nurs­ing and coun­try life in­spires au­thor Nicki Ed­wards

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - INSIDE - BLANCHE CLARK

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

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