In the years I lived in Alice Springs, it never occurred to me to write a book based in that location. I lived there seven years, started a couple of businesses, built a house and learnt to fly. None of The Red Heart is autobiographical, but my experiences whilst in the Northern Territory certainly influenced the book.
Learning to fly was something that I’d always wanted to do, but it seemed an impossible dream. It wasn’t until I went to Alice that I met other people who flew, and realised it was feasible. I could do it too and so I did. It wasn’t that hard after all.
I have always wanted to write, and produced the occasional poem or short story, but didn’t know other people who wrote. Back living in South Australia, I joined the SA Writers’ Centre and after attending a romance writing workshop held by that organisation, the prospect of writing a novel seemed more achievable. Just as learning to fly was a case of taking the first step, so was developing my writing skills.
I wrote the first draft in 1988. The eagle-eyed will notice that Kathy and Sarah listen to music cassettes in the car, and those who know detail about aviation will be aware that some scenes pre-date changes in processes have followed satellite and internet technologies. The interaction between Kathy and Alex that occurred in the briefing office wouldn’t happen today.
I picked the story up again in 2013 and made the decision to leave the plot in the 1980s. That meant I didn’t have to do major re-writes, which would have significantly altered some of the plot scenes.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing the story. Part of that relates to getting to know the characters, and part relates to exploring some of the situations and environments that were very familiar. A common edict directed to new writers is to ‘write about what you know’ and this is what I did in this situation. It removed the requirement to research the background, while I learnt about the craft of writing.
What I didn’t expect was that the book would turn into a series. Initially, I thought it would be a stand-alone category romance for a publisher such as Harlequin, but it is too long to fit their requirements, and probably doesn’t fit neatly into any of their outlined categories. I had to explore other publishing options. As I got to know the minor characters, I realised that their stories were waiting to be told as well. Hence, the second book follows Sarah, and the third explores the challenging character of Melissa.