Today’s Q&A post features Nicole Alexander, author of the newly released novel Stone Country. Stone Country is published by Penguin Random House. Ms Alexander discusses aspects of her book, her writing process and future writing endeavours. Welcome to Talking Books Blog Ms Alexander!
Congratulations on your latest novel Stone Country. Can you tell us a scene that did not make it into the finished story?
Thankyou. I haven’t had a novel out for a couple of years now so it’s very exciting that Stone Country has hit the National Top Ten Bestseller list. Every scene made it into the novel and I added a couple of extra scenes during the editing process. The duality of human nature lies at the heart of Stone Country and some of the questions I asked myself during its creation included such things as, what sets us apart from our friends and family? Why do we make certain choices during a lifetime? Ones that can just as easily mean our triumph or our downfall. Delving into particular character traits in Stone Country, required lots of redrafting, hence the extra scenes.
How many hours a day do you set aside for writing?
I work on a weekly word count of five thousand words which means that some days I might be glued to the desk for ten hours and others, less. And writing on weekends and during evenings is often a given. It depends if the writing gods are feeling generous and also, what’s happening on our property. We downsized a few years ago and now concentrate on breeding beef cattle, but my day job (farming) can still be very intensive at times, especially with the ongoing drought.
Did you always aspire to become an author?
In my teens I began to think about writing and the art of storytelling, both written and oral. I dabbled with writing at school and university and then, when I finished my studies, I began to write as a hobby and my career grew from that. Initially I wrote travel and genealogy articles, and short stories. An apprenticeship that lead me to try my hand at a longer piece of fiction that became my first novel, The Bark Cutters. It was short-listed for an Australian Book Industry Award and it was that recognition that gave me the confidence to continue with my writing.
How many books have you written in your career? Which one was the most challenging to write?
My published works include poetry and inclusions in both fiction and non-fiction anthologies. Stone Country is my ninth novel. Every work has its unique challenges and as I mature as a writer, each novel inevitably represents both a personal and professional milestone. As for the most challenging I would have to say it was most definitely Stone Country. It required a huge amount of research. Stone Country spans the period 1901 to 1940 and is set in Adelaide and the mid-north of South Australia, and the Northern Territory. I spent considerable time in both locations, researching the history of these regions, and tracing the steps my characters would take on the page. The away-from-the-desk research component of my work definitely feeds my inner Indiana Jones and ensures that the story is completely authentic in terms of time and place.
What can readers expect in your writing endeavours?
Big stories that celebrate our extraordinary history and magnificent landscapes. Drama, adventure and passion with strong, flawed characters that drive the narrative onwards. I treat the land as a character in all of my works. It is a living breathing entity after all.
About Stone Country
From nineteenth-century Adelaide and the red dirt of mid-north South Australia, to the cattle stations and buffalo plains of the far north Ross Grant’s journey is one of desire, adventure and determination, to the heart of stone country and beyond.
South Australia, 1919. Ross Grant has always felt like the black sheep of his wealthy Scottish family. An explorer at heart, he dreams of life on Waybell, their remote cattle station in Australia’s last remaining wilderness, the Northern Territory.
Then his brother Alastair is branded a deserter after going missing during the Great War. To help restore the Grants’ damaged reputation, Ross is coerced into marrying Darcey Thomas, a woman he has never met.
Disgusted by his manipulative family, he turns his back on his unwanted wife just hours after the ceremony, and heads to Waybell with no plans to return. He carries with him the hope of carving his own empire in the far north.
But Ross has not counted on Darcey’s determination to be his wife in more than just name. Nor did he anticipate meeting Maria, a young, part-Chinese woman who will capture his heart. And he certainly wasn’t prepared for how this beautiful yet savage land will both captivate and destroy his soul . . .
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*The pictures featured in this Q&A post are courtesy of Penguin Random House.