The joy of creating the world of the Cottage

I grew up in small coastal towns in Australia. Wild, empty beaches with endless white sand. Sharp remnants of shell beneath my feet, the almost unbearable scorch of heat that made me race to the cooling waves. More than anything, I love the ocean in winter. Grey skies reflected in the sea. Long waves whooshing in and out as perfect accompaniment to the hopeful cawing of seagulls. Mmm… I can smell the saltiness just thinking about it.

Trouble is that I live inland these days. Closer to mountains than beaches. The cottage in my novel was inspired by a real life stationmaster’s cottage not far from my home. Inland, regional Victoria. So, it simply had to be loaded onto a large truck and taken to the coast. Well, in my mind.

Long before the novel took real form, it played as a series of small movies in my head. Little scenes that helped build the world it became. Sketch books are very handy and mine contains a lot of drawings around River’s End. A map of the town, one of the region. Snapshots of pivotal moments.

The biggest problem I had (and still have) is that I visualise the location of two important places – the graveyard on one cliff and Martin’s house on the either – differently from how it is written. To me, the stone steps will always go in the opposite direction. I had to draw the beach with these landmarks in their correct places, then tape the picture on the wall to remind myself! Logistically, it won’t work the way my imagination wants it to. How funny.

Choosing the region to create River’s End in was easy. A couple of times, the family has visited the Great Ocean Road. This part of Victoria is legendary for the Twelve Apostles, giant limestone rocks rising from the sea, The 243 km road begins at trendy Torquay not far from Melbourne, then winds through spectacular scenery to Allansford, near Warrnambool.

Along the way, it goes through towns such as Port Campbell, Apollo Bay, and Lorne, all beloved tourist destinations. Many other tiny, and sometimes almost hidden towns could be another River’s End.

So, I moved my neighbour’s cottage a couple of hundred k away, plonking it down just outside a fictional town that in my ideal world, would be my dream home. Almost every part of River’s End is somewhere I have been or wanted to go.

Of course, there is more to the book than River’s End. Docklands in Melbourne is a gorgeous waterfront hub with fantastic views and access to just about everything the city has to offer. And, just because I love Melbourne so much, I added Crown Casino and the iconic Rosetta restaurant for good measure.

I would love to hear how you, the reader, visualises River’s End and the other locations. Now… time to create the next world.

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The importance of supporting local

In our small town is a lovely, independent bookshop called Book Bonding. They were the first bookshop to ask for copies of Cottage and have regularly sold out. They have tagged the book as being local, which works well for us both. I love supporting local and am so grateful that others feel the same way.

The power of the press

Local newspapers are still alive and kicking. On 14th February 2017 – the release date of Cottage – Midland Express published an article on the book. This article was then used on social media by bookshops to promote it, as well as keeping a physical copy where the book was shelved.

Almost two months later, people still walk into one of those bookshops carrying the article that they have kept to remind them to purchase a copy.

A few weeks later, Gisborne Gazette wrote their own piece on the book and on me. That was also used in social media and has led to more awareness locally as well as regular sales.

How wonderful that we still have newspapers! There is nothing that compares to opening a paper with its inky smell and sometimes grainy pictures. They sit around in homes and at work for weeks on end and are flicked through more than once. May we always have papers to remind us to slow down a bit and love local.