“Write what you know” is Cheryl Workman-Davies’ mantra.
For Workman-Davies, who worked as a mining geologist for 12 years, it’s red dust, flies, but also connections in the short-lived town of Kalgoorlie.
The novel Workman-Davies is about to self-publish, The Rose: A Reality TV Romance, is set in a villa that she herself mapped out on a piece of paper, and which only exists in an imaginary world, untouched by the dust of the gold fields of Western Australia.
But, like Workman-Davies, the protagonist, Casey, is a hardworking woman surrounded by male colleagues and trying to balance her work and private life.
Although this is her first book, Workman-Davies is already working on a series of Kalgoorlie novels.
A mining site might not seem like the most obvious backdrop for romance or inspiration, but Workman-Davies says that working underground, in the open, and as an exploration geologist, you meet some interesting characters. .
“One of the things I really liked about working at a mine site was that there were people from all walks of life,” she says.
“There are too many stories to capture in each person’s life.”
While Cheryl Workman-Davies’ mining experience surfaces on its pages, established rural writer Fleur McDonald takes inspiration from the country for the setting of her books.
“Female fiction is often set on cappuccino strips or towns. My novels are based on farms and have strong female characters,” McDonald explains.
A resident of Esperance, McDonald has worked on farms since leaving school and has always written in one form or another, starting with poems of teenage lovers, until she became a best-selling full-time author.
“After reading Jillaroo, I realized there was a hunger for the stories of the life I lived, and that was exciting. I tried to write a few chapters of Red Dust and I got picked up from there,” she said.
Fleur McDonald takes settings and themes from her farming experience, rather than specific stories.
“Fortunately, I’ve never had any theft of fertilizer or some of the things that run through my books,” she says.
But the country is still fertilizing its imagination.
“It’s better to be an author in regional Australia, you have more places to clear your head and be able to be creative,” she says.
“I would find it very difficult to be creative in a conurbation.
“I own 5,000 acres across WA, so I still have enough to get my hands and feet dirty.”
When she wants to write, McDonald pulls out her desk chair and sits at the back of her property, where she has a table, a gum tree, and the company of her kelpie.
Cheryl Workman-Davies, meanwhile, found inspiration in the solitary road trips she used to take as an exploration geologist.
“Sometimes between jobs you’re driving from place to place, it’s a good time to plan and think about characters and storylines,” she says.
Droughts and excavations
Workman-Davies eventually found she had to quit mining to find the focus she needed to finish her novels.
She wrote her book’s 50,000 words in 30 days in November 2015 during NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.
She experienced something Fleur McDonald would compare to a wet drought.
“There’s a thing called Writer’s Block that you might liken to a drought, and there are things like a wet drought, where it rains and rains and nothing grows because the ground is waterlogged, and that’s is where you’re inundated with ideas,” McDonald says. .
‘Let your pen write furiously’
Helen Iles, president of the Society of Women Writers WA’s main advice to aspiring authors is also to write their story in its entirety before publishing.
“Let your pen write furiously, finish the story first, put it away and let it rest, then come back and look at it with fresh eyes,” she says.
It took Workman-Davis well over a month to turn that first draft into the manuscript she is about to publish.
She leaves her writing for a while, then digs into it again and polishes it, looking for gems to keep and lines to throw away – not too dissimilar to mining.
“You have to use your creativity and your innovative spirit in both cases,” she says.
“Sometimes you have to think outside the box if things go wrong. If you’re in the bush, you have to be independent.”
It’s no surprise that Workman-Davies chose an adventurous pseudonym: Zoe Shackleton, as the protagonist of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
Although they come from different backgrounds, the two authors choose strong female roles. And they put them in boots – steel-capped or riding.