Regional female authors say mining and farming have a few things in common with writing

Regional female authors say mining and farming have a few things in common with writing

“Write what you know” is Cheryl Workman-Davies’ mantra. 

For Workman-Davies, who worked as a geologist in mining for 12 years, that is red dust, flies, but also relationships in the transient town of Kalgoorlie.

The novel that Workman-Davies is about to self-publish, The Rose: A Reality TV Romance, is set in a villa she has mapped out herself on a piece of paper, and that only exists in an imaginary world, untouched by the dust of Western Australia’s Goldfields.

But, like Workman-Davies, the protagonist, Casey, is a hard-working woman surrounded by male colleagues and trying to balance her professional and private life.

While this is her first book, Workman-Davies is already working on a series of Kalgoorlie-set romances.

Cheryl working as an exploration geologist. She wears a high-vis and stands in front of a cave.

Workman-Davies worked as a geologist for 12 years.(Supplied: Cheryl Workman-Davies)

Literary landscapes

A mine site may not seem the most obvious backdrop for romance or inspiration, but Workman-Davies says working underground, in open pits, and as an exploration geologist, you meet interesting characters.

“One of the things I really loved about working on a mine site is that there were people from all walks of life,” she says.

“There are too many stories to capture in a lifetime from every single person.”

female writer dressed in blue stands in front of two old rusty car showing her manuscript

Workman-Davies says on mine sites, there are too many stories to capture in a lifetime.(ABC Goldfields: Giulia Bertoglio)

While Cheryl Workman-Davies’ mining background surfaces on her pages, established rural writer Fleur McDonald takes inspiration from the country for her books’ settings.

“Women’s fiction is often set on cappuccino strips, or cities. My novels are based on farms and have strong lead female characters,” McDonald says.

An Esperance local, McDonald worked on farms since she left school and had always written in some form, starting from lovesick teenage poems, until she became a successful full-time author.

A woman in a red shirt pats and smiles at a dog in the tray of a ute.

Rural author Fleur McDonald with her beloved kelpie Jack.(Supplied: Rosie Henderson)

“After reading Jillaroo, I realised that 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 got picked up from there,” she said.

Fleur McDonald takes settings and themes from her farming experience, rather than specific stories.

“Thankfully, I have never had fertiliser stolen or some of the things that run through my books,” she says.

But the country still fertilises her imagination.

“It is 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 built-up area.

“I own 5,000 hectares across WA, so I still have enough to get my hands and my feet dirty.”

Author Fleur McDonalds wearing a white shirt leans against an old truck

Fleur McDonald is a rural author who has lived and worked on farms for much of her life.(Supplied: Rosie Henderson)

When she wants to write, McDonald takes her office chair out 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, on the other hand, found inspiration on the solitary car trips she used to make as an exploration geologist.

“Sometimes, in between jobs, you are driving from one place to another, it’s a good time to plan and think about characters and storylines”, she says.

Droughts and dig-ups

writer standing in front of a shelf in the library in Kalgoorlie.

Workman-Davies wrote her book in November 2015, during National Novel Writing Month.(ABC Goldfields: Giulia Bertoglio)

Workman-Davies eventually found she had to leave mining to find the focus she needed to complete her novels.

She wrote the 50,000 words of her book in 30 days in November 2015 during NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month.

She experienced something that Fleur McDonald would compare to a wet drought.

“There’s a thing called writer’s block that you could equate to a drought, and there are things like a wet drought, where it rains and rains and nothing grows because the soil is waterlogged, and that’s when you are flooded with ideas,” McDonald says.

‘Let your pen write furiously’

Society of Women Writers WA chairwoman Helen Iles’s main piece of advice for aspiring authors is also to write their story in full before any editing.

“Let your pen write furiously, finish the story first, put it away and let it rest and then come back to look at it with fresh eyes,” she says. 

It took Workman-Davis much longer than a month to turn that first draft into the manuscript that she is about to publish.

She leaves her writing for a while, to then dig it out again and polish it, looking for gems to keep and lines to discard — not too dissimilar to mining.

writer dressed in hi-vis posing in front of an open pit mine.

Workman-Davies says you have to use your creativity and your innovative mind in both mining and writing.(Supplied: Cheryl Workman-Davies)

“You’ve got to use your creativity and your innovative sort of mind in both,” she says.

“Sometimes you have to think outside of the box if things go wrong. If you are out in the bush, you have to be independent”.

It’s not surprising that Workman-Davies chose an adventurous pseudonym: Zoe Shackleton, like the protagonist of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

Although they come from different backgrounds, both writers choose strong female leads. And they put them in boots — steel-cap or riding ones.

writer with curly red hair shown from behind looking at her manuscript. view of Kalgoorlie in the background

Cheryl Workman-Davies draws inspiration from living and working in Kalgoorlie.(ABC Goldfields: Giulia Bertoglio)

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Kraken Onion Market