Laura Murphy will need to call on all her grit and determination to retain her beloved farm... But will her fierce independence close her off to the possibility of love?
Since inheriting Nambina, the property that's been in her family for generations, Laura Murphy has worked wonders. Rather than just focusing on farming, she has set up a successful school teaching women the basics of managing a property.
But the notoriously self-reliant Laura is lonely and still scarred by a tragedy from her past. She's also grappling with the hostility of her former best friend, Meghan Hunter. The fact that Laura's ex-boyfriend Josh is Meghan's brother only makes thing worse.
When a solicitor contacts Laura saying he's representing clients who may have a claim over Nambina, Laura's entire world is turned upside down. In holding on to the property she's worked so hard to build, Laura realises she needs to reach out to friends and family, or risk losing everything...
Celebrating strength in the face of adversity, as well as the enriching power of love, Crimson Dawn is Fleur McDonald's fifth novel with Allen and Unwin, since being discovered via Friday Pitch.
Drawing on Fleur's life raising a family on an 8000-acre station where her day can be spent marking mobs of lambs, wrangling ewes and dealing with the effects of drought, Crimson Dawn was inspired by Fleur's admiration for those who encourage the next generation of farmers. From her first boss through to her local community vets, Fleur believes strongly in the importance of providing a practical education to future farmers. Fleur wants Crimson Dawn to not only celebrate empowered, self-sufficient women on the land but also people who support Australia's agricultural industry and its future.
After growing up on a farm near Orroroo in South Australia, Fleur McDonald's first job was jillarooing in the outback. She's now closely involved in the daily management of the 8000-acre station she and her family live on near Esperance in Western Australia. Fleur is the author of the bestselling novels Red Dust, Blue Skies, Purple Roads and Silver Clouds.
Allen and Unwin
Author: Fleur McDonald
Question: How did the idea for Crimson Dawn come about?
Fleur McDonald: The idea for Crimson Dawn came when two ideas I had collided. We'd been preg-scanning sheep and our local vet had brought out some vet students with him. I got thinking about how he always seemed to have students, be they young adults studying to be a vet or kids on work experience from the local high school. I watched the way he explained things to them and let them have a turn at what he was doing and was really impressed at his dedication to the practical learning of these kids. I then got thinking about how different it was for me when I first started in the ag industry. How intimidating it was for someone who hadn't grown up on a farm to get into the male dominated industry. I merged these two ideas together and Laura's Jillaroo school was formed.
The history side of Crimson Dawn came from a love of Australian history and wool
Question: Is the character of Laura Murphy based on anyone you know?
Fleur McDonald: Not really, although some of her experiences and understanding are based on a few things I experienced when I first came into the ag industry. I started off working back in the early 90s. During this time, Agriculture was still very much a male dominated work place. I always felt unite silly going to field days, was too scared to ask questions in case the blokes laughed at me. Now in Crimson Dawn, Laura understands this and creates a 'safe and non threatening' learning environment for these girls.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Fleur McDonald: The setting always comes from real life - living on the land and working it the way I have done for twenty years and continue to do so, gives me the ability to write with authenticity about the land and the way we work it. So, if I describe a ewe having a lamb or a sunset, ti's from something I've seen. The stories, however, come from a very active imagination and a good natter with a friend. And perhaps that includes a couple of glasses of wine too!
I did break a rule of mine in Crimson Dawn though. I have never, ever based a character on a real person before. I've always believed that is the wrong thing to do. But this time, a real-life friend of mine, Catherine Marriott, was included as one of Laura's friends. Although the character is called Catherine, too, it's only very loosely based on my friend. I felt Catherine was such an inspiration that she needed to put into this book, but I doubt I'll do that a again.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Fleur McDonald: Oh, this is always such a hard question! What works for me, may not work for someone else. Really, all I can say is keep going. Do what you love, whether it be writing, music, whatever and you'll be happy. You may never get picked up, but you'll be happy. Never give up and keep trying. Sounds like a bit of a cop out doesn't it?! Sorry about that!
Question: What's next for you?
Fleur McDonald: Well I'm writing a new book called Indigo Storm. Actually saying 'I'm writing it' is probably a bit over the top at the moment! I'm working towards starting it. There's a bit of research involved for this one so I'm doing that, getting the storyline straight in my head and then will start it when the kids head back to school in a couple of weeks.
Interview by Brooke Hunter