Saturday, 15 September 2012

Rural Panel: What Makes Rural Romance?

In August, I attended the RWA Diamonds are Forever Conference. It was one of the most exciting, nerve-racking four days I've ever experienced and one were Rural Romance was given a voice in the Diamonds in Dust Panel. It was great to share opinions and ideas, but one question really showed just how subjective Rural Romance is.

Rural Romance is a relatively young genre, but I believe it has hit the shelves with a bang. New authors are imerging and the genre is growing. And every story, is unique. Different opinions, new voices and yet they are all connected by something.

So, I just wanted to ask our authors, what is it about Rural life that inspires you to write RuRo? And what makes are Rural romance to you?

For me, it's the characters. It's old mate sitting out the front of the post office with his scruffy dog at his feet. It's battered hats, quirky senses of humour and tales that go for days. It's strong, passionate individuals who are fighting for something or against something. When I pick up a rural novel, I want to read and find the people I have met IN these novels. And I want to make a few more friends. That's what Rural Romance is for me.

Now for what everyone else has to say...

First up, we have author, Jenn J Mcleod (whose debut novel, 'House For All Seasons' is out next year). Jenn had this to say about what inspired her to write about Rural life:

'Country living to me is about the sound of silence. (With respect to Simon & Garfunkel!)
There is a crispness to the country, and I’m not referring solely to a what we see and feel. It’s the sharp silences, the stillness, what we hear--or don’t hear without the whirr of white noise that comes with city living.
That’s my kind of country.'

And how right she is. If you have never lived in the city, you might not understand this. But for me, a country girl at heart stuck in the city, this silence really is a sound. Not a lack of it.

For the Author of The Road Home, Fiona Palmer:

'Rural life for me is the close knit community full to the brim of bush characters that all have their own quirks. Yet we all live together, tolerating and supporting each other as a community wouldn't survive otherwise.'

Whilst Fleur McDonald doesn't write Rural Romance, but Rural literature, Fleur understands the impact rural life has had on the stories she writes. And on the world she lives in.

Farmers feed everyone and to me, it's the most important job in the world. That is what makes me passionate about writing Rural Lit. I simply love sharing my world with people who don't have the opportunity live it.

You all know the saying: If you ate today, thank a Farmer.

For Loretta Hill, whose fabulous novel 'The Girl in the Steel-capped Boots' has had great success in today's market, she had this to say about what makes a rural romance for her:

'Three things make a rural romance for me. Firstly, a strong, capable female lead. I think what attracts readers most to Rural romance are the feisty heroines who are often not just falling in love but also testing the limits of their own capabilities. These heroines don’t need the hero to triumph at the end of the story but he certainly makes the journey more interesting. I love the fact that rural romance heroines are often thrown out of their depth or put in situations which test them emotionally and sometimes physically to the limit. And yet they rise up and meet the challenges. The second thing, I believe makes a rural romance is of course the setting, not necessarily a farm but definitely not urban. Both books I have written for the Random House are set on the Pilbara on construction sites. I think it’s important that the setting is almost like another character in the book - that it interacts with the heroine as much as the hero does. And last but not least, I think the strong sense of community in rural romance is a big draw card in this genre. Rural romances always contain strong relationships. Not just between the hero and heroine but often between family, comrades, work mates, local townspeople or other farmers etc. They are the kind of relationships that are harder to find in big cities where people sometimes don’t even know their neighbours. I think readers really love that sense of “family” in small towns or workplace communities where everybody looks out for each other. There are many other great aspects of rural romances that I love but these are definitely the top three.'

Strong Heroines are my favourite. I love sarcasm and they all wear it well.

For Penguin Author Cathryn Hein (author of Heart of the Valley):

Besides a well-developed rural setting, I like my rural romances to feature characters who are passionate about the land and country life. They don’t necessarily have to be from the land, but it’s important that they feel a deep connection, so much so that the land becomes intrinsic to their happiness. Take them away and they’ll survive well enough – they are, after all, resourceful sorts - but their world won’t turn quite right. Return them to the place they love most and, despite suffering hardships and traumas (because where is the fun without those to test our hero’s or heroine’s mettle), the characters find home and a place that fills their hearts.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a broad-shouldered hero who looks damn sexy in a pair of moleskins!

We do love our broad-shouldered men haha.

Next in line we have Jennifer Scoullar, whose novel Brumby's Run was released in July. This is what Jennifer had to say:

A rural romance, like any other, requires a passionate love story. But it also requires much more. For me, a good rural romance is anchored in an equally passionate love story with the land. Rich, natural settings set these books apart. Australian readers find independent, tough-minded women coexisting with the land more appealing than the self-absorbed shopaholics who dominate chick-lit. The characters in rural stories are strong women who are not desperate for a new man.
Australia’s native flora and fauna are my main influences, together with wild landscapes. These are powerful settings. In cities, many people live lives so far removed from nature, that they rarely even touch the earth. But at what cost? The cost to our declining environment? The cost to our hearts? I think the world is hungry to re-engage with nature, to ground itself. Rural lit taps into this vein. The wildly successful movie Avatar did the same thing. Losing touch with wildness is losing touch with ourselves.

As a city dweller, I understand exactly what you're saying. As a country girl at heart, the best part of my day is walking to feed my horse who lives just down the road from me. It's 7am, the air is cool and the gums tree look magnificent against the sunrise. Some, don't understand the contentment I feel during that ten minute walk. Others, understand completely.

Breathless Publishing author, Ann B Harrison has just release her novel 'Taming the Outback' and today she will be sharing what influenced her to write a Rural Romance:

Apart from growing up a country girl quite simply the struggle my characters go through and how they come out the other end.
I like to pit them against their greatest fears and see how they cope. Life on the land is hard enough as it is but adding the emotional aspect can only makes the story better. It drags me in as a writer and I hope it does the same for my readers.
With my first book Taming the Outback I took a widow with an unruly teenager and a little lost girl and threw her the challenge of taking on two stations at a profit or risk losing it to the guy next door. That was enough of an incentive for Libby to pull out all the stops and show us what she was made of.
Well said Ann. :)

And last but not least, we have Jennie Jones. Jennie is unpublished, but has recently finalled in the Rebecca!

I didn’t set out with the intent of focussing on Rural Romance, but as I write, my characters are finding themselves in small town country environments where they fall in love, so my stories are turning out to be rural and romantic. The country image is of space, freedom and fresh air; a chance to start again perhaps. My characters might be building something, finding something, saving something or running from something. Of course, their dreams don’t come easily because living in the country is hard. There are a whole new set of rules. My little towns are fictional, but the areas I set them in are mapped on Google, and although I want readers to feel that they recognise the settings I also love to add a bucket of make-believe to the atmosphere and quirkiness of my towns and my characters.
A Rural novel isn't the same without its quirky characters!

So there you have it. What makes a rural romance. And what it is about Rural life that inspires these great tales.

I'd like to thank all the women who participated in this post. It was really interesting and I'd love to have you all back at the blog soon.

If you're a Rural Romance lover and would like to find out more about these wonderful authors, just click on their names and you will find their websites. The Rural Romance Writers and Reader's group on facebook is also a great place to get to know these authors, and discover many more.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this post.


  1. Interesting post, Whitney. I have to confess to not being aware that the sub-genre RuRo existed. I've read many of them in Harlequins, mass market publications etc. (many set in Australia) but like the idea of marketing them in thatlittle extra niche!

  2. Sorry, but what do you mean you didn't know?! haha
    It's been out for a while. :) I brought my first rural romance five years ago and it has since expanded. An genre after my own heart.

  3. Nancy, you must try some of our Aussie gals if you get the chance. Great Australian stories and some fab romances.

    Thanks so much for doing this, Whitney. Interesting to read everyone's take on ru-ro.

    1. My pleasure, Cathryn.
      I love having you all hear. :)


  4. Great post Whitney! I'm so glad this genre is doing so well and has it's own nuances and flavours.

    1. Thanks, Loretta. It was great having you over. :)

  5. Fantastic post, Whitney. A great round up of everything I love about RuRo! Thanks.

    1. Thank you, Natalie.
      I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank for stopping by and leaving a comment. :)