My first two novels – The Baggage Handler (that’s the one that won the Christy Award in 2019) and The Camera Never Lies – were set in an Any City and I’ve had feedback from readers around the world thanking me for writing a story that felt like it happened in their home town.
But this next one isn’t set there. Where the Road Bends is firmly placed in my home. Outback Australia.
I’m an Aussie writer and I wanted to transport readers to my home – places I’ve visited; places I’m proud of. While the protagonists are American characters getting together fifteen years after graduation, the landscape is a character in itself. A very Aussie one.
Australia is a land full of history. It’s rough and rugged but it’s beautiful and delicate. There is a big expanse of nothing, but it’s so full of life. Our First Nations people have had custody of the land for tens of thousands of years, so the land is full of their story as well as the story of the land itself.
So let me introduce you to my home.
What is outback Australia like? Let me show you through some excerpts…
From Where the Road Bends
A cramp seized Andy’s shoulders as he pulled them in tight, hemmed in by a domestic flight cursed with the lack of the luxurious space of international business class. He had withdrawn into the view.
For two hours the ground had changed thirty thousand feet below as the crisscross suburban gray of the city gave way to deep green, which gave way to dusty brown, which gave way to an ochre orange. Now the earth was rich red. It was as if the lifeblood of the country was being cleansed as it flowed back to its heart.
This is what it’s like to fly into central Australia. We all pretty much live on the coast, so when you fly out of our capital cities and toward the outback, the color change is stark. For twenty minutes there are signs of life and then there’s … nothing.
But the thing you notice most is the change of color, and you know you’re over the outback when everything below you is red.
Bree checked the flight map. Caroline Springs had to be close but it was nowhere in sight. Beneath her, miles and miles of nothingness. Occasional long fingernail scratches in the earth, empty roads ready for the next person who might want to visit whatever was down there, whenever that might be. Maybe the town would appear out of nowhere like Sydney did. Maybe that’s what Australia was best at—surprising you when you least expected it.
I’ve seen those fingernail scratches; the winding dry riverbeds that once held water and purpose. And when you fly over them, you get a sense of what used to be there. And what isn’t there now.
The path was split in two by an enormous gum tree, its mottled branches jutting beyond the shade into sunlight. Underneath it sat a rounded boulder, long sweeping scratches adorning its surface. She padded along the track, and as she stood in front of it, she only saw thick gouges in the rock that occasionally crossed, smaller sweeps that lost their meaning.
It was no longer a picture. She felt, rather than saw, the slightest movement a couple of feet above her head. Her heart started to pound as she let her eyes drift slowly up, and she gazed into the softest, fluffiest, most gorgeous face of the one creature she wanted to see on this trip.
In the crook of the mottled branches sat a koala, nonchalantly chewing eucalyptus leaves while surveying her with casual disdain.
“You’re gorgeous.” Bree eased her hand toward it. The chewing slowed and the koala’s eyes narrowed.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Sloaney moved in next to her. “Take all the photos you want, but I’d leave that fella alone. See how he’s holding on to the gum tree? You wouldn’t want to get in the way of those, and there’s chlamydia too.”
Long, thick nails like talons sprung from the ends of the koala’s claws and were embedded in the tree.
This is what I mean by there is so much life in the outback. There is food everywhere, even though sometimes Western eyes can no longer see it.
And the beauty of Australia also carries a hint of danger. Like that koala – which carries chlamydia and claws like talons.
The clouds slowly unveiled flecks of silver paint from an artist’s wide brush swept across the heavens. A chill moved in as the darkness chased the daylight from the landscape that surrendered by hues—orange to pink, pink to gray, and gray sliding to black. The dried gum tree crackled as the dancing campfire flames consumed it. Shadows shimmered between the swags and the spinifex, and Lincoln was washed in a warm orange glow.
A silence draped over the crater as Eddie released another shower of sparks into the night air. “You will discover your self being out here for a while.” He swept an arm upward. “Sleeping under the stars. Disconnected from being bothered every five minutes by messages that don’t really matter from people you aren’t really with. Away from the barrage of overselling of stuff you don’t need. Taking a moment to appreciate our world and your place it.”
When you’re in the outback, you’re in the middle of nowhere. You are, at times, hundreds of miles from the next person.
And at night, the stars unroll until the heavens are filled. I’ve never seen anything like it. You feel so insignificant, yet so in wonder of the power of creation.
So that’s my next novel.
Seeing as you can’t visit Australia at the moment, I hope you enjoy the chance to visit it through my novel!
SYNOPSIS OF WHERE THE ROAD BENDS
Four friends reconnect fifteen years after graduation on a promised trip to the Australian outback. Time has changed them. At graduation, life was all about unfulfilled potential. Fifteen years down the track, it feels a lot like regret.
As they get lost in outback Australia, they find more than harsh beauty of an unspoilt land … they discover how the road of life delivered them to where they are now.
And getting back requires them to determine where they’ll go from here.
Read excerpts: https://davidrawlings.com.au/portfolio/where-the-road-bends
ABOUT DAVID RAWLINGS
David Rawlings is a Christy-Award winning author about to launch novel number three.
Where the Road Bends is available for pre-order and launches June 2. (Excerpts are available at www.davidrawlings.com.au.) It follows The Baggage Handler (which won the Christy Award for Best First Novel in 2019) and The Camera Never Lies, which hit the stores in December 2019.
Based in South Australia, David Rawlings is also a sports-mad father-of-three who reads everything within an arm’s reach. He writes stories that take you deeper into life, posing questions of readers to explore their own faith and how they approach life.
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