Inspiration can strike anywhere and any time. For me, the inspiration for the Chalk Hill series came during a family holiday in our campervan to Albany in Western Australia in 2016. The Rio Olympics were the talk of the campsite and as it rained for three days straight, I had plenty of time to watch Michael Phelps and all the amazing swimmers strut their stuff on pool deck.
With all the rain on the van roof night after night, is it any wonder the first character I dreamed up was an almost-Olympic-level swimmer in need of a second chance at life and love?
That character was Ella, from Water Under the Bridge, and before the rain stopped I’d created the town of Chalk Hill, the Honeychurch family and the three brothers, Jake, Abe and Braxton (Brix), who would be the backbone of the series. After that it didn’t take long to think up the women who would come to love my Honeychurch boys: Ella, Taylor and Jaydah (JT).
Chalk Hill is like many small country Australian towns: it has a primary school, a general store, a post office, a school bus run, a secondhand shop, sports oval, District Club and bowling green, a butcher and a hardware/nursery store. Thanks to my writing, it also now has a swimming pool and a café, and, yes, it has a bridge!
Last Bridge Before Home is the final book of three, and as I wrote it I found that my charming country town of Chalk Hill had turned a shade darker in two years of writing.
I discovered even my sweet little town has terrible secrets behind its closed doors.
Last Bridge Before Home is Jaydah and Brix’s story. As the book starts, Jaydah is in an increasingly difficult struggle to survive a home life where her father rules the roost.
Brix and JT have been best friends since school, and lovers, but things have never quite worked out for them and Brix has never understood why.
Jaydah is a girl who can stand up for herself. If you’ve read Café by the Bridge you might remember she was about to unleash a bunch of whoop-ass on a couple of thugs, using her ninja skills and a pool cue!
Unfortunately this time her fight isn’t just physical, and it’s time to make a stand. She can’t win by herself and although she’s terrible at asking for help, that’s what she needs.
Enter the lovely, steadfast, loyal and gorgeous Brix. (My heart just went pitter patter, can’t you tell?)
It’s time for Brix to play hero.
I’ve loved spending these years in Chalk Hill, and I love how the town has resonated with so many readers. The Porongurup region of south west Australia is gorgeous and as with everything I write, I always try to bring the sounds and smells of the bush and surrounds into my stories.
If you haven’t been across to WA, you need to visit! And if you find yourself on the Muirs Highway between Manjimup and Mount Barker…that’s Chalk Hill country.