This blog post I am thrilled to be doing something different, and presenting a piece on Australian Jill Staunton, author of Reivers Moon, a beautiful read which I thoroughly recommend. I haven’t known Jill long, but what I know I like, particularly her passion for the land. It is inspiring.
Generally, I am not a big rural fan, but I will read the odd one here and there. I do however like to read new Australian authors and I am so glad I came across this. I joke and say the sao biscuits and vegemite cemented my love affair. They probably did. It’s an Aussie tradition even a migrant child can relate to, although my Italian cousins ran screaming when I offered it to them to try. It is also a very inexpensive snack in hard times. I grew up understanding that, despite the cultural differences. There is a moment in every book that connects us and often it can be a small thing. I found myself inside a world vastly different to mine but completely fascinating.
I won’t touch too much on the plot except to say the novel is a mixture of family drama, hot romance and the kind of crime people on the land should never be subjected to. Their lives are hard enough. Beautifully crafted the novel is an insight into Australian outback life and one that people everywhere can relate to. So much of that is due to the author’s skill in the use of descriptive language, and to the love of the land that shines through in every word. It draws the reader, no matter their background, into the world of farmer, the man on the land. I will let Jill tell you a little more about that, and the book.
Meet Jill Staunton
So many things inspire me to write. Mostly, I write because I love writing – love putting together a story, playing around with words until I find the ones I’m happiest with, the ones that give me the shades of meaning I really want.
Someone once called me a wordsmith and the first time I heard the term, I was thrown back to my childhood and my uncle whom I could always track down in his smithy. He taught me to work the bellows while he beat red-hot metal into shape on an anvil, then dunked it into a bed of coals – which I had to keep red-hot for him by pumping the bellows. He could make anything he needed for the farm; there was artistry in his hands. He came from a line of artists – painters and woodcarvers – and women who could crochet, knit, sew, cook and garden the way we don’t today. So many of those skills have diminished or been lost to us. He, and they, were smiths in the true sense of the word.
I wondered then what value there was in being a wordsmith. Compared to my Scottish and Irish predecessors, I had little to show for my art. Or so I supposed. There were no crocheted bedspreads, or intricately laced tablecloths; no knitted dresses or patterned jumpers; no deliciously fluffy, light sponge cakes; no colourful bottles of pickles, relishes, jams and preserved vegetables lined up in the pantry and no oil paintings positioned proudly above hand carved wooden mantelpieces. Words on paper were largely invisible in a home filled with such useful treasures. Still, I loved words.
And my parents loved the land and taught their children to love it too. I soaked up the language of the bush like dry ground soaks up a rainstorm and found that words had their own kind of magic and artistry. They enabled me to write about the country I loved, about a way of life that mattered and still does.
It matters because farmers are artists too and their palettes are living blocks of land upon which they must constantly position and re-position crops and livestock in ever changing environmental landscapes and moods. Whether we are vegetarians or meat-eaters, we need our farmers. And we need to respect their knowledge, skills and artistry in managing our survival. Yes, our survival. For without farmers, we’d all die.
So, when I see organisations like PETA, scurrilously slandering our farming communities, words spill from my mind and swirl into poems of protest like this one.
Drought-dry paddocks sit brown and bare,
Devoid of grass and seared by the sun
Their friable soils fragment, crumble undone
And rootless, they lift into hot dry air.
Blown by bitter winds, dust clouds flare
Across outback towns and cattle runs
As life succumbs to a burning sun
And bleaching bones lie bereft of care
While you, PETA, arrogant, ignorant, urbanite
You, who live in comfort through oblivious days
You, who shop for bloodless foods, prettily pre-packaged
You dare to vilify those whom death stalks, unites,
Who look into dull, glazed eyes and euthanaise
Day after drought-dry day? Shame on you and your sacrilege!
I also write Outback fiction – a blend of romance and adventure based around real rural issues such as reiving. Now there’s a word my Scottish ancestors would have used! I like to take a romantic and optimistic viewpoint in my stories so ‘Reiver’s Moon’ is an Australian Outback romance and rural crime story about cattle theft in north Queensland, set between Townsville and Hughenden. Annella MacAdam and Mitchell Fallon are the key characters and as the lead says, Annella MacAdam loved a lie and didn’t know it. Mitchell Fallon was the lie and knew it.
What inspires me is my love of the Australian bush, my family, a sense of justice and my delight in playing with words. I think writers simply love creating stories.
Cheers, Jill Staunton
or Instagram at jillstauntonpen
Till next time
So what is a reiver’s moon? Follow Jill on her media and ask her and then let me know. 🙂