All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Bella’s Run – Margareta Osborn + Author Interview

on March 5, 2012

Bella’s Run
Margareta Osborn
Random House AU
2012, 387p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Bella Vermaelon is in her early twenties, a farm girl who grew up on a dairy farm deep in the Gippsland area in south east Victoria. She and her best friend Patty, also a farm girl but trained as a nurse are taking a year off from their respective jobs and travelling around Australia, working and sightseeing. They’ve worked cattle and grain farms in outback Queensland and traveled down the east coast of Australia, inland to Tamworth for the country music festival and now it’s time to go home.  Everywhere they’ve been they’ve made friends (and an enemy or two) and partied and had a fantastic time. But as amazing as the adventure as all been, the girls are getting a bit homesick. They have a couple of reasons for wanting to be home – both have begun tentative relationships during their travels, Bella with Patty’s older brother Will and Patty with Bella’s cousin Macca. Everything has been perfect and Bella is deeply happy, until something terrible happens that ultimate shatters her whole world. Recovering from serious injury, she turns to the one person she thought would share and support her in her time of grief as they are grieving too – only to be rejected. Heartbroken, she leaves behind the beautiful land she loves so much for a new life in the city. But Bella is about to find out that you can’t ignore who you truly are forever – or who you truly love.

I was offered the chance to read and review Bella’s Run and jumped at it. Rural lit is gaining in popularity in recent times and there’s a slew of up coming titles due to be published soon. I think it appeals to a lot of people who dream of living on the land (but perhaps without the huge amounts of work and debt that often come with it) and this is a way to live vicariously. There’s something utterly intriguing about the idea of owning a huge spread!

Bella’s Run opens with a bang, a mysterious incident and then we go back in time a bit to when Bella and her best friend Patty were at work on a huge cattle property in Queensland. Their characters are quickly established – both are young, fun-loving, a bit wild, always up for an adventure or a good time. There’s quite a bit of drinking in this book – in fact it took me right back to my first two years at University which was a former agricultural college still running those degrees. We got a lot of rural students studying ag, equine, etc (I was doing an Environmental Management degree) and the amount of drinking some of them could do was insane. There are times when I felt queasy just reading about the drinking Bella and Patty were doing (mostly just the time they had a shot competition. Shots and I do not go well together!) They were very obviously two girls that really enjoyed life and all it had to offer them, whether it be mustering on a remote property in central outback Queensland or whooping it up at a Bachelor and Spinsters (B&S) Ball. They drive utes, they crack stockwhips, they ride horses, they love their country music. They were the sorts of girls you’d probably love being friends with because you’d know you’d have a good time whenever you hooked up with them!

Just as you settle in to the fun, the book takes a dramatic turn when a devastating event happens. The tone changes, Bella changes (her appearance and also her character) as she ends up in Melbourne working, far from her parents beloved farm. Just as Margareta Osborn captured Bella’s spirit in the first part of the novel, her vibrancy and confidence, after the tragedy, her soul-destroying grief is also expertly portrayed. Bella loses not only one person that was crucial to her world, but two in short succession and she changes. She becomes almost a shadow of her former self, but portraying a false confidence and image as she seeks to mend herself from the pain. Even after many years there are raw open wounds, when events conspire to lure her back to the rural areas she loves so much. And once she’s there, it’s like she can’t help but be free again, to be that person she was when she was younger.

Bella’s Run is more than just a story about a young girl who heads off on an adventure – it’s a story of love, amazing friendship and a deep passion for the land. A highly enjoyable debut novel that takes the reader on a wild ride from remote properties to road trips down the east coast to beautiful, quiet farmlands deep in the Gippsland (south east) area of Victoria. Bella is a likable main character, young and loving life and her freedom. Her evolution as a character over the course of the novel as she suffers heartbreak more than once and picks herself up and gets on with her life, coming out the other side stronger is very well crafted.

8/10

Book #28 of 2012

I’m also delighted to welcome author Margareta Osborn to All The Books I Can Read – she graciously agreed to be interviewed and answer a few questions!

1). Firstly Margareta thanks for taking time to answer these questions and congratulations on the publication of Bella’s Run! You had what seems like a very idyllic Aussie childhood, being a fifth generation farmer. I always wanted to live on a farm when I was growing up… Can you tell us a bit about what that was like? What sort of farm was it and what were your ‘chores’ growing up etc.

It’s a pleasure to be here and thankyou so much for having me. I grew up, the middle child of three, in the Macalister Valley of East Gippsland on a dairy farm, which has been in our family for 150 years. I’m not sure whether getting up at 5am to help your father milk cows is idyllic! But yes, in hindsight we had a very normal ‘bush kids’ upbringing. When we weren’t at school, we spent most of our time either riding horses or pushbikes, driving tractors or utes, helping Dad on the farm, playing sport or swimming. We didn’t have toys like kids today (I think I only ever owned one doll and she wasn’t Barbie, much to my chagrin) but in saying that, we never really needed them. There was too much to do outside – hay sheds to explore, calves to feed, utes to dint, cousins to terrorize! My ‘chores’ were to help Dad, which never felt like work, as I loved helping on the farm – except for cutting thistles. I hated that. And at half a cent a thistle, the pay was pretty dreadful too.

2). There’s a saying ‘write what you know’ – Like you, Bella grew up on a farm and has traveled to other parts of Australia and worked there on farms. How much of your background became Bella’s? Did you always intend to write rural literature or did it just evolve into that? 

I write fiction. I make stuff up. Those two girls are a lot wilder than me and that’s why the book was so much fun to write. I could really let my imagination go crazy. But in saying this, like most people, and along with Bella, I have had my own search to find myself.  There are wisps of my background in the book. I’ve lived and worked on cattle stations. We go camping and brumby spotting up on the High Plains. I’ve been to many B & S balls, Cattlemen’s Get-togethers and rodeos. And I also used to own a totally awesome red Holden ute!

I could never imagine writing anything but rural fiction at this stage. Rural life is what I was born to, what I live, what I dream about. I see it, I smell it, and I work at it everyday. One hundred and fifty years of family history on one property does that to you.

3). How do you write? Do you treat it as a job where you put in certain hours or do you write when the mood takes you? 

I don’t have luxury of deciding when I write. With three children, a husband and a small farm to run, writing is squeezed in. From time to time, I also help my father on his property, so things are always hectic. Moods and office hours aren’t a part of my writing strategy, much and all as I heartily wish they were. I can dream about it though …

Do you plot and plan extensively or do you sit down at the keyboard and just let it happen? How long did it take you to complete Bella’s Run all up?

Sometimes I see the scenes like a film running above my head and my fingers race across the keyboard to catch up. Other times it’s like pulling teeth and I have to force myself to write one more word.

Bella’s Run grew organically and I wrote more words than I actually needed in the end. During the time of completing it, I also studied with the Victorian Writers Centre (six hour round trip once every two months for two years) to learn the ‘craft’ of writing. The book took two and a half years to write from the start to submission to Random House.

For my next novel (to be published with Random House in March 2013), I was much more organized, wrote far less words and at least had half an idea of where I was going with the story. It still developed emotively but this time I put the structure and major plot points in place before I started writing. That worked better. It still allows me to write organically but I have goals to head towards.

4). You’ve listed Mary Grant Bruce (author of the Australian Billabong series) as a childhood inspiration to write. Do you have any other authors who have inspired you on some level? Who are your favourites to read?

After Mary Grant Bruce (it was her books which gave me the love for reading about life on the land), came Elyne Mitchell (Silver Brumby Series) and then Di Morrissey with her book ‘Heart of the Dreaming’. When I read that, I realized this was the modern more romantically upbeat rural saga type novel I wanted to write. I love to read widely, both popular and literary fiction. Andrea Goldsmith (acclaimed literary writer & my tutor at the VWC) told me once, as a writer, you should read more than you write and I believe this is very true. I will often pick up a novel written by the likes of Geraldine Brooks or Kate Grenville and then follow it with a Lee Child or Sophie Kinsella. Variety is good for me.

5). The settings are a huge part of Bella’s Run, the beautiful Australian rural landscapes coming alive. How important is it to you to spread the message of conservation and appreciation of the land through your novel(s)?

My ties to the land are very strong. My surroundings give me a sense of place, of community, of belonging. Rural life grounds me and makes me who I am. My novels will always have the Australian rural landscape as almost one of the characters. I am very aware that my family and I have a very privileged life, to be able to live on a property with the mountains on our doorstep, the soft breeze of clean, fresh air in our face.

6). You like to travel with your family – do you have a favourite destination that you return to time and time again? Or do you try somewhere new and different each time?

We always camp in the mountains north of Buchan for a week or so every summer. Here we catch up with friends, fish for trout, sneak around the bush watching brumbies, ride motorbikes and horses, fly a kite, read a book or swim and generally just take a break. We also try and head out on a ‘big trip’ once a year. Pack the swags and Engel into the Landcruiser, load the kids and away we go – the more remote the better – and we usually find ‘someone who knows someone’ to catch up with and find out how farming is done in that area.

7). Rural literature is a genre that is fast gaining popularity. A lot of people dream about working on the land even if they can’t make it happen so I think this sort of novel can be appealing as a way to live vicariously! Where do you see the genre heading in the future?

There are certainly a lot of rural novels coming out this year as compared to say, four years ago. But as you can see from my own reading history, rural sagas have been around since (at least) Mary Grant Bruce wrote the Billabong books eighty or so years ago. The tone of this genre has evolved with the times, as has the way rural stories are presented or ‘packaged’. I believe rural literature is timeless, as the bush seems to be an integral part of the Australian psyche, regardless of where you live.

8). Lastly, what’s next for you?

I have just submitted novel number two to Random House and and they are very pleased with it. I am just starting to plan book number three. (And I can’t believe I’m actually writing this – book number three!) There are always ideas jumping out at me, so it’s really just a matter of sorting out which ones might sustain the ride of 110,000 words.

Thank you so much to Margareta and good luck with your future novels. I look forward to reading them! You can find out a little bit more about Margareta by visiting her website.

Thanks also to Random House AU.

Bella’s Run qualifies for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s the 6th novel completed for the challenge. Bella’s Run is perhaps the one that focuses the most on setting. It goes from a huge cattle and cropping station in central outback Queensland to Bella’s parents dairy farm in Victoria with some other stops along the way. The characters are passionate about the land, about farming. They’re proud of what they do and where they live and they love to celebrate it.


14 responses to “Bella’s Run – Margareta Osborn + Author Interview

  1. VeganYANerds says:

    I agree, rural fiction is becoming more popular, it’s always been around but it seems that it suddenly everywhere!

    This sounds really interesting and now I really need to know what happened, I think I’ll have to get a copy!

  2. Brenda says:

    Excellent interview and review Bree! I just received a publishers copy of Bella’s Run this morning from work, and am excited to be able to read it soon:)

  3. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    An interesting interview – great questions Bree! Margareta is lovely and Bella’s Run is a great read!

  4. Thanks so much Bree for such a lovely review of my book, Bella’s Run. I enjoyed answering your interview questions too. I’m so happy you enjoyed the book, and just hope other readers enjoy it as well 🙂

  5. Each of us are born to a landscape, and for me, it was a dairy farm in New York’s Hudson Valley. Like Margareta, farm chores centered my childhood. I really enjoyed the interview and look forward to reading the book. Thanks Bree.

  6. Carlo Shuter says:

    very awesome website…

  7. This is a great review and interview. I reviewed this book for my blog too, and I’m so glad I discovered your site via this review process! I look forward to making my way around the rest of your blog today.

  8. […] Bella’s Run, by Margareta Osborn (includes author interview) […]

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