We’re proud of our country’s amazing red centre and its reputation for unusual rugged beauty and danger. But in reality, 90% of Australians live in cities along the coast.
So, if we don’t live in the Outback, why does it fill us with nostalgia?
The truth is, other brave souls are living the Outback life for us.
And this is why I love writing about these people. They are larger than our lives. They are living the life... living the legend... for the rest of us.
While we city folk couldn’t cope without our convenience stores and our coffee shops around the corner, people in the outback cope year after year with not only isolation, but droughts, floods and bushfires... They embody the image of man against the elements.
When I read about their resilience and toughness, I feel stronger... uplifted.
However, the big appeal of writing Outback romances is that I get to create the rugged Outback heroes. For me, the special appeal of these guys lies beyond the obvious allure of a sexy, naughty-boy grin and a toned, fit and athletic body. I love the powerful emotions hidden behind all their brashness and toughness. I love it that their feelings run deep.
And I love to see these loners - these remote, strong and silent men - brought to their knees when they admit that they can’t deny their feelings any longer. And I know that any heroine, who manages to penetrate the outer shield to expose her Outback hero’s tender feelings, wins a rare prize indeed.
This brings me to the other important character, the heroine. The Outback has a reputation for breeding men’s men. Women don’t really fit in... so Outback heroines have an extra big challenge, and it seems they know these guys are worth it.
Of course, an Outback heroine must be a strong match for the toughest Outback man. A woman who is weak or helpless just won’t cut it in the bush. In this isolated, often harsh, hot and dusty environment, heroines must be strong and self reliant. They need to show initiative and a sense of humour.
By the time an Outback hero has expressed his love or proposed marriage, the heroine will have demonstrated that she has the strength of character to face up to the demands of his lifestyle. The fact that a woman can give up the comfort and convenience of city life for the hardship and isolation of the Outback is perhaps the strongest testimony to the appeal of the Outback man.
But any woman who marries an Outback hero is marrying a man who is much more than a simple cowboy. An Outback hero is a true man for all seasons. He can keep house and cook, he often has a university degree, he likes to travel the world and can provide for his family. He looks just as comfortable in an Armani tuxedo when he hosts a ball on the sweeping lawns that surround his homestead, or escorts a beautiful woman to the Sydney Opera House, as he does in blue jeans and riding boots while he risks his neck on horseback leaping down gullies after wild, cleanskin cattle.
Like his real life counterparts, he’s living the legend.
Barbara Hannay won the 2007 RITA award for her Outback romance, Claiming His Family. In this month’s release, Her Cattleman Boss, English girl Kate Brodie and Outback cattleman Noah Carmody take on severe drought and the threat of losing their property, by droving their cattle thousands of kilometres to market, and there’s plenty of adventure and romance along the way.