Blazing Fear is released out into the world today. I am so thrilled to finally see the release of this novel – a romantic suspense novel set in the hills of the Victorian Alps near Walhalla. It’s got everything you want in a rural-romantic suspense – rugged men, strong women, hot romance and tense twists and turns.
However, the second novel in my CoalCliff Stud Series had a bit of a rocky road so far to get to this day.
When you sit down to write a novel that has as its suspense core, an arsonist setting bushfires in Australia, you expect it to be a bit of a hot topic and emotional rollercoaster, but I had no idea it would be quite so full of plunges as it has been.
I will say, I loved writing this novel. Flynn and Prita’s stories, both individually and together, were a must-write to me and one that I thrilled at and agonised over and over to make sure I was getting it right. Especially in my telling of Flynn’s fears of fires and the bushfires that occur during the novel.
Freaky parallels began to happen.
I was writing this from January 2019-June 2019 when I handed it in to my editor. There was the usual array of nasty bushfires in the summer period, but nothing horrific like in past years – one such horrific fire being the catalyst for Flynn’s PTSD. It was a usual Australian summer with fires being part of the backdrop of it for most of us – although horrifyingly front and centre for many in the country, so I thought I was writing something that was pertinent but not overtly traumatic for most of the people who would read it – I hoped, in fact, that some people might find it cathartic.
It was the 2nd of February 2019 and I was right in the middle of writing a fire scene when I had to stop to go and pick up the kids from school and heard on the radio about a bushfire that was raging and heading towards the town of Walhalla – a town that is right next to my fictional town and one that I had visited only a few months before while doing research for the book. There were so many weird and unnerving parallels between that fire and the one I was writing, that I didn’t write anything for a week after it because I was so shocked. Thankfully, they managed to stop the fire from its two-front approach from swamping Walhalla and it was saved, but the after-photos show just how close it came.
The ‘story’ must go on
I did get over it though and kept writing and handed my novel in on time and was thrilled when everyone at my publisher was really happy with how it was handled, especially Flynn’s PTSD and Prita’s background story.
They came up with an amazing cover and blurb and everything seemed to chugging along fine.
Blazing Fear was going to join its sister book, Climbing Fear (book 1: CoalCliff Stud Series) out in the world with a release date of February 2020.
Enter the wildfires
Then the wildfires started up in August – a time that has rarely seen bushfires, let alone of the nature of these ones. And the wildfires kept raging through September, October, November, December and through into January – and we hadn’t even come to worst of the bushfire season as yet. It was so bad as we climbed above 15 million hectares of burning bush, with our cities choked by smoke, that the pall of fear about what was happening in our country reached overseas and became headline news everywhere.
It is hard to understand the devastation to the people and the towns, to the land and the animals, to the psyche of our country unless you were here, living through it and the outpouring of grief and loss and anger. But amidst all this, our country rallied together despite appalling ineptitude through the majority of it by government, and the support and money raised has been extraordinary. I was so proud of us as a nation at the point.
However, Blazing Fear was supposed to have been released in February, at the height of the wildfires when everything seemed so bad. I had more agonising to do – was this the time to release a story about surviving bushfires? Was it too close to home for some? Would it be seen as a horrible way to profit off the horror and trauma of the nation?
I didn’t want Blazing Fear to be seen as any of these things. To me, it was a love story tied up with the exploration of how one man, with the help of those who love him, manages to rise out of his trauma and come through it to a place where he is able to cope with all that’s happened, even getting through the new trauma brought on by the suspense element of the plot because of the strength he finds within buoyed by the love of those around him. Even though my intentions were to write a story of catharsis and renewal, I worried if it was right to publish a story at that time that features as its suspense plot, an arsonist who is deliberately setting fires when that was a horrifying reality behind many of the deadly fires so much of the country was living through.
I felt it wasn’t. My agent agreed. Thankfully, my publisher also agreed and the novel was pushed back to a release date in May.
The pandemic overshadowed it all
Then, COVID-19 hit. Bushfires were forgotten amidst the panic and fear of a new, unseen enemy and it became a time of upheaval and social change that made many question whether bringing out a book – any book – during this time was a good idea. However, books are essential to many as an avenue of escape, of a way of helping to heal and deal with trauma and inform on social issues, and that was needed now more than ever before.
So, Blazing Fear’s publishing date stayed as is after the first change and it is out today. And despite all my worries over the time of writing it, of editing it and after, I am thrilled to be able to bring this novel to you. Amidst all the pandemic worries, I hope that it will re-shine a light on the important issues of bush fire and how we as a society deal with them, and how to better prepare for the seasons ahead while we seek answers to the larger specter of climate change that can only worsen our bush fire season. Not only that, I hope that Blazing Fear can also shine a light once more on the plight of those who have virtually been forgotten now pandemic is all that can be reported on – those who lost everything in the bush fires, who are traumatised in the wake of them and the help they will continue to need. I also hope that my little novel helps to hero the incredible volunteers who fight our bush fires year after year and those who are left with the clean-up after them.
Our wildfire crisis has been forgotten in the tsunami of a pandemic, but I hope that novels like Blazing Fear will help to bring attention to what happened this last year and remind us all of the importance of remembering our past to help better inform our future. I also hope it can bring a sense of escape and renewal to readers in these difficult times.
Happy Release Day, Blazing Fear. Your mum is proud of you.
Fire stole his past – now it is threatening to burn everything, and everyone, he loves. All over again…
Flynn Findlay likes everyone to think he’s in control, but the death of his wife during the bushfires six years ago changed everything. Now, even though it feels like a betrayal, Flynn can’t seem to escape his growing feelings for the beautiful new doctor in town. He’s never felt as truly alive as when he is with Prita – even his fear of fire doesn’t seem as bad.
Dr Prita Brennan is ready for a fresh start in Wilson’s Bend with her adoptive son, far from her overprotective family. It would be perfect, except some of the locals don’t like the changes she’s making to the practice. One of them is even making harassing calls. The handsome local horse stud owner, Flynn, is a further complication she doesn’t need right now.
But when harassment escalates to arson, to save the horse stud and their children, Flynn and Prita must work together to figure out who is after her – and why they are trying to burn to the ground everything she touches.