Best-selling author, Nicole Alexander releases her eighth novel this month, An Uncommon Woman.
Like the many works before it – including Nicole’s highly acclaimed debut novel The Bark Cutters which saw her shortlisted for an Australian Book Industry Award – thestory is set in rural Australia.
“I love the land and I really try and convey that in my work,” she said.
One of four children, Nicole still remembers her sense of wonder at growing up in the wide open spaces and star filled skies of the family property, Murki at Boomi, 110 kilometres north-west of Moree in NSW.
It was Nicole’s great-grandfather who first selected the property in 1893, with Merino sheep an early focus.
“Then of course, over the years, we diversified,” she said.
“We began to crop more in the seventies, lessened the sheep numbers in the eighties and increased our Hereford herd.”
The down-sizing of their rural holdings in 2016 and the passing of her father, Ian Alexander earlier this year has lead to a need to restructure the business and intensify production.
Emphasis remains on their Hereford breeding program with some of their cows having just come back in from the long paddock under the care of manager Bill O’Neill and the remainder agisted in both Queensland and NSW, while they wait for much needed rain.
“I know the phrase ‘big sky country’ is used over and over, but to be out in the bush when there’s a full moon… it’s an all-encompassing feeling of being surrounded by something greater than you,” she said.
A love of reading was one of the many gifts passed down to Nicole from her parents, Ian and Marita Alexander, as was the seed of an idea for each of her novels.
There is something from Nicole’s family in all of her books. The family archives and anedoctal material in the form of stories passed down through the generations provide a source of information that pepper her fiction ensuring an unmistakable authenticity.
Nicole has managed to carve a niche for herself in the publishing world while helping to renew interest in elements of Australia’s interior history that may have been forgotten or at the very least, go beyond the military, convicts and coastal colonialism.
“Our pastoral history is so rich and diverse,” she said.
“It deserves attention”.
The idea for her latest novel, An Uncommon Woman came from an article she came across by accident.
In a 1933 Tasmanian Examiner newpaper article, Nicole stumbled across the headline, Station Sold to Woman. It briefly reported that a married woman had purchased a Queensland pastoral property.
The fact that the buying of land by a woman warranted an article in an island state far removed from the dusty interior of Queensland signified the uniqueness of the event and intrigued Nicole.
“Much of the world had just staggered through the great stock market crash of 1929 and was in the grip of recession. The shadow of The Great War still loomed and the bush was being invaded by men seeking work, many of them returned soldiers.
“And yet here was a woman laying claim to a remote rural property. At a time when men such as the great pastoralist, Sir Sidney Kidman were at the forefront of land ownership, the article fascinated me,” Nicole said.
The novel is set against a backdrop of the prickly pear infestation that devoured hundreds of thousands of acres in both Queensland and NSW in the early 1900s. Pastoralists, soldier settlers, and the travelling circus add to the rich historical detail of the work.
Pioneering woman who refuse to accept the restrictions of their time, gender and the societies in which they live are a defining theme in each of Nicole’s novels. And An Uncommon Woman is no exception.
The novel is set in the Queensland Western Downs and Nicole will be visiting nine libraries in the region in the first week of August. Contact your local WD library for details.