18 September 2022

Babies in the bush - rural romance author highlights health heroes

| Katrina Roe
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Woman and book

Romance author Fiona McArthur will launch her new book in the Riverina this week. Photo: Fiona McArthur.

When Fiona McArthur launches her new book in Wagga Wagga, she’ll have babies on the brain.

Not only is she birthing a new ‘book baby’ into the world, but after being a rural midwife for 32 years, she almost always includes a dramatic birth scene in her novels.

The Opal Miner’s Daughter is no exception.

“I tried to write a book for ten years before I started writing about midwifery,” she says.

“And I discovered that’s what my passion is and that’s what I need to write about.”

But she’s also looking forward to seeing one of her own babies – now very much grown up – and getting to know the Riverina.

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“My husband and I have five sons and one of my boys lives in Wagga,” Fiona explains.

“And one of my best writing buddies lives in Junee.”

The Opal Miner’s Daughter is set in the eccentric opal mining town of Lightning Ridge in outback New South Wales.

Adelaide is a retired nurse, who has left her husband behind in the city to pursue her newfound passion for opal mining.

Her daughter, Riley, a specialist fertility obstetrician, takes on a locum position in Lightning Ridge, to try to talk some sense into her mother.

There she meets the handsome but troubled GP Konrad Grey and the pair are thrown together in challenging circumstances.

Adelaide’s story came to Fiona when she spotted an ad for an opal mine camp on a real estate website.

“It had half an acre and a fence, and a little house – all solar and tank water and a big hundred-year-old stove – and it had three 100-foot mines in the backyard – so I decided Adelaide would buy it,” she laughs.

Selfie of woman

Fiona fell in love with the quirky outback town of Lightning Ridge. Photo: Fiona McArthur.

When Fiona finally made it to Lightning Ridge in real life, she was surprised and captivated by the ‘tourist mecca’.

“Lightning Ridge was just unlike anywhere I’d been before – it was a really great place to set a book,” she says.

“I just couldn’t get over the larrikinism and the uniqueness of the town. It’s just ‘out there’, and it’s wonderful and they made me so welcome.

“I felt like I’d come home.”

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Fiona is primarily a romance writer and writes Australian books about Australian people living in small towns.

She loves happy endings that leave readers feeling hopeful and her stories always have a medical theme.

As a former midwife who is married to a paramedic, she has a deep respect for medical professionals, particularly in remote locations.

“Because they’re heroes. They’re quiet heroes. They just answer the phone at night and get out of their warm bed and go and do the job,” Fiona explains.

“Outreach people, flying doctors, people working in remote communities who are the only person there to help, they’re just friggin’ champions.

“Drama, heroes – what wouldn’t you love about medical stories?”

book cover

The Opal Miner’s Daughter. Photo: Penguin Publishing.

She also hopes her books will help draw attention to the medical needs of people living in rural areas.

In the short time between when she finished writing the book and when it was published, Lightning Ridge lost another medical centre.

“I just want readers to understand how amazing these health workers are,” Fiona says.

“And I want these health workers to understand how amazing these towns are and maybe go out there and give it a go.”

You can meet Fiona McArthur in the Country Lifestyle Pavillion at the Henty Machinery Field Days from September 20 – 22 or at Collins Bookshop on Friday, September 23, 11 am – 2 pm. The Opal Miner’s Daughter will be launched at Wagga Wagga City Library on 23 September at 5:30 pm.

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