For those unfamiliar with your fiction, how would you describe it?
It’s about women proving their mettle in a man’s world, romance in the outback and laugh out loud Aussie humour.
Your novel The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots is set in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. What led you to set your novel in the Pilbara?
Ten years ago, I worked as a structural engineer in the Pilbara. In fact, the construction project in The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots and also in The Girl in the Hard Hat was real. My experience on this job was truly an eye opener. Being one of five woman in a camp of three hundred and fifty men had it’s issues and it’s hardships. When I returned to Perth I knew I had a story there. In fact, I tried to write it immediately. However, real characters kept creeping onto the page. So I ended up setting it aside and coming back to it many years later. It was so easy to fall in love with Pilbara again on paper. I really wanted to show off it’s beauty and culture. As for the humour… it really helped that everyone who lives on the Pilbara is just a little bit …crazy.
Your follow-up novel The Girl in the Hard Hat is also set in the Pilbara. What are readers who loved The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots going to find more of to love in The Girl in the Hard Hat, and what sets this novel apart from the previous one?
Many of the characters in The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots that readers grew to love appear in the sequel. Lena and Dan, get their own sub plot. However, The Girl in the Hard Hat centres around a new heroine called Wendy Hopkins. She is in town to find her biological father but gets swept up in workplace politics. Being appointed the safety manager on a project where people have always performed unsafely makes her the most hated person in town. Wendy has a lot to deal with in this novel, including warding off the advances of notorious womaniser Gavin Jones. Gavin also appeared in The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots as the anti-hero. In fact, he wasn’t very likeable at all. I had a lot of fun redeeming him in my second Pilbara story.
You deal with mining and FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) workers in these two novels; which have become much more prominent in Australia in recent years. Is this an area you have a particular ongoing interest in that you intend to continue with in future novels, or is this more specific to your The Girl in… novels?
This is an area which I have found particularly inspiring because I have worked in the industry and know how hard it is and how isolating it can become. I also know how rewarding big jobs like this are. I wanted to bring all those themes out in my novels. I am currently working on a third novel called The Girl in the Yellow Vest, which is a FIFO book as well. However, I also enjoy writing city romances, hence my novella One Little White Lie. I hope to do more of those. I am also toying with the idea of not writing a FIFO story for my 4th novel. Although, it will still definitely be an Australian setting with plenty of humour and, of course, romance.
If your next novel had to be set before 1900, what might it be about and why?
It would definitely be about an Australian Colonial woman fighting against the odds to survive. I love writing stories involving a strong, female protagonist who no one thinks is going to succeed yet somehow she manages to prove them all wrong.
What is one your favourite novels you have read in the past year or two, and what made it work so well for you as a reader?
This is going to sound strange as it’s not normally the type of novel or genre I read, but due to the success of the television series I picked up George R.R Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I just loved it. It was extremely well written. The characters were portrayed incredibly well. For me, characterisation is what makes a novel and he nailed it.
You also have your novella, One Little White Lie, with Random House Australia’s new imprint Random Romance. What can readers look forward to in One Little White Lie?
One Little White Lie is a bite sized romantic comedy. It’s not an outback novel but set in urban Sydney. It’s about a girl who lies about having a boyfriend to get her match making best friend off her back. The plan seems to be working just fine until her lie walks into her life and starts making himself comfortable in it. I loved putting my heroine in this predicament and have her unravel the web of her own making. I hope my readers enjoy this little bit of fun.
If you could bring one novelist back to life for one day for the sole purpose of discussing writing novels, who might you choose and why?
My favourite novelist of all time is Georgette Heyer. I would love to have a coffee with her and chat about writing.
What is next for your fiction writing?
This year, my goal is to complete one novel (The Girl in the Yellow Vest) and one novella (not yet titled). As for what’s to come after that… definitely more stories but as to what they’ll be about… you’ll have to ask my muse.
Loretta Hill’s author website: www.lorettahill.com.au
The Australian Literature Review