Introducing… Beverley Eikli
You can put a girl in the bush, but she’ll tell the stories she wants to tell…
When I was a teenager my parents bought 80 acres of uncleared bushland and wheat stubble in South Australia’s beautiful Clare Valley. In usual whimsical fashion, my dad called it Wuthering Heights because, he said, he loved listening to the way the ‘wind wuthers through the trees’ when he was lying in bed.
Not that ‘wuthers’ is a word, but then Dad isn’t the lexicon in the family.
Over the years Wuthering Heights became a family focus and a decades-long work-in-progress. My two sisters and I helped my parents make the mud bricks to build grand, eccentric Bronte Manor and two smaller cottages – Cathy’s Cottage and Glen Morris. We also planted 25,000 trees on paddocks of wheat stubble, and the soft ‘wuthering’ through the trees became a symphony.
For many years I’ve lived overseas, though now I make my home in Victoria with the handsome bush pilot I met around a campfire in Botswana many years ago.
However, today we’re making the long drive back to Wuthering Heights to launch my AusRomToday-nominated Regency Romance The Maid of Milan on the terrace at Bronte Manor, overlooking the valley and vineyards.
The event is part of the Clare Valley Writers’ Festival and our car is packed with the linen tablecloths and lanterns I’ve bought for Wednesday’s Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Book Launch/Breast Cancer Fundraiser. The elaborate 1780s Georgian polonaise with its petticoats and panniers that I’ll be wearing on the night has filled an entire suitcase, with everything squeezed into the back next to the dog basket we’ve brought along for our new Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Mombo (named after the camp in the Okavango Delta where Eivind and I met.)
It’ll be a grand evening and I’m excited to be so nearly home.
Our Australian bushland version of Wuthering Heights might be very different from Haworth Parsonage on the Yorkshire Moors where Emily Bronte penned her single famous novel ‘Wuthering Heights’ in the 1840s but it has always been a place of similar inspiration for me.
Many an evening I’ve listened to the wind ‘wuthering’ through the gum trees as I’ve penned my historical romance-in-progress, a story that’s paradoxically always set in the English countryside or in bustling London and bursting with intrigue and Regency equivalents of modern-day ills such as drug addiction or mental health issues.
In The Maid of Milan this takes the form of laudanum (an opium derivative) legally prescribed to try and combat my heroine’s ‘hysteria’.
I’m very excited to be nearly ‘home’ and excited, also, that The Maid of Milan has been nominated for AusRomToday’s Best Books of 2014.