Tell Us Your Backstory with Barbara Hannay
When people ask me where my ideas come from, I usually say I don’t know. And I don’t. Usually. The ideas just arrive, sometimes when they’re least expected, or so I tell myself. And yet, when I think hard about my latest book The Country Wedding I realise that my claim might not be totally honest.
After all, there was that conversation with a friend last year, who told me about a guy she knew who’d had a disastrous first marriage after he’d felt honour-bound to marry a woman he’d got pregnant.
And there was another story I heard, probably more than twenty years ago, about a man my husband used to work with, who lived in Townsville during WW2 and who used to trap finches on the Town Common, until the day he saw a truck with US soldiers and shovels… and a black man’s body…
Versions of both these stories found their way into The Country Wedding.
As for the scene where Flora is supposed to be conducting a youth orchestra and feels totally clueless as she faces a room full of very naughty children – that must surely have been fuelled by suppressed nightmare memories from my early teaching days. (I was a high school teacher at the age of 18, I kid you not). So if I really try, I usually can pinpoint the source of my “inspiration”.
And Shanghai… I certainly couldn’t have just imagined those scenes of glamorous, amorous Shanghai in the 1920s and 30s. A visit to that still exotic city last year, however, included a tour through the French Concession with a wonderful guide. This tour filled so many gaps in my education and helped Shanghai of the past to come alive for me and I hope I was able to transfer at least some of that exotic “other worldliness” onto the page.
Back home, our local policeman played his part, too. I live in a tiny country town, not all that different from Burralea in the novel, and while Mitch, the policeman in Burralea, finds himself in the role of romantic hero, my local sergeant very kindly and patiently answered my questions about police procedure. So again, my ideas were shaped and steered by someone else’s wisdom.
So while The Country Wedding is entirely my creation, I admit it’s been cobbled together from snippets of stories shared by friends and acquaintances, by tour guides and by local coppers. And next time someone asks me that question, I’ll think a little harder before I answer.
The Country Wedding
Two country weddings, fifty years apart… and the miracle of second chances
In the tiny Tablelands township of Burralea, musician Flora Drummond is preparing to play at the wedding of a very close friend. If only she could forget the embarrassing teenage crush she once had on the handsome groom.
All is as it should be on the big day. The little church is filled with flowers, the expectant guests are arriving, and Mitch is nervously waiting – but his bride has failed to appear.
Decades earlier, another wedding in the same church led to a similar story of devastation. Hattie missed out on marrying her childhood sweetheart the first time around and now she has returned to the scene of her greatest heartache.
As Flora is drawn into both romantic dramas, she must also confront a relationship crisis of her own. But the past and the present offer promise for the future and there’s a chance for friends, old and new, to help each other to heal.
From the rolling green hills of Far North Queensland to the crowded streets of Shanghai on the eve of the Second World War, this is a beautiful romantic saga that tells of two loves lost and found and asks the questions – do we ever get over our first love, and is it ever too late to make amends?