Title: Outback Promise
Author: Maggie Bolitho
Published: November 1st, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia – Impulse Imprint
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Recommended Age: 18+
Synopsis: Tragedy. Betrayal. Hope
After losing their only child, Roslyn and Grady Balfour’s lives are destroyed, shattering their perfect marriage. When Ros discovers Grady’s infidelity, it sets their love on a destructive downward spiral. Grady hopes that three months together camping will rekindle what was lost so long ago.
Attempting to repair their broken marriage, Ros and Grady set out on a journey of self-discovery and redemption deep into the Australian outback. Packing resentment and bitterness along with them on their quest, the couple struggles with what they’ve lost. Forced to battle the challenges of the other travelers along with the dangers of the harsh outback, their only chance for survival lies in facing the secrets of the past. Will Ros and Grady find a way to hold onto each other when everything else has fallen apart?
What was the inspiration for your story?
There was no single inspiration for Outback Promise. It I tried to pinpoint, the story probably started as a tiny grain of sand, carried back to my Sydney home after three months in the outback in 2005. During that trip I wrote daily journals, over 100,000 words in total, about the places I saw and the people I met. The outback made me feel as insignificant as dust. At the same time I felt connected to that ancient land in a deep, primal way.
There are photos of this outback inspiration on my blog:
At Devils Marbles (the area known to the traditional owners as Karlu Karlu) I encountered notes about the Aboriginal dreamings. They told of the Kwerreympe spirits that live in the caves under the rocks and lure children away from their families.
“The spirits say ‘Follow me’ and [a child] can’t go back. It happened like that for my cousin. He disappeared. The old people made a big ceremony singing the ground and the rocks to make them let my cousin come back. We’ve lost that song now. We’ve got no song to bring children back.”
The thought of a lost child was planted and years later I found Ros, Grady, and their beloved son, Cadel.
At one point in their desert trek, Ros and Grady are completely alone in a way it’s so hard to find these days. The moment is pure outback magic.
What kept you going throughout the writing process?
Perseverance and determination were the main factors in completing the book, as it took years to assemble all the pieces into a comprehensible story. I write slowly, in fits and starts. In between I work on other novels, take courses, read blogs and books on writing, give my work to critique partners, etc.
Who is your most meaningful character and why?
The son, Cadel, is the figure who drives the whole story. His death is the turning point of Ros and Grady’s marriage.
Cadel brought Ros joy that she never expected to experience. His death made her think, irrationality, that she was not entitled to know the happiness that she once shared with her husband and son. To her grief-warped thinking, Cadel was taken away from her because she didn’t deserve to have him in the first place.
Cadel was the son Grady always expected to have. Until Cadel died, Grady’s golden life progressed from one joy to another. He was totally unprepared for the depth of his grief after Cadel’s death.
Can we expect to hear more from these characters in the near future?
I wrote a 25,000 word prequel in an effort to understand Ros’s legacy from her lonely, abused childhood. It told me a lot about her strength and determination to make a better life for herself. That part of the story encompasses the first meeting with Grady and how he wins her trust and love. It covers the halcyon days of her with Grady and then Cadel and explores why she accepts those gifts so tentatively.
There are no immediate plans to publish that part of the story but it could happen.
How has this story touched your life?
I’ve learned a lot about how grief distorts a person’s consciousness and rational thinking. One reviewer commented that some of Ros and Grady’s decisions baffled her and that made me happy. Their decision-making was distorted by their extreme sorrow.
I also learned a lot about infidelity, what can trigger it, what can happen after it. I liked the thoughts of Esther Perel who says once infidelity is out in the open, the partners have a choice: “Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?”
That single question is the underlying dilemma in Outback Promise.
What motivated you to start writing?
I’ve always been a prolific writer but lacked confidence to do it seriously. The thought of showing my work to anyone mortified me for the longest time. Then I took to heart Kurt Vonnegut’s thoughts: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been’” and plunged in.
Excerpt from Outback Promise by Maggie Bolitho
Having agreed to go on a three-month trip into the outback with her husband, protagonist Ros meets her best friend Suzanne for lunch:
Suzanne refilled both our glasses. How many bottles of wine had we shared over the years? I eased my glass to my lips and emptied half of it.
‘Does it have to be camping?’
[…] she set her fork down and cleared her throat. ‘Okay, you can stop the act now – what I really want to know is, when’s the big divorce?’
It took every bit of my willpower to bite back the first questions that sprang into my head. How did you find out? What do you know? I speared a small green leaf and chewed slowly, half-smiling at her. My pulse raced as I tried to imagine what she’d heard and how.
She drained her glass of chardy while her attention lit on a surfer half her age strutting past on the beach below. When I didn’t answer she continued, ‘You know – the two of you. Sleeping in a tent. Nothing around but dirt, dingos, and drongos. How long’s that going to last?’
‘Not so fast. There is some good in all of this.’
‘Grady and I are planning and doing things together. I can’t remember the last time we shared a project or worked to the same goal.’
‘I guess this trip is better than him buying a sports car and taking on a mistress.’ She gestured for the bill with a wiggle of her fingers. ‘Now that’s a laugh. Grady, the most loyal man ever to draw breath, having an affair. There’s one thing you’ll never have to worry about!’
I put on my sunglasses and ignored the lies that hung between us. Six years earlier Suzanne knew every detail about me, large and small. She had been at my side when I miscarried my first child and again when Cadel was born. While we rejoiced at the birth of my beautiful baby, she consoled me over the emergency hysterectomy I’d undergone.
‘One healthy baby will bring you unlimited joy. Quality trumps quantity,’ she said and kissed Cadel’s tiny fists.
Now I couldn’t even tell her how a stray voice at the Supershow had almost stopped my heart. She didn’t know that far from being the most loyal man on earth, Grady had inflicted fresh pain when the old wounds weren’t fully healed. She also didn’t know how close we’d come to bankruptcy when he had managed our finances. She saw what the outside world was meant to see: two people, affectionate and loyal, the public face of our marriage. I needed a holiday in ways she could never guess.
About the Author:
A free range child, Maggie Bolitho grew up on an island in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. She spent her formative years constructing alternative universes, flying under the radar and wishing for 20/20 vision.
She set out to see the world shortly after her 17th birthday. Eventually she met and fell in love with a wild colonial boy. After five years of futile resistance, she moved to Melbourne, Australia and married him. In 2007, Maggie and her husband made Canada their permanent home. They now live in a leafy suburb on that island where Maggie grew up and neither of them wishes to be anywhere else, except for when memories of the sunburnt country beckon.
While living Down Under, she started writing fiction and explored the outback. In 2015 HarperCollins Australia published her novel Outback Promise. Her debut novel Lockdown (YA) was published in 2014. Some of her adult short stories appear in different anthologies in the US, Canada, and Australia. She has had poetry published in Quills Canadian Poetry magazine.
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