THE small, struggling country town of Bindarra Creek is full of people who work hard and love deeply.
And this fictional, drought-stricken community – set in the New England tablelands of NSW – is the setting of a series of books written by a group of mostly Hunter-based romance writers.
Over a 13-month period, the 13 writers will have released 13 romances, all based around the people, the intrigue, the revitalisation and the dramas of Bindarra Creek.
The collaboration was the brainchild of Suzanne Gilchrist, who writes as S.E. Gilchrist, and is also one of the founders of Hunter Romance Writers.
She pitched the idea to the group, as well as some other authors she knew interstate.
‘‘We ended up with 13, 10 of which are from Hunter Romance Writers,’’ Gilchrist says.
It is not the first time she has collaborated on a series.
‘‘I’m involved in one centred around a club in Texas too. It spurred the idea to do a similar thing here, where I could get a bunch of different writers doing stand-alone stories set in the same fictional town in Australia.’’
So far, there have been five stories released, including Gilchrist’s Bindarra Creek Makeover, which kicked off the series in July.
There are cross-over characters, both major and minor, used throughout.
For the sake of continuity, Gilchrist put together a series of guidelines.
‘‘I met up with Sandy James, Erin Moira O’Hara, Kerrie Paterson and later, Stacey Nash – who are all involved – and we sat down and thought about what type of characters would be in a small rural town,’’ Gilchrist says.
‘‘We compiled a list of roles and occupations for various characters in the town that people could use.
‘‘We also brainstormed all the buildings and services, and put together a mud map.’’
Bindarra Creek was initially based on the rural town of Manilla, north-west of Tamworth in NSW.
‘‘It really suited us. It was fairly isolated and almost the exact population of what we wanted for our town – just over 2000 people.
‘‘So we used that and made up our own street names, and plotted where we wanted different things – like the doctor’s surgery and the chemist and the bank and the vet.
‘‘And once we had people on board, we set up a Yahoo group so we could communicate that information with everybody.’’
They posted pictures of historic buildings and parks they found online so each contributor knew what everything was supposed to look like.
‘‘Writing is usually a lonely business, but these 12 ladies have taken the ‘work’ out of this series and made our team effort an absolute pleasure,’’ Gilchrist says.
Gilchrist had to set some parameters to ensure the series was cohesive, including no erotica a la Fifty Shades of Grey.
Each writer was responsible for self-publishing their e-book. Most of the stories are between 40,000 and 50,000 words.
Writers Simone Angela, Susanne Bellamy, Linda Charles, Noelle Clark, Juanita Kees, Lauren K. McKellar, and Marianne Theresa are also involved in the project.
Newcastle-based romantic suspense author Lee Christine’s book, Shadows of the Heart, was the second in the Bindarra Creek series to be released.
‘‘There was a couple of firsts for me,’’ Christine says. ‘‘I’d never written rural romance before, even though it is big in Australia. I’d never self-published before, and it’s also the first book I’ve written that hasn’t got any sex in it.’’
Christine says readers may live in the city, or on the coast, but they liked reading about the bush.
The sixth book, Home To Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees is released on December 15.