FIRST SEVEN LINES:
“What was that man doing?
Thea instinctively drew back in her seat. Drew back, away from the man coming towards their stationary coach, on a motorbike with a gun over his shoulder.
They were pulled up at one of the many road work traffic stops, and he was coming straight towards them. She had never seen anyone armed like that before, except in a film. What was he going to do? He wasn’t in any sort of uniform.”
Shelf Unbound: The Governess is the second in your Opal Ridge series of Australian rural romances. You’ve lived in Australia for more than 50 years. What do you love about the region and why did you want to set your novels there?
Victoria Capper: I have read widely all my life and most of the books are by authors from other places. Life in New York, along the Mississippi, tin mining in Cornwall, the highlands of Scotland … I wanted others to have stories about the people and places that I know. Visitors always seem to find our way of life fascinating and I wanted to see if I could bring it to life in a book, in a series of books. People are seldom indifferent to our life—they either love it or hate it. Obviously, I love it and want to share it.
Shelf Unbound: We met Thea in the first novel, Opal Ridge. How did you want to develop her character in this second novel?
Capper: Thea was not a central figure in the first novel but I always felt I knew her character. She is not based on anyone in particular, but there are many young city women who come out into the bush as schoolteachers or as nurses. These girls, naturally enough, meet the local young men. Often love blossoms; quite a few marry and stay in the bush. Sometimes this works like a charm—the girl not only loves her young man but she loves the way of life and settles and thrives. Sometimes the young women love their young man but find they cannot tolerate the life. Although she starts off thinking she can, the isolation, dust, flies become too much. I have known many young women similar to Thea.
Shelf Unbound: Thea is a capable, strong, resilient woman. Is she based on anyone you know?
Capper: No. None of my characters are based on any one person I know. Each is a new personality—an amalgamation of many people. I have read before how an author has found that the characters have a life of their own and the author can’t always get them to do what they expected them to do. I had thought that was rather weird and probably only occurred with some authors who were particularly fanciful—but I found this has happened to me. My characters definitely take on their own personalities and are as individual as any other person. I know my characters better than I know my friends because I understand so much more about their thoughts and motivations.
Shelf Unbound: How about Bruce, who comes with a lot of baggage. How did you come up with this character?
Capper: Bruce is, to me, a quiet, good, solid, typical country man. I don’t think of him having a lot of baggage so much as having a broken heart and shattered self-confidence as a result of his broken marriage. He thinks of it as his fault—when it was his wife who was shallow and selfish. He loves his children and wants to do the best for them. He is hard working on his property and for the district. He had to have the broken marriage and the resulting loss of confidence to make him not fall for Thea as soon as he met her. I think they suit each other so well.
Shelf Unbound: What interests in you writing romance novels?
Capper: Romance is part of life, one way or another, for every young person. For good or for bad once we have adequate food and shelter young people are interested in relationships. In fact, every age is interested in relationships. It’s as natural as breathing. It would be hard to write about life without taking romance into consideration. I lived with young people, on the property, for so many years and their relationships, with the attendant joys and hopes and heartaches. were always on their minds.
Shelf Unbound: Have you been influenced by any authors or books in particular?
Capper: I have always read a wide variety of books and I’d be hard pressed to name any one author. There would be so many who have influenced me over the years; for every one I named there would be many others I’d missed.
Shelf Unbound: What will we see in the next book in the series?
Capper: There is much more drama and excitement, as well as romance to come in the next book of the series, Courting Trouble. This story is about the other one of the three friends from Opal Ridge, Tony. Tony is the flamboyant, outgoing one but he has great personal tragedy. He is out there, courting trouble in his life. A sympathetic, capable loving young woman comes into his life and it remains to be seen to what extent her presence can bring him love, happiness and stability.
In the first book Opal Ridge, Charles retreats into himself at any sign of trouble. Bruce, as told in The Governess, is a stable chap; he just keeps a steady course without a lot of imagination perhaps, but plenty of good, solid sense. Courting Trouble tells how Tony on the other hand distracts himself with wild activity, relying on an adrenaline rush to keep his mind off his troubles.
These men were all young boys at the same time in the same district even though they lived many miles apart. They were doing School the Air at the same time, going to the same gymkhanas and meeting at the same parties. Each has a completely different personality and life has thrown them unique, specific problems; so, although they came from the same time and place they each have their own fascinating stories.