Australian Heat Week: Paula Roe

Favorite Aussie settings

While I was thinking about a topic for this post, I happened to be on a long weekend holiday with my son in Canberra. Of all our major Aussie cities, I have a particular love for our nation?s capital. It?s drivable (three hours away). It?s a good 10 degrees cooler than home ? always a bonus. And it?s elegant, picturesque and has less cars than any city I?ve ever seen. So what better subject to blog about than Australian setting?

When international readers think of Australia, the outback is probably one of the first things that comes to mind. But this wide, diverse country is so much more than that: from beach to bush, city to snow. Outback to island. And even those can vary ? urban Melbourne shopping versus Brisbane?s laid back coffee culture. Outback Northern Territory compared to Armidale, NSW. And the snow peaks of Jindabyne compared to Mt Hotham.

When I start on a new book, setting is one of the first ideas (besides character) that solidifies for my story. Yet paradoxically, scenery description is one of the last additions: my story is riddled with ?insert bit about scenery here? until the last few weeks of my deadline. Which doesn?t mean ?setting? isn?t something I don?t give deep thought to. Setting not only dictates where to put your characters, but it also defines who they are and how that will react. If they grew up in a small country town, did they love it… Or hate it? Were they born to wealthy city dwellers and live in a high rise? Impoverished trailer-park parents? An army or forces family? Did they have great childhood with good friends? Or did they want to escape the first chance they got?

When done right, setting should enliven and enrich your story, giving your reader an armchair experience they may not get from live cams or Google Earth. When I was a kid, I was part of a ?moving and vacationing family? – we lived in various places around Australia, in small country towns and big working cities . And when we finally settled in one town, we always vacationed interstate, giving us kids a broad exposure to other places and things. As you can imagine, I?ve seen some beautiful country, amazing beaches and unusual natives, so obviously, some of those have found their way into my books! Better yet, writing about places I?ve been, worked, seen or holidayed at means I don?t have to force the words. It also means I?m (hopefully) giving readers a true and accurate account of a place that?s meaningful to me. Here?s just a few of my favorite Aussie places that have seen their way into my books:

opera house small

Opera House

The City
As an ex-Sydney worker for over 13 years, it seemed obvious to set my first book, Forgotten Marriage (Desire, September 2007), in places I know intimately: the historic The Rocks, Sydney CBD and Coogee Beach. With my second book, Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir (Desire, May 2008), Sydney again became a major feature. And in The Magnate?s Baby Promise (Desire, July 2009), my hero?s apartment was smack-bang in Circular Quay, right next door to the Sydney Opera House. Not to ignore the other states, my current WIP (one of the ?Outback Billionaires and Babies? mini-series, June 2010) is partly set in Canberra.

The Beach
In particular, Surfers Paradise (Queensland). Family vacations wouldn?t have been complete without an annual trip up to Surfers, Currumbin Bird Sanctuary and Seaworld. In one of my WIPs, I have my hero, Zac Prescott (Cal?s step brother from The Magnate?s Baby Promise), living and working in Surfers Paradise with my heroine, Emily. For another WIP, my heroine resides in the very aptly named Runaway Bay; in another, my hero plans to seduce the heroine at his private Whitsundays island. And in yet another story, my heroine lives in the Central NSW coastal town of The Entrance.
canberra from Telstra Tower

Canberra from Telstra Tower

dubbo outback

Dubbo Outback

Ayers RockAyers Rock

The Bush
If I jump in the car, I can be in the bush in around 20 minutes or less. However, my local bush is much different to, say, Victoria?s. Or on the drive down to Canberra ? or across to Dubbo, in Sydney?s far west. So having my heroine in The Magnate?s Baby Promise own a B&B in a small outback country town meant I had to go on a research trip. (note to self: next time, DO NOT DRIVE if accompanied by small impatient child. Take a plane).

Eventually, I?m hoping to use all those other great places I?ve seen around the world, but for now, Australia is still (and probably will always be!) a great source of genuine authentic flavor. Which brings me to my question to you all ? do you have a favorite setting you like to read about? And authors, I?m curious ? have you ever written about a setting you haven?t actually visited?

baby promise book page

BIO: British-born, Aussie bred, Paula?s thrilled to be a first-time finalist in RWA?s Romantic Book of the Year Award with Boardrooms & A Billionaire Heir. Her latest, The Magnate?s Baby Promise is out now. You can visit her at

8 Responses to “Australian Heat Week: Paula Roe”

  • Hey Paula….I guess it’s a bit like “write what you know”. I did the same in my first book…based in Sydney and Kings Cross.

    I have to say everyone Paula writes one great book so head out and get her latest now. You won’t be disappointed. I have to say I am rather partial to the Boardrooms and a Billionaire Heir though….I have my fingers crossed for you that it wins!


  • Hi Paula,
    Great article. Beautiful pictures. I always use Australian settings in my books, mainly North Eastern Victoria, where I was born. Not that I was alive when my stories take place (I’m old but not that old and decrepit – yet). But I am very familiar with the country side in NE Vic, and they always say write about what you know, so I do.

    Best wishes

  • Paula, thanks for the visit to Australia. It brought back lots of memories, and I do love Australian settings (the outback B&B sounds great).

    No, I rarely write settings that I haven’t visited. I did have the pleasure of being in Queensland and New South Wales in 2005, and set a novella there. It’s called “Hot Down Under” and it’s in THE FIREFIGHTER from Kensington. (I even took the opportunity to visit an Aussie fire station and chat with the firefighters.)

    My firefighter hero lives in Cairns, there are scenes set in Palm Cove (a lovely small tourist town) and Clifton Beach (an incredibly beautiful beach), and there’s hot air ballooning in the Atherton Tablelands. The setting is really important because my heroine, who’s from the Pacific Northwest, finds her senses coming alive in the very different environment of Australia.

    I like stories where setting is important, but I think there are some where it isn’t, so much. Or where the significant setting is perhaps an office building or hotel, restaurants, shops, etc. – i.e., something smaller and less specific to a particular country or city.

    If setting isn’t particularly important to a story, I think you can write a book without actually visiting the place. But if setting is important and you want not only factual details but the whole “sense” of being there, then I think that’s very hard to create if you’ve never visited. (BTW, my January 2010 book, SEX ON THE BEACH, is set in Belize, and you bet I visited there!)

    So far I’ve just written stories about places where I’ve gone as a tourist. One day I hope for the big advances that will let me actually fund research trips. LOL. (We can all dream!)

  • Paula,

    It’s great using places we know in our stories, isn’t it? I felt right at home reading your ‘Forgotten Marriage’ in Sydney – it just felt like the city. My own first for Harlequin , ‘A Mistress for the Taking’ was set in a couple of Sydney locations too. After all, they do say ‘write what you know’ and I think understanding your setting makes a huge difference.

    I love reading books in all sorts of different locations. I don’t really care where they are but I do enjoy it when the author gives enough information for us to get a feel for the place. Often that’s not from long descriptions of the geography. Sometimes it’s to do with the atmosphere, the scents on the air, the sense of bustle in a big city or stillness in the outback.

    To answer your question – yes, I’ve written about a place I haven’t visited, but in that case it was very, very like one I had visited plus I did lots of research on the net, in books and with people from that location. Generally though I use locations I’ve experienced. A great excuse for travel!

    I’m looking forward to seeing what setting you use next, Paula!


  • hey, thanks Maggie 😀 Not sure if I WILL win, going up against Trish Morey, Carol Marinelli and OMG, Miranda Lee. But I have my fingers crossed!

  • Uluru, Ayers Rock is such a magical place day or night. west McDonnell ranges out of Alice Springs is another awesome place

  • Hi Paula
    Great to have done that travelling with your family! You must have a terrific “library” of settings for stories just waiting to be tapped in your head.
    I think it’s much easier to write when you’ve been somewhere – and I expect the better you know a place the easier it is to get those important details just right.
    Good luck in the R*BY – what a huge thrill to be a finalist!!

  • Hi Margaret! I reckon it’s much easier to write about a place you’ve visited. wasn’t the Ben Hall TV series filmed in the Vic countryside? Just gorgeous!

    Hi Susan – love Qld! I always try to visit at least once a year. In fact, we always try to holiday away every school hols. Gives my boy such an exposure to different places and things.

    Hi Annie! You live in a great part of the world, BTW 😀 I reckon if the author does a good job of setting, it makes me want to visit! I have an old Silhouette Special Ed on my shelves, which the author set in a small Texan country town. I’ve always wanted to go :LOL:

    Carol, I wish I could get to Uluru BEFORE I hand in my next book :sob:

    Sharon, my sweet – someone who’s biking across our great country ATM 😀 so I have to pick your brains about the top end sometime!