A couple of weeks ago, France legalized “marriage for all,” becoming the latest in a line of European countries to legalize gay marriage, and when that happened, Dreamspinner did a sale of all books in French and all books set in France to celebrate. It turns out an awful lot of those books set in France were mine, which led people to ask why. And yet here I am with a series of books set in Australia, so the second immediate question was how I ended up in Australia after writing so many books set in France.
First, I should say that my love affair with France—for it is nothing less than a passionate, even torrid romance that will never end—is as strong as ever. France just doesn’t have the setting I needed for Lang Downs.
My love affair with France and all things French started in seventh grade when I started taking French in school. I lived there. I fell in love there. I still feel more at home there than I do in my own house most days. I set books there. Lots and lots of books, and that probably won’t change because it is the home of my heart. When I was interviewed for the Dijon daily newspaper, the leading line was “Je suis américaine de naissance mais mon cœur est dijonnais” (I’m American by birth but my heart is Dijonnais) and it’s the truth. I love that city and will always dream of moving back there, no matter how unlikely that seems at the moment.
I could go on and on about all the reasons why I fit in so well in France and so poorly in Texas, but that’s not really the point of the post. I’m really supposed to be telling you how I got from there to a series set in NSW (New South Wales for the non-Aussies among us).
It started several years ago when two actors whose careers I follow were misattributed Australian nationality in two separate news articles within a month or so of each other. Nicki and I joked about it, and she replied by saying she liked the idea of them running off to Australia together to raise sheep. Now anyone who’s ever talked to me about my writing knows that my muses are Nicki’s slaves, so as soon as she said that, my brain started coming up with scenarios to put men together on a sheep station in Australia.
I know nothing about Australia beyond the Crocodile Dundee movies and A Man from Snowy River, and somehow I don’t think either of those is an accurate portrayal of life in modern-day Australia, so I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer to something. I try to figure out who I know who might know the answers. Google is great, but nothing replaces that authentic touch. As it turns out, Isabelle Rowan lives in Australia and she and I have been friends for a number of years, so she turned into my on-site resource for anything I couldn’t guess or look up online. Kinds of beer, what Australians would call the mess hall on the station, brand names of boots, the kind of coat the jackaroos are likely to wear… you name it, she answered it or found someone who could. And then she read it from beginning to end and fixed the slang so my Aussie men wouldn’t sound like Americans. Drongo, and Galah, and rissoles… I learned all kinds of new words! (I’m a linguist. I love variations with language!)
By the time we were done with Inherit the Sky, I was in love. Maybe not quite as in love as I am with France, but that’s the affair of a lifetime. Australia is my piece on the side. *wink* And three books later, I’m just as in love as I was at the end of Inherit the Sky. I’m back on Lang Downs right now, working on the fourth book, Conquer the Flames, and it feels like coming home. Maybe not quite like walking into Dijon, but close. I have a feeling I’d have been one of Michael Lang’s strays if Lang Downs were real and I had a chance to go there. Kami says it best: “Michael Lang started taking in strays from the moment he founded this station eighty years ago. Macklin, your brother, me… we’re the latest in a long line of people who came here to lick their wounds and realized this was the Promised Land.”
Outlast the Night Excerpt
Next to him, Sam tensed, almost as if he was expecting a blow. “Is there a problem?”
“There shouldn’t be,” Jeremy said, resisting the urge to pat Sam’s knee comfortingly. He didn’t know if the gesture would be appreciated, so he kept his hands on the steering wheel and waited for the other vehicle to approach. “The only way to Boorowa from Lang Downs is through Taylor Peak. As long as the jackaroos don’t cause problems, we’ve never had an issue with them crossing our land, and Mr. Lang was always very clear with his men. If you cause problems on Taylor Peak, don’t bother coming back. I haven’t heard Macklin say anything like that, but I can’t imagine he’d be any more tolerant of it.”
“He doesn’t seem one to bear fools lightly,” Sam agreed. “I guess we just wait and see what they want?”
“Yes,” Jeremy replied. “It could be nothing at all, but since we’ve seen them, it’s polite to wait and acknowledge them. They’ll be here in a minute, and then we can head on home.”
A few moments later, the other vehicle came into sight, and Jeremy’s stomach fell when he recognized Devlin’s car. He rolled down the window on the ute, the cold breeze eddying through the warmth of the cab. He could get out and preserve the warmth, but he really wanted the door between him and his brother. He didn’t think they would come to blows again, but he could do without another shiner.
“Jeremy,” Devlin said as he approached the ute. “I heard you were in town today.”
“I made the supply run for Lang Downs,” Jeremy replied, “not that it’s any of your business.”
“I heard that too,” Devlin said. “You’re really going to choose those two no-good pillow biters over your own family?”
“If the choice is living with your bigotry or living with Caine and Macklin, I’ll be far happier on Lang Downs,” Jeremy replied evenly. “I told you that the day I left. I’m done playing by your rules.”
“You’re no better than they are,” Devlin spat. He peered deeper into the ute at Sam. “Bloody hell, if that’s the best they can do for jackaroos these days, you’ve jumped onto a sinking ship.”
Jeremy grabbed Devlin’s collar in his fist and dragged him close. “Listen, you stupid fucker, you can insult me all day long, but you leave Sam out of it. He’s the accountant Caine and Macklin hired to take care of the books because Lang Downs is doing so well they need someone full time, so get it through your bloody thick skull that Lang Downs isn’t going under, you’re not going to be able to buy it cheap, and you’re not going to be able to run Caine off. They’re worth ten of you.”
“Bloody poofters, the whole lot,” Devlin said. “Next thing you know, you’ll be joining them too. Don’t come running to me when it goes south on you.”
“I haven’t come running to you for anything since I was five and you laughed at me for falling off my first pony,” Jeremy said.
“I should have known there was something wrong with you then,” Devlin sneered.
“There’s not a thing wrong with me,” Jeremy replied, “except how long it took me to tell you to go to hell.”
Not waiting for an answer, he rolled up the window and let up on the brake. He didn’t gun the engine. He didn’t want to hurt Devlin, after all, just get the hell away from him.
“I’m sorry you had to hear that,” Jeremy said to Sam after Devlin had stepped back and was nothing more than a shadow in his rearview mirror. “Devlin has a blind spot so wide you could drive a truck through it where Caine and Macklin are concerned. It was bad enough when he thought I agreed with him. Now that he realizes I don’t, he’s added me to his blacklist.”
“It’s fine,” Sam said in a meek voice. “It’s not your fault.”
They reached the gate, and Sam jumped out to open it before Jeremy could say anything else. He drove through and waited for Sam to join him again.
“You’re not freaking out because you found out I’m gay, are you?” Jeremy asked. “You didn’t seem bothered by Caine and Macklin, so I thought—”
“What? No, of course not,” Sam said. “That would be really stupid, not to mention hypocritical. I mean, I didn’t know until your brother said something, but it’s none of my business, and you had no reason to tell me—”
“Sam, breathe,” Jeremy interrupted. “You’re going to hyperventilate if you keep going like that.”
Obediently Sam leaned forward and put his head between his knees, breathing in slow, measured cadence. Jeremy might have chuckled at the sight if he hadn’t been so busy resisting the urge to plant a fist in the face of whoever had done such a number on Sam. Then he realized what Sam had said: hypocritical.
Wasn’t that interesting? Had his ex-wife found out and used it against him? Had he known when he married her or was this a recent realization? Did anyone else know?
Sam’s breathing steadied after a moment, and he sat back up.
“Feel better?” Jeremy asked.
Sam nodded, although in the fading light of night and the impending storm, Jeremy thought he still looked a bit like a fish out of water.
“Your ex did a number on you, didn’t she?”
“What?” Sam said.
“Your ex,” Jeremy repeated. “What did she say to you to make you so tentative about everything?”
“Nothing,” Sam said immediately. “She just wanted out. She deserves someone who really loves her.”
“What about someone who really loves you?” Jeremy asked. “Don’t you deserve that too?”
“An out-of-work office manager with no social skills, a thickening waistline, and receding hair?” Sam countered. “Sure. They’re lining up at the door.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Jeremy said. “That kind of statement right there. Who made you believe that?”
“The mirror,” Sam replied.
Jeremy let that part go. If Sam wasn’t ready to talk to him, Jeremy couldn’t force his confidence. He could, however, address the content of what Sam said. “Then you need a new mirror. Because, first of all, last time I checked, you weren’t out of work anymore. Unless you think Caine hired you out of pity?”
Sam took just long enough to answer that Jeremy knew he really did believe that, even if he shook his head.
Jeremy nearly snorted in disbelief. “Let me tell you something about sheep stations, at least ones the size of Taylor Peak and Lang Downs. Most years, the difference between running in the black and in the red is one or two lambs. All the worth of the station is on paper, tied up in the land and the buildings and the equipment and the livestock. Money comes in twice a year, when the lambs are sold in autumn and after the shearing in the spring, when we sell the wool. The rest of the year, it’s a question of pinching pennies and hoping nothing breaks or needs to be replaced because until the next season, there’s no guarantee of how much money will come in to keep things running. Pity doesn’t have any place in running a station. If Caine hired you, it’s because he believes doing so is in the best interest of the station. I don’t know a lot about his background, but I know he got a business degree in the US. A Yank degree might not be worth a lot here, but it proves he knows his way around money, which tells me you impressed him, and that, in turn, impresses me.”
“That doesn’t change the rest of it,” Sam said. “You can hardly argue about my hairline.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes. “There’s a lot more to loving someone than how thick their hair is, you know. By the time my mother died, my father had a beer belly big enough to merit its own time zone and no hair whatsoever, but she still loved him as much as the day they met. And your hairline is fine. I just thought you had a high forehead, not that you were losing your hair.”
“I appreciate what you’re doing,” Sam said. “Really. But you don’t need to. I know what I am and what I’m not. I’ve come to terms with it. I don’t need anyone’s pity.”
“If that’s what this was, that might sway me,” Jeremy said, “but I didn’t spend the day talking to you out of pity. I didn’t offer to teach you about the station out of pity. I enjoyed your company today, and that’s far more important than how cut you are or whether you’re losing a little hair. You don’t have to believe me, but I need to say it at least this once: I think you’re an interesting, attractive man, and I’d like to get to know you better, but I realize you’re in the middle of a divorce and that you have issues to work out around that, so I’m not going to push. I am, however, going to be your friend.”
Ariel Tachna lives outside of Houston with her husband, her daughter and son, and their cat. Before moving there, she traveled all over the world, having fallen in love with France, where she met her husband, and India, where she hopes to retire some day. She’s bilingual with snippets of four other languages to her credit and is as in love with languages as she is with writing.
Web site: http://www.arieltachna.com
To purchase my books, you can always go to Dreamspinner’s web site, http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com or you can go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, or Rainbow eBooks, http://www.rainbowebooks.com/store/. I’m sure there are probably other eBook outlets as well, but I don’t go searching for them. Also, if you want to buy the book in print, any bookstore that allows special orders can order the book for you with the title and my name.
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