Author Anna Daniels.
Author Anna Daniels. Glenn Hunt

Beefing up the rom-com in first novel

PARIS, Rome ... and Rocky? If author Anna Daniels has her way the beef capital of Australia, in central Queensland, will be the next big romantic hotspot.

The Rockhampton-raised author published her first novel, Girl in Between, at the end of April.

And she now has her sights set firmly on the small screen because she wants her book turned into a television romantic comedy with the city at its heart.

"It's not often the beef capital is the setting for nationally released rom-com," Daniels said.

"There's a lot of quirk factor there with the bull statues and the lovely wide streets... and the sense of running into everyone at central coffee shops and pubs."

Daniels, 36, has a background in television and radio, and has written and presented for The Project.

And the novel was at first intended as a screenplay for television.

But as she started writing, Daniels realised her creation better lent itself to a novel format so she changed tack.

She finished it in 2013, but it was a short read. In 2015 she decided to try and get her book published so she entered it into the Vogel awards.

She was short-listed for the awards last year. Although she did not take out the top gong, she was noticed by publisher Allen and Unwin and she began working on getting her word count up for publication.

The book tells the story of protagonist Lucy Crighton who has a breakdown following a break-up. She finds herself living with her mum and dad back in Rocky, her hometown, after quitting her television journalism job in Melbourne.

Lucy has dreams of being a writer and is trying to finish her first book, which is made difficult at times by her mother and father's well-meaning interventions.

The reader follows Lucy as she stumbles from one chaotic situation to another. Will she ever find her feet, and true love to boot?

"I think Lucy is typical of a lot of women who grow up in regional Australia in that they love the freedom and lifestyle that goes with being in a country, or regional or rural town," Daniels said.

"And yet there's still those 'what if' questions sometimes and that yearning for the big city, bright lights and all the promise that it could hold."

Like many first-time authors, Daniels wrote about what she knew. But the author said the hometown, the career and writing a book were where the similarities between author and character ended.

"Lucy's quest for contentment and for answers is different to me," Daniels said.

"Lucy, at that stage of her life, is a bit more of a wanderer than me."

Lucy's love life is a train wreck. She pines for her ex-boyfriend despite understanding on an intellectual level that he has moved on. And she does not see the potential of a relationship blossoming with the boy next door, although that brings its own complexities.

The effort to beef up the word count was noticeable in the beginning of the book, when short and sharp dialogue was interspersed with flowery initial descriptions of the city and the characters.

The pace of the book picks up a few chapters in, and the reader becomes a fly on the wall at a local watering hole as three of the main characters party on following a fairly disastrous date night, or in a Japanese mud bath as Lucy and her bestie stray into the wrong changeroom.

What the author nailed, because of her journalistic background, was the dialogue among the characters.

"There's a lot of really funny, snappy dialogue and it's very visual," Daniels said.

In all, the novel is an easy read, and perfect for busy women who need a bit of light relief at the end of a hectic day.

"Comedy has always appealed to me," Daniels said.

"You grow up with a sense, in a country town, of not taking yourself too seriously.

"You learn to laugh at yourself, and life, pretty early in the piece."

Girl in Between by Anna Daniels, RRP $29.99, is out now through Allen and Unwin.


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