Hours spent listening to family stories of the bush many years ago proved the kernel of Kate Lyons’ third novel The Far-Back Country.
Born of Broken Hill mining stock, Lyons remembered hearing about a missing Uncle who left home “at 14 or 15” and was barely seen again. He became an abalone diver and a shearer and died alone in an outback pub.
Lyons, of Wentworth Falls, has been living in the Mountains since 1999 and finds the bush landscape from the writing eyrie, in her bedroom a reliable muse. But it is the outback of her childhood where her story regularly takes her.
“I was a good listener when I was young … ten years younger than my older sibling. There was always these stories of boys just running off ... escaping ... nowadays there’d be a police search.”
Lyons believes the book will resonate with Mountains readers who “want to know more about the outback and love a good story”.
The story is set in the harsh and unforgiving landscape near Bourke, Tibooburra and Corner Country, where hairy situations seem to loom at every road bend. The Far-Back Country is about love, longing, a missing person, memory and “how we misremember,” the author said.
Told through the eyes of a missing brother and a sister who pines for him, it tackles mental illness in stoic bushmen, while also giving readers the chance to hear the usually untold stories of older women surviving in the outback.
The book took six years to write while she completed a doctoral thesis and Lyons said she strived to keep it “free from sentimentality” while telling stories of “people who work so hard to keep their head above water”.
The book was published this week by Allen and Unwin.