A FIVE-minute pitch with Penguin books in Sydney turned two years of rejection around for Perth author Anthea Hodgson.
The Romance Writers of Australia conference was swarming with hopeful novelists when the Mt Hawthorn resident spruiked her first book The Drifter.
When a letter arrived four weeks later offering a two book contract, “I said yes immediately. In 78-sized font,” the former journalist laughs.
Her books, including recent novel The Cowgirl, are unashamedly chick lit.
“I’m writing for women: they have so much drudgery and dirty underpants in their day,” Hodgson tells the Voice.
“Sick kids, ageing parents … it’s women who carry the invisible load.”
Set in a Wheatbelt farming community in WA, The Cowgirl is predictable—girl meets boy, where an instant dislike masks a sizzling chemistry, and then there’s plenty of toing and froing.
The book is a good holiday read, but running through the pages are dark themes, including rape, domestic violence, heartbreak, betrayal and abandonment.
Central to the plot is the archeological dig of a mysterious farmhouse that was flattened decades ago.
Hodgson grew up in the Wheatbelt and draws on family and friends to populate her novels, including “strong quirky women I have known … Mum is in both books.”
In The Cowgirl, heroine Teddy Broderick has returned home, but she still dreams of a life beyond the farm gate.
She’s tough enough to slaughter a sheep for dinner, and deliver a baby, but too damaged by her recent past to explore the big wide world.
Adding to the family trauma, her grandmother Deirdrie is haunted by regrets and a sad childhood at the hands of a violent, alcoholic father.
It’s a cross-generational tale that zips between the 1950s and the present, but there are commonalities, Hodgson says.
In 50s Australia there was no law against wife-beating “and in 2017 one in three women suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of someone close to them.”
Hodgson says the 50s was a time when a lack of education, and few employment opportunities and family responsibilities, meant women were relegated to domestic roles, despite yearning for something more.
In 2017 women make up almost 50 per cent of the workforce and more women have bachelor’s degrees than men, but “the gender pay gap still hovers between 15 to 20 per cent.”
Cowgirl is available at all good bookshops (yes, they’re still around).
by JENNY D’ANGER