Here in Adelaide, South Australia, we’ve experienced our wettest July since 2016. With thunderstorms, rain and strong winds confirming winters arrival. Elsa and Kuura, our two Bearded Collies, spent a couple of anxious nights curled up at the foot of the bed as thunderstorms raged overhead. Again today, it is blowing a gale, they are lying either side of my desk as I write, staying warm and safe.
El Alto, my latest book, is a story close to my heart. It came about through stories my parents-in-law told me of their adventures living and working on a remote oil field in Northern Peru, run at the time by La Compania Petrolera Lobitos (CPL). The desert camp, El Alto - in the Piura region is situated on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. My mother-in-law Patricia won a scholarship during the war years and went to Leeds University (UK), where she met her future husband, Tim. It was bold enough at the time for a woman to study Geology, but to then in 1947, follow Tim to Peru, marry, bring up two kids and work in the male-dominated oil industry was even bolder. Patricia’s stories of their camping expeditions into the Andes with nothing more than a tent and basic food supplies, their life and death situations and El Alto as a story was born.
When setting scenes, I had access to hundreds of images Tim and Patricia had captured during their time in Peru, some of which appear here. Tim was also an avid cameraman (must be where my husband gets his passion). He shot hours of 8mm film of the family.
In the book, set in Peru the Amazon and South Australia, my heroine and hero find themselves at the mercy of the Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path). I wondered how strong a woman needed to be, to survive kidnapping, indoctrination, and never-ending rain in the Amazon jungle. Our heroes and heroines need goals. They need motivation and conflict which keeps us turning the pages.
A few years ago, we travelled through Peru and into the Amazon at Puerto Maldonado. There is no doubt in my mind that seeing a place first-hand helps to bring the words to life on the page.
Contemporary adventure with