Aussie –ness in fiction: Guest Post by Isabelle Rowan

Red Heart

Today I’d like to welcome Isabelle Rowan as my second guest blogger from Under the Southern Cross. Come on down!


A story set in Australia about Australian men sounds easy enough right? Well, that’s what I thought…

The problems really began when I tried to pin down an aspect or notion of ‘Aussie-ness” to write about. Where do I start? How do I get across who we are when we’re all so different? More importantly, how do I avoid the stereotypes? So, no Crocodile Dundee, even though I wanted to do something about the outback! Hmm….

One of the themes I really wanted to explore is our relationship to the land. There is something about Australia that conjures images of red earth, vast landscapes and endless skies, yet most of us live in cities or suburbs. Since migrating to Australia in the 1960’s I’ve lived my life as a suburb dweller, far away from the deserts of central Oz. I walk on footpaths, meet friends in cafes and do all the things that happen in most other countries, but the land is often there in the back of my mind, nibbling away at my dreams and reminding me to walk barefoot now and then. Sure I’ll admit I’m an old pagan, but I honestly believe that the land is there within us all if we are willing or able to look.
So that’s where I started.

Uluru at Sunset

The Australian desert landscape in the might be harsh or seem desolate, but even in photos it hums with energy. At school we were told tales of mystical and mythical creatures. We sang songs that were far removed from our classroom and took us to death defying rides with stockmen, dusty outback roads droving sheep or back to the Dreamtime of aboriginal legends.

Maybe that’s why it’s easy for me to imagine a bunyip hiding in the shadows of a watering hole? Or picture a drover dreaming of animals dancing past on their way to a party? Maybe that’s just me? Either way, I wanted The Red Heart to explore or portray some of that connection.

Alligator gorge

“The Red Heart” by Isabelle Rowan

The two main characters of my new novella are lost in their own lives and situations. Something is missing. They both feel this loss and try to fill it in different ways. Daniel is an urban Goth from Melbourne who’s hidden his fears in drug addiction, where Sam seems more the happy-go-lucky Aussie guy until the night terrors of his Army tour prove there’s a lot more going on behind his smile.

They’re an unlikely pair to find each other in outback Australia! Two halves of the same story, they’re told by Bob, a wise old stockman, and that they must walk the desert together to complete their story and find their way to the red heart.

Purchase “The Red Heart” here at Dreamspinner Press.

Also available in the Under the Southern Cross anthology

Isabelle Rowan’s website is here:


“You are a strange pair,” Bob said quietly out of the blue.

“I just met him yesterday. Well, the day before, I guess,” Daniel said and turned to look at Bob.

“That doesn’t mean you’re not a pair. You are like two halves of a story waiting to be told.”

Daniel frowned and shook his head, even though the comment started a little tickle in his belly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Okay,” Bob started. “Tell me about your pictures, the ones I see peeping out from your sleeves—and I’m guessing they’re on other parts of your body.”

For some strange reason, Daniel almost tugged the fabric down over his arms to hide his tattoos. He’d never felt like that before, but it was as if Old Bob could see right through him. “I was a tattooist in Chapel Street a few years ago.”

“But why do you wear them?”

“I just said—”

Bob cut him short with a gentle but determined voice. “That doesn’t tell me why. How about I tell you what I see?”

Daniel shrugged because, although he was nervous what the old man might say, he was curious.

“Armour. You wear your tattoos like a suit of armour and the metal in your face like spikes. You want to warn the world to stay away, although it’s not what you really need. Am I close?”

Too fucking close, Daniel thought, but said a quiet “Maybe.”

“It works, for the most part, but what about here?” Bob thumped his hand against his old chest. “Doesn’t that leave you hollow inside? Isn’t that why you’re heading for the rock?”

For all the time spent in counselling, the old stockman hit the nail on the head in those few minutes. Daniel couldn’t answer and was forced to turn his gaze back to the men in the dust, arguing if a shot was a goal or a point.

“Samuel is a different story.”

“In what way?” Daniel asked quietly, watching the man laugh and take off with the ball.

“He has a heart as big as the rock, but no armour. He lost it. No, that’s not right. Sam’s armour was blasted from him and now he feels everything just a little too much.”

“Is that why he’s out here?”

“That’s why you’re both out here. You have to do this journey together. Take him with you tomorrow.”

“Doesn’t he have a job to do here?” Daniel said, even though the thought of Sam travelling with him filled a little of the hollow.

“All jobs can wait. He’ll go with you. He likes you, and besides, you’ll need him to show you the way.”

“The highway is a very straight road. I don’t think I’ll get lost.”

“But you can’t go that way, Daniel. It’s walkabout time for you.”

“Ah, I don’t think so,” Daniel stated and looked around at the stockman’s very serious expression.

“You came for a reason, but it’s the journey, not the destination that’s important. Trust me, Daniel, walk to the rock and you’ll find what you’re looking for.”