Red dirt experiences brought to life

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Several months in the Kimberley was the ultimate inspiration for Kath Engebretson to put pen to paper and write her first novel.

The Melbourne-based academic will release Red Dirt Odyssey, a tale which draws on her experience of living in Kununurra in a grey-nomad motorhome.

It is the first fiction novel for Dr Engebretson.

Her publishing history to date has focused on academic books and writing student textbooks.

“The novel came out of a period when I spent almost a year in the Kimberley,” she said. “I came to love it, not just for its indescribable scenery but for its characters and easygoing lifestyle.” The book’s protagonist Alice, an ex-academic, is left shocked when her husband Will dies suddenly and Dr Engebretson said she “finds herself doing things she would have never imagined”.

“In a quest to make a life for herself after being widowed and retiring, (Alice) takes to her campervan and heads off,” she said.

“Through her eyes, I wanted to bring to life the dramatic landscapes of Western Australia, its outback towns, coastline and its incomparable Kimberley region.

“I didn’t decide to write a book specific to the baby boomers, I just wanted to write a book that I would like to read. I had experienced the beauty of, and wilderness of, that part of the country.”

One of the book’s characters, Halls Creek woman Joan Farrington, was inspired by Dr Engebretson’s chance encounter with Federal Kimberley MP Josie Farrer.

“I really admire the indigenous MP Josie Farrer. I met her in Kununurra. She is passionate for her people’s welfare,” Dr Engebretson said.

Keeping Alice company on her journey is a vivacious Jack Russell named Matey, inspired by the author’s pet which died this year. “He had accompanied us on every journey, and we still miss him,” she said.

Red Dirt Odyssey will be released by Atlas Productions on December 1.

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