Life in between the pages is good for Rocky author Anna
"Ah, Rocky. Our claims to fame are our wide streets, the fact that trains run down the centre of these wide streets, and that the roundabouts within these wide streets are dotted with statues of fibreglass bulls, as befits the Beef Capital of Australia."
Lucy Crighton details Rockhampton's distinct features with a fondness and familiarity as she navigates those wide streets in her trusty Corolla.
If she were to cast a glance in her rear-vision mirror, she could well catch a glimpse of a young version of her creator, Anna Daniels, taking in the same sights and travelling the same streets in the back seat of her family's car some years before.
You see Lucy is the lead character in Anna's first literary offering, the romantic-comedy, Girl in Between.
Set in Anna's home town of Rockhampton, it follows the fortunes of Lucy who finds herself at the crossroads in life.
"I wanted to write something that connected with women my age and something that was funny but also pulled at the heartstrings," former The Cathedral College student Anna explains.
"Girl in Between follows the journey of two best friends (Lucy and Rosie) in their early 30s and their quest to sort their lives out.
"It was probably a stage of life that I was in so I drew on personal experience but it's very much fiction too.
"I tried to make the characters very relateable, but they're also exaggerated and comedic versions as well."
Girl in Between is an expansion of Anna's manuscript, Rocky Road, which was short-listed for the prestigious Vogel Literary Award.
The work piqued the interest of publisher Louise Thurtell from Allen & Unwin who recognised it had the makings of a novel - it just needed to go from 38,000 words to 80,000.
Anna admits that while it initially sounded like a daunting task, it was one she quickly warmed to.
"For the past nine months I've just been writing, writing, writing and I finished in January," she said.
"It was a real challenge, but one that I suppose I've always wanted to have."
Anna said while being short-listed for the Vogel was a massive achievement, it was nothing compared to holding a completed copy of her novel in her hands.
"That was a really amazing moment. I opened it and held it and ran my fingers over the cover.
"It was incredible and then opening the cover and seeing my name there and the little Anna Daniels copyright insignia.
"To be in print was an amazing feeling.
"I've read my book again and even though I know what happens, it was still a thrill to see what I'd written on a computer screen actually typed into a font on a book.
"It was a really thrilling experience, one I won't forget."
It really was a dream come true for Anna who had a voracious appetite for the written word from a very early age.
"I just adored reading and writing was my first love," she recalls as her mind flashes back to her carefree upbringing in Rockhampton.
"I just devoured Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, I adored those authors.
"I really cut my teeth on the Famous Five series; every time a new title came out I would be first in line for it.
"But Anne of Green Gables, oh my God, that is the seminal book that I adored from my childhood."
So much so it even warrants a mention on the opening page of Girl in Between.
Anna is one of five children, her pharmacist parents Jan and Wayne now both retired in Rockhampton. Her siblings have all pursued careers in the health field - Nick is a chiropractor, Carl a dentist, Sam an obstetrician and Sally a dietician.
Anna admits while she toyed with the idea of becoming a physiotherapist, writing was always a constant and was to shape her career.
"I joke that pretty much everyone in my family's a doctor and I'm Doctor Seuss," she quips.
It was an ill-fated interview with Hollywood heavyweight Russell Crowe that helped jump-start her comedic career.
She used her flair for funny to turn the "train wreck" into a triumph, using the interview as an example of how not to interview Russell Crowe. That won Anna the ABC's Comedy Segment of the Year Award.
She then joined forces with Melbourne comedian Anne Edmonds to create the ABC's first online sketch comedy series, Tough at the Top.
Anna graduated from QUT in 2002 with a Bachelor of Journalism, and worked as a writer, presenter and producer for radio, television and online.
She often appears on Channel Ten's The Project, her most recent story a live broadcast from a flooded Rockhampton, less than a fortnight ago.
Anna is hoping Girl in Between is well received by audiences, which would auger well for her next goal - to turn it into a television series just as Zoe Foster Blake did with The Wrong Girl.
"I've written it in a way that really would lend itself to being on the small screen. That's the next plan but I'm just taking it one step at a time and seeing how it all goes."
AN AFTERNOON WITH ANNA
Residents can join author Anna Daniels and publisher Louise Thurtell for an afternoon celebrating Rockhampton and its starring role in the novel, Girl in Between, this weekend.
An Afternoon with Anna will give people the chance to hear details of Anna's debut novel, while also offering an insight into the literary world and what publishers like Louise are interested in.
Anna is promising an entertaining afternoon, which will be hosted by Brad Villiers.
"People can come and hear which Rocky hotspots have made the cut for the book and there will also be a re-enactment from a passage from Girl in Between," she said.
"It's really a celebration for me and everyone in the Central Queensland community because it's not often your region is the setting for a rom-com.
"It's also an opportunity for any aspiring young writers out there who would like to get their work published to hear how I've managed to do it and what someone like Louise, one of the top publishers in Australia, is looking for."
The free event will be held at Our Lady's Hall, The Cathedral College, from 2.30pm on Saturday.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANNA'S TIPS FOR BUDDING WRITERS
1. Ensure your story has a believable first person narrative voice. That draws readers in immediately and gives your writing warmth and authenticity.
2. Don't get caught up in knots about grammatical errors in your writing - they can be fixed.
3. Enter your work in writing competitions. There are plenty of them and you never know where you might end up.
BEST ADVICE ANNA HAS RECEIVED
"It came from Red Symonds when I was producing his breakfast program on ABC Radio. He once said to me 'always follow the fun'. I've often thought of that because I sometimes make career choices which are a bit risky and a bit hard but at the end of the day I love what I do and I'm having fun. I think that's what I've tried to do with Girl in Between as well: it's fun, it's light, it's Aussie."
GET YOUR COPY OF THE BOOK
Girl in Between will be released nationally on Wednesday, April 26. It will be available at Big W and Target, good book stores as well as online.