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YOU Reading Group: Force of Nature by Jane Harper 

As a writer, I’ve always been drawn to the same things that attract me as a reader. I want to be transported by strong sense of place in a novel, and fortunately the savage beauty of the Australian landscape leaves me spoiled for choice.

A strong setting always stays with me long after the book is closed, and it’s exciting to see readers around the world discovering the diverse offerings brought to life in Australian mysteries and thrillers.

Each time I have started to write a new novel, I always have a long list of questions for myself, but the one thing that never wavers is the setting.

I always have a clear idea of the where I want to base the book, and the kind of atmosphere I want to get from the landscape. I also spend a lot of time thinking how the landscape will impact the characters in both an emotional sense, such as fear of being lost, and a practical sense, such as financial pressure on a farming community.

Force of Nature is my second novel and is based in a dense and remote bushland region. It centres around five corporate city women who reluctantly set off on a hike as part of a team building exercise. Several days later, only four come out at the other end of the trail.

The claustrophobia and sense of unease created by the isolated bushland plays a key role in book as the group starts to fracture in unfamiliar territory.

The atmosphere created by the landscape was clear to me very early in the writing process, and much of the novel grew on the foundations of that setting.

This was also true in my debut novel, The Dry, which is based in a drought-stricken country town and my upcoming novel, The Lost Man, which is set in the harsh desert outback.

In each case, I was drawn as a writer to the way the isolation and the harsh realities of nature impact the characters’ lives and relationships with each other.

The sprawling Australian landscape is so diverse and naturally atmospheric that it lends itself particularly well to books with an element of mystery and suspense, as many international readers are now discovering.

The international surge in popularity of Australian-based fiction has been greeted by delight – but perhaps not surprise – by the writing community Down Under.

Storytelling has always been a part of Australian life, starting with our rich indigenous Aboriginal culture and stretching through to chilling tales of true crime and page-turning novels. Our red dusty land, breathtaking coastlines, dense bushland, and unique – and often deadly – wildlife mean Australian writers are never short of inspiration.

Readers who have fallen in love with Australian mysteries, thrillers and crime novels have a whole world to discover with fantastic authors bring the southern hemisphere to life.

Candice Fox’s gritty novels caught the eye of publishing powerhouse James Patterson and their Sydney-based collaboration novels Never Never and Fifty Fifty have topped the bestseller charts.

As in the UK, cricket is a national passion in Australia and Jock Serong delves into the murky world of professional sportsmen in his crime novel, The Rules of Backyard Cricket, while Sarah Bailey ramps up the pressure-cooker tension with an unexplained small-town death in her debut, The Dark Lake.

In March this year, we mourned the passing of celebrated novelist Peter Temple, who was the first crime writer to win Australia’s top literature award, the Miles Franklin, with his novel The Broken Shore.

As an Australian author, I’m lucky to be able to draw inspiration from a land that is as beautiful, dark and diverse as any writer could hope for. For both writers and readers, Australia always has something new and unexpected to discover.