TURNING 40 was the catalyst for Tricia Stringer, Wallaroo, to start writing novels.
A teacher and librarian by trade, she had always wanted to write a children's book and decided at 40 that "if I was going to do something I needed to start then".
Completing an online writing course, she started her first book. More than 14 years later, she has written eight books: three children's stories (Boy of the Mines, Smokestacks and Sails, and Piskey Trouble) and five adult books (Changing Chanels, River Magic, Due Date, Queen of the Road, and her latest novel Right as Rain).
"I decided to write a children's book based on local history," Tricia said.
"At the time there was nothing like that available for primary-age children in the region, so I wrote one book based in Moonta, Boy of the Mines, and Smokestacks and Sails, based on the history of Wallaroo.
"I have promised the children that I will write one for Kadina, but I haven't had the chance to do that just yet."
Through completing an Australian College of Journalism Diploma in Children's Writing in 2000, Tricia has gained a strong network of fellow writers with whom she regularly communicates.
"They're a really supportive group," Tricia said.
"A lot of them are still children's writers, although some have also branched-off into other genres, and we email each other regularly."
Although there are several other writers' groups in the region, most of these meet during the day and as Tricia works fulltime she has few opportunities to join in.
The 'email group' remains a big support, as do her family and friends.
"My husband Daryl and three kids are all very supportive of my writing," Tricia said. "My daughter reads as I write, then my husband reads the story once I've finished."
Tricia says she is one of the first authors to start writing 'rural romance' stories.
These days, the rural literature genre has become very popular, with Tricia saying that readers seem to really enjoy finding out more about life in the country. Growing up on a farm at Butler Tanks on Eyre Peninsula, with parents Reg and Pat Phillis and brother Michael, Tricia is very familiar with 'farm life'.
"I think those who live in the country have an understanding of city life, as we have to travel there so often but city people don't really have an understanding of country life," she said.
"They seem to like to put themselves in someone else's shoes, and enjoy reading about the country, whereas country people seem to like how realistic my books are.
"My readership is mostly female but some men do read them - so they do like it when I get all the (farm or trucking) details right."
To ensure accuracy, Tricia makes sure she often reads Stock Journal. The paper also gets a mention in her latest book.
She also visits the region where her story is set.
"All my stories bar one, which was set in Margaret River, WA, have been set in SA," she said. "They are regions I have either lived in, or gone to stay.
"I had really good feedback from the people who lived in Margaret River on the book I wrote there, that I really managed to capture the feeling of the town."
It takes Tricia close to a year to write a book.
"Concepts come to me all the time," she said.
"I get a sense of place about a setting and often a character will come to me, then a story follows."
* Full report in Stock Journal, December 5 issue, 2013.