A Van Life Fairytale
An Aussie Outback Romance
Many years ago, while travelling with a caravan from Brisbane to Darwin, we stopped for a night at a free camp ground near the town of Mitchel in outback Queensland. We pulled in early evening and found a spot away from others, before setting up our large van and retreating inside to settle with the air conditioning, the generator running outside. All the convenience of home, but in the outback. Before we left the next morning, I took a few snaps to add to our album of places we’d stayed at, then climbed into our vehicle for another day of driving.
After all these years, that is the only camp spot from that whole trip I remember. I can still see the family in the tent that was closest to us, toys and chairs scattered around, and the other caravans, all spaced apart around the huge site. And I remember the dark brown bricks of the ablution block in the middle with it’s corrugated iron tank perched alongside.
I mark this spot as the first time the outback spirit sunk its tendrils into my soul. Until then, I was travelling from place to place. After that, I was travelling to savour the land, the endless blue above and the country that stretches empty as far as the eye can see. A vision that no camera can capture, and I’ve tried. Once that land enters your soul fully, nothing is ever the same again. No city or town can hold for long before the yearning to be free surfaces. Free to soak in the serenity and beauty of this ancient land.
The story wrote itself, pouring from my fingers onto the keyboard. I had the image of the setting in mind, and the dream that maybe I’d return some day soon in a Ford transit van to write stories from there, the van set up as described in the book, even the shower. In hindsight, too much of me entered this work, too many secrets, but then you don’t know me, so it won’t matter that much.
Once upon a time I woke after finishing the first draft, of what was A Van Life Romance, with a realisation. The story I was working on was really a modern fairytale in all but name. I had a princess and fairy princess held captive by an evil stepfather/ogre/fire-breathing-dragon, and I had a prince driving to their rescue.
Quickly I dashed off an introduction to the book that I thought truly inspired, and renamed the work to A Van Life Fairytale. Initial editing finished, I sent a pdf to my harshest critic and waited.
“I like it, but what’s this drivel at the start about princes and steeds? Makes no sense to me.”
I explained my inspiration for the introduction.
“Still makes no sense. Sometimes your ideas are too weird for me.”
I kept the name but deleted the introduction. Sometimes sisters are right.
A beautiful princess was sitting alongside her prince in the shade of a rustling palm tree, watching tiny wavelets wash on the pale yellow sand near their feet. Their fairy princess had been collecting shells, and seeing them sitting quietly, came close, the shells in her hand held out for inspection.
"Can you read me that story again. The one where the handsome prince rescues the beautiful princess from the clutches of the fiery dragon and carries her off to her new throne. I like that one the best."
"There's hardly enough daylight left to read it all." The prince said.
"I could wave my magic wand and make the day longer." The fairy princess said.
"I thought you threw your wand away." The prince said.
Her burst of laughter scared the close-by gulls, their startled cries adding to the mirth.
"Alright. Get the laptop and I'll start."
The fairy princess was settled by his side in moments. The princess close by his other side waiting for the story to begin, even though they had both heard it a hundred times before.
"Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away there lived a somewhat handsome prince called Scott, although he didn't know he was a prince then. He thought he was just a poor delivery driver. He didn't have a handsome white steed either, just a well used Ford transit van..."
This is the cover I first released this book with. Back and forwards for days with my cover artist. The background one of my snaps from a different camp spot and the models trying to duplicate the three main characters.
With the passage of time and a growing realisation of the theme I always write to, I felt a change was needed and so the current cover.
Shayleigh’s prophetic dream about her future drives her actions. The underlying question is … Would the dream be fulfilled without her actively trying to make it happen. Is a dream of the future an image of what will really happen, regardless of our choices, or is it a guide to focus our attention to work to make that dream a reality?