Writing a Regional Romantic Comedy

By Grace Kirk/ Creative Writing
It’s safe to say that there aren’t many romantic comedies set in the regional Queensland town of Rocky. This town known for its sunshine, cattle and cyclones provides the backdrop for producer, presenter and writer Anna Daniels’ debut novel, Girl in Between.

The Romantic Comedy is about a woman in her early thirties, her best friend and their wild adventures.

Daniels’ novel is being released only one year after it was shortlisted for Allen & Unwin’s Vogel Award. I caught up with Daniels to discuss her writing process, what it means to be a published author and how important it is to champion regional Australian stories.

The Writing Process

After initially setting out to write a screenplay, Daniels realised the story she hoped to produce would suit a novel format, thanks to its character depth and storyline. As such she decided to write Girl in Between as a romantic comedy novel.

“I’d always been a massive fan of comedy that has heart, but also makes you laugh. The kind of comedy that makes you feel something and pulls a bit on your heart strings.”

Daniels describes the book as Aussie, funny and light hearted and relatable to women in their thirties, and not just the ones out in regional Australia.

After reaching the 38,000-word mark, Daniels decided to test the waters and see what the publishing world might think. She submitted to the Allen & Unwin Friday pitch.

“I almost fell off my chair, because the same day I sent it in, I got an email straight back saying ‘We would love to read the full manuscript’,” Daniels says.

It was while she was on the Allen & Unwin website that she discovered the Vogel award.

“It was open to unpublished writers under 35 and I think I was 34 at the time. I saw that the minimum word count was 38,000 so I thought, oh well this could be my shot,” Daniels says.

As the months progressed Daniels manuscript successfully went through the judging rounds. In early 2016 she got an exciting phone call from one of the head judges who informed her that she had been shortlisted.

Getting Published

Being shortlisted for the Vogel award was a huge win for Daniels and it led her on the path to publication. It was at the 2016 Vogel awards ceremony where Daniels would meet her publisher.

The award ceremony was held at Allen & Unwin’s Sydney office. Daniels described it as a ‘who’s who of publishing’. That night Daniels met Allen & Unwin fiction publisher Louise Thurtell, who would go on to work closely with Daniels as she turned Girl in Between into a full length novel of 80,000 words.

Both women had grown up in regional Australian towns and connected on their passion to champion these stories. Now, only one year later, Daniels novel is set to hit the shelves.

A regional Australian Setting

First look at her book

It’s safe to say that there aren’t many romantic comedies set in Rocky. In fact, Daniels has found that regional Australia is underrepresented in mainstream media and fiction.

The book sets out to capture life in a regional Australian town in a way that is relatable to everyone. There are a lot of Rocky settings in the text and according to Daniels it is filled with the ‘laconic larrikin Aussie humour’ that’s found in regional towns.

“I hope it resonates with people, because 1/3 of Australians live in rural or regional Australia,” Daniels says.

Daniels hopes that people in regional Australia and in the bigger cities will enjoy Girl in Between and the humour in it.

“To have a romantic comedy set in Rocky – which is obviously a place very dear to my heart is really special. It’s also great for me, as a rocky woman to be published nationally,” says Daniels

“For me to be able to show other people, and people in regional towns that you can do this, you can set a book wherever, is really special,” says Daniels

 About Anna Daniels

Daniels graduated from a Bachelor of Journalism at QUT in 2002. She has had a varied career working to write and present her own stories for The Project on Channel 10 and working as a presenter on ABC radio in Brisbane. Across all of her work she aims to champion the characters and stories of rural and regional Australia.

I asked her what was next for her now that she’s delved into a new career chapter as an author. It appears Daniels is not finished with the Girl in Between story and hopes to see it adapted to screen.

“With Girl in Between, there’s a lot of really snappy funny dialogue and it’s very visual – my grand plan is that I’d love to see Girl in Between adapted for a screen play and made into a sitcom. That would be my next goal for it.

To discover more about Anna Daniels, visit her website or follow her on social media: twitter @annadtweets, Instagram @annamdaniels and the hashtag for the novel is #GirlInBetween.