by Kate Loveday
It can be strange, the way a story comes into being. Take my novel Black Mountain. Ever since Peter and I spent time ‘on the road’ playing hooky from real life as we enjoyed the carefree life of gypsies wandering Australia, and came across Black Mountain, I’ve known I would use it as the setting for a story.
This spooky mountain is in far northern Queensland, on the Mulligan Highway, 25 kilometres south of Cooktown.
Black Mountain, known as Kalkajaka, ‘the place of the spear’, is avoided by the Aboriginal people, who believe it’s a site of supernatural events. According to geologists, this huge rock formation was formed from solidified magma millions of years ago.
But it’s the stories told about it that makes it such a compelling and eerie place—stories of disappearances of people and animals who ventured into the Black Mountain. There have been many verified cases of people, horses and even herds of cattle disappearing within its many tunnels, caves and chasms, never to be seen again. Local police and trackers looking for the missing have also vanished. These stories, along with reports of strange turbulences and magnetic disturbances that have been reported by pilots, have all given Black Mountain the nickname ‘mountain of death’.
I knew I couldn’t resist the lure of writing about it, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when, quite by accident, Peter related a strange story from his youth of a planned weekend jaunt that went awry, that I found the basis for the story.
A foursome of young people, two men, two girls, arranged to fly to another city for a short break.
However, one of the party (let’s call him Jackson) didn’t turn up for the flight, but kept sending messages with reasons for his ‘delay’ and urging the others to go ahead, promising to join them later. Which he never did.
Jackson had helped plan the trip, and told his friends he was a Qantas pilot. After the weekend his girlfriend (I called her Elly) made enquiries, and found that he was unknown at Qantas, and she never heard from him again. No reason was ever found for his deception.
But surely fiction could create a reason. I decided to try.
Could it be that Jackson wanted Elly out of the way? And if so—why? Could it be because he wanted something in her home? Such as a prescription for a very special formulation? Maybe containing a rare ingredient? One that would need searching for.
As a beauty/natural therapist I have long been interested in the therapeutic and beautifying effects of herbs and essential oils, often using them on my clients. There is always speculation in the industry that one day there will be a ‘silver bullet’—someone will discover the ‘fountain of youth’, a product to banish forever the wrinkles of maturity! Probably it could be found by experimenting with nature’s gifts, plants. But not your everyday garden-variety plant—something rare.
Where to find such a plant? What better place than in the Daintree rain forest, home to the greatest concentration of rare plant species anywhere in the world?
As I turned over these ideas in my mind the story began to take shape!
In the novel Elly discovers that her late father’s journal, which contains his almost completed formula for his ‘fountain of youth’, is missing (taken by the missing Jackson?) and she decides to try and re-create the formula. For this she needs to find the missing plant.
But to find a single plant in the rainforest is a huge undertaking, one which Elly could not accomplish on her own. She would need help. Enter Mitchell. Strong, capable and resourceful—as well as handsome.
Commercially, the ‘fountain of youth’ would be worth potentially millions of dollars to its creator. And where there’s big money, there are predators. Elly and Mitchell learn that someone else is searching for the plant—someone who will stop at nothing to find it. And as their hunt takes them to the sinister Black Mountain, they find themselves in a race against an unknown enemy.
In the steamy heat of the tropical jungle, as Elly and Mitchell struggle against the challenges before them, I had to determine if the growing attraction between them would ever become more than friendship. And for that I had to wait until my characters told me how their story would end!
Black Mountain is available for pre-order now, and will be released on June 25.
An adventure set in the Australian rainforest, where the race is on to discover a precious plant — and an even rarer kind of attraction.