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  • Holly Brunnbauer

The Story Behind The Novel

FIVE BUSH WEDDINGS by Clare Fletcher

Image: Clare Fletcher | Credit: Anna Kucera

Have you read FIVE BUSH WEDDINGS by Clare Fletcher? Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this romantic comedy set in rural Australia.

Let's go behind the scenes to find out how this novel came to be.

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Fish Bush Weddings by Clare Fletcher


As a photographer, Stevie’s been to enough weddings to last a lifetime. With her ex soon to be married, her mum back on the dating scene, and her best friend threatening to settle down with the Most Boring Man Alive, Stevie is feeling left behind. To top it off, her old uni mate Johnno West, whom she hasn’t seen for years, keeps turning up as best man at Stevie’s jobs, looking distractingly good. Then, the enigmatic Charlie Jones walks into the frame…



What came first – character or plot?

The idea of a wedding photographer as a protagonist came first. It just seemed a perfect way to explore different kinds of love stories, through the eyes of someone who's in the thick of the action on wedding days but still removed enough to be able to take in family dynamics and drama as an outsider. Then came the setting, the towns and parties of regional Queensland, where I grew up, and that brought the plot: where does Stevie belong? The bush, where she's known almost too well, or the city, where she has the freedom to redefine herself?


Which sub-genres are included in your story?

Rom-com was my goal - they're my favourite stories. Rural romance kind of came by accident, by virtue of the setting.


Which tropes are included in your story?

I don't think I even learned about tropes until after I had finished writing my first draft! I hadn't read that much romance before realising I was writing one and figuring I needed to understand what I was up against. So whatever tropes are in the book are unintentional. I knew I wanted a love triangle to set up the two paths my heroine was choosing between. I've seen readers refer to 'friends to lovers' and the 'sad girl' trope but I'm still not really sure what that means!


What's your favourite scene?

There's a pretty important scene that takes place late at night after the pub has closed in a small town, and two characters sneak around to the back door of the local bakery and buy pies from the apprentice who's working there making the next day's bread. It's special to me because that's something I did in my hometown, something I remember very fondly, although I'm not sure if you can still do it. But I also love that a humble pie becomes a symbolic romantic moment - it’s a mix of the ordinary, the comic and the sublimely romantic that I like to think sums up Five Bush Weddings.


Describe your first draft process.

I'm in the throes of trying to finish the first draft of my second manuscript and I just wish there was a process! I'm a plotter rather than a pantser, but when the best kind of writing happens the characters start making their own decisions and I have to revise the plan. Rather than writing the story in a linear way, I jump all over the place - having the ending can be a guiding star for how I need my characters to develop in the middle. It seems to go best when I work on it regularly.

What didn’t make it into the published version?

In the first draft, I had a chapter that was a flashback to Stevie and her ex-boyfriend Tom going to a wedding years earlier. It was a kind of origin story for why Stevie became a wedding photographer, but it wasn't really necessary to the story. It did have one scene I dearly loved about a girl who was violently cutthroat about catching bouquets, based on a good friend, so I was sad to see that go.


Describe your routine while you were writing this story.

When I wrote the first draft of Five Bush Weddings I was working full-time so it was mostly late-night sessions and weekends. I was also pregnant for quite a bit of that time, and determined to finish a draft before I had the baby. Luckily she went overdue by about 10 days, I went right down to the wire!


How did this book come to be published?

With the guidance of a mentor (Emily Maguire via Writing NSW's mentoring program), I submitted to about five agents and was lucky that Clare Forster at Curtis Brown connected with my story. She had some publishers in mind from the outset and her guidance really steered me well.


Share a writing tip, resource recommendation or piece of advice for aspiring authors.

I'm a bit bogged in my own writing at the moment so I don't feel super qualified to give advice, or maybe I should try harder to take my own advice, which is generally to not be a perfectionist and just bloody start writing - you can't fix a blank page!

For resources I highly recommend The First Time podcast, Lee Kofman's book The Writer Laid Bare, and following the writers you love on Instagram for a peek behind the curtain. And for the days when it seems like nothing will ever go right for you, read this essay by Saraid Taylor A timeline of one hundred and eleven failures: 2021. In a brutally comprehensive way she documents a year of 'writing failures', but I only found her post when I'd had a string of unsuccessful writing competitions and was Googling to see who’d beaten me. She has a book deal now.




Clare Fletcher was born and raised in St George, in regional Queensland, a setting she returns to in her debut novel FIVE BUSH WEDDINGS (2022, Penguin Random House). She also works on communications for the Walkley Foundation for Journalism. Clare lives in Sydney with her husband and daughter.


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