Cheyenne Blue

Behind the Scenes of Switcheroo

In my latest sapphic romance, Switcheroo, two very different characters from the opposite ends of the earth are thrown together. When Hayley wins a competition to leave her New York life for a year and switch lives with someone else, she’s expecting to be sent somewhere in the United States for the year. What she gets is a year on an outback cattle station in Australia. There she meets Jenna, who’s lived her entire life in the harsh outback and who thinks a city of ten thousand people is big. Here are the photos I used as inspiration for Hayley and Jenna during the writing of Switcheroo, as well as photos of things that might not be familiar to many people.

New York

Shown is a New York Diner by night
A New York diner, similar to Jeb's Diner where Hayley works as a short order cook.

Hayley lives in Throgs Neck, a suburb in The Bronx in a studio apartment where the landlord doesn’t like to do repairs. Everything is jammed into a tiny space, and she has to work two jobs to get by. Her main job as a short-order cook is at Jeb’s Diner, which would look something like this.

Shown is the Bronx in New York City. The view point is a high building with typical eight to ten story buildings and the Manhattan Skyline in the far distance under a bright but cloudy sky.
The Bronx, New York City, where Hayley lives
The Bronx is a crowded area of high-density living. When Hayley wins the life swap competition, she’s sure she’ll be sent to a Mom ‘n Pop farm in “West Bumbafuck, Montana” (which doesn’t exist of course, as why would a place be called Bumbafuck? Although we do have a Poowong in Australia, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut!) Instead of Montana, or her dream Colorado ski-town destination, Hayley gets the last place on earth she expected.

Mount Isa - Outback Queensland

Shown is the industrial complex Mount Isa City in the outback Queensland with the last light from a sunset in the background, with pink and yellow streaks behind lights coming from the industrial buildings.
Mount Isa is a mining town in western Queensland and is the largest "city" (of around 20,000) in the region.
Hayley is sent to work at Ghost Gum Station (what Americans would call a ranch) which is nearly three hours’ drive from Mount Isa, the nearest city. Mount Isa is the major regional centre for that part of outback Queensland, and has a population of around 20,000. Hayley can’t believe this is considered a city. After all, you can drive across it in ten minutes! “The Isa” as locals call it is an active mining town and the regional centre. Jenna shows Hayley around Mount Isa on her day off, and later on, Hayley and Jenna visit the Isa for the Outback Queers night in a local pub.

Ghost Gum Station

Shown is a simple homestead in Queensland
At Ghost Gum Station, Hayley would share a cottage similiar to this with five other women.
Ghost Gum Station takes its name from a species of eucalyptus that grows in outback Queensland. The white trunks and grey-green leaves are a stark contrast to the red dirt of the outback. When she ends up in outback Queensland, Hayley’s horrified she has to share a room with two other station hands, one of whom is Jenna, her “best friend” for the year. The house has two bedrooms and three people to a room.
Shown is a wooden building that typical of buildings on an outback station.
These outbuildings built of timber and corrugated iron are typical of sheds found on an outback station.

Ghost Gum station is a collection of old buildings set on 600,000 acres.That’s considered a small to medium size cattle station in the outback. There’s a messhall, the female and male accommodation, plus the original homestead and outbuildings.

The largest working station in the world is Anna Creek which is 5.9 MILLION acres, or 9,142 square MILES, and it’s in South Australia. By comparison, the largest ranch in America is King Ranch in Texas, which is only 1,290 square miles!

Shown is a rusty fence and gate in red soil Australian outback
A gate and wire fence in the sort of landscape Hayley finds herself. She has to repair many hundreds of metres of fencing.

At first, Hayley finds it hard to adapt to life at Ghost Gum. She has to learn to ride a horse, and do hard manual work such as repairing wire fences and bores. She thought she was fit from her years of Crossfit, but it didn’t prepare her for everyday life at Ghost Gum.

Coming from New York, at first, she finds the wide, flat landscape of outback Queensland ugly and dull. After all, there’s miles and miles of nothing except dust and cattle. But after a while, she comes to appreciate the unique beauty of the outback.

Hayley's first overnight camp

Shown is a view from an outback jump-up with a beautiful blue sky. It's a typical view from an outback jump-up.
A jump-up similar to where Hayley and Jenna camped. These abrupt rises in the landscape break up the otherwise flat land.

Later in Switcheroo, Hayley goes on an overnight camp with Jenna. They sleep under the stars on the edge of a jump-up–the scarp slope which gives a view over the land. By then, Hayley is learning to love her temporary new home.

This photo of a jump-up is somewhere I camped during one of our outback trips while researching Switcheroo. We could see for kilometres from the top, and the land was flat all the way to the horizon. There was no one else in sight, and not a single artificial light, but at night there were a million stars, the thump-thump of passing kangaroos, and some eerie dingo howls.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service and a cameo from another book

Later in the book, there’s a medical emergency at Ghost Gum Station, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service is called. The RFDS is a real and necessary service for rural Australia. Doctors, paramedics, and nurses respond to medical emergencies, flying by light plane from several bases around Australia. The RFDS also provides clinics and medical services to tiny communities that don’t otherwise have access. This lifeline is a free service to Australia’s remote communities.

In Switcheroo, the doctor that flies in response to the emergency is Dr Moni Kratzmann. Moni first appeared in Not-So-Straight Sue as the doctor from Texas on a year’s contract with the RFDS in Mount Isa. At the end of the book, she was living with Sue Brent in the tiny (fictitious) community of Mungabilly Creek, three hours from Mount Isa, although in a different direction from Ghost Gum Station. Sue runs the law office there, and Moni is the community GP. In Switcheroo, Moni is doing a week’s locum for the RFDS. You can read about Moni and Sue’s very unusual outback wedding in Almost-Married Moni.

The scene my publisher asked me to include

Photo of toast spread thickly with Vegemite.
This is how I eat toast and Vegemite. Not recommended for beginners, who should try it spread thinly with lots of butter.

When I submitted Switcheroo to Ylva Publishing, Astrid responded with a “Yes!”–always good news for an author. She asked if I could include a very specific scene that at the time didn’t exist. I read her request and laughed. Astrid, it seems, loathes that great Aussie culinary delight, Vegemite, and she asked that I include a short scene where Hayley tries Vegemite for the first time and loathes it.

Vegemite is the more muscly cousin of British Marmite. The difference? Marmite has a thinner consistency and an edge of sweetness. Vegemite is closer to road tar, and your cardiologist would have kittens if you admitted to loving it, as it’s got enough salt in a teaspoon of it to coat the rim of every glass in a busy tequila bar.  I love Vegemite! Adore it! Luckily my heart health check was okay, as I spread my toast thickly with butter and then plaster on the Vegemite with a trowel. Most (sensible) people prefer it spread it thinly.

So, that short scene where Hayley is tricked into trying Vegemite? You have Astrid at Ylva Publishing to thank for that.

Jenna's pendant

A multi-colored boulder opal on a rough wooden surface with some dried gray plants in the background.
Jenna wears a pendant set with boulder opal like this. The iridescent stone is mined in various areas in Australia

Jenna’s father was an opal miner who worked a small claim in South Australia. Like many miners, he would have eked out a living in a harsh landscape, finding opal chips and low-grade stones. Jenna purchased her high-quality opal with some money left to her by her father.

Hayley and Jenna’s workmate, Red, sporadically works a small opal claim a few hours away from Ghost Gum Station. Jenna purchased her stone from Red. Over the years, Red has nearly made enough money from his claim for a deposit on a house in Mount Isa.

I hope you enjoyed this short tour behind the scenes of Switcheroo. Have you visited the outback? Maybe you were a backpacker and worked at a station as the rural placement so  you could extend your visa. Or maybe you prefer to visit the outback through stories such as Switcheroo. However you visit, I hope you find something to love about this magical region.

Haven't read
Switcheroo yet?
Book cover of Switchero by Cheyenne Blue with a in KU banner

Switcheroo

A lighthearted lesbian romance about shattering comfort zones and finding your place in the world where you least expect it.

Hayley Reed, a New Yorker, wins a contest to swap lives for a year and ends up on a remote Australian cattle station. She struggles with basic living and an unimpressed station hand, Jenna Dwyer.

Jenna, committed to Ghost Gum Station, finds it hard to resist Hayley’s efforts.

Amidst vast skies and growing attraction, can these opposites connect?

Subscribe to my newsletter

You can find my books here

4 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of Switcheroo”

Leave a Comment