When one of Michelle Jackson's best friends announced her family was moving to Perth, the Irish author had no idea that would provide the inspiration for her next book.
The Dublin-based Jackson, who writes stories set in exotic locations including Biarritz in France, Las Vegas in the US and Havana in Cuba, based her fifth novel, 5 Peppermint Grove, around the story of an Irish woman leaving behind a bad relationship for a job opportunity on Australia's west coast.
The colour of the story's setting was developed when Jackson and her own family visited her newly settled friend. Places such as Rottnest Island, Fremantle, Cottesloe Beach, the Swan Valley wineries, Lake Leschenaultia and of course our most expensive suburb, Peppermint Grove, feature.
Jackson said emigration had always been in the psyche of Irish people - and particularly so now after the demise of the Celtic Tiger.
"There are many attractions for Irish people to emigrate to Australia," she said. "I think the number one reason is that Perth is in a more economically prosperous position.
"Your weather is a major draw - your typical winter's day would be the finest, sunniest that we could hope for in Ireland - and you wouldn't want to experience the dark and depression of an Irish winter. The Irish diaspora have a great heritage in Australia and I think it is somewhere where we aspire to visit."
Jackson said they were shown some great Aussie hospitality during their visit, with Rottnest as a highlight. "It is a totally unique place and inspired me hugely," she said. "Everybody in Ireland and the UK that I have discussed the book with is enthralled by your quokkas. My children loved them and wanted to take them home until one of our Aussie friends explained that they carry several types of salmonella diseases."
In 5 Peppermint Grove, Ruth takes up a job with Tourism Ireland, leaving behind her cad of a married boyfriend. Her best friend, Julia, has mixed feelings about her upping sticks and moving to the other side of the world.
"Many Irish authors have dealt with the running away theme," Jackson said. "I needed a reason for my character to go and it was too obvious to blame the recession for leaving Dublin so I chose the bad relationship as my starting point."
Ruth is also keen to discover the secret behind an unsent letter her mother Angela - who returned to Ireland after living in Perth during the 1970s - addressed to a man at 5 Peppermint Grove.
Jackson found solace in writing a novel that laid bare the emotions of those leaving and those left behind. Her own love of travel has inspired all of her novels. "Travel is my greatest hobby and nothing broadens the mind like it," she said. "Havana is probably the most unique place that I have visited. It resonated with me like nowhere else as there is such a strong cultural heritage in music, dance and art."
Jackson, a former art teacher who names her books in a numerical sequence, is now working on Six Postcards - "a love story about a couple who date as teenagers . . . and bump into each other at crucial times in their lives".
She said she was recently interviewed at a Dublin radio station and the presenter was travelling to Perth in January. "She loved the book and couldn't wait to visit Rotto and all the places in the book." Jackson would love to return to Perth too, to visit her friends again and do a book tour. "My husband and son had to be dragged on to the aeroplane home as they are both sports enthusiasts and loved the healthy outdoor lifestyle. Personally I'm a home bird and I missed the oldness of Dublin. My eight-
year-old daughter was upset that you didn't have a Penneys store. She declared that it was the one reason that she could never live in Australia."