A rural-romance novelist has been inspired by a real-life, well-loved country bloke who gave life his best shot.

Story By Kerry Faulkner

If the handsome hero in Fiona Palmer’s latest rural-romance novel seems familiar to the readers in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt shire of Lake Grace, it’s because much of the story is based on a local boy who lived and tragically died there.
The fictional hero in Fiona’s novel, The Outback Heart, is Troy, a troubled young man who lets someone else come between him and his true love. Troy’s character is based on real-life hero Josh Joyce, a down-to-earth country kid whose heart was damaged by cardiomyopathy but who received a second chance at life through a heart transplant in 2001. At age 15, he became the youngest heart-transplant recipient in Western Australia.
Unlike Troy, the fictional hero, Josh didn’t let his fickle heart hold him back. His father Colin describes a kid who, despite never taking home a sporting trophy in a sports-mad rural community, won every race just by having a go.
“He was a kid, that in race he’d come last by 20 metres and I’d just bleed for him,” Colin says. “His friends were all good at sport. At the end of a race three of them would veer off to the dais and poor Josh would go back to his group. He’d never cry or get upset and he’d always participate – so he won every time, I reckon."

This Story is from Issue #96

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2014