There was a time when Eliza Henry-Jones preferred the kind of holidays that involved mild weather and lush vegetation.
So when she suggested to her husband, four years ago, that they travel to the Orkney Islands in Scotland - notably wild and windy - he was perplexed.
But before they had even set foot in the wild, Scottish landscape, Orkney had already got under Henry-Jones' skin. She had recently been given a copy of a memoir, The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot, a story that charted a woman's journey through addiction.
"It happened to be set in Orkney - that's where she returns to, that's where she grew up," she says of Liptrot's book.
"And that's the landscape that she kind of - embraces isn't really a strong enough word for it. She just throws herself into the environment as a way of reclaiming herself."
Her friend had thought of her when reading this book - Henry-Jones has a background in grief and trauma counselling - but it was the setting that captivated her.
Her subsequent trip to Orkney would set her off on her own journey, one that would lead her to a long, wild, poem, a PhD and, now, a striking new novel set in a similar place.
Salt and Skin follows an Australian photographer and her two teenaged children as they flee their rural life in country NSW, and try to make a new home for themselves on a collection of "harsh and haunted" Scottish islands.
It's inspired by the history of witch trials on the islands - stories Henry-Jones heard for the first time when she arrived there "with no preconceptions".
"What was really life-changing for me was visiting St Magnus Cathedral, which is a very old, old cathedral and it was where they kept people, the majority of them women, incarcerated during the witch trials of the 17th century," she says.
"You can actually still see the dungeon where these people were kept, you can see the hangman's ladder that they climbed and you can see the iron cuffs that they wore. And just being confronted with the physical reality of the witch trials was just such a visceral moment. I couldn't stop thinking about it."
Having already written four novels, she was used to the sensation of being consumed by a new idea for a story. But by the time she was ready to start writing, she had a newborn son, and "didn't have two hands to type".
"I've got no self-control, so as soon as there's a new sparkly idea, I just delve into it, but I couldn't with this one," she says.
"And it felt so enormous by the time I could get around to writing it a little bit, that the only way I could write it was by writing it in bursts. So it started off as 4000 words of poetry on my phone and that is how I got a leg-in to the story."
This weird, sleep-deprived piece of poetry became the novel which, in turn, is a large part of her PhD thesis that looks at trauma responses, particularly in the context of climate change.
In the novel, Luda, the photographer, is fixated by the islands, but soon finds herself shunned by locals after publishing images documenting the death of a local child. The event unfolds in the opening pages; part of a cliff collapses, engulfing the little girl as she runs along the beach with her mother.
Luda has form. Back home, she published a striking photograph of her own son Darcy lying in the bed of a dried-out dam. Not surprisingly, he is already angry with her before the move to Scotland, for more reasons than she realises.
Daughter Min, meanwhile, adapts to the landscape in a more visceral way, finding comfort and belonging in the wild, icy seas, and in the company of an elderly local "witch".
As the trio settle into their new home, they learn about island lore, involving scars and light, water and whales, witchcraft and unexplained natural phenomena that have, over centuries, burrowed into the local ethos, so that it's not clear what's myth or legend.
"A lot of the references to the trials in the book are based on real trials, the cathedral in the book is based on the real cathedral, but I've deviated wildly in places," she says.
"But I was really struck when I was writing it by this idea of women, often witches ... I think that is a bit of a misconception that the women accused of witchcraft were always marginalised or disadvantaged. There were occasionally women that were from quite high socio-economic communities, but overwhelmingly it was disenfranchised groups, and these powers were attributed to them."
These women were thought to be able to control and manipulate the environment, summon whales, lay ghosts to rest, rise them up, and "get the devil to do their bidding". And, in a modern context, these stories live side-by-side with local life, the sort that would be familiar to anyone who has watched Vera or Shetland. A warm pub, generations known to each other, some shunned, others trusted. The church and its waning power, petty schoolyard gossip, teenage angst, but also a local foundling who, the story goes, was washed up on the tide, and a certain type of person who can see another's physical scars.
In delving into the history of witchcraft, Henry-Jones achieves the rare feat of incorporating magic realism into a modern story in a way that feels natural, inevitable. There's so much about the natural environment that we don't understand, even when it's right in front of us.
The endless fascination, for example, of whales - creatures of the deep that appear, briefly on the horizon, on their way to and from places we can never see. In this, Henry-Jones was inspired by another book, Fathoms: The World in the Whale, by Rebecca Giggs.
"When I was sort of delving into a lot of oceanic material, oceanic folklore and all that sort of thing, that book absolutely knocked me flat," she says.
"But I'm also really interested in how whales almost hit this interface between the human and the non-human worlds."
In Salt and Skin, the family is already grieving, but another tragic accident lays bare a new series of ghosts - stories that have followed them from their old home in Australia, unspoken truths and traumas that may never be set free.
"I think that it's a real thing in fiction - and I think I've definitely done it in my other work - that you've got this hidden traumatic backstory hinted at, and then the character will divulge it to another character and then there's this moment of catharsis and they can start to move on or process it in a different way."
Henry-Jones says she wanted to make the point that catharsis and release is not always an option for those who've experienced trauma; a person may choose never to divulge what has happened to them, but may still be processing it in another way.
Similarly, Luda, the renegade photographer on a mission to highlight the effects of climate change, either in drought-stricken Australia or the islands where coastlines are being eroded, will not find salvation in her own actions, however well-intended.
And, woven into the human stories is the wild and visceral landscape of the islands that so closely resemble Orkney - a place where people go to recover, to lose or find themselves, or just to get inspired.
Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones. Ultimo Press. 320pp. $32.99.