Elise McCune

Elise McCune is an Australian, Melbourne-based writer.

Elise McCune (25)


Welcome to my website where you can see images of the places which inspire me and learn more about my stories.

Born in New South Wales, Australia, I moved to Perth, Western Australia where I raised my two children. I worked for ten years in the Western Australian Museum and during this time I travelled to Egypt and stayed in Cairo and Alexandria for an extended visit. I loved Egypt and its people and culture and my knowledge of these cities and the desert will inform the narrative of my work-in-progress.

I have a fascination for the beautiful landscapes of Australia  which I weave through my stories. A sense of place is important to me and I like to explore how characters are shaped by unfamiliar places.  I enjoy writing dual narrative stories set in two time periods: the past and the present and I also explore the theme of how the past impacts on the present.

Allen & Unwin Australia published my first novel Castle of Dreams in April 2016.

A poignant, luminous novel about two sisters, about a mother and daughter, a loved granddaughter, the past that separates them and the healing that comes with forgiveness.

Intricately plotted, with uncovered secrets, it is a dual narrative story set in two time periods: far north Queensland during WW2 and in contemporary times. Richly evocative with twists and turns and narrative lyricism, it is an absorbing story of love, betrayal and mystery.

At the 2016 London Bookfair Allen & Unwin sold the rights to Castle of Dreams to Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm. They will publish Castle of Dreams in translation in April 2017. And while I don’t speak or read Norwegian I am looking forward to having a Norwegian copy of Castle of Dreams on my bookshelf.

I am currently writing my second novel.

Book Club discussion questions are on this blog at the Castle of Dreams page.


You can buy a copy of Castle of Dreams here:




Contact details:





Email: elisemccune1@gmail.com


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Castle of Dreams – Goodreads Giveaway

Enter to win a copy and discover why so many readers are giving Castle of Dreams so many four and five star reviews. Ends in three days.


Click the link to win a signed copy of Castle of Dreams in a Goodreads Giveaway


Photo: Ellen Read

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Castle of Dreams-Goodreads Giveaway


Click the link to win a signed copy of Castle of Dreams in a Goodreads Giveaway


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Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic

This is one of my favourite images so far this year.


Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) used traditional Gothic motifs. Her novels are beautifully written: dark romances, a fascination with the past, the supernatural, and the magical intermingled with the realistic. And contain psychological insight through characterisation and representation of fear and the sinister and macabre .


Her short stories, such as ‘The Birds, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Apple Tree’, take Gothic themes and add new twists. ‘The Apple Tree’can be read as the story of a woman haunting her husband from beyond the grave but it can also be viewed as a chilling meditation upon mental disintegration.

Daphne du Maurier was foremost a storyteller and that’s what I love about her novels and short stories. They draw you in and you can’t let go of the characters, ever!


The unnamed narrator, the second Mrs De Winter in Rebecca and Mrs Danvers. Rebecca herself who is dead when the novel starts and is the perfect example of a character and not a ghost, who makes not a single living appearance, but haunts the imaginations of the living protagonists. Favourite characters all.

I read all Daphne du Maurier’s novels and short stories, often found preloved in second hand bookshops, before I left school and the mystery and magic of her stories and the haunting darkness and complexity of her work makes me return to them often.


Other favourite characters are Phillip and Rachel in My Cousin Rachel and Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn.


In the same way as Thomas Hardy is forever associated with Wessex, and Charles Dickens with London, so Daphne du Maurier is forever associated with Cornwall. Cornwall gave du Maurier the freedom to write free from the distractions of London life. I have books about Cornwell on my bookshelf including Vanishing Cornwell by Daphne du Maurier.

Have a wonderful week and include magic and storytelling and writing and reading.


Thanks to Greg Buzwell, Curator for Printed Literary Sources, 1801 – 1914 at the British Library. His research focuses primarily on the Gothic literature of the Victorian fin de siècle. He is also editing a collection of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ghost stories, The Face in the Glass and Other Gothic Tales, for publication. The text in Greg’s article is available under the Creative Commons License.




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Goodreads Giveaway Castle of Dreams

Goodreads Book Giveaway starts September 25, 2016

Castle of Dreams by Elise McCune

Castle of Dreams

by Elise McCune

Giveaway ends October 25, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


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Charlotte Bronte


Charlotte Bronte was born on 21st April 1816 at Thornton, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

‘Since 1857, when Elizabeth Gaskell published her famous Life of Charlotte Bronte, hardly a year has gone by without some form of biographical material on the Brontes appearing—from articles in newspapers to full-length lives, from images on tea towels to plays, films, and novelizations,’ wrote Lucasta Miller in The BronteMyth, her 2001 history of Brontemania.

I read Jane Eyre when I was eleven. I reread it constantly that year and it is still on my bookshelf and  read every year. I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte some years later having found it in a second hand book shop in Sydney. To me it was the definitive book on Charlotte Bronte’s life.

Yet now, after reading reviews of Charlotte Bronte written by Claire Harman for the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth I might have to change my views when I read it. ‘It does not have new truths to impart but instead gathers up the best of what has been written before’ says a review in the Guardian on 31 October 2015.

I enjoy Victorian literature for it’s often gothic tropes and the gothic has informed part of the narratives in my own writing.

As a child I read about Scottish heroines locked up in castles, dark and gloomy and cold. Castles are more often thought of as being in Europe or the Middle East but I discovered one in the far north Queensland rainforest of Australia. This led me to writing Castle of Dreams. I’m sure the books I read in childhood have been absorbed by osmosis for when I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park I also imagined a graveyard (perhaps similar to the graveyard at the parsonage) and a tower covered in rambling vines and I included both in my story.

The Bronte Parsonage 


Storytelling has always been part of every culture since the beginning of time and I look forward to exploring the Dreamtime stories in our Australian Aboriginal culture. What a wealth of magic and mystery waiting for me to read about.

Chapter 38 Conclusion which includes one of the most famous lines in literature.


Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the
parson and clerk, were alone present. When we got back from church,
I went into the kitchen of the manor-house, where Mary was cooking
the dinner and John cleaning the knives, and I said –

‘Mary, I have been married to Mr. Rochester this morning.’  . . .


Charlotte Bronte died 31 March 1855 (aged 38)
Haworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Notable works: Jane Eyre, Villette.
Spouse Arthur Bell Nicholls (1854–1855; her death)

Have a wonderful week of writing, reading and magic.



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Dymocks Camberwell First Tuesday Book Club

Dymocks Camberwell First Tuesday Book Club: Elise McCune

Date: Tuesday 6th September, 6.45pm
Location: Ebony Quill Cafe, The Well Shopping Centre Level 1, 793 Burke Ave, Camberwell VIC

Dymocks Camberwell celebrated 2012 The National Year of Reading with the inauguration of our very own First Tuesday Book Club, each month.

We start the evening by talking about our favourite novels, both new & older ones. We will ask participants to comment about books they have read or are reading, just like a normal book club. We won’t be setting a monthly book, as we want to hear about as many books as possible, including old favourites. You may just want to listen at times and hear about other people’s experiences with their books. It is totally up to you!

Our guest authors for Tuesday September 6th are:

– Elise McCune, author of Australian fiction title Castle Of Dreams
Elise McCune was born in Sydney. In 1973, she moved to Perth, where she raised her two children, Lisa and Brett. Elise now lives by the bay in Melbourne.

Leigh Hopkinson, author of her autobiography Two Decades Naked

Robin Bowles, author many best selling true crime books

When: Tuesday 6 September, 6.45pm
Where: Ebony Quill Cafe, The Well Shopping Centre Level 1, 793 Burke Ave, Camberwell VIC
Cost: $15 (includes finger foods and beverages/tea/coffee)

Bookings: online or call 03 9882 0032

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get ideas for novels?

This is a copy of the Poe I found in a second hand bookshop. I refer to it in my WIP. The other is a copy of a book with pressed flowers.


I typically find ideas in different ways: old books I come across, stories from family or friends, places I visit, research I do for stories that lead to other interesting facts I can use in a novel, historical events. The inspiration for my WIP came from a book my daughter found in Elizabeth’s Bookstore in Perth, WA. Someone had pressed flowers between its pages and that led me to create a botanist in my story.

Where do you write?

I write at a desk facing the window. I can happily listen to music while I am writing or have complete silence, it makes no difference to my creativity.

Where do your ideas for characters originate?


They mainly come from my own imagination. I research whatever it is that defines each character: a talent, a hobby, a job. By a character having something that defines them it makes them come to life in the story. One character in my WIP is botanist another a painter another a housekeeper who runs a tight ship. One makes cheeses, another restores antique books, even a minor character is a good seamstress.

What authors do you like to read?


My reading tastes are a broad church:

I read popular fiction: romance, historical, crime, and literary novels if they tell a good story. To me the essence of a good book is its story.  My books are character driven but I also try to write an intriguing story; one that will keep my readers turning the pages.

A few of my favourite authors.

Australian: Henry Handel Richardson, Kate Morton, Lucy Treloar, Geraldine Brooks.

British: Daphne du Maurier, A. S. Byatt, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Mary Stewart, Nancy Mitford, Sebastian Faulks, Pat Barker.

American: Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pat Conroy, Anais Ninn.

I come from a family of book lovers and have inherited the reading gene. Nothing beats opening a new book, reading the first line and knowing the book will stay on my bookshelf forever.


Have a great week, reading, writing, and dreaming.

Cheers Elise


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First Day of Spring

Today is also publication day for Castle of Dreams in the UK. September the first is the first day of spring in Australia and the first day of autumn my favourite season in the UK.

Thanks to those of you who have reviewed Castle of Dreams and have written about it on social media and have enjoyed reading it. Writers are a supportive bunch!

Photos taken by my son of the wildflowers on the acreage around our house up north in Western Australia. The house faces the Indian Ocean and the wildflowers in spring are beautiful. 

IMG_8935 IMG_8929IMG_8899IMG_8889IMG_8892IMG_8883IMG_8913

Happy First Day of Spring


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A Paris Apartment Lost in Time

When I was writing my first novel Castle of Dreams I came across an article about a Paris apartment that had been lost in time. I filed the article away knowing I would use parts of the story and some of the images in a future story.

My work-in-progress is a dual narrative story set in World War One and its aftermath and in contemporary times. The story of the Paris apartment easily transposes to early twentieth century Australia where one narrative is set.

The locked Paris apartment has all the things I love: an abandoned home, images of what was left behind, a romantic story, a mystery.


In my files I have an unpublished story I wrote some years ago in which one of the characters is an artist so it wasn’t difficult to gather the threads of that story, reread my original research, and use this in my WIP. I always give my characters a particular profession or hobby that defines them throughout a story and in the past narrative of my WIP one of my characters is an artist. So when I looked again at the photos of the Paris apartment and noticed the abandoned paintings I knew I’d have to include these in my story. Perhaps one of the found paintings will be of a young woman as beautiful as Marthe de Florian.

Marthe de Florian, the apartment owner’s grandmother who was a Belle Epoque socialite, theatre actress, and Boldini’s (the artist who painted this picture) muse.


The Paris apartment has all the elements of a fairytale including another of my favourite things: love letters from the past. They were found in the apartment, wrapped in different colored ribbons and scrawled in the hand of, among others, Boldini and 72nd Prime Minister George Clemenceau.

In the present day narrative my protagonist is a botanist who seeks the secrets of her family’s past. My mother was a keen gardener and loved to be outdoors and my daughter inherited her grandmother’s love of nature and gardens.  I didn’t.  Yet now I have started to research this subject I’m fascinated. Biblical references to plants and flowers is something I will use in my story: the healing properties of herbs, perfume, and more.  Botany is a wide church.

Jasmine Flowers


Have a wonderful week, dreaming, writing and reading.

Elise x




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Dual Narrative Stories

My first novel Castle of Dreams is  a dual narrative story set in two time periods. It has  family secrets, love, and betrayal and I explore how the past impacts on the present.  I love to read stories written in two time periods and I like writing them. Castle of Dreams has a present day story set in 2008 and an historical thread set against a backdrop of WW2. It has secrets that unfold throughout the novel like a nest of Russian dolls.

My work-in-progress is a dual narrative story of loss and remembrance set against a backdrop of WW1 and its aftermath and the present. I am interested in how war impacts the people on the homefront as well as those who left their homeland to fight in distant lands. A generation was robbed of family members, lovers and in the case of many women the loss of their own future as wives and mothers. I have often wondered how these men and women ever found peace of mind after the war ended. Did they disappear from the fabric of a society which could never be the same again? Did they seek resolution? Did they mourn a lost generation for the rest of their lives? Or did they come to terms with their destiny?

These are the things I will be writing about in my new story. I am progressing slowly: I wrote an outline on three large sheets of butcher paper (it has changed along the way as I write) and I have a timeline for important happenings in my characters lives and also historical events. I am getting to know my characters and the secrets they keep.

I have always loved closed doors and shut gates as I wonder where they will lead to. Yesterday one of my characters from the present opened a gate that will lead her to many secrets from the past. Of course this will impact on her life and change it forever.

It was the sort of day she loved. The sky was blue and the air was drenched with the familiar scent of eucalypt. She had parked her rental car on the public road close to the iron gate that swung open at her touch.

I found the perfect gate in the image below and used it as the inspiration for the gate in my story. This scene is set in Australia while the gate below is in another country so I had to change what my character sees as she walks along the driveway to reflect the Australian countryside: birds, plants, trees, geography.

Image for the gate I used as inspiration for a scene in my story. 


Last night I went to a friend’s birthday party in a city hotel. I knew most of the other party goers and they moved me as always with their sense of comaraderie and interest and support in each other’s work.

I fell in love with Steampunk which was the theme for the party. Like Alice in Wonderland I ended up in another place. Alice fell down the rabbit hole and I fell into the 19th century!

I had a spider tattooed on my arm (temporary) at the party.



Have a wonderful week, dreaming, reading and writing.

Cheers Elise


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