Elise McCune

Elise McCune is an Australian, Melbourne-based writer.

Elise McCune (25)

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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.

The rights for Castle of Dreams have been sold to Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm who will publish it in April 2017. I am looking forward to having a copy of Castle of Dreams in translation on my bookshelf.

I am currently writing my second novel.

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

Elise 

You can buy a copy of Castle of Dreams here:

https://www.amazon.com.au/Castle-Dreams-Elise-McCune-ebook/dp/B01ASQ8X22

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/castle-of-dreams-2

http://www.booktopia.com.au

Contact details:

https://www.goodreads.com/EliseMcCune

https://www.facebook.com/public/Elise-McCune‎

https://twitter.com/EliseMcCune

http://www.elisemccune.com

Email: elisemccune1@gmail.com

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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. 

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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.

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Have a wonderful week, dreaming, reading and writing.

Cheers Elise

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Telling the Bees-Mythology & Folklore

In my book Castle of Dreams I have a short scene where Vivien and Robert discuss bee folklore. Bees are prelevant in mythology and folklore and in my WIP I have created an eight acre orchard and my working farm has beehives. While researching bees I have become fascinated with these mythical insect that are  often thought of as having a direct route to heaven.

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St. Gobnait

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The Irish saint is known for her care of the sick.Her name is the Irish equivalent of the Hebrew name Deborah, which means ‘Honey Bee.’ She used the properties of honey in the treatment of illness and healing of wounds.

These piece of information has led me to create a character called Deborah,which is a truly beautiful name, in my WIP.  I am sure she will wear a honey bee brooch!

Winter Bees

 

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Bees prepare for winter by gathering a winter reserve of honey.

Honeybees head to the hive when temperatures drop. They have one main job in the winter — to take care of the queen bee. This means they must keep her safe and warm. As the weather becomes cool, the honeybees gather in a central area of the hive and form a ‘winter cluster’. The worker bees then flutter their wings and shiver. This constant motion and continuous use of energy is how the bees keep the inside temperature of the hive warm.

Bee lore, grounded equally in modern science and ancient tradition, is a fascinating study.

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The telling of the bees is a traditional European custom, in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper’s lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household. If the custom was omitted or forgotten and the bees were not “put into mourning” then it was believed a penalty would be paid, such as the bees might leave their hive, stop producing honey, or die.The custom has been most widely noted in England but also recorded in Ireland, Wales, Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, and the United States. (Ref. Wikipedia)

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I admire beautiful book covers and I have sometimes bought a book just for its cover. I recently started a Pinterest board for special covers. Here are a few book covers with images of bees.

Bee Book Covers.

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Have a wonderful week, writing, reading and dreaming.

Cheers Elise

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Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

Salt Creek, 1855, is situated at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. Stanton Finch has moved his large family there after his business failed in Adelaide. Fifteen-year-old Hester and her siblings enjoy the company of the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock-route. There is young artist, Charles and the Ngarrindjeri people who they have dispossessed. An Aboriginal boy, Tully, is their friend and over the passing years becomes part of the family.Stanton Finch hopes to restore the family fortunes and the family’s good name. But his ideas fail, leaving him deeper in debt.
Caring for the family falls to young Hester Finch when her mother descends into melancholia and spends time in her bedroom staring into space.
Stanton Finch attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people’s homes and livelihoods and when tragedy befalls the family it begins a chain of events that tear the family apart. I notice authors sometimes neglect to mention Aboriginal people in historical novels. It is as if they are ghost people which is not the case in this story. It is wonderful to read about the Ngarrindjeri people and understand more about their lives in the nineteenth century and the history of their culture.

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Salt Creek, with its beautiful cover, by Australian author Lucy Treloar is narrated by Hester Finch throughout as she looks back and tells the story of her life and her family. The sense of place in the novel comes alive with the narrative intersperesed with descriptions of the stark and beautiful region of the Coorong.

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“Some things collapse slow, and cannot always be rebuilt, and even if a thing can be remade it will never be as it was.” (From the back cover).
This is a novel that will stay with me for a long time, one to be reread and savoured over the passing years. It is the best new novel I have read in a long time.

Cheers Elise

 

 

 

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Autumn Leaves

 

Tourist asks street band if he could join. Seconds later, it’s simply DIVINE

Music is truly the international language: When musicians who otherwise wouldn’t be able to communicate get together, they find common ground and create art. That’s what happened on the streets of Florence, Italy, in this video posted by DaJeong Kim in October 2015. Korean tourist Jun-Hyuk Choi, a contrabass player at Chungye University for the Arts in Seoul, asks if he could join Romdraculas for a few moments of jamming. When they agree and decide to play the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves,” it’s aural magic.
Choi may not have known it at the time, but Romdraculas is a very popular “gypsy” street band in Florence. Googling their name brings up countless blogs, dating back to at least 2009, written by tourists who have enjoyed their music and purchased their CDs, including the popular “Firenze” (the Italian name for Florence).

If you look closely, you can see that the upright bass Choi borrows has only three strings, one fewer than is usually there. Nevertheless, the musician plays on, simply making the conversions needed to hit the notes despite the missing string — even through two amazing cadenzas, solo sections for the musician to exhibit good technique.

It’s hard to imagine the world has problems when witnessing strangers connect like this; expressing mutual admiration and respect while sharing a passion and creating art, inspiring smiles from everyone around them … and, through video, around the world.

Enjoy!

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Letters from the Past

The past impacts on the present in many ways. In my WIP I write about letters from the past before the time of emails. I sometimes write a letter to my daughter and she loves receiving a message that is written on lovely paper, and I use my best pen and stamp the envelope with the prettiest stamp I can find at the time.

When I read about these undelivered letters I had already decided to write about letters from the past. Another serendipitous happening!

Undelivered letters discovered in a 17th century trunk paint a vivid life of early modern Europe and the culture of the time.

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© Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

In 2012, Rebekah Ahrendt, assistant professor of music at Yale was tracking a theatre troupe that worked in The Hague at the turn of the 18th century and came across a short notice in a 1938 French journal that described a collection of undelivered letters at the postal museum and included transcriptions of seven of them.

The archive was established by the postmasters in an attempt to profit from their business. At that time, recipients were responsible for paying for any letters they received, and if the letters were undelivered, the postmasters would keep them in the hope that someday the recipient would search for the letter and pay them what was owed. The letters were stored in a trunk that had been waterproofed with sealskin.

The back of this letter — which is still locked — has been used as a notepad for accounting, probably by someone in the postmaster’s office.

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 © Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague. 

An example of a refused love letter.

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© Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

Some letter‐writers added enclosures, such as this colored paper dove, which bears the French inscription don de piété (‘gift of piety’), symbolizing the Holy Spirit.

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© Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

These letters are inspirational and I’m sure one or more will be included in my story.

Have a wonderful week, whether you write, read or dream (or do all three).

Cheers Elise

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Inspiration for a Novel

In my novel Castle of Dreams published by Allen & Unwin in April of this year I write about the beauty of the far north Queensland rainforest. Castle of Dreams was a joy to write (with some angst along the way). I am finding the same joy in writing about a sense of place in my WIP which is a dual narrative story (the kind of story I like to read and write) set in two time periods. The first narrative is set in Margaret River an area I know well having lived for several years on a vineyard in Yallingup and the second narrative is set in the Snowy Mountains where I have holidayed and went skiing (badly).

World War I is the backdrop for the earlier narrative. Two of my characters grew up on a farm in Margaret River and one joined the Australian Light Horse, mounted troops with characteristics of both cavalry and mounted infantry.

Dreaming of the Light Horse

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A military friend suggested the light horse link when I mentioned to  him that I planned to write about Australia’s Palestine campaign. I chose the Palestine campaign because Australia’s memories of military involvement in WWI are dominated by Gallipoli and the Western Front. My friend is an author himself and has led battlefield tours to the Western Front and when I thought it over I agreed with him. I also write about Gallipoli but it is filtered through letters from a soldier who is fighting there to his wife back home. I hope to convey a sense of place when I write about the desert and the beauty that can be found there.

The light horse combined the mobility of cavalry with the fighting skills of infantry. They fought dismounted, with rifles and bayonets. However, sometimes they charged on horseback, notably at Magdhaba and Beersheba. The smallest unit of a light horse regiment was the four-man section: one holding the horses while the other three fought. Walers were the type of horse used by light horsemen in the campaign in the Middle East during WWI.

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The horses were called Walers because, although they came from all parts of Australia, they were originally sold through New South Wales. They were sturdy, hardy horses, able to travel long distances in hot weather with little water.

When fully loaded, walers often carried between 130 and 150 kilos. And, in the years of war to come, they would have to carry these huge loads for long distances, in searing heat, sometimes at the gallop, sometimes without water for 60 and even 70 hours at a stretch.
In the first days of the war, even men who had owned horses since early childhood could hardly imagine the bond that would grow between man and horse as each came to depend on the other for their very lives.

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Australian quarantine regulations prevented the return of any horse that had survived the battles.

Beauty in the Desert

 

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Inspiration can come from anywhere when you are planning a novel. The kernal of the idea for Castle of Dreams came from a visit with my daughter and the little ones in our family to castle ruins in the rainforest at Paronella Park in far north Queensland. Inspiration for my WIP in progress has been a more organic process with serendipitious happenings along the way like my converstation with my military friend that led me to research the light horse.   I hope I can convey to my readers the sense of place where these brave young men fought for the values we hold close to our hearts.

Good writing and reading,

Cheers Elise

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Thoughts on Writing-Elise McCune

I have been asked to speak to a group of writing students in October and while they will be asking me questions about my writing journey I also want to put together some points for them to consider. This is what I have come up with so far.

1. Read

To be a good writer you must read. Read what you love but also read widely in other genres and other types of writing to find out what you consider good and not so good writing. Read the much maligned historical novel which is linked to the romance novel and then read them too. A friend commented that my own novel Castle of Dreams was not a romance novel but a novel about love. Her comment resonated with me. Some years ago I wrote an outline for a tv series with a friend which was both historical and contemporary. I read other scripts and paid attention to the narrative voice.  People from the past read longer more descriptive novels read these too. Read memoirs, debut novels, and online diaries. You will have moments of self-doubt when you reread what you have written (lots of doubts and often). It’s normal for a writer to feel this way. If you wait for the perfect time to write you won’t start.

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2. Research

For my research I read primary sources like diaries, letters and newspaper reports. I read books written about and of the period I am researching. Trove and Ask a Librarian at the National Library of Australia’s online resources are a valuable source of information. I use Google but online information can be inaccurate so be careful and check more than one source. I use my wonderful local library and inter-library loans for books I don’t necessarily want to keep on my bookshelf or cannot find, and also, I always read bibliographies carefully in each book as they are a source of more information on the subject you are researching and this is something I’m sure most writers would do.

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3. Discipline

An important piece of advice I received early in my writing career was to be disciplined. If you want to finish a novel or any other piece of writing it has to be a priority. Put aside time each day to write. If you watch television use the time to write. Limit the time you spend on social media. A page a day is a novel in a year. Have a professional attitude to writing. Set yourself deadlines.

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4. Inspiration

‘There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it,’ says Gustave Flaubert.

‘Wonder is the heaviest element on the periodic table,’ says Diane Ackerman. ‘Even a tiny fleck of it stops time.’

Writing is not easy so take the time to find inspiration in the common place and in everyday life. There is a poetic layer of life: look at things with a painters eye. Notice the variation of colour on a single tree leaf, the rainbow in a drop of rain when the sun comes out on a cloudy day, jeweled raindrops on spiders webs and the expression on peoples faces.

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5. Notebooks

I always have a notebook with me. My notebooks are many: some tattered with age, some with exquisite covers, some the red and black chinese notebooks from the newsagent. They are different in size and appearance but they all serve the same purpose: to capture an exquiste moment in time. I also have notebooks to write my research notes in. By the time I finished writing Castle of Dreams I  had ten notebooks of scribbled information that I had used in my story. For my WIP I have read a few books on WW1 and its aftermath.  On  three large sheets of butchers paper I wrote a timeline and described and named characters and wrote background information. I found the outline a little restricting so I’ve  made detours but I go back to it for inspiration. And of course I have a new notebook!

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I read somewhere the most important thing about writing is to write from the soul. I couldn’t have said it better.

Have a great week: writing, reading and finding inspiration in the everyday,

Cheers Elise

 

 

 

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Land Beneath the Wind by Agnes Newton Keith

I am reading  Land Beneath the Wind.  It was given to me as a gift by an intrepid traveller who recently returned from Sabah, Borneo and visited Agnes Keith House.

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What I like about the story of Agnes Keith is the mystery that involves her daughter, Jean. It seems that Jean may have been the daughter of her husband by a previous marriage or by a liaison.

In a recent study of Sabah society in colonial days we find this gloss on “liaisons with local women:”

During the period of Chartered Company rule in Sabah it was not uncommon for European administrators to form liaisons with local women. Such a practice occurred throughout the British Empire, though with local variants. Need of companionship saw this practice being condoned by most colonial administrations including the Chartered Company, albeit unofficially. Strictly speaking, it was considered improper, thus little written information is available for a proper treatment of the subject. The Chartered Company’s fortnightly newspaper, the British North Borneo Herald, for instance, is almost silent on this matter. …

Even the husband of the celebrated author Agnes Keith is known to have had a local girl before he married Agnes. …

Agnes Newton Keith (July 4, 1901 – March 30, 1982) was an American author best known for her three autobiographical accounts of life in North Borneo (now Sabah) before, during, and after the Second World War. The second of these, Three Came Home, tells of her time in Japanese POW and civilian internee camps in North Borneo and Sarawak, and was made into a film of the same name in 1950. She published seven books in all.

Agnes Keith

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She was born in Oak Park, Illinois. Her family moved to Hollywood, California when she was very young. The family moved again when Agnes was ten, this time to the nearby beach community of Venice, California.

She attended the University of California, Berkeley. Upon graduation, she worked with the San Francisco Examiner.Eight months after starting her journalism career, she was attacked by an assailant who was convinced that the newspaper was persecuting him by printing Krazy Kat cartoons. She received serious head injuries which affected her memory. She also became seriously depressed, and after two years of illness her father sent her and her brother Al to Europe to recuperate.

Harry Keith

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In 1934, she married Henry G Keith, known as “Harry Keith”, an Englishman. He had been a friend of her brother Al when both boys had been at the same school in San Diego, and Agnes had first met him when she was eight years old. He had gone on to work for the government of North Borneo, and she had not seen him in a decade when he visited California while on leave in 1934. However, as soon as they re-met they decided to get married, and were wed three days later. Three months after their marriage they sailed for Borneo.

Harry persuaded Agnes to write about her experiences and enter it in the 1939 Atlantic Monthly Non-Fiction Prize contest. The judges voted unanimously for her entry to win, and it was partly serialized in the magazine before being published in November of that year as Land Below the Wind. The book received favorable reviews: The Scotsman described it as ‘A delightful book … It has abundant humour and a pervading charm … An original and engaging description of a country and people of extraordinary interest.’

On arriving in Sandakan in 1934, they moved into Harry’s bachelor bungalow, but the couple soon relocated to a government building on a hilltop, where they lived until internment in 1942. After the war they returned to Sandakan to find the house destroyed. They built a new house in 1946–47 on the original footprint and in a similar style to the original. They named this house Newlands and lived there until they left Sabah in 1952. After nearly 50 years of gradual deterioration, first under tenants and then as an empty shell, the house was restored by Sabah Museum in collaboration with the Federal Department of Museums and Antiquities in 2001. The house is a rare survival of post-war colonial wooden architecture.

Agnes Keith House

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It was opened to the public in 2004 and is a popular tourist attraction. It contains displays on Agnes and Harry Keith as well as information about colonial life in Sandakan in the first half of the twentieth century, and is commonly referred to as the Agnes Keith House.

Agnes and Harry 

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Agnes Newton Keith died at age 80 in Oak Bay, British Columbia in 1982; her husband died the same year.

It’s a book that I’ll keep on my bookshelf to reread.

Have a good writing and reading week.

Keep warm and drink hot chocolate!

Elise 

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Big Country Book Club-Q & A Elise McCune

‘Smart publishing guru, Bernadette Foley, has come up with a great idea – Big Country Book Club. This is an online book club which you join and buy books from a selected choice of titles made by a publisher and editor who understands books and writing. Plus, it’s like being part of a book club even if you never leave home.’

Di Morrissey, The Manning Community News

Q&A with Elise McCune, author of ‘Castle of Dreams’

June 6, 2016
Castle of Dreams was a May Book of the Month at BCBC. Now its author, Elise McCune, tells us about her writing process, her inspiration and the importance of light as a theme in her novel.

Elise is fascinated by photography, as visitors to her Facebook page will see, and she has illustrated this Q&A with some great images that inspired the characters and places in Castle of Dreams.

1. Before talking about words I would like to ask you about images. Photos seem to be important to you as you create your stories. Is that right?

Yes, I search the Internet for photos of people and places that will be the inspiration for my characters and settings in the novel. I post some of these photos on my Castle of Dreams boards on Pinterest. I also put any relevant photographs at the beginning of the chapter I am working on. Sometimes it might be an historical photograph of some unknown person in a magazine ad or a movie star. I use these photos to bring my characters to life in my mind.

This photo inspired me when I was writing the character of Vivien

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This shot inspired me when I was creating Rose.

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2. Following this idea, what inspired you to make Vivien, one of your leading characters, a photographer? How unusual was that profession for women in her time, just after World War Two?

It was not that unusual. Women have had an active role in photography since its inception. While researching I found that in 1900 British and American censuses women made up almost 20 percent of the profession at a time when it was unusual for women to have a profession.

Many Australian women photographers worked before the Great War and more did hand colouring and darkroom work. At that time it was thought that ‘lady operators’ should only photograph women and families. By WW2 women photographers were working in advertising and portraiture and the worlds of fashion and theatre.

I made Vivien a photographer because I wanted to have a motif of light through the story. The American soldier is named Robert Shine and the rainforest is lit with filtered light and the sparkling glitter ball that hangs from the ceiling in the castle’s ballroom showers the dancers with light. There are many references to light in the story.

3. Where did you begin with this novel? With the characters? An idea about secrets, or a sense of place and Castillo de Sueños in particular?

The seed of the idea for Castle of Dreams came to me when I visited the ruins of a castle in the rainforest at Paronella Park with my daughter and the little ones in our family. It’s a beautiful place and while it didn’t come to me straightaway as these things sometimes don’t, I started to imagine what secrets those old ruins might hold and wonder about the people who had once lived there. So it was a sense of place and the ruins at Paronella Park that were the inspiration for my story.

4. How important was it for you to visit the castle in North Queensland to help the writing?

It was very important to have visited the castle ruins and when I discovered that the American servicemen who were stationed in the area during the Pacific War came out to the castle for Saturday night dances and for recreation I had another link to my story.

The falls and pool at Paronella Park. PHOTO: Luke Griffin, Deisel Photography.

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5. The historical accuracy in Castle of Dreams is so important and you have achieved it beautifully. Can you tell us about your approach to research?

Firstly, I had a wonderful friend in Luke Evans. Luke’s parents own Paronella Park and he happily answered my many questions about the history of the castle.

I also read primary sources: diaries, letters and newspaper reports. I read fiction and non-fiction books written about and of the period. I love Trove and Ask a Librarian, an online resource at the National Library of Australia. I use Google but online information can be inaccurate so I always check it carefully from more than one source. I use my wonderful local library and inter-library loans for books I don’t necessarily want to keep on my bookshelf or cannot find, and I always read bibliographies carefully in each book as they are a source of more information. I also talk to experts in any particular area I am researching.

The ruins of Paronella Park, North Queensland. PHOTO used with the permission of Luke Evans.

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6. Your dedication to your writing is inspiring. What was your writing process for Castle of Dreams?

I woke early and checked emails and then tried to be at my desk and writing by 9.00am. I usually wrote for three hours and this produced a thousand words or so. I could then get on with the rest of my day. In the evening I’d do some research or answer emails. This was the first draft; I had to spend more time on future drafts and I checked all my research again. I found that when I was editing Castle of Dreams I had to make it a priority and spent many more hours at the computer. For months I didn’t watch television or socialise often, although I did make time to exercise. I found this routine worked well for me.

7. How has this process evolved for you?

I have three books in the bottom drawer and with each finished manuscript I discovered ways to make the writing process easier. For me the perfect day is one where I write in the morning and later do some form of exercise: walking, swimming or yoga. This leaves me time to live my life by going to the movies or out to dinner with friends. But, of course, life gets in the way and when it does I just throw my routine out the window.

8. Your novel is set in two periods – during and immediately after WW2 and in the present. What are the difficulties and delights of writing a novel structured in this way?

I love to read books that are structured this way so I guess that’s why I enjoy writing them. With Castle of Dreams I should have had a timeline printed out and a floor plan of any dwellings that both my WW2 characters and my present day characters use. I got it right in the end but would have saved time in the writing of the novel to have these to check back on during the writing process and also in the editing stage.

9. This is your first published book; did anything about the publishing process surprise you?

It is such a learning process and so interesting. If I had known about the publishing world as a young woman I would have wanted to be a publisher. Because I didn’t know what to expect nothing surprised me. I consider my publishers are the experts and hopefully I can learn from them and I have asked lots of questions.

10. What advice would you give emerging writers?

Never ever give up. I have three books in the bottom drawer, my apprentice books I call them, and every one of them taught me something. If you don’t have time to write a novel then write short stories, or a blog, or write reviews about other books. Writing should not be at the bottom of a long list of ‘to do’ things, it should be near the top. Treat it like a job, even a part-time job, and not a hobby. Set goals. Those first words are the hardest part. Then rewrite.

Thanks, Bernadette, for having me speak about my writing process on Big Country Book Club.

Thank you for the Q&A and your fabulous novel, Elise

Castle of Dreams by Elise McCune is published by Allen & Unwin

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What Elise Wrote-World War One

My new novel is partly set against a backdrop of WW1 and its aftermath when the war had a major impact on society in Australia, and most especially women on the homefront. I love reading dual narrative stories where the present day impacts on the past and I love writing them.

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Before I start a new novel I research widely about the period I will be writing about: I read novels written about the time and of the time, I read contemporary diaries and I watch movies which are set in the period. During research for my WIP I have reread the War Poets and also as one of the threads of my story will be set in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, Australia I have studied A B Paterson’s poem (which was made into a fabulous movie) The Man from Snowy River.

In my research I found that working-class women were impacted more than their upper and middle-class counterparts when their husband went to war and was killed or wounded. Without the support of the breadwinner they had to work harder to keep their family together.

Education became more important for women although it was still assumed women would be nurses or teachers and only a small number went to university. Most women  employed in roles traditionally held by men, were employed on the understanding they would leave their employment when they married and some employers carried this through to the 1960’s.

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Group portrait of the matron and nursing staff of the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital. Suez Canal. February 1916

Unbelievably, if a woman worked the same hours in the same position as a man, the salary she received could be up to 50 percent lower than her male colleague. And women were not supported by trade unions in case an employer replaced a man in the workplace with a woman so as to pay the lower wage.

Post-war women who were unmarried found it difficult to find a husband with so many young men killed or wounded on distant battlefields. This was a time when young women were expected to marry young (or become that dreadful thing a spinster!) and have children. Many unattached women therefore found positions in jobs previously held by men and at the end of the war with the male workforce depleted they continued working.

The 1920s are renowned for the freedom extended to women and it was seen in the new style of dress. They threw away their corsets, and after the austerity of war when it was considered unpatriotic to spend money on extravagant clothes, women dressed in clothes more suitable to the Australian climate.

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I set most of my novels in Australia with a few detours overseas if it is appropriate to the story and I love writing about my homeland. I also believe that overseas readers must find something exotic about Australia as Allen & Unwin recently sold the rights to my latest novel Castle of Dreams to Norwegian publishing company Cappelen Damm.

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On a Sydney Beach 1920s

Enjoy your day,

Cheers Elise

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Filed under Allen & Unwin, Cappelen Damm, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote