Elise McCune

Elise McCune is an Australian, Melbourne-based international author.

 

Contact details:

Please contact Sally Bird from Calidris Literary Agency.

PO Box 99, Castlemaine, VIC 3450, Australia.

https://calidrislitagency.com/

Phone: +61 3 5472 2772.

http://www.elisemccune.com

https://www.goodreads.com/EliseMcCune

Email: elisemccune1@gmail.com

https:///www.facebook.com/elisemccuneauthorpage

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, its people and culture, and its history.

In 2016 I graduated from the  University of Iowa’s International Writing Program on fiction writing, centered on female authorial voices and female literary characters.

A sense of place is important to me and I like to explore how characters are shaped by unfamiliar places. I enjoy reading dual narrative stories set in two time periods and I delight in writing them. I also explore the theme of how the past impacts on the present. Love, regret, yearning, and nostalgia for the past are things that most people can relate to.  I am grateful that through my stories I have, in some small way, given people something special.

Castle of Dreams is 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.

Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm published  Castle of Dreams in translation in April 2017 and released the paperback edition with its beautiful wraparound cover in September 2018 in time for Christmas.

With the castle setting and family secrets the novel fits into the gothic genre, but ironically sans the cold and dark of the customary gothic, swapping it instead for tropical rain forest setting. Elise has given us a novel of rare beauty that matches that of the exquisite forest setting.  Paula Xiberras, Tasmanian Times 

My recently completed second novel is with my agent. One narrative thread is set in southwestern Australia and the other in the lovely Tumut Valley in New South Wales, Australia with several chapters set in 1920’s London.

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

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/castle…/prod9781760291846.html

https://www.bookdepository.com/Castle-Dreams-Elise-McCune/9781760291846

While I love bookclubs and tea and cake unfortunately at this time I can’t attend as I am busy writing my next book.

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Elise McCune

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Travel for Researching a Novel

When I travel for research I absorb the life around me. It’s rather like osmosis and I become a part of the place I am staying. I find it’s the little things that make for authenticity in a novel: the way fruit and vegetables are presented in markets in baskets without a plastic covering in sight, the signs in a different language that I slowly translate in my mind, the way fashions in a dress shop window are displayed, or the culture of bike riding in big cities. In walking the streets of Paris one thing I did learn was that as well as the streets themselves the cobbles also reflect the history of the city. It’s no use writing that someone walked down a cobbled street if the cobbles have been removed.

And, I love talking to the locals in any country I visit. Often, of course, I can’t speak the native language but I seem to manage, and I’m rather pleased I made myself understood by the older non-English speakers of an Egyptian family while living in their home in Cairo. It’s about smiles and laughter after all.

When you travel for research it’s also about the air you breathe, the dazzle of light or the lack of it. In Australia where I live people wear sunglasses on overcast days because of the glare but in England even on a sunny day there is often no need for them.  It’s the scent of spring in the air or the cold winds of winter. It’s the forms of transport, the trees, the flowers, the ambience of the place.

However, sometimes it’s impossible to travel far from home: family commitments, finances or a day job that limits time. Laura Hillenbrand, the author of two best-selling non-fiction books, fell ill and wrote while mainly confined to her home. Her story, is in itself, the subject of a book I’d love to read. Due to her illness, she couldn’t travel for research, she stayed home. If you are unable to travel you can nonetheless, with the many resources available: online, books about your subject and travel books, documentaries, movies, perhaps speaking to an expert on your subject via Skype or mobile, write your novel.

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While I don’t know exactly what geographical places my characters will  inhabit,this lovely part of France is a possibility.  And while I don’t know all that happens along the way I do have the ending firmly fixed in my mind.
Remember though, that it is very possible to write a novel without travelling to research. It’s a bonus if you can visit the places you plan to set your story or the places you have once visited or lived in, but not necessary.
Elise x

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Emily Bronte~Wuthering Heights

I was recently at the Bronte Parsonage and the lingering sense of the past was everywhere: in the parsonage, the graveyard, the village. I absorbed the atmosphere that was around every corner and it was certainly not all bleak and forbidding.

what elise wrote

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte wrote about the wild moors in the north of England. It is place that is grey and dark in winter and even in warmer seasons is a sombre place where  tough bracken and heather cover the hills and fragments of the past linger.

Emily Bronte

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The isolation of Haworth Parsonage on the wild and bleak local moors separated the Bronte children from other families and they relied on each other for companionship. This lead them to create fantasy worlds: Gondal, shared by Emily and Anne, is an island in the North Pacific; Angria, shared by Charlotte and her brother Bramwell, is nominally in Africa.

Bronte Parsonage in Haworth

depositphotos_21032619-stock-photo-bronte-parsonage-museum-in-haworthWuthering Heights was written by Emily Bronte and is her only novel. It was published in 1847 under the pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’.  Emily Bronte died the following year, aged 30.

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I lingered round them, under that benign  sky…

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Mystery and Magic of Plants

I’m going to London this week and I’ll be visiting the Chelsea Physic Garden that was established as the Apothecaries’ Garden in London, England, in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to grow plants to be used as medicines. Most often, an herb is medicinal, culinary, or has some magic connected to it. Botanists differentiate herbs from other plants by the stem. A woody stem above the ground, is not an herb but a tree or a shrub so it follows that parsely is an herb but rosemary is not. I wrote about the Chelsea Physic Garden in my new novel. The garden didn’t play a leading role (it might in my new novel) but I weave all things botanical through my stories: gardens, plants, flowers, botanical art. There is nothing like a garden to grab hold of your heart and not let go.
So while I am visiting a famous garden I also like to walk through the imaginary gardens of my mind. Now can you imagine being in England in January or February; snow on the garden of a mysterious house and heavy on the roof of a Camellia House? A stone house perhaps, or one made of splendid mellowed brickwork, with large casement windows that could be opened to let in the sunshine and fresh air of the warmer months. Magnificent red, white or pink blooms with luminous dark green leaves. I have started writing my next novel, as yet unnamed, but one of my characters will visit a house with a Camellia House when she should be somewhere else.
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Culzean Castle, Camellia House 
So, you can see my mind is full of all sorts of possibilities: a physic garden, a Camellia House, winter snow and summer days. I can see I’ll never run out of gardens to write about, medieval gardens, (there is one in my second novel) flower gardens, knot gardens even the urban garden, or plants with beautiful or unusual names: blue lacecap hydrangeas, a rose called, Peace, acanthus, and bachelors buttons.
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An abandoned Camellia House
The mystery and magic of plants never fade.
Enjoy this Sunday, reading perhaps, dreaming, hopefully,
and walking in a garden.
Elise 

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Dual Timeline Novels

I write dual timeline novels and the benefits are manifold for the reader. A book that I still read at least once a year is Possession by A S Byatt the novel that inspired my own love of the genre. The first book I wrote was a romance novel, the second a historical novel based on a convict ancestor who had a colourful past, and the third  was a dual timeline novel set during the goldrush days in Australia and a contemporary story. Castle of Dreams was a dual timeline novel that became a bestseller in Australia and was published in translation in Norway. Each time I start a novel I consider writing a chronological storyline but the benefits are many in writing a dual narrative story, a more layered plot, a linking theme and two casts of characters.

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My new novel One Bright Day is finished and with my agent. It’s a dual narrative story and by way of serendipity I found a single playing card in the Acorn Patch and while I wrote I kept the card on my desk. The book is one that found me: What better companion than Ronald Blythe? On the coastal paths of North Norfolk, meeting crab fishermen of Cromer or speculation on the lost city of Dunwhich . . . along the footpaths of Northamptonshire in the steps of John Clare . . . climbing Snowdonia after Gerard Manley Hopkins . . . tracking down a mystery in Raleigh, North Carolina . . . following the rounds of a Suffolk doctor in the 1920’s  and a Victorian Breckland shepherd . . . through the seasons in the John Nash’s Essex garden, which he himself now tends . . . and of course, Going to Meet George Mackay Brown, in Orkney. Ronald Blythe walks, remembers, evokes, describes, speculates in these wonderfully written pieces and outings, on which he invites us to accompany him. ~ From the folder flap

The butterfly dish was a gift from a friend and what more beautiful thing than a gift of new beginnings?

When I am writing I sometimes feel like one of my favourite childhood characters from a story book, Alice. One never knows what one will discover down the rabbit hole: dreams, magical happenings, a roadsign that leads you to the land of imaginings, and hopefully, at the end of all this day dreaming and imagining, a new story will be brought to life.

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Photo credit: Lucuna Magazine

Have a wonderful week, writing, reading and most importantly dreaming.

Elise

 

 

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Doors to other Worlds

27797789_2061081123909504_9191363407359349454_oThe Literary Institute of Batlow is proud to announce “Doors to Other Worlds” which will be opened at the Tumut River Brewery on the 20th of July and held in Batlow on the 21st and 22nd of July. Seven wonderful authors have been confirmed as well as Ali Green (CEO of Pantera Press) who will be “opening the door” to what publishers are looking for in new manuscripts. A detailed program will be announced and published in the coming weeks but please circle that weekend and save date. What better way to spend a winter’s day than in the warmth of the Literary Institute stepping through doors to other worlds created by some of Australia’s best writers. The Literary Institute of Batlow is delighted to welcome: Ali Green, Angela Savage, Dan O’Malley, Andrew Nette, Elise McCune, Robert Gott, John M. Green and Sulari Gentill.

I visited Tumut and Batlow last year to research my new book One Bright Day and most importantly to speak at an International Women’s Day event. When we left I took with me the warmness and heartfelt welcome of the wonderful community. I am looking forward to my next visit and meeting up with people I now consider old friends. And of course stepping through the doors to other worlds.

Have a magical week,

Elise x

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The Lace Weaver – Lauren Chater

The Lace Weaver by Lauren Chater.

They say Estonia has five seasons. This is the first line in a story that enthralled me.

From the front cover: A haunting tale of love and war . . . and saving a precious legacy.

Each lace shawl begins and ends the same way – with a circle. Everything is connected with a thread as fine as gossamer, each life affected by what has come before it and what will come after. 

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The Lace Weaver, with its lovely and unusual cover, by debut novelist, Lauren Chater is a beautifully written story set in Estonia in 1941 about two women: Katarina, an Estonian and Lydia, a Russian.

Katarina and her family are under the ruthless occupation of the Russians and only  survive because the produce from their farm is needed to feed occupying forces. And honouring a promise to her grandmother  Katarina makes traditional Estonian shawls.

From the back cover: Fiercly partisan, Katarina battles to protect her grandmother’s precious legacy – the weaving of gossamer lace shawls stitched with intricate patterns that tell the stories passed down through generations. 

Lydia is the  daughter of a wealthy  family and is living in world of suffocating privilege. She travels to Estonia to find her father who is stationed there in the hope of finding understanding of what is an increasingly brutal world. She also wants to discover her beloved mother’s Baltic heritage. Lydia has a shawl of Estonian lace that is a cherished possession and a mystery she hopes to solve.

The two women’s stories are woven together, and with two idealistic young soldiers, they find themselves fighting for all that is good in the world: life, liberty and love.

Lauren Chater has written an historical novel that will take you on a compelling journey. I now find myself wanting to read more about the history of the shawls and also of lace which has historical significance I’ve only ever glimpsed before.

The Lace Weaver is a haunting novel and one I will keep on my forever bookshelf.

Elise 

 

 

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Anaïs Nin~Louveciennes

My house is two hundred years old. It has walls a yard thick, a big garden, a very large green iron gate for cars, flanked by a smaller gate for people. The big garden is in the back of the house…Anaïs Nin.

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Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell (February 21, 1903 – January 14, 1977), known professionally as Anaïs Nin, was an American diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories. Born to Cuban parents in France, Nin was the daughter of composer Joaquín Nin and Rosa Culmell, a classically trained singer. Although Nin spent some time in Spain and Cuba, she lived in Paris and in the United States, where she became an established author.

Her journals describe her marriages to Hugh Parker Guiler and Rupert Pole, in addition to her numerous affairs, including those with psychoanalyst Otto Rank and writer Henry Miller, both of whom profoundly influenced Nin and her writing.

Anaïs had two husbands — one in  Los Angeles and one in New York , 

Anaïs Nin and her husband Rupert Pole

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Anaïs Nin and her husband Hugh Guiler

Anaïs Nin’s reputation came from her diaries. She documented her life as a writer, artist and woman. She became a cult figure on campuses in America in the 60’s and early 70’s. Anaïs lived her life as a liberated woman and became a feminist heroine. The diaries are considered to be mainly fictional, illusions and lies.

While the diaries are considered mainly fictional, Anaïs writes about the many writers and artists that she knew. Her love affair with Henry Miller when she lived at Louveciennes  is well-known and the two writers stayed friends for life.

Her obsession with allusions, water and mirrors, and houses, reflected her own imagining of her life.

Living her life as a work of art wasn’t always easy but it must have been enchanting!

Elise

 

 

 

 

 

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Celtic Myths and Customs

It’s an old Celtic custom to talk to your bees. I wrote about bees in my novel Castle of Dreams.  It is the early nineteen forties and Robert Shine, an American soldier, is having dinner with Vivien Sherman and her husband William at their home in Brisbane.

. . . We have an orchard and there’s an old apple tree with a low branch and a bees’ nest stuck fast into it. We have several hives. They keep us supplied with honey.’

‘I like bees,’ said Vivien. ‘My mother has beehives and tells them every significant event– every birth, marriage and death that occurs within the community.’

‘Old folklore.’ said William. He turned to Robert with a knowing smile. ‘My wife’s parents live in a strange falling-down castle in far north Queensland. Superstition came from Ireland with Vivien’s mother. She’s an unusual woman.’

Vivien frowned. While what he said was true, she wondered why he’d told a stranger about her mother’s eccentricities. ‘The bees foretell death when they abscond from their hive,’ she said stubbornly. She knew William didn’t like it when she referred to her mother’s beliefs.

‘Vivien, surely you can’t believe that,’ William said coldly.

‘If the bees become hurt by neglect, you will suffer the consequences,’ she continued.

Robert nodded, his expression serious. ‘I remember returning from my grandfather’s funeral and finding that the bees had absconded from their hives,’ he said.

So if you have bee hives remember to talk to your bees and plant lots of bee-loving flowers in your garden.

Celtic mythology is an endless source of gold for an author. It is easy to weave a few strands through a novel to make it a more layered story. I was recently researching Celtic traditions and came across the earliest-known Celtic calendar, the Coligny calendar, now in the Palais des Arts, Lyon.  Each year is divided into thirteen months.

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The original Celtic year

Imbolc: 1st February-The Beginning of Spring

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Beltaine: 1st May-The Beginning of Summer

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Lughnasadh: 1st August- Beginning of the Harvest, and the end of summer

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Samhain: 1st November

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Sunset on Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-en’), October 31st, is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest gathered, livestock  brought in from the fields, leaves are falling from the trees. It’s the ending of one cycle, the beginning of another as the earth slowly begins to hibernate. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). Like Bealtaine, Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed.

Ancient Celtic wisdom associates seeing a large patch of primroses with a gateway or portal into the faerie realms.Primroses-on-the-side-of-a-road-in-Ireland

Photo: http://www.irishamericanmom.com

I will never stop writing about flowers and myths in my novels. In Castle of Dreams I wrote about the rainforest, I also wrote about an overgrown garden surrounding a cottage in the Blue Mountains.

Afterwards, Vivien slipped on her kimono, left Robert sleeping, and went outside to the garden. 

While the inside of the cottage was as neat as a pin, the backyard was a delightfully overgrown shambles with a back-drop of autumn hues: a row of tupelo trees immediately behind the cottage, and maple, ash and tallow woods on the crest of a small hill a little further away. Ferns dipped over a brick path leading to the one point of light in the garden, a silver linden tree. 

Taitneamh a bhaint as aisling draíochta

(enjoy magical dreams)

Elise 

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Emily Bronte~Wuthering Heights

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte wrote about the wild moors in the north of England. It is place that is grey and dark in winter and even in warmer seasons is a sombre place where  tough bracken and heather cover the hills and fragments of the past linger.

Emily Bronte

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The isolation of Haworth Parsonage on the wild and bleak local moors separated the Bronte children from other families and they relied on each other for companionship. This lead them to create fantasy worlds: Gondal, shared by Emily and Anne, is an island in the North Pacific; Angria, shared by Charlotte and her brother Bramwell, is nominally in Africa.

Bronte Parsonage in Haworth

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Wuthering Heights was written by Emily Bronte and is her only novel. It was published in 1847 under the pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’.  Emily Bronte died the following year, aged 30.

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I lingered round them, under that benign  sky, watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.’ 

~Catherine and Heathcliff.

‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed. One may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house, and by a gaunt range of thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving the alms of the sun. ~ Wuthering Heights, Chapter 1.

I discovered the Brontes when I was still at school and knew straightaway I’d found magical stories. The images were wonderful: bleak moors, star-crossed lovers, solitary landscapes, valleys and streams; haunting novels.

And, of course the story of the Brontes themselves.

Remember, read books that bring magic into your life.

Elise 

 

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Persephone Books, London

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I have never visited the Persephone bookshop but plan to do so when I am next in London. They have kindly sent me The Persephone Biannually since I first discovered their books in 2011 and I recently received No 22 Autumn/Winter 2017-18. It is now available to read  on their website for overseas customers.

Persephone Books reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. All of our 125 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial. We publish novels, short stories, diaries, memoirs and cookery books; each has an elegant grey jacket, a ‘fabric’ endpaper with matching bookmark, and a preface by writers such as Jilly Cooper, David Kynaston and Elaine Showalter.        Reference: Persephone website

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Interior Persephone Bookshop

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And don’t you love the window display?

While the Christmas period is a busy one I made time to start a new novel and while it doesn’t have a working title as yet there is something magical about writing the first word of a new story on the first day of a new year.

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice.’ ~ T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

May the joys of the season be with you throughout the coming year.

Elise 

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