Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Writer’s Notebook-Memoirs of a Geisha



A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha.

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.

My Thoughts:

What I found striking about ‘Memoirs of a Geisha,’ is that it was a novel written by a man, Arthur Golden, and he has created a convincing female narrator. Written in beautiful prose and historical detail the heroine, Chiyo, as she is called at the start of the novel is a spirited young girl who is a product of an archaic, traditional Japan.

To me the novel starts like a fairytale in a remote village by the sea. My favourite books are often based on fairytales so the story had me hooked from the first pages. Chiyo is sent to a geisha house in Kyoto, but not so lucky is her sister, who, not as pretty, is sent to a house of prostitution.
‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is a book I reread every couple of years and find the same enjoyment in turning the pages as I did the first time I read it.

In a way it is a coming of age story of one young girl that spans nearly a hundred years and one world war. It is exotic and portrays the lost world of the Kyoto geisha in historical detail which adds and does not detract from this character driven novel. In my recent reread I loved this story as much as ever. It is a classic in the sense of a Dickens novel. Highly recommended.

Now I must get back to reading the last proofpages of my novel, Castle of Dreams which will be published in April by Allen & Unwin. After I mail the pages back to my editor I will take a few days to think about my proposed new novel. I will then start to outline it and while I have written some pages I will make sure that my outline has tied up any plot holes before I start. I will have maps, floorplans of houses, garden outlays etc, so I don’t waste time in sorting these things out while writing the novel. I am very fond of flowers and the language of flowers in particular. I am sure this language will be woven through my new novel. Other than that I doubt I will say much about the plot as I prefer not to discuss it before the novel is finished, after all it might change along the way!

For the moment, though my thoughts are firmly centred on Castle of Dreams. If you want to see images of the castle ruins that I based Castillo de Suenos on just google Paronella Park in far north Queensland. I will write more about the park in the coming weeks.

Good writing,




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A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams




An image of how I imagine Vivien, a main character in my novel Castle of Dreams. Vivien has a sister called Rose and they grew up in a castle in the far north Queensland rainforest. A dual narrative novel it is about love and betrayal and dark family secrets.

This week I received the ‘master’ proofread set of page proofs of Castle of Dreams from my publisher Allen & Unwin. I will be spending the next week reading through them carefully and making any necessary corrections. I am loath to use too many commas in my writing. I am grateful the proofreader has added them where necessary. I wrote lightening instead of lightning several times (and I do know the difference!) it shows how helpful a fresh pair of eyes are. I have struck gold with the team at Allen & Unwin, from my publisher, Louise Thurtell, who through her innovative Friday Pitch (which is now everyday) picked up my novel, to my editors and now a proofreader with an eagle eye. Everyone I have had contact with at with Allen and Unwin has been thoughtful and considerate. They are the rockstars of the publishing industry!  I am ready to start at page 200 this morning so I am more than halfway through the proofreading process and should be finished in a few days. I will then, of course reread it. In early February the pages will wing their way back to Allen & Unwin’s Sydney office and Castle of Dreams will be published in late April.

Good writing and reading,

Elise x


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A Writer’s Notebook – Christina Rossetti



“My heart is like a singing bird.”

Painting by Florence Hamilton to illustrate:  A Birthday by Christina Rossetti.

I have used Florence Hamilton’s painting The Lady of Shalott for the background of this blog.

I have always loved Christina Rossetti’s poems. In my novel Castle of Dreams to be released in April of this year I referenced her poem: A Birthday.

Part of a scene in Castle of Dreams:

‘She opened the wrapping; inside was an anthology of Christina Rossetti’s poems. The antique book, bound in green crushed levant, mirror-polished, hand-tooled, was so beautiful she was almost afraid to touch it.

“My heart is like a singing bird

Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;

My heart is like an apple-tree

Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;

My heart is like a rainbow shell

That paddles in a halcyon sea;

My heart is gladder than all these

Because my love is come to me.”

It’s a secret for the moment who gives this beautiful book of poetry to Rose, one of my characters in Castle of Dreams, but after all it is a novel of secrets. There is another verse to the poem that is truly beautiful too that I didn’t use in this scene. I’ll  post it another day with a few verses from the very long poem: Goblin Market also by Christina Rossetti.

I have long had an interest in fairytales and throughout Castle of Dreams you will find an occassional reference to magic and the otherworldly.

Have a great day . . . good writing . . .

Elise x



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A Writer’s Notebook – Paronella Park

Photos taken at Paronella Park. The ruins of the castle were the inspiration for Castillo de Suenos the castle in my novel Castillo de Suenos, Castle of Dreams, to be published in April, 2016.



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A bright star in the firmament.

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A Writer’s Notebook-Maud Gonne MacBride

Maud Gonne MacBride (Irish: Maud Nic Ghoinn Bean Mhic Giolla Bhríde, 21 December 1866 – 27 April 1953) was an English-born Irish revolutionary, feminist and actress, best remembered for her turbulent relationship with William Butler Yeats. Of Anglo-Irish stock and birth, she was won over to Irish nationalism by the plight of evicted people in the Land Wars. She was also active in Home Rule activities.


Many of Yeats’s poems are inspired by her, or mention her, such as ‘This, This Rude Knocking.’ He wrote the plays The Countess Cathleen and Cathleen Ní Houlihan for her. His poem Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven ends with a reference to her:

I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Few poets have celebrated a woman’s beauty to the extent Yeats did in his lyric verse about Gonne. From his second book to Last Poems, she became the Rose, Helen of Troy (in No Second Troy), the Ledaean Body (Leda and the Swan and Among School Children), Cathleen Ní Houlihan, Pallas Athene and Deirdre.

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A Writer’s Notebook – Anais Nin



AnaisninAnaïs Nin (Spanish: [anaˈis ˈnin]; born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell; February 21, 1903 – January 14, 1977) was an author born to Cuban parents in France, where she was also raised. She spent some time in Spain and Cuba but lived most of her life in the United States where she became an established author. She wrote journals (which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death), novels, critical studies, essays, short stories, and erotica. A great deal of her work, including Delta of Venus and Little Birds, was published posthumously.

Quoted: Wikipedia.

One of my favourite authors, Anais Nin wrote of dreams and the communication through signs and symbols of the human psyche.

Anais wrote of the novels that were appearing in the 1930s and 1940s that they over-simplified the human psyche and reduced it through rational analyses. ‘To much lucidity,’ she says, ‘creates a desert.’  

Her work is defined by a poetic and universal reality.There are enigmas and mysteries. Her world is peopled by individuals and she finds their reality by observing and not by analytical procedures. Anais was much more in touch with European poetry than American realism.

She writes in Seduction of the Minotaur:

Lillian’s recurrent dream of a ship that could not reach the water, that sailed laboriously, pushed by her with great effort, through city streets, had determined her course toward the sea, as if she would give this ship once and for all, its proper seabed.

And in Collages:

What I wanted to teach you is contained in one page of the dictionary. It is all the words beginning with ‘trans’: transfigure, transport, transcend, translucent, transgression, transform, transmit, transmute, transpiret and all the trans-Siberian voyages.

Since I first discovered Anais Nin I have collected all her work. Her diaries can be dipped into and beautiful words are always found. Words that link together into sentences that show us how to live. The artist’s life.

Anais lived for many years in Silver Lake, a residential neighborhood in Los Angeles, California.

She was married to Rupert Pole, magnetically handsome, who was first an actor and then became a forest ranger. He was Anais Nin’s California husband. She had a New York husband, Hugh Guiler, whom she always called Hugo, and had married when she was very young.

From The Journals of Anais Nin, Volume Seven 1966-1974

The pool is steaming like those pools in the mountains of Japan, everything through glass, through prisms, the amethyst water squires a different dimension, it enlarges itself, its colours: it is so beautiful.

My friend designed a very beautiful diary book, handmade, with soft Japanese rice paper and in gold on the red leather cover, my handwritten diary signature: “Mon Journal–Anais Nin”. I was determined that no illness would be recorded in this diary. So I decided to make it a diary of music. I will only write in it when the musicians come, when I hear music. And it will be a separate part of my life.

Anais Nin sort luminosity and the quality of phosphorescence in her work. I have always loved fairytales and her work is made up of fables and signs and omens so I relate to it and understand the power of these things: the labyrinth in which one loses oneself and with luck finds the way through, the boat that is pushed through city streets to the sea.  Her work possesses a magnetic quality I am drawn to and reread often. What better books to have in my life but hers.

Good writing,



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