Monthly Archives: May 2016

What Elise Wrote-Katherine Mansfield

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Kathleen Mansfield Murry (14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a prominent New Zealand modernist short story writer who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. At 19, Mansfield left New Zealand and settled in the United Kingdom, where she became a friend of modernist writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. In 1917 she was diagnosed with extrapulmonary tuberculosis, which led to her death at the age of 34.

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Katherine seated, book in hand, in a deck chair in France.

The mind I love must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody’s fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind.

I have read Katherine Mansfield since I was ten years old and discovered, on the verandah of my grandmother’s house, a trunk filled with discarded books one of which was The Garden-Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield.

My favourite short story in the collection is At the Bay. I loved it then and I reread it several times a year. At the Bay was written in 1922 and first published in the London Mercury in January 1922, and later reprinted in The Garden Party and Other Stories. The text is written in modernist mode, with no set structure, and many shifts in the narrative.

Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf considered themselves friends. Virginia claimed that Katherine’s writing was the only prose that made her jealous. She was hurt by Katherine’s damning review of her second novel. Yet they exchanged gifts of Belgian cigarettes, loaves of bread, coffee beans and columbine plants. They sent each other letters and discussed their work over tea.

It was their shared literary endeavours that drew them together. And after spending a weekend together, Katherine remarked that it was ‘very curious and thrilling that we should both, quite apart from each other, be after so very nearly the same thing’.

Although their friendship was relatively brief – from 1917 until Katherine’s death in 1923 – its effect on their work was profound. During this time, she produced most of her celebrated stories (one of which Virginia published), and Virginia forged her trademark stream of conciousness style.

The two women recognised each other’s literary prowess: Virginia wrote that Katherine’s was the only prose to have made her jealous.

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.

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Katherine Mansfield wearing an Arabian shawl.Photo taken  by Ida Baker, East Sussex, England, 1910.

Excerpt:  At the Bay

Linda Burnell lounged in a steamer chair under the manuka tree in the front yard of the bungalow. She sat and contemplated the life of the flowers that fell from the tree. She thought of how beautifully intricate they were and how easy it was to disregard them as simply something that should be kept off the lawn. “Who takes the trouble – or the joy- to make all these things that are wasted….”. She thought it uncanny.

On the lawn beside her, situated between two pillows, was the baby. He was asleep and Linda had the bungalow all to herself. She wished she had time to look and truly appreciate each flower but she knew Life would come along and interrupt her day. It always did and there was no escape.

Years before she was married she remembered sitting on the veranda with her father. They had been very close. He always said they would run away one day, just the two of them but then Stanley Burnell walked by, slowly and solemnly, his ginger hair aglow. Her father teased her and called Stanley her beau. At the time Linda couldn’t have imagined being married especially to someone like Stanley Burnell but married they were. She loved him, most of the time.

She didn’t love the Stanley everyone else saw. Her Stanley was timid, he said is prayers in earnest and believed in others with his whole heart and was never disloyal but she so rarely saw her Stanley anymore. She only had glimpses of him every so often. Usually he was in the thick of whatever daily drama was taking place and she spent all of her time calming him down, listening to his side of the story, and rescuing him from himself. “And what was left of her was spent in the dread of having children”.

It was her greatest grudge against life. She knew it was a woman’s lot to birth children, to carry them for months and then bring them whole into the world but afterward she found that she did not love her children in the way that she should. The burden of too many births had weakened her and she had nothing left to give the girls. Thankfully her mother had taken the boy and as far as Linda was concerned, she could have him.

Linda was so indifferent about the new baby–she had hardly ever held him in her arms. Glancing down she was surprised to see the boy was awake. His dark-blue eyes were fixed on her and he suddenly smiled, his dimples showing. His happy smile called out to his mother for love, and she found herself returning the smile. She sat down on the grass beside him.

She said that she didn’t like babies and if he knew what she was thinking about him he would stop smiling but the boy only turned his head and squinted his eyes. Linda was astonished by the baby’s confidence, his demand of her love that she felt something inside of her shift, making room, and a tear slide down her face. “Hello my funny” she said but the boy had already forgotten about his mother. His eyes were fixated on the tree’s falling flowers, and he shot his hand out to grab one.

Katherine Mansfield is one of my favourite writers.

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Have a great week, reading and writing and dreaming,

Elise

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What Elise Wrote: H V Morton

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I am busy outlining my new novel. I’m reading lots of books: serindipitous findings have increased my bookshelves to overflowing.

One book I found this way is: H V Morton’s London. Its end pages and the edges of the pages are foxed with age. My volume is the sixteenth edition being: The Heart of London, The Spell of London and The Nights of London in one volume with fifteen illustrations. From the introduction:

An acquisitive young reporter, with an immense appetite for London, was once allowed to wander out at will into the highways and the byways, as long as he returned in the evening with something to write about. So far as my recollection goes, he never came back empty-handed, and it is on record that he kept up the story of his explorations day by day for many a month. He was upheld in his quest by the conviction that, in such a wonderful and mysterious place as London, it was impossible for him to stand anywhere for half an hour and see nothing of interest. And, in this, I think he was right.

I now regard these snapshots of London and London life, gathered here for the first time into one book, with some respect, not for anything that is said in them, but because of the amount of vitality and enthusiasm that went to their making. Nothing was too much trouble, and no appointment to be neglected, no matter how seemingly ridiculous, if it appeared to promise yet another glimpse into the life of the capital.

H V Morton, August, 1940.

Henry Canova Vollam Morton FRSL (known as H. V. Morton), (26 July 1892 – 18 June 1979) was a journalist and pioneering travel writer from Lancashire, England. He was best known for his prolific and popular books on London, Great Britain and the Holy Land. He first achieved fame in 1923 when, while working for the Daily Express, he scooped the official Times correspondent during the coverage of the opening of the Tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in Egypt.

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The same author wrote many books on an eclectic mix of subjects a few of which are: Women of the Bible, In the Steps of the Master, Blue Days at Sea, Ghosts of London. If you are writing about the wonderful capital of England search out H V Morton’s books on London and you will find in there much there to bring your story to life.

However all is not as it seems with H V Morton and a biography from 2004 ends with a passage which the author judges to have been not reportage, but pure fiction:

“I went out into the churchyard where the green stones nodded together, and I took up a handful of earth and felt it crumble and run through my fingers, thinking that as long as one English field lies against another there is something left in the world for a man to love.
‘Well’, smiled the vicar as he walked towards me between the yew trees, ‘that, I am afraid, is all we have’.
‘You have England’, I said.”

When I found this review by chance while researching this article I wondered if I should mention it but came to the conclusion that a biography is only one writer’s perception of another person.

H V Morton was a man with flaws and shortcomings as well as being an accomplished journalist which made his writings so accessible to readers of his work. He was a man of his time and it is important we recognise this when reading his books or the many internet articles about him. I’m glad we have the legacy of his books.

Reference: Max Hastings 09 May 2004 The Telegraph reviews In Search of H. V. Morton by Michael Bartholomew.

Reference: Wikipedia for the bio of H V Morton

Have a good writing week

Elise

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Castle of Dreams-Interview Ausromtoday

Thanks to Jaimee Brooker for interviewing me on ausromtoday.

If you would like to read the interview here is the link just press ‘home’:

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VIP design. Vector illustration.

VIP design. Vector illustration.

 

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What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

I am so pleased that readers are enjoying Castle of Dreams.

The Blake sisters’ Vivien and Rose, Captain Robert Shine, an American soldier stationed in Brisbane during the Pacific War, Dave Bailey, mechanic and all round good guy, Ruby who reads the tarot, William who lost a leg at Fromelles and wears an artificial one and Harry who owns the castle.  And in the modern day narrative, Stella  a photographer and the daughter of Linda and granddaughter of Rose, and Jack, Stella’s boyfriend  who is a journalist; if they stepped through the front door this evening I’d know them.

I love montage photos so I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you.

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Have a lovely evening,

Elise

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What Elise Wrote-Review Castle of Dreams

Amanda Barrett wrote a wonderful review of Castle of Dreams on Goodreads. Amanda is a top reviewer on Goodreads so her review was very special to me. Thanks Amanda!

Amanda Barrett ’s review:

Beneath the stunning tropical themed cover of this beautiful book, lies a wonderful multi layered and complex historical romance, fused with a contemporary narrative. Castle of Dreams is the story of two sisters, Vivien and Rose and their experiences in Australia during the Second World War era. Tied to this wartime story is that of their granddaughter/great niece Stella, who seeks to uncover a shroud of secrets that surround her grandmother. Set in the tranquil and tropical locale of far north Queensland, in the grounds of a Spanish style castle, this is a remarkable spilt style narrative of the lives, loves and family secrets of the two Blake sisters.
I had an immediate feeling when I bought this book that I was absolutely going to love it. I simply cannot resist novels that combine a contemporary narrative with a historical fiction story thread, particularly if it is set in Australia. Castle of Dreams successfully weaves intrigue, ancestral secrets, love and history perfectly together.
I enjoyed following the journey of each of the characters in this novel, from the two Blake sisters in the wartime – their complications as well as the twists and turns their lives take. McCune has constructed characters that are likeable, relatable and have interesting stories to match.
There are some fantastic themes running through this book that McCune tackles with precision and insight. It was fascinating to learn about the Australia during wartime. It is clear that McCune has drawn from a variety of sources to inform her narrative. McCune sensitively and comprehensively covers such topics as PTSD in returned soldiers, the treatment of American troops in Australia and Australia’s involvement in the war in the Pacific region. She also portrays very accurately the societal expectations of the time. The final result is a novel that is finely in tune with the era in which it is depicting.
The setting in Castle of Dreams is simply magical. There is an ethereal quality about the beautiful Castillo de Suenos, which plays as a major centrepiece in the novel. I looked forward to the scenes that featured this lavish locale and found myself keen on researching more about ‘Paronella Park’, which was the muse for Castillo de Suenos. McCune compliments her descriptions of Castillo de Suenos with prose on the surrounding flora and fauna, which gives the reader a wonderful distinct picture of life in this part of Australia.
Castle of Dreams is a novel that I simply just could not resist putting down. I read it in two days. The latter part of the novel ensured that I was unable to stop turning the pages until the secrets of the Blake sisters were uncovered. When I reached the conclusion I felt a mixture of sadness and happiness in how the characters end up.
Castle of Dreams is a spellbinding and magical novel that illustrates the power of long held family secrets. Castle of Dreams is easily a five star read for me, it is the type of book that I am going to pass on to as many readers as I can as I adored it.

What a wonderful tribute to Castle of Dreams!

Elise

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What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

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How beautiful is this photograph!

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#dieselphotographics #photography#visitnorthqueensland #tourismqld #nikon #tourism#travel #paranellapark #innisfail

Great news…yesterday my publisher at Allen & Unwin emailed congratulations…Castle of Dreams has had a great first week of sales…of course I can’t say how many but she is very happy…

I’ve had so many comments about Castle of Dreams since it was published: people have fallen in love with Vivien, her sister Rose, and the man they both love, American soldier Robert Shine, they love the different backdrops, and they love the story. And for me, storytelling is what books are all about.

The idea of the story came to me after a visit with my daughter to Paronella Park. A Catalonian immigrant, Jose Paronella, built a castle in the rainforest there in the early twentieth century but it was destroyed by a cyclonic flood in 1946. Walking around the ruins of the castle I became aware the past lingered all around and while my characters didn’t intrude on my conciousness that day I’m sure they were whispering in my ear wanting their story told.

It was several months later that the idea for the story finally came to me and my three main characters stepped out into the light. Light ended up being a motif in Castle of Dreams. Robert means bright, shining, so I gave him the surname Shine. Robert Shine, how I love that name. Robert comes from a place in Northern California called Paradise which is near the Feather River where his family cabin is situated.

Vivien, in Arthurian legend, was the name of the Lady of the Lake, an enchantress who was the mistress of Merlin, and I’ve always loved that story. The name I had the most trouble finding was Rose. Her original name was the only name in the book that my editor, Christa Munns, at Allen & Unwin suggested I change. And, she was right,  it was the only name I’d changed several times during the writing of Castle of Dreams and still wasn’t sure about. We tossed around several names one of which was Rose, a name we both loved, and exactly the right name for Vivien’s sister. I do recall that Scarlett O’Hara originally started off as Pansy O’Hara!

My editors have told me that Castle of Dreams is a character driven novel which it is but I also think the atmosphere of the rainforest is a great backdrop and of course the main thing is the story. I love the idea that stories are carried down through generations of people through storytelling. Myths, legends, oral stories that are told around the fire at night before the days of writing and books read in the evenings before television was invented.

I loved writing Castle of Dreams. It came to me, as these things sometimes do, in a moment of serendipity when I visited the beautiful ruins in the rainforest of far north Queensland but it took a few months of looking back over my shoulder until my characters stepped out into the light. And I’m so glad they did!

Good writing and reading,

Elise

 

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What Elise Wrote-Book Launch Castle of Dreams

Hi Everyone,

Castle of Dreams, published by Allen & Unwin Australia was launched by Vikki Petraitis last night at Readings in Hawthorn. Mike Shuttleworth from Readings Hawthorn (a wonderful venue for a launch) organised the event and gave a short introduction and Lisa McCune my lovely daughter spoke next. I must admit I felt a very proud mother while listening to her thoughtful words about me. Lisa then introduced Vikki and myself. Vikki is a well-known true crime writer and a close friend who has given me great insights into writing in the time we have known each other. We did a question and answer that focused on Paronella Park where the main part of Castle of Dreams is set. Her insightful questions made it easy for me to talk to the audience about my visit to Paronella Park and the castle ruins that were the inspiration for Castillo de Suenos. My lovely friend Spanish friend Maribel can pronounce Castillo de Suenos much better than I can and in a beautiful musical voice! No wonder Spanish is called a romance language! I also discussed how I came to be published through Allen & Unwin’s innovative Friday Pitch (every day now) which was started by my publisher Louise Thurtell.  I read a short piece from Castle of Dreams and Vikki then declared Castle of Dreams launched.

After the launch some of us went across to the iconic Glenferrie Hotel. I had booked one table but we needed two and it was a great way to end the evening with family and friends.

Castle of Dreams

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With fellow author Juliet Sampson

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I hope you enjoy reading Castle of Dreams as much as I enjoyed writing it for you.

Elise

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What Elise Wrote-Paronella Park

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Many people have asked me about the castle in Castle of Dreams and where the idea for my novel came from and with the launch on Wednesday evening at Readings in Hawthorn it is the perfect time to tell you a little about the history of the Park and the Catalonian immigrant Jose Paronella who built the castle in the rainforest.

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I am a storyteller first and foremost and while Jose does not appear in Castle of Dreams I feel he would have approved of my story and my depiction of his castle of dreams. I read somewhere that Jose’s grandmother told him bedtime stories about Spanish castles and this inspired him to one day build his own castle. And while castles are more easily associated with Europe and the Middle East, Jose built his castle in the far north Queensland rainforest, the place he called home and never wanted to leave.

José Paronella arrived in nearby Innisfail, Queensland, Australia in 1913, having sailed from his homeland, Catalonia, in northern Spain to plan a splendid life for himself and his fiancée Matilda. He applied for Commonwealth naturalization in 1921, identifying his place of origin as La Vall in the province of Jarona. In fact his full name was José Pedro Enrique Paronella, and he was born on 26 February 1887, in La Vall de Santa Creu, a hamlet in the province of Gerona, north-eastern Catalonia. José worked hard for 11 years, creating his wealth by buying, improving and selling cane farms. While travelling through the beautiful countryside he discovered a virgin forest alongside spectacular Mena Creek Falls – perfect for his dream.

Upon returning to Spain, José discovered that Matilda had married another! Determined to sail back with a bride José proposed to Margarita, Matilda’s younger sister. One year later the happy newlyweds were ship-bound for Australia and by 1929 had purchased the land of José’s dreams. He first built the grand 47-step staircase to shift building materials between the lower and upper level. Here the fun-loving couple had their cottage hand built of stone, and moved in on Christmas Eve.

Unknown-1Jose and Margarita Paronella

The earliest structure, the Grand Staircase, was built to facilitate the carrying of the river sand to make the concrete. First they built a house to live in, then they started on the Castle itself. Apart from the house, which is made of stone, all of the structures were constructed of poured, reinforced concrete, the reinforcing being old railway track. The concrete was covered with a plaster made from clay and cement, which they put on by hand, leaving behind the prints of their fingers as a reminder of the work they had done. They laboured with unswerving determination, until, in 1935, the Park was officially opened to the public. The Theatre showed movies every Saturday night. In addition, with canvas chairs removed, the Hall was a favourite venue for dances and parties.

A unique feature was the myriad reflector, a great ball covered with 1270 tiny mirrors, suspended from the ceiling. With spotlights of pink and blue shining on the reflector from the corners of the hall, it was rotated slowly, producing a coloured snowflake effect around the walls, floor and ceiling. During the mid-sixties the Theatre ceased to be, and the Hall became devoted to functions, particularly Weddings.

Above the Refreshment Rooms was the projection room, and up another flight of stairs was the Paronella Museum. This housed collections of coins, pistols, dolls, samples of North Queensland timbers and other items of interest. Originally, food service was from the lower Refreshment Rooms downstairs.

The concrete slab tables forming the lower Tea Gardens and the swimming pool both proved extremely popular, as they still do today. The avenues and paths were well laid out with the familiar shaped planters which are still to be seen wherever you go in the Park. Two tennis courts were behind the Refreshment Rooms, with a children’s playground, The Meadow, situated near the creek.

Upwards of 7000 trees were planted by José. These included the magnificent Kauris lining Kauri Avenue. A Tunnel was excavated through a small hill. Above its entrances are the delightful stonework balconies. Walking through here brings you to spring fed Teresa Falls, named for his daughter.

The creek is lined with rocks and traversed by small bridges. Some parts have cascades built out of rocks, so the sound of water is always there. The Hydro Electric generating plant, commissioned in 1933, was the earliest in North Queensland, and supplied power to the entire Park.

In 1946, disaster struck. Upstream from the Park a patch of scrub had been cleared and the logs and branches pushed into the creek. When the first rains of the Wet Season came, the whole mass began to move downstream until it piled up against a railway bridge a few hundred metres from the Castle. Water backed up until the weight broke the bridge, and the entire mass descended on the Park. The downstairs Refreshment Rooms were all but destroyed, the Hydro was extensively damaged, as was the Theatre and Foyer.

Undaunted, the family began the task of rebuilding. The Refreshment Rooms downstairs were beyond repair, so this service was moved upstairs, and only the structure of the building recreated. In addition, José built the fountain. The Castle was repaired, the gardens replanted, and the Park was alive again.

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In 1948, José died of cancer, leaving Margarita, daughter Teresa, and son Joe, to carry on. In time, Teresa married and eventually moved to Brisbane with her husband. Joe married Val in 1952, and they had two sons, Joe (José) and Kerry. Renovations and maintenance meant there was always plenty of work, and the floods of 1967, ’72 and ’74 further added to the load. In 1967 Margarita died, and in 1972, Joe died, leaving Val and the two boys to continue the hard working tradition and keep the dreams alive.

The Park was sold out of the family in 1977 and sadly, in 1979, a fire swept through the Castle. For a time, the Park was closed to the public. Cyclone Winifred in 1986, a flood in January 1994, Cyclone Larry in March 2006, and Cyclone Yasi in January 2011 were all further setbacks and challenges for Paronella Park.

Mark and Judy Evans, the current owner/operators, purchased the Park in 1993 and formulated a plan to put the Park back on the map. They see the Park as a work of art, and work on maintaining and preserving, rather than rebuilding. Small restoration projects have been undertaken, pathways uncovered and improved, and the Museum, an ongoing project, is continuously being enhanced.

In November 2009, the ambitious project to restore Paronella Park’s original (1930s era) hydro electric system was completed. At a cost of $450,000, the system once again provides all of the Park’s electricity requirements. This work, and other environmentally focused initiatives culminated in Paronella Park being awarded Eco Australia’s GECKO award for Ecotourism in 2011. Paronella Park’s life as a pleasure gardens continues as José intended, for visitors, and with social gatherings, particularly weddings, continuing to make use of this unique location.

Paronella Park – The Dream Continues…

The Park gained National Trust listing in 1997, and has been recognised by multiple Regional and State Tourism Awards from 1998 onwards.

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I hope you enjoy reading about my inspiration for Castle of Dreams.

Elise.

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Kind thanks to Luke Evans for permission to use this information.

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What Elise Wrote-Allen & Unwin

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Allen & Unwin is an Australian independent publishing company, established in Australia in 1976 as a subsidiary of the British firm George Allen & Unwin Ltd., which was founded by Sir Stanley Unwin in August 1914 and went on to become one of the leading publishers of the twentieth century.

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Sir Stanley Unwin (What a happy smile, I’d like to have known Stanley!)

George Allen and Sons was established in 1871 by George Allen, with the backing of John Ruskin, becoming George Allen and Unwin in 1914 as a result of Sir Stanley Unwin’s purchase of a controlling interest. Unwin’s son Rayner S. Unwin and nephew Philip helped run the company, which published the works of Bertrand Russell, Arthur Waley, Roald Dahl and Thor Heyerdal. It became well known as J. R. R. Tolkien’s publisher, some time after publishing the popular children’s fantasy novel The Hobbit in 1937, and its high fantasy sequel The Lord of the Rings novel in 1954–1955.

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Reference: D B Derbyshire Bookseller.

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Rayner Unwin retired at the end of 1985, and the firm was amalgamated in 1986 with Bell & Hyman to form “Unwin Hyman Limited”. Robin Hyman became chief executive of the combined Unwin Hyman. From this time Allen & Unwin was an Australia-based, child company of Unwin Hyman. Rayner Unwin returned for a while as part-time chairman of Unwin Hyman, retiring again at the end of 1988. It was over the objections of largest shareholder Unwin that Hyman sold the firm to HarperCollins.[2] HarperCollins has since sold Unwin Hyman’s academic book list to Routledge.

Allen & Unwin in Australia
Allen & Unwin Australia Pty Ltd became independent in July 1990 by means of a management buy-out when the UK firm was bought by HarperCollins. Now known simply as “Allen & Unwin” the company went on to become the most successful “independent” in Australia and currently publishes up to 250 new titles a year.

Allen & Unwin publishes across a broad range of areas including literary and commercial fiction, popular and serious non-fiction – including biography, memoir, history, true crime, politics, current affairs and travel – academic and professional, children’s books and books for teenagers. Amongst the many authors published by Allen & Unwin are Alex Miller, Christos Tsiolkas, Garth Nix, Jodi Picoult, Kate Morton, Michael Connelly, Thomas Keneally, Peter Corris, Paul Keating, Stephanie Dowrick and Christopher Hitchens. Allen & Unwin is also co-sponsor and publisher of the annual Australian/Vogel Literary Award.

The Allen & Unwin head office is in Sydney and the company also publishes out of offices in Melbourne, Auckland and London. Allen & Unwin also represents a number of leading independent British publishers in the Australian and New Zealand markets. These include Bloomsbury, Faber & Faber, Profile Books and Serpent’s Tail, Atlantic and Corvus, Granta and Portobello, Canongate, Nicholas Brealey, Icon and Nosy Crow. Allen & Unwin distributes the Harry Potter series of books in Australia and New Zealand under the Bloomsbury imprint.

Since the inaugural award in 1992, Allen & Unwin has been voted Publisher of the Year twelve times including in 2013. The Founder and Chairman of Allen & Unwin is Patrick Gallagher, the CEO is Robert Gorman and the Publishing Director is Sue Hines.

I am fortunate indeed to be published by Allen & Unwin Australia.

The team at Allen & Unwin worked hard to bring Castle of Dreams to publication and recently sold the Norwegian publishing rights to Cappelen Damm.

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I can’t wait to see the translated copy!

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Sources: Wikipedia, Elise McCune

 

 

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What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

With Castle of Dreams now in book stores across Australia in time for Christmas I’d like to share a few of my favourite excerpts with you (no spoilers):

Castillo de Suenos  (aka Paronella Park far north Queensland)

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Rose nodded in silent agreement. Castillo de Suenos had no dramatic history, no portraits of ancestors hung on the walls or white busts on plinths, no remote eerie rooms forgotten and uninhabited for centuries, but it was beautiful, largely because of its spectacular rainforest setting: drifts of butterflies flew in through open windows and landed on ornate vases; this morning she’d found a butterfly feasting on a sliced orange someone had left on the kitchen bench. Plants clambered up the walls and swayed through the windows with the breezes; brilliant light flooded through the hummingbird stained-glass window at the front of the castle.

On a night when stars sheltered Castillo de Suenos a ball was held:

The band played on, a Glenn Miller tune now; young couples jived across the black-bean floor and back again. A GI held his girl so low that when she kicked her leg high, her long blonde hair swept the floor.

When the song finished there was a break in the music, and the main lights came back on. The crowd threw back drinks and lit up cigarettes and headed for the buffet.

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I wonder who Tom is talking to?

She smiled. ‘What have you come to tell me, Tom?’

‘It’s a long story and one you are entitled to know,’ said Tom. ‘The past can be complicated. People then were the same as people today. They had their secrets, things the believed no one would ever discover . . .’

‘Please, go on, you’ve come a long way to tell me.’

Tom looked relieved, as though he’d been waiting to unlock the past and now the time had come.

One of my favourite scenes in Castle of Dreams:

He told her about mushrooms called hen of the woods and boletes, both much sought after in late summer and fall, and others with folk names: witch’s butter, shaggy mane and bear’s head, and amanita, a white-spotted red mushroom, written about in fairytales , and deadly, he added. ‘Winter brings hedgehogs, also known as sweet-tooth–and, and for those who know how to find them, crops of truffles.’

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Seasons Greetings to All

Elise

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