Monthly Archives: September 2019

Serendipity in Writing a Novel


Serendipity does not come from Latin or Greek, but rather was created by a British nobleman in the mid 1700s from an ancient Persian fairy tale. The meaning of the word, good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally, refers to the fairy tale characters who were always making discoveries through chance.  I would like to do more research on the word Serendipity.

While I’ve written about the magic of serendipity in the past I was recently asked what sparks an idea for a novel. Serendipity is a powerful and mysterious happening that leads you in one direction like the flight of an arrow to its target: an advertisement, overhearing a conversation, something you read, a place you unexpectedly visit.  It’s something to be aware of. For my novel Castle of Dreams it was an unexpected visit to the ruins of a castle in the far north Queensland rainforest. It was discovering during my research into the American military presence in WW2 Brisbane that Australian and American servicemen went out to the castle every Saturday night to dance with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends under the silver glitter ball in the ballroom. I started to write and had to keep writing  it was if a door to the past had opened and if my characters had walked in through my front door I’d have known them immediately. All the young women and men who came out to the castle would have passed away by now, all but forgotten. Those nights when they danced in the glittering ballroom have left no trace on the present day but if you listen with your heart you will be with them.

The ruins of the castle in my story are now a tourist attraction called Paronella Park.

I am researching a new novel, Bright Spirit, and serendipity is at work again.  I cannot walk past a second hand bookshop without going in and recently I found a copy of a book that was written by a person who lived and worked in the remote area where my story is set. In the course of my research I would probably have come across this book but it might have been in many months time and so not as useful as it is now.  

Bright Spirit will not be a dual timeline novel like Castle of Dreams, much as I enjoyed writing Castle of Dreams I am tired of dusty attics, grandmothers with hidden pasts and secrets waiting to be discovered, and people (mainly granddaughters) in the present just waiting to discover them. Hopefully an author might come up with a fresh take on the genre that has flooded the market in recent years. 

Serendipity is the moment you know the bliss of having followed your heart and you have trusted your intuition and had faith in the unknown. To write a novel  is like being a puzzle maker and with the help of serendipity the pieces are put together to make a whole.

Happy Writing, 



Filed under What Elise Wrote

Books I Have Loved

A book that takes you on a journey is a friend for life. These are books I have loved.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff


It began with a letter, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road in London. Helene’s witty letters are responded to by the rather stodgy Frank Doel of 84 Charing Cross Road. A relationship that lasts across the ocean and the years. Delightful!

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte


Wuthering Heights was Emily’s only novel, published in 1847 under the pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’. It was controversial at the time because it challenged strict Victorian ideas regarding religion, morality, and social classes. It is now a classic of English literature and should be read by the fire on a dark evening with a storm raging outside the window.

Cross Creek  by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


A delightful memoir about the life of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling, author of The Yearling, in the Florida backcountry. Originally published in 1942, Cross Creek has become a classic in modern American literature. It is the story of Marjorie’s experiences in the remote Florida hamlet of Cross Creek. She has a deep-rooted love of the earth, and it is one of my all-time favourite books.

Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky


Set during the year that France fell to the Nazis, Suite Francaise first tells the story of a group of Parisians as they flee south; then it follows the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation. Most of all it is a novel of hope amidst war and one to cherish.

The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley 


The first time I read this book I fell in love with the large house and the fragrant camomile lawn that stretched down to the Cornish cliffs. The young characters dazzle with their exhilaration and the older characters have secrets. Mary Wesley paints a  vivid picture of wartime London. She is the most witty writer I have read. It is a book I read at least once a year.

The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy


I discoverd this book and its author this year. The novel features stories told by three siblings, Jook-Liang, Jung-Sum and Sek-Lung or Sekky. Each child tells their own unique story, revealing their personal flaws and differences. It is set in Vancouver’s Chinatown and takes place during the 1930s and 1940s.  I read the book quickly and I now have two other Wayson Choy novels on my to be read pile. The Jade Peony is a wonderful book.


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Filed under Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote