Category Archives: Castle of Dreams

The Literary Institute of Batlow-‘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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Castle of Dreams-Slottet i regnskogen

This edition of Slottet i regnskogen (The Castle in the Rainforest) was published in 2017 in hardback with a lovely new wrap-around cover. My Norwegian publisher recently let me know that the paperback edition will be published in 2018.

This is an interview with my Norwegian publisher, Jorid Mathiassen. It is posted on the Cappelen Damm website.

The castle in my story was inspired by castle ruins at Paronella Park in the far north Queensland rainforest.

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What was it about Paronella Park that most captured your imagination?

I visited Paronella Park in far north Queensland, Australia with my daughter, an actor,who was filming at nearby Mission Beach. Lisa had visited the park in the rainforest and wanted to show me the castle ruins. The beautiful setting captured my imagination: I glimpsed the past, imagined those long ago people who danced in the now deserted ballroom under the shining glitter ball. When I discovered Australian and American servicemen visited the castle (before it was destroyed by a cyclonic flood in the late 1940’s) during the Pacific War it the perfect place to set my story about two sister’s who each fall in love with the same American serviceman.

For you, did the setting come before the story?

The setting came before the story. The mystery of the castle and the story of the Catalonian immigrant who built the castle in the rainforest stayed with me. It was a unique setting because in Australia we more easily associate castles with Europe or the Middle East .

You’ve chosen to write about the journey of two sisters, bound by blood yet diminished by love. Why sisters?

I think blood ties make any betrayal worse and have a greater impact on your life than any betrayal between friends. It is something that stays with you for the rest of your life. It was my Australian publisher, Louise Thurtell, from Allen & Unwin who suggested that the two women in my story be sisters as I’d written them as friends. It was a great suggestion and I immediately felt comfortable with Louise’s suggestion. I found a quote from Maya Angelou that says this perfectly: The thorn from the bush one has planted, nourished and pruned, pricks more deeply and draws more blood.

Your novel’s narrative moves smoothly between the past and the present. What appealed to you about this structure?

I have always enjoyed reading time slip novels and I like to write them. The past always impacts on the present and this is what I weave through my stories. I also enjoy researching the past and this adds to my enjoyment.

I love the way you use the environment of the rainforest to set the mood – the bell tower, lightning flashing, or conversations on verandahs amid a symphony of tree frogs and insects with lights in the distance. And towards the end of the novel this beautiful description. Night had fallen. The full moon showered light on the pines above the water. Everything glowed: every patch of grass, every tangled reed. The silvered river splashing over smooth, unseen rocks, and stars as big as silver dollars shining bright in the sky.

Was that a conscious thing or did the setting lend itself to the mood?

I try to bring a scene to life by describing the surroundings as best I can, scents, sounds, visuals, so it becomes almost a character in my stories. And, yes the setting did lend itself to the mood of the story although I tried not to overdo it!

Your book contains lots of twists and turns – which we won’t mention! – how did you plan these out? Did you have a wall chart or a flow chart?

My characters come alive as I write them and eventually I know how they will react in any given situation. I start with the kernel of an idea and end up filling a lot of notebooks with information from my research although I rarely look back at these notes.

This is your first novel. What’s your biggest learning curve?

I have always written: short stories, a memoir, a lost romance novel, and three completed novels in the bottom drawer (the drawer is nailed shut!) but I write everyday even if it’s only a page.

There are no doubt budding novelists reading this. Tell us about how you got published.

I followed the guidelines for Allen & Unwin Australia’s innovative Friday Pitch and emailed some chapters. After a few months my publisher asked to see the finished manuscript. After some rewriting I was offered a contract.

Finishing a novel leaves a rather big hole in an author’s life. What did you fill it with?

I am writing another novel.

What’s the next project?

Another time slip novel, this time with a backdrop of World War One and the present time. I can’t wait to get up each morning and come to my computer to write.

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Tasmanian Times review Castle of Dreams

Rainforest Revelations
Paula Xiberras
14.07.17 6:38 am

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Elise McCune tells me she has been to Tasmania at least five times and loves the feel of the old buildings and of course MONA.

Earlier this year I spoke to Elise about her first novel ‘Castle of Dreams’ and how its idea originated in the discovery of a real castle in the Queensland rain forests by Elise’s actor daughter, Lisa McCune, when she was filming at Mission Beach.

The castle was built by Jose Paronella from Catalonia. For a time he worked in the Queensland rainforests and the castle covered in tropical rainforest helped heal his homesickness reminding him of his childhood home. Nowadays the castle is open to the public and a venue for events like weddings.

When the novel starts, the castle is a ruin that is visited by the granddaughter of Rose, one of the sisters who were the original inhabitants of the castle. The other sister was Vivian. The sisters were very close but grew apart after they both fell in love with the same man, a Second World War American soldier.

One of the wonderful features of the book is its subtle clues to the solving of a great mystery involving the sisters as well as seemingly ordinary events that carry great import. An example is an early scene when the sisters enter the bell tower and one of girls falls sustaining non-threatening injuries. This event long forgotten when reading the book details an event that has long reaching repercussions.

There are also beautiful descriptions that in hindsight can be seen as metaphorical such as the anecdote of the egg that is ‘clean and empty’. This again could be easily read over, yet is one of the subtle clues that demonstrates lives fractured like fragile egg shells

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.

‘Castle of Dreams’ is  published by Allen and Unwin

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The Rose

A gift from my daughter this year was ‘The Rose’  The history of the World’s favourite flower with classic texts and beautiful rare prints. Written by Brent Elliott, Historian, Royal Horticultural Society the society shares the best in gardening.

The Rose

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Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and beauty, had a rose named after her. The rose named after Audrey is a soft apple-blossom pink hybrid tea rose. The blossoms are a deep pink in bud, but when they open they become a softer pink and then almost white. She grew them in her garden and in a bouquet you have different hues of colour.

Audrey Hepburn

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow . . .

The Audrey Hepburn Rose

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My mother was a gardener and my daughter has inherited the gardening gene and also my son.  I enjoy writing about gardens! In my novel Castle of Dreams I wrote about the rainforest plants and trees and in my WIP I am writing about all things botanical. My protagonist in the modern day is a botanist and my protagonist in the past collects wildflowers and paints botanical pictures. I have written about a medieval garden, a herb garden, an orchard and a vegetable garden. And of course a rose garden. There are dark family secrets and the past impacts on the present. But are some secrets better never to be discovered?

Gardens are a recurring motif in my novels.

Monet’s Garden at Giverny

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Audrey Hepburn:

If I’m honest I have to tell you I still read fairytales and I like them best of all. 

Have a wonderful day, writing, reading, dreaming . . .

Elise

 

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Castle of Dreams

Photos I used as inspiration in writing the historical narrative in Castle of Dreams.

Robert Shine and Vivien Blake                    Vivien typing a letter


Rose Blake


Paronella Park aka Castillo de Suenos 


Jacaranda trees in Brisbane

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I was wondering how I could weave the Pacific War through my story when I discovered by a serindipitious happening that Australian and American Service personnel visited the castle for rest and recreation during the war years. They came out to the Saturday night dances, went canoeing on the lake with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends.

Castle of Dreams will be published in Norwegian in April 2017 and re-printed in Australia in June 2017. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it!

Elise

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Gremlin Special Crash

Readers of  my novel Castle of Dreams often ask me about the Gremlin Special crash which was the inspiration for part of the narrative.  It’s a fascinating story and one I’d like to share with you.

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Excerpts.

Stella, Rose’s granddaughter. 

I scribbled all the details down in my notebook. Nothing I could have imagined about Nan’s past was as fascinating as the true story of her lost love: a soldier who died in a fiery plane crash. No matter how many years had passed since then, her story was tragic. I felt a deep sense of sadness as I watched her squint to pick up a dropped stitch. I could only guess the effort it must have taken to talk about Robert’s death. As if to confirm my thoughts, she finished the row, wrapped her knitting around the needles and put it down in her lap. 

*******

Tom, Robert’s friend who survived the plane crash.

‘I was woken by birdsong. In the dim morning light I unwrapped myself from the tarpaulin slowly and painfully, as if from a shroud, and stood up. I’d heard a search plane during the night and saw what I thought was the light of a flare, but the plane had flown on, not noticing the still-smoking wreckage under the thick jungle canopy. I put if out of my mind. I had to focus on staying alive and not give in to despair.

I bent down and gently shook Robert’s shoulder. He didn’t move, so I knelt and pulled back the canvas. Believing him sleeping soundly, I touched his cold face, shook him harder. He didn’t respond. It was only when I saw the dried blood on his neck where it had trickled down from his ear that I knew he was dead.’

*******

The Gremlin Special was a Douglas C-47 Skytrain that crashed during a sightseeing flight for U.S. servicemembers over the Baliem Valley (‘Shangri-La Valley’) in New Guinea in 1945. The recovery of the three survivors from an isolated valley surrounded by mountains, enemy troops, and native inhabitants was incredible.  There were 5 crew and 19 passengers and only 3 people survived the crash.

The New Guinea jungle is the biggest graveyard for crashed planes in the world and the recovery of the three survivors from an isolated valley surrounded by mountains, enemy troops, and native inhabitants made worldwide news at the time.

The three survivors were spotted on the ground during an air search. Two medical paratroopers were deployed to the site, followed by 10 other support troops. A journalist, Alexander Cann was dropped into the site to document the rescue attempt. The high-altitude rescue was performed using Waco CG-4 gliders towed by a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. Three separate rescues were performed by towing a glider with single pilot into the valley. The glider was then loaded and configured for a live capture by the tow plane which recovered the survivors, towing them back to a base in Hollandia.

This is the original video of the rescue.

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Sergeant Kenneth Decker, Corporal Margaret Hastings, and Lieutenant John McCollom. 

I’ve enjoyed sharing some of the research I did for Castle of Dreams with you.

Cheers, Elise.

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

15078865_10153930399541712_887778448076687684_n.jpgDual timeline stories are a favourite of mine and I have discovered the novels of Diana Gabaldon. I am reading Outlander (published in the United Kingdom as Cross Stitch in 1991) the first in a series of eight (so far) historical multi-genre novels.

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The main narrator is Word War II nurse Claire Randall, married to Frank Randall, who steps through a stone portal in Scotland and travels back in time to 18th century Scotland and finds romance with dashing Jamie Fraser.

The Outlander series is several genres: historical fiction, romance and fantasy. Outlander won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991.

It was through the Outlander series on Netflix that I found my way to the books.

Diana Gabaldon is the New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Outlander novels—Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (for which she won a Quill Award and the Corine International Book Prize), An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood—as well as the related Lord John Grey books Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and The Scottish Prisoner; two works of nonfiction, The Outlandish Companion, Volumes 1 and 2; the Outlander graphic novel The Exile; and The Official Outlander Coloring Book. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband.

Courtesy: Penguin Random House

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Go Tell the Bees that I Am Gone is the ninth book in the Outlander series.

It’s an old Celtic custom to talk to your bees.  I wrote about bees in my recently published novel Castle of Dreams:

‘ . . .  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 withing 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.

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

My work-in-progress is another dual timeline story and I am writing about all things botanical. For this reason I’m sure there will be a few bees flying around pollinating all the blooms on Wallcliffe and the yet-to-be-named rambling estate in the Tumut Valley. It’s a story that includes all the things I love: mystery, romance, history and how the past  influences the present.

Good reading and writing,

Elise

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Charlotte Bronte

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Charlotte Bronte was born on 21st April 1816 at Thornton, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

‘Since 1857, when Elizabeth Gaskell published her famous Life of Charlotte Bronte, hardly a year has gone by without some form of biographical material on the Brontes appearing—from articles in newspapers to full-length lives, from images on tea towels to plays, films, and novelizations,’ wrote Lucasta Miller in The BronteMyth, her 2001 history of Brontemania.

I read Jane Eyre when I was eleven. I reread it constantly that year and it is still on my bookshelf and  read every year. I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte some years later having found it in a second hand book shop in Sydney. To me it was the definitive book on Charlotte Bronte’s life.

Yet now, after reading reviews of Charlotte Bronte written by Claire Harman for the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth I might have to change my views when I read it. ‘It does not have new truths to impart but instead gathers up the best of what has been written before’ says a review in the Guardian on 31 October 2015.

I enjoy Victorian literature for it’s often gothic tropes and the gothic has informed part of the narratives in my own writing.

As a child I read about Scottish heroines locked up in castles, dark and gloomy and cold. Castles are more often thought of as being in Europe or the Middle East but I discovered one in the far north Queensland rainforest of Australia. This led me to writing Castle of Dreams. I’m sure the books I read in childhood have been absorbed by osmosis for when I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park I also imagined a graveyard (perhaps similar to the graveyard at the parsonage) and a tower covered in rambling vines and I included both in my story.

The Bronte Parsonage 

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Storytelling has always been part of every culture since the beginning of time and I look forward to exploring the Dreamtime stories in our Australian Aboriginal culture. What a wealth of magic and mystery waiting for me to read about.

Chapter 38 Conclusion which includes one of the most famous lines in literature.

CHAPTER XXXVIII 

Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the
parson and clerk, were alone present. When we got back from church,
I went into the kitchen of the manor-house, where Mary was cooking
the dinner and John cleaning the knives, and I said –

‘Mary, I have been married to Mr. Rochester this morning.’  . . .

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Charlotte Bronte died 31 March 1855 (aged 38)
Haworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Notable works: Jane Eyre, Villette.
Spouse Arthur Bell Nicholls (1854–1855; her death)

Have a wonderful week of writing, reading and magic.

Elise

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get ideas for novels?

This is a copy of the Poe I found in a second hand bookshop. I refer to it in my WIP. The other is a copy of a book with pressed flowers.

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I typically find ideas in different ways: old books I come across, stories from family or friends, places I visit, research I do for stories that lead to other interesting facts I can use in a novel, historical events. The inspiration for my WIP came from a book my daughter found in Elizabeth’s Bookstore in Perth, WA. Someone had pressed flowers between its pages and that led me to create a botanist in my story.

Where do you write?

I write at a desk facing the window. I can happily listen to music while I am writing or have complete silence, it makes no difference to my creativity.

Where do your ideas for characters originate?

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They mainly come from my own imagination. I research whatever it is that defines each character: a talent, a hobby, a job. By a character having something that defines them it makes them come to life in the story. One character in my WIP is botanist another a painter another a housekeeper who runs a tight ship. One makes cheeses, another restores antique books, even a minor character is a good seamstress.

What authors do you like to read?

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My reading tastes are a broad church:

I read popular fiction: romance, historical, crime, and literary novels if they tell a good story. To me the essence of a good book is its story.  My books are character driven but I also try to write an intriguing story; one that will keep my readers turning the pages.

A few of my favourite authors.

Australian: Henry Handel Richardson, Kate Morton, Lucy Treloar, Geraldine Brooks.

British: Daphne du Maurier, A. S. Byatt, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Mary Stewart, Nancy Mitford, Sebastian Faulks, Pat Barker.

American: Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pat Conroy, Anais Ninn.

I come from a family of book lovers and have inherited the reading gene. Nothing beats opening a new book, reading the first line and knowing the book will stay on my bookshelf forever.

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Have a great week, reading, writing, and dreaming.

Cheers Elise

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First Day of Spring

Today is also publication day for Castle of Dreams in the UK. September the first is the first day of spring in Australia and the first day of autumn my favourite season in the UK.

Thanks to those of you who have reviewed Castle of Dreams and have written about it on social media and have enjoyed reading it. Writers are a supportive bunch!

Photos taken by my son of the wildflowers on the acreage around our house up north in Western Australia. The house faces the Indian Ocean and the wildflowers in spring are beautiful. 

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Happy First Day of Spring

Elise

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