Category Archives: Elise McCune

Daphne du Maurier-Gothic Literature

I am busy finishing my work-in-progress but I enjoy writing my blog so I thought I’d indulge myself and write a post about my favourite genre this morning with a cup of tea at my elbow. I notice that other writers, often older writers (of which I am one), steer clear of social media but I have made friends all over the world as well as in Australia through my blog. I cherish these friendships and learn much from my fellow writers and my readers. Social media is now part everday life for most people and I like to connect with my readers. Writing is my passion and it doesn’t take more than a half-hour to write a post. I write them for myself as well as for my readers so my blog is rather like a journal. When I finish my WIP I am going to become more active on Instagram which I love!

Here is a short excerpt from my WIP, a dual narrative story set in the southwest of Western Australia and the beautiful Tumut Valley which is at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, with a few chapters set in London. I set my stories against a backdrop of war and in my WIP, which has the working title of One Bright Day, I write about World War One and its aftermath.

Excerpt: One Bright Day

Mrs Barker had a small, narrow upstairs bedroom reached by a private staircase at the back of the house and when Daniel and Harry were youngsters they’d sneak up there before she retired for the night. A row of tall glass jars filled with sugary treats was set atop the chest of drawers and they could choose modestly from the assortment: a couple of sugar-coated jubes, one of the squares of fresh fudge wrapped in waxed paper, a jagged piece of chocolate, or a long black twist of licorice.

She gave me a sharp look. ‘Did you sleep well, Ellen?’

When I didn’t answer she wiped her hands on her apron, still looking at me. Mrs Barker had a knack of knowing what went on in the household.

My novel is not a Gothic novel but it does have elements of magic with an abandoned garden and lots of family secrets. If I have a motif in my WIP it is definitely gardens with  an artist in the past who paints flowers and a botanist in the present day.

Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic

I first read Daphne du Maurier when I found old hardback copies of her books with their beautiful wrap around covers on my mother’s bookshelf.  I was about ten years old and these books were the start of my obsession with all things Gothic. Having an interest in Australian Gothic it’s on my ‘to be read’ list to read more of our 19th century Australian writers who wrote in the Gothic genre.

I wrote a post on 29 th October, 2016 called ‘Gothic Literature’ in which I spoke about Australian Gothic Literature and listed some of my favourite books in the Gothic genre.

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Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) used traditional Gothic motifs. Her motifs are: dark romances, a fascination with the past, the supernatural, and the magical intermingled with the realistic. And contain psychological insight through characterisation and representation of fear and the sinister and macabre .

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Her short stories, such as ‘The Birds, ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Apple Tree’, take Gothic themes and add new twists. ‘The Apple Tree’can be read as the story of a woman haunting her husband from beyond the grave but it can also be viewed as a chilling meditation upon mental disintegration.

Daphne du Maurier was foremost a storyteller and that’s what I love about her novels and short stories. They draw you in and you can’t let go of the characters, ever!

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Rebecca herself  is dead when the novel starts and is the perfect example of a character and not a ghost, who makes not a single living appearance, but haunts the imaginations of the living protagonists. Favourite characters all.

I read all Daphne du Maurier’s novels and short stories, often found preloved in second hand bookshops, before I left school, The mystery and magic of her story telling and the haunting darkness and complexity of her work makes me return to them often.

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Other favourite characters are Phillip and Rachel in My Cousin Rachel and Mary Yellan in Jamaica Inn.

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In the same way as Thomas Hardy is forever associated with Wessex, and Charles Dickens with London, so Daphne du Maurier is forever associated with Cornwall. Cornwall gave du Maurier the freedom to write free from the distractions of London life. I have several books about Cornwell on my bookshelf including Vanishing Cornwell by Daphne du Maurier.

Daphne and her two sisters

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Have a wonderful week and include magic and storytelling and writing and reading.

Elise

Thanks to Greg Buzwell, Curator for Printed Literary Sources, 1801 – 1914 at the British Library. His research focuses primarily on the Gothic literature of the Victorian fin de siècle. He is also editing a collection of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ghost stories, The Face in the Glass and Other Gothic Tales, for publication. The text in Greg’s article is available under the Creative Commons License.

 

 

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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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Alison Stuart-Australian Author

Alison Stuart will be a speaker at the HNSA Conference Swinburne University Hawthorn, Melbourne, September 8-10 Visit our website to purchase tickets:http://hnsa.org.au/conference/buy-tickets/

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Born in Africa in the dying days of the British Empire, at the age of ten award winning Australian author Alison Stuart moved to Australia. After a long and varied career as a lawyer, including stints with the military and fire services, Alison turned to her first passion, history.  Most of her stories have an English Civil War setting and several of them have  been shortlisted for international awards. She is loved by her readers for her ability to breathe life into the dry bones of history, particularly a lesser known period of history such as the civil war.

Alison learned her passion from history from her father. She has been writing stories since her teenage years but it was not until 2007 that her first full length novel was published. A past president of the Romance Writers of Australia, Alison has now published seven full length historical romances and a collection of her short stories. Many of her stories have been shortlisted for international awards and BY THE SWORD won the 2008 EPIC Award for Best Historical Romance.   Her inclination for writing about soldier heroes may come from her varied career as a lawyer in the military and fire services. These days when she is not writing she is travelling and routinely drags her long suffering husband around battlefields and castles.

Ref: http://www.alisonstuart.com

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When grieving widow, Australian, Helen Morrow and her six year old daughter, Alice arrive at her husband’s previous home, Holdston in rural England, she is welcomed by his mother Evelyn. But the meeting with wounded and reclusive Major Paul Morrow,  her husband’s cousin, does not go so well. He wants nothing to do with them.  A coded diary, written by Paul’s great-grandmother, is found and Helen and Paul haunted by ghosts from another time and another conflict they search for answers. While they search for answers to the past mystery there is also a mystery surrounding the death of Helen’s husband at Passchandaele. I love reading stories with a past and present thread and the two stories entwine brilliantly.  The novel is character driven, which all the best novels are, and the scenes in early 1900’s England are a delight.

Gather the Bones by Alison Stuart is a fabulous read. This is the first book by this talented storyteller I have read and I look forward to reading more.

(This writer is NOT the Alison Stuart who also writes as Kate Tremayne and authored Fateful Shadows, Sin No More, Barefoot Angel, Innocence Betrayed or Loyalty Defiled.)

The HNSA Melbourne Conference will be a fabulous event with authors such as Alison Stuart presenting.

Elise

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Jackie Ballantyne-Writer

Jackie Ballantyne will be a speaker at the HNSA Conference Swinburne University Hawthorn, Melbourne, September 8-10 Visit our website to take advantage of our early bird discounts. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/buy-tickets/

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email: jgb2@xtra.co.nz

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twitter: SollyMcKeen@Solly McKeen

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Jackie Ballantyne began writing fiction while she was working in advertising in Melbourne. Since then she has won awards and commendations for her short stories. Her first novel, ‘How to Stop a Heart from Beating’ (Random House New Zealand, 2007), was met with acclaim. This was followed by ‘The Silver Gaucho’ (The Doby Press, 2014), subsequently shortlisted for The Rubery Award, UK, in 2015. Jackie has recently returned to live and write in Melbourne after twelve years in Dunedin, New Zealand.

 Jackie Ballantyne (in her own words). 

It’s always been words. As a child I liked to read dictionaries. I sat on the floor of my aunt and uncle’s living room and read the Chambers Dictionary that they used as a doorstop. I dipped into the Greater Oxford English Dictionary that my grandfather revered and kept away from the light (?) under the escritoire. I loved our family Webster’s with its intricate line drawings. In time I built my own dictionary collection. I added exotics: a Dictionary of Culinary Terms, a Pictorial Dictionary of Roses, various medical dictionaries, language dictionaries, a Dictionary of Animal Husbandry and the Dictionary of Derivations of the English Language. At some stage I acquired a copy of The Universal Home Doctor Illustrated (Circa 1937) which was to become an essential resource when I was writing How to Stop a Heart From Beating. In the bookcase beside me are four shelves of dictionaries. I buy them pre-loved, often annotated by a previous owner. I once found a poem about a butterfly tucked inside a Dictionary of Biblical Quotations. I began experimenting with fiction while I was working in advertising in Australia.  Starting out as a copywriter, I pursued my passion with words and ways of putting them together. I spent years inventing advertising captions and jingles and one of the hardest lessons in my writing apprenticeship was to compose sentences of more than five words. Even now I am prone to one word sentences. I might no longer agonise over full stops and exclamation marks, but I’m still finicky about punctuation.

The HNSA Melbourne Conference will be a fabulous event with authors such as Jackie Ballantyne presenting.

Elise

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Slottet i Regnskogen

The Castle in the Rainforest (Hardcover)

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This is the lovely cover for the translated Norwegian hardcover edition of The Castle in the Rainforest. The title of the Australian edition is Castle of Dreams.

Norway is a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. Oslo, the capital, is a city of green spaces and museums. Preserved 9th-century Viking ships are displayed at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum. Bergen, with colorful wooden houses, is the starting point for cruises to the dramatic Sognefjord. Norway is also known for fishing, hiking and skiing, notably at Lillehammer’s Olympic resort.

My publisher Cappelen Damm is a Norwegian publisher based in Oslo.

I appreciate Norwegian style which is characterised by simplicity although like in Australia I guess some people love their clutter!

Norway is truly beautiful. I’d love to visit one day!

Elise

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What Elise Wrote-Today

The working title for my work-in-progress is One Bright Day and my story does seem shiny and bright (except for when I come to a great stumbling block in the plot). Now I have made a deadline to finish the novel I find that the words are flowing more easily. Still, I do have some way to go yet until I finish.

It’s April, 1921 and the war that impacted so many people has been over for three years. I’m spending time with Ellen, who at this moment is walking along taking in the sights of historical London. It’s Ellen’s first overseas journey and she left her home in southwestern Australia with some trepidation. It’s the English spring, and there’s nothing like a fine, spring day in England and Ellen and a friend are going on a picnic in Regent’s Park. Ellen is an artist and takes her sketchbook wherever she goes I wonder what she sketched today.

Regent’s Park, London

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Ellen, for a very special reason, goes to St Pancras Old Church in London so I’ve researched part of its history. (I love research and finding some little gem to include in my story.) I found this!

In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, an ash tree is circled by gravestones.

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Thomas Hardy (before turning to writing full time) studied architecture in London under Mr. Arlhur Blomfield, an architect based in Covent Garden. During the 1860s the Midland Railwayline was being built over part of the original St. Pancras Churchyard. Blomfield was commissioned to supervise the proper exhumation of human remains and dismantling of tombs. He passed this unenviable task to his protegé Thomas Hardy in. c.l865. Hardy would have spent many hours in St. Pancras Churchyard overseeing the careful removal of bodies and tombs from the land on which the railway was being built. The headstones around this ash tree would have been placed here about that time. The tree has since grown in amongst the stones.

It’s fun writing a story!

I particularly enjoy setting my stories in Australia but sometimes my characters travel overseas. In this story it is to England and I have glimpses of the Middle East in WW1.

This the gate Ellen walks through to visit an abandoned house.

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I’m looking forward to being a speaker at the HNSA Conference in Melbourne in September (details below).

This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing our theme, inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/programme/ Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott, Arnold Zable, Gary Crew, Melissa Ashley, Kate Mildenhall, Juliet Marillier, Anne Gracie, Pamela Hart, Kelly Gardiner and Libby Hathorn. http://hnsa.org.au/conference/speakers/

Let’s celebrate historical fiction!

Elise

Ref. The Hardy Tree:   jinx-in-the-sky.blogspot.com

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The Harp in the South by Ruth Park

I will be speaking at the HNSA Melbourne Conference 8th to 10th September, 2017. My session is on Saturday afternoon.

WORLDS AT WAR: THE APPEAL OF 20TH CENTURY HISTORICAL FICTION
The history of the early to mid-20th century now falls within the definition of ‘historical fiction’. Why do novels depicting the great conflicts of modern times hold such fascination? And has war fiction replaced Tudor fiction as ‘the favourite flavour’ for readers and publishers? Julian Novitz discusses these questions with Paddy Richardson, Elise McCune, Justin Sheedy and Julian Leatherdale.

The main menu of the website (2017 Programme) is broken into the following sub-menu:

This is my fifth review for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge.

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The Harp in the South by Ruth Park is one of my favourite books. It was first published in 1948 and was Ruth Park’s first novel. Set in the 1940’s it tells the story of the Darcy family who live in a small terrace house in Surrey Hills, a working class suburb of Sydney: Roie and Dolour, their parents Hughie and Margaret (Mumma) and Mr Diamond and Miss Sheily who rent the two attic rooms in the house. Hughie has a job at a foundry, but is often off sick due to the effects of the sly grog he imbibes. Mumma tries to be a good Catholic wife. They once had a little son,Thaddy, but one day he was playing outside on the pavement and disappeared never to be seen again. The lose of Thaddy leaves a hole as big as the sky in Mumma’s heart.

Ruth Park

Rosina Ruth Lucia Park (24 August 1917 – 14 December 2010) was a New Zealand–born Australian author. Her best known works are the novels The Harp in the South (1948) and Playing Beatie Bow (1980), and the children’s radio serial The Muddle-Headed Wombat (1951–1970), which also spawned a book series (1962–1982).


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The main theme is the influence of the Catholic Church and poverty and hardship. When I read The Harp in the South I am in awe of how Ruth Park, a young woman at the time of writing this novel, had such insight into the lives and loves and despair of the people who lived at Twelve-and-a-Half, Plymouth Street. And she understands that they enjoyed being part of a family and the wider community and also that they considered themselves lucky.

In October 1945, the Sydney Morning Herald announced an art and literature grant that included a two-thousand pound prize for the best novel. In December 1946, Ruth Park (aged twenty-six) learned that out of 175 entries, her book about the Irish-Australian family had won.

The Harp in the South, wrote war poet Shawn O’Leary in the review that accompanied the announcement, ‘bludgeons the reader about the brain, the heart, and the conscience.’ It became an Australian classic, acclaimed by literary critics and so loved that it is yet to go out of print and is published in 37 languages.

The Harp in the South is a wonderful book, a quintessential Australian story that I reread often with something amounting to glee.

Perhaps in some other time she would find him here in this room, this dirty dark room that had now been enhaloed and enchanted as the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea after the Resurrection. She looked up at the ceiling; neither the stained plaster nor the clotted webs did she see, only the dark and fathomless and immortal sky, and beyond it Him who chose to walk in the ways of the poor and the forgotten as He walked in His garden. 

Ruth Park

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Good reading and writing

Elise

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth is the HNSA Patron at the  HNSA Conference Melbourne
8th -10th September 2017.

 Visit our speaker’s page www.hnsa.org.au/speakers for more information.

SUBSCRIBE to our newsletter to hear when early bird registration opens http://eepurl.com/bgWm49 And 

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the award-winning & internationally bestselling author of more than 20 books for both adults and children.

Beauty in Thorns, the extraordinary love story behind the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones’s famous painting of ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Other novels include The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ set in the underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany; The Wild Girl, the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales; and Bitter Greens, a retelling of ‘Rapunzel’ which won the 2015 American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction. Named one of Australia’s Favourite 15 Novelists, Kate has a doctorate in fairy tale studies and is an accredited master storyteller.

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The Wild Girl  by Kate Forsyth is storytelling at its best. I enjoyed the richness of the words, the characters who were brought to life and the story which is about love and overcoming adversity. It is a blending of historical fact and fiction. Kate Forsyth has researched the events in the novel and in the afterword the author writes that she listened to the story within the stories that Gretchen told. This helped to plausibly fill in the blanks in Gretchen’s life.

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From the back cover:
Dortchen Wild is drawn to the boy next door, young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm. They live in the German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in the early nineteenth century in a time of war. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Living under French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save the old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.
Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories and as she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.
Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.

As a lover of history The Wild Girl had me turning the pages. I enjoyed the historical facts of Napoleon’s advance, then retreat, through Europe. I have an interest in plants and flowers and found the glimpse into how flowers and herbs were used at the time, as both medicines and to help people achieve their desires, added to the richness of the story.

The abuse that Dortchen suffers at the hands of her father, one of the people in her life who should protect her, was handled well, although one particularly harrowing scene was not to my liking. I can, however, see the need for this scene as it explains future happenings in the plot.

Excerpt from the first page:
‘Snow lay thick on the ground. The lake’s edges were slurred with ice. The only colour was the red rosehips in the briar hedge, and the golden windows of the palace. Violin music lilted into the air, and shadows twirled past the glass panes.’

In The Wild Girl Kate Forysth enchants with her descriptive powers, engages the reader with the story, and most of all Gretchen and Wilhem are vividly brought to life.

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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The Storyteller

‘Storyteller Under Sunny Skies,’ a clay sculpture by Rose Pecos-Sun Rhodes (Jemez Pueblo), 1993, in the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

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Early storytelling most likely originated in simple chants. People sang chants as they worked at grinding corn or sharpening tools. Our early ancestors created myths to explain natural occurrences. They assigned superhuman qualities to ordinary people, thus originating the hero tale.

Journeying from land to land, storytellers would learn various regions’s stories while also gathering news to bring back with them. Through exchanging stories with other storytellers, stories changed, making it difficult to trace the origins of many stories.

I write time-slip novels with one narrative set in the past. I hope I create stories that engage the reader and my plot  has them turning the pages. The wonderful thing about being a storyteller is being able to bring characters to life so that when a reader finishes your novel the characters live on in their imagination. Research for historical fiction can be overwhelming. If an author wants to convince a reader there is no room for error although on saying that I’ve read the most wonderful and well researched books that have included an incorrect historical detail and it has not detracted from the story. Someone once told me about carpet weavers in India who always make sure to leave a flaw in a finished carpet to show only God is perfect. Research is a long piece of string but on the whole it’s crucial historical details are correct so we can bring the dusty, cobwebbed world of the past to life.

When I write I like to focus on the beauty of the writing and intricate issues. A story that provides a means to better understand the world. A story driven by my characters and one that keeps my readers turning the page.

But the most important thing to remember is that authors are storytellers and must enchant the reader which is easier to do in some stories than others.

One of my favourite books is Speak, Memory an autobiographical memoir by writer Vladimir Nabokov. It’s been on my shelf since my teenage self found it in a Sydney  bookstore and it’s a book I reread.

Vladimir Nabokov writes:

‘There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three — storyteller, teacher, enchanter — but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer…The three facets of the great writer — magic, story, lesson — are prone to blend in one impression of unified and unique radiance, since the magic of art may be present in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought…Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.’

Excerpt: Paris Review No. 40

‘There is no doubt that Nabokov feels as a tragic loss the conspiracy of history that deprived him of his native Russia, and that brought him in middle life to doing his life’s work in a language that is not that of his first dreams.’

Enchantment is such a lovely word, the sound of it, the meaning it brings to mind.

Oxford Dictionary of English:

Enchantment

1 a feeling of great pleasure; delight: the enchantment of the mountains.
2 the state of being under a spell; magic: a world of mystery and enchantment.

I hope the new novel I’m working on tells a story that is full of enchantment and mystery and that my readers want to keep turning the pages.  And because it has a magical garden at the heart of the story I thought I’d give you a glimpse of the garden that inspired me.

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Have a wonderful day, dreaming, writing and reading and most of all I hope it is full of enchantment.

Elise

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