Category Archives: Paronella Park

What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

It’s now only five weeks to the launch of Castle of Dreams. I can’t believe it’s so close. I’ve spoken in the past about the inspiration behind my story but I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about my first visit to the castle ruins at Paronella Park.

A fortunate stroke of serendipity.

I was staying in Mission Beach and went with my daughter and grandchildren to visit a local tourist attraction in the rainforest: Paronella Park.

Jose Paronella was a Spanish immigrant, who came to Australia from Catalonia in 1913. Jose was born in the small village of La Vall de Santa Creu in Catalonia on 26th February 1887. Like many Southern Europeans, he worked in the north Queensland cane fields. He eventually saved enough money to buy his own farm and by buying and selling farms and other investments he became a wealthy man. Jose’s grandmother had often told him night time stories about Spanish castles and  his dream was to one day build his own castle.


The natural swimming pool under the falls at Paronella Park.

It was some years after my visit that I decided I needed to do a little research on Jose Paronella and his castle of dreams. I wanted to know more about the Catalonian immigrant and what brought him to Australia.  And when I discovered that the castle had hosted Australian and American servicemen during the Pacific War I knew I’d found the key to my story.


Castle of Dreams (still standing structure after the cylonic flood washed away most of the castle)

Robert Shine the fictional American soldier in Castle of Dreams is not based on any particular American soldier but after researching the Americans in wartime Brisbane I created a soldier who comes from a place in Northern California called Paradise.


A photo of Jose and Margarita Paronella at the castle

Unknown-2 Jose as a young man

I then emailed Luke Evans who does the publicity for Paronella Park. With Luke’s knowledge and love of the park and his enthusiasm for my project he gave me endless help with my many questions about the history of the castle and its eventually loss during a cyclonic flood.

Here is the link to Goodreads giveaway for Castle of Dreams:‎

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What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

Castle of Dreams will be released by Allen & Unwin on 27th April, 2016. It is a dual narrative story set in two different time periods.

I love to research but I do have a few tips.

I read primary sources like diaries, letters and newspaper reports (Trove is wonderful!). I read books written about and of the period I am researching. I google but online information can be inaccurate so be careful and check more than one source. I use my wonderful local library and inter-library loans for books I don’t necessarily want to keep on my bookshelf, and also, I always read bibliographies carefully in each book as they are a source of more information on the subject you are researching.

I talk to experts in the area I am writing about. I have a military friend who is also a writer of novels and as one period of Castle of Dreams was set in WW2 during the Pacific War I asked him many questions and most importantly I could rely on his answers.

I have read all Kate Morton’s books which I loved and note that she studied and earned a Licentiate in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London. I have often wondered if this the reason Kate can so immerse herself in the character she is writing about that I feel I am that person. It certainly makes for a page turning book. And Kate writes about the things and places I love: mystery, England, Cornwall, and history all sprinkled with a touch of magic.

Synopsis: Castle of Dreams

A ruined castle deep in the rainforest holds a secret that unites three generations of women: two sisters who find themselves in love with the same man as the Second World War rages and, decades later, a young woman determined to uncover the secrets in her grandmother’s hidden past.

Growing up together in a mysterious castle in northern Queensland, Rose and Vivien Blake are very close sisters. But during the Second World War their relationship becomes strained when they each fall in love with the same dashing but enigmatic American soldier.

Rose’s daughter, Linda, has long sensed a secret in her mother’s past, but Rose has always resisted Linda’s questions, preferring to focus on the present.

Years later Rose’s granddaughter, Stella, also becomes fascinated by the shroud of secrecy surrounding her grandmother’s life. Intent on unravelling the truth, she visits the now-ruined castle where Rose and Vivien grew up to see if she can find out more.

Captivating and compelling, Castle of Dreams is about love, secrets, lies – and the perils of delving into the past . . .

An Excerpt

“The taxi arrived at eleven. Vivien said goodnight to Mrs Sherman and Cecily and patted Mercury. It was only when William walked her out to the porch that she noticed his limp.

He looked down and caught her puzzled expression. ‘Fromelles,’ he said quietly. ‘I wear an artificial leg.’

The balmy night air brought the scent of roses and summer jasmine, tubs of gardenias gleamed in the moonlight, and she could hear water tinkling in a nearby fountain. William, shining a small torch before them on the path, escorted Vivien to the front gate and into the taxi as rain began to fall over the leafy suburb.”

Photos of the Castillo de Suenos aka (Paronella Park)

This is the natural pool under the falls where Vivien and Rose learnt to swim.


The concrete tables where Vivien and Rose would throw their towels before they had a swim.


This is the staircase leading from the castle to the pool.


And today you can get married in the rainforest at

Paronella Park!



Filed under Allen & Unwin, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, Paronella Park, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams

In April of this year, Allen & Unwin will publish my novel Castle of Dreams. I thought I’d share a small excerpt.

Castillo de Sueños, 1935

Vivien and Rose Blake rushed out through the heavy front doors of Castillo de Sueños, yelling to their mother they’d be home before dark. Too late Vivien remembered she’d promised to help Ma in the propagating shed with the orchids and lacy maidenhair ferns, but all day the rich scent of wild honey-suckle climbing over the loggia had drifted through the open windows, and now that lessons were over, outdoors beckoned irresistibly. Feet barely touching the mosaic tiles, the girls ran across the loggia, down the wide stone steps, and across the lawn towards the rainforest.

I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park some years ago, a magical place set in the far north Queensland rainforest. Paronella Park has a website that you can visit to see pictures of the castle ruins and read about its rich history.  I’m sure lots of WW2 romances must have started there when the Australian and American servicemen came out to the Saturday night dances with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends. All of which I have written about in Castle of Dreams.

Castle of Dreams has two narratives, one set in WW2 Australia and the other in contemporary times. It’s full of all the things I love in a novel: romance, mystery and betrayal, everything to keep you turning the pages to find out what happened next.

Have a wonderful day and I hope it is full of magic and enchantment,






Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Allen & Unwin, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, Paronella Park, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams




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

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

Good writing and reading,

Elise x


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Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Allen & Unwin, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, Paronella Park, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams

UnknownI have finished the structural edit on my novel Castle of Dreams to be published by Allen & Unwin in April 2016. While I was in the midst of this edit it was a priority. I didn’t watch television, go to the movies, have dinner with friends (well, occasionally) and this was the only way I could finish editing by the due date. I had a sense of excitement when I got up each morning and while I knew I’d probably be at the computer for hours during the day and evening I didn’t mind. I went to another place: the world of my characters. Castle of Dreams is a duel narrative story set in the nineteen forties (a period in history I love) and in contemporay times:  2008-2009. The main characters you will meet in the historical narrative are Vivien and Rose, two sisters who have grown up in Castillo de Suenos, and Robert an American serviceman stationed in Brisbane during WW2. In the contemporary narrative you will meet Stella, the granddaughter of Rose. The historical strand of the story, set in far north Queensland, is about the two sisters and Robert Shine the man they both love. It will be nearly seventy years before the consequences of their potent desires are fully played out as Stella looks at a light filled photograph of her grandmother and wonders at the intensity of it. The question will lead her to the truth about those fevered years in the nineteen forties. The story explores the quixotic nature of memory and the perils of obsessive love, and shares dark family secrets which have long been hidden. Paronella Park was the inspiration for Castillo de Suenos the Castle of Dreams and if you google Paronella Park you will see the beautiful images of the ruins of the original castle. In future posts I will write more about Paronella Park and its history.

Good writing and reading to everyone, Elise x

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Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, Paronella Park, What Elise Wrote