Category Archives: What Elise Wrote
I write dual timeline novels and the benefits are manifold for the reader. A book that I still read at least once a year is Possession by A S Byatt the novel that inspired my own love of the genre. The first book I wrote was a romance novel, the second a historical novel based on a convict ancestor who had a colourful past, and the third was a dual timeline novel set during the goldrush days in Australia and a contemporary story. Castle of Dreams was a dual timeline novel that became a bestseller in Australia and was published in translation in Norway. Each time I start a novel I consider writing a chronological storyline but the benefits are many in writing a dual narrative story, a more layered plot, a linking theme and two casts of characters.
My new novel One Bright Day is finished and with my agent. It’s a dual narrative story and by way of serendipity I found a single playing card in the Acorn Patch and while I wrote I kept the card on my desk. The book is one that found me: What better companion than Ronald Blythe? On the coastal paths of North Norfolk, meeting crab fishermen of Cromer or speculation on the lost city of Dunwhich . . . along the footpaths of Northamptonshire in the steps of John Clare . . . climbing Snowdonia after Gerard Manley Hopkins . . . tracking down a mystery in Raleigh, North Carolina . . . following the rounds of a Suffolk doctor in the 1920’s and a Victorian Breckland shepherd . . . through the seasons in the John Nash’s Essex garden, which he himself now tends . . . and of course, Going to Meet George Mackay Brown, in Orkney. Ronald Blythe walks, remembers, evokes, describes, speculates in these wonderfully written pieces and outings, on which he invites us to accompany him. ~ From the folder flap.
The butterfly dish was a gift from a friend and what more beautiful thing than a gift of new beginnings?
When I am writing I sometimes feel like one of my favourite childhood characters from a story book, Alice. One never knows what one will discover down the rabbit hole: dreams, magical happenings, a roadsign that leads you to the land of imaginings, and hopefully, at the end of all this day dreaming and imagining, a new story will be brought to life.
Photo credit: Lucuna Magazine
Have a wonderful week, writing, reading and most importantly dreaming.
The 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,
My house is two hundred years old. It has walls a yard thick, a big garden, a very large green iron gate for cars, flanked by a smaller gate for people. The big garden is in the back of the house…Anaïs Nin.
Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell (February 21, 1903 – January 14, 1977), known professionally as Anaïs Nin, was an American diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories. Born to Cuban parents in France, Nin was the daughter of composer Joaquín Nin and Rosa Culmell, a classically trained singer. Although Nin spent some time in Spain and Cuba, she lived in Paris and in the United States, where she became an established author.
Her journals describe her marriages to Hugh Parker Guiler and Rupert Pole, in addition to her numerous affairs, including those with psychoanalyst Otto Rank and writer Henry Miller, both of whom profoundly influenced Nin and her writing.
Anaïs had two husbands — one in Los Angeles and one in New York ,
Anaïs Nin and her husband Rupert Pole
Anaïs Nin and her husband Hugh Guiler
Anaïs Nin’s reputation came from her diaries. She documented her life as a writer, artist and woman. She became a cult figure on campuses in America in the 60’s and early 70’s. Anaïs lived her life as a liberated woman and became a feminist heroine. The diaries are considered to be mainly fictional, illusions and lies.
While the diaries are considered mainly fictional, Anaïs writes about the many writers and artists that she knew. Her love affair with Henry Miller when she lived at Louveciennes is well-known and the two writers stayed friends for life.
Her obsession with allusions, water and mirrors, and houses, reflected her own imagining of her life.
Living her life as a work of art wasn’t always easy but it must have been enchanting!
It’s an old Celtic custom to talk to your bees. I wrote about bees in my novel Castle of Dreams. It is the early nineteen forties and Robert Shine, an American soldier, is having dinner with Vivien Sherman and her husband William at their home in Brisbane.
‘ . . . 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 within 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.
So if you have bee hives remember to talk to your bees and plant lots of bee-loving flowers in your garden.
Celtic mythology is an endless source of gold for an author. It is easy to weave a few strands through a novel to make it a more layered story. I was recently researching Celtic traditions and came across the earliest-known Celtic calendar, the Coligny calendar, now in the Palais des Arts, Lyon. Each year is divided into thirteen months.
The original Celtic year
Imbolc: 1st February-The Beginning of Spring
Beltaine: 1st May-The Beginning of Summer
Lughnasadh: 1st August- Beginning of the Harvest, and the end of summer
Samhain: 1st November
Sunset on Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-en’), October 31st, is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest gathered, livestock brought in from the fields, leaves are falling from the trees. It’s the ending of one cycle, the beginning of another as the earth slowly begins to hibernate. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). Like Bealtaine, Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed.
Ancient Celtic wisdom associates seeing a large patch of primroses with a gateway or portal into the faerie realms.
I will never stop writing about flowers and myths in my novels. In Castle of Dreams I wrote about the rainforest, I also wrote about an overgrown garden surrounding a cottage in the Blue Mountains.
Afterwards, Vivien slipped on her kimono, left Robert sleeping, and went outside to the garden.
While the inside of the cottage was as neat as a pin, the backyard was a delightfully overgrown shambles with a back-drop of autumn hues: a row of tupelo trees immediately behind the cottage, and maple, ash and tallow woods on the crest of a small hill a little further away. Ferns dipped over a brick path leading to the one point of light in the garden, a silver linden tree.
Taitneamh a bhaint as aisling draíochta
(enjoy magical dreams)
Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte wrote about the wild moors in the north of England. It is place that is grey and dark in winter and even in warmer seasons is a sombre place where tough bracken and heather cover the hills and fragments of the past linger.
The isolation of Haworth Parsonage on the wild and bleak local moors separated the Bronte children from other families and they relied on each other for companionship. This lead them to create fantasy worlds: Gondal, shared by Emily and Anne, is an island in the North Pacific; Angria, shared by Charlotte and her brother Bramwell, is nominally in Africa.
Bronte Parsonage in Haworth
Wuthering Heights was written by Emily Bronte and is her only novel. It was published in 1847 under the pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’. Emily Bronte died the following year, aged 30.
‘I lingered round them, under that benign sky, watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.’
~Catherine and Heathcliff.
‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed. One may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house, and by a gaunt range of thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving the alms of the sun. ~ Wuthering Heights, Chapter 1.
I discovered the Brontes when I was still at school and knew straightaway I’d found magical stories. The images were wonderful: bleak moors, star-crossed lovers, solitary landscapes, valleys and streams; haunting novels.
And, of course the story of the Brontes themselves.
Remember, read books that bring magic into your life.
I have never visited the Persephone bookshop but plan to do so when I am next in London. They have kindly sent me The Persephone Biannually since I first discovered their books in 2011 and I recently received No 22 Autumn/Winter 2017-18. It is now available to read on their website for overseas customers.
Persephone Books reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. All of our 125 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial. We publish novels, short stories, diaries, memoirs and cookery books; each has an elegant grey jacket, a ‘fabric’ endpaper with matching bookmark, and a preface by writers such as Jilly Cooper, David Kynaston and Elaine Showalter. Reference: Persephone website
Interior Persephone Bookshop
And don’t you love the window display?
While the Christmas period is a busy one I made time to start a new novel and while it doesn’t have a working title as yet there is something magical about writing the first word of a new story on the first day of a new year.
‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice.’ ~ T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
May the joys of the season be with you throughout the coming year.
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.
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.
I thought I’d be finished ‘One Bright Day’ many months ago but it has taken until now to put the last full stop on the last page!
Another month or two and I will be finished writing my new book. It has a working title of One Bright Day.
The inspiration for this story came from a visit by my daughter to Elizabeth’s Second Hand Bookshop in Perth, WA. As she was browsing its dusty shelves she picked up a book with pressed flowers between its pages and thought it might be a good way to start a story.
The early narrative thread (it is a time split novel) is set in the southwest of WA where I lived for several years on a vineyard so I know the area well, with detours to other parts of the world and finally, and most importantly, for this is where the heart of the story is, in the Tumut Valley where the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people lived for thousands of years prior to European settlement.
My story is about abandoned gardens…
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Reading Poems by Christina Rossetti last night, I wondered how the book had found its way to me for I knew I hadn’t bought it in any bookshop. It was first printed in January, 1906 and has ‘9’ written in pencil on the front end page and stamped in red is the inscription: ‘Red Letter Library.’
A previous owner copied a poem by Christina Rossetti on each of the end pages and marked with a little cross six favourite poems. I assume they were favourite ones and not ones to be avoided for ‘Goblin Market’ is amongst them.
No doubt I found the book in some obscure place: an opportunity shop or a second hand bookshop, perhaps in England but most likely in Sydney, Australia when I frequented such places and found many a literary treasure.
I Googled ‘Red Letter Library’ and discovered the graphic artist Talwin Morris (1865-1911) who was a member of the circle of artists surrounding the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow. Through his book designs, one of which is my Rossetti, Morris was able to introduce a wide audience to what was known as the ‘Glasgow Style’ that flourished at the end of the nineteenth century.
Morris produced designs for page layout, endpapers and title-pages as well, and his design work also extended to other branches of the decorative arts, including textiles, interior design, furniture and metalwork.
But I clearly remember where I found an ancient copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam illustrated by Alice Ross. I once lived on a farm north of Perth, Western Australia and this little gem, long forgotten, was in a box containing far more mundane things like old farm accounts. I don’t know who once owned it but surely it must have been a romantic.
I have a little book called The Roadmender by one Michael Fairless who turned out to be Margaret Fairless Barber, born in May, 1869 at Castle Hill, Rastrick, Yorkshire. The Roadmender came with a yellowed clipping from a newspaper, a biography of Margaret, that a previous owner of the book had slipped carefully between its pages.
On the front end page is an inscription: Dear Mrs Derhaven With the love of her old friend JHS, 1906, with half the page inscribed with lines from the book. Mrs D was the original owner for it is a 1905 edition.
The name of a later owner is also inscribed, Helen B 27.9.55 and another name is circled in pencil, Julie K.
The Roadmender has certainly passed through second hand bookshops for a price of one shilling is scrawled on the title page in dark blue ink.
Tomorrow I will sit out in the sun and write my own name in these books.
The journey of any book can tell its own story if you take the time to look for it!