Tag Archives: Australia

A Paris Apartment Lost in Time

When I was writing my first novel Castle of Dreams I came across an article about a Paris apartment that had been lost in time. I filed the article away knowing I would use parts of the story and some of the images in a future story.

My work-in-progress is a dual narrative story set in World War One and its aftermath and in contemporary times. The story of the Paris apartment easily transposes to early twentieth century Australia where one narrative is set.

The locked Paris apartment has all the things I love: an abandoned home, images of what was left behind, a romantic story, a mystery.


In my files I have an unpublished story I wrote some years ago in which one of the characters is an artist so it wasn’t difficult to reread my original research, and use this in my WIP. I always give my characters a particular profession or hobby that defines them throughout a story and in the past narrative of my WIP one of my characters is an artist. So when I looked again at the photos of the Paris apartment and noticed the abandoned paintings I knew I’d have to include these in my story. Perhaps one of the found paintings will be of a young woman as beautiful as Marthe de Florian.

Marthe de Florian, the apartment owner’s grandmother who was a Belle Epoque socialite, theatre actress, and Boldini’s (the artist who painted this picture) muse.


The Paris apartment has all the elements of a fairytale including another of my favourite things: love letters from the past. They were found in the apartment, wrapped in different colored ribbons and scrawled in the hand of, among others, Boldini and 72nd Prime Minister George Clemenceau.

In the present day narrative my protagonist is a botanist who seeks the secrets of her family’s past. My mother was a keen gardener and loved to be outdoors and my daughter inherited her grandmother’s love of nature and gardens.  I didn’t.  Yet now I have started to research this subject I’m fascinated. Biblical references to plants and flowers is something I will use in my story: the healing properties of herbs, perfume, and more.  Botany is a wide church.

Jasmine Flowers


Have a wonderful week, dreaming, writing and reading.

Elise x




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What Elise Wrote – Book Trailer


Shared from Allen & Unwin

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda Book Trailer

Published on Nov 20, 2014
The iconic song about the Battle of Gallipoli, written by Eric Bogle in 1972 at the height of the anti-war movement. And now Bruce Whatley’s evocative illustrations bring a heart-rending sense of reality to the tale.

This book trailer is particularly poignant for me because I am one of many who lost a relative to war. My work-in-progress has a backdrop of WW1 and while my story is not set on the battlefield but on the homefront this video is one I will watch to give me inspiration.

It’s lovely to see the younger generation embracing Anzac Day by visiting the Gallipoli Peninsular and also the many who attended services held around Australia yesterday.




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What Elise Wrote: Castle of Dreams

Thrilled to let you know the rights for Castle of Dreams have been sold by Allen&Unwin to Norwegian publisher, CappelenDamm. The publisher is very well known and extremely reputable.

I loved writing Castle of Dreams a story set in Australia and weaving the two storylines together. I felt immersed in the story from the start. It is set in two time periods: WW2 and contemporary times. I had visited Paronella Park some years previously and never forgot the sense of mystery and decided the castle would hold my story together.

After three novels in the bottom drawer, a memoir, and a lost romance novel I was thrilled when Louise Thurtell from Allen&Unwin’s innovative Friday Pitch made me an offer to publish Castle of Dreams. I can’t speak more highly of the support I received from the whole team at Allen&Unwin and they did enjoy the cake my daughter and grandchildren delivered to their office in Crows Nest in Sydney!



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What Elise Wrote-World Poetry Day

I have long loved poetry and wrote a few lines from the  The Highwayman in my novel Castle of Dreams. It is a poem that Stella and Jack loved when they were teenagers and quoted to each other as they walked home together from the school bus. It’s about Bess the landlords daughter who is doomed to plait a blood-red love knot in her hair forever. Very dramatic and romantic!  I’m writing Book 2 now and it is set in WW1 and its aftermath. My protagonist is, as most country boys were in that era, a wonderful horseman. His horse is named Midnight. I have done an outline for Book 2(which changes now and again) and while I can’t share the story with you I can say it has the backdrop of WW, a mystery and romance. Just the type of novel I like to read.

Today is World Poetry Day and I have shared a video curtesy of Shakespeare and Company.

For World Poetry Day, Macedonian poet Nikola Madzirov reads his work first in his native language, then in English translation. I shared this reading from Shakespeare and Company. Nikola’s poems are exquisite.




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I finally have a title for my novel!

Castle of Dreams

The castle in my novel is based on Paronella Park in far north Queensland. If you Google it you will see images of the place I have set much of my story in.

Now I have a title that everyone loves I can’t wait to see the cover!

I’m  working on the Structural Edit which is due back to my editor in three weeks.

Castle of Dreams will be published by Allen & Unwin in April, 2016.

Elise x

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A Writer’s Notebook

My novel, to be published in 2016 by Allen & Unwin is ready for a final edit. It still doesn’t have a title but I’m sure the right one will magically appear if I sprinkle enough fairy-dust over the manuscript. I’ve started my new novel. I’m outlining and while I didn’t progress very far today my time was not wasted as I’ve  decided on a name for my protagonist. This  is a very important to me (not everyone needs or wants to do this at such an early stage) to get a feel for my characters and the place and era the novel is set in.  I also spent two hours in the garden enjoying the sun even though the air was cold. A few thoughts on writing you might find useful: Decide on a point of view before you start to write. Decide how long you want your book to be. It can be as long or short as you want it to be. We all have one story to tell, sometimes more. Something about your own story will be unique. Write that unique something down in one sentence. This is your fascination. it will tell you what your are going to write about. Only write about what interests you. When we first start to write our purpose is to find our story. We usually have general ideas and often decide to keep the words flowing on paper or keyboard. You hope eventually to discover your story. This will waste your time. Even memoir writers have to decide on a storyline. You have to know your book’s purpose. You have to know what your book is going to be about. It is essential. Your story has to be unique. Or why would anyone read it? It needs to appeal to a wide audience.

Have a good writing week

Elise x


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A Writer’s Notebook

I have been reading The Journals of Mary O’Brien 1828-1838. It is a portrait of life in early Ontario.

Mary Sophia Gapper came to Canada in 1828 at the age of thirty and married Edward O’Brien. She first lived in Vaughan Township north of Toronto, then later at Shanty Bay on Lake Simcoe. Mary, with her mother, sailed from Bristol harbour to visit her two brothers who had taken up land near Thornhill in Upper Canada.

I read the journals with interest as a small part of my novel, to be published in 2016 by Allen & Unwin, is set in Toronto. My novel has a working title at the moment and the link to Toronto has provided me with two options. I also have a long list of other titles to consider and when the time is right I’ll send the final list to my publisher. How those few words can take so much time!

Here in Melbourne it is very cold. I can almost imagine there will be a dusting of snow on the suburban landscape when I wake in the morning. Cold weather can be ideal for a writer: hot chocolate, hot soups and fresh crusty bread and a place to write near the fire with Bella my cat curled up dreaming her cat dreams. There are daffodils on the window ledge and roses on the mantle; portents of spring.

I purchased one of those red and black chinese notebooks from the news agent and index cards. I  (might investigate Scrivener)  can’t wait to start a new story.

Have a good writing week

Elise x

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My Writing Journey

The end is in sight! This week I put all my chapters of my WP (work-in-progress) in the order they will be read in the finished novel. A couple of chapters are only a blank page at the moment. I have started to write one of these chapters and while it is only a paragraph it sets the scene. I also edited (again!) other chapters.   I read about Buchi Emecheta who brought up five children as a single mother (she had five children in six years) and left an abusive marriage when she was twenty-two. She held down a job and studied for a degree while writing. I haven’t read any of her books (she has written over twenty) but I intend to search them out; one inspirational person! I find the best way to write is to have a routine: write every day and not just when you can fit it in or feel like it. I was talking to a friend today about research. I recently visited Brisbane, Australia where part of my WIP is set. I walked around the streets and tried to soak up the atmosphere of over seventy years ago. I walked the streets and passed the buildings I have written about. One restaurant I mention in my novel is now in a mall. It helped in only a small way. I prefer to read texts written in the era I am writing about, and letters, and diaries, and books set in the period. I had more sense of atmosphere while researching my next project in the same city. The past was magically alive in the place I visited. But I have to put that project aside for now.

One of my favourite books in the world is Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

Chapter 18  Spring at the Creek

Here in Florida the seasons move in and out like nuns in soft clothing, making no rustle in their passing. It is common for me at least to fall on a certain kind of sunny day into a sort of amnesia. I think with a start, “What is the time of Year? Where was I yesterday? And is this May or October?”

Because time frightens me, and I see, like a lonely child, the maternal solace of timelessness, I plant only the evergreen shrubs and have no more than can be helped of the deciduous trees around me. All year the orange grove is luminous. The oleanders glisten. The palm trees shed the cold as blandly as the rain. Unless severe frost has struck them, the Turk’s-cap and hibiscus bear red lanterns day in, day out, to light the timid before the dark face of time. Only the pecan trees scattered through the grove shed their leaves in November and stand stripped and shivering until April. Strangers ask in winter, “What are the dead trees in the orange grove?” I bear with the sight of them for the sake of the harvest, When in spring the first feathery leaves appear and the gaunt grayness is misted with green, I draw a secret breath of relief, as though a danger were now over.

Published in 1943 I came by this book in the way of serendipity. On a blank page at the front of the book (I’m sure these pages have names of their own ) the previous owner of this book, Molly Palmer, a lady now passed away, (who came by the book  second-hand herself from The Victoria Lending Library in Ballarat)  has written:

A book I love because her philosophy is mine.

Have a great writing week, Elise


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My Writing Journey

This week I sorted out something in my novel that I always felt wasn’t quite right. The earlier drafts were fine but I feel this draft is much better for the changel! It now contains small elements of a fairytale which is not at all what my novel is about but adds something of enchantment: a forgotten story about WW2, a remarkable journey and the wonderful fact that the last part this story from the past was filmed at the time! I believe such serendipity is a gift! I am not going to discuss the details here as I have a rule not to discuss my WIP (work-in-progress) other than in general terms.  This research helped me edit two chapters to the last draft (which will be edited again before being sent to the publisher who has asked to see the completed manuscript). I have given myself three months from last week to have the final draft edited. Nothing like a deadline to get my fingers typing! I read somewhere that writing a novel (and I guess also a short story) is like pushing a pea up a hill with your nose . . . I agree. It’s wonderful when it all starts to come together. I write on a computer but could happily write on paper with a quill. I am researching Gothic literature and when the novel is finished I will  write Gothic short stories set in Australia. Australian Gothic has a long rich history which continues to the 21st century with writers like Elizabeth Jolley. Enjoy your writing week, Elise

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Rosa Praed (1851-1935) 19th Century Literature

Our Australian landscape is filled with Gothic imagination.

 Rosa Caroline Praed. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 118008

Rosa Caroline Praed –  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Women trapped in marriages with unkind and sometimes violent husbands is a theme that Rosa Praed returns to repeatedly. She was one of early Queensland’s most important writers. A member of the squattocracy, she came from a socially prominent family with interests in both literature and politics. Her unhappy experience of marriage is reflected in her work.

While not strictly Gothic novels, the three novels  Rosa set on Curtis Island, An Australian HeroineThe Romance of a Station and Sister Sorrow, are pervaded by the oppressive isolation of the bush and trapped women.

More than half of her 45 to 50 novels are set in Australia, but most of her life was actually spent in England where she developed a writing career and achieved celebrity  in literary and political circles.

She also had an interest in spiritualism.  It emerged in the unhappy early days of her marriage on Curtis Island and it increased in her later life. Her novel Nyria had its genesis in seances and Rosa believed that Nyria, a Roman slave, was reincarnated in her companion Nancy Haward.

Rosa Praed’s novels portray much of her own life.  It is impossible to read, for instance, descriptive passages in any of the three novels set on Curtis Island, An Australian HeroineThe Romance of a Station and Sister Sorrow, without feeling the oppressive isolation of the bush that she experienced there. Anyone looking down today, from the bare hill on which Monte Christo homestead stands, or approaching Curtis Island across the Narrows in a small boat would see the same desolate scenes as Rosa Praed, and the same endless mangroves ahead. Similarly it is impossible to read her novels portraying unhappy marriages without reflecting on the sadness within her own marriage.

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