Native to South America and Brazil, the name jacaranda comes from a South American language Guarani and means ‘fragrant’.
Jacarandas are the loveliest of trees. Native to Central America and Brazil they flower across south Sydney in late spring. Sister Irene Haxton who grew jacaranda seedlings in jam tins at her private maternity hospital in Cronulla, where I was born, gave one to every mother as she left the hospital with her new baby.
Mrs Haxton would take her two boys to Penrith, where jacaranda trees grew and the boys would climb the trees and collect the pods.
My mother told me that when my father came to pick us up from the hospital, Mrs Haxton carried me, a new baby, to the car followed by a nurse carrying my mother’s bag in one hand and the jacaranda sapling in the other.
I never thought to ask my mother where she planted my jacaranda. Perhaps it was in the backyard of our modest Cronulla house, long since demolished of which I have no memory. And, I imagine Sister Haxton’s maternity hospital is no more.
Whenever I see jacaranda trees in full bloom, anywhere in Sydney or where I once lived, I’m suddenly nostalgic. I dreamed, after thinking about my birth tree, that one grew outside my bedroom window and rained purple on the leafy garden in late spring. It had a slender trunk, delicate leaves, and flower-clusters of violet-blue that bloomed amongst the stars on moonlit nights.
It is the first day of 2022, the perfect time, to think of birth and rebirth.
It’s time to start a new novel. It’s partly set in 1940’s Brisbane. I’ve written the prologue and a couple of thousand words of the first chapter. I love Brisbane and I’ve holidayed there many times. I’ve travelled to the far north of the state, staying at Mission Beach, and on visiting a ruined castle in the rainforest found inspiration there for my novel Castle of Dreams. I absolutely love research and going down the rabbit hole is fun but I warn you research is a long piece of string! I found a site on the Internet while researching 1940’s fashion. I will leave the details at the end of this post in case you are interested. It’s a wonderful asset for any writer and also for those with a love of in fashion in general. I hope you enjoy it!
As a writer I have to research the fashions of the time I am writing about and the 1940’s is definitely a period I love. In 1940, American, Claire McCardell introduced her ‘Popover’ dress. Though the wrap dress was originally introduced as a seven dollar utility garment, it quickly became a staple in her arsenal.
Seamwork’s Betsy Blodgett writes of the dress,
“McCardell came up with a denim wrap-front dress. It was simple, chic, and even came with an oven mitt… A version of the Popover wrap dress was included in collections for the rest of her career” (Deconstructing Claire McCardell).
McCardell’s easy to wear, fun, comfortable clothing, like the 1945 striped sundress and the roomy dress and coat ensemble from 1947 continued to be successful into the 1950s. Thanks to the wide appeal of McCardell and Norell, along with the work of London designers such as Hartnell and Amies, both the US and Britain hoped to continue leading fashion on the world stage after the war ended. While their international fashion profiles had increased, liberated Paris was eager to retake its status as the fashion capital. Thanks to Christian Dior, it certainly did.
McCardell’s designs were sporty, casual, and practical. She deftly navigated rationing restrictions and produced designs that went on to be classics. When wool and silk were limited in 1942, she looked to denim, seersucker, and jersey to create classic dresses and separates.
My 1940’s characters including Lili and Caro are sure to wear something similar to these fabulous fashions.
I think this image personifies the 1940‘s.
I’m imagining my character Caro just like this, full of joie de vivre, and rather beautiful.
Lot’s of fun to be had at dances during wartime.
There’s a very special scene I am imagining for my characters who no doubt will attend a dance as it was such a popular outing for young people in the 1940’s.
McCardell’s 1945 striped sundress.
McCardell’s , 1947 Pop-Over dress.
DETAILS: FASHION INDUSTRY OF TECHNOLOGY, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK.
The Fashion History Timeline is an open-access source for fashion history knowledge, featuring objects and artworks from over a hundred museums and libraries that span the globe. The Timeline website offers well-researched, accessibly written entries on specific artworks, garments and films for those interested in fashion and dress history. Started as a pilot project by FIT art history faculty and students in the Fall of 2015, the Timeline aims to be an important contribution to public knowledge of the history of fashion and to serve as a constantly growing and evolving resource not only for students and faculty, but also for the wider world of those interested in fashion and dress history (from the Renaissance scholar to the simply curious).
The Fashion History Timeline is a project by FIT’s History of Art Department. The Timeline offers scholarly contributions to the public knowledge of the history of fashion and design. Consistent with this mission, the Timeline’s written commentary, research, and analysis provided by FIT students, faculty, and other members of the community is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Unless specifically noted, images used in the Timeline are not subject to this Creative Commons License applied to the written work from the Timeline. While every attempt at accuracy has been made, the Timeline is a work in progress. If you have suggestions or corrections, please contact us.
Claire McCardell (American, 1905–1958). Pop-over, 1942. Cotton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, C.I.45.71.2a, b. Gift of Claire McCardell, 1945. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Claire McCardell (American, 1905-1958). Sundress, 1945. Cotton. New York: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.230. Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Claire McCardell, 1956. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Thanks to the Fashion History Timeline and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
It is very quite in my garden other than a group of magpies singing their early morning song. In my WIP I am writing about a small herb garden in 19th century Australia while in previous works I have written about different types of gardens so I thought I’d share some of my research with you.
My novel Castle of Dreams featured a rainfores and a walled garden. Often, by serendipity I am guided to what I am to write next, and it happened with my WIP and recently Iran won awards for a film called Castle of Dreams (I keep getting Google alerts about this) at the Shanghai Film Festival and I am reading a book that features a castle. Gardens and castles are connected.
Textures and shapes are important in the overall structual design in Persian Gardens so as to harness the light. Iran’s dry heat makes shade important where trees and trellises feature as shade and pavilions and walls block the sun.
The Persian garden integrates indoors with outdoors through the connection of a surrounding garden with an inner courtyard. And often architectural elements such as vaulted arches are added between the outer and interior areas to open up the divide between them.
Persian Garden Layout on Carpet
Culture and identity in a society can be represented in the architecture and the meanings intertwined with it. In this sense, the architecture and design are the interface for transferring meaning and identity to the nation and future generations. Persian gardens have been evolved through the history of Persian Empire in regard to the culture and beliefs of the society. the patterns of design and architecture in Persian gardens and the meanings intertwined with their patterns and significant elements such as water and trees. Persian gardens are not only about geometries and shapes; but also manifest different design elements, each representing a specific symbol and its significance among the society.
Garden has been defined as ‘the purest of human pleasures and the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man’ (Bacon 1883). According to Hunt, gardens are “concentrated or perfected forms of place-making’ (Hunt 2000). Garden is also perceived as a symbolic site, resulting from the human’s attempts to materialize Eden on the earth (Alon- Mozes 2004). In the Greek text of the Bible, a garden has been expressed as a “paradise”. In Hebrew “Eden” is translated to an unidentified region or country. In Persian literature, the word garden “pardis” derives from the word “paridaiza” which literally means “walled garden“ and it has been summed up as a luminous and perfumed place, populated by a number of angelical and beautiful creatures (Babaie 1997).
A mystical feeling for flowers and a love of gardens are integral parts of ancient Persian gardens. The Persian garden is a manifestation of supreme values and concepts and is well-known as a bridge connecting the two worlds of matter and meaning.
The philosophical design concept of Persian gardens is believed to be rooted in the four sacred elements of water, wind, fire and soil. The geometrical design of Persian gardens has been reflected in Persian carpets, potteries and visual arts. The other distinctive feature of Persian gardens, which contributes to the introspective characteristics of ancient Persian people, is the wide application of thick brick walls, which surround the entire rectangular plan of the garden. Other traits of Persian gardens include: the application of perpendicular angles and straight lines, ponds and pools to supply the water and highlight the scenic landscape view, simultaneous use of evergreen and deciduous trees, planting of various types of plants and consideration of focal a pavilion known as Kooshk.
I’m so glad I discovered, serendipity definitely, this very enlightening, well-written, and researched article. If you have an interest in the gardens it’s well worth reading.
I like to weave a little magic through my stories. Writing a novel is rather like taking a magic carpet ride for who knows where you’ll end up? Most times lately it’s in a garden.
Reference: Leila Mahmoudi Farahani, Bahareh Motamed and Elmira Jamei.
Deakin University, School of Architecture and Built Environment, 1 Gheringhap St, Geelong; 3220, Australia
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution on License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Enjoy your week, reading, writing, dreaming and working in or creating a garden.
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 verandahsamid a symphony of tree frogs and insectswith 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.
14.07.17 6:38 am
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
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.
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.
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow . . .
The Audrey Hepburn Rose
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
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 . . .
Photos I used as inspiration in writing the historical narrative in Castle of Dreams.
Robert Shine and Vivien Blake Vivien typing a letter
Paronella Park aka Castillo de Suenos
Jacaranda trees in Brisbane
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!
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.
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.
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.
Dual 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
Have a great week, reading, writing, and dreaming.