Tag Archives: Elise McCune

The Road of a Naturalist

There is nothing more helpful to a writer than to walk in nature.

The Road of a Naturalist, by Donald Culross Peattie, published in 1948.

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It was then that I discovered that the desert dandelions and Mojave asters and many other flowers close up at night. And other flora, nocturnal, steals into bloom. All day long one lax and weedy plant had looked dead, its flowers withered. But by twilight this wild four-o-clock secretly opened its rose-pink calyces and emitted a faint odour.

The West is a kingdom of evening primroses; though I knew many species, still I was unprepared for the dune primrose I found in the desert dusks. Its crepuscular flowers are like as those of a wild rose when they open, but insubstantial as spider floss, great moth like petals languidly expanding as if still oppressed with the long siesta of the day.

Naturalist  is a favourite book of mine. How can one not love the words written by Donald Peattie, I read a page or two when I feel the need to be absorbed by this quiet American voice that speaks so eloquently of nature’s beauty.

Enjoy a week of reading, walking and writing.

Elise

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Persian Gardens: Meanings, Symbolism and Design

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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 rainforest, a walled garden, a secret garden and native flowers that bloomed in wild abandon in the southwest of Western Australia. Often, be serendipity I am guided to what I am to write next, and it happened with my WIP, (more about that in a future post) and now Iran has 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. I feel gardens and castles are connected.


Persian Garden

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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.

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Greenhouses, glasshouses

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

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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.

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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.

Elise 

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Persephone Books-Publisher and Bookseller

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Persephone Books is my favourite bookshop in the world. I live in Australia and discovered this bookshop online. Since then the people at Persphone Books have kindly sent me The Persephone Biannually. The first one I received (I have kept them all) was No. 9 Spring/Summer 2011 and the most recent No. 25 Spring/Summer 2019. I also have two catalogues, 1999-2011 and 1999-2017 these can now be found online

The people at Persphone Books are charming and when I was in London last year (I took the photo above) I visited the shop in Bloomsbury for the first time. I was fortunate to meet Nicola Beauman and Lydia. I bought Nicola’s book, A Very Great Profession which I enjoyed very much.

And, they stop for tea and cake at 4 o’clock.

If you are in London make sure to visit this wonderful bookshop, it’s just around the corner from the Charles Dickens Museum. We loved wandering around this lovely part of London with the past all around us. I keep seeing, in my minds eye, Persephone Books at 4 o’clock on a rainy London afternoon, the kettle on the heat, and slices of cake, Victoria sponge perhaps, on flower-covered plates.

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From Persephone Books website:

The Persephone shop and office is in Lamb’s Conduit Street.  Our Grade II Listed building was built in 1702–3 and for some years was on the northern edge of London. The street was developed by Nicholas Barbon, an economist, quoted by Marx on the second page of Das Kapital, who invented fire insurance after the Great Fire of London. Formerly called Red Lion Street, the present name derives from the conduit provided by a William Lamb, from which water ran through open wooden pipes down to the city. ‘Plenty of panelling and staircases of this date remain behind some of the later re-fronting (eg. No. 59)’ comments the modern Pevsner, praising ‘a lively local shoppping street, a rarity now in inner London, with enjoyable C19 shopfronts’.

The basement remains virtually unchanged (even the beautiful twisted balusters so typical of Barbon’s buildings are still in place) and, for reasons of cost, will remain so. The ground floor is now the office of Persephone Books, with the wooden tables and bentwood chairs in place, the mangle in the west-facing york-paved yard, the shop front painted Persephone grey.

The nearest tube stations are Russell Square and Holborn. Here is a map of where we are.

All our books are available in the shop (although very occasionally a title goes out of print for a few weeks while we reprint).

59 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB
Tel: 020 7242 9292

Opening hours 10–6 Monday to Friday, 11–5 Saturday, 12–4 Sunday

Warm wishes for a joyful week,

Elise 

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Gothic Literature

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 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 storytelling, 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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Mount Street Gardens, Mayfair

When I lived in London one of my favourite places was the Mount Street Gardens a quiet residential area in the heart of Mayfair where I spent peaceful summer afternoons reading or writing. The public gardens are a sanctuary hidden behind red-brick mansion blocks and the neo-Gothic Church of the Immaculate Conception. I didn’t live in Mayfair but how I wished I did. I visited London recently and found that the gardens hadn’t changed, it is still the same beautiful space.

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Mount Street Gardens has large London plane trees, lawns, plants and shrubs, including laurels and hollies and camellias. Park benches that have been donated by or in memory of people who have loved and used the garden line the paths.  If you are ever in the gardens you might notice in a warm and sheltered spot an Australian silver wattle (a touch of home for this Australian author) and there is a Canary Islands date palm. The gardens provide a home for birds, including robins, magpies, and blackbirds.

The green and open city squares, parks and gardens are an integral part of London and they often have connections to writers from the past and are perfect for a novelist to use in a story. I wrote about Gordon Square, and Tavistock Square where Virginia Woolf once lived, in my recent novel.

My WIP (work-in-progess) warrants such a setting and my protagonist sets off one morning from a Victorian mansion in Mount Street, for a destination that will change her life forever. And even though it was pouring rain that morning the gardens are so familiar to me it was an easy scene to write.

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I wrote about an American serviceman in my novel Castle of Dreams and by serendipity discovered a US connection to the gardens during the era part of my WIP is set (I write dual narrative stories set in the past and the present) when I read about a bench inscribed, ‘An American who did not find a park like this in New York City’.  During World War Two, the American Embassy was situated in Grosvenor Square and began to accommodate many US government offices, including the headquarters of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the  European headquarters of the United States Navy. I later discovered many of the benches were donated by  US citizens who have enjoyed the gardens.

I wouldn’t be surprised if my protagonist meets an American, perhaps a serviceman maybe a spy in the Mount Street Gardens!

Happy writing,

Elise 

 

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Emily Bronte~Wuthering Heights

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.

Emily Bronte

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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

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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.

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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.

Elise 

 

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Persephone Books, London

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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

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Interior Persephone Bookshop

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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.

Elise 

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Castle of Dreams-Slottet i regnskogen

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.

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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.

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Tasmanian Times review Castle of Dreams

Rainforest Revelations
Paula Xiberras
14.07.17 6:38 am

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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

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St Pancras Old Church London

I write time-split novels where the past impacts on the present and in my new novel  One Bright Day I have a scene set in St Pancras Old Church London. I lived in London many years ago and visited this lovely old church and adjoining cemetery. There is nothing more I enjoy than discovering churches new to me and wandering around old cemeteries. When I lived on a farm north of Perth  we’d always stop when we drove past an old country cemetery. There is something captivating about them, especially for a writer, imagining stories for those long ago people and the lives they may have lived.

St Pancras Old Church

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One of my characters walks through this gate to attend a London wedding.

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The Hardy Tree

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In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. Of course, these were not how they were originally laid out. So, how did they get to this, their final resting place, as it were? And who was responsible?

Long before he became famous for novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (like any other aspiring writer) had to find employment with which to pay his way through the world. His chosen field was to be architecture.

When the church grounds were being cleared tomake space for the railway line, Hardy was a London architect’s assistant. He had the grim task of exhuming hundreds of bodies and removing their graves.

During the work Hardy ordered headstones to be placed under this ash tree. His reasons are unknown but Hardy was a keen naturalist and may have done it to prevent the tree being removed. Alternatively, he saved the stones to respect the people whose final resting place had been disturbed.

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Have a wonderful weekend, writing, dreaming, reading!

Elise 

Ref: Wiki

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