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 an 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.