Tag Archives: Paronella Park

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 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.

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Castle of Dreams

Photos I used as inspiration in writing the historical narrative in Castle of Dreams.

Robert Shine and Vivien Blake                    Vivien typing a letter


Rose Blake


Paronella Park aka Castillo de Suenos 


Jacaranda trees in Brisbane

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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!

Elise

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What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

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How beautiful is this photograph!

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#dieselphotographics #photography#visitnorthqueensland #tourismqld #nikon #tourism#travel #paranellapark #innisfail

Great news…yesterday my publisher at Allen & Unwin emailed congratulations…Castle of Dreams has had a great first week of sales…of course I can’t say how many but she is very happy…

I’ve had so many comments about Castle of Dreams since it was published: people have fallen in love with Vivien, her sister Rose, and the man they both love, American soldier Robert Shine, they love the different backdrops, and they love the story. And for me, storytelling is what books are all about.

The idea of the story came to me after a visit with my daughter to Paronella Park. A Catalonian immigrant, Jose Paronella, built a castle in the rainforest there in the early twentieth century but it was destroyed by a cyclonic flood in 1946. Walking around the ruins of the castle I became aware the past lingered all around and while my characters didn’t intrude on my conciousness that day I’m sure they were whispering in my ear wanting their story told.

It was several months later that the idea for the story finally came to me and my three main characters stepped out into the light. Light ended up being a motif in Castle of Dreams. Robert means bright, shining, so I gave him the surname Shine. Robert Shine, how I love that name. Robert comes from a place in Northern California called Paradise which is near the Feather River where his family cabin is situated.

Vivien, in Arthurian legend, was the name of the Lady of the Lake, an enchantress who was the mistress of Merlin, and I’ve always loved that story. The name I had the most trouble finding was Rose. Her original name was the only name in the book that my editor, Christa Munns, at Allen & Unwin suggested I change. And, she was right,  it was the only name I’d changed several times during the writing of Castle of Dreams and still wasn’t sure about. We tossed around several names one of which was Rose, a name we both loved, and exactly the right name for Vivien’s sister. I do recall that Scarlett O’Hara originally started off as Pansy O’Hara!

My editors have told me that Castle of Dreams is a character driven novel which it is but I also think the atmosphere of the rainforest is a great backdrop and of course the main thing is the story. I love the idea that stories are carried down through generations of people through storytelling. Myths, legends, oral stories that are told around the fire at night before the days of writing and books read in the evenings before television was invented.

I loved writing Castle of Dreams. It came to me, as these things sometimes do, in a moment of serendipity when I visited the beautiful ruins in the rainforest of far north Queensland but it took a few months of looking back over my shoulder until my characters stepped out into the light. And I’m so glad they did!

Good writing and reading,

Elise

 

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What Elise Wrote-Paronella Park

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Many people have asked me about the castle in Castle of Dreams and where the idea for my novel came from and with the launch on Wednesday evening at Readings in Hawthorn it is the perfect time to tell you a little about the history of the Park and the Catalonian immigrant Jose Paronella who built the castle in the rainforest.

Unknown-3 Jose Paronella

I am a storyteller first and foremost and while Jose does not appear in Castle of Dreams I feel he would have approved of my story and my depiction of his castle of dreams. I read somewhere that Jose’s grandmother told him bedtime stories about Spanish castles and this inspired him to one day build his own castle. And while castles are more easily associated with Europe and the Middle East, Jose built his castle in the far north Queensland rainforest, the place he called home and never wanted to leave.

José Paronella arrived in nearby Innisfail, Queensland, Australia in 1913, having sailed from his homeland, Catalonia, in northern Spain to plan a splendid life for himself and his fiancée Matilda. He applied for Commonwealth naturalization in 1921, identifying his place of origin as La Vall in the province of Jarona. In fact his full name was José Pedro Enrique Paronella, and he was born on 26 February 1887, in La Vall de Santa Creu, a hamlet in the province of Gerona, north-eastern Catalonia. José worked hard for 11 years, creating his wealth by buying, improving and selling cane farms. While travelling through the beautiful countryside he discovered a virgin forest alongside spectacular Mena Creek Falls – perfect for his dream.

Upon returning to Spain, José discovered that Matilda had married another! Determined to sail back with a bride José proposed to Margarita, Matilda’s younger sister. One year later the happy newlyweds were ship-bound for Australia and by 1929 had purchased the land of José’s dreams. He first built the grand 47-step staircase to shift building materials between the lower and upper level. Here the fun-loving couple had their cottage hand built of stone, and moved in on Christmas Eve.

Unknown-1Jose and Margarita Paronella

The earliest structure, the Grand Staircase, was built to facilitate the carrying of the river sand to make the concrete. First they built a house to live in, then they started on the Castle itself. Apart from the house, which is made of stone, all of the structures were constructed of poured, reinforced concrete, the reinforcing being old railway track. The concrete was covered with a plaster made from clay and cement, which they put on by hand, leaving behind the prints of their fingers as a reminder of the work they had done. They laboured with unswerving determination, until, in 1935, the Park was officially opened to the public. The Theatre showed movies every Saturday night. In addition, with canvas chairs removed, the Hall was a favourite venue for dances and parties.

A unique feature was the myriad reflector, a great ball covered with 1270 tiny mirrors, suspended from the ceiling. With spotlights of pink and blue shining on the reflector from the corners of the hall, it was rotated slowly, producing a coloured snowflake effect around the walls, floor and ceiling. During the mid-sixties the Theatre ceased to be, and the Hall became devoted to functions, particularly Weddings.

Above the Refreshment Rooms was the projection room, and up another flight of stairs was the Paronella Museum. This housed collections of coins, pistols, dolls, samples of North Queensland timbers and other items of interest. Originally, food service was from the lower Refreshment Rooms downstairs.

The concrete slab tables forming the lower Tea Gardens and the swimming pool both proved extremely popular, as they still do today. The avenues and paths were well laid out with the familiar shaped planters which are still to be seen wherever you go in the Park. Two tennis courts were behind the Refreshment Rooms, with a children’s playground, The Meadow, situated near the creek.

Upwards of 7000 trees were planted by José. These included the magnificent Kauris lining Kauri Avenue. A Tunnel was excavated through a small hill. Above its entrances are the delightful stonework balconies. Walking through here brings you to spring fed Teresa Falls, named for his daughter.

The creek is lined with rocks and traversed by small bridges. Some parts have cascades built out of rocks, so the sound of water is always there. The Hydro Electric generating plant, commissioned in 1933, was the earliest in North Queensland, and supplied power to the entire Park.

In 1946, disaster struck. Upstream from the Park a patch of scrub had been cleared and the logs and branches pushed into the creek. When the first rains of the Wet Season came, the whole mass began to move downstream until it piled up against a railway bridge a few hundred metres from the Castle. Water backed up until the weight broke the bridge, and the entire mass descended on the Park. The downstairs Refreshment Rooms were all but destroyed, the Hydro was extensively damaged, as was the Theatre and Foyer.

Undaunted, the family began the task of rebuilding. The Refreshment Rooms downstairs were beyond repair, so this service was moved upstairs, and only the structure of the building recreated. In addition, José built the fountain. The Castle was repaired, the gardens replanted, and the Park was alive again.

Unknown-2    Jose and Margarita Paronella

In 1948, José died of cancer, leaving Margarita, daughter Teresa, and son Joe, to carry on. In time, Teresa married and eventually moved to Brisbane with her husband. Joe married Val in 1952, and they had two sons, Joe (José) and Kerry. Renovations and maintenance meant there was always plenty of work, and the floods of 1967, ’72 and ’74 further added to the load. In 1967 Margarita died, and in 1972, Joe died, leaving Val and the two boys to continue the hard working tradition and keep the dreams alive.

The Park was sold out of the family in 1977 and sadly, in 1979, a fire swept through the Castle. For a time, the Park was closed to the public. Cyclone Winifred in 1986, a flood in January 1994, Cyclone Larry in March 2006, and Cyclone Yasi in January 2011 were all further setbacks and challenges for Paronella Park.

Mark and Judy Evans, the current owner/operators, purchased the Park in 1993 and formulated a plan to put the Park back on the map. They see the Park as a work of art, and work on maintaining and preserving, rather than rebuilding. Small restoration projects have been undertaken, pathways uncovered and improved, and the Museum, an ongoing project, is continuously being enhanced.

In November 2009, the ambitious project to restore Paronella Park’s original (1930s era) hydro electric system was completed. At a cost of $450,000, the system once again provides all of the Park’s electricity requirements. This work, and other environmentally focused initiatives culminated in Paronella Park being awarded Eco Australia’s GECKO award for Ecotourism in 2011. Paronella Park’s life as a pleasure gardens continues as José intended, for visitors, and with social gatherings, particularly weddings, continuing to make use of this unique location.

Paronella Park – The Dream Continues…

The Park gained National Trust listing in 1997, and has been recognised by multiple Regional and State Tourism Awards from 1998 onwards.

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I hope you enjoy reading about my inspiration for Castle of Dreams.

Elise.

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Kind thanks to Luke Evans for permission to use this information.

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What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

Like a lot of writers I had trouble thinking of a name for my story. When Castle of Dreams was finally selected from various other titles that had been suggested I didn’t realise what an intriguing title it was: the stuff of legends and myths. Now I have a link from my story to a fairytale world.

Think of King Arthur’s Camelot and the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles. Vivien and Rose the two sisters in my story grew up in a castle in the rainforest in far north Queensland.

Real world castles are just as magical and most often are linked with stories and fairytales of their own. I have a board on Pinterest called ‘castles’ but I must admit I haven’t added any to it for some time now. Busy with writing Book 2 and the publicity for Castle of Dreams.

Bran Castle can be found in a ghostly and remote corner of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. It sits high upon craggy peaks within Transylvania, bringing vampires to mind.

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More to my liking are fairytale castles from the movies of Walt Disney.

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And this is the castle that was the inspiration for Castle of Dreams.

Paronella Park in far north Queensland.

This photo shows the beauty of the castle ruins.  12924442_1211785945501244_3096888427000293893_n.jpg

Have a lovely Sunday

Good writing, Elise

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What Elise Wrote-Castle of Dreams

Castle of Dreams will be released by Allen & Unwin on 27th April, 2016. It is a dual narrative story set in two different time periods.

I love to research but I do have a few tips.

I read primary sources like diaries, letters and newspaper reports (Trove is wonderful!). I read books written about and of the period I am researching. I google but online information can be inaccurate so be careful and check more than one source. I use my wonderful local library and inter-library loans for books I don’t necessarily want to keep on my bookshelf, and also, I always read bibliographies carefully in each book as they are a source of more information on the subject you are researching.

I talk to experts in the area I am writing about. I have a military friend who is also a writer of novels and as one period of Castle of Dreams was set in WW2 during the Pacific War I asked him many questions and most importantly I could rely on his answers.

I have read all Kate Morton’s books which I loved and note that she studied and earned a Licentiate in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London. I have often wondered if this the reason Kate can so immerse herself in the character she is writing about that I feel I am that person. It certainly makes for a page turning book. And Kate writes about the things and places I love: mystery, England, Cornwell, and history all sprinkled with a touch of magic.

Synopsis: Castle of Dreams

A ruined castle deep in the rainforest holds a secret that unites three generations of women: two sisters who find themselves in love with the same man as the Second World War rages and, decades later, a young woman determined to uncover the secrets in her grandmother’s hidden past.

Growing up together in a mysterious castle in northern Queensland, Rose and Vivien Blake are very close sisters. But during the Second World War their relationship becomes strained when they each fall in love with the same dashing but enigmatic American soldier.

Rose’s daughter, Linda, has long sensed a secret in her mother’s past, but Rose has always resisted Linda’s questions, preferring to focus on the present.

Years later Rose’s granddaughter, Stella, also becomes fascinated by the shroud of secrecy surrounding her grandmother’s life. Intent on unravelling the truth, she visits the now-ruined castle where Rose and Vivien grew up to see if she can find out more.

Captivating and compelling, Castle of Dreams is about love, secrets, lies – and the perils of delving into the past . . .

An Excerpt

“The taxi arrived at eleven. Vivien said goodnight to Mrs Sherman and Cecily and patted Mercury. It was only when William walked her out to the porch that she noticed his limp.

He looked down and caught her puzzled expression. ‘Fromelles,’ he said quietly. ‘I wear an artificial leg.’

The balmy night air brought the scent of roses and summer jasmine, tubs of gardenias gleamed in the moonlight, and she could hear water tinkling in a nearby fountain. William, shining a small torch before them on the path, escorted Vivien to the front gate and into the taxi as rain began to fall over the leafy suburb.”

Photos of the Castillo de Suenos aka (Paronella Park)

This is the natural pool under the falls where Vivien and Rose learnt to swim.

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The concrete tables where Vivien and Rose would throw their towels before they had a swim.

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This is the staircase leading from the castle to the pool.

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And today you can get married in the rainforest at

Paronella Park!

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A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams

In April of this year, Allen & Unwin will publish my novel Castle of Dreams. I thought I’d share a small excerpt.

Castillo de Sueños, 1935

Vivien and Rose Blake rushed out through the heavy front doors of Castillo de Sueños, yelling to their mother they’d be home before dark. Too late Vivien remembered she’d promised to help Ma in the propagating shed with the orchids and lacy maidenhair ferns, but all day the rich scent of wild honey-suckle climbing over the loggia had drifted through the open windows, and now that lessons were over, outdoors beckoned irresistibly. Feet barely touching the mosaic tiles, the girls ran across the loggia, down the wide stone steps, and across the lawn towards the rainforest.

I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park some years ago, a magical place set in the far north Queensland rainforest. Paronella Park has a website that you can visit to see pictures of the castle ruins and read about its rich history.  I’m sure lots of WW2 romances must have started there when the Australian and American servicemen came out to the Saturday night dances with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends. All of which I have written about in Castle of Dreams.

Castle of Dreams has two narrative strands, one set in WW2 Australia and the other in contemporary times. It’s full of all the things I love in a novel: romance, mystery and betrayal, everything to keep you turning the pages to find out what happened next.

Have a wonderful day and I hope it is full of magic and enchantment,

Elise

 

 

 

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A Writer’s Notebook – Paronella Park

Photos taken at Paronella Park. The ruins of the castle were the inspiration for Castillo de Suenos the castle in my novel Castillo de Suenos, Castle of Dreams, to be published in April, 2016.

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A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams

UnknownI have finished the structural edit on my novel Castle of Dreams to be published by Allen & Unwin in April 2016. While I was in the midst of this edit it was a priority. I didn’t watch television, go to the movies, have dinner with friends (well, occasionally) and this was the only way I could finish editing by the due date. I had a sense of excitement when I got up each morning and while I knew I’d probably be at the computer for hours during the day and evening I didn’t mind. I went to another place: the world of my characters. Castle of Dreams is a duel narrative story set in the nineteen forties (a period in history I love) and in contemporay times:  2008-2009. The main characters you will meet in the historical narrative are Vivien and Rose, two sisters who have grown up in Castillo de Suenos, and Robert an American serviceman stationed in Brisbane during WW2. In the contemporary narrative you will meet Stella, the granddaughter of Rose. The historical strand of the story, set in far north Queensland, is about the two sisters and Robert Shine the man they both love. It will be nearly seventy years before the consequences of their potent desires are fully played out as Stella looks at a light filled photograph of her grandmother and wonders at the intensity of it. The question will lead her to the truth about those fevered years in the nineteen forties. The story explores the quixotic nature of memory and the perils of obsessive love, and shares dark family secrets which have long been hidden. Paronella Park was the inspiration for Castillo de Suenos the Castle of Dreams and if you google Paronella Park you will see the beautiful images of the ruins of the original castle. In future posts I will write more about Paronella Park and its history.

Good writing and reading to everyone, Elise x

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