Granny: Your only sister, all alone in the wood, and nobody there to save her. Poor little lamb.
Rosaleen: Why couldn’t she save herself?
Rosaleen: And then they lived happily ever after?
Granny: Indeed they did not!
Rosaleen: Is that all you left of her? Your kind can’t stomach hair, can you? Even if the worst wolves are hairy on the inside.
If it’s in a word, or in a look. You can’t get rid of The Babadook’.
Regular readers may recall I was fortunate enough to win a photo shoot in Sydney with one of my long-time favourite photographers, Cara Coulson, who ran a competition for a private shoot with her in either Sydney or Paris. I was excited to win the Sydney shoot because I’ve followed Carla’s blog from the beginning, and also a major character in my forthcoming mystery novel Currawong Manor is a photographer.
This week the much anticipated meeting took place and I can finally reveal the location – Woollahra House, a magical, shabby, bohemian terrace which you can read more about HERE and HERE and where the interior shots for this post came from. It was a perfect location for me. And described as ‘Alice in Wonderland meets the Addams family.’
Not only could I easily visualise Tim Burton and Johnny Depp sitting together working out a scene for their next movie, or Helena Bonham Carter lying back on the sofa; but I’d fallen in love with this striking old lady terrace a couple of years ago when she was featured in a newspaper. I had never imagined I would one day be photographed within her glorious shabby walls by Carla. Life really does work in some twisty beautiful ways sometimes!
It was a real delight to meet Carla, and an honour to be photographed by her. Thanks to the power of the internet I felt I already knew her as her blog posts are so warm and engaging. She is a rock star with a camera. A funky, tender magician. There is a certain sensuality, an intimacy to working with her but it’s not a soft energy. Despite Carla’s tenderness and caring she has a strength and power which comes from a long apprenticeship of her work, and a spiritual perception and insight of people.
Despite my initial wariness, Carla with her box of magical techniques helped me to move into the moment and to lose my ego and ‘shrinking Josephine’ outside the door. It was a very inspiring creative collaboration for me and a perfect chance to research for my book. I realised how much you have to relinquish control and surrender sometimes which isn’t easy for writers to do as we are used to being in total control of our creative projects. You have to be able to trust and to allow the muses to merge between two people when being photographed. I love the still above from my favourite movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Woollahra house wove its patina spell through all of my veins. Debra Cronin is the genius behind this magical house which she rents out for photo shoots and dinner parties. I wish somebody would commission this talented lady to do a book on her interior talents.
Everything about the shoot was dreamlike. The pastel greys and apricot colours of the walls. The taxidermy, antique books, the young girl from Western Australia who was also having her portrait taken. A beautiful, willowy model, dressed in Vivienne Westwood with a bird on her head like an elegant Helena Bonham Carter. She matched the house perfectly.
The make-up artist looked a combination of Jane Birkin and Lou Doillon and was every bit as rock star as Carla and Jane and her daughter. She put less make up on me that I’d normally wear to the school pick up but I loved her work and her false eyelashes. She won my heart as soon as I walked in when she said that I looked great without make up. (Normally people ask me if I’m feeling okay). It was a joy to work along side her and also Carla’s beautiful friend, Athalee, who spent more time ironing my red dress than any normal mortal woman should have to undergo and looked after me so well.
We did a shot which was inspired from this photograph of Agatha Christie where we set up a vintage typewriter and books.
I am hoping to use some of the photos for publicity for Currawong Manor.
When my husband (dressed in his everyday wear of waistcoat vest, shirt and Akubra hat) came to collect me with Daisy, Carla was kind enough to shoot a few family shots. Not knowing Daisy she asked her to ‘act like a rock star’. My daughter who had been cautioned beforehand to do EVERYTHING Carla says immediately went into overdrive snarling at the camera, making wild moves and getting totally hyped as she lived the part. I was only relieved she stopped short at trashing the room.
It was an enchanting day. One particular moment stands out for me when Carla directed me to look away from her and when I looked into the big mirror I could see a wall of stuffed birds and a blue butterfly (the blue butterfly is always a special symbol to me since my father died) and also Carla shooting me in the reflection). It was one of those times that you wonder if you really are dreaming.
If you would like to join me in that wonderful dream experience and book a portrait shoot with Carla then all the details are on her website for shoots in both Sydney and Paris. I can highly recommend it for the experience alone. If even this introverted writer enjoyed it as much as I did you most certainly will too.
And if you don’t already, follow Carla’s blog for beautiful inspiration in both words and images. You will find her HERE.
In other exciting writing news, Poet’s Cottage will now be published in Holland as well. And so I am thrilled my Tasmanian sea-fishing murder mystery will be enjoyed by people in mysterious far away Holland. That is a lovely early Christmas gift for me. Thank you, Holland for buying my Tasmanian mystery. I would love to visit such an exotic fairy tale destination one day.
Christmas is just around the corner. If you wish to buy a signed copy of Poet’s Cottage then if you order through Better Read than Dead my local bookstore HERE, I can sign it for them if you request when you order.They do online ordering as well. The B-Format of Poet’s Cottage (the smaller size) comes out in Australia on December 29th so if you have been waiting for that format you can pick it up then. I can assure you the smaller version is just as beautiful as her big sister. Pan Macmillan Australia have done such a stunning job on Poet’s Cottage in all her versions and formats.
I am still working on Currawong Manor to reach the deadline. I have my Christmas tree up but with no decorations apart from one home made Christmas angel by my Daisy as everything has been so frantic. But this Christmas I have simplified it as much as I can. Although I still do my cards by snail mail, make a trek to the David Jones window and Santa Cave, Carols etc the more commercial side I have cut back on. I hope your Christmas is filled with blessings and the magic of this holy and joyous season.
Thank you to all who have lurked, commented, and given me your energy this year. Below is a video by Tara June Winch on a worthy cause to donate to. I’m off to give some money now. Please watch if you have a couple of minutes spare. The magic of books and words gave me such a template for life when I was little and any cause that promotes that miracle to children is worth our efforts.
Keep Creative, and look for the everyday miracles. May this season be a rebirth for you in your life and art
Poet’s Cottage has been attracting some lovely reviews this week. Thank you very much to Auckland Library for their review HERE. It was most interesting to see how the reader picked up the Enid Blyton influence in the book.
I should say, however, that Pearl Tatlow in Poet’s Cottage is NOT Enid Blyton in any way shape or form. I was always fascinated by how Enid Blyton’s two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, had totally opposing views of their mother. I knew one day I would write about this theme and it simmered away for years.
It interested me greatly because I knew of other families besides Enid’s – including my own – where children with identical upbringings have totally different accounts of events. It really made me contemplate truth, memory and history. How do we know what the bones are really singing?
Whether Enid Blyton was a good mother or not never affected how I feel about Blyton. I know she made my childhood magical and I still love curling up with a Famous Five or one of her boarding school stories. But I was fascinated by the family set-up where you have to try to uncover whether the bones are lying or being truthful – or both at the same time.
My writing friend, Jen Storer posted a lovely blog on Enid Blyton and Johnny Cash HERE.
And my other writing friend Kate Forsyth was in the Spectrum this weekend with a beautiful photo of her reading to her daughter HERE. I was thrilled to see Kate also loves to collect the vintage editions of Enid Blyton rather than the sanitised versions. I agree that writers should be read as products of their time and not have their words reshaped to fit the mindset of later generations.
The images of Enid Blyton in this post I found HERE. They are from an interview that Enid gave shortly before her death and I find them moving and poignant. They capture the fragility of the woman behind the words.
I’m so grateful for all the lovely reviews of Poet’s Cottage and that so many people have taken the time to discuss their thoughts on the characters and the set-up. It has been fascinating to see how the book has really delighted people from a range of backgrounds and ages.
Poet’s Cottage is an accomplished, engrossing novel with fine language and powerful descriptions of the small town inhabitants of Pencubbit in both past and modern times. Most of all, in creating the damaged and damaging Pearl, the author has created a character so compelling and complex that the image of her lingers just as surely as the strains of music from her gramophone drifted through Poet’s Cottage both before and after her death.
I shall post links to some other reviews as soon as I get a chance.
Life has been hectic here in the Little Brick with my daughter home on holidays. She is writing more than I am able to at the moment. I do love seeing her happy and creative and able to stay in her pyjamas all day if she wishes.
We went to see the movie Brave, which was a wonderful film showing the power plays between mother and daughters. I shamed myself by weeping over the final scenes and my daughter had nightmares that night over the bear – but still, a glorious couple of hours in the cinema. The writer based the character Merida on her own feisty-daughter and it’s easy to see why so many mother/daughters are enjoying this holiday movie. An added bonus for me was the whimsical and beautiful trailer before Brave, La Luna.
I really enjoyed this charming short film.
David and I saw The Mousetrap, which is now touring as part of its 60th Diamond Anniversary year. I had been looking forward to seeing for ages. It’s my third viewing of this iconic play (I originally saw it in The West End). Although nothing can compare to the romance of seeing Agatha Christie’s play in London, the Sydney cast did a really terrific job. I was pleased they kept it in a very traditional style and didn’t camp it up too much. Although a couple of times the accents were a bit forced, I still felt as if I was really at Monkswell Manor.
From the eerie opening of the play where the child’s rhyme, ‘Three Blind Mice’ is sung to the shock denouement at the end where a lot of the audience gasped at the twist – to the actor requesting we keep the secret (and of course we all will) – I thought the spirit of Agatha Christie’s play (which she did not expect to run for a few months) was honoured.
It’s proof of how people love a good cosy mystery and Agatha is top of her game in this sly and haunting play. You can read about the horrible true story HERE that inspired Agatha Christie to write her dark and elegant play. Terence O’Neill and his brother, Dennis in 1945 were fostered out to a pair on a farm in Shropshire, England. The brothers were beaten and abused by the foster parents and sadly, Dennis died. Agatha followed the case which made headlines in the UK and helped to change laws to protect children and used the case for a short radio play, Three Blind Mice (which later became The Mousetrap). Terence O’Neill has since written his own book of the events, Someone To Love Us.
Enjoy your week and stay creative. xx
This was the most recent photo taken of our family when we were on our last wrting retreat in the mountains. We all look so happy but just as the colours lie in it it also didn’t truly capture the moment. Just before the photo was taken we were having one of those family bickering sessions: my husband turned my daughter upside down and the world became so amusing. Memories, dreams, time all can lie and quietly deceive with diluted colours. Far better to stay totally still and quiet as a mouse in the present than look too far behind and forward.
And here is a preview of my German cover for Poet’s Cottage which is being published in September by the wonderful Ullstein publshing house. There is no way I would not have liked this cover as it’s the wallpaper in my own writing shed which Ullstein cleverly tracked down for me. It is very exciting to see my Tasmanian murder mystery being published in another country. There are also audio books available as well. I’m so thrilled and happy with the German edition.
Thank you for visiting me Wishing you a thousand upside down moments. xx
We’ve now entered winter in Australia which is my favourite season.
And we’re cycling into a long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday. I have taken the image below from the wonderful Rachel Van Asch’s blog HERE,
which I was browsing around today falling in love with all sorts of treasures that she makes. I’m a bit in love also with her skull and flower cushions and her Clara Bow cushion below.
It’s a very surreal experience to hear Poet’s Cottage being read. The actress is the very fab Jennifer Vuletic and I’m so thrilled to have the lovely audio. Bolinda really do such a quality product and it’s even more special to me as my middle sister has retinitis pigmentosa and is battling blindness. My sister loved Poet’s Cottage which was a relief as she’s very plain-speaking (her favourite character was Thomasina, which was no surprise ). My youngest sister’s favourite character was Birdie. The week the book came out, my sister had her eyes scraped for cataracts and so was able to read the paper version. I was thrilled I was able to create a shadow play that she believed and a story she could fall into, as nobody knows you like your sister, but she allowed me to lead her down the streets of the sea-fishing village of Pencubitt and into Poet’s Cottage. She called it ‘my Tasmanian House of the Spirits’ which was so lovely as she’s a HUGE Isabel Allende fan and now my Poet’s Cottage is actually resting in her house against The House of the Spirits. Hopefully Isabel’s book will merge magical cells into Poet’s Cottage to help its sales!
My sister even rushed out and bought the perfume Shalimar after reading it and wanted to decorate her house in a 1930s style. I was very moved she loved the book to that extent.
I also went to see The Woman in Black this week on a very grim and rainy night. I was meant to be going with Artschool Annie but she pulled out at the last minute due to the weather and I was in the unfortunate position of being about to see a VERY scary movie on my own. Luckily, I ran into another friend who was with her husband on their date night and they let me tag along!
The movie was good, visually very beautiful but lacked the true creepiness of either the book by Susan Hill or the two stage versions I’ve seen in the West End and in Sydney. I can still remember years later the audience screaming in the West End at ‘that’ scene in the nursery.
Still it was an enjoyable movie for a rainy night in Sydney.
Wishing you a magical, wonderful, creative weekend and Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth. Thank you for visiting me. xx
On Tuesday, 31st July 6-7pm at Newtown Library I shall be talking with the lovely Gayle Donaldson. The event is called Talking Heads and is a combined Better Read Than Dead bookshop and Newtown Library event.
If you would like to come along please reserve a seat HERE.
Some topics I imagine we’ll be covering: mysteries, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, fantasy writing, crime writing, publishing, Tasmania, sea-fishing villages, families, bohemians, secrets, Johnny Depp. If you’re interested in any of these – or you feel like a free chat and a warm place to sit – don’t make yourself a stranger.
Here’s my reply to a question the Hoopla asked me regarding a heated discussion at the Sydney Writers Festival on literary awards going to books that readers can’t or don’t read due to inaccessible content. This came about as a comment from a panel Stella Rimington hosted where literary critics became worked up when she said literary awards should be given to books which are readable.
I’m paraphrasing the debate as I didn’t go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival because I was too busy writing. But I did add my piece to the Hoopla which you can find HERE.
Last night Art School Annie dragged me away from my edit to see Dark Shadows. Wow!! This move was so much better than I expected. Let’s not mention the last 15 minutes which really sort of sucked huge-time. But the rest of it was Tim Burton in fine form. The scene with Johnny and the hippies is sooo good and worth the price of the movie. I love that combination of horror and comedy and it really brought to mind the Manson family with the innocence of the late 60s, early 70s era when you could break bread with a vampire in the woods and not realise that of course he’s going to kill you. And I’m so in love with Michelle Pfeiffer (who gets better with age) in her 70s gear and jewellery. Michelle said in an interview that her sister-in-law made the jewellery for the movie.
I’ve never really come out of the 70s. It’s one of my favourite eras and so this movie was heaven for me. Tim Burton, 70s fashion, hippies, vampires, sea-fishing villages, Helena Bonham Carter, Alice Cooper and of course, Johnny Depp.
A perfect movie. Here’s a track from Dark Shadows to glide up all feeling groovy into the weekend. Thank you for visiting me. xx