Honouring International Women’s Day with Agatha Christie. Here she is in 1922 on a global tour where in Africa and Honolulu she became one of the first Britons to learn to surf.
A real achievement for the 20’s when surfing wasn’t considered a sport for ladies and particularly a lady from Agatha’s class. This social more didn’t deter the plucky novelist who wrote in her memoir, ‘Surfing looks perfectly easy. It isn’t. I say no more.’
And later she said despite the physical pain that surfing was one of the most perfect physical pleasures she had known. May we all challenge our own social mores. 📸 via The Christie Archives and The Official Agatha Christie Instagram
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, by
Paula Hawkins: really great suspense novel. Kept me up most of the night. The
alcoholic narrator is dead perfect.
Author Neil Gaiman called Hobart one of ‘the fine secret places of the earth’.
Back in the 1920’s Agatha Christie on her world tour similarly declared Hobart to be incredibly beautiful with its deep blue sea and harbour and expressed her hopes she would return to live there one day.
It always takes me ages to recover from my trips home to Tasmania as predictably, I always want to stay. This January I visited to research material for my next mystery novel which is once again set in Tasmania.
It’s early days. But I have a title, opening and closing scenes, an idea that has been brewing away for a few years, and a palette of colours I want to work with. A few characters are stirring and introducing themselves. Once again, I find myself scribbling notes furiously in a notebook in a charming Tasmanian cottage. Here I am at the front of the aptly named Bridge Cottage at Richmond, where we spent a few days recently as I soaked up the atmosphere of this pretty, historic village. The light and shadows in Richmond were perfect for my book.
When I wasn’t at Bridge Cottage, I was lying in the shade of a tree by the river, sharing the shade with the river geese, ducks and Tasmanian native hens. (Tasmania was in a heatwave which was fortunate as this book is set in a sizzling Tasmanian summer). I spent pleasurable hours staring up at this perfect blue and canopy of greenery as scenes unravelled themselves.
Another photo of Bridge Cottage
I was reminded of our last visit to Richmond, when we were thrilled to spot author Christopher Koch in a local cafe. Koch, as you are probably aware, died September 2013.
Richmond is perfect for a writer with its peaceful atmosphere and plethora of Georgian buildings. It reminds me a lot of Oatlands, the midlands village where I spent a lot of my childhood. Oatlands has more Georgian buildings, but Richmond is nearer to Hobart, only a 20 minute drive from the city centre. You can read more on Richmond Village HERE.
We toured Richmond Gaol, always a poignant experience. You have to spend some time alone in a darkened cell to imagine the hellish conditions the prisoners were subject to.
Some of the inmate’s stories are most Dickensian. Isaac (Ikey) Solomon, a Javelin Man in Richmond Gaol 1831-1834, was believed to have inspired the character of Fagin in Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist. Ikey came from Bell Lane, Spitafields, where along with his wife Ann, he set up a jewellers’ shop, receiving stolen goods. He was known as The Prince of Thieves. Ann was sentenced to transportation to Australia for 14 years and became the mistress of ex-convict George Madden. Ann was never reconciled with Ikey. You can read more about Ikey’s flamboyant life HERE.
Convict-built beautiful sandstone Richmond Bridge built between 1823-1825 also has a wonderfully Gothic tale. George Grover was an extremely cruel overseer and flagellator of the convict road crew working on the bridge. He was known for his harsh punishments and numerous floggings. Grover met his destiny in March 1832 when he had been drinking hard and passed out on the bridge. When some prisoners came upon him, they took the opportunity to heave him over. His ghost is said to walk the bridge and on dark nights if you glimpse only a shadow behind you, you would be well-pressed to leave the bridge quickly. Sometimes it’s only the cruel Flagellator’s footsteps that are heard in the silent village as you cross the bridge.
Grover’s dog is also said to haunt the bridge, although why the dog has been linked with Grover remains unclear. But several witnesses have claimed to see the spirit dog described as a big black dog, also prowling the bridge. Interestingly enough, mainly women and children see the spirit dog. Richmond Bridge was originally called Bigge’s Bridge and is Australia’s oldest bridge.
I am slightly saddened to admit I did not see any ghosts apart from one Daisy photo ghost, but I did fill a notebook with loads of ideas, I took close to 400 photos for inspiration to refer to when I’m spending the next few years working on the book. Of course there’s always plenty of charming historic houses to fall in love with in the village streets.
And I could see myself quite happily retiring to live in Grannie Rhode’s exquisite cottage where I could have my chickens, grow herbs and make friends with the garden fairies.
But it’s not all about the historic houses, Gothic ghost stories, and convict tales in the state. Culturally the State is really smoking with MONA which is always worth a mind-expanding trip. The Red Queen was the current show, but I’m always happy to simply wander around MONA and take in the stimulation of this amazing eclectic surreal wonderland. Here are a few photos from MONA of pieces I particularly liked on this visit.
I really love the way David Walsh has installed his temple in the suburbs and his car parking space made me smile. His car was parked in the space allocated to God and there is another space for God’s Mistress (as David pointed out the God’s Mistress space was empty).
Aside from MONA, you can be visually stimulated by the fabulous Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery near the picturesque wharf. I loved several of the displays here.
And enjoy a punnet of my favourite Tasmanian snack (with the exception of the Tasmanian pink-eye potato)
The scenery wherever you go is spectacular. Hobart seemed to shimmer and sparkle more than ever on this trip.
Thank you for visiting me. There are more photographs on my personal and Author Facebook pages. Also on Instagram.
May 2014 bring to you all the creative joy and blessings you could wish for. It’s going to be a big year for me. My mystery novel Currawong Manor will be released here in June and earlier in Germany.
I am currently doing another draft on a historical crime manuscript I’ve been working on for years. Then I shall begin some more intensive character development for my Tasmanian mystery.
One final glimpse of the wild Tasmanian sea.
Tasmania my Muse. Home. And if 2014 hasn’t got off to the start you, take heart and strength from the wonderful Gregory Peck. ‘Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.’
I am on deadline for Currawong Manor and so this October post written on All Hallows will be brief.
Life has been frenetic, frantic – days and weeks a blur of my daughter’s activities, her dramatic and colourful life entwined with the darker mysterious world of my characters in their Blue Mountains home in the 1940s. I juggle the two worlds, attempting to keep my attention equally on both, a task which seems impossible at times.
I have to mention this anthology, Award Winning Australian Writing 2012, which my short story, Shadows, which won last year’s Scarlet Stiletto Awards appears in. I’m proud to be included with so many skilled writers. You can read more about it HERE
And also this beautiful cover of Currawong Manor (called Daughters of the Storm) in Germany published by Ullstein. On Twitter I posted I saw a beautiful butterfly nearly as large as my hand fluttering outside my garden writing shed , enjoying the bougainvillea and yellow roses. I wondered what he was a sign of and a couple of days later, he turned up on my book.
A highlight of the month was:
We saw A Murder is Announced at Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay. I really enjoyed all the cast and Judi Farr made a perfect Miss Marple.
A reminder that on Sunday the 10th of November, I’m appearing with Kate Forsyth in the Writers’ Tent at the Newtown Festival. Details here.
I am trying to focus, to turn inwards. The deadline like the witching hour draws nearer.
Thank you for visiting me. xx
Exciting news today that Poet’s Cottage continues its European tour with the rights being sold to Spain. So happy to know my Tasmanian mystery will now be available to Spanish readers.
And for regular readers, you may recall that I had a photo shoot last year with the very talented Carla Coulson, of which I posted about HERE in the post Life’s so Light.
Carla has released some of the images from that shoot on her beautiful blog which I’ve followed for years CARLA LOVES PHOTOGRAPHY
I am still pinching myself that not only did I get to meet Carla but I also had the honour of being photographed by her. We worked with a vision/mood board that must have raised Carla’s eyebrow when she first saw it. It included Agatha Christie/the Rolling Stones and a few other slightly different inspirations. Carla, bless her, had an image of Kate Moss with her daughter that she wanted to reproduce the look of.
I am delighted with how she represented our family as I wanted to show our creative and laid-back style. If you enjoy the photos please leave feedback for Carla. And Carla does do workshops and shoots in Sydney if you are interested. All the details can be found on her website.
Finally some advance notice that I will be appearing in the following talk, Something Rotten in the Apple Isle in Melbourne in June for Sisters in Crime. It should be enormous fun and I’m thrilled it has a Tasmanian theme. You can read all about it on this link HERE. I know I have the fab Carmel Shute to thank for that title. Would love to see you there if you can make it. I am sure it will be a hoot.
I am planning and dreaming new books into existence this week. I have loads of ideas. I’m never short of a great idea it’s just making time to write them all out. And this year I have joined the Australian Women Writers Challenge HERE which I think is a great idea. I did join it in 2012 but was flat out with research reading. However I do think it’s a worthy cause and a wonderful idea to support other Australian Women writers across genres. I have committed myself to the Miles level and so no excuses for not tackling the tower of books in my bedroom now!
David and I made the Irish Echo last week to see Mike Scott and the Waterboys, one of our rare nights out. I’ve loved the Waterboys forever and so thrilled to have the moment immortalised.
Thanks for visiting me. Keep Creative and Inspired. xx
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