Isolation Publicity with Monique Mulligan

Monique having high tea

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Monique’s writing space

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.



Monique has two books coming out this year – Alexandra Rose and her Icy Cold Toes with Serenity Press in May. The release and launch of this book have been affected by cancellations and her adult book, Wherever You Go, is out in September. So far, events in August and September – from what I can tell from these interviews – haven’t been affected as such yet. It will be interesting to see if they are, and how – if they are cancelled outright or have limited numbers based on distancing laws and how this might affect the overall event – will more time be allowed, or will there be multiple sessions?


brathe (1)

Hi Monique, and Welcome to The Book Muse

Thank you!

1. How did your writing career begin, and where did it begin?

In a way, my career has always involved writing of some sort – from training programs in the Australian Public Service and writing children’s curriculum for an educational publisher, to journalism, news editing, and later, publishing. When did I start writing creatively? After a few false starts around 2004-6, I would say late 2015, when on a whim, I entered a short story competition. My story was Highly Commended and I won a small cash prize. That gave me the confidence to try writing in different genres, but I soon realised what I wanted to do was write novels.

2. You’ve had several books and anthologies published with Serenity Press – what can you tell my readers about these books?

I have such a soft spot for these anthologies (which I also commissioned and edited as then editorial director of Serenity Press) – A Bouquet of Love and Destination Romance. Each one features ten emerging Australian writers and each story is linked to a common setting, such as a bridal shop and a travel agency. My stories are rom-coms – when I write romance, that is what I am drawn to (the same if I read a romance).

3. Do you still work with Serenity Press? If not, what are you focused on now?

I left Serenity Press in 2018 so I could focus more on my own writing. There were so many wonderful things about being a publisher, but I struggled to co-own a business and manage the editorial side, and find time to finish my novel. I also had a part-time job, which I still have, so something had to give.

4. Your new book, Wherever You Go, is out in September – has the COVID-19 health crisis affected any events or launches you have had planned for this, or another book – and also, both as an author and a publisher?

Not yet – it’s at copy edit stage so I haven’t planned launches yet. It’s being published through Pilyara Press and we’ll start looking at the marketing very soon. However, I do have a children’s book coming out next month – Alexandra Rose and her Icy-Cold Toes – with Serenity Press and I need to come up with some strategies for that!

5. You’ve worked as a publisher, newspaper editor, journalist, children’s curriculum writer and a magazine editor – what were the things you loved about each of these jobs, and what were their individual challenges?

Each of these jobs brought me wisdom and joy in many ways. As a publisher, I was able to commission some gorgeous books, such as Kate Forsyth’s fairy tale series, and travel to London for the London Book Fair and Northern Ireland for a writing retreat in a castle. But being a publisher was all-consuming and left little time for anything else.

As a journalist, newspaper editor and magazine editor, I had some fantastic experiences and met some wonderful people. But these were all high pressure jobs. I went from a casual journalist to senior journalist in a matter of weeks, and within two years, I was the newspaper editor. Big responsibility and late nights while juggling a growing family was really tough.

I was a curriculum writer when my boys were in the earlier years of primary school and the best thing was that I could work from home (back when this was a new thing) and still do all the school mum things I wanted to do. Funny thing, it paid better than all my other jobs! And they paid for me to fly to Sydney once a year … it was perfect for that time of my life.

6. Did any of the skills and techniques of the above jobs ever cross over?

Absolutely. Interviewing techniques, writing under pressure, knowing how to sell a story to a journalist – these are just some of the skills I carry from one role to another.

7. What is Wherever You Go about, and where did the inspiration come from?

Without giving away too much, Wherever You Go was inspired firstly by a news article that led me to wonder how grief and loss affects a marriage. I’ve always been more interested in how relationships worked than in the romance aspect. Other inspirations included my love of food and cooking, and Bridgetown, Western Australia, a place I’m thinking of moving to one day. Here’s the blurb:

A life-shattering tragedy threatens to tear apart chef Amy Bennet’s marriage. Desperate to save it, she moves with her husband Matt to Blackwood, a country town where no one knows who they are.

Forced to deal with her crumbling marriage and the crippling grief that follows her wherever she goes, Amy turns to what she knows best: cooking. She opens a café showcasing regional seasonal produce, and forms the Around the World Supper Club, serving mouth-watering feasts to new friends. As her passion for food returns, she finds a place for herself in Blackwood. But when a Pandora’s Box of shame and blame is unlocked, Matt gives Amy an ultimatum that takes their marriage to the edge.

8. What do you do/have you done with Stories on Stage?

I founded Stories on Stage in 2012 so my workplace could offer something literary in their arts programming. The events are held in a theatre and combine an in-conversation with a supper (home-made by me). It’s always a great night. Since 2012, I’ve hosted more than 50 Australian authors at Stories on Stage. This year, due to COVID-19, we’ve had to cancel our regular events so we’re starting an online edition. I’m excited because it means I can interview a lot of interstate authors who normally couldn’t make it to Perth.

9. You’ve done a lot of work in the arts sector – what has been the most rewarding thing about working in this industry?

One thing? That’s hard … but I’d have to say the connections I’ve made with such wonderful, talented creators. And the opportunities I’ve had to read early copies of books!

10. When not writing, what do you enjoy doing or reading?

Lots of things. I love cooking for other people. It brings me pleasure to feed people and see them enjoying what I’ve made. And spending time with those I love brings me great joy.

I love taking photos, especially when I travel – so many times, I look at things and think ‘That would make a great photo’. But I also am being mindful of being in the moment and not always trying to capture a moment.

I love going for long walks (uphill, not so much), rambling around the countryside, and seeing new places.

And most nights, I look forward to chilling out with my husband, my cat on my lap, a glass of good wine in my hand, and watching whatever show or movie we’re into at the time. And later, I read, all sorts of books, whatever my mood tells me to read at the time.

11. Have you won any awards for your writing, and what are they?

Once I won first prize for a poem … but that was a long time ago. The closest I’ve come to winning since then is a Highly Commended. But, I don’t enter many things, and like the lottery, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

12. How do you think the arts industry will cope in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how can people help support the industry? Also, how important do you think the arts are in this time?

The arts industry has been terribly affected by COVID-19, restricting many creatives in sharing their experiences. It’s really tough when all the gigs that earn money are cancelled and there is such uncertainty about when things will change. But artists are survivors. They will survive, albeit by embracing different ways of sharing their experiences. What I have seen across the arts community is a beautiful ‘pulling together’, wherein artists help each other to share music, story, art and more in innovative ways. I hope this continues, because Art in all its forms has always helped people connect and keep on going.

How can people help? Buy books. Buy art. Buy music. Make the most of the free experiences being offered online. Tell people about it. Review whatever you buy.

13. Do you have any favourite authors or books that you always turn to?

Daphne du Maurier is one of my favourites, especially Rebecca. I’ve read it so many times. I was thrilled to visit a town she lived in for many years – Fowey, in Cornwall. I’ve started writing a gothic-style novel set in the Blue Mountains, NSW, because I love that genre so much. Stories with big old houses and secrets will always tempt me. I also recently discovered Sarah Waters and really admire her writing.

14. Even though I probably know this – favourite writing companion – cat or dog?

My rescue cat Boogle is my treasured writing companion. When it suits her, she sits on my lap while I write. Also, when it suits her, she sits in front of my screen and makes loud huffing noises.

15. Favourite writing snack?

Chips. It’s always potato chips. Original Smiths Crisps will get me every time.

16. Do you have a favourite local bookseller you are always going to?

We have a chain bookstore nearby which is okay, but I prefer independent bookshops, and none of those are close. I wish they were. I used to dream of owning a bookshop/café at one point, but not any more. I’d never find time to write if I did that! Booksellers work so hard – it’s definitely not as easy as it looks on TV.

17. What are you currently working on?

The Story You Tell, which is the second book in my Around the World Supper Club series. It picks up from Wherever You Go about two years later, but features a different main character. It’s partly inspired by the Echo and Narcissus myth.

18. What’s more of a challenge – shorter works, longer works, fiction or non-fiction?

Writing fiction is more challenging for me than non-fiction – that just flows, probably due to my journalistic background. All forms have their challenges, but I find writing short stories – not my rom-coms though, they just about fell onto the page – harder than long form. Maybe it’s because I can tend to waffle on when I tell anyone a story … you know, you have to set the scene first and give the context. Right?

19. You write for a variety of audiences under the same name, where some authors choose separate names for different genres or audiences – what made you decide to maintain the same name across all books? (This by the way, is something I support – I’m curious as to why different people do it differently).

I’ve thought about this from time to time – should I have a different name for different genres? But I’ve worked hard to build the platform I have under one name, and I don’t want to have to start from scratch. Or look after yet another set of social media accounts – I already have my own plus a work one to look after. It does my head in sometimes!

Also, I have no plans to write more children’s books, so I’m comfortable with maintaining the same name for my future writing.

20. Finally, what is next for your writing career?

Biting my nails and pacing for weeks once Wherever You Go is launched … writing the next book …

I dream of being invited to writers festivals and having a book tour … of having the opportunity to research a book idea overseas.

But in the more immediate future, I just need to stop procasti-cleaning, watching hilarious cat videos or making cups of tea, and write.

You can find Monique at:
Twitter: @MoniqueMulligan
Instagram: @moniquemulliganauthor
Facebook: Monique Mulligan, Author

Anything I may have missed?

Isolation Publicity with Josephine Moon

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

cake makers wish

Joephine Moon has written several books, but it’s her latest, The Cake Maker’s Wish, that has been impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. She found out early on in the crisis, and as the days and weeks went on, like many, things were cancelled left, right and centre. This interview is getting some of her publicity out there in these trying times.

Hi Josephine and welcome to The Book Muse

1. To begin with, what was the book you were supposed to be launching in the next few months when the pandemic hit, and can you tell my readers what it is about?

I was in my publisher’s office having a team meeting to discuss the publicity and marketing strategies for The Cake Maker’s Wish quite early on in the history of Covid19. I don’t think any of us could have predicted that within weeks they’d be cancelling all author tours and events. It happened so fast.

The Cake Maker’s Wish follows the story of Olivia Kent, who bravely decides to move herself and her young son Darcy from their family home in Richmond, Tasmania, to the (fictional) village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds in England. She (along with many others from around the world) has answered the call to help the village in an experimental project to revive its dying economy. At the same time, she has just one wish—to have a family once more. She hopes that the move may help her reconnect with her grandmother’s history in the village, perhaps find some long-lost relatives, help Darcy to connect with his Norwegian father, or at the very least build a new family of village friends. When she gets there, though, she finds that not everyone in the village is as happy about the project as she believed. And while she hasn’t thought about romance in eight years, some unexpected opportunities arise.

2. Are all your books family dramas, or do you dabble in other genres and styles?

Both The Beekeeper’s Secret and The Gift of Life are mysteries.

3. What attracts you to writing family dramas?

It’s funny, but I haven’t really ever thought of them as family dramas necessarily, though you’re right in that they all contain main characters and their family circumstances either support or hinder their progress. I guess the family—whatever it looks like—is the building block of society and also the main driver behind people’s formative experiences and therefore personalities and behaviours. The narrative richness about families is that they are all so different. There are literally endless possibilities to explore in terms of relationship dynamics. Probably, too, the reason family can be such a strong theme in my books is because I frequently write multi-generational point-of-view characters, therefore they do tend to be linked by family bonds of some sort.

4. The new novel begins in Tasmania, and the moves to the Cotswolds in England – what made you choose these two locations in particular?

I went to the Cotswolds to find a story and was indeed lucky enough to find one so that setting was naturally driven by my time there. As for Tasmania, I simply love the island! My dad and stepmother had a cottage in Tasmania for a number of years and I’ve been down there many times. The first time I went to Evandale I declared that I would set a book there—and I wasn’t even yet published! (That book became my second novel, The Chocolate Promise.) I hold fantasies of having a second home down there where I go simply to write books. I had originally intended for there to be more than one chapter set in Tasmania but as it worked out, we only have the prologue. On the up side, I think that gives me an excuse to try again in the future for another Tasmanian book

5. Can you tell my readers about Story Dogs?

Story Dogs is a nation-wide charity that supports early readers by providing volunteers and their dogs as a form of reading assistance. They primarily have their human-dog teams going into schools, where the kids can read to the dogs. The dogs lift their confidence and provide a comforting, non-judgemental ear.

6. What made you decide to become involved with Story Dogs?

Originally, I wanted to be a volunteer for them with my Golden Retriever, Daisy. My son wasn’t yet in school but I thought it was wonderful and wanted to help. But when I read about the attributes a good reading dog needed, I realised Daisy would never pass the test as she was way too excitable. When Flynn started Prep, I came across the organisation again and thought it was a great initiative and one that married together many of my passions—animals, kids and literacy.

7. Prior to becoming an author, what did you teach, and what about this subject did you enjoy?

I was a high school English teacher as well as teaching Film and TV. I don’t think I enjoyed much about it, which is why I didn’t last long 😉

In hindsight, I think I should have been a primary school teacher. When I left high school teaching, I did eighteen months on contracts in primary schools and really enjoyed it. In primary school, you get the chance to build strong relationships and nurture young minds and capture that sense of natural curiosity and love of learning. I love that. After my son started at school and I was volunteering in his class, I had a real hankering to get back in the classroom. It hasn’t really gone away, but there is no way I could write novels and teach as well.

8. What sort of books did you edit during your editorial career?

I worked in an aerospace company for two years, editing aircraft maintenance manuals and company tenders. I also got myself a niche role creating training workshops for the engineers to improve their communication skills, which broke up the monotony of the job, but the whole experience was pretty soul destroying for a creative person. After that, I got a job as a project editor, working on full-colour high school text books. It was such a fun job. Hands down the best job I ever had. (And I have had a LOT of jobs! All good research material now for building characters.)

9. When did you decide to write a novel, and what gave you the confidence to submit to a publisher?

In 1999, I attended at workshop with the Queensland Writers Centre and had what I call a ‘full body moment’ when I thought, ‘This is it—this is what I want to do with the rest of my life’ I knew that I couldn’t just write a novel, though. That’s a bit like trying to build a house when you can’t even pitch a tent. I spent years writing short stories and articles and lots of other things. At some point I moved to novels and wrote across many different genres. It took me a long time to find the style I wanted to write in. Along the way, I submitted manuscripts to agents and publishers and was rejected by everyone in the country at least once.

I don’t think I ever felt confident; I’m not sure I ever feel that way even now. What I did feel was passion for wanting to improve and a hope that wouldn’t die, no matter how many times I was rejected. I’m a big believer in just having a go, so I think that was always my driving force.

10. Have you had any shorter pieces published elsewhere?

Yes, several short stories and multiple articles for newspapers and magazines.

11. When not writing or helping with Story Dogs, what do you enjoy doing?

I’m a huge animal lover, and we live with a lot of animals, so I’m always patting a cat, playing with a dog, or taking care of horses or goats. I bake a lot and read a lot. I also work as the Business Coordinator for an aged care company and create digital content for them too. And, of course, I am a mum to a gorgeous seven-year-old and that’s a huge part of my day and life.

12. Which is easier to write – fiction or non-fiction, or do you find each has its own challenges?

For me, non-fiction is far easier for the simple fact that all the information you want is already ‘out there’ somewhere. Your role then becomes one of being a curator of that information. Writing fiction on the other hand is so difficult. You are creating whole worlds and people out of nothing. It’s much trickier to find the boundaries of the story and set the course for the narrative and I spend vast amounts of time rewriting. Non-fiction uses a completely different part of my brain so it’s an enjoyable counterpoint.

13. Did your background in education and literacy help when it came to crafting your stories?

Being an editor definitely helped because you need to drill down into the really fine points of language that are mostly overlooked.

14. During your writing process, what kind of research do you do?

Research is my happy place and I spent loads of time there. It’s where I find my stories, the inspiration for characters and content for settings. I love location research for settings. I’m also very much a ‘method writer’, so if my character wants to do a coffee cupping, I need to do it too to have that hands-on experience to write about. I also do a lot of interviews with people because human beings are always the best source of information.

15. What events did you have to cancel when the lockdown hit Australia, and which were you looking forward to?

All my touring events were cancelled. Usually, I visit several cities and do dozens of book signings and author talks. I love meeting readers and I’m lucky enough to have some people come out to see me every year. I’m really sad about not seeing my readers.

16. You’ve worked in education and the arts – how do you think these industries complement each other?

Education (at its best) teaches us how to think. The arts teach us how to think creatively, differently and compassionately, and strengthens our resilience.

17. Top five books or authors that you always enjoy?

Monica McInerney, Marian Keyes, JoJo Moyes, Liane Moriarty, and two new favourites this year in Rachel Givney (Jane in Love) and Rose Hartley (Maggie’s Going Nowhere).

18. What are your plans for your future novels?

Right now, I’m working on my 2021 book, currently called The Jam Queen. After that, I honestly don’t know. With the world as it is right now, I’m finding it difficult to organise three meals a day, let alone a new novel

There are many things I’d still like to write, passion projects and children’s stories, and I have many non-fiction books still inside me that I’d like to bring forth too. Part of being a creative is that I need to stay open to what comes my way. I’m always open to a story ‘arriving’ and demanding to be written.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you so much for having me along and for supporting authors, especially at this time. The Cake Maker’s Wish is out on 2 June and pre-orders are open now, with all the links here.

Thanks Josephine!

Isolation Publicity with Hazel Edwards

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

Hazel Edwards has been in the industry for forty years, and has written for various age groups. But she is perhaps most well-known is There’s A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. As a kid, I remember having this, and There’s A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Getting Sunburnt. Hazel decided to highlight her publisher, Margaret Hamilton, so there are fewer questions, but what is here is an interesting view on what it was like being involved in such a popular book for both author and publisher.

Hippo-Pot-A-musing in a Time of Pandemic

Hi Hazel, and welcome to The Book Muse

Q. There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake was your first picture book, (1980) – and now the 40th anniversary edition has been issued (2020) , amidst the Pandemic Lockdown. How is your situation different from those for whom their FIRST book is due out? Especially as there’s little chance of publicity due to lockdown of all services?

A muse inspires, and sustains so…I’d like to pay credit to the quiet ones behind our books.

Editors, publishers, designers…and readers. And that this is a LONG process.
A reader, not the writer is the owner of the book, once it is published.

Any book requires lots of support, long-term. In this weird Pandemic Isolationism, I feel SO much sympathy for those creators whose FIRST book was due to appear in this time. They’ve been robbed of the highly anticipated book baby birth and the associated launch euphoria. But their book still exists and can have a life beyond these restrictions. It is an idea traveller and may yet continue post-Pandemic.

At least with social and digital media there are still ways of sharing ideas which can be infectious in the best possible way… in a time when we must find new ways of problem-solving.

Because some characters can have lives of their own ( most people know the cake-eating hippo but don’t know me) I’d like to thank the three generational fans but also the original Hodder publisher Margaret Hamilton who took a BIG risk on an unknown writer. A few weeks ago she set me her ‘memories’ and gave permission for me to share.

HIPPO MEMORIES from original Hodder Publisher, Margaret Hamilton A.M.

I have spent many decades working in publishing, specialising in children’s books, firstly at Hodder & Stoughton, then at my own company Margaret Hamilton Books. It makes me extremely proud to see that some of the books I originally published are still in print and being enjoyed by a whole new generation.

My special memories of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’:

• Opening the envelope from Hazel Edwards and immediately loving the story that she had sent and reading it to my colleagues at Hodder.

• Picturing in my mind illustrations by Deborah Niland, with the hippo being almost too big for the pages.

• Deborah wasn’t very keen but I talked her into doing the book, also to do the ‘hippo’ hand lettering of the title, which has been used for all subsequent titles.

• Receiving a letter from the Leipzig Book Fair, awarding Hippo the International Best Picture Book Bronze Medal in 1981.

• Being part of the audience at Garry Ginivan’s ‘Hippo, Hippo the Musical’, seeing so many children enjoying themselves. Thinking, who would have thought that simple story I found in an envelope would come this far?

• Visiting a restaurant at Lake Louise in Canada in 2017, having my phone with its hippo cover beside me on the table and the waiter saying, ‘Isn’t that the hippopotamus on the roof eating cake?’

• Receiving a copy of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Christmas Cake’ together with a recipe for gingerbread, a cookie cutter and a card which said, ‘to Margaret from Hippo’. The gingerbread was very good!

• It gives me special pleasure that Hippo is 40 years old. How proud I feel that so many Australian children have read the books and love them — and there are now six other titles in the series.

• I have huge pleasure sharing Hippo with children who visit me at Pinerolo, the children’s book cottage, especially families who have booked the cottage on Airbnb. It’s very satisfying to see them recognise Hippo, parents and children alike.

• It was a very special pleasure to receive a copy of the beautiful 40th anniversary edition with a special tactile cover.

• Happy 40th birthday Hippo and congratulations to Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland.

Margaret Hamilton AM. Also runs Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage Visit post-Pandemic. And share YOUR book with her and other readers.


Hazel Edwards

Q. Any hints for authors and Illustrators about publicising their NEW book during the lockdown?

A frequently updated author website is vital. It centralises resources like reviews, photos and links to social media like Twitter which is the most effective for solo creators short of time.

Use humour in anecdotes about your book. Never say “ Please buy my book’. Visuals are helpful, especially with the author and book and can be used several times with different captions.
Radio or podcasts have long term audiences and can be recorded from your home.
Building up a genuine, long term following is more important than a quick blitz of publicity.
Don’t despair that you didn’t have a launch. (Just a bit like missing a 21st birthday during the Lockdown as my grandson is doing.)

Don’t confuse with irrelevant answers. Or talk about your other books. Keep to the current one. Have a link to where it can be bought, easily.

While I’m considered a ‘vintage’ author with diverse genre books, today I’ve been asked to talk about the 40th anniversary edition of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ (Penguin /Random House) being released in a time of Lockdown and the Pandemic. Few know I also write adult mysteries like ‘Celebrant Sleuth; I Do or Die’ (Audible) or the mini sequel ‘Wed, Then Dead on the Ghan’ (Kindle) . So I won’t talk about them now.


And congratulations to all the author and illustrators whose book babies are moving independently. They may travel places you had not envisaged because during the Lockdown people are READING more, in ALL formats.


Isolation Publicity with Tanya Bretherton

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

However, even the authors without new releases, anniversary releases or events need our love and appreciation during this crisis, and Tanya reached out to me to appear on the blog. So far, as you may have seen, I have tried to have as many different interviews, authors and genres as possible – it all comes down to who wishes to appear in this series. I still have slots open, and will be going for as long as I can during these hard times.

Hi Tanya, and welcome back to The Book Muse!

  1. Where did your interest in researching and writing about true crime, particularly historical crimes, come from?

Like many people, I enjoy reading true crime, listening to crime podcasts and watching documentaries.  I didn’t initially set out to write in this field though.  My background is sociology, but not criminology.  My first book, The Suitcase Baby, emerged from my day job.  I am a research consultant, and when tracing the history of child protection legislation in NSW I stumbled across an article about a murdered child, cast off into the waters of Port Jackson in the early 1920s.  My interest in true crime as a writer began with that article.  The harbour is such an iconic place in Sydney.  The crime was just so horrible.  I needed to know why it happened – who could kill a child?

  1. So far, your three books – The Suitcase Baby, The Suicide Bride and The Killing Streets have covered crimes that people may have never heard about in today’s society. What is it about these crimes that one could say have disappeared from wider knowledge?

I am really interested in forgotten history or hidden history – overlooked crimes, but also overlooked people.  My books aren’t about wealthy people.  The people I write about don’t bequeath grand estates.  The private letters they wrote were not kept by anyone, and any diaries they may have written are long gone.  They weren’t perceived to be significant historical figures, so you won’t find remnants of their lives held in a private collection or in a museum somewhere.  My field is labelled true crime, but I focus a lot on family history.  I write about death, but I also write about those things that matter most in life: family, love, relationships, tragedy and healing.  True crime is fascinating to me, not because it exists at the extremes, but because there is always a family drama surrounding it in some way or other.

True crime also presents a rich terrain for us to explore heroism.  I write about perpetrators and victims, but I also write about forgotten heroes who try to humbly and quietly work to make the lives of those around them better.  There is villainy in crime, but there are also acts of heroism to be found as well.  I think of the grizzled old police officer in 19th century Newtown who bravely tried to save a young boy drowning in a flooded brick pit, despite the fact that the officer couldn’t swim.  I think of the farm worker in the 1950s who fought to save the life of his work mate dying of a heart attack, out on a remote and dusty plain of the Australian outback.  I think of the single Dad in the 1930s who fought to keep his daughters, at a time when the state deemed the unmarried unfit to parent.  Tragedy creates victims, but it also creates heroes.


  1. True crime is a genre that has seemed to gain traction in the last five or so years with books, shows and podcasts. What is it about true crime stories that people find fascinating?

I wonder about this too.  It is often said that the growing interest in true crime is being driven by the dark parts of the human psyche.  Some people believe that we delight in reading about those things that we cannot do, and perhaps even wish we could do.  I think it is also possible that the interest is true crime is driven by an inherent goodness in people.  The vast majority of the more recent true crime writings and documentaries deal with the miscarriage of justice – those who are imprisoned unfairly or trials that go awry.  People tune in because they are interested in the discovery of truth, and there is a genuine interest in the pursuit of fairness and equity.  True crime is about much more than violence, or gore, or delighting in misery.

  1. Do you think there is a correlation between the interest in crime fiction – Sherlock Holmes, Rowland Sinclair, Phryne Fisher, crime shows – Blue Heelers, Criminal Minds, the Law and Order franchise – and an interest in true crime amongst readers and viewers, and podcast listeners?

I have drawn a conclusion about this, and it may be entirely wrong as it isn’t based on any marketing knowledge or demographic data.  I have always got the impression that there are two very distinct camps.  There are those that like crime fiction, and those that like true crime.  There are fence sitters, but most people tend to fall on one side of the fence or the other.  I feel this in a very real way because I feel the wrath of readers who mistake my work for fiction (eg “I didn’t like the book because I didn’t like the ending”) and those that believe non-fiction must conform to some very set rules and can only be written without emotion (eg “history isn’t a novella”).

  1. Your stories always have an element of social and economic aspects to what happened and who committed the crimes. Can you briefly outline how this was a feature in each crime you have looked into in your books, and what makes these aspects important when considering any crime?

You have absolutely hit the nail on the head!  I like to write about crimes that can tell a big story and a little story at the same time.  My books start with a true crime event and that creates momentum for the story to be told, but in truth, my books are social histories.

There is a dark side to crime writing, of course, and issues of gender in this context are of particular interest to me.  The Suitcase Baby explores friendship and loyalty.  The bond between the two women in that story is remarkable and deserving of a thorough exploration.  The relationship between Jean and Sarah was dangerous, and some very conflicted choices were made by both women.  The Suicide Bride looks at the institution of marriage at the turn of the twentieth century, and the challenges of mental illness in a society which had little compassion nor understanding for those suffering from it.  The Killing Streets examines women as victims and considers one of the most elusive criminal archetypes: the serial killer.  They are all true stories, driven by facts, but they are also family dramas.  True crime often places greatest emphasis on pathology or the psychological profile of a criminal.  I place more emphasis on the relationship profile.  The people in my stories do not have money nor power, and they find themselves in very difficult circumstances.  Any judgements we might make about their decisions need to be made with that in mind.  I am not an apologist for crime, but choice is a loaded term, it’s a relative term.

  1. When you begin your research journey, where do you start – with primary sources or secondary sources?

I start with both.  I go back and forth between the two, checking facts as I gradually build a narrative and decide which characters I am going to focus most closely on.  I only select a criminal case if it can provide a platform to tell a bigger social history story.

  1. How many historical crimes that are potentially unsolved or that have gone largely ignored do you think there are in the archives?

Too many to count, and very few of these will ever be solved.  The historical periods I write about were a looong time ago.  Police had to work with very limited forensics, so it isn’t like there are blood samples stored in cabinets just waiting to be re-discovered and tested.  Many records have also been destroyed over the years as well.  The methodologies used to build cases were also often quite skewed.  Suspects were often profiled with very racist, and classist overtones and this means it would be impossible to try and solve many of these crimes now.  The records are simply too tainted by the biases of the era in which they were created.

  1. From what I can remember about The Killing Streets, the real killer was never identified – do you think this case will ever be solved?

The murders of women that occurred in parks across Sydney from the 1920s to the 1940s won’t ever be solved.  I can understand that some people might find reading a book about that infuriating, but I must admit I find the mystery of it fascinating.

  1. Are there any other cases that have caught your eye that you would like to write about?

I am writing my fourth book at the moment – on poison in post-war Sydney.  I also have three other manuscripts at a slow simmer point on the stovetop as well.  My books involve a huge amount of research, and it takes time to prove the dough, so to speak, to see if a fully formed book can emerge.  When I find a story that has some great twists and turns, and surprises, that becomes my next book.

  1. Can you tell the readers a bit about your publishing journey with Hachette Australia, and how you got started with submitting to publishers?

Like everyone, I have experienced rejections by both agents and publishers.  I can only say to people who are genuinely interested in writing – keep going.  My journey into publishing has been a long one, and I think that apprenticeship has been important.  The more you write the more you learn, and the more you learn the better prepared you will be when an opportunity to publish presents itself. It will happen when it is meant to happen, and chances are that won’t be overnight.


  1. When not investigating these crimes, what do you enjoy reading or doing?

I have a day job, as bills need to be paid.  I spend time with family and friends – they matter more to me than anything else.  The rest of my spare time is consumed by writing.  My books involve a lot of research and endless hours of labour go into them.

  1. Are there any authors or books, or podcasts you recommend people interested look into, apart from your books, of course?

I listen to so many! I tend to be drawn to podcasts with a history focus.  The State Library of NSW produces some great ones.  I have just listened to The Burial Files on the history of the Devonshire st cemetery – it was brilliant.

  1. Have you had any events cancelled, and if so, what were they, or were you planning on attending any events as a visitor rather than hosting something this year?

The Killing Streets is definitely a Covid-19 casualty.  The pandemic struck just after the book launch so all of the events we had planned for the book have been cancelled.  This is of course, a small disappointment in the scheme of what we are all facing right now.  I feel for the entire world at the moment.

  1. Which booksellers are your favourites to frequent, and do you hope to be able to support them as much as possible during this time?

I guess I can only say – buy local wherever you are.  I try to buy from my local booksellers.  I also love secondhand bookstores, and libraries.  I know that the internet is increasingly playing a role in the way we share and celebrate books.  It is also wonderful to have the big chains involved, as they play such an important role in selling, but our local stores and libraries are the heart and soul of book-life and we should support them.

Is there anything you’d like to say that I may have missed?

Thank you, Tanya, for reaching out and helping me with this venture

Isolation Publicity with Kirsty Manning


the lost jewelsDue to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

The second interview in this series is with Kirsty Manning, author of The Midsummer Garden, The Jade Lily and The Lost Jewels. Kirsty, like many authors who have book releases over the next few months, and festival appearances, Kirsty has had these cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the current pandemic. In an attempt to help, I am interviewing those who have taken me up on the offer, and I’ll be throwing in a couple of bookish podcasts as well along the way. So, here is Kirsty’s interview.

Hi Kirsty and welcome to The Book Muse

1. When you set out to write The Lost Jewels, how did you find out about the Cheapside Jewels that form the backbone of the novel and its mystery?

A little over three years ago I was in the final stages of researching and writing my last novel set in Shanghai in World War Two—The Jade Lily—when I stumbled across an extraordinary newspaper article that completely knocked me off track.

It was a review of an exhibition of 500 priceless pieces of Elizabethan and Tudor jewelry–The Cheapside Hoard–that was on display at the time at the Museum of London, and I paused to read it. Who doesn’t love a diamond?

Naturally, I put aside the manuscript I was supposed to be writing and started to research everything I could on this shiny new topic. I found out what I could.

As my imagination took flight … the same questions haunted me: how could someone neglect to retrieve 500 precious pieces of jewellery and gemstones? Why was such a collection buried in a cellar? Who did all these jewels belong to? Why did nobody claim this treasure in the subsequent years? Who were the workmen who actually discovered the jewels in an old London cellar at Cheapside in 1912?

No-one knows the answers to these questions.

2. I really enjoyed this novel – you seem to capture the essence of both time periods you focused on. What do you like about writing a dual timeline story, and do you think it creates a more intriguing plot?

I love diving into different worlds, and it keeps it interesting when you are writing … if I get stuck on one plotline, I can jump across to the other!

I think a dual narrative can create intrigue if cleverly crafted, because the reader often knows the outcome for historical sections, and that expectation creates an added layer of drama in the text.

3. How much research did you do for this novel, and what was the most interesting thing you had to research?

I spent about a year researching this book before I started on the manuscript proper, noodling about with characters, timeframes and places.

I write about three eras of London, the 1600’s, 1912 and present day. For the 1600’s I read plenty of contemporary texts, like Shakespeare (who was writing at this time) and the diary of Samuel Pepys—the philandering public servant who kept a diary of his life in London at the time, including the Great Fire. He was the guy who buried wine and a block of parmesan cheese in his London garden—resolving to return to for it after the fire had passed. That’s my kind of correspondent!

Before I set off to London, I visited the breathtaking Cartier exhibition in Canberra. I was guided by a jeweller, who not only talked me through the design and setting, but what it took to facet an emerald—stones so fragile they splinter—and the flaws in a sapphire that make them so special. The best part, perhaps, was a replica of a goldsmith’s room, complete with the leather that folds across the lap, anvil and polishing stones. It wasn’t hard to imagine talented artisans sitting at tables just like these in Antwerp, Amsterdam, Milan, Paris and London hundreds of years ago, just like they do today. Later, I’d go on to visit jewellers in Melbourne and London, who’d show me to their tiny workspaces before pulling out diamonds, sapphires and gold bands from secret leather pouches and spreading them across the desktop to catch the light.

London is perfect for steeping yourself in history. I visited with my teenage son, Henry, and together we took tours with historians tracing the path of the Great Fire, visited the buildings, churches and monuments designed by Wren—who clearly loved a dome. We walked the streets of the East End learning about all the suffragettes were doing in 1912, and took a turn about the Burough Market and Dickensian London.

We spent the best part of a day at the Museum of London learning about fires, plague and revolutions, as well as suffragettes and life in Edwardian London. The Museum of London is also home to the Cheapside Hoard (although it is currently in storage) so I saw some replica jewels and stocked up on reference books.

I struck it lucky at the British Museum, where a sympathetic curator opened up a room containing some of the buttons and jewels allegedly from the Cheapside Hoard and it blew me away. To be in that room in London, looking at pieces with rubies and sapphires from Sri Lanka, diamonds from India, and emeralds from Colombia all set in exquisite gold rings and buttons, crafted in London when it was the centre of the exploding trading world. The Victoria and Albert Museum also has a fine selection of jewels, and the Natural History Museum is great for seeing real gemstones up close in the rough.

4. I had never heard of jewellery historians before this book – what do you think the best thing about being a jewellery historian would be?

Unravelling the true stories and mysteries behind a hand-crafted piece. The story of a jewel tells a bigger story of trade and globalisation, design trends, economics and politics. I try to show how many hands pass over a jewel—from origin to purchase in The Lost Jewels. A jewel changes someone’s life every time they come into contact with it, then either pass it on to a loved one and sell it on. There are stories with each handover.

5. I found moving between the key moments in the history of the jewels to be effective – was this a conscious decision or did it evolve while you wrote the novel?
A bit of both! I wanted to give the reader a sense of the hands that pass over a jewel, from origin. And I had an idea of the history, but it is all speculative … so I wove that in with my own narrative.

6. I love the way you centre women in your stories – do you feel that by doing this, you are contributing to a previously ignored historical record?
Yes indeed. The Lost Jewels is my imagined tale woven between the facts. I love bringing to life forgotten pockets of history—in particular, women’s voices that have long been overlooked or dismissed. For me, a novel begins between the gaps of history. I build my world on the bits we don’t know.

London was in turmoil in 1912—on the brink of war—with women marching in the street demanding the vote. Both these eras seemed ripe for fictionalising, placing strong, interesting women at the forefront of each story.

As for Kate, my main contemporary character—I’m in awe of the research of historians, curators and conservators around the world. They tenderly dive into our past to give us stories for our future. To teach us lessons, to give comfort and warning where needed. This is my love letter to their important work in libraries, museums and galleries around the world.

7. Do you have a favourite bookseller? Why this one in particular?
The Avenue Bookshop in Albert Park – because I can walk there! I also love New Leaves, in my former home-town of Woodend because a country bookshop keeps a country town engaged and inspired.

8. What is your favourite thing about the literary and writing community in Australia?
The camaraderie. Australia is awash with literary talent and in Melbourne I’ve made connections with writers who will be friends for life.

9. Books are always important. But in times of crisis, they can be a great comfort to people. For you, which book brings you comfort no matter how many times you read it?

To Kill a Mockingbird … always

10. You’re involved in the arts community in Australia – how do you think the arts will help people through the next few months?

If history teaches us anything, it is the power of the human spirit to be optimistic and rebuild after tragedy. Now is the time to contemplate what is really precious. It is the perfect time to celebrate art and beauty—also a time to read and reach for topics that bring a little hope and sparkly magic to our lives.

11. Favourite writing or reading companion – cat, dog or both?

My new puppy, Winter.

12. How long do you like to spend researching a book before you write those first words that begin the story?

About a year. But the research never stops until the story is done.

13. What are you going to be reading during this isolation period, and do you have any recommendations?

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

14. Finally, what is your next project going to be about?

A mystery set between the French Riviera and Germany …

Interview with Eleanor Limprecht, Author of The Passengers

On the blog today, I am delighted to host Eleanor Limprecht, author of The Passengers, published on the 21st of February, and reviewed on the blog as well. Eleanor has kindly answered some questions about the book, war brides and her research process, so I hope you enjoy and that it gives some insight into a very interesting book and a history not often taught in classes.

Hi Eleanor, and welcome to The Book Muse. I’m happy to host you here today.

Hi Ashleigh and thanks for having me!

I’ll start by saying how much I enjoyed The Passengers. It had a little bit of everything, and I liked that each journey was connected by the sea and the cruise, and a sense of self for both Sarah and Hannah. This was a very well executed story.

Thank you very much.

Now down to the questions.

Was there anything in particular that got you interested in the stories of war brides from Australia during the Second World War, and what was this?

There were two things – firstly, in 2013 I took my family to visit my Great Aunt Marge Fogel in San Diego, she was living in a retirement home and we met her boyfriend, Bert, who was in his 90s. Bert was telling us how he’d been to Sydney in the 1940s on R and R, when the war was on, and how he remembered, ‘the beautiful girls, and how they loved to dance’, and he told me how many Americans had married those Australian girls. It got me thinking – wondering how those marriages had turned out.


Then we were visiting a family friend of my husband’s a year or two later in Northern NSW and his wife spoke of how her aunt had married an American GI during the war and ended up moving to Kilmarnock, Virginia – and she’d never seen her again. I knew the town of Kilmarnock very well as one of my best friends is from Kilmarnock, and it’s a very small town, and I was intrigued by how that woman would have settled in. The culture shock coming from Sydney, the sheer distance, and then that knowledge that she had never returned. That her family never saw her again.

Prior to World War Two, had war brides been a common societal change in the modern world, or did this trend, and these experiences evolve as a result of American troops staying in Australian cities after 1941?

War brides have been around as long as there have been wars fought in foreign lands. However, what changed with World War II is the numbers of women who married foreign soldiers. Up to 15,000 Australian women are estimated to have married American GIs and moved to the US, but even more German and British brides married foreign soldiers. So war brides were around, particularly during World War I, but the numbers grew massively in WWII.

If inspired by family, are there any interesting stories from family members that informed the narrative and characters you have created?

They are more second hand stories, the ones I related above. But there is also my own story: that I met and fell in love with an Australian man while travelling in Italy in 2001. We spent less than a month together and a year later I left my home, my family, the degree I was studying for, my friends…everything (except my dog – I brought my dog) and moved to Australia to be with him. So in a deeply personal way I related to the stories of these women. I compared my own experience and felt privileged to have the ability to travel back and forth, to FaceTime with my mother and sister, to have the freedom to work and travel and expect some degree of equality. These women really ventured into the unknown. They were incredibly brave.

One thing I am always interested in is how much research authors do, and what kind of sources they use. How many sources and what kinds of sources did you consult for this novel, and which were the most informative and useful?

I love the process of research, and I can get a little carried away! I read everything I could find about war brides – the best sources were social histories and interviews in which the women spoke about their experiences. Trove is an excellent source of old newspaper and magazine articles. I went to the Australian War Memorial and read the pamphlets and letters in their archives, I spent a night on board a restored bride ship in Long Beach, The Queen Mary, which is now a floating hotel, and I travelled up the West Coast of the United States to interview two war brides from Australia who met and married American GIs.

The most informative and useful sources were the women themselves, just meeting them in person and seeing the way they have straddled two worlds – fully at home in neither. One has a collection of old Arnotts biscuit tins and porcelain koalas and kangaroos in her house, but only managed to get back to Australia thirty years after leaving. That was the most moving thing to me, seeing their strength in the face of adversity, how they built new lives, sometimes with everything against them. I also love the coincidences – the reason I was able to meet the war brides on the West Coast of the US is because I was doing a writing workshop in Portland Oregon in 2016. My first day there I sat down in the cafeteria for lunch at a table with a complete stranger. We got to talking, I mentioned that I had come from Australia, and she said: “My mother was Australian.” It turned out that her mother was an Australian war bride. It was the most extraordinary coincidence, and her mother’s story which she told me was one of the most moving and transformative to the way I thought about the novel.

You’ve told Hannah and Sarah’s stories in alternating first person narrative, and both in a present tense format. Was there any reason to do this, or was it a natural progression as you wrote the novel?

The present tense came about because I was also writing Sarah’s memories, and I wanted to delineate between the memories (in the past tense) and the present voyage with Hannah. So it happened fairly naturally. I did experiment with third person narrative voice several times during drafting, but it didn’t have as much power. My previous two novels have been in third-person limited voice – it is generally what I prefer – but I found the intimacy of first person here integral because it is a story being told.

Sarah’s experience after marriage was interesting, and I found it intriguing that Roy’s mother supported her leaving, and Roy seemed to hint that he didn’t want to come. Was Sarah’s experience of leaving, getting a job and divorce and eventually settling down with Jim a common one that came through in your interviews? Why or why not?

I don’t think Roy knew that Sarah was going to leave, but the experience with the mother-in-law being hostile was certainly a common one. A lot of war brides felt as though their mother-in-laws resented them for not being American, and a lot of the brides found themselves having to live with the in laws because of the post-war housing shortages. Getting a divorce was not a common experience, but it was certainly one which I heard and read about, there were definitely marriages which did not work out and there were also instances of the war brides marrying another American. There were also those who went back to Australia. I also realised while researching this story how many unhappy marriages were just tolerated because divorce was frowned upon. But there were definitely divorces as well.

You’ve managed to write for a modern audience whilst at the same time, maintaining certain attitudes of the time, but presenting them in a way that readers will understand these were the attitudes of the time, such as the line “take delivery of his wife after signing for her” – referring to the collection of war brides at the other end. Was this a challenge for you, to maintain authenticity of the time and write for a modern reader? Why/why not?

I have a real desire to maintain this authenticity so I’m really pleased that you found this to be the case. The novel I wrote before this, Long Bay, gave me so much experience in how to avoid placing my own sensibilities on my characters; understanding the social fabric of the time and what their desires, capabilities and expectations would have been. I wrote Long Bay as part of a Doctorate of Creative Arts at UTS and the Professor of History Paula Hamilton advised me early on in my degree to consider carefully how the way we think is a product of the time we live in, and the expectations that society has placed upon us. Discovering what these expectations are is always an important part of my research process.

Sarah’s struggles are with leaving her family, and Hannah’s are with her health – the journey back to Sydney felt like a healing process for both of them and brought Sarah’s story full circle from her departure in 1945. Was this what you intended for the characters?

It is certainly what happened, but I’m not sure that I intended it because I’m not much of a planner when I’m writing. I’m more of the “sit down and write what comes to you” school. It probably takes more drafts but I find the process of discovery enjoyable. And when I discovered what Hannah struggled with I realised that in hearing her grandmother’s story, Hannah gains new perspective on her own. And in journeying back to Australia, Sarah has to confront her past. I was very close to both of my grandmothers, and I loved hearing about their lives and considering the challenges they had to face, and how I would have managed in the same circumstances.

When she leaves Sydney, there are some children travelling with their mothers to meet their fathers in America – which was more common – wives with or without children


Wives (and fiancées) without children were more common, but there were plenty of children and babies. For instance – a typical ship was the SS Monterey which arrived in San Francisco in March, 1946 with 562 Australian and New Zealand war brides and their 253 children on board. All of the war brides had free passage to America. Interestingly, fiancées were allowed free passage but a $500 bond had to come from the American fiancé which would cover the return trip to Australia should the marriage not take place three months after arrival in the US!

Was the cruise motif meant to be used as a journey and transitions into new lives at both ends for both women, and what inspired you to use the cruise motif in this way?


I didn’t think I would write part of the novel on a cruise ship, but I was so captivated by the experiences of the war brides on the ships to the US that it got me thinking about how travel is this time of limbo – of being stuck between. And sea voyages make for a longer period of limbo, there is more time to consider where you are coming from and where you are going.

Not long after I moved to Australia, my Grandma Lorraine and my Great Aunt Marge took a cruise to Sydney from San Diego, we picked them up and saw their cruise ship, the huge white behemoth at Circular Quay, and they told us the stories of playing bridge and dancing. And I remember thinking then that a cruise is a return to a slower pace, which was part of why my grandma loved them. There was nowhere else to be. And when I thought further about this, I realised it was the perfect place for Sarah to remember, and tell, her story.

As a finale, could you give some more insight into war brides and their experiences, and how an experience like Sarah’s would have been viewed in society at the time?


I think we’re coming to realise that the experiences of war brides were an integral part of the stories we tell about WWII. For so long these stories have been dismissed as the ‘domestic’ side, but I think they are incredibly important. Women certainly had more freedom to work, to fall in love, to be in control of their own lives during World War II. But when the war was over there was a backlash, and those who married men who had been away at war found themselves dealing with a generation of husbands who were scarred by their experiences and didn’t have the language to talk about it. Women were told to ‘not ask him too many questions’. They were meant to stay at home and raise the children, but now they had experienced so much more.

Sarah’s experience would have been looked down upon. Australian women who married Yanks were disparaged by Australian men and the Australian media. In America, they were given a hard time for ‘stealing’ American men – who were in short supply post-WWII. And then divorce was highly controversial as well. Sarah would not have been viewed well in society at the time, which was what would have discouraged her from speaking openly about her experiences. Divorce is something we discuss now quite openly, but in the recent past it was still a great source of shame.


Any further comments on anything you think I have missed?

No, this was so thorough and I hope my answers are useful and not too long!

Thank you for allowing me to interview you, and appearing on my blog.

Thank you Ashleigh for reading my novel, asking such thoughtful questions, and for having me on your blog.


All the best – Eleanor

the passengers

The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht is published by Allen & Unwin. $29.99. Out now.

You can purchase The Passengers through Booktopia: