Carol Jones is the author of 'The Concubine's Child', set in 1930s Malaya and The Boy With Blue Trousers set in 1850s China and Australia. Born in Brisbane, Australia, she taught English and Drama at secondary schools before working as an editor of children's magazines. She is also the author of several young adult novels as well as children's non-fiction.
When I decided to set the first chapter of The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay in a Victorian coastal town, Port Fairy came to mind immediately. It’s a popular holiday town but also one of the oldest European settlements in Victoria. On the banks of the Moyne River, adjacent to a small historic island that is home to a colony of shearwaters and with a great surf beach, Port Fairy has plenty of atmosphere. It’s also a fishing port and its streets are lined with early colonial architecture.
She listened to the water lapping at the pylons and fancied it beckoning softly to all those who would venture out into unknown seas.
The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay
The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay is a dual-time novel and my contemporary protagonist’s family hail from this region of Australia. I decided I needed to find her grandmother a suitable house in Port Fairy. The house where she discovers that first clue to the disappearance of her great-grandmother Rose.
There are numerous simple stone cottages in Port Fairy, mostly built in the first half of the nineteenth century. Many are built from the local basalt, a volcanic rock found throughout the area. South-west Victoria is pockmarked with 400 volcanoes, now long dormant, but they have left behind craters filled with lakes. More of that in another post.
For the moment, imagine my character Molly sifting through the contents of her dead grandmother’s home and wandering along the boardwalk by the river, haunted by the ghosts of her own past.
Some writers hate revising but it’s my favourite part of the writing process. It means I’ve done the hardest part – conquered the blank page.
So here I am, at my final draft before I submit the manuscript for my next book to my editor, and I’m working with hard copy again. This time I’ve printed the manuscript on green paper to trick me into seeing it with fresh eyes. And it has caused me to rethink my first page completely. Actually, it has caused me to rethink the entire first chapter.
It has also prompted me to cut swathes of writing that I previously thought quite brilliant. I thought I’d already done a structural edit and a line edit so the story was dressed and ready to walk out the door. But no…
Re-reading in hard copy (aloud until my throat began protesting) can give the writer an entirely new perspective so that you see things you didn’t notice on the screen. I suspect that’s because it’s closer to the experience of reading a finished book. This is especially so if you don’t fiddle with the little things on that reading. Just consider the story’s pace and flow and mood.
And do put the manuscript aside for a couple of weeks before you begin the process.
Sometimes serendipity lends a hand and a writer stumbles upon an image that jumpstarts the story.
During early research for my new novel The Secrets of Bridgewater BayI stumbled across this photograph of two World War One, British Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses. I had already decided that two of the main characters in the story would join the VAD and this photograph became a springboard to developing those characters. If you read the novel I think you will realise why.
There was so much strength in those linked arms. The girls didn’t know it then but there was a century of massive change coming. Yet together they looked like they could face whatever the world had in store.
The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay
Not only was the photograph influential in character development, it also became the perfect clue for the contemporary protagonist to discover. The inscription on the rear ‘Rose and Ivy 1917 – Together forever’ sets her on a journey of discovery into the past that changes her life.
Photographs and maps have always been integral to my storytelling. They suggest, provoke, and flesh out the story. Without them I think I might be lost!
Welcome to the Julie Brooks website! I’m so excited to be launching The Secrets of Bridgewater Baywith Headline Review (UK) in 2021. I love reading historical fiction and I love a mystery so am doubly pleased to bring you both in this new story.
a darkly-gripping dual-time novel
Described as a ‘darkly-gripping dual-time novel’, The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay is inspired by my love of the stunning coastline of south-west Victoria, and the similarly wild coastline of North Devon. Set largely in these two regions in the early twentieth century and one hundred years later, it’s a story of betrayal, redemption and family secrets. I hope you like it.
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