My latest novel The Secrets of Bridgewater Bayis a darkly gripping, dual-time novel, with a wealth of twists, turns and secrets.
Rose and ivy board a ship for Australia. One is travelling there to marry a man she has never met. One is destined never to arrive.
Amongst her late grandmother’s possessions, Molly uncovers a photograph of two girls dressed in First World War nurses’ uniforms, labelled ‘Rose and Ivy 1917’, and a letter from her grandmother asking her to find out what happened to her own mother Rose, who disappeared in the 1960s.
Compelled to carry out her grandmother’s last wish, Molly embarks on a journey to England to unravel the mystery of the two girls whose photograph promised they’d be ‘together forever’…
Praise for The secrets of bridgewater bay
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this immersive story which spans both generations and continents. The evocative details and impeccable research make for a delightful reading experience and I can pay it no greater compliment other than to say, I wish I’d written it‘ KATHRYN HUGHES
‘A sweeping tale of family secrets, betrayal, jealousy, ambition and forbidden romance . . . Fans of The Thorn Birds and Downton Abbey will love the epic scope of this novel’ ALI MERCER
‘This is an epic dual-time novel which draws the reader in right from the start and keeps you in thrall until the very last page. The writing is superb, the descriptions detailed, lush and evocative’ CHRISTINA COURTENAY
‘A gripping story full of family secrets: the price of love and loss within two generations . . . convincing and poignant’ LEAH FLEMING
‘Rich in evocative detail – the complex mystery kept me guessing right up to the last page’ MUNA SHEHADI
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A vista of images is more inspiring than a blank wall for this writer.
As a writer of historical fiction I am always collecting images as part of my research. Maps, plans, photographs, drawings and paintings, all form part of my collection. I file some in topic folders with other clippings and print-outs of reference material, but others I blu-tack to the the wall my desk faces as a constant reference and source of inspiration.
If you look closely at the photographs on this page you’ll see a central image of two WW1 nurses that was an early source of inspiration for The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay. In a way, this photograph set the mood for the entire novel. And around it I added other images that became integral to the story.
Some are photographs I took myself, of locations that appear in the novel. Others are historical photographs of people, places and objects from the early years of the 20th century when the novel is set. Clothing, cars, houses, ships, even a doll’s house that caught my attention and demanded to be included in the story. Of particular inspiration to the mood of the novel were the historical photographs of Colombo in Sri Lanka and Port Said, Egypt. Whenever I felt lost, uncertain where the story needed to go next, or not feeling very inspired, my wall of images lured me back.
As I write, I am about to begin a wall for a new story. Be prepared for Sussex cottages, Regency dresses and the mighty Brisbane River.
People often ask how authors motivate themselves when working so much alone, particularly if they have no looming deadline. As a writer of historical fiction, one of my tactics is to read myself into motivation. In the early stages of a new book idea I don’t have the impetus of lots of words already written to get me going, so I turn to other authors’ words (usually nonfiction) to inspire my creativity. Prod it along, so to speak. Inevitably an idea strikes. In other words, for me reading = writing.
Here is a stack of books I turned to when writing my latest novel The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay. Perhaps the titles will give you a few clues as to its setting. If you sense that the book covers quite a bit of territory, you’d be right. Set in the early twentieth century, it moves from a grand country house in Devon, England, to a homestead in rural Australia. Life in the English Country House and Historic Homesteads are both excellent pictorial references that helped me envisage these settings. And Servants was an excellent resource to understand the relationship between ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ at that time.
Along the way, the characters travel by ship through the Suez Canal, sailing via Colombo, Sri Lanka, before reaching Australia. Two Happy Years in Ceylon is a reprinted travelogue from the late nineteenth-century, and a treasure trove of description about Sri Lanka at that time from an English traveller’s perspective.
And although the novel isn’t set on the battlefields of World War One, the characters’ lives are impacted by these events. Hence, Vera Brittain’s must-read Testament of Youth, Juliet Nicholson’s The Great Silence and several wonderful and moving collections of letters and diaries by Australian soldiers, which helped give an authentic voice to some of the passages in the novel.
There were many more books, of course, plus a myriad of online sources. But these were a few that really helped me through some rough patches in the writing process.