Category: Heal My Heart

Post war Paris in the 1920s

Post war Paris in the 1920s

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns along the Western Front sputtered into silence. It was the end of The Great War.

Worldwide people rejoiced, waved flags, danced, and kissed strangers in the streets. But the mask of euphoria and laughter hid from view the broken lives of returned soldiers, grieving widows, and mothers. In truth, the world was hiding its pain beneath a veneer of gaiety that transmitted its energy forward into the Jazz Age. Although life on the surface returned to normal at a faster pace for the lucky ones, the undercurrent of tragedy changed life forever, defining the early part of the twentieth century as ‘before’ or after ‘the war’. The 1920s was a special era in post war Paris.

A Honeymoon in Post war Paris

My characters, Winnie and her sister, Francesca emerge from the war and from the end of the poignant story, Time, Heal my Heart (release date August 18) into a new chapter of their lives post war. Decades later, Winnie urges Francesca to write their story from her diaries so their children will know the life they had. Francesca decides to set the beginning of her story in the early 1920s, after the war in post war Paris, because she doesn’t want to recall wartime horrors. Here is the beginning of her story as written in the last novel in the Time Series, Last Time Forever.

‘I loved Paris at first sight. We visited this romantic of cities for a second honeymoon in April 1921, So, I will begin my story with Paris. What better place to start? What better place for a honeymoon? (If you too like the idea of a honeymoon in Paris, read my short story, A Honeymoon in Paris) Paris in the Twenties was so alive that a visit there after the war proved perfect. There I could also connect with my French friend, Lisbette.

The following is part of a letter Lisbette writes to her friends back home in Australia. It captures the Paris of the early 1920s.

Post war Paris, a City of music, love and art

‘Beautiful but war-damaged Paris is very lively now since the war. The city is full of music, love, and art, especially art. Many artists have flocked here to the Montparnasse area on La Rive Gauche where Gervais lives. They find accommodation more affordable here than in Montmartre and I suppose the construction of the Sacre Coeur church on the hill disturbed their bohemian lifestyle. You may be interested to learn that the beautiful church is nearly complete. I remember you frequented this area in your days in Paris. The artists are finishing the mosaic work now.

But for now, Montparnasse is quite the place to be for artists and writers alike. Unlike me Gervais has money, so he took me to some of the cafes and once to a cabaret. The jazz music imported from America is all the rage here. It is very lively with a frantic beat which has become the pulse of Paris. We went to a music hall and even the scandalous Folies Bergère. Women in this city are wearing less and less!

The flappers, a new way to dress

I feel very overdressed and matronly compared to les garçonnes, the boy girls or flappers as they are also called. These boyish young things with bobbed hair wear dresses with absolutely no shape. Gervais says I must buy a new wardrobe, but of course, I don’t have the money or inclination for such frivolity. I have a son to raise somehow, so cannot waste anything on my vanity. I wander about in my old brown coat and straw hat looking very plain and out of date, a stranger from the past in the new vibrant Paris.’

Then Francesca arrives from her long trip from Australia and sees Paris with her own eyes.

‘The city with its gracious buildings and lovely wide avenues was beautiful. There was music in the air, carried to us from a music hall on the soft breeze that wafted from the river Seine.

Beauty in the Air

The next morning, Paris in the sunlight was in full view and I adored everything. There was beauty everywhere, the river, the sidewalk cafes, the churches and the people. Not just the sights, but the sounds- of music, church bells and of course, the language spoken or sung all around me.

‘Oui, Madame…..S’il vous plait, Madame…. Merci, Madame’

Accordion players wearing neckties and berets sang quaint songs by the shaded banks of the Seine. Snatches of songs drifted our way.

‘Mon ami Pierrot, au clair de la lune…’

Near the famous Eiffel Tower, patriotic nationalism stirred in song,

Allons enfants de la patrie, Le jour de Gloire est arrive.’

Le Marseillaise is such a stirring anthem sung proudly and strongly’

I fell in love with the Eiffel Tower

‘I looked for the beautiful tower wherever we walked as I loved it from all angles and night and day.

Ah! Le tour Eiffel. Encore,’ I exclaimed to Seb, yet again as its now familiar grey lines peeped from behind a building or became visible down an alleyway.

He laughed at my fixation on the now-popular national landmark.

‘The French hated it at first, even protested when Eiffel built it for an exposition.( see the movie, Eiffel) But now they love it. They put it on all the postcards!’

Oh, how I loved Post war Paris!

‘Well, it is very tall and imposing close up. I guess nearby residents would have objected. But maybe when it was complete, they changed their minds, as for a tower, it has beautiful lines,’ I reasoned.

Indeed, its lines were even more gracious when silhouetted at night against the moonlight. We took a bateau mouche ride down the Seine and came across the tower as we passed downstream.

‘Your tower, darling. There it is, again!’ Seb whispered in my ear.

I laughed and snuggled closer, gazing up at the grey metal tower, glorious and proud in the moonlight.

Oh! How I loved Paris!’

If you like the idea of this story then you must start with my first book Whispers Through Time. Admittedly not my best work as it is my debut novel, it will introduce you to the sisters Winnie and Francesca in 1905. Then you will want to follow their journey through the next two books, Time Heal my Heart and Last Time Forever, finishing in the 1960s.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Time, Heal my Heart will be released August 18.

Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Whispers through Time-The Titanic

Whispers through Time-The Titanic

TITANIC, an unsinkable tragedy

Even after its sinking on an icy cold April night long ago in 1912, the Titanic has proved to be an unsinkable story of human tragedy.

Indeed, The RMS Titanic lives on as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when ego and greed overpower responsibility and safety concerns. This tragic tale is endlessly fascinating despite the ship’s loss to the icy depths of the Atlantic over a century ago.

The ill-fated Titanic is the subject of many books such as the definitive A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (1956) and Titanic, An Illustrated History by Don Lynch (1992). The ship features in Stephen Weir’s book, History’s Worst Decisions and is even the inspiration for a children’s book called Polar, the Titanic Bear, about the actual teddy bear of a little boy who survived the sinking.

Speaking of which, there is one last book I just have to mention that is also a fascinating read. Shadow of the Titanic follows the lives of the survivors of that terrible night. Interestingly, most of them had sad lives and many died young and even quite soon after the event. The little boy who owned the teddy bear died in a family car crash within a year and is just one example of the long shadow that the Titanic cast over people’s lives. Some folks never recovered from family losses while others bore survivor’s guilt that prevented their happiness.

The Titanic tragedy keeps giving

Yes, the Titanic story is one that keeps on giving. There is so much to fascinate, so many lessons about human nature to appreciate.

As a long-time enthusiast of all things Victorian, the story interested me long before the blockbuster 1997 Titanic film produced by James Cameron. I had already watched the earlier film starring Barbara Stanwick and seen and read films and books where the Titanic had sailed in, including my own, creating a setting for many tragic storylines. I confess to Titanic jigsaws and scale models as well.

But all the tragedy could have been averted if someone like Bruce Ismay, Captain Smith or the ship builder, Thomas Andrew had read another book by a little-known author named Morgan Robertson. In 1898, he wrote a novel about a transatlantic liner loaded with the rich and famous that hit an iceberg near Newfoundland at similar co-ordinates to the 1912 liner. The ship, eerily called the Titan had very similar specifications to the actual Titanic.

If only someone had read this book, aptly titled Futility.

What caused the Titanic tragedy?

It is telling of human nature that we are drawn to details of tragedies. Perhaps it is because there is so much to take away and reflect on. The factors that caused the real-life Titanic tragedy are themselves endlessly fascinating. In this instance there were a myriad of fateful errors both human and natural.

Titanic was steaming ahead in a fateful race with Time itself. Captain Edward Smith confidently ordered her throttled into full steam so she could arrive in New York ahead of schedule. He along with Bruce Ismay, director of White Star Line wanted to showcase her capabilities as the biggest ship ever to sail the seas. It was Smith’s last commission at sea so this would be a fitting end to his career. A timely six day crossing of the Atlantic was important for both men. But thousands of others would have preferred to just arrive.

The Titanic had everything but lifeboats

Neither man seemed concerned by reported ice warnings in the ocean ahead, nor overly mindful of his responsibility to the cargo of 2240passengers, despite the paucity of lifeboats. The Titanic had everything anyone could want on board a ship except lifeboats. Even at two thirds capacity of its possible number of passengers there were only enough for 1178 people, leaving 1023 others stranded. That is only too if the lifeboats were fully loaded which was definitely not the case. Many that could take 65 people, left with less than twenty aboard. Some of these fortunate were extremely wealthy and influential women along with children and even first-class men.  Most second and third-class passengers went down with the ship.

If it were not for the speed, the inattention to ice, the lowered bulkheads, the limited lifeboats, the missing binoculars on the watch deck, the steel, the pop rivets, the last-minute attempt to swerve around the iceberg…. So may ‘ifs, so many factors that coalesced to cause tragedy.

Then apart from the ship’s construction, the speed and human factors there was the bad luck that the only nearby ship, the Californian turned off its telegram service and retired all staff to bed, even after sighting a flare rocket. ‘We thought it was a just a party,’ the captain claimed in defense.  Words that went down in history like those of Captain Smith. ‘I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.’

Titanic lives on in literature

There is so much more I could write about this Titanic subject. Many have. Instead, I chose some human-interest snippets to include in two chapters of my historical fiction novel, Whispers through Time. This book is based on my grandparent’s journey from London to Australia on a steamer ship, the Rangatira in June 1912, just months after the sinking of the ill-fated liner.

The tragedy was recent news. It is a wonder they still travelled into the ice infested waters of the southern oceans. But they did and even retraced the journey two years later through U boat infested waters to return to England as grandfather was called into military service. He was still part of the British Army, having served already in the Boer Wars when he was just sixteen. Their story continues on in the sequel released this year, Time, Heal my Heart.

Follow my history blogs on https://joniscottauthor.com

Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Australian readers check out Author Academy Bookstore, https://authoracademybookstore.com.au

 

 

The Last Hotel-Interview with Author

The Last Hotel-Interview with Author

An Interview with Joni Scott, Author of The Last Hotel

First of all, congratulations on publishing your book. How long did it take to write it?

Thank you, Maureen and thank you for taking a chance on me and my book. The Last Hotel was very keen to be written, occupying my mind day and night so it took five months then a few months back and forth with publisher about edits, quotes, possible inclusion of song lyrics etc

Given that the story is inspired by real events, are there details that you chose to omit from this book?

I changed names, businesses and did not mention the airline company that we flew with as I gave them negative press. I didn’t want to get sued by an airline! Only the first half of the book is based on real events, up to the meeting of strangers at the airport.

After that fiction took over. I have never been to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, only passed it on the train that night we fled Italy for France. The name caught my fancy as it translates as ‘beautiful place by the sea’ When I met the interesting people at Nice airport the next day, I had the idea for the book, like a light bulb moment.

My husband and I shuffled around hotels for another week and kept bumping into Kaz and Lou the two young women who lost their jobs in St Tropez, but we never saw the others again. I don’t know if they went home soon after or stayed put in France. I so wished I had taken names and addresses so I could tell these lovely people that I put them in a book!
The second half of the story is a “what if’” version of life. Personally, I would have loved to have stayed and met Lotte and Rene and darling Henri and Juliette. But they are fictional characters I imagined just like the bakery and bookshop.

Sitting on my couch back in Australia, I walked through the places in Beaulieu on Google Earth and discovered that in the street there really is a bakery and bookshop! How cool is that! Maybe someone will ask them, “are you the bakery in The Last Hotel?” I hope a reader will go there to check out the town. I intend to when we can travel overseas again.
In reality, we managed a flight home early May. I started writing the book the day I returned home. It was so vivid, I had to get going with it despite only having one functional hand, my left one.
I did not get the use of right one back until November 2020 and it is still very stiff. 

Have you ever considered writing a personal memoir?

I think every book I have written (now 3) contains aspects of oneself ie memories of childhood, relationships. Who would want to read my memoir anyhow? haha

What was the hardest scene to write?

The chapter where I introduce Jenny’s family. I rewrote the part about Pieter quite a few times as I didn’t want to offend any lesbian readers and having no experience of them, I wasn’t sure how Pieter should think .In the end I chose confusion for her as she is still young and discovering herself.

In your opinion, is it prudent for people to start travelling again?

We can travel much yet . However, I understand people have been cooped up so long in Europe and Britain that if the governments don’t allow it, there could be mass anarchy. We have had it so easy in Australia, particularly Queensland compared to the rest of the world. We only had to wear masks for a short time yet people still complained. Time will tell if it is prudent to allow travel again. Once it is the European summer, there could be another wave.

If you could go back in time before the pandemic, what would you do differently?

I would still risk the trip to Italy. If I had not gone in the slim time frame of those few days, before we couldn’t go overseas and before Italy shut borders, I would still be in agony with my arm, shoulder and hand. Literally it was like being on fire 24/7.

I am on a Facebook group for CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), and people suffer terribly. Many have experienced it spreading from limb to limb or over the whole body. It is called the suicide disease. So, I feel so fortunate to have been able to have treatment and get 80-90% better.

The treatment is most effective in the first year. If I had not gone when we did, who knows when I could have gone to Italy for the infusions? The Last Hotel would not have happened and that would be sad. The book will always be so special to me as I wrote it tapping with my left hand in such adverse conditions ie right arm propped up on pillows, ergonomic keyboards, mice, apple pencils, dictate devices etc. Everyone said I was crazy!

What do you miss most about pre-covid life?

In Australia, it has not been bad but overseas, people have been separated from loved ones and how the very demonstrative Italians, French and Spanish have managed without all those hugs and kisses, I cannot imagine. I suppose social distancing has led to people being wary of each other which is rather sad .If it goes on too long, I will miss travelling overseas.

Is there something we can cherish about this new way of life?

Appreciating home life more? I have enjoyed being home more, writing, doing jig-saws etc. while I recuperated my right side. I am grateful to be healthy and home in Australia. So many Australians are still stranded overseas. If we had stayed on the Riviera, would we still be there, unable to get home?

Is there another book in the making?

Yes, a few. I have finished the sequel to Whispers through Time, my first historical novel based on the family research of my sister. This ‘sequel book’, Time, Heal my Heart, is both a stand alone romantic chronicle of life during world war 1 and a sequel to the story of Winifred, my grandmother. The book is at the publisher now and will be released this year. Again, very interesting characters invited themselves into my book and set up their own sub plot! I had to put up a sign, No Vacancies! lol
Also I am part way through another book, ‘Tangles’, inspired by my hair dresser. I realised hair dressers are part psychologists, meeting and advising so many people, so I have a full complement of characters in this modern day drama of life in the suburbs. A real woman’s book, this one, with an interesting Indian sub-plot.

Where can your fans and well wishers connect with you?

I have a few websites, one on Austen Macauley Publishing, then my official one is joniscottauthor.com then an author site on Goodreads. Reviews are welcome!

The Last Hotel is available in paperback and kindle format and now audiobook.

Whispers Through Time-My Ancestry

Whispers Through Time-My Ancestry

An Accidental Author

Ancestry is defined as one’s family origins and ethnicity. With the advent of home computers, this process of finding one’s ancestry or self-discovery is now within an individual’s reach thanks to such sites as Ancestry.com. Anyone with a keyboard, misplaced enthusiasm and a roaring internet can collect details of dead relatives and occasionally locate a live cousin. But it takes time and patience.

You need to scroll through endless electoral rolls, censuses, ship manifests, birth, death and marriage entries, many hand-written not typed. In addition to this frustrating and time-consuming process, you come across many, many dead ends and bum steers wherein you were chasing the wrong great grandparent for weeks or months on end.

This time-consuming hobby does not appeal to me at all. I would rather make up the story and all the dead relatives and cousins. But my older sister is a family tree enthusiast. Just as well, every family needs one member to keep track of us all. My sister, Heather has spent 15 years researching our lot, discovering in the process a lot of fascinating people, places and assorted facts. She calls it going down the rabbit hole. A bit like Alice, you pop down supposedly for a moment and emerge days later having learnt a lot.

Discovering One’s grandparents

That is how big sister, Heather found a little, but unfortunately not a lot, about our maternal grandmother, Winifred. Most grannies born in the time of Queen Victoria did predictable things like stay in their hometown, marry and raise a bunch of kids. But not Winnie. No, she, as a young woman, took off from London supposedly alone to hop on a liner bound for Sydney just months after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. My sister located her name on the ship (SS Rangatira) manifold and traced her arrival in Sydney six weeks later.

When I read all these fascinating facts that my sister had unearthed, I was like in a ‘wow’ state. I was also on holidays at a beach resort where it rained for two weeks solid. Having finished the books and jig saw, I had brought along ‘just in case’ it rained, I came up with the idea of entertaining myself with a spot of writing. Having just finished reading Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden about a grand-daughter exploring her grandmother’s past, I felt inspired to give my Nana a similar treatment. As most of the research was done by my big sis, How hard could it be to write it into some sort of story? Heather’s 70th birthday was looming and what can you get a gal who has a house and wardrobe full of stuff? A story, I decided. She likes stories and this one seemed a cracker, a bit of a mystery.

Writing a book, unexpectedly

Although I am a math and science teacher, I have had to write a few things in my time. So, I started to write about Winifred one rainy February afternoon in 2019. I only had a school exercise book with me, no computer, so it was a little arduous and scribbly at first. But I kept going for the week despite my husband’s lack of encouragement.

‘You’re writing a book?’ he scoffed.

‘Yep, sure am,’I replied.

Undeterred, I wrote away and when we returned home, I kept writing and writing. I wrote in my spare moments for five whole months, filling in the gaps and silences of Winifred’s story with the magic of fiction. By the time Heather’s birthday came around, I was able to present her with a ‘book’, all wrapped up with a pink satin bow. It had no cover, just numbered typed pages printed off at the local Officeworks for $25.

Publishing a book

She was very surprised but delighted and read it in record time. Then she surprised me by sending it off to publishers unbeknown to me and by the time my birthday arrived she presented me with a letter of offer from Austin-Macauley, London for a contract to publish my little book, Whispers Through Time. The sequel, Time, Heal my Heart is at the same publisher now awaiting publication this year. In the meantime, I wrote another book, The Last Hotel published March 2020. But that is another story for another day, found on another of my blogs.

I retired from teaching and now write fulltime. You never know what you can do until you try!

P.S Heather found us a live cousin we didn’t know about! He lives in Norway and always wondered who he was until we found him. He and his family came and spent Christmas with us in 2019. Just as well as the Covid broke out just a month later and we would all still be waiting to meet each other, if he had not seized the moment to come to Australia. He looks just like our grandfather. Read all about our story and his in Time, Heal My Heart, released this year, 2022. But to prepare for this second installment read the first part, first !

Australian readers, check out Author Academy Bookstore. Find my books there and many others. Support our home-grown talent.

 

Sequel to Whispers Through Time

Sequel to Whispers Through Time

I have finished writing the sequel to Whispers through Time. Trying to find an original title was not easy. Hemingway took the best of them! I  So hoping the title, Time, Heal my Heart is unique and fitting for this sequel to my first historical romance novel. It captures the themes of the book, Time and Love.

TIME HEAL MY HEART

 

TIME HEAL my HEART is in the process of being published with Austin-Macauley, London where its predecessor, Whispers Through Time,  the first book in my Time Trilogy was published in 2020. Hopefully, it will be released mid to late 2022. Time Heal My Heart  can be read as a stand alone novel or exciting sequel to Whispers through Time. A wonderful saga of love, loss and family, it continues the story of sisters Winnie and Francesca now in Sydney, Australia. Their lives, like millions world wide, are thrown into unexpected turmoil by the outbreak of World War One. Gustave their brother is soon fighting on the Western Front in France as he was already part of the Royal Fusiliers. The sister’s  new husbands are obliged to support the war once Australia joins the British War Effort. The women too are swept up in the domestic war effort, The Home Front. An intriguing subplot follows the secretive love story of Lisbette, Winnie’s French-born neighbour, relocating the storyline to the magical isle of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Another parallel storyline centres on war torn France involving the tragedy of shattered war orphans. But as storylines must, these threads weave together to create a tapestry of love and loss in wartime.

For those wondering whether Francesca finds love again after her tragic affair in Whispers Through Time, the answer is a resounding yes. But it would be a spoiler to tell you the identity of the lucky fellow. It is Winifred this time who has loss she must recover from. In this respect I stayed faithful to the real life events of my grandmother’s life. As this book is set during World War One, it encompasses a challenging time for our characters. Both Australia, the sister’s new home and England, their childhood home are at war and soon the whole world is embroiled in conflict when America enters in 1917. The horrific violence, lasting five years, culminates in the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1919. I was researching this flu when COVID happened in 2019 exactly a century later. Such a sense of deja vu! As some may know, I had a medical crisis and terrible diagnosis of CRPS in January 2020. I lost the use of my right side and so could not do much especially write. Instead of finishing the novel, I booked into a clinic in Italy that offered a cure for CRPS. Unfortunately Covid broke out there just before my flight. But I still went, had the treatment in lockdown in Genova, Italy which inspired me to write The Last Hotel. This story is partly based on my flight from Italy to the French border and subsequent lockdown on the French Riviera in the last hotel open. During lockdown near Nice, in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, I started writing The Last Hotel with my left hand, finishing it when I finally managed a flight home to Australia later that year.

Only once this contemporary novel was published in March 2021 did I resume Time, Heal My Heart. By then I could use my right hand again though the recovery was only 80 per cent. I’ll never be a speed typist but can slow poke along in a lop-sided fashion.
So please stay tuned for the continuation of the life of sisters Francesca and Winifred! The final book in the trilogy will not take so long, I promise as already half written.