Category: Whispers Through Time

Development Of The English Novel in the 19th Century

Development Of The English Novel in the 19th Century

Definition and Origin of the Novel

The term novel is a contraction of the Italian word, ‘novella’ (meaning ‘new, innovative’), The novella was a short story of light and entertaining nature. It was perhaps invented as an antidote to the epic poems of earlier days. It is interesting that the novel is a larger serving of prose than the original novella. Early novels usually took a narrative form and proceeded to tell the tale in chronological order. Literary scholars date the novel in its earliest form to Samuel Johnson’s Pamela of 1740. Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory in 1485 is considered an experimental form. Such early work did not concentrate on the individual but employed stereotypical characters. The novel focused more on driving the narrative with accompanying moral lessons for the reader than entertaining the reader. These ‘novels’ were long winded, lacked humour and preached moral rectitude to their audience. They are hard for the modern reader to digest. But the novel shows development within the nineteenth century. We can follow its progress by reference to famous writers, both male and female.

Frankenstein, the First Science Fiction

In 1818, Mary Shelley, a young woman of amazing talent and possessing a vivid imagination, wrote the Gothic novel, Frankenstein. The tale started out as a short story prompted by a late-night dare by fireside companions to each write ghost stories. Her companions were her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, both influential Romantic poets. But Mary’s story aced theirs and its character Frankenstein became legendary. Many do not realize that Frankenstein was the doctor who created the manufactured monster not the name of the monster himself. Apart from its unique character and plot, Frankenstein has a deep message about life, death and man versus Nature. The work is seen as the precursor to science fiction, an unknown genre at the time but one French author, Jules Verne would later embrace in his fantastical stories. This is a significant development of the novel namely the creation of a new genre.

Jane Austen and Real Characters

Jumping forward to a familiar name and a change in the style of the novel genre we come to the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817). Her six novels, many now adapted to film, are refreshing in their strong female characters and depiction of real life on the home front. Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy are well known characters even to non-Austen fans. Though the stories lack rollicking adventure and Gothic tragedy, really nothing more than elopements and love triangles, they excel in irony, humour and accurate observation of real people. Austen’s character driven novels paved the way for The Bronte sisters who emerged as a brilliant trio of writers some thirty years later. The break away from stereotypes towards real characters is a development in the novel as an art form.

The Bronte Sisters and Romantic Passion

These young women who all died young, Anne at 29, Emily at 30 and Charlotte at 39, never travelled beyond Yorkshire yet penned sweeping passionate novels that startled the reading public at the time. Even today, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily, rate in the top romance novels of all time. These works challenge all the previous overly polite fiction populated by swooning virgins and swashbuckling heroes.

Dickens and Social Commentary

Enter Dickens in the 19th century who creates great characters but again tends towards long winded narration. I recall still the ordeal of reading Bleak House for my final year of school. Nevertheless Dickens works served as social commentary akin to the Romanticism writings of poets like William Blake and Wordsworth. Additionally no one had to read the whole Dickens book at one sitting as like many books of the time it emerged as a periodical.

Mary Ann Evans and Moral Conflict

Another notable female author, Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) wrote under the pen name of George Eliot and created extraordinary moral conflicts for her characters in the novels, Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner. Her work shows great intellect and a mastery of the tragic element and represents another development in the novel.

Thomas Hardy and Tragedy

This paved the way for Thomas Hardy and his tragic novels of which he wrote many. He concentrated his stories in Wessex, a place term he invented. His tragedies are all set in the countryside and mostly focus on the poor and hard done by people of the working class. They present a strong discourse of man battling Fate and are almost reminiscent of the great tragedies of Shakespeare. The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and especially Tess of the D’Urbervilles leave a lasting impact. The latter affected me so much as a teenager that I named my daughter Tess! She is not overly impressed that her bookworm mother named her after a tragic heroine but concedes it is a lovely name.

Next week, Novels of the early 20th century. My blogs are now available as audible minipodcasts on Podbean in the History section under Whispers through Time, the same title as my historical fiction novel.

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Whispers through Time-Tilbury Docks

Whispers through Time-Tilbury Docks

The world has always been on the move. The Romans, the Vikings and the Polynesians all set off for new lands across the seas. Humans throughout history travelled to explore new territory, wage war, colonize or establish trade routes for exotic goods. Only in recent times has sea travel been about pure pleasure.

In the 12th century, Christian soldiers set off on crusades to the Holy Land from Dartmouth in Devon. Did you realize that all the towns ending in ‘mouth’ have the river name as their prefix? So, Dartmouth is on the mouth (i.e. the opening to the sea) of the river Dart. Similarly, Plymouth is on mouth of the river Ply and Bournemouth on the mouth of the river Bourne. You get the drift. It’s fun discovering word origins.

Near ancient Dartmouth Castle on the west bank of the river Dart is a tidal inlet called Warfleet Creek. It makes for a peaceful site today for a Devon picnic but in 1147 and 1190 it was the spot for the gathering of hundreds of ships and thousands of keen crusaders eager to sail to and claim the Holy Land.

Similarly, centuries later, the Tilbury Docks became the launching point for many British and Europeans to emigrate to places as far away as Australia.

The Tilbury Docks replaced the original East and West India Docks that operated close to London. The coming of the railways and the increased size of ships prioritized deep water over closeness to the city because now the railway could bring people from inner London to the Thames estuary. Tilbury in Essex on the north shore of the Thames was an excellent site. Here, downstream from London Bridge, the river looped southwards through the river estuary marshlands. Here also there was land available and the convenient South end railway that linked the Tilbury Ferry.

At the dawn of the steam ship era in 1886, Tilbury was a progressive project to connect Britain to its Empire. But like any project, there were issues. The freemasons employed went on strike in 1889 citing hard work for little pay. Indeed, their pay seems incredible to a modern reader- just 6d or 5c an hour. Some concessions were made and work continued but workers again went on strike in 1912.

The year 1912 is an interesting year as in April that year the unsinkable Titanic set forth on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York. But the world’s most splendid liner never reached American shores but sunk beneath the waves of the icy Atlantic near Newfoundland taking the bulk of the passengers with it.

Also in 1912, my grandparents, Winifred and Walter, set sail on the SS Rangatira steam ship, a far less splendid craft. Despite the sinking of the ill-fated Titanic and family concern, they still travelled all the way from Tilbury Docks to Sydney Harbour. I fictionalized their meeting and romance aboard the Rangatira in my historical fiction novel, Whispers through Time.

For many Australians Tilbury Docks were the point of embarkation to Australia for either themselves or their forebears. Before World War II,  Ten Pound Poms as they were called at the time, came in their thousands on this assisted passage scheme to start a new life. Later after the war, Europeans came too, escaping war ravaged Europe, to work as skilled migrants on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.

The traffic was not just one way. Tilbury not only farewelled but welcomed people. The current multi-cultural population of Britain is due to these arrivals. Caribbean migrants in the late 1940’s, travelled on the SS Empire Windrush to start a new life, lured by the offer of work and housing. Other nationalities also arrived from the outposts of the British Empire such as Africa and India.

Tilbury Docks may not be as exotic a location as the Taj Mahal or as steeped in history as The Tower of London but the docks have established their place in history.

Like other iconic sea ports, Tilbury Docks have also established their place in film. Wikipedia informs me that John Wayne’s smuggling operation in the movie Branigan took place at Tilbury. Also, the boat chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed not in Venice as suggested in the plot but at Tilbury. The docks also feature in the Jude Law film, Alfie (2004), Batman Begins (2005) and as the arrival point for Paddington Bear in the 2014 film, Paddington.

Just another slice of history to add to my growing history blog. Thank you for reading.

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WHISPERS through TIME-Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

WHISPERS through TIME-Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

Down the Rabbit hole in search of the Heath.

Historical research can be likened to falling down a rabbit hole-Alice in Wonderland style. What may seem a curious but straight forward exploration becomes before long a ‘curiouser and curiouser’ foray, to borrow from Alice’s words. You pop down for a moment in time but emerge hours later, whirling from your discoveries. Charged with fascinating facts, the trajectory of your novel takes an unexpected detour which ultimately, on reflection, was a good outcome. I am now a firm believer that detours are not a nuisance but actually where you were meant to go anyway. Straight lines are after all just boring paths from point A to B, aren’t they? Life is what happens when you have other plans.

So that is how The Hardy Tree (see my first blog) entered my Whispers through Time novel. Family research led to the Parish Church of St Pancras which led to The Hardy Tree then to Thomas Hardy himself etc. Similarly, as the Reeseg family featured in the novel lived nearby in Hampstead, I learnt about beautiful Hampstead Heath and its long history as a common space for London’s people.

The heath entered the pages of history way back in 986 A.D when the seemingly unprepared king, Ethelred the Unready, granted the people land at ‘Hemstede, ’then owned by Westminster Abbey. Even in the 19th century, Hampstead was on the outskirts of London, so back then it really would have been in the boondocks.

Hampstead Heath occupies 790 acres on a sandy ridge that connects Hampstead to Highgate. As the largest area of common space in London, it has through the centuries offered the freedom and beauty of nature to all and a venue for runners, walkers and kite flyers. The heath features over 25 ponds that fill as rain falls due to the clay underneath. These ponds originated from damming a tributary of the River Fleet way back in 1777 with the purpose of supplementing the city’s water supply. In time some of these larger ponds functioned as ‘segregated by gender’ swimming pools and model boat sailing ponds.

The geography of this area makes it one of the higher parts of London. From Parliament Hill, visitors can survey the changing London skyline. Golder’s Hill Park on the western end occupies the site of an original grand house destroyed in World War II. Unlike the rest of the free to range heath, this area is fenced and closed at night. It features a duck pond, a deer sanctuary, butterfly garden and small zoo.

In Whispers through Time, Gustave, my great uncle, runs and cycles through the greater heath with his younger sisters, Winifred and Francesca. Reuben, Francesca’s love interest also frequents the heath to bemoan his fate as a star-crossed lover, torn between love and duty to his family and religion.

I am certainly not the only writer to use this beautiful public park as a setting for parts of a novel. The Heath provides the opening backdrop for Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, Woman in White. Bram Stoker also partly set his gothic tale, Dracula (1897) on the Heath. The undead character, Lucy now a vampire abducts children from the Heath. This book is a must-read for not only its dark tale but its classic vampire characters and Gothic setting in a Transylvanian castle. Written as a series of letters and diary entries, it is a riveting read, despite the passing of time since its writing. Another more modern novel, John le Carre’s, Smiley’s People, also uses the heath as the murder scene of General Vladimir.

To experience more of Hampstead Heath immerse yourself in the historical novel, Whispers through Time based on the real life story of my maternal grandparents who emigrated from London to Sydney in 1912, just months after the Titanic sinking, (see previous blog on The Titanic)

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Whispers through Time-The Titanic

Whispers through Time-The Titanic

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 folk never recovered from family losses while others bore survivor’s guilt that prevented their happiness.

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.

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.

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 life-boats, 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.’

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.

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Whispers Through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Whispers Through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Whispers through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches

Robert Louis Stevenson (1885), The Railway Carriage.

WHISPERS THROUGH TIME -FULL STEAM AHEAD

Before the age of railways most people stayed in their hometowns and could not envisage travelling faster than a horse could gallop. Even the humble bicycle was not an everyday travel luxury until the 1870’s. The world changed forever when in 1830, another unrelated Stevenson, (spelt differently), namely, George Stephenson engineered the first railroad line from Liverpool to Manchester. He used the steam powered Rocket engine developed by his son, Robert.

Railways not only revolutionized the transport of goods but people. As newly constructed rail lines connected town after town, the world opened up for pleasure and business travel. All classes of people could suddenly travel to the mountains, the seaside, to spas and resorts. Thomas Cook, a great enthusiast for changing horizons, offered trips and tours across England then later, The Continent and Egypt culminating in a round-the -world tour offer of 222days in 1872.

Travel for travel’s sake,’ became the fashion. Tourism was born. The elegant and well-off young completed the Grand Tour of Europe as a rite of passage. Along with their chaperones, they marveled at the beauties and art of Rome, Paris and Florence. Guide books such as Bradshaw’s (UK) and Baedeker’s (Germany) became essential companions, offering information on journeys, timetables and hotels.

However, for every invention, there is a flow on of good and bad. Railways, for all their benefits, tore up the countryside and polluted landscapes with soot and noise. Without trains, men and supplies could not have reached the more sinister destination of The Western Front of WWI. Railways were powerful agents for change, fueling the progress of the Industrial Revolution as computers have powered The Digital Revolution of today.

Many of you, like me may have watched Michael Portillo’s wonderful series on Railways of the world where he uses his Bradshaw to educate us on the delights of this form of travel, past and present, whilst wowing us with his colourful wardrobe.

I like Michael love to learn about the past. I feel I definitely was born in the wrong time in history. The digital age holds little fascination for me. A romantic dreamer, I would have liked to live in my mother or grandmother’s era. But then again, I could have been unlucky to be poor and spent my life at a washing board bearing child after child like my great grandmother did. She had ten children, eight lived, one being Winfred my grandmother.

My historical novel, Whispers Through Time, the first book of my Time Trilogy, follows the early years and romances of Winifred and her sister Francesca and their voyage to Australia just months after The Titanic sinking. Whilst researching their lives, I studied the development of the railways in London. I could not have them travelling from one place to the other if the line had not opened yet. The railways firstly extended above ground until The Underground was built in 1863. My grandmother would have witnessed the protest in her home town of Hampstead Heath when an underground under The Heath and an extensive residential estate were proposed in 1903. Fortunately, due to ‘green’ activism, developers halted construction of the estate and underground. The station tunnel already dug 60 metres below Hampstead Hill was never used. Instead, London authorities extended The Heath for public use.

History is so interesting! Read more each week in my history snippet blogs. Follow me on Insta.

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Whispers Through Time | Book | Austin Macauley Publishers

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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 adresses 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 in such adverse conditions ie 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 on paperback and kindle format.

Whispers Through Time-My Ancestry

Whispers Through Time-My Ancestry

My Ancestry

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.

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 home town, 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.

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.

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 !

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Whispers through Time – The Hardy Tree

Whispers through Time – The Hardy Tree

This lovely shady tree has stood in the Old St Pancras churchyard for over a century. It whispers through time of the many comings and goings in this ancient graveyard in the once secluded corner of London. The Hardy Tree, an ash tree, is unique as it is literally encircled by gravestones piled one on another. Most interestingly, Thomas Hardy the famous British novelist placed them there in 1865. Years before he became known for his tragic literary masterpieces and poetry, Hardy worked as an apprentice for an architect who had the contract to clear the cemetery to allow extension of the London railways. Nothing stopped progress during the Industrial Revolution in Britain, not even centuries of graves! You don’t always get to rest in peace.
Despite his qualifications as an architect, the grisly task of upending and emptying graves fell to the young Thomas Hardy and possibly others. In an artistic moment, Hardy decided to pile the gravestones around the huge ash tree and that is where they have remained all these years. The disinterred bodies were disrespectfully hauled onto wagons and moved to a mass grave in a new cemetery outside London.
While researching my family history, I discovered these fascinating facts about the Old St. Pancras church where my maternal ancestors were baptized and married. As a book nerd and huge teenage fan of Thomas Hardy novels (I named my daughter Tess after the tragic heroine of Tess of the d’Urbervilles) I decided to use the setting for the opening chapters of my Edwardian historical romance novel, Whispers through Time.

International purchases https://www.austinmacauley.com/author/scott-joni

 

 

Source:atlasobscura.com

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.

SUNNY COAST TIMES – Joni Scott Author

SUNNY COAST TIMES – Joni Scott Author

Two Sunny Coast siblings have created a unique literary work that melds facts from their own family history with fiction.

Heather Carlisle, from Little Mountain, researched her family tree over 15 years before her sister Joni Scott Ryall, from Mudjimba, filled in the gaps, silences and mysteries with the magic dust of fiction.

The result is a historical novel called Whispers Through Time, recently published by Austin-Macauley in London, that focuses on another two sisters, now lost in time: their grandmother and great-aunt.

First-time novelist Joni says writing the fictional part was made easier by having some facts to base the story upon.

“I think the book chose me as it seemed to flow rather effortlessly and surprisingly quickly from somewhere within me,” she says. “I was on holidays and reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. She is an Australian author who writes fantastic novels wherein a character in the present discovers secrets about her family in the past. I really enjoy this style of book and so, having time to spare, decided to try writing myself, using my sister’s research of our maternal grandparents’ lives.

“Also, as all my grandmother’s siblings (all seven of them who reached adulthood) have no living descendants, I had free rein to create their characters and some of their actions.

“As I am a maths and science teacher, I had never attempted an extended fiction writing exercise before. Once I started this totally unplanned project, I found this new activity totally compelling, so compelling that I even continued to write a chapter a day as my husband and I toured South-East Asia for six weeks in April 2019.”

The story is one of love and loss, set in the first decades of the 20th century and encompassing the Boer Wars and Titanic tragedy, and travelling to the outposts of the British Empire. It revolves around the lives of the sisters’ grandparents, Walter and Winifred. With present-day granddaughter Heather, or Heady as she is known, trying to reconstruct the past, the story moves between past and present.

“The nature of time is an ever-present theme that waxes and wanes like a tide throughout lives,” Joni says. “There are the what-if moments, the only-if moments, and the sad reality that past and present generations can never meet, forever separated by time. Family is also a strong theme throughout, and the novel touches on women in the Victorian patriarchal society.”

Joni says Heady, a retired personal assistant, began the research into their family tree as a search for answers.

“Heady felt frustrated by the fact that her mother and aunt knew nothing about their own parents,” she says. “She started research with a search for the grandparents’ marriage certificate, then continued backwards to London and the 1800s using Census and registry records.

“Ever the organised one, she has the patience and tenacity to research family history. This she has done for about 15 years.”

Joni says the sequel, Time, Heal my Heart, is well on its way but its progress has been delayed by what she calls “an unexpected turn”.

“I wrote another novel, The Last Hotel, soon to be released by Tellwell,” she says. “It is a story within a story too. Interestingly, I was up to the research on the Spanish flu for the before-mentioned sequel, when COVID happened. Bit spooky, sense of deja vu. At the same time, I acquired CRPS, a supposedly incurable and debilitating nervous disease. I lost the use of my right arm and hand, so could not write, let alone brush my hair.

“Just before COVID hit Europe, February 28 to be exact, my husband and I flew to Genova in Italy for some prebooked treatment … While we were there the lockdowns occurred, starting at stage one and proceeding to stage four. Our hopes for a holiday after treatment were dashed
as border after border closed around Italy. Though we were only 10km from the Red Zone in Lombardy, the virus never invaded Genova while we were there. But we had to leave under the new regulation that tourists must leave. Hotels were closed so being a tourist was suddenly untenable.

“The police escorted us to the station from where we travelled towards the French border … France was not yet in lockdown but soon was and hotel after hotel closed. Hence the book title, The Last Hotel, inspired by this. Stranded strangers meet up at the last hotel open and magic and love happen. It is an uplifting story despite being based in the epidemic.

“I am very proud of this book baby as I wrote it while recovering in quarantine, back in Australia, totally with my left hand on the iPad.”

Whispers Through Times and The Last Hotel are available online from www.joniscottauthor.com, as well as online through Author Academy Bookstore, Harry Hartog Maroochydore and Berkeleouw Book Barn in Australia.