Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Kids from S.N.O.O.P

Memories of an Australian Childhood

The Kids from S.N.O.O.P interweaves personal memories of growing up in inner suburban Melbourne in the 1960s with the fictional adventures of three aspiring young detectives in their quest for mysteries to solve.

The Kids from S.N.O.O.P has been a lovely excuse for me to revisit people, neighbourhoods, school, customs, fashions and foods from the past, as well as particular memories.

I recall the 1960s as an era when children's external possibilities for entertainment were much more limited than today, yet in many respects we were freer to play, invent and explore on our own in ways which would be unthinkable nowadays.

The storyline reflects that contradiction: Rache, Suzi and Tom dispose of seemingly endless and countless days to play at being detectives, and although their means and scope are limited, their imaginations have free rein. All the same, their peaceful, ordinary environment frustrates them time and again: where are the crimes they are so keen to solve?

A few incongruous elements creep in: who are the red-faced men who gather in an abandoned lot, leaving behind empty bottles? What is the strange dance the elegant Chinese gentleman carries out in the park? How come the unhappy Italian boy newly-arrived in Australia is virtually left to his own devices in what can only have felt like a hostile environment?

Such questions hint that change and maturity is on the horizon, that the children's perfect environment is an illusion. Yet Rache, Suzi and Tom are barely aware of it as they blithely explore their world and invent, fantasize and create their own 'adventures'.

Beyond the children's Melbourne non-adventures, Rache Mason is also privileged enough to experience an ocean-going voyage to the North which will eventually alter the course of her life...which may turn into the subject of a sequel...


 At the end of the book, there are descriptions of the very typical Aussie treats mentioned in the story
enjoyed as much today as in the 1960s...

amazing Anzacs...
fancy fairycakes...
luscious lamingtons...
peerless pavlova...
yummy yoyos...
...and happy hundreds and thousands

Monday, 6 August 2018


A MeSsy Family having MaSses of FuN

Spoiler Alert:
this post contains details which reveal plot elements of Savage Days

SAvAgE DAys: the navenchas (adventures) of Sadie Savage, her Sensitive New Age Grandma Angie, her parental units Delia and Phil and her snotty-nosed, squabbling twin brothers Peas and Mash, who get into some a-m-a-zing scrapes, plus last but not least: Toddy the bounding Irish wolfhound and Splendour the splendid cat. 

Sometimes ideas for writing come from nowhere. Of course they never come from nowhere but sometimes it's tricky to pinpoint where they do come from...
Sadie's escapades have an echo of A Bear called Paddington without the (inimitable) Bear; a dash of Max and Moritz, those 19th century German rapscallions; possibly a trace of Pippi Longstocking and that wacky cartoon series from the 1990s, Bangers and Mash. Some of these 'influences' only occurred to me while writing this presentation, for when I started SAvAgE DAys I wished merely to portray, in a purely comic light, a quirky, unruly family.

The family sprang to life as 21st century Londoners, living in a terrace house next door to grumpy neighbours. The narrator, Sadie, is an outspoken, individualistic teen, her father a keen Green, her mother a frustrated actor, her grandmother not the conventional 'nan', and her twin brothers as wicked as possible without being hooligans. There is also a gorgeous cat and a bounding hound.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Wide Awake

The Diary of an Australian Milkmaid

1882 to 1889

Spoiler Alert:
this post contains details which reveal plot elements of Wide Awake

Wide Awake was written with several narrative themes in mind: two serious, one frivolous.
Woolstone House, home to a wealthy squatter, c. 1908

First, the frivolous: the romantic narrative. I relied on the glorious voice and spirit of the inimitable Stella Miles Franklin whose example of independence and freethinking might be emulated today by more young women. There is an element of her My Brilliant Career, an echo of Austen and a touch of Hardy in the basic love-interest storyline.
Stella Miles Franklin

view from the Horn, Mount Buffalo

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Lily of Lonestorm

the second volume of the 

Threepenny Tales 

Lily of Lonestorm

Seafaring Adventures 
of a Girl 
in search of her Parents

The second in the 
Lily of Lonestorm
is a touch more melancholy than its predecessor Barnaby Twickins, however Lily's lonely life is soon cheered by a band of extraordinary pirates and an unusual friendship, as she launches a quest to find her long-lost parents.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Will's Way

A Story of Shakespeare's Youth

Spoiler Alert:
this post contains details which reveal plot elements of Will's Way

Cremonese School, Portrait of Young Boy, late 16th century
A leitmotif of my stories is the evolution - and power - of the written word: from writing's beginnings as a Mystery accessible to an elite, to its controversial transformation into a tool for the many, through religious upheavals and technological advances (the invention of paper and the watermark and the revolution of the printing press) and the increasing literacy of the general population, touched on in Will's Way.

William Shakespeare? The Grafton Portrait, 1588
Shakespeare's participation in these last developments seemed the perfect basis for a new novel. Yet I had no intention of embarking on a story about the adult playwright. Apart from the fact that so much has already been written, I was curious about his childhood, his beginnings, the influences which formed him. I hoped too that such an introduction to the Bard might stimulate curiosity in young readers. The advent of the theatre in Shakespeare's day can be compared with movements in music and art which have inspired the youth of our era. But although Shakespeare is 'for all time', his language can be challenging. To meet him as child and youth, living in his turbulent but exciting age might help render him more accessible. 

William Shakespeare? The Sanders Portrait 1603

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Adventures of Barnaby Twickins

the first volume of the

Threepenny Tales
The Adventures of Barnaby Twickins

Nonsense Adventures
of a
Clowning Prodigy
The first in the 
The Adventures of Barnaby Twickins 
was born of a desire for something light, 
after three serious novels.


No research was required, except for a little inspiration from the 17th/18th centuries.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Dante's Gift

Fiorenza mio amore
this post includes details which reveal
plot elements of Dante's Gift

The Dove was begging for a sequel; although it was not planned from the outset, it became clear while I was writing. The story did not end with the executions of the Goodmen and women and with Sibilia's escape. Others fled and carried their message abroad, the Goodmen's religion survived at least into the following century and their fate was possibly caught up with that of other persecuted groups such as the Templars. 

Bonshommes being banished from Carcassonne in 1209; some of those who survived would have fled to communities in northern and central Italy

Although Sibilia's mission would not be described in detail, it also seemed necessary to trace her legacy. There was the added temptation of transferring the sequel to Italy and Florence, and of introducing a protagonist I have revered for many years. I confess I hesitated to include him at all: it seemed impertinent at best and hubris at worst. Perhaps I have committed hubris, but it has been a great adventure doing so!

Sandro Botticelli's portrait of Dante Alighieri, 1495