Feature Spotlight: ELISE McCUNE
Describe yourself in one word:
What led to your career as an author and when did you first begin writing with a view of becoming a published author?
Before I could read I made up stories to go with the pictures in story books. I have always read widely but I am selective in the books I choose to read. I read the Bible for the rhythm and cadence of the verse and books about, or of, the period I am writing about at the time. I have always written but when my children were young it was mainly magazine articles, short stories and letters to newspapers. It was about ten years ago that I wrote my first novel with the view to publication. I have three novels in the bottom drawer, a lost romance novel, and an out of print memoir.
Castle of Dreams tells the story of three generations of women, their loves, and their secrets starting with sisters Rose and Vivien during WWII. Their story is a fascinating one in that they both fell in love with the same man, an American soldier. What sparked this concept for you?
When I was researching I found that in WW2 American servicemen were stationed in the area where the 1940’s storyline is set. I already had the idea for two sisters, Vivien and Rose, growing up in a castle and when Robert Shine, an American soldier, found his way into my story, their love triangle echoed the triangle of the American and Australia allies fighting the Japanese in the Pacific War.
Fast forward to the current generation and we follow granddaughter Stella as she embarks on journey to uncover the truth of her grandmother’s past. What one character trait will most endear her to your readers?
Stella, while she has fears and vulnerabilities is a strong, modern young woman, so her strength is the one character trait I think will appeal most to my readers.
Rose and Vivien were brought up in a mysterious castle in northern Queensland and Stella’s quest leads her back to the castle—how important was location to your novel and was there a particular reason for choosing Queensland?
Some years ago, I was staying in Mission Beach and I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park in the north Queensland rainforest. It is a beautiful, fantastical place, and became the inspiration for Castillo de Suenos in my novel. So it came about by chance that I chose Queensland and the sense of place was one I tried to convey to my readers.
What was your biggest challenge in writing Castle of Dreams?
Probably the character of Stella who didn’t really come to life until I took the advice of my publisher, Louise Thurtell, and wrote Stella in first person instead of third.
What kind of research was involved in the planning of the novel? Was there anything surprising that you learned during the research process?
For my research I read primary sources like diaries, letters and newspaper reports (Trove is wonderful!). I read books written about and of the period I am researching. I use Google but online information can be inaccurate so be careful and check more than one source. I use my wonderful local library and inter-library loans for books I don’t necessarily want to keep on my bookshelf, and also, I always read bibliographies carefully in each book as they are a source of more information on the subject you are researching. The most surprising thing I learned while I was researching was about the Battle of Brisbane. It was two nights of street fighting between the Australian and American servicemen in which one Australian soldier was shot and killed.
What’s next for you?
I have started book two. I have written some scenes but it is early in the creative process so while I have a good idea of where the story is going it will certainly have some changes along the way.
Castle of Dreams
A ruined castle deep in the rainforest holds a secret that unites three generations of women: two sisters who find themselves in love with the same man as the Second World War rages and, decades later, a young woman determined to uncover the secrets in her grandmother’s hidden past.
Rose’s daughter, Linda, has long sensed a secret in her mother’s past, but Rose has always resisted Linda’s questions, preferring to focus on the present.
Years later Rose’s granddaughter, Stella, also becomes fascinated by the shroud of secrecy surrounding her grandmother’s life. Intent on unravelling the truth, she visits the now-ruined castle where Rose and Vivien grew up to see if she can find out more.
Captivating and compelling, Castle of Dreams is about love, secrets, lies – and the perils of delving into the past . . .