Now, a few months on, I checked back to see what comments there were about her review – fun to read but I’m pleased those who commented stayed with it to realise it wasn’t the ‘worst book’ she had ever reviewed, which her first few words might have implied!
As authors, we never quite know what people are going to say about our books. But a good review is heartwarming.
I hope it’s a chance to introduce American readers to Australian fiction.
Oh, and yes, there is another book of the Belleville family in the works. Miraculously a trilogy turned into a …. I don’t know what the word is for a series of four books. Anyone?
As I begin to write my 4th Belleville novel, I was reflecting on my pleasure in having my fictional characters inhabit a world that is not entirely fictional. I enjoy grounding my characters in real environments, (where practical, I hasten to add).
I originally set out to write a trilogy. With that completed, I still felt there was more to write about the Belleville family as the next generation comes to adulthood. So watch this space.
Scattered throughout my books you’ll find references to real places (some pictured above) – in Book 1, Julia’s Story, St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral (Rockhampton) and the Criterion Hotel (Rockhampton) are important backdrops to the story.
Among my treasured possessions is a powder compact, ironically from 1942, which belonged to my mother’s younger sister. She died at 16 from pernicious anaemia – an entirely preventable disease these days – long before I was born but my mother kept some keepsakes of her sister. This small item (pictured above) is described in Book 1 as a gift to Julia.
There are many other examples of events and places that are real throughout my Belleville trilogy. Can you spot them?
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THE BELLEVILLE TRILOGY - http://jmarymasters.com
Book 1: Julia's Story
Book 2: To Love, Honour & Betray
Book 3: Return to Prior Park
I wonder how many authors get asked this question? Is your book based on a real person?
And in fact some great fictional heroes have become so real to the reading public, they are treated as if they are real.
Think Hercule Poirot, proudly claimed by the Belgians. Or Sherlock Holmes. Or in more recent times, Ian Rankin’s creation Inspector Rebus, who, aged in real time, became too old for the police force.
In writing my family saga with its mixture of family drama, deep buried secrets, a terrible crime, infidelity and romance, beginning at a time when the world was at war, I was tapping into stories my father told of our local district, complemented by my own research.
American men stayed behind in my local city after the war to marry their sweethearts and become Australian citizens. Some Australian girls headed to America after marrying their American boyfriends.
In amongst all this, I found the inspiration for my American Army surgeon Philippe Duval – there was an American neuro surgeon posted to American Army forces in Queensland.
He had an interest in photography and joined a local camera club. I know nothing of his life after the war or whether he had a local sweetheart, but those small details were enough to help me flesh out the character of Dr Philippe Duval. I made him a native of Long Island, (Sag Harbor).
Why Sag Harbor? It suited the story line of his life and my husband and I visited Long Island in 2003. We loved it!
Philippe Duval’s story is a key thread through my three Belleville novels – we meet him in Julia’s Story, again in To Love, Honour and Betray and finally in Return to Prior Park where his story is centre stage. I hope you’ll love this character as I do.
What do authors want to see? They want to see their books nestled on the shelf in a quality bookstore – in this case HARRY HARTOG BOOKSELLER in Maroochydore – alongside authors whose names they recognise – in my case, Melina Marchetta to the left and Frances Mayes to the right. Then comes Fiona McIntosh and back to the left, David Malouf.
If you’ve been planning to dip into my Belleville series, you’ll find book 1 of the series – Julia’s Story – on the shelf.
I recommend a visit to Harry Hartog – for the simple pleasure of entering a beautiful bookstore.
I was in Brisbane earlier this week. Readers of my Belleville trilogy will know that Brisbane features in the story from time to time (but in its 1940s guise).
As I walked along Brisbane’s streets this week, I realised how much change had happened in the intervening years.
70+ years on, Brisbane is a modern city with some fine early buildings and a multi-cultural feel. It almost felt like a European city with its inner city open air market.
The Wednesday city market, which I hadn’t seen before, was great – food stalls from many cuisines, fresh fruit and vegetables from Brisbane’s highly-productive hinterland and some delicacies too – wonderful Portugese tarts.
I think June (winter) is the best time to visit Brisbane. It was bright and sunny, around 25 degrees C.
One landmark remains quite unchanged from the 1940s, certainly from the outside. The Queensland Club, of which one of my fictional characters was a member, still commands the prime spot opposite the Botanic Gardens in Alice Street. Check it out here – members only of course.
I have been to the Queensland Club once for a dinner. It’s every bit as grand as it appears.
And, of course, the Botanic Gardens that featured briefly in Book 1 would be as recognisable today, with its great towering fig trees pushing against the wrought iron fence, the legacy of an earlier era.
I had such fun incorporating these real places into my story. In what might seem like a straightforward family saga/romance, there is real history, real people and real events providing the framework for my fictional narrative.
European settlement of Brisbane dates from 1824 with its beginnings as a penal colony. If you’re planning a trip to Brisbane, take a walk along George Street for the best preserved landmark buildings that bear testament to the city’s colonial heritage. Of course, thousands of years before white settlement, Australia’s first people occupied the area.
Watching the coverage of the commemoration of the D-Day Landings, I was reminded of the contribution young Australian men made to the air war and the defence of Britain in World War II. More than 10,000 Australians served with Bomber Command
And I was reminded of the history that underpins my fictional story of the wealthy Australian Belleville family.
Richard Belleville, the elder son and Julia Belleville’s brother, heads to Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), a Commonwealth scheme designed to address the shortfall of aircrew for the RAF.
Later, my fictional pilot Richard follows in the footsteps of many Australians with a posting to 460 SQN, a heavy bomber squadron (Nov 1941-Oct 1945) flying from RAF Binbrook in Linconshire. At 24, he would have been too old for Spitfires. Instead he flies the Avro Lancaster in bombing raids on Germany.
In his rare downtime, what else would a good-looking young Australian officer do but woo a beautiful young woman of aristocratic lineage?
Haldon Hall, Catherine Cavendish’s family home, is fictional but draws its inspiration from a number of fine country houses in England.
The action moves between Australia and England. And America too.
Which means Book 1 of my Belleville series – Julia’s Story – is far more than the story of Julia Belleville as she emerges into womanhood in wartime Australia.
It is also the story of her family. Her mother Elizabeth, her father Francis, her brothers Richard and William.
It is the story of events precipitated by war and complicated further by deception, a deception that impacts all their lives. It is a story that spans three continents. It begins in 1942 in book 1, Julia’s Story and ends in 1960 in book 3, Return to Prior Park.
For the first four chapters of each of the Belleville novels, go to jmarymasters.com and download the PDF.