Q&A With Author Julian Leatherdale!

Today’s Q&A post features Julian Leatherdale, author of the newly released The Opal Dragonfly, published by Allen & Unwin Australia, RRP $29.99.

 

In your words can you tell us a bit about your new book.

It is the story of the rise and fall of an ambitious family living in the finest house in 1850s colonial Sydney told from the point of view of the youngest daughter Isobel. From her mother, Isobel inherits a beautiful opal dragonfly brooch which brings her frightening visions in dreams. Plunged into social disgrace, Isobel seeks freedom in her forbidden love for an artist and hopes to find her true self.

Which character was the most challenging to write about?

Young women in 19thC Australia, especially those from middle class families, were expected to be pious, modest, cultured and educated (but never clever or high-achieving), obedient and subordinate (to their father and future husband). So it was challenging to write a main character who was credible as a 19thC dutiful daughter and charitable doer of good works but also someone modern readers could identify (or at least sympathise) with. Isobel is, in fact, talented, clever and strong-willed and does risk breaking social conventions. It was also important that in the face of many trials and tragedies, Isobel’s spirit not be crushed; as readers, we must be convinced by her strength of character and her self-transformation as she is exiled from her childhood world of privilege and her hero-worship of her father.

What are you favourite stand out reads and why?

This is such a hard question to answer because I like to read widely and am always being surprised and delighted by new authors and books. Recently, I was deeply impressed by Eleanor Dark’s The Timeless Land for the boldness and breadth of its vision, the rigour of its research, the beauty of its writing and the inner lives of its characters. For dark, witty humour and clever dialogue-driven story-telling, I loved Madeleine St John’s The Essence of The Thing; if you liked her Women in Black, this is worth a look. Among current day historical fiction writers, I loved Tom Keneally’s Shame and the Captives (a compelling narrative of the Cowra breakout told from both sides) and have thoroughly enjoyed two Kim Kelly novels ‘The Blue Mile’ and her latest ‘Lady & the Fox’, both so well researched with such vivid characters and authentic voices. For the sheer mastery of words and story, it is of course hard to go past Thomas Hardy (Woodlanders is a personal favourite) and Jane Austen (Mansfield Park), both of whom I re-read to ‘warm up’ for writing my own two novels.

What inspired you to become an author?

I have written in some form or another ever since I was a teenager – plays, musicals, poetry, song lyrics, film and TV scripts and several novels in the bottom drawer – and enjoyed all those experiences, collaborating with others as well as working alone. My wife, Claire Corbett, is a novelist and – not that I needed convincing – reminded me of the great pleasure she took in creating worlds. I cannot imagine my life without books and reading: in that sense I have been inspired by writers all my life. But taking the big step to becoming a published author took the inspired support of my wonderful agent and my brilliant publisher at A&U.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have gone back to writing for theatre over the last year. My two-act black comedy The Man Who Became Santa was selected for a play competition by Weatherboard Theatre Inc and is being developed for a performed reading by professional actors in May. I have also started research for my third novel set in King’s Cross in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

 


 

About The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

Miss Isobel Clara Macleod, youngest of the seven children of Major Sir Angus Hutton Macleod, Surveyor-General of the colony of New South Wales, had the singular misfortune to know that at seven o’clock that morning her father was going to die.

September, 1851. Sydney, city of secrets and gossip. Seventeen-year-old Isobel Macleod is determined to save her father because she loves him. But when she dares to trespass in a forbidden male world, she will be plunged into social disgrace. A wave of ill fortune threatens to swallow up her family and their stately home, Rosemount Hall, ‘the finest house in the colony’ on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour.

Is Isobel to blame for her family’s fate or does the cause lie further in the past? When Isobel was four, Major Macleod returned from an expedition with two ‘souvenirs’: an Aboriginal girl who became her friend and two opals fashioned into a dragonfly brooch for her mother.

When Isobel inherits this ‘unlucky’ heirloom, she wonders if the terrible dreams it summons are a curse or a gift. Now Isobel’s hopes for her future depend on a charming bohemian who encourages her hidden passion to become an artist. Will she now be permanently exiled from her family home? Or will she be transformed into a new self, like a magnificent dragonfly emerging into the sunlight?

A daughter sacrifices her reputation, two men bid for the love of a woman, freedom is found in the heart of a dust storm, a father’s legacy reveals past crimes.

Inspired by Elizabeth Bay House and the other grand villas of Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Hill, The Opal Dragonfly tells the bittersweet story of an ambitious family’s fall from grace and a brave young woman’s struggle to find her true self.

Purchase Links

Allen & Unwin  *  Amazon Australia  *  Google Play

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New Release! Fool’s Gold by Fleur McDonald

‘To Dave, the posting to Barrabine was exactly what he’d wanted – it was a town on the edge, the wild west. There would be excitement, mystery and intrigue here. Everything a detective looked for.’

Detective Dave Burrows’ first posting to the far west goldfields town of Barrabine in 1997 holds everything he’s looking for, but Melinda, his wife of two weeks, is devastated at leaving behind her family, friends and career. More comfortable in heels than RM Williams, Melinda walked away from her much-loved job in the city as a paediatric nurse to follow Dave into the bush.

Dave settles in easily to the plain-speaking toughness of his new town, determined to do well, knowing that Barrabine could be his stepping stone into the elite stock squad. But will his marriage last the distance? As Dave investigates reports of mysterious late-night trespassing, a missing person, and guns being drawn on strangers, a local prospector phones in with horrific news that could hold the key to everything.

Fleur McDonald’s bestselling rural storytelling takes her popular detective, Dave Burrows, back to his compelling and exciting beginnings.

Fool’s Gold by Fleur McDonald is published by Allen & Unwin Australia, RRP $29.99.

Purchase Links

Allen & Unwin  *  Booktopia  *  iBooks  *  Google Play  *  Amazon Australia

 

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New Release! The Good Doctor Of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford

Set in the ghettos of wartime Warsaw, this is a sweeping, poignant and heartbreaking tale, based on the true story of one of World War II’s quiet heroes – Dr Janusz Korczak.

‘You do not leave a sick child alone to face the dark and you do not leave a child at a time like this.’

Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha’s mentor, Dr Korczak, care for the two hundred children in his orphanage. As Korczak struggles to uphold the rights of even the smallest child in the face of unimaginable conditions, he becomes a beacon of hope for the thousands who live behind the walls.

As the noose tightens around the ghetto Misha and Sophia are torn from one another, forcing them to face their worst fears alone. They can only hope to find each other again one day…

Meanwhile, refusing to leave the children unprotected, Korczak must confront a terrible darkness.

Half a million people lived in the Warsaw ghetto. Less than one percent survived to tell their story. This novel is based on the true accounts of Misha and Sophia, and on the life of one of Poland’s greatest men, Dr Janusz Korczak.

The Good Doctor Of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford is published by Allen & Unwin Australia RRP $29.99.

Purchase Links

Allen & Unwin  *  Amazon Australia  *  Google Play Audio  *  Booktopia

 

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New Release! White Gum Creek by Nicole Hurley-Moore

A rural romance with plenty of heart

Nick Langtree has lived reclusively on his farm, Winters Hill, ever since the tragic death of his wife. On the occasional trip into nearby White Gum Creek he keeps to himself and that’s the way he likes it. And though over the last six years the townsfolk have tried to reach out to Nick, he’s pushed them all away.

Whenever Nick comes into the Gumnut Bakery, Natasha Duroz tries to engage him in conversation when she serves him. There’s something about him that intrigues Tash, but she’s not sure if it’s because she feels sorry for him or there’s something more.

At last encouraged by the warmth of a few old and new friends, Nick gradually begins to re-engage with the outside world. Then, suddenly some minor vandalism on his farm escalates and odd things begin to happen on Winters Hill. Is someone out to hurt Nick or have his years of solitude been playing tricks on his mind?

This entrancing novel is about overcoming heartache and loss through the power of friendship and love.

White Gum Creek by author Nicole Hurley-Moore is published by Allen & Unwin,
RRP $29.99.

Purchase Links

Allen & Unwin Australia * Amazon Australia * iBooks * Google Play

 

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New Release! The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

At 7 p.m. on 28 December 1879, a violent storm batters the newly built rail bridge across the River Tay, close to the city of Dundee. Ann Craig is waiting for her husband, the owner of a large local jute mill, to return home. From her window Ann sees a shocking sight as the bridge collapses, and the lights of the train in which he is travelling plough down into the freezing river waters.

As Ann manages the grief and expectations of family and friends amid a town mourning its loved ones, doubt is cast on whether Robert was on the train after all. If not, where is he? And who is the mysterious woman who is first to be washed ashore?

In 2015, Fiona Craig wakes to find that her partner Pete, an Australian restaurateur, has cleared the couple’s bank account before abandoning his car at the local airport and disappearing. When the police discover his car is stolen, Fiona conducts her own investigation into Pete’s background, slowly uncovering dark secrets and strange parallels with the events of 1879.

The Last Train by Sue Lawrence is published by Allen & Unwin Australia, RRP $29.99.

Purchase Links

Allen & Unwin Australia  *  Amazon Australia  *  Google Play

 

Add to your reading list on

Goodreads

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