Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Belinda Murrell: A few of my favourite things...

In the lead up to the 2015 HNSA Conference, we thought it might be a great idea to introduce you to the authors who have so generously agreed to appear. And what better way to get to know someone than to find out a few of their favourite things…

Our guest today is Belinda Murrell. She is a bestselling, internationally published children’s and YA author with a legion of loyal fans and a history of writing in her family that spans over 200 years. After studying Literature at Macquarie University, Belinda worked as a travel journalist, editor and technical writer. A few years ago, she began writing stories for her own three children – Nick, Emily and Lachlan. Her 21 books include The Sun Sword fantasy trilogy as well as the popular Lulu Bell series for younger readers. She is also known for her collection of historical timeslip tales including The Sequin Star, The River Charm, The Locket of Dreams, The Forgotten Pearl, The Ruby Talisman and The Ivory Rose, which have been recognised by various awards, including Honour Book KOALAS 2013, shortlisted KOALAS 2014, 2011, and 2012, CBCA Notable List and highly commended in the PM’s Literary Awards. 

Visit her website Facebook

Belinda, please share with us what is or was your favourite…

Book as a child and as a teenager?
As a child, the book that most fired my imagination was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I loved its enticing mixture of adventure, action and fantasy. My sister and I would dress up in silver chain mail, with swords and bows and arrows, and play Narnia. I was enraptured by the idea that it might be possible to pass through a secret door into a magical world, full of talking animals and adventure.

As a teenager I discovered Jane Austen’s novels and immediately loved them all, but my favourite is probably Pride and Prejudice. I particularly enjoyed the satirical humour of her novels, the witty dialogue and the insight into late eighteenth century English society. I’m enjoying sharing Jane Austen with my own daughter now.

Of course I adore my sister Kate Forsyth. She is an amazing writer with an incredible historical knowledge. We are also very good friends and walk together regularly along the beach, talking about writing, books and our latest plot tangles! Other authors I love include Kate Morton, Joanne Harris, Tracy Chevalier, Philippa Gregory and Geraldine Brooks.

Period of history?
I have always loved history, and studied both Australian and European history at university as part of my degree. My own historical books for children, cover periods such as the French Revolution, various decades in the nineteenth century, the Great Depression and World War 2. I am particularly fascinated by how people have dealt with the tough times in our nation’s past, and how this often brings out the best in them – courage, tenacity, toughness and an ability to discover joy in the simple things in life.

Character in one of your own books?
One of my very favourite characters is Charlotte Atkinson from my book The River Charm. This book was inspired by family stories about the true life adventures of my great-great-great grandmother. Set in Australia, during the 1840s, it is the story of a family who lost everything but fought against almost insurmountable odds to regain their independence and their right to be together as a family. Charlotte was born into a wealthy family at Oldbury, a grand estate in the bush. But after her father dies, her mother is left to raise four young children on her own. A young widow was a tempting target – from murderous convicts, violent bushrangers and worst of all, a violent stepfather. Fearing for their lives, the family flees on horseback to a remote hut in the wilderness. The Atkinson family must fight to save everything they hold dear. 

Scene you enjoyed writing?
My book, The Forgotten Pearl is the story of a teenage girl called Poppy and her experiences during World War 2.  In 1941, Darwin is a remote outpost in the far north of Australia – a peaceful, tropical paradise far from the war. Poppy’s life seems perfect but when Japan attacks Pearl Harbour, then Australia, Poppy’s world is torn apart. Everything she holds dear is threatened – her family, her neighbours and her friends. I particularly enjoyed writing the scenes of life in the Top End of Australia and then the dramatic contrast to the carnage as Darwin was attacked and became a war zone. The Forgotten Pearl is the story of Poppy’s own escape and her journey through love, grief, friendship and joy.

Place to write?
I’ve written in some incredibly beautiful and inspiring places – in an 18th century apartment in Paris, a wild island off the coast of Scotland, and a vast outback cattle station. But my usual place to work is my office at home, which is lined with hundreds of books, has a fireplace and looks out over my gorgeous garden. My dog Rosie keeps me company, sleeping in front of the fire. I usually get all my kids organised for school, take my dog for a walk along the beach, come home make a coffee, sit down and start writing!

Step in the process of writing? E.g. researching, drafting, editing etc
I love the research. It is a vital component of any book and can take many months. It includes living the adventure – sailing the ocean, taking a fencing class, travelling to Scotland, living in France, riding a horse, eating a feast, exploring ancient tunnels..... Of course, there is a wide range of reading – history, fiction, biography, etiquette books, memoirs and folklore. And easiest of all – the internet to look up fascinating details. At some stage though it is time to sit at my desk and keep writing!

Method of writing i.e. longhand or typing?
I start by jotting notes in my notebook which I carry everywhere with me. I write down names, interesting details or facts, statistics, adjectives, and descriptions of setting. This jotting, dreaming stage of the novel is so important before I begin the real work of writing at my computer.   

TV program /movie?
My daughter also loves books and history, so we love watching movies and TV series together (it makes a nice change from watching action/spy movies with the boys!). Some of our favourites are anything based on a Jane Austen or Bronte novel, especially Emma, P&P and Sense and Sensibility. We are now having fun watching Reign, very loosely based on Mary, Queen of Scots and were heavily addicted to Once Upon A Time. Another favourite TV series was Downtown Abbey.

Comfort food?
Easy. That would be chocolate and a glass of chardonnay!

Thanks for sharing with us Belinda:)

You will find a list of all Belinda’s books here.

Belinda will be appearing in two panels at the 2015 HNSA Conference:

Can Children’s and Young Adult Fiction Compete with Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies?
In a world where the Twilight and Hunger Games series dominate the CYA shelves, how can historical novelists capture young readers’ imaginations? Sophie Masson explores the issue with Belinda Murrell, Sherryl Clark, Pamela Rushby and Goldie Alexander.

Saturday 21st  March 12pm

Historical Fiction Sub-genres: Intrigue, Mystery, Fantasies and Time-slip
Blending different genres within historical fiction is an increasing trend. What challenges do authors face when intertwining mystery or fantasy with history? And why are readers drawn to tales of characters who travel across time? Posie Graeme-Evans joins Kate Forsyth, Sulari Gentill, Belinda Murrell and Felicity Pulman to enlighten us.

Sunday 22nd March 11am

You can buy tickets here.
The Forgotten Pearl by Belinda Murrell

When Chloe visits her grandmother, it unleashes a flood of memories, not discussed for seventy years. Chloe could never have imagined how close the second world war came to destroying her own family so many years ago. Could the experiences of another time help Chloe to face her own problems?

In 1941, Darwin is a remote outpost in the far north of Australia - a peaceful paradise far from the war. Poppy is a mischievous, fun-loving girl, with a menagerie of unusual pets. Her life seems perfect but when Japan attacks Pearl Harbour, then Australia, Poppy’s world is torn apart. Everything she holds dear is threatened - her family, her neighbours and her friends Jack and Maude. Her brother Edward is taken prisoner-of-war. Her home town becomes a war zone, as the Japanese raid over and over again, on their relentless march south. Australia is under the looming threat of invasion. 

Terrified for their lives, Poppy and her mother flee to safety in Sydney, only to find the danger follows them there. Poppy must face her war with courage and determination.
Will Poppy and her family survive the war? Where is the forgotten pearl? Will her world ever be the same again? 

Belinda has also kindly offered to donate a giveaway copy of The River Charm in our Pozible campaign. Please consider making a pledge to assist us to monetarily reward our authors.

For more information about the HNSA conference, please visit our website and sign up to the mailing list to be the first to hear the latest news about the HNSA conference in 2015. 

Please consider visiting us on Twitter and Facebook to help us spread the word! 

Belinda has kindly donated a copy of The River Charm to our Pozible campaign. We'd appreciate it if you could consider making a pledge to enter the raffle for her book.

Here’s a tweet you might like to use:

Here’s a few favourite things for Belinda Murrell on #HNSA2015 blog @histnovsoc #histfic 

Register now for the #HNSA2015 conference! Let’s make a noise about #historicalfiction

And please take a look at our FREE BOOK OFFERS!

The first 30 ticketholders to purchase a ‘Standard’ Whole Conference Ticket will receive a free copy of either The Lace Balcony by Johanna Nicholls, The King’s Shadow by Barbara Gaskell Denvil or The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans.

All ticket holders will receive a Momentum ebook bundle in celebration of Felicity Pulman’s launch of Unholy Alliance.

The first 50 fully paid ticket holders will receive a copy of Sherryl Clark’s new book Do You Dare – Jimmy’s War in celebration of her launch. 

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