The next author in the ‘Few of my favourite things…’ 2015 HNSA Conference interview series is Sulari Gentill. She will be appearing on in Personal Histories: In Conversation with Peter Corris and Sulari Gentill on 21 March and Historical Fiction Sub-genres: Intrigue, Mystery, Fantasies and Time-slip on 22 March 2015.
Award-winning author Sulari Gentill set out to study astrophysics, ended up graduating in law, and later abandoned her legal career to write books instead of contracts. She grows French black truffles on her farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of NSW, which she shares with her young family and several animals. Sulari is author of the award-winning ‘Rowland Sinclair Mysteries’, a series of historical crime fiction novels set in the 1930s about Rowland Sinclair, the gentleman artist-cum-amateur-detective. The 1st in the series ‘A Few Right Thinking Men’ was shortlisted for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book. ‘A Decline in Prophets’, the 2nd in the series, won the Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Fiction. ‘Miles Off Course’ was released in early 2012, ‘Paving the New Road’ was released in late 2012 and was shortlisted for the Davitt Award for best crime fiction 2013. ‘Gentlemen Formerly Dressed’ was released in November 2013. ‘And A Murder Unmentioned’ will be released in November 2014. Under the name S.D. Gentill, Sulari has released ‘The Hero’ Trilogy, a fantasy adventure series: ‘Chasing Odysseus’, ‘Trying War’ and ‘The Blood of Wolves’.
A few of my favourite things...
Book as child and a teenager?
As a child I adored the Anne of Green Gables books. Anne Shirley spoke to the dreamer in me.
As a teenager I discovered To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The novel inspired me a lawyer, as a writer and, most importantly, as a human being.
Author or authors?
This is a tricky one as I know a few authors now and I find it really difficult to separate love of a person from the love of their book. So I’m going to leave aside the authors I know, though, in doing so, I must point out that my reading pile is dominated by the extraordinary work of Australian writers.
With this disclaimer, I give you L.M Montgomery, Harper Lee, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and J.K. Rowling.
Period of History
I like the 1930s for its contrasts and social upheaval. Sitting as it does between the glamorous 20s and the conflict of the 40s, the 1930s has been comparatively overlooked by novelists. And yet the decade was the vat in which fermented all the passions, prejudices and philosophies that gave rise to the Second World War. It was a time of extreme politics, mad schemes and absurd priorities. Clandestine armies preparing for revolution, hooded and cloaked vigilantes who identified themselves with playing cards, plans to kidnap the NSW Cabinet and incarcerate them and in the old Berrima Gaol. I think it’s the absurdity, I love most.
I also have a passion for ancient history… mythology more accurately. I am enthralled by the intricate, interlocking legends of ancient Greece and Rome. I’m fascinated with the way bards like Homer and Virgil intertwined their narratives into the rich tapestry of myth that came before. Writing new stories into those ancient tales, seems to me a storytelling tradition continued.
Character in one of your books
Excluding Rowland Sinclair and his band of bohemian companions, I loved writing Ethel Bruce, the wife of Stanley Melbourne Bruce. Generally, when I write an actual historical figure into one of my plots, I’m careful to build my characterisation on what is recorded and known about the person. In the case of Ethel Bruce there was very little, and so my imagination had free reign. I could simply try to envisage who might have been married to Australia’s eighth prime minister, a man renowned for his aristocratic carriage. At the time Rowland Sinclair meets her, Ethel Bruce is living in London with her husband who is serving as Australia’s defacto High Commissioner (the position was made official the following year). I wrote Ethel as a gregarious Miss Marple-type character simply because it was fun to contrast the reserved patriarchal propriety of Stanley Bruce with a wife who was irreverent, adventurous and warm.
Scene you enjoyed writing
I enjoy writing the scenes between Rowland and Wilfred Sinclair. The contrast in their characters, the conflict, and the underlying bond between brothers all make for scenes which come alive with passion and fury and history all expressed with the kind of courteous restraint typical of men of their era.
Place to write
In bed, in my pyjamas. But I’ll write anywhere… where I go, so too does my laptop! I do a lot of writing in airport waiting lounges… of course I can’t wear pyjamas there.
Step in the process of writing
I’m completely enamoured with every step… each is imbued with a different combination of inspiration, potential, immersion, and triumph. I’m not sure I could pick between them.
Method of writing
Straight into my laptop… no notes, not plots, no plans. I just start writing and keep going until it’s finished. I research as I go and write chronologically.
Supernatural… Adore the way it twists a myth.
The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Foyle’s War, George Gently Mysteries… for the way they evoke their era through not just setting but characterisation and dialogue.
Coffee and something to dunk into it.
The black sheep of a wealthy 1930s grazier dynasty, gentleman artist Rowland Sinclair often takes matters into his own hands. When the matter is murder, there are consequences.
For nearly fourteen years, Rowland has tried to forget, but now the past has returned.
A newly-discovered gun casts light on a family secret long kept... a murder the Sinclairs would prefer stayed unsolved.
As old wounds tear open, the dogged loyalty of Rowland's inappropriate companions is all that stands between him and the consequences of a brutal murder... one he simply failed to mention.
Sulari Gentill will be appearing in the following panels at the 2015 HNSA Conference:
21 March 10.00-10.45 am Session Two
Personal Histories: In Conversation with Peter Corris and Sulari Gentill
What inspires authors to write historical fiction? Join Linda Funnell’s conversation with respected novelists Peter Corris and Sulari Gentill as they give insights into the inspiration for their novels, writing processes and careers.
22 March 11.15 am-12.15 pm Session Three
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.
For more information on all our panels, please visit our site for program details. And you can buy your tickets here.
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Here’s a few favourite things for Sulari Gentill on #HNSA2015 blog @histnovsoc http://ow.ly/KfwN0
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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 Murder.
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.
There are still tickets available to the cocktail party at the State Library of NSW on Friday 20th March. Sophie Masson is our guest speaker, Felicity Pulman releases her new book Unholy Murder and there is a debate 'What can historical novelists and historians learn from each other?' with Kelly Gardiner, Gillian Polack, Jesse Blackadder, Deborarh Challinor and Rachel Le Rossignol.
You can buy your tickets here.