I’m pleased to be joined by Clare Rhoden today who is chatting about the inspiration for her novel The Stars in the Night. There’s a fantastic giveaway too, open internationally, so don’t miss your chance to enter that.
Thank you so much for having me. The Stars in the Night is my third novel and my first historical fiction.
In today’s post, I’m going to talk a little bit about the inspiration for the book.
‘All my love to you and the baby boy.’
These words were scribbled in pencil on a scrap of yellowed paper by my grandfather Paul in 1915. His wife Albertine was living in a rented room in Port Adelaide with her five-month-old infant while he was working almost one hundred miles to the north, on a dusty sheep station near Wallaroo.
They had arrived in Australia in January 1914, before the outbreak of the Great War. But Paul, a ship’s carpenter in the Prussian merchant navy, was deemed an ‘enemy alien’. He was banned from the shipyards and sent outback to do the work left behind by men joining the army. He had to report weekly to the local police station, and give them his earnings to send south to his little family. The tiny note must have been one of many such weekly greetings, surviving in a box of letters and postcards for many decades.
I never met my grandparents, who died young, leaving my father an orphan in the care of his elder brother. We only discovered this little piece of our family’s story when we opened the box of keepsakes that Dad had stashed in a cupboard.
The Great War marks a distinct period in our history, and my novel The Stars in the Night allowed me to look a bit more closely at the time. So many separations and divisions; so much heartache and worry as families found themselves involved, one way or another, in the disaster that rocked the world from 1914-1918, and beyond. In Australia, for example, many of the soldiers didn’t arrive home until 1920. The ships were simply not available to take everyone home as soon as the war ended.
What was it like for the Australians of the time? My character Harry left home and travelled halfway across the world, volunteering to fight for the Empire. No doubt he believed in the rightness of the cause, but he also wanted adventure and excitement. He wanted to see the world, and he was glad of the pay – at six shillings a day, more than any other troops in the conflict. There he met the grim realities of Gallipoli and the Western Front, along with the restrictions of Army life and the hours of dangerous boredom waiting for orders or transport. How different everything would be! The weather, the people, the customs, the language, the food. No wonder he came home changed.
And what about home? It was so far from the battles that the soldiers could never go home on leave. Instead they went to other new places like London or Marseilles, Edinburgh or Nice. Meanwhile, their wives and girlfriends, parents and siblings, friends and relations could know little of what the war was really like. For Harry’s beloved Nora, the wait was long and agonising. Her brother Charlie was away fighting too, and her family didn’t approve of her love for Harry. On top of that, her father made bad business decisions and she had the home farm to run on her own. Nora had to wait a long time for her dreams to arrive, and of course nothing turned out quite as she hoped.
Looking back on the period and reflecting on how life was, The Stars in the Night is a novel about history and about love, about conflict and about resolution, about death and about life. I hope you enjoy reading about Harry and Nora as much as I enjoyed writing about them.
Thank you so much for having me!
Thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blogtour. The Stars at Night is available now in ebook and paperback formats. You can order a copy online here:
Giveaway to Win a signed copy of The Stars in the Night, a metal poppy brooch made by a Melbourne craftswoman, and a cross-stitch poppy card. (Open Internationally)
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
From the back the book
Harry Fletcher is a confident young man.
Harry’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide.
Only the War to End All Wars might get in the way of Harry’s plans…
From the beaches of Semaphore to the shores of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders to the red dust of inland South Australia, this is a story of love, brotherhood, and resilience.
About the author
Clare Rhoden writes historical fiction, sci-fi and fantasy (check her titles at Odyssey Books http://odysseybooks.com.au/). Clare lives in Melbourne Australia with her husband Bill, their super-intelligent poodle-cross Aeryn, a huge and charming parliament of visiting magpies, and a very demanding/addictive garden space.
Clare completed her PhD in Australian WWI literature at the University of Melbourne in 2011, and a Masters of Creative Writing in 2008, in which she investigated the history of her grandparents who emigrated for Europe to Port Adelaide in January 1914. The Stars in the Night is the result of her research.
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