To celebrate the release of Return to Roseglen, author Helene Young’s new novel published by Penguin Books Australia, I have a Q & A with Helene I would love to share with you all. It is true pleasure to welcome Helene, an author I have admired for many years now to Mrs B’s Book Reviews for a Q & A session. This Q & A coincides with today’s review of Return to Roseglen, on the blog.
About the author…
After 28 years as an airline captain in Australia, Helene Young has swapped the sky for the sea to go in search of adventure with her husband aboard their sailing catamaran. The rural and remote places she visits, along with the fascinating people she meets, provide boundless inspiration for her novels. Her strong interest in both social justice and the complexity of human nature shapes the themes she explores. Her six novels have won many awards including Romantic Book of the Year in Australia.
Hello Helene. It is my pleasure to welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, Return to Roseglen, your latest novel published by Penguin Books Australia has recently been released. Can you give us an outline of what we can expect?
Thanks so much for inviting me to visit your slice of the writing and reading world, Mrs B! Return to Roseglen is a move in a slightly different direction for me. I’ve always explored relationships and social issues through my romantic suspense stories, but this one’s less suspense, and a whole lot more family drama.
Q. What came first in the creation of this novel – the title, the plot, the characters or the setting when you first set out to write Return to Roseglen?
A. The characters were my starting point and as usual they brought a theme with them, but the setting was a very close second. I don’t plot – I wish I could as it would save a whole lot of words ending up in the deleted file! I start writing and let the characters take me along for their story. Once I finish writing the first draft then I revisit the structure, the story arcs and essentially plot backwards.
Q. Can you tell us about the journey to publication for this new novel?
A. Life got in the way during the writing of Return to Roseglen. Not long after I started it Mum died. Shortly after that an elderly friend who lends much to Ivy passed away, and then my mother-in-law also died. It felt like a tsunami of grief and while I continued to write it was probably too personal for me at that stage. My publisher was very supportive and allowed me time to let the manuscript rest, to mellow, so when I finally sat down at the keyboard to write the third draft I knew I had to do the story justice to honour the people who’d shared their experiences with me as well as honouring the matriarchs in my world.
Q. Did you need to undertake any research to bring Return to Roseglen to life?
A. The research came to me with so many people being willing to share their experiences. I was saddened at the prevalence of elder abuse, at the fractures it causes in families and how death often doesn’t unite a family at all. During the writing there were several high-profile cases in the news where grand-daughters took on fathers and uncles to protect their elderly grandparents. It must have taken extraordinary courage for those young women to do that. A common thread people shared was their guilt at not realising what was happening under their nose, that they felt complicit because they didn’t stop it until it was too late to change things.
I also needed to research living on a cattle property in Queensland in the 1950s and 60s including how pregnancies and birthing were handled. I have nothing but admiration for rural women!
Q. Where did the inspiration for the main setting of the Far North Queensland cattle station come from?
A. We moved to North Queensland in 1997 and I felt like I’d finally come home. Like most people in Cairns we had a four-wheel drive and headed west to explore whenever we could. Roseglen is a combination of the landscape around Chillagoe and further north to Mt Mulligan. A friend who’s a helicopter pilot flew me over the Mt Mulligan escarpment (Ngarrabullgan). It rears out of undulating grazing land and broods like a craggy giant. I can understand why the Djungan people revere it as a sacred site. The limestone caves at Chillagoe are also amazing and relatively unknown and they too bring their own mystical magic. There’s nothing like swimming in a dark underwater lake!
Q. What character did you most identify with in Return to Roseglen?
A. There’s no one character in particular I identify with, but there are certainly elements I’ve experienced which I’ve given to Ella, Felicity and Georgina. I’m midway through menopause and really don’t like confrontation, and I fly aircraft, although my aviation experiences are very different to Georgina’s. Her trail blazing career is borrowed from women like Deb Lawrie (Wardley), still a pioneer in the airline industry. I wanted all three women to have inner strength, but in their own way.
Q. Is there a particular scene in Return to Roseglen that you are proud of?
A. There are certainly some I enjoyed writing more than others, but I don’t think there’s one scene I’m more proud of than the rest. Although one in particular was really, really tough to write, but if I share that one it would provide spoilers. I’m sure your readers will know which one it is after they read it! Love to hear from them if they have read it and can guess which one it is.
Q. How has your writing evolved since your first published novel?
A. I hope my writing’s continued to mature and I think I take more chances now than I did. I hope I also write cleaner first drafts! And I’m really enjoying the freedom to explore a new direction.
Q. Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
A. My creative working space is the main cabin of Roo Bin Esque, the catamaran I call home. I usually start the day with a run through social media then start writing. A couple of coffees before midday are helpful as well.
Q. If you were not able to write what would be your chosen career?
A. I’ve had two careers I’ve loved and writing has been a third side-career which is now my main focus. If I wasn’t writing I’d be exploring more places on Roo Bin Esque and looking for opportunities to volunteer in the areas we visit.
Q. What is next on the horizon for Helene Young? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
A. I’m working on a new novel about three woman who are drawn together by an event which will change them all, whether they like it or not.
Q. Finally, what 2018 book releases are you most excited to read?
A. Oh, that’s a big call! Kate Morton’s The Clock Maker’s Daughter looks fascinating, but then I adored Christine Well’s The Juliet Code, and I have Hannah Richell’s The Peacock Summer on my iphone to read… Too many books, too little time, as they say!
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Helene and congratulations on the publication of Return to Roseglen.
Thanks for having me visit, Mrs B, and for your insightful questions.
Connect with Helene here:
If this Q & A enticed you to read Return to Roseglen, here is the blurb:
At times like these families should be coming together, not tearing each other apart.
On her remote North Queensland cattle station, Ivy Dunmore is facing the end of her days. Increasingly frail, all she holds dear is threatened not just by crippling drought, but by jealousy and greed – and that’s from within her own family.
Can Felicity, who’s battling her own crisis as her fiftieth birthday approaches, protect her mother and reunite her family under the homestead’s faded iron roof? Or will sibling rivalries erupt and long-held secrets from the past break a family in crisis?
From award-winning Australian author Helene Young comes a story about family fractures and feuds in later life – and about loved ones being there for each other when it matters the most.
Return to Roseglen by Helene Young was published on 2nd July 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.