Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her latest book, Return to Prior Park, is Judith Masters.
(Thanks to Sherran Evans photographer)
J Mary Masters (Judith Masters) writes family saga/romance books.
Judith’s books include the Belleville series – Julia’s Story, To Love, Honour and Betray and Return to Prior Park – the story of a wealthy Australian family whose young daughter falls hopelessly in love with a US Army doctor stationed in Australia during WWII.
Where did the idea spring from for the trilogy? From stories Judith’s father told her of American soldiers stationed near her home town in Queensland during the war.
Judith recently gave up her job as a magazine publisher to concentrate her attention on writing fiction.
Hello Judith. It is my pleasure to welcome to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews and thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
I’m very partial to a nice pot of tea made with real tea leaves and scones with jam and cream. Best scones: Lake Barrine Teahouse on the Atherton Tablelands.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I write in the family saga genre. To date, I’ve published three books – a complete family saga – or is it complete? Perhaps like Winston Graham, I’ll come back to it as he came back to the Poldark books after many years away from the characters.
Can you describe your latest book, Return to Prior Park, in just a sentence?
This is the book in which the Belleville family really establish their post-war lives as individuals and several big issues from the earlier books are resolved.
Return to Prior Park is book three in the Belleville family series. Can this book be read as a standalone?
Yes, most certainly, Return to Prior Park can be read as a standalone. I know there are some authors who dislike the idea of a prologue but I thought it was important to establish the context and the back story to the individual characters. In my opinion it helps the reader enormously to know what has gone before.
How long did it take you to write Return to Prior Park?
In amongst selling up and moving house, I was under pressure to produce book 3 as I had so many requests for it. It took about 6 months of intensive work, including writing on Christmas Day.
Did you need to undertake any research to bring Return to Prior Park? How did you incorporate this research into your book?
I should say, first off, that I have a memory of the late 1950s (just) so I know what life was like then. But there are many small details that need to be researched and verified. I love weaving historically accurate events or people into my story. For example, the principal of the school Richard’s son attends – Fitzroy Jardine – is a real person and the school is real. My brother-in-law who remembers him was able to verify the physical details of the man I describe. The British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd is real, mentioned because one of my fictional characters Sir Edward Cavendish works in the Foreign Office. The aircraft flying the Sydney-Brisbane route in that period was the Viscount turboprop. (As I was once publisher of Aviation Business magazine, there would be an expectation I would get that right.)
What character did you most identify with in Return to Prior Park?
Let me say at the outset, none of the characters is me. But there are people I know, or have known, who have informed the characters. Elizabeth Belleville, who is only referenced in book 3, has aspects of my mother’s character, but I assure you my mother was kinder. William Belleville has many of my father’s characteristics.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the setting of your novel?
I was brought up on a cattle property outside Rockhampton (nothing grand about it) – my father had been brought up on a farm outside Rockhampton. There is something of those settings and the knowledge of rural life from my childhood that provided the background for creating Prior Park.
What was the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing Return to Prior Park?
The challenge is finding time to write and then trusting that the story will unfold. When I wrote books 1 and 2 in the series, I had an ‘endgame’ in mind but not with book 3. It unfolded in unexpected ways.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Return to Prior Park?
I hope readers enjoy a few hours of reading pleasure. I strive for an authenticity in my writing that suits readers who enjoy fiction grounded in reality.
Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
I’d long had the ambition to be a writer. In 2011, I undertook a Year of the Novel course with the Queensland Writers Centre. I pitched the first book to a couple of publishers and one very well-known literary agent gave me the advice to merge books 1 & 2 into one. But like many creative artists, I wanted to produce these books my way. So I set up my own publishing imprint. More than 20 years ago, my husband and I established a magazine, which was later bought out by a major Australian publisher, so we already had some background in publishing.
Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
I have a small room dedicated to my office. And what is vital to getting me started with writing? My Spotify music playlist, straight out of the 1980s and 1990s – favourite songs like Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor or The Way You Look Tonight by Phil Collins
What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?
When I was younger, I was a great Georgette Heyer fan. I’ve already mentioned Winston Graham’s Poldark series (12 books over 50 years). I’m a huge fan. I’ve read Jane Austen too. I also enjoy some crime fiction, especially from the golden age of women crime writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, but I’m not tempted into crime writing.
What is the best part of being a published author?
It’s very nice to get good feedback about my work from readers. That’s got to be the best part.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
I’m drawn to the post-war years (1950s-1960s).
What is next on the horizon for Judith Masters? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
After the intensive work of getting the three books done over the past few years, I’m now taking stock. What’s next? I want to write something that is unique and original. But I also have some ideas to delve into new fictional lives. It’s such fun creating people and their lives, I’m sure I won’t be able to resist it for too much longer.
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I don’t want to single out anything specific. I’m deliberately reading across genres to expand my understanding of what’s happening in the world of fiction publishing right now. But if Sulari Gentill has a new Rowland Sinclair book out, it will hit my bookshelf even before the ink is dry on the page.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
I’d like to share a pot of tea with Sulari Gentill. She has opened my eyes to Australian history in the inter-war period. Somehow that bit got missed out in my education. The depth of her research and how she incorporates that historical background into the fictional adventures of Rowland Sinclair and his cronies is to be admired. I’d like to get some tips from her as to how she does it so successfully.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Judith. Congratulations on the publication of Return to Prior Park!
A final act of vengeance. An illicit liaison. A passionate affair. In this third instalment of the Belleville family story, loyalties will be tested and new secrets concealed as the family begin to rebuild their shattered lives. But in the end, it is Prior Park that draws them back as the next generation of the family begins to emerge.
In this third book in the series, the Belleville family begin to rebuild their shattered lives. Wrongly believing they are safe from the madman Alistair McGovern, he escapes from custody to attempt one final act of vengeance. In the aftermath of this final desperate act, each of them must come to terms with the events of the past.
Her marriage in tatters, Julia Belleville begins to question whether she can rebuild her relationship with her first love American surgeon Dr Philippe Duval, even as they both immerse themselves in the life of their daughter Pippa, who expects they will marry. Julia’s elder brother Richard, determined to gain custody of his two sons, laments the failure of his marriage to Catherine, who has returned to England and is already looking elsewhere. Yet Richard too finds himself unexpectedly falling in love against his better judgement even as he confronts Philippe over his troubling behaviour.
Meanwhile, it is William and Alice who provide the stability of a settled family life. Yet they too are caught up in the unsettled lives of the people they love.
In this dramatic third instalment of the Belleville story, there are many twists and turns as the family rebuild their lives. Set against the backdrop of the world of the 1950s, the story takes readers from the countryside to Australia’s great harbour city of Sydney, to London and to Derbyshire, and to New York.
But in the end, it is the sprawling Australian cattle station Prior Park that draws the Belleville family members back to their country origins time and again.
It is where their hearts belong.
Return to Prior Park by J Mary Masters was published on 28th February 2019. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Judith here: