Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her latest book, The Quarantine Station, is Michelle Montebello.
Michelle is the author of the number one bestselling novel The Quarantine Station, as well as The Belle Series which earned her 2018’s Best New Author in the AusRom Today Reader’s Choice Awards. She also earned a finalist place for Author of the Year and 2018’s Book of the Year for her debut, Interwoven.
Hello Michelle. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. 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?
Many thanks for having me! It’s lovely to be here. I’m generally a coffee girl in the morning, followed by a cup of tea after lunch. I can’t say no to dunking a Tim Tam in either. Occasionally with dinner, I’ll enjoy a red or white depending on the weather.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I’ve published four books and am soon to release my fifth. I write Historical Romance (The Quarantine Station) and Contemporary Romance (The Belle Series). My fifth book will be another Contemporary Romance and I daresay, I’ll continue to alternate as I write, as I love both genres.
The Quarantine Station is your latest release, can you describe it in just a sentence?
It’s a time slip story set in 1918 and 2019 about two young women who, although centuries apart, are connected through a set of old diaries that turn up at the station, and that reveal a tale of forbidden love, heartbreaking loss and a powerful secret.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write The Quarantine Station?
It was very much the setting first. The Quarantine Station (now known as the Q Station) is a real site on Manly’s North Head in Sydney. I’ve long been a visitor and knew that this incredible setting could easily be a protagonist in its own right. Once I had the setting worked out, the title, plot and characters fell into place.
How long did it take you to write The Quarantine Station?
From conception of idea, to researching, planning, writing, then multiple drafts and edits, the entire process took me about ten months. I enjoyed every moment of it!
How different was the experience of writing The Quarantine Station, compared to your previous novels in The Belle Series?
Because The Quarantine Station is historical fiction, there was extensive research involved. I had to check, double check and triple check every fact before feeling comfortable enough to leave it on the page. It was also a complex narrative with a lot more twists and turns that needed twice the amount of planning. The Belle Series books are a modern-day love story and although well-researched, they were easier and less challenging in comparison to write.
Can you tell us about the research process to bring The Quarantine Station to life?
I started with many visits to the Q Station. It is such a wonderful place so taking the tours and spending time with the staff was a treat. A great book that I purchased from the Q Station called From Quarantine to Q Station, was a godsend in building scenes and double checking facts, as it is also the book the tour guides use. Additionally, I consulted other sources, both web-based and in print to help bring the medical detail of 1918 to life as well as WWI, Spanish Influenza, royal protocol and day-to-day life on the station.
There are themes of aged care, dementia and memory loss in your novel, did you find it challenging to write about these issues?
Yes, absolutely, as I’m sure some of my readers would have loved ones experiencing this. It was important to portray Gwendoline’s condition in an accurate and sensitive way for them. I wrote and rewrote a number of her scenes with this in mind.
Without breaking into spoiler territory too much, there is a thread on the Royal family in your novel, which I loved. What inspired this aspect of the story?
I wanted secrets that were powerful enough to rock a century of generations. And where I thought that impact would be felt the most was a family like the royals, who are historically known for strict protocol and keeping with the genealogical line of descent. A secret like the one in The Quarantine Station, if gotten out, could really shake them up.
The Quarantine Station is a dual time period novel, did you find one time period easier than the other to write? How hard was it to link the two time frames together?
Funnily enough, the 2019 storyline was the most difficult for me. Perhaps because 1918 on the station was an intriguing time and I had an abundance of complications to work with; forbidden love, secrets, illness and strict rules. Linking the two stories was a challenge as it had to be done solely through the diaries. There were many diary entries that I had to rewrite to ensure I had linked the past and present in a way that would not confuse the reader.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading The Quarantine Station?
That love, in all forms, knows no bounds. So love fiercely. Break all the rules…
How did you make the transition to a published author?
It was a writing course I’d taken with James Patterson that pushed me from stalling at chapter ten to completing a novel, editing it and publishing it. It was a course that changed the way I approached writing a book. And from there, I learnt and soaked up all I could to make the leap!
What is the best part of being a published author?
That I have the ability to create characters and worlds from nothing and turn them into pages that readers can disappear into. And I know the power of a good book! It can completely transport you. It’s my hope that I can do this in some small way for people.
What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?
I’m a huge fan of Kate Morton, for her dual timelines are complex and fascinating. And she is a total wordsmith! I also love JoJo Moyes. Her stories are less complex though no less entertaining. I breeze through her pages in no time at all. Both ladies inspire me to write in different ways.
Aside from writing, do you have any interesting hobbies?
I love to read and I love watching and playing tennis. I played as a child and my children also play.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
I’d slip back to the turn of the century, from the nineteenth to the twentieth. This was a significant time in our history with medical and technological advancements and developments in women’s rights and fashion. Though if you were to give me a time machine, I’d doubt I’d stay in the one place for long!
What is next on the horizon for Michelle Montebello? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I’m currently editing my next release, Beautiful, Fragile. It’s a contemporary romance about an Australian woman, Faith James, who is found wandering a beach in Spain, injured and with a ten year memory gap. The last thing she remembers is being twenty five, single and living in Sydney.
That is until her English husband comes to collect her! She discovers she now lives in London, has three young children and is thirty five.
So begins Faith’s emotional journey to reclaim the life she’s lost, to learn how to be a wife and mother, and to mend a crumbling marriage.
Though it begs the question, are all memories worth fighting for, even the ones that hurt?
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I finished Paullina Simons’ The Tiger Catcher and am looking forward to reading the next two in the series. I love a good time travel book!
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
Oh goodness, there are so many! I’m going to draw a name out of a very big hat of mine and say Anne Boleyn. I think she is a fascinating figure, full of intrigue and character. Would love to know what her life was like, particularly during the days of Henry VIII.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Michelle. Congratulations on the publication of The Quarantine Station!
The rules were crystal clear. She broke them all…
1918 … When Rose Porter arrives on the shores of Sydney with little more than her suitcase, she must take a job as a parlourmaid at the mysterious North Head Quarantine Station. It’s a place of turmoil, segregated classes and strict rules concerning employee relationships.
But as Rose learns, some rules were made to be broken.
2019 … Over a century later, Emma Wilcott lives a secluded life in Sydney with her one-hundred-year-old grandmother. Gwendoline is suffering dementia and her long-term memories take her wandering at night. Emma realises she is searching for someone from her past.
Emma’s investigation leads her to the Quarantine Station where she meets Matt, the station carpenter, and together they unravel a mystery so compelling it has the power to change lives, the power to change everything Emma ever knew about herself.
Connect with Michelle here: