A Tea break with Mrs B · Interview

A Tea Break with Mrs B: Paula Beavan

It is a pleasure to warmly welcome Paula J. Beavan to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a short form author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Daughter of the Hunter Valley we sat down for a chat. Thanks Paula!

What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?

It has to be tea for me, I’m thoroughly addicted. If I want a change, I love a soda water.

Can you give us a brief overview of your writing career?

I’ve been writing since forever, but got serious about learning the craft in 2009, when I did several online and correspondence courses. In 2014, I travelled to the UK and did a week long writing retreat with Kate Forsyth which was invaluable. I wanted to write historical fiction, but wasn’t at all confidence about research, and Kate was marvellous in her knowledge and encouragement. I started Daughter of the Hunter Valley in 2009 and then continued to write another 9 full length practice novels. I was encouraged to rewrite Daughter of the Hunter Valley by a friend, and when I submitted to Harlequin, they liked it.

How did your childhood shape your new book, Daughter of the Hunter Valley?

I grew up riding horses and building cubby houses in the area where Daughter of the Hunter Valley is set, so I didn’t have to work very hard to imagine myself back into the landscape. The old homesteads and properties were always just there, and it wasn’t until I began researching that I realised the significance of the names of places and the historic homes in the area.

How long did it take to you write Daughter of the Hunter Valley?

I started it as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2009 and finished the final check in 2021, though I wasn’t working on it exclusively the entire time. But in actual time spent, possibly three years dedicated to it alone over the years.

What are the main themes in Daughter of the Hunter Valley?

Determination, resilience and following your heart, no matter what other’s think.

Where did the inspiration for the characters of Maddy and Daniel come from?

Right from the start Maddy came to me fully formed, how she looked, her emotional state, and her strength. I was absolutely thrilled when I first saw the cover, because the girl in the image is my exact vision for Maddy; Daniel was a bit of a hybrid of my husband and my imagination. Daniel’s eyes and ethics are all Dave, but he was sort of formed on the page as I wrote. Though I imagined Daniel was a lot like a young Dave, Maddy is nothing like me. She’s much tougher.

Why did you decide to set Daughter of the Hunter Valley in 1831?

When I started to research the area, I came across George Wyndham’s journal and as I read it, I realised the 1830’s was a period when the area really began to open up agriculturally, and as my husband had grown up farming the Hunter River flats, I had an accessible contact for the farming side of things. There were so many interesting characters in the area at the time, and with plenty of diaries and written accounts of the free settler’s experiences, it was easy to imagine what my characters would be dealing with living and farming on the river bank.

Is there anything surprising you discovered from the process of writing Daughter of the Hunter Valley?

One thing that was surprising, and yet wasn’t, was that a great deal of the time, it was women who ran those great estates; who were responsible for convicts, children, and the day to day of the farms because their husbands were either off exploring, buying more land, and in some cases, sailing back to England. In particular a distant ancestor of mine, Catherine Harpur ran Oswald, a 2000-acre property as her husband, William Harpur, had gone blind in his 40’s.

What is one thing that you really hope readers will take away from the experience of reading Daughter of the Hunter Valley

Firstly, I hope they enjoy the story, but I love a book that makes me wonder how I would cope in similar circumstances, and I find Maddy’s strength and resilience encouraging and inspiring, so I hope others do too.

What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?

My reading taste is really diverse, and I love so many authors. I love Tea Cooper’s dual time-line novels, Kate Forsyth’s historical research is something I aspire to emulate, and I love JK Rowling’s Robert Galbraith novels for their gritty real imagery. I could go on for days. . .

What does your writing space look like?

Right now, I’m shoved in a corner with books piled everywhere, but I’m living in my parent’s spare room while I build. My new home is going to be lovely, but the room I’m to be found it pretending it’s finished most days, is my new office. It is spacious, and will have a daybed, a big cane chair for reading, my desk and bookshelves. I can’t wait.

What book or books do you recommend that I add to my reading pile?

Anything by Tea Cooper, I’ve been very privileged to read an advance copy of her The Fossil Hunter and absolutely recommend it. I know Kate Forsyth has one coming soon, so that’s on my TBR list. And for something completely different, Peter Grainger’s DC Smith Investigation series.

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I love cooking and walking my dogs, I listen to audio books while I do both: a perfect combination. I’m muddling along with a veg patch at the moment, again, audiobooks compliment this activity as well.

What are you working on writing wise at present?

I recently stumbled upon a local history gem: in the mid 1830’s an entire community of Scottish Highlanders were sponsored to emigrate the Hunter Valley, and they sent a petition with one hundred signatures to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland requesting a Gaelic speaking minister, I have written a fictionalised version with the main character the sister of the Gaelic preacher.

Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Paula. Congratulations on the release of your new book, Daughter of the Hunter Valley.

Alone. Near destitute. But brave and determined. Can Maddy beat the odds to create a new home in the Hunter Valley? An exciting Australian historical debut, perfect for readers of Darry Fraser.

1831, New South Wales

Reeling from her mother’s death, Madeleine Barker-Trent arrives in the newly colonised Hunter River to find her father’s promises are nothing more than a halcyon dream. A day later, after a dubious accident, she becomes the sole owner of a thousand acres of bushland, with only three convicts and handsome overseer Daniel Coulter for company.

Determined to fulfil her family’s aspirations, Maddy refuses to return to England and braves everything the beautiful but wild Australian country can throw at her – violence, danger, the forces of nature and loneliness. But when a scandalous secret and a new arrival threaten to destroy all she’s worked for, her future looks bleak … Can Maddy persevere or should she simply admit defeat?

A captivating historical tale of one young woman’s grit and determination to carve out her place on the riverbank.

Daughter of the Hunter Valley by Paula J. Beavan was published on 29th September 2021 by Mira-AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

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