It is a pleasure to welcome Alison Stuart to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of The Homecoming we sat down for a chat. Thanks Alison!
Hello Alison. 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, what is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
Thank you for the invitation to join you. It is a well-documented fact that I am extremely partial to a gin and tonic.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
Like many writers, it is best summarised as a twenty-five-year journey to become an overnight success… I knocked on many doors over many years before finally being accepted for publication by a traditional publisher (Harper Collins).
I have written a number of historical romances set across periods as diverse as the English Civil War through to World War One, but it is the Maiden’s Creek series, set in my own backyard (Victoria) in the 1870s that took off!
Can you describe your new novel, The Homecoming in a sentence?
Concluding the Maiden’s Creek series, Danny Hunt and Charlie O’Reilly return to Maiden’s Creek to lay their turbulent pasts to rest and find themselves thrust into a major crisis and a murder mystery.
What is the significance of the title to the book?
Although their lives have taken them in different directions, for both Charlie and Danny (who we first met as children in the first two books – THE POSTMISTRESS and THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER), the return to Maiden’s Creek is a homecoming, where they will find the answers and the peace that they seek.
Can you tell us about the research process that was involved to bring The Homecoming to life?
Unlike the earlier books, I have moved away from hard rock gold mining to look at the burgeoning profession of nursing. At this stage, teaching hospitals had been established in Melbourne, based on the Nightingale training coming out of the UK and it was fascinating seeing this transition to a skilled profession. I did have to look into more detail about childbirth than a squeamish former lawyer should ever have to face! As for Danny’s chosen profession… he is the first lawyer I have written and as a Melbourne qualified lawyer, I was already half way there.
I really enjoyed researching the mystery of the missing Victorian parliamentary mace and the racy days of Melbourne in the 1890s (particularly the goings on at Madame Brussels!).
What themes dominate The Homecoming?
I think the predominant theme is secrets and lies, and the pain that can be inflicted with the best of intentions. Everyone holds secrets – Danny, Charlie and the people around them.
The theme of the suppression of women (and how they worked around it) in the days before suffrage has come through all the books. One hundred years later, we are still fighting the battle!
Are the characters in The Homecoming inspired by any real-life figures?
All the major characters are entirely fictional. However, I do like to write in real people when I can and I have introduced the real larger than life character of Tommy Bent, a powerful political figure at the turn of the twentieth century who went on to become Premier of Victoria. And even in walk on roles… In one court scene the judge Danny is appearing before, the Honourable Sir Thomas a Beckett, is also a real character. And I can’t forget Madame Brussels herself… although she doesn’t appear, she is still immortalised in a Melbourne bar!
How different was the experience of writing The Homecoming, compared to your previous releases?
I wrote this book through the worst of the Covid lockdowns in Melbourne and it was a struggle. Apart from the physical restraints that prevented access to the State Library and a visit to Walhalla (the inspiration for Maiden’s Creek), the continued stress of our situation took a heavy toll on a writer’s creativity. I had no hesitation dedicating this book to our front line workers who had it so much worse than I did!
What is one thing you would like your audience to take away from the experience of reading The Homecoming?
I should reassure readers that although it is a conclusion to a trilogy, it is a stand alone book, so don’t panic if you haven’t read THE POSTMISTRESS or THE GOLDMINER’S SISTER. For those who have read the earlier books, I hope they enjoy meeting up with familiar characters (particularly those fans of Caleb Hunt!). For all readers, my hope is that they take away a sense of how hard life was for our ancestors who pioneered these ‘frontier’ towns, whether they were the miners or the women who gave birth in rough huts, often without assistance.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Morning is spent doing ‘stuff’ – whether it is exercise, shopping, visiting my mother or catching up on housework and the business of writing. Earlyish lunch and then an afternoon of writing. I am not an evening writer. My day ends at five!
What writers inspire you?
They say the life of a writer is a solitary path, but I am fortunate to spend my life in the company of so many wonderful writers (through my long association with Romance Writers of Australia) that it’s hard to single out anyone in particular. Through a daily connection via social media, I am continually inspired by their dedication to the craft, profession and business of writing. It’s something I don’t think I see replicated in any other group of writers. Being in the daily company of these women (and a few men) keeps my fingers on the keyboard and has led to the purchase of a new chair for my desk.
What books are on your to-be-read pile?
Most of my reading tends to be more mysteries than romance and top of my TBR list is the ARC for a new, exciting local writer who is writing a historical mystery series set in Fiji. I am so looking forward to that one. My current read is an Elly Griffiths (GHOST FIELDS) and next on the list is DIAMOND MOUNTAIN, a romantic suspense set in Africa by BG Nettleton.
Are you currently writing a new book?
I am currently writing the fourth and last book in my historical mystery series (The Harriet Gordon Mysteries set in Singapore in 1910). I have a secret yen to take Charlie and Danny, the protagonists from THE HOMECOMING into a historical mystery series set in Melbourne in the 1890s but that is a discussion yet to be had with my publisher!
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Alison and congratulations on the publication of The Homecoming.
They might be able to solve a crime – but can they build a life together? A compelling historical romance with a murder mystery at its core, for readers of Darry Fraser and Tea Cooper.
1892. It has been almost twenty years since Charlie O’Reilly left Maiden’s Creek, the town where she once knew only injustice and fear. Now she returns as acting matron of the local hospital, determined to prove her worth – and to escape the attentions of a man she would rather forget.
Despite his wealth and busy practice as a criminal lawyer, Danny Hunt has never found contentment. He is still haunted by memories of his childhood in Maiden’s Creek and the strange and desperate man who was his father.
When a court case goes wrong and Danny’s life is threatened, he seizes the opportunity to visit Maiden’s Creek with his friend Robert, whose sister, a nurse at the hospital, is the only woman Danny has ever proposed to.
But danger follows Danny and Charlie and when a nurse is violently murdered, they are thrown together in a desperate bid to prove the innocence of a friend. When a devastating storm hits, threatening the hospital, old hurts and secrets come to the surface.
Both can see that they make the perfect team, but Charlie is committed to her work and has one secret she plans never to reveal …
The Homecoming by Alison Stuart was published on 4th January 2023 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Alison here: