About Me

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Queensland, Australia
I'm an Australian author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Action/Adventure, and Historical fiction. I live in Queensland, Australia. www.noelleclark.net

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Unlocking the past – the joys of Research

Turning family history into a novel – a challenging path to take.

My first historical novel - Stone of Heaven and Earth – is about to be published.

This story is based on the real lives of my grandparents in China, and spans the years 1914 to 1929. I never met my Grandfather, but remember being told their story as a child. Their life together was one of the highest of highs, and devastating tragedy.

Apart from my grandmother telling her story, I was able to draw on two memoirs written by my mother and my aunt. But their memory was almost hearsay, as they were both quite young at the time. I also had a couple of letters, but the actual details were lost over the years.

I mulled over how best to present their story for a long time. The only way to do it justice was to write Fiction based on Real Life. Memoirs are written by people who were there, and so I had no
choice but to add meat to the skeleton.

I did this with two main tools.
Research and Imagination.

Before I could start writing, I needed to know some details so that I could bring to life the characters of my story. It took me many, many hours, but I remember a rush of warmth flowing through me when I found my Grandmother and her sister’s name in the passenger list in the Brisbane Courier dated 22 June 1914. No one in the family knew the name of the ship they left Brisbane on. I felt like I had dug up a long forgotten treasure chest when I discovered the ship was the Tasman from the KMP Line, captained by Captain Lucardie.

Further research put me in touch with a UK research project undertaken at Bristol University. They were able to give me information about my two leading men – their Service History from the Chinese Maritime Customs Service.

But the jewel in the crown was the discovery of a small newspaper article describing, in detail, a wedding. Pure gold!

From that moment on, I felt like I was holding my Grandmother’s hand and she was leading me along the journey. I never wrote this story alone. My grandmother was with me the whole time, I swear. I heard her voice, saw her eyes and her smile. Shed tears with her, and with her, I fell in love with my Grandfather.

A month spent in China retracing, as best I could, their footsteps, helped me to understand why they loved China, a very exotic land, especially a hundred years ago.

As I walked along the Bund in Shanghai, I retraced the steps of my Grandfather. He had walked there too, on his way to work at the Customs House which still stands proud on the Bund.
In my story, I have both my Grandmother and Grandfather walking along that very place, talking to each other, falling in love.

Research has enabled me to reach my Grandparents, to feel their presence. I’m sure they are both very happy with the outcome.

Stone of Heaven and Earth
Out March 2018

Buy Here:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Journey Through Time

A Journey Through Time

Touching the past

My fascination with China has been there all my life. As a child I was drawn to the knickknacks and ornaments that were always referred to collectively as 'things from China'.

Back then, the exotic and unusual items conjured up for me a desire to know more, to understand more about foreign places. The appeal of the items had me fondling them, touching them, and asking relentless questions of my grandmother as to their origin.

Many, she said, were wedding presents—poignant reminders of the marriage of my Grandmother - Gladys Houston, to my Grandfather - Oliver Clark.

·         The intricately carved ebony jardinière stand sat in pride of place as you walked through my mother's front door, right up until she died.

·         The hand painted and handmade fine-as-egg-shell porcelain tea set, each piece with its own unique delicately painted birds by some unknown artist a hundred years ago.

·         The silver salt and pepper shakers, the cloisonné snuff boxes, the exquisitely painted little porcelain bottles;

·         The stunning silver vase hand hammered with a rich chrysanthemum and peony design that I loved polishing.

·         And most beautiful of all - my mother's jade and gold pendant – the star of STONE OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

When I was a child I used to stare for ages at these objects through the glass of my mother's china cabinet. I knew these items were special and had no problem conjuring up, with my child's imaginative but unworldly mind, the mystical place called China and what it must have been like. The china cabinet was the place all the 'precious' things were housed. (Was it just a coincidence that the 'stuff from China' was housed in a china cabinet?)

But in my view the best and most cherished possession that my Nana brought back from China was an old, hessian covered photo album. It held photos of her life in China. There were many photos of the two happy couples who lived the comfortable life of expatriates in an exotic place.

Hard to believe, but there was something even more precious than the photos inside that album.

My Nana had pressed two flowers inside the pages of the photo album. I can still feel their delicate dried petals as I caressed them with my child's fingers. They were thinner than tissue paper, lighter than a rose petal, and unfortunately prone to crumbling when touched by a young girl with clumsy fingers.

They were, I knew even as a child, my Nana's tangible memory of the place where she had found the love of her life. Now that the innocence of my childhood years are long gone, my heart aches when I think of my Nana placing them inside the album.Maybe they were from her wedding bouquet? 

And so, my tangible connection to my grandparents helped me to enter their world over one hundred years ago. Writing Stone of Heaven and Earth has been a labour of love, and an accomplishment that I am proud of.

The story of the lives of the two couples - Gladys and Oliver, and Anne and Jack - is one that is brimming with happiness, and is at times tragic almost beyond belief. The setting is exotic, exciting and fascinating. The story deserves to be told, not just for the memory of these four special people, but because it is a really good yarn. It is full of courage, pathos, emotion and is set against the backdrop of violent and crime-ridden China in the years when the rest of the world was in the chaos of the First World War. A time when China was being infiltrated and exploited by Japan, Germany, Russia, France and Britain to the extent that civil war and a fight by the Chinese to regain ownership of its own country made it a dangerous place to be.

There are several good books set in this turbulent time of China's history. One notable one is 'The China Saga' by C.Y. Lee which takes the reader through the various wars, battles and invasions that have plagued China from ancient times until its leap into Communism in 1949. This book is well worth reading. China is widely recognised as the world's oldest continuous civilisation and many relics there pre-date the Pyramids. It is a fascinating country with a rich culture.

The story I have written – Stone of Heaven and Earth - is about four people whose lives were changed forever in the years from June 1914 until March 1929 whilst living in China.

Stone of Heaven and Earth

Buy Here:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Stone of Heaven and Earth

Stone of Heaven and Earth    

Spanning the years 1914 to 1929, Stone of Heaven and Earth is an epic tale of love and loss, extravagant expatriate lifestyles, intense danger, heroic acts, and the hideous effects of a cruel and barbaric civil war. The complex and volatile politics in China is played out in the intimate story of two intrepid couples, foreigners who embarked on the adventure of a lifetime and made their home in China.

Based on the author’s true family history, this work of fiction is interwoven with real stories gleaned from memoirs, photographs, and from growing up hearing the stories from those who were there. Extensive research, which included time spent in China tracing the footsteps of the characters in this book, has resulted in a captivating account of foreigners in China during some of the most violent and devastating times.

Stone of Heaven and Earth.

New Historical Fiction from Noelle Clark


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Opulence and Sophistication - The Astor House Hotel, Shanghai

In 1917, Shanghai was considered the "Paradise of Adventurers". What amazing notions come to mind when you read that?

The Treaty Port of Shanghai had a large population of Europeans – German, Italian, French; people from the USA, Russia, and the UK. The Europeans built large, Western style banks, insurance companies, and hotels on The Bund.

In the early part of the 20th Century the number of expatriates moving to Shanghai for lucrative work opportunities meant that good accommodation was needed in the city.

In 1858, on a parcel of land reclaimed from swamp, The Astor House Hotel was built. The location was prime, right on the juncture of Soochow Creek and the Whangpoo River, at the northern end of The Bund. It was five stories high and by 1917 it was advertised as “the Waldorf Astoria of the Orient”. Sheer luxury, comfort, and with all mod cons, the Astor House Hotel was, for travellers and European locals alike, the centre of social activity. In a city with many luxury hotels and clubs, the Astor House was special.

  • In 1882, it was the first building in China to be lit by electricity.
  • In 1883, it was the first hotel in Shanghai to install running water. Every suite had its own bathroom with hot and cold running water.
  • In 1901, it was the first building in Shanghai to receive a telephone call. Thereafter, every suite had its own telephone.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get my drift. Marble floors, pillars and walls. A glass atrium room that let in natural light the length of the dining room, which by the way, seated five hundred. Electric fans cooled patrons in the dining room. During dinner, a symphony orchestra played on the mezzanine floor above diners.

Peacock Hall was the first Ballroom in Shanghai, and at 847 square metres in area, it was—and still is—very impressive. Yes, it was built on the ground floor of Astor House. Its amazing glass ceiling, 14 metres high, remains today.

So, when my long-awaited historical novel Stone of Heaven and Earth is released in March, you will
understand why Darl, Anne, and Madame Liechtenstein loved having lunch, or sometimes high tea at the Astor House Hotel.

Sorry to finish on a sad note, but on 1st January this year, only weeks ago, The Astor House Hotel (often called Pujiang Hotel by the Chinese) was sold. I had harboured a strong desire to revisit China and to spend a night at the Astor House, but it will no longer happen. The hotel is to be closed and renovated into a block of private office space.

STONE OF HEAVEN AND EARTH   -   New historical fiction from Noelle Clark

Out March 1, 2018