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

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