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Australian Genre Publishing

Goldie Alexander's blog

Hazel Edwards talks research

Author and guest blogger Hazel Edwards,
my publisher Lindy Cameron, and me - at the
launch of That Stranger Next Door.

I've been celebrating the release of my latest YA notel, That Stranger Next Door -  a historical romance novel set in Melbourne in the 1950s - by inviting some great Australian writers to visit and talk about their writing. 

Today's guest blogger is Hazel Edwards OAM, who is most famous for the classic children's picture book There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake.  Hazel loves creating quirky characters for newly-independent young readers, but writes for all ages and has published over 200 books across a range of subjects and genres.

She thrives on the research that goes into her books, like Sir Edward Weary Dunlop and Professor Fred Hollows for the Aussie Heroes series.

An expedition to Antarctica  - on an Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellowship - resulted in three books: a novelAntarctica's Frozen Chosen; the children's picture book; Antartic Dad; and her memoir, Antarctic Writer on Ice

Hazel has also collaborated with experts in various fields to publish adult non-fiction titles; and co-written books, including f2m: the boy within, with Ryan Kennedy, a YA novel about gender transition; and Cycling Solo; Ireland to Istanbul, with her son Trevelyan Quest Edwards.

She has dropped into my blog to give some tips on research.

cheers,  Goldie



By Hazel

Researching Tips or: No, I didn’t do that book all on my own! 

‘How long did you research your book?’ is a common question at author talks. Just after, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ or ‘How much money do you make?’

Genuine research takes longer than expected. And you need help, either ‘on the ground’ or with historical detectives.

‘How To’ adventure memoirs differ from junior history, but readers want humorous stories in accessible language. What do you need to know before walking that trail? If you were a child when Edith was growing up, what was different to now? If your parent did a bad thing, should you be blamed too?

 For Trail Magic my son Trevelyan did ALL the solo walking of the 2184 Miles of the Appalachian Trail which took nearly six months. The participant-observation research was all his effort. Plus the people–based research of other risk-takers on the trail. And he wore out two pairs of boots.

But the writing took another year and that’s where I helped him. Trevelyan prefers walking another 10 km to finishing the chapter. Procrastination detours many writers.

For Edith Cowan: a Quiet Woman of Note, in the Aussie Heroes junior historical series, the $50 note on which she’s featured was better known than she was.

Edith was a quiet achiever whose story deserved being told, especially to inspire young readers; hence the sub title. Over two years, avid researcher Gail tracked down facts, photos and even a family scandal about Edith’s father who was hanged for murder; as well as information on Edith’s work with children and families which enabled many to get an education or a job; hence the university named after her.


Expect to use only 10% of what you research. The 90% you discard is where the skill of structuring occurs.

Time-management. Avoid researchitus where you can’t bear to leave out any fact. Decide at what point you must stop.

Select the facts for your potential reader level and area of interest.

Explain any specialist terms. My son and I favoured THRU Walker as the original title for our collaboration. But the publisher warned that the status of completing this famous trail and being known as a 'THRU walker' was not as widely known as we imagined. While ‘Trail Magic’ that wonderful hospitality offered to strangers was universal.

Have both an expert and non-expert reader test the manuscript for accuracy and for interest.  

Maps make great end papers.

Sub-titles are important clues to content.

At the book launch, have a theme cake based on research. We had $50 banknote cake featuring Edith Cowan as a Woman of Note. Book covers can also be used on mousemats or banners.

Re-use your research in other fact, faction or fiction books, or just enjoy broadening your general knowledge.


For more information on Hazel Edwards, visit her website.




George Ivanoff revisits his childhood while visiting Goldie's blog


 I've been celebrating the release of my latest YA notel, That Stranger Next Door -  a historical romance novel set in Melbourne in the 1950s - by inviting some great Australian writers to visit and talk about their writing. 

Today's guest blogger is George Ivanoff  - a prolific writer of books for kids and teens — both fiction and non-fiction. His books include school readers, library reference books, chapter books, novelettes, novels and even a short story collection. He has had 86 books published so far, including the Gamers series; and his new You Choose series of interactive novels, inclduing The Treasure of Dead Man's Cove and The Maze of Doom.

He has dropped into my blog to relive his chidlhood.

cheers,  Goldie


George Ivanoff


By George

Being a writer of books for children and teens, I often quip that I write in order to relive my childhood. But when I stop to think about it, that statement is, to a large extent, true. I am inspired by my childhood obsessions, by the books I adored reading and by my experiences at school. 


My first book, Life, Death and Detention (re-released in an updated edition in 2012 by Morris Publishing Australia), is a collection of ten YA stories centered around life in high school. While I never did the more extreme things depicted in the book, each of the stories, nevertheless, began with me thinking back to my own life in high school… and extrapolating, exaggerating and making stuff up (something else I loved doing as a kid).

My Gamers books, a trilogy of teen novels — Gamers’ Quest, Gamers’ Challenge and Gamers’ Rebellion — from Ford Street Publishing, are a result of my teenage obsession with computer games. It all started with me asking the question: What if the characters inside a computer game thought they were real?


My most recent series, You Choose (Random House Australia), is a result of my childhood love of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Getting to make choices that decided the course of a story blew my mind. And rereading those stories with different endings was so much FUN! Now, as a grown-up author, I’m getting to have all that fun again by writing my own interactive books. 

Even my educational writing (and I’ve written over 70 titles for the primary school education market), finds its roots in my status as a reluctant reader in primary school. I remember hating the books I was given to read and associating reading with those books. It was not until I discovered science fiction in mid-primary, through a book called The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron, that I grew to love reading. Now I find myself writing education books, fervently determined to make those books as appealing as possible for that 8-year-old me.

So, for me, the key to writing for young people is to be able to think yourself back to your own childhood, grasp the defining elements of your youth, and transplant them into stories for contemporary readers. Like I said — I’m reliving my childhood!


To find our more about George and his books, visit his website.


The next, and last, guest on my reverse blog tour will be Hazel Edwards.


Julia Lawrinson and researching the details


To celebrate the release of That Stranger Next Door - my YA historical romance novel set in Melbourne in the 1950s - I have been inviting some great Australian writers to visit and talk about their latest books. 

Today's guest blogger is Julia Lawrinson who writes for both young adults and younger readers.

Enjoy her take on writing historical novels.





Julia Lawrinson was born just after the first moon landing and grew up in the outer suburbs of Perth. She was extremely shy as a child, but made up for this by joining the WA Youth Theatre Company as a teenager, and then performing, touring and appearing on television with comedy group Novak n' Goode in her early twenties.

As a result of this performing background, Julia loves writing dialogue and character: to her, they're the things that make writing jump off the page.

Julia left school at age fifteen, and worked in various jobs, including at the supermarket checkout, and as a chambermaid, barmaid, roadhouse attendant and weighbridge operator.

Fulfilling as it was, Julia felt that there was more to life than flipping hamburgers, and returned to study at Murdoch University in her late teens. She completed a PhD in writing in 2004 and also has postgraduate qualifications in education.

She's written seven books for Young Adults – including Losing It, The Push and Bye Bye Beautiful; and four for younger readers including Chess Nuts and The Girl Who Fell Into A Book.


By Julia

The thing with writing historical fiction is that it's easy to get it wrong.

For example, when I was first writing Bye, Beautiful, I wanted to set it in Karratha in 1966. The problem was, after a little bit of research, I discovered that Karratha didn't exist in 1966.

I also had one of the characters watching Saturday morning cartoons. Except turns out they didn't have those either.

That's an obvious mistake, but there's so much more that you can inadvertently get wrong. So, when I was writing Bye, Beautiful – once I managed to set it in a town that did exist – I made sure that I researched everything, from the cycle of the moon to the weather to the cost of a tin of coffee.

I read newspapers, The Women's Weekly, police occurrence books, autobiographies of people who were there at the time; and I talked to as many people who remembered 1966 as I could. I was told about tipping Weeties on the floor to make ladies dance better; about sneaking out of louvred windows to meet boys; of having to sit in church every Sunday morning; about making your own clothes and making your own fun.

All the historical details I learned gave life to the novel.

It also helped that I had spent a lot of time in a country town as a child. Some country towns don't change too much from one generation to the next. I could smell the chlorine from the pool, feel the scorching heat off the stubble and the sting of dust whipped up by summer storms. And the emotional flavour of the novel came from my experiences of my mother's family; that was what gave the story its real power.

But it wouldn't have worked if I hadn't had the right details to wrap it in.

Writing The Push was different because it was set in Sydney, so I needed to research even more for that. I even got Duncan Ball to walk the streets of Glebe telling me what trees were in what street.

But perhaps because I hadn't lived in Sydney for long enough, or because The Push was too obscure a group for most people to relate to, the novel wasn't as successful as Bye,Beautiful.

Which showed me that you can have all the right details, but details don't make a novel.


You can find out more about Julia by visiting her website.


My next reverse blog visitor will be Pauline Luke.


Jane Yolen and the History Surprise

To celebrate the release of That Stranger Next Door - my YA historical romance novel set in Melbourne in the 1950s - I have been inviting some great Australian writers to visit and talk about their latest books.

This week I am going international. My special guest is American writer Jane Yolen who has written more that 300 - yes, 300 - books. 

Enjoy her visit.




American author Jane Yolen is a novelist, a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature.

Dubbed the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the 20th century, Jane writes children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction. Her more than 300 books include: The Devil’s Arithmetic  (a Holocaust novel); The Leather Apron Club  (a picture book about Benjamin Franklin and his son and the first free lending library); Naming Liberty (early 1900s Jewish immigration to America and the building of the Statue of Liberty); Owl Moon; and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

Jane’s books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.

Jane was born in New York City and, except for the four months a year that she spends in Scotland, she now lives in Western Massachusetts.





By Jane

I believe in the History Surprise.

That’s the moment when researching and writing an historical novel or historical picture book, that serendipity occurs, Or as Arthur Koestler called it, that clashing together of 'previously unconnected matrices'. When fact becomes so like fiction they are indistinguishable, and one needs to write an author’s note to remind the reader about what is true and what has been made up.

Sometimes that surprise comes in multiple synchronicities. Sometimes it comes with a surprise character. Sometimes it comes when you turn from where you thought you were going in a book and go off on the 'road not taken' as Robert Frost calls it.

It’s happened to me every single time I’ve used real history to anchor fiction, or threaded fiction through a bit of history.

Now I have to warn you that I almost flunked History at Smith College. My professor said, “I know you’re smart, but you ask the oddest questions". 

She was right of course, though it took me many years to understand that I was never going to be an historian, as much as I loved history, but that I was a nascent historical novelist.

I was more interested in the footnotes of history, not the great sweep of economic miasma that guided king and peasant alike. I preferred, for examplelearning that Anne Boleyn had six fingers on her left hand (one of the reasons she was tried as a witch) than the intimate details of the coinage brought into Henry’s coffers by the dissolution of the abbeys.

I love the bad girls of history—pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read, Mary Queen of Scots, Irish pirate Grania O’Malley. I also love the interstitial characters of history, who are background to larger stories, like Yankee Peddlers, the thalidomide kids of the 1960’s, the Regicides who killed King Charles I, the homosexuals incarcerated in Hitler’s Pink Triangle camps, and the golden canaries that kept the Western Movement women alive on the great vastness of prairie expanse.

Let me show you what I mean about the history surprise, in relation to my novel about Mary Queen of Scots.

Queen’s Own Fool was the first written – but in historic time the actual second book – of the Scottish Quartet, a series I wrote with my Scottish friend, Bob Harris.

This book begins when Mary, the new 15-year-old queen of France, loses her young husband to a disease, and then is basically kicked out of the country by his scheming mother. She travels to Scotland where she is the queen by birthright, and ends when she makes the fateful decision to run from the quarrelsome Scots lords who want to imprison her. We last see her as she turns south, racing down to England, to (she thinks) the welcoming arms of her 'sweet cousin' as she calls Elizabeth I.

The English queen does not save her, but actually does what the Scottish lords have only threatened: imprisoning Mary under house arrest for twenty years and finally having the axe-man cut off her head.

The first bit of serendipity happened when my husband and I were visiting Stirling Castle in Scotland, something we had done many times before, but we always loved taking visitors there.

We each drifted off in a different direction, and I found myself down in the bowels of the place looking at some of the new exhibits. On one wall was signage I’d never seen before, telling visitors that: 'Mary Queen of Scots had three female jesters'.

Whatever else was on that sign, I’ve long forgotten. But it was as if a major blast had gone off in my brain. Here was a wonderful interstitial character – or characters – living alongside royalty, part of Mary’s tragic saga, but they themselves are lost to the great histories. Though I’ve read a lot about Mary Queen of Scots – and her contemporary Elizabeth 1 of England – I’d no idea until that moment that there had ever been any female jesters.

So I did what I do whenever a book idea starts: I wondered.

I wondered if that statement was true. And if so, why three jesters? And who were they? What made them become jesters? What kind of jesters were they? Which was the most fascinating/interesting/book-worthy of the three? How close a relationship did they have with the queen? Further, I wondered if they were French or Scottish. Or a bit of both, as Mary herself was.

I began by doing research on those fools.

The three female jesters were listed on the castle rolls, both in France and then in Scotland, so I had their names – or at least their nicknames. They were called La Folle, Jardiniere, and Governance, the last of whom Bob Harris and I decided was a governess more than a fool. And by their nicknames, we knew them to be French.

We also knew – again from the castle accounts – that Jardinere and the others were given presents of gloves, linens, fabric, clothes. I had discovered that the female jesters – along with Mary's other French servants who accompanied her to Scotland – were sent home to France with rich gifts when Mary went down to England.

And that was all we could find out about them. For a historian that’s a disaster but for a novelist, it’s a great gift. It gave us room to move around and make/create/recreate a story and a character for each of them.

But in fact that was a minor serendipity. The major one was this: When Mary was in France, she and the young king and the court had gone to a place called Amboise – a gorgeous and elegant walled chateau on the Loire – as part of a royal progress. Bob and I wanted to describe the place, had no ability just to fly over to France, and we were looking both on line and in encyclopedias for a description of the ruins. All we got were instructions on how to join a bike tour through France that would go past the building ruins.

Then one morning, in the holdings of the St Andrews University Library (which as far as I can tell has never thrown out a book!) Bob found a British tour guide of France from the mid 1800s describing in minute detail what was in the ruins of that Ambois chateau. One thing in particular caught his eye – the mention of a frieze depicting a saint and a stag with a cross caught in its antlers on an old chapel belonging to the chateau. He carefully took down that description. That was all – but it was enough to use as a backdrop for the Amboise chapter. Or so we thought as we dutifully copied the description into a paragraph about young Mary walking around the chateau grounds.

And then... and then...

Bob went into Edinburgh and toured around Holyrood Castle, where Mary had lived for much of her life in Scotland. I’d been many times before. But this time, because we were in the middle of our book, already having written the scenes in Amboise, there came a stunning a-ha moment!

Bob came upon a stone lintel on the castle that had a carving of a stag with a cross in its antlers. It was that wonderful miracle that a novelist dreams about. A connecting of the book’s unconnected matrices. He was so excited when he phoned me about it, his Dundonian accent deepened and I could barely understand a word. But when I finally got what he was saying, we used that bit in the book to deepen Mary’s almost mystical connection with the two countries – Scotland and France.

So at the book’s end, in a scene we invented, we used that image for a third time – portraying a very real stag with antlers tangled in thorns that form the shape of a cross. The stag comes towards the queen right before she is ready to turn south and race for sanctuary in England. It’s a moment of epiphany – for our viewpoint character, Jardiniere, though not for Queen Mary.

What had begun as an aside in a tour book, became a motif when Bob found the second stag image, on the castle lintel, and then went on to become a central metaphor for the book. Mary was that beautiful animal caught and doomed by the cross, her Catholicism, in a Protestant nation.

Our viewpoint character, Jardiniaire, understands and begs the queen to follow the deer, and go east, meaning going back to France where at least she would be safe even if no longer a queen. But Mary, believing that Elizabeth would uphold her royal claim on the Scottish (and by extension, the English) throne, goes south instead.

To her doom.


You can find out more about Jane by visiting her website.

The next visitor on my reverse blog tour will be Julia Lawrinson.


Errol Broome on ditching excess research to find the truth


To celebrate the release of That Stranger Next Door - my YA historical romance novel set in Melbourne in the 1950s - I've invited some great Australian writers to visit and talk about their latest books. 

Today's guest blogger is Errol Broome, author of more than 30 books for young children including: The Judas Donkey, My Grandad Knew Phar Lap, Song of the Dove and Gracie and the Emperor.




Errol Broome


Errol Broome grew up in Perth, and after an Arts degree at the University of WA, she began her career as a newspaper journalist. Reporting taught her to write clearly and to stick to the facts. After starting a family, Errol decided to tackle a long held ambition, to write a book. 

She began with short stories which won several prizes and more than thirty books have followed. Her books for children have been published widely overseas and translated into several languages.

Errol is Literary Patron of the Society of Women Writers Victoria, and spends much time keeping her garden alive. 



by Errol

My publisher was not enthused at my idea of a historical novel about Napoleon on St Helena because, apparently, children in Australia today don’t know enough about him to feel or care for him.

I was tempted then to write the story as a total fantasy, with a fictional despot on an imaginary island. But, try as I might, I couldn’t throw away the real man, or the wonder in my mind at the impact the emperor’s arrival must have had on this small, most remote island community.

Like Petrov in the Australia  - and the mystery at the heart of Goldie's That Stranger Next Door - Napoleon Bonaparte on St Helena happened. Sometimes it’s worth hanging on to a truth. On the other hand truth can get in the way of a good story, so I realise this story must be Gracie’s, not Napoleon’s.

When I began to write the story that became Gracie and the Emperor, I’d researched Napoleon on St Helena and delved deeply into my characters both real and fictional, but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Things changed along the way, partly because that’s where my characters led me but also because my publisher kept reminding me that this was a work of fiction.

Research fills your head with so many facts, and it’s hard to decide what to leave out. Reluctantly, I discarded much I’d discovered about Napoleon, but even so a great deal of truth remains.

I recreated the setting as accurately as I could, with the known cast of island characters, and stuck to the dates of Napoleon’s arrival on St Helena, his death and his return to Paris. He was kind to children and slaves, he did say Bah! rather a lot, he did like licorice and he did create a garden at Longwood.

It's true that someone sent him everlasting (immortelle) seeds, and I chose Gracie to be that person. I hope children today might learn something here, and even get to like Napoleon a little.


Gracie and the Emperor

'Bonaparte kills people.' 

'Bonaparte is coming as a prisoner, child. He can't hurt anyone now.'

'He eats children,' said Gracie.

As long as Gracie could remember, she had been told stories of Napoleon Bonaparte, who would stop at nothing to rule the world and plant the French flag on the Tower of London.

Now, the most famous, the most dreaded man is coming to the very island where she lives. St Helena is like a small ship stuck fast in the ocean, far away from anywhere. When Napoleon Bonaparte arrives, in 1815, Gracie wants to run away, but she has nowhere to go. 

Errol Broome tells the extraordinary story of an emperor who saw the courage of a hard-working young girl, and a girl who saw the other face of the man they called the Emperor Napoleon.


You can find out more about Errol Broome at her website.


Felicity Pulman and the (inter)web of future pasts

Goldie Alexander


To celebrate the release of That Stranger Next Doormy YA historical romance novel set in Melbourne in the 1950s - I've invited some great Australian writers to visit and talk about their latest books.

My guest blogger today is Felicity Pulman who writes for adults and kids of all ages and has a passion for crime history and fantasy. Her YA fiction includes Shalott trilogy - a time travel series; and the Janna Mysteries - a mediavel crime series.

Felicity's latest book I, Morgana is her first for adults and is the story of Morgan le Fay, one of the most enigmatic and reviled characters in Arthurian legend.




By Felicity

Felicity Pulman

I recently co-hosted my first online launch for the e-Book version of my latest novel I, Morgana, and it’s got me wondering if this is the way of the future? It was so exciting to ‘talk’ to people from all around the world who dropped in to say hello, and who wanted to talk about my book and buy a copy. 

I loved exploring this deeply-flawed character who has fascinated me ever since I wrote the Shalott trilogy, where five teenagers travel back in time to the court of King Arthur and Camelot. 

When writing I, Morgana I was able to draw on my travels in the UK following the Arthurian trail, undertaken for the Shalott series; although I’m planning to revisit the UK next year while writing the sequel to Morgana as there’s more I need to know.

It’s so important, I believe, to ‘know’ the setting you’re writing about. It really helps to visualise scenes if you know where a castle or a hill or a ruin is situated. It’s also helpful to be on site because there are often museums with useful information, or books, or experts on the topic you’re writing about who almost without fail are always happy to share their knowledge with ‘a writer’.

A lot of my books (like The Janna Mysteries) are set in medieval time in the UK so it’s a good excuse to go travelling! 

An easier book to write (in terms of research and geography) was A Ring Through Time, (Harper Collins 2013). It’s a historical romance for teenagers, set  on beautiful Norfolk Island with a flashback to its very grisly convict past!



I, Morgana

You know my name, but you don’t know my story...

Schooled in magic by Merlin, promised a kingdom, and betrayed by everyone she has ever loved and trusted, Morgana's revenge will destroy Camelot and break her heart – with repercussions for our own time unless she can learn from the past in time to protect our future. 

After being schooled in magic by Merlin and promised a kingdom, Morgana is robbed of her birthright and betrayed by everyone she has ever trusted and loved. Risking everything for revenge, Morgana uses her magical arts to trap Merlin, threaten her half-brother King Arthur, and turn away the only man she will ever love. In her quest to destroy Arthur and Camelot, Morgana sets in motion a catastrophe that threatens the future of her world. Can she put things right before it’s too late, or has she sealed their fate forever?

This is the untold story of Morgan le Fay, one of the most enigmatic and reviled characters in Arthurian legend.


You can find out more about Felicity Pulman by visiting her website


Kate Forsyth - Master Storyteller



To celebrate the release of my latest YA hisotrical novel That Stranger Next Door I've invited some great Australian writers 
to visit and talk about their latest books.

My guest blogger today is Kate Forsyth, author of 25 novels for adults and children, including the highly acclaimed
Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl  and The Puzzle Ring.





Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling and award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children.

She was recently voted one of Australia's Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called 'one of the finest writers of this generation'. She is also an Accredited Master Storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.


By Kate

Historical fiction has always been my favourite genre of fiction. I love it straight up, or served with a twist of mystery, a dash of magic, or a splash of romance.

I love HF so much because it always makes me feel as if I am learning something new, as well as having all the pleasure of a deeply immersive reading experience. So when I write my own historical novels, that is what I try and deliver to my readers: a story they can sink into, and the sense of excitement that comes from discovering something new.

My most recent historical novel for adults The Wild Girl  tells the untold story of the forbidden love between Wilhelm Grimm and the young woman who told him many of his most beautiful and haunting fairy tales.

Her name was Dortchen Wild and she grew up next door to the Grimm family in the old town of Cassel, in the small kingdom of Hessen-Cassel (now in the very centre of Germany and spelt Kassel.)

They were both young – Wilhelm was in his mid-20s and Dortchen was 18 – and they fell madly in love. But Dortchen was forbidden to see the handsome yet impoverished young scholar. She had to sneak out to meet him behind her father’s back.

But parental disapproval and poverty was not the only thing keeping them apart. Wilhelm and Dortchen lived through the bloody turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. Hessen-Cassel was one of the first countries to fall to the French, and Napoleon mashed it together with another dozen or so countries to create a new Kingdom of Westphalia.

Napoleon set his dissolute younger brother Jerome up as a puppet-king. Jerome at once hired all his friends and set about bankrupting the treasury with his balls, masquerades and many mistresses.

Dortchen and Wilhelm had to overcome many obstacles in their quest to be together.

My most recent historical novel for children is the timeslip adventure The Puzzle Ring, which takes four modern-day children whirling back through time to the dangerous days of Mary, Queen of Scots. 

They face many perils, not the least of which is that my heroine Hannah is red-haired and left-handed – clear signs of being a witch in 17th century Scotland!

They encounter Queen Mary and are present at the explosion which killed her second husband Lord Henry Darnley, and have all sorts of other exciting adventures before at last managing to find their way home again.

I think one of the reasons I love writing books lie this so much is I get to read so many fascinating books and visit so many fascinating places for my research.


You can find out more about Kate and her books by visiting her website

Or by following her on facebook, twitter or pinterest


The next visitor on my Reverse Blog Tour will be Felicity Pulman.



Goldie's reverse blog tour



Mrs Petrov being rescued from
the KGB by ASIO.

Rather than send Goldie Alexander off on a blog tour to promote her new book That Stranger Next Door, we decided she should blog here on the Clan Destine Press website and invite some fellow authors to pay a visit a talk about their writing.

We begin, today, with Goldie's own piece on Fictionalising History.

Then from Thursday the following authors will drop in, every couple of days, to talk about why they do the things they do:

Kate Forsyth - Felicity Pulman - Errol Broome

 Jane Yolen - Julia Lawrinson- Pauline Luke

Steven Herrick - George Ivanoff - Hazel Edwards


 BTW This is not our Goldie being strongarmed into the blogosphere.





by Goldie Alexander

In my seventh decade it appears that my childhood memories are becoming stronger while my instances of wondering ‘why have I gone into this room?’ are increasing. 

Author - Goldie Alexander

As a result, certain events that occurred Australia when I was a teenager in the 1950s have become my writing fuel; although their recall is often inspired by current affairs.

Though many books have been written by the children of Holocaust survivors, I don’t think much has come out about the immediate after effects on those Jews who were here in Australia well before WWII, and their children, even though repercussions echo through the decades.

That Stranger Next Door is partly my account of what it was like to be a Jewish girl living in Melbourne, Australia in the mid 1950’s.

It is not my own story, nor that of my family. Although like us, the Cohen family in my novel emigrated to Australia long before the outbreak World War II.

When the worst atrocities of that conflict became known, I recall grown-ups whispering about these dreadful events as if they were something we should be ashamed of.

Perhaps they were trying to save us from the horrors that were emerging or perhaps they felt guilty that by living here they had escaped hell.

I recall, as if it was only yesterday, watching film of concentration camps being liberated and photos of children who didn’t survive. One little girl looked so much like me she could have been my twin.

When I am asked why I write about such events, all I can say is that writers must write about how certain events affected us, whether it be inside a disaster or how we deal with it later. None of us were immune, even if we couldn’t speak about them at the time.

The facts were that we cared too much about them to dare discuss them. Worse still, we could nothing, except perhaps, to continue to remember and remind generations that follow.

Holocausts are not unique to Jews. They happen all over the world where the cultures and religions are of others are feared or hated.

And wars continue no matter what we do; and every conflict produces refugees.

The number of immigrants Australia should accept is still a hot issue. As each wave of migrants have come into this country, they have had to face hate and bias until time sorted things out and they were eventually absorbed. There seems no good reason why this shouldn’t continue.


What triggered me to write That Stranger Next Door was the current plight of our asylum seekers, and the so-called ‘Children Overboard’ incident of 2001 which John Howard used to win an election and become prime minister.

The way our modern politicians – now and in 2001 – use the fear of 'the other' is too scarily familiar to the propaganda of the 'reds under beds' in the 1950s.

Having taught history to high school students I knew how boring the topic can sometimes be. What was often lacking was a sense of ‘being there’.

Placing people's histories into fiction is the best way I know to give contemporary Young Adult readers more insight into history while promote understanding and tolerance of the modern world.

Once I started fictionalising history, my challenge as an author was to create convincing settings, characters and dialogue. The all-important narrative had to develop from the problems my characters encountered: their aims, wishes and fears.

My historical fiction always start with the premise: ‘what if you were there at the time’.


Background to That Stranger Next Door

1954 seems a long way away – even to those of us who lived through it.  

It was the height of the Cold War between Communist countries and the West. In the United States, Senator McCarthy was using anti-communist laws to force academics, film producers, movie stars and writers to a senate hearing to ask if they ever belonged to the Communist Party and to name anyone who had gone to their meetings.

Many writers, film directors and academics, lost jobs, family, and some even committed suicide.

We think of this time in Australia as barren and conservative; a time when Prime Minister Menzies ruled, the Queen visited us wearing pearls, England was Home, migrants passed through camps and into the community. There was the Snowy Mountain Scheme, the six o’clock swill, nuclear families, housewifery for women, and the coming of television.

In 1954, barely a decade on from the horror of WWII, Australian soldiers had only just returned from another conflict, the Korean War.

My memory of the politics of the 1950s – of things like the Liberal/Country Party Coalition being in power, the White Australia Policy, the Communist Referendum, and the split in the Labour Party into ALP and DLP and how the infamous Petrov Affair was used by Menzies to retain power – screamed at me, here in 2014, that we are doing it all over again.

It niggled at me to write about that time in the fifties as a warning for today. But, when I approached several submission editors with the idea, some didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned 'the Petrov Affair'; others told me no one would be interested.

Russian refugees among the crowd try to stop Soviet Embassy 
officials from forcing Evdokia Petrov onto a plane in Sydney.

Given that I am obstinate enough to persevere, I went ahead and wrote the book anyway.


That Stranger Next Door is set in Melbourne in 1954 at the height of the Cold War.  

When an insignificant Russian diplomat called Vladimir Petrov, working in the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, defected to Australia, promising to provide information about a Russian spy ring, he neglected to mention the decision to his wife.

While Petrov became 'Russia's top spy in Australia', his wife Evdokia – obviously a spy as well – was 'taken' by Russian officials; but rescued at the last minute from a plane in Darwin by ASIO. She was hidden in a safe house 'somewhere' in Australia.

Prime Minister Menzies used the whole 'evil communists trying to take Evdokia against her will' scenario as propaganda for his attempt to bring introduce anti-communist legislation into Australia.

The defections came shortly before the 1954 elections. Many believe the Petrov Affair, and Menzies' stand against the Communists, was responsible for the Liberals staying in power, when a Labor victory had been forecast.

Like Howard's non-existent children overboard 47 years later, Menzie's spy ring was also a bust. There were no arrest, and no spies were ever uncovered as a result of Petrov's information.

(It's believed Petrov was merely afraid to return to Russia, as the man who'd sent him to Canberra had been shot by the new men in the KBG following the death of Stalin.)

In 1954, the implications of Menzies' attempts at anti-communist legislation were frightening for so many Europeans who lived in Australia. Not just those who had arrived post WWII, but the many who had come to Australia in the decades prior, and thus escaped the Holocaust.

The propaganda coming out of the Soviet Union had been successful – as this was before Russian tanks rolled into Hungary – and many Australians had joined the local Communist Party.

With MacCarthy's anti-communist hearings in the US, the fact that 'known' or suspected communists were being refused visas to the States, and the scaremongering of the Petrov Affair here, Australian communists buried and burnt any telling comunist literature. 

Because then, here in Australia, the Catholics and the Protestants might have hated each other, but they were united in their intolerance and hatred of Jews, Asians, Aboriginals and Communists.

So: 1954, 2001, 2014 – history repeating.


Fictionalising history

Now, while I may he an ex-history teacher, I am also a storyteller and I knew full well that this very political story needed a sweetener to make it appeal to contemporary readers – the current readers of Young Adult fiction.

What could be better than a Romeo and Juliet type romance (without the knives and poison) set against that infamous affair?

That Stranger Next Door

Clever 15-year-old Ruth Cohen, and her Jewish family – mother, father, grandfather and little brother – live above the family milk-bar in Melbourne’s Elwood. Ruth is a scholarship student at St. Margaret’s Girls’ College.

Because Ruth’s father once belonged to the Communist Party, the family fear that Menzies will use the Petrov Affair to bring in anti-Communist legislation that will bring on another wave of anti-Semitism and thus harm his family.

When the next door flat is rented to a mysterious Russian called ‘Eva’, Ruth decides this woman can only be Evdokia Petrov.

The story also begins with Ruth's first meeting of the Catholic Patrick Sean O’Sullivan. As it happens, Patrick’s father is about to work for Bob Santamaria and the emerging Democratic Labor Party (DLP).

Patrick offers to teach Ruth to ride a bike at a time when some Jewish girls were never allowed to mix with gentile boys.

Meanwhile, the mysterious Eva next door provides Ruth with an alibi for meeting Patrick, but only on the proviso that her presence also be kept secret.

As Ruth rails against ‘how a good Jewish daughter should behave’, she is fascinated by Patrick’s totally different background.

Interwoven with Ruth's life is Eva’s voice, retelling some of the horrors that happened to her in the previous three decades.