I’m delighted to be hosting Clare Rhoden in my hot seat on tour for The Stars in the Night today.
Clare is sharing with us her inspiration for her story, how her protagonist surprised her and much more.
There’s also a international giveaway on tour that is very special. Don’t miss it!
Harry Fletcher is a confident young man.
Harry’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide.
Only the War to End All Wars might get in the way of Harry’s plans…
From the beaches of Semaphore to the shores of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders to the red dust of inland South Australia, this is a story of love, brotherhood, and resilience.
Hi Clare, welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise The Stars in the Night in 20 words or less.
Stars is story of love, war, adventure, and resilience set in WWI Australia and tracing a family story.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
My grandmother, who was a great charity worker, kept letters written to her by German sailors detained in Australia during the Great War. She used to visit the prisoners on Torrens Island bringing cakes and books and pens, and sometimes money so they could send it home to their families. I studied these letters for a research project that eventually led – many years later – to a PhD in Australian WWI literature. It’s a fascinating period of change, loss and reinvention. The letters are now in the State Library of South Australia.
Please tell us about the characters in your novel.
I like to think that my characters reflect real personalities I have met across my life. First there’s Harry Fletcher the baker’s son, a decent ordinary young bloke who gets caught up in the war. Eddie is his foster brother, a child once abandoned on the streets, who just needs love and constancy. Nora, Harry’s beloved wife, is a strong and intelligent woman from an upper class background who fights to have her life as she wants it.
Was there anything about your protagonist that surprised you Clare?
Harry has a lot more anger than I thought he would, and it comes to the fore when he is confronted by matters that he can’t change. I needed the whole book to see how the older Harry got to be the patient fellow I first envisaged. Harry has many more secrets than he tells Nora. I think he even keeps things from me!
What scene did you find the hardest to write?
The death of Alex, Harry’s great friend, is one that still makes me cry. I have done enough research about the battle (Mont St Quentin) to know the circumstances, and I felt like I was deliberately putting a real person into that situation. In a way, I was: Alex could have died anywhere. But the story needed to be told, and I didn’t want to shirk anything.
Did you travel to any places? Undergo any new experiences ie a particular job?
I was fortunate enough to have a scholarship grant to travel to the Western Front in France, visiting battle sites, museums and galleries. The scale of the devastation was amazing, as was the reverence of the French for the Australians who fought there in WWI. I found the whole experience very moving as well as informative. I itched to write the whole time I was there.
Do you have a theme for your book covers Clare? Who designs them?
I’m glad you asked about that. Covers are really important. My publisher, Michelle Lovi from Odyssey Books, works absolute magic with book covers, IMHO. She is brilliant at matching texts with suitable cover artists. I write across genres, and I am just as thrilled with my sci-fi covers (by Elijah Toten) as I am with the beautiful cover created by Simon Critchell for The Stars in the Night.
Does your book tackle a social barrier? If so, how have you incorporated it into the story?
Australia at the time of WWI was a very different society from the one we know today, and I note the societal barriers – Harry, a baker’s son, falls in love with Nora, a rich man’s daughter. Of course, this being fiction and Australian, that works out fairly well. I also look a little bit at the place of migrants and how they are treated, even in a society such as Australia where the bulk of the population derive from comparatively recent immigration. The other focus for me is the balance of power and autonomy between men and women in that society. I think most of these issues still have resonance.
Thank you so much for having me – I really enjoyed these questions.
Thank you for being my guest today Clare. Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Clare Rhoden writes historical fiction, sci-fi and fantasy (check her titles at Odyssey Books http://odysseybooks.com.au/). Clare lives in Melbourne Australia with her husband Bill, their super-intelligent poodle-cross Aeryn, a huge and charming parliament of visiting magpies, and a very demanding/addictive garden space.
Clare completed her PhD in Australian WWI literature at the University of Melbourne in 2011, and a Masters of Creative Writing in 2008, in which she investigated the history of her grandparents who emigrated for Europe to Port Adelaide in January 1914. The Stars in the Night is the result of her research.
Connect with Clare Rhoden