#1 Writing the novel


Thank you so much for being interested in the process of my novel writing. It's been a journey (both physically and mentally!), and some of you have already joined me on my research adventures.


On this new website page, I'd love to share the whole journey with you; what stage of writing or editing I'm at, what publishers or agents I'm going to target, successes and failures...

Shelley Dark © my research has taken me to archives around the world

It's been a huge surprise to me that I'd start writing a novel at the age of seventy.

Shelley Dark © at the end of a hike over the hills from Mandraki, Hydra opened up below me like a jewel

But what an adventure it's been. My research so far has taken me to far flung places like Hydra, Malta, London, Portsmouth and Cork. Here in Australia to Sydney, Braidwood, Canberra, Monaro. With still so much more to do.

The battlements of Malta remain much as they were in the time of my novel

I can't help feeling this book was begging to be written.

Shelley Dark © My seat at the National Archives at Kew, where I spent two weeks researching.

The coincidences and serendipity in writing it have been quite incredible - when I've needed a ship's captain, I sat next to one on an aeroplane. When I asked for a guide in the town of our hero's birth, she turned out to be from his family. When I did a tour of an historic English naval port, the guide's husband turned out to be an admiral who accompanied us and gave a unique perspective. In Ireland I walked into a church, and the only woman inside knew the very family of our heroine's name who had lived in the district for centuries. In another city I phoned a genealogist who turned out to be researching the hero’s family. A book I'd been searching online for months, and which couldn't be found in the archives, magically turned up when I'd given up hope.

Shelley Dark © My first view of Ireland, with a week of research ahead of me

It's been goosebump stuff.

Shelley Dark © at the Benaki Museum in Athens, this photo of a young Greek boy, in the spirit of the time of my novel

It's a rollicking good story, based on actual people and events in the 1800's. I hope I can do it justice. And I'd like it to be as historically accurate as it can be.

Shelley Dark © just feeling the old paper, seeing the ink calligraphy in any archive is enough to give me goosebumps

I've read dozens of history books with more to go, consumed fascinating travelogues written by people during the era, translated books from the French and the Greek (thank you google translate), sat in dusty archives for weeks, humped huge old tomes about, photographed thousands upon thousands of documents, transcribed many of them, wandered the countryside where my book is set, talked to locals, read endlessly online. And dreamed.

Shelley Dark © It's hard to describe the feeling of reverence when I held documents as old as these...

I've discovered mistakes in what has already been written, found answers to many of my big questions and unearthed some new facts not written in any of the literature. Yet in the true spirit of a mystery, I still don't have all the answers. And I probably never will. I've lain awake at night, wondering, dreaming, planning. It's really quite addictive!

I'm corresponding with people in distant places and I've met many wonderfully generous people who continue to help me.

Shelley Dark © The view from my apartment on Hydra, my favourite trip ever

My hero is quite famous in Australia, although not widely known. He's been written about in history books, a children's book, even a musical. I hope that when my book is published (inshallah) that he and his wife are as famous as I think they should be.

Shelley Dark © Holding old books such as these was such a privilege

When I began, I thought I'd just start at the beginning of the story and write through to the end. Ha!


I attended the conference of the Historical Novel Society Australasia, where I discovered I knew nothing about novel structure, or plot and characterisation, and hooks and conflict and resolution and debate and climax and arcs and genres..... Not to mention Point Of View (capitals very necessary!) or a zillion other writing terms. I heard about literary agents, publishing houses. Heavens, I thought, I have to write the novel first.

Shelley Dark © nothing prepared me for the avenues of bitter oranges in Athens

Since then I've done several online courses of various lengths. Trawled the internet for free tips. Bought and devoured heaps of books on writing. My husband keeps saying I hope you're keeping the invoices for the tax man. Don't you love his confidence that I'll actually earn $$$ one day??? Every aspiring writer should have such support.


I am LOVING writing and learning. And I have a writing nook I love. Which I'll share with you too as we go.


Shelley Dark © Writing requires flowers. Everything requires flowers!

I finished the rough draft of the manuscript a few weeks ago, and now I'm on the rewrite.


I guess you can tell that the passion I've found for writing this book is a reward in itself. And the journey is simply thrilling. I hope you'll join me on it.


Until then, buddies, I wait you.