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  • Shelley Dark

#1 Monaro

In the last post about Tassie, I said I'd have a surprise in a couple of weeks. Nous voici!

I didn't ever dream that I'd start writing a novel at my rather advanced age.

Birds eye view of Hydra's jewel harbour on my last day there

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 and Canberra. With still so much more to do.


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

my seat at the National Archives Kew archives for the two weeks I was there..

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.

It's been goosebump stuff.

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.

It's been quite a year. 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.

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.

the window of my apartment on Hydra

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.

But what's the surprise?

I've been asked by a longtime acquaintance, Trisha Dixon, to a lunch in our hero's honour (eeek yes, heart jumping out of chest), down in the Monaro where he lived for part of his life. She has very generously asked me to stay with her over a few days to mosey about, hopefully to chat to people in the district who have stories of him. I'm hoping that over the next few days I might get a handle on the sort of man he was.

Many of you have already shared my wanderings and my research trips over the past year. I thought you'd like to share this one. Although I've been to Canberra several times, I've never been to the Monaro. So this will be a first in all ways.

I thought you might like to come with me.

I'll post to Instagram as usual, and I'll write diary posts if and when I can. If I can't manage it there, I'll write about it when I'm at home. As usual, you'll get email links. I'm very grateful for your company.

Until then, buddies, I wait you.

ps I haven't yet figured out why the comments from all eternity are showing up below. Either that or they disappear altogether. Please don't let it stop you from commenting - I really love to hear from you.

shelley dark, writer 

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