Writing Inspiration: Victorian Queanbeyan

Queanbeyan, New South Wales lies just over the state border from Canberra (about a fifteen-minute drive from where I live). It serves as inspiration for my town in my book, The Landowner’s Secret, which is set in the 1880s and on sale tomorrow! (I don’t use the same place name, however.)

I’ve spent a lot of time in Queanbeyan over the years because I’ve always had family who lived there, and so I know the place very well. I was christened and made my first communion there, in the Ukrainian church my refugee grandfather helped to build. We also have a bit of a family tradition of Friday or weekend lunch at one of the old pubs in town.

However, being able to track down some images of the town from the Victorian era, of the buildings that the reckless developers pulled down in the 1970s, has been invaluable.

Here is John Bull’s Store, circa 1883:

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney. John Bull's Store, Queanbeyan Australia, c. 1883. From Queanbeyan–Palerang Libraries Historical Photos.

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Here is the old post office, built between 1879 and 1880:

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney. Built 1879-80. Post office in Queanbeyan, NSW, Australia. From the Queanbeyan Museum.

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And here is Monaro Street, which is still Queanbeyan’s main street, circa 1880. It’s a faded old photo, but I notice the town’s transformation over the 1880s, as the population grew and the railway arrived (in 1887), and I have tried to incorporate that into the series:

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney. Monaro Street, looking East, Queanbeyan c. 1880. From Queanbeyan–Palerang Libraries Historical Photos.

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More images can be found on the book’s Pinterest board.

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney blog-sized

The Landowner’s Secret

New South Wales, 1885

When Alice Ryan wakes to find thugs surrounding her cottage, on the hunt for her no-good brother, she escapes into the surrounding bush.

It is wealthy landowner Robert Farrer who finds her the next morning, dishevelled, injured, and utterly unwilling to share what she knows. With criminals on the loose and rumours that reckless bushrangers have returned to the area, Robert is determined to keep Alice out of danger, and insists on taking her into his home-despite the scandal it may cause. Convincing her to stay on with him for her own safety, however, is going to take some work.

What Robert doesn’t expect is his growing attraction to the forthright, unruly woman staying in his home. Before either of them can settle into their odd new situation, their home and wellbeing come under threat and they will need to trust each other to survive. But they are both keeping secrets, secrets that have the potential to ruin their burgeoning love, their livelihood … and their lives.

 

 

Book Inspiration

The Landowner's Secret by Sonya Heaney blog-sized

One thing that thrilled me about the cover for The Landowner’s Secret, my upcoming book, was that the designer really took the setting into consideration.

Yes, the story is set in colonial Australia, and yes, I know many people think of Australia in terms of either beaches or deserts. However, *my* Australia is about the mountains and the bush, and my book is set in the shadow of the Brindabella Range.

I look at these mountains every day. I can see them from the backyard, the front yard, from half the windows of the house (which proved pretty scary when fire came rolling down the hills during the devastating Canberra firestorm!).

Here is an image from of the mountains from Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons. I think the view is reflected so well on the book cover:

Mount_Ginini_-_Namadgi_National_Park_-_2 ACT NSW Canberra Region Australia October 2006

Here are a couple of random shots of I’ve taken while in the car (not driving!). The farmland in the second one is where I’ve set my hero’s homestead.

driving-south-canberra-tuggeranong-australia-brindabella-ranges-mountains-anzac-day-25th-april-2015-sonya-heaney

winter-queanbeyan-to-canberra-australia-5th-june-2015-sonya-heaney-oksana-heaney-brindabella-ranges-travel-road-state-border

I know a lot of book covers in this world don’t have a lot to do with what’s actually written on the pages, and I consider myself very lucky that mine does!

On this day: the Opening of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

The Royal Military College, Australia's army officer training establishment, was officially opened in Duntroon, Canberra on the 27th of June, 1911.

The opening ceremony in 1911.

The Royal Military College, Australia’s army officer training establishment, was officially opened in Duntroon, Canberra on the 27th of June, 1911.

Duntroon_Homestead1888

Governor-General, Lord Dudley presided over the ceremony. The college was built on the land surrounding the Campbell family homestead.

The college was so new at the outbreak of the First World War that the first officers had not completed their training when Australia joined the conflict in early August, 1914.

Hey – Australians!

Batlle of Binh Ba Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Canberra Australia 5th June 2019

Everyone in Australia: at 2pm tomorrow the 50th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of Binh Ba – a major battle in the Vietnam War – are going to be broadcast live on television from Canberra, and then repeated the day after.

My father has played a huge part in organising this event, and hundreds of soldiers, past and present, are flying in to participate. My parents are in the official party, and will be obvious on TV, and I’ll be sitting… somewhere…! We’ve all been too busy to finalise this.

Afterwards, there’s a function at the Australian War Memorial, and then there’s a huge dinner tomorrow night, and I’ll be staying at the hotel in the city, because there’s just so much going on!

Love & Desire at the National Gallery

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Canberrans are so lucky to have the National Gallery of Australia. It’s one of the best galleries you’ll find anywhere, and we have some of the best special exhibitions.

At the moment, that special exhibition is Love & Desire – a collection of many of the world’s most famous Pre-Raphaelite works, visiting Canberra from all over (but mostly from the Tate Britain) for several months. We went to see it on Sunday, (and then we walked along the lake to the National Library for lunch on the terrace – it’s still really warm, considering it is mid-autumn here, as in summer-dress warm).

Something I didn’t learn until yesterday was how much William Morris stuff the gallery here actually owns.

Also, it was great to see some of the most famous Ballet Russes costumes out of storage and on display on the way in (we had the common sense to buy them all up before anybody else in the world realised their value. Now, if you want to see – say – Nijinsky’s most famous costumes, you have to come to Canberra!).

Here are a few of the famous works in the exhibition:

John William Waterhouse The Lady of Shalott 1888

John William Waterhouse The Lady of Shalott 1888

John Everett Millais Ophelia 1851-52

John Everett Millais Ophelia 1851-52

William Holman Hunt The awakening conscience 1853

(This is supposed to be a Victorian mistress waking up to how she shouldn’t be living in sin!)

William Holman Hunt The awakening conscience 1853

Ford Madox Brown The last of England 1864-66

(This is MUCH smaller than I always imagined it!)

Ford Madox Brown The last of England 1864-66

Dante Gabriel Rossetti Ecce ancilla domini! (The Annunciation) 1849-50

(This one is amazing and before its time, as it depicts the Virgin Mary being told she will give birth to Jesus as a terrifying moment.)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti Ecce ancilla domini! (The Annunciation) 1849-50

On this day: a New National Library

Sir Robert Menzies speaking at the laying of the National Library of Australia_s foundation stone on 31 March 1966. National Library of Australia, nla.obj-136760449 Canberr

Sir Robert Menzies speaks at the laying of the National Library of Australia’s foundation stone in Canberra on the 31st of March, 1966. The library was opened by Prime Minister John Gorton on the 15th of August, 1968.

National Library of Australia, nla.obj-136760449 

Australia Day

Increasingly controversial as it is, tomorrow is Australia Day, marking 231 years since the British First Fleet arrived in New South Wales.

Here’s a publication from 1901, announcing the “new” Australian flag.

Source

The edition of the Review of Reviews; front cover signed by Egbert Nuttall, after the winning designers of the 1901 Federal Flag design competition were announced. Australian flag 1901

 

And things aren’t going to be very comfortable for the official, mostly outdoor events here in Canberra (the capital city), that run over the 25th-26th!