A glorious twilight broke over Adelaide, South Australia on Friday, December 7th, 2012 as my family and friends gathered at the Stonyfell Winery in the Adelaide foothills. It was here, in The Cellar Door, that my publisher, Dr. Scott Zarcinas, and I introduced my debut novel, Heart of a Beast, to the world in fine fashion.
Excellent wine and much laughter filled the historical wine cellar all evening. I could not believe that so many people had taken time out of their busy Christmas schedules to help me celebrate. I must say I felt very honoured.
Thanks so very much to everybody who came and to those who bought my novel on the night. I had writer’s cramp by the end of the evening – signing all those copies! I felt quite the celebrity.
By the way – if you enjoy reading Heart of a Beast please, please tell the world – shout it from the rooftops – or – in a more sedate fashion – take a moment, if you can, to add a review on amazon, goodreads, or google books. I would really, really appreciate it.
For those of you who were not able to be there I wouldn’t want you to think you had missed out on anything, so here’s a copy of my book launch speech for you to enjoy:
Thank you all so much to you for taking time out of your busy schedules to help me celebrate the birth of Heart of a Beast. I cannot believe how many of you have come. My sisters Belinda and Leanne and her husband Greg even flew over from Sydney to be here on this special night. My sister Margaret was very disappointed that at the very last minute she couldn’t join us. And luckily Michael already lives here.
Isn’t this a great place for a book launch? (Lots of oohs and ahhs!) Thank you to the management and staff of the Stonyfell winery for allowing us to celebrate here tonight.
As most of you know I now live in Queensland so you might be wondering why my book shower is being held here in South Australia.
There are two very good reasons.
Firstly, my publisher doctorzed is based in Adelaide but even more importantly my roots and family are in South Australia. I often call myself a South Australian in exile! Mind you it’s a very comfortable exile – “beautiful one day, perfect the next!” as they say up there in Queensland. Nothing like the abysmal exile my characters are living through in Heart of a Beast.
Looking around tonight I can’t help but think it looks bit like a Morrissey family reunion; so many cousins who I have not seen in years are here. I had actually toyed with the idea of being published under my maiden name, Josephine Morrissey. Why you might ask. I worked for a while at the Victoria Point library and as I was filing books on shelves I realised that if I did use the pen name Josephine Morrissey I would be filed there right next to best-selling Australian Author, Di Morrissey – what do they say? – fame by association!
I am very glad that I was convinced to publish under my married name Josephine de Moor. I am told it looks and sounds like a best-selling author’s name.
Years ago, long before I ever contemplated being a writer, I read a book written by Wilbur Smith, River God and then its sequel Red Sea Scrolls, yes, for those of you who have read it – there is a third in the series but its name escapes me. So convinced was I that the characters were real people, that I spent many hours researching them in the State Library of South Australia but to no avail. They were completely fictitious. I told myself then if I was ever going to write a book I would want to write characters that seemed so alive that my readers would try to research them. Low and behold my very first review (5 stars mind you) on Amazon said exactly that!
“It is a story of love and betrayal, so believable that I was tempted to try and research the people involved.”
I could not believe it. I had done what I set out to achieve.
I am hoping you all have, or will, read Heart of a Beast. By the way there are bouncers at the door and you won’t be allowed to leave without a copy of my novel under your arm – and if you are really nice I might even sign it for you – that should help the value go up (Ha Ha)
Anyway I thought I might tell you a little of the background to the story and just how Heart of a Beast came to be.
My novel Heart of a Beast is set during the time that is known as the second settlement (1825 – 1855). This was the latter of the two penal settlements to be established on Norfolk Island. It was determined that it was to be a place of extreme punishment, punishment only short of death.
It was a place where it was rumoured Satan never slept.
“Let a man’s heart be what it will when he comes here, his Man’s heart is taken from him, and he is given the heart of a Beast.” Robert Douglas – convict, Norfolk Island, 1834
With this in mind, I could think of no better title for my novel than Heart of a Beast.
I have been fascinated by Norfolk Island for as long as I can remember. I have no idea why, must have been a very good history teacher who got me hooked and although I have traced my own family history back into the 1500s we have no convicts! And I am fascinated by Australia’s royalty. So I had to research other people’s convicts and of course the penal settlements they were held in.For our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary Rob and I decided to finally visit the island and I can you that it is indeed a paradise well worth visiting. Norfolk Island is a picturesque, peaceful place now – but it was not always so.
A guided tour of the convict ruins in Kingston very quickly initiates you into the hell on earth the second convict settlement must have been.
It was during one of these tours that the characters of Heart of a Beast began to torment me. Although I was part of a crowded guided tour of the Pentagonal Prison on Norfolk Island, I suddenly felt completely alone. I found myself staring at the crumbling stone ruins of a cell and inexplicable tears filled my eyes.
From that moment on three very insistent characters began to haunt my dreams, and yes my every waking moment. One was a convict, one a soldier and one a young lady.
The convict named himself in my dreams that first night, Michael Hanlan. It was a name I had never heard before. He felt so alive and I could see him so vividly that I spent many months trawling convict websites to see if I could find him. So convinced was I that he existed that I went down to Sydney from Brisbane to visit the Mitchell Library and spent hours staring at microfilmed records of convict arrivals and other registers for Norfolk Island but all to no avail.
Unfortunately the other two characters were not quite so obliging.
Lieutenant Edmund Thornton was a name I made up. It actually changed a few times during the course of writing the novel. It was a name that had to rhyme with another (you’ll find out why when you read Heart of a Beast). After much deliberation I decided to name him Edmund Thornton. My research told me that Her Majesty’s Eleventh Regiment of Foot was serving on Norfolk Island during the time of Heart of a Beast and so he became Lieutenant Edmund Thornton of the Eleventh Regiment.
Imagine my surprise when, during my most recent visit to Norfolk Island, my girlfriend, Karen, and I were traipsing through the Norfolk Island Colonial Cemetery when we came upon this tombstone:
Norfolk Island Colonial Era Cemetery Grave number 40
Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of Michael Mansfield Pt in the HM XI Reg of Infantry who died September 13 1847 from the effects of a fall from his horse the 22 year of his age.
This stone was erected by Wm H Thornton Cap of his company as a small mark of his regret for a good and promising young soldier.
I could not believe that there really was an officer serving in Her Majesty’s Eleventh Regiment of Foot with the surname of THORNTON stationed on Norfolk Island exactly the year and only the month before Heart of a Beast begins – spooky! And yes I have researched him too. It seems he too, may have settled in Queensland and lived a long and prosperous life.
While I was trying to decide upon a name for my heroine, my own family history research led me to discover that one of my great, great, great grandfathers had been murdered in Cheshire, England in 1840. The newspapers of the time reported the crime in great detail including that he had left behind a heavily pregnant wife and five children. Subsequent news articles reported that within a month of the murder his wife had given birth to a son (and just as an aside that son lived to a ripe old age) – and then it was reported that she had died of a broken heart only five months later. I thought it only fitting to give my heroine her name, Sarah Henshall. I believe she must have been a very special woman who loved her man with all her heart. I think there might be a novel in that but it remains to be seen
Of course, as all books say, all my characters are completely fictional and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is completely coincidental!
Now for the Oscar bit – hope somebody has the music ready to send me off the stage?
First and foremost I would like to thank my long-suffering husband, Robin, for believing in me even when I didn’t.
A very big thank you must go to my dear friends, Karen Sessa and Christine Smith, my auntie, Margaret, my sisters, Leanne and Belinda, and my daughter, Katrina for proof reading and sharing their many valuable suggestions with me.
And I can’t forget Karen’s husband Ercole Sessa for his wonderful culinary skills that helped Karen and me through many a rough day.
My sister Margaret and her daughter Imogen were very quick to offer their assistance to introduce me into the confusing world of social media. They took a complete novice under their wing and helped me to publish a blog on-line so that I could let everyone out there in cyber space know all about Heart of a Beast. If you have not seen it, take a look, there is a great book trailer designed by Imogen. The web address is on my card. You can follow all the news by joining the blog.
Thanks also to Louise Cusack, author of romantic fantasy, for mentoring me through the early stages of writing this novel and to the members of The MacLeay Island Writers Group for their fresh perspective on my work.
I really must thank all the tour guides on Norfolk Island, who unbeknown to them, helped me with my background research and to the authors of the many reference books written about the second settlement – too many to name individually. I would also like to acknowledge those convicts who lived through these harrowing times and shared their experiences with us through diaries including Martin Cash, John Knatchbull and John F Mortlock.
My heartfelt gratitude goes to Dr. Scott Zarcinas for taking a chance with Heart of a Beastand editing it so brilliantly and to his new recruit, Kerri, who is helping to publicise my book.
Finally, how to thank my wonderful parents? How to put into words how much your support and encouragement has meant to me. All I can say is I love you mum and dad, as my own granddaughter, Gracie-Jean, would say – this much!