Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Daisy's War" is here

It's sometimes disconcerting just how clearly characters can make their feelings known (as the mere author, I'm frequently not in charge), and Amy has made it very clear that she would much prefer a quieter life from now on, content to have a role in the lives of her grandchildren. While she is still an important presence in Daisy's War, the main focus has shifted from her, and I've had the pleasure of getting to know Daisy and Eddie much better.

Writing Daisy's War has held a new experience for me in how much this book's plot is shaped by a single historical event: the Great War of 1914-1918. In the earlier books events such as the Tarawera eruption, the baby-farming scandal and the struggle for women's suffrage affected my characters in varying degrees, but in this book their lives become increasingly intertwined with the War, as it grows from a shadowy threat to a very real one.

More than 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in the Great War, and over 18,000 died; this in a country with a population of barely one million. The War must have had an effect on every household in New Zealand; it certainly touches everyone in my little valley.

Daisy's War is available now on and Amazon UK. It should appear at Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other retailers within the next few weeks.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Zealand horses in the Great War

Between 1914 and 1918, New Zealand sent more than 10,000 horses to Europe to serve in the Great War. Only four of those horses ever returned to New Zealand, and of that group only one served with New Zealand forces for the whole of the war, in the Middle East and later in Western Europe: Colonel Guy Powles’ horse Bess. Bess stayed with Colonel Powles for the rest of her life, eventually dying quite peacefully in 1934 while out for a ride with the Colonel.

Horses were also sent to South Africa with New Zealand troopers in the Anglo-Boer War (I send an imaginary trooper with his horse in Settling the Account), and at least one of those horses is known to have made it home.

More on the New Zealand warhorses, including photographs of Bess, here (warning: sad accounts of the fate of most of them).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sailing on the "Jane Gifford"

Until well into the twentieth century, the most convenient and reliable form of transport around much of New Zealand was on the water. Roads, especially in the North Island, were frequently little better than muddy bogs, and rail reached only the larger centres. The coastal steamers that characters often use in my books provided much of the passenger service, but the great workhorses for transporting freight and stock were the flat-bottomed scows, which needed little draught and could travel up rivers as well as hugging the coast. Only one fully rigged scow survives from the fleet that once served New Zealand: the Jane Gifford, which after a long and eventful life has now come home to Warkworth. The volunteers who have restored her are still getting her to the point of being able to take passengers under sail, but they do offer regular cruises using the boat's engines. We recently went for a short cruise along the Mahurangi River, and despite the weather it was a thoroughly enjoyable outing.

More on the Jane Gifford's history here.