Weaving History Into My Story

Ellen Read Author Interview

The Feathered Nest follows Alexandra as she’s wrapped up in a murder mystery involving bird smuggling. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Norfolk Island itself was my initial inspiration for The Feathered Nest, and because the Green Parrot is endemic to the island, it seemed obvious to revolve the story around the parrot. Also Norfolk Island is the home of the descendants of the HMS Bounty.

Without using the names of Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers, and by imagining a couple of extra seamen, I was able to weave the history of the island into my story. Preceding the arrivals of the Bounty descendants, Norfolk Island was a penal settlement for Australia early days. For a small island, it possesses a huge history.

Alexandra Archer is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?

In the first book of the series, and all are standalone with a new murder mystery in each, Alexandra had just finished a season in Melbourne’s society. However, she tired of endless lunches, dinner parties and other functions, and wanted to work in her family’s antique business. Set in the 1920s, Alexandra is nevertheless a modern woman.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

In The Feathered Nest, Alexandra is made the expedition’s official photographer as they head off to Norfolk Island. I wanted to explore women’s roles in the late 1920s and I did this through fashion innovations and roles in society. Alexandra is always looking at new fashions that offer freedom of movement and style. She has clothes designed for her trip that include culottes and men’s style of boots for walking through the rainforest. I also wanted to highlight bird smuggling, which still happens today with exotic birds such as parrots. I also mention whaling, which in the 1920s was still practised on Norfolk Island. Alexandra is at first appalled until it’s explained to her that whaling was only undertaken by seamen in small boats with a harpoon. No whaling on a huge commercial scale that we know today was carried out on Norfolk Island.

What can readers expect in book 5 of your The Thornton Mysteries series?

Book 5 is set at Thornton Park where a conference is being held. Experts from around the world are going to speak about their myths and philosophies concerning immortality. No one, least of all Alexandra, expects it to become a deadly search for the secrets to eternal life. Alexandra is pregnant. Caught up in a miasma of myths and dark tales, she comes to believe that for her baby to live, she must die.

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Murder comes to Norfolk Island, but is the killer after Alexandra Archer’s Tahitian black pearl or a lost illustration of the rare green parrot?
The Thorntons mount an expedition to Norfolk Island, a small island in the South Pacific, to study the green parrot and set up research programmes to help protect it and other endangered birds. As a birthday surprise, Alexandra’s father tells her she is to be their official photographer. He also gives her a black pearl brooch that Alexandra’s great-grandfather had bought off a merchant in Hong Kong in the 1850s. The pearls are Tahitian black pearls.
Before they depart Melbourne, they learn that Norfolk Island has had its first murder. It sends ripples of unease through Alexandra. She hoped she could escape murder on this small island paradise.
Alexandra is astonished to learn that the main inhabitants of Norfolk Island are descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. Once on the island, she wonders if this is why her Tahitian black pearl brooch causes such interest.
A chain of events is set in motion, commencing with a threat on the life of one of their expedition members, followed by intrigue surrounding bird smuggling and a lost illustration of the green parrot. Then two of their team are murdered.
Alexandra is determined to find the answers and nearly loses her life in the process.

Posted on June 29, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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