A GIFT FOR YOU
DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE BOOKMARKS
USING THE LINK AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE
As a reader, you can never ever have enough bookmarks, especially if you’re the kind of person who has several books on the go at the one time.
So I’ve designed a range of bookmarks for you to download and print, featuring proverbs about hope and happiness from my e-novel, 'Camille Dupré'. Yes, I know it's a digital book, but print books still predominate and I, for one, am glad of that. I love a glossy embossed cover and the smell of printer's ink, but sometimes that's not a viable option.
At the end of last year I finally finished a manuscript I'd been working on for years, set during the Nazi Occupation of France. But before I knew it, the coronavirus had struck and it dawned on me that we were facing our own deadly battle, but against an invisible enemy. That was when I decided to release the book free with the request that readers might consider making a donation to a COVID-19 related charity. There was no question of producing a print book. It had to be an e-book, something that could be formatted quickly and easily accessed during lockdown.
Although most e-books look rather plain, I was able to incorporate some decorative touches you won't find inside typical digital books (such as coloured text), but technical constraints forced me to remove some of the more exuberant features that had appeared in my original file but wouldn't convert smoothly to the PDF format.
Bookmarks are another story. There are no creative constraints when it comes to making and decorating them. Below are a few ideas for embellishing your bookmarks. But, if you'd prefer, you can simply print them onto photocopy paper and cut them out - they will be flimsy but will serve the purpose.
If you have some paper that's a little heavier than normal photocopy paper but can still safely run through your printer, you could try that. Otherwise, if you want to make a sturdier bookmark, you can print on ordinary 80gsm photocopy paper, cut out your bookmarks and glue them to coloured cardboard. These personal touches make for a very smart bookmark, particularly if you add a mini-tassel or a decorative split-pin like the heart-shaped one in the photo.
Ideas for finishing and decorating bookmarks.
I designed these for the release of 'A Place of Her Own' in 2014.
Keep the bookmarks for yourself or give them to family and friends. They're also perfect for sharing with your book club.
27 May 2020
'Utterly compelling and exquisitely beautiful.'
Michelle Endersby, writer and renowned rose painter
A Note from Deborah:
One of the best forms of therapy in times of anxiety and crisis is reading fiction, particularly the historical kind – it’s an exercise in time travel that allows you to escape to another era and place, at least for a while.
Which is why I’m releasing my new novel 'Camille Dupré' FREE online. I’ve been writing it, on and off, for many years and finished the final draft towards the end of 2019, just ahead of the bushfires. Then came the coronavirus . . .
This book is my gift to you to read in lockdown and during the challenging times ahead. All I ask in return is that you might consider making a donation to the charity of your choice. Perhaps one with relevance to mental health such as Beyond Blue.
If your friends or fellow book club members would like to read the book, would you kindly ask them to download it directly from this website (rather than forwarding the PDF). In that way, I'll be able to see how many books are going out into the world.
Please feel free to email me via the Contact page of this website if you'd like to share your thoughts about 'Camille Dupré' or let me know about the charity you have chosen.
You can download the novel using the link
below the image of the cover.
Because it's PDF format, you don't need an eReader.
You can read the book on your laptop, iPad or even your iPhone.
About the Book
From the author of the bestselling 'Mr Chen's Emporium'
comes a gripping and poignant tale of love and loss, hope and renewal,
told in alternating chapters through the eyes of Camille Dupré, as a child in 1931
anda young woman during the Nazi Occupation of France
St-Jean-de-Rivière, Languedoc, 1931
Jean-Paul Dupré, a veteran of the Great War, and his family own a vineyard not far from the ancient city of Montpellier in south-western France, where they supplement their income by taking in foreign students from the nearby university. Twenty-one-year-old Kurt Müller, the son of a colonel in the German army, is the latest lodger, undertaking a summer course in French before beginning a career as a journalist with a left-wing newspaper in Munich.
With his Teutonic looks and charming manners, Kurt is different from the awkward young men who have stayed with the family in the past. Eleven-year-old Camille, who is fond of American movies and dreams of being an actress, soon develops a secret crush on the handsome German, while nine-year-old Claude adopts Kurt as his big brother.
When German troops occupy southern France, Major Kurt Müller, fluent in French and familiar with the area, is assigned to the military administration in Montpellier, thanks to his father, now a general in the Wehrmacht, who is desperate to keep his son away from the battlefields.
Twenty-two-year-old Camille Dupré, whose childhood ambitions have been thwarted by the War, is the junior librarian at the city’s public lending library.One winter’s day, when a German officer appears at the service desk, Camille finds herself face to face with Kurt Müller. He, however, doesn’t recognise the girl from his past, now grown-up. Shocked to see that the young man she once idolised is wearing a Nazi uniform, Camille has no intention of revealing her identity to him.
But the time will come when she has to seek Kurt’s help. And soon Camille finds herself enmeshed in a web of secrets and lies that will change her life forever . . .
Read the review from Kensington Review here.
Related Blog Articles
Read all the reviews here.
How to balance historical accuracy and storytelling in a novel.
The 1930s and '40s songs that became the soundtrack to the story.
Proverbs about hope and happiness from the novel adorn
these bookmarks - perfect for reading groups.
'Camille Dupré' Reading Group Questions
If you run a reading group and would like the questions,
just email me via the Contact Page and I'll send them to you.
Please note that some of these questions contain spoilers.
Home in the Highlands
LIFE @ WHITE GABLES: THE INSIDE STORY
The Flying Carpet
Although I’ve penned hundreds of words about the garden at White Gables, I haven’t written much about the house itself and its interiors. That’s because we’ve been working hard to repair damaged walls and floors and deal with a series of surprises that didn’t appear in the building inspection report. The hard work is mostly over and several rooms are finished, but there are still some mysteries to unravel.
For example, why do the lights cut out whenever it rains? Our trusty electrician has investigated thoroughly but can't find the answer. Are there ghosts at work at White Gables? While we await a solution, we’ve installed night-lights in every room - fortunately the power points still work, no matter how long or hard it rains. Torches have been placed in key positions, and in the kitchen there’s a desk lamp on the counter-top so that if the ceiling lights go, I can cook dinner by lamplight!
But back to the real story. My tale of the first major purchase for White Gables. This is how it happened.
When we moved into the property last December, I found myself with a vast formal living room, 7 metres by 6 metres, with a 5.5 metre (18 foot) vaulted ceiling. Unfurnished, it looked even bigger than it had at the inspections.
How was I going to turn something that looked like an auditorium, complete with echo, into a cosy sitting room? Yes, you guessed it! Add a rug, a very big one!
But where would I find one big enough for this room, without paying a fortune for it?
I spent hours browsing online before coming across a traditional design in muted shades of grey, cream and blue which I hoped would form the perfect backdrop for my existing cream sofas. What’s more, the price was very good indeed.
Fast forward to Monday morning, 9am. After a weekend of vacillating, I decided to buy the rug. Call me old-fashioned but I never place an order online when there's a phone number I can ring. At the top of the home page, there was a one-800 number operating ‘24/7’.
The voice that answered my call was bright and cheery:
‘Hi. This is Brad. How may I help you?’
His American accent caught me off-guard. ‘You’re American!’ I said, forgetting my manners.
‘That’s right, ma’am. You’ve just phoned North Carolina.’
‘Oh!’ I gulped. ‘But I’m in Sydney, Australia.’
‘Don’t worry, it’s a free call. We have a lot of Australians buying our rugs.’
I was on the point of thanking him for his time and hanging up. After all, it would be ridiculous to buy a rug from America – the freight alone would cost a fortune.
‘Which rug are you interested in, ma’am?’ Brad continued.
It couldn't hurt to give him the details.
'Yes, we have that rug in stock,' he replied. Then he told me the price - it was the same as the amount which had appeared on the website.
' Is that Australian dollars,or American?' I asked tentatively.
‘That's Australian dollars, ma'am.'
While I was processing that particular piece of information, he added: 'And delivery is free.’
‘Free delivery to Australia!’ I squeaked, having recently paid forty dollars to have a new fridge delivered from twenty kilometres away.
‘Absolutely, ma’am. And it should arrive within ten days.’
The deal was too good to refuse, but a little voice in my head was saying: perhaps it’s too good to be true. Nevertheless, I supplied my details, paid by credit card and was informed that a tracking number and receipt would be zooming their way to me via email.
As soon as I pressed ‘End’, doubts began to fill my head. Would I ever hear from the company again? Did it really sell rugs, or was it simply an elaborate scam set up to snare gullible home decorators like me?
Later that day I happened to mention the internet purchase to a friend when she phoned for a chat.
‘You bought a rug from America!’ she exclaimed.
‘It’s a reputable company,’ I said, trying to convince myself.
‘I hope you haven’t bought yourself a flying carpet,’ she tittered. ‘The kind that flies away and is never seen again.’
Meanwhile an email had pinged into my inbox, containing the tracking number. When I clicked on the link, an official-looking page appeared on the screen, announcing that my rug had left the North Carolina warehouse and was already in a sorting centre in Cincinatti. If this was a scam, they’d gone to a lot of trouble to make it seem authentic.
On Thursday of that same week I checked the tracking info again, expecting the rug to still be in the USA, if indeed it existed at all. But the information on my computer screen indicated differently:
Parcel arrived Sydney Airport 11pm Wednesday.
Parcel cleared Customs 8am Thursday.
Parcel with courier 8.45am Thursday.
Delivery to purchaser by 4pm Thursday.
Impossible! I thought to myself. After all, I’d only ordered the rug on Monday morning.
At 2pm that day, there was a knock on the front door. Outside, a courier was holding what looked like a dead body wrapped in heavy green plastic.
After the courier left, I dragged the ‘body bag’ inside and set to work with a scissors to cut it open. Finally, the rug emerged, rolled up and folded in half, like a sandwich wrap. I tried to unroll it in the hallway but it was too big.
That night my son and I lugged the rug into the living room, where we unfurled it, stood back and surveyed the purchase.
‘What do you think of it?’ I asked him.
‘It’s perfect!’ he replied.
The sitting room with the furniture in place.
When my credit card bill arrived later that month, the first thing I did was to check the amount I’d paid for the rug. It was exactly as specified. No extras, taxes or customs duty.
Lesson learnt: There are still people left in the world you can trust.
Cody gives the rug his seal of approval.
Postscript: Not long after I purchased my rug, the Australian Government decided to introduce GST for overseas internet purchases under $1000. I’d bought the rug just in time.
And some good news – our trusty electrician solved the blackout problem – it turned out that rats (we like to call them native mice) had gnawed through the insulation around an electrical wire running under the house to the garage. The faulty wire has now been replaced and there are no more blackouts.
24 July 2018
Read more about Life at White Gables:
Bayside Library, November 2016
Read my interview for 'Reader's Digest' about the Select Edition version of 'Mr Chen's Emporium' here.
Read my interview about 'The Rarest Thing' with Robin Tennant-Wood in the 'District Bulletin'here (at District Bulletin website).
Please note: This book is no longer in print but is available as an ebook on KOBO.
Read my interview with InkAshlings about 'The Rarest Thing' in which we discuss how being a visual artist creeps into my writing, and I offer some tips for aspiring writers of historical fiction.
Please note: This book is no longer in print but is available as an ebook on KOBO.
Read my interview with Duffy the Writer about 'The Rarest Thing' in which we discuss the pleasures and perils of writing historical fiction, the inspirations for the book and the development of 'real characters' rather than cardboard cut-outs. Just scroll down for the interview.
Please note: This book is no longer in print but is available as an ebook on KOBO.
To coincide with the release of the April 2016 'Reader's Digest' 'Special Editions' in which a condensed version of 'The Trivia Man' appears, I did an interview with RD's Alison Fraser about the inspiration for the novel. Read the interview here.
Freelance writerJ.F.Gibson asked lots of interesting questions about Kevin Dwyer and 'The Trivia Man', plus my top three tips for writers. Here'sthe interview at Jodi's website.
Such a delight to visit bestselling author, Jenn McLeod of 'Seasons of Shadow and Light' fame at her 'Write Round Oz' blog to talk about living in the country, dogs, food and writing, as well as my new book 'The Trivia Man'. Thanks for inviting me to your place, Jenn.
My Top Three Tips for Aspiring Authors
Let me preface this article by saying that I’m always reluctant to give advice because every writer has his or her own approach. Nevertheless, here are some general tips to get you started on your writing journey:
1. Write from the heart.
Don’t be afraid to work from your emotions – you can always edit later, if necessary. Here's what Wordsworth had to say on the subject:
‘Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.’
2. If you really want to be a writer, don’t put it off.
Even though your life might be too busy to contemplate penning a 100,000-word novel, there are other possibilities such as blogs, short stories or even a novella. George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans), who was arguably the greatest Victorian novelist, once said:
‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been.’
And equally, it’s never too early to start!
3. Revise, tweak and polish your manuscript until it shines.
You can never do enough revisions. Don’t consider sending off a manuscript to an agent or a publisher until you know it's the very best version you can produce. A big mistake that first-timers make is to send their manuscript too early – I know because I did it!
Always ensure the ‘infrastructure’ is correct – the grammar, syntax and spelling. Proofread the text thoroughly for mistakes (and don’t just rely on the Spelling and Grammar Tool on your computer).
Reading the manuscript aloud is always helpful in the checking process, not just for spotting typos, but also for checking the flow of the text and identifying clunky language.
I always read the final proof of every novel aloud – it takes about a day but it’s worth the effort because I’ve found mistakes that all of us, the structural editor, line editor, proof-reader and yours truly, have missed in just silently reading the pages.
20 March, 2020
Adapted and expanded from part of an interview I did with the wonderful Jodi Gibson.
Reviews of 'Camille Dupré'
DOWNLOAD THE E-BOOK HERE
‘In this cleverly crafted and meticulously researched novel O’Brien has created a story of survival which demonstrates the power of literature to transcend boundaries of place and time. ‘Camille Dupré’ stimulates the imagination, satisfies the heart and provokes contemplation of a brave new world.’
Chris McGuigan, 'The Kensington Review' Read the entire review here.
‘Even though the book is set during dark times in history, 'Camille Dupré' is filled with light, warmth and love. I loved everything about it, the characters were so real to me and I got such a strong sense of village life, and enjoyed the fact that it was embroidered together with the French proverbs.
A book as special as ‘Camille Dupré’ needs to be read in a walled garden accompanied by a pot of French Earl Grey tea and a massive bunch of Souvenir de la Malmaison roses.'
Michelle Endersby, writer and renowned rose painter
‘. . . the final 150 pages had me reading into the middle of the night because I so wanted to know what was going to happen on the next page. I enjoyed the switching back and forth between time periods and the detail of the lifestyle in France with, of course, the hardship and loss that happened in those terrible times.
The story is a real treasure.’
'A page-turner about the resilience of the human spirit in a world
where friends have become enemies, and ordinary freedoms no longer exist.'
Robyn Goodwin, Author
‘An enchanting story about making it through to the other side . . .
Perfect reading in these coronavirus times.’
'Camille’s story is unique, or is it the story of many? In portraying Camille’s life, O'Brien also paints the picture of many other lives that were, and still are, affected by ongoing wars and displacement, but paradoxically, also hope for the future.'
Jan Dawkins, writer
The ‘Camille Dupré’ Songbook
Charles Trenet, French composer and singer
Whenever I’m writing historical fiction, I try to play the popular music of the period in the background because it evokes the mood of the era better than anything else.
For ‘Mr Chen’s Emporium’, the soundtrack included Strauss waltzes and the work of Stephen Foster (1826 – 1864), including his poignant ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, which became Charles Chen’s theme song.
When I was writing ‘The Rarest Thing’, which is set in 1966, the playlist was the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, the Hollys and the Easybeats, among others. In almost every chapter, there seems to be a Sixties song that defines the heroine Katharine’s state of mind at that particular moment.
‘Camille Dupré’ is set in the 1930s and ’40s, which just happens to be one of my favourite periods in popular music. In 1930s’ France, the vibrant cabaret scene produced many stars including a young Edith Piaf, Tino Rossi, Maurice Chevalier, Jean Sablon, ‘Mireille’ and the amazing Charles Trenet.
But even though the French loved their home-grown stars, they also listened to American songs on the radio, just as they went to see American movies at the cinema. That is, until the Nazis banned American music, particularly ‘Swing’ and jazz, which they considered the most subversive genres. During the Occupation, Camille was one of many who continued to listen to banned radio stations such as Radio Londres.
Here are some of the songs that form the soundtrack to Camille Dupré's story.
In 1930s France, one of the most talented musical stars was Jean Trenet whose double-breasted suit, smart fedora hat and jaunty manner were his trademark. His biggest hit was ‘Boum!’ (1938), a sweet, playful song that compares falling in love to the heart going boom. Although 'Boum!' is filled with joie de vivre, the irony is that Trenet wrote it at a time when the world was heading towards war.
With different lyrics, the song went on to be used by both the occupying Nazis and the Resistance as a rallying song. Trenet, a leftwinger who hated the puppet Vichy regime, refused to socialise with the German officers who attended his concerts.
If you've seen the film 'Amélie' starring the delightful Audrey Tautou, you'll recall 'Boum!' providing the soundtrack to the scenes where the heroine falls in love. The song has also been used in World War II documentaries about Occupied France.
You can see Jean Trenet performing the song on YouTube.
‘Long Ago and Far Away’
This song was composed by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Ira Gershwin – you couldn’t find a more talented duo.
At one point in the novel (I can’t be more specific without giving away too much), Camille finds herself listening to this beautiful and poignant American song. In many ways, it sums up her situation.
You can listen to the original 1944 version by Jo Stafford on YouTube. Since then, the song has been recorded by just about everyone, from Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé to Rod Stewart (who actually does a very good version of it).
‘I’ll Be Seeing You’
Composed in 1938 by Sammy Fain with lyrics by Irving Kahal, this song resonates with yearning for a lost past. It wasn’t until 1944 that it became a hit when it was featured in the film of the same name starring Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotton.
‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’
Created in 1937 by those immensely talented brothers, George and Ira Gershwin, ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’ was sung by Fred Astaire to a tremulous Ginger Rogers in the 1937 film ‘Shall We Dance’. Although Astaire’s dancing was far superior to his singing, his version of this song is absolutely captivating.
22 May, 2020
Writing and Art
‘Florals in Terracotta Urn’. Acrylic gouache and impasto on canvas.
Deborah O’Brien (2001)
I’ve never been sure whether I’m an artist who happens to write, or a writer who also likes to draw and paint. What I do know is there are certain things that inspire me. First and foremost, I adore old buildings. If you’re read any of my books, you’ll know that buildings, their construction and renovation, play a big part, both on the cover and in the text itself.
I’ve written stories and drawn pictures for as long as I can remember, probably from the time I could hold a pencil in my hand. My mother, who was an artist herself, kept all the miniature books I made in primary school and the illustrated magazine I concocted for my dad when he went into hospital for an operation. At school I filled the backs of my exercise books with romantic stories and drawings of the heroines (never the heroes, because I couldn’t draw men). And when it came time to hand in my books for marking, I simply ripped out the offending pages.
When I was about ten years old, I sent a short story to the Sun HeraldJuniors page, accompanied by an illustration. They published it and posted me a money order for the princely sum of two dollars fifty. After that, I submitted articles and drawings on a regular basis and the money orders kept me supplied with Paddle Pops until I was fifteen and too old to be a junior anymore!
Over the years I’ve continued to write and draw. Sometimes it was a job; at other times it was strictly for fun. Fast forward to ten years ago when my mum, who was always my greatest supporter, asked me: ‘When are you going to get around to writing your novel? I’m not getting any younger, you know.’
By then I had abandoned the idea of fiction as a career. But that very evening, fortified by a glass of wine, I sat down at my laptop and began typing a dual narrative whose premise had been living in my imagination for a long time: two women, one Gold Rush town, then and now. I called my story Mr Chen’s Emporium.
When my lovely publisher asked me to do a rough sketch for the cover, I was delighted to be involved, as I was well aware that authors are rarely consulted about cover design, except to approve it. Below is the first rough sketch I produced. When I emailed it to my publisher, she diplomatically suggested that, as the title of the book was Mr Chen's Emporium, the building should really appear on the cover. Hence, the second sketch, which was approved by the powers-that be, and then passed on to the illustrator to finesse.
‘Mr Chen’s Emporium’. Concept sketch – ink and coloured pencils
Mr Chen's Emporium produced two sequels – an historical novel, The Jade Widow,and a modern-day story, A Place of Her Own, about looking for a safe haven when nothing seems safe anymore. I drew pen and ink illustrations for all three books, but apart from concept sketches and hand-drawn lettering for the titles, I left the final covers to the experts.For some reason, my publisher actually preferred my rather wonky lettering to the computer-generated kind and used it on Mr Chen's Emporiumand The Jade Widow.
Rough sketch of the Emporium Hotel for 'The Jade Widow'. It was used inside the book.
An earlier, shorter version of this article appeared on the Australian Rural Romance website 2015