‘The Girl Who Stole Stockings’ is the true story of Susannah Noon, a 12-year-old girl who, in 1810, was sentenced to transportation to Australia for seven years. It is the fascinating story of the women on the convict ship, Friends, and Susannah’s eventual life on a whaling station in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds, before the arrival of the country’s first organised colonists.
This book is a unique portrait of early New Zealand life, written in a readable and compelling style, and with wonderful colour photographs.
Here, I interview author, Elsbeth Hardie, about the joy of unraveling historical mysteries and singing like Barbra Streisand. I am incredibly grateful Elsbeth unraveled this particular mystery, because Elsbeth is my aunt, and Susannah Noon my 4x great grandmother.
Available from leading booksellers in New Zealand and Australia. Online orders at www.friendsconvictship.com RRP NZ$39.99
Listen to Elsbeth’s National Radio interview with Kathryn Ryan here.
What do you do for a living?
It’s a bit of a mixed bag. I do some communication work and I write.
Tell me about how you got into this kind of work? Did you study in this field?
I started out as a journalist, then moved into a public relations consultancy and later publishing. I started at university but then did the journalism course at Wellington Polytechnic when I was 19. Later, when I was having a late-30s crisis I finally finished a degree in English Lit and Italian and then did an honours degree in creative writing at Auckland University.
Have you ever had a major career change? What and why?
Every job I have done has involved strategic thinking, communications, and writing, so I guess I have stuck to my knitting though it has produced a lot of different looks.
If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?
I would undertake historical research and write full time. I like solving historical mysteries. But a villa on Lake Como with family and friends is also very appealing.
What did you love doing as a child? And now?
Child: Eating my mother’s tomato sandwiches on the lawn under the elm tree that my father had pruned to form a huge canopy. Making perfume for my cat out of rose petals. Racing around our garden playing cowboys and Indians. Going on family camping trips when the sun would make the canvas tent so hot you had to get out of bed in the morning and start an adventure.
Now: Anything that makes me think, or makes me not think, or makes me laugh.
Who are your heroes / influences?
People who make me think or make me laugh.
Any advice on balancing work and family?
Being able to balance work and family is a luxury for most people and not always obtainable. If you do have the means and people support, cherish it. As to how to do it, I think it is important to be fully present in the task at hand so you can give it your utmost and reap the most benefit.
Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence?
I think I have always been a clear thinker which is probably the result of an equal combination of all of those things.
What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted but still don’t have?
A great singing voice. I’d love to be able to sing like Barbra Streisand. Seriously. Unfortunately, it would require transplant surgery.
What, if anything, would you have done differently in your life?
There are times, when I look back, when I should have been more fully present in the task at hand, mainly in my personal life and personal development. But that would have required a bigger understanding of the ways of the world and that is something only acquired with age.
What is the key to living a happy, fulfilled life?
Being with people and doing things that make you happy.
What does your future look like?
There are lots of writers who have had a big impact on me over the decades: Daphne du Maurier, Evelyn Waugh, John Fowles, JD Salinger, William Thackeray, William Styron, Toni Morrison, Jean Rhys, Patricia Grace, Kate Genville, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Colm Toibin to name a few….no favourite book.
I really like Ed Sheeran and Hugh Laurie’s jazz album at the moment. I’m a Katie Melua/Diana Krall kind of gal.
It’s more a matter of one I can remember! I’ve always liked “Certain shades of limelight can wreck a girl’s complexion”.