What I Learned About Life from a 1947 Interior Design Book

'Ugly Inefficient Table vs Simple Efficient Table' from D. E. Barry's Martin's Modern Decoration and Furnishing (1947, Reed NZ)

‘Ugly Inefficient Table vs Simple Efficient Table’ from D. E. Barry’s Martin’s Modern Decoration and Furnishing (1947, Reed NZ, page 32)

Throughout the journey of researching and writing my novel, I have been fascinated, countless times, by the life lessons I uncover—or that uncover themselves to me—in the unlikeliest of places. My latest is the bizarre and fabulous advice of New Zealand’s 1940s design and style guru, architect D. E. Barry Martin (I discovered him while trying to figure out what the inside of Evelyn’s home would have looked like). Hiding within the pages of his quaint tome Modern Decoration and Furnishing: Complete Guide to Planning and Buying for All Interiors (1947, Reed NZ) are the answers to creating a peaceful New Age.

Continue reading

U.S. Soldiers’ Camp at Auckland’s Victoria Park, 1944

U.S. Camp, Victoria Park (approx. 1944). From the Ministry of Works WWII report, held at Auckland Museum.

One of the only two photos I have ever seen of the U.S. Camp at Victoria Park (approx. 1944). From the Ministry of Works WWII report, held at Auckland Museum.

One of the settings in my book is Victoria Park (Auckland, New Zealand) during World War II. Now a peaceful green-space for Aucklanders to enjoy, back in 1942 it was developed for the U.S. Marines who had arrived to protect us from a possible Japanese invasion (and for R & R after the terror of Pacific battles e.g. Guadalcanal). Towards the end of the U.S. presence in New Zealand (most U.S troops had departed by mid-1944), the camp was taken over by the U.S. Army.  Continue reading

Trams, Trumpets and Trenches: Historical Novel Research

Scroll down—my first poll! 

I’ve been writing my book since February. But I’d been researching for a year before that. You know how it goes—research is a great way to distract from getting actual words on a page. To tear myself away from such fascinating capillaries of (never ending) research and get my butt in the chair and actually write, was difficult at first. Looking back from the half-way point, I know now I researched too long and too deeply. But I have no regrets—I’ll know for next time, and some of the conversations I’ve had along the way have blown my mind.

People’s generousness and willingness to help is overwhelming: I’ve talked for hours to the 90-year-old Kiwi wife of a Connecticut trumpeter based in Auckland in 1944 (incredible); I’ve had help from experts on war, adoption, jazz, the recording industry, Hawaiian music, local history, dance, military uniforms and, most recently, experts on Auckland’s transport history.

Thanks Georgina White and Sean Millar

Thanks Georgina White and Sean Millar









I could even consider myself a fledgling expert on the social and cultural implications of New Zealand’s hosting of between 15,000 and 45,000 United States servicemen at any one time during WW2, while New Zealand men were fighting overseas.

Continue reading