It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Australian writer, Lorraine Campbell, to my blog today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of her third novel, The Butterfly Enigma, which was released on the 8th December.
Lorraine is a licensed shorthand writer who worked for seventeen years as a court reporter with the Victorian Government Reporting Service, providing verbatim transcripts of Supreme Court criminal trials and in other jurisdictions. She has also been a freelance court reporter in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
She has an Arts Degree from Monash University, majoring in Philosophy and English Literature, and has studied French and German for a number of years.
Her previous novels are Resisting the Enemy and In Mortal Danger and she has had articles published in On Line Opinion, News.com.au, and Girl.com.au.
A resident of Melbourne’s bayside, Lorraine adores the opera, theatre and movies. She also likes to keep fit and runs every morning along the beach and in the local parks. What she really enjoys most is lying on a chaise longue, popping chocs and reading crime thrillers – or absolutely anything by Alan Furst.
Please feel free to pull up a stump and get to know Lorraine a bit more.
Before I continue though, I’d just like to thank JAM PR, for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and making this interview possible.
Lorraine, it’s really great to have you here to celebrate the release of The Butterfly Enigma.
Thank you so much. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here with you.
Please share a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an author.
From my earliest childhood, I’ve been an avid reader. Books have always been an important part of my life. But it was only when I went back to University and did an Arts degree – having to write long essays on all manner of subjects – that I discovered my love of writing. But, of course, I didn’t just suddenly emerge fully formed as a writer. It takes a long time to learn the craft of writing. The other day I came across an early draft of my first book. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! The stilted dialogue, the clichés, the overblown descriptions… But it showed me just how far I had come since those early days.
I recently finished reading The Butterfly Enigma but for those who are wanting to purchase it, would you mind giving us a breakdown?
Essentially, it’s about one young woman’s desire to unlock the secrets of her past and her quest for justice and retribution. As a young child, Lena is found wandering the streets of wartime Paris. No-one knows her name or where she comes from. Australia in the “Swinging Sixties” Lena is working in the Law Courts. One day she hears a man’s voice. A voice that sounds hauntingly familiar. A voice that chills her to the core. Is it possible that this man has something to do with her unknowable past? Lena embarks on a search for more. And slowly, layer by layer, the past is peeled away, revealing a picture of evil involving thousands of lives and touching on Lena’s own personal tragedy.
Being a former Barristers’ secretary, I was absolutely fascinated by your main character, Lena and her environment. Can you give us some more insight into her and the world she inhabits?
The world Lena finds herself inhabiting is one that most members of the public never get to see. Working as a court reporter in the criminal jurisdiction, it comes as a shock to be confronted with the dark and violent underside of society. But in time, like all those who work in the criminal courts – judges, barristers, police, court staff – Lena acquires the ability to deal with all the sordidness and violence in a matter-of-fact-way. After all, she has a job to do. Providing a verbatim transcript of court proceedings requires intense focus and concentration.
Considering the subject matter contained within the gorgeous cover, what kind of research did you need to carry out for this novel?
First and foremost, I needed to know all the details of the post war DP scheme – the Displaced Persons Immigration Scheme– whereby Australia agreed to accept refugees from Eastern and Central Europe. How it came about that so many Nazi war criminals slipped through the immigration net. And then later on, of course, why successive governments did nothing about it. One of my most important reference books was the densely documented 650-page tome by Mark Aarons – War Criminals Welcome. If you read this book, you will never be the same again. It was after reading this book that I knew I had to write about this shameful part of Australia’s history.
Having regard to your past novels, are there certain characters you would like to revisit or is there another theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Well, Lena was a minor character who appeared in Book 2 of my Resisting the Enemy series. Although The Butterfly Enigma is a stand-alone book, I really enjoyed having that connection with my previous books. So I’m thinking for my next book, I might do that again. There are certainly a couple of characters in The Butterfly Enigma that I would really like to revisit.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Everything, really. Every day, sitting down at the computer and starting to write, presents a new challenge for me. Some days the writing flows freely and you lose all sense of time. Other days you can get bogged down for hours, trying to get one sentence right. It’s like that wonderful quote of Oscar Wilde “I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”
Do you as a writer have a motto or maxim? What is it?
Never give up. When you start writing a book, you really don’t know what you’re getting into. To do it well requires an enormous amount of time and effort. If you’re really serious about being a writer, then you just have to keep trying and believing and writing, long after any sane person would have given up.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Not every character requires a detailed backstory.
Any tips on how to get through that dreaded Writers’ Block?
Go for a long, long walk, preferably along the beach. There’s something about the salty sea air that lifts your spirits. If not, then in a park somewhere. Exercising the body seems to have the effect of allowing your thoughts to run free.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer it?
I’ve always wanted to be asked about how I name my characters. For me this is one of the most important – and fun – aspects of writing a novel. I like to use names that are distinctive. Not too weird, though, or impossible to pronounce. And I try not to use names using the same first letter, or have the same ‘tone.’
I read a book recently that had a Zack and a Zeke. Too confusing. Often it takes me a while to get my characters’ names just right. But you can’t leave it too long. I was some way into the first draft of Resisting the Enemy when I decided to change the name of one of my characters: Marguerite to Jacqueline. It was impossible to do. Marguerite was already fixed in my brain as a living, breathing person. There are also names I’ve used that have a special meaning for me. Like a man I was once madly in love with – a love that remained forever unrequited. Pathetic, I know, but I still get a buzz out of seeing his name there.
Lorraine it’s been fantastic having you here today and I wish you all the best of luck with your novel. Before you go though, would you mind sharing with us an excerpt from The Butterfly Enigma?
Not at all. It would be my pleasure. This excerpt is from the first chapter.
‘How long before we reach the Crozon Peninsula?’‘About another hour, all going well. We’ll anchor offshore. Take you and your daughter in by rowboat. There’s an inlet, not far from a small fishing village called Camaret-sur-mer.’The woman looked up at him and smiled hesitantly. ‘Please… at least take the butterfly necklace. I know it’s the one that really caught your eye.’‘We’ve been paid enough for your passage,’ Valdéz said gruffly. Where you’re going, you’ll need all your resources.’They stood there in silence, leaning against the rail. The only sounds were the creaking of derricks and the steady beat of engines as they steamed across a silent sea.Valdéz turned his head slightly and observed the woman’s profile. The wind was riffling her long black hair, lifting it up, exposing the nape of her neck. How come he had once thought her merely attractive? She was really quite beautiful. He wanted to reach out and touch her. Try to convince her once more to stay with the ship until they reached Lisbon. The thought of her and the child roaming around the French countryside, alone in hostile territory, filled his heart with dread.He stared down at the grey waters of the Atlantic. It was no use. By now he knew her well enough. His entreaties would fall on deaf ears. He was about to check his watch when he caught a whiff of diesel fumes. Heard the low rumble of engines. He put a hand on the woman’s forearm.She turned to him. ‘What is it, what’s the matter?’ Her voice was anxious.Valdéz strained his eyes into the darkness. Powerful engines running on diesel. No visible outline against the skyline. Could only be one thing.He tightened his grip on the woman’s arm. ‘Get down below… no, wait!’ He pushed her towards one of the huge ventilator fans. ‘Behind here.’ ‘If they took a torpedo, she’d have a better chance here on deck.Mr Maqueda, the first officer, came clattering down the steel steps from the bridge.‘Do you see it?’ he called excitedly. ‘It’s out there somewhere, following us.’The two men stood at the rail, peering into the gloom. Then suddenly they saw it: an ominous grey shape, low in the water, just beyond their running lights. Moments later the submarine loomed up alongside them.
Lena, the lost child…
Found wandering the streets of wartime Paris. No-one knows her real name or where she came from.
Australia in the ‘Swinging Sixties’.
Lena is working in the Melbourne Law Courts. One day in court she hears a man’s voice. A voice that sounds hauntingly familiar. A voice that sends icy chills down her spine. Is it possible that this man has something to do with her unknowable past?
Lena embarks on a search for more. A newspaper story. A history. A connection. And slowly, layer by layer, the past is peeled away, revealing a picture of evil involving thousands of lives and touching on Lena’s own personal tragedy.
The Butterfly Enigma ranges from the submarine-patrolled sea lanes of the Baltic to the courtrooms of mid-sixties Australia, to the island of Crete, to Paris, Tel Aviv, and Rio de Janeiro. A gripping story of one young woman’s search for her lost past. Above all, her passionate and overwhelming desire for justice and retribution.
The Butterfly Enigma can be purchased from the following links: