Author name: Jacqueline Hodder
Book title: The Sentinel
Genre: Historical fiction
Launch date: 3 October 2020
Escaping from a disastrous relationship, Kathleen Devine flees to an isolated lighthouse off the Victorian coastline. Taking up the position of Head Teacher to the lighthouse keepers’ children, she is ensnared in the lives of those marooned on the lonely outpost and soon realises no-one can escape their past. When the fearsome Head Lightkeeper, Mr Johannsson forms an unlikely friendship with the daughter of one of the keepers, it threatens to destroy their fragile peace. Can Kathleen find the strength to survive and answer the question that haunts them all: what happened to Isabella and why?
Everyone has a past they are trying to deal with.
Let's talk about it
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
I discovered a love for Flamenco dancing after watching ‘Strictly Ballroom’.
Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?
As this novel was sparked from a visit to Wilson’s Promontory lighthouse in Victoria, the first question I wanted to answer was ‘why did the Head Teacher leave after only 2 months?’ I knew I wanted to explore the claustrophobic nature of isolation and the character of a man who seems aloof and unforgiving but I also needed my main character, Kathleen Devine to have a past she was escaping from to drive her to take up the position of teacher in the first place. I wanted to explore Mr Johannsson’s relationship to God and the nature of duty but some themes came later, such as the nature of friendship.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
It was so hard. I’ve wanted to write forever but I don’t think I’ve ever persisted so much as with this book. I loved doing the research into lighthouse keeper life and late Victorian Melbourne but the actual process of refining the novel into a shape I’m happy with took years. The main obstacle has been my confidence in my own ability but both a beta reader and a manuscript assessment through Writer’s Victoria gave me so much encouragement to continue. I am so glad I did. I’m very proud of the book.
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
No – it’s the first time I’ve written an historical fiction novel but I loved the researching and ability to step back in time. I like to write a variety of different works. I’m working on a middle grade speculative fiction novel at the moment and have in mind a futuristic memoir to come.
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
My habits are a bit hit and miss. I work full time so I need to fit my writing around that. I’m fortunate to have school holidays and my children are grown so I can spend a lot of time in one hit on a novel. Idiosyncrasies: I think I have a very convoluted style. I wish I could plan more but when I do plan I find things change in the writing and so the plan comes to nothing. I wish my process was more straightforward because I don’t think it’s very efficient.
What would you do differently next time?
I think, as above, I would try to plot and plan more solidly so I can try to identify plot holes earlier instead of trying to fix them later.
With hindsight, what would you say to yourself as a fledgling writer?
Understand what it actually takes to write a book but don’t let that put you off. Don’t let rejections define you or your writing. Understand the difference between the editor in your head, and the writer – and that your early drafts are going to sound poor – but that they are not the end of the process but part of it.
If you worked with a professional editor, what was the experience like?
It was so encouraging. My editor at Writer’s Victoria really liked what I was trying to do and his/her encouragement really helped me refine what I was doing.
What’s next for your writing?
‘The Cloud Captains’ – a speculative middle grade fiction novel set in ‘elsewhere’ where water resources are critical. And a memoir, two YA novels and a futuristic memoir. Oh, I just so need TIME right now!
Jacqueline Hodder is a writer, blogger, teacher and reader based in Melbourne, Australia. She’s been writing since she was a child. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing (University of Canberra) after winning the Mary Grant Bruce Short Story Award for Children’s Literature. She has worked in many different industries but writing has always been her first love. Jacqueline loves transporting her readers into the past and showing them the intricacies of life in bygone times. Her meticulous research and in-depth character studies bring realism to the worlds she portrays and make her stories a joy to read.