9 October 2020

Special Guest Interview with Jacqui Hodder, Author of The Sentinel


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?

I'm pleased to welcome author Jacqui Hodder to The Writing Desk to talk about writing her debut novel

Tell us about your latest book 

I've just written an historical fiction novel set in 1880, in a lighthouse off the coast of Victoria, Australia. The story follows Kathleen Devine who is writing a letter home to her father detailing the events which have led to a terrible tragedy. Here's the blurb from the book:

Escaping from a failed 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?

What is your preferred writing routine? 

It's really about snatching moments of time when I can.  When I researched and wrote The Sentinel (it took almost 4 years), I spent every Saturday visiting the State Library of Victoria as well as my local library - both contained a wealth of information. For instance, the State Library had the original journals of Henry Bayles Ford who was lighthouse keeper for nearly 30 years at Cape Otway in South West Victoria. I wrote about my experience of opening the journals for the first time in a blog I did but it was so special - the closest thing to a time machine! When at my peak of writing I aim for 1000 words per day (they may not be the best but at least they're down 'on paper' - ie. written).

What advice do you have for new writers? 

Writing is such a personal thing and you really have to do it for the love - not for the money or success. My advice is to always come back to the initial spark that led you to write - and always remember the joy to be had by creating.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books? 

For my debut novel, I've done lots of research but I think the best thing I did was to hire a friend who is a marketing guru. She did a social media audit and gave me strong recommendations and advice on how best to raise awareness of my book. I also did the Amazon Kindle deals and signed up to be a Goodreads author.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research 

The best piece of research I uncovered was when I read Henry Bayles Ford's journal and discovered a whole section detailing the conflicts that occurred between the three keepers. It was hard to decipher some of Ford's writing as it was written in very flowery lettering but what I could decipher gave me so much information about how easily relationships between the keepers could break down, about their daily chores and the conflict that occurs when some keepers did not pull their weight. This was exactly what I was looking for in thinking through my antagonist's character development.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing? 

Without giving away spoilers, I think the ending. I organised a manuscript assessment for 'The Sentinel' through Writer's Victoria and one piece of advice I received was to try to shorten the ending as it had taken up almost a third of the book. I think the revisions I made helped make the novel tighter but it was hard to do that and try to maintain the climatic events.

What are you planning to write next? 

I'm publishing a middle-grade novel next. My next historical fiction novel is a futuristic memoir set in Australia and the UK - working title is: My Australian Conceit - we'll see how we go :-)

Jacqui Hodder


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About the Author

Jacqueline Hodder is a writer, blogger, teacher and reader based in Melbourne, Australia. She's happily married to an incredibly supportive man, proud mother to a daughter and a son and co-caretaker to a gaggle of pets including three ducks, a dog and a cat. She has 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. Find out more at Jacqui's website https://jacquelinehodder.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @HodderJacqui

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