12 March 2021

Special Guest Post by Lelita Baldock: The Inspiration behind Widow’s Lace

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A hundred year old mystery, the widow left behind, a fallen soldier, the abandoned fiancée, an unnamed body and the young student determined to find the truth. In 1886 famous English poet Edward Barrington moves from Derbyshire, England to a farm on the Finniss River, in South Australia. Two years later he disappears.

My writing is always inspired by settings. I love to travel and experience new places and cultures. It is when I am out of my normal routine that the creative part of my mind becomes most active. So it will come as no surprise to hear that the inspiration for the story that would become Widow’s Lace came to me on a family holiday. I didn’t know it then, but such bursts of creativity would become the backbone of how I generate new ideas and plot lines.

The year was 2004, I was 22 years old and studying English Literature at the University of Adelaide, enjoying a course I was particularly drawn to: American Gothic. It was the first time I had really read any cannon Gothic Literature. I loved it. As a result I had begun my own private journey into gothic in general, reading Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson. Overtime I ventured into Australian Gothic and more modern stories. I loved the concepts of isolation and oppressive space that recurred particularly strongly in Australian Gothic, think The Secret River by Kate Grenville, or The Dry by Jane Harper.

During a semester break my family and I went on a holiday to the town of Goolwa, some 50 miles out from Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia and my hometown. My father is a keen sailor, so we took a day trip along the Finniss River, a tributary river of the Murray River, which is part of one of the largest river systems in Australia, the Murray-Darling. 

Sailing on the Finniss River. (Photo Credit: Lelita Baldock)

It was there, bobbing on the quiet and remote waterway, surrounded by green rolling hills and gum trees, listening to the buzzing of insects as they searched for food amongst the reeds, that the first seeds of a story were planted.

Watching the riverbank as we passed, I saw a small sandstone homestead, complete with outhouses and sheds. We judged the buildings to be from the late 1800s. The property was old and run down, but also majestic and wistful. I started wondering who would have lived out here so long ago, and why?

Homestead on the Finniss River. (Photo Credit: Lelita Baldock)

Likely inspired by the novels I was reading, I imagined a woman dressed in a flimsy, white dress standing alone on the bank, calling out, her voice echoing through the reeds. 

Over the next few months the image kept popping into my mind, and I found myself daydreaming, piecing together a series of events that would lead to a woman living alone on the banks of the Finniss River. And just like that, the basis for the novel that would become Widow’s Lace was born.

The novel itself took many years to write. It was my first attempt at writing, and while I had studied the works of others I had never written myself. But it was a journey I thoroughly enjoyed. By 2010 I had completed the first draft, but life happened, as it does, and the manuscript was put away for eight years while I moved to the United Kingdom with my husband Ryan and travelled through Europe. 

In hindsight, though unintentional, this break from the story was the best thing I could have done. During those eight years I learnt so much more about myself as a person and as a writer. I read widely and enjoyed composing short stories and poems as a way to practice using words effectively. I also experienced many more places and found locations that were perfect to enrich the backstory of my main characters, expanding the scope of Widow’s Lace.

In 2018 Ryan and I settled in Surrey, where we currently reside. We were both ready for a change in direction with our lives, wanting to get back into our passion-projects and feel like we were getting more out of life. So naturally, I picked up my manuscript again. Taking my original story of an English poet who moves to remote South Australia in 1886 and then disappears, I drew on the various parts of England I had explored in the intervening years and developed the linking characters who investigate his disappearance 130 years later. By mid-2019 my manuscript was ready, and Widow’s Lace was published in March 2020.

It was a long journey writing Widow’s Lace, but I think an essential one. I always believed in the basis of the story: a 100 year old mystery about a man who disappeared, and a body found by the Finniss River, but I needed time to find the threads that would pull it all together, and the locations that matched. 

Without a doubt, my writing is inspired by experiences, in travel and connections with people. Since completing Widow’s Lace I have mapped out a further four novel ideas, one of which, The Unsound Sister, has been published, and I am throughly enjoying developing these ideas and bringing them to life.

I still have much to learn. To be honest, I doubt you ever stop learning about writing. But that in itself excites me. I am loving the process of being creative and finding ways to make it a bigger part of my life. I look forward to many more adventures and discovering new ideas, characters and stories that I can shape into a novel and share with anyone who would like to read them.

Lelita Baldock

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About the Author

Lelita Baldock was born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, and holds a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and History from the University of Adelaide and a Bachelor of Education from The University of South Australia. During her twenties she worked as an English teacher in both Australia and the United Kingdom, working with the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Now Lelita and her husband run a web development business, and she makes time for writing after hours and on weekends. It can mean long days and late nights, but she doesn’t mind, stories are her passion. Lelita currently resides in the United Kingdom with her husband Ryan and beloved rescue-cat, Jasmine. Find out more at Lelita's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @BaldockLelita

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