Story Ideas and Life Experiences with Barbara Hannay

Wednesday Wanderings with ARR Authors.

Today, bestselling author Barbara Hannay talks about how the idea for
her new release The Secret Years came about.


Author Barbara Hannay

Author Barbara Hannay

The big question most writers are asked is… where do you get your ideas from? And often we find it very hard to answer.

The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

The ideas for our stories seem to arrive out of the blue, as gifts from our muses. But if we’re honest, usually at some point, these ideas have been inspired by our life experiences, by travel, by people we’ve met, paintings we’ve seen, other books we’ve read. And sometimes the ideas sit on the back burner, so to speak, quietly brewing for ages, maybe years, until the time is right.

This is what happened for me with the historical thread of The Secret Years. It was over a decade ago that I first read about the London debutantes, presented to the King in 1939, in what became the last ‘ season’ before World War II was declared.

I was fascinated by the way everything must have changed in a blink for these glamorous girl from wealthy families. One minute they were enjoying the height of luxury and sophistication in Buckingham Palace and London’s best hotels; the next they were plunged into the horror of another war, coming far too soon after the previous war that had devastated their parents’ generation.

I was inspired by how many of these girls threw themselves into the war effort, not only coping with the London Blitz, but learning how to type, or to nurse, or to drive trucks and change tyres. It was out of this fascination that my character George, or rather the Honourable Georgina Lenton was born, and, of course, I had to make her heroic.

BHannay Cornwall post 2

In the contemporary story that comprises the other part of this book, my heroine is a soldier, recently returned from Afghanistan. Having lived for many years in Townsville which has the biggest army base in Australia, I think it was inevitable that I would finally write a character like Lucy.

Mind you, I promptly took her off to Cornwall, another of my great loves. Having revisited Cornwall last year, I couldn’t resist using it as a setting, giving myself free rein to write about stormy sea cliffs and brooding, dark heroes to my heart’s content.

BHAnnay Cornwall post 1

But another character, Lucy’s grandfather Harry, (and the romantic hero for George) was inspired by my Uncle Ralph. He came from a generation who didn’t talk much about the war, but after Ralph died, my father told his story to my husband. Ralph fought in Tobruk, where he rose from a private to a captain in a short amount of time and he was awarded a “rat” badge – made by the men from pieces of scrap metal such as a downed plane and awarded to soldiers they particularly respected. After Tobruk, My uncle came home and was immediately sent to Kokoda. Dad said he would talk about Tobruk, but he would never speak about Kokoda. I think that tells a great deal about the horrors of that particular conflict, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, in The Secret Years, I look at war very much from a woman’s perspective.

And the final very big source of inspiration for me has been beautiful North Queensland. In particular this time, I’ve written about the Gulf country, which I first discovered when my husband and I took our family on an adventurous camping and canoeing trip to Escott Station many years ago.

BHannay Outback Creek post

So yes, my ideas have come from my life, my family, from travel and from other books I’ve read… with a fair splash of my own imagination thrown in. I hope you enjoy the result.

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The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay

From the wild beauty of the Australian bush to England’s rugged south coast, this is a deeply moving story of heartbreak, heroism and homecoming by a beloved, multi-award-winning author.”

When Lucy Hunter stumbles upon her grandfather Harry’s World War II memorabilia, she finds a faded photograph of a stunning young woman known simply as ‘George’ and a series of heartfelt letters. They are clues about the secret years, a period of Lucy’s family history that has been kept a mystery … until now.

How did a cattleman from north Queensland find forbidden love with the Honourable Georgina Lenton of London and persuade her to move to his isolated outback property? And why are the effects of this encounter still reverberating in the lives of Lucy and her mother, Rose, now?

As the passions of the past trickle down the years, three generations of one family pull together. Each must learn in their own way how true love can conquer the greatest challenges of all.

The Secret Years  is available in eBook and paperback from all good retailers.
Amazon Australia

Read more about Barbara and her book on MEET BARBARA HANNAY

Barbara has written many more romance and women’s fiction books. Discover them on her webpage.

Visit Barbara on her website 
Visit Barbara Hannay Author on Facebook 

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2 thoughts on “Story Ideas and Life Experiences with Barbara Hannay

  1. Barbara, I loved The Secret Years! Gobbled it down, so lovely to let myself get swallowed up in another world.:)

    And no wonder your characters were so convincing. My uncle was sent to Kokoda and fought in New Guinea too, and he refused point blank to talk about the war. And he was a giant of a man with a booming voice and great loud laugh. You know it must have been wretched.

    Thanks for your gorgeous book!


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