WHEN Southland author Lynley Dear was writing her third novel, she didn’t expect to be writing a sequel – however her characters had other plans.
As she neared the end of writing The Hollywood School of Dressmaking (2015), Dear’s characters found themselves “in a spot of bother” leaving town from the Invercargill Railway Station.
“They’re running along the platform and they call out ‘Sydney here we come’.
“I wrote that and I thought ‘oh that’s interesting’. Often the characters tell me what’s going to happen.”
After making that bold declaration, Dear decided to continue the characters’ story in her fourth novel, A Stitch In Time, which was released last month.
Set in 1930, the novel covers the final two years of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which one of the characters became involved with, she said.
“The bridge really almost becomes another character in the book, probably because I became so fascinated with it.”
Dear said New South Wales was hit hard during the Depression era, and many men who worked on the bridge “literally took their lives into their hands”.
During the 1930s-themed book launch, Dear said she screened a short film which had been found in a flea shop in The Rocks, Sydney, and was available online.
“The movie footage was taken at the time of the building, of the men up there swinging on hooks and everything, with the water 400ft below.”
Dear said she was able to spend a bit of time in the city researching the area and its history. She walked over the bridge several times, and walked around The Rocks.
“I basically followed the steps that my characters took.”
She said she was also lucky to be able to go up to the seventh floor at department store David Jones which had expansive views over the area. In the 1930s it had been a restaurant with a capacity of 2000 people.
“They were wonderful… I got to go up there, look out the windows and see what people would have seen from up there.”
The cover design of the novel features a photograph of the incomplete bridge through a window, with a vintage sewing machine in the foreground.
“That bridge was to transform the lives of so many people in Sydney, and the sewing machine actually transforms the life of one of my characters.”
Available from the Southland Museum & Art Gallery and PaperPlus.