The Wideawake Hat The Applecross Saga Book 1 by Amanda Giorgis Genre: Historical New Zealand Fiction
From the Scottish Highlands to the South Island of New Zealand, life was harsh for the early pioneers who ventured into a new land far across the seas where opportunity beckoned for those who could endure the hardships.
On Boxing Day, 1848 Sophia steps ashore with her new husband, George, and begins her perilous journey inland to seek a place to call home. Her hope for the child she carries to be born in a house that they build together does indeed come true. And Sophia and George are joined by other young folk who form a small but growing community of fellow pioneers banding together to forge a life in this land of promise. However, not all pioneers are honest and true, as Sophia discovers to her cost. When tragedy strikes, an enigmatic Scottish shepherd steps in to help our family and Sophia’s life takes an unexpected turn.
James Mackenzie is not a character of fiction. There is no doubt he existed. In fact, the high plateau where Sophia settled now bears his name. But the tales that surround his conviction and imprisonment for sheep rustling are shrouded in mystery. No-one knows what became of him for sure, though stories abound. Along with his clever and faithful collie dog Friday, his exploits have become legends. Perhaps there is more to tell of James Mackenzie and his influence on the remotely beautiful high country, surrounded by snow-capped mountains…
Following on from the success of The Wideawake Hat, Shepherd’s Delight is the second book in the spellbinding Applecross Saga by Amanda Giorgis.
A fictional tale, set against the stunning scenery of New Zealand’s Mackenzie Basin, using true historical events surrounding the European settlers in South Canterbury in the late 1800s.
Someone is looking for James Mackenzie. Our hero is beset by dark thoughts. Worried that his past deception may catch up with him, and depressed by the death of his first true son. But, through thick and thin, his wife Sophia sees the good in everything and everyone, and together they are making a success of their lives at Applecross station.
Visitors come and go, some becoming welcome additions to their circle of friends, and some who give more pleasure when they leave. But, the final and unexpected guest, someone who has been searching for James Mackenzie for a very long time, will be the one who changes things forever.
Eligible, handsome, witty and charming, Guy Pender is looking for a purpose in life, maybe even a wife to join him in his desire to return to New Zealand, where he hopes to be reunited with his friends at Applecross Station. His experience of romantic love, so far, has been one of misunderstood passion from an unexpected quarter.
It is 1867, and he finds himself biding his time in Switzerland, taking portrait photographs of the wealthy folk of Zurich, whilst sorting out his much loved aunt’s estate, to which he is the sole heir. He is lonely and homesick for his friends on the other side of the world. Suddenly, a strikingly beautiful woman, Amelie Von Truber, comes into his studio and from that moment on nothing is the same. Their future together seems impossible as Amelie is betrothed to the black-hearted Tobias Linburg, heir to a powerful business empire.
Life could not be more complicated, Amelie and Guy’s future together looks impossible, but apart, their prospects look grim. Join us in this sweeping tale to see if they can find a way through the web of intrigue, dishonesty and revenge to build a future together in a foreign land.
Three cedar trees grow beside the Applecross homestead in New Zealand’s South Island. Precious trees, carried from Scotland across the world as seedlings. A poignant reminder of home. As they mature, so too do Freddie, the eldest son of Sophia Mackenzie, and Ben and Ed, twin sons of Nancy Lawton.
To Atewhai, the wise old Maori woman, the growth of the saplings into mature trees is matched by the passage of the boys into manhood. Will Sophia and Nancy allow their sons to strike out into the world, or will they hold them back with their roots set firmly in the farm soil?
And, when one of the precious cedar trees is damaged in a storm, does it foretell of tragedy involving one of the boys? Atewhai certainly thinks so……
Join us as our settlers embrace the late 1860s, a period of rapid change in New Zealand. Railways, improved roads and better communications are beginning to open up this remote and spectacular corner of the world to visitors. Some fall in love and find it hard to leave the basin, while others are torn between love and a desire to be involved in this exciting period of progress. Who will stay, and who will leave for ever?
Three Cedar Trees is the 4th book in The Applecross Saga.
Amanda Giorgis is the creator of the fictional Applecross sheep station in New Zealand's beautiful Mackenzie Basin. Here you will meet Sophia, who settled in New Zealand with her husband, George in the early 1850s. After George's tragic death, Sophia marries James Mackenzie and the couple build their home together in the Basin. James is not a character of fiction, though the stories that are woven around Applecross are not necessarily how things turned out in real life for the man who was convicted of sheep rustling and later pardoned for his crimes. The truth is, nobody knows what really became of him.
Amanda likes to weave well-researched, true historical facts into her stories while building credible and likeable characters amongst the ordinary folk of rural New Zealand in the late 1800s. She would love you to join her in their adventures, triumphs and tragedies.
Oh, and did we mention dogs? The collies who worked so hard on high country farms feature in our stories too. Meet Friday, James' favourite collie and all her descendants. They deserve their fame too!
Amanda was born in Somerset, England. She emigrated to New Zealand in 2008 and now writes while looking out onto the flat plains with snow-capped mountains beyond. It is a place where it is easy to find inspiration for stories of early pioneers, who made this unique place their home.
She shares her home with her husband, Terry and three rescued huntaway dogs, Nemo, Jess and Ted, some chickens, who are more ornamental than productive, ten acres of wild garden and the dark skies of the Southern Hemisphere.
When not writing, Amanda rings church bells and enjoys photography, gardening and finding out about her family history. On lazy days, when not reading a book, she gets the knitting needles out.
What inspired you to write this series of books? There’s always been a book inside me, but it has taken many years to come out onto paper. It all began in early 2018 when we lived in the Mackenzie Basin in New Zealand’s South Island and a good friend from England came to stay. She had done some reading about the place and become intrigued by the true story of James Mackenzie who allegedly stole some sheep, was put in prison for the crime and then pardoned.
One bright, sunny day I took Heather to the site of the Mackenzie monument, high on a hillside overlooking the flat plains of the Mackenzie Basin with the snowcapped moutains of the Southern Alps beyond. It is a magnificent setting, and we had the place to ourselves, eating a picnic lunch by the stream and wandering along a disused track. We came across a ruined building with three huge cedar trees growing alongside.
We wondered who had lived there, what had become of them and why the place was now deserted. As these things do between friends, a story developed as we continued our walk, on the drive home and over a glass of wine that evening. We did some more research into James’ story but Heather returned to England soon afterwards. However, the seed of an idea grew in my head and became the first book in the Applecross series, The Wideawake Hat. We had read that, on the night of James’ capture for a crime he had not committed, three pairs of footprints were found in the soft ground. I wondered who the other two people may have been. Hence Sophia and her son, Freddie were invented and the story of Sophia’s journey from Scotland was born. When I owned up to Heather that I had started writing, her emailed response began :-
“Dear auspicious, yet to recognised, exceptional author, teller of tales and conveyer of myths. I love it!……” As a lover of dogs, and in particular working dogs, I was intrigued by the story of James’ collie Friday, who, it is said, could keep a whole flock of sheep under control single-pawed and without the need of a command. So Friday was included in the story too, and her heritage is the many dogs who helped to make sheep farming flourish in the late 1800s. Roy, Blue, May, Peg and Leda continue to play their part in my stories and there is no doubt there will be more doggy tales to come in subsequent books.
What can we expect from you in the future? I promised the world a 12 book saga series with my characters moving from the mid 1850s to the exciting times of the early twentieth century. I love historical fiction, but there’s a few ideas in my head about bringing things a bit more up-to-date too. Maybe the same setting, just a different era. We will see!
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? James Mackenzie is not a character of fiction. He really did exist, and the story of him being accused of stealing sheep is true. As these things do, his story has grown into legend and the pioneering folk of the area admired his somewhat outlawish exploits so much that he has inspired stories, poems and songs. The Mackenzie Basin, a beautiful part of New Zealand’s South Island, is named after him. Nobody really knows what became of him after his release from prison, although legend has it that he went to Australia. Of course, those of us who have read The Wideawake Hat know different, don’t we?
Where did you come up with the names in the story? I have been researching my own family history, so I started with a list of all my own ancestors who would have been alive in the second half of the 19th century and mixed their first names and surnames up a bit. But I did leave Elizabeth and Joseph out because I always find them so difficult to type.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? I get great pleasure from creating believable characters. They become real to me, almost as if they are alive today and living in my house. I have been known to say, “Would Sophia get her washing dry on a day like today?” or “James would not approve of that.” And any sheepdog we meet is now called a ‘Friday dog’. I really enjoy it when a character who may not have a big role in the story kind of grows into somebody more important. That happened with Guy Pender, the photographer - he ended up having a whole book all to himself, and I think I may be a little bit in love with him now. In the latest book, Three Cedar Trees, young Jakob was not supposed to be a big part of the story, but I really enjoyed making his character develop.
Tell us about your main characters - what makes them tick? Sophia Mackenzie is our female protagonist. She is wise, sensible, practical and tends to see the good in everyone and everything. She’s the kind of character you would like as your neighbour. You know the sort of person who always has a kind word and fresh baking on offer! Her husband James is an enigmatic character, quite used to spending time on his own (apart from a faithful sheepdog or two). He is a man of few words but many actions. Picture a tall, broad shouldered Scottish farmer, with red hair and weather-beaten features and you won’t be too far away from my image of James Mackenzie.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel? When the real James Mackenzie escaped from prison the local constable posted a ‘wanted’ poster with a description of the escapee. He was described as wearing ‘a brown wideawake hat, cloth waistcoat, check shirt, marked with a broad arrow, and numbered, corderoy trousers, a pair of worsted socks, no boots or shoes.’ Who can go past a word like ‘wideawake’ without wondering what it looked like? So The Wideawake Hat seemed like a great title for a book.
Who designed your book covers? In an amateur way I enjoy photography, so I began with covers made from some of my own photographs taken in the Mackenzie Basin. ‘Shepherd’s Delight’ began life with a cover photo of the Southern Lights taken from my own front doorstep, a photo of which I am very proud. I still use photos for the printed paperback copies, but I have now gone a bit more abstract for ebook thumbnail images.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book? I am trying to include some Māori influences in my books these days. I don’t want the stories to concentrate entirely on the European settlers, even though they were a major influence in New Zealand in the late 1800s. I am really enjoying learning about the Māori people’s connection with the natural world and their understanding of nature’s influence in our lives.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead? I always thought Sam Neill would make a wonderful James Mackenzie. Sadly he may now be a little bit too old, so we may need him for James’ father instead. The obvious choice is Sam Heughan who plays Jamie in The Outlander series. Sophia is a wee bit harder to cast. I think it would be good to find an up and coming kiwi actress, perhaps unknown at this stage.
What is your favorite part of the latest book and why? Sometimes a paragraph just pops out at you and sticks in your mind. In the latest book, Three Cedar Trees, Jakob is so hungry that he steals a loaf from Samuel’s kitchen. He has heard that thieves are punished by having their hands cut off, but he hopes for some clemency if that should be his fate. He has a nasty broken finger after falling into a swollen river, so he hopes they will cut that particular hand off in order to stop his pain!
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? Oh goodness, a day with the lovely Guy Pender would be a real treat. He’s such a handsome gentleman. We could take a walk in the mountains together with our cameras.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read. I can only say that people who have read the first book, The Wideawake Hat, seem to get hooked and beg me for more. Immerse yourself in a story of early settlers in a foreign land with all sorts of trials and triumphs along the way. Learn some history, soak up the scenery and fall in love with the characters. What more could you need?
What did you edit outof a book? In the third book, Guy Pender, I was determined that Guy would wait until the day of Amelie’s wedding to Tobias before whisking her away from her evil suitor. Although it would have been exciting for such an event to happen, I was persuaded that Guy was too much of a gentleman to allow such an upset to Amelie and her family, so he had to find another way to rescue her.
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