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Hollywood Classics, McCarthyism & Achieving Career Goals: Q&A with Alli Sinclair, Author of The Cinema at Starlight Creek

June 3, 2019

About the author:

Alli Sinclair, an adventurer at heart, has won multiple awards for her writing. She is Australian and has lived in Argentina, Peru and Canada, and has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, worked as a tour guide in South and Central America and has travelled the globe. She enjoys immersing herself in exotic destinations, cultures and languages but Australia has always been close to Alli’s heart. Alli hosts retreats for writers and presents writing workshops around Australia, as well as working in film on international projects. She’s a volunteer role model with Books in Homes and is an ambassador for the Fiji Book Drive. Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds, and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery.

Buy a copy of The Cinema at Starlight Creek here  // Read our review of The Cinema at Starlight Creek here

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The Cinema at Starlight Creek is described as a story of loss, love and new hope set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood and a small Australian country town. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?

The Cinema at Starlight Creek is also a tale about how far we are willing to go to follow our dreams. It’s a celebration about finding the strength within one’s self and digging deep to discover what—and who—really matter in our lives. The characters recognize social injustice and find the courage to fight for the rights of others, including themselves. As we follow the two main characters—Lena Lee in the 1950s Hollywood timeline and Claire Montgomery who is a location manager on a TV series in the 1994 north Queensland—we discover that although these women were born decades apart and live on opposite sides of the world, they face similar struggles and challenges to achieve their career goals, keep their hearts from being broken and be true to themselves and others.

What inspired the idea behind this novel?

I grew up watching Hollywood classic movies and I’ve always wondered how much of what we see on screen and in the media reflects the real life of actors and actresses. The 1950s was the perfect time period to set this story as censorship was rife, McCarthyism scared everyone, and Hollywood was petrified communism had infiltrated their industry and was influencing the general public via communist scriptwriters, actors and directors. Many were accused (often without just cause) of being a communist and were put on the Hollywood Blacklist. Once they were on this list they would never work again.

To contrast Lena Lee’s 1950s story, I set Claire’s story in rural Australia. A small town in northern Queensland is very different to glitzy Hollywood, yet Claire comes up against similar challenges to Lena Lee, highlighting how far, or in some instances, we have come in terms of equality for women.

The book alternates between two very different places and time periods. What was your research and writing process like for the novel?

I adore research and I like to add as many facts as I can so the storyline and characters are authentic. I’ve spent my entire life watching Hollywood classics, documentaries about film stars and directors, and reading biographies, so the 1950s Hollywood storyline and characters came really easily to me when I was writing.

I needed to research working on a TV series for the 1994 storyline and I was lucky enough to spend time on the set of one of Australia’s most popular dramas. The director and producers took me under their wing and showed me the ins and outs, as did the actors and crew in various departments. It was a wonderful opportunity and has since inspired me to write for the screen. As a result, I am now developing a TV drama and two documentaries!

As for the writing of the novel, I have a comprehensive outline and I know exactly where the story will end up and how. I usually write one timeline and then the other, and when I put them together in my manuscript I make adjustments so they weave together seamlessly. Planning is key!

What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?

I try to work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. I do research before I start a book but often I discover I need to extend my research as I start writing the first and second drafts. When I’m on a tight deadline my laptop goes everywhere with me and I’m often found working in the car while the kids are at sports practice. At the moment I’m working on my novel for next year which is set in WWII Brisbane and post-war London. This one is even more research intensive so I constantly have my head in non-fiction books reading up on the eras and topics I’m writing about.

I know you love travel and your books reflect this. Any particular destination you’re yet to add into a book but would love to? And why?

Oh yes, I’d love to write a story set in Berlin. I went there for the first time a couple of years ago for the German release of one of my books. I fell in love with the city and it felt like I was returning home. Berlin is visually stunning and has a complicated history and a very strong artistic bent. The people are lovely and there is so much to love about this city. I love it so much I’m returning there later this year and I’ll be researching an idea I’d like to develop. Who knows where it may lead?


  1. Claire Louisa Holderness

    Great interview 😊

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