5 Quick Questions with The Cartographer’s Secret Author, Tea Cooper

5 Quick Questions with The Cartographer’s Secret Author, Tea Cooper

Briefly tell us about your book.

The Cartographer’s Secret tells the story of a young woman’s quest to heal a family rift. When she discovers an intricately illustrated map she becomes entangled in one of Australia’s greatest historical puzzles—the disappearance of Ludwig Leichhardt.

What inspired the idea behind this book?

Two things inspired the story of The Cartographer’s Secret.

I’ve always had a fascination with maps, especially those drawn by the Dutch cartographers in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. When I discovered that most these map makers were women whose work was signed by their employer (usually their husband) I decided I wanted to write a story about a female cartographer who was given credit for her own map.

The idea became a reality when I came across Leichhardt’s map of his expedition to Port Essington. I couldn’t understand why a map of Queensland would be in a tiny little museum in the Hunter Valley. I discovered some of the early settlers in the Hunter had financially backed Leichhardt’s expedition and that he had spent time in the local area.

So, two relatively random facts were woven together and The Cartographer’s Secret was born.

What was the research process like for the book?

The research for The Cartographer’s Secret was something of an ordeal. At several moments (no, a lot more than several) I decided I’d bitten off more than I could chew. I like to find a gap in history that I can fictionalise but so much has been written about Ludwig Leichhardt and so many theories put forward about his disappearance all the gaps appeared to have been filled. It wasn’t until I stumbled on the story of Andrew Hume, the most amazing character whose claim that he had found ‘the Leichhardt relics’ caused an uproar that my story began to gel. One simple sentence ‘Andrew Hume’s father was a stockman in the Hunter’ pulled the plot together. Along the way I encountered some serious obstacles mostly because, in this case, truth truly would appear to be stranger than fiction. However, it made me more determined than ever to solve the riddle, albeit fictionally.

Does the creative process get easier for you with each book?

Each book is different, the thing that becomes easier is learning not to panic when it doesn’t go the way originally intended. Once I’ve researched the historical timeline, the factual dates and the characters I then weave the fictional plot through and begin writing. I always come unstuck after the first third of the story but by then I know the fictional characters and I have a compulsion to tell their story. After that it becomes a strange mixture of cryptic crossword and jigsaw puzzle, all of which I rather enjoy.

What is something that has influenced you as a writer?

More of a someone than a something! My books are largely set in the Hunter Valley, the old County of Northumberland bordered by the Hawkesbury, MacDonald and Hunter rivers. Several years ago, I met the local historian. I told him I intended to write historical fiction, set in the Hunter. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent listening to the stories he recounts or the number of social events and snippets that have worked their way into my books. His favourite saying is ‘It’s only fiction—but we better get it right.’ He’s also a great collector of historical maps. The Cartographer’s Secret is dedicated to him.

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews

A Richly Woven Tale: Read an Extract From Tea Cooper's The Cartographer's Secret

Review | Extract

17 November 2020

A Richly Woven Tale: Read an Extract From Tea Cooper's The Cartographer's Secret

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                        Synopsis

                        A young woman's quest to heal a family rift entangles her in one of Australia's greatest historical puzzles when an intricately illustrated map offers a clue to the fate of a long-lost girl. A mesmerising historical mystery set in the Hunter Valley from bestselling author Tea Cooper for readers of Natasha Lester and Kate Morton. 1880 The Hunter Valley Evie Ludgrove loves to map the landscape around her home - hardly surprising since she grew up in the shadow of her father's obsession with the great Australian explorer Dr Ludwig Leichhardt. So when an advertisement appears in The Bulletin magazine offering a one thousand pound reward for proof of where Leichhardt met his fate, Evie is determined to figure it out - after all, there are clues in her father's papers and in the archives of The Royal Geographical Society. But when Evie sets out to prove her theory she vanishes without a trace, leaving behind a mystery that taints everyone's lives for 30 years. 1911 When Letitia Rawlings arrives at the family estate in her Model T Ford, her purpose is to inform her Great Aunt Olivia of a bereavement. But Letitia is also escaping her own problems - her brother's sudden death, her mother's scheming and her own dissatisfaction with the life planned out for her. So when Letitia discovers a beautifully illustrated map that might hold a clue to the fate of her missing aunt, Evie Ludgrove, her curiosity is aroused and she sets out to discover the truth of Evie's disappearance. But all is not as it seems at Yellow Rock estate and as events unfold, Letitia begins to realise that solving the mystery of her family's past could offer as much peril as redemption.
                        Tea Cooper
                        About the author

                        Tea Cooper

                        Tea Cooper lives in a stone cottage on one hundred acres of bushland, just outside the time-warp village of Wollombi, NSW Australia. When she isn't writing, Tea can be found haunting the local museum or chatting to the locals, who provide her with a never-ending source of inspiration.

                        Books by Tea Cooper

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