Life begins at Halcyon

Judy masters her trilogy dream

22 May 2019 | by Halcyon Lakeside

Completing the final instalment of her fictional trilogy is literally a dream come true for late blooming author Judy Masters.

Judy’s three-book series takes readers into the lives, loves, betrayals and tragedies of a wealthy Australian family during and after World War II.

The idea for the books – described as Australia’s Downton Abbey and likened to A Place to Call Home – came to Judy while she was sleeping.

“The whole genesis of the story comes from a dream that I had while I was doing The Year of the Novel course through the Queensland Writers Centre in 2011,” Judy said.

“The scene that I dreamt doesn’t occur until well into book two; but I worked back from that idea and constructed the story around it.”

Blending her imagination with historical fact and stories told to her as a child, Judy’s dream became words, then pages; and she self-published the first book, The House of Secrets: Julia’s Story, in 2015.

It fulfilled Judy’s long-delayed ambition of becoming a fictional author.

“When I was 14, I wasn’t pretty or popular and I was socially awkward,” she recalls.

“I told my aunt I wanted to be a writer and she said, ‘first, you have to experience life’.
“She was right of course.”

The first instalment of Judy’s trilogy was followed up by To Love, Honour and Betray in 2017.
She wrote both books while running Australian Defence Magazine, a Brisbane-based publication that she and husband Peter had founded in 1993.

After retiring in late 2017, the couple moved to Halcyon Lakeside where Judy could fully focus on crafting the trilogy’s conclusion, Return to Prior Park.

She was urged on by her loyal readers who kept emailing to ask when the third book was coming out.

“It’s a nice pressure to have and I couldn’t keep putting them off, so I had to knuckle down and write it,” she said.

“There was one lady in Western Australia who emailed me as I was writing the third book and asked me not to kill off two of the main characters; I promised her I wouldn’t.

“Return to Prior Park took about six months, but it was really intense activity for about four months, including writing on Christmas Day.”

Readers were able to discover the fate of their favourite characters when the third book was published in February of this year.

Judy admits she does become immersed in her fictional world during the writing phase.

“I do warn people when I’m in the middle writing of a book that if I’m not paying attention or not answering their questions properly it’s because I’m back in my other world,” she laughed.

“It is an escape and I love it. I do miss my characters now that I’ve finished writing about them. They are absolutely friends to me.”

Counting authors such as Winston Graham (Poldark) and Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds) as major inspirations, Judy was destined to pen an epic family tale.

“I enjoy that type of writing; the family saga, the romance,” she said.

“I don’t want to inflict more misery on the world, so I like to give my readers a book that’s simply entertaining and thoughtful; a bit of escapism.”

Judy believes her books help to address a gap in the market: fiction for mature women, who make up 95 per cent of her readership.

“It’s probably the type of book that was more popular maybe 25 or 30 years ago,” she said.
“I think my books appeal to readers who enjoy being transported back into the fairly recent past; to a time when life was more formal.

“Readers want a story they can relate to and I think that’s why my books have resonated well with a lot of regional library readers.”

With the third book now done and dusted, Judy is taking a mental break from the intensity of writing and is concentrating on marketing Return to Prior Park.

She is also interested in seeing the trilogy adapted to the small screen.

“This could be a Netflix series or something and I will be pitching it,” she said.

“I just think it has enough cinematic interest to be a replacement for A Place to Call Home.
“I think it would work well on that level.”

Judy writes under the name J Mary Masters. Her Belleville family trilogy is available through independent publisher PMA Books, Amazon and many public libraries. Copies of the books also can be found in any Halcyon community library.

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