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Guest blogger: Kaye Dobbie

6 May 2018

Part of the joy of writing is receiving copies of your book from other countries. I’ve had lots of these copies over the years. Recently I received a German translation of When Shadows Fall.

This was a novella I wrote back in 1998 under the penname Lilly Sommers. It is set in Tasmania and tells the story of Kate, who suffers a personal trauma and as part of her recovery goes to stay in an old cottage by a river. The cottage once belonged to Devlin, a convict in the early days of the colony, and his ghost is said to haunt that stretch of the river. Something happens to Kate and she is able to travel back through time, to Devlin’s day, and they fall in love.

A lot of my readers have said that of all my books this is their favourite. It was first published by Random House Australia in 1998, and the cover was a painting created for that story. Really evocative and beautiful (see #1 below).

When I reissued the book in 2017, I couldn’t use the original cover and had to choose a new one. I liked the river background and I wanted to show the two main characters, Kate and Devlin. I also wanted an atmospheric look, hinting at the mysterious qualities in the story. It was a long process, but #2 shows what I chose.

(1)  (2)  (3) 

And finally, as I said at the beginning, #3 is the German translation of When Shadows Fall from the publisher Weltbild. Das Cottage am Fluss, which simply means The Cottage by the River. They’ve gone for a sunnier look, although still beautiful, and I love the Australian foliage around the edges.

Which one do you prefer?

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If you haven’t read When Shadows Fall, here is an extract …

The candle burned on, low now, a mere flicker of yellow light. Outside, the rain eased and the river slipped by and a possum scurried across the roof, seeking its supper. I didn’t mean to fall asleep, but my body was so tired that sleep caught me unawares, taking me down.

The noise of the boat was soft at first, the gentle dipping of the oars far away. I heard it in my dreams and was lulled by it. But as it drew closer the sound grew louder, and I awoke, confused and disorientated. The candle was almost out, wax piled like white worms around the stub.

Then I heard the boat again. The bow came to rest against the riverbank with a thud. My heart seemed to stop and then start again, banging in my chest as if it meant to leap right out. Boots, muffled at first by the wet grass, scraped across the verandah. A large dark shadow passed my window.

‘Oh no.’ I meant to whisper the words, but no sound came out.

Creaking, the door opened, and there was a sharp smell of rain and the river and something more I couldn’t distinguish. Something bittersweet and half-forgotten. The matt darkness of the passage beyond my open doorway stirred as though taking shape, melding itself into something of density and form. I saw a hand, blunt fingered, and then a wrist and the sleeve riding above it. My eyes moved upward, quite beyond my control, and a face came out of the black in a series of planes and hollows. A man’s face.

Devlin’s face.

He was so tall he had to stoop to see under the door’s lintel, and his face was twisted with some feeling I didn’t understand but which caught at me like a cat’s claws. His lips parted as if he wanted to speak … as if he desperately wanted to say something to me. But the effort was too great, and he was fading back into the shadows. His eyes, dark and melancholy, held mine. And then he was gone.

I lay, shocked, my breath rasping in my ears. A giant of a man, Howard Tuck had said, and dark of visage. I knew I had just seen Devlin—or whatever was left of the man who had been Devlin. He had been like a dark angel, but with such sadness in him. I had wanted to put my arms about him and comfort him. Whatever the cost.

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