A Place to Call Home #MyWritingInspirations

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A Place to Call Home

As I get closer to releasing Janet’s Yellow Butterflies, I have been reflecting on some of the literature, media and memories that inspired ideas for it.

Today’s inspiration is one of my favourite TV series, A Place to Call Home (APTCH). Set in the fictional town of Inverness in regional New South Wales (Australia) in the 1950s, this rich and intricate series delves into the lives of the Blighs, a wealthy farming family. 

*Spoiler alert*
In the first episode, Sarah, a nurse returning from Europe after World War II, crosses paths with the Blighs on the voyage home to Australia. This chance meeting signifies the beginning of a decades-long, turbulent relationship full of ups and downs. Embraced by some, but considered a threat by others, Sarah often finds herself at the centre of many dramas that unfold within the Bligh family, as well as the wider Inverness community.  

The quality of the storylines, casting and set is consistently impeccable throughout all six seasons, with every little detail meticulously accounted for. There is much foreshadowing and many ‘Easter eggs’ to keep the viewer guessing. I have watched the series from start to finish several times, and still notice subtle but cleverly crafted plot twists that I hadn’t fully picked up on before. 

As the characters are developed in depth throughout the series, the Bligh family traditions and values are constantly challenged and redefined. A diverse array of rich and controversial topics is explored, many of which were considered ‘taboo’ in 1950s regional Australia. For example, interracial and interfaith marriage, pregnancy before marriage, homophobia, abortion, PTSD, family violence, adultery, war crimes, political corruption, insanity, conspiracy and even murder. There truly is never a dull moment!

I have found so much inspiration in this series for Janet’s Yellow Butterflies. One example is Sarah’s estrangement from her husband René. Sarah and René, a Jew, were separated during the war when he was taken prisoner. After spending years searching for him, Sarah finally returns home to Australia, but never gives up hope of reuniting with him again some day. Years later, she receives a letter from René’s sister in France saying that he had been found, but has a severe brain injury. Although she is now engaged to George Bligh, Sarah rushes back to Europe to be by Rene’s side, not knowing what her future will hold.

This storyline helped me to empathise with what it might be like to be separated from one’s family abruptly, not knowing if you would ever see them again. In Janet’s Yellow Butterflies, Janet’s daughter Mairi absconds from her execution, leaving behind her husband and child. Many years later, she has the opportunity to reconnect with them again. Imagine the emotions she experiences in the lead-up, as she has no idea whether they would want to see her, or if her husband has remarried. On the flipside, the story also gives insights into her husband and child’s perspectives of this unexpected reunion.

Another APTCH example which inspired Janet’s Yellow Butterflies was James and Olivia Bligh’s marriage. James knew from a young age that he is gay, but marries Olivia to ‘keep up appearances’. Olivia is oblivious at first, but gradually realises the situation she has found herself in. 

In Janet’s Yellow Butterflies, Mairi finds herself in a similar situation to James, in that she marries a man under the guise of being single, although she is already married. Every day she has to live with the guilty secret of her ‘other family’.

In APTCH, Anna Bligh discovers in adulthood that she was adopted. As she comes to terms with this unexpected news, she begins to see her own identity in a different light, and her perspective on others around her changes.

A character in Janet’s Yellow Butterflies is confronted with a similar situation, and Anna’s experience helped inspire how this unfolded. 

APTCH has a strong community of followers from around the world, and a number of events have taken place connecting the cast and fans. I was fortunate to participate in an online event featuring Bevan Lee, the writer and mastermind behind the series. Bevan has written many Australian series over the years, but APTCH is considered one of his best. I had the opportunity to tell Bevan how much I admire his work, especially as an aspiring author, and he was delighted to know he has been an inspiration. A special moment I will never forget!

Janet’s Yellow Butterflies will be available to pre-order soon. Find out more about the story and sign up for publishing announcements here: emmaelizabethauthor.com  


Image: https://www.signals.com/XB7422.html
Logo: https://tv.azpm.org/schedules/series/PTCH%20%20/