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Timaru author Bernadette Joyce with her third book, Cargill's Castle Revisited - Jessica's Story.

by Claire Allison

When Timaru woman Bernadette Joyce turned 65, she decided she wanted to write a novel.

Until then, all she had written were letters.

This week, Mrs Joyce launched her third novel – Cargill’s Castle Revisited, Jessica’s Story – a work of historical fiction set in Dunedin’s Cargill’s Castle, which weaves together the stories of Andrew, who bought the historic property, and Jessica, a young woman working at the Otago Settlers Museum.

“It was like a big jigsaw puzzle, with two stories running through the book so they all connect. I felt quite pleased when I had pulled it off.”

While Mrs Joyce’s books are fictional, she takes great care to ensure the historical aspects are accurate. Friend Lynette Melville designed the cover, and Timaru woman Michelle Denson edited the manuscript.

Her first two books were originally written as one, but after being advised by author P.D.R. Lindsay she divided it into two stories: The Effects of Henry’s Cage, Elean’s Story and a sequel, The Effects of Henry’s Cage, Roberta’s Story

“If I hadn’t met her, I would never have published the book . and probably would have only written the first book. I wouldn’t have gone on to the others.

“I started this book in April 2017. When the sequel was launched, I was suddenly bored. This story had already been there in my thoughts, so it wasn’t hard to write, when you know what you want to say and you’ve got the ending.”

Honing her writing skills with the South Canterbury Writers’ Group, Mrs Joyce writes in the mornings, often returning to earlier writing to fine-tune it. Her next plan is to release a book of her short stories.

A farmer’s wife all her life, she now lives with her husband on a lifestyle block on the outskirts of Timaru with Saanen goats and Jersey-cross cattle.

“When you retire, you don’t have to give up on living – you can still have a full and productive life.”

An indie author, Mrs Joyce self-publishes and sells printed copies and, via Amazon, e-books.

“You can put your work out there and not have to go through the big companies.”

It was more of a hobby than a money-making venture, Mrs Joyce said.

“I have spent hours writing these books,and I want to share them with people who will enjoy them.”