Interview: Jude Thomas talks about Threads of Gold
Updated: Oct 8
Jude Thomas was born and raised in Dunedin, where her historical novels are set. She spent many summers in Central Otago and says she can still smell the wild thyme and feel the shimmering heat. But her lasting memory of a southern upbringing is the piercing winter and her intensely itchy chilblains. She has also lived in Ireland and USA which give her a variety of ideas that shape her writing. Jude Thomas talks to NZ Booklovers about her second novel, Threads of Gold, the follow up to Southern Gold.
Tell us a little about Threads of Gold.
Threads of Gold is set in Dunedin from 1890 – 1903, a time of significant social and political change in New Zealand. In this sequel to Southern Gold, protagonist Billie is all grown up. She’s society’s darling, living in style on the Otago Peninsula. She’s in the thick of the action: women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, dress reform. The first Lebanese immigrants arrive at Port Chalmers. Billie is drawn to their exotic presence and lifetime friendships are forged.
Life seems perfect until, at the dawn of the 20th Century, it all starts to unravel. The Boer War, a troubled husband and the return of an old adversary – the stalwart Billie faces events that threaten to tip her over the edge.
Against a background of New Zealand’s political and social developments Threads of Gold is a story of choices, consequences and the power of love. It is Book 2 in The Gold Series.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always enjoyed delving into history (and, as my Mother said, ‘things that don’t concern you’). My family tree provided some interesting possibilities of secrets and scandals and this set the background for my first novel Southern Gold. Then I found there was much more to tell and also, readers asked, ‘What happened next?’ So I began Threads of Gold which starts fifteen years forward, to where the urchin-protagonist is now a woman of style and influence. I couldn’t find contemporary-written stories about this historic period in Dunedin, and I wanted to tell some lesser-known stories. These include the Lebanese immigrants, the Parihaka chain gangs, and the sending of ‘our boys’ to the Boer War.
What research was involved?
Huge digging and delving – and also going down many rabbit holes! My research was through many sources about Dunedin: websites, interviews, family journals and publications: including:
1. Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, Hocken Library
2. Victorian & Edwardian fashions, textiles, manufacturing
3. Lebanese hawking, embroidery, lacemaking
4. Dunedin’s ethnic minorities & religions
5. Boer War records & diaries
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
Writing the storyline came first, followed by fact and figure research. I’m not a fast writer, so it took me two years to final draft stage.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
· Instrumental tracks from Oceania – Jaz Coleman, Hinewehi Mohi,
· Sky Boat Song – instrumental including bagpipes
· Free Fallin’ – John Mayer
· Heart of Gold – Diana Krall
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
Playing the lead characters in Threads of Gold would be:
1. Rose McIver as Billie – quirky and bold
2. Tom Hiddleston as husband Robbie – great eye candy, quiet but not stupid
3. Colin Farrell as bad boy Tinks Toomey – dapper with snake eyes
1. Anna Jullienne as Billie – she has ‘the look’ and the skittishness
2. Dwayne Cameron as Billie’s husband Robbie – he can do tolerant and devoted
3. Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the bad boy Tinks Toomey
4. And a chance for New Zealand talent to play the rest of the cast of about twenty.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
Being able to develop my style by using a deeply flawed protagonist who survives well; and an evil antagonist who doesn’t.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
The book launch was held at Mangawhai, with readings, champagne and cake
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
False River by Paula Morris. I like reading/listening to tales that stand alone as a short story but link, however transiently, to another/each other.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
Collecting my short stories into book format and perhaps starting the third (and final!) book in The Gold Series.