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Emily Madden on the research behind her latest book Heart of the Cross

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Emily Madden on the research behind her latest book Heart of the Cross

Heart Of The Cross

by Emily Madden

From Ireland to Kings Cross, a legacy of loss and hope echoes across the generations …

Tinahely, Ireland, 1959 Rosie Hart is content leaving her home behind to follow her new husband to Australia. But she soon discovers there is no room for her or their young son in the life he has built in vibrant Kings Cross. As their marriage crumbles, Rosie will need to fight for the golden future her son deserves.

Rose Bay, 1984 Haunted by her past, Rosie is determined her daughter Maggie will follow the path she has set out for her. But Maggie has plans of her own, and Rosie can only pray the grief that plagues the Hart name won’t follow her.

Sydney, 2017 When her grandmother dies and leaves Brianna Hart a secret apartment in Kings Cross, Brie wonders what else Rosie was keeping from her. As Brie chases the truth of Rosie’s past she uncovers an incredible story of passion, violence, love and tragedy. Is the Hart family’s legacy of loss inescapable, or has Rosie gifted her granddaughter with a future of hope?

Heart Of The Cross


Here’s a fun fact. Kings Cross doesn’t exist. It’s true: Kings Cross isn’t a suburb. The name refers to the junction of Victoria Street, Darlinghurst Road and William Street. Much of what people refer to as ‘the Cross’ is actually parts of Potts Point, Darlinghurst or Elizabeth Bay.

This was one of the first things I uncovered while researching my book Heart of the Cross.

The idea for Heart of the Cross came while deep in research for another book. I stumbled across some newspaper articles and there was one that caught my attention.

It was about a woman who lived in Kings Cross in the 1930s. She had small children, and was living in a time when poverty was rife. In order to make ends meet she would sleep with her husband’s friends. They would never pay her in cash – instead they would leave some groceries, sometimes meat, on the kitchen table.

In preparation for writing this, I spent the better part of an hour trying to locate the article to fill you in on the details, but I can’t remember where I’ve stashed it – probably at the bottom of one of my countless research boxes. I do remember how I felt reading it: I was equal parts horrified and fascinated. Imagine a woman down on her luck forced to do what she could to look after her children. I could only imagine what she was thinking, feeling, her moral tug of war.

The article stayed with me for days and then an idea blossomed. I needed to write about a woman living in Kings Cross and so, days after finishing my previous book The Lost Pearl, I started researching Heart of the Cross.

My research uncovered many interesting facts about the infamous red light district, but there were a few gems that surprised me. Kings Cross in the 1980s and 1990s was seedy. It was full of crime and debauchery. Ask anyone – local or not – and they’ll give you the same appraisal.  Kings Cross has a name, and it wasn’t always a nice one.

But it’s also an area that is constantly reinventing itself. There is ongoing transformation and gentrification. The area of Kings Cross is like nowhere else in Sydney – or indeed, the rest of Australia.

Kings Cross has always been different. During World War II when the rest of the city turned off their lights during blackouts Kings Cross refused. Can you imagine how it would’ve looked from a plane? All this velvet black and then – boom! Like thousands of tiny stars all exploding all at once.

Kings Cross is one of the most densely populated areas in Australia. But it’s also close knit. I saw this first hand when I interviewed entertainer and long-term Kings Cross resident Jeff Duff.  During our three hour long chat, he would often point people out as they passed by. ‘There’s Bob – he’s the postman, but he used to be a bouncer at Benny’s’. There’s a sense of community in Kings Cross when the rest of the country is increasingly becoming siloed.

And it was these three elements – gentrification, individuality and giving people a sense of belonging that I’ve threaded throughout Heart of the Cross.

The Cross has been referred to as many things over the years. Notorious, sleazy, sinful. But there’s one thing the Cross isn’t: dull. From the bohemian 1950s to the crime-ridden 1980s to its latest incarnation as a place where hipsters and artists mix with social housing residents and night clubbers. All have their own charms, and all are the real Kings Cross.


Emily MaddenEmily Madden

Emily Madden covets books like some women covet shoes and handbags (although she has a decent collection of each of those too!). While she reads anything and everything, stories that touch the heart and uplift the soul are what she loves the most. Emily lives in Sydney with her two girls and husband. She’s a coffee lover and can often be found writing at her local haunts.

You can email her at [email protected], or connect with her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

Photo credit: JQ Photography

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