My Austen and Brontë Speaking Tour to Australia and New Zealand


I recently had the honor of speaking to two organizations in Sydney: The Jane Austen Society of Australia and the Australian Brontë Association. This was my first trip Down Under, and I enjoyed every minute. It began with an unforgettable 2-week tour of New Zealand (pix at the end of this post). It was so interesting to leave Los Angeles in spring and arrive in the Southern Hemisphere in autumn, with cooler temperatures and colorful leaves falling from the trees.


Speaking to the Jane Austen Society of Australia.


In Sydney, I spoke to JASA about “Jane Austen’s First Love: Edward Taylor,” Jane Austen’s little-known first suitor, a young man she mentioned several times in her preserved correspondence, and always with great affection. Edward Taylor had been a mystery to most Austen scholars. In my extensive research, I uncovered a wealth of information about this remarkable young man, who, at age seventeen, was a well-traveled, highly educated, accomplished musician, and fluent in five languages. My study of Edward Taylor’s life became the basis for my novel, Jane Austen’s First Love.


Jane Austen Society of Australia





Syrie and Susannah Fullerton, president of JASA


I was so warmly received at JASA’s meeting in Sydney, where I signed lots of books, and attendees said they were fascinated to learn about Edward Taylor and my speculations about the role he played in Jane Austen’s life. I am grateful to JASA’s long-time president, Susannah Fullerton, for coordinating the event and hosting my visit.


Me with Christine Alexander, co-author of “The Art of the Brontes,” at the Brontë Association meeting in Sydney.


For the Australian Brontë Association, I gave an illustrated talk about the “Autobiographical Elements in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë.” During my research for my novel The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, which won the Audiobook Audie Award for romance, I was intrigued to discover how many details in Charlotte’s novels are based on her own personal experiences and people she knew, which she brought to vivid life in Jane Eyre, Villette, Shirley, and The Professor. It was an honor to address this dynamic group of Brontë fans.


Jane Boltz overlooking the Sydney Harbor and bridge.


While in Sydney, I had great fun exploring with my intrepid friend and travel mate, Jane Boltz. We walked our feet off, rode ferries across the harbor, saw two shows at the iconic Sydney Opera House (a place I’ve been keen to visit my entire life), strolled coastal walks and beaches, visited gardens and museums, learned about the city’s unique history (Australians with a convict ancestor who was transported from England now consider it a badge of honor), got hugged by a kangaroo at the zoo, saw a pod of dolphins, and went to the Blue Mountains on a day trip with our wonderful hostess Susannah.





The iconic Sydney Opera House, where we saw two shows.


Sydney Harbour Bridge


The gorgeous Blue Mountains with Susannah Fullerton. The area is similar in many ways to the Grand Canyon in the U.S.


The Three Sisters Viewpoint


Bondi Beach


The famous Bondi to Coogee coastal walk in Sydney.


The Sydney Fernery at the Royal Botanic Garden.


At the Taronga Zoo across the harbor from Sydney, we saw animals from all over the planet as well as many indigenous species. To my great surprise and delight, I got an affectionate hug from this adorable and incredibly friendly kangaroo!



Kangaroo hug


On my last day in Australia, Susannah and a group of lovely ladies from JASA treated me to a picnic to celebrate my birthday, at a park overlooking the Sydney harbor on a perfect, sunny, autumn day. They brought delicious food, gifts, and cards–almost all from people I had never met until this visit. I will never forget their thoughtfulness, or the incredible generosity and kindness of my friends and hosts, Susannah Fullerton and her husband Ian.




I promised you pix from my visit to New Zealand (en route to Sydney), and here are a few highlights. We toured the North and South islands and loved the culture, history, language, museums, beautiful scenery, and kind people. I even had an up close and personal experience with a kiwi bird (although no photos were allowed)!


Crossing the New Zealand alps.



Ruakuri Glow Worm Caves


The Te Puia Institute in Rotorua, where traditional New Zealand arts & crafts are still taught, and we were treated to a tour, dinner, and a show.


Penguins at the Auckland aquarium.


Enjoying the thermal pools at a spa overlooking Lake Rotorua. This is volcano country famous for its steaming hot mineral pools and bubbling mud pools.


Fox Glacier, New Zealand


Autumn colors


Norfolk Pine at sunrise, Napier, New Zealand.


A bird’s beak is measured from the tip back to the nostrils. Unlike most birds, the kiwi has its nostrils at the very end, so is classified to ironically have one of the shortest beaks in the world!


Boat ride on Doubtful Sound, so-named because when Captain Cook first came upon it in 1770, he was uncertain whether it was navigable under sail.


Queenstown Gondola


Queenstown, New Zealand



My favorite day in New Zealand was our visit to Hobbiton, the movie set where scenes for “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies were filmed. It was absolutely fabulous!


Hobbiton Movie Set


It was a glorious trip, filled with memories that I’ll always treasure, and it all started with my love for Jane Austen and the Brontës.

I have spoken to numerous groups across the U.S. and in England on a variety of subjects related to my novels. If you belong to a group that is interested in having me speak, please reach out to me here.

Do you have a favorite spot in Australia or New Zealand, or a thought to share? Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you!



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  1. Tracy Neis on June 12, 2024 at 12:46 pm

    What fabulous pix! I’m so happy for you!

    • Syrie James on June 12, 2024 at 5:59 pm

      Thank you, Tracy! I’m so glad you enjoyed this blog post. I look forward to seeing you at the next JASNA meeting!

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