The first thing we wanted to know was, who exactly is the girl in the painting?
Wollombi author Tea Cooper wouldn't tell us. Which is fair enough. The answer is a key part of her new novel, aptly titled The Girl in the Painting.
Set in Maitland in 1913, the book tells the story of Elizabeth Quinn who is discovered cowering in the corner of a gallery. Something strange has come to pass.
Mathematical savant Jane Piper is determined to find the answer. Can Jane, with her logical brain and penchant for puzzles, unravel Elizabeth's story before it is too late?
"The book revolves around the question, who is Miss Elizabeth Quinn? Is she the person she and everyone else believes her to be?" Tea said.
The Girl in the Painting is a work of fiction inspired by imagination, but based around a series of unconnected historical events.
These include a fire in a workhouse in Liverpool in England in 1862, which killed 21 children and two nurses; child migration from Britain to Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries; and an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria's son, Prince Alfred, at Clontarf in Sydney in 1868.
Like Tea's other stories, The Girl in the Painting is largely based in the Hunter Valley.
"But the backstory is set very firmly in my own past," she said.
Tea was born and grew up in England, but has lived in Australia for more than 40 years.
"The maternal side of my family comes from that little village in Somerset and my father's family comes from Liverpool," she said.
As a child, she attended boarding school. Every summer holidays, she'd be bundled off to stay with relatives.
There was her great, great Aunt Kate who lived in Somerset in a village. It was a place of picturesque stone cottages and walls, verdant green fields, babbling brooks, ancient churches and manor houses.
Another childhood holiday destination was her grandmother's newsagency and sweet shop under Lime Street Station in Liverpool.
"My job was to stock the shelves. I had to lift the wooden trap door in the floor and clamber down a steep set of stairs into the darkened cellar to collect the boxes of sweets," she said.
"However, if I as much as stuck my nose out of the shop door, my grandmother would pull me aside, lower her voice and whisper, 'Someone will snatch you, throw you onto a ship and take you to Australia'.
"And so child migration was thrown into the mix of scheming, planning and plot-wrangling that led to The Girl in the Painting."
Tea is fascinated by family history.
"Records are much more comprehensive and accessible than they were in the past," she said.
"Despite these records, we base a lot of our self-image on what we are told, old photographs we are shown and stories told by relatives of our first five years of life. I wanted to explore the possibility of finding out much later in life that you weren't the person you believed yourself to be. That your life was based on a lie."
In the book, Elizabeth discovers she's not the person she believes herself to be.
All of Tea's books, including her latest one, are set in the Hunter. She has spent a lot of time exploring Maitland, talking to local historians and checking out the gallery and coffee shops.
"In the 19th century, Maitland was the second largest town in NSW. Many of the old buildings have been beautifully restored," she said.
"Maitland Technical College (now the art gallery) was designed by Walter Liberty Vernon, the government architect who was responsible for some of the buildings that make Sydney the city it is today [including the Art Gallery of NSW, Mitchell Library, Central Station, Long Bay jail and Customs House]."
When aluminium melts, you know it's hot.
"Just goes to show how hot bushfires can get," Fire and Rescue NSW's 374 Maitland station said on its Facebook page.
The station shared a photo that a Hazmat crew took.
"For aluminium to run in thin trickling rivers for many metres, it needs to stay above its 660 degrees melting point and not have enough oxygen for it to burn."