I love Liz Fenwick’s new book One Cornish Summer and I had the wonderful opportunity to interview her about her love of Cornwall and how she gets inspiration for her novels.
We love that you have chosen Cornwall as the location for many of your novels, what do you enjoy most about living there?
Tough question as I love so much about living in Cornwall, but first and foremost is the wonderful community in which I live. They make living here a joy. Second and very close to the community is the landscape. It’s magical from the trees that are shaped by the prevailing wind to the way the land falls to the sea. I’m under its spell.
What comes to you first when creating a novel? Is it the location, the characters, or the story line?
It’s never the same. Each story has had one thing that I call the trigger that pulls other ideas together and creates a whole. For example, I was researching for A Cornish Affair and I found the Cornish saying…save a stranger from the sea, he’ll turn your enemy. Boom. Instant conflict as it went against what we naturally think and A Cornish Stranger was born. From that point I knew the novel would be set on Frenchman’s Creek and would tell the story of a grandmother and granddaughter. With One Cornish Summer the Helwyn House, Godolphin in reality, pulled the story ideas together. I’d wanted to write about early on-set Alzheimer’s as my best friend’s sister is struggling with the disease. So on a visit I was standing there looking at the house trying to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday at double or even treble the size it is now. Only one wall remains of the great hall that once stood there, a skeleton of its history. That’s when I put the two together. The house is haunted by its past which to the modern visitor is invisible…
We thought One Cornish Summer was such a compelling book, apart from using the history of the house, how did you decide on what would be happening to Lucy and Hebe?
I tend to look at my characters and ask what choices have they made that have brought them to this point as the story begins. Following on from that I continue to ask them what they would do if X and Y happened. I’m afraid I’m not always very nice to my characters!!
As a writer, how do you motivate yourself on those days when the words may not be flowing as well as you would like?
First I do accept that some days the words aren’t there. Normally because I need more research or I haven’t given my subconscious time to catch up. However if I am close to deadline and the time to step away isn’t there then I have a few things that help. 1. Take a bath and read someone else’s book 2. Read and do an exercise out of a writing craft book 3. Take a walk 4. Set an egg timer for twenty minutes and say to myself just write anything for twenty minutes only…this never fails! It’s like the permission to write anything kills the fear holding back the words.
Do you have any plans to revisit any of your books and to write a sequel, or do you think you might create a series in the future?
I’ve been asked by readers before for more on certain characters and I have responded a bit. I knew that Max from A Cornish Stranger needed his own story so I wrote the novella A Cornish Christmas Carol. But I haven’t been tempted by a series. I like that the books are stand alone but are connected by location and secondary characters. Although someday I may write Hannah’s story from A Cornish House. She hasn’t left me…
When you are not writing what do you do to relax?
I read, walk, cook, drink wine and watch tv. Oh and nip across to the pub…
See the review of One Cornish Summer