Interview with Liz Fenwick – Author of The River Between Us and many more!

Liz Fenwick

We absolutely loved The River Between Us, we were completely hooked after we heard you read the first chapter. What was your inspiration behind the book? 

The bridge at Horsebridge was the first spark, quickly followed by Hotel Endsleigh. I walked into the hall with its fire blazing and out of the corner of my eye I saw a WW1 officer. It was a flash and then it was gone. Later looking at an old ordnance survey map of the area I spied a boatman’s cottage on the Cornish bank. Then I knew it was a story of a forgotten crossings, forbidden love and a forlorn cottage. 

What are the challenges of writing about characters in different time periods? 

The biggest one I think is language… making sure my modern vocabulary doesn’t slip in. I’m forever checking when words and expressions came into use. This is quickly followed by clothing… what it does and doesn’t allow you to do. Also how does it make one feel or act. When writing The Returning Tide it was important to note the change Adele felt when she was in her uniform the first time. So with The River Between Us I spent time in the V&A and online looking at styles and how that would impact movement and how one felt about oneself. 

How important is it for writers to have actual locations to act as inspiration when writing? At what stage do you visit them? 

I think all writers differ on this. I would find it difficult not to root my stories in real places and I believe others find difficulty in doing so. For The Path to the Sea I chose Porthpean House which was used in the film About Time. I contacted the owner in October 2017 to see if I could visit and I also booked a week in the house for Easter 2018. By the time I stayed in the house the first draft of the book had been written and those days added depth and detail. With The River Between Us I needed several trips to Hotel Endsleigh and also a few nights at the Swiss Cottage (owned by Landmark Trust)) on the estate to try and ‘feel’ the landscape.. 

Your writing often has such depth, how long does it take you to write your books? 

How long is a piece of string? Seriously it varies from book to book, but all of them share the need for many drafts. My first messy draft puts the story – the big stuff – on the page. Each draft after I layer in more and more until I feel the story I long to tell is on the page and the characters are finally true to themselves. I wish I could be one of those writers who either gets it right first time or could edit as they work, but I’m not. The River Between Us took more drafts that I care to contemplate! 

You often describe going for a ‘plot walk’ how does this help when you are writing? 

Ah, my ‘plot walks’ serves many purposes…first combatting writer’s bottom. But the most important is the time under the open sky to let thoughts circulate and arrange themselves. Many times I’ll be striding along and stop dead and quickly make notes. It will be something I hadn’t thought I was concerned with, but makes the story so much richer. 

Once the book is published, how do you celebrate? 

Wine or gin and chocolate…maybe dinner out! See our review of Liz Fenwick’s latest book – The River Between Us