What you know and what you know now…
‘Write what you know.’ This piece of advice a piece of advice is usually one of the first given to new writers. It can cover many things from characters to plot to setting. I won’t disagree with it either as I have used my area of Cornwall as the location for all my books. It has made one thing much easier…research. Because I know the what grows in the hedges, how the tide affects life on the Helford there is little research required other than always listening to those around me. That was the case until I decided to write The Returning Tide which is a dual time story. Almost two thirds of the books is set in during WWII. Suddenly I had to look at the landscape in a new light.
It was a joy to interview people who had lived through the war as children. Their memories helped to colour the story with details. But it was only when standing on the beach at Trebah looking out at paradise that I really struggled to imagine the past. What would those young American soldiers have thought as they boarded the landing craft to heads to D Day and the hell that awaited them on the beach? All along the river there is evidence of the war such as the hard surface of Trebah’s beach and the pill boxes now covered in foliage. But a current visitor like myself would struggle to picture it without resorting to history books and old pictures. These tools with the personal memories of residents helped me to ‘create’ the past in my mind and I hope in the reader’s mind too.
I loved reading the locally published histories of the area and memoirs which filled in the blanks of my local knowledge and coloured them with rich detail. With The Returning Tide it was both a challenge and a joy to take an area I know and love and to travel back in time to experience its history. Of course thanks to the knowledge I’ve gained through research… I’ve extended the ‘what I know’.