Monday, 17 August 2015

Author Interview: Liz Fenwick

Today we're kicking off Liz Fenwick's Cornish blog tour celebrating all four of her novels, The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair, A Cornish Stranger and Under a Cornish Sky, three of which have been reviewed on the blog either by Emma or myself.  Liz very kindly agreed to do a Q&A with us so that we could find out a little bit more about why she loves Cornwall, and of course about her writing process and books.    

When artist Maddie inherits a house in Cornwall shortly after the death of her husband, she hopes it will be the fresh start she and her step-daughter desperately need. Trevenen is beautiful but neglected, and as Maddie discovers the stories of generations of women who've lived there before, she begins to feel her life is somehow intertwined within its walls.

But Maddie's dream of a calm life in the countryside is far from the reality she faces - and as she pulls at the seams of Trevenen's past, the house reveals secrets that have lain hidden for generations.

Running out on your wedding day never goes down well. When the pressure of her forthcoming marriage becomes too much, Jude bolts from the church, leaving a good man at the altar, her mother in a fury, and the guests with enough gossip to last a year.

Guilty and ashamed, Jude flees to Pengarrock, a crumbling cliff-top mansion in Cornwall, where she takes a job cataloguing the Trevillion family's extensive library. The house is a welcome escape for Jude, full of history and secrets, but when its new owner arrives, it's clear that Pengarrock is not beloved by everyone.

As Jude falls under the spell of the house, she learns of a family riddle stemming from a terrible tragedy centuries before, hinting at a lost treasure. And when Pengarrock is put up for sale, it seems that time is running out for the house and for Jude.

Cornwall features predominantly in all your books. What drew you to set your books in this fabulous setting? I've never been there but feel like I have through your wonderful writing. 
I fell in love with Cornwall on my first visit in June of 1989. My then boyfriend, now husband, brought me to Cornwall - I thought to meet his parents but later realised it was the ‘Cornwall test’. If I hadn’t fallen under the Duchy’s spell I have a feeling our relationship would have ended rather swiftly. That first visit and each one since has built a long lasting love affair that simply continues to grow. I ‘see’ stories in the landscape, which makes me sound very odd indeed but it is my muse in the way no other area has ever inspired me.

How do you find the time to write considering you spent a lot of time travelling. Do you have a set routine that you try and stick to?
I’d love to set a routine, I really would but in my life it’s impossible. I love Stephen King’s On Writing but I had to laugh when he wrote about going into his study with desk facing the wall and not coming out until he’d written X amount. He has a wife! I write when and where I can and as each dealine approaches I withdraw from everything until I’ve finished the book. So my husband will end up feeding me rather than the other way around. Of course this goes totally against my nature, which is a nuturer…but needs must and characters need me too!

On average how long do your books take you to write? Have you the book all mapped out before you begin or do the characters and storyline take on a mind of their own once you begin writing?
Tough question, as in the past when deadline were things I set for myself, I would write one new book a year and put it aside for a year while I wrote another. I would then rewrite the first book using the things I’d learned writing the new book. Now the reallity is that I have to write the rough draft in about five months and then spend three months writing and rewriting….the remaining months are spent on promotion and life!

I never used to plan. I would have the setting, the main characters’ names and roughly where the story ended. This was wonderful but left me writing into many plot holes before I found my way. Time doesn’t allow me the option of writing my way totally into a story anymore. Now I will brainstorm with my editor (she’s wonderful at seeing plot holes before I write them) and begin writing with a clearer picture. That of course doesn’t mean things don’t change! Boy do they - as I’m finding writing book five, The Returning Tide.

I have to admit I have a soft spot for The Cornish House. Which was your favourite book to write?
The Cornish House was a joy to write because Hannah was such a fun charcter to work with, in a way like Victoria was in Under A Cornish Sky. Writing characters who aren’t ‘nice’ provies a great deal of fun because they are pushing boundaries all of the time. I also loved writing Old Tom. He wasn’t a planned character but appeared because Hannah needed him. I think all teenagers need an Old Tom or someone like them who help them see the world and gentlely steer them into adulthood.

Which book presented the most challenges or difficulties to write. I imagine a fair amount of research had to go into Under a Cornish Sky? 
For the longest time Under A Cornish Sky was the book I hated, but not because of the research. It was finding the balance between Demi and Victoria…But the hardest book to write was A Cornish Affair. It was a book the written before The Cornish House and I’d rewritten it about 24 times before I began rewriting it as my ‘second’ book. In late July that year, I realised it wasn’t working and delted 70,000 words, gulp, and almost began again. Even after I delivered a complete book I had four more rewrites before I made it as far as copy edits!

I love how several characters from previous books often make a small reappearance in your new release. It's great to know how they are getting on. What makes you do this? 
They do. As I mentioned above I actually wrote a version of A Cornish Affair before The Cornish House and, well, Mark feaured very heavily in it…in fact so much so I wondered when I reread it why Jude hadn’t run off with Mark. So I knew I had to tell his story. Hannah appeared on the page in A Cornish Stranger and belive me she wasn’t down in the rough plan! I love revisiting them and as I have been writing in a small area it’s logical that they will all know each other in some way.

If you were given the opportunity which character would you love to go back and revisit again in further detail and devote a future book to?
Petroc…I think. Or maybe Old Tom…

As your books really take people away to a different place when they read of the stunning setting of Cornwall, are there any special places in Cornwall you would recommend people visit?
I love the Helford River area, but there are so many beautiful places. First I would say to go off-season if you can. Then be brave and just drive. Hold your nerve as you find yourself on lanes that don’t look like they have ever seen a car and discover the hidden part of Cornwall. This is what I do when I have time…I plan to get lost and see where I find myself.

Whilst readers are waiting for your next book are there any other books set in Cornwall that you would recommend?
I’ve put together a goodreads list with all the books I know of set in Cornwall It’s a good place to start. However I have read two wonderful books this year set in Cornwall. Not Forgetting The Whale by John Ironmonger – unexpected, funny and magical – and Emylia Hall’s The Sea Between Us which is out on the 27th of August – filled with love, longing and a huge dollop of Cornwall.

Finally I'm going to be cheeky and ask can give us any hints as to what is in store for your readers next? Will we return to Cornwall again?
Of course you can ask! And yes I am returning to Cornwall but also a bit of Cape Cod as well Portland, London and Cornwall during World War 2….it’s not finished but it’s full of first love, betrayal, heart break, discovery and forgiveness… Oh and you’ll see some old characters popping up again! 

There's an old Cornish saying: 'Save a stranger from the sea, he'll turn your enemy . . .'

When her reclusive grandmother becomes too frail to live alone, Gabriella Blythe moves into the remote waterside cabin on Frenchman's Creek which has been her grandmother's home for decades. Once a celebrated artist, Jaunty's days are coming to a close but she is still haunted by events in her past, particularly the sinking of Lancasteria during the war.

Everything is fine until a handsome stranger arrives in a storm, seeking help. Fin has been left a family legacy: a delicate watercolour of a cabin above the creek which leads him to this beautiful stretch of Cornish water. As Fin begins to pick at the clues of the painting, he is drawn into the lives of Gabe and Jaunty, unraveling a remarkable story of identity and betrayal...

Demi desperately needs her luck to change. On the sleeper train down to Cornwall, she can't help wondering why everything always goes wrong for her. Having missed out on her dream job, and left with nowhere to stay following her boyfriend's betrayal, pitching up at her grandfather's cottage is her only option. Victoria thinks she's finally got what she wanted: Boscawen, the gorgeous Cornish estate her family owned for generations should now rightfully be hers, following her husband's sudden death. After years of a loveless marriage and many secret affairs of her own, Victoria thinks new widowhood will suit her very well indeed ...But both women are in for a surprise. Surrounded by orchards, gardens and the sea, Boscawen is about to play an unexpected role in both their lives. Can two such different women find a way forward when luck changes both their lives so drastically?

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