Thursday, 3 November 2016

Debut Spotlight: Nuala Ellwood

Today it's my stop on the My Sister's Bones blog tour and it's my pleasure to be shining the spotlight on debut author Nuala Ellwiood as she talks about how a research trip to Herne Bay brought My Sister's Bones to life. 

Nuala Ellwood comes from a family of war reporters, and they inspired her to get Arts Council funding to research and write a novel dealing with psychological trauma in the industry. My Sister's Bones is her debut thriller.

You can follow Nuala's publication journey via:

FB Nuala Ellwood Author 
Twitter @NualaWrites.

Kate Rafter is a high-flying war reporter. She's the strong one. The one who escaped their father. Her younger sister Sally didn't. Instead, she drinks.

But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return home. And on her first night she is woken by a terrifying scream. 

At first Kate tells herself it's just a nightmare. But then she hears it again. And this time she knows she's not imagining it.

What secret is lurking in the old family home?
And is she strong enough to uncover it...and make it out alive?

I was on a deadline. This novel had to be finished soon but I’d spent hours sitting at my desk procrastinating. I needed to get out. I needed to go to Herne Bay and experience the setting of my novel up close. And so it was that I found myself checking into a seafront B & B in the middle of winter and looking out onto a watery landscape that, for me, had so far only existed within the pages of my manuscript.

As I set off to explore the town I found myself getting closer to my protagonist, war reporter, Kate Rafter, and the life she left behind in this beautiful but desolate town. Herne Bay is strangely incomplete; like it was on its way to becoming something wonderful but was stopped in its tracks. Opulent Georgian townhouses sit incongruously beside boarded up fish and chip shops and deserted amusement arcades. There are few shops, a smattering of chain pubs and endless charity shops adding to the sense of dereliction.

Herne Bay has a strange ‘otherness’ about it, a sense that the spirits who made their way through this windswept Kent town have left something of themselves behind.

But nothing prepared me for what I was about to encounter as I made my way up the cliffs to Reculver. A pair of mysterious towers is all that remains of the Roman fort that once stood high on the cliff tops just outside Herne Bay. The towers are a forbidding sight jutting out precariously on the edge of the rocks above a tiny strip of shingle beach where Barnes Wallis tested the bouncing bombs that would go on to be used to blow apart German dams in the Second World War.

Something odd happens when you’re in the middle of writing a novel. Moments of serendipity seem to occur more frequently, strange coincidences crop up at every turn. I always feel at my most raw and exposed when writing as if all of my senses are turned up to their highest setting. And it was in this state that I stood on the beach and looked up at the cliff face that surrounded it. Chance, coincidence, call it what you will, but I like to think that the name I saw carved on the rocks was a pat on the back, a silent message of hope. Simon.

I could never have imagined that I would find myself hundreds of miles away from home, standing in a place that had so far only existed in my head and looking up at the name of a young man who had encouraged me to write. Simon was an old friend who once bet me a tenner that I would write a novel some day. I told him he was crazy.

Tragically, Simon died in 2012. 

Seeing his name in the place where my novel was set seemed to be a sign that all would be well and as I reached the towers and wandered through the ruins taking photographs and imagining the young Kate down there on the beach with a bomb in her hands I felt my own ghosts dissipate and, in their place, a renewed sense of purpose and creativity came to the fore. 

There had been something fated about this trip to Herne Bay, something beyond research, beyond reason, and as I set off back to the B & B to write another 2000 words I knew I was on the right track.

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