A Sense of Place
Thanks for having me on your blog Melanie, to talk about my latest book, Behind the Lie. Here is a flavour of what the story is about…
Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.
Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.
Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.
This story is within the psychological suspense genre, and as well raising lots of questions about what will happen next in the readers’ mind, I have tried to create a strong sense of place. For me as a reader, ‘stepping into’ a story and feeling part of the characters’ lives is essential. Therefore as a writer, I don’t feel that I can see where I am going without having a firm sense of place. I am a visual writer, and one of my ambitions is to see my work on the TV, or even the cinema screen. Think big I say! I have taken two extracts from Behind the Lie to illustrate.
I chose this extract to try and get across the feeling I have when I’m pottering about on the beach and sticking a toe in the surf! I want the reader to ‘see’ the scene in the story and the characters living inside it. See what they see, and empathise with their feelings. I think writing in the first person also helps to place the reader in the head of the characters. I hoped to get across the contrast between Cornwall and London too, within my main character Holly’s mind.
Paddling in the Atlantic in late March is not something I would go in for normally, but Demi’s enthusiasm wouldn’t let me sit on the dunes huddled in my duffle coat. A duffle coat and a blanket to be exact, because my coat will no longer fasten over my bump. So here I am, ankle deep in the surf and actually loving it, the biting cold has subsided and it feels almost warm.
‘So refreshing isn’t it?’ Demi asks rolling up the hem of her jeans which are already damp.
‘Actually yes it is. Makes you feel alive and connected to nature,’ I say looking at a fishing boat, a red splash on the horizon.
Talk of the city brings a disgruntled image of my husband’s face to mind, soft grey eyes steely with contempt. He wasn’t best pleased at all the other night when I told him I wanted to stay until tomorrow. I don’t normally go against his wishes, but I am just not ready to go back yet. I think it might be that I am at the nesting stage, and nests are built at home. I never think of London as my home, but I’d never tell Simon that of course. Also I wanted to spend another day with my bestie. It’s been far too long…and I am happier being here with her than I have been in a long time, if I’m honest with myself. I don’t usually allow that – honesty. It’s no good for me.
‘You okay?’ Demi asks and splashes a few droplets of sea water at me. I raise a quizzical eyebrow. ‘Well you look, kind of far away.’
‘I was back in London so yes, I was.’
I use a similar scene below to show how important Holly’s environment is to her healing. She has been told that her son died three weeks previously, and she’s struggling to come to terms with it.
At the water’s edge I roll up my crop trousers and splash through the waves. I slow my power walk down a few gears though; otherwise I’ll soon be drenched. The chill of the ocean climbs up my claves and cools my heated skin. I turn in a circle, tip my face to the sky and spread my arms. It’s a Tuesday out of season, so there’s not many here on the beach today to see me, and to be honest I couldn’t care less if they do. This place, the ocean makes me feel so free, so peaceful and calm. A deep breath fills my lungs with fresh ozone and seaweed and I close my eyes and let a little bit more pain slip away on the tide.
In my mind’s eye I place an image of a happy little boy playing on the dunes behind me with his sister. He’s wearing a white sunhat and dungarees, his sister is dressed the same, apart from a yellow, hat and they are laughing and digging in the sand. Of course I realise this can never happen, but it helps a little to picture it. Ruan was a part of me, albeit for such a brief time, and he always will be.
And here I use an idyllic scene in order to contrast with the turmoil in Holly’s mind. Hopefully the reader can also ‘look’ out at the landscape while empathising with Holly. They see what she sees, feel what she feels.
A recent summer shower has awakened the verdant green of the landscape – a patchwork of hills and valleys dotted with brown farms and white sheep. Crystal blue skies growing in confidence soon banish the remnants of rainclouds, and once again, beyond the car windscreen, the world looks idyllic. Inside my head things are very different. Inside my head are a tangle of thoughts and feelings, clashing, writhing and tying themselves in knots.
There are of course many other examples but I’m sure you don’t want the whole book, Melanie! I hope your readers will have enjoyed the little visit into my head … and to a speedy virtual look at Cornwall of course. 🙂
Amanda has written many short stories and has five novels currently published. Her time travelling debut – A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 and has met with great success.
Amanda lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the beautiful coastline near her home. Three of her novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and Behind the Lie – April 2017 pub – HQUK ( HarperCollins)
Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.
Author links – Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/
Twitter – @akjames61