I didn’t consciously set out to write a novel. It was Christmas 2019 when I first put pen to paper, documenting my life as a teenager on Holy Island (Lindisfarne). During those island years, I lived some of the best… and worst days of my life. Writing the memories down was heart warming and heart breaking in equal measure. I’m still not sure what prompted me to write. Maybe the health scare my dad had around that time made me look back at our past. Or perhaps I simply had too much time on my hands. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did. By the end of the holidays I had 40,000 words, but the story I had told, though true, was utterly unbelievable. I began writing Clara’s story instead.
January came and normal life resumed. I put my writing away and forgot about it, distracted by a big music project and the news that they had discovered a new virus in China.
Lockdown hit and we adjusted to the ‘new normal’. All creative activities ended as my brain filled instead with home-school and the constant fear coming from the TV news.
It wasn’t until July, and a chance conversation with my brother in a socially distanced pub garden, that I remembered the words hidden away on my computer. I returned to Clara’s story, deleted my own, and decided that something was missing. As soon as my mind met with Jimmy, I was on a roll.
I had been too young when I lived on the island to appreciate its rich and varied history. I’d heard of the saints who made it their home, but it was the more recent history that intrigued me. Several sources transported me back to the early 1900s, most notably the research of Katrina Porteous for Peregrini Lindisfarne and the British Newspaper Archive.
As the end of August approached, my novel was nearly complete. I had read the incredible book ‘The Grit’ by Dean Parkin and Jack Rose, and was excited to combine a visit to family in Lowestoft with walking the streets and areas described in their book. A visit to Time and Tide museum in Great Yarmouth helped complete the picture of life during those times.
With the research and most of the word count under my belt, I returned to Cornwall to revise and edit. I completely underestimated this process. It took me far longer to polish the book than it did to write it!
I’ve held the characters and places so close for so long, releasing them into the world is daunting. But I hope the book brings people pleasure and gives an insight into the lives of those who traveled down England’s east coast chasing the Silver Darlings.