It was hotter than Dubai and I was surrounded by Cornish pasties, good wine and excellent company. So where exactly did I find myself last Thursday evening? It could only be the Waterstones London book launch of Liz Fenwick’s debut novel The Cornish House.
The assembled company had travelled from the four corners of the globe to be there and their journeys started me thinking. Journeys are the meat and drink of writing. Good writers compel their readers to keep travelling however challenging the journey and wherever the final destination may lead.
The writer’s own journey can be equally surprising and every bit as unanticipated as the reader’s. The road from the first spark of an idea to publication can throw up twists and turns that we simply never expected. Take Liz for instance: she was born and brought up in Massachusetts and lives in Dubai. But the place she fell in love with and that is the beating heart of her writing is Cornwall.
Place is not just a back-drop but every bit as much a central character in the Cornish House as is Maddie the book’s protagonist. At the launch Liz shared an extract of Maddie’s early morning encounter with her newly inherited house with us.
It contained a sentence that gets to the heart of what makes the Cornish House a compelling read, ‘She closed her eyes and searched her memory.’ It’s the ability to draw upon memory and to create a world that pulls the reader in to share the journey, that is central to both what I love reading and what I write. For me the springboard and inspiration for my writing is Wiltshire. Here whether you’re standing on the sweeping slopes of the Marlborough Downs, the great expanse of Salisbury Plain or exploring the magical ‘lost world’ of the Vale of Pewsey, the present butts up against the past wherever you turn. And so it is for Liz Fenwick with Cornwall. In the Cornish House place and the past intertwine to take both Maddie and the reader on an unforeseen journey.
So join me if you will in raising a glass, and a pasty, to congratulate Liz on the start of what looks set fair to be a long, successful and thoroughly satisfying writing journey.