Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Val Harris' Blog

Sea Creatures by Val Harris, will be displayed in the new cycle of Exclusively Independent. The title is published by Cava Books which is a fiction imprint Gingercat Books.

Sea Creatures is my third novel, and was the most challenging to write because of some of the issues it explores. I happened to be in Cornwall, in Talland, when the idea for the plot began to develop and set it there. I have loved Cornwall since I was a child, reading books about it, making it a holiday destination for my own family since the nineteen seventies – adoring the moody wildness of its coastline. I also happened to be reading ‘Moment’s of Being’ by Virginia Woolf, who lived in Talland House in St Ives. You could say that it was her quote, which I refer to at the beginning of the book, that inspired Sea Creatures, but perhaps it was more the catalyst that spurred the story on.

As the plot began to develop, London also became an important setting too. Place is quite important for me when I write. Setting a novel in a familiar setting, helps me to know where I am. My previous novel, The Siren, was set on the Amalfi Coast, and my next novel is set in East Africa. I also like intrigue and try to add a bit of a shock factor to all my novels.

Sea Creatures has a central theme focusing on the effects of the disappearance of a parent on a young family at the time of that disappearance, and the subsequent underlying and imbedded effects as they grow into adulthood. Like most families, the children could not be more different. Charlie, the middle child with an older and younger sister is, I think, a lovable character but with a sinister occupation. Jenna, the eldest sister, who has stayed in her beloved Cornwall (and who narrates the first part of the book in the first person), is the link between them all and the one who tries the hardest to hold the threads of her family together. Olivia, who was never a Cornish girl at heart, leaves the family home at the first opportunity for the bright lights of London and a career in publishing. But her snooty and frosty veneer covers a vulnerable interior. Running parallel with their lives is an artistic and hedonistic father, plus some secrets revealed and a whole host of underlying issues including adultery, drugs, a terminal illness and that little injection of intrigue. I really took those characters to heart, and loved spending time with my imaginary, dysfunctional family.

A parent disappearing is not something I’ve experienced myself, but I have been close to someone who has, so I was able to glean some firsthand facts as well as draw on general research about this subject which is another part of writing that I find hugely interesting. The cover for the book is very special for me. It was a commissioned painting by David Axtell, a Cornish artist, who cleverly captured my description of the scene I envisaged.


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