OUT NOW: The Forgiving Sand by Theresa Le Flem

The Forgiving Sand by Theresa Le FlemA daughter of the artist Cyril Hamersma, Theresa was raised in London and married at nineteen. After having three children in quick succession she trained as a hairdresser, took up pottery but ended up working in a factory to pay the bills. After her eventual divorce she married again in 2006. Finally, having the support of friends and family, and with her children settled in New York and Kent, Theresa is able to follow her passion for writing and express her strong views about social injustice. She is an avid listener of Radio 4 and a keen gardener, growing all of her own vegetables. Her first novel, The Sea Inside His Head, was also published by Robert Hale.

The Forgiving Sand by Theresa Le Flem

1994, Cornwall.

With the fishing industry in crisis it is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet in a small, coastal town. Christina’s quiet beach café is losing money and her ruthless brother-in-law, René, is determined to close it down. Disabled since childhood, Christina is determined to maintain her family business but neither her mother nor her sister are interested in helping her.

But when John Madison, a widowed and lonely local skipper, desperately seeks Christina’s help with his young daughter she is both disturbed by and drawn to him.

Who can save her beloved Sea Cafe? And when John asks her to take a risk, will her heart be torn in two?

For an interview with Theresa about her writing, click here.

The Forgiving Sand by Theresa Le Flem is available to buy now with a limited time only discount of 30%

The Forgiving Sand by Theresa Le Flem

Author Interview: Theresa Le Flem

The Forgiving Sand by Theresa Le FlemA daughter of the artist Cyril Hamersma, Theresa was raised in London and married at nineteen. After having three children in quick succession she trained as a hairdresser, took up pottery but ended up working in a factory to pay the bills. After her eventual divorce she married again in 2006. Finally, having the support of friends and family, and with her children settled in New York and Kent, Theresa is able to follow her passion for writing and express her strong views about social injustice. She is an avid listener of Radio 4 and a keen gardener, growing all of her own vegetables. Her first novel, The Sea Inside His Head, was also published by Robert Hale.

Here she talks to us about the inspiration behind her writing and why social issues are so vital in her storytelling.

When did your love of writing begin?

As a child, I always had my head buried in a book. I began by writing poetry and associate this with feelings of melancholy. By the age of thirteen I had my own typewriter and began delving into my parents’ copy of The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. So exciting! This was when I began sending work, poems and short-stories out to publishers. The feel of a newly typed manuscript in my hands thrilled me and it still does to this day.

How do you come up with your ideas?

The idea for The Forgiving Sand came to me with the phrase: ‘On the underside, rust was seeping from steel rivets onto the shingle, staining it amber.’ This line, which is about a derelict fishing-boat, appears in the first chapter of my second novel. British Social History in general interests me, especially when it involves unfairness in the workplace. I’ve written about the coal-miners in The Sea Inside His Head. When I was employed in a factory, I resented giving up my day, especially in the summer. The low wages didn’t seem worth the time I was sacrificing, but I still had to go to work. It’s a bit like the commitment of having to go to school every day which I truly resented as a child. I still wonder why school has to be compulsory for children. I think they miss so much. Everyone deserves to be free to choose.

I’m quite religious and when I’m in a creative mood, I think about the mystery of life and the wonder of nature, especially when I’m out walking. I walk our greyhound three times a day and it gives me lots of thinking time. When an idea is hatching I get a sensation, like a yearning for something, but for what? It’s quite intriguing. A character will just come to me and I get to know them by deliberately trying to think ‘inside their head’ to quote a familiar phrase! Only then will I discover what’s going to happen in the next scene.

Waterstones photo theresa le flemYou are vocal about social issues. Is it essential to you that some sort of social injustice be included in your novels?

Underlying a lot of life’s issues are social injustices just waiting to pop up and declare themselves. My characters are in touch with reality. They have to eat, go to work, they might have money-problems – but life for ordinary people is like that. Under my protagonist’s skin there’s a vulnerable person who needs to achieve something (otherwise there wouldn’t be a plot). Finding their problem, and how they set about solving it, creates a story; this is what draws me, and the readers, to become involved. More than that, a person who cares about something so intensely that it causes friction in a relationship provides the basis for a strong love story. I’m not interested in political issues as such, only in how it affects people personally. Love, hopefully, has to survive outside pressures like unemployment, therefore my love stories aren’t just about love. Nor are they just about physical and sexual attraction. That comes into it of course, but I like my characters to have depth and soul.

How do you go about writing a book? Do you plan first or just dive in?

I just dive in. As I said earlier, a single phrase comes into my head and that can start me off. I won’t necessarily start at the beginning; it’s purely character lead so I can’t plan. Half-way through I might have to start planning though. When the novel’s almost complete, I isolate each scene and juggle them about a bit. I do a lot of cutting and pasting after the first draft is written, making sure the pacing is right and the dates correct. I think of the plot as a succession of hills and valleys. The ‘hills’ are the dramatic bits, when something happens to further the plot and these are in place at the first draft stage. Going through the manuscript again I add the ‘valleys’, when I can give the reader time to relax and have a look round at the scenery.

What made you choose Cornwall as the setting?

It couldn’t have been anywhere else. It’s a spiritual place. In the opening chapter of The Forgiving Sand, my character is torn between the beauty and the haunting melancholy of the landscape. There’s a certain atmosphere there which I haven’t found anywhere else. I love Cornwall and have lived there, on and off, for several years. My first glimpse of it was when my father wanted to join the artist’s colony in St. Ives in the 1960s, so we all moved there to a tiny fisherman’s cottage. I had just left school and I worked as a waitress in a café on the harbour. In that beautiful setting I felt inexplicably sad; this was the inspiration for my novel.

Do you have any particular quirks or rituals when you’re writing?

I have to be alone to write. Fortunately I have my own study upstairs and I usually try to stick to the hours between 10am and 5pm, breaking for lunch to feed and walk the dog, and do housework I suppose. I used to spend all day writing but recently I’ve had to give more time to ‘social networking’ – it’s essential these days of course. I also spend a bit of time on background research. At the start of the day I like to sit down at the PC with a cup of tea and put on a CD, either pop or classical, depending on my mood and what I’m writing about. Music often feeds my imagination.

What books do you love to read?

These days I mostly read non-fiction because I don’t have time for research otherwise. I do love reading novels though, especially the classics like Dickens. Recently I’ve been reading more contemporary stuff. I’ve just read and enjoyed ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon and ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. Currently I’m researching the lifestyle and history of Romany Gypsies because that’s the subject of the novel I’m currently working on. This is a kind of relaxation for me, indulging in my love for nature and taking a break from troubles in the workplace to pursue the freedom of the open road. As with The Forgiving Sand, it will be set in Cornwall.

Theresa’s latest book, The Forgiving Sand is out from 31 May 2013.

OUT NOW: The Natural Beauty of Cornwall by Peter Maxted

The Natural Beauty of Cornwall by Peter MaxtedPeter Maxted settled in Cornwall in 1983 (and was a frequent visitor before then) after working around the world as a teacher, journalist and travel writer. He has edited local and national magazines, run a regional advertising and marketing company and written several books. He is currently Communications and Marketing Officer for the Cornwall AONB and presents a weekly environment-themed show on local radio.

The Natural Beauty of Cornwall by Peter Maxted blurb

The Natural Beauty of Cornwall is the ideal companion to help you explore a landscape of quite extraordinary variety. From the wild northern coast to the peaceful estuaries of the south and from the high windswept moors and heaths to the hidden wooded valleys, this book captures the very essence of Cornwall.

Author Peter Maxted has lived in the area for some thirty years during which time he has keenly explored the length and breadth of it on foot, by bike and by boat. Concentrating mainly on the third of the county that is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as the ‘gateway’ towns, The Natural Beauty of Cornwall delves into geology, history, the rich industrial heritage and, of course, the astonishing scenery of one of the most beautiful counties in the British Isles.

The Natural Beauty of Cornwall by Peter Maxted is out now

The Natural Beauty of Cornwall by Peter Maxted