For a long time in my life I longed to write a novel, but the words just wouldn’t come. Then I moved to Nottingham, to live by the green, leafy university campus that had inspired me as a student, and bham! I wrote ten books in four years (none of them, to my surprise, about Robin Hood). Finally, I made the connection:
Desire to write + Being in the right place = A finished manuscript
Now, whenever I want to write, I ‘think place’. And there are plenty that inspire me.
My roots are in the Royal County of Berkshire, and some of my earliest memories are of countryside walks, through woods, across fields and alongside the meandering Thames. These days, I build similar memories for my kids around our village in Greater Manchester, collecting conkers in the woods and feeding ducks on the river.
Farther afield, I’ve been inspired by spectacular countryside in places like the Highlands of Scotland, where my husband’s family lives; rural France, where we often holiday; and various parts of the US, where I lived as a student.
I love the buzz and the culture of cities. Aside from my closest cities, Manchester and Liverpool, I spend a fair amount of time in the two hearts of publishing: London and Oxford. I lived in West London for three years and I love going back to old haunts: Holland Park, Portobello Market, Covent Garden, the South Bank, the West End. As for Oxford – the city of dreaming spires never fails to inspire.
Beyond the UK, I’ve explored all kinds of cities, from Austin to Paris, Malaga to Amsterdam, Montreux to Tunis. I first caught the city-break bug in my early twenties, when on a whim I bought a £1 flight to Barcelona and flew off for three nights. Alone. It was the making of me.
Ah, Devon. Whenever I go, I leave a piece of my heart there – in the coastal village where I summered as a child with my grandparents.
For the Ceruleans, I managed to sell my husband the idea that ‘research’ trips (a.k.a. holidays) to Devon and Cornwall were essential, and so we spent several weeks in the Plymouth and Newquay areas. Twycombe is a fictional cove, an amalgamation of several little villages in the area. But many of the locations in The Ceruleans books are real. My family and I stayed at Royal William Yard. We ate at the Edgcumbe Arms and The Ship at Noss Mayo. We paddled in Heybrook Bay. We flew kites at Fistral Beach. We met the big cats at Dartmoor zoo. And we climbed to the top of Luke and Scarlett’s folly in Mount Edgcumbe Park. My son and my husband were very brave at the top of that ancient, crumbling, clifftop tower. I regret to say I was not. But I was very inspired by that view.