I live on the Cornish bank of the Tamar, in the midst of the ancient land of the Dewnan.
I’m fascinated by the history of the interaction between people and places and how, even now, as individuals and collectively we are influenced by the land and the ocean that surrounds us, are formed and supported by all who have gone before us.
Landscapes, shaped by human intervention, absorb me with thought and imagination of what might lay hidden, unexplained or simply forgotten in familiar features; a different explanation, yet to be uncovered; that challenges the accepted events, capabilities and connections. Archaeological finds regularly bring new interpretations and alter the accepted truth. Why not anticipate that with informed imagination?
And then legends, where fact and truth are concealed, perhaps, in good story telling, or manipulated to support a different truth, until we are not quite sure what we know and what we don’t know. Exploring the juxtaposition between each of these fascinations weaves through my writing in This Sacred Land and the Chronicle of the Dewnan.
But most of all I like a good story! Where simple emotions that we can all engage with; love, passion, anger, hope, greed, anxiety, jealousy all play out in a story that introduces characters who are recognisable in their concerns, dreams and aspirations – even if they did walk the land that we walk, two thousand years ago. In who they are, they are not so very different from us, and even now their blood courses through us and connects us across the ages.
This Sacred Land is my first novel. Released in two parts, it is the first extract from the Chronicle of the Dewnan. In future extracts, the legend will grow as the years roll by. The possibility of a new truth, a new interpretation will build as the Chronicle is reclaimed and the story of the true Artur, the man, and all those who subsequently carry the title will weave its way through the story of the Dewnan, their place in the world, beside Ocean’s shore and all that they achieve in this, their final golden age.
What inspired you to write this?
It has been an ambition of mine to write a novel, a series of novels for a long time – but life and other aspirations have sort of got in the way until now!
I started writing This Sacred Land in 2010, based on readings and lots of imagination, fuelled by walks with my family, across the countryside of the Tamar Valley and the Cornwall and Devon coast path. However, it was a 7-month absence from work in 2016/17 that really helped to bring the novel to a pre-edited conclusion. If it hadn’t have been for that break, I would probably still be writing it now!
Which authors inspired you?
I write in the Authors Note for This Sacred Land about Julius Caesar, Philip Marsden and Barry Cunliffe. So not just authors then, but writers, journalists, historians, and archaeologists – and, of course, a power mad, manipulative, megalomaniac Roman general…
I think subconsciously, also, the land of the Dewnan in its creation owes a little something to Hardy’s Wessex – and his use of alternative place names and the map that accompanies all Hardy novels (although of course I am not comparing myself to Thomas Hardy as a writer! Maybe one day!).
Have you always been interested in the themes in this book?
Yes, the novel is about a struggle not to succumb to the mighty and the corporate – a fight against enforced conformity where the desire to protect long held identity and distinctiveness, led by strong male and female characters, leads to determined acts of bravery and sacrifice. That interests me and will also be integral to future extracts from the Chronicle of the Dewnan.
And landscapes and people, how they have interacted, how the land we see around us has been shaped over millennia is fascinating. Maps, such as the Ordnance Survey, have captivated me from a very young age and I can spend hours looking at them – fuelling my imagination.
I think This Sacred Land is also about the importance of family and inheritance, what is passed on from generation to generation. Each of us is just one step in a much longer journey for blood and DNA. Our challenge is to move things on, add something and use our time well.
Who are you favourite authors? Why? What is it about them you like?
Patrick O’Brian – Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin novels. Read them all, several times; great characters, all flawed, but engaging and recognisable in their concerns, dreams and aspirations – great description and detail and you feel you are part of their world. I also like the way that subtle humour drops in and suddenly makes you laugh out loud.
Jane Austen – Great characters, brilliantly observed and a world you can immerse and completely lose yourself in.
Patrick Leigh Fermor – not just an author, and at his best in his books about places and travel, that incorporate wonderful, lyrical prose description. His book on the Mani in southern Greece and his walk from London to Constantinople in Between the Woods and the Water and A Time of Gifts are some of my very favourite reads.
How long did it take you to write? Did you find it easy/difficult, why?
A long time! Over eight years from first paragraph to publication. A growing family, the demands of paid work and lots of other things that we wanted to go and do all made for very slow progress. Several concerted efforts on Greek holidays however and then a seven month break from work brought it to its pre-edited conclusion. I love the writing and the research and with dedicated time, although I am constantly writing and then editing, I find it not easy, but enjoyably challenging and I make good progress. Fitting that in with lots of other interests and commitments has been the most difficult thing.
What advice would you give people having a go at writing/publishing?
It can be a long road – but don’t give in!
What’s next for you?
The next extract from the Chronicle of the Dewnan – it will jump forward several years and to what happened next with the characters in This Sacred Land, as well as introducing some new characters.
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