I am thrilled to welcome Laura Wood to the blog today to celebrate the release of the ‘Poppy Pym and the Secrets of Smuggler’s Cove.’ We are huge fans of the ‘Poppy Pym’ series in my house, so you can imagine the excitement when this book landed on our doormat, especially as Laura had left us at the end of ‘Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx’ with a huge question that needed answering. The fact that it is set in Cornwall is an added bonus because it is our favourite place to go on holiday, who can resist pasties, ice-cream and paddling your toes in the sea – we can’t even in Winter. Laura shares with us today the reasons for setting the latest ‘Poppy Pym’ adventure in Cornwall.
So without further ado I will pass you over to Laura.
Poppy Pym and the Smuggler’s Secret – Laura Wood
When I decided to set my third Poppy Pym book in the early summer there was, I thought, only one place that I could set it… and that place was at the seaside. More specifically the book is set in Cornwall, in a fictional village called Crumley, that sits on top of a cliff and is in possession of a rather spooky old castle. I thought that today I would give you a little tour of one of the places that helped me to imagine the setting for ‘Poppy Pym and the Smuggler’s Secret.’
If you know me then you will know that I am an enormous fan of Cornwall. I’m pretty vocal about it. (This is an enormous understatement.) I think it is my favourite place in the world, and why wouldn’t it be when you can WALK IN THE CLOUDS LIKE THIS:
I took this picture last year at Watergate Bay, when I was just starting to think about the story for book 3 in the series. In the book, Poppy and her friends go on a school trip to Crumley Castle, and, while there, Poppy gets caught up in an impossible mystery that has been unsolved for centuries…a mystery that leads to the uncovering of dangerous secrets being kept today. As always the book centres upon Poppy tackling the role of detective alongside her best pals Kip and Ingrid, but in this instance I wanted the location of the book to play an important role.
I wanted to capture the fun and adventure of the British seaside in the summer, and to draw upon my own memories of holidays to Cornwall as a child. It’s because of this that the book is full of sunshine, and sandcastles, and munching warm pasties on the beach, toes burrowing in the sand, hair in a wet, salty tangle. It sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? When I think about my summer holidays there as a child I think about the wild joy that I felt, the heavy tiredness of my limbs after running in and out of the freezing water and clambering through rock pools with my net and bucket in hand. It’s still magic as an adult, but there’s a golden quality to these childhood memories that I was really keen to try and capture in Poppy’s experience.
Here’s another picture that I took of Watergate bay, and I think it’s also the bigness of these beaches that gives me a thrill, when the tide goes out and the sand stretches in front of you for miles and miles. I was also thinking about the position of the castle and the village, and how these secret coves in Cornwall are always hemmed in by quite dramatic cliffs…the perfect location for Crumley Castle. I added the photographs that I took to the research folder of my Scrivener file (a tool I highly recommend to those of you trying to write a book- it makes order out of all my chaos!) so that I could look at them whenever I was writing and I needed inspiration.
Another thing that was great about visiting Watergate Bay was exploring some of the caves and tunnels. These play such an important part in the book which builds upon some of the famous smuggling legends of the region – in particular the infamous John Carter and his brothers Harry and Charles who provided the inspiration for the smugglers in my book. This picture is one that I took from inside the mouth of one of the caves that had tunnels that went back for miles. I don’t know it for a fact but I like to believe that it was put to good use by outlaws and it’s certainly easy to imagine barrels of brandy being rolled through here!
One of the great mysteries in Poppy Pym and the Smuggler’s Secret revolves around the disappearance of the Redshank brothers, Tom and Henry. This is a little snippet from the guide book that Poppy reads before they all make their way to Crumley, which tells the mysterious tale:
During the eighteenth century, Tom and Henry Redshank were fishermen who lived in Crumley village; but they were also notorious smugglers, often arriving onshore at the local beach (the aptly named “Smuggler’s Cove”) to unload their cargo of illegally obtained barrels of brandy. Their small sailboat, Spinning Jenny, had been painted black – right down to the sails – so that on moonlit evenings it was practically invisible to the naked eye. Tom would bring the illegal cargo by boat into Smuggler’s Cove, and Henry would signal his brother that the coast was clear by lighting a lamp on the mainland and awaiting the answering “spark” from Tom.
Details like the painting of the boat, and the ‘spark’, which was a distinctive blue light made by shooting a barrel-less gun filled with gun powder, are drawn from real tales of eighteenth century smugglers, and being inside these amazing caves and tunnels really helps you to imagine what it would have been like.
I think that’s one of the things that made writing this book so special for me. When you go and visit these amazing beaches in Cornwall (and, goodness, there are so many to choose from) then there is very little that has changed since the days that smugglers and customs men were playing cat and mouse, making trouble and exchanging gun fire. It’s so easy to step into that world and a place that exists, somehow, out of time. It’s this timeless sense of story and adventure that so appealed to me as a child, and its one that I really hope will appeal to the readers of my book.
Laura Wood is the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing. She has just completed her PhD at the University of Warwick studying the figure of the reader in nineteenth century literature. ‘Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx’ is the follow up to her first novel ‘Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s Curse’.
Thank you Laura for this fantastic guest post you are making me yearn for another Cornish holiday. Also thanks to Olivia and Scholastic for sending me a copy of this much sought after book.