Today I am delighted to welcome Liz Kessler to the blog with a special guest post on her writing inspiration to celebrate the release of the eighth adventure in the ‘Emily Windsnap’ series. ‘Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince,’ features a transformative moment for our young heroine. Emily begins to recognise the importance of becoming self-reliant and staying true to herself. So when pirates kidnap her friends she realises it’s within her power to save the day.
Liz lives in the beautiful St.Ives in Cornwall which just happens to be my most favourite place in the world, so I was interested to hear how she was inspired by these stunning surroundings.
My Writing Inspiration – Liz Kessler
I’ve got writer friends whose children say such funny and original things that I’ve often thought it gives them a head start when it comes to writing books.
In fact, one friend, Keris Stainton, has SUCH a head start that she actually made a whole book out of things her sons had said.
But when it comes to being inspired by your surroundings, I have to hold my hands up and admit that, yeah, maybe I have a bit of a head start too.
Ten years ago, my partner and I rented out our house, packed up a few belongings, got the dog a pet passport and set off for a year in a campervan.
It was an incredible year of adventuring, exploring and getting inspiration. Here’s the van, the dog and a temporary office I set up on a long term pitch in Spain.
We eventually found ourselves in St Ives, and by the end of an afternoon on the beach and an evening in the harbourside pub The Sloop, we had fallen in love with the place and decided to live there.
Over the last decade, I still haven’t got used to the fact that I am allowed to live in a place that looks like this:
I genuinely pinch myself every day – not only because I love it here, but also because it is so perfect for me and my books. I’ve always adored the sea, I’ve always loved messing about on boats, and for over fifteen years I’ve written books about a part-time mermaid. I could not imagine living anywhere better.
The funny thing is, years ago, a friend told me about a magical place in Cornwall, where there’s a castle on a hill on a tiny island that is sometimes connected to land and sometimes cut off from it depending on where the tide is. The place was called St Michael’s Mount. I was instantly enthralled and, shortly afterwards, set off to spend a week in a hotel overlooking the castle as I researched what was to become my third book, Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist.
I now live twenty minutes’ drive from this magical place.
See why I have to pinch myself? If you have never been here, take it from me: Cornwall is beautiful!
In fact, I’m writing this blog with the sound of seagulls outside my window while white, curling waves crash onto the beach.
(A little literary side note: the lighthouse in the distance here, Godrevy Lighthouse, is the very one Virginia Woolf wrote about in To The Lighthouse.)
When I am struggling with a plot problem, I have learned that one of the best ways to figure it out is to go for a walk. I actually think that walking anywhere is helpful for this. The act of walking itself seems to help the problems wriggle free and untie themselves.
Walking around here has added benefits.
For example, I was once walking along the coast path from Carbis Bay to St Ives. I’d walked along this route many times with our dog and knew it well. This time, I must have taken a different turning without realising, as I found myself on a tiny offshoot from the normal path. Out of nowhere, I came across this.
Like. Literally. Walking along the coast path. Ocean spreading out forever on my right – and suddenly there is a great big, wooden chair on a plinth.
Well, of course that went in a book!
The chair became a crucial part of the setting of Emily Windsnap’s sixth adventure, The Ship of Lost Souls.
Other times, I find that I am simply inspired by the beauty and majesty of nature. Like this. An iphone pic from a recent walk.
This rainbow didn’t specifically find its way into a book – although it still may do some day – but it filled me with inspiration and wonder at how nature manages to be so incredibly beautiful.
And while we’re on nature, summer in St Ives would not be summer without our gorgeous visitors to the harbour. The mermaid dogs more commonly known as seals.
Even more special, as it is a little bit more rare, is when we see dolphins.
We have a little fishing boat, and I also go rowing with the Pilot Gig Club three times a week, so we have lots of opportunities to spot the local sea life. We’ve even seen basking sharks and a Minke whale!
One thing I’ve never seen whilst looking out to sea is pirates. In real life I’m pretty glad about this! But when I started thinking about my new book, Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince, it did mean I had to look further afield for inspiration. It also meant I had an excuse to do something I’d wanted to do for years…go on a trip on a tall ship.
Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince is just out and I hope that lots of young readers will take the book on their summer holidays and sit reading it on a beach. And secretly I hope that it will inspire them to stop reading every now and then, look out to sea and let their own imaginations run free about the beautiful creatures and the mysteries and secrets that might, just might, be out there.
Liz Kessler studied English at Loughborough University, has worked as a teacher and a journalist and has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. After taking a year off to travel around Europe in a camper van, Liz now lives in Cornwall. You can find out more about Liz by visiting her website, follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.
Thanks to Liz for this really insightful guest post. ‘Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince,’ is available to buy online now or from any good bookshop. Why not collect the rest of Emily’s adventures too?
Thanks to Nina Douglas for inviting me to host this guest post and to Hachette for sending me a gifted copy of the book in exchange for this post.