Thank you, Alison, for inviting me here to talk about the setting for my new book Chosen Child.
Setting is such a big part of the atmosphere in a book. A gloomy wood, a grey urban landscape or a desert island – characters react to the setting as well as to each other and the events in the plot.
Like Chosen Child, my second book The Cold Cold Sea is set in Cornwall, where I spent several fabulous holidays as a child. What I remember most about them is the sea – breakers crashing up the beach, surfers riding the waves on their huge boards, families with children splashing around in the shallows.
I loved writing The Cold Cold Sea. In my head, I was back in Newquay, hearing the waves and the gulls, smelling the clean, salty tang of the Atlantic. The sea plays such a big part in this book it’s almost another character – did the sea take Olivia? Did it sneak up behind her, wrap wet arms around her, and carry her off? The uncertainty about what happened to her child is tortuous for Maggie – she comes to hate the ocean.
In Chosen Child, the sea has a different role. This book is set around St Ives, and the sea is mere backdrop to much of the action. It glints in the distance as Rick and Ella go about their business; when Rick has a headache the sunlight sparkling on the ocean is blinding. The sea is a beautiful but not always comfortable part of their lives, especially for Ella, who has always wanted to be a mother. She dreams of going to the beach with her child and doing all the family stuff – sandcastles, pony rides, ice creams. It feels as if she’s been on the side lines forever, watching other families having fun, and she can hardly believe it when her dream comes true. Or seems to.
In another plot strand, the ocean has a more sinister role. Gareth has planned to walk part of the South West Coast Path, where the views are spectacular. Some sections of the route are dangerous – but the real danger for Gareth lies in quite a different place…
This part of the book was more difficult to write. I’ve been to St Ives, but I’ve never walked the South West Coast Path, and Google maps and the www can only help so much. Fortunately, I found two people who knew the area well enough to give me some tips. Someday, I’d like to go there and maybe walk part of it – but I think I’ll leave out Gareth’s section. It sounded quite challenging!
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.
Ideas for her books come from Linda’s daily life. The Paradise Trees was inspired by her father-in-law’s struggle with dementia, and she started writing The Cold Cold Sea shortly after learning that a child in her extended family drowned in the 1940s, aged eleven. The Attic Room begins in one of her most-loved places, the Isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland. The idea for Chosen Child, her fourth psychological thriller, came during a chance conversation at a wedding.