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2017 is sliding to a close. In February I sold my town house and moved to the country. All summer I wrote the first draft of a book and experienced the euphoric highs of being back in the country.

I watched a close friend battle courageously with cancer. I reveled in my first spring here. Walking with a friend through the gorse and hawthorn, exploring the coastal paths, looking down on hidden coves of aquamarine sea; meeting lovely neighbours, making new friends and experiencing a sense of a community.

Summer, although it largely passed me by, as I was working, was wonderful.

I could watch the sun rise at the back of the house in the morning and the sky catch fire and spread ripples of scarlet and gold over the sea at nightfall.

From my windows I could look across the garden and see the sea crashing onto the rocks below me. I could stand in my garden in wonder at the roll and catch of ever changing light on the water, as subtle and abrupt as a mood change.

Out of the corner of my eye I could sometimes spot a big silver fox run along the field wall in the dusk and experience the wonder of looking up at buzzards and sparrow hawks hovering over the fields like exotic shadows

I had to watch a close friend battle courageously with cancer. She came and sat in the garden, delighting in the peace and the view, holding her face up to the sun and to life. We talked of safe things and what we would do when she was better. Her wrists were a child’s and her long thin fingers as fragile as twigs.

Autumn came and the leaves were blown off the trees before their time. My friend lost her battle for life quietly, without fuss. It was how she lived her life. She chose happiness. Every small event was a story, every simple joy a celebration. She was a wonderful Fine Arts Restorer who renovated neglected ancient church panels as well as restoring portraits and paintings. The beat of her life was her beloved music. She went to her choir until she could no longer stand.

Years ago she told me about a small figurehead she was restoring in the old chapel in St Agnes. It had come from a British shipwreck off Newfoundland and ended up in Canada, and now it had been shipped back home to England. She was the bravest person I know.

Fascinated, I drove over to look her sitting in a corner of the chapel with a wild overgrown garden outside. Where had she been, this little figurehead? What was her provenance. My imagination was fired. That is how ANOTHER LIFE was born. I owe that book entirely to my friend and it is dedicated to her. She not only gave me my story, but she was so generous with her expertise for my fictional picture restorer.

Now winter is here. The weather can be bleak and close in like a relentless blanket. Sea mist creeps in with the speed and silence of a snake. It can linger for days shutting the world out and you in. Coastal paths become dangerous and inaccessible. The wind, straight from the sea is unbelievably ferocious. It blows in like an express train and sounds like one. It hurls large plant pots and wooden benches across the garden. It lifts and whooshes doormats into the bushes. It steals into every crack and moans and whirls round the house like a dervish.

Large trees in my garden groan and bend and crack, dead branches fly everywhere. The sky becomes a purple bruise filling the sky. Below me the leaden sea churns and sprays upwards, warning, threatening, taking no prisoners.

I knew my first winter would be challenging as I put a house to rights, and so it has sometimes been. Windows leak, taps fall off, heavy kitchen cupboards fly to the floor narrowly missing me, or the cat.

The new gate, made so heavy I cannot open it in a wind, (there is a real danger of being crushed by it -and death by a gate is not romantic) broke and hung off in the latest storm, swinging and squeaking eerily like the pub sign in Jamaica Inn. Everything needs attention and as I am trying to finish a book, sometimes I quail and crumple.

But, I know that my windows will not always leak. I will have a bathroom with heating. Spring and summer will be round again. I will make a garden. Friends will brave the rutted track and puddles to come again and sit in the sun and walk the paths.

When I take flight going to the dustbin, or aquaplane in my poor, muddy, little mini, through the ruts and puddles, when I wonder what I have done, I look out of my ‘office’ window, past the red and pink camellia bushes to the sea shimmering or boiling below me, and, in the silence and peace of a life I have chosen, I know exactly why I am here.

Jane Johnson gave a great talk last night at Waterstones Truro.  Her fabulous new book Court of Lions is out. The talented staff at Waterstones gave her the most beautiful window display I think I have ever seen.

It was a lovely event. History, intrigue, little Morrocan rose-almond pastries, wine… welcoming staff… and books…

As Jane signed her books I roamed a blissfully empty bookshop. A novel experience! Shelves and shelves of books all to myself. Oh joy. What utter heaven. I circled and circled like an excited magpie while a lovely member of staff tempted me with so many wonders I had to rein myslf in or go bankrupt. There was an amazing selection of nature writing I shall return for, but last night I came home with

Inside The Wave by Helen Dunmore

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson. ( I am already reading Court of Lions)

Cove by Cynan Jones

We returned home in the rain and I fell into my house in the middle of nowhere very happy. Apart from the fact I have had no broadband to post this…

Just to remind any readers, Come Away with Me is on a special Kindle offer of 99p for all July and August.

Come Away With Me

Come Away With Me* I have a special Kindle promotion this month for COME AWAY WITH ME!
You can buy the digital version for 99p. This runs from today July 6th until 31st of August

The sea is as green as if I were on a Greek island. The sun is bouncing off the surface like sparklers down on the point.

I have a deadline and subdued panic surfaces at 4am and various other times of the day when I am struggling with a chapter. Or a character won’t do as they are told.

This is a time when I have to get selfish and say NO to almost everything and everybody or time will run away from me.

The world these last few months has been such a sad, violent and tragic place. Life seems uncertain and fragile. Living in the country I am conscious everyday of how insignificant we are in the circle of life. Nature endures. Seasons change in an everlastingly comforting sequence what ever we do or do not do.

Like most people, when I walk I can find peace and marvel at the beauty that is all around us. It saves me from doubt and turmoil and writer’s block. I try to get up early to walk before my writing day begins. The sound of the sea is a soothing meditation. The hedgerows are full of butterflies and fat bees drunk on thistle pollen. The paths brim with wild flowers so simple and lovely it is impossible not to feel joy.

I can think about my day’s work, write a chapter in my head, before I get to my desk. That early walk stops me feeling deprived that I will be indoors working for the rest of the day. I have had my early ‘fix’ and all feels well.

Whatever is going on in the rest of the world I can watch the farmer plough straight furrows in the rich, red earth with all the skill of an artist. I hold my breath, for the hills are steep and the tractor leans dangerously sideways before it disappears into a cloud of seagulls.

I watch potato and cabbage planted in perfect rows. I watch them spring up like magic into stunning patterns of blue potato flowers framed against the sky. The rows of variegated cabbages are like arty flower displays.

I also hear the gas gun start every morning at 5 am in a desperate bid to keep the rabbits and birds off the crops. The farmer can be seen jumping up and down swearing at all wildlife. Life is not perfect.

I know that summer will end and I will be shut in with fog and winds. The unmade road to my house will fill with rain and my Mini will rumble and grumble that it is not a four- wheel drive. Summer and my life here in this wild and lovely place will have to live behind my eyelids and sustain me for long months. But the memory of it will also remind me that life is good and all seasons change.

I missed the launch at Daunt Books for Jane Johnson’s wonderful new book, COURT of LIONS

I dared not take the time off to go to London and I felt like Cinderella. It has one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen, and a slim book mark. Here it is… So exciting…I am just about to begin…

Meanwhile, the summer slips by and I have a book to finish…

Come Away With Me

Last week I made a flying visit to London to meet my new editor at HarperCollins. I was given a wonderful welcome and shown around the new enormous sixteen storey HarperCollins building on a beautiful clear sunny day. ( Getting in and out was akin to airport security) The Shard loomed exotic, almost within touching distance. A panoramic, breathtaking London lay shimmering below.Tugs on the river, London bridge, a glittering of steel and shadowy shifting reflections in glass. All alongside ancient buildings in every direction.

I was fascinated by the huge open plan interior in which everyone at HarperCollins works.There were small areas with sofas and tiny glass rooms for quiet interviews and discussion. Desks interweaved with each other like a complicated Lego art form across the entire floor. Editors sat companionably at their computers for the long process of editing and producing the mouth watering crispy books arrayed everywhere. I felt like a child in a sweet shop, eyes swivelling from one title to the next.

It was intriguing to see the process of a book- here the editing, there the graphics for covers.  Writers are one little cog in a wheel of producing a book. We write our stories, sometimes, in the middle of nowhere. Here, in the middle of the city,  editors read and edit and polish and prune until a work is ready to put between a cover.

My book is partly set in Pakistan and I was taken to a happy and fun lunch at the wonderful Arabica in Borough Market. Delicious, middle eastern  food and interesting talk with my agent, Broo and editor, Lynn and assistant editor Charlotte

Chatting about my time in Pakistan re-kindled some almost forgotten memories. I heard the echo of my friends voices from Karachi and it made the time I am writing about immediate and real once more as I saw it through other people’s eyes.

Writing is solitary. I sit in a tiny room facing my garden and spend more time with my fictional characters than I do real people.  To sit and talk to editors who are enthusiastic and intuitive is a wonderful thing. While I am writing, someone professional  is directing the course my book will take. This felt so validating, enabling and energising.

I returned home to a house disappeared in sea mist. To an arctic wind in May. It was possible to think I might disappear too. It is vital, I believe, this necessary relationship with editor and agent, to stay grounded. I feel  very blessed and lucky.

The icing on the cake was the gift of two lovely books.

I opened Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, on the train back to Penzance and I cannot put it down. It is a joy of a book and is going to do incredibly well. It is out any minute and I cannot recommend it enough.

( I look forward to reading The Kicking the Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins  next)

Photos: Beautiful North Pakistan. Me at Karachi Literary Festival. The Mohatta Palace, Karachi. My lovely lunch with Lynn, Broo and Charlotte.

The cover of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

I have finally moved house and a whole new world has opened up for me. I can walk straight out of my front door down through the fields to the coastal path. The sea shimmers blue through the emerging leaves of the trees that edge my garden. I watch the small crabber down on the point as he checks his pots. I spot seals off the rocks and small white and rust sails as they slide past

In the evening the sun plunges dramatically into the sea leaving a wash of red and gold. As I rush out with my camera a beautiful fox leaps over the wall, bold and proud. The world is magic and I am enthralled by spring unfolding outside my door. Waking each morning is an adventure. I cannot wait to leap out into rainbow days of changing colour and texture.

In the first months here relentless winds bent the trees in half and drove through the garden like a hurricane making all untethered things fly past the window. The camellias, great shiny green bushes of rose red, pink stood bravely in the lea of the storms and their blooms blistered cruelly. Then, suddenly, the winds softened, the storms were over. In a day it was summer, the birds sang in my overgrown jungle and the cat howled to the moon to be let out. The weather here cannot go unnoticed, it is as fickle and moody as a teenager. One day it is like like Crete, another day as bitter as a Scottish Island.

I find if I get up early to walk then I can happily move to my desk and write for six hours at a time without feeling deprived. I have set up office in a  tiny room facing the garden. It is like a rat’s nest for I have no shelves yet. But it is my space and  I can write in utter peace. The only thing I can hear are the soound of  birds and in rough weather the roar of the ocean.

The only flaw, so far, is the sound of raw and cruel nature. This is Paradise on earth for my beautiful cat who has turned into a psychopathic  killer. Many mornings are punctuated by the screams of baby rabbits. It is deeply upsetting. I save as many as I can but it is not a battle I am going to win

Just before I moved I signed a two book deal with HarperCollins. My new book is due to be delivered in July.

I took a bit of a gamble moving out of a small town and buying a house down an unmade road in the middle of fields. I feel so lucky to have found such a serene, happy and perfect place to write.  I am ignoring the unpacked boxes, the dust and untidy rooms; the work that will need doing to the house, my Mini that is having trouble with the potholed track. In two months I have to finish and deliver a book and just writing that sentence induces a frisson of fear and excitement.

Moving back to the country feels like coming home after a long journey. It is like taking a deep, wonderful, powerful life enhancing breath.

My World

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