A Sense of Place #8 Laura Wilkinson - North Wales and Redemption Song
Today, I'm delighted to be joined by fellow Accent Press author, Laura Wilkinson.
Me: Welcome, Laura. What would be the elevator pitch for your latest novel, 'Redemption Song.'
Laura: Hi, Lynne. My elevator pitch would be:
What we need most is often what we run from.
A horrific accident leaves two people dead.
A grieving young woman hiding from the world …
A good man gone bad, eaten up by betrayal…
Broken lives, lies and loss in an enchanting seaside town.
Love is what they need most, but will they risk it?
Me: I see that 'Redemption Song' is set in North Wales. How important is location in your writing?
Laura: Setting is really important to me. I’m a fan of writing about locations I know intimately as well as creating fictional places. For me, which route – real or created – depends on the story. My novel 'Skin Deep,' out in March 2017 , was inspired by a location. It came from a desire to write about an enormous sink estate where I lived as a student, so extraordinary was it. Hulme, the area of Manchester where some of the action takes place, was demolished years before the story arrived in my head. But so powerful was the sense of the place, its character, that it stayed with me. And the second part of the narrative takes place in London, a city I lived in for fourteen years and still love.
My first novel, 'BloodMining,' is to be republished as 'The Family Line' this summer and the settings are all real: Bangor, London, Paris, Romania, though I’ve only visited London and Bangor! I spent a lot of time on Google Earth for that one. The story demanded real locations. Set in the near-future I ask a lot of my reader (and myself) in terms of suspension of disbelief so it felt important to root the settings in reality.
My second novel, 'Public Battles, Private Wars', is a love story set against the backdrop of the 1984/85 miners’ strike. The research undertaken for that book was huge, and while I knew early on that the action would take place in Yorkshire (it felt like the beating heart of the strike to me) I also knew that I didn’t want to set it in a specific pit village. There are so many people still alive today who were active in the strike that I didn’t want anyone thinking I’d snatched their lives (and I spoke to lots of people – especially the women – involved in the protests). Plus, creating a fictional village allowed me freedoms with plot and travelling times that would not have been possible had I chosen an actual village. The geography in the novel is elastic, shall we say!
'Redemption Song,' my latest novel, is set in a remote, faintly shabby resort on the north Wales coast, close to where I grew up and where my family still live. Although Coed Mawr is a fictional town, it is inspired by Llandudno, as any reader who knows the town will spot immediately. Coed Mawr is almost another character in the book: a horseshoe-shaped bay, lined with candy-coloured buildings, the town nestles between two cliffs jutting out to sea, shielded from the mountain range by the high trees which give the place its name (Coed Mawr translates as High Trees).
The town is symbolic of the lead characters’ desires for freedom and escape, and their need to hide away from the rest of the world. Saffron and Joe have secrets; they are ashamed and guilt-ridden; and their secrets threaten to destroy them. The landscape of north Wales is stunning in its drama; by turns (and the weather) dark and brooding, picturesque and charming, it is as volatile and passionate as Saffron and Joe. They isolate themselves from the community, which they profess to dislike, but close knit places like Coed Mawr have a habit of getting under your skin, and as Joe and Saffron succumb to the charms of the town, and each other, they are forced to confront their pasts, to be truthful, forgiving and open to life and love again.
For me, the story wouldn’t have worked in the same way had it been set in a city, London say, or the Bahamas, gorgeous though it is (or so I’m told – I’ve never been). As well as helping to create atmosphere, setting influences action and character. Would the second Mrs de Winter have been so unsettled had Manderley stood on the seafront at Blackpool? Or: ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Scunthorpe again’? I think not.
Me: Are you working on your next book? And can you tell us anything about it?
Laura: Sure am and sure can. 'Skin Deep' is another love story, though not a conventional one – to put it mildly! It follows beautiful artist Diana and Cal, a deformed boy. Both of them are seeking love and purpose, trying to find acceptance and their place in a world fixated with image. It explores obsession, concepts of beauty, and the legacy of parental exploitation. The message is that true beauty comes from within. And if this makes it sound a little grim – it’s not. It’s full of wonder and joy, and love. 'Skin Deep' is written, though there will be more work on it with my editor, Greg. Alongside this novel, I’m writing a brand new one. It’s very early days (15k into a first draft and no title yet) so I’m loathe to say too much other than it’s about addiction and love.
Me: Thank you, Laura, for chatting to us today, I'm very much looking forward to reading 'Redemption Song.'
Laura: Thank you, Lynne, for having me on your blog.
Laura Wilkinson writes short stories and contemporary novels; love stories with grit. After a degree in Literature, she moved from her homeland of Wales to London where she worked as a journalist. Now she lives in Brighton with her two boys (Ginger1 and Ginger2) and her husband (the BigFella), a bluegrass musician. She loves a bargain, jeans, pretty dresses and high heels.
As well as writing, she works as an editor/mentor for Cornerstones and The Writing Coach, and runs workshops on the art of fiction. She’s spoken at festivals and events nationwide, including London Metropolitan University, GladLit, University of Kingston, and The Women’s Library.
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