Today, I'm delighted to welcome author Anna Legat as a guest blogger, writing about the importance of 'knowing her place.' Anna's new novel 'Swimming With Sharks' is set in the Maldives, and is published by Accent Press.
Perhaps because I’ve lived in so many diverse locations, I tend to anthropomorphise them. As I begin to know them, the places acquire distinct personalities. They may not necessarily be nice and easy-going. They have their quirks and we have our differences. It may take time for them and me to get used to each other. But given that time, locations become homes. I miss them when we part company. And when we meet again, I am struck by how much they have changed. Or haven’t, as the case may be.
Poland – my birth place - seen with child’s eyes, it towered over me and held me on the palm of its hand. A home to fairy tales: a frozen, snow-packed landscape from Hans Christian Andersen’s Ice Queen. Or the wild forest with a rippling river carrying gently the walnut shell of my charmed Thumbelina’s life.
It was a gentle giant of a place: big but benevolent; cold but warm-hearted. It was a man dressed as Santa Claus, bearing gifts.
South Africa – my extravagant youth – hot, full of life, full of wide grins, which could mean joy to the world or pure menace, one could never tell. Africa, teetering on the edge of a precipice, eyes closed, arms wide spread, taking that one step forward. It wasn’t quite the same Africa as in Conrad’s (my compatriot and fellow traveller) Heart of Darkness, but it wasn’t far removed from it.
Many have tried to tame her with luxury, but deep down she remains raw, detached and a law unto herself. An ancient medicine woman some would call a witch.
New Zealand – a place of safety and refuge – isolated, frozen-in-time, virginal. Beautiful but lonely, aloof, jealously guarding her secrets. Eerie. She was a nun who took the vow of silence, and kept it. I know her secret but I will never speak of it. I gave my word.
So yes, place is important to me. In my new novel, Swimming with Sharks, I try to evoke the character of the Maldivian tropics in this extract:
"The heat surprises her once again. It sits on her shoulders, her face and her back. It is omnipresent. Her muscles go flaccid. The sun (which is not distinct and does not occupy a clear spot but is spread thinly across the sky as if someone has tried to bleach it out) dazzles her. Its rays bounce off the sand crystals and fly into Nicola’s eyes. She puts her hand to her brow and scans the horizon.
The sublime blueness is broken in a few places: a stilted hut with a rowing boat moored to it; a long pier with a succession of thatched chalets reaching into the ocean; a palm tree leaning towards the water like a teenage girl’s long neck. A couple of white yachts are motionless in the far distance. Everything is true to form – picture perfect. She saw many photographs like that in glossy brochures, but this is better. This is real. She stands on the deck of her chalet and takes it all in. This will be the best holiday ever.
The ocean licks the land, and retreats; and comes back for more. It is like a children’s story book: full of goodness and sunshine. Nicola steps down onto the burning hot sand and jogs towards the water. Her feet sink in. She feels the warm and moist tongue of the sea on her soles. She sees a fish pass by, just a few steps away. You could reach out and pull that fish out with your bare hands, but who would do such a thing?”
About Swimming with Sharks:
When fortysomething Nicola Eagles goes on the holiday of a lifetime to the Maldives, she never dreams she’ll fall in love – she’s too shy, too set in her ways. But then she meets someone who changes her life for ever…
Just when things seem to be going right for Nicola, though, she disappears without a trace. Was it a voluntary disappearance, or was she abducted – or murdered? When her absence is noted back in the UK, DI Gillian Marsh is sent to investigate.
Gillian is a good detective but her life is dysfunctional to say the least – and as she delves deeper into the case, she realises that she may be out of her depth professionally too. For Nicola’s disappearance is just the start…
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Anna Legat writes crime and contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, Life Without Me, a thriller with an unearthly dose of humour, met with a warm reception both in the UK and abroad, and the first in the DI Gillian Marsh crime series, Swimming with Sharks, was released in the spring of 2016. In her writing Anna draws upon her travels and experiences. Born in Poland, she also lived in South Africa and New Zealand where she worked as an attorney and legal adviser. She now lives in Wiltshire where she teaches in a primary school and, of course, writes. Anna has a husband and a teenage daughter, and is hoping to soon get a dog. She is currently working on the next instalment featuring DI Marsh’s personal and professional triumphs and misfortunes (and of course her feline companion, Fritz, based on Anna’s dearly departed cat Basil!)