Authors reveal the images that inspired 100,000 words

FICTION

PHOTO

About the author...

Anna’s had a brush with 'fame' as a magician’s assistant back in 1977. She later decided that being sawn in half by her father, at barely 6 months old, was too submissive a role, vowing to channel the trauma in to something much more pro-actively creative. Having failed at acting, singing and professional murder mystery parties (she was ALWAYs the one to die!), she fell to something much more solitary: writing. How to Mend a Broken Heart is her first novel and her life was not on the line in order to write it. Anna lives on a dairy farm in Cornwall with her two children, her husband, and her ex-racing greyhound, Olive Dog.

For me, inspiration has changed over the years. From book’s I’ve read, theatre I’ve seen, brilliant people I’ve met, or cake… always cake, but, there is something about the current phase of my life that draws me home, inspired by the beauty I see in that which surrounds me. Family, friends, places. They’re all on my door step. I don’t think that’s good in the long term. I think we have to look outwardly, seek new experiences, embrace diversity and opportunity. But as someone suffering some pretty tricksy anxiety for a year or so now, or perhaps because of a somewhat tumultuous few years for my family, home is where both my heart and my inspiration lies.

I don’t know who first said ‘Blessed be those who live by the sea.’ But I feel them, daily. From my first visit to Cornwall back in 2002, to the day we moved here in 2009, to the house we live in today, Cornwall is my home; being so close to the water inspires me every single day. Sure, this morning it was misty and damp as I wandered empty, cobbled streets with my trusty sidekick, Olive Dog, but January in St Ives is one of my favourite times of year. The town rests, sleeps, wanders and thinks. We dream and plan and prepare for the year ahead. And when I walk in the mizzle, delicate sea mist kissing my cheeks, it’s almost like I’m on holiday again.

Speaking of Olive Dog, let me introduce my second inspiration. She is our rescue Greyhound - a former racer in Ireland - and my do I heart her hard. We’ve had to teach her to be a pet, a puppy. How to enjoy a home with comfy dog beds, delicious food, and games. Playing on the beach. Walking through the farm. She inspires me because she is learning about a life she never had before, a life with love and security and I see her grow in confidence daily. How the children interact with her inspires me too. Though to some, just a dog, to us, she’s so much more. To rescue something or someone is not always an option, it’s not always needed, or wanted. In my debut novel, How to Mend a Broken Heart, our three main characters learn what it is to save or be saved. We rescued Olive when she needed it most, but what she gives in return is more than any of us bargained for. How lucky we are!

Of course, we couldn’t have given Olive a home, had we not had one of our own. And that is where the photo Love in Abundance comes in. In it, a rambling rose covers our home, blooming brilliantly in May last year. It was a wedding gift to the farmer and his wife before they moved out in to a larger home with their growing family and – just as the house is in our care – so to, is this rose. It represents many things, as does the house: love, peace, respite, promise. Built in the 17th century, our cottage has seen generations and generations of family life. Every single one leaving memories, love and laughter embedded in to the walls. Once through the front door, White Cottage nurtures and though our names are on the deeds, we are custodians of a slice of history in our tiny Hamlet…

..which leads me to the witches marks. Circular flower stencils on the window sills, letterings and markings inside. Who put them there? Was it to keep bad spirits out? Did they consider themselves witches or were they god fearing? This area is built on ley lines, on the path of St Michaels way - a route for pilgrims, travelers and missionaries. Such rich history within our home’s early years, makes my belly fizz with excitement!

The same can be said for my babies. The belly fizz of love and pride. Here, they walk in perfect sibling unison. It’s not always like that. She cheats at snap, and “accidentally” eats the last biscuit in the tin to wind her brother up. He torments her teddies, and shouts at her for dancing. But they are the most brilliant creatures to me. Funny, smart, kind, fiery, challenging, gentle, thoughtful, thoughtless, forgetful, sharp; a constant source of surprise. They inspire me every day.

When I’m not feeling inspired, or I’m feeling low, a dusk time meander lifts my soul. When we first moved here, when the kids were smaller and life was upside down, I’d wander the streets of town as the sky turned inky blue, festoon lights paving the way. Shops highlight cobbles, houses reflect on the water, boats bob, and the beaches glow. Nothing in the world can’t be fixed by a walk through those late winter streets… or so it feels. And believing that just for a moment, is sometimes all I need.

And finally, last but by no means et cetera, books. Of course, of course it is books! But perhaps not as other writers might find. I’m going to admit something now that I’ve long kept secret: I find reading difficult. And I’m a writer. We’re supposed to read widely, we drink words in. Books are our life blood, aren’t they? Well yes, in some respects, but they are also the thing I struggle with most. That I don’t read the books I wish I could, don’t enjoy the books I should, that I can barely read anything when writing myself. I leave books I can’t finish when it’s never them, it’s always me., yet despite that, books hold a magic and wonder that I crave. That is why I write. The kind of books I want to read. Accessible, warm, truthful. Stories that embrace real life, but don’t make me work too hard to digest them. Have I achieved that? I don’t know. I’m still learning. So, I’ll continue to read and write whilst ever I’m inspired to be better. Because without stories and aspiration, what is this life? 

As I said from the start, inspiration right now is home, heart, love, family, strength, security and safety. It won’t always be that way, but for until it changes, I lap each of these moments up.

Thank you, Anna, for the insight into your writing world!