Today feels like the end of a very long emotional journey. I’m announcing a new novel. I’m pulling the drapes off the sculpture, drawing back the curtain on the plaque. Here it is – exposed, vulnerable, fragile and out there for you to interpret as you wish. To love, like or dismiss. In displaying it, there’s a bitter-sweet sense of an ending.
My previous two novels each took five years to imagine, think about while walking the dog, write and re-write. White Lies¹ began with my very elderly father dictating his memoirs of active service in Libya as a Desert Rat and later of tracking down the elusive, deadly Mao Mao in the dense, dripping forests of the Aberdare mountains above Nairobi. With his present fast fading, those years of active service stayed with him, vivid and meaningful. Run, Alice, Run² played a nasty trick of starting as one novel and morphing into something else, leaving me to knit the pieces together. I was as much seamstress as writer and can still see the stitches.
The Red Beach Hut³ was different. It came without prompts or triggers and without reference to anything in my own present or past. A man I called Abbott and the boy Neville walked up and down a faded English beach in quiet harmony and all weathers and into my heart. They showed me the emotional baggage, packed by others, that they’d dragged with them. In the backdrop was the sea with its melodic diurnal ride up and down the sand and the unpredictability of its moods. The couple in the white beach hut turned up later, bringing the tension I needed for the plot. The novel wrote itself in three months.
Or did it? Not far below the words were the thought-icebergs whose tips floated past as I wrote. It was the time of the 2015 General Election. Farage was talking about reclaiming the country and linking terrorism to refugees. The tabloids offered readers sound-bites of hatred against minority groups. On our screens, migrants fleeing torture and terror, fell out of limp rubber dinghies and drowned. The body of a little boy, washed up on the beach, became an ikon of the times. The human tragedies played on. No wonder, then, that I was drawn to my two unconventional outsiders and wanted a fine story for them.
And then there’s the sea. I started sailing by criss-crossing the Thames in a dinghy, progressed to a very small yacht in which, with youthful adrenalin, I rode ridiculously big waves and storms off an unforgiving English coast. Then a Moody 33, shared between five families, kept in Majorca, where my boys spent their holidays. It was a blunt bath of a boat. Much later, after a three year internet search, our classic Cardinal 47 was found in Long Island. Three of us crossed the Atlantic in a blue boat called Scarlet and lived to write the tale.
Like the sea, the story of The Red Beach Hut is, on the surface, deceptively transparent but beneath the sunlight zone under-currants of injustice and intolerance run dangerously free. We watch Abbott and Neville as they negotiate threatening political waters while their personal pasts lap at their heels.
White Lies: linen-press.com/shop/white-lies/
Run, Alice, Run: inspired-quill.com/product/run-alice-run/
Shooting Stars are the Flying Fish of the Night: linen-press.com/shop/shooting-stars-are-the-flying-fish-of-the-night/
The Red Beach Hut: inspired-quill.com/books/
Watch the trailer for The Red Beach Hut here: http://lynnmichellauthor.co.uk/