New novel inspired by the sea

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WRITER Susan Fletcher visited Waterstones in Morpeth to discuss her new novel The Silver Dark Sea. Her first novel Eve Green won the Whitbread first novel award in 2004. Bookseller HEATHER MURDOCH interviewed her at Waterstones Morpeth.

Where did your inspiration for The Silver Dark Sea come from?

I was living right on the coast and wanted to write about the sea, it has been written about over the centuries and it’s hard not to drop into melodrama, but I liked the challenge of trying to write a really briny story. The second was the idea of writing stories, I questioned whether writing was of any worth. Of course it is worthy, for centuries we have told stories, so I liked the idea of writing a book that looked at the power of a story well told and how stories can change our lives.

Your style is beautifully poetic, how did you start writing this way?

My first love has always been poetry. In my teens I wanted to be a poet, but novel writing has become the thing that suits me best. I find it hard to read fiction whilst writing a book and it’s poetry I turn to so it must colour how I write giving the words a rhythm. It’s almost subconscious now, I love poetic prose, that’s what makes my heart beat faster as a reader and I try to do this in my writing.

Who is your favourite character in the book?

It’s a hard one to answer, there are so many characters in this book and although Maggie is the narrator, she plays almost a secondary role to the cast on the island. Everybody’s story is told so invariably I have become fond of all of them. Maggie I’m closest to, I felt like I was climbing into her shoes, but you have to like and respect characters if you are going to spend that much time creating them.

Is the island location a real place?

No it’s fictional. I wanted to echo a fairy story and with all good children’s bedtime stories there is no fixed geographical location, it’s always a land faraway. I wanted to have that mystical element to this novel. Having said that, I did have the islands off the west coast of Scotland in my mind, I visited them a lot and there are elements of all of them in this book.

Which authors do you read?

It varies, I tend to walk into a Waterstones and browse. If I see a remarkable review in a paper I will try that book, but usually I prefer going into a shop rather that buying something online. The last book I read was Haweswater by Sarah Hall, within a paragraph I knew it was a great book.

When writing this book, what type of reader did you have in mind?

I write for myself and if I’m happy then that’s the best starting point. If you try to visualise a reader you get into tricky territory so you have to please yourself first. I know what kind of books I like and can’t put down so if I can emulate that then hopefully there’ll be other people who feel the same way.