Literature Works recently caught up with St Ives based author Birte Hosken to talk about her debut novel, Petroc's Church and to discuss the importance of the South West to her writing.
1. Petroc’s Church is set in Cornwall and showcasing some of the dramatic locations in the county. When writing, did the novels setting impact upon the story at all? How important would you say ‘place’ is in your work?
Petroc’s Church is as much about its characters as it is about the beauty and mystique of the Cornish coastline. It was the place itself – Gwithian Beach and the Three Miles of Golden Sands around Hayle – that inspired me to write the story. The location for Petroc’s Church was originally elsewhere in the County (in my mind, at least!) but on walks along the wonderful long sandy beach at Gwithian I realised that the vast rocks there would make a much better setting for “the church”. “Place” is absolutely vital to my work. “Place” is where any action is happening and I believe “place” is important to the reader.
2. Can you tell us what inspired you to write a young adult romance – was there something particular about that demographic which appealed?
For this particular story “youth” seemed the obvious choice for me. I do not think that Petroc’s Church as it is would be suitable for older characters – and as the characters in the book are young I would expect the readership to be younger people. Young adults are possibly a category that does not read as much – there is more time for reading in childhood and older age, naturally. Sub-consciously I may have been inspired by the age of my own children (teenagers at the time of writing Petroc’s Church).
3. Here at Literature Works, we’re interested in spaces and places to write. You’re based in St Ives, could you describe a ‘typical’ writing day for you – does your location play a role in your writing process?
Being based in a beautiful place like Carbis Bay/St Ives certainly helps! There is nothing more inspiring to any writer than seeing nature and countryside on a daily basis. Just walking around Cornwall, anywhere, gets the imagination going. I am lucky enough to live close to the beach, the coast path and fantastic inland walks, and there is nothing better than walking to get a real feel of any place. Although I can see countryside and the sea (in fact the area where Petroc’s Church is set) from our panoramic lounge window, my office has no view at all! We have a relatively large roof light which is great for keeping an eye on the weather but I spend a lot of time writing with my computer screen against the wall. This allows me to avoid distraction – I can write, living in my own world, imagining characters and their actions. However, I have still not given up using a pen and paper to write down ideas, passages and sometimes entire chapters. This could happen in one of the armchairs in the lounge, on the beach and even in the car on the way to somewhere. I quite like being on my own when I am writing though. It helps me concentrate on nothing but my story.
4. If you could offer one piece of advice for writers trying to get their work published, what would it be?
It’s the old story – a bit of a cliché – “Believe in yourself and never give up”. You will have to be tough and tenacious. Publishing does not happen by itself. Unless you are famous already (through politics, sports, acting etc) you will have to do anything and everything to help yourself.
5. What’s next for you? Do you have plans for a second book and if so, could you tell us about it?
It depends to a certain extent on the success of Petroc’s Church. I’ve already been told by my publisher that if sales figures allow it they would be happy to publish my next book – no pressure then…! Yes, I would very much like to publish another book. I have some manuscripts sitting in my office that need lots of work. One of those stories may well become book number two one day. No doubt the next book will be set in the West Country again but I have not decided on a particular title yet.
The publication of Petroc’s Church has inspired me to make writing a new career but I can’t give up the day job just yet. I would certainly like to concentrate my efforts more on writing and working in that kind of environment.
Thank you Birte!