I grew up outside, a stone’s throw from the savage North Cornwall coast.
Between my house and sheer, wave-beaten cliffs were fields, scrubland and deep valleys, with barely another house in sight. My childhood was wind and mud and salt spray and sand between my toes. I rambled along the coast and found hidden coves, camped out here, there and everywhere. I went outside after breakfast, back inside at sunset. If I went ‘into town’ with my friends, it was a two-hour hour bus ride each way, but only when the single bus was running so it was a rarity. We made our entertainment with what we had around us and in that part of the country, it was nature at its most wild and beautiful.
When I think about what inspired me to write, my mind doesn’t automatically go to other books or authors I admire, it goes to that coastline. It goes to watching a storm roll in over the sea, blotting out the horizon, then obscuring the cliff edge, then the fields, until the rain hit our windows and filled the house with sound. It also goes to summers spent in the woods, braving rope swings, building dens, attempting to make a campfire then stamping out the sputtering flame because we were afraid we’d set the forest alight. It was halcyon and always summer, even with the bitter cold storms and crashing seas.
When I was fourteen I had my first short story published, one I’d written the previous summer perched on a flat rock halfway down a deserted valley, watching a pristine, empty beach being devoured by the Atlantic. Strangely, that story was set in a city because even though I loved Cornwall, I wanted to explore new places all the time and, being fourteen with no money, the only way I could do that was through writing.
To me, the landscape and setting of a story are as much a character as the plucky hero, whether it’s a city, a desolate moor, a spaceship or a whole new world, it’s the common ground between every character and something I strive to make feel solid and real. There is a particular scene in The Wolf Road where Elka has climbed to the top of a ridge and is gazing out over the landscape, taking in all the detail, the destruction, what it means for her and her love of the wilderness. That’s my favourite scene in the book because it’s what I want to be doing every day, staring out over a dramatic, mountainous vista as I stared out at the sea when I was young. At the moment, my life in London means being squashed onto a commuter train but someday soon, even if it’s just for a little while, I hope to get back to the wild.
– Beth Lewis, author of The Wolf Road
The Wolf Road
30th June 2016