I love writers’ retreats. I haven’t had the luxury of going on many; my first was fourteen years ago, when I went to the Peak District to work on the first draft of A House Divided (which I finished there). Then there was the time I holed myself up in a hotel for a couple of days to write a book I had to abandon halfway through the retreat because its events took place, tragically, in real life. I guess the holiday I had in Turkey with my family while writing the first draft of Thicker Than Water might count, as I managed to write 20,000 words while my kids played with the hotel’s legions of cats, and in between stuffing my face with baklava.
But this week I managed to carve out the time for another one. And this was special, because not only did it afford me dedicated writing time, it also gave me the opportunity to really get to know the location for the book I’m writing.
Sea of Lies is set in a holiday village just outside Filey. In the book, the village has been appropriated as housing for refugees from floods six years earlier, and a self-sufficient community has grown up.
The village has been rocked by the events of Thicker Than Water, and Sarah Evans returns home from her ordeal with a question hanging over her: can she trust Martin, the captor who helped her escape, or should she listen to her family and be rid of him?
It was great to be able to get to know the village better. For example, I spent significant chunks of time working in the pub, which is next to the archway in the photo below. In real life it’s the John Paul Jones, named after a famous local. In the books they refer to it as the JP.
I also got to spend some time in Filey itself, where some of the action takes place (although that bit hasn’t been written yet so may change). The weather was much fairer for me than it was in the book and I managed to capture the moon over the beach.
But I spent most of my time holed up in my little cottage, banging the words out. It was a lot of work, but it was much easier to concentrate in a building with terrible wifi and no decent TV.
I may do it again for the next book – although that’s set just two miles from where I live. Maybe someone in my area has a house they can rent out on airbnb? Would my kids be able to resist the temptation to drop in on me? Or should I kick them out and use my own house for the retreat? (No – the chores are too tempting, the wifi too good).