Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Story Behind Safe Harbour by Beth Francis

Safe Harbour has just been published as a pocket novel by People's Friend. Author Beth Francis tells us how she was inspired to write the story.
With the rain lashing the windows, gale force winds and dire warnings of tide surges it’s hard to imagine the hot summer’s day when I sat on the sea wall watching a yacht edge towards her mooring. An idyllic picture. I imagined a woman at the helm and wrote the first page of a novel, before turning back to my current writing project.
A year or so later, slipping and sliding along the muddy paths of the forest at Pentraeth I pitched the idea to Erika, another of the Novelistas, who was demanding to know what I was writing next.
“What’s her name. Why is she unhappy? Why did she leave if she loved him? Why did she come back? Is she a wimp?”
The questions came thick and fast and I became defensive about Jess, who until that moment had simply been a cardboard cut-out on a boat. By the end of the walk I was eager to get back to my computer and tell her story.
We used to own a small boat but I was a cautious and slightly nervous sailor, never comfortable out of sight of land, always happiest recollecting the day’s sail once we had safely moored. I was also always slightly anxious that my sailing skills would not be good enough to bring the boat to land if my husband was suddenly taken ill. I had no idea, when starting to write, that Jess would face just that problem, but hope I would have managed as well as she did.
It was the setting that first inspired me, and as I wrote, I walked the coastal paths around Amlwch with my husband trying to see the familiar scenery through Jess’s eyes. With the story almost finished, I sent the first few chapters off to People’s Friend, intending to take a picnic to Llandwen Island on the next sunny day to make notes for the final chapter.
Life intervened and before the sun came my husband collapsed. He was recovering in hospital in Liverpool when an e-mail arrived from People’s Friend asking to see the rest of the story. It was impossible. My life was taken up with trains, hospital visits and confusion. But Erika had other ideas. A few days later we were walking on Llandwen Island, where I found the perfect spot for the end of the novel.
I wrote the last chapter on the Liverpool Metro and was on the last paragraph when a Canadian tourist asked me if I was a professor. When I said I was writing fiction she told me how her boyfriend had just proposed. It was so romantic! But that’s another story …
When Jess Tyler's brother, Oliver, phones from Johannesburg ...and persuades her to go sailing with him, he doesn't tell her he's trying to avoid certain individuals, nor that the yacht he has conveniently been loaned is moored off Anglesey. Having spent the intervening years trying to forget an idyllic summer there with local boy Matt Pritchard, Jess finds herself once more sailing along the coastline that she and Matt explored together.
Available now, at supermarkets and newsagents, price £2.99