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Emylia Hall on how ‘The Wild West’ inspired THE SEA BETWEEN US

I went to Cornwall for the first time when I was five years old. There was something about Penwith that captured my imagination even as that tiny girl, it was wilder than we were used to, and about as westerly as you could go. We stayed in a farmhouse near Marazion, and certain details stand out gem-bright in my memory.

We ate goose eggs for breakfast, each as big as the noon-day sun. My sister and I ran naked on deserted sandy beaches, the springtime ocean nipping at our heels. We drove to Land’s End looking for a sunset, but it rained and rained and we fell asleep in the back seat of the car in our pyjamas.

In later years I returned to Cornwall several times – exploring the Tate in St Ives with my sister, to a surf festival in Newquay where my husband’s band were playing – but it wasn’t until I started work on THE SEA BETWEEN US  that I truly fell in love with the Far West, and came to know it well enough to write it.

Spending time in the locations of my novels is an important part of the process for me. In April 2013, as I was just beginning to feel my way into the story, we stayed for a week in a cottage near St Buryan. It was tucked at the end of a farm track, the perfect hideaway, and an ideal base from which to explore the area.

We drove to St Just, the most westerly town in England, then walked through the Cot Valley to a cove with rocks as round and smooth as hens’ eggs. We followed the coast path to Lamorna in the mizzle, the cliff-top bursting with daffodils. We wandered the back streets of St Ives, peeping in artists’ studios, kicking through the sand on Porthmeor. We bought fish in the harbour town of Newlyn, fat scallops and pale lengths of Turbot, and walked all the way along the front to Penzance. We marveled at the Minack and paddled at Porthcurno. Ate crab sandwiches in Mousehole. Ran along the beach at Sennen, watching the surfers as they bobbed and ripped.

I came home to Bristol with sea salt in my hair, and sand between my toes, and was ready to transport myself to Cornwall all over again – this time from my desk. Throughout the novel’s writing I kept going back to Penwith – two family holidays in St Ives, a solo writing retreat at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole – and each time it was harder than ever to leave, THE SEA BETWEEN US  my only solace. That’s the beauty of writing — you inhabit a world of your own making, and it’s yours to return to whenever you want. And it’s the joy of reading too.

Get your hands on a copy of THE SEA BETWEEN US, out in paperback and ebook now.

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