Monday, 15 March 2010

From Cornwall with love... A peek inside the life of a writer

Check out this brilliant insight into the life of a writer from Anna Shevchenko who has just returned from a week of writing at the seaside. We are publishing the paperback of her debut novel Bequest this July. There have been some fantastic reviews for the hardback:

“AK Shevchenko’s arresting thriller is a timely window on Russia’s centuries-old suppression of the Ukrainian national spirit.”
Daily Telegraph

“… any reader who loves their thrillers tinged with a bit of sophistication, will find that Bequest glistens with as much gleam as a 24 carat nugget. I adore the inventiveness of the prose and the ingenuity of its author…I both welcome this new and exciting author to the literary stage, and eagerly await her second helping”
Robaroundbooks blog

“BEQUEST is an intriguing and enjoyable novel, dealing with the thriller theme with surprising subtlety of characterisation and plot... The plotting and different time-lines and perspectives are deftly handled by the author. This novel should appeal to fans of John Le Carre and David Downing who are interested in the post-Soviet era and I very much look forward to future books from this author.”
Eurocrime website

“a promising debut and I hope that Shevchenko is sitting on a treasure chest of stories from the land of her fathers - or indeed anywhere else.”
Material Witness Blog

“a genuinely through-provoking insight in to the casual brutality of Stalin’s Soviet Union”
Bookgeeks website

Food for thought by Anna Shevchenko

“You’ll love it, “ My friend assured me. “ Perfect for the writer’s block. You can try and hang with your head upside down, like Dan Brown, of course, but if this is not your thing, then - four hours on the train, half an hour on the bus – and you are at the end of the world. I mean it, by the way - it is only fourteen miles from Land’s End. And there is no mobile signal there...”
It was the mobile signal that tipped the balance for me, not sea views or coastal walks. I imagined the focus and creative wave the lack of mobile signal would bring.... I was hooked, there and then.

The coastal cottage was perfect, equipped with everything one could ever need, including a small canon in the garden, in case you had to fight off the pirates. And (bliss!) there was no mobile signal. And no food in a spotlessly clean fridge. And no shop in the village.
So, I found a perfect excuse to write off my first writing day : I had to wait at the bus stop for the lift to the nearest village shop.

It is amazing what you can discover in five minutes in a deserted village when you are hungry. That the buses today will not be running any more, for example; and there will be no Sunday bus service tomorrow either. And by the time I had walked three miles to the nearest shop, it would have closed as well. I also discovered that my shopless village happened to have a very presentable hotel down by the harbour, so my first dinner was sorted, and maybe, the rest of them as well?

My suspicions began to rise when I discovered that I was the only person in the restaurant. Sorry, I mean I was the only one dressed in my son’s “ Canada 2006 Rugby Tour” sweatshirt and walking boots. The restaurant was full : women in cashmere cardigans and pearls; men in expensive jackets. When I saw the bill for my three beautifully presented scallops, I realised that my new glasses’ prescription was long overdue. I would have seen the prices earlier.

My light bulb moment came the next morning. It is a fishing village, I have seen the boats and the nets. There must be fresh fish, then, and maybe a kind fisherman would find a couple of potatoes for me as well ...

“No fish at all ”, a smiling fisherman told me.
“But you must have caught something?” I pleaded.
“We have”, the fisherman agreed. “Cornish crab. Would you like some?”
“As much as possible”, I said enthusiastically. The crab was good. Exceptional even. Considering that it was destined to become my staple food for a week, I set up transforming it. During my shopping expedition to the nearest village I found enough ingredients for a week of crab recipes: crab and mayo sandwich; crab, apple and celery salad, fresh crab with baked potato...

With food sorted, I started organising my daily routine: watching the boats coming into the harbour in the morning, timing the green bus , that was supposed to pass the cottage every two hours and , of course, having a daily coastal walk. ( I had printed the “pleasant walks in the area” guide off the internet before the trip).

And now I have a dream. I want to meet a man who wrote that guide. Not to hit, not to shout, just to look him in the eye. Is he a super-fit commando? A professional helicopter pilot with penchant for hovering above the cliffs? Because to call sixty seven vertical steps and four cliff hanging steep inclines “a pleasant two mile walk” he has to be one of those two...I agree with him on one thing, however – the views were breathtaking. By the time I got to the top of the cliff, panting...You have the picture.

And as for the writing? It flowed. Fed by masochistic walks, no means of outside communication and, of course, the crab diet.

On day seven, as I typed in the last full stop and ate the last white fishy crumble, I looked out of the window. It was raining. The weather changed and the green bus was waiting. It was time to get back to civilisation.

As the bus was climbing up the hill, I turned to have a last glimpse of the sea, and realised how much I would miss this place. Its rugged beauty, its serenity and the simplicity of life without shopping and mobiles. I felt freer, fitter and happier. Even if the editor will cross out all the words I have written this week, I will always have this view for inspiration. And if everything else fails, the draft for a recipe book “Cooking with Crab”.

Forty minutes later I was standing in a Truro station cafe, studying dozens of filled baguettes and baps. “ Anything for you, love?” asked a sweet Cornish mermaid with green hair and two earrings in her nose.
“Thanks”, I sighed, exercising my vocal cords for the first time in days. “Nothing for me. Shame you don’t have the crab sandwiches...”