Contemporary

That Summer in Cornwall By Ciji Ware

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Before I began writing fiction, I spent more than twenty years as a working reporter (mostly at the ABC television and radio affiliate in Los Angeles) and as a magazine journalist. As a result, my first instinct when I get an idea for an historical or contemporary novel is to go where the book is set.

With That Summer in Cornwall, a stand-alone contemporary sequel to my “time-slip” novel A Cottage by the Sea, the action takes place a good decade after the ending of the contemporary part of the novel.  To my mind, there was no choice:  I had to return to the area because the premise of the new book was: “What ever happened to that babe in arms in the first book…and what’s Cornwall, England like some ten years, plus, later?”

As a former print and electronic journalist, I also had to answer the age-old reporter’s questions: Who? What? Where? Why? & When? I didn’t want to depend solely on Internet search engines to check the facts. I wanted to check them myself.

Once I determined I was, in fact, going to do a sequel to the original novel set in Cornwall, I immediately called up my writing pal, romance novelist Cynthia Wright, with whom I’d made my first trip to Britain's West Country to research the original book (and she, a couple of her own) and said, “Wanna go back to Gorran Haven and Mevagissey with me and see what trouble we can get into again?”

Cindy’s answer? "Absolutely! As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of doing a couple of books that deal with eighteenth century smuggling!" 

So off we went in October of 2012, retracing some of the same areas we’d visited in the late 1990s and heading off into new territory as well.  We decided to spend some of our royalties before we’d earned them (typical writers!) and rent a suite at Caerhays Castle near Gorran Haven, the model for my “Barton Hall,” an important element in both books set in Cornwall. 

This contemporary love story centers on the saga of Meredith Champlin—an American cousin of Lady Blythe Barton-Teague who is the mistress of Barton Hall and the heroine in A Cottage by the Sea.  Meredith, a pediatric nurse who runs a pet therapy operation at her hospital, wakes up one morning in her home state of Wyoming to discover she is the official guardian of an unruly “Beverly Hills brat” whom she’s never met and hasn’t a clue how to serve as the unhappy child’s surrogate mother. 

Her elegant cousin Blythe--now the mother of two thanks to her second marriage to the wonderful Sir Lucas Teague (whom readers apparently adored in the first book!)--urges Meredith to come to their shabby-chic castle on a remote cliff in Cornwall for the summer to see if they can’t transform this angry, difficult pre-teen into “a decent human being.”  The ten-year-old hellion’s mother is Blythe’s estranged sister who recently died in a private plane crash, and her father is a famous film director “too busy” to be anything other than a token dad.

For me, returning to actually reside within the castle walls allowed me to capture the unique atmosphere of the place local novelist Daphne du Maurier called “Enchanted.” 

Not only did I rely on my reportorial skills to capture the local color and feel of this special part of the world, but I also conducted a number of interviews about the amazing volunteer search-and-rescue work in Cornwall performed by highly trained dogs and their handlers who locate “holiday makers” known for falling off cliffs, down abandoned tin and copper mine shafts-- along with “despondents” who have wandered up on the moors to commit suicide. 

The enigmatic hero, Sebastian Pryce, a British Army veteran of the Afghan War who served as a K9 specialist in a dog bomb-sniffing squad, persuades the newly-arrived Meredith to co-found a dog obedience academy, with many unexpected consequences flowing from their decision to work together—including, of course, falling in love. 

I even managed to wangle an interview with the chief Dog Unit Manager for the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary (i.e. the police), Anthony Jordan, who walked me through police operations that coordinate the volunteer corps, Coast Guard, Royal Air Force, and other organizations that make up the network of the search and rescue community. There I learned that Prince William’s primary job these last years has been as a helicopter pilot coordinating with the amazing men and women dog handlers who perform sometimes harrowing search and rescue work all over the United Kingdom.

The lives of these amazing professionals formed the background to what turned out to be a compelling love story between two people born an ocean apart. My entire research experience in Britain was amazing and thrilling in so many ways, and I hope that my use of reportorial skills to capture the authenticity of their various activities shines through That Summer in Cornwall--while also telling a ripping good love story!   

Currently I’m writing the next novel in my Four Seasons Quartet: That Autumn in Edinburgh, which is a contemporary sequel to my award-winning Island of the Swans…a sort of “Dateline: 250 years later…can two modern-day descendants of the Duchess of Gordon and her “Lost Lieutenant” Thomas Fraser avoid the pitfalls of the original star-crossed lovers…?”

Stay tuned, and I hope those who read That Summer in Cornwall will find themselves blissfully lost in the world of that wonderful, enchanted landscape.

Ciji Ware is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who is a graduate in history from Harvard University and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ciji welcomes readers at www.cijiware.com

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