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Author Lelita Baldock talks as regards her new historical novel as regards the Cornish fish trade, Where The Gulls Fall Silent.
I interviewed Lelita Baldock as regards her life and career, the inspiring history of Cornwall, and the creative work on her new book Where the Gulls Fall Silent.
Tell Lelita Baldock who you are:
I am an award-winning historical novelist, represented by the London literary agency InterSaga. I was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia, and currently reside in the UK. I love books, all literature, reading, and history – always. My favorite thing in the world is curling up in a novel and getting lost in its pages. I will never stop reading! Fun Fact: As a kid, I hated reading. It took a lot of perseverance and perseverance from my parents before I started but I never stopped.
Travel and history are also my passions. New places, people, cultures, landscapes – these things inspire me and fill my soul. Family and friends are the most significant things in my life. I am happily married to my soul mate and the mother of a cute fluffy rescue cat named Jazzy. I believe in living my own way, walking lightly in the world, and selflessly giving love, joy, and acceptance.
When did thou first want to write a book?
I think I first wanted to write a book when I was about 10 years old. We had a creative writing assignment at school and I found I loved putting words into a story. My father encouraged me by suggesting that I write him a story. I never did. I tried, but at that age, it seemed too difficult. I’ve always been a perfectionist. But the seed was planted and the desire to try never wavered.
When did thou decide to start writing?
In my last year of high schoolf (it wasn’t the best of times – and I never finished the book) I plunged into writing fiction. Then, in my twenties, my family and I vacationed on the Finniss River in South Australia. Sitting on a small speedboat, surrounded by scenery and rustling reeds, I had an idea for a story. I wanted to explore the isolation of living in such a place and why a person chooses to live alone. This story was my trigger for trying to write a novel. So I did. The roots of this story became my first novel, The Widow’s Lace.
How long did it take thou for thine first book, from the initial idea to publication?
It took 14 years to make a widow’s lace. I wrote my first draft when I was 24/25 between my job as a high school English teacher. It was my first attempt at writing such a long novel and I had a lot to learn. But it is good! I loved the process and knew I would continue with it.
But life took its course and I put the manuscript aside for 10 years before redrawing it in my late thirties and deciding to actually do it, finish the novel, and publish it. And I’m very glad I did. I haven’t looked back.
How long did it take for thine latest book to go from idea to publication?
It took me about three years to complete my novel Where the Gulls Fall Silent, counting the time from idea to publication. The actual time of active work on the novel was about 18 months.
The story of life in a small Cornish fishing village was inspired by a trip to Cornwall in 2019. But at the time I was working on a book in my mystery series The Unsound Sister, so I couldn’t start writing until 2020. The novel was published in late 2021.
Focus on the latest version. What drew thou to write Where the Gulls Fall Silent?
The rugged but beautiful Cornish coastline was inspired by Where the Gulls Fall Silent. I fell in love with the wide vistas and the sense of danger emanating from the ocean. And the people of this area were so passionate about their history and their part of the world. I was fascinated by their legends, their superstitions, and traditions. I wanted to learn more and find out what life was like in the 19th century.
What were thine biggest challenges writing Where the Gulls Fall Silent?
Honestly, this novel got out of hand. I was so captivated by the story and so engrossed in the story that I couldn’t wait to write words on the page.
Historical accuracy was a bit difficult at times and I had to spend more time making sure my information was correct. But I like to research, so it wasn’t really difficult.
Who or what inspired thou to create The Protagonist?
The strength of Cornish women inspired my heroine Kerensa. There are many stories about the brave fishermen who sailed the Atlantic and enriched their trade. And rightly so. It was dangerous and grueling work, and many people died doing their jobs.
And the women left behind? what was her story?
That was the part I wanted to explore. Their history, their experiences, their tragedies, and their strength.
Who or what inspired thou to create The Antagonist?
There is no single antagonist in Where the Gulls Fall Silent – rather, people’s superstitions create a combined antagonist. Perhaps descended from a rough 19th-century coastal lifestyle, Cornish people held many beliefs and prejudices. It created an interesting driving force for Kerensa’s character development, but it also allowed me to rescue some of the worst villains.
What is the triggering incident Where the Gulls Fall Silent?
The slow decline of the fish enclosure. Traditionally, Cornish waters are rich in fish, particularly sardines and mackerel. But due to a combination of overfishing leading to declining fish stocks and changes in international demand, fishermen have begun to struggle to make a living from the water. This change caused significant social upheaval, leading to the migration of people from fishing towns to mining towns and changing the nature of life in Cornwall.
What is the primary conflict of Where the Gulls Fall Silent?
The main conflict is between Kerensa, my heroine, her mother Meliora, and the city itself. Where the Gulls Fall Silent, she is viewed as a stranger and suspicious, revealing why Kerensa and her mother are shunned by the people of their city and Kerensa up their way to acceptance.
Did you plan ahead Where the Gulls Fall Silent, or did you fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I am a planner through and through. Maybe it’s because I’m a historical novelist. A key part of my process is to thoroughly research the environment and schedule before I begin as I search and track.
I will detail my characters, detail key events in my story that must happen, detail how each event is triggered, and summarize the plot of each chapter before starting to write creatively. Of course, even the most detailed plan can go wrong once you start writing, but it’s a wonderful part of the process!
Have thou received editing help and how many edits do you need for Where the Gulls Fall Silent?
So far most of my novels have been edited by me. I take full responsibility for the structure and editing of the story, hiring an editor only for the final editing of typos and minor errors.
I pride myself on the quality of my work, I value the process and I like to control the narrative. But final editing to ensure there are no silly typos is key!
What is the first piece of writing advice thou would give someone that inspired thou to write a story?
let’s do it!! Getting started can feel overwhelming. And when it comes to writing, it’s easy to want to give up. NO. thou have a story to tell and it’s worth telling. No matter how long it takes to get your first draft printed on the page, go ahead and write the words. Don’t worry about perfection first, just get the main shape of the story onto the page. This is how you make it shine!
Can thou tell me which books thou would like to write in the future?
I’ve just finished my fourth novel, the working title is A Machine of Fingers. Set in post-revolutionary Paris, the film explores the impact of the revolution on the lacemakers of Chantilly and the rush to mechanize lace. It is in the process of being submitted to the publisher and I hope to share exciting news soon!
I also started looking for my fifth novel. The story will explore the experiences of the Latvian people during World War II, loosely based on my family history. Check out this place!
And finally, are you proud of your result? It was worth it?
I couldn’t be prouder that I took the plunge and started writing. It felt impossible, overwhelming, and difficult. But the realization of this dream has really brought me joy. Definitely worth all the challenges.
It’s been a journey, and like any journey, it has its ups and downs. This year I was honored when Where the Gulls Fall Silent won 4th place in the 2022 Coffee Club Book of the Year Awards and the cover was Gold! This a great reminder to stay the course and trust yourself.
If you have a story or a dream, go ahead and live it! Let your dreams take their place – you deserve to have fun and enjoy your passions.
Add any links to your books, websites, and social media here so readers can find you:
Amazon link for Where the Gulls Fall Silent: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09HJH1TG6
Amazon Link for Widow’s Lace: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B086BDLP3X
Amazon Link for The Unsound Sister: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08ML8QS7H
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