Behind the Story
The character of Vida came to me over a period of months, and wouldn’t let me go. I knew that she was lonely and lived in an isolated part of the Welsh borders. I also knew that her story would be in diary form, but beyond that I had little idea of where her story might lead. Gradually her voice took hold. A middle aged novelist, virtually estranged from her daughter, her husband’s desertion for another woman coincides with the apparent loss of her creative powers.
How characters interact with the spirit of the landscape around them, fascinates me and is a crucial part of this book. The cottage Vida lives in is named after the novel for which she received literary acclaim, ‘The Gingerbread House.’
This was the private name I gave to a fairy tale cottage I used to pass by on a walk to the Stiperstones, a wild upland of heath, punctured by jagged outcrops of quartzite rocks. Huddled beneath an untidy thatch, the house with its casement windows and overgrown garden showed no sign of habitation. I would gaze over the picket gate, and wonder who lived there. Buried at the end of a winding, beech fringed track, and surrounded by ancient landscape, drenched in myth and legend, this seemed the perfect retreat to place Vida.
Writers generally relish solitude. We need it to build our rich inner worlds. Often the characters that chatter away inside our heads are more real than the people around us. At the same time our families and friends keep us grounded in the real world. The question that propelled this novel was, what happens when that inner world dries up? What happens when the writer looks away from the screen and finds that the people she loves have vanished almost without her noticing?
The solitude which Vida positively nourished, now becomes an unsettling presence. Lonely people are vulnerable to the stranger at the door. Who can you trust? Who do you allow over the threshold to share your life? And what if that someone is able to free your creativity? As Vida taps into hitherto unexplored resources, she releases something, a force better not disturbed. But is that force part of the surrounding landscape, or an integral part of her own psyche?
These were the questions which gripped and fascinated me, and propelled the story forwards.