I suppose it’s inevitable, as a writer, that you will bring your wider interests to bear in assembling a novel. For me, it’s a lifelong, overpowering love of wildlife, and of plants in particular, that colours much of my writing. Every year I am swept up, afresh, in that magical cycle of bud, flower, leaf, fruit and decay. The fascination never palls. How could it? Here in Dorset I have so much to choose from: salty seaside places, windswept heaths, green chalk downland. There’s plant-flavoured inspiration at every turn, of every style, size and colour, set in every kind of outdoor atmosphere.
And so, when I was writing my fantasy Isle of Larus, I naturally brought a plant into the story – the yellow sea poppy. It is the most magical of plants – one that seems so fragile, ethereal and dainty. Yet it grows in the most inhospitable and difficult of places, the dry, salty shingle of the Chesil Beach. That combination of rugged toughness concealed by ephemeral beauty was just what I wanted for the story, so in it went.
As a matter of fact, I find plants quite difficult to write about, probably because I have such a fondness for them, and I am aware that others don’t necessarily share it. It’s all too easy to overstate, find your writing becoming a bit, well, flowery. Never mind – I don’t intend to stop. Plants will always be my inspiration, no matter how difficult it is to express.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to walk across to the Chesil – the sea poppies will be in flower any time now.