A SEA VIEW by Veronica Henry

Fifteen years ago, I was struggling to finish my second novel – second novels are notoriously difficult to write – when a friend invited me to come and stay with her for a few days at her flat overlooking the sea in Woolacombe. I took her up on her offer, made arrangements for the children, and drove down the M5 from the Midlands. As soon as I turned the corner on the road down into the village and saw that expanse of blue sea in front of me, my heart lifted and I knew I had done the right thing. I sat at a tiny table by a window and wrote non-stop for three days, at the end of which I typed the glorious words ‘The End’. The spectacular view, the sea air, the sound of the crashing waves had put me into a perfect state of mind: a combination of relaxation and inspiration that allowed my imagination to run wild and for me to be able to capture the stories that filled my mind.

I was so enchanted that within a couple of years we moved down to Woolacombe as a family. I had my own sea view: a view that was never the same from one minute to the next. And it proved to be the inspiration for my fourth novel, Love on the Rocks – the story of a couple who give up their hectic lives to renovate a run-down hotel in Mariscombe, a village on the North Devon coast. They have come to live the dream that so many people share – running away to the seaside – but living the dream is not always easy! A few years later I was renting a beach hut on Woolacombe beach when it occurred to me that the row of beach huts was rather like a soap opera – the people in each hut had their own stories, their own dramas, like Coronation Street or Albert Square. I dropped a quick email to my publisher – ‘how about a novel set in a row of beach huts?’ ‘Do it now!’ came the reply.

Less than twelve months later, The Beach Hut, set in fictional Everdene, was published and was a great success. Everyone loves a beach hut, or longs to spend the summer in one. They are escapist and nostalgic, reminiscent of 99 ice-creams and buckets and spades and rock pools. A few years later I wrote a sequel, The Beach Hut Next Door. The beach huts were also the setting for my Quick Read, A Sea Change. Quick Reads are mini novels, six published each year by well-known authors, and are designed for less confident readers. I was thrilled to hear that A Sea Change had been enjoyed by people who had never read a book before. One woman contacted me and said ‘I didn’t know books could be like this’. Not all my novels are set by the sea, but I know Woolacombe will always be a source of inspiration. If I’m feeling stuck and frustrated, I just grab my dog and head down to the beach to clear my mind, and by the time I get back the stories have sorted themselves out in my head.

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