In Du Maurier’s Footsteps

I’d like to welcome Liz Fenwick to our Saturday Spotlight Blog today. Liz lives in Dubai at the moment with her husband, but spends a lot of her time in their house in Cornwall. Her third book A Cornish Stranger was published by Orion this month and I’ve caught up with her in between her book launches and talks about her latest release.

I know that all of your books are set in Cornwall and wondered what in particular, inspired you about Cornwall? Did the idea for the story come before the setting or did you see something in Cornwall that you just knew would be perfect for your book?

Somehow in my head, Cornwall and stories are mixed together and form part of each other. It’s not that I didn’t see and feel stories before going to Cornwall for the first time in 1989, but since then they are inseparable. So now when an idea appears it’s almost always tied to a location in Cornwall.

I had a quick look at your Amazon reviews and people adore the way your setting comes alive. Do you think that’s because your love of Cornwall comes out in your writing, or do you think one of your skills lies in descriptive writing?

It’s my love of Cornwall combined with the way I write, in that when I’m writing I see a movie in front of me and I pick out the details that each character would see. So, for example in A Cornish Stranger, Jaunty, 92, is an artist so I will view the scene with her eyes picking out the details an artist might see. In contrast, scenes from her granddaughter Gabe’s point of view will be very different because she is a musician. But overriding all of that is my love of Cornwall, which just seeps into the work.
My next book A Cornish Inheritance, is still set in Helford but it’s on the north side. After that I may move my setting to a different area but we’ll see!

Do you find the settings of your novels create more interest from people who live in Cornwall or visit the area, or do you think people would buy them regardless of where they are based? And do you get more ‘promo’ opportunities from venues in Cornwall?

I am so pleased when someone local has enjoyed my books and said I have understood the area. At the same time when someone who has never set foot in Cornwall falls in love with the setting I feel I have done my ‘job’ well.

Because Cornwall is my ‘brand’ it makes doing promotion easier and as tourism is Cornwall’s biggest industry along with farming and fishing it does mean local festivals and bookstores are very receptive to my books.

I imagine you find it much easier to write about Cornwall whilst you’re in Cornwall, so how do you capture images and hold on to them when you are in Dubai, given the big difference between the weather, the location and the lifestyle?

Strangely enough I find my time in Cornwall is normally not spent writing… more absorbing and filling the writing well. When I am in Cornwall it’s normally full on family time, which leaves very little time for writing but lots of time for walking and picnicking and enjoying life. As I mentioned above I ‘see’ the story in front of me as I write. I don’t see the keyboard or the screen, which means that I can write anywhere. In fact having the ‘real’ Cornwall outside can be much more distracting, although I had the pleasure of staying in the cottage at the mouth of Frenchman’s Creek where A Cornish Stranger is set and that was very important in writing the story. I was there on my own which helped to limit the distractions! It was wonderful to be able to look up from the computer or notebook and ‘see’ what I was writing about rather than just imagining it.

Are you going to continue to set books in Cornwall or do you worry that you might run out of new ways to create unique characters and storylines?

At the moment Cornwall is the place where all the stories in my head are set, so no worries.

In that vein, have you considered writing a novel set in Dubai? I imagine there could be lots of material for a romance given the humid nights with navy blue skies and maybe a handsome Sultan feeding you peeled grapes? Oops, getting carried away, there! Ahem, where’s my fan?

Dubai as a city doesn’t stir the writer in me, however I love the true desert and the seeing the vast emptiness fills me with a desire to write something, but it is but more likely to be with poetry rather than story!

I’m guessing everyone thinks of Daphne Du Maurier or Mary Wesley’s, ‘The Camomile Lawn’ when they think of novels set in Cornwall. Did you draw any inspiration from them when you started writing about Cornwall. Also, have you thought about writing an historical novel, given the huge potential to convey the varied and interesting history of the area?

I love both Du Maurier and Wesley and I think each of my novels has a nod in their directions. I don’t think anyone capture the landscape of Cornwall as Du Maurier does but I have tried. Her themes are very dark whereas I love the more positive direction of most of Wesley’s work. Of course having set A Cornish Stranger on Frenchman’s Creek I was treading right on Du Maurier’s toes –
hope she doesn’t mind!
I love historical novels but I’m not sure I have the discipline or the time needed to do the research required. Each of my books has had a historical thread in them. The Cornish House has the house itself, A Cornish Affair draws on the history of gardens and in A Cornish Stranger there is WW2. I love ‘touching’ history, but not fully immersing my story in it. I love research and would happily do nothing but research, but then I would never write the books!

Do you have a favourite place in Cornwall, or any particular area you would like to set the next novel?
My next book A Cornish Inheritance, is still set in Helford but it’s on the north side. After that I may move my setting to a different area but we’ll see!

Lastly, I hope your novel is selling well and I am interested to know if it gets any less daunting or thrilling as each book is published?

It becomes tougher as expectations are added to the stresses. You have readers who have loved your books and characters and worry about what happens if they don’t like the latest offering. It’s enough to give me sleepless nights. However the thrill remains too; to hold a book in your hands is so awesome and to hear that someone has loved your story, your characters is a wonderful feeling.

You can purchase Liz’s new book Here:


10 thoughts on “In Du Maurier’s Footsteps

  1. Thanks for visiting the Write Romantics Blog, Liz, and for painting an image of a part of the country I personally don’t know very well (it’s such a long way from where I was brought up in Teesside) but which always looks so beautiful in pictures. Good look with the next book.
    Julie x

  2. What a lovely account of an author’s life, thank you so much for popping over, I will treat myself to one of your Cornish books, I really need a trip to Cornwall and your books sound like an excellent taster!! Lynne x

  3. Cornwall is such an evocative place, Liz, and I particularly love Looe and Polperro – so pretty, although a bit too clogged up with tourists in the height of season. I don’t go as often as I would like, as the roads from the South East make it a nightmare journey. So, next time I am in the mood for some Cornish charm, I’ll just cosy up with one of your books instead 🙂

  4. Hi Liz,
    Thanks for coming onto the blog and sharing. I spent some Uni days visiting Cornwalla and it’s a beautiful place…nowadays I see it via Escape to the Country episodes!
    I look forward to reading A Cornish Stranger…The Cornish House brought Cornwall a little closer to me 🙂

  5. Hi Liz
    I’m pleased to hear that someone else gets ideas that are tied to a particular landscape. I was starting to think it was just me! I’m loving the sound of your books and as I’m going to Cornwall in September I’m definitely going to read them before I go to get in the mood.

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