I paid a visit to Walney Island this week which, in a sense, is where Song of the Sea God is set. The book is available on Amazon here.
I say in a sense because it is set geographically on this small island of the North West coast of England – but in other ways, not at all.
I was being interviewed on the beach on the West coast of Walney by Gareth from the local evening newspaper the North West Evening Mail. As we sat on a bench on an incredibly mild and sunny October Sunday afternoon, looking out over a beautiful seascape, I was at pains to explain that the book is not ‘about’ Walney.
Song of the Sea God is a fairly wild ride – there are laughs to be had sure, but there are also unpleasant people doing unpleasant things. I grew up on Walney and I would not like my old friends to think I had modelled these unpleasant people on them.
In fact what happened is that I had a story to tell – and needed somewhere to put it. The geography of Walney was there in my head – learned from childhood. It became a canvas for my story. But there was more to it than that – my story required a certain sort of place to work, it needed to be a place where the characters could have grown to become who they are in the book – people who fall easily under the sway of a charismatic figure who implies he can give them a better life.
So there was no point me sticking them in some demi-paradise or other Eden. It was no use me doing a tourist guidebook for the place – I had to make it seem a bit of a dump. So I did. I certainly didn’t call it Walney in the book of course – it isn’t – it is the island in my book and part of the world of the book which is different from the real world.
This distinction is important not just to me but to the people who live on Walney and are very proud of the place and the community. It demonstrates the basic gap between reality and fiction. As a writer of either you have responsibilities I think – and my responsibilities as a writer of fiction included making it very clear to the newspaper reporter interviewing me that in the book, I was making things up.
It worked out ok with the newspaper article as you can see from the pic. I was very happy with it – you can read the article in the paper online here.