Wellow’s surface began to crack like an egg in a serpent’s jaw. No street or path escaped. The town seemed literally to be slipping away under their feet.
The ancient harbour town of Wellow is under siege from a powerful invisible enemy. But who – or what – is responsible for wreaking such havoc? As strange occurances devastate their hometown it’s up to Verity Gallant and her friends to uncover the truth. And unless they hurry there will be chance of a happy ending.
The children must follow a deadly trail that leads back, once again, to the four Keepers of the Elements: the powerful witch sisters who control water, fire, earth and wind. Can Verity prevent old passions from destroying new love, and save the place she calls home?
“Welsh writes just beautifully – there’s an ease and a flow about everything and so Heart of Stoneis an absolute pleasure to read.” The Bookbag
I’m really excited that Heart of Stone has been published in hardback this month – and very soon there’ll be a lovely new website to celebrate. In the meantime, you can sign up to my Facebook page to keep up to date on the Heart of Stone blog tour and school visits. You can also find Heart of Stone on Amazon here.
The lovely blue cover of the paperback version, which is due out in June 2011
Verity Gallant knows she’ll never be as pretty and popular as Poppy, her perfect little sister – she doesn’t quite fit in. But when a mysterious stranger hands her an ancient red book, everything changes. Verity becomes embroiled in a tale of dark magic and intrigue; she uncovers old rivalries and discovers new friends. Together, she, Henry and Martha explore the secrets stirring in the ancient harbour town of Wellow. But what will it take to stop a powerful witch hell-bent on revenge?
Mistress is the first of a four-part series featuring Verity and was published in hardback on July 1st 2010. The paperback will be published in June 2011. Then in January 2012 the second book in the series, Heart of Stone, will be published.
I’m thrilled that Mistress of the Storm has been quietly but determinedly doing well (a bit like my heroine). But it means much more to know her success is thanks to the places where Verity and I discovered reading; the schools, local libraries and bookshops that introduce a love of stories to millions of children every year, and change lives as a consequence.
I get quite a few people who’ve read the book asking about this, and I’ve realised it’s quite a Marmite-y aspect of the story: you either love the ambiguity, or hate it. So for those who would like to know, the short answer is that the book is pretty much set in the 1970s, but because it’s a very remote town it feels like the 1950s. In other words, it’s borrowed from my childhood on the Isle of Wight. Growing up in Cowes, you often felt that nothing had changed for hundreds of years. We didn’t have high-street chain stores, everything was independently owned. There was still half-day closing. Tall ships (like the Storm) still came to visit, and when they did, it would be something that people talked about in the high street: a bit of an event.
I think one of the things that kick-started Verity, was the fact that my husband and I moved to this remote part of Suffolk. You can see from this picture of nearby Walberswick that we are still very ‘lost in time’ around here and it reminded me of my childhood. I think also, moving to a new area and having to make friends and start over again, felt a little bit like being back at school: it reminded me of your first day at term, when you’re stood in the hallway with your timetable and you don’t have a clue where to go, and everyone else looks filled with confidence.
Wellow is a combination of a town called Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, and Southwold in Suffolk which is where I live now. Tempest Bay and Soul Bay are approximations of the coast that runs from St Catherine’s Point on the Island, to the Needles. I grew up on the Isle of Wight, in Cowes, and from the very first time I saw the south coast of the Island I fell in love with it. As soon as I learnt how to drive I would go there at every opportunity with friends, or alone. Rain or shine I have always found it breathtaking. My friend and I even went there on Boxing Day once when the weather was so bad we couldn’t get out of the car. It still looked beautiful though.
I do now: I have a room above the garage of our house that I use as an office and I tend to go there to when I’m at home. You can see my desk here. Unfortunately I can’t seem to take a shot that shows the view, which is lovely. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.
But for years there was no possibility of a writing ‘routine’. I couldn’t be fussy about getting peace and quiet, or a particular ‘atmosphere’. Prior to German publisher Oetinger buying the German language right to Mistress, I funded my writing by working four days a week for an digital advertising agency. ‘Agency life’ (as it’s known) is frantic; think 12 hour days, cancelled holidays, phone calls at the weekend, the lot. But it paid well enough for me to only do those four days, and on the fifth I wrote. It was the devil’s pact I made to get a novel finished. So time was my scarcest commodity, and when I found some I just had to get on and write: in the past I’ve been known to snatch writing opportunities on ferries, in cars, even a teacher’s staffroom once …any place where I had room to open a laptop.
These days (for the minute) things are a bit different. But basically, when I’m writing I start at 9am and finish at 5pm. I haven’t managed to break the habit of eating lunch at my desktop, but perhaps that’s because it’s the winter and there are so many fascinating articles about Charlie Sheen to read these days. I saw today that fellow author Stephanie Burgis (who seems lovely on Twitter) always writes wearing a tiara. I like her style, but I don’t have a tiara. I’m wondering if my sons’ fireman’s helmet will do instead?
Oh dear, now it comes out! I can sail, but haven’t for a long time. But it’s in the book because I loved it so much. I particularly liked the sense of freedom: I’m a bit of a speed freak. My husband also sailed a lot when he was a boy and now that our sons are getting older we’re planning to get a family dinghy very soon. I’m really looking forward to it.
The hastily-taken snap to the left is of a Mirror dinghy, spotted when we were on holiday. In my imagination Henry’s dinghy is a Mirror. I think I chose that because it’s what my husband owned when he was a boy (his dad made his for him), and they were very popular when we were kids. I actually learned to sail in a Wayfarer, and then moved on as quickly as I could to Toppers, whihc are much more fun.
Apologies that the photo is so bad – I literally just had time to whip out my phone before I was marched on by my sons.
I think all authors base their characters on aspects of people they know, and themselves. Grandmother, for example, has quite a few traits I’ve borrowed from people I’ve met over the years. But I’m told that you rarely recognise yourself in a novel, so hopefully I’ll get away with it!
I was so lucky to be able to hold the book launch for the hardback of Mistress at the ‘library’, which plays a pivotal part in the story (and in future ones). In actual fact my inspiration for the spot where Verity meets Abednego is in real life the Southwold Sailor’s Reading Room. But the cliff-top views and atmospheric setting are Southwold’s own. My friend Erika arranged it for me (it’s all about who you know in Southwold), and I was very grateful.
Even better, the weather was glorious. There’s a link here to a video featuring the lovely Hannah Featherstone, my editor at David Fickling Books (actually, she’s one of my editors: I have two. I’m not sure what this says about me, possibly that I am ’special’, although probably not in a way I would like). Anyway, Hannah takes you through a guided tour of the cakes that were available. It’s true to say that they were all home made, but fortunately for everyone present they weren’t made by me.
There’s another video on Youtube of me talking at the book launch, but there is such a terrible still at the start, that vanity has always prevented me from telling anyone about it. I don’t look that bad do I? Don’t answer that.
Again, all drawn by Mat Denny, or his alter ego Cyan Blue. Someone asked me today if the person who’d made the trailer had worked on Doctor Who before! I was very proud (I’m not sure why, for my good taste possibly).