Wednesday 15 July 2015

Windsnap Wednesdays: Liz Kessler on Mermaids, Castles, Starlings and the Privilege of being a Writer

We're really delighted to be on the 'Windsnap Wednesdays' blog tour today, building up to the release of Liz Kessler's newest Emily Windsnap book!

(c) Mark Noall
Quite a long time ago – over a decade ago, in fact – a friend of mine told me about a beautiful place that she’d visited in Cornwall. I was living in Manchester at the time and I don’t think I had ever even been to Cornwall.

The place she told me about was a castle perched on a tiny island. It was set apart from the mainland with a walkway leading towards it. When the tide was high, you could only reach the castle by boat; when the tide was out, you could walk to it. And it was often shrouded in mist.

I was captivated by the sound of this place. Before even visiting the castle for myself, I had a title for my next book: it would be called The Castle in the Mist.

I booked my trip quite soon after this conversation, and spent a glorious week staying in a hotel that looked straight across to the island. I had some of the most magical experiences of my life during this week. One of them was seeing an incredible 'murmuration' of starlings – where they fly and dance and swirl about in the sky. I wasn’t obsessed  with photography back then, like I am now, so I don’t have any photos of it, but you can see images like this online if you look it up.

Literally hundreds of thousands – possibly even millions – of them performed moves and feats that I had never seen before and have never seen to the same extent since. It was utterly magical and mesmerising – and of course, it went straight into my book!

Here is one of the moments when the starlings make an appearance in Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist.

As I stared, a thick black cloud came from nowhere, swirling like a shoal of black fish, then spreading out, slinking like a snake; twisting, turning up, down, circling round and round. It looked like a giant swarm of bees.

They moved as one, towards me and Shona. As they did, I saw what it was: birds. Instantly, they flicked and turned, back towards the castle. In a private dance for us, they wove with perfect grace and timing around and around the castle, gliding in slow motion, as though silently sliding down the banister of a spiral staircase; then bunching into a black ball again, spinning above the castle.

The dance went on and on as the birds whirled upwards in the shape of a genie emerging from his lamp. Then, as one, they spread out and flew towards us in a fan. An enormous flock of tiny black birds passed over our heads, chattering in a million different languages and briefly turning the sky black before they disappeared into the distance.

It was a privilege to witness such a sight. As a writer, it is things like this that inspire me the most. A moment of nature doing something magical and beautiful – it felt as if it was part of a gift being given to me from Emily herself in her bid to get me to tell her story, and make a good job of it!

All these years later, I am now living in Cornwall, a half hour drive from this magical place, and I'm grateful every day that I have such beauty around me to inspire my books and fill my heart. And I get to call it my job! 


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