Guest post - Kate Mallinder
This is why Summer of No Regrets, my debut, was set predominantly in Devon with splashes of Geneva, Wales and Paris. They are all places I love and I loved imagining being there while I wrote the book. With Asking for a Friend I was more aware of where I set my story. I kept coming back to Weston-Super-Mare. But I worried. It’s not like Devon. Devon is beautiful coastlines, gorgeous beaches, deep blue seas and Weston… isn’t that. Somerset in general is, but specifically Weston? It’s on a tidal estuary so the waters are constantly churning mud, a lot of the time the sea is so far out you can’t see it and the entire seafront is a mishmash of little shops and restaurants, selling everything from fish and chips to buckets and spades. There are empty buildings and peeling paint and closed businesses. So why do I love it?
I think whereas I discovered Devon as an adult, I have always loved Weston. I went frequently as a child, several times as a teenager, before kids, after kids. It’s the one place I’ve repeatedly visited throughout my life. I love its quirk. I love the mixture of faded Victoriana and new life, past glory and future hope.
Greg Wohead, a writer and performer, says, ‘The landscape and vibe of Weston is unlike anywhere else I have ever been; strange and warm, nostalgic and natural. I like it.’ And I think that’s it. The blend of the past with the present, both personal and that of Weston itself. The Marine Lake I visited as a child, where I tried to walk back to where we were staying without shoes on, treading along painted road lines as it was smoother than the pavement. Those same beaches I walked along with my husband, and where we’ve since taken our children. There are layers of memories there. And with each visit, I remember and layer again.
There seems among both locals and visitors a gentle mocking. The smiled Weston-Super-Mud. But we all remember paddling in the sea, walking along the pier and eating chips from the paper. And that’s it. We mock it because we know it. We mock it because we love it.
In Asking for a Friend my characters, Agnes, Hattie and Jake, go there for a week’s ‘study break.’ They stay in a B&B. I know exactly where that B&B is. I used to walk along that road as a child. I remember the gnomes outside. And I think as a writer, when you describe somewhere, you don’t just describe the physicality but also the feel, the vibe, the gut of it too so hopefully it will invoke a reaction in the reader. A recognition.
In these times of lockdown and social distancing, people are thinking more and more about where they wish they were. Some are remembering happy holidays, others are making plans for the future, but others are escaping into books to give them that fix. I’m longing to feel that brisk breeze, stride out along the promenade and fill my lungs with fresh sea air and if a book can give me that feeling while I wait, then that’s a wonderful thing.
Thank you for joining me Kate, and don't forget to check out Kate's book and the rest of the blog tour. There'll be a live Twitter launch this Thursday, 4th June, and you can buy it here or from your local independent bookshop.