The House On The Edge Of The Cliff by Carol Drinkwater
Review To Follow
No one else knows what happened that summer. Or so she believes . . .
Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.
She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.
Until one summer night shattered everything . . .
Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provençal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.
Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.
Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.
The past and present spectacularly collide in this gripping story of love and betrayal echoing across the decades.
Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?
A) I am Irish though born in London. I come from a theatrical family. My father was a musician, agent, entertainer. The stage was in my blood. I wanted to be an actress from the age of four, almost as soon as I could visualise the concept of my future. I also dreamed of being a writer. I was writing from the age of eight and was fortunate to have my first little story/anecdote published when I was ten. At drama school I wrote reams of background stories for all the characters I played. Throughout my professional life as an actress I kept diaries, travel journals, and wrote for magazines.
THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF is set in the South of France close to Marseille in an area known as Les Calanques or The Creeks. It is national parkland, stunning beautiful, rather wild and with very dramatic scenery.
The earlier sections of the novel are set in Paris in the spring of 1968. The historically famous May ’68, which was the year of the student uprisings. It was a fabulous period in modern history, full of optimism and idealism. It was the same time as the marches worldwide against the Vietnam War. The popular music was amazing: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mamas and Papas, Bob Marley … many others. My novel is full of this music, enriched, I hope, by the dreams of the young. Dreams, disappointments, first love, sexual awakening … the rites of passage journey from teenager to a young woman and then that same woman’s life at a later stage when the mistakes from her past come back to haunt her.
Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea, to writing and finally to publication?
A) I wanted to write a story that has a menacing thread to it. Life threatened. A past error that returns to haunt, Grace, my principal character. A secret carried for half a lifetime. And I wanted to locate the story somewhere dramatic, spectacular with high cliffs, commanding seas, long stretches of beach, boulders, boats. An environment where the weather rules and ‘accidents’ can happen. A strip of land and sea where tragedies can be buried, can lay undiscovered for decades.
I also wanted to set the earlier part of Grace’s story against a period of time, modern history, that was evocative and inspiring.
Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?
A) I am a great fan of Isabel Allende, Grahame Greene, Marguerite Duras. Daphne Du Maurier, Somerset Maugham.
I would recommend almost everything each of them has written.
Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?
A) I loved the Just William books and got into trouble at school for reading them because our English Lit teacher judged them ‘not sufficiently literary’ but read them again and you will find a wonderful window into a slice of English society and its time. And Richmal Crompton’s ability to create richly comic characters and situations is memorable.
The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley was another great favourite of mine. Macmillan have published a recent edition HERE.
All of Dickens, of course.
Q) What are you currently reading?
A) I am currently RE-reading The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.
Of all the books I have recently read, I can highly recommend: the new William Boyd, Love is Blind. Sally Rooney’s Normal People. David Nicholls’ Sweet Sorrow to be published in July, David Park’s Travelling in a Strange Land.
I am a great fan of top quality thriller and suspense writers such Le Carré, Ambler, Greene. These authors are so precise in their storytelling, disciplined. They are also very clever at weaving in social and modern history.
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) Seeing The Olive Farm, the first of my series of six Olive Farm books soar into the Sunday Times bestseller list. These books spent weeks there and I used to spend hours looking at the newspaper to convince myself it was all true.
Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?
A) This is never the job of one person. There have been several who have been an encouragement for me. My husband, Michel, comes first because from the beginning he encouraged me to believe I could go professional with my writing. Throughout my career I have had several editors. They changed according to the genre of books I was writing or whether they were for the Young Adult market or commercial fiction or memoirs (The Olive Farm series are memoirs). Alan Samson, who was my non-fiction editor and is now the chairman of W & N, taught me an immense amount about the art of storytelling and being in touch with one’s readers. Alf Wight, who is the real man behind the James Herriot books also helped me. I spent so long filming All Creatures Great and Small that I had plenty of time to ask myself what it was about the books and material that made the stories so successful. Alf Wight had such a gift for welcoming his readers into his world and never talking down to them.
Perhaps the most important inspiration of all are the writers I have read. Reading, reading, reading is the best method of learning to write.