Breathing life into landscapes – Sara Foster

Today Sara Foster, author of Come Back To Me and Beneath the Shadows joins us.

Sara: There are many things I love about writing: the constant sense of discovery; the never-ending challenge to redefine and improve the crafting of a novel; the chance to study life deeply in order to tell the stories that fire my imagination … And during the development of my second book, Beneath the Shadows, I had the opportunity to explore a landscape that is, to my mind, a character in itself – in fact, perhaps the deepest, most compelling character of all.

In my first book, Come Back to Me, my focus had been on emotion, choices and consequences, and my characters moved around a lot, so places formed more transient backdrops to the events taking place. Yet, the seed of Beneath the Shadows was the North Yorkshire moors itself – an area I have come to know very well since my husband grew up in a small village there, one where his parents still live. The empty vista is beguiling, but bequeaths an illusion, since it is rich with historical traditions and fanciful folk stories, the landscape spilling over with secrets natural and manmade. It was the perfect setting for a father and husband to mysteriously disappear – and for my heroine, Grace, to journey to in the hope of uncovering the truth.

While you could not find a setting more geographically and ecologically different to the dry red outback of Western Australia – another stretch of emptiness that I’ve grown to love – there are a surprising number of similarities. The way animals suddenly appear from nowhere – in WA, lizards and snakes; in Yorkshire, stoats or a badger if you’re lucky. The fulsome flocks of birds lucky enough to have found room to thrive in these untouched expanses. The way the sky forms an incredible ever-changing canvas without buildings to obliterate it; or that when the darkness falls so absolutely it is utterly disorientating. How in the pitch of night your world suddenly becomes your immediate torch-lit space, no sense of what or who might be beyond your short range of vision. And, perhaps most compelling of all, there are the ancient stories: the folktales of knights sleeping in a craggy hill or haunted valleys in Yorkshire mirroring the Aboriginal stories of the animals and spirits of dry rivers and rocky outcrops in WA. It seems that when you begin to look beyond the surface, you can find a million and one differences, and yet things are also very similar.

Now that I live in Western Australia, much of my writing of the moors has been done from memory, but during November I’ll be back in the UK visiting family. I can’t wait to renew my connection with the area and catch up with our loved ones. At the same time, I might have to begin collecting more background material, since there is already a sequel of sorts brewing in my mind… It seems the place may not be quite finished with me yet.

You can read more about Sara Foster and her wonderful books here or follow her onTwitter @SaraJFoster

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