Location, location, location – Sue Watson

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By Sue Watson

Last year I wrote three books all linked by ice cream and one, magical location, Appledore in North Devon, and was amazed at how my own experiences informed the fictional ones and how the landscape shaped the characters and plot.♥

I first went to Appledore in 1998 to film a BBC cookery programme with TV cook Sophie Grigson called ‘Feasts for a Fiver.’ As soon as I arrived I knew this place was special, there was definitely magic in the air. It was an unspoilt little place, old cottages painted in pastel colours, winding cobbled streets, bunting blowing in the wind, and shops selling buckets and spades and postcards.

The nearest big town to Appledore is Barnstaple, a wonderful mix of new and old, the 100 year old pannier markets jostled with Marks and Spencer’s, past and present colliding. I wasn’t a writer back then, but I wrote the scripts, and listening to Sophie describe the food – and cook it, really inspired me. And from the fabulous seafood to the obligatory home-made scones with clotted cream and jam, we found it all – and ate it!

I was newly married then and during my time in Appledore I discovered to my joy, that I was pregnant. I wanted to wait until I got home to tell my husband. so for a whole week I had this little secret inside of me and I was just bursting to tell everyone! I spent my free time just looking out to sea where the Taw and Torridge rivers meet before they flow into the Atlantic, thinking about my baby and what she’d be like.

I’d always planned to write a book, before this lovely old fishing village became a faded memory. Sometimes I’d take it out like a postcard from the past and look at my memories of the beach, the sea and all the wonderful people I met there. Last summer I felt the past pull me back again when I returned with my husband and daughter to the place that had meant so much. And I finally wrote the novel, which turned into three, because Appledore is too wonderful for just one book. Ella’s Ice Cream Summer is the first of the three books I’ve written set in Appledore around Caprioni’s, an ice cream café.

This is the first time I’ve been inspired by a real location as the setting for a series of books. The seafront, the little shops and pubs and the big sky over the estuary shaped my stories and my characters too. I also drew on my own feelings back then of being a mother-to-be and having a big secret, and also the way the people of Appledore embraced us. They seemed to think we were these glamorous TV people from the BBC, two worlds colliding, but coming together as they shared their stories and recipes – again something that’s reflected in the Ice Cream books.

This year’s summer book Love, Lies and Wedding Cake, is also influenced by location but in a different way. In this novel, two lovers are torn apart by location, where they feel they belong and how well they know the other’s life. Faye loves Dan who lives in Sydney Australia, but can she overcome all the obstacles and fly to the other side of the world to be with him?

My next book is also influenced by location, but that’s another story for another day…

Sue Watson was a journalist then a TV producer at the BBC until she realised that instead of working, she could stay at home, and write about exciting things like foreign travel and cake! So far Sue’s written twelve books, and some have been translated into Italian, German and Portuguese (she’s big in Brazil!) Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Worcestershire. Love, Lies and Wedding Cake is out now.