Dystopian novel set in SOUTH EAST FRANCE
Talking Location with author Natasha Carthew – Cornwall
30th April 2018
#TalkingLocationWith.… Natasha Carthew author of All Rivers Run Free – sharing thoughts on writing and on Cornwall
All Rivers Run Free is set in Cornwall and follows one woman’s journey downriver from the north coast to the south. For me the writing and research for a book are very much interlinked and because of this I spend most of my time outside. I wrote a lot of All Rivers Run Free on the banks of the river Tamar where the book is set and visited the places that Ia visits in the story. The locations Ia comes across in All Rivers Run Free are on the tourist trail and all sit near or alongside the River Tamar. Towns like Launceston and visitor centres like Tamar lakes and Morwelham Quay all play a part in the story. I visited these places in winter, off season, so it wasn’t hard to take the people away from them and imagine them abandoned, messed up, perfect for a semi-dystopian setting. There is a stately home called Cothele that Ia takes refuge in on her journey on the banks of the river and this is where a lot of crucial things happen in her story, I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book, but writing those scenes on that particular riverbank and in the ornate garden was vital in getting the atmosphere right.
All my favourite places to write are outside. I’m drawn to the outside countryside around me out of necessity. It’s a way to clear my head and immerse myself fully with the world that my characters inhabit. Daily I write in a three sided cabin I built out of scrap in my back garden, it overlooks a few farms and in the distance I can see my beloved Bodmin Moor.
I head out for a hike every day in the neighbouring fields and woods and bring a small notebook and pencil with me for any lightning bolt moments. I also go on ‘day out’ writing trips either up on the moor or on the south coast of Cornwall, I’m from South East Cornwall and it is the most beautiful part of the county and features heavily in All Rivers Run Free as she returns home.
The places featured in All Rivers Run Free:
The North Coast of Cornwall is famous for its long sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and far reaching views of the Celtic sea and in All Rivers Run Free it is the place where we first meet Ia. In the story it is a place to be feared, it is an alien place compared to the softer South Coast from where she comes from.
Like all Cornish folk, Ia knows the River Tamar well. The Tamar’s source is less than 6 km from the north Cornish coast and I made sure to site Ia’s caravan at this location so she would be able to find the source of the river and walk it from the north to the south coast.
The river flows southward and its course runs across the peninsula. The total length of the river is 61 miles which Ia walks and navigates by boat until she reaches her childhood home on the south coast.
During her 61 mile journey, Ia comes across several places that are derelict and fallen into disrepair, in All Rivers Run Free the economy has collapsed and society has fallen into further depths of social deprivation, it is a story of survival and nobody has time or money to visit places on the tourist trail. In reality this are places that are well worth a visit.
The ancient borough of Launceston Town is one mile west of the river and features the famous castle built in 1070 to control the surrounding area.
Further down river Ia lands her boat at Morwelham Quay an historic river port on the Devon side of the river that was developed to support the local mines. The port had its peak in the Victorian era and is now run as a tourist attraction and museum. It is the terminus of the Tavistock Canal, and has its own copper mine.
Not far from the Quay Ia travels toward Cotehele House and Gardens where she spends the night. The mediaeval house is situated in the parish of Calstock in the east of Cornwall. It is a rambling granite and slate-stone manor house on the banks of the River Tamar that has been little changed over five centuries. The grounds stretch down to a quay on the river where there is an outpost of the National Maritime Museum. There are a number of formal gardens and a richly planted area in the valley; features include a medieval dovecote, Victorian summerhouse and an eighteenth century tower, all of which feature in the book.
At its mouth, the Tamar flows into the Hamoaze before entering Plymouth Sound, a bay that leads into the English Channel and the stunning South Coast.
The South Coast of Cornwall is where Ia returns home and is also where I was born and raised. On her final journey she passes the beautiful gardens of Mount Edgcumbe, the fishing villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, before spying the iron age fort of Rame Head situated on the coastal headland that loops around into the stunning Whitsand Bay and Freathy Cliffs, where she finally finds home.
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Photos © Natasha Carthew