This week’s Friday Read is a heartwarming Christmas tale of love, friendship and starting over, The Little Church by the Sea by Liz Taylorson. What a gorgeous wintery cover.
Isolated and unwelcome in the picturesque village of Rawscar, Reverend Cass Fordyce has lost her faith and her home. Christmas is coming and she isn’t looking forward to it. Then she meets attractive local man Hal – twice divorced and with a reputation as a ladies’ man he’s everything that a celibate vicar like Cass should avoid, especially as Hal is hiding secrets of his own, including his past with the mysterious Anna.
Can Cass ever find her way in Rawscar? What secrets does Hal have to hide? And is there ever such a thing as a truly fresh start?
They had reached the sailing club now, and were walking past the little cluster of beach huts that were used by the sailors in the summer. Not a moment too soon, because the sea behind them had already reached the foot of the cliffs in the middle of the bay where the beach was at its narrowest. Cass turned to see the spray already crashing up against the cliffs behind them, waves whipped up by the wind. Then all at once it became obvious that they were not going to climb the steps behind the sailing club up to the cliff top, because the steps were no longer there.
The stream, coming down the little valley from the cliff top had at some point recently brought down the steps that ran beside it, probably in the same storm that had washed away the vicarage, and instead of a winding path, there was a sheer drop of about twenty-five metres with a waterfall tumbling down it. For a moment they looked at each other.
‘Can we make it back along the beach? We could wade through the bit along under the cliff?’ Cass suggested.
‘No. No way!’ Hal’s reaction was instant and strong. ‘You don’t ever go into the sea in weather like this.’
‘But it’s not that deep yet – look if we hurry we won’t even get that wet!’ She began to head back in that direction ‘Come on, Hal!’
He spun round and grabbed her arm, pulling her back. He held her firmly; very firmly. There was no way she was going back along the beach.
‘Stop it! Didn’t you hear me? No! We don’t go into the water.’
He had gone pale and his eyes looked darker than usual in the fading light. ‘And don’t give me any of that “God will protect you” crap, because he won’t.’ He sounded angry with her.
‘I wasn’t going to …’ she stuttered, suddenly chilled right through and a little bit scared. ‘But if we can’t go back and we can’t get up the path, then we’re stuck here until the tide goes down again. And that won’t be for ages!’
Hal let go of her arm to consult his watch. ‘It won’t be that long. About two hours it’ll be clear.’
‘But it’ll be dark by then.’
‘We’ll manage. We’ve both got lights on our phones.’
‘Will there be anyone at the sailing club? Can we get in there to keep warm?’
‘On a Wednesday night in December? With the cliff path closed? Not a chance. It’ll be all locked up.’ He looked up towards the old wooden clubhouse, its seaward windows shuttered against the weather.
‘I guess we could shelter on the veranda; that would be better than nothing.’ The clubhouse had a long veranda along the eastern side, perfect for a drink overlooking the bay in August, not so perfect for sheltering from a north-east wind in December.
‘We can do better than that. Follow me.’
A brief Author bio.
Liz has always surrounded herself with books. As a child, she was always to be found with her head in one and she still has a bookcase full of her childhood favourites to this day. (She once read The Lord of the Rings thirteen times in a row, cover to cover!) All this reading led to a degree in English Literature, (and another book-case full of books) and then a job as a cataloguer of early printed books for a major University Library. This meant spending hours sitting in a beautiful, ancient building looking at antique leather-bound tomes – although so many of them turned out to be rather boring volumes of sermons, she wasn’t often tempted to read them! She went on to train others how to catalogue books, much of her adult writing consisted of instructions on how to work out the correct form of the author’s name to use in a library catalogue.
Children (and then cats and chickens) interrupted her bibliographic career, and having given up library work Liz started writing fiction and hasn’t stopped since, joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme to try to learn how to write novels properly in 2015. She has also attempted writing some short stories, with one The Second Princess winning a competition in Writing Magazine which led her to think that maybe publication wasn’t a pipe dream after all.
I asked Liz to tell us a bit more about herself
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Honestly, yes, for as long as I can remember. When I was 14 I wrote a 60,000 word historical romance about the English Civil War, heavily inspired by By the Sword Divided – sadly, it wasn’t very good, though the front cover illustration by my one of my friends was great!
Has any author inspired you?
I remember the first proper “grown up” books that I read were romances by Elizabeth Goudge, who gave me a lifelong love of the genre. The Middle Window was possibly the first romance that I cried over, and Marianne, the heroine of her Green Dolphin Country taught me that real romantic heroines didn’t have to be passive – Marianne steals her sister’s lover and goes off to New Zealand with him!
What do you like writing most?
I love writing about places. For me, the setting of a story is like another character, it has to have the right backstory – name, history, map … I spent as much time creating the village of Rawscar as I did on any of the characters in The Little Church by the Sea, and I love Rawscar so much I’m going to have to set another book there.
Do you have a special place for writing?
I have a study. In my imagination it is pristine and full of inspirational pieces and a mood board for my work in progress. In reality, it’s a tip, full of paperwork that I haven’t done.
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
My first ever novel, written without a formal plan of any kind, taught me that I am not, and never will be a successful pantser! Some people just have an intuitive grasp of plot – I am not one of those people and I need to get my events ordered on a series of index cards.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
A lot of the historical background to The Little Church by the Sea was inspired by real events – though they didn’t happen to me! I was typing a local history book for my friend, the author Bob Woodhouse who writes on Yorkshire history. Shipwrecks, ghosts, superstition and tragedy all form part of the history of the coastal villages of Yorkshire, and they provide the historical background for the modern story of Cass and Hal.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m burning down a stately home right now. I’m also forming plans for a second Rawscar novel about trust, betrayal and smugglers. But mainly smugglers. I think I’ve watched too much Poldark …
What inspired you to write this book?
I can’t pin it down to a single thing. Cass sprang to life, a living, breathing character, as if from nowhere. She’s a vicar, and I didn’t want her to be a cosy caricature like The Vicar of Dibley, so from somewhere came this rather chaotic character, who means very well, but doesn’t always do the right thing. I don’t quite know where she came from; she’s not like me and she’s not like any real vicars I know!
What time of the day do you write best?
Mornings, when the house is empty and everything is quiet. I can’t work well with background noise or interruptions, so afternoons when the children come in from school are a lost cause.
What are your hobbies?
I’m heavily involved in our local amateur drama group, and love acting and I’m also very fond weekends away in our VW campervan, Big Blue, who is not very big, and only partly blue.
What advice would you give to other writers?
You know that piece of advice that everybody else gives you? “Write what you know”? I tried that, and it didn’t work for me. My advice would be: write what you know but only if you think other people will want to read about it. I know quite a lot about library cataloguing, but it wouldn’t make an entertaining novel!
Thanks for telling us about your book, Liz, and for providing such fab pictures!
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