In my debut novel, ‘The Sentinel’, I have a large array of characters. There is Kathleen Devine, the main character, whose decision to take up the Head Teacher’s position at ‘The Sentinel’ lightstation begins the story. There is the Head Lightkeeper and his wife, and the two Assistant Keepers and their families (with a combined total of 14 children!).
It was necessary to have that many children because, historically, when there were more than 12 children in a community, the parents could petition the Education Department to supply a teacher and open a school.
However, amongst this cast of characters was another brooding figure, that of the landscape itself.
I adore writing the landscape. Nature has always been close to my heart; it’s where I feel most peaceful and connected.
So when it came to setting my characters in the landscape, the writing came easy.
I put the images I’d taken of the visit to the Wilson’s Prom lighthouse (the lighthouse station on which ‘The Sentinel’ is set) and put them all around the room. I studied them to take myself back to that wild and wonderful place so I could recreate its beauty and its isolation in my story.
I thought I’d share some of my favourite landscape passages from the novel.
The first is from the scene where Kathleen first sees the Sentinel:
The Sentinel rose out of the clearing mist on the third morning of our voyage. I’d risen early, wanting to catch a first glimpse of the lighthouse. In the distance strands of fog wove about the cliffs shrouding them from view. On top of the headland, the lighthouse jutted straight up into the air like a finger pointing skyward, the rising sun catching the sides of the building and striking it as white hot as a bolt of lightning. It was as magnificent as it was comforting. In this vast and wild sea, at least there was one item of civilisation, one safe harbour in an alien world.Chapter 3 – ‘The Sentinel’ by Jacqueline Hodder
The 2nd excerpt comes from later in the book when Kathleen is missing home.
One night, when the air and waves were still as if the earth itself held its breath and I heard the song of the sea easing through the grills around my window, I stared up at the ceiling listening to it. The sound was like a “hush” spelled backwards. Each sound a breath’s exhale. The sea was singing a song soothing a soft infant to sleep. As I was resting upon the sounds, lulled into a formless sleep, I dreamt of Mama.Chapter 24 ‘The Sentinel’ by Jacqueline Hodder
I’d love to hear about your experiences writing the landscape and your favourite places to visit.
Until next time,