I am delighted to welcome Linda Huber back to my blog to talk about her book
Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The Cold Cold Sea?
Two things happened way back in the nineties. I was researching my family tree and came across a distant little cousin who had drowned in the 1940s, aged just eleven, in a Glasgow swimming pool. I was shocked that I had never heard of this child. Not long afterwards I had a letter from a friend, very upset because a friend of hers had suffered a similar tragedy in her own family. That really started me thinking – how do parents cope in this kind of nightmare situation – and what happens if they don’t cope? That was the start of The Cold Cold Sea.
What can you tell us about the story which will pique the reader's interest?
I think it’s clear to the reader quite near the start what is going on in The Cold Cold Sea – the suspense is more in how the characters deal with the situation they find themselves in. So many people have said to me ‘I wanted to reach into the book and hug/shake/yell at X, make them do the right thing, tell them it was going to be okay.’ I found it interesting that while some people wanted to hug X, others would much rather yell…
Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ and how much research did you need to do in order to bring -The Cold Cold Sea to life?
As a child I spent several summer holidays in and around Newquay, and I absolutely loved it. I’ll never forget those breakers crashing up the beach, or the colours of the sea as it shimmered in the sunshine. All the time of writing The Cold Cold Sea I was back there in my mind – it was lovely!
The school setting was no problem either, as I’ve worked in several schools over the years and know what goes on in a classroom. I’ve also worked with people under severe stress, so I was able to take some aspects of that into the book too.
Most of the research I did for this book was geographical, and as always the world wide web had most of the answers!
What was the most difficult aspect of the writing the story? How did you overcome it?
For me, the hard bit is leaving large chunks of my characters’ lives out of the story. When you write about people you really get to know them, and it’s all too easy to include too much detail that’s of no interest to the reader because it takes them away from the main story for too long. As a writer, I find it almost impossible to stand far enough back from my own work to judge if I’ve balanced it well – this is where you need someone whose opinion you value and who knows what they’re talking about. And then you need to give yourself a mental kick and take their advice!
Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?
I love my paper people, and I hope that comes across in the way I write about them. The situation in The Cold Cold Sea is dreadful for them so it wasn’t easy, putting them through such a nightmare. As for ‘finished’, that’s tricky too – this is my second book and for the second time I was gutted when my editor said, ‘That’s us, we’re done now’ – and I had to accept that never again could I change something that Maggie felt, or give Phillip more insight into what he had to do, or…
I don’t know what I expected them to be, but I do hope they come over as real people.
How do you manage to balance writing with your everyday life and what do you do to relax?
Writing is my relaxation! My day job is teaching, I’m in Adult Education, but as I work part time I have plenty of opportunity to go jogging or walking, my main ‘switch off’ hobbies. I get a lot of ideas then too. I think writing merges with everyday life too, as so many ideas come from brief encounters with various people.
My main work-in-progress at the moment came from just such a ‘brief encounter’ at a family wedding – it’s about a couple who are in the process of adopting a child, and then…
Another project is almost ‘finished’ too, but I’m not sure what I’m doing with that one yet – you can join me watching this space!
My thoughts about The Cold Cold Sea
Three year old Olivia Grainger disappears from the Cornish beach where she has been happily collecting seashells and for her parents, Colin and Maggie, their worst nightmare is about to come true. Meanwhile, not too far away, Jennifer is settling into her new home and preparing her daughter, Hailey, for school. On the surface, these two families have nothing to connect them but by a series of clever manipulations the story reveals how all too easily people can be duped into believing what they think they see.
From the start, this clever psychological suspense story draws you into a web of deceit which is so deftly manoeuvred that at times you really do have to stop and take a breath. The writing is very good, the plot credible and the whole premise of the novel works well because of the believability of the characters involved. The anguish of Colin and Maggie is so well done that their devastating terror at the loss of Olivia is palpable and deeply upsetting. Jennifer, on the other hand, is a skilled manipulator; she is supremely flawed but no less fascinating because of that, however, it is her treatment of Hailey which will have every parent itching to make a phone call to social services. Jennifer’s husband Philip, largely absent in America for much of the action of the story, gets drawn into the mêlée largely by default but his bewilderment is credible and his actions understandable. However, the real star of the novel, for me, is Hailey who shows wisdom and tenacity far beyond the scope of her tender years.
To say more about this excellent novel would be to do both the book and the author a complete disservice. The Cold Cold Sea deserves to be read, as I did, in one sitting on a cold and blustery day, when the scudding clouds overhead cast as much a shadow on the world as did the book itself.
My thanks to Linda for sharing her novel with me and for allowing us a fascinating glimpse into the writing of The Cold Cold Sea.
Linda is also the author of The Paradise Trees and was an author contributor on the recently published anthology Winter Tales