Friday 12 February 2016

Guest Post: Laura E. James on Jurassic Inspiration

Jurassic Inspiration

The English county of Dorset, on the south-west coast of the UK, is the source of many writers’ ideas. The popular TV series, Broadchurch, created and written by local Chris Chibnall, is filmed in West Bay, not far from Bridport, and of course, we have Thomas Hardy, setting his works in Wessex and creating alternative names for towns – Casterbridge is Dorchester, Budmouth is Weymouth. In my twenties, I read a number of Penguin Classics, including quite a few Thomas Hardy. In the front of each of his books was a map of Wessex, and I had fun identifying the areas about which he’d written.

When I first started writing novels, I had no idea Chesil Beach was to become a character within its own right and play such an important role in my books. It wasn’t until I was looking through some old photographs I realised it was a place to which I was drawn, and to which I often return, and have done since I was a child. I recall searching for perfect pebbles – and there are plenty on Chesil Beach – and finding one that looked like an elephant’s head. To be fair, it was more of a rock than a pebble, but it fascinated me. Nowadays, it is forbidden to remove pebbles from the beach due to the potential negative environmental impact fewer pebbles would cause.

Chesil Beach Cliffs

Chesil Beach appears in my first novel, Truth or Dare?. It’s a place Josh, the secondary hero, visits to reconnect with the world. It stimulates his senses and reminds him there is life beyond work. It’s where he and his girlfriend, the feisty, free-thinking Rosie, make plans for the future. It’s where Rosie goes to gain perspective and strength.

Olivia DeVere, a character from my second novel, Follow Me, Follow You, believes in the natural healing properties of the coast, and she uses the beach and sea to teach the heroine, Victoria, and Victoria’s four-year-old son, Seth, how to let go, by ‘giving it up to the sea.’

In my latest novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, the third in the Chesil Beach Book series, the reader is taken further along the beach and into Portland, right to the end, at Portland Bill and the lighthouse. Like Chesil, it’s a place of which I hold fond memories. I have taken my children there many times, having lunch at the Lobster Pot, sitting on the benches on the cliff top, eating ice cream, watching the waves crash into the cranes once used for unloading ships. I even saw a seal in the water once. It’s an area my mother also loved, so my associations with it are strong.

Portland Bill: View from the lighthouse

Recently, I gave a talk to the Weymouth Civic Society about how the Jurassic Coast has inspired my writing, and ran through a few slides of the places either mentioned or alluded to in the books. In the same way that I had fun looking at the maps of Wessex, the audience seemed to enjoy guessing where the real life places were.

I haven’t renamed Chesil, or Weymouth and Portland – the towns and villages remain true, but I have renamed a few pubs and cafes, and repositioned a few buildings, created the odd copse, and turned a fish restaurant into a craft centre.

Pubs and cafes appear to be a recurring theme …

The Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills, on the outskirts of Weymouth, appears in Truth or Dare?. It’s a real place. So real, my husband and I held our wedding reception there in the nineties. We actually lived in Bedfordshire at the time, a three and a half hour drive away.

The Smugglers Inn

The cafĂ© in the same book is modelled on a favourite of mine, the Oasis, which sits at the pebbled end of Weymouth Beach. I’ve had many a hot chocolate there.

Weymouth seafront appears in What Doesn’t Kill You. It’s a wonderful, sandy beach, with a large bay towards the far end – the end where dogs are allowed to run. I’m not much of a walker, restricted by rheumatoid arthritis, but I love spending time sitting on the esplanade watching the dogs charge into the water.

I’m widening the area for book 4, to include Poole and Bournemouth. As a family, we took a trip to Brownsea Island last summer and had a wonderful ‘holiday in a day’, with my husband and son kayaking across from the mainland, and my daughter and I taking the more sedate journey on the ferry. It was a lovely day, which provided plenty of inspiration.

The area and event might even appear in book 4 …

Thank you for inviting me to join you today on Reviewed The Book Sophie.


What Doesn't Kill You is out now.

Possessing little in the way of domestic skills, and with an insatiable hunger to write, Laura E. James found a much better use than cooking, for the family kitchen. Tucked neatly in one corner is her very small, but very tidy desk from where she produces issue-driven romantic novels, short stories, and flash fiction.

Living in and enjoying the inspirational county of Dorset, Laura is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, a member of her local writing group, Off The Cuff, a founder of Littoralis, and one eighth of The Romaniacs, the RNA Industry Awards 2015 Media Stars Winner.

Published by Choc Lit, Laura’s debut novel, Truth or Dare? was nominated for the Festival of Romance Best Romantic eBook. Her second novel, Follow Me Follow You was a editorial selection. What Doesn’t Kill You, the third in the Chesil Beach Book Series, is the first title in Choc Lit’s new Dark imprint ‒ compelling, emotional, hard-hitting novels. Not your typical romance story.

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  1. Many thanks for having me here today and allowing me to indulge in my love of the Jurassic Coast :-)

    1. My pleasure, Laura, thanks for a fab post :)


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