It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and that’s partly been because January has been very hectic, but also because January is a very hard month to feel the inspirational vibe! Post the party season, things take a while to get exciting again, and I’ve been a bit sluggish in terms of finding inspiration to write. However, with February now upon me, I think it’s time to get going. Things have been a little quiet in the world of Little Somerby of late. That’s mostly been because I’ve been revisiting Far From the Tree to get it tweaked ready to send into the Conville and Walsh New Writers Competition, which closed on 31st January. Writing a cover letter, making sure the whole manuscript is as polished as it can be (this competition does require the whole thing, which at least saves me the agony of cutting off a chapter mid flow for a word limit!) and putting the finishing touches on a synopsis have been occupying me, but perhaps not as much as they should be. I’ve also submitted it to the Lucy Cavendish Prize, which sounds a bit too literary and serious for something like Far From the Tree,but you never know, I might catch the judges in a romantic mood! Real life has also interceded for a few weeks now, with the first round of reports due for some of my teaching groups, and a bucketload of marking, to boot! Sometimes, the job I actually do has to take priority! What’s been interesting, though, is that the recent reports I wrote were a lot easier to write this year. This is partly to do with the fact that the groups are lovely, of course, but I wonder if the act of daily writing has sharpened my wordsmithing muscles, making the whole process easier. But my mind is never far from Little Somerby and its residents. Last week I worked out what novel number four was going to be, which gives the gorgeous Meredith Carter centre stage in her own narrative. So far, that’s Matthew and Anna, Jonathan and Caroline, Charlotte and her career and now Meredith and an unsuitable love affair with Oxford taken care of. I wonder where I’ll go next! It was suggested last summer that I move the action to a French village…and that would certainly mean lots of very pleasurable research ;). I’ve also been pondering the nature of inspiration again, of late. I’ve said in my biography for this page that it took me twenty years to fall in love with Somerset, and that is definitely true. Moving to the county at such an impressionable age made me hate every single last green field of it. That’s not because it’s not beautiful; it most definitely is, but because I just wasn’t in a place mentally and emotionally to appreciate it. I mean, at fourteen, you don’t appreciate much, and I definitely wanted to be somewhere else! Sometimes I still get a pang when I see photographs of my old schoolfriends, hanging out together after all these years, and I can’t help wishing I’d been a part of it. However, at the ripe old ago of thirty seven, I can now most definitely thank fate, destiny or whatever brought me to this glorious county. Well, OK, it was actually my Dad’s job that brought the family here, so perhaps I ought to be a bit more prosaic! It’s my home now, where my roots are, and where my daughters will have their roots. It’s in my blood as much as the county where I was born. And while I would once have fought tooth and nail against calling it my home, it most definitely now is. I’m constantly reminded of its beauty; this morning I took Bertie the Weimaraner puppy, and Roseanna my younger daughter, for a stroll around Cheddar Reservoir, which is about two miles from my front door. It was a stunning morning, and the sense of wellbeing and contentment I got from just ambling around the lake, watching the dog discovering things, and my twenty month old daughter doing the same, was enough to take away some of the stresses of the past month. I do often feel as though, since starting to write the Little Somerby novels, I’m seeing things around me in a whole new light, and when I walk out of my front door and am lucky enough to see such breathtaking scenery, that feeling of being in the right place at the right time continues to inspire me to write. And if that doesn’t sound mad and writer-y enough, I don’t know what will!