Saturday, 13 October 2018

On drought, inspiration, and life imitating art...


What do 1976, 1984 and 2018 have in common? Along with a few other occasions, these are years when the Haweswater reservoir in Cumbria has dried out so much that the ruins of a village are exposed.

Haweswater in drought, 2018. Image copyright Jennifer Young

Mardale Green was demolished in the 1930s to make way for the reservoir, which is the main source of water for Manchester. A dam was built, and the small lake that had graced the valley expanded. A whole community was lost – farms, homes, roads, a church and a pub.

The villagers were compensated, but all had to move out after the dam was built , to see their homes destroyed and then lost beneath the water. Even the dead were moved – graves in the churchyard were exhumed and reburied elsewhere.

When the reservoir dries out, the remains of walls are revealed, the outlines of cottages, dry stone walls marking old field boundaries, rusty iron gates. There’s even an intact stone bridge, that crossed the stream that ran through the valley, revealed when the water drops low enough.

I’m a long-time lover of the Lake District, and visited Haweswater in the spring of 2016, when the reservoir was full and the valley at its most beautiful. There was snow on the mountain tops and the previous year’s brown bracken on the slopes. Downstream of the dam the fields were lush and green, filled with the season’s new lambs.

Hiking up the Old Corpse Road above Haweswater, the inspiration for my novel The Drowned Village


We parked in the car park at the top end of the reservoir. There’s a faded information board there about the history of the valley, and as I was reading it my friend said to me, ‘Hey, Kath, you could write a novel about this!’

For the rest of the day that was all I could think about, and by the time we came down from the mountains I had the beginnings of a story idea in my head. What if, my novelist’s brain suggested, a secret was hidden in the village, lost when the valley was flooded, only to resurface in a drought year? Something important, something that would resolve an ancient mystery...

That idea eventually became my novel The Drowned Village, which was published by HarperCollins in September 2018. I seem to have predicted the summer’s drought – my friends are all now asking me for next week’s lottery numbers.




It’s not the only time life has imitated art, or at least, imitated the plot of my books. In my first book, The Emerald Comb, an ancient skeleton is revealed when a tree blows down in a storm. A year or so after publication, a friend sent me a link to an article about how a thousand-year old skeleton was revealed when a tree fell down in County Sligo, Ireland.

Hmm, what will come true next, I wonder? Let’s see, what’s in my next book...



15 comments:

  1. I love hearing about the inspiration for stories! Great book, too.

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  2. Wonderful post, Kath. I love Haweswater very much, too, and am lucky to be able to walk there relatively often.

    I'm very much looking forward to reading The Drowned Village, too.

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    1. Thank you. Yes it's a really beautiful valley - actually enhanced by the reservoir, though it's sad a community had to be destroyed to build it. Hope you enjoy the book!

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  3. It sounds like a wonderful place. Congratulations on turning the visit into an interesting sounding novel. :) And welcome to the Novel Points of View blog!!!

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    1. Thank you! I adore the Lake District. Must come up with another novel set there so I've got excuses to keep visiting.

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  4. Interesting blog Kath, looking forward to reading the book. Welcome to the Novel Points of View blog, good to have you here.

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  5. Welcome to the blog, Kath. I love the idea of discovering inspiration for your novel whilst out walking. My mum-in-law is very much enjoying The Drowned Village just now. (I promised I’d let you know : ) ) Looking forward to reading it too. Xx

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    1. Aw, thanks to your mum-in-law, hope she continues to enjoy it!

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  6. Oh my! What a fantastic gift for a writer ... the nudge from your friend not the least part of it. Loved reading about this ..... note to self, be more receptive to places and ideas!

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    1. I'm often inspired by a place before anything else!

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  7. What a lovely place wish I could visit there. the book cover is also pretty as like as the place. I will got the book later. recently I am busy with my first book Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. I Download Dread Nation PDF eBook last month and read half of novel a best romance story. You must pick the novel for your blog post.

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  8. Great story both ways - how you got your inspiration and the final book. Really enjoyed The Drowned Village.

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