Published by Unbound (5 April 2018)
Available in ebook and Hardback : Paperback 5 April
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour organised by Caroline (Books About Bits) to celebrate the paperback publication of Seas of Snow. For my turn today, I have a guest post by author Kerensa Jennings.
* * * *
Thank you so much for being part of the #SeasOfSnow paperback launch book blog tour and for inviting me to write this guest post for you!
You have asked me about the books that I have grown up with, the books that have stayed with me, and the books I love so much I would like everyone to read them. I’ve often thought about the books that matter to me… the ones that characterise who I am and what I love. The ones which in some way help me escape my life – or help me understand it. I tend to write to process feelings, thoughts, instincts and consequences; I tend to read to seek solace or to make sense of things.
It’s hard to know where to start because I have read such a vast array of books over my lifetime, and cherish memories of so many. Recently I have loved Stoner by John Williams; Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clements; and Devotion by Patti Smith. All simple in their own way but with exquisite storytelling and a sense that what is being written matters. I adore them all.
My top-pick books of all time are probably Immortality by Milan Kundera and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Both these books have thought provoking themes – and both are beautifully written. I also love works by F Scott Fitzgerald – such a wonderful writer – and more recently Jon McGregor and Ian McEwan.
My childhood favourites included Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, all the Winnie the Pooh books by AA Milne, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and anything by Rudyard Kipling and Roald Dahl. I really loved – and still do – good old fashioned stories with a gripping beginning, interesting denouement and satisfying end.
But for My Reading Corner, I have chosen to focus on one book in particular which has made a very big impression on me, and that I would love others to read. It also provided the inspiration for an important aspect of my psychological thriller. For those who have read the reviews of SEAS OF SNOW – you will know it is a very dark story with some very upsetting themes. It was originally inspired by my time leading the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation. I worked closely with Cambridgeshire Police and got to know the evidence of the case in intimate detail. SEAS OF SNOW goes to some very challenging and heart wrenching places, and writing it was my way of seeking catharsis. What happened at Soham broke the heart of a nation, destroyed the lives of two families and their friends, and profoundly affected so many people, including me. SEAS OF SNOW explores whether evil is born or made, and examines the mind and motives of a psychopath.
As a counterpoint to that, I wanted to find a way of offering light to offset the dark. Re-reading the work I talk about here today gave me my way of doing just that.
The book I have recommended to others the most is Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘Letters to a Young Poet‘. This is a very slim volume of correspondence, written by a somewhat obscure Austro-Bohemian poet many people will never have heard of. Rilke wrote in German, and the letters were penned over several years when he was still of very tender age himself, but cast in the role of counsel and elder.
Rilke (1875-1926) was one of the most extraordinary poets that has ever lived, known for his lyricism and inspirational philosophies about life. The Letters are beautifully written words of hope, enlightenment and succour. They hold you by the hand, catch you when you fall, and lull you into self-belief where none existed before.
There are only ten letters in this small book, so you can just read one before bed time, or with a cuppa in between chores, or in your lunchbreak.
Rilke wrote them over a period of five years to a young man called Franz Kappus who was just nineteen years old and about to enter the German military. Kappus wrote to Rilke, who was then only 27 years old, shyly sharing some of his poetry and seeking guidance in life and asking Rilke to critique his literary work.
The Letters are written in prose but with a lilting lyricism that dances the words off the page in melodies and word pictures. They are so beautifully crafted I would categorise them as prose poems. Their power whisks you away, makes you think, and helps you calm.
Some people accuse Rilke of being overly sentimental, and maybe the fact I love him so much says something about me…. but I just swim in his soothing tones and feel my pain and trouble slowly ebb away.
One critic has described the Letters as “a virtual owner’s manual on what it is (and what is required) to be an artist and a person.” I would say they provide a guiding light when times feel bleak and particularly those occasions when you feel you don’t know where to turn.
The protagonist in SEAS OF SNOW – is called Gracie Scott. We meet her when she is just five years old, and learn how uncle Joe appears in her life, changing it forever. Through the book, she discovers a passion for both playtime and poetry as a means to escape her traumas and torments. She delights in the words and sounds of poetry and stories to liberate her – even for a moment – from the darkness of her life.
I first discovered the works of Rilke as a student. I absolutely loved his choice of words, the music and melody of his cadences. I have later read some exquisite translations of his work. Even in English you can sense the purity and the beauty of the writing.
I have come back to Rilke time and time again throughout my life. I find his words give me that little lift I need sometimes, when navigating challenges and heartache. One way of describing it is to say I use Rilke as self-help. It really works! I’d recommend ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ to anyone going through troubled times or feeling anxiety, a lack of self-belief, or fear of the unknown. From matters of the heart to family and career… Rilke has some inspirational words to lift and inspire you.
In the foreword of SEAS OF SNOW, I have chosen an extract from the Letters to dedicate to my god daughter, two nieces and nephew.
It’s true we don’t always have the answers. Life throws untold challenges and difficulties at us, and it can be hard to cope sometimes, especially when you feel bereft and alone. I like the quiet optimism of Rilke’s Letters, the way their soft, gentle encouragement help steer you. You might be navigating stormy waters, but Rilke makes you feel you will, in time, reach the break in the clouds. The sea will settle into tranquillity, the sun will warm your face and lift your heart. Tomorrow is another day, and Rilke’s ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ will hold you by the hand as you get there.
| About the Book |
1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins.
As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.
But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe’s psychopathic behaviour – and how far will it go?
Seas of Snow is a haunting, psychological domestic drama that probes the nature and the origins of evil.
| Author Bio |
Kerensa Jennings is a storyteller, strategist, writer, producer and professor. Kerensa’s TV work took her all over the world, covering everything from geo-politics to palaeontology, and her time as Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost coincided with the life-changing events of 9/11. The knowledge and experience she gained in psychology by qualifying and practising as an Executive Coach has only deepened her fascination with exploring the interplay between nature and nurture and with investigating whether evil is born or made – the question at the heart of Seas of Snow. As a scholar at Oxford, her lifelong passion for poetry took flight. Kerensa lives in West London and over the last few years has developed a career in digital enterprise.
IN HER OWN WORDS…
“I’ve been writing stories and poems ever since I was a little girl. Although it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing a book, I’m lucky enough to have had a long career in the media as a TV producer, writing television programmes. Most of the time viewers would have had no idea who I was, but my words have informed, educated and entertained millions over the years. I produced, directed, wrote for and worked with some of the most amazing people including Nelson Mandela, Sir David Frost (I was Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost), Sir David Attenborough, Fiona Bruce, Sian Williams, James Nesbitt, George Alagiah and Rory Bremner. I moved away from programme making to strategy and became the BBC’s Head of Strategic Delivery where I designed and delivered strategies for the Corporation, including a significant digital strategy (BBC Make it Digital). I now run The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.
I’ve always used literature, and poetry in particular, for solace and escape. I happen to think literature is probably the best self-help on the planet! You can fly into other worlds and find ways through writing to make sense of life. SEAS of SNOW draws together some of my passions and fascinations in life. While I was at university, I studied the psychoanalysis of fairy tales and got very interested in archetypes and the way characters and stories of good and evil are portrayed.
While leading the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation, I had the opportunity to see first-hand a lot of evidence about the mind and motives of a psychopath. So in SEAS of SNOW, the protagonist Gracie uses poetry and playtime to escape the traumas and abuses of her life; the antagonist, her Uncle Joe, is a bad man, a psychopath; and there is a subtext of fairy tale underlying the page-turning scenario which hopefully makes you want to read while half covering your eyes.”