Published by Compass-Publishing (20 Nov. 2019)
Available in Ebook and Paperback
ABOUT THE BOOK
A Cornish town is slowly fracturing under the weight of its growing university…
Prominent businessman, Harry Manchester will not stand by and see his beloved hometown turned into a student ghetto — and many residents and students are relying on him.
But Harry’s stance sets him on a collision course with Dawn Goldberg, formidable Vice Chancellor of Poltowan University, who is set on doubling its size and cementing her career legacy.
As Harry’s marriage falls apart, his business comes under threat, and fellow traders accuse him of halting progress, Dawn is battling her own demons, not least the need to live up to her late father’s expectations and erase the memory of his tragic death.
There can only be one victor in this battle for the soul of a close-knit community…
My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the place on the tour and to Nicola for providing the guest post. There is also a giveaway to win one of 10 paperback copies – entry details below.
Three reasons Cornwall is a perfect place to set a novel
Cornwall is no stranger to fiction. From the brooding landscapes depicted in the work of Winston Graham and Daphne du Maurier to the unembellished images drawn by Helen Dunmore in several of her novels, and the sunny, sandy beaches that feature in the plethora of romantic fiction, Cornwall often appears in its many guises.
I adopted Cornwall as my home county some 15 years ago, and as a journalist and aspiring novelist, I knew it would play a central role in one — or more — of the books I had yet to write.
It has provided the setting for my first published novel, A Degree of Uncertainty, and I have identified three reasons why Cornwall lends itself so well to fiction and, in particular, to my story…
• Falmouth: Cornwall’s only university town
“I suppose the people of Poltowan do have some excuse for being a little parochial in their views. They are, after all, perched almost at the end of the county in what is a more rural spot than most, and the town itself has never seen anything quite like the university before, in scale or concept.”
These are the words that Dawn Goldberg, Vice Chancellor of Poltowan University, says to councillor, Jason Redthorne in A Degree of Uncertainty, as she tries to put across her case for expanding the university. With little empathy or understanding for her adopted home county and its unique character, Goldberg does little to ingratiate herself with residents.
I live in Falmouth, on Cornwall’s south west coast, a town which has a very distinctive character, and which stands out from many of the county’s other towns because of its university. It is an institution which has grown from an art college to a sizeable university with over 5000 students. Much of that growth has taken place over the last 10 years.
It is a shift which has changed the face of Falmouth and polarised opinion. As students have flooded in, the town has become even more vibrant, while the university itself has created jobs, hoisted the economy, and helped to stem the brain drain of Cornish talent to cities.
Yet the influx of students has also meant neighbourhoods have become more transient, and the mix of professionals and young families living adjacent to revelling students has caused much consternation.
This divided community inspired A Degree of Uncertainty, and provided the germ of an idea for Poltowan, the fictional Cornish town that features in the book.
It is a framework that is alive with dramatic potential, and the core idea of a small community feeling threatened by change, and of friends and neighbours being pitted against each other as they take opposing views, form the basis of the story.
• Creative people
Cornwall is synonymous with creativity, from artists and sculptors to authors, poets and filmmakers. The county’s dramatic landscape and wide open spaces, as well as its geographical position at the end of the UK, make it appealing to those talented in the arts, keen to let their imaginations run wild.
Several of the characters in A Degree of Uncertainty fit this mould. For example, Rockstr is the gifted Royal College of Music drop out whose dark past compels her to seek a place to start again, in an effort to finally fulfil her potential and make her parents proud. Ludo, a final year student at Poltowan, is the aspiring filmmaker who descends from a large beatnik family in Southern Ireland, and makes his home in a houseboat on the Poltowan river. Diggory, Poltowan born and bred, makes a living designing and building boats and surfboards, as well as spending as much time in the surf as possible.
Cornwall lends itself to creative, sometimes eccentric characters, and gives authors a licence to craft some interesting backstories…
• Dramatic locations
Of course, Cornwall has no shortage of dramatic locations, from its coast line to its beaches, its moorland to its cliff tops. It offers a helping hand to authors looking to inject some extra theatre to a scene, or who are seeking to find a fitting metaphor.
In A Degree of Uncertainty, Sylvia’s depression means she is constantly drawn to the wild, rolling sea not far from her home. She lies in bed and listens to the crash of the distant waves and fantasises about the endless peace offered by the sea:
‘She stood watching the waves break, the tide rolling softly to and fro, its constancy reassuring, mesmerising. All the while she imagined giving herself to the vast ocean – pictured the act of walking, fully clothed, into the ice-cold water. It would quickly be over.’
In another scene she and Nell climb up a hill as they walk at a nearby National Trust estate, crowning the top with a view of both the north and south coasts. Nell holds her arms wide and exclaims that they are on top the world, but Sylvia, deep in her thoughts, can not take in the panorama.
Several readers have suggested that the book would make a good film, and certainly settings such as this one (of which there are many in Cornwall, not least Godolphin Hill, not far from Penzance) would certainly lend themselves well to the screen.
Cornwall is a gift for many authors; it’s just waiting to be unwrapped.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicola K Smith is a freelance journalist contributing to a number of titles including the The Times, Guardian.co.uk, BBC.co.uk, BBC Countryfile and Sainsbury’s Magazine. She lives in Falmouth, Cornwall, a town which inspired A Degree of Uncertainty, although it is set in the fictional Cornish town of Poltowan.
*** GIVEAWAY ***
Giveaway to Win 10 x Paperback copies of A Degree of Uncertainty (Open to UK Only)
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