I’m delighted to host today’s stop on the blog tour for The Dark Isle by Clare Carson, the thrilling conclusion to the Sam Coyle trilogy. And I’m thrilled to say Clare has written a fascinating article about how she goes about communicating a sense of time and place in her writing.
About the Book
Sam grew up in the shadow of the secret state. Her father was an undercover agent, full of tall stories about tradecraft and traitors. Then he died, killed in the line of duty. Now Sam has travelled to Hoy, in Orkney, to piece together the puzzle of his past. What she finds is a tiny island of dramatic skies, swooping birds, rugged sea stacks and just four hundred people. An island remote enough to shelter someone who doesn’t want to be found. An island small enough to keep a secret…
|Format:||Hardcover||Publisher:||Head of Zeus||Pages:||416|
|Publication:||1st June 2017 (UK)||Genre:||Thriller|
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Guest Post: ‘The Dark Isle: Finding a Sense of Time and Place’ by Clare Carson
The Dark Isle is set in Orkney and London in 1976 and 1989. The sense of place and time is integral to the story – I try to bring landscapes to life by portraying them through the eyes of the characters I’m writing about. In The Dark Isle, places are described as seen through the eyes of Sam, the protagonist, both as a child and as a young woman.
I learned to see landscapes in different ways when I was researching women’s health in rural Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a country of extremes; it has beautiful, lush green valleys and cool mountains, but these are often places that were once owned by white Rhodesians. Most poor black women were pushed by the colonial government into the arid lowlands where barely anything grows.
I wanted to talk to these women, so I ended up staying for a year in a sun-scorched village, ringed by thorn bushes. I hated it for the first few weeks. I could barely move in the heat and the giant crickets and millipedes that roamed the sandy paths made me recoil. But after a while, as I talked to more women, I started to see the village differently. There was a human geography and history – the chief’s house, sacred grounds and trees, the traditional healer’s hut, the bushlands where the guerrillas hid and camped during the war of independence. There was even some greenery in the small gardens carefully tended by women growing a few vegetables to add to their meagre diet.
Later, I returned to the area after a few weeks away; the evening sun was dropping over the sand, the vast baobabs were silhouetted black against the crimson sky and the lovingly painted yellow and pink walls of the mud huts glowed magically in the dusk. The landscape was stunning and moving, it had just taken me a while to see it.
That experience has stayed with me. I know that landscapes are like people – first impressions can be misleading. And I also know that people bring landscapes to life – a sense of place comes from the stories that are buried in the rocks and trees, and from the way that different characters view the environments in which they live or find themselves.
In The Dark Isle, it is Sam’s view of Orkney and London which gives the book its sense of time and place. The way these landscapes are portrayed change and take on a different colour as Sam ages and faces up to the legacy of her father and her emotional battles with her past.
About the Author
Clare Carson is an anthropologist and works in international development, specialising in human rights. Her father was an undercover policeman in the 1970s. She drew on her own experiences to create the character of Sam, a rebellious eighteen year old who is nevertheless determined to make her father proud.
You can find out more about Clare’s experience growing up as the daughter of an undercover policeman here
Connect with Clare