When Fiction Becomes Fact

Matthew took one more look at the neat, black-stained, weatherboard buildings along the bank. ‘Just out of interest, who owns the boat yard?’
It’s always strange when a topic I’ve been writing about suddenly pops up in the news or is reflected by real life. Have I picked up something in the ether or is it coincidence? It’s even stranger though to discover incidents which have shaped my imaginary landscapes taking place in their physical counterparts.

The heroine of my novel, Turning the Tide, Harry Watling runs a boatyard which is not based on any one place in particular but owes a debt to the sleepy backwater on the east coast where we bought our first boat. It’s a proper ‘boaty’ boatyard with a gentle bustle of activity which is all about enjoying being out on the water rather than showing off.

In my novel, Harry wants to preserve and protect her business without selling out, but her problems begin when a property developer buys the old yacht club across the water and turns it into a vast modern restaurant. It was a bit of surprise to see that not only had a number of the old sheds been spruced up as I’d imagined them in my story, but also that a striking new building was rising up in the boatyard that inspired me!

Another theme in Turning the Tide is about reinvigorating lovely old faded seaside towns whilst preserving all that’s unique about them. The town behind the real life boatyard remains charmingly salty and brimming with character. I particularly enjoyed sitting on the sea front with Tom and Ma and hearing a woman chastising her two dogs as if they were naughty children. ‘Just give Teddy the ball, will you, Rupert!’ she shouted and I half-expected to see my characters Frankie and Trevor following along with their troublesome Jack Russell terriers, Phil and Kirstie.

In Aldeburgh, further along the coast, we went in search of Maggie Hambling’s shell sculpture where some of the residents are still less than delighted to see this monument to the composer Benjamin Britten. ‘The beach is beautiful without it,’ one café owner told us, ‘it doesn’t need adornment.’ A controversial artwork dividing local opinion is one of the threads running through my novel, Move Over Darling, but it’s no coincidence that I’m mentioning it here this week. Choc Lit are currently running a Goodreads giveaway for the book and you can enter to win one of three free copies here.


Kathryn Freeman said…
Ah, how interesting. It just goes to prove how true to life your characters really are Chris xx (either that or you can predict the future??)
Mandy K James said…
The photos are just how I imagined them in the book too, Chris! Spooky x
Chris Stovell said…
Being able to predict the future would be pretty handy, wouldn't it, Kate?!

It was a bit strange to turn up and see my book coming to life, Mandy!
Jane Lovering said…
It happens to me so often that I swear I'm going to write next about a woman who wins the lottery! But don't you find that this 'fiction into fact' influences your writing? For example, I can't write about someone whose son/daughter has something bad happen to them, or whose brother or mother dies unexpectedly, only people whose father dies/is dead. Because mine already is, so nothing more can happen to him!
Frances said…
Chris, I loved your descriptions of the locations in Turning the Tide, and had formed images in my head. Seeing your photographs in this post did bring my thoughts into reality.

Many thanks! Let's hope that restaurant won't spoil the actual backwater, but just enhance it a bit.

Don't know what I think about that shell. I've heard of it before, but think I would need to actually walk up to it to form a true opinion. I like the way it looks in your photo. Very solitary and majestic.

Pondside said…
I like the look of the sculpture - there is a gorgeous nautilus shell sculpture near the shore in Victoria and I always feel good when I see it.
Truth is stranger than fiction - but then, perhaps it's that there are only so many combinations of circumstance, just as there are only so many ways to arrange the elements of a face - thus the 'I'm sure I've seen that person before' moments we have.
Chanpreet said…
That's awesome!

I don't have similar experiences as I'm not a writer, but I can recall as a teenager reading a book set in Puerto Vallarta. Some time after I went shopping at the mall and found a shirt with Puerto Vallarta on it at American Eagle. I walked out with the shirt. :)
Chris Stovell said…
Jane, it's worth a try isn't it? I do agree with you about not tempting fate... and I can write about poor dead dads too!

Frances, it's the new yacht club building (as they're currently making do with a caravan for their showers and loo) so I think it's in their interest to retain the character and charm of the backwaters. I think Harry would be suspicious though!

Tom and I were in disagreement about the shell. I needed to get close to form an opinion and sadly I didn't feel moved by it, Tom liked it though.x

Chanpreet, your story made me smile! It was very strange seeing changes I'd imagined happening in front of my eyes.

Turning the tide pictures look just like the ones in my head!
Chris Stovell said…
It was lovely being back there, Elizabeth, though disconcerting to see the changes!
Flowerpot said…
Isnt' it incredible when that happens? It's happened to me too and it's really quite eerie! I've had people in real life say htings my characters have said!
Chris Stovell said…
It is eerie, Sue! I did wonder if I'd wandered into my own book!
You're an educational author, Chris. The boating world and boatyards never meant a lot to me. But I'm actually fascinated now and I have you and your book TURNING THE TIDE to thank for that.
Chris Stovell said…
Maria, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you. I want to tell you a bit more about something else we discovered which resonated with a fictional event here, but that would give away one of the threads in Follow a Star.

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