“Enchanted Cornwall”

June 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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So far, in 2010, my new publisher, Sourcebooks/Landmark, has reprinted in beautiful new editions two of five historical novels they’re reissuing for me, plus have scheduled my first new historical in a decade for April of 2011.  Over the years as these books were published, I’ve often been asked if I have a favorite setting that really gets my creative juices flowing.

I think my two favorite settings are Scotland and Cornwall (Here I am in the 1990’s with writer Cynthia Wright—both of us  researching different novels near Fowey, Cornwall) , though, honestly, I’ve loved all the settings for my books or I wouldn’t have been able to slog through the hard parts of writing an historical novel!

Cornwall, where my husband’s English cousins on his mother’s side live (and their surname is Cousins!) first introduced me to this enchanted place.  My own Ware family came to America in the late eighteenth century from a town right on the border of Devon and Cornwall, sailing from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts!  Interestingly, both our Scottish antecedents ended up in Virgina, but that’s another story…

At any rate, I had been noodling about a book that bordered on the paranormal, so what better place to set the story of A Cottage by the Sea than in magical, mystical Cornwall, the land of “a thousand shades of green.”  The really strange thing is that as soon as I’d finished the book proposal and gotten the okay to do it from the original publisher, I sent the brief outline to our Cornish cousins and they immediately replied, “You’ve described an area and a mansion right nearby where we live!

Now mind you, this was in the early 1990s and I had never been to Cornwall, and it turned out that “Barton Hall” and the stone cottage I’d described in the book proposal existed, said Gay Cousins North and her husband Edd, in the form of Caerhays Caslte, not too far from Fowey!

The underpinning of the story was a theory I had made up:  the concept of “genetic memory.”  I had been wondering at that time if traumatic events that happened to one’s ancestors could possibly echo down through one’s family line and continue to affect the descendants in tangible ways.  In other words, say I might be morbidly afraid of fire, only to discover that my many-time-great grandmother nearly died in a fire.

This was not a concept of karma or reincarnation, but rather the idea of one’s DNA being “notched”–perhaps through brain chemistry altered by an extraordinary  rush of adrenaline, or some other chemical in the brain, initiated by sudden, traumatic events.  What if those genetic changes caused by such altered brain chemistry were handed down to subsequent generations as a kind of “emotional mutation?”  (Later a UCLA endocrinologist I met on a flight from New York to Los Angeles told me I might just be on to something!).

At any rate, the result was the book you see on the left that has been given a gorgeous new cover from Sourcebooks/Landmark in handsome trade paper back for a new generation of readers…and I was able to return to Cornwall several times–a place I love that very much reminds me of the dramatic coastline and churning waters of my hometown of Carmel, California.   Curiouser and curiouser…

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