We're off to Barbados for my Friday Read this week, where The Turtle Run by Marie Evelyn is set. The book is written by a mother and daughter team (Marie Gameson and Margot Gameson nee Evelyn) who are originally from the Caribbean but now based in the UK.
She went in search of history and found her own future. Becky has lost her job and her direction in life so is thrilled when she gets the chance to go to Barbados and research the exiled Monmouth rebels. But the Caribbean paradise isn't all that it seems. The old plantation house is beautiful but lonely, and the locals are unhelpful. As her research becomes an obsession, one of the rebel descendants, who still works the same land as his ancestors, begins to get a hold on her mind. Is she living in a fantasy, or is this really an island of long memories? She soon finds that she is not the only one being led by the past.
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About Marie Evelyn
Margot (the mother) has been published previously as Mary Evelyn and Marie was longlisted for The Bridport First Novel Prize in 2015. The Turtle Run is their first novel together and is based on their firsthand experiences of growing up in Barbados, showing a side of the island probably unknown to most visitors.
A former journalist Margot in particular has seen the island go through a lot of changes, especially in the lead up to independence – Barbados celebrates its 50th anniversary as an independent nation this year. However The Turtle Run shows there are still resonances of its lesser known history on the island today.
The family moved to the UK in the 1970s and eventually settled in the area where many of the Monmouth rebels originally came from. Margot is now retired and Marie works in IT.
I asked Marie to tell us a bit more about themselves. As Margot is in her eighties Marie is answering for both of them.
Have you always wanted to be a novelist?
My mother says emphatically ‘Yes!’ but I was more interested in writing songs when I was young. I didn’t get interested in writing books until I was well into my forties.
Has any author inspired you?
My mother likes Ivan Bunin for the wonderful simplicity of his prose that suddenly throws in a fresh adjective. I prefer Sebastian Faulks and Justin Cartwright’s writing style, but nothing can match the absorbing world which Susan Cooper created in The Dark Is Rising (and which I still think seems real…)
What do you like writing most?
I like something with a sense of mystery, and where the present can only be understood by learning about the past. I would say the same about life; for instance, I’m surprised that in the endless Brexit discussions I haven’t heard anyone mention the turmoil of the Reformation. It seems to me that there are clear parallels.
Do you have a special place for writing?
I can write anywhere, so long as my laptop battery lasts.
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
We’re both plotters. I tried my hand at writing film scripts when I was younger and still plot stories as if I were plotting a film. In particular, I follow John Truby’s 22 steps – it provides a great structure for novels.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
The Turtle Run was inspired by something my mother witnessed in Barbados (described in the book). She came across barefooted, blue-eyed, fair-haired children struggling to carry buckets of water from a standpipe to their chattel house and learned that they were the descendants of the Monmouth rebels, who were exiled from England to Barbados in 1685.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’ve just finished a ‘quirky’ novel about Chinese ancestor worship. My mother is working on short stories based on the memoirs my father wrote in the last four years of his life. He has left us with some wonderful accounts of pre-apartheid South Africa where he was born.
What inspired you to write this book?
The scene my mother witnessed in Barbados encouraged her to study more about the Monmouth rebellion, led by Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. Although the book has a strong romantic element, the theme is about how people’s lives are influenced by the fate of their ancestors. Certainly the miserable situation of many ‘Redlegs’ (to give them their politically incorrect name) was the legacy of their exiled forebears.
What time of the day do you write best?
We both prefer early mornings, but I find it impossible to fit into my timetable, so it’s more about writing when I have the time. If I had listened to the “you can’t be a writer unless you write every day” mantra, I’d have given up long ago.
What are your hobbies?
We both find languages interesting. My mother loves improving her Spanish and French, whereas I speak Chinese very badly and have started learning Welsh, which is just a wonderful language for its own sake.
What advice would you give to other writers?
I would say to listen to that irritating inner voice. If it’s saying: “I hope the publisher/agent will read through to chapter 3, because that’s when my story takes off”, then something needs revisiting in chapters 1 and 2.
Thanks for dropping by, Marie. Wishing you both lots of success with your book.