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by Suzanne Rogerson
Becoming a writer has fuelled some strange obsessions. It’s also helped me become more adventurous and I’m now more willing to say yes to things that scare or intimidate me. Compiling this list has reminded me of the fun I’ve had over the years whilst creating my stories. It’s also made me grateful that I don’t write about things like skydiving and potholing!
Silent Sea Chronicles – The Lost Sentinel #1
Ships and pirate hunters feature quite a lot in this series. I’m now obsessed with ships, pirates, islands, maps and all things nautical. This means I’m always looking for an excuse to visit harbours and ships, and I really enjoyed exploring a pirate ship on holiday earlier this year.
Caves and mountains are a big feature in this series as well and I’ve been desperate to explore some caves. I finally had the chance to do this when we visited Cheddar Gorge caves and completed the cliff walk. It was a very inspiring day and the perfect place to visit on the day you turn 40, although I also learnt how unfit I am.
I love re-enactments and seeing people dressed in medieval garb. Years ago, watching a re-enactment at Warwick Castle of knights on horseback performing their mock battles, I was inspired to create one of the characters in The Lost Sentinel, Nadan. In fact, this may have been when I came up with the Masked Riders in the series as well.
Tei’s cloak is important to her in The Lost Sentinel, as it was a last gift from her father. I’ve always fancied owning a cloak, even though I don’t have much call to wear one. I finally found an excuse last year when we went to a medieval banquet in London. I bought a beautiful purple, velvet-feel cloak and wore it all night while we experienced the old medieval entertainment, food and ale. It was a great night out and I highly recommend it!
During this book, I’ve researched some strange subjects like how to create natural dyes, flag materials, what breed of sheep will survive on a barren island, where you would feel a horse’s pulse, how can you survive in the snowy mountains, how to treat minor burns, plus many other weird and wonderful subjects.
Visions of Zarua
Varnia and Reaun, her mentor, are trackers and are relied upon for their outdoor survival and hunting skills. This has led me on some interesting learning paths – I’ve always loved nature, but now I’m obsessed with wild plants and herbs and their uses. I’ve collected and read a good selection of herb books, outdoor survival guides and landscape books and draw on this knowledge a lot when I’m building up the background to all my worlds.
I’ve been on a foraging workshop at Painshill Park in Surrey. I tried all sorts of edible plants; young beech leaves, cooked stinging nettles (I wouldn’t try them raw!), the tiny buds of blackberry bushes, dandelion root, plantain, wild garlic and much more.
I’ve been more experimental in cooking with wild produce like berries.
I’ve developed a love of shaggy wolfhounds and deerhounds after featuring Blaze and Flint, Varnia’s deerhounds. I’ve even considered owning a hound, but my husband and cats disagree.
I’m fixated with Hawthorns, having named Paddren’s home Hawthorn Cottage. Who wouldn’t love a secluded cottage in the woods fenced with hawthorns?
The city of Zarua is in ruins during Paddren’s part of the story. I’ve researched ruined cities and studied many pictures to help create the images in my mind. I also researched sandstone and marble for this part of the book.
Varnia is an accomplished archer. A few years ago, I attended archery classes. It was a lot of fun even though I didn’t make much improvement. 16 years prior to this, I’d tried archery on holiday. Not only did I hit the bullseye, but I also hit that arrow in the bullseye with my next shot. For a long time I thought I was naturally skilled – turns out it was just a fluke!
In my next book project after Silent Sea Chronicles, I have a healer who opens an apothecary shop so I’ve signed up for an online herb course to improve my knowledge.
In another book I’m planning, I have a character who raises a bird of prey from a chick and forms a strong bond with her. This inspired me to sign up for a half-day falconry course. I love birds of prey anyway, and it was a special experience to get so close to them and have them fly onto my gauntlet. It was also wonderful to see the bond between Sally, the owner, and her birds. That’s something you can’t get from books, and I will draw upon this when I come to write the story.
Future experiences I’m planning
In yet another story I’m hoping to write, I’ll feature drovers and smugglers, so I’m very interested to visit some of the old droving roads in Dorset and the smugglers haunts in Devon and Cornwall. I’m so lucky that England has such a rich history – perfect pickings for a writer.
Arundel Castle has a pirates and smugglers re-enactment day coming up, so I’m dragging the family along to that.
Horse riding – This one is a huge maybe! They’re big, and I have a natural fear of anything that is bigger than me. Still I feel it’s a once in a lifetime experiences I should attempt.
I want to sail a medieval ship on the open sea.
I want to visit the Orkney Islands (an archipelago of 70 islands near Scotland), to soak up how it must be to live on a barren island like Stone Haven from my Silent Sea Chronicles.
Other writing / reading related experiences
Writing has helped me make friends at creative writing classes. We still keep in touch and beta read for each other.
I’ve forced myself to attend a self-publishing summit in London, which was terrifying but informative.
I attend a monthly fantasy / sci-fi book group, which from a writer’s perspective is quite terrifying as they can often pick a book apart.
I’ve run a bookstall at a Christmas market selling my book. I plan to hold another in a few weeks at the school summer fair.
This one is a little off topic but stems from my love of Robin Hobb’s wolf, Nighteyes, in the Farseer books. I became obsessed with wolves and an experience I will never forget is staying at a wolf reserve in Shropshire. We stayed in a cottage next to the wolf enclosure and could hear the wolves howling night and day. The owner knew how keen I was on wolves and allowed me into the enclosure a few times when he fed them. It’s amazing how quick a chicken can disappear!
As my writing life progresses, no doubt my list of new and strange experiences will increase.
Has writing inspired you to try anything mad or experience anything wacky in the name of research?
Silent Sea Chronicles
The Lost Sentinel – Book 1
The magical island of Kalaya is dying, along with its Sentinel. With the Kalayan people turning their back on magic, can Tei help the exiles find their new Sentinel before it’s too late?
Kalaya is controlled by the Assembly – set up to govern but now under the control of Rathnor, who is intent on persecuting those who have magic, many of whom have taken refuge in the Turrak Mountains.
Tei has been raised to hide her magic, until her father, Migil, is visited by an old friend who warns them that they must seek refuge in the mountains.
On the journey, an enemy attack leaves her father mortally wounded. He sees her into the care of two exiles, Rike and Garrick, and on his deathbed makes a shocking confession that changes Tei’s life.
Tei must put her trust in these strangers, especially when mysterious Masked Riders seem determined to stop her reaching Turrak.
Struggling with self-doubt, Tei joins the exiles in their search for their lost Sentinel. But the Masked Riders want the Sentinel too, and time, as well as hope, is running out.
Can Tei help the exiles save the island magic and reunite the Kalayan people before their ignorance destroys them all?
About the author
Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her hugely encouraging husband and two children.
She wrote her first novel at the age of twelve. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.
Suzanne loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden, and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.
She collects books, loves going for walks and picnics with the children and sharing with them her love of nature and photography.