Saturday, November 05, 2011

How the British seaside inspires my writing by Jill Hucklesby

I have a very special guest on the blog today. Everyone, meet Jill Hucklesby, the lovely author of books such as If I Could Fly and Samphire Song amongst others. She's here today to discuss how the seaside inspires her writing and this is an absolutely beautiful post. Stay tuned and later today you will even have the chance to win some of her books.

Jill Hucklesby is a children's writer as well as a screenwriter, and has had a wonderfully varied career. I absolutely adore the sound of her books and I'd like to extend a huge thank you to Jill for taking part in this event with me. To find out more about Jill or about her books, please do visit the following websites:

Hello everyone! I’m Jill Hucklesby, a writer and author for young teens and I’ve been asked by Fluttering Butterflies blog to write a little about how the landscape where I live in England influences my writing. As you can see, home is by the coast, so here goes …

I’ve always loved living by the water. After being born in Brighton, a city on the south coast of England, I’ve stayed as close as I can to the sea almost all my life. Even my three years ‘inland’, studying for a degree in Winchester, found me walking most days in the same water meadows which inspired Keats to write ‘Ode to Autumn.’

I’ve lived for the last twenty years in Rottingdean to the east of Brighton, an ancient village in the county of East Sussex that nestles in the dip in the chalk cliffs. It’s famous and infamous in equal measure – as the home of many writers and artists and, more darkly, as a historic smuggling hotspot. These days, you can visit all seven pubs in the village without fear of arrest, though!

You might like to know that Kipling wrote his ‘Just So’ stories and many poems here, while he lived at The Elms, pictured below, a house overlooking the village pond.In 1903, with his fame at its height, he moved away to Batemans in East Sussex to escape the tourist buses staring into his drawing room!

Rottingdean was also home to Kipling’s aunt Georgina, who was married to the pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones. They owned North End House (all three buildings below). Later, this was bought by the novelist and playwright Enid Bagnold, the author of ‘National Velvet,’ the story of a girl who won a horse in a raffle and went on to ride it to victory in the famed Grand National race. The book was made into a film in 1944, starring Elizabeth Taylor.

Living here, it’s easy to see how the sea and wide expanse of sky inspired their collective works. It’s a landscape that takes your breath away. The view of the cliffs stretches east as far as the Severn Sisters near Eastbourne and west to the marina at Brighton. An undercliff path means that the city can be reached easily on foot or by bike, if you don’t mind the tide thumping up over the sea wall in rough weather!

Beyond the cliffs, you can see Beacon Hill. Today, a windmill stands near the site where a beacon was lit to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The South Downs fold gently along the skyline to the north of the village. A protected National Park, the Downs offer a haven for walkers and wildlife, hundreds of miles of unspoilt countryside which, in places, stoops to kiss the ocean. Perfect!

What is it about the sea that I love? Its energy; the fact that it’s a different shade of blue every day, that sometimes, it’s busy with yachts from the marina, or fishing boats near to shore, hauling in their lobster pots. Some days, there are waterskiers to watch, or planes trailing a banner telling us that ‘Brad and Sue just got married’. There might be motorised hang-gliders buzzing overhead or a swimmer making slow progress beyond the buoys and breakwaters.

The waves can be big enough to surf or as gentle as ripples on a pond. The rockpools they leave behind at low tide reveal a myriad of sea creatures – crabs, mussels and prawns. The horizon is mesmerising. Beyond it, just over twenty miles away, is France. Looking due west, there is nothing between us and Africa.

Staring out to sea from the safety of my rented beach hut, it whispers endless possibilities for stories.

All my books feature the sea, including the two published this year by Egmont. Calypso, the teenage narrator of ‘If I Could Fly’, flees problems at home and seeks sanctuary in a derelict hospital by the sea, finding an enduring friendship with Alfie, who teaches her the delights of skimming stones across the water. In ‘Samphire Song’, the sea holds the happiest memories for Jodie, who used to ride along the beach with her dad. Jodie and her family are recovering from loss and when she and her dream horse Samphire finally gallop across the sands together, she knows they have made it through the hardest of times.

In ‘Deeper Than Blue,’ my ‘Brighton’ book, champ swimmer Amy has to find a new way of achieving her Olympic dream after an accident takes away her leg and her best friend. A move to the seaside is the catalyst for her new perspective and courage to get back in the water. And ‘Last Kiss of the Butterfly’ focuses on the pivotal summer in teenager Jaz’s life. A holiday spent in the coastal marshlands of Kent, and a friendship with teenager Ethan, a wildlife expert, help city girl Jaz find new strength to cope with family challenges.

So, what next? You won’t be surprised to hear that my new story is set on the coast, this time in Cornwall. It’s a play about a family, which, at the moment, is as rough as an uncut diamond. But I hope it will have its time to shine!

At the time of writing, we’ve been enjoying an Indian Summer here in the UK, with temperatures in the high 20s, bringing the gift of warm days in which to stare at the sea and dream. If you’d like to tell me how the sea inspires you, please do write to me through my website

Until then, wherever you may be in the world, I wish you a fair wind to carry your imagination away on new adventures.


  1. Oh Rottingdean isn't far from me and it looks gorgeous. Thanks for introducing me to a new author too.

  2. Awesome post! I love the sea too. Every year I go on holiday to Cornwall and have been doing so as far back as I can remember. I never want to leave and there is always this pull I feel towards the sea. It's one of the reasons Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favourite authors :)I look forward to looking into Jill's books!

  3. Fascinating! I love the coast too, and I also love Jill's books. Thank you for this wonderful post!

  4. What a lovely post, last year I finally moved to live by the sea after wanting to for years and I've been amazed by how inspiring it is, and beautiful and relaxing too.

  5. What an absolutely beautiful post, Jill! Thank you so much for this! Seeing those photos I could really see how inspirational they can be. I think I'd quite like to move towards the seaside as I really feel drawn to it.


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