Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Seas of Snow by Kerensa Jennings

Release Date: 16th March 2017
Publisher: Unbound Digital
Genres: Psychological / mystery /thriller /suspense

1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins.

As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.

But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe’s psychopathic behaviour – and how far will it go?

I am very excited to have the wonderfully talented Kerensa Jennings on the blog with a fantastic guest post. I am currently reading Kerensa's book Seas of Snow so look out for my review here on the blog on 13th June! As you can see from the blurb above, this promises to be an amazing book!

Let's read what Kerensa Jennings has to say about writing!


 On writing…

I am often asked about whether I have advice for aspiring writers. I'd say the best thing you can do is read. Then read some more. Then carry on reading. Pay attention to the world. Learn to notice things. Become finely tuned to the things people don't say as well as the things they do.

Voraciously consume art in all its forms - the stuff you are naturally drawn to and the stuff that you feel might be boring or not quite your 'thing'. Hone your sixth sense for story and develop your Perception Superpower.

Say less and listen more. Be happy in your own company. Learn to appreciate silence and stillness.

Let your ideas flow into you and jot things down as and when they occur to you. Not everything you write has to be your masterpiece. Collect the things you notice and scribble them down and notice what makes them special.

Start to join the dots on themes and thoughts. 

Live life mindfully, allowing quiet moments to become brain nourishment. Feed your soul with beauty and light. Enjoy the company of others and where you don't, extract what you can for a character in the future, or an emotion you can draw on as you write.

Bit by bit, your scribblings and your musings will start to percolate into something more substantial. I think writers are born to write... you can learn technique and you can get better - mostly by reading great writers and noticing what makes them great. But you either need to write, or you don't. 

When you are writing, you are creating something where nothing was. Be proud. Be brave. Find your truth. Discover your voice. Let it happen.

A good technique for anyone stuck is to see what you have around you and use an object, a photograph, a view as a starting point. Start making stuff up. 

Gracie and Billy (from SEAS OF SNOW) arrived fully formed in my head - and I realised I had seen them before. A delightful black and white
1950s photograph by the extraordinary American photographer W Eugene Smith - a little girl dressed in a smock holding hands with a little boy. Walking off into woodlands together, slightly silhouetted from the back; haloed in light but embarking into darkness. A whisper of evil lurking over them as the voyeuristic viewer sees their innocence clinging precariously between them, the picture of sweetness possibly soon to be tainted by who knew what horror... I even place the photograph itself into SEAS OF SNOW, as Gracie's Ma takes a picture of Gracie and Billy when they head out to play one day...

That's the kind of thing I would advise. All of that. 

And did I mention... read!

Reading – and my reading life – has hugely influenced my psychological thriller SEAS OF SNOW. It’s the tale of a young girl who escapes the torment of her life through poetry. Gracie Scott becomes fascinated by the work of Rainer Maria Rilke and delights in his words for guidance and succour.

The book dances through time, backwards and forwards between the literary reveries and physical abuses of the young girl; and the old woman of today, frail and isolated in a nursing home. Billie Harper, Gracie's childhood friend, is the only solid presence in her life, and seemingly the only constant.

Diaries and poetry books bind the story and the characters.

Set both today and around the time of the second world war in North Tyneside, Seas of Snow is a bleak psychological thriller which traces the motives and actions of Gracie's uncle. Joe appears unexpectedly in Gracie's life when she's just five years old. And changes everything.

SEAS OF SNOW is a story of trust and betrayal, of the worst kind.

Certain objects act as a touchstone between the memories of Gracie’s childhood life and the stark realities of the old woman’s existence.

A crucifix, a locket, a perfume bottle, a piece of embroidery, a curl of hair and the cinnamon scent of books weave the times and places of the story together.

And so does poetry…

Rainer Maria Rilke was an Austro-Bohemian poet who penned some of the most beautiful, lyric poetry ever written. An extract from one of his Letters To A Young Poet becomes the talisman for Gracie’s life in SEAS OF SNOW.

I first came across his work while studying Modern Languages (French and German) at Oxford University. I found it a revelation and have turned to in in times of need for solace and escape ever since. I’m reproducing the English translation for Gracie’s talisman here, which are almost as exquisite as the German language originals.

How should we be able to forget those ancient myths
That are at the beginning of all peoples . . .
The myths about dragons
That at the last moment turn into princesses . . .
Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
Who are only wanting to see us
Once beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being
Something helpless, that wants help from us . . .
So you must not be frightened
If a sadness rises up before you
Larger than any you have ever seen . . .
If a restiveness like light and cloud shadows
Passes over your hands and over all you do
You must think that something is happening with you,
That life has not forgotten you.
That it holds you in its hand.
It will not let you fall.”

Listen to Gracie's talisman by Rilke – this is an extract from a soundtrack to the old TV series Beauty and the Beast, a moving, quiet piece read by Ron Perlman who played the Beast in the story. And you can listen here to a lovely meditative introduction to the Letters… well worth making time to tune in if you would like to be lulled into relaxation… But it’s also one of the most provocative pieces on writing – so something I think all aspiring writers might like to explore.

This is real brain nourishment – and something to aspire to:

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

I write every single day, always have done. It’s a compulsion. Whether a short piece of prose, or poetry, or tiny apercu. I would have to say to Rilke ‘I must’. And despite the challenging demands of a highly pressurised day job, I follow my heart every day and write a little, just a little, every single day.

And I read!


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Seas-Snow-Kerensa-Jennings/dp/1783523115/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 https://www.amazon.com/Seas-Snow-Kerensa-Jennings/dp/1783523115/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496729999&sr=8-1&keywords=SEA+OF+SNOWS 


Kerensa Jennings is a storyteller, strategist, writer, producer and professor.

Kerensa’s TV work took her all over the world, covering everything from geo-politics to palaeontology, and her time as Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost coincided with the life-changing events of 9/11.

The knowledge and experience she gained in psychology by qualifying and practising as an Executive Coach has only deepened her fascination with exploring the interplay between nature and nurture and with investigating whether evil is born or made – the question at the heart of Seas of Snow.

As a scholar at Oxford, her lifelong passion for poetry took flight. Kerensa lives in West London and over the last few years has developed a career in digital enterprise.

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