About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

The Next Big Thing

David Clarke has kindly tagged me in an on-going project called ‘The Next Big Thing’. This involves writers answering a set of questions about a book which has been or is about to be published. They then tag other writers who keep the chain going.  If you follow the links up and down the chain, it will be like going on a jaunt without even leaving the settee. It turns out that my preferred tag-ees - Roselle Angwin and Alison Lock - have already done it: you can read their respective responses here and here

The book I’m going to talk about is my novel, ‘Dart’, a story about a family living on Dartmoor during the Black Death.  It’s due to be published on 4th February 2013 by Tamar Books, which is an imprint of Indigo Dreams Publishing.

1. Where did the idea for this book come from?

I have a passion bordering on obsession for Dartmoor and I think the idea came to me in snippets of information that I gleaned while reading up on walks that I was preparing to do.  For example, I was intrigued by the fact that there's an area at Merrivale known as Plague Market, where the townsfolk of Tavistock would collect food stuffs placed there by moor-dwellers during times of contagion, leaving money for what they took.  And that the crossroads called 'The Watching Place' outside Moretonhampstead is believed to have been so named because it's where villagers watched to see whether the inhabitants of a plague-affected longhouse were dead before burning it to the ground in an attempt to halt the spread of infection.  These details gradually coalesced inside my head into a story.  

2. What genre does your book fall under?

I suspect that it's a  novel for young adults first and foremost, but please don't tell my publisher, Ronnie Goodyer, because he doesn't publish children's books!  I think it kind of slipped in under the radar:  Ronnie and his partner, Dawn Bauling, were already publishing my collection of poetry, Communion, and since we had all bonded over our shared love of Dartmoor and border collies, I resolved to submit the requisite three chapters anyhow, in the hope that the location might blind him to what I believed my target audience to be.

That said, 'Dart' explores many themes which will also resonate with a more mature readership, such as coming to terms with loss; remembrance and continuity; finding one's voice; and the triumph of the spirit in times of adversity.  I like to think that it will also appeal to the crossover and/or reading group market.  And in any event, as Tolkien observed in 'On Fairy Stories', we impose a false dichotomy between adults and children in terms of story-telling and the use of the imagination. 

3. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, I'm sure Lauren Ambrose, who played Claire Fisher in Six Feet Under, would make a fabulous red-haired witch!  Though to be honest, I feel it would be a mistake to cast stunningly beautiful Hollywood stars.  People just didn't look like that in England in 1348!  So I'd be on the look-out for ordinary people with interesting faces who could be dressed down a lot.  

4. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

And I thought writing a three page synopsis was hard enough!  Erm ... The End Of The World Is Nigh!

5. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

When I started writing it, my four kids were much younger and more demanding of time than they are now, so I had to fit my writing in around them and my part-time job. I'd try to set aside one day per week during term time for research - I did an awful lot of reading up to get the historical and geographical detail right - and writing.  (During the school holidays, when I couldn't write, I marched them over Dartmoor instead, checking out locations and mapping my characters' movements.)  I don't know about the first draft - I can't remember - but I do recall that it was seven years between the germination of the story and the point at which I felt it was ready to make its way in the world, several drafts later. 

6. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Dartmoor was a huge inspiration, as I've already mentioned.  I also wanted to write it for my inner seven year old, who wanted nothing more than to become an author when she grew up.  I'd lost track of her over the years and wanted to do something kind for her.

7. What else might pique the reader's interest?

Well, we're constantly being told by the media that we are overdue a pandemic.  If one actually comes along, it would increase my story's topicality no end!

8. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

As I mentioned before, it's being published by Tamar Books.  As far as arranging readings goes, I'm the person to contact as I don't have an agent - in fact, I'd be surprised if any poets of my lowly stature do.  That's what I see myself as first and foremost - a poet who happens to have written a novel.  In fact, I'm putting together a putative second collection of poems right now and falling in love with the whole process all over again.  

 Illustrations by Dru Marland.



  1. Congrats Harvey - sounds like another winner. :-) M.

  2. Can't wait to read it! I am also fascinated by the Black Death and wild lonely places like Dartmoor.. You have such a gift with words - and a sense of humour to boot!