Q: What was the inspiration for LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS?
Patsy Collins: You know how we’re always told to write what we know? Well, I do much of my writing whilst travelling with my photographer husband in our campervan. The novel is about photographers in a campervan… The storyline isn’t at all autobiographical, I promise, but getting two people to share such a small space is a good way for the reader to learn about them and watch their growing relationship.
The natural landscape is one of my interests, so I’ve made Eliot an eco campaigner. Mostly I want the book to be a fun, lighthearted read, but if it also encourages readers to take slightly better care of the world around them, I’ll be extremely pleased.
Q: How did Capri influence the story?
PC: Capri is used as a contrast to the main part of the story which takes place in South Wales. It’s an expensive, unusual destination, chosen by Jess simply for the luxurious facilities offered by the spa hotel. Capri represents the life Jess had before meeting Eliot. She enjoyed her holiday there, but it also highlighted the emptiness of her life. It’s not until she travels to the apparently less exciting Welsh coastline that she begins to find the sense of purpose she’d been lacking.
Q:What makes Wales the perfect place for this, and why does Wales make it different than setting it elsewhere?
PC: Partly it’s the fact that Jess and Eliot live, and work from, the campervan. They stay in empty fields and on quiet roadsides rather than on busy campsites – something which is entirely possible there, but much less practical in many other places. There’s none of the luxury Jess is used to. Learning to cope with that, whilst working hard and learning new skills, helps both reveal and develop her character.
The hills and beaches of Wales are rugged, spectacular and beautiful, but they can also be moody, forbidding and hard work. Kind of like Eliot. There’s not much that’s gentle and easy about the landscape, but the climbs and long hikes are definitely worth the effort. That’s reflected in Jess’s emotional journey.
Q: In general, how do you feel place affects your writing? What kind of details do you use to make your locations unique?
PC: The locations are very important to me, so much so that I do first drafts wherever the stories are set. That helps me get a feel for the place and of course makes research much easier.
With Leave Nothing But Footprints, I walked where Jess and Eliot walked. I climbed up to see the views which they photographed. Just as they did, I went out early in the morning and late in the day, to watch the effects of the changing light. I literally put myself in their place and noticed what they’d notice, tried to feel as they’d feel and react as they would. It’s a technique I’ve used before and found effective.
I don’t attempt to write a travel guide to any of my locations. Instead I try to capture the atmosphere with a few small details. The sand on the path, flowers which bloom alongside it and the sound of surf pounding onto the rocks below, form the background to one scene for example.
Q: What is your process working on a book, from inspiration to completion?
PC: First I create an outline of the plot and do some basic research, if needed, to ensure that plot will work. I pick the location and begin to think about the characters. Although there will be little to show for this stage, probably around 500 words, it can take months.
Then I start writing – on location if I can. Ideally I’d write the first draft all in one go, but that’s often not possible. I may hit a snag with the story, lose enthusiasm, or something unconnected with writing may cause an interruption. When the first draft is finally complete, sometimes years after I started, I leave it and write something else. That gives me the distance I need to start editing.
I’ll rewrite and leave the story as many times as necessary to get the novel as good as I feel I’ll be able to get it on my own. Then it goes to my fantastic beta readers. I’ll rewrite again, using their feedback. During each rewrite, I’ll research anything I don’t already know. That process will also be repeated until I’m satisfied with the book. After that, it’s just the usual copy editing and proofreading to arrange.
Q: Do you have any unusual rituals or objects you need around you when you write?
PC: Not really. Whether I’m in the campervan or at home I use the same laptop computer (I always write straight onto that, rather than on paper) and I drink a lot of tea.
Q: What are you working on now?
PC: I’m doing a ‘cosy crime’ story for NaNo. Four of my previous novels have had crime elements in them, but this will be the first one in which crime is the main genre. The action will be split between my home town and another seaside location I know well, so I’ve already got the settings fairly clear in my mind. I’m hoping that this time I really will manage my idea.
Thank you, Patsy, for joining us!
Jessica Borlase always gets what she wants. From cocktails in the exact shade of her manicure, holiday on Capri with friends, to a spacious apartment, her father’s money makes it possible. She enjoys the luxurious lifestyle and is grateful for his support, but frustrated to always be treated as Daddy’s pampered little girl. She tries to break free, by leaving Borlase Enterprises and studying photography.
Now what Jess wants is the utterly gorgeous Eliot Beatty; a world famous photographer who often uses his talents to benefit conservation projects. Her father attempts to bribe Eliot into taking Jess on an assignment in order to teach her the skills she’ll need to develop a career. Although annoyed at the interference, she’s delighted to discover this means two weeks with Eliot in the beautiful countryside of South Wales and close confines of a campervan. Trouble is, the man can’t be bought.
Jess eventually manages to persuade Eliot to take her. She believes she can earn his respect and that she’s ready for the hard work, long hours and living conditions far short of those she’s used to. She’s wrong on all counts. Can Jess learn to cope with the realities of the trip, and is Eliot really worth the effort?
Book link myBook.to/LNBF
Patsy Collins will write anywhere she can reach in her campervan. She’s the author of five novels; four contemporary romances and one coming of age story with a difference. Hundreds of her short stories have been published in magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Ireland and South Africa. She’s also co-author of From Story Idea to Reader – an accessible guide to writing fiction.