A Cornish town is slowly fracturing under the weight of its growing university…
Prominent businessman, Harry Manchester will not stand by and see his beloved hometown turned into a student ghetto — and many residents and students are relying on him.
But Harry’s stance sets him on a collision course with Dawn Goldberg, formidable Vice Chancellor of Poltowan University, who is set on doubling its size and cementing her career legacy.
As Harry’s marriage falls apart, his business comes under threat, and fellow traders accuse him of halting progress, Dawn is battling her own demons, not least the need to live up to her late father’s expectations and erase the memory of his tragic death.
There can only be one victor in this battle for the soul of a close-knit community…
- When and where do you prefer to write?
Usually at my desk. I am lucky enough to have a large airy office with huge windows. In the winter I can see the sea and the beach through the trees, and I have glimpses in the summer. It is a lovely place to write. I am a journalist too, so I spend a lot of time here. I do scribble longhand in a notebook when I am out and about on walks or sitting in beach cafes or perched on a rock, but my writing in earnest is mostly carried out on my laptop.
- Do you have a certain ritual?
Not really, but I am an early riser so I tend to start early and I am not much good after 6pm! I like waking up at 6am and getting a couple of hours done — it feels very productive and the quiet of the world outside really helps.
- Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?
A cup of tea first thing, a mid-morning coffee and then it’s green tea all the way. Until G&T time on a Friday that is, about 7pm. Or sometimes 6pm…
- What is your favourite book?
I have many but I love Graham Greene, and The End of the Affair is one of my all time favourites. It is a very clever story and it is beautifully written. The way Greene writes about the power of jealousy, love and obsession is unparalleled.
- Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Yes. A Degree of Uncertainty falls under the broad genre of contemporary fiction, which isn’t that helpful in terms of knowing what to expect, yet the story should evoke a range of emotions — or as one reader said: ‘It has moments of laugh out loud humour as well as real pathos.’
I am not a fan of shoehorning books into genres (see my recent blog post on this very topic here), but I do understand that marketers within the publishing industry find them useful, if not necessary. That said, I am working on another book set in Cornwall which is a bit darker, which would probably fall under the ‘psychological thriller’ classification, so yes, I am open to other genres. Not fantasy or sci-fi though – that’s not my bag!
- Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Not knowingly, but I think unwittingly every writer draws on traits and characteristics of friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances, because that is what makes a human being. I have undoubtedly borrowed individual attributes from real people, but they have been used to create more intricate fictional characters. I think writers have to borrow from the world around them in order to create a plausible story.
- Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I do. Often ideas for plots, dialogue or whole new stories come to me at unlikely times — such as in a coffee shop overhearing a snippet of conversation, chatting to a friend, or people watching. It’s important to scribble even a few words down to remind myself later, otherwise it’s gone forever!
- Which genre do you not like at all?
Fantasy. I like something real, gritty, relatable.
- If you had the chance to co-write a book whom would it be with?
I have recently been reading Tessa Hadley and Elizabeth Day and I really love their style of writing, it speaks to me, so I guess either (or both!) of those would be an incredible opportunity.
- If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
I’d love to spend more time in Scandinavia, and probably Norway, perhaps the far North, for some real escapism. The land of the midnight sun holds a certain fascination… And it is a far cry from Cornwall!
Thank you, Nicole K Smith and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Nicola K Smith is a freelance journalist contributing to a number of titles including the The Times, Guardian.co.uk, BBC.co.uk, BBC Countryfile and Sainsbury’s Magazine. She lives in Falmouth, Cornwall, a town which inspired A Degree of Uncertainty, although it is set in the fictional Cornish town of Poltowan.