Not Sleep by Judy Finnigan
The Plymouth International Book Festival in 2015 closed with Judy Finnigan talking about her latest book ‘I Do Not Sleep’. After an introduction by Festival director Bertel Martin, Richard Madeley interviewed and chatted with her about the plot of the novel and how she came to write it. Like any couple who have been together for a long time they often corrected or added to each others comments throughout the hour-long session.
Much of the inspiration for the book came from their mutual love for Cornwall, where from the 1980s onwards they had regular family holidays, leading them to buy a second home near Polperro in the late 1990s.
As Judy explained, Cornwall’s landscape and legends have a mystical quality that opens up the world of supernatural ideas. She found that Looe Island (St George’s Island) just a mile from Looe has several intriguing stories attached to it. One legend is that Jesus, as a young person visited here with his Uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. Whether that is true or not, a Benedictine chapel was built here in 1139, and besides being a place of religious contemplation it has been a location for smugglers to operate. Adding to the mystery is that it is only accessible by boat from Easter to September due to the tides that surround it.
As a regular visitor to Looe, and being aware of reports of boats being washed ashore without their crew, Judy wondered what it would be like to lose someone to such an incident. In ‘I Do Not Sleep’ her main character, Molly Gabriel, is confronted by such a situation, and she goes on a quest to find out what happened to her son, after his boat is found wrecked after a sailing accident.
Judy said she does think there is something beyond our material world and the Cornish landscape brings out such feelings. Richard is more sceptical, but even he has experienced a few weird incidents that he cannot explain.
Literary inspiration, with a supernatural twist has come from one of Judy’s favourite books, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and the works of Daphne du Maurier. As Richard pointed out, the Bronte’s wrote in an isolated place on the Yorkshire Moors, which is another locality like Cornwall that fuels the imagination and links to the spiritual past.
Helping to add the supernatural theme, Judy prefers to write in the early hours of the morning when everything in the house is quiet and she can concentrate on her work. Bringing her characters to life at night is much like putting your dreams down on paper, when to paraphrase her book title, ‘you do not sleep’.
As this discussion showed, there are all manner of circumstances that bring about the creation of a novel. Richard admitted he was regularly asked to write a novel, and it wasn’t until he definitely said he wasn’t going to write one, that he got inspiration for a story. It wasn’t anything conscious, he heard his characters speaking in his mind and they took on a life of their own.
Ranging over these profound subjects, peppered with personal anecdotes, Richard and Judy presented a fascinating insight into their literary life that was an excellent way to wind-up this festival. And, yes it was inspiring enough for me to buy a copy of ‘I Do Not Sleep’ afterwards.
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