It’s Friday, which means another edition of Northern Reads! Today we have Tracey Scott-Townsend from East Yorkshire joining us with her poignant novel, Sea Babies. Welcome, Tracey!
What’s your latest book and do you have other work set in the north?
Hi Kellie, my most Northern-set novel to date is Sea Babies, 2019. The story is set between
Edinburgh in the 1980s and The Outer Hebrides in the (more-or-less) present. I have also written other books set in the north of the UK, these include The Last Time We Saw Marion, 2014, Of His Bones, 2017 and The Eliza Doll, 2016, all set between Hull and the East Yorkshire Coast.
Tell us a bit about Sea Babies and why you chose your setting? Has living in the north growing up there influenced your writing?
Talking about Sea Babies, I chose Scotland as the setting, as I’ve had a lifelong affinity for the landscape and people of Scotland. My paternal grandfather, Alexander Wilson, was born in Glasgow, and comes from a line of forefathers also named Alexander Wilson. My dad was always saying things like “Och aye the noo,” and singing I belong tae Glasgow. We visited Scotland when I was a teenager, sought out our family tartan of the Gunn Clan, and I fell in love with the country then, but it was only years after my dad died that I realised how much of Scotland was in the way my dad talked (and sang!).
I also have Scottish roots on my maternal grandfather’s side, but I know less about those. I decided that my character, Lauren Wilson, in Sea Babies, would be born and grow up in Glasgow and I describe a little of her family life as part of a large family living in a tenement house, before she moves to Edinburgh for university.
There she meets Neil MacDonald, a Canadian whose family emigrated from the Scottish Islands during the Clearances in the 1840s, and the turbulent years of their five-year relationship have a massive impact on the rest of Lauren’s life.
I grew up in Lincoln, which is neither here nor there as far as the North and South go, but to anyone lower down the country we were considered “Northerners” and to anyone higher up we were “Southerners.” Thus I found my true identity when I moved to Hull at the age of twenty, and then nobody could deny I was a Northerner. East Yorkshire feels like my spiritual home, and was probably on the path of my ancestors from both sides of my heritage.
Can you give us a taste of Sea Babies?
Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job
as a children’s social worker. When somebody sits opposite her at the cafeteria table, she refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea towards her, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories…
Some people believe in the existence of a parallel universe. Does Lauren have a
retrospective choice about the outcome of a recent terrible accident, or is it the bearer of that much older scar who has the power to decide what happens to her now?
Sea Babies is a potent, emotional psychological drama that explores the harder aspects
of relationships, as well as the idea of choice, responsibility and the refugee in all of us.
Glass of wine and hankies needed then! Where can readers find Sea Babies?
Tracey-Scott-Townsend is the author of six novels — the most recent two Sea Babies (May2019) and The Vagabond Mother (January 2020) — all published by Wild Pressed Books and Inspired Quill Publishing. Reviews often describe her novels as poetic or painterly. She is also a poet and a visual artist.
Tracey has a Fine Art MA (University of Lincoln) and a BA Hons Visual Studies (Humberside Polytechnic). She has exhibited paintings throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). She is co-director of an up-and-coming small independent publisher, Wild Pressed Books, which has a growing roster of authors and poets.
Tracey is the mother of four grown-up children, and spends as much time as possible travelling the UK and Europe in a camper van with her husband and two dogs, writing and editing while on the road.
To find out more about Tracey:
Thanks for stopping by, Tracey!
Come back next week for another edition of Northern Reads as we travel over to Lancashire with the lovely Judith Barrow!