Exotic location this week (for me, anyway): Marie Evelyn takes us to Barbados, with her story, The Turtle Run. Marie Evelyn is actually a mother daughter team – you can check out their bio on the map.
Why is the setting crucial to your story?
The story concerns the Redlegs of Barbados, though the background of the story is in the UK. The last battle to be fought on English soil was the Battle of Sedgemoor in Somerset in 1685 – a battle between the Protestant followers of the Duke of Monmouth and the royal soldiers of Catholic King James II. The ‘Monmouth rebels’ lost the battle, and those who were caught were either executed or exiled to the British colonies as indentured labourers on plantations. The Turtle Run concerns the rebels exiled to Barbados. The protagonist, Becky, is tasked with finding out what happened to their descendants, who were known by the now politically incorrect term of ‘Redlegs’. Therefore most of the story takes place in Barbados.
How did the setting of your story impact your writing?
We chose the northern parish of St Lucy as the location of the old plantation house in which Becky becomes trapped, precisely because it is a relatively remote and less visited area, which reflects the character’s feeling of isolation and gives rise to her impression that time has stopped. Some of the action also takes place on the wilder east coast of Barbados, in contrast to the tamer west and south coasts that most people visualise when they think of a gleaming hotel resort near a paradisiacal beach.
What was your first experience of France?
My mother speaks French, and would have a far more cultured answer for you, but here was my first experience of France: When I was 13 I went with friends on what was billed as a deluxe camping holiday in Saint-Tropez. It was actually a nice enough site in the lovely town of Port Grimaud, a few miles away from Saint-Tropez, but the most exciting event was the return journey. What was meant to be a coach journey to Calais with a brief stop in Paris turned into a very long stop in Paris as the coach driver did a runner with the proceeds that had been collected for him on the coach in a passed-around hat; I don’t know if his sudden disappearance was because we had wildly over-tipped him or under-tipped him, but it certainly took a long time to get home.
What do you think would be the greatest cultural shock for a Frenchman who visited the UK?
French people who are fluent English speakers are surprised at what they see as our lack of respect for the English language. There is a view that English was a ‘peasant language’ which evolved through pragmatic use rather than adherence to rules. Whereas it seems to me that the French guard their language quite jealously. I remember raving about a ‘Pre-Raph’ art exhibition to a French friend, whereupon she raised her eyes and said “Why do you English abbreviate everything?” And it’s true – we do!
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