This isn’t a tribute to Hamilton, although that is an astonishing piece of work. Wonderful. No, this is about the privilege of telling a story in the room where the action takes place, and singing songs inspired by that story there too. The video is below, have a watch. When I started out writing The Light Keeper a long time ago, I was living in a new town by the sea, trying to get used to it all and looking for friends. I walked the landscape around Belle Tout, Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters with an open mind and heart, looking for a way to respond to it as I had the landscape of the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry for the book Hungry for Home. I was hungry for home when we came to live here; hungry for a place to settle, raise kids and belong. So what a joy to be able to go up into the Lantern Room of the Belle Tout lighthouse and tell stories and sing songs from The Light Keeper, which opens and closes with scenes in that very room. The views are breathtaking, genuinely, as you will see during this performance filmed by Neil MacInnes. The song is Come Way, written by myself and David Perry, who is on guitar and vocals, with Bruce Pont and Phoene Cave also singing. Thank you to David Shaw, the lighthouse owner, for making it possible and for the manager Ian Noall for hosting us with a small audience. The great news is that we are hoping to do it again in the Spring, and there will be another chance to win tickets. In the meantime, you can come and hear the stories and songs at the National Trust Cafe at Birling Gap this Saturday at 5pm. This will also be very special, as it is another place where the action of the story happens and it too is right on the edge of the cliff. Tickets are available here. Get yours now because there aren’t many left. But also have a look at this, for a taste of what you will hear.
My first novel The Light Keeper is a story of love and hope, grief, faith and longing.
A young woman called Sarah stands on the brink, arms open wide as if to let the wind carry her away. She’s come to the cliffs to be alone, to face the truth about her life and to work out what to do, Her lover Jack is searching, desperate to find her before it is too late. But Sarah doesn’t want to be found. Not yet. Not by him. And someone else is seeking answers up here where the seabirds soar – a man known only as the Keeper, living in an old lighthouse right on the edge of a four-hundred-foot drop. He is all too aware that sometimes love takes you to the edge …
The book comes out on August 15 but you can pre-order a copy here at a special discount or sign up to the mailing list and get the first three chapters to read immediately, for free.
Now the lovely people at the Belle Tout lighthouse are letting me give away a night’s luxury bed and breakfast there for two people, again for free. It’s a stunning location on a cliff in the beautiful landscape near Beachy Head in East Sussex, close to the Seven Sisters. You will never have stayed anywhere like it. And this is the setting for much of the book, so you will have a sense of being right inside the story.
I’ll be reading from the book, telling the true tales behind it and singing some of the songs written to go with the book, in an exclusive event at lunchtime on Friday 13 September. This is in the Lantern Room of the lighthouse, with spectacular 360 degree views of the sea and the Downs. It’s exclusively for members of the mailing list and there are only a dozen places available, so you have to sign up for a chance to win a pair. We’ll choose them at random (by number rather than name) on publication day, and also select the person who will be offered the chance to stay with a plus one that same night, in a lovely room with a spectacular view. If you win and you can’t come, I’ll give you a signed copy of the book and arrange a private reading at a date to suit you.
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you at the lighthouse.
Love and strength,
Here’s what it’s like to step out of the Lantern Room at the Belle Tout lighthouse near Beachy Head in Sussex, in the South Downs National Park, and walk around the platform on the outside of the tower. Yes, the outside. A long way above the ground, and beside a four hundred foot drop. I’m afraid of heights – my children still laugh at the way I clung on to the inside wall of the Eiffel Tower for dear life, genuinely scared, so this was a challenge. The heavy breathing is because I was frightened! Worth it though, for the astonishing views. Enjoy! It’s the setting for The Light Keeper, my first novel, published this August. If you want to know more about the book or read the first three chapters for free, just let me have your email here. You’ll automatically get the chance to win a night in the lighthouse.
I have a new story to tell. It’s about a young woman called Sarah who is caught up in the stress of trying for a baby, through fertility treatment. The cracks are showing in her relationship with her lover Jack. They’re in that terrible moment between having the last cycle of treatment you can afford and finding out whether it has worked. I remember it all too well.
Their nerves are shredded. Sarah needs to be alone, away from him, to face the moment of truth. So she runs, out of the city and down to the coast, to the high cliffs and beautiful down land around Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters.
When he finds her gone, Jack sets off in a hurry to find Sarah, convinced he must do so before it’s too late. But she doesn’t want to be found. Not by him. Not yet.
And there’s someone else seeking answers too, up on the cliffs where the seabirds soar. A man known only as the Keeper, living in an old lighthouse right on the cusp of a four hundred foot drop. He’s only too aware that love sometimes takes you to the edge.
This is the situation at the beginning of my debut novel The Light Keeper, which comes out in August. It’s about love, loss, longing, faith and hope. I hope you’ll want to read it. Matt Haig has. The author of Reasons To Stay Alive and Notes From A Nervous Planet loves The Light Keeper, as you can see below.
I’d love to send you the first three chapters as a taster. Will you give me your email address so that I can send them, please?
There’s more to come. I have a brilliant publisher, Marylebone House, but getting a story out there and heard by people who might really love it is a challenge. Right now, the story and I need friends. People who will read it, tell their mates, spread the word. Could that be you?
If you sign up you’ll also get exclusive access to a load of good things, including videos, readings, podcasts, competitions and the chance to win a book, a walk and lunch with me in that stunning landscape or even a night at the lighthouse for two people.
You can also ask me anything, any time. If you have a book club, a group, a church or a bunch of mates I’ll happily come round and talk about The Light Keeper and the themes within it, which we’ll explore together over the coming months.
I’ve been making a podcast with my friend Emily Jeffery, an award-winning presenter and producer, about the landscape in which we live, down here on the southern Edge of England. There’s a dog called Mabel, a Spitfire that haunts us, a lighthouse and a lot of cliffs, some incredible stories and a beautiful bit of Bach by the beach. The first season of six episodes is on iTunes or you can listen to all of them on the website www.edgeofengland.com.
Thanks, do share if you like it and let me know what you think.