Where I’ve Found Inspiration – The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy Blog Tour Feature by author Richard Pickard

They say that inspiration can be found anywhere, at any time, but there’s a definite link between each of the places where I’ve had the best success in coming up with stories. . . You guessed it. The sea! Nothing gets my creativity flowing like being beside the water, or even better, being in it.

Here are just some of the places where I have found inspiration.

1) Brighton

The earliest germ of an idea for The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy came from Brighton’s West Pier, which has long been one of my favourite UK landmarks. After becoming the first pier to achieve a Grade 1 listing, it was closed in the mid-seventies and has since fallen into stunning disrepair. Today, after several fires, all that remains is a metal husk which makes for a ghostly sight on the water.

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I’ve long adored this eerie landmark and as I began to think about my first novel for children, I wondered what kind of person might live in such an inhospitable environment – cut-off from land, and with little shelter from the elements. The obvious answer was a boy with crab claws for hands and tentacles for hair! One day, I’ll be devastated when the West Pier is finally demolished or worse – it gives way and collapses into the sea of its own accord.

2) Whitstable

I love Whitstable, the charming seaside town in Kent that is famous for its oysters and the Maunsell Sea Forts which are so like the image of William’s abandoned, ‘haunted’ pier. I haven’t been in a while, but Whitstable was a huge inspiration when I first began to write my fishy story. Not only is the town synonymous with seafood, but its sandy shingle beach directly flanks the harbour, just as it does in Merlington – the setting of my novel. As Marina charges down the shore, after an argument with her frenemy Wendy in the opening chapters, Whitstable’s seafront is what I’ve always pictured.

3) Studland Bay

When I’m staying at our family’s flat in Bournemouth, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a long walk over to Studland village. Down the seafront and past the mansions at Sandbanks, a chain ferry then guides you across the mouth of Poole Harbour and to the Isle of Purbeck. Just around the first corner of the peninsula and you’ll find the stretching golden sands of Studland, which surround a nature reserve made up of purple heather, woodland and wetlands.

If it weren’t for Bournemouth Pier still just about visible on the horizon, you would believe yourself on a desert island, until a small café comes into view followed by kayaks and paddle boards for hire.

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Studland village finally rises from the dunes, before leading up toward the famous Old Harry Rocks which jut from the peninsula. There are some fantastic pubs here, my favourite of which has an enormous beer garden overlooking a field of sheep and the water behind. It’s the perfect place to sit a write with a drink, or a plate of spicy chilli con carne.

4) Underwater

If you haven’t figured it out already, I am the ultimate water baby and a swimming obsessive. Whether crashing through tidal waves, wild swimming my way down a lazy river, or doing lengths at my local pool, nothing helps me clear my thoughts better. I allow my mind to wander and work out the problems in my story – asking ‘What if?’ questions and letting the characters do the work for me.

I am never happier than in those short few moments I’m below the surface, attempting to nuzzle into the seabed with my shoulder blades. I love to think about all the sharks, dolphins and strange fish who are swimming about in the same water – no matter how far away that might be. With so much of the ocean left to be explored, who’s to say what bizarre and brilliant creatures like William might exist. No wonder, then, that in the water is where I’ve found all of my best ideas.

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THE PECULIAR TALE OF THE TENTACLE BOY is out now, priced £6.99. Read chapter 1 on the Chicken House website

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