Apr 18, 2015

Welsh Week: Wales is my inspiration by Juliet Greenwood

Wales is my inspiration
by Juliet Greenwood

Wales has always been a part of my life and my inspiration. Some of my earliest memories are of the little tumbledown cottage my parents rented in an isolated valley in Coed y Brenin near Dolgellau. The area has now become famous for mountain biking and walking, but back then it was the middle of nowhere. The cottage itself had been due for demolition, and had no electricity or a phone line, while water came from a spring on the hillside.

It was a real insight into life in the past, with candles and paraffin for lighting, the trip to the outhouse next to the pig style at the bottom of the garden whatever the weather, and the damp that clung to the thick stone walls summer and winter. My parents later were later able to buy the cottage (for the princely sum of £5000) and put in mod cons to be able to live there, but it still retains the silence and the lack of light pollution and the reminder of the challenge for any human being living a life within a landscape that is both harsh and stunningly beautiful.

It’s no wonder that it was a memory of being snowed in at Tyn y Simdde one Christmas when I was about four, trudging through snow drifts to be rescued as our food and coal ran out, that formed the basis of the first story I ever sold to ‘The People’s Friend’ story magazine, so becoming a real published writer. 

I now live just over an hour’s drive north, in a cottage that’s not quite so remote (although we still get snowed in!). On one side I look over the sub-tropical island of Anglesey and the other I look up to some of the highest and most dramatic mountain ranges of Snowdonia, ever changing with the weather and the light. But North Wales is not remote – nor (despite the rumours) is it entirely made up of sheep farms. I also live in an industrial landscape, one that stretches back to the Stone Age. My cottage is on the edges of a village created by what was once the largest slate mining quarry in the world, and is now home to the longest zipwire in Europe. It’s this mix of the old and the new, the rocks so ancient they pre-date fossils, and the University town under four hours’ by train to London, that I find so inspiring. 

The community in which I live is both a fiercely traditional bi-lingual society, in which everyone knows everyone, alongside a thriving mix of students and new businesses using the Internet to reach out to clients all over the globe. Yes it has its problems, but they are the problems faced by all communities attempting to live the best life possible in the uncertainties and changes of the modern (or any other) world.

It’s this mix that inspires both my novels, and my serials written under the name of ‘Heather Pardoe’. It's the mix that inspired the timeshift of my first novel for Honno Press ‘Eden’s Garden’, which is also rooted in the myths and the landscape of Wales near to Dolgellau, both past and present. In ‘We That are Left’, it was the coastline of Anglesey, very like that of my other favourite location, Cornwall, that was part of the inspiration for the book. 

Wales will always be my inspiration. As a historical novelist it has given me an insight into life in the past. As a novelist, the challenges of changing rural community also throws up questions of what it is to truly live a good life, the intricate relationships between people (Miss Marple is right – see the village, see the world!), and the compromises to be made between the traditional and the new.

And of course the mountains, whose lifecycles dwarfs all human activity, great and small, place their own perspective, and are an inspiration in themselves. 


Juliet’s Bio

Juliet is the author of 'We That are Left' and 'Eden's Garden' both published by Honno Press.
Juliet lives in a traditional Welsh cottage halfway between the romantic Isle of Anglesey and the beautiful mountains and ruined castles of Snowdonia.
After studying English at Lancaster University and King’s College, London, Juliet worked in a variety of jobs, from running a craft stall at Covent Garden Market to teaching English.
As well as novels under her own name, Juliet writes stories and serials for magazines as ‘Heather Pardoe’.
When not writing, Juliet works on local oral history projects, helping older people tell their stories before they are lost forever.

Juliet’s Media Links 

Website: http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/
Blog: http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliet.greenwood
Twitter: https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood
We That are Left
by Juliet Greenwood 
Watersones Wales Book of the Month, Wales Independent Bookshops Book of the Month and Wales National Museums Book of the Month, March 2014


  1. Wow, these pictures are gorgeous! I've been loving Welsh Week, guys. I love the pictures and the stories :)

  2. Lovely pics, Juliet. I can see why you would be inspired Thanks so much for sharing, Juliet's story, Suzanne. :) xx

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed the photographs Inge and Sheryl. Wales is a place of inspiration! (and Jude Law has just been filming in the hills behind my cottage) :-)


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