Nanette Palmer asked Jessica M. Simpkiss:
Your scenery descriptions are so detailed in your book, I could see them so clearly in my mind as I read, but I never felt bogged down with too much description. How do you get so detailed?
Jessica M. Simpkiss In 2017, I visited Scotland for the first time and came back with a children’s book for my daughter. After reading it, I wondered if I could retell some of the fairy tales, with a modern, American twist. The tale of the kelpie or waterhorse was the first one that I decided to tackle, and thus The Spaewife’s Secret was born. The idea grew until it was a novel length project and I ran with it.
The Isle of Lewis is pretty much how I describe it in the book, except their aren’t scary dripping horses standing at the edges of lochs; at least none that I saw.
The Isle is beautifully desolate and remote with one lane roads where you fight for space with herds of sheep. The house my husband and I rented during our stay was on Bernera, an even smaller outcropping on the Isle’s west coast. We spent our days hiking in the hills, standing on sandy beaches listening to the tide clock, and trying to get close enough to the resident hairy coos to pet them. We could go days without seeing another person, but when we did, they always had smiling faces and were anxious to talk about the weather or whatever else struck their fancy.
When we made the trek to Scotland in 2018, I was maybe half way done with first draft of Spaewife’s Secret, or at least I thought I was. I had done extensive research online about the Isle of Lewis via the internet, but nothing compared to seeing it in real life. It was a surreal experience to be able to walk in the valley and hills behind Bosta Beach after combing over maps and images of the area. On our long hikes, I would find myself pausing and imagine Lachlan or Isle or the waterhorse itself, standing at the water’s edge, looking up at me, as if pushing me to finish what I had started.
It was a trip of a lifetime that birthed my first published novel. I will forever cherish the Isle of Lewis and my time spent there.
Thanks for the great question !!!