Tess Woods is a physiotherapist who lives in Perth, Australia with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over all of them. Her first novel, Love at First Flight, released by HarperCollins in April 2015, received worldwide critical acclaim, hit the best-seller charts in Australia and was voted Book of the Year in the AusRom Today Reader’s Choice Awards 2015. Tess was also top ten nominated as Best New Author. Tess’s short story, Destiny in a Day, released in the HarperCollins anthology Hot Stuff: Surfing Love in December 2015 is set in beautiful Cornwall, where she dreams of living one day and Tess is currently writing her second full-length novel, Flat White with One. When she isn’t working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys chatting with her readers online, reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea, watching Downton Abbey and tending to the veggie patch.
My short story Destiny in a Day for the new HarperCollins anthology Hot Stuff: Surfing Love is only eleven thousand words long but it had enough inspiration behind it for a whole series of novels! Here is my list of seven muses I had in my head at the time of writing that resulted in my story…
Muse One – Rosamunde Pilcher
As a teenager at a loss for which book to read next, I trawled through my mum’s stack of books that she used as a doorstop and came across The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. It was love at first sight. I fell in love not only with this beautiful love story but with Cornwall in the UK where the book was set. I went on to read every single novel Rosamunde Pilcher ever had published, to this day she remains one of my very favourite authors, and many of her books were set in Cornwall. I loved her descriptions of rugged coastlines, crashing waves, green cliffs and shorelines full of shells. She inspired me so much, I had to go and see Cornwall for myself. And when I got there, the first thing I did was go shell seeking on the shore just like in the book I so loved. Rosamunde Pilcher was the inspiration behind my favourite character in Destiny in a Day, an elderly local lady with a huge heart, who I aptly named Rosamunde!
Muse Two – Cornwall
Rosamunde Pilcher began my obsession with my Cornwall and I dreamed of visiting it for over fifteen years before I finally got there in 2014. And it was just as beautiful, if not more so, than the images I had conjured up of it reading Rosamunde Pilcher’s books. The morning after we arrived in Cornwall was the day I received an email from literary agent Jacinta Di Mase offering me a contract with her. I could not believe how amazing it was that this happened while I was visiting a place inspired by my love of an author. We stayed in a seaside cottage in a sleepy town called Trevone and just after I received the email, my family headed down to the beach. I sat on some rocks on the shore with my feet in a rock pool, admiring how my toenail polish sparkled in the sun and looking out at my hubby and kids surfing and it was just this moment of sublime happiness. I thought, “I’m going to write this scene in my next book”, so that’s what I did, with some creative license of course! My kids were turned into local Cornish kids, my hot surfie hubby morphed into hot surfie Jake Dee and instead of me sitting on those rocks on the shore looking at my toes in the water, it became my main character Gemma Knox doing that. And the setting stayed as beautiful Trevone Bay.
Muse Three – My kids’ teachers
When it came time to name my characters, I decided to name them for my children’s most loved teachers. My daughter Lara had a gorgeous young high school teacher called Gemma Thomson and another beautiful teacher called Amanda Knox. I blended their names to come up with Gemma Knox and I named her best friend Jasmin, after Lara’s beloved primary school teacher. I gave Gemma the profession of being a high school teacher just like the real life Gemma. My son Tommy had a teacher called Adriano D’Adamo who he affectionately called Mr D. I didn’t think the name Adriano suited a Cornishman so I named him Jake Dee (which would be Mr Dee in honour of Mr D!).
It gave me joy to acknowledge the teachers who gave so much of themselves to my children. And they were all pretty stoked when I told them! I can’t wait for them to see their characters on the page.
Muse Four – A knight’s tale
I wear a Cornish wedding ring, inscribed with the words of Tristan to Iseult, the twelfth century Cornish knight and his unrequited love, the Irish princess. I love this love story and it was wonderful to weave it and the ring I wear into my own story. While we were in Cornwall, we visited the ruins of King Arthur’s Tintagel Castle and the magic of this ancient story blew me away once more. I knew I had to weave it into my own work one day and Destiny in a Day was the perfect opportunity.
Muse Five – Four Aussie surfers
When I decided to write a story for the Surfing Love anthology, I researched the history of surfing in Cornwall. I was beyond delighted to learn that Cornwall’s surf culture was purely due to four Aussie surf life-savers who in 1962 arrived in Cornwall, surfboards in tow and revolutionised surfing there! Of course I then had to write them into the story too.
Muse Six – Jess
My beautiful friend Jess, one of the most creative, sweet, giving people I ever knew, tragically took her own life a couple of years ago. Her death shattered our family (she was my children’s only and much adored baby-sitter who we never replaced) and I am still coming to grips with her passing away. She was on my mind as I wrote Destiny in a Day and suicide became a part of the story. In my first novel Love at First Flight, Mel, my main character beat herself up about not seeing the suicide coming of one of her patients. This was mirroring how I felt about Jess, I wish I had paid more attention to the clues she dropped. And I felt compelled to reference her again in Destiny in a Day.
Muse Seven – Pinterest!
I was chatting to another Perth author, Lisa Swallow, and told her I was writing a love story about a surf lifesaver set in Cornwall, where her brilliant novel Summer Sky was also set. She said, “Ooh, get onto Pinterest and get inspiration for that hot surfer, wink wink, nudge nudge. All that looking at photos of hot shirtless guys can be in the name of research.” So I joined Pinterest and promptly lost the next four hours of my life browsing everything from overnight oat recipes to vintage mason jars! But what I did fall in love with were the countless photos of gorgeous English seaside cottages and I meshed up lots of these photos (including one where a staircase had books on each step) to come up with the cottage in my story.
So there you have it. Lots of musings all swirling around in my head to come up with a short story that I hope you enjoy a little more now that you know all the influences behind it.
Here’s a bit more about the book:
Hot sun, warm bodies, tight skin, electricity on the air … four top romance authors give you their take on summer.
From Carla Caruso – A chance meeting with a pro-surfer on an island getaway …
From Maria Lewis – The world of women’s surfing throws two recent bedmates together …
From Alli Sinclair – A world-famous performer finds her heart and a way to fight her demons in Rio de Janeiro …
From Tess Woods – A Cornish beach retreat proves a full reawakening …
You can pre-order Hot Stuff: Surfing Love here: