Local News

‘Across the Silent Sea’ – a new novel and a constant calling to write

By Gabrielle Barnby

Head and shoulders image of a smiling Gabrielle

This summer my new novel Across The Silent Sea is released by Sparsile Books. It is an exploration of personal recovery, forgiveness and family. The central character is Esther and just thinking of her makes me smile. If you could describe her as a flavour it would be ‘umami’. She is complex and rich, like laughter and tears together.

Her story is inspired by people in my family who have lived with chronic pain and fill me with admiration and compassion. The setting of Orkney wraps around the characters influencing their choices and values, integral to every aspect of the narrative. I want to share a little about the journey to publication and how my creative ideas take shape.

I’m not be the only one who has listened to interviews and heard airy phrases such as, ‘The first idea came five years ago’ when someone is talking about a project and not given it a second thought.

Of course some things take a long time. It feels different though when it is personal. When it is your PhD, or house renovation, or recipe website that has taken not just the expected time but additional time that was not foreseen.

So, when I write that the idea for Across the Silent Sea began to develop in late 2017, and breezily move onto publication there is need for a pause. Has it been nearly six years?

Before anyone imagines I have been slowly and carefully writing a few hundred perfect words a day, let me paint a fuller picture of the process.

Firstly, the writing. I am a blurter. I blurt out an ugly newborn draft that is never to be read by anyone else alive. It is as dearly loved as a newborn, messy and in need of cleaning, nourishment and encouragement.

The blurt is fed with rounds of research. It becomes even bigger and even messier. Then the slow process of editing, insight and re-editing begins. Numerous rounds are required before any of the text is seen by another person, and even then only the best behaved sections are allowed out. With a novel of eighty thousand words refinement takes time, like sea glass takes time to smooth.

 Secondly, the publication. The process of taking this reasonably well-attired and decent manuscript to publishers is a whole separate process. While a process of refinement is staged, the process of building resilience is constant in order to get through the rounds of submission, praise, criticism, encouragement and rejection. With patience and further refinement there eventually comes an acceptance.

The manuscript moves towards what is effectively a second birth. The writing is offered up as ‘new’ for the world to see, but really this is a second incarnation of an already established soul.

Do I feel ready for the book to be published? The answer is a resounding yes!

If enjoyment and interest follows from others spending time with these characters and narratives then I am pleased. Esther is ready–she is further forward. But in some ways I feel no further forward.

There will be another blurt. I live in hope that it will be less messy, but all the same I will love and tend whatever comes.

front cover of the book shows a woman sitting looking out to sea overlaid on a large image of a profile image of a woman's head

Across The Silent Sea – book launch

Kirkwall Library 2-3.30pm

Saturday, 2nd September

Across The Silent Sea is published by Sparsile Books and is available at The Orcadian Bookshop, Stromness Books and Prints and on-line retailers.  

More information about my writing and creative facilitation can be found here: https://gabriellebarnby.com/ I also post on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

banner image of Across the Silent sea with the novel and the heading Orkney The Edge of Darkness and Lights

Leave a Reply