Monday, 4 August 2014

Water Born Blog Tour: Rachel Ward Takes Us Back to 1976!

Nic's always loved the water, so being chosen for the swimming team means everything. When she begins to hear a disembodied voice in the pool, she turns to her dad for answers from a past he might not want to remember. And when girls her age begin mysteriously drowning, Nic may be the only one who can uncover the murky truth...

Water Born is officially published on August 7th in the UK by Chicken House, and I'm excited to be part of the blog tour. I remember reading Rachel's debut novel, Numbers, quite a while ago and enjoying it a lot. Water Born looks like it'll be just as good!

Thanks to Rachel for writing this post for me and I hope you enjoy being transported back to 1976! I wasn't even born then...


by Rachel Ward 

1976 was the year punk burst onto the scene in the UK and the USA. Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister to be replaced by James Callahan. The Soweto uprising took place in South Africa. Nadia Com─âneci scored three perfect tens in the gymnastics at the summer Olympics in Montreal, and Britain sweltered through a record-breaking long, hot summer.
June, July and August were hot, dry months. The temperature reached 80° Fahrenheit (26.7° Celsius) every day between 22nd June and 16th July somewhere in the UK. For five days the temperature was over 95°F (35°C). There was water rationing, and standpipes in the streets in some areas. Eventually, the government appointed a Minister for Drought, Dennis Howell, and within a few days the weather broke and it rained through September and October.
I turned 12 in the August of 1976. It was the end of my first year at Sutton High School. I think it’s fair to say that I had found the transition from a primary school within walking distance to a secondary school a train ride away ‘difficult.’ I remember that summer being hot and sunny. I remember being the most tanned I’d ever been. And I remember our local river drying up.
I grew up in Surrey and the nearest river is the Mole which flows from West Sussex through Surrey to join the Thames near Hampton Court Palace. The section closest to my parents’ home is known as the Mole Gap, a steep-sided valley between Dorking and Leatherhead where the river has cut through chalk. In the summer of 1976, however, the Mole Gap was missing something. The River Mole had disappeared.
I walked along the dry river bed with my mum. The mud was pale and cracked. It felt wrong to be there, but at the same time really rather thrilling. (Have you ever walked along a new road before they open it? They let you do that sometimes. Same feeling.) The river was still there, but unseen and underground. That part of its course is dotted with swallow holes in the bed and banks – holes through which the river water drains when the level drops. I seem to remember seeing one in the river bed itself, a depression in the mud a metre or so wide, rather than a gaping hole, but maybe I’ve made that up.
I wondered what had happened to all the fish. Had they gone underground too? Were the water voles still living in the banks, even though entrances to their burrows were now more high-rise flats than desirable waterside residences. Had the kingfishers and herons flapped away upstream, looking for food? It was a strange place. Quiet, too.
I imagined what it would be like to stand there when the water came back, trickling over the crusty surface. I couldn’t help also thinking about being there with the river in full flow, battered by the current, knocked off my feet, turned by the water, swept away …
Anyway, the long, hot summer of 1976 kept coming into my mind when I was writing Water Born. Its predecessor, The Drowning, is a dark, rainy, stormy sort of book. I wanted to write a companion piece about heat and drought, water in short supply, and evil and danger becoming concentrated as the water evaporates from a sizzling Britain. In my mind it would be a book the colour of dried mud and swimming pools. Water Born is set in 2030, but for me it’s the colour of 1976.


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