Beatrice WallbankMarch 9, 2023
Beatrice grew up in mid Wales. When not wandering about in wild places thinking about stories she works backstage in theatre, storytelling in a different form. She also really likes “old stuff” and is a historian of things relating to the sea in early medieval Wales. The Sleeping Stones is her first book.
The novel is an exciting and emotional MG island adventure suitable for children aged 8-12, exploring themes of Welsh mythology, & issues of belonging, the environment, empathy and care for animals.
Gruff and his new friend Matylda live on a small island off the Welsh coast, where legends are beginning to stir… Islanders find themselves irresistibly drawn to the Sleeping Stones, a line of rocks like natural stepping stones out to sea. Gruff and Mat soon realise they must risk everything to save each other and their community from a terrifying storm driven by an ancient, magic anger.
ʻBeatrice has written such a big-hearted, immersive adventure, setting the brave, kind Gruff and Mat against myth, magic and the raw power of nature. Itʼs about how you can love your home so much and still welcome newcomers. All the different elements weave together so well. I cried in four separate places reading it and ended the book with a huge smile on my face!ʼ – Janet Thomas, editor.
Beatrice, Thank you for agreeing to be Libraries Wales Author of the Month, and congratulations on the publication of The Sleeping Stones. What inspired you to write your novel?
I’ve always loved the places where land meets sea, and stories where secrets are hidden in the landscape. The Sleeping Stones is also inspired by two characters from Welsh mythology. They both would once have had loads of stories told about them, but now we only know of them through glimpses in poems and tales.
Tell us a little about the story…
The Sleeping Stones is a fantasy-adventure for ages 8+ set on an island off the coast of Wales, where ancient legends are stirring. Gruff and his new friend Matylda find themselves in a race against time to save their home from a devastating storm driven by an ancient, magic anger. At the heart of it all are the Sleeping Stones themselves: huge boulders that lead out from the island’s beach like the stepping stones of giants…
Why do you write?
Because I love it! I have always had a drive to make up stories and put them down on paper.
What inspires you?
Landscape. Imagining what could happen in a particular place at different times of the day, at different times of the year, in different historical periods. I am very much inspired by myths and legends, too, which themselves are often linked to landscape.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
When I realised that the authors who wrote the books I loved reading were real people, and that could potentially be me one day! I have been creating stories, in my head and on paper, my whole life.
Who are some writers you admire?
Oh my goodness, there are so many! I am fascinated by different writing styles, and have always enjoyed reading a wide range of authors. In respect of The Sleeping Stones, three authors in particular have fuelled my fascination for living landscapes, and myth creeping into a contemporary setting: Catherine Fisher, Susan Cooper and Alan Garner.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
For my work in theatre as a stage manager (which is storytelling as part of a team), I make things out of wood and fabric and paint. I also like to draw, especially birds.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to completely scrap a draft of a story and start all over again from the beginning. Things don’t have to be right first time.
What is your writing process?
I do most of my thinking on walks. When I start writing I will have the bare bones of a story – the landscape, the main characters, a couple of events – but not much else. I find out where a story is going as I write the first draft (which is always very, very rough!). Then I edit and edit and edit to craft the story I want to tell. I really enjoy editing, perhaps more than I enjoy writing the first draft!
What books are currently on your bedside table?
I am currently reading A Flash of Fireflies by Aisha Bushby, a beautifully woven tale of fantasy and anxiety, and I’ve just finished the brilliantly funny Mr Penguin and the Catastrophic Cruise by Alex T. Smith. I am also reading Boggarts, Trolls and Tylwyth Teg, a wonderful collection of tales from round the world retold by storyteller Peter Stevenson, and Buried, a fascinating journey through the first millennium in Britain by anatomist and anthropologist Alice Roberts.
In what way have libraries influenced you during your lifetime?
I was lucky enough to be taken often to the local library by my parents, discovering new stories and new authors every visit. I would check out ten books at once. Now that I have a little less time for reading, I confine myself to one book at a time! Every time I move to a new place, even if it’s just for a three-month work project, the first thing I do is join the local library. I love to do work in libraries as well as find books in them. Libraries make me feel safe. They are a refuge in a new place, or on a day when the world seems overwhelming.
Do you have suggestions of how to encourage children and young people to read more for pleasure?
Let young people choose for themselves what sorts of things they would like to read, and in what format – graphic novels, chapter books, picture books… there is no ‘wrong’ way to discover words. Reading to, or with, children, is also a great way to ensure that stories are a shared joy.
Do you have any plans for future titles?
I am working on an alternate-world adventure story, as well as a myth-inspired fantasy of a similar feel to The Sleeping Stones. I often have several stories knocking around in my head or on paper, in varying stages of completion!
Tiding was published by Firefly Press on 2 February 2023 (Twitter @FireflyPress)
Read our Get to Know the Author flyer for further information about the author.
See our previous Authors of the Month writing in English.