We’re so pleased to have author JL Merrow joining us today on the tour for the re-release of her novel Wight Mischief with Dreamspinner Press. She’s talking a bit about her island setting, and there’s also a great tour-wide giveaway opportunity, so be sure to check out the prompt question and other details below.
Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Wight Mischief, a romantic suspense novel set on the island I grew up on, the Isle of Wight.
Wight Mischief isn’t, of course, the only work of fiction set on an island. Far from it.
Name a book or TV series set on an island. Go on; I bet you can think of plenty.
There’s Lost. Or Fantasy Island. Or any of the myriad reality TV castaway shows. As for books, there’s The Island of Dr Moreau; Robinson Crusoe; The Lord of the Flies; Treasure Island; And Then There Were None. And that’s just off the top of my head.
Why are islands so popular in fiction? For one thing, they’re self-contained. They are to fiction in general what the snowed-in country house was to 1930s murder mysteries. Of course, generally speaking, people are not trapped on islands (unless, say, there’s bad weather, or someone’s gone off with the only boat, which happens surprisingly frequently in fiction). But there is a barrier to free travel to and from them. You can’t just jump in your car and drive away (unless of course you are 1970s James Bond*).
And although characters may not in fact be trapped on the island they happen to find themselves on, it’s undeniable that they may feel trapped. Islands are often more parochial, less cosmopolitan than the mainland. They have their own culture, which can be resistant to change coming from over the water.
Demographics are often skewed; growing up on the Isle of Wight in the 1970s, you might have been forgiven for thinking it was actually called the Isle of White. I remember being blown away the first time I visited London, aged ten, by seeing so many black and brown faces. While these days, the island’s population is more diverse, in 2009 it was still nearly 92% white British, compared to a national average of 82%, and 55% in inner London.
It’s a common joke to say that when you go to the Isle of Wight, you have to set your watch back fifty years, and there’s still a grain of truth in that—although it’s getting smaller. One reason it lingers is those pesky demographics again: the Isle of Wight, along with other seaside locations, is a place people move to when they retire. Conversely, young people will move to the mainland to find work—while there’s a healthy tourist industry on the island, work tends to be low-paid and seasonal.
A common way of exploiting the “differentness” of an island’s population and/or culture in fiction is to bring in an outsider with whom the reader/viewer can identify as he or she walks the minefield of a subtly strange place. This does not always end well—think of poor Sergeant Howie burning in The Wicker Man.**
In Wight Mischief, our outsider is Will. How does he get on? You’ll have to read the book to find out. ;)
*I just looked that up, and registered for the first time that the submersible car was called Wet Nellie. Wet Nellie? The seventies have a lot to answer for.
**Also from the seventies. See what I mean?
Question: What’s your favourite island in fiction?
Giveaway: I’m offering a prize of a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate to one lucky commenter on the tour, who will be randomly chosen on Friday 15th June. Good luck!
About the Book
A ghost of a chance at love.
Personal trainer Will Golding has been looking forward to a getaway with his best friend, Baz, a journalist researching a book on ghosts. But on the first day of their camping trip on the Isle of Wight, Will takes a walk on a secluded beach and spies a beautiful young man skinny-dipping by moonlight. Ethereally pale, he’s too perfect to be real—or is he?
Lonely author Marcus Devereux is just as entranced by the tall athlete he encounters on the beach, but he’s spent the years since his parents’ violent death building a wall around his heart, and the thought of letting Will scale it is terrifying. Marcus’s albinism gives him his otherworldly appearance and leaves him reluctant to go out in daylight, his reclusiveness encouraged by his guardian—who warns him to stay away from Will and Baz.
The attraction between Will and Marcus can’t be denied—but neither can the danger of the secrets haunting Marcus’s past, as one “accident” after another strikes Will and Baz. If they don’t watch their step, they could end up added to the island’s ghostly population.
Available in ebook and paperback from Dreamspinner Press
Wight Mischief was previously published by Samhain, but has been completely re-edited and given a lovely new cover for this second edition by Dreamspinner Press.
About the Author
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.
She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Two of her novels have won Rainbow Awards for Romantic Comedy (Slam!, 2013 and Spun!, 2017) and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.