I now have a cover for my next novel, The Covenant, which will be published on August 20th.It’s the prequel to A Time For Silence and is set in the same isolated Pembrokeshire cottage of Cwmderwen.
Both books feature a ruined cottage on the cover, but not the same one. Long before I thought of writing any book set in the area where I live, I stumbled on a derelict cottage just two fields beyond the end of my garden. Literally stumbled. I lost a boot in the process as I explored, wriggling under barbed wire designed to keep cattle from straying, into a strip of wood that descended into a deep valley.
Totally surrounded by tangled trees, the cottage was an intriguing sight, long abandoned but still bearing signs of the last people who had lived there: a rusting pot in the cavernous inglenook fireplace, a broken picture frame by the little parlour fireplace. Its image stayed with me and provided inspiration for A Time For Silence when I came to write it some years later. But I could no longer access it easily, to see what time had done to it, because the surrounding farmland had switched from cattle to sheep, with more solid fencing that I could no longer wriggle under. So when I was looking for a picture to illustrate the cottage in A Time For Silence, I sent my publisher (Honno) a photo of a cottage a few miles away, taken by a friend (thank you, Duncan Ball!) and that is the one that appears on the cover of my first book.
But since 2012, footpaths have opened up, trees have been cleared, and the cottage, Tycwm, is now accessible again, exposed to full daylight. The upper floor, which had been collapsing when I saw it first, had been removed, and preparations were being made for restoration. So one of my photographs of it, rediscovered in 2016, is now on the cover of The Covenant.
The two cottages are very similar – in fact almost identical to any of a hundred around here, including my own house before it was extended some time in the 1960s. Two up, two down, and little else. My own home, like my fictional Cwmderwen, was once a farmhouse on a farm of little more than 20 acres. Tycwm, on the other hand, was only a gamekeeper’s cottage, still inhabited by a large family at the beginning of the 20th century. It must have been a cramped place to raise a family, and gloomy amidst the trees, a long way from any road.
Ironically, the pheasants that had once kept a gamekeeper busy at the cottage have now been returned to live in the same valley, to provide targets for a local shoot, but most of them seem to have moved into my garden.
The Covenant is now available to pre-order.
A Time For Silence is also available.