My name is Fi Darby and I am an author.
I wasn’t always an author and I didn’t always write for a living (I am also a freelance copywriter) but it was my love of the outdoors, and more specifically maps, that encouraged me to explore the outdoor places that have been the inspiration for my children’s books.
Let me be even more specific about the map in question, OS Explorer OL28 is the Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor National Park; I have lost count of how many copies of this wonderful representation I have walked, camped and weathered my way through but I always have a copy in my rucksack (I once took it to New Zealand) and I love every line, dot and square of it (except maybe the dot at Red Lake where I once broke my ankle).
One of the things I love most about maps is that they can take me exploring even when I am sitting at the kitchen table.
Discovering place names, spotting lonely crosses (Dartmoor has many) and wondering what views are like from hills can all lead to adventures and, if you have an overactive imagination like mine, form the beginnings of stories.
My first children’s novel, The Non-Story of Ignatius Bowerman was just such a tale. Bowerman’s Nose is clearly marked on Explorer OL28 and rightly so, he is a statuesque rock formation with a turned-into-stone-by-witches legend to match and we Blondes love to visit him (we were particularly thrilled to be able to show Bowerman’s Nose off to the nations public via ITV’s Britain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100).
Once you start looking closely at a map it is easy to see all kinds of elements that could lead to a story. For me the starting point was Bowerman’s Nose but as I looked and took the map out with me to explore further, I discovered;
- The cottage where my hero Thomas lives (I have since had an email from the lady who really lives in the cottage, she loves the book)
- Natsworthy Manor where Ignatius Bowerman and his brother grew up (he wasn’t always a rock you know!)
- Hound Tor where… (I can’t tell you that… spoilers!)
One landmark, that wasn’t and still isn’t on OL28 but did appear in my story, is a rock known locally as Figgie Daniel. This rock is round instead of tall and elegant like Bowerman’s Nose so it became the food-loving, rhyme talking, irritating younger sibling to Ignatius Bowerman’s pompous and forgetful older brother. As different in the story as they are on Dartmoor, Iggie and Figgie love each other but don’t meet very often.