Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Sea Inside

Today, children's author Vickie Johnstone has stopped by for a chat about her new book, The Sea Inside.

Hi, I live in London and have a thing about fluffy cats. I work as a freelance layout sub-editor on business magazines and editor/proofreader on books. I love reading, writing, films, the sea, art, animals, nature, rock music, Milky Bar and travelling.
Where did the inspiration come from for The Sea Inside?

I started writing it in December 2009, so it’s hard to remember exactly everything. I started with the image of a girl with red hair, called Lily, running along a beach with her red hair blowing all around. I wrote this as a short story in 2008. Here is the opening of the short story. This part was rewritten in The Sea Inside:

Her name is Lily. When she breaks she dances in the colours of a sea of broken glass. When she laughs, cascades of red rain. When she cries the seas submerge the light in blue. Her heels sink deep into the glistening, wet sand that tries to root her feet into the ground. But she flies weightless, a shimmering sight, glowing in the sun. Her long red hair flicks in cascades of volcanic streaks and her laughter breaks the silence against the roar of the waiting sea. She giggles, twists and turns, spinning as the grey dog laps across the sand at her feet, bouncing and mirroring her turns. And overhead the clouds crash, awaiting the darkening that must always follow the sun.

For The Sea Inside, I had the idea that the girl would be in an accident that changed her life, but she would find a portal that led her to another world where her body was whole. In the end she would have to choose which life she wanted, and the decision would not be an easy one. I referenced Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid in the book. I love that story. In it, the mermaid can walk on land, but has to endure pain to do it. It’s a theme that inspired my book. I don’t want to give the plot away, but if you read it, you would see the connection. He was a brilliant writer with such an amazing imagination. Awesome.
The city of Entyre is all, bar one grey floor, blue – is that purely to represent the fact that the city is under the sea or is that how it presented itself to you?
LOL, I can’t remember the grey floor!! Yeah, yeah, it’s because it’s under the sea. I imagined everything within a globe, so there would have to be some kind of artificial light and the colours of the sea outside would bounce off everything. Then I was thinking that everything would be made of frozen water and look like glass, but materials would be different. There are even clothes made of algae. Plus my favourite colour is blue and it’s the colour of dreams, at least to me, like the sky as well – a mystical colour. It’s funny because Cat City in my Kiwi books (adventures of a magical cat) is also blue! I guess I couldn’t get away from it!

It was very easy to visualise the world from your writing and the frozen water as material made sense. And what about the inhabitants?

I just imagined them as being similar to us, but different. If they lived under the sea, they’d probably have evolved differently. I don’t want to give too much away... But I had great fun with the insects (I won’t name them as it’s a surprise). My favourite character to write was the insect.


I loved the insect too.The latter half of the book has the feel of Narnia about it – Did you read the Chronicles of Narnia as a child? If so did you think that influenced your book at all?

That’s cool because I loved The Lion, The Witch ∧ The Wardrobe as a kid. I think CS Lewis was a genius. I haven’t read the other books, although I have seen some films. I think the swashbuckling mouse with an attitude has inspired a lot of characters (I don’t mean mine!). I cried when Aslan died in the book and loved the idea that the girl finds a magic world at the back of a wardrobe. When I was a kid I kept looking in my cupboards trying to find it, and even under the bed. Alas, only dust! I loved The Folk of the Faraway Tree and Fantastic Mr Fox, too; anything with talking animals and magic worlds that somehow you could stumble across if you were really lucky.
I read the Faraway Tree too - we must have similar reading habits - needless to say my daughter owns a copy of that now. I know you said that you had to put the book to one side for a while – what got you working on it again?
I wrote the initial part of the book of just over 6000 words, up until the point where Jayne reaches the undersea world of Entyre, in December 2009. I used to have a bad habit of not finishing anything. I’d get inspired and start writing something, but not continue it. I never planned outlines or anything like that. Novels just seemed too big for me. I just wrote poetry and small stories, so to me, this was a short story.
In 2011, I found Amazon Kindle self-publishing and Smashwords, and I published the only book I ever finished, Kiwi in Cat City, written in 2002. I mention this because the fact that my book was out there, with a chance of getting read, inspired me. I’ve always needed there to be ‘a point’ to doing things. You know, you have something to aim for. Self-publishing gave me a reason to finish things – they had to be finished to get published! I’ve written a lot of books since 2011 because of that.
In 2012, I picked up The Sea Inside and just had a go at adding some more to it. I felt that, having completed some novel, that maybe it wasn’t so scary anymore. I decided to try harder. This year I was really determined to finish it. It became a mission! I just can’t do outlines, so I started working on the red realm and the part with the insect (still not giving it away), and I really enjoyed writing that section. It was pure escapism. Still, it was difficult to bring the whole book together, as I don’t plan, and it took a while for me to get my head around making it coherent. But gradually, it came together.
I’m just so happy to have finished it, because I never thought I would. The ending was a surprise to me. At the last minute after re-editing the book, I altered the end after a brainwave. I’d like to say more, but best not as I’d give the plot away. I have to thank my beta readers, Greta, Nickie and Jennifer, because I didn’t feel very confident about this book. But their feedback was really positive and that helped me to publish it.
What is your favourite fantasy creature?
It has to be the unicorn because I was gutted when I found out they didn’t exist. The idea of them is wonderful because they are so mystical. I imagine them being strong, white, silvery and majestic. And wise. Wow, and if they could fly, well that would just be the icing on the cake. I also like dragons, but who doesn’t?!!  And mermaids. That comes from reading Hans Christian Andersen’s stories as a youngster. I preferred his stories to those of The Brothers Grimm, but many of them made me cry, like The Little Match Girl. The Princess and the Pea is another one that I loved.
I love dragons, possibly my favourite fantasy creatures, but there's so many to choose from. Okay, now I've grilled Vickie about her book, let's give you some more details.
Thanks to Maja Dražić for the beautiful cover photograph.
The Sea Inside
Book 1 in the Cerulean Songs series

Time is all we have; it flows – it cannot stop.

Jayne wakes up in hospital following a terrible accident, which changes her life as she knew it. While struggling to recover, she is visited by a mysterious woman who offers her a gift. To the girl’s astonishment, she finds herself on a journey, on both the physical and mental plane. It brings her to the mystical realm of Entyre, where life is very different and power lies with the creatures of the deep. While the threads of time keep flowing, Jayne must decide what is real, who to trust, and regain her inner strength in order to find herself and her true destiny.

Jayne concentrated on getting better. The dark mood that she had found herself in grew steadily lighter and she pushed her memories of the blue city to the back of her mind, dismissing them as dreams, which would gradually fade with time. That was her hope, for while she slept her mind wove images of the sea, accompanied by the echo of the whales and a tall man whose hair was the colour of the darkest waves. He was always there, not far away it seemed, thus was the lucidity of her sleeping life.

 You can get your own copy of The Sea Inside or any of Vickie's other books by visiting her author page:

You can read more about Vickie on her blog:

Or follow her on Facebook:

and Twitter:

A huge thanks to Vickie for stopping by and chatting with me and thanks to you all for reading.




  1. So nice. I just finished this book and LOVED it!!!!! Such a great read!!! Congrats Vickie...Nice interview Marie!!!

    1. Thanks Brenda - it is a great book isn't it!

  2. Thanks so much for hosting me. I enjoyed this and tracking down the original story. Thanks Brenda. So pleased that you enjoyed my book. It took ages to finish! :)

  3. Looks great, and I'm excited to read Vickie's new book! Nice interview, ladies! :D