Jenny Mclachlan is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. If you haven't read one of her books, you are seriously missing out. So I am so pleased she agreed to come on the blog today, to talk about the setting for her new book, Sunkissed, which is published today!!
Sunkissed, the third book in my Ladybird series for teens, is set on an idyllic Swedish island called Stråla. Fifteen-year-old Kat is sent there – kicking and screaming – to spend the summer with her auntie Frida. Stråla is based very closely on Grinda, a real and very beautiful island in the Stockholm archipelago. I visited Grinda with my mum and everything Kat hates about the island, I loved: it’s tiny, isolated and uncommercial. As Kat says in a letter to her friend: This island I’m staying on is smaller than Bluewater…also it has 299 fewer shops than Bluewater. Let me make this clear: it has ONE shop.
Here is a picture of Grinda’s one shop. It sold amazing cinnamon buns, something Kat does appreciate about the island:
Kat loves three things: her friends, shopping and technology. She is taken away from all these things on Stråla. This is why she writes a letter to her friends, (a letter…what’s that??) I decided to make the island wi-fi and phone-reception free. From a writer’s point of view this is great - instant communication really ruins plotlines – but for Kat it is torture. Luckily for Kat, occasional reception is available on a tiny rock out in the sea.
When I went on my research trip, I swam out to a rock to see what it felt like to sit alone in the middle of the ocean. Mainly it felt warm and crusty – there was a lot of lichen and bird poo on the rock – but it also made me feel very small in the universe. When this picture was taken I was on my way back and I’m pulling a funny face because an enormous fish had brushed against me. It’s fair to say I freaked out. It may look like I’m about three yards from the shore, but Mum’s camera has a powerful zoom (honest!)
Luckily, Kat meets other teenagers on the island and they spend a lot of time hanging out at a café sitting around a rock (there are a lot of important rocks in Sunkissed). The café is based on Grinda’s café where the rocks that stick up through the deck are used as impractical tables. When this photo was taken the café was closed, but they had left all the scatter cushions out. How very Swedish.
In my favourite chapter of Sunkissed, Kat kayaks to a deserted island with a boy called Leo. This chapter was inspired by a visit I made to Sweden in my twenties with my brother and sister. We stayed with a friend, Jakob and he took us out for the day on his boat. We had a picnic on an island and I was absolutely thrilled by the thought that we were the only people there. Jakob swam out to a cliff and leapt off it, and if you look closely at the picture you can see him flying through the air. Teenagers in the UK seem to have very little freedom; parents know where they are every minute of the day and there aren’t many opportunities for climbing cliffs and jumping off them. Kat has the chance to take the plunge and it’s a life-changing moment for her.
I like giving my narrators hobbies and Kat runs. She runs all over Stråla on soft pine-scented paths through flashes of sunlight. Stråla is essentially Moomin valley without the large-nosed creatures.
Like Grinda, Stråla is car-free and can only be reached by boat. Here’s a photo I took as I left Grinda. Skin salty from swimming in the sea and nails chipped from scrambling over rocks, I watched the island disappear in a flash of sunlight. It’s a magical place and I can’t wait to share it with my readers in Sunkissed.
What a gorgeous post. Thank you Jenny! I'm sure everyone will definitely want to read Sunkissed now.
Sunkissed is published by Bloomsbury and available to buy today!!!!
Kat can't believe her family are sending her to Sweden for the summer. But without her friends, or even a phone signal, can Kat make it on her own?
In a land of saunas, nudity and summer sun, Kat soon realises she has nowhere to hide. It's time to embrace who she really is, underneath what she's been thinking people want her to be. Especially if she's going to win the heart of mega fit Swede Leo! Can Kat find her inner strength and prove she's got what it takes?
Kat soon finds that when you're surrounded by phosphorescence and wonder it's easy to sparkle. Or maybe that's what happens when you fall in love . Or maybe you only shine when you're true to yourself.
To find out more about Jenny Maclachlan: