Tell us a Story

Hattie Gee sidmouth author with her book the Stowaway

Sidmouth author Hattie Gee with her first book - Credit: Hattie Gee

The magic from the world of fiction, and sometimes non-fiction, will be brought to life during National Storytelling Week 2022, from Saturday, January 29 to Saturday, February 5. During this time, children and adults will be entertained at libraries and workshops to celebrate this traditional art form that takes audiences on an uncharted journey into the imagination. Storytellers often find inspiration from the most unlikely of sources and sometimes a real-life event can be the trigger to spur an author into action. We met with one local writer to discover what inspired her to pen her recently published book, The Stowaway...  

At the beginning of November, Sidmouth author Hattie Gee had much to celebrate as her first book, printed by publishing company Austin Macaulay, was launched. 

The seeds of the story took root about 14 years ago when Hattie watched the drama of the stricken container ship The Napoli unfold as it ran aground off Branscombe Beach after a storm at sea.

Hattie Gee's book the Stowaway

Hattie's book has references to the Napoli that ran aground in Branscombe - Credit: Hattie Gee

As she watched the ship's contents wash ashore, Hattie pondered if it could be possible for a stowaway to hide amongst the debris. This thought ignited the idea behind her book, aptly titled, The Stowaway.   

Hattie's book tells the story of a child called Fado from South Africa, whose mother lost her job when her employers chose to emigrate back to England. Not knowing what to do with her son, she decides to put Fado on the same container ship that will be transporting her master's possessions, sending him off to start a new life in a different country.

As fate would have it, the Napoli runs aground off Branscombe and Fado finds himself washed up in a container on the beach. He manages to break free and runs to seek shelter in a nearby farm, where he is taken in and brought up by Hattie.

Though the book is fictional, it is based loosely on Hattie's life on her farm and equestrian centre on the outskirts of Sidmouth, where she has lived for 21 years. She decided to start writing books about her life, after suffering from a back injury.

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The Stowaway is Hattie's first book and was written years ago. Getting the book accepted by a renowned publisher in 2019 was a pleasant surprise.  Hattie said:  "I was surprised when I sent it off. I thought I would see what would happen and it was picked up by Austin Macaulay publishers."

Yet the printing was delayed due to the effects of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Hattie didn't seem to mind and understood that it may not have been the best time to release a new book anyway. Instead, a decision was made to launch the book just before Christmas 2021.  

Naturally, Hattie was excited and said: "I thought it would be lovely to get a book published. I'm so thrilled with how things are going."

The Stowaway is available now from Waterstones, Amazon and Paragon Books in Sidmouth.

The future is looking bright for Hattie's literary career as Austin Macaulay has expressed an interest in any other story she would like to submit.  

She is working on her next book that has the promise to be as engaging as the first. It's about the tales of all the horses, ponies and their owners who have been at Hattie's yard, written from the perspective of Crystal, a matriarchal thoroughbred mare.