The Punished: Crooked Cat’s Cy Forrest Q&A. The South-West Lifestyle

“Kick back. Take a deep breath, pull on walking boots and head for the hills!” Summer is really here with cloudless skies and endless sun-drenched days promising the seeds of change. We explore England’s south-west, the cliffs, the moors and the bustling resorts with Crooked Cat’s Cy Forrest from his studio in a rural village just south of Bath.

What attracted you to living and working in the South-West, Cy?

I thrive on creative intensity. I’d lived in the Scottish Highlands and close to the Pennines in the north of England, so I wanted to rock up somewhere that provided me with the same combination of hard work and play lifestyle. I wanted to recreate the conditions for immersion in the landscape and for exploration so I could continue with the dynamics that forge my work. I was hoping for that same inspiration in the south-west and I found what I wanted with The Punished.

What do you like about where you are right now?

I’m really lucky to be based in a rural village just south of Bath on a spring line where fast-flowing crystal clear ground water emerges from under Salisbury Plain’s chalk. It’s a fabulous location to refresh, explore the coast, the seaside, the moors and the city, fuelling all the essential creative acids I need. It’s been the ideal set-up for producing The Punished, in tune with my way of thinking and suiting my lifestyle and outlook.

How much of your outlook on work and play is shaped by your lifestyle?

It’s shaped by everything because I maintain a close relationship between work and play. They influence each other and mould my entire worldview, recharging my creative electrolyte. I’m occupied by pretty gnarley, relentless work, so I need to constantly look for brilliant sunlight, wide open spaces, vast skies, towering clouds, wide rivers, wild moors, as well as the busy seaside, bustling cities, art galleries and noise, basically all the necessary ingredients for inspiration and The Punished.

Can you give an example of how your outlook works?

I love the attractions in the south-west, the crowded seaside resorts and the great cities. They provide the constant contradiction that creates a spark  For example, it often seems as though everyone wants to arrive at the seaside at the same time, but when everyone’s parked up they say, ‘It’s too busy’, ‘Too tacky’, or, in the case of the beautiful honeypot resort St Ives in the far south-west of Cornwall , they say, ‘Pretentious’. History seems to have left us high and dry wondering why we bothered, which is extraordinary. All those diverse ingredients and contradictions that inspire me are abundant in a place like St Ives, but having taken what I want, I bail to somewhere like Penzance which also has the necessary ingredients for creativity and much more.

What’s the first thing you do when you’ve been away recharging the creative battery acid?

Rehydrate, kick back, pull walking boots on and head for the hills immersing myself in the bare bones, the standing stones and the depths of the cool wells. The first thing I hear is the rushing of the spring and I’m calmed. The next stage is to switch on the coffee machine, measure out that first shot of espresso and face the constant change represented by the garden. Then I look for the opportunity to shape things. It’s an essential creative routine because this is more than an office. It’s a whole studio.

What’s your ultimate escape here and why is it so special to you?

It’s cruel to have to name just one place because pulling on walking boots at any time anywhere whatever the weather is rad. My favourite place is Devonport Leat on Dartmoor and I love the walk up to it from Burrator, lingering to look down into Crazy Well Pool. Sometimes I like to take another leg out to the stone row beyond Down Tor. It’s what I do when I want to get lost in my own world with the vast openness ahead.

How do you think your work/life balance suits your personality?

My personality says once I start something, I have to finish it. This stems from my teen years being deeply immersed in racing the Olympic class Laser dinghy up in Derbyshire’s wild and woolly Pennine valleys. I had to break the ice on the reservoir up there some days. On other days the waves were being blown flat. Lasers are designed to favour people weighing over 160 lbs. At 150 I was always chasing the pack and I never grew into it. It didn’t stop me winning big though. I was a club champion and it taught me one thing; I don’t understand the meaning of lost causes in work and play.

Cy Forrest’s dark novel is going to be one you’ll be gripped to. The Punished will be released by Crooked Cat Books September 13th 2017.