The Ocean in the Lighthouse 

by Freya Norley

After Grandpa is rushed to hospital, eleven-year-old Gwen is determined to save his lighthouse home by finding a diamond treasure called the King’s Pendant. The pendant, stolen from a local lord in the eighteenth century by smugglers, is wanted back by the lord’s ancestor, and comes with a hefty prize for whoever finds it. When Gwen meets Toby, a strange boy foraging in the saltmarsh, she is drawn into the In-Between, a ghostly other place of stars where Toby can control the ocean in the real world. However, it is with this power that Toby hides the very same pendant—and he will protect it at all costs. Gwen must tackle her grief and fight to get the pendant, or risk losing Grandpa’s home forever.

About the Author

Freya Norley was born with facial paralysis, a twin, and a lot of curiosity. Inspired by where she grew up in Hampshire, she loves weaving together stories about the real and the strange, mixing past and present. She loves the sea and everything in it, history, and what people keep in their treasure boxes. She is a published short story writer, and a graduate with Distinction of the Bath Spa MA Writing for Young People.

Her endless imagination also helped in her role as creator and designer of this website!

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The Ocean in the Lighthouse by Freya Norley, introduced by Marine Brenier, Jessamy Corob Cook, Dominic Royston and Ellie Halls

Freya always writes vivid and compelling worlds, and The Ocean in the Lighthouse is no exception. She artfully weaves in humor with complex emotions and delicate topics, such as grief or illness. This story will draw in any child (and grown-up) to go treasure-hunting alongside Gwen. MB

Freya’s writing is lyrical, evocative and startlingly vivid. I’ve been repeatedly amazed in workshops by her ability to bring a scene to life in immersive, sensory detail. She writes about tricky subjects with unflinching compassion through the eyes of her adventurous protagonist, Gwen. Young readers will be sucked irresistibly into this beautifully drawn world. JCC

Freya will transport you away after just a few words. Her talent for capturing the senses of her characters so vividly, makes you feel like you are standing right next to Gwen, as she tries to deal with a tragic loss, and the lighthouse that holds so much for her. DR

Set beautifully by the sea, with all the real magic of lighthouses and the ocean, mixed with the excitement and mystery of treasure-hunting and ghost stories, Gwen’s story delicately explores the grief of losing a grandparent, and how a young person can find escapism in their everyday world. EH

What was your inspiration for this story?

Grief and letting go – but specifically the value and emotion we place on seemingly unimportant objects from those we have lost. An old glasses case, a scribbled note, a pair of wellies…

Another inspiration was setting and its history – particularly the sea and the salt marshes near to me in Hampshire. Strange, shifting places where, sometimes, treasures like old World War II barriers, sharks teeth, stones with holes in them, can be discovered.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

During David Almond’s first lecture, realising how at home I felt, and how desperately I wanted to not just write a book for children, but to be a positive influence in their lives.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

To paraphrase Lucy Christopher one workshop (she said it in a much nicer way): You will have time to write all your ideas, so stick with this one and get on with it!

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

The first rush of an idea, and also further in when you realise your characters have fully come to life.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

Taking my dog on long walks, and daydreaming.

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Let yourself think and dream and scribble. Turn off the computer, forget plot structures and character questionnaires. Planning can sometimes crush an idea rather than lift it up. You must be able to feel your story before you can write it. The Ocean in the Lighthouse started with the image of a boy in mist on a beach. It was very real to me – the feel of the wet, cold air, the smell of the seaweed and sounds of the waves and gulls.

What was your favourite book as a child?

An impossible question! So, I will do a book that came at a very pivotal time for me. I had just moved to a new house, and on the first day of my new primary school, I was led to the little school library to choose a book for reading time. In a fluster, I stared at the shelves and randomly grabbed one that caught my eye. The teaching assistant raised her eyebrows and asked if that might be too tricky. I assured her it was not. That book, The Last of the Sky Pirates by Paul Stewart (and illustrated so, so, beautifully by Chris Riddell), really started my love of high fantasy, and the true breadth of creation stories can have.

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

Narnia circa The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. To this day when I see a wardrobe, particularly an old one, I have to check it just to make sure. Specifically, I want to eat dinner with the Beavers, and be given a sword by Father Christmas.