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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > December 2016 > Polar attraction

Polar attraction

Striking a balance between artistic imagination and historical accuracy is essential for Costa Book of the Year-winning author Stef Penney, she tells Tina Jackson

Writing and exploration go hand in hand for writer and filmmaker Stef Penney – quite literally, in her new novel, Under a Pole Star. A lead title for its publisher Quercus, the epic historical tale of rival Arctic expeditions marks a return to the bleak historical territory of her game-changing, Costa-winning 2005 debut, A Tenderness of Wolves.

‘My wanting to write about polar exploration goes back to my research for The Tenderness of Wolves – I did a lot of reading about 19th century Arctic travel then, and I’ve always found such accounts deeply compelling,’ says Stef.

Stef adapted Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s classic account of his experiences as a member of Captain Scott’s Polar expedition team, The Worst Journey in the World, for the BBC. It was first broadcast in 2008. ‘More specifically, that made me start thinking about explorer rivalry. When I got stuck into reading about the American quest to reach the North Pole, something crystallised. The accounts of [rival explorers] Frederick Cook and Robert Peary, and the controversy about who reached the Pole first (if at all), got me thinking about what sort of people explorers are, and why they might lie.’

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The UK's bestselling writing magazine • Beat writer's block: Busting the myth and dealing with the reality • Revealed: WM's books of the year • Star interview: Stef Penney – intimate emotions, epic landscapes • 20 packed pages of Writers' News: win £50,588 in writing prizes; opportunities to get published; insider know-how and much more...

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