West Dorset author Rosanna Ley is back with a summery read that will transport you to sunny Sardinia and, closer to home, West Bay. Joanna Davis talks to Rosanna about her new novel.

THEY say write about what you know - and west Dorset author Rosanna Ley certainly puts that theory into practice.

The West Bay writer's latest novel The Little Theatre by the Sea has a dual Dorset and Sardinia-set storyline and is rife with secrets, intrigue and mystery.

There are some dark, dramatic moments in the novel counterbalancing Rosanna's vivid descriptions of the beauty of the cliffs of west Dorset and the secret bays of Sardinia.

Rosanna spent time in Sardinia researching theatres, history, culture and landscape for the book.

Its protagonist is Faye, who completed a degree in interior design as a mature student and finds herself job-less and boyfriend-less.

When debating what to do next she receives a surprise phone call from an old college friend who introduces her to a Sardinian brother and sister who are looking for a designer to renovate a crumbling old theatre by the sea in Sardinia.

The character was partly inspired by Rosanna's daughter Alexa, who works as an interior designer.

Much of the emotional crux of the novel comes from the story of Faye's parents, who live in West Bay, and are struggling with a stagnant marriage and the burden of secrets from the past.

Rosanna, who hails from West Sussex, said: "I do so much tramping around the area, I feel that Dorset is in my blood.

"For this book I was quite interested in exploring the idea that people can sometimes be married for a long time and their children have grown up and moved away and they haven't spent much time thinking about their own relationship.

"Sometimes there's a catalyst for that and in this case there was Faye's father Ade's early retirement, which made him start thinking about what he wants to do. I was also very interested in the character of Molly, his wife, who has this secret she hasn't told her nearest and dearest and that at some point it's going to come out. That's what I wanted to explore with her and how it impacts upon the relationship."

This novel, Rosanna's sixth, marks some firsts. It will be the first time she has been published in hardback and is the first that features a change in narrative technique.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing whether this works," Rosanna said.

"This is also the first one where I've been writing and I didn't know where the story was going to go. I didn't know whether Ade and Molly would stay together.

"But these scenes were very exciting for me because I wasn't quite sure where I was going. I was walking along the cliffs at West Bay having this dialogue between these two characters."

Choosing Sardinia as a setting was simple for Rosanna - she loves Italy, the food and the concept of a story on an island.

She said: "I spent a month on Sardinia driving around in a motorhome with my husband Grey, we saw some of the old theatres and we came across the town of Bosa, which I have based the fictional town of Deriu on.

"Sardinia isn't as touristy as some parts of Italy, it's more rural, and we went to a secret beach called Cala Domestica, which I write about in the book. There are so many unspoilt areas and I tried to talk to as many people as possible when I was out there.

"But the characters really come from the imagination. I've written about Italy before and it really is one of my favourite places to write about."

A major theme of this novel is 'unmasking', Rosanna says.

"One of the reasons a lot of it is set in a theatre is because there is this whole idea of unmasking secrets and white lies behind the facade."

Writing at her home in Dorset hasn't been the easiest task for Rosanna, as she currently has the builders in.

"My writing space is currently in the third different room of this house. But I have a view of the sea and I love to write looking at the sea. "Whenever I have a plot hiccup that's when I go tramping across the cliffs to ease the writer's block. I'm doing what I love doing in the place I love being."

The area seems to be a magnet for creative people, Rosanna says, who is keen to promote other local authors.

"Last summer when I did my local library tour I was surprised by how many people are writing.

"There's such a vibrant thing going on in this area and there's something about the landscape - it pulls in all the creative people.

"I can get really carried away when I'm writing about Dorset. I feel that it's home for me and I really enjoy it out of season. I love the mist and the storms. The first time I came to Dorset it was pouring with rain and I just fell in love with the place.

"In many ways I prefer it in West Bay out of the summer - so many people come who have seen Broadchurch in the summer and as a writer I love being on my own.

"I love going up those cliffs as a solitary figure thinking something through - I love my reflection time."

*The Little Theatre By the Sea by Rosanna Ley is published in hardback by Quercus on March 9 and will be available from the usual outlets.