Colin van Geffen – Local Historian and Artist

This is the first in a series of blogs to acknowledge the many people who have given me support and encouragement during the research and draft stage of my novel Ancasta – Guide me Swiftly Home.

Colin van Geffen

I have a great deal to thank Colin van Geffen for. Firstly he gave me a great deal of support during my research into the history of Woolston, Southampton, in particular the history of the early development of aircraft manufacturing in the local region.  I was soon aware that he was also an artist who delighted in aviation and local seascapes and so it was a natural step to ask Colin if he would like to design the cover for my novel, which he was pleased to agree to. In fact he has painted an acrylic for a second edition of Riduna too, which will be out at the same time.

Here are the two new covers, first for Riduna, showing the wild and rugged coast of Alderney as Harriet would have seen it, from her home in Platte Saline, looking out towards Fort Clonque.

Here is the front cover for Ancasta, of the familiar floating bridge over the River Itchen towards Woolston and the Supermarine Works from Southampton.

The back cover is in fact a watercolour looking down from an aircraft out towards the docks, Southampton Water, Hythe and Calshot. As I explained in my last blog, Ancasta was the Goddess of the River Itchen, from which my novel flows to The Channel Islands and the world beyond.

If you have been reading my recent blogs, you will be aware that ‘Ancasta’ my second novel  and the next in The Riduna Series, has a theme running through it reflecting the early years of  flying boats, mainly at Woolston Southampton. The story itself is romantic, historical fiction, but my aim was to be as realistic as possible as to the lives my family might lead, living in Woolston Southampton from 1910, as we left them at the end of Riduna.

It was in my early days of research for the novel, on my second visit to Solent Sky the air museum in Southampton, that it was suggested I ask to speak to local historian who specialises in giving talks about the development of flying boats, in particular The Schneider Trophy, Colin van Geffen.

It was immediately apparent that Colin was not only knowledgeable, had a sense of humour, but he also needed to be reassured that my interest was genuine, and so he stopped me mid sentence with a question,

‘And so what is the difference between a flying boat and a sea plane Diana?’

‘Well,’ I hesitated, realising that my credibility might hang on my answer, ‘I believe a flying boat is a boat with a hull that can fly, whereas a sea plane is an aircraft that has floats so that it can float on water.’

I smiled nervously, with my fingers crossed that I had passed the test, but not leaving it at that Colin pointed to a photo behind my head and asked,

‘So what is that?’

‘It’s a Supermarine flying boat,’ I replied confidently.

From then on Colin was always there to answer my questions, check my facts, read through my manuscript for inconsistencies or factual errors regarding local history and more recently to design my book covers.

I am grateful to Colin for all of his support, patience and encouragement along the way!

If you would like to see more of his varied work then visit his website:

Colin van Geffen

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Filed under Alderney, Ancasta, Early Flight, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Research, Riduna, Woolston

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