CELEBRATING the achievements of female novelists was at the heart of Wednesday’s evening talk at the Swindon Festival of Literature.

Gillian Best, Rachel Crowther and Vanessa Lafaye held a joint panel to discuss the inspiration behind their individual books and how they try to approach the wonderful world of writing.

First-time author Gillian Best gave an entertaining talk about how she came to write her debut novel The Last Wave which presents a tragic-comic portrait of family life set on the south coast.

For Canadian-born Gillian, being a novelist has always been a childhood ambition and it was from visiting a friend’s art gallery that she was inspired to write her debut book.

“I saw a painting with a man standing on a cliff with some rope and his dog and I immediately thought he was looking out for his wife who was swimming.”

As a keen swimmer herself, Gillian found solace in writing about the sea and when reading an excerpt to the audience, she described the sea as representing “freedom”, enriched with “history”.

Fellow panellist, Rachel Crowther qualified as a doctor and worked in the NHS for twenty years before succumbing to a lifelong yearning to write fiction, previously indulged during successive bouts of maternity leave.

Her latest book, The Things You Do For Love, explores the life of Flora Macintyre - an elite surgeon who has always defined herself by her success in juggling her career and her marriage until, all at once, she finds herself with neither.

Describing how she got into writing, Rachel told the audience at the Arts Centre: : “Life can easily get in the way of writing especially with jobs and children but the good news for us is that life is necessary for writing because it gives you something to write about.

“I wrote the book out of sheer bloody mindfulness.“Writing is like a jigsaw puzzle, you have to get something down to start.”

At the talk, best-selling author Vanessa Lafaye gave bookworms an exclusive look at her book At First Light - which isn’t released until next month.

Inspired by real events, the book weaves together a decades-old grievance in Key West, Florida in the 1920s but brings the narrative forward to 1993 to show the consequences of a promise made on a dark day. Vanessa beamed as she held onto her newly-published second novel and joked with the audience: “The feeling of holding one of your books will never get old.”

After releasing her first book Summertime last year, Vanessa spoke honestly about the difficulty she faced in trying to search for another historic tale to base a story on.

“When I finished my first novel, I thought I had put every ounce of creativity into that and I thought thank Jesus I don’t have to do that again but I did,” she said.

“I like to write stories that have been brushed under the carpet and dramatize them so they are entertaining but also informative of the time they took place.

“What attracted me to this story was the similar theme it had to my first book – racism being one of them.

“I’ve come to realise with writing, you get plotters and pantsers. For me, the story evolves organically but I try to create tent poles of where I’d like my story to go but I have no idea what goes in between or how I get there.”