S.A. Harris's Blog: A Little Bit About Writing, Books and A Few Other Things.

October 26, 2019

Mrs Cooks Books Reviews Haverscroft, Halloween Blog Tour 2019

Haverscroft is on a Twitter Halloween Blog Tour and Mrs Cook hosted an article I wrote about the first three months after publication. If you fancy a read, here's the link to her blog page.

Haverscroft

https://mrscookesbooks.home.blog
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Published on October 26, 2019 15:42

June 11, 2019

Bats in the Belfrey; Do We Have a Choice What We Write?

Bats in the Belfrey; Do We Have A Choice What We HaverscroftHaverscroftWrite?

In the run-up to my debut novel, Haverscroft, being published I was asked to write some articles about the road to publication. What influenced me to write dark tales and Gothic fiction. Why this genre, over say, romance? I dredged various things from my memory which had been significant one way or another over the years and wrote a couple of pieces. A friend commented she would not have such a wealth of strange experiences to pull upon and that got me thinking. Do we have a choice what we write or is it inherent like eye colour?
Those weird encounters were many and varied but the one that regularly causes outcries of horror happened when we were on a family holiday a few years ago. It had been a long journey from East Anglia to a cottage near Pitlochry, Scotland. We arrived and loved the house; a light and airy Victorian villa with a patio and manicured garden leading to a bubbling stream and fields. The weather for July was still cool so we put on the heating and settled down for the evening. And that’s when things started to get interesting.
I’d just told our youngest to go to bed for the second time when he announced there was a bat on the wall beside the fireplace in the sitting room. An original delaying tactic if ever I’d heard one. A chorus followed from the rest of the family; A bat? What do you mean, a bat? On closer inspection, it turned out our son was telling the truth.
The little critter was tiny, not much larger than a fifty pence piece and could only crawl rather than fly, thank goodness. Deliberation followed. What should be done with it and where had it come from? I fetched my laptop and began to search the internet for answers. As I sat on the sofa, out of the corner of my eye, something was moving. A small dark shape was travelling from the cushion at my back onto my shoulder and at some speed. My daughter’s exclamation gave the game away before I could shift my position. Another baby bat had arrived.
We started searching the room. Bats were crawling down the curtains, emerging from behind cushions and from beneath the sofa. My husband fled upstairs to bed - moths, spiders, creepy crawlies are not his thing and neither are baby bats it turns out.
The internet provided a number to call which even at 11:30pm on a Saturday evening was answered. Advice was given; put the bats in boxes, lids on with holes punched in the top. Judy from the Bat Conservation Society would call by and collect our small visitors in the morning and, by the way, did we know bats are protected? We should probably move out.
We followed her instructions, found Tupperware, tinfoil and caught as many as we could. I closed the sitting room door and locked up as the children headed upstairs.
I stood on the threshold of our bedroom with the light from the landing at my back. My husband lay on the mattress, the duvet on the floor. I thought in the dim light he was asleep, at least, he was snoring, anyway. Around him on the bed were small dark shapes. Surely not, I thought. I switched on the light. My husband complained about the glare. There are bats on the bed, I said. No six-foot man has ever moved so quickly.
Early the next morning, Judy explained there was a maternity roost in the chimney. The warmth of the central heating or the heat radiating from our bodies draws out the baby rodents. She took away all the bats we had collected leaving us with the advice more were very likely to crawl out from the nest. How were we going to find alternate accommodation at peak season and at such short notice? We started packing our bags.
So back to that question, are writers born or do we choose our genre? Perhaps if I tried, I could come up with a historical drama or a cosy crime novel. Haverscroft crosses genres. Part ghost story and part intimate examination of a marriage on the rocks in the way of a psychological thriller. By day, I am a solicitor specialising in divorce and relationship breakdown, so again, I guess exposure to such events over decades influenced my writing. But I do not think genre is like eye colour. Experiences over a lifetime become ingrained in us but nothing is inherent. We all draw on experience as well as our imaginations in our writing but ultimately it is our choice what we write.
And after we packed our bags and left the bats behind? We searched for most of a day but eventually found somewhere else to stay. We had salvaged our holiday. As we pulled up to the new cottage it seemed a little strange, but then, that is another story.
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Published on June 11, 2019 12:40 Tags: ghost-stories-gothic-haverscroft

June 7, 2019

Why Do We Write Ghost Stories?

Why Write a Ghost Story?

What influences a Gothic novel; books, films and TV adaptions? Certainly, some have made an impression and I will come to those in a second, but firstly, there is something else. Advise often given to fledgeling writers is to Write what you know. So how do you write a ghost story, assuming most of us will not experience the supernatural, even if we wanted too? I have not seen a ghost but I still have knowledge and experience of many aspects of my novel, one way or another. Let me explain what I mean.
One of my earliest memories is being held in the arms of someone who wasn’t my mother. Winter was giving way to spring, a crisp bright day. We were in a sunken garden at the end of a long, sloping lawn as she held me up to the branches of willow tree. I recall extending my red woollen mitten towards fluffy grey catkins, watching them swing in the sunshine, all the time aware of the huge, brooding house behind us.
The house was the home of my great aunt and uncle. They sold it before I turned three years old. My novel, Haverscroft, is a haunted house story. At the rear of Haverscroft House is a terrace similar to the one at my great aunt’s house; French doors overlook the garden, a long stretch of lawn flows to willow trees and a pond. My aunt’s house didn’t have a pond, or at least I don’t remember one which is probably a good thing - for more on that, see the novel!
Twenty-five years later I married and we moved to our current home, an 1840’s townhouse. Abandoned and empty for some time, it needed major refurbishment but the upside was it meant most of the original features were still there; fireplaces, shuttered windows, an old back staircase. The cold floor tiles that suck the warmth from Kate Keeling’s feet in Haverscroft are in our front hall. The many small brass doorknobs and locks missing their keys are on just about every door, and in the garden, the wisteria I planted more than 20 years ago drips purple blossom beyond the double French doors as I write.
There are far more ‘going’s on,’ (as my character, Shirley Cooper would say) at Haverscroft House than has happened in our home. For that, I am hugely grateful, but the backdrop, the setting, is all around me every day. I have never found our home sinister or creepy but our three children sometimes do; floorboards creak, a weak door catch clicks when a draught forces it open. More than one visitor suggests there is a very bad atmosphere at one end of our daughter’s bedroom and our son, when he was tiny, spoke of the lady in the long black dress standing in the corner of our front sitting room.
Write what you know. So I guess I have followed that advise then layered on top all the dramatic events typical of an M.R.James style gothic tale. You probably will not be surprised to know I’ve enjoyed reading authors such as Stephen King, Susan Hill, Daphne du Maurier. I have loved Kate Mosse’s The Winter Ghosts, Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter and I am currently reading her latest novel Wakenhyrst. Not everything I read is dark but much of it tends to be, the rise in popularity of the psychological thriller gave me much to enjoy along with older titles such as John Fowles’ The Collector.
Generally, I’m not a horror film fan. Stakes through the heart and gallons of blood and gore are not usually for me. An exception is Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999), heads may roll but it all adds to the unsettling tense atmosphere. I love the sinister creepiness of The Others (2001), Sixth Sense (1999) or The Orphanage (2017).
Two TV dramas made a big impression, perhaps because I was younger when they aired, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black (1989) was terrifying, the atmosphere, chilling and I never forget to close the curtains on a dark night against the vampires in Salem’s Lot (1979). The children hanging outside the window, nails scratching against the glass, is an image indelibly printed in my memory.
So has writing Haverscroft got the Gothic out of my system? Is one ghost story enough? Perhaps I should branch out next time into romance, thrillers or chic-lit? My second novel, Silent Goodbye, is set on the Suffolk coast. The setting is clear in my head, the characters have wandered into my mind and made a home there. I keep feeling the need to travel to Dunwich, to take a walk along an empty beach and watch the waves roll in. And my great aunt and uncle, when they relocated from the brooding old house moved to Southwold, a property looking out across the North Sea. My memory is a rich seam to mine but do I believe in ghosts? Well, I’ve never seen one, but if I keep writing about them there’s still time yet to follow that advise and write what you know…
Haverscroft
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Published on June 07, 2019 13:35 Tags: ghost-stories-gothic-haverscroft

May 27, 2019

Haverscroft Review by The Reading Closet

Here is the link to a review of Haverscroft from Danielle at The ReadingCloset. Take a look!
http://thereadingcloset.home.blog/201...
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Published on May 27, 2019 07:31 Tags: danielle-thereadingcloset

May 26, 2019

Haverscroft Review by Paul Burke of nbmagazine

Here is an in-depth review of Haverscroft by Paul Burke, 26th May 2019.

https://nbmagazine.co.uk/haverscroft-...Haverscroft
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Published on May 26, 2019 16:08

May 20, 2019

May 19, 2019

Haverscroft's First Review

Haverscroft was published on the 15th May and goes on Blog Tour for two weeks from the 20th May. The first review from Jackie Law is below for anyone who might like to take a look!

https://neverimitate.wordpress.com/20...

Jackie can be reached on Twitter @followthehens
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Published on May 19, 2019 01:49 Tags: followthehens