It’s been far too long! My writing life has been on hold for the last few months giving me time to direct my Sixth Form Drama students in their final performances and guide my GCSE students through their final exam. But with the school year winding down now, I can return my creative attention to the page and pen…or screen and keyboard.
A Circle of Lost Sisters continues the quest to howl her way into the heart of a publisher. I have received some very complimentary rejections so far, which is encouraging considering it was my first novel. The Vampire’s Gardener waits on the reading pile of The British Fantasy Society short story competition, which does not close for another month. In the meantime, I have a new project in development: a ghost story.
Tentatively titled The Many Beautiful Deaths of Miss Floretta Deliverance Hughes, this new novel is also a Young Adult/Crossover Fantasy. Like Lost Sisters, I have chosen to set the novel in a fictional Yorkshire community and most of it takes place in a school. I have a feeling this might be a recurring theme of my work but what else is a High School Drama teacher genre geek supposed to write about?
The story begins in 1870 in the village of Burly the Wath (working name) somewhere in Yorkshire. Floretta Deliverance Hughes is the youngest daughter of the village vicar. Though I have a decent working knowledge of Victorian life, I am researching my little heart out to try and breathe real life into this character–before I kill her off.
As part of my research, I made a little day trip around my in-law’s stomping grounds of Newark and Lincolnshire looking for churches and vicarages and schools. The first of many no doubt.
All Saints in Beckingham is a marvelous old church, complete with gargoyles, a spiky tower and a rather marvelous door decorated with icons of wolves, Tudor roses and (weirdly) something than looks like a Green Man.
Surrounding the church is a very spooky graveyard, though perhaps not shown off to atmospheric advantage on a bright spring day. I love this old sarcophagus in particular, with it’s strong iron gate. Beside it, the cross fallen from its plinth, is a grave surrounded by heavy iron chains. Why the chains? Why the gate? It’s as if the dead need to be restrained. And the two are so close together, lying side by side. Who tried to keep these two souls apart, even in death?
Opposite the cemetery, the vicarage of All Saints is virtually hidden behind gates, trees and hedges. The barely glimpsed lawn is immaculate, sweeping up to the flat and rather plain facade of the house. Is is merely privacy the reverend requires? Separation from the riff raff of the village? Protection from the spirits who haunt the graveyard?
This is the world of Floretta Deliverance Hughes. A world she longs to escape. A world in which she lives her life as if she were already a ghost in her own home among her own family.