Haverscroft by S.A. Harris
Review To Follow
Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?
Haverscroft is a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night.
Guest Post ~
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 fledgling 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 back-drop, 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…