EEarlier this month, saw our latest big release – The Curse of Becton Manor by Patricia Ayling. It’s a gripping tale of betrayal through the ages, and how the ghosts of the past still haunt all the way to the present day.
It’s already receiving great reviews, including this one: ‘A thrilling page-turner with characters that come to life, full of fascinating historical details’ – Anne Grange, author of Distortion
With such a clever and thrilling story, we thought it would be great to hear more from the author, Patricia Ayling, so we had a little (virtual) chat…
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start writing and why?
I wrote stories and told stories to my children forty-six years ago; one about a witch who made herself a flowing orange dress was blasted by the local fire brigade as she did wheelies on her broomstick at night. My eldest remembers it today as vividly as when she was three years old. At senior school my English master told my mother he hadn’t come across such a vivid imagination. These comments stick with you. Revelling in the creativity of my non-fiction books awakened a long time desire to write fiction. I love analysing people and therefore creating characters.
With no spoilers, tell us a bit about The Curse of Becton Manor and what prompted you to write it
I remember my mother telling me about pokers being lifted and poking a fire in my grandmother’s farmhouse in Wiltshire. There were also sounds of dragging in the attic, which she heard one day and left me asleep in the bedroom when I was a few weeks old! Nice!
When I was researching priest holes, I thought about people who die in some horrific way and, so they say, return as ‘unrested spirits’. Could there actually be some truth in that? If so, then people who die in priest holes would surely haunt that house in which they were incarcerated? ‘The Curse of Becton Manor’ is a dual era story highlighting the persecution of Catholics in the late sixteenth century but also those deemed as practicing witchcraft. The alternate chapters tell the tale of the haunting in the mid twentieth century by a young reluctant resident male and the stories are linked by the manor house.
How did you come up with the inspiration for the story?
I enjoyed reading about the Tudor period and when I was a teenager, the supernatural was fascinating. The Tudor era informed me of, not only the persecution of Catholics in a society deeply affected by religion, but the horrors of being wrongly accused of witchcraft. Both elements triggered a concentrated study of the last few years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. I was fascinated by the efforts and achievements of Nicholas Owen and Father Gerard, the builders of priest holes and when I read that some may not yet have been discovered after centuries, that and the scraping in my grandmother’s attic was all that was needed to pen my book.
Is Edward Griffin (one of the book’s main antagonists) based on anyone you know?
Ha, that would be telling! In any family, there is a character perhaps nasty or selfish or avaricious. I drew on the mannerisms sometimes but also fictitious characters as well as my own imagination. Edward Griffin is charming as well as scheming, so a touch of Darcy mixed with the evil of a serial killer perhaps.
Tell us about your writing routine and where you tend to write.
I can lose myself when writing and sometimes the flow is much better when I choose the dark hours when most people are sleeping. Occasionally characters will do something different to the plot in my dreams so I just have to get up, go to my little office and deal with them! Otherwise I write straight after I take my dog for a walk and try to do 2,000 words.
How did you find the editing and publication process? (Don’t worry about hurting our feelings – we’ve got thick skins…!)
Ouch! I have to say, whilst it was difficult I understood most of the points and appreciated the suggestions come from a ‘reader’s view’ not an ‘author’. Although I was tending to moan that the whole process is subjective and lengthy, I was impressed by the detailed, professional approach and it has been a great learning curve.
The Curse of Becton Manor is a great twist on the Historical Fiction genre – what would be your recommended go-to books in this genre?
For the historical genre, I like the gritty story telling of Conn Iggulden. For historical with a supernatural edge, I enjoyed the works of Pamela Hartshorne. (‘The Memory of Midnight’)
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
More novels hopefully. I do try short stories and would like to write a long term family saga, to challenge my ability to write sexy scenes and funny stuff.
Finally, here’s our QUICK FIRE ROUND (one word answers only):
1. Plotter or pantser?
2. Pen or keyboard?
Keyboard, easier to edit.
3. Character or plot?
4. Early bird or night owl?
Hmm, can be both. Love it when I see thousands of words on the screen before breakfast and doggie walks but it’s truly rare!
5. Crossword or Sudoko?
Crosswords. I still do maths by ‘borrowing one and taking it away’!!
6. Asking questions or answering questions?
Hmm, both really. As I like finding out what makes people tick, I ask too many questions (too bloody nosey according to my husband). On the other hand, most people like to be asked about their interests and talking about them and life in general. My husband prefers minimal but specific topics, like Trump or football, end of.
Thanks Patricia. The Curse of Becton Manor is out now in all good bookstores and you can find out all about it by clicking here.
Until next time… Stay lucky – and stay safe…
Pete & Si