Her novels Doubtful Blood, Counterfeit and Thorn Maker, which comprise The Warbeck Trilogy, are set in the troubled 16th century, spanning three Tudor reigns.
Her latest work, Deverell Gatehouse is a ghost story, time shift and romance rolled into one. The book has links to The Warbeck Trilogy as two of the Trilogy characters appear in its time shift sections and the history which its 21st century heroine, Imogen Webb, investigates is essentially a sequel to the Trilogy's action.
Here Karen talks about time and place in Deverell Gatehouse.
How did Deverell Gatehouse come about?
I began writing it after a holiday in a medieval gatehouse in Dorset in the south west of England. I stayed there with my sister and two friends, the three people to whom I dedicated the novel. It was a marvellous place to stay in and nothing so dramatic happened as happens in my novel, certainly no time shifting, but it was also very atmospheric and by the end of the week we were wondering whether we had overactive imaginations. All old properties creak in this night, but this was something else entirely.
Sounds intriguing. Tell me more.
Footsteps on the stairs. The sense of a presence in the ground floor room. Throughout the gatehouse it was unusually cold for June, even for a stone building. And there were unexplained sounds. We had known nothing before we went, but on doing some web research when we got back, we discovered that in the sixteenth century a Catholic priest had been imprisoned there prior to his execution. It fitted, not least with Dave having heard what he described as ‘monastic singing’ during the night. We subsequently found out that friends of ours had stayed there years before and their young son had seen a figure on the spiral staircase.
Inspired, I transposed the gatehouse from Dorset to Hampshire and gave it a different name, a fictional sixteenth century family and (entirely different!) fictional twenty first century holiday makers and owners. I had slept in the attic, so I put the imprisoned priest there (Anna, in the room below, had heard heavy furniture dragged across the floor, definitely not by me).
I’m not surprised you were inspired. How is it written?
Deverell Gatehouse is the only book I have ever written with a first person narrator, but it felt the right way to approach it. The narrator is Imogen Webb, an accountant who reluctantly holidays in the gatehouse with her estranged husband and his family. Though she feels herself to be the ‘awkward-in-law’ in the present, Imogen is taken back in time and uncovers the story of the sixteenth century Deverells, who in 1582 were tragically divided by religion. She finds a poignant link in time to the life of their present day descendant, the bereaved Nicholas Deverell.
Some serious issues then?
Yes. I welcomed the chance to return to the sixteenth century in writing; I had already self published my Warbeck Trilogy, the story of Perkin Warbeck’s grandson in a time of religious turmoil in England. Anyone who reads the Warbeck Trilogy and Deverell Gatehouse will spot background and character crossovers, especially from the third book in the trilogy, Thorn Maker. So although Gatehouse is a ghost story with time shifts and romantic elements, a lighter read than the trilogy and perhaps for a broader market, it too deals with religious division, a subject as horribly relevant today as it’s ever been.
More generally, how long have you been writing and why Kindle?
As long as I can remember, secretly when I was a child. I did try the conventional novel publishing route and got some encouraging rejection letters from publishers and agents, just enough to keep me going, but nothing came out of it. So when my old friend Barbara Scott Emmett suggested I try Amazon Kindle under the auspices of her indy Pentalpha Publishing, I decided to go for it. I’ve had more success than I ever imagined and it’s now over two years since I had a day without sales.
Any last remarks?
Only that Deverell Gatehouse has my very favourite character in it, Nicholas’s dog, chocolate Labrador Madogany!
Karen Macleod’s novels are available via her Amazon Author page:
or her Smashwords Author page: