This is a Book Week guest post by Kathryn Brown of Crystal Jigsaw and author of Discovery at Rosehill.
Being an author is a wonderful journey and incredibly rewarding, too. I started writing short stories when I was a young girl, I even won a few competitions, but I didn’t write seriously until I was in my 30’s. Completing a course in creative writing, gave me a new-found confidence to take my work to higher levels so I set out to write my first novel. It took three years of writing, research and meeting people who supported and helped me to get published, but it was so worth it.
My inspiration came initially from my father who passed away in July 2001. Being unable to accept his death, I became more and more sensitive to his surrounding energy and realised I needed to write about the paranormal side of my life. Basing my main character on myself gave me the beginnings of what has proved a successful piece of paranormal-romantic fiction, mainly because I knew about the character before I even started to write about her. Many authors write about what they know; it makes a manuscript easier to compose, and if like me, you’re unable to travel to distant places in order to research a foreign destination, it’s always simpler to write about an area you know.
I based the haunted house known as Rosehill, on my own home. Rosehill is grander and experiences more activity but my house is also wonderfully atmospheric and very often active from spirit presence. My father-in-law lived with us until January 2007 when he went into a home and shortly after his passing in May of that year, we decided to turn his very unkempt bedroom into my office. A double bedroom, spiritually active and displaying an intriguing ambience, I moved my dad’s antique desk in there, set up my computer and turned it into my space, my corner of the house in which I thought I would find concentration came easy. Unfortunately, that was wishful thinking for a while as my then late father-in-law’s energy lingered in the room and each time I switched on the computer, I would feel him nearby, walking about the landing outside the door, occasionally standing over me, his tobacco breath battling against my senses.
He never believed in ghosts. He would mock me when I spoke of the incredible feeling I often had whilst walking up and down the 18th century staircase and looking into the gilt-framed Victoria mirror which has hung in the same place since 1850. His laughter would pierce my skin and leave me feeling cold and irritable, wondering if he would ever accept a life after death. Then eventually his mockery waned and he humbly visited, his soul finding death a difficult journey to travel. I guess I knew I had him back, not in body but in spirit, and suddenly realised that he had no right to judge my beliefs in the spirit world. When I look back on those early days following his death, I smile and remind myself that he, together with my own father, inspired me to write my book, perhaps indirectly, but his presence willed me on.
Whilst writing the book, I would ask other authors questions about their characters, whether or not they based them on anyone. Many people said they thought about an actor or actress, or someone in the public eye when they wrote their character’s biography. As I’d based my main character on myself, I decided to base the priest on my favourite actor, Martin Shaw. Each time I wrote about Marcus, I would see Martin Shaw’s face staring at me; it was perfect. I even bought the DVD box set of Apparitions which Mr. Shaw starred in as an exorcist priest. It made it so much easier for me to imagine Marcus Calloway, about the way he spoke, the way he walked, his mannerisms.
My advice to someone who has decided to pen a manuscript would be to plan it first. Write a short synopsis of your ideas; make a list of your characters, giving them names, ages, hair colour, eye colour, personality traits. Get to know your characters, get inside their heads, make them real. Then think about a location you want to set your story in. If it’s local I would say all the better, if it’s away from home, it would be a good idea to have a detailed map on your wall above where you write; go see the place, get a feel for it. There is so much one could do to plan a novel, but unless it’s well-written it won’t see the light of day. Doing your homework, having a good dictionary and thesaurus, for me personally, is a must. But what is also important is inspiration. It takes hard work to write a good book but it takes inspiration to make it work.