In Search of Fear……Alison Knight

Well the new year is almost a month old and I know I have been MIA on the blog front but I was taking a break from blogging to get my head around the home schooling and working from home thing. Now I have successfully poured my frontal lobes back in place, here we are again on the hunt for scary inspiration. This week I have author Alison Knight popping by the House of Fear to tell us all about what scares the bejesus out of her.

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I think I should start by saying that I’m a complete coward and actively avoid anything that might be scary! I can’t remember a particular book that scared me, but I do remember seeing a film when I was about six at our local library in the East End of London that still gives me the shivers. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was an old black and white film about a group of children who lived in the country and in one scene they were trapped in the loft of an old hay barn that was on fire. I was so scared, I ran out because I couldn’t bear to watch it. I still don’t know how the film ended, although with hindsight, I’m sure they would have been rescued or been able to escape. I also confess to have been one of those children who hid behind the sofa when the Daleks came on the telly.

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite.

No! I avoid them at all costs!

Ghost are my go to for scares. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

I’m not scared by the thought of ghosts – I think that’s because I’ve lost people close to me and like the idea that they might be hanging around, keeping a loving eye on me. I did have an unsettling experience a few years ago when I stayed at a friend’s house in Oxfordshire. It was a very old thatched cottage with wonky floors and walls. I was just dozing off to sleep when I felt a cat land on the mattress and walk across my back. But when I looked, there was nothing there! I checked with my friend the next morning and they have never had a cat. Yet I felt the cat’s weight on my back and heard it purring. 

Has a book ever scared you?

I had to read The Lovely Bones for a university course and found it really unsettling. It wasn’t something I’d have finished reading if it wasn’t part of my studies. Needless to say, I won’t watch the movie. I don’t like anything that makes me feel helpless. 

In my own books, I like to build tension, but I don’t aspire to instill terror in my readers. My latest book, MINE, is different because it’s based on real events. I found that really, really hard to write but as I’m the only one left who was part of what happened, I felt I owed it to myself and my family to write it. But it scared me to write it because it meant reliving it all. I was also scared of upsetting other family members who would remember that time.

I have to say, I shed a lot of tears as I wrote it and dreaded having to write some scenes. But I also tried to balance the bad stuff with lighter moments – memories that made me laugh out loud. I know some of my family and friends who have read it said they found it hard to read because they knew what was coming but they also appreciated the lighter moments which evoked good memories for them. 

In real life, what is your greatest fear?

Like every mother, I fear for my children and grandchildren. I remember thirty-odd years ago, when my son was a baby, I was at home and my husband was away on a course and someone tried to get into our house through the back door. What did I do? I yelled at the top of my voice and ran towards the door – no one was getting anywhere near my baby! I was just in time to see someone disappear over our garden wall. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised how badly that could have gone but I think if either of my children or grandchildren were threatened I’d do the same thing again. 

My mother nearly drowned as a child and was rescued from a fast-flowing river. She was terrified of water after that and never learned to swim. Yet I was a real water baby and loved to swim and she would sit by the pool and watch me. It wasn’t until years later that I realised how scary that must have been for her. 

On a personal level, I’m terrified of being helpless – if I couldn’t see or move I’d be absolutely terrified. Have you read The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby? He was the young, successful editor of French Elle when he had a massive stroke. It left him unable to move anything except for one eyelid. The book is beautiful and terrifying. I don’t think I could cope with something like that. 

Do you use your fears when you write?

To a certain extent, yes. In my first book I featured a house fire where the heroine was trapped upstairs, so that old movie is still influencing me! I’ve also featured characters suffering from PTSD after an attack and others having to make decisions that could leave them in serious danger if they ‘did the right thing’. Sometimes it can be terrifying to do what you know is right because it will mean you make yourself vulnerable – the choice of them or me can be the scariest thing you ever have consider.  

In MINE, I learned a lot about myself and my family as I relived events that I didn’t really understand at the time. Facing my fears of writing the story helped me to gain a new perspective on the people involved and how ordinary people made decisions that led them into an extraordinary situation.

Anne-Marie, thank you for inviting me to talk about my fears. Once again, I had to face my fears and, although I’m still going to avoid horror stories and movies and Daleks, I feel a little better about my fears and how I deal with them.

Thank you so much for sharing your fears with me/us it’s been great to have you here! The Lovely Bones is a beautiful and terrifying story, it really bothered me when I saw the movie – so much so I haven’t been able to watch it again. And I would love to hear more about your feline phantom!

If you want get to know more about lovely Alison, go get her book and get involved with her on social…..

Mine by Alison Knight

“What’s mine, I keep.”

London, 1968.

Lily’s dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give up her illegitimate child. It doesn’t help that Lily’s husband, Jack, takes their daughter’s side.

Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily’s growing feelings for her married boss soon provides a dangerous distraction.

Will Lily be able to resist temptation? Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them down an extraordinary path that could destroy them all?

Mine – a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.

 Mine by Alison Knight is published by Darkstroke Books and is available

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Mine, published by Darkstroke Books is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison co-manages Imagine Creative Writing with Jenny. She teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

Social Media Links;

In Search of Fear……with Tom Halford

This week I’m joined by author of Deli Meat a darkly humorous crime novel. Tom also contributed to the second volume of Dark London, the charity anthology from Darkstroke Books of amazing stories by amazing authors about my dear love London. Again my need to dredge the brains of others for the truth about what scares them has led me here to this place where I can again see what scares me in others fears aswell. Tom my dear let’s get to it…..

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I was at a friend’s house and they had older siblings. One of them played Nightmare on Elm Street. I was way too young to see that movie. I was terrified.

What was your biggest fear as a child?

I was terrified of a monster that I thought lived in the toilet. It only came out at night. Maybe I’ll write about it at some point.

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite?

I like scary movies that don’t take themselves too seriously. I like Sam Raimi movies like Drag Me to Hell and Evil Dead, but I’m not really into super serious scary movies.

I am usually most freaked out by ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life? 

When I was old enough, I used to live by myself at my parents camp over the summers. At night, I would hear this scratching at the window. It was every night, and it terrified me. One night, I jumped out of bed and looked out the window. Whatever it was, I was going face it head on. Turns out, it was just a bug scratching the window, probably looking to get inside.

Has a book ever really scared you?

The Chain by Adrian McKinty is absolutely terrifying. It’s not that I’m afraid that it will actually happen. I’m more afraid by what we’re all capable of if put in terrible situations. That’s an amazing novel.

Can you share with us an example of fear in one of your own novels?

I generally try to undercut fear with humour. In a short-story that I recently published, I have an armed robbery undercut with extreme politeness. I’ll link it here:

In real life what is your biggest fear? Do you use that when you write?

I can barely talk about it. Something happening to my loved ones. I couldn’t use it. There are certain thoughts where there is no art. There’s just anxiety and pain. I couldn’t even begin to open up that one for writing.

Ok goddammit I want to know about the toilet monster!! What foul beast did your brain create? Sam Raimi is a dude, I struggled with all the chin sucking in Drag Me to Hell but Evil Dead scarred me for life. Ash is just the coolest.

You can find Tom’s books Deli Meat and Dark London over on Amazon here –

If you want to know more about Tom and his work follow him over on Twitter!

In Search of Fear…..with Jennifer Wilson

“Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed” – William Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part One

So very happy to welcome Jennifer Wilson to my blog during the festive season! As you may know Jennifer loves writing about spooks as much as I do, only hers are a tad more regal than mine. Author of the Kindred Spirits series, Jennifer has raised the dead monarchy so many times she deserves a spot on Most Haunted. I think her stories are awesome so I’m very excited to have her here to talk about fear…..

Hi Anne-Marie, thanks for inviting me to your blog today. It’s fair to say I’m a naturally jumpy and easily-frightened individual, so I’m confident that of all your guests, my responses are at the coward’s end of the fear scale…

What movie/book scared you as a child?

I have really vivid memories of reading a book from the ‘upstairs’ library, for the upper juniors in primary school, which really freaked me out. I can see the cover, with two boys running, and I’m sure it was called ‘The Runaways’ or something similar. In one scene, a wall fell over, almost crushing either one or both of them. That image stuck with me for a long, long time, and gave me nightmares about being crushed. Horrific. I should have stayed in the ‘downstairs’ library, where I belonged, but I’d finished all the books it had to offer!

What was your biggest fear as a child?

Well, apart from walls… I’ve always had the most random fear of dust-bin lorries. That, and dinosaurs. Both stem from films. I watched the Turtles live-action film, where Shredder is, well, shredded, in a dust-bin lorry, and from that day, I’ve hated them. We used to have to walk up a really narrow wynd to get up to college, and on dust-bin day, I’d be petrified of accidentally slipping into the back of it. As for dinosaurs, that’s the fault of Jurassic Park. I had this terrible fear that if I opened my curtains at night, I’d see the eye of a t-rex, just staring back at me…

Do you like scary movies? Which one is your favourite?

As you can probably guess from the above, no, I do not like scary movies… I’m not really a film person anyway, but the most I can tolerate is a bit of a ‘jump scare’ which at least is over quickly!

I am usually scared the most by ghosts when I’m reading a book. Have you ever had a paranormal experience in real life?

Yes, and the most recent was in Greyfriars Kirkyard, in Edinburgh. As it’s the setting for part of my own book, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, and it was a lovely, quiet morning (I was early for an exhibition), I decided to pop in and get some nice photos of the blossom. There was one guy sitting having a coffee on a bench as I walked in, but that was it. Around the front of the church there was a lovely view down the graveyard of blossom, which I snapped, but as I went to put my phone away, I felt somebody touch my handbag. I panicked slightly, and put my own hand down to the zipper / strap, whilst turning to my left to confront them. Out the corner of my eye, I saw a tall gentleman in a dark suit and a white shirt, with dark hair. Later, I thought he had also been wearing a hat, but I cannot swear to that, and may have added it in my imagination afterwards. But the man himself was clear as day. Heart racing now, I turned fully around, only… Nothing. Nobody anywhere near me. Anyone who knows the site will know that if you’re in the middle of the paving in front of the church itself, there’s not enough time to get somewhere hide in the second it took me to turn around (Usain Bolt himself wouldn’t make it). The only other thing I felt was the strangest sensation of cold.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

I got out of there quicker than I’ve ever done anything in my life! Once out the gates, I did what every self-respecting thirty-something who has had a scare would do, and called my mum. She laughed initially when I told her, but then admitted she believed me, because she could hear the genuine fear in my voice. I was very glad to get away into the safety of the museum after that…

Has a book ever really scared you?

Other than the one I talked about above, not really, but that’s partly down to the fact that I can usually sense when something is about to get too much for me, and I skim / skip appropriately. It’s the same technique I use with overly-graphic crime novels!

Can you share with us an example of fear in one of your own novels?

Since the Kindred Spirits series follows the adventures of the ghostly communities inhabiting some of Britain’s most famous landmarks, fear definitely plays a part in my novels. For the most part, this is the ghosts instilling fear in the tourists who visit their homes, such as George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, rising from a barrel of malmsey in the Tower of London, or Katherine Howard haunting ‘her’ corridor at Hampton Court Palace. In one of the closes off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, some students ready to play a trick on those taking part in one of the city’s famous ‘ghost tours’, the students themselves become the victims, terrified as Mary Queen of Scots enjoys herself in the occasional haunting. In these situations though, I think it’s fair to say that the living are almost-willing participants in the game. After all, you wouldn’t go on a ghost tour along a famously haunted street, at night, with somebody dressed as a ghoul, if you weren’t at least partially expecting to be scared witless, would you? So can the ghosts really be blamed, when they’re practically giving the tourists what they’re expecting?

In some instances though, I’ve wanted to explore things a little ‘bigger’ than just ghosts jumping out at unsuspecting visitors. I’ve talked about ghostly characters finding their ‘white light’ and moving on from their haunting, but this is by choice – if the white light appears, then a ghost can choose to move on, or stay. But I also wanted to give the ghosts something to genuinely fear, otherwise, they seemed a bit too invincible. I had this idea that if a ghost was injured too many times, they would gradually fade away to nothing. That would stop characters fighting each other – there had to be a consequence of their actions.

In Kindred Spirits: York, I pushed things a little further, and actually introduced a ‘bad guy’ into things, rather than just an unpopular character. Here, the ghosts didn’t quite know what was going on, which, for characters who can slip through walls and overhear almost any conversation without being observed, was something unknown, and for a lot of people, isn’t that one of the most frightening things?

In real life what is your biggest fear? Do you use that when you write?

If you take away dust-bin lorries and dinosaurs, then being very serious for a moment, I’m always scared of letting people down, or disappointing them. Perhaps this isn’t quite as relevant in the Kindred Spirits series, but in The Raided Heart, Meg has a strong sense of wanting to do the right thing, and not let her family down, and in the WIP I’m currently working on, loyalty and needing to work together are strong motivations for the key characters, as they try to do their best in difficult situations.

Thank you so much for joining my study of fear Jennifer. I too fell foul of Jurassic Park, had several T Rex nightmares after seeing that at the cinema! And your Greyfriars experience deserves a blog post of its own! How creepy was that? Feel free to stop by with ghost stories again please!

All of Jennifer’s books are currently in the big DarkStroke Halloween sale over on Amazon, you can get all titles for 99p/99c this weekend! Go go go!

About Jennifer C. Wilson

Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea.

You can connect with Jennifer online:






Behind the Book: Napalm Hearts



Today I’m joined by author Seamus Heffernan to discuss his debut novel about an American private detective looking for a missing woman in London.

When I first read about this new book I was instantly taken by the fact that it’s set in London, and when I discovered the author had lived in my favourite city for several years I was interested to find out his inspiration and old haunts.

Everyone’s experience of London is so individual – I never get tired of talking about it…..

Tell us the basic premise of your book.

It’s a detective story about an American PI working in London. He is making a decent living working infidelity cases but is pretty bored, so when (trope alert) a rich and powerful client hires him to find his missing trophy wife, he jumps at the chance. From there, the necessary twists and (occasionally violent) complications ensue.

It’s a mystery story, and while I certainly wouldn’t describe it as high literary art, it is a book that explores some tough themes: Loneliness, class, love, sex and loyalty. The protagonist, Thaddeus Grayle, never really fits in. He’s an American navigating life in a strange land, and then takes a case that plunges him into a part of his adopted city he has never seen before. For him, the story is about being an outsider in worlds you don’t really understand.

What made you choose the locations you use in London and do they have any personal significance for you?

Oh God, yes. I spent five years in London and loved it. I grew up in a pretty small place and since I was a kid I wanted to travel and live in a massive city. London was perfect—it’s truly a world capital and there are only a handful of those on the planet, so I felt pretty fortunate to be there.

That said, the end of my time there was tough. My marriage broke up and I went through a pretty long period of loneliness and self-doubt. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone in a massive city—I adored London but I could feel the city and its temptations swallowing me up whole. I moved back to my hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, for a hard life reboot and I’m pretty sure it saved me.

A few years after relocating, I started knocking around ideas for a book and my narrator needed a voice. I could hear my own loss and that awful sense of urban isolation creeping into his, and decided to stop fighting it and let it happen.

The book looks at the underbelly of the city – where did you take inspiration from for the darker side of London?

Too many long nights in too many dive bars.

I’m pretty sure a fair few Londoners can relate to that…..What made you want to become a writer?

I don’t know if anyone “decides” to become a writer—you either want to do it or you don’t. That said, I had always been a pretty decent professional hack, hence having worked in marketing and communications for a long time. But fiction was always my goal. Eventually I just stopped making excuses not to do it, and started getting more serious about it.

Do you have a favourite author?

For sure, but I think it’s safer (and more fun) to list a few that have stuck with me through the years. Outside of crime fiction, some modern writers I like include Bret Easton Ellis, Douglas Coupland, Michel Faber and Lee K. Abbott. Raymond Carver and Anton Chekhov for the classic short stuff. I used to be heavy into comic books and find Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis interesting.

Within the genre: Ian Rankin, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane. Finally, any of us who dare put “crime fiction writer” anywhere near a résumé must willingly genuflect to Chandler and Hammet, of course. And they totally deserve it.

Which famous people (alive or dead) would you most like to have a few drinks with?

OK, I’m going to cheat a bit here and force myself to not pick any writers.

My background is in criminology, so I would enjoy chatting with Fred Abberline and John Douglas. Abberline was the lead investigator for the Jack the Ripper murders and Douglas pioneered psychological profiling for the FBI, so I imagine they’d have a lot to talk about.

I’m also a sports fan, so I would ask Dennis Bergkamp (former Arsenal footballer) and Bob Gibson (former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals) to hang out sometime. They were both geniuses in their respective games, but also delightfully cranky.

Finally, I’m really fascinated by people’s creative processes and how they make what they make, so I’d love to just be able to sit in on the recording of one of my favourite albums and talk to the musicians and producers involved. I’d spin a wheel and land somewhere between Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Big Black’s Atomized.

What are you working on next?
In no particular order:
• The follow-up to NAPALM HEARTS.
• A TV pilot script, a dramedy about the day-to-day grind of working in government from the point of view of the people who serve the public every day. A somewhat kinder, gentler The Thick of It, perhaps.
• Meeting agents.
• Getting by with a little more exercise and a little less sleep.

Huge thanks to Seamus for stopping by, I’m really enjoying the book so hopefully a review to follow if I can tear myself away from house renovations….

You can (you should) order Napalm Hearts here

And get in touch with Seamus here –

Official Website



Crooked Cat Books


About the Author;
Prior to his writing career, Seamus Heffernan worked in education, journalism, marketing and politics. He currently works for a Member of Parliament. Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, he has called several places home, including a lengthy stint in London, England. He presently resides in British Columbia, where he splits his time between Abbotsford, Mission and Vancouver.
His short fiction has previously appeared in The Raspberry and Louden Singletree. NAPALM HEARTS is his first book.

Leaving London

“My Dad says that being a Londoner has nothing to do with where you’re born. He says that there are people who get off a jumbo jet at Heathrow, go through immigration waving any kind of passport, hop on the tube and by the time the train’s pulled into Piccadilly Circus they’ve become a Londoner.” – Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch


If you had said to me 5 years ago that I’d be living in Margate in a quiet back street I’d have laughed at you and said “No chance”.

My love affair with London is well documented, you only need to look at my Instagram feed and you will see years of photos documenting early morning appreciations of Tower Bridge, weekend strolls around the deserted streets of the city and busy meandering around Spitalfields and Brick Lane. Even this blog is named after a line from Tennyson’s poem about London.

The problem with London is that its not just a place that you live in. Its a place that lives in you, it gets into your skin, the dirt from the traffic, the dust from the streets and it works its way into your blood. When you visit you can go home, wash it all off you, get it out of your hair. But when you live there, its under the skin.

For me London is home, like a giant bed that I fall back into when I get off the train, I feel instantly at ease, welcomed. Expected. I don’t know why it happened, I didn’t move there til I was 30 and after living there for less than a year I was sure I would never live anywhere else. I belonged in London, London was mine. I felt more myself than I had ever done and every day was an adventure, there was even excitement in getting the underground somewhere. Before long I opted for bus travel, always sitting upstairs at the front with the best views.

But life changes, children happen and house prices sky rocket and you feel bad that your child will have to go to a school that hasn’t had a good OFSTED. In short priorities have to change, and my need to be within half an hour of east London at all times has had to go on the shelf. So we left, we sold our small two bedroom house in south London and bought a large three bed bungalow in Margate a 10 minute walk from the beach that my daughter has fallen so in love with. And I do love Margate. It has the same vibe as East London had 10 years ago, that feeling that something was changing, that the surge in art studios and vintage clothing shops meant that you knew there were like minded people living nearby.

When I think about it now Margate is probably the only place I could have moved to. Brighton, my favourite place to run away to, is just as expensive to live in as London, so we would have traded like for like, just with a seaside. But Margate has something about it, unexpected. I thought it was a dive when I first came here 10 years ago, but with the opening of the Turner Contemporary and Dreamland, and the countless independent shops in the Old Town, its really a very different place. And I like that I can walk along a very unassuming seaside street and come across the treasure of a cute café or shop.

London will always be a part of me, somewhere in the deepest parts of me I will always be there. I still wake from dreams of wandering her streets at night, no company but the passing cars and moonlight. There is no escape from that, and to be honest I wouldn’t want to change it.

So I have traded the city for the seaside, and I am very happy, when I walk along the beach I am grateful for big skies and fresh air, and that when my daughter asks to go to the beach it doesn’t mean 2 hours in the car before we hit sand.

But I have these last words to say to London… Dear John letter….

London I’m leaving you.

And it’s like the end of a relationship. Probably toxic, definitely expensive.

But my god I love you. In all the ways I know how and others I don’t understand. This affair has gone on for 10 years. And it’s an affair because you cheated on me everyday, you were rarely all mine, you were always so busy, with all the other people who are so in love with you.

Every day I’ve breathed you in, thrilled by being in your presence, overlooking your many faults just because I’m so blindly infatuated with you.

You take all my money, you leave me stranded in the rain when you randomly with hold buses. You leave me swearing at overly busy train stations with empty information boards. You offer me more than I can afford, and then give me so many freebies I get hooked again.

You are not just a city, you’re in my blood. When I’m not near you I miss you and all your dirty streets and overpriced bars. I just want to be with you all the time.

But it’s over.

We both know we will hook up again, I’ll come back and dizzy in your presence I’ll get drunk and stay the night.

And I can live with that.

But the day to day of us is over. I’m walking away.

What hurts is you won’t even notice I’m gone…..

All photos property of the author.


Talking About Dead People with Jennifer Wilson

When I was fortunate enough to chat with author Jennifer Wilson about her books recently, I felt I just wanted to keep talking about what appears to be a common subject between us – ghosts!

My book is all about being dead, and her books feature some pretty famous ghosts from UK history, so I could just talk to her all day about it all! So I asked her to appear on a one off special interview on my blog about why she writes about them and how she actually feels about the afterlife.


Hi Anne-Marie, thanks for inviting me along today, to chat about a mutual topic of ours – ghosts!


You have included ghosts in several of your novels – where did your interest in ghosts come from?

It’s really odd, to be honest – I’m really not a ghost person… I’m terrified of the notion, and have even gone out of my way to avoid places known to be haunted. But when I was thinking about a ‘way in’ to write about Richard III a few years ago, I came across a competition for a poem about ghosts, and when it struck me that the ghosts of Anne Boleyn and Richard III could potentially have a fair bit in common, it seemed the perfect solution.

I suppose as well, it may not be ghosts per se, but I’ve always been interested in the spirit (pun intended!) of a place, and that connection with the people who once lived, worked or died there. I think that comes across very strongly in some buildings and sites, and so the notion of writing about ghosts came very naturally.


I’ve always been fascinated with real life ghost stories, one of my favourites is the haunting of Borley Rectory in Essex. (read about Borley here!) What’s your favourite real life ghost story?

It’s one I came across quite recently actually, set in Dunstaffnage Castle, near Oban. Apparently, the ‘Ell-maid of Dunstaffnage’ wanders the ramparts, wearing green, and is supposedly linked to key events in the lives of the Campbell family, the hereditary owners of the castle. Her mood determines luck – smiling means good, crying, well, not. A related tale is that as part of their hold on the castle, the Hereditary Captain of the castle must spend three nights a year in the castle, and some have experienced ghostly goings-on during this sleepover. There’s certainly a feel to the place; for such a stunning castle, in a beautiful setting, it has a darkness about it.


Have you spent a lot of time in your book locations? Which is your favourite?

I think it has to be Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. I’ve loved Edinburgh since I was a child, and since moving back to the north-east, it’s become a bit of a bolt-hole for me, visiting pretty regularly to see friends, or even just wander around the place. When it came to another destination for a Kindred Spirits book, and the thought of Westminster Abbey terrified me, Edinburgh was the obvious choice. It also gave me the chance to write about Mary, Queen of Scots, my second favourite monarch, in Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, having finally included Richard III in Kindred Spirits: Tower of London.


Have you ever had any paranormal experiences?

Once, I think. My parents were gardening, whilst I was pottering about inside. After a while, I went outside to ask my dad something, and saw him at the top of the back garden. When I started speaking to him however, he completely ignored me, and the next thing I knew, I heard his voice behind me, as he came around from the front garden. Looking back at the man I’d started talking to, there was nobody there. Apparently our estate is built on the site of an old market garden, so I can only assume that first man was the ghost of a former gardener…


I loved writing about the afterlife in my own book, what so you like about writing about dead people?

For me, it’s getting an idea of what people were like, how they lived, and what they thought about things. I also love having that little bit of wiggle-room, given that my ghosts, although of historical characters, are also modern people, to the extent that they are living ‘now’, as well as throughout every moment since their birth. It’s quite nice being able to write Anne Boleyn rolling her eyes and saying ‘whatever’, because actually, I think she was always quite a ‘modern’ character, and now she can be even more so.


What do you think the afterlife is like?

I would like to think it is a combination of how we both envisage it in our writing. I suppose my ghosts are in a purgatory of sorts, but some have chosen to stay there, not taking their chance to pass onto what I’ve always assumed is heaven, but never actually gone into any great length. There’s a mix of good and bad characters there, and a sense of having to work things out in this bit of the afterlife before you get the chance to move on.


Would you ever go ghost-hunting?

I just couldn’t… I’ve become a stronger believer about the afterlife in the last few years, and the only ghosts that ghost-hunters seem to encounter are those that are less than friendly! If I could just go and natter with some (nice) dead monarchs, or lords and ladies from the various historical sites I visit, then fine, but plague victims, criminals and tortured souls would be a bit too much for me.


If you could ask any dead person about the afterlife who would you choose?

Well, if we work on the assumption that they are able to visit the realm of the living, like both of our sets of characters can, then I think I’d have to go a fair way back, just because that way, the person I ask will have seen and heard a heck of a lot over the years. So, following that logic, and my own personal preferences, I’ll have to go for Richard III. It was never really going to be anyone else…

You can get Jennifer’s fabulous books here –

Jennifers Amazon Page


Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, with Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile following in June 2017.

Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey will be released in June 2018.

She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website. Her timeslip historical romance, The Last Plantagenet? Is available for download from Amazon.

And you can get my book here!

Purgatory Hotel by Anne-Marie Ormsby


If you want to chat about ghosts with me shout me on Twitter !

Behind the Book – The Last Plantagenet


For my final author interview of the year, I had a chat with Jennifer Wilson, author of the Kindred Spirits series; paranormal fiction set in the Royal Court of the 1400’s – so clearly my love of all things spooky mean I had to have a chat with the lady herself!

Her most recent book is slightly different but again returns to the era of Richard III. Ive always been fascinated by this period of history and Jennifer really knows her stuff so this interview has been a real pleasure.

Tell us the basic premise of your novel?

The Last Plantagenet? is a timeslip historical romance, following history-lover Kate as she gets transported back in time from 2011 to the travelling court of Richard III in 1485. That would be difficult enough to acclimatise to, but then she also catches the eye of the King of England himself – how will she cope?


As the book is historical fiction – did you have to do a lot of research for accuracy?

I was really keen that even though it’s a bit of a fantasy, with the timeslip element, that the facts were still correct. So yes, I did do my research, in particular to make sure that the court was in the right place at the right time, and that people who shouldn’t have been there weren’t there. I had a really good book which went into a lot of detail about the last 100 days of Richard’s reign, and that was a great resource, to track each day’s activity. Happily, having one of the main characters as an entirely fictional individual, there was a little leeway in where I could go with her.

As it was also my first go at self-publishing, I was keen that it was in good shape, and didn’t accidentally detract from my Kindred Spirits series, so I checked everything at least twice!


Where do you go to get inspiration for your locations and storylines?

For TLP, it was all desk-based, although I have been to the site of Nottingham Castle, where the book is mostly set. Most of the time, I do need to go somewhere to really write how I want to about it. For example, for the third Kindred Spirits novel, I had written a whole scene about Anne of Cleves’ tomb, only to discover that you couldn’t physically see what I had my characters seeing from a particular spot, and I had to rewrite the whole thing.

I found especially with places like Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London, they do have a very specific atmosphere, and I like to capture that. Plus, I love visiting historical sites anyway, so it’s not that much of a hardship.


Do you have a favourite author?

I’m always torn here between three, but I think Philippa Gregory is still the author I look forward to a new release from. It was reading The Other Boleyn Girl on the insistence of a colleague that introduced me to the Tudor world, and inspired me to get back into writing historical fiction again, so I feel I owe that book a lot.

I also love the writing of Elizabeth Chadwick and Anne O’Brien, who both manage to capture strong central female characters, without falling into that trap of having their heroines too modern in their attitudes and thoughts.


What/who inspires you most as a writer?

For me, it’s places. There’s nothing better for me than visiting historical sites or buildings, and just mooching about, getting a feel for the place, and who might have spent time there in the past. That’s where my inspiration comes from. I’ve been wanting to set a story in an abbey (other than Westminster!) for years, but couldn’t get a good enough grasp on it until this summer, wandering around Glenluce Abbey, when the whole thing magically fell into place. By the end of the day, I had the whole synopsis, ready to go.


Which historical figures would you most like to sit down to dinner with?

Well, I hate to be obvious, but I would, of course, enjoy sitting down and sharing a cup of wine with Richard III. He was king for such a short time, but involved in so many events and situations important to British history. Also, who wouldn’t want to hear his side of the story regarding the Princes in the Tower? Although, I think I would leave that until the end of the meal, in case he refused to speak to me again after that…


What are you working on next?

I’m thrilled to bits that the third Kindred Spirits novel, set in Westminster Abbey, will be released by Crooked Cat in summer 2018, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the editing process for that in the new year. I find self-editing so hard, but love receiving critique and feedback from others, so that’s part of the publishing process I really enjoy.

As for new writing, I have a couple of ideas for other timeslip, like the abbey tale I mentioned above, and one with a more local flavour, inspired by a reservoir we used to visit when I was little.



About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside, including the prize-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle.

Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, with Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile following in June 2017. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website. Her timeslip historical romance, The Last Plantagenet? Is available for download from Amazon.


Behind the Book : The Girl in the Gallery

Girl in the Gallery

I was drawn to this book by Alice Castle as I was aware that it was set in Dulwich, as was her last book ‘Death in Dulwich’. Being as I used to frequent the area when I lived in Peckham I was instantly snared, I love reading books set in London as I find it so much easier to get into stories when I know the setting well. London and a murder mystery – my ideal book – lucky for me Alice agreed to discuss her book ahead of its release on 19th December.

Tell us what your latest book is about

Hi Anne-Marie, thanks so much for hosting me! My latest book, The Girl in the Gallery, is a cozy crime murder mystery with a dash of romance. It’s set in the very beautiful Dulwich Picture Gallery, open to the public for 200 years this year. The book opens when my single mum amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane, stumbles on a terrifying new exhibit when she pops into the gallery before work. It’s the second in my London Murder Mysteries series, the first, Death in Dulwich, was published earlier this year, but you can read either as stand alone stories.


Did anything specific inspire the storyline?

My storyline is inspired by Dulwich Picture Gallery itself – it’s stuffed with amazing art, and the building itself is very unusual. At its heart is a mausoleum, containing the dead bodies of the original collectors in marble coffins, on display to the public. Weird and quite creepy! I have always thought it would be a brilliant location for a murder mystery.


Tell us more about Dulwich and any other London locations you use, do they hold meaning?

I love Dulwich. I lived there for four years, after returning from nearly a decade in Belgium. I found the area, and the people, really welcoming. I am repaying them by setting a series of grisly murders in their midst, which I really hope they won’t take the wrong way. It is a perfect, village-like setting, where people know everything about each other – or think they do. It’s a modern St Mary Mead, the place where Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple solved unspeakable crimes. I was really thrilled when a reviewer of my first book in the series, Death in Dulwich, said my heroine Beth Haldane was a modern Miss Marple. I’m planning to venture away from Dulwich with other books in the series but, like Beth, I will always have a soft spot for SE21.


Do you have a favourite author?

I have loads – Agatha Christie, of course, then Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, PD James, Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid, MC Beaton, Simon Brett… the list goes on. I love whodunits! I do read other books, I’m in a book group and I plod through whatever’s chosen, but I always come back to a nice murder mystery in the end.


What made you want to be a writer?

A teacher at my infants’ school. I can’t even remember her name, but she very kindly praised a sentence I’d written and I thought to myself, ‘this is something I can do.’ Good teachers are so wonderful and not nearly treasured enough.


If you could have a night of drinks and literary discussion with any writers (alive or dead) who would you choose?

Oh, I think Dorothy Parker would be a must, and then Shakespeare might be fun, Jane Austen of course… I think that lot might be daunting enough! I’m sure I wouldn’t open my mouth in that august company, but I’d be taking notes for my next novel, that’s for sure.


Will there be a 3rd instalment for Beth Haldane to solve?

There definitely will be a next installment, I am writing it now. It’s called Calamity in Camberwell and this time, Beth is on the trail of a missing friend, with plenty of obstacles thrown in her way. And she’s giving online dating a try! I’m hoping it will be out by mid-2018. After that, there’ll be plenty more mysteries to solve, if I have my way.


Get yourself over to Amazon now and pre-order The Girl in the Gallery here!

While you are there, grab the first Beth Haldene mystery Death in Dulwich


Alice Castle


Blog: DD’s Diary

Twitter: @DDsDiary



Behind the Book: Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab



This book has several elements that drew me in – firstly its set in my home town of London, which is always a plus. Add to that its set in Victorian London, which is even cooler. Then add a Private Detective and Egyptology and there you have the recipe for a brilliant adventure novel! And of course – there being a whole trip to ‘The Land of the Dead’ thing set this firmly on my radar.

The author Columbkill Noonan hails from beautiful Maryland, USA, so I was very excited when she agreed to have a long distance chat with me about her book.Columbkill Noonan


Tell us the basic premise of your novel?


Barnabas Tew is a somewhat neurotic, extremely anxious, and rather particular sort of person. He also happens to be a somewhat sub-standard private detective. Through luck (or misfortune, depending on your perspective!) he is whisked off to the Egyptian afterlife to solve a case for Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead. Things just keep going wrong from there…


Why did you choose Victorian London and do the locations hold any real life significance to you?


I love historical fiction, and I love London, and everything that is quintessentially British. I’m also fascinated with ancient mythologies, so I figured I’d marry the two.


Did it take a lot of research for your locations and story line?


It did! I spent a lot of time researching the Egyptian gods and goddesses. But I think researching is fun, so it wasn’t really like work at all for me.


If you could have a few drinks and an evening of conversation about the afterlife with any 3 famous figures (alive or dead) who would you pick? 


Eleanor of Aquitane, for one. Was she really as much of a pip as history makes her out to be? If so, then I want to hang out with her for sure. Cleopatra, for pretty much the same reasons. And lastly…Genghis Khan. Was he so warlike out of a need to preserve and protect his people from invasions? Or was he just kind of a jerk? I need to  know…


Do you believe in an afterlife? What do you think it would be like?


I do believe in an afterlife, and I rather hope that it’s not like the ancient Egyptian idea! I tend to think of it in terms of the Buddhist or Hindu theology, where a person would be reborn until they figure things out and then they can get off the merry-go-round, so to speak. Heaven sounds pretty nice, though. It would be great if that’s how it was. I guess I’ll find out…someday!


What are you working on next?


The sequel to “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab”, of course! Can’t just leave him hanging. He and Wilfred are off to the Viking afterlife, and they are really in way over their heads this time.



‘Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab’ is published by Crooked Cat Books available in paperback and Kindle.

 Buy the book from

Buy the book from


Connect with Columbkill Noonan for news about her next book;

Visit Columbkill’s Website





One Weekend in London

There is never any shortage of things to do in London, hundreds of art galleries and museums all over town showing their collections 7 days a week all year round.

There are also events that visit London for a short time, a brief fling with the city that exists for only a few months. Last weekend I managed to fit in three such events.

Late morning on Saturday saw me and Mr O take the northern line up to Kings Cross where I was happy to see the old world of seedy grimness gone and replaced with new shops and trendy bars and restaurants. Only 3 years ago I passed through there every day and knew the area like the back of my hand, but like the rest of the city, it is forever changing and improving, leading me to realise if you take a long enough break from any part of London, by the time you go back it will feel like a different place. I also managed to get a picture of Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾ and have a look at the new St Pancras Hotel which looks amazing albeit well out of my price range.Image

Anyway I hadn’t gone up there to see the train station, I was up there to visit the British Library, and see something that has never been in London before. I am a huge fan of American writer Jack Kerouac; a school friend bought me ‘On The Road’ for my 15th birthday and that was the beginning of a love affair with a form of literature I had been unaware of up to that point. I had read the classics, fallen in love with Heathcliff a dozen times over reading Wuthering Heights, read random books of Russian literature after discovering Vladimir Nabokov, delved into the darkness of Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka and had touched the edges of Americana by reading ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ too many times. Kerouac was a whole new world for me, open roads, open lives and the style of his writing was so free and clear that I got sucked into it, reading as many of his books as I could lay my hands on, depending entirely on my local library and second hand bookshops. Ahh…memories of days before Amazon when it was all about actually leaving the house to hunt down books.

‘On The Road’ is not my favourite novel by Kerouac, but it was my first so when I saw that the British Library was going to be home to the original scroll of the novel I knew I would have to go and see it. As you may already know, Kerouac wrote the book in 3 weeks typed on one 120 foot scroll of paper made of rolls of tracing paper that he had sellotaped together so he wouldn’t have to interrupt his creative flow by stopping and putting in new sheets of paper. The book that was published is an edited version of this original scroll, but the entire text is now available in book form.


I can’t explain, nor will I try to justify why this was a magical experience for me. It was my equivalent of going to a concert or festival; this was as close as I will ever get to my literary idol, as though he was there in the distance on a stage, an indistinct form but him all the same, his presence in the room as real as it could be. I said to Mr O afterwards that I was grateful that he had come along, as he doesn’t have the same passion for Kerouac as I do, I had basically dragged him from one end of London to the other to look at an old yellow roll of paper.

After this we made our way south again to central London and the National Portrait Gallery where a free exhibition of photo’s and magazines of Marilyn Monroe are on show. ‘Marilyn Monroe; A British Love Affair’ is a nod towards the time she spent in the UK filming ‘The Prince and The Showgirl’ with Laurence Olivier. This era of her life having renewed interest following the movie ‘My Week With Marilyn’ which covers the same period of her life. A small but beautiful collection of photo’s by some of Britain’s greatest photographers of the time including some of my favourites by Cecil Beaton. They also have a lovely collection of rare British magazines with Miss Monroe on the cover.

Sunday night covered another of my favourite things; burlesque. And in particular what I have always Imageconsidered the best burlesque, the Crazy Horse. The famous Parisian revue has had shows all over the world, I first saw them when I was in Las Vegas in 2006, but was very glad to discover they were coming to London with the new Forever Crazy, a collection of the most popular acts from the last 60 years. What sets them apart from other revues is that the individual acts themselves are very simple – it is the lighting effects that make them so spectacular. If you want to see what it’s all about before forking out for the live show, check out the documentary movie ‘Crazy Horse’ made last year to show what goes on backstage and onstage at the famous original Paris venue just off the Champs Elysees.

I’d recommend the real thing though, as the London purpose built venue is quite amazing; a voluptuous velvet lined theatre with a bar area I wish was permanent – glittering chandeliers, kitsch fluorescent lights and a dressing room mirror themed bar. They also have a fabulous act (inbetween naked lady acts) called Up and Over it who literally and wordlessly tap, drum and slap their way through a re-enactment of a lovers quarrel. Entertainment all round and a damn good giggle, go get some.

Forever Crazy is at the Southbank Centre until December 2012

On The Road; Jack Kerouac’s Manuscript Scroll is at the British Library until 27th December 2012

Marilyn Monroe; A British Love Affair is on at the national Portrait Gallery until 24th March 2013