‘Stockbridge Gothic’

When The Scotsman dubbed Beneath the SkinStockbridge Gothic’ I was highly delighted. Gothic is definitely my go-to zone when I’m dreaming up the mad, the bad and the dangerous!

Those of you who have already read the book  may have noted a few nods to my all time favourite Frankenstein. I won’t give any games away, but if you have spotted the clues, then feel free to start a conversation! This has made me think about my own relationship with the Gothic, and how it has influenced my writing. For me, I suppose the defining element of the genre is setting, and the development of architecture and landscape as characters within that context. I’m thinking about the labyrinthine Castle of Otranto, the windswept bleakness of Wuthering Heights, and the haunted attic of Charlotte Bronte’s lesser-known Villette.

In Alys’s Stockbridge villa, the damp basement, the creaking staircase, the cramped attic all take on a life of their own. There is a sense that the house is less than welcoming, resistant to the notion of being a family ‘home’. We might call such an atmosphere ‘uncanny’, a concept which, interestingly, stems from  the German Unheimlich, best translated as ‘un-homely’.

In his treatise on the Uncanny, Freud quotes the philosopher Schelling: ’Unheimlich is the name for everything that ought to have remained hidden and secret, and has become visible.’cobweb-handle

All that stuff we carry ‘beneath the skin’ perhaps…

I’ll leave you with an appropriate quote. Walt, just out of bed, makes his way to the kitchen…

‘…the hall felt somehow odd. It took him right back to being a kid again, when you come back from holidays and the house feels cold and damp…has a distance about it. He remembered how his mam used to stand in the porch, sniffing, in case she’d forgotten to chuck out the milk, or the cloths had rebelled in her absence and gone sour. And here he was, sniffing,like his mam used to do. A house with a kid in it shouldn’t feel this way.’

From Beneath the Skin (Polygon) 2016

 

 

 

 

Beneath the Skin…finally!

So the book is out there! Duly launched with appropriate amounts of wine and fanfare at the gorgeous Saint Stephens Stockbridge, Beneath the Skin is now winging its way (with the help of its gorgeous feathery jacket!) to various homes and bedside tables throughout the land.

This is the scary bit!

What will readers think of my imaginative ramblings? It feels a long, long way from my first excursions into creative writing; often random scribbles (phrases, odd words) in notebooks, on the backs of envelopes. And Professor Kirsty Gunn’s timed exercises in our four-hour workshops. No pressure!

Over time, the scribbles took shape- poems, short stories. ‘Novels’ no one will ever read. Very slowly, my writing began to say what I wanted it to say. It came of age.

My great aunt Mary had a tiny oak dresser. A beautifully- carved, miniature piece of furniture, lovingly finished with all the craft and hallmarks of the standard article. It was a ‘prentice piece’, she told me. A showcase of skill; a small-scale beginning to the career of an apprentice carpenter.

So this is my ‘prentice piece’…I hope it will hold its own on the shelves alongside so many masters of the craft.

A few images from Launch Night. Thanks so much to Golden Hare Books for gracious hosting; Polygon for terrific organising. Thank you to each and every one of you who rocked up to buy a copy and listen to me blethering- my heroes!

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The Launch- not long to go!

September 14th is scrawled on my calendar in blood…well, not quite, but it’s been a long haul from my scribbled notebooks hidden in the wardrobe to holding a glossy paperback in my hand! I haven’t actually had my paws on an actual copy yet- although a proof version did briefly land on a table in front of me. That was a strange experience- a bit like learning the sex of your baby before delivery day. I wanted to hold it and relish the thrill of it…but I also want to open that cardboard box and see the final, final book-my book- in all its glory…

I’m sure it won’t happen like that, but I’ll let you know!

Anyway, the pre-publication launch party is almost upon us! It will be hosted by Golden Hare Books and the venue will be the rather impressive Saint Stephen’s, Stockbridge. Since Beneath the Skin is set in Stockbridge, my clever agent Jenny Brown and publisher Polygon thought it would be highly appropriate to launch it there, amid the cobbled streets and eerie basements. You will be a stone’s throw from Alys’s taxidermy studio, from Mrs Petrauska’s dance classes and just down the road from the park where Walt contemplates his future….

September 14th, 2016. 7pm-9pm. Refreshments will be provided. Tickets here from eventbrite. I will be chaired by the amazing Eddie Small, fresh from his glory at the Edinburgh Fringe…he does seem to like death and dark themes…!

  See you there!

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