Thursday, May 24, 2012

Creating Hewhay Hall

You may recognize the name Susan Roebuck. She’s a regular and reliable contributor to Book Blather. From time to time, I send her a frantic email saying, “Yikes, I need a post. Can you send me something?” She always comes through. Now that’s what I consider a true friend. Sue was born and raised in the UK and now lives in Portugal with her husband. Her first book, Perfect Score, was an Epic Ebook 2012 finalist and garnered rave reviews. Her new book, Hewhay Hall, is her first venture into the paranormal and I just had to know the story behind it's creation. Welcome, Sue.

“Fire-fighter Jude Elliott loses part of his leg trying to rescue a family held hostage during a terrorist attack. He journeys to mysterious Hewhey Hall, where it is told there are wondrous, magical cures. Little does Jude know that his destination is Slater The Prince of Envy's lair where demons reside and courageous souls are tormented... Can Jude escape Slater's house of horrors, or will he suffer for all of eternity?”

Hewhay Hall, my new novel, was born out of a challenge. With just one or two prompts a group of friends and I challenged each other to write a story in a genre that we hadn’t tried before. I opted for paranormal and I do believe I’ve found my niche.

It does make sense, when I think about it. I’ve read so much paranormal romance, dark gothic paranormal and horror. I devoured Stephen King’s early work (“Carrie”, “The Shining”) and Ann Rice’s Lestat the vampire novels. But my favorite book of all time is the “Gormenghast” Trilogy by Mervyn Peake (  It’s one of the few books I can read over and over because it’s populated by peculiar, quirky characters (think Swelter the cook and Steerpike the crook). With every read I peel another layer off and find pure genius underneath.

Back to that original challenge. We had just a couple of prompts: a house that the protagonist had never seen before, and a neighbor called Slater.
From just those two, I envisaged the whole novel. That’s how Hewhay Hall was born. Of the group, only two of us finished – me and Ute Carbone ( Ute’s “The Whisper of Time” is being published later this year.

It wasn’t so hard entering the paranormal genre. Some people may be surprised because I am a practicing Catholic. But that means I believe that there is great evil in this world and I also believe in the Afterlife - and therefore the supernatural.

I have no experience of seeing ghosts, although a medium once told me my grandmothers (who she described perfectly) and an aunt were all looking out for me. That’s been comforting to know so many times in my life. And my mother once witnessed the death of a neighbor which upset her greatly. Shortly after, she was in a supermarket and a complete stranger turned to her and told her that Jack (the neighbor) wanted my mother to know he was OK.

While I was writing “Hewhay Hall” it was strange trying to imagine an
evil, cruel and maniacal demon. I’m basically a peaceful person who hates violence, but I loved pushing my imagination to what is hopefully acceptable limits. The only drawback where the nightmares I had during the writing. Those characters just wouldn’t leave me alone.

Here's a peek at Hewhay Hall:

Jude stared down the hill at the glint on the water and then across to the fields baked hard by weeks of sun. He’d followed the directions to the letter, so this was the right place. But where was Hewhay Hall?
A row of swallows balanced on a wire stretching overhead, each facing the same way as Jude, who rested against a five-bar gate. They too seemed to be eyeing the fallen tree trunks that littered the overgrown path down the rocky hillside. They were lucky—they could fly, but Jude had to hobble.
The air moved on the other side of the marshland. He didn’t imagine it. A definite ripple, the kind that alters your vision when a migraine’s about to start. Although the shift was fleeting, he had the idea something was down there after all, very faint and hard to describe. The outline of a building? Or maybe just heat haze. Whatever, he’d come this far—he’d go and investigate.
The latch and hinges on the gate were so rusted, Jude couldn’t open it. Nothing for it, then, but to climb over. He propped his crutches against the wooden bars, placed his hands on the top, and hauled himself up so his right leg got a footing on a lower rung. Now he could sit on the top. He bent down, picked up what was left of his other leg, and maneuvered it over until he straddled the gate. It creaked under his weight. As he swung his right leg over, he teetered, tried to grab the top bar but lost his balance and fell headlong into a bramble patch.
Prickles stabbed him as he lay on his back, his whirling gaze locked on a wiggly jet trail in the cloudless sky. Once the world righted itself, he pushed himself up on his elbows and extracted some of the more painful brambles before rolling onto his right knee. His bum in the air, he hoped no one was looking and that he retained a shred of dignity as he balanced on his right leg and wobbled his way upright. As he tried to stand, his knee locked. He was a second away from landing back on the ground but he grabbed an oak tree trunk for support.
Bloody hell. Wasn’t it about time they gave him a prosthesis? He bent to rub his stump, still raw after all this time. Why wasn’t he healing?