Twelve-year-old Annie is invited to Hexer Hall to work as a servant for the mysterious Lady Hexer. Carvings of snakes are everywhere and when Annie touches one, she travels back in time to when the Hall was a leper hospital run by a sinister doctor with a collection of terrifying serpents. Annie never wants to return, but Lady Hexer demands she finds a way to steal the doctor’s book of magical cures. She promises it will rid the world of disease, including tuberculosis, which killed Annie’s mother. Summoning all her courage, Annie travels back in time again … The Serpent House is aimed at Middle Grade age children, although I loved reading it as an adult too. What inspired you to write a time slip? The story of The Serpent House actually came about because of the place where I live, which is called Spittal. It got its name from a medieval leper hospital which used to be there. It fascinated me that somewhere under the pavements where I walk every day, there are the remains of this hospital. I also wanted to write something in a sort of tribute to my three great-aunts, who were maids and cooks in large houses in Newcastle and Cumbria at the turn of the twentieth century. So a timeslip idea linked the two periods together – the Victorian maid Annie was able to travel back to the medieval leper hospital. Also, I really love timeslip novels – Tom’s Midnight Garden is one of my all-time favourite children’s books. The more timeslip novels I read, the more exciting I realised they could be. Why did you choose to write about leprosy? It started with that local history about the leper hospital that used to be in the village where I live, but when I did research I realised it was not really covered often in children’s historical fiction (unlike the plague, which is covered quite a lot!). Although leprosy has died out in the west, it’s still a problem in developing countries. The charity Lepra helped me a lot with my research. What do the plants that start to take over the garden mean? Are they actually from the past? Yes! I was very inspired by a visit to a medieval herb garden in France and I realised that lots of the plants had snake-like names and qualities. So I wanted them to start creeping up into the garden to show how the past was beginning to encroach, from under the foundations of Hexer Hall and its grounds. It was meant to show how the past was beginning to take a bit of a stranglehold on the primary time of 1899. In the past, the doctor uses snakes in an attempt to ‘cure’ his patients. Is this something that happened, and if not, where did you get the idea? Yes – snake venom was used a lot in medieval cures, including for leprosy. It’s such a well-used medicine that you see snakes on the …
I’m an Austrian lass—totally uncomplicated and up to anything fun. I grew up in Vienna – not by free will but because my parents decided to move there when I was only 4 years old. I. Hated. The. City. Everything about it. So right after graduation I moved back to the country side, where I settled down with a nice husband and an awesome laptop. (The laptop came first!} I’ve been a storyteller all my life. Already in kindergarten, I came up with the most exotic fantasies and tales. My teacher back then called me a liar. Today, I call it the cornerstone of my writing career.Read More
A mythmaker at heart, Sandra Hurst has been writing poetry, fantasy and science fiction since her school days in England. Hurst moved to Canada in 1980 and was deeply influenced by the wild lands and the indigenous cultures that surrounded her. Y’keta, her first full length novel, is set in a mythical land reminiscent of pre-historic earth. An ancient world where legends walk and the Sky Road offers a way to the stars. A member of the Alexandra Writers Centre Society, the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, and The Mythopoeic Society, Hurst works to build fantasy worlds that allow her readers to join her in exploring the depths of human interaction in a mythical game of ‘what if.’ Her first novel, Y’keta is long-listed for the prestigious Aurora Award, for best Canadian fantasy novel (Young Adult) and the American based RONE award for break out fantasy novel. She now lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and son, both of whom she loves dearly, and has put up for sale on e-bay when their behaviour demanded it.Read More
The castle in A Thin Slice of Heaven is fabulously atmospheric. As someone who picks up the energy of buildings, it really ‘felt’ like a real creepy castle. Is it based on a real place? And if so, how much did the place inspire your story?
Thank you for having me here today, Martha! I am a huge fan of your work. While researching my ancestry, I made several trips to my ancestral home at Glencull, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The area inspired the village in A Thin Slice of Heaven as well as the castle. The potato famine was inspired by a visit to the Ulster American Folk Park and Museum at Omagh, County Tyrone. Whenever I visit Ireland, I feel the energy and history there almost as if I am being transported into the past. It is truly a magical and mystical country.Read More
Today we have our last giveaway, a signed copy (?) of award-winning Werewolf novel, Oathbreaker, from author Shelley Wilson. Shelley is a bit of a superwoman penning both exciting YA fiction and bestselling, motivational self-help books. She has also just landed a fabulous, 10 book publishing contract with ….. and an Apple fiction award. I really loved Oathbreaker and it flew onto my kindle just when it was needed, at a moment when I couldn’t find anything I liked.Read More
Today I have linked up with gothic author, editor and screenwriter, Kathryn Cottam, to give away two signed paperbacks. The first is The Shoemaker, a dark, gothic retelling of the Elves and the Shoemaker. As a bonus, Kathryn is also giving away Three Tales of Red, a short story collection that explores red riding hood from three perspectives, Red Riding Hood, the wolf and the huntsman. This is written by Kathryn, Roberta Cottam and Kate Tremills. Not all fairytales are cute and cuddly. Kathryn writes intense, gothic fairytales that are definitely for grown-ups.Read More
Christmas is a time for giving and connecting, so this week I have a wonderful Christmas giveaway for you, that spans both my Facebook Pages, The Story Cave and The Curious Mystic. For four days this week, I will offer one giveaway. On three of the days there will be a signed book from my wonderful collaborators, Kate Tremills, Kathryn Cottam, and Shelley Wilson, who recently won an Apple Award for her YA story, Oathbreaker. On the other day I will offer a free half hour tarot reading with me, which will be done over Zoom. If you would like to find out more about my Tarot readings, please do check out my Services section, and some of the general readings in my blog.Read More
There are certain books I love so much, I go back into them for a visit. The characters are like friends I want to see again. The places feel so real I’m sure I’ve been there before.
My favourites for rereading are The Catch Trap by Marian Zimmer Bradley, a love story about flyers in a circus, (trapeze artists, Twilight, and of course Harry Potter. As a child I read my copy of the BFG by Roald Dahl into tatters, and the beautiful A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson. What was it about those books that I loved? Well the characters were the main thing. When I finished them I didn’t want to say goodbye. I have been known to restart a book immediately for that reason. The world and life they took me into was pure magic, enveloping me in a completely different reality.
The results of my survey into how people read, are now in! I asked you how your imagination interacts with the process of reading, and you told me. Now I have the fascinating results for you, so please do watch the video and life you’d like more detail, check out the full results here.Read More
I have a fascination with what happens in people’s minds when they read. So this week I have a video where I talk about how my imagination interacts with the process of reading, as well as a survey so you can tell me how it works for you. The survey is short so please do join in, and let me know what reading is to you. And let me know if you would like to be quoted.Read More
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