Although she’s the author of ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London‘ (which is celebrating its first birthday), Jen’s here to tell us about how a self-confessed scaredy-cat manages to write ghost stories.
I’m a little worried about how Jen will react when she performs at ‘The Visitation‘ this Saturday night although I actually think she’s tremendously brave for facing her fears.
Jennifer C. Wilson: The Reluctant Ghost Story Writer
I’m a coward. Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I really am an absolute scaredy-cat. I don’t watch horror films, I don’t particularly like visiting ruined or quiet places in the dark (or even on my own, to be honest), and I don’t read ghost stories. Slightly ironic, then, that the biggest success I’ve ever had as a writer (i.e. the publication of my debut novel), is by having written what? Yup, a ghost story. Although in my defence, I have always categorised ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London‘ as ‘a story about ghosts’ rather than ‘a ghost story’. To me, that’s a big difference.
Wandering around the Tower (especially during a freezing February blizzard), my mind was buzzing with the characters who have lived there down the years, either willingly (or decidedly unwillingly), and what stories they would tell. I tried so hard to set a piece of ‘true’ historical fiction there, drawing on the adventures of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and, of course, Richard III, but nothing seemed to work, no stories were crying out to be told. But that was when I was trying to channel the living – the dead, on the other hand, refused to shut up. The notion that Richard and Anne might have plenty in common to chat about really appealed, having been sparked as an idea for a poetry competition. But ghosts? For me? Lonely and creepy dungeons, rooms where people (including possibly children) were tortured and murdered – surely the ghosts of the Tower would be your classic, chain-rattling, terrifying-the-visitors type? I wasn’t sure I could handle that.
Then it struck me. If they were still hanging around, then this little community would have been stuck together, in some cases, for centuries. During that time, surely there would be politics, based either on their thoughts whilst alive, or those which developed in death? There would be arguments over virtually everything, and there would be friendships. And what comes with friendships? Humour. If I could find even the tiniest hint of the petty bickering and raucous laughter which comes with almost any tight-knit group of friends, then maybe this was my way in. Plus, it meant I could work on it after dark, without scaring myself witless!
This is not how I would categorise ‘Followed’, the piece I’m performing as part of ‘The Visitation‘ this Halloween. I was genuinely uncomfortable writing it, and decided part-way through the first draft that it would be a daytime project only. Sad, I know, but I’m already a bad sleeper – there’s no way I was working on that in the dark…
But, I believe in pushing myself, and trying new things, so I’ve made it to the end, and after a couple of rewrites, hopefully it will go down ok, if a little lighter than some of the pieces you’ll hear on the night. After all, if the coward can find success with a ghost story, surely a werewolf is a piece of cake?
About ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London‘
A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…
In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.
Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.
With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant 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 work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London‘ was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.