Thursday 26 April 2018

#BlogTour Ghost by Helen Grant @Helengrantsays @FledglingPress

Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.

Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between - everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister arrives - good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart.

As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?

In the end, Langlands House and its inhabitants hold more secrets than they did in the beginning...


Can you tell me more about the book and its main characters?

The heroine of Ghost, Augusta McAndrew, is seventeen. She lives with her grandmother, Rose, who is in her eighties, at Langlands, a crumbling old house on a secluded Scottish estate. Augusta has never left the estate, so everything she knows about the outside world has come from Rose. One day Rose goes out to buy supplies and never returns. Augusta is utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister turns up at Langlands: young, handsome, and bearing dangerous information from the outside…

Ghost is very much a "haunted" book. As I write short ghost stories as well as novels, people often ask me whether I believe in ghosts myself. I usually reply that, like the great ghost story writer M.R.James, I am prepared to consider evidence! I certainly do believe that people can be "haunted" in the sense that the past is always with them, and I think this is really what is happening in Ghost. There is no escaping from past events.

What inspired you to write this book?

Before Ghost, I wrote a trilogy called Forbidden Spaces, which was about urbex (urban exploration) and I kind of got the bug for it! There's a peculiar fascination and thrill about exploring abandoned places. The trilogy is set in Flanders, where we were living when I began writing it. In 2011 we moved to Perthshire in Scotland, and I couldn't resist continuing with my exploring adventures. The kinds of abandoned buildings you find in a rural area are very different from the ones you would find in an urban setting. In Scotland I've visited ruined churches, the remains of abandoned villages, and derelict country houses. It was exploring ruined country houses that gave me the idea for Ghost.

Was it hard to write the book? Getting the plot together?

Yes – I'd say that Ghost was the hardest book to write out of all of my novels. It took me much longer than my earlier books, and after my first draft I pretty much went back to the beginning and rewrote it from scratch. It was a struggle. The book before that, Urban Legends, was great fun to write, because it was very straightforward: a serial killer with a grudge is after the heroine and her boyfriend. But with Ghost I wanted to write something more psychological – more about the dynamics between the characters and less about hand-to-hand combat with serial killers! And that was difficult to get right. I also wanted to push the boundaries a bit – in Urban Legends there was a particular scene where something really shocking seemingly happens to one of the main characters, and I was quite surprised to get a flood of messages from readers saying "I can't believe you did that!" I wanted to take that kind of moment and push it a bit further.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Pretty much! I remember when I was in primary school – I was ten years old – and the class teacher asked us all what we wanted to do when we grew up. I said I wanted to be a writer. I said it with such determination that he said, "And you will!" But actually I didn't become a full time writer until much later. A lot of other things got in the way – university studies, an office job (it's hard to make writing pay…), and then kids. It was after both my children started at kindergarten that I began to write seriously. We were living in Germany at the time, and both kindergarten and primary school closed at lunchtime, so there was no question of going back into a full time office job. Instead, I wrote all morning and amused the kids all afternoon!

Any authors that have inspired you in your writings?

I don't try to emulate any particular writers, but the ghost stories of M.R.James have definitely inspired me. His tale The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, which is about a set of stained glass windows with a secret hidden in them, was part of the inspiration for my novel The Glass Demon.

I am also a great admirer of the Victorian writer Anthony Trollope. I certainly do not, and would not, try to write the same type of fiction he did, but I think his work ethic as a writer was truly inspirational. He used to get up very early every morning and write for an hour with his watch beside him, timing his word count. I think that discipline is a very underrated thing when it comes to writing. People think that it is all about "inspiration" but the truth is, however good an idea may be, it is nothing until you actually sit down and write it.

My new book Ghost is not inspired by any other authors' work but it is part of the Gothic tradition. I have always loved reading Gothic novels – as a teenager I devoured Dracula and Frankenstein! – and I think that love is reflected in Ghost, with its isolated heroine and dilapidated setting.

And finally, what are you reading now?

I've actually been re-reading a lot of old favourites recently: the ghost stories of M.R.James, Pump Six by Paulo Bacigalupi, and Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome, which is a children's book but so brilliant I love to read it anyway. But I want to read Dan Simmons' book The Terror as soon as I can lay hands on a copy. I loved the first episode of the TV adaptation and I'd like to read the book, preferably before watching the rest of the series. I love stories with an unusual and atmospheric setting; I loved Michelle Pavers' Dark Matter for the same reason.

About the author

Helen Grant writes thrillers with a Gothic flavour and ghost stories. Her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and won an ALA Alex Award in the US. Her other books include the exciting Forbidden Spaces trilogy.

Helen's latest novel Ghost (Fledgling Press 2018) is set in Perthshire, where she has lived since 2011. When she is not writing, Helen loves to research the lost country houses of Scotland and to visit the sites where possible. Her experiences of exploring these fascinating places inspired her to write Ghost.

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