Anyway, I am delighted to have Bea Davenport on the blog today. Bea is the author of the new book, The Serpent House, which will be published on (yeah, you guessed it) 5th June! I shall be reviewing this in the first week of June so you don't have to wait long to see my thoughts then decide if you want to rush out and buy it.
Anyway, I quickly thank Jim at YA Countdown to 5th June, Georgia (for being Bea and I go-between) and Bea for taking over today's post over how she came to write The Serpent House. If you want to continue the YA Countdown, tomorrow is at To Another World, where they have Helen Douglas (and if you're curious on who else is on this tour, there is a lovely schedule here for you to look over)
Now, with all that out of the way, I will hand you over to Bea...
In some ways, The Serpent House was created out of three very different stories I always wanted to write – and also something I don’t like to think about!
Somewhere beneath the pavements of the village where I live lie the remains of an ancient leper hospital. It takes its name, Spittal, from the word ‘hospital’. Because it was founded as long ago as the thirteenth century and was gone by 1500, not much is known about it, but there are some local legends and tales. That was one of the first things to inspire the story.
Second, I was interested in how my three great-aunts all worked in service in big houses in Newcastle and Cumbria at the turn of the twentieth century. It fascinates me that this Downton Abbey world was just a couple of generations away. I wanted, in a way, to write about the kind of lives they would have led.
Third, because I suffered from alopecia as a child, I thought it would be great to have a heroine who was also suffering from hair loss. I’d never seen a story with a main character who was bald!
The strange fact is that all these strands wove together so easily. I was cleaning my staircase at home and the character of Annie, the Victorian servant girl, came into my head. I’ve always loved time travel books, like Tom’s Midnight Garden and the Green Knowe stories, so slipping Annie back to the past seemed like a good way to get to the grim leper hospital back in the Dark Ages.
Annie is sent on a quest by her ruthless employer, Lady Hexer. But as with all time travel, there are lessons for Annie too. She learns to say no, to rebel and to become her own person.
Once I started researching the history, I was amazed to see how much the Victorians were into the medieval period and also rather morbidly fascinated by sickness and death. The two time periods have a natural link.
And I was surprised to find that one of the symptoms of leprosy was losing your hair! It seemed that all the three stories I’d wanted to write were quite happy to be sewn together.
I mentioned there was something in the novel that I didn’t like thinking about. That was the snakes! I have a very fierce phobia of all snakes, to the point where I can’t look at a picture of one and I don’t even like typing the word.
So why on earth would I choose to make them such a strong element of the story? I can’t tell you where the urge came from, but I have learned that writing about your fears is a great thing to do. It doesn’t make the research easy, but it certainly gives power to the writing.
I hope readers enjoy The Serpent House and let me know what they think!