Haunted house inspires Derbyshire novelist's first book
First-time novelist Patricia Ayling was inspired by memories of her grandparents’ haunted house and a fascination for the Elizabethan era.
Her debut book, The Curse of Becton Manor, is a story which is based on historical facts but has a supernatural edge.
It tells the tale of 15-year-old Tom who moves into an Elizabethan manor with his family. Mysterious events lead him to investigate its history and reveals a period fraught with religious strife and persecution for those deemed as practising witchcraft.
Patricia, who lives in Killamarsh and has previously written health-related textbooks, said: "For me, researching and plotting a great story with strong characters is blissful indulgence. I am delighted to read the many positive reviews, particularly those who say they couldn’t put it down. One person read all the way through the night to finish it.”
A haunted house inspired the setting of the novel. Patricia said: "The traditional farmhouse in Wiltshire, where my grandparents lived, contained draughty passageways, uneven walls and floors with joints emitting all sorts of groaning and creaking sounds, often at night. One sound disturbed my grandmother so much that she decided to investigate. Opening a bedroom door slowly, she saw two pokers stabbing at an old fireplace without a handler. Needless to say, no-one ever slept in that bedroom and Gran apparently pestered Grandad enough to leave the house shortly afterwards. The reasons for the haunting were never explored.
"Perhaps it was the small nooks and crannies of old houses that I found exciting and therefore the tales of priest holes in the sixteenth century and the possible hidden corpses of faithful men of the cloth fed my imagination sufficiently to pen my story.
"As I researched I was in awe of people like the architect of the hidden places, Nicholas Owen and the Jesuit John Gerard who was born in Derbyshire and had a dramatic escape from the Tower of London. The Tudor era was exciting but false beliefs such as witchcraft and the persecution of Catholics with the resulting traumas of both make this era so interesting.”
The book has been a lengthy labour of love for Patricia who made the final edit during lockdown. She said: “The idea for the story began when we lived part time in Cyprus in 2014. It evolved over the next five years but as I discovered from other authors, your characters grow and change the plot in rather odd ways. . In addition there is so much editing that you could scream.”
Patricia, who is 69 and has five children and nine grandchildren, admits that she is a latecomer to fiction writing. She said: “Many times I felt inspired to pen a novel but finding the concentrated hours I needed to firstly research then plot and write was very difficult. The needs of the family came first.
"When I was a verifier for the awarding body Edexcel I was commissioned to write health related textbooks. The completed books enabled me to realise that I might indeed be able to write a novel.”
During her working life Patricia was a college lecturer, ran her own training business and was a neurological nurse.