Sandra Ireland was born in Yorkshire, lived for many years in Limerick, and is now based in Carnoustie. She began her writing career as a correspondent on a local newspaper but quickly realised that fiction is much more intriguing than fact. In 2013 Sandra was awarded a Carnegie- Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines.
Write about what scares you.
The best piece of writing advice I ever received was- write about what scares you. If you think about fear, it’s a highly contagious emotion, whether in real life or in the pages of a book. Our fears are easily manipulated, and you need look no further than the writers of Gothic fiction to find perfect inspiration.
The term Gothic comes from the French gothique or late Latin gothicus, from Gothi (of the Goths). It was used in the 17th and 18th centuries to mean ‘not classical’ (i.e. not Greek or Roman), and hence to refer to medieval architecture which did not follow classical models.
Gothic literature and art were a way of harking back to a mythical past, an age of mediaeval chivalry, but somewhere along the way it took a dark turn…
The Gothic in literature denotes a style of fiction characterized by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents. These stories use a series of ‘tropes’ (repeated themes) to get their message across: the deserted castle, the underground passageway, the locked room and so on. I love creepy settings, such as the moors in Wuthering Heights, or any kind of house with a creaking presence. The Stopped Heart by Julie Myerson is a fantastic portrayal of brooding malevolence, and Susan Hill’s acclaimed ghost story The Woman in Black is another favourite.
In the latter,Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is called upon to attend to the affairs of the deceased owner of the decidedly creepy Eel Marsh House. Wreathed in mist and mystery, the house and its eerie setting play a big part in ramping up the tension, but it is Kipps’ sheer mounting terror when he realises he is not alone that sends shivers down the spine.
In the following passage, Arthur, having heard the anguished cry of a child trapped in the marsh, finds himself paralysed with fear (As in all good ghost stories, his torch is broken and it’s dark).
‘For a moment I was as near to weeping tears of despair and fear, frustration and tension as I had ever been since my childhood. But instead of crying, I drummed my fists upon the floorboards, in a burst of violent rage, until they throbbed. It was Spider [the dog] who brought me to my senses by scratching a little at my arm and by licking the hand I stretched out to her. We sat on the floor together, and I hugged her warm body to me…and again and again I heard that child’s terrible cry borne on the gusts towards me.’
I love this implicit form of storytelling. For me, the content doesn’t have to be graphic in order to send a shiver up your spine. As I was writing Bone Deep, which is set in an abandoned watermill, I was very conscious that the setting was key to the development of the story. One of my main characters, Mac, has a love-hate relationship with the mill. She hates to be there alone, but she cannot stay away. It continually draws her back, but why? It’s the things that you don’t show that generate the most fear. The author’s greatest tool is the reader’s imagination!
What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly. Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.
Bone Deep YouTube Trailer
Video URL: https://youtu.be/MnQ1aAZ00Ck