The Story Behind The Story
A question often asked authors is “Where do you get your ideas?” Let’s begin there. The storyline for Shades sprang to life out of research I was pursuing for A Slip in Time. At the opening of that book, the characters have been drifting from one English estate to another throughout the summer before moving on to a castle in the Scottish Highlands. A wonderful, if pricey, volume came into my possession, The Golden Age of the Country House, by Christopher Simon Sykes. Through that fascinating volume, a story stirred to life in my mind — a classic Victorian Gothic Romance, set in a lavish English country house, and utilizing nineteenth-century photography.
Thanks to my mother and her collection via the Book-of-the-Month Club, I have long loved this genre. Favorites include Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, and Victoria Holt’s Mistress of Mellyn and Bride of Pendorric (its final scene is forever emblazoned in my mind’s eye).
Hallmarks of a Victorian Gothic Romance include a dark brooding lord, often with dead wives in his past (I gave him two); a remote location where the castle or mansion looms as a character in its own right; a heroine in peril (do we really want her to fall prey to the clutches of the mysterious lord?); and, of course, ghosts (or, leastwise, a deliciously eerie atmosphere).
As to a remote location, just as I began to develop and write Shades, hubby’s job moved and we relocated our family from Virginia to Colorado. As fate would happily have it, our realtor proved to be English. She suggested Hampshire for a location, saying that part of the country was especially beautiful. Hence, after consulting a map and more ponderings, the English West Midlands, just outside of Hereford, became the ancient seat of the Viscounts Marrable. My mother suggested “Sherringham” as a name for the Viscount’s castle. This quickly morphed into “Royal Sherringham” as I spun out the fictional tale of Sherringham’s past and how it was lost to royal hands before the irrepressible and rather naughty Leonine Marrable regained it. Where my mother drew the name from, I am unsure. However, there is a coastal town in Norfolk, England, that bears the name of Sherringham.
As to the ghostly aspect of my Gothic tale, specters abound at Royal Sherringham from many ages past — or shall I simply call them Shades of the Past?