I am delighted to be joining in with Helen Grant’s Ghost blog tour today 🙂

Ghost blog tour

Many thanks to Kelly Lacey, at Love Books Group, for arranging the following interview with Helen Grant…..

Helen Grant

For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?

I was born in London but I and my family lived abroad for quite a long time, in Spain, Germany and Belgium. In 2011 we moved back to Perthshire, Scotland and I think we are here to stay! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from travelling about, it’s that I’m a country girl and not a city girl.

I write Gothic thrillers, and ghost stories – these are also very much the things I like to read myself! I’ve written six Young Adult novels (the most recent was called Urban Legends) but my new book, which is called Ghost, is aimed at adults. It’s about a young girl, Augusta McAndrew, who has grown up in a rambling mansion on a remote Scottish estate. She has only ever interacted with her grandmother, Rose, so she knows very little about the wider world…until a young man called Tom arrives, with some startling news from outside.

Where did/do you get your ideas from?

I tend to get my ideas from places where I have lived, or which I have visited. I’m very much inspired by real life locations. My first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was inspired by the history and legends of Bad MĂĽnstereifel, the town where we lived in Germany. My new book, Ghost, was directly inspired by my experiences of living in Perthshire. I love exploring historical buildings, and I have a particular interest in the lost country houses of Scotland. There were many grand mansions built in the 1800s and abandoned in the 20th century when they became too expensive to maintain. Some of them were demolished; some were even blown up! But some are still sitting there, crumbling away in the middle of nowhere. I’ve visited a few of those. I find it really fascinating. Uusually when they were abandoned, the roof was taken off and some of the internal features like wood panelling were removed. Once the weather gets inside, a building decays much more quickly. I started to think about what would happen if the last owners had just locked up and walked away, without partly dismantling the house first, and leaving everything inside it. And that is where I got the idea for Langlands House in Ghost.

Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?

I’ve only ever directly based a character on a real person once. In my first novel, the heroine’s mother, Kate Kolvenbach, is based on me. She says all the sorts of things I used to say to my kids, like “If you don’t clear it up, it’s going in the bin.” When I first showed the book to literary agents, one of them said, “I love your book, but Pia’s mother…what a bitch!” Oops! I have to laugh about that.

The characters in Ghost are not based on real people, but Tom is named after my maternal grandfather, whose name was Thomas. I suppose there is a little bit of my own grandmother, Alice, in Rose McAndrew (Augusta’s grandmother), too. Rose is strong and caring but quite unsentimental, and I remember my gran being a little like that.

How do you pick your characters’ names?

I tend to choose first names which I personally find attractive, and which I think reflect the personality of the character. I really like Tom as a boys’ name. It’s a classic name too, so it fits quite well with the timeless nature of the book. I’m rather fond of unusual names, too. I’ve had characters called Julius, Veerle and Tuesday in previous books!

The heroine of Ghost has grown up in this very old-fashioned environment, so I wanted to choose a name that reflected that. That was partly why I went for Augusta; I also wanted a name that could be shortened to her nickname in the book.

When I’m choosing surnames, I tend to think about which names are popular in the place where the book is set. Sometimes I even consult the telephone directory, to get ideas! Ideally I like to find something that fits the setting, but isn’t too unusual. If there is only one real life person of that name living in the real location, they might think the character is based on them, and they might be offended. So I usually choose something reasonably common for that place.

Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?

In a nutshell? Discipline. When I’m working on something, I give myself a word target and try to stick to it. Even if I don’t feel very inspired on a particular day, it’s easier to go back and edit something I’ve written than to catch up if I haven’t written anything at all…

Thinking ahead is also important. Whilst I’m working on a novel, I’m usually thinking hard about what I’m going to write next.

Who are your top 5 favourite authors?

I’m a big fan of the classic writers Wilkie Collins and Anthony Trollope. I love Collins’ wild plots and colourful characters. I like Trollope’s books because of the moral dilemmas he puts his characters into. I get very engrossed in his books. I could debate questions like “whom should the heroine marry?” for hours, if I could find anyone else to do it!

I’m also a huge fan of the ghost story writer M.R.James. I find the weird and understated horrors in his stories really chilling in a pleasurable way.

I think my favourite living author is John Ajvide Lindqvist, the Swedish writer. His best known book is probably Let the Right One In but I have read all his others too. He is one of the few authors whose books I pre-order in hardback, I love his work so much!

I also really like the ghostly books of Michelle Paver (Dark Matter and Thin Air). If she writes any more of those, I will definitely be pouncing on them, the minute they are on sale!

If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Can I choose a dead one? I’d meet Charles Dickens and I would say: For the love of God, tell me what happens at the end of The Mystery of Edwin Drood!

I bought that book a few years ago and when it arrived, it was a big thick volume. So I assumed that the novel – which was unfinished – was at least mostly finished. Big mistake. Only part of the book was Edwin Drood – the rest was other works by Dickens.

So I was just getting into the story when it stopped. There really wasn’t enough to hazard a guess about what was going to happen later. Argh!

I think a big advantage of meeting Dickens and asking him this question would be that I would then be in possession of a wildly exciting bit of information! (Well, wildly exciting for Victorian book geeks, anyway.) So I’d have a lot of fun giving interviews about what he had told me!

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes! My mum tells me that I used to read everything I could lay hands on, including bus tickets and the telephone directory.

When I was a child, my bookshelves were full of books my parents had owned when they were kids in the 1930s and 1940s. So I grew up reading lot of classics like The Silver Fairy Book and H. Rider Haggard’s She, mixed in with things like the Buffalo Bill Annual!

For a while my parents wouldn’t let me read any of the books on their own shelves in case I “spoiled” the books for myself by reading them when I was too young to appreciate them properly. When I was 10, they discussed this with my school teacher who said they should just let me read anything. So they said I could. I went straight to the bookshelf and picked out The Lost World. I’d had my eye on that for ages, because it had a brilliant picture on the front cover, of explorers confronting a Tyrannosaurus Rex!

When did you start to write?

I’ve always written bits and pieces, but I started writing in earnest when my youngest child started kindergarten in 2003. I started with articles and short stories, before working my way up to a full length novel. My first book came out in 2009.

If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?

Oh dear – I’m going to sound as though I never read anything modern…I think I’d choose Frankenstein. I feel so sorry for the monster! He didn’t ask to be created so ugly. I think I’d get Frankenstein to go through with building a lady monster to be a companion for him. (In the novel, he starts on this work but then destroys it in disgust.) I’ve always thought it was mean of him not to do that.

Is there a book you wish you had written?

Hmmm….World War Z, perhaps. I really like that book, plus it must be lovely to have your book made into a blockbuster movie starring Brad Pitt, and partly filmed in Glasgow. (Can you hear the wistful tone in my voice?!)

If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?

I feel it ought to be something thoroughly Gothic, with decay and doom somehow worked into the title. However, it might be nice to go for something a bit more upbeat. I love writing, after all, even if my books are full of bizarre deaths, murders and weird local legends. So perhaps I’d go for Say Yes. My dad related this story at my wedding: apparently when I was a child, I would ask a question and if I wanted the answer to be “yes” I would immediately follow it up with “Say Yes!” He managed to imply that I had persuaded my husband to marry me by using this same technique…! (Cheeky.) Anyway, I have tried to “say yes” to the things life has flung at me, such as moving abroad when we had two small children. So I’d choose that.

If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?

Can I have two? I’d pick the father and son out of Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic novel The Road. I’d take them right out of the book. I found reading that book so stressful, because I just kept worrying about the little boy and also worrying about his dad coping with having to look after a child in that awful world. I think I’d take them both to the cafĂ© at Highland Safaris in Aberfeldy, where I would feed them up with coffee, hot chocolate and huge slices of cake. And I wouldn’t let them go back into the book again!

What are you working on right now?

I’ve got various projects on the go, but what is most occupying my mind right now is my next book. I haven’t started writing it, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. I want to get everything clear in my head first; I want to feel that I really know the characters and their motivations. I think this one is also going to be set in Perthshire. A couple of years ago, I visited an interesting historical site (not an abandoned mansion this time – a ruined church and graveyard) and that was what gave me the idea. I’m going to be dialling the creepiness up to the max in this one.

Tell us about your last release? Do you have a new release due?

My most recent release was Ghost, which was published in February. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but here’s what it says on the back cover:

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?

I think that last question, about love, is important. As well as being a mystery, Ghost is a love story. Also, as one reviewer said, ” Ghost is truly haunted from cover to cover.”

What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?

Ha! I don’t tend to do very much at all. Over the years, I’ve been very busy on my various publication days…several times, we have been in the middle of moving from one country to another. So I definitely don’t take a day off and pop champagne corks! But I do take a few quiet moments to think about the book and the journey I have gone through to get to publication day. Ghost is really special to me, because it is my first adult book and the first of my books to be set in Scotland. I’ve spent quite a lot of time just looking at the printed copies of it and thinking: Wow: it’s really here.

How can readers keep in touch with you?

I’m on Twitter as @helengrantsays – I’m a bit of social media fiend, logging on first thing in the morning and checking it late at night before I go to bed. So I can mostly be found over there! I do try to reply to all questions or comments. I also have a blog on my website, at http://helengrantbooks.blogspot.co.uk/ and I have a Facebook page called Helen Grant books page!

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

I’d really like to thank anyone who supports Ghost, by reading it, reviewing it or telling their friends about it – and of course, the lovely bloggers taking part in the Ghost blog tour!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Helen 🙂

Ghost cover

Synopsis


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…

Author Bio

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. 

2 thoughts on “#Ghost by Helen Grant @helengrantsays @FledglingPress #BlogTour #AuthorInterview @LoveBooksGroup

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