Glimpse was inspired by Alfred Noyes’ poem ‘The Highwayman’ — a poem loved the world over, yet very British with its historical themes and old inn setting. Re-reading the poem as an adult brings back memories of school and the Lincolnshire village I grew up in, which was surrounded by fields, and had a little church and a pub at its centre. Though I was reading a lot of USYA when I started writing, I knew I wanted the settings in Glimpse to have a very British flavour.
My novel is set in a fictional town called Hulbourn, inspired by a real village called Fulbourn (see what I did there? I would be rubbish if I ever needed to create a false identity). For the three years I was writing my book, I travelled to Fulbourn every week to walk a friend’s dog. Though the village itself is smaller than my fictional Hulbourn, it has the same atmosphere, and the fields, woods and paths surrounding it—which is where I was walking—play a starring role in Glimpse.
Liz, my main character, lives in an ancient inn right on the edge of town. As the mystery in the novel ramps up—a mystery connected with ‘The Highwayman’ poem—she spends more and more time outdoors. This was partly out of necessity for the plot, but also to highlight her sense of being very alone, of moving further from the safety of the modern world, of imaginatively stepping out of time. I’m always struck by how being alone in the countryside makes me feel both free and vulnerable, that I could be anywhere at anytime and almost anything might happen, and I wanted to put those feelings to good use in Glimpse.
Another major setting in Glimpse is Liz’s creepy home. The Highwayman Inn sprang from my imagining of the inn in Noyes’ poem, and my investigations into real-life inns dating from the eighteenth-century and earlier. Old pubs, with their poky corners, low ceilings and dark wooden beams, are steeped in history and are a traditional part of the British countryside.
I researched inns that had once been frequented by highwaymen, traveling to London’s Hampstead Heath to visit The Spaniards Inn (famous for hosting Dick Turpin). Though my fictional Highwayman Inn shares some features with The Spaniards Inn, I think Liz would rather live at the Spaniards—it’s considerably cleaner and less scary, and I can vouch that the food is better!
Glimpse is published 19 June by Much-in-little.
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